Ministering to college students includes a unique factor of epic inconsistency in numbers. Particularly for those of us in small-town ministries, most pastors and Bible study leaders have experienced the night when only 1 person shows up. Our experience typically follows a strict schedule of worry, insecurity, then eventual trust in God.
Within the first 1/2 hour ministry is supposed to begin, I will have gone through the following thinking process:
Is this the right evening?
Was there a major car accident blocking the road?
Did everyone collaborate to go bowling and forgot to inform the one person who came to Bible study?
Is my teaching/leading really that bad?
I wonder if I should text all of them.
I worked so hard on this lesson, should I save it for a larger group next week, or share it with just one person?
After making it through issues of personal insecurity presumed to be dealt with in my high-school years, I realize I need to cut the mental break-down and the small talk. This one person showed up to meet with God; it is my job to actually engage him/her* in some meaningful conversation.
So I move forward with the lesson. God planned it for this night for a reason, even if only for one person. We go deeper personally into the word, talking together about how it impacts each of us. There is more feedback and intimacy–not what I was expecting for the material. Eventually, we get to the topic of salvation. Turns out, this one person has never heard the gospel explained. Thinking themselves as a Christian by default, (s)he kept coming to Bible study.
I share my testimony, read truth from John and Romans, and wait for a response. The individual says thank you for sharing and promised to think hard about it. While (s)he hasn’t accepted Christ yet, (s)he keeps coming to Bible study (and, for the record, so does the rest of the group).
Regardless, this moment reminded me of my insecurity. With all my planning and organization, I am insufficient; I recall my great need to rely on the Holy Spirit. I rearrange the importance of salvation conversations in my mind. He gives me courage to hope for a 1-person Bible study more often.
From now on in my study preparations, I pray to be faithful and reliant on Him for whatever opportunity He brings.
*name and gender withheld for confidential reasons
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Another song with a decent jogging beat, No Chains on Me keeps pace with deep spiritual truth. This song was one of the greatest encouragements to me when I ran a 1/2 Marathon. When my body said “quit already, I’m tired,” my spirit found strength knowing that nothing can chain me down from running to Jesus. It motivated me to keep running the race.
During my work-out, lyrics like “my heart is free, no chains on me,” help me visualize all the things that bind me from being all I can be as a woman of God, like my pride, insecurity, believing in the Devil’s lies. These are my chains, but Christ has broken everyone and given me freedom! (Hint to tomorrow’s song…)
Read the lyrics, then scroll down for a unique exercise to visualize that freedom from bondage.
This is the dream A dream for the world to see You A dream for the world to know You To love Your name
Lift up a shout Lift up a cry to shake the ground Shout and the walls are coming down Yeah, we’re running after You
Like a rolling stone, like a runaway train No turning back, no more yesterdays My heart is free, no chains on me
God, You raise me up, up from the grave With the cross before, I’m on my way My heart is free, no chains on me
Now is the time Now is the time for freedom Abandoned by cold religion My heart on fire
We hear the sound The sound of revival coming The sound of Your people rising Yeah, we’re running after You
The walls are coming down Yeah, the walls are coming down The walls are coming down
Yesterday, I mentioned how I want to lay down my body as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). For me, working-out is a symbol of that, because it requires commitment, discipline, and forcing my body to submit: all good reminders for following Jesus Christ as well. While doing crunches the other day, I started laying my sins before God. With each squeeze of my stomach muscles, I confessed another characteristic that needed to be removed or re-shaped: “Lord help me get rid of my pride…. my self-centeredness….. gossip….. gluttony…. laziness…. self-sufficiency…. self-loathing…. lack of submission….. anger….
I asked God to discipline my spirit as I was disciplining my abs.
My amazing accountability partner, Jenny (also a very godly and fit woman), said its a good idea to think about other things than counting reps. Well I found that I lost track of how many crunches I was doing. I just felt the burn in my tummy and the burn in my selfish nature. It was saying “noooooo” but I was doing as Paul says:
“I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:27
With each blow, a chain was loosed. I acknowledge the potential for my own nature to enslave me, but instead, I will make my sin-nature myslave, forcing it to submit and serve the purpose of loving Christ. I am more than a conqueror, both over my flabby tummy, and my fleshly nature!
I am by no means a fitness guru. My fitness goals consist of getting to the gym habitually… no weight loss, no “mile in under 10 minutes” goal… just hoping to build a habit.
