Full Faith During a Full Schedule: How to Use Faith as a Guide During Chaotic Times

I am currently a full-time psychology student at DBU, as well as a part time on-campus worker. Because most student-worker jobs pay little more than minimum wage, getting a second source of income was almost a no-brainer: it’s a little more practical than simply not eating throughout the semester. After applying at a local retail store, I now have the equivalent of a full-time job as a full-time student. More importantly than my student and professional status, I am a believer in Christ, the one who gives strength and provides clarity in difficult times. My chaotic season inspired me to encourage myself and others enduring overwhelming circumstances to use the power of God to help us succeed.

Begin the Day With God

Before jumping out of the bed to cram for the big midterm today or turning on the coffee pot to brew your first of today’s three cups of dark blend, give thanks to God for actually waking you up. Delight in His presence, and ask Him to clothe you in gratitude, servanthood, and protection. Begin the day with faith that these requests shall be received and that the Father is near, no matter what the day brings. “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NIV)

Be Intentional in Serving God

Many can recall days we would attend school or work only to perform minimally. Instead of considering school as a route to a good job, think of it as a place where God has given ongoing blessings of wisdom and opportunity to learn from a variety of people. Rather than complaining about your stale work routine or your less-than-pleasant supervisor, remind yourself that your job is more than completing tasks for a paycheck. Your job is also an opportunity to gain field experience, socialize with others, learn about new cultures, and to simply serve others. “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1-5 (NIV)

Let Go and Let God

In hindsight, we often find that the harder we try to manipulate events in our favor, the more out-of-control events seem to become. Day and night, we stress about the things of the past and more things yet to come. In lieu of focusing all of your energy into trying to control everything, give yourself the freedom to be out of control. We, alone, do not possess the power to curate and manipulate life completely, nor do we have the strength to maintain these manipulations. The Lord, however is omniscient and omnipotent. He knows everything about us and what’s good for us, and He carries the power to execute His great plans. Many have come to find that we don’t receive much power in attempting to rule over our worries and responsibilities. We receive power by admitting that we find strength in the All-Powerful God. Give Him your burdens and seek His wisdom in going forward. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

Be Still

Begin your day with God in mind, labor intentionally for the Lord, and have give Him your burdens. Now be still and trust that God is up to the task of supplying your every need and more. Believe in your prayers, align your mind with God’s desires, and feed your faith by being still. “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

Written by Ashley

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The Burial of Jesus

By the time Joseph made his way from Pilate’s palace to Golgotha, the crowds had dispersed. Most of the throngs of violent protesters and adoring followers left when the sky went dark earlier in the afternoon; those who had endured that bizarre experience scattered when the earthquake came.

Now there just seemed to be Romans milling around the crosses. Even the group of men and women who had followed Jesus so closely for the past two years were nowhere to be seen. Rumor had it that it was one of those 12 men who had betrayed their leader to the mob. Not that Joseph had any judgment to pass. After all, nobody knew he, too, was a disciple. At least, not yet; after what he was about to do, there would be no doubting his loyalties.

The mercenaries had already removed the bodies of the other criminals from their crosses; they would be thrown in mass graves and left to rot. Unless somebody intervened, Jesus’ body would meet the same fate. Even if the disciples hadn’t abandoned their Rabbi, Joseph knew the poor fishermen lacked the means to pay for a proper Jewish burial. Even Joseph, one of the wealthiest members of the Sanhedrin, could not pull together that kind of money on short notice. His personal tomb would have to suffice for his Master.

At the right cross, Joseph was startled to discover a familiar figure kneeling cautiously over the broken body of Jesus.

“Nicodemus?”

The Sanhedrin councilman looked up. He smiled. “Hello, Joseph. Have you come to do the same thing I’m here to do?”

Joseph scrambled to produce Pilate’s sealed letter releasing the body to him. “I have permission to lay him in my own tomb. It’s just across the garden. Roman guards have been ordered to help seal the cave and ensure nothing… happens.”

Nicodemus smiled again. “My friend, I’m not here to stop you.”

For the first time, Joseph noticed the loaded cart behind Nicodemus. Even over the stench of death he thought he could smell a hint of myrrh and aloe—spices used for Jewish burial.

