Tuesday, June 19, 2012

33 Things Every Christian College Freshman Should Know

This is my 4th year working in college ministry. Therefore, I know everything. Just kidding. Therefore, this is the first time I have walked all the way through college with a class of girls.  

Every week for the last 4 years, we have sat on UT campus, or in my living room, studying scripture and sharing life together.

I have washed 39,485 water cups. We have eaten our weight in Nutella and hummus.

Average number of cups used after Small Group. Notice our fine china. 

We have cried a lot. Truthfully, tears is the 17th member of our small group. And tears usually comes in waterfall formation – one girl starts to cry and then we all cry. Most of the time after we cry we get really silly. Like stupid silly. Like ‘I hope no one is recording us right now’ silly.  Then I usually say something inappropriate and they love it.

These women have blessed me more than I have blessed them.

Watching them graduate in May was much harder than I expected. I was a wreck. Crying at all the “lasts”. The last small group was brutal. But, I have to believe what I told them: “This is just the end of the beginning of knowing each other forever.”

A few small groups before the brutal emotional last small group, I asked them what advice they would give to an incoming college freshmen. In other words, if they could rewind the clock and talk to their terrified freshman self, what would they say? Words and thoughts immediately swirled around the room, and I could barely keep my pen writing fast enough.

Reading over their list, I see the footprints of wise women who have had many victories and failures these last 4 years. Women that will make incredible wives and mothers. Women I am proud to call my friends.

Some things they learned in our small group, but most just from living and walking with the Lord.

The funny thing is that almost all their advice applies to my life, my mother’s life, and every woman’s life. I love that about God. He is teaching us the same truths over and over and driving them deeper into our stubborn souls.

So here it is…I picked a nice round number…

33 Things Every Christian College Freshman Should Know:

1.     Study 1.5 hours per day, but no more than 3 hours.  
2.     Exercise and take care of yourself.
3.     Everything in moderation (sleep, food, TV).
4.     Live with a few people and DO NOT isolate yourself.
5.     Time is never wasted in community with other people.
6.     You’re never going to know everyone, so don’t try.
7.     Understand friendships take time to build.
8.     You’re never alone in your feelings.
9.     Don’t take yourself too seriously.
10. Busyness isn’t good or impressive.
11. Designate time to be in the word.
12. Go to church every Sunday.
13. Make time to pray – like in the car or walking to class.
14. You’re already a success in God’s eyes, you are allowed to fail and you will at some things.
15. Stop comparing.
16. Don’t feel like you have to do it all.
17. Practice being thankful.
Elena's Page of Thankfulness from Small Group
18. Everything you are sure of will probably change, so hold them loosely (friends, major, ect).
19. Don’t go home too much.
20. People do care, so let them in. Allow yourself to receive love from people.
21. Don’t have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Enjoy what God is doing where you are in the present moment.
22. Pray protection over your friendships. Confront and give grace. Have no expectations, but also great hope for spiritual friendships.  
23. There will be seasons. Believe in the hard seasons that God is good. Your circumstances will change and you will be ok.
24. Don’t assume people view you the way you view yourself, especially in the times you feel least like yourself.
25. Don’t worry how you will handle things in the future. God will give you the strength at that time.
26. Challenge people and open yourself up to be challenged.
27. Be quick to apologize without excuses.
28. Rest more – not just sleep, but rest spiritually by getting alone with God.
Chillin at the lake at the busiest time of the semester. Boom.
29. Think how to bless your family, not just how they can bless you.
30. When you try to please people, you’re not pleasing God. Remember, people were angry with Jesus all the time.
31. Tap into each other’s gifts and speak those gifts into people.
32. Speak lies you are believing aloud, and it will diminish their power in your life.
33. Don’t peg other people. Be open to friendships with people that are different than you.

Me & Casey. An unlikely friendship. JK Casey! ;)
That’s it. You don’t need to know anything else in college! You don’t even need a degree! Don’t tell your parents I said that.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Who is the Holy Spirit to us?

courtesy of

The Holy Spirit has always been very mysterious to me. Like something pulled straight out of a Harry Potter book. Because think about it…

The Father is in heaven.

