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by Josh Fischer

Personally, there is not a more life-giving experience than seeing growth in myself and others. I always strive to be the best that I can as I believe that God calls each of us to greatness. Although greatness might look a little differently for everyone, there is one part of our call to greatness that we all share: doing good.
 

I spent basically my entire life as Christian and growing up in the church. My dad has been a pastor for as long as I can remember so, I was in church every Sunday. As I continued learning what it means to live a Christian life, I recognized a pattern to it. It seemed that there were simple rules to follow and the goal was to avoid breaking these rules no matter what. I heard things like, “don’t lie, don’t cheat, and don’t steal.” As I got older, the rules began to change in a more serious direction to things like, “don’t do drugs” or “don’t have sex before marriage,” but the guidelines to living as a good Christian all involved the word “don’t.” 

During my time in high school, my life began to feel stagnant. I was not seeing the life-giving personal growth that I desired so much. What was I missing? I had gotten pretty good at not doing those bad things that I was taught, but I learned that I also needed to start