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What’s God doing with you this summer, Becca Lafferty?

This summer we are posting a series of blogs looking in on various UMin students as they spend their summers studying, living at home, traveling, working, and just experiencing life.  This post comes from rising junior, english major at Samford, Becca Lafferty:

When, in June, I was asked to write a blog post for August 12 about my summer, I thought to myself, “Maybe by then I’ll actually have something to write about.” You see, my summer was not exactly going according to plan. I had planned to live in Birmingham and work somewhere—the problem was, nothing was working out. All of the jobs I thought were a sure thing kept falling through. And then, that fateful day arrived—I got a call from the Walmart in Decatur, AL. My parents had forced me, while on my exciting spring break in Decatur, to apply for approximately 15 jobs around town. Walmart called, I went in for an interview, and they offered me the job of cashier on the spot. I was devastated. Mom and Dad called it God’s provision. I called it God’s version of a practical joke. Me? Working at Walmart in DECATUR, ALABAMA? Don’t get me wrong—Decatur is a lovely town. There are some wonderful people that live there (trust me, I got to meet what seems like every last one of them this summer). However, it just wasn’t my idea of a great summer job in a great summer location. I suppose that was exactly the point.

I started working at Walmart and I’ll admit that my attitude wasn’t the best. Sure, I smiled, and trained, and laughed at all the customers’ “jokes.” “Did you find everything okay, today?” “Oh yeah, I actually think I found TOO much.” HAHAHAHAHAHA. NEVER HEARD THAT ONE BEFORE. I dealt with creeps who called me “baby” and asked for my number. My purity ring saved me from guys that thought I was married, “The best ones are always married.” I dealt with a kid that peed on the floor by my register and whose lovely mother merely paid for her items and left without saying a word to me. I manned the 20-items-or-less register while a woman came through with 335 items (no exaggeration, you can ask my manager) and claimed, “Oh, I didn’t see it was 20 items or less!” Okay, sure you didn’t. LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE.

Slowly but surely I started to realize the theme of this summer—humility. Oddly enough, I had been wearing it on my feet every day to work without even realizing it. You see, I had a pair of TOMS that have painted in large black letters “WALK HUMBLY” on the toes—right where I can see it on a daily basis. After a few weeks of working at Walmart it hit me upside the head—God DID have a purpose for this summer. As my wonderful discipleship group leader, Amy Oliver, had told me at the beginning of the summer—God doesn’t give bad gifts, he doesn’t hand us snakes. This summer that I saw as a disaster was actually a time for me to grow in humility. People treated me like dirt. People treated me like I was uneducated. I wanted to scream on multiple occasions, “ I GO TO SAMFORD UNIVERSITY, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.” People acted like I wasn’t a person that was due the same respect as any other human being on the planet. I was forced to bite my tongue and smile time and time again—to serve those I didn’t feel like serving and to love those I didn’t feel like loving. God reminded me of his love and his plan daily. There were those that were encouragements to me at work as well. Such as the elderly man that came through my line at least once a week to tell me that my smile was worth a million bucks and that he was glad someone showed “an ounce of personality around this place.” Or there was the lady that told me, “I had a niece named Rebecca that we lost at an early age to cancer. She was very, very special and I can tell that you’re very, very special as well. I hope you have a blessed day.”

This summer taught me so much. There were days when all I could do was cling to the thought that surely God had some sort of plan for this summer and there were days that I basked in the good gift that I was sure (without a doubt) that God had given me. God is good. All the time. We are called to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him—even if we are doing so behind the register of Walmart. I never, ever thought I’d say that I was grateful for this summer—but here I am, eating my words. Wouldn’t be the first time and won’t be the last.

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Life in Discipleship: with Evan Musgraves

Over the past several weeks, we have been posting a blog series featuring student ruminations on their experiences of “Life in Discipleship” here with UMin. The fall is going to be an important time for new folks to get involved in mentoring discipleship relationships. Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit will challenge you to take advantage of this opportunity for real and deep growth during your time in college.

This post comes to us from Evan Musgraves, a senior History and Religion major at Samford.