A forgotten memory suddenly flashed to mind: one of the first times the Jewish council had attempted to arrest Jesus. When the Sanhedrin ridiculed the temple police for marveling at Jesus instead of putting him to death, only one member had risen to his defense. “Our law doesn’t judge a man before it hears from him and knows what he’s doing, does it?” Nicodemus had asked. Joseph felt shame to also remember that at the time he had been among those who mocked Nicodemus for his boldness and support of the Nazarene.

“I would appreciate your help,” Joseph admitted. Wordlessly, the two men began to adorn Jesus’ body in Joseph’s burial cloths and Nicodemus’ fragrances. Both men were rich, powerful scholars who could recite the Law from memory, but their hands fumbled with the material and clumsily spilled the expensive spices.

When they appeared to be finished, Joseph stepped back to evaluate their work. “Is it good enough?” he asked.

Nicodemus arched his brow. “Do you imagine that anything we do for him could ever be good enough?”

Together, the men gingerly laid Jesus on Nicodemus’ cart, and Joseph led the way to the tomb. “Nicodemus,” he inquired, “Did you ever speak to him personally? I never did myself…I was too afraid.”

“Once,” Nicodemus answered. “I went to him at night, in secret. I, too, was afraid.”

Joseph was impressed. “You had a private audience with Jesus?”

“An audience!” Nicodemus scoffed. “I got a strong personal lecturing from the Rabbi. I came to him a prideful fool, and I left still a fool, but a humble one for sure. He told me that I had to be born again—not of the flesh but of the Spirit—that because Yahweh so dearly loves the world, he gave his son, and those who believe in the son will live forever.” He shook his head. “I was a fool, I tell you.”

Live forever? Joseph glanced down at the lifeless form in the cart. If only Jesus had lived forever! “You must have thought he was crazy,” he said to Nicodemus.

The man plucked a purple iris from along the path and tucked it in his cloak. “That’s what I wanted to believe. I wanted him to be crazy so that I might be sane, so that the fabric of my life would not unravel at the seams. Everything he taught runs against the current of the Sanhedrin’s teachings, yet it was in being swept up by his river of truth that I really was born of the Spirit. No, Joseph, I knew from the day I spoke with him that Jesus was not crazy, and it terrified me more than the fear of others.”

Joseph could relate. He recalled the moment he first felt a stirring within his soul, a flicker of light and hope that told him without a doubt that Jesus of Nazareth was not a blasphemer. And as beautiful as it was, it had terrified him, too.

“This must be your tomb,” Nicodemus observed, “unless Pilate sends his personal guard to pay respects to all the dead.”

Snapping out of his thoughts, Joseph realized his most personal experience with Jesus had already come to an end. They had arrived at the tomb, and the Romans were waiting to seal the entrance.

He and Nicodemus lifted their Rabbi from the cart and took him inside. Laying the body on the cold stone gave Joseph an indescribable feeling in the pit of his stomach. He was grateful to have a fellow disciple at his side. “Do you really believe he was God?” Joseph intended the question to be personal but found himself speaking the words aloud.

Nicodemus removed the iris from his cloak and laid it down—not on Jesus’ body as would be proper tribute—but next to his hand, as if he thought the Rabbi might like to pick it up and smell it. “Do I believe he was God?” Nicodemus smiled for the third time that night, and even in the dimly lit tomb, the joy on his face was radiant. “Jesus is God.”

Written by Savanna

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Am I in the Right Place?: Finding Satisfaction in Service

Service.

If you’re a student at Dallas Baptist University, that word made you either jump to attention or roll your eyes. On top of the constant mantra of “servant leadership” that appears in every class (literally, in every syllabus), the most common DBU scholarship requires a certain number of service hours to be performed every semester. The idea of service is reinforced so often that we sometimes feel like we never stop serving.

When I was a freshman, I, like everyone else on that coveted scholarship, was required to pick a service off a list of approved locations and roll with it for an entire semester. Little Catherine took one look at that list (which rivaled War and Peace for length), was immediately overwhelmed, and quickly devolved to looking specifically for service projects involving children. I had been working with kids in my home church ever since I outgrew childcare myself, so I figured that was the best choice. I picked the first one that promised transportation and showed up with as little pomp and circumstance as possible.

It was alright the first week. I went back a few more times, then got some friends (who had put off service hours as long as possible) to go with me.

Nothing changed for two-and-a-half years. Everything was exactly the same… except, that is, for my morale and attitude.

