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A Fellow Reflects On Tragedy: By Tyesha Butler

*The Fellows Program is dedicated to engaging young leaders with the beauty and the ugliness of our culture - seeking to be thoughtful in our responses and praying to shed light into even the darkest places. This week a Fellow reflects on tragedy amidst the Fellows' year.

It is Sunday morning. I wake up, shower, brush my teeth, and prepare for the day ahead. It was a beautiful day as I remember, not too hot or cold, but just right. I went to church, then had lunch with some friends, and later on went to a concert. I even somehow managed to get a full tank of gas for $0.12.  A miracle right? If you had asked me how my day was going I would have told you it was pretty good. I mean, it was just another day, I thought. That was up until the next morning. 

At least 50 dead and hundreds injured. 

Let that sink in. 

That is the headline I woke up to last Monday morning. What? Why? How? Those were my first questions as I wrestled with what has actually happened in our country once again. I really couldn’t believe what had occurred. I mean so many people, like me, that may have thought Sunday was just another day. 

After the initial shock wore off I found myself thinking, “This is how it is. This is what our country has come to.” I sadly felt the conviction of thinking I should indeed normalize these tragedies that are happening in our country daily. I had actually come to the point of thinking this is all we are. 

As I sit with the fact that we are broken people, I can’t truly make myself believe that this is all we are as a country. There has to be more to us than this. In fact, I am reminded of the fact that even in scripture suffering occurred and God was faithful then, so I know that He will be faithful now. Romans 8:18-19 NIV - “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” 

I don’t understand all the reasons why these things happen, but I do know that they are not worth comparing to the glory of God that will later be revealed in us. It is through this verse that I am able to find hope for the future. I am also reminded through this tragedy to appreciate each day as if it is our last. Even on the days that seem insignificant, they are important and should be appreciated.  

 

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Where Saying YES Will Lead You by Taylor Mathis

It’s spring break 2017 I’m in the crawl space of a flood-damaged home in Johnsonville, South Carolina. I’m wearing a HAZMAT suit with goggles and a respirator, the whole nine yards. I’m with a team of fellow UTK students ripping out insulation from under a home. In the moment I was asking myself what have I signed up for, and little did I know I was right where God intended for me to be. How I got there… well, I simply said yes to a friend and ultimately to the Lord.

Had you seen me months, weeks, even days before I was on this trip you would have been asking yourself why on earth is this guy on a service trip and the bigger kicker with a Christian organization?  I was asking myself that question, but thankfully I had an amazing friend who pursued me just like the lord had been and I said yes. I thought I was simply going to do some construction and sit through a few Bible studies then I’d return to Tennessee and keep living the self-serving lifestyle I had been. That simple yes ended up changing my life in ways I never could have imagined.

God met me in that crawl space covered with mud, insulation, sweat, and who knows what else. Beyond the physical he met me where I was Spiritually: broken, dirty, sick, wandering, and truly at rock bottom. The Lord used that week and a man, who ended up being the director of Knoxville Fellows, to completely shift the trajectory of my life.

One YES completely deconstructed the future I had planned. Long story short the Lord changed my life that week; spiritual chains I could physically feel the weight of were lifted.  Each night the Lord would ask me to just say yes, trust him, and put myself out there in our small group sessions. Each night I just said yes and let the Lord lead. By the end of the week I’m on the phone with this lady named Theresa Wilson pursuing becoming a Nashville Fellow, and here I am writing this.

I say all this just to prove the point that we must simply follow the Lord’s lead and be willing to just say yes. For me it led me to this program, where I am surrounded by a group of truly incredible and unique individuals. I am being pushed and challenged in so many ways, and there are times I want to stay in my comfort zone and avoid saying yes. This community pushes me, challenges my perspectives, and has helped me grow significantly just in the short amount of time we have shared together. I look back and wonder what if I had said no… Where would I be? How different would my life look? Honestly, I have no clue, but here is what I do know saying yes was the greatest thing I ever did 7 months ago.

So I will leave you with two questions.

What do you need to say yes to in your life?

And where will that Yes take you?

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When your bucket overflows, pour it out By Caroline Garvin

The other week I was playing with my host family’s daughter, Addie, in the yard. She is 20 months old, and as you might know, the simplest activities are entertaining. In the yard there was a baby pool filled with water. Addie’s goal was to take water from the pool and place it into an empty bucket. Using a smaller bucket, she scooped the water out from the pool to the main bucket. The bucket began to fill each time more and more, and when it reached its capacity, it spilled out. She continued to fill the full bucket of water, not yet realizing, that it needed to be dumped out. After a while her brain would register that the overflowing bucket had to be poured out, to be filled back up.

As I sit and reflect over the first month of this fellows program, my mind constantly comes back to this image.

Filling up, being poured into, overflowing, not pouring out.

As fellows, we are continually being poured into. There are hundreds of people volunteering their time to show us more of Christ and his Kingdom at work in this world. Our host families offer up their home and sacrifice some comforts to us for nine months. Our teachers voluntarily give their time to teach us scripture and challenge our worldviews, so that we might know more of what we believe. Through our job placement, we receive guidance to become some of the best workers in the workforce. There are mentors, church staff, vocational consultants, friends, and so many more pouring into our lives because they care that we might know Christ more.  