Much of my summer has been spent in solitude as I work in Nashville at the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives. The job itself is awfully quiet (it is a library after all) and I have had the house to myself for 7 weeks. This time to myself has opened up wonderful opportunities to grow in Christ as I have had time to read and reflect in quietness. I have been studying Hebrews and reading Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, a wonderful book by Paul Tripp. As fruitful as this time has been, it has also brought me to the realization that most growth in the Christian life occurs in the context of community.

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands is a wonderfully gospel-centered book on ministering to others. Tripp notes that Christians will often take great pains to prepare to teach the Word but scramble to find something to say whenever a friend encounters a tough spot in life or a difficult struggle with sin. We end up offering out of place Bible verses and meaningless platitudes. In one of his most compelling paragraphs, Tripp implores Christians to make the God the center of personal ministry rather than ourselves:

What we think of as ministering the Word is little more than a spiritual cut-and-paste system. This kind of ministry rarely leads to lasting change because it does not bring the power of the Word to the places where change is really needed. In this kind of ministry, self is still at the center, personal need is the focus, and personal happiness remains the goal. But a truly effective ministry of the Word must confront our self-focus and self-absorption at its roots, opening us up to the vastness of a God-defined, God-centered world. Unless this happens, we will use the promises, principles, and commands to the Word to serve the thing we really love: ourselves. This may be why many people read and hear God’s Word and remain unchanged. Only when the rain of the Word penetrates the roots of the problem does lasting change occur.

With this in mind, Tripp addresses the need for discipleship in community. He responds to the notion that Christians can live life on their own, thinking that they can perceive their need for God without the help of other Christians. To this, Tripp says

I need you in order to really see and know myself. Otherwise, I will listen to my own arguments, believe my own lies, and buy into my own delusions. My self-perception is as accurate as a carnival mirror. If I am going to see myself clearly, I need you to hold the mirror of God’s Word in front of me.

This is what happens in discipleship. This is why discipleship is so important. I have seen this in my own life through SMBC. Discipleship certainly brings personal change and transformation based upon the Word but it does much more than that. It forces me to think of spiritual growth as extending beyond myself. If the goal of Christianity is to think of myself less and about God and others more, as Tripp says, then discipleship in community is critical to becoming who God desires me to be. It is community based sanctification. In a discipleship group, it is harder to keep “self at the center, personal need the focus, and personal happiness the goal.” I can read the Bible on my own, pray on my own, read spiritual books on my own but I can still be self-centered in all of that—thinking only about my spiritual health, my relationship with God, and how spiritual I will look to others. Discipleship addresses this deepest problem: self-centeredness. I am forced to not only think about others, but actively love them. We see that God’s work extends well beyond ourselves. In my discipleship group we read the Bible together, we pray together, we share in the Christian life together.

In my discipleship group, we have focused especially on prayer. This focus on prayer leads us to lift our eyes up to God and outward to each other. We share our own struggles of course, but the focus is on bearing each other’s burdens whether they are burdens of suffering or personal sin. One practice that has been particularly helpful is taking turns writing out prayers. There is something special about sitting down and writing on paper what is in my heart.

But as great as the accountability and prayer is, sometimes it is just nice to have friends who you can eat barbecue, watch Hot Rod and True Grit, and build blanket forts with. But in all these things, God is molding us more into his image as we hold the mirror of God’s Word up to each other in accountability, prayer, and fellowship.

Life in Discipleship: with Amy Atkinson

Over the next several weeks, we will be posting a new blog series featuring student ruminations on their experiences of “Life in Discipleship” here with UMin. The fall is going to be an important time for new folks to get involved in mentoring discipleship relationships. Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit will challenge you to take advantage of this opportunity for real and deep growth during your time in college.

This post comes to us from Amy Atkinson, a junior at UAB.

At first, I did not actually sign up for the discipleship group.  Instead, I was asked by my roommate at the time if I could give her a ride to where they were meeting that night. I happened to stay for their D-group meeting and by the end of the night, I knew that God was telling me to be a part of this group of women. As Christians, God calls us to fellowship and community with fellow believers. It’s not just going to big church, Sunday school, and Wednesday night worship. It is being a part of a close knit group of people and growing in holiness towards Christ with them. Discipleship group has helped me get to know some amazing Samford girls, our group helps bridge the gaps between UAB and Samford students. We started in February and now it is already July, it is truly amazing to look back and see how far our group has come since then.

