Leading Through Weakness By Kelsie Chandler

Life is full of so many moving parts, from friends to family to vocation to church to community and everything in between. In each season of life there are areas that bring us life and areas that drain us. And sometimes we are involved in beautiful areas that push and pull us in between. When I was in college I was a part of a ministry called Young Life where I had the opportunity to lead and befriend high school girls to walk with them through different seasons during high school. It was a hard, yet joyful experience that left me feeling a bit burnt out. After graduating I knew I needed a break from high school ministry so that I could eventually go back all in.

Fast forward to when I found out that I got into the Nashville Fellows program. In the program there are also many moving parts: seminary classes, job placement, living with a host family, and volunteering with the youth group at a local church. A busy lifestyle had always been routine for me so I was looking forward to getting plugged in to all of the communities. After I let the excitement of moving to Nashville sink in, I realized that I would soon be thrown back in to area of ministry I so needed a break from. I was then placed at West End Community Church and asked to be a leader for the 10th-12th grade girls. Part of me was excited because I have a heart for ministering to high school girls, while the other part of me was still reenergizing from youth ministry in college. My prayer was that Jesus would give me supernatural energy to love them and be fully committed.

Coming into this youth leader role, I had an attitude that I would show up when I needed to but I did not have the time or energy to be the kind of leader they needed. After the first couple of months I knew Jesus had other plans for me. Jesus was saying to me, “Do you think I can’t use you in their lives because you don’t feel well rested or equipped enough to do so? It is my work through you that will allow you to be a loving, present leader to them in this season.”

Then I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10:

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

He constantly reminds me that I am not enough on my own, but that He delights in my weakness because I need him.

After Jesus allowed me to see what it looks like to lean on him when I feel weak, He showed me what a blessing it is to be a leader to these girls. I can easily say that becoming friends with the high school girls, as well as, the other high school leaders at West End has been such a gift. These ladies are some of the most genuine, fun-loving, kind, mature, honest, joy-filled girls, and I do not use these words lightly. Each one of them has shown me more of who Jesus is simply by being a friend. I am amazed at how loved they make the people around them feel. After reflecting on this over the past couple of weeks I cannot say enough about the love these girls have shown me. Jesus is funny that way. He uses the parts of your life that you think might break you to show you what you’re capable of handling.

To my ladies and my fellow leaders: Y’all make being friends with you feel effortless and I love you more than you know.



Free to be Me by Anna Youssef

In college I was constantly asked these questions: What’s your major? What are you planning on doing with (said) major after you graduate? Did you know you wanted to major in that subject? Over time the questions became quite annoying, and I began shape and form an answer that I could easily go back to. Now, as the end of the Nashville Fellows Program is rapidly approaching, I find myself being asked similar questions from others and myself. These questions are somewhat different than the ones I heard when in college: What are the plans for you after Fellows? Do you see yourself staying in Nashville indefinitely? What is the best/worst part of the Fellows Program? What have you taken away from this program? Like I said before, I have developed a couple of answers for these questions that would give people what they are looking for, and stop them from asking any other familiar questions.

It came to a point sometime in the last month or two where I started questioning the answers I had prepared for these questions. Was this really what I wanted, or was it something that I was told I wanted? Is this my decision, or a decision that was influenced by others?  I soon began to realize that most of my thoughts and opinions were formed based on other people’s views, beliefs, judgments, and testimonials.

1 Corinthians 9:19 perfectly explains my thought process on freedom: “though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” I have the freedom to be who I am, made in Christ, but instead I have trapped myself into a world filled with others’ opinions. On some of the topics that we have discussed in class I never realized that I had an opinion or thought about a concept because I had never allowed myself time to form my own beliefs, opinions, and decisions. I had let others make and form these decisions and opinions for me.

Most of the time we have the freedom to do anything we want, say anything we want, be anything we want. There is no one telling us what to do, how to be, or who we should be - that decision is for us to decide. Those decisions can also become the evil in our lives. 1 Peter 2:16 says “live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” Through our freedom, we have become slaves to earthly desires: money, time, work, social status, physical comparisons, and controversial thoughts and opinions. We take what God gave us through his son Jesus dying on the cross, and we put our freedom into something that is not sustainable and that does not define us. Galatians 5: 1 states “it is our freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” We are slaves to Christ, and we are sent to do his work in this broken world. Instead of using our freedom to find things to chain us down, we should allow God to help us stand on solid ground.

