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)

Cross Bearing in our Life with God

This summer in Sunday School, we have been “learning from Jesus” together.  So far we have explored what it meant for Him to be Messiah, how the Trinity challenges us to jump into the deep things of God, different ways people respond to Jesus, considered who the Kingdom of God is for, thought about the practice of Christian rest, purposed to find our satisfaction in God/His provision, understood how Jesus confronts blind spots in our lives where we serve the kingdom of Satan rather than the Kingdom of God, been asked to engage in true and deep Christian community, seen how Jesus reimagines life in abundance and scarcity, and thought through how awareness of our personalities/skills/tendencies helps us rightfully approach service and worship.

To help us prepare to engage together, each week we will be posting a devotional thought related to the coming Sunday’s topic. This week’s thought comes from François Fénelon, Talking with God, trans. Hal M. Helms (Brewster, MA: Paraclete, 1997), 141-42.

We must carry the cross as a treasure.  It is through the cross that we are made worthy of God and conformed to the likeness of his Son.  Crosses are a part of our daily bread.  God regulates the measure of them according to our real wants, which he knows, and for which we are ignorant.  Let him do as he wills, and let us resign ourselves into his hands.

Be a child of divine providence.  Leave it to your relatives and friends to reason about things.  DO not think about the future from afar.  The manna was corrupted when, out of prudent foresight, they wished to provide sufficient supply for more than one day.  Do not say, What shall we do tomorrow?  “Tomorrow will worry about itself” [St. Matthew 6:34 (NIV)].  Confine yourself today to your present needs.  God will give you each day the help that is proportioned to that day.  “Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” [Psalm 34:10 (NIV)].  Providence would do miracles for us, but we hinder these miracles by trying to anticipate them.  We make for ourselves, by our restless industry, a providence as defective as the providence of God would be certain.

Be faithful and docile.  By an infinite distrust of yourself make your weaknesses profitable, and by a childlike pliability allow yourself to be corrected.  Humility will be your strength, even in the midst of weakness.

I do not doubt that our Lord will always treat you as one of his friends; that is to say, he will send you crosses, sufferings, humiliations.  These ways and means, which God makes us of to draw souls to himself, do this work so much better and more quickly than the creature’s own efforts; for the very fact of its being God’s action alone is destructive to self-love and tears up the roots which we cannot even discover without great difficulty.  But God, who knows all the secret lurking places of self-love, proceeds forthwith to attack it in its stronghold, and upon its own ground.

If we were strong enough and faithful enough to trust ourselves entirely to God, and to follow him simply wherever he wished to lead us, we should have no need of great application of mind to labour in the work of our perfection.  But because we are so weak in faith that we wish to know where we are going, without trusting to God, our way becomes much longer, and spoils our spiritual affairs.

Abandon yourself as much as you can to God, until your last breath, and he will never forsake you.

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!

Meeting and Being Jesus in the Marketplace

This summer in Sunday School, we have been “learning from Jesus” together.  So far we have explored what it meant for Him to be Messiah, how the Trinity challenges us to jump into the deep things of God, different ways people respond to Jesus, considered who the Kingdom of God is for, thought about the practice of Christian rest, purposed to find our satisfaction in God/His provision, seen how Jesus confronts blind spots in our lives where we serve the kingdom of Satan rather than the Kingdom of God, been asked to engage in true and deep Christian community, and last week Sidney showed us how Jesus reimagines life in abundance and scarcity.  This week, we will be hitting the idea of balancing the Mary and the Martha.

To help us prepare to engage together, each week we will be posting a devotional thought related to the coming Sunday’s topic. This week’s thought comes from Emilie Griffin, The Reflective Executive (New York: Crossroad, 1993), 13-14, 18-19, 166-67.

From my first office in New York City, on the thirty-seventh floor of a Fifth Avenue tower, I could look down on St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  It looked like a child’s plaything, a toy cathedral that I could lift and carry somewhere.  Something about this troubled me.  Cathedrals, I felt, should be looked up to.  Later, when I visited England, I saw how cathedrals can dominate landscapes.  Then I understood the new power balance of twentieth-century life.  Lever House and the Seagram’s Building, I concluded, are our new cathedrals.  The Chrysler Building and the Empire State our statements of value. Dwarfing the little churches on Park Avenue and Wall Street, they have created a new ethos.  These buildings are proclamations of power.  Do we as executives need to leave these buildings in order to experience faith?  Or is God with us in the Marketplace?…

God is here!  He is actually present!  It is not beneath him to dwell on the Staten Island ferry, heading for Lower Manhattan.  He is willing to descend with us into the underground chambers of the subway, to be with us in discomfort, boredom, alienation.  He accompanies us to the boardroom.  He attends the year-end meeting.  In the community formed by us, by colleagues, by purchasers, buyers and sellers, customers satisfied and unsatisfied, he is present, bearing our sorrows, acquainted with grief.

What a contrast to our common way of thinking: that business, which is by its very nature materialistic, somehow has to be spiritualized.  The reality is otherwise.  It is our mistake to think that we will somehow take business, which is unholy, and by some sacrifice or offering, make it holy.  That tragic mistake is the crucial error we must expose.  To correct this false notion we need not only action but contemplation….