When I hear the word Discipleship I think of a group of people who are not perfect, but love one another for it.  Together, we work to grow closer to Christ and to fight the battle that sin wages against each one of us every day. I have formed relationships with these girls and them with me. This includes our fabulous d-group leaders, who have poured so much into us, and I think we have poured into them in some ways as well. I have come to look up to my Discipleship leaders as I look to the way they follow Christ. We all understand that we are flawed as humans and problems come up in our life (as we call them, “onions”). Being a part of a discipleship group encourages me that I am not alone and that there are women who have the same battles against sin as I do.

Life in Discipleship: with Anna Truitt

Over the next several weeks, we will be posting a new blog series featuring student ruminations on their experiences of “Life in Discipleship” here with UMin. The fall is going to be an important time for new folks to get involved in mentoring discipleship relationships. Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit will challenge you to take advantage of this opportunity for real and deep growth during your time in college.

This post comes to us from Anna Truitt. She is a rising junior nursing major at UAB.
Discipleship is beautiful. Discipleship is ugly. Ugly, because it requires one to willingly show others their sins. It demands that one humble themselves, be vulnerable, and admit that no matter what type of show we put on, we have struggles, we have sins that we just aren’t willing to let go of, and we are not perfect. (MAJOR pride-killer, there) Beautiful, because it brings our sins, once shamefully hidden in darkness (right where Satan wants it), into light. Once in the light, we find that there is no shame in this sin. There is no shame in being free from what once held us bound.

My first time being involved in a discipleship group was in summer of 2011. The fact that all of my friends I met from freshman year went home for the summer is what drove me to want to be involved in discipleship group. I needed community. I had no idea that the community of girls that the Lord would surround me with would jumpstart my desire to mature in Christ. That group of about 7 women painted a picture of what it truly looked like to follow Jesus. I saw how they were so knowledgeable in Scripture and how their greatest joy was in knowing their Lord. At this point, I knew I wanted what they had. I wanted to KNOW Him…to count everything as rubbish for the sake of knowing Christ. (Philippians 3:8)

I spent this past year in a discipleship group with 5 other girls. We were all single and hated it to say the least. I love how the Lord used community with one another to help us find satisfaction in Him. Our individual struggles became a group struggle, in a sense, and we were able to see the Lord satisfy each of us as we bore one another’s burdens. We learned that being satisfied in Him was to be satisfied with His provision, remembering that “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1Timothy 6:6)

This summer my discipleship group did a Beth Moore study called When Godly People Do Ungodly Things. We learned what it meant to give grace upon grace to believers who were seduced by sin. We also saw the importance of guarding our hearts and minds against the schemes of the devil and to purposefully recognize areas in our life that the devil constantly uses to seduce us. One part of the study that really impacted me was learning that, as believers, we need to be sifted by Christ—even our pasts. Through the painful process of walking through healing with the Lord, He taught me that He has authority over my emotions, my feelings, and my attachments. This area of my life needed to be sanctified. “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

What’s God doing with you this summer, Sarah Wright?

This summer we are posting a series of blogs looking in on various UMin students as they spend their summers studying, living at home, traveling, working, and just experiencing life.  This post comes from rising junior, psychology major at Samford, Sarah Wright:

God was so good to me at camp the first six weeks of this summer. I was a camp counselor at Pine Cove Camp in the City, a camp in Tyler, Texas where we worked with elementary-aged inner city kids at the Boys and Girls Club of East Texas [I would love to tell anyone more about what all we did specifically, so just ask]. To sum it up in one phrase – it was awesome. It is cool for me to write this and see how much my mindset has changed towards the whole idea of camp because before I went I was a little uneasy about the whole concept. For those of you who do not know me, I am not a super peppy, “spirited” person if you will. I am not an extrovert. I am not someone who would choose to cheer and chant about eating lunch. And I am definitely not a morning person. But that all changed very quickly once I got to Pine Cove. I found myself jumping up and down daily, having people within 5 feet (inches most of the time, if not clinging on to me) of me at any given moment, and cheering about everything from picking trash off the ground to washing germs off my hands. And on top of all of that I woke up at 5:30 every morning and went to bed at 9:30 every night. Needless to say it was a total life change for me. But a much needed one.