What do I say when I hear these questions now? My answer is never the same, because I am constantly learning something new about myself in God’s eyes. I am free to be me in the image of God. Every single part of this program has played a part in allowing me to see myself as a child of God. It is still a challenge to tear down the foundations of slavery that I have built for myself, but knowing that I can stand firm in the love of Christ gives me hope not just myself, but for our broken world as well.



The Difficulty of Prayer by Daniel Huff

In the workforce portion of the Nashville Fellows program I have the incredible opportunity of working at one of our partner churches and serving the youth there. With this role comes the responsibility of teaching the seventh grade Sunday school class. The chance to teach these young boys and girls about the Bible is an absolute honor, and it has brought me so much joy to spend this time with them each Sunday morning. But the curious thing about it is that I continually learn more in teaching them than I expect they do in listening to each lesson.

Having grown up in church, there are many topics that I would consider “elementary” simply because I have heard the words thrown around so much that I think I actually know something about them. As if absent-mindedly sitting in the pews on a weekly basis would somehow make me an expert in this faith I claim to live by. But in teaching these students, I am given “elementary” topics such as forgiveness, repentance, the gospel, or prayer to teach on. When I first look at these subjects I find myself scoffing at how simple I deem them, but then I begin the arduous process of actually creating a lesson to be presented in front of a classroom full of seventh graders who I truly think the world of. I do a little research by looking up relevant verses, reading biblical commentaries, listening to sermons, or reading essays and it is at this point that I usually realize just how far into the deep end I have wandered. These topics that I saw as beneath me suddenly overwhelm me with how rich they are, and prayer is the one that has really convicted me lately.

Prayer is such a fascinating thing to me because it is something that we Christians all talk so freely about, but seem to rarely do! We say a quick blessing before a meal or we lie through our teeth and tell someone “I’ll be praying for this or that thing in your life” but I can probably count on my fingers the number of times that I have really sat down and prayed for any extended period of time. Yet the Bible repeatedly commands us to pray, God calls the Israelites to pray repeatedly throughout the Old Testament (I Chronicles 16:11, Jeremiah 33:3, II Chronicles 7:14), Jesus commands His disciples and followers to pray (Matthew 26:41), and Paul calls us to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). Why then do I pray so little? I must either not really believe that it does anything at all, or perhaps I really just don’t know how.

In doing research for this lesson on prayer I  repeatedly found that prayer is not merely about us making our requests known to God (although that is part of it), but rather it is building a relationship with Him, and like any relationship, it takes a great deal of dedication and work. Prayer is hard, and it seldom has immediate results. In Luke 11 one of Jesus’ disciples comes to Him and asks, “Lord, teach us to pray.” This clearly implies that this is something that needs to be both taught and learned. It’s not easy, and if we give up after half-hearted efforts we are never going to experience the deep rewards that come from it. Prayer must also be coupled with Bible reading because if prayer is us talking to God we need to allow Him to speak back to us, and Scripture is the way that He has designed to do this. We engage in a very one-sided conversation when we don’t let Him speak through his word.

Prayer is very difficult, but what truly rewarding thing in life isn’t? Prayer isn’t flashy or boastful, instead it is humbling and challenging because so often no one will ever really know if we do it or not, but it is the true litmus test of a genuine believer. The most impactful Christians that the world has ever known had vibrant and dedicated prayer lives, and it was from this bottomless well that they drew their strength to be a light in a dark world. I don’t claim to be any expert on prayer, and I am a poor example of it in my own life, but in preparing for this lesson I was convicted of my ignorance and have been challenging myself to pray for ten minutes each night. Give it a try and see if it doesn’t deepen your relationship with the Savior who longs for a relationship with you.