Jesus lived on earth, and now is seated next to the Father in heaven.

But, the Holy Spirit is here with us and in us NOW.


I think it’s one of the most fascinating things about God – He is with us and in us in this very moment.

Side note: This makes the Holy Spirit one of those parts of Christianity that you can’t talk about to random people and sound normal. I feel like people look at you like you might start speaking in tongues at any moment. Which is funny, because in a lot of ways it’s the most tangible way we experience God. Maybe we’re just not giving the Holy Spirit enough credit.

The Holy Spirit is introduced immediately in the Bible. Out of 31,103 verses (thanks Google) the Holy Spirit enters the scene in verse 2.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Genesis 1:2)

Hovering. What do you think of when you hear hovering?


Hovering over my husbands shoulder (“Ashley, stop hovering.”)

But, mostly, I think anticipation. If someone is hovering, something is about to happen. There is a move about to be made.

So, the Holy Spirit was there, at creation…hovering. He was waiting and anticipating because the most creative act in the history of the world was about to happen.


But what else? What is the Holy Spirit like? What is He responsible for in our lives?

Here’s what I found…

He is a deposit guaranteeing the joys of what is ahead in heaven – a glimpse of what is to come.

He gives us power to share Christ with others.

He gives each of us unique spiritual gifts.

He helps us with our prayers and translates our deepest desires to God.

He defeats Satan in our lives. He helps us overcome our personal darkness.

When we sin, He is the one who convicts us.

He is the source of all: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

On the days we doubt that we are God’s children, when we think we’re out of the family, He talks with us and reassures us that we are always loved.

He guides us, tells us that to do, where to go, and who to talk to along the way…even when we don’t know why.

He is how we feel God’s love poured out on our hearts.

He teaches us ALL things spiritual. There is no limit to what He can teach us.

He counsels us.

He reminds us of all Jesus has said to us in the past

He gives life, new life.

When we’re in a bind, He tells us what to say.

He brings us together as believers.

He calls us all who are spiritually thirsty to come and drink the water of life freely through God’s grace. 

Even Jesus said it was better that He leave and go to heaven so that the Holy Spirit could come to us. (John 16:7) After reading all that, I can see why!

I’ll take a little extra peace and patience today, Holy Spirit. And a side of counseling. Thank you.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Who is Our Heavenly Father to us?

Via Pinterest

I love thinking about the Father and His love for me. The desire for a loving father is deeply rooted in all of us, regardless of what our earthly fathers are like. I see it bubble up in myself as I read each of the scriptures that describe the Father. Many of his attributes are things I would have never chosen, but desperately need (loving disciplinarian). Others are so obvious and simple that I am surprised by the weight they hold in my life (He knows what I need).

But, let's get down to it. 

Among an endless amount of things, here is who the Father is to us…

He helps, defends, sustains, and loves the fatherless.

He has compassion for his children.

He teaches us, gives us instruction and advice. Not a bad gig since he knows everything.

He disciplines us in love. Every loving father disciplines his children, except His discipline is perfect.

He delights in us. We bring him joy.  He rejoices over us with singing.

He is our Everlasting Father, so there will be no end to our relationship with Him.

He is perfect, as in fully complete in every way. He is everything we want in a Dad…and more!

He knows what you need before you even think to ask.

He rewards us for our prayers and good deeds done in secret. The ones where no one sees but Him. 

He is always there in our secret places. We can not run or hide from Him, even when we try.

He provides for our needs, and often in His grace, he provides for our wants too.

He wants to give you good gifts, and He is pleased when you ask Him for them.

Everything, even the smallest pieces of everyday life are done according to His will and under His control.

One of His favorite pastimes is revealing truth to us.

He is always at work. Always moving.

He is protective of us – no one can snatch us from his hand.

He is pleased to give you the kingdom.

Unintentionally, but appropriately timed for Father's Day! 

Did I forget any attribute that you are especially fond of? 

Also, if you missed it, make sure to read yesterday’s post: Who is Jesus to us?

Tomorrow is the Holy Spirit.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Who is Jesus to us?

