God, Mighty Enough by Clay Krout

During my time as a Nashville Fellow I have learned a lot of lessons that I never expected to learn. One of these lessons has proved to be very valuable as the year has progressed. Through various trials and encounters with pain, I found myself questioning God. I questioned whether he was as powerful as everybody said. I questioned whether he cared about the things I was experiencing. I even questioned whether he is a good God at all. Things were not easy, and I thought that God had just abandoned me or turned a blind eye. I learned, rather quickly, that he had done the exact opposite. Instead of turning his back on me and allowing me to fester in my own emotions and self-destruction, he patiently stood by me even amid my angry ignorance. I started to notice the support system he had given me. His word eventually started to become more precious to me, and I soon learned that instead of growing distant from me in my anger, God was graciously embracing me, demonstrating his love as Abba Father by assuring me that he could handle my questions. My bitterness eventually evolved into a prayer for assurance of the promise he had given me in James 4:8, that if I would draw near to him, he would draw near to me. And he did. He demonstrated that he is indeed Jehovah Shalom and Jehovah Rapha. He is Yahweh, ever deserving of my praise, even when I don’t understand him. Nay, especially when I don’t understand him. Praise be to Christ.

Obviously, this was a lesson that I needed to be taught, and prayerfully I will continue to meditate on his promises in my heart and be sanctified by the Holy Spirit to grow firm in the truth. I learned quickly that the Lord had not taught me this lesson so that I would simply allow it to affect my heart alone. God, in his sovereignty, crossed my path with that of a student in pain. To preserve your time and his anonymity, I will spare the details, but this became the most precious moment I have had as a Fellow. The student, having experienced immense tragedy, would rarely engage with leaders in a serious manner and never shared his emotions about the event that had changed his life forever. Then, one night, almost out of the blue, he shared that he wanted to trust God, but he just couldn’t because he was mad at God. He couldn’t understand why God in all of his “might” would not intervene to alter the circumstances he had endured. He was struggling to believe that God was in fact a good, loving Father. I did not blame him for these questions. In fact, it had not been long since I had asked similar questions. I was given the opportunity to embrace this young man and assure him that God could handle his questions and God could handle his anger. God invites us to draw near to him with our questions and allow him to reveal his character to us. He is surely a good Father even when we do not comprehend the depths of his thoughts.

I pray that this will not be lost on us. God does not expect us to fully understand, instead he wants to show us more of his heart so that we may run to him in reliance for nourishment and strength. It is in our weakness that his power is made perfect. He is El Shaddai, God Almighty. He wants to show us that he is our God and we are his people. What a sweet assurance to be called a child of the One True King, our loving Father. Praise be to him forever and ever. Amen.



The Power of Identity by Alicia Dahlman

I got my first tattoo when I was a sophomore in college. The word “beloved” is written in a script lettering on my left wrist. I often get asked what it is about and what it means. I decided to get this tattoo as a declaration of identity over myself. I wanted a daily reminder of the permanent identity that Christ has declared over me as His beloved daughter.

Identity is extremely powerful. What we believe about who we are can have huge impacts on our life choices. We see time and time again scripture urging us to cling to our identity in Christ and not be tied to other things to find our identity.

Colossians 3:1-4

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

There is a specific call of the believer to press into their identity in Christ through seeking the things that are above. We will only seek after what we are sure of. If we are 100% secure in our identity being in Christ then we will always trust and seek the things above. Yet, the reality is that we are broken and sinful. We all have fallen victim to seeking after things that will not satisfy, leaving us empty and broken. I experienced this first hand in my own life story.

For the longest time I have censored my story. I never shared the full weight of the sin-chains that held me down for so long. Honestly, for a while it was because I was terrified of what other people would think. As I have grown in my relationship with Christ I’ve realized that my identity in Christ does not change despite my past. So, I have continued to commit to sharing my journey to a renewed understanding of my identity in Christ and freedom from sin that entangled me for too long; hoping that someone reading this can know that they are not alone and that the fight for their identity is worth it.

I was 14 years old when I was first exposed to pornography and at the age of 15 I started actively pursuing sexual sin. The truth is, desperate humans do desperate things when they don’t feel loved. And no matter how hard I tried to craft my image on the surface, sexual sin was the enticement I always let in. This was the start of my battle with sexual sin and my addiction to pornography. I grew up in the church, knew all the Sunday school answers, and yet I settled for a cheap and fabricated love that left me broken.

For me, sexual struggles began long before any type of sexual activity. My promiscuity and deep soul wounds grew out of a heart that was out of tune. I missed the truth about the identity of the person who stared back at me in the mirror. I failed to see my worth, so I looked for someone or something to assign it to me.

Matthew 6:22-23

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

We are shaped by what we see. What we choose to watch. And what we consume, mindlessly. Spiritually, our clear view of our identity in Christ is blurred and blinded when our gaze is entertained by cheap and easy things. We are what we see. And if they eye is the lamp of the body, then it is also the gateway for broken and impure things.

The first step to healing was admitting I had a problem. That was the hardest part. Everything was in the dark. I had to come to the reality that God couldn’t heal what I didn’t give him access to. I genuinely believed I was the only Christian woman living with this struggle. We are foolish to think that this issue only happens outside of the church. We are afraid to boast in our weaknesses and point to the power of the cross, so instead we stay silent and leave far too many hurting hearts feeling like they are the only ones weak enough to give in to these broken things. In failing to talk about the issue we doubly fail to talk about the power the Holy Spirit possesses to purify our eyes, reclaim our hearts, and break our chains of bondage.

