Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Survival handbook: Yourself

I saved this one for last, and I think it's the most important.You can get along with the authorities, love the classes, and have great friendships, but still fail completely at college.  But I've seen people who fought the authorities and acted like a snot to their roommates and acquaintances, but then God got hold of their heart, and He changed them.  Your heart, and how much of it God has, is the single most important factor to spiritual success. 

Remember that the devil is actively trying to discourage you. That is, he's trying to remove your motivation, your courage.

1. Don't go thinking of plan B, if this doesn't work out. You should be determined to finish what you start. If God wants you there, and He's confirmed it in your heart, plan B is just rebellion. Go with that faith that God is leading you, and determine to let God show you that it's His job to get you through. My husband and I both had seemingly insurmountable financial challenges, and I got pretty sick two years in a row. The sickness caused me to fail some classes! I remember asking God what I was doing there, when I couldn't have success. That year is one of my most precious memories, and the things I learned about God's presence in my life are with me today. God can use anything that happens in our life, as long as our faith line remains connected to Him. Unplug it, let doubts come in, and they can ruin what God wants to do!

2. Modern day me again.  Hannah, your mom told me this one. Read your Bible every day, and touch the throne of God every day, just to pass time with Him, and not to pass a class. Study for classes is good, but it does not ever, ever replace time set apart to be in God's presence. You need it. Make it a priority. Find your place to be alone and do it. (My place was in one of the upper classrooms of the North Auditorium, and this very annoying young male student liked the same room, so he beat me to it, and I had to go find another room. In auditorium part of the building, a student would worship God and pray while he played the piano, so my devotions were usually accompanied by this music. He is now serving God on a mission field on the other side of the world, and the guy who stole my prayer room is now my husband.*) You will hear a hundred times this year, "Bible college is the easiest place to get backslidden."  ad nauseum.  Because it's true.  Well, any place is easy to get backslidden if you are relying on yourself.

3.  Modern day me again.  Morgan, your dad told me that "doing" was not nearly as important as "being".  Working for God vs. being His child and loving and knowing Him.  I kind of understood him, but it took some time for that truth to hit me fully.  I'm still learning it!  Activity does NOT equal God is pleased with you!  Anywhere you think that God is pleased because "I'm doing _____" or "I'm getting this blessing_____" or "everyone thinks ________ about me."  is a dangerous, dangerous place to be spiritually.  You are right with God when you get on your face in His presence every day let Him change you.  When you die to the flesh and carry your cross.  Activity is good, but it's only a product of our walk with God, and sometimes when we get comfortable doing certain things for God, we think we can swing it without Him.  Actually, my flesh is always confident in this manner.  And it's the thing that makes me want to quit when I make a big mess of things doing them without God's Spirit.  Hypocrite, isn't it?

This isn't as long as my other posts, but I hope you take it to heart.  If you went to Bible college because you believe God wanted you to, then give Him liberty in your life to do what He wants with your life!  The "big secret" to spiritual success (and you will hear tons of sermons on this) is very simple-being full of the Spirit, walking with God, and getting out of His way.  It can't get old to you-it's your lifeline.  It takes day-by-day checking, tending, and repair.

My love and prayers are with you!

Oh, one more thing.  If, for some odd reason, you find yourself sitting in chapel, and exhausted.  maybe your blood sugar levels are, hypothetically, weirded out by too many strange snacks and not enough sleep, and you might find yourself having a very hard time keeping both eyelids open.  Let's say you might have a pack of Listerine Pocket Patches in your purse, and after fruitlessly pinching yourself, chewing on your tongue, squirming and trying everything else you know of to stay awake, it occurs to you that it might be a good idea to use one of those little strips to "wake yourself up".  Refreshing and all that.  If such a thing happens to you, and I'm not saying it will, or that it happened to me or anything like that, I'm just saying it might, you know.  Don't put it under your tongue.  Just don't.
*For the record, my husband wishes it to be known that his version of this story is that some cute girl periodically stole his prayer room.  Whatever.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Survival mini-handbook: Other people

My friend, I hope you aren't tired of my unasked for advice yet.  It's not because I think I'm smarter or more spiritual than anyone else, just that I've done what you are going to do, and this is a collection of things wise people told me, and things I would want someone to tell me.  Today I'm going to focus on other people. I didn't have any nightmare roommates, and I hope they can say the same of me. :)  That is not to say there were no differences, because I know we are all sinners, so differences are inevitable, especially when you are sharing living space with someone.  You can stuff your weaknesses down enough in front of most people, but someone who can't get away from you is going to know who you are at the end of the year.