I am a researcher by nature (nerd alert). I often find myself asking a question and then diving into scripture, books, or (let’s be real) my magical iPhone to find the answer. Often I don’t find the answer, or the answer is one of those shades of gray answers that involves faith and long deep breaths.

But, sometimes God is gracious and He answers me.

Like when I asked, “Who are Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit to us?”

They are all one God, but they must have unique purposes. Otherwise, what’s the point? And I wanted to know what each of their purposes meant for me.

So, this is a three-part post on what I found. We’ll start with Jesus. The Man.

Here's how this is going to work. 

I just thought of the movie Tommy Boy when he yells out, "Listen up! This will only take a second!" and everyone thinks he's robbing the bank. Amazing. 

And we're back. Like I said, here's the deal:

First the scripture, then a basic explanation in my own words including who Jesus is to us. Got it? 

In no particular order…

He’s our advocate – when we sin, He speaks to the Father in our defense.

He’s our Amen. Our stamp of approval. Our period at the end of our sentence. Our trustworthy witness. He’s the Anointed One – chosen for a specific task by the Father.

He’s the Author (the creator) of our faith and the perfector who brings all things through to completion. He always finishes what He started. <----A quality I admire. Not that I don't also have that quality. 

He’s the Bread of Life. The bread that if you eat it you will never die, but live forever. The ultimate satisfier of all our needs and desires. via Pinterest

He’s the Bright and Morning Star who shines in all our dark places. via Pinterest

He’s the commander of the army of the Lord who defends God’s children.

He’s the Cornerstone on the building of God. He is the stone that the builders rejected that has now become the cornerstone. He’s our Deliverer. The One we have waited for.

He’s Immanuel, God with us, not distant but gets down on his hands and knees to be with us.

He’s the ultimate prince on the white horse whose rider is called Faithful and True.

white horse

He’s a friend of sinners who befriended prostitutes, liars, thieves…that includes us.

He’s the Shepherd of His sheep who protects us. He makes us lie down in green pastures and restores our soul.

He’s our high priest, our ultimate intercessor. The last sacrifice once and for all.

He’s our hope when we have no hope.

Pursuing Inspiration via Pinterest

He’s the perfect image of God – the exact representation of His being.

He’s the great I AM! The ultimate existence or being. No words can fully explain him.

He’s the Just judge who judges the living and the dead rightly.

He’s the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and he can and will bring the rulers of this world to nothing.

He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world and makes them white as snow.


He’s the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Life to the full.

He is the Light of the world and whoever follows him shall NEVER walk in darkness. via Pinterest
He’s the Lion of the tribe of Judah who is worthy and powerful.

He protects me. via Pinterest

He is the True Vine and if we remain in him we will bear much fruit, but without Him we can do nothing. via Pinterest

He is the great physician who says, “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

He speaks only in righteousness, and he is mighty to save.

And a few bonus characteristics:

  • He is prophecy fulfilled.
  • He healed the demon possessed
  • He fed 5,000 with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish
  •  He heals lepers
  • He teaches in beautiful tabernacles and dusty households
  • He gives sight to the blind
  • He raises the dead
  • He dines with the wealthy and religious, but prefers the poor and humble
  • He corrects hypocrisy and gives grace to the repentant
  • He blesses little children and says we should act more like them
  • He drives merchants out of the temple in righteous anger
  • He washes his disciples feet and says “do as I have done for you”
  • He prays a lot and is always getting alone to be with His Father – even amongst chaos

What did I miss?  Jesus is so much to us if we allow Him to be!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Top 10 Nuggets for Working in Ministry

Every single one of these nuggets was either taught to me through a mentor that I love or through my own miserable, horrifying, go-hide-in-a-hole-now-Ashley failures. Those are THE best.

I think they also apply to anyone trying to spiritually lead a group or individuals.

Here we go…

1. Don't make walking with Jesus any more complicated than it is for yourself or your students. At the end of the day: read the Bible; pray; surround yourself with people who know Him better than you and a few who don't know Him well and a few who don't know Him at all. Seek to plumb the depth of understanding Him -- not because you have to but because He fascinates you. And when He doesn't fascinate you -- don't worry....He isn't that put out and He's always fascinated by YOU!!!
(After I took my current college ministry job, I panicked a little and emailed a mentor and friend, Cheryl Fletcher. This is what she told me.)