Maybe I’m more adventurous than I thought I was. Maybe I lost my touch. Maybe the kids’ stories made me too sad. Whatever it was, by the middle of my junior year, I was so discouraged that I actually didn’t get enough hours because I skipped service so many weeks. I’m one of those students who doesn’t skip class unless I physically cannot get there (yes, I’ve gone to work with a migraine), so that only made the discouragement worse.

The Bible encourages us over and over to not give up: “Do not be afraid, and do not be discouraged,” Joshua 1:9 says in one example, “for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (NIV). It’s hard to be discouraged when you can see God working in your life or in the life of someone you’re serving. Yet there I was, watching God work through my friends while I watched on the sidelines. It wasn’t the way things were supposed to be, but I felt like I was in the wrong for feeling this way.

This jumble of emotions and worries was what came out of my mouth one day while I was cooking dinner and conversing with a friend. Somehow, he understood enough of that spiel to offer me an alternative, and because I was short on hours, feeling guilty about it, and curious about the idea of working with adults, I jumped on it.

If you want fuller details on what happened after that, read my previous blog on the subject here. For now, suffice it to say that I discovered I’m much more at home in homeless ministry than children’s ministry (ironic, no?), and I’ve been soaring above my service-hours requirement ever since.

Here’s the thing, folks: attitude is everything when you go to serve in the name of Christ, but there’s more to it than that. Look at Romans 12:3-8, which points out that since “we have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us,” everyone should use his or her specific gift to accomplish what God has sent him or her to do, not try to do something that is meant for someone else. With a new season of life came a new purpose, and I wish I had discovered that earlier.

Maybe you’re in a place of confusion today. Maybe you’re not getting the same joy out of a service you used to love. Maybe you feel like God is calling you somewhere “not here.” Listen, friend: Commitment is good, healthy even, but if God is telling you that you are needed elsewhere, listen to Him. The most amazing things happen when God tells you to leave everything you know and you obey.

Your heart isn’t always right; the human heart is fallen, and Satan loves to trick us into thinking we’re listening to God when we’re really listening to ourselves. But if you’re trying your best to have a good attitude toward service and you still come home feeling like you’re wasting time, it may be that God has a different place for you.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain,” reads 1 Timothy 6:6—gain for the Kingdom of God. Be content in your service, and you will find that it comes a whole lot easier.

Written by Catherine

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Glorifying God During Spring Break

It’s about halfway through the spring semester of college, and boy does it feel like it. Assignments are piling up, deadlines are getting closer and closer, and it feels like the strenuous work of college life will never end. As soon as we start losing all hope and contemplating what life would be like if we dropped out and joined the circus, a light appears at the end of a long, dark tunnel: spring break.

A whole week without studying, piercing rings of alarm clocks, or stressful emails from professors reminding you of upcoming assignments… well, as long as you aren’t taking a mini. When I think of spring break, I think of going home to my family in Arkansas, sleeping in every morning, and relishing in the glory of my mom doing my laundry and cooking my meals. As relaxing and peaceful as that may sound, it got me thinking; how would I be glorifying God while laying around being a slug all day?

Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” I think we all must take this verse to heart this spring break; let us not lie idle, but see the opportunity to work for the Kingdom of God during this week of rest. Though there is no school work to keep us occupied, there are still plenty of opportunities to stay active and get involved in our communities. From volunteering for a worthy cause to dedicating time to a loved one who needs a supportive companion, there are endless possibilities to glorify God this spring break.

Almost every community offers volunteer opportunities like feeding the homeless at a shelter, reading to children at an orphanage, or partaking in fellowship with the elderly at a retirement home. If not, there are still ways that we can be a servant leaders in our communities independent of an organization. Every community can benefit from volunteers picking up trash on roadsides, holding yard sales that benefit a local cause, or paying for the car behind you in a drive-thru.

It is important to remember the purpose for these good works during spring break. No matter how you spend your week off, don’t forget the will of the Lord. In all of your triumphs, give Him the glory. Use your week of rest as an opportunity to teach your community for the One who set you free. Take advantage of this time that the Lord has given you, and let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.