The reflective executive is one who walks by faith and thinks by metaphor; who sees in the terror and anxiety of the twentieth century a call to holiness, who understands daily experience as a call to conversion, who lives in dialogue with God, making intercession for others; who throws her own life into the breach when necessary; who manifests a concern for others; who takes into account, in business decisions, the intolerable sound of the word “trade-off” and at the same time the relentless necessity of compromise; who operates within the realm of the practical knowing that with God, all things are possible; who looks long, looks hard, looks prophetically and with vision at the improbable realignments that take place in society daily; who sets aside, to the extent possible, the biases, the scotosis, the distortions of ancient enmities and strife; and who longs for reconciliation, solidarity, sisterhood, brotherhood—perhaps for civility most of all.

The reflective executive is in short a hero and a saint, dressed in the ordinary garb of the marketplace.  This executive is one who lives not only by getting things done but by getting the right things done because she lives in the sight of the Lord all the days of her life.  Her courage and her vision are unconquerable.  She lives for her Master’s counsel, and in his presence her heart is lifted up and consoled.  She is anointed with the oil of gladness because she understands the generosity of the Lord’s favor to her; and she is willing to walk through the canyons of cities built by commerce and weakened by double-dealing, to mend the broken statues, and to repair the shattered dreams.

Jesus: Our Abundance

This summer in Sunday School, we have been “learning from Jesus” together.  So far we have explored what it meant for Him to be Messiah, how the Trinity challenges us to jump into the deep things of God, different ways people respond to Jesus, considered who the Kingdom of God is for, thought about the practice of Christian rest, purposed to find our satisfaction in God/His provision, seen how Jesus confronts blind spots in our lives where we serve the kingdom of Satan rather than the Kingdom of God, and last week Amy asked us to engage in true and deep Christian community.  This week Sidney Mays will be teaching us about abundant life.

To help us prepare to engage together, each week we will be posting a devotional thought related to the coming Sunday’s topic. This week’s thought comes from Walter Brueggemann, “Enough is Enough,” The Other Side (Nov./Dec. 2001, 37, no. 6), 10-13.

The Bible is about abundance.  From the first chapters of Genesis, God not only initiates abundance—calling forth plants and fish and birds and animals—but promises continued abundance by commanding them to “increase and multiply” (1:22).  God’s generosity and fidelity reach their climax on the sixth day, when God proclaims a sufficiency for “everything that has the breath of life” and declares all this “very good” (1:30-31).  Having thus set in motion a world of abundance, God rests—the mechanisms are in place, the world will have enough.

Of course, things don’t turn out quite that way.  Dissatisfied with what they’ve been given, God’s creatures want more.  Instead, they get les.  The bountiful earth becomes stingy; even bread won’t abound without sweat.  Scarcity sets in, bubbling under the narrative, breaking through here and there, and finally bursting forth full-blown in Egypt, where abundance gets locked up in Pharaoh’s warehouses, to be parceled out for money, then possessions, then slavery.  Scarcity reaches a point where the immigrant Israelites, having traded their freedom for food, don’t even have straw to make the bricks that slavery demands.  Like so many other victims of scarcity, they great out—whether for help, or just from the hurt, the Bible doesn’t say.

God hears their cry, and sends Moses to tell Pharaoh that the God of abundance has come to free the Israelites from this ideology of scarcity.  And Yahweh won’t accept no for an answer.  It takes convincing, but Pharaoh finally agrees—at least long enough for the Israelites to gather their belongings and put a river between themselves and Egypt. 

It isn’t long before what they have left behind starts to look good compared to what they must face.  They left the land of scarcity thinking they would bounce into the land of abundance.  Instead, they find themselves at risk in a wilderness, a desert with no visible life-support systems, a place of scarcity where even bread seems an impossibility.  Having inhaled the continuing reality of scarcity throughout their lives, the Israelites breathe out murmurs, complaints, condemnations, and reveries of Egypt—where at least there was bread.

Then, in this desert wilderness, break inexplicably appears.  A fine, flaky substance comes down, answering Israel’s risk with a manifestation of God’s faithful generosity.  This bread violates all their categories: It overturns their conviction about scarcity and cancels their anxiety about hunger.  The gift of bread transforms the wilderness.  And from that point on, Israel would entertain the thought that a place of perceived scarcity may turn out to be a place of wondrous abundance.

In the New Testament, Jesus knows all about the generosity and fidelity of God.  In his very person, the whole of Israel’s faith is expressed with a new intensity.  Filled with God’s generosity, Jesus went around to people suffering from scarcity—of health, of acceptance, of power, of understanding—and replaced it with a gift of abundance.

The eighth chapter of Mark’s Gospel contains the second feeding narrative, a story rich in Israel’s past.  Jesus notices that the people who’ve been listening to him have run out of food.  He’s been here before, back in chapter six where he fed the five thousand.  But hunger—scarcity—isn’t a one-time experience, and Jesus isn’t in the “symbolic gesture” business.  He’s in the generosity business, and that means being constantly alert to any mismatch between the generosity of God and the needs of the people.

In this instance, the mismatch moves Jesus “to compassion”—a Greek term that means that his insides are turned over.  Jesus has this strange bodily sense of an emergency. He cares about the hungry and knows something must be done…

Mark uses four words to describe what Jesus did: took, gave thanks, broke, and gave.  The words are familiar; they are Eucharistic words.  Out in the desert, Jesus uses seven loaves to conduct a sit-down thanksgiving dinner that matches the needs of the people with the generosity of God.  And his actions are transformative….Jesus has put into practice the generosity of the Creator.  It is as though Genesis 1 reappears in Mark 8, and the world is again made new.