2. Choose 12 or so people and focus on them. Jesus was the MESSIAH and used just 12 men to change the world. Don’t try to be everybody’s everything. It’s ok to disappoint people. Jesus did because He always had His focus on the greater goal.

3. Try something new every year. Never stop taking risks and evolving. It’s ok to fail. IT’S OK TO FAIL!

4. Trust the word of God fully. Earn the right to be heard, but never hesitate to share the Word or the Gospel. It is alive, active, and more powerful than any words we can say. I think when I get to heaven I will wish I’d taken more risks in this area.

5. Have a plan and then be willing to throw it out at any minute because the Spirit says so.

6. In discipling and leading small groups, challenge people and set expectations early. (Be on time, be prepared, memorize scripture, ect.) Then administer grace over and over. You can’t control people. We are only responsible for being faithful and then trusting the Lord. Being a control freak is either a lack of faith in God, or an identity issue of who we are in Christ. So, be faithful, but always give grace when people don’t follow your plan.

7. Your girls don’t need another friend, they need a leader. Sure, you will listen to their struggles, encourage them continuously, and hopefully become life-long friends. But, what they need is a leader. So be confident and lead them! Be an adult. Show them Jesus. Speak truth into their lives. And always believe in them when they don’t. Each year, at our very first meeting, I tell my new freshmen small group, “Look around because these people are your new best friends.” You can imagine the reactions, but the point is I am injecting them with belief.

8. Guard your marriage, friendships, and your time with Jesus.  Take your to-do list and eliminate 25% of it. You know, the “I’m never ever going to do that realistically but it sure does sound nice” things. We are loved daughters of the King, but we are tempted to act like slaves who need to produce to earn our keep.

9. Know that you will fail as much as you will succeed. You must trust the work of the Holy Spirit. There are many times when I finish leading a Bible study and I think it was an utter failure. Then someone tells me God spoke to them through it. Who are we to judge what God is doing? Be faithful in your studies, pray, trust the Holy Spirit is moving, and then don’t beat yourself up when things go south temporarily. 

10. Find other ways, outside of yourself to skin the cat. Utilize people. You don’t have to be the leader of everything. Determine what your gifts are (spiritual and natural) and then multiply yourself by equipping and training people. Let it go and allow others to take over. Even if they don’t do it just how you would have.

Are there any others you have learned through ministering to others? Let me learn from your failures! Come on, it’s only fair.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Feeling Thankful

Hello Blog. It's been awhile.

Yesterday was my 29th birthday, and I felt really loved. So, I am feeling especially thankful today, and I think that is the perfect time to revisit this place. 

I love thankful people - they are so easy to be with. Unfortunately, complaining seems so much more natural, doesn’t it? But, when I turn from my grumpy side and focus on the reality that I have an unlimited amount of things to be thankful for, I end up happy? giggly even? I'm not sure how to describe it, but in my mind it looks like this:  

Yup that's it!

I know God enjoys thankful people too, because he talks about thankfulness all the time.

Here’s one example…

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
(Colossians 3:12-15)

I love when God makes things simple for me. I need more simple in my life. Thankfulness gets its very own sentence in this passage. And it just says, “Be thankful.”  No need to think it over, just do it.

I wrote down a long list of things I am thankful for this morning, but here are 10:

  1. The closeness and comfort level I have with my community group
  2. My health and feeling good again
  3. Micah – this has been our best year of marriage yet
  4. My friend Kambly is getting married this weekend
  5. Free time to do things that I love - like cook and read
  6.  We have a contract on a house to buy
  7. Lots of birthday calls, texts, and facebook messages from all the people I love
  8. Three of my very best friends (Sarah, Allison, Paige) got married this year and I have been praying for their future husbands for a long time
  9. Summer fun in Austin
  10. A delicious sushi birthday dinner last night at Uchi with Micah (thankful both that we could afford to go there and that Micah was willing to eat sushi)

What are a some things you are thankful for? I would love to hear!