Still, one thing I’ve got going for me is my AWESOME playlist-making skills. My workouts are not just a kick-in-the-butt; they are uplifting and encouraging in my walk (or run) with God. With the right choices of music, I feel I am not just battling fat, but battling flesh (the selfish side of me).
Almost a year ago, after we ran in the Princess 1/2 Marathon, my mom asked me to share my running playlist with her. It is full of songs to encourage us along the journey, not just keep us in-step with a catchy beat.
My mom and sister are running in the Princess 1/2 Marathon again. Though I can’t join them this year, I can provide some suggestions of impactful songs for the journey.
So here you go mom (and anyone else who’s interested), I am finally getting around to sharing my running playlist with you.
Some of the songs may include extensive explanations as to why they encourage me, others might just be a set of lyrics. I highly recommend getting a Spotify account for less than $9 a month (less expensive than buying 1 album a month) so you can download any of these songs to your iPod.
But before I start, I want to hear your ideas! What do you listen to to keep you running to Jesus and staying fit?
My mom is running in the Princess Half-Marathon in Disney World this coming February. I am so beyond proud of her fitness journey; I know the race in Disney World will be another impactful way to commemorate how far she has come.
When I ran the Princess 1/2 Marathon with my mom and sister last year, I was amazed at what God was doing with me physically, and spiritually. God taught me so much through that journey.
It became a parallel race to my journey with God. First of all, when I gave my life to Christ, I was adopted as a child of God. If God is the King of kings, that makes me a princess.
It was just too fitting to wear a tiara for the Princess 1/2 Marathon.
But as a servant of the Almighty, I am also called to be a warrior in God’s army, strong and courageous.
In my walk with God there are lots of people to run along side of…. some of them even seem a little crazy (you know, that church), but we are all running to Jesus, no matter our differences.
Still, loneliness can settle in, even among the crowd. I have to remember that even the people that “bug” me can still be greatest support as a Christian.
I will face evil…
I will feel like I can’t keep the pace…
Or maybe I’ll want to take an easier, faster route, like the Monorail…
There will be road blocks in my walk with God, but God will always provide a safe path for me.
I will get excited about my spiritual mile markers…. like baptism, sharing my testimony, developing healthy habits, and growing closer to God.
I am so blessed to share this walk with God with my husband…
Maybe I’ll someday get to carry someone else on the journey…
I will run into some pretty crazy people as a Christian…
Unlike 1/2 Marathons, we don’t get a “half-way-there” sign in life. Still, every day is another breath, another step, another opportunity to walk with God or lose heart….
Don’t lose heart.
No matter what look like, we are all princesses, so lets stop comparing and act daughters of God together.
When I came to the castle in the Magic Kingdom, the song “Oh Praise Him” by David Crowder Band came on my running playlist. I was overwhelmed with the joy that I had “made it to the castle;” but when that song came on, my joy shifted to thinking of how amazing the joy will be when I finally make it to God’s castle!
As I “turned my ear to Heaven,” I was overwhelmed with the expectation of joy and unshifting rest I will experience when I reach heaven. I will truly be singing “O praise Him, He is Holy, Hallelujah, He is Holy.”
Call it a runner’s high, but I actually started singing and skipping, running with my arms stretched out, just completely in love with Jesus and running figuratively to him.
It was then that I ran into my mom. Well really, she was running into me. Apparently she had been calling out my name for several minutes, trying to catch up to me…. all the while I was blasting worship music on my iPod, completely unaware of my surroundings. She finally tapped me on the shoulder; as soon as I noticed her she swiftly took a deep breath and a short pause (I have no idea how long she had been keeping my pace, but I have much longer legs than she does.)
From that point on we ran together. My mom was discouraged and in a lot of pain from a foot problem, but she is so tough. She could have written the definition of endurance that day.
In a race this large, safety precautions require people on bikes and driving vans to follow the final runners, just in case they need medical attention or would rather ride comfortably to the finish line in the air-conditioning. With the safety guys hovering like vultures behind us, we pressed on. The last mile was the longest. Everyone kept encouraging us, “You are almost there.” We wanted to bite their heads off.
But then…. the finish line. My mom picked up her pace and finished the race faithfully. I stopped and did a “Tebow” right before the finish line, putting my time a few seconds back in the name of Jesus and football. (I do NOT recommend doing this if you are not at the end of the line, with no one to run into you when you stop suddenly.)
It was a mind-altering journey to say the least. I grew leaps and bounds in my relationship with God that day; my confidence rose too, in pushing my body to new limits and reveling in the abilities God gave me. The final lesson is this:
“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:25-27
Today I stumbled upon a journal entry I wrote in my early college years. I was going through a stage of loneliness at the time. Having never dated, much less go out on a date, I remember really wanting a boyfriend. I longed for companionship, especially after watching a romantic flick or, in this instance, seeing couples walk on the beach together.