Written by Lindsey

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Spiritual Spring Cleaning

Fresh flowers blooming on the side of the road; a cool breeze ensuring that by the time you get to class, you’re a disheveled mess; and a symphony of sniffles from seasonal allergies. Sound familiar? Yup, everyone’s favorite time of year: spring. We’re almost there, folks, and despite the negatives that come with the changing seasons, spring is a good thing. In literature, springtime usually represents rebirth. In life, we associate it with the birth of cute baby animals and spring cleaning. So, what’s the connection between all of these things? Newness. Spring is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings. However, it’s not just our messy houses that need a seasonal revamp. Sometimes we forget that our spiritual lives need one, too.

I’m sure we are all familiar with the feeling of having a dry spell in our spiritual lives. Things get busy, the nights get later, and time alone with God gets put on the back burner. Sooner or later, we realize we can’t remember the last time we earnestly prayed or engaged in a personal Bible study. More than that, we realize our fire for God has dwindled to a few smoking embers. The good news is, it’s not too hard to stoke the fire and get the flames blazing again.

Recently, I fell into one of these slumps, and when I realized it was talking a toll on my life, I did some research and worked on getting my relationship with God back on track. Now, to save you from the burden of having to go through the whole process yourself, I’m going to share some of what I learned from that experience with you.

Getting a Bible study routine down is one of the most important parts of maintaining a healthy and growing spiritual life. It can be hard to carve out time in a busy day, so I usually wake up a bit early to do it in the morning. However, if that’s not an option for you, pick a time in the day when you can sit down alone and dedicate time to God. The key is to stick to your guns and not let anything else take over that time slot. Finding a good study to do can be another good way to kick start your study time. While it’s also important to learn how to navigate the Word on your own, a Bible study program or book can help you get started or be a nice change in your routine now and again, before you go off on your own. A couple of good books I can recommend are Mark Batterson’s Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge and A Modern Girl’s Guide to Bible Study by Jen Hatmaker. Both are helpful for establishing good habits in your spiritual study time.

Another trick I have found that helps strengthen my spiritual life is turning to God in prayer the moment that anything gets tough. I’ve had a lot of drama come up in my life lately, and I’ve begun to train my brain to immediately go to God in prayer as soon as I feel myself getting frustrated or run-down. I will be the first to admit that I am still far from being as patient as I should be, but it has definitely helped me cope with struggles better, and it has made me rely on God more than I ever have. If I can turn to Him in even the most difficult moments, it makes it easier to keep up my faith in the good times as well.

I am by no means an expert on spiritual matters. I’m just beginning to try to figure it all out for myself, and I will probably spend the rest of my life doing so, but hopefully some of my experiences will give you inspiration. The most important thing I think I’ve learned in recent months is that it’s never too late to get right with God. He is always there for you, waiting patiently. As it says in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Even if you feel like your spiritual life isn’t as rich or deep as your peers, remember that it doesn’t matter to God – He just wants you.

Written by Taylor Hayden

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Why Do We Love Movies that Make Us Cry?

Why is it that we humans willingly submit ourselves to the pain of a sad story? We spend hours watching movies like A Walk to Remember and reading books like The Fault in our Stars, even if we already know the plot is going to end badly. Moreover, tragic characters themselves seem to have a certain appeal. We find ourselves secretly rooting for their redemption. Many times I have caught myself longing for the kind of story line that I have just mentioned, and it got me to thinking, “why?”

Tragedy has a special power over us. Writers create these stories because they know they can influence our emotions in ways that comedy may not. The most common tropes of tragedy – the death of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, or the character that is beyond salvation – leave every fiber of our being screaming out for something better, something happier. Because we are created in the image of Christ, the idea of perfection is ingrained deep within us. Our world is fallen, but our souls cry out for more. When we see something sad, we subconsciously know it isn’t meant to be like that; it’s a result of the eternal striving for heaven that God created in us. The typical reaction to tragedy is twofold: usually, we cry or get upset first because the inherent wrongness of the situation irks us to the core. Then, we seek change. We plot how the story might have turned out if the characters had just done this or that instead. For this same reason, when we do watch happy movies or read happy books, we feel a sense of satisfaction when the story has a happy ending.

The wonderful thing about literature, including tragedy, is that it mirrors the real world. However, in the real world, we do actually have some power to create change. There are some things that we simply cannot conquer in our fallen world, like death and sin, but we, unlike fictional characters, have the freedom of choice. We can learn from the mistakes made by these characters so that we don’t have to make them ourselves. This is why I think we continually submit ourselves to tragedy: it can inspire change. When a writer brings a problem to our attention that leaves tears running down our faces, we can and should do something about it.