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The Biggest Finder by Charlotte Sparling

The Biggest Loser is a television series where contestants who are overweight leave their loved ones temporarily to join a community of people who will push them to achieve their goals of weight loss over a short period of time. In the end one of the contestants is named “ the biggest loser”, and a picture of them is shown from before the show began. People cheer as the “new” version of themself arrives in their best attire, and they are reunited with their proud families. Oddly enough, I feel like the Nashville Fellows Program is something very similar for me.

When it comes to personal growth I am a lot like those contestants. I arrived in Nashville, having left my family and friends, to strengthen my relationship with Christ. I get frustrated when I clearly see the areas I need to work on, but no matter how hard I seem to try my strength hasn’t been producing results as fast as I would like. Unfortunately, I’m learning that this amazing transformation isn’t an overnight ordeal, but will take constant persistence. I have learned that growing in my relationship with God takes coaching, unlearning old habits, as well as, installing new ones. I am learning that it hurts to work through the hard things, realizing how weak I currently am. But I’m also learning that places of pain and weakness are where growth will happen.

Unlike the contestants on the show, I’m realizing that my weaknesses are what give me strength, God’s strength. I used to feel the need to try to prove to God that I would be strong enough on my own, and that I’d use my strength to glorify Him, but somehow that always resulted in exhaustion, failing, and shame.  In the realization of my “cosmic plagiarism”, I’m learning that being “strong” is letting God show His strength through helping my weakness. It’s not meant to be done on my own. By finding and admitting my weaknesses, it allows me to have an intimacy with God because it is only by God’s strength that I endure the hard moments, have hope, and produce growth. This intimacy leaves me in celebration of my God’s strength and thankful for my weaknesses.

Although this program might not end in confetti cannons and a marvelous “before” and “after” reveal, I know I can look at my “old” self, and see the growth I have found in this short amount of time. I know that I am able to love bigger and better because God loves me and chooses me in my weakness. Any strength I have now is found in God, who is and has always been faithful to me.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

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To Live in Contentment by Kirsten Hyde

When I got the reminder that my blog post was due soon I went into somewhat of a panic mode. Not because I dislike the writing or the process, but because I truly had no clue what I was going to write about. While attempting to come up with a topic, there did not seem to be anything extreme or super notable going on amidst my life right now. While I have been learning a lot lately, nothing really jumped out for me to share with you. I then realized this is because for the first time in a while, I am living in a season of contentment. And it feels really good to be here. We live in a society that constantly reminds us of how discontent we should be. There is always something “bigger and better,” so it is easy for us to overlook these places of contentment. Of course there are specific areas of my life that I am uncertain of right now and a lot of unknowns for the future, but for the most part my life feels still and peaceful. I am in a job of which I am so undeserving (but excited) to be a part of this year, surrounded by consistent and loving family and friends, pursued by an accepting and intentional community, enjoying a unique new city fresh for exploring, and have a really sweet place to go home to. What more could I ask for? Well, this world seems to tell me there are a lot more things that I could ask for, and some days my idols and earthly desires get the best of me and tell me the same. It is in these moments that I have to come back to the truth that Paul reminds us of through his own life.

Paul’s journey was so crazy, beautiful and messy, and I feel there are pieces of Paul’s story and journey that everyone can relate to. At this point in Paul’s journey he has experienced much suffering and many struggles of his own, but also boundless grace. He says in Philippians chapter 4 verse 12 , “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.” We have all known in some way what Paul is talking about. Whether that be through grieving a loss, celebrating a new life, financial burdens, a job promotion, broken homes, or beautiful friendships; somewhere along our journey we have already or will experience times of loss and plenty. The next thought he shares with us is what I believe is key. Paul says, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” This encouragement and reminder of the strength we receive from our Heavenly Father is not just one to empower us and push us through any circumstance, but one that allows us to gratefully and joyfully sit in contentment on both the easy and the hard days. This is contentment we can not get from this world, but only by submitting to the fact that Christ is truly all we need. When we remember who Jesus is and the work He did for us on the cross - this is then the source of our joy and hope - and this is then where we will find pure contentment. Regardless of whatever this world tells us or asks of us, I pray that we find true contentment right where Paul did while he was sitting in prison, in Christ and Christ alone.