Despite the loneliness, the truth of God’s love pierced my heart in a way that redefined my whole perspective. Now, exactly 4 years later, I am so glad I wrote it down.
January 5, 2008:
“There I was, walking barefoot on the beach, alone, and yet so filled with the presence of my Heavenly Father I couldn’t help but smile. I had wished for somebody to hold my hand, but God sent a wave to come up and caress my toes instead. I had felt a longing for somebody to tell me I was beautiful, but I heard the sound of the surf crashing upon the rocks, clapping in unspoken appreciation for the daughter created in her Father’s image. I yearned for somebody to find me worthy enough to plant a kiss upon, and God revealed the sun who kissed me so passionately I won’t be rid of freckles for months…
…I saw love and devotion between two human-beings several times on that beach, but none compares to the way my God loves me. He loves me.”
The Becky-of-today is blown away by the faith of Becky-from-years-past. Reading the words of hope reassures me again today. I lose heart too often, over big things and little things. Then it was loneliness, now its over-crowded living rooms. My 20-year-old self reminds me to take up courage and faith, because God is a great and trustworthy God, whose love never falters.
To those who are doubting, lonely, overwhelmed, hurt, feeling pathetic, going-crazy, or sighing yet again from a heavy burden…I don’t dare to have an encouraging word for the boat we all find ourselves in, but I take comfort that my 20-year-old-self does.
P.S. It happened sooner than I thought! God blessed me with a great guy who loves the Lord and has kissed almost every freckle on my face. Here we are shortly after we started dating later that year.
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Breakfast with Jesus… its an interesting concept. I am a breakfast lover, and I love Jesus; it makes sense to join the two in an epic morning worship-fest at sunrise!
Here is how it all got started:
Jump out of boat, swim to shore, drag in net, prove worth to Jesus again….
I think Peter wrote this mental to-do list the instant he recognized Jesus calling.
It was several weeks after Jesus had risen from the dead, and the disciples were fishing (John 21). After a night of no bites, a figure calls out from the shore, urging them to cast nets to the other side of the boat. With the now-heavy load of fish stating the obvious, the men recognized Jesus was the man on shore.
And cue Peter’s to do list.
I do the same thing everyday*. Like Peter, I know I’ve failed God before; I may not have denied Christ 3 times before a rooster crowed, but I’ve certainly denied God my devotion, my time, and my heart. I chase after menial accomplishments, spend too much time on Pinterest, and glorify British television shows as the best thing ever.
Recognizing my failures, I put together the “fail safe” plan to regain the approval of my master:
Be better, do better, show more effort than the rest, make Jesus notice me as a “good and faithful servant.“
I quickly fail. So then I come up with a new list, on a new blog post, in a new journal, with a new pen; I trick myself into thinking a new accomplishment for Christ will orchestrate the closeness and wonder and satisfaction I am longing for. But, like Peter’s efforts, my to-do lists keep me distant and hungry.
I thank God for His response: “Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.'”(John 21:12 ESV)
Jesus already prepared the meal; he was simply waiting for Peter and the disciples to join Him.
The same is true for me today; Jesus has already accomplished all the work of approval on the cross. His invitation now is “Abide in Me, Becky; sit down and be still with Me. And have some bacon.”
In other words, my failures are covered by the exchange of Christ’s righteousness. Even the things I want to do for God are already checked off the list, because it is He who is at work in me to will and to work for His good pleasure**. God offers satisfaction for my hunger: He invites me to breakfast.
So this is my prerogative: to have Breakfast with Jesus.
I will probably still attempt great accomplishments for God, drag in the net full of lost souls I long to meet Jesus.
I will still fail like Peter, living with a “insert foot here” sticker over my mouth.
I will might even try to make this “Breakfast with Jesus” into a project, a check-off the to-do list.
But for right now, I just want to be with Him…
Open my Bible and smell the pancakes….
Sit at His feet and receive the nourishment He has already provided for my heart.
Enjoy the first fruits of the day’s sunrise with King Jesus.
PS… How marvelous that Jesus invites all his disciples to come and have breakfast… So dear friend, will you join us for breakfast?
*I learned this great lesson while listening to J.D. Greear’s message “The Failure”…. Find the podcast under The Summit Church
**Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12, 13 ESV)
Our works mean nothing if it weren’t for God who works in us!
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