1. ) Don't despise people who are different.  If you are living in a dorm, you will be sharing space with people who are different then you. Here are some ways they might be different:
* Different style of education; public school, Christian school, homeschool
*Different ways of bill paying; you might have to go get a job, someone else might have their parents pay their bills.
*Family structure; some will be from Christian families with generations of faithful Christians-what a blessing! Some got saved out of the world, and no one in their families are saved, but they want to start serving the Lord, what a blessing! (My husband fell into the last category, and I'm a third generation Christian.) Some had a hard life before college, there will be young people there with scars most of us can't imagine, some with rough edges because they came from a rough home.
*Cleanies vs. Messies-you know that's gotta cause some conflicts!
In any case, let me tell you that you will not understand everyone, and a good many of them will not understand you. Don't start out with a chip on your shoulder, and don't be drawn into conflicts. You really can learn from every one! God just might want you to minister to and help someone who is different from you, and if you start out despising them, He can't! Don't whine about other students.
We also are humans here, and humans naturally despise others.  You might say that you don't, but you have a tenancy inside, called pride, that wants to look down at others for any of the above mentioned differences.  If you get a roommate who snores loudly, is really overweight, has smelly feet, or never learned to clean the bathroom at home, is this going to be the topic when you are with your friends? Most people don't think twice about mocking others for their stupid problems, but we know right away that it's wrong if someone does it to us!
Please don't make big deals out of minor things, and don't get all sarcastic about people who are easy to despise. God loves them as much as He loves you.
2. ) That was a lot of "don't", so here is a "DO!"  Look for David and Jonathan type friendships.  Jonathan saw David serving before his father, and his heart was knit with David's.  Why?  Because Jonathan saw a love for God in this scruffy lad that mirrored his own.  When you love God, you love others who love God.  I thank God for my friendships from college, many of whom are just as strong today as then, even though we don't have a lot of contact with each other.  All we have to do is get together and all of the same things we shared in before are still there to enjoy, even though we are all in different stages of life now.  Ask God to lead you to people that you can be a blessing to, and who will be a blessing to you.
3.)  Another "Don't".  Avoid whiners.  Ryan  cornered got to interview missionary Rick Martins once at a mission's conference we were in together.  One of his questions was, "As a young missionary, what kind of things should I try to avoid?"  The immediate answer?  "Negative missionaries!"  Negative whiners are everywhere, even at Bible college, even in the ministry.  Although it's easy to develop friendships with folks who share the same whine as me, it doesn't help me to grow spiritually.  Jonathan's heart wasn't knit with a whiner.  These people will happily share their rotten attitude with you and anyone else, and then walk away and gripe about you!  Here's a clue, if you notice that most of your conversation with a particular friend is in discussing problems, try to change the subject and put an encouraging spin on each thing, giving glory to God.  A true whiner will get frustrated quick and have nothing left to talk about.  Someone who is growing spiritually will feel convicted and want to be around you more because you encourage them to do right.
Here's modern day me, with a note on this point.  While the method I suggested does work,  I've found it's better just to ask the person if they've talked to the other person, and kindly but frankly say they should talk to them and not to me.  The other method makes the person not want to talk to you, and this one might just help them with their problem. 
4.)  Make godly friendships with people of the other gender.  Freshman often enter their first year with romantic notions that they will make eye contact with some stranger and their future will be set.  Newsflash!  God doesn't use Disney protocol!  Just let God work in your heart and keep your friendships godly and honorable.  The Bible tells young pastors to treat the younger woman as sisters, because they are.  Our kinship, however, is a spiritual one, and not a physical one.  In the physical world, we must protect the honor of our brethren with modest dress, behavior, and speech.  I'm thankful for my friendships at school, that I've nothing to be ashamed of with the husbands of other women.  They treated me with honor and respect and I did the same with them. So keep your relationships pure, including conversation.
5.)  DO give other people the benefit of the doubt.  I Cor.13:5 says that Charity, or God's love, does not think evil of others.  In other words, it doesn't make negative assumptions of others.  This is easier to do than you would think.  As a rule, give the benefit of the doubt when someone says something, or does something you could be offended over.  In matters of open sin, or abuse, the Bible tells you what to do in Matthew 18.  But most of our problems with others (especially between ladies) involve hints and grouchy comments that can be taken in a number of different ways.  Look, if someone has a problem with you, and they aren't willing to come out and tell you openly, give them the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe they are struggling with something spiritually, or homesick, or just having a bad year.  Compassion and love in such a situation will give God liberty to touch a heart like nothing else.  Patience.  You need it for others, and for yourself; not just to bear your burdens, but to do it joyfully.
 6.)  Finally, study Matthew 18 and commit to deal with all differences and offenses that require action in accordance with God's command.  Also, watch out for others who want to dump their problems in your ear.  If you aren't part of the solution or part of the problem, kindly but firmly ask why you are being involved.  In my experience, this is a new concept for a lot of young people in college. Look out for whining (it will be called "burden sharing" or "getting it off my chest")  Look out for slander.  (It will be called a "prayer request")  Look out for information swapping.  (I tell you how so-and-so hurt me, you tell me something just as juicy-this information will usually be used against you at some point.)

Your friends in school can be a great blessing to you, and you can be used of God to help others who are hurting.  In a dorm with all kinds of girls, I promise you that each year there will be someone in close vicinity that is hurting in ways you can't understand, and God can use you to encourage them!  They can also draw you away from the Lord, as there are some people there for the wrong reason.  Pitfalls come when we start to get sarcastic and look down on others.  So let the Lord have His way!  Remember I'm praying for you.
This is the second part in a three part series.  The first part is here.