As I sit with my very own bucket, I am like Addie, not realizing that my very own bucket is overflowing. I’m allowing it to overflow, but still not registering that I’m supposed to be pouring out.

It just keeps spilling over the top.

It is so easy for me to slip into the mindset that these nine months are about me. It is easy to want to hold onto my bucket and never dump out the water that is being poured into me. God though is so gracious in revealing, just like Addie playing in the yard, that while we are being poured into, we are also called to be filling others up.

Selfishly I want to hold onto all that I have received and gained, but the Lord is nudging me, saying to me, "pour out your water, so that you can receive more." I think I want to hold onto this gift because I'm scared of where it might go, but then I remember it goes into the world. It goes back to our host families, our mentors, our coworkers, our new friends, our church. We are slowly able to give a small part of what we are receiving. Being in this program for only a month I can see it come full circle. We aren’t here to be solely poured into.  We are here to pour out. To share more of our experiences with those around us. To share Christ and the amazing work he is doing in each of our lives. To share even our brokenness.

The Lord is teaching me so much about himself through this process. I have to come back to what Jesus did for us, as he poured out his life for us so that we could spend eternity with him.

 

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BLOOMING AND CHANGING BY KAYLA POWELL

Summer is slowly transforming to fall, inviting in a new season of life.  When I think of fall, I think of a season of change.  Fall brings the promise of changing leaves, cool air, and a different perspective for life.  Sometimes it’s easy to hide the beauty of fall behind the anticipation of a cold and dark winter. 

Like summer changing to fall, I am also in a different season of life.  I am changing.  I am starting over.  A new city, a new job, a new (host) family, and new friends.  Learning how to navigate this change has been difficult but rewarding.  I came out of a season of fruitfulness, of growing, of being known into a season that seemed to lack trust, intimacy, and relationships.   

Navigating this change has been difficult and uncertain.  At times, I suffered with isolation and loneliness.  But the loneliness has provided solitude and a chance to reflect on who the Lord is.  

1 Peter talks about our sufferings. “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 

This passage reminded me that the Lord uses suffering for His good.  That suffering leads to restoration, confirmation, strengthening, and establishing.  In our pain and suffering the Lord is working through us and in us.  When it feels isolating and lonely the Lord is with us always and he is making everything new and good in His time.  

Instead of focusing on the hard things in my life, the Lord is teaching me to see His beauty throughout every season of my life. “Fall finds us grateful, hopeful, and poured out.  Just as fields slow down and quiet themselves, so we embrace fall changes, knowing Who supplies all things when the blooming season comes to an end.  When one chapter closes and another is still not ours, the beauty we get to experience is seeing how the Father provides in the now and the not yet” (Ruth Chou Simons).   

In this transition phase of life, the Lord is drawing me closer to himself and teaching me that fall is a time of quieting and trusting him.  He is teaching me to lean in and rely on him each day. 

We may not be blooming but we are still growing.  

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The Hills that I loved. How I failed. What it means. By McClain Cauthen

I’ll just say it. I miss the mountains. My faith and outlook on life is deeply impacted by the places I surround myself with. I spent my weekends running from the outskirts of Charlotte, NC to a little family farm in the upstate of SC. I would mow the fields, play in the creek and find arrowheads. I would breathe deep the smell of the sweet grass and listen to Bobwhite’s start their evening conversation and be happy. When I graduated from high school I bought a fly rod and escaped to Boone, NC for college.

I’m loud. I talk too much and probably don’t listen nearly enough. Ironically I crave places of silence and solitude. That is where I meet my Maker. That is where I feel at peace. My church is a live oak and a trout stream . My church is jeans and a dirty t-shirt. My church is fireside conversations with brothers and sisters diving into the good and bad of life. I love church but have never found this unique peace there. The woods were(are) my coping mechanism. The old farm roads and quiet evenings are where I wrestled with my deepest pains and greatest joys.

God gives us what we need and oftentimes there is immense joy attached to those things. He is so dang good. He blesses those that squander blessings. He loves those that ignore his love and are perpetually distracted.

During my senior year of college I squandered this goodness. I embraced the beauty but did not appreciate the source. My heart had no intention of wondering what God’s will was. I was only concerned with hanging with friends and doing whatever I wanted.

Cliches' are sort of beautiful, at least some of them. The age old realization set in around November. “I’m empty. Why am I empty?” I have walked with Lord since I was about thirteen and at twenty-two I still felt this way. God gave me a righteous slap of reality and I realized that I had built a house of cards on distraction. The cards inevitably fell.

God is great because he doesn't leave you where you are. It was still a hard year for many other reasons, but my eyes and heart slowly began to return to what mattered. Solitude is great, the natural world is a beautiful host of something like that. However, it fails. It’s broken. I am broken.

I find myself having trouble communing with God since I’ve moved. The quiet places have had to become headphones at Whole Foods with a book. That is fine. Life is chaotic, you have to find the quiet places in the middle of the storm. I am learning , I am redeemed, I am being made new. Thank you Nashville for being a part of that process. The beauty is in the hills that I love and left. I fully believe that. One must remember who created it. One must remember who created the joys of our heart. One must remember that we are called to a will that may not fit our pre-planned agenda.

I am ready to listen. I am ready to see what you have for me Father.

Grace and Peace

McClain

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