I learned a lot at camp, but one of the big lessons was that my time is not my own and that in all and through all I should be living for the gospel, not for myself. I know it sounds like such an elementary concept, but it was such a huge thing for me to realize. I started to see how much of my past semester was spent so selfishly in doing the things I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do them. I saw how my independence got in the way a lot of time. I realized how college is such a sweet time of freedom, but failed to realize how much I abused that freedom by just living for myself. It led me really question what I was doing with my time and how now I desire nothing more than to max out my last two years really treasuring my time. I realized that my time I have is not my own, just like the money I earn or the possessions I have; yet so often I think so opposite of that. It was humbling as I noticed how selfish I was.

I also had some other humbling moments. From getting pied in the face to completely drenched in shaving cream and soaked with water guns from my campers (with my only dry clothes for the day, the clothes I had on) to waking up at 5:30 and eating more corndogs than I’d like to remember, it all was for the gospel. I learned it was not about me. None of it. Everything I did turned into a purpose whether my kids saw it or not and I am just so thankful for the fact that the Lord allowed me to live out his truth in such unexpected ways.  It was such a blessing to just live in community where everyday we all woke up dying to our selves and living for the hope that the Lord has given us (Galatians 2:20).

Coming back home I was really nervous about what my time would look like with all the distractions I had been away from. Thankfully one of my sweet friends at school and I made a list of summer goals we wanted to accomplish before the semester let out. I never have been a good goal keeper, but after camp and seeing how I was such a bad steward of my time, that has all changed! It was funny getting back home and pulling out that list. We made goals based on five different areas of our lives [Mental, Academic, Physical, Spiritual, and Social= MAPSS] and based our reasoning for doing these things off of verses like Galatians 6:7-10 and I Timothy 4:10. And it has been such a good thing for me. When I am not at work, and find myself with free time I pull out my MAPSS list and find something on there for me to do. It has been great. I am so much more productive with my time and feel like such a better steward of it.

So I challenge all of you that are getting in a slump or just feel like you are wasting your summer days away to sit down and write some goals out (seriously, for whatever reason putting pen to paper about goals you have in your head makes a huge difference). Give them to a friend or do them together. We have so much free time during the summer and such a great opportunity to use that for His Kingdom, so take advantage of it! Be a good steward of the time He has given you and realize it is a blessing!

It is funny because before I wrote this blog I was debating on what to write about and this was not what I anticipated to share with you all, but I know there was a reason for why I did. But I think it is fitting. Just like camp I was not anticipating what all was going to go on and how it was going to impact me, but I loved every second of it and would do it all again in a heart beat. Its funny to see how God works in our lives, isn’t it? Who knew that a 9:30 bedtime could teach you so much? [Not to mention, how to master a 2-minute bedtime routine]

Hope all of you are having a fantastic summer!

~Sarah “High School Snoozical” Wright [Feel free to ask how I got this wonderful camp name – but don’t be deceived, there is not a whole lot to it]

Life in Discipleship: with Jillie Rufe

Over the next several weeks, we will be posting a new blog series featuring student ruminations on their experiences of “Life in Discipleship” here with UMin.  The fall is going to be an important time for new folks to get involved in mentoring discipleship relationships.  Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit will challenge you to take advantage of this opportunity for real and deep growth during your time in college.

This post comes to us from Jillie Rufe.  She is a rising sophomore nursing major at Samford.

This past year was my freshman year, and it was absolutely crazy, different, new, and amazing all in one!  I have grown up in church and have always been involved in a youth ministry back home, but this year I have changed and grown so much.  As I started coming to Shades I consistently heard the phrase “let’s do life together,” and I thought it was catchy, but I really don’t think I understood the impact and meaning behind those words.  A few months into my first semester I joined a discipleship group in order to meet more people and grow in my walk with Christ.  Little did I know, I would “do life” with these people.  My discipleship mentor cooked a wonderful, homemade dinner for our group every week.  We had fellowship and then studied God’s word together.  There were girls from all different places in their college journey, with all different majors.  Each of us, in our different stages of college, still were learning the same lessons and striving toward the same goal, to live godly lives that impact others for His name.  Each girl in my group happened to be from Samford, yet I probably would not have met them otherwise.  They were such a blessing to me.  Being a freshman, they gave me advice on things that they had experienced and encouraged me to become more involved on campus and in church.  I knew that I could talk to any of them if I ever needed anything. 