My breakthrough from this sin was a process filled with hard conversations, months of counseling, and discovering for myself what the bible says about my identity in Christ. It was worth every second. I am living proof of the power of the Holy Spirit to break the chains of addiction and false identity. My tattoo is a daily reminder of that. A daily reminder that I have been raised with Christ. A daily reminder that I am His beloved and that identity will never leave.

Psalm 34:4-7

I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me.

He freed me from all my fears.

Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy;

no shadow of shame will darken their faces.

In desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;

He saved me from all my troubles.

For the angel of the Lord is a guard;

he surrounds and defends all who fear him.


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How Do Rationality and Emotions Align by Seth Iverson

I’m remembering a conversation I overheard a few weeks back between two other Fellows. We had just heard the news about a good friend who was leaving town to start a new job, and one was talking about how she would need some time to “process” her emotions about the impending move. When the other heard her say this, he was confused. For him, there was no need to sit for any length of time and process an emotion in response to a life event like that. He voiced his opinion, we had a lengthy conversation about it, no conclusion was reached, and we all left the night behind us.

Or so I thought...

Flash forward a few weeks and many more conversations about emotions later, and it struck again. We had a retreat just this past weekend to spend some time figuring out how we will end well as a Fellow’s class. One aspect of this retreat entailed all of us sitting down to reread the covenant we established with one another at the start of the year to help set a standard for what our lives as Fellows should look like. We started out this time talking about how we thought we were doing, but the conversation steadily transitioned into us sharing our emotions and vulnerabilities with one another thanks to some advice and direction from awesome leaders in our group who push us more towards being genuine (shoutout to Noemie and Alicia). Tears were shed, hearts were encouraged, and minds were stirred. I was heavily struck by this event and it made me think back to the conversation I told you about.

In the wake of this amazing weekend, I began asking questions like: “What does it mean to process our emotions? Do we need time to process our emotions? Is this timeline different for others? Are there healthy and unhealthy ways to process emotions? Can I write a blog post about this?” These are all pretty big questions (except the last), so I turned to scripture to see what it has to say about the topic.

9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

—Hebrews 4:9–12

The author here clearly wants Christians to rest on the Sabbath. In rest, we don’t do anything. This doesn't, however, mean that we are passive on the Sabbath. Instead, Sabbath rest means that we enter into God's own rest as we fill our day focused upon Him. It is a time God Himself set aside for us to rest in Him and He in us. The author seems to indicate and expect that a major portion of this rest entails our own entry into the word of God, which isn’t a passive, irrelevant book, but a living and active force in the lives of believers. In Sabbath rest with God we are ending our own action and work to focus entirely upon what work the word of God does in us. The Sabbath rest is “for the people of God”. Moreover, our refusal to take a Sabbath rest—something I am too often guilty of—implies that we don’t truly think God can work in our lives without our own added effort. This is a toxic belief to the message of Christ, and disobedient to him on the Sabbath. We should stop all work and rest in the word of God; that it would be active and alive in our lives and keep us from disobedience.

Now, getting back to the topic of emotions and how we process them, it’s important to note that one of the promises of this passage is that the word cuts away the division of “soul and spirit” in our taking rest on the Sabbath. In our vernacular, soul and spirit are used interchangeably, so let’s look at the Greek for more information. The Greek word for “soul” that is used here is psyche, which is defined as the seat of the intentions and desires of the heart. The word for “spirit” on the other hand is pneuma, which is defined as the rational spirit and decisive seat of a human being. The implication of this passage is that our desires/feelings and rationality don’t easily line up within us, and the explication is that the word of God brings them together. It heals a divide within us that is a major cause of sin and frustration in our lives (Rom 7:15), and enables us to love God and others more fully and experience more joy in the life He’s made for us.

To wrap things up I think this passage in Hebrews makes it clear that we, as Christians, need to intentionally take time to rest in God and His word, so that our rationality and desires may act in unison under Christ. In rest we are made more whole in Christ that we may better discern His will for us (Rom 12:2) and what we are to do for the kingdom. Of course, rest takes time out of day and a certain kind of intentionality that isn’t too common in everyday life. It takes guts to set aside time where we aren’t doing anything immediately for ourselves, but are instead leaning entirely upon the voice and word of God to act. In this space God works to renew us and shape us into better image-bearers of Him.

 There are still some questions that are important to answer that don’t necessarily come out of this verse. For instance, I don’t think there is any perfectly specified timeline established by scripture which says how long we need to discern/connect our mind and heart in God. Rather, it seems to be something we constantly do and seek of Him in Sabbath rest, so it should happen at least once a week. It’s also important for me to say that I don’t see any Biblical basis for us to process emotions by ourselves apart from God. Speaking from experience and scripture, the human heart is deceitful and it’s dangerous for us to just let ourselves feel whatever we feel and never take it before God. Likewise, it is equally dangerous for us to ignore our emotions and never lay them at the feet of God, as we are made to feel those emotions, which are of God that they might incite us to passionate and whole-hearted action in Christ.  

I’m sorry this post has been a long one; I wanted to let you (the reader) know about what’s going on in the lives of the fellows, as well as hopefully speak some truth out of the word of God. There are clearly so many questions brought up by this topic that are left unanswered, but I hope that you might come away from this more capable to take them to heart before the Lord in rest and see what He has for you there. May all that is of the Lord remain and may the rest fall away. Thanks for reading.

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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.