Written by Taylor Hayden

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Under the Stars and City Lights

The first time I drove myself to college at night, I was shoved off the interstate onto the wrong exit and got lost in downtown Dallas. As a somewhat inexperienced driver who had been downtown only once in fourth grade, to say I was terrified is an understatement of massive proportions.

The scene that greeted me only heightened my fear. The buildings were old and run-down, nothing like the glittering skyscrapers I had seen from the highway. It seemed like the lanes were two sizes too small and were always going the wrong way. And the nearby pedestrians… well, I could tell they weren’t exactly hitting up the Myerson Symphony Center anytime soon.

I pulled into a gas station and drew a deep breath (after making double-sure my car doors were locked). There were only a couple of other cars in the station, but the empty parking lot next door was practically paved with glittery glass shards. I could only imagine what had transpired over there—where those glass shards came from and how they got there—and I couldn’t help but feel vulnerable. My hands were shaking, not from the January chill as much as from fright, as I pulled out my phone to Google Map my way to campus.

I passed that parking lot on my way back to the interstate and didn’t think about it again.

About a year later, in the following December, I found myself burned out on the service project I had been doing for the last two and a half years. Despite the project being similar to what I had grown up doing (working with children), I never felt that invested, and I knew I was wasting valuable time (which is a whole other blog). I was growing miserable; I dreaded service every week, and I hated that such was the case. Service was supposed to be fulfilling and rife with opportunities to see God at work, not stressful.

Hearing about my struggle, a friend suggested I join him for his service project. He had been serving in a homeless ministry ever since I had known him, but I didn’t know much about it. I was curious, and I knew it would be safer if I went in a group, so I agreed.

We carpooled with some other DBU students and made our way to the city. I wasn’t driving this time, but I recognized the dark parts of town, and the nerves began to take over again. However, with my friend in the seat next to me and my pride to maintain, I forced my anxiety to stay in my head.

We parked in front of a bakery, and the whole group convened in an empty parking lot—one I recognized as the one I had seen on my little expedition back in January. Before I could fully process that realization, the leader of our group started explaining what was happening. This wasn’t just a ministry or some offshoot of a bigger church—it was a whole, independent church that met outside and served the streets of downtown Dallas. We, as volunteers, were to walk the streets and ask anyone we came across if they had any prayer requests or were interested in free Chik-Fil-A.

Every alarm bell I had went off. For twenty years, I was told to never speak to strangers and to avoid compromising situations of all types, and I was being asked to break both of those principles at the same time. And there were no children in sight to hide behind.

The friend I had come with, of course, was a nonplussed pro, only shooting me a quizzical look at my expression before someone started to pray.

Pray I did—and with my eyes open, too. (I know, so rebellious.) I had no idea what to expect as I trotted behind my group for the rest of the night.

One year after that fateful Wednesday night, I have been attending West End Church almost every week. I’ve been able to serve actively in ways I never was able to serve in my home church, and I’ve found fulfillment in a place I never thought I would. I have never feared for my own safety; instead, I have grown more comfortable with and more aware of my surroundings. And, most significantly, I have learned so much about how people relate to each other and to God.

I’ll be frank: I grew up in what most people would call a rich-kid town. Even though my family wasn’t particularly well-off compared to some of our neighbors, I was still raised with certain expectations for everyday life. Even though I knew these expectations were unrealistic for most of the world, it never really changed the way I thought or behaved. It took some time hanging out downtown twice a week with people who live such a different life from my own to really make that knowledge real and relatable.

Just driving through that scene wasn’t enough. I actually had to leave my comfort zone—get out of the car—and interact with the things that frightened me to discover what life in the city streets was really like. Most of the things I was scared of turned out to be much less scary when I obeyed God’s leading, and I’ve grown tremendously as a result. I’ve learned that the places that look the least God-like are the places where He wants to send us, to mold us and shape us all into kingdom-minded followers.

And you know what? I still don’t know what to expect each time I cross that parking lot and venture onto the streets. I’ve learned to face the unexpected with grace—or at least more grace than I had the first time I was down there. My comfort zone stretches just a little bit more every week, and even when the weather is cold or wet and I just want to go inside, I love it.

Written by Catherine

Image credit: Charles Guo, a member of the church. The friend who first invited me is mysteriously missing from this picture, but there are plenty of other friends here!