My discipleship leader and I also got to meet one-on-one a few times, and she became someone that I could share anything with.  She has been through college before and offered great encouragement and wisdom throughout the year.  She showed me what it meant to be obedient to Christ in love and service.  Up until this year, I have struggled with my motivations for why I go to church, why I read my Bible; was it out of duty or habit or was I following Christ because I was in love with Him?  Mrs. Joanne faithfully and joyfully displayed a love for Christ through discipleship.  She invested in me and supported me through my freshman year.  She taught us how and why to pursue holiness.   I learned that I could truly minister to the heart of God through my obedience and actions as well.

This year, the discipleship group was an essential!  My relationship with Jesus became more personal and deeper than ever before.  I always had someone I could call for literally anything.  I had the blessing of talking with others about their journeys with Christ and always started out the week encouraged.  We confided in each other, kept each other accountable, and built lasting friendships.  And, this summer, I have really missed discipleship group and the college ministry!  Being in a discipleship group really motivated me to pour into others as my group did for me.  Having someone invest in me and constantly point me toward Christ made all the difference!

What’s God doing with you this summer, Tim Lewis?

This summer we are posting a series of blogs looking in on various UMin students as they spend their summers studying, living at home, traveling, working, and just experiencing life.  This post comes from rising 2nd year Samford Pharmacy student Tim Lewis:

I think transition periods in our lives can be some of the most challenging and potentially rewarding times that really push us to choose a side in our faith. This has definitely held true for me this summer as I work at UAB hospital in a decentral pharmacy and live with an absolutely amazing family from Shades.

Working in the hospital has really made me more aware of both the fragility and complexity of the body that God has created for us as well as just life in general. As part of my job I respond to codes and help the pharmacist with anything they need, whether it be pulling up drugs or running to go get them. I have seen multiple people die in these situations, sometimes with family members close by. This really puts into perspective how valuable the time we have in this life is. God did not intend for these bodies to be permanent, they will inevitably fail. Am I living for the moment that God has given me right now or do I get stuck thinking about the [misplaced] hope I have in my own future (Matthew 6)? Do I truly grasp the reality that I am just dust without the breath of God (Genesis 2)? It also reminds me of the security that I have in knowing Christ. I have full confidence knowing that if I am ever on the other side of the crisis and don’t make it through alive, I am going home to be with my Savior. It brings me back to the last half of Philippians 1. I look forward to physically being with Christ but until that day I have a job to do right here. I am also constantly reminded of Psalm 139 at the hospital and humbled at the thought of how deeply the Father cares for each one of us.

One of the coolest things that I have experienced this summer just happened a couple days ago. I had the opportunity of watching a kidney transplant in the operating room.  All I can say is that it was absolutely amazing to see one living person give up part of their body for the life of another. It got me thinking about how absolutely incredible it is that Christ died to save us from certain death…and not physical death as the transplant donor did, but Christ saved us from eternal separation from God; He made it possible for us to live in the presence of God eternally despite our imperfection in this life. He has forever cleansed us of our sin if we choose to accept the grace He has given us.

As you have read, I have seen God in many different ways this summer through UAB hospital. Introspective thought is a great way to grow closer to Christ. However, that can’t and shouldn’t the only manifestation of my faith. Everything I have talked about above in regard to Christ is meant to be shared and not kept to myself. The love of Christ and faith in Christ is something that I should actively be telling others of. In all honesty, this has been one of the more challenging things for me this summer, but let me encourage you as you read this to not let your faith only change your life, but also the lives of others.

There are so many more things that I would love to share including what I have learned about the Body of Christ by living with a truly incredible family that started off as strangers at the beginning of the summer. However, for the 2 or 3 of you that are still reading at this point, I’ll save that for when you ask me about it!

-Tim

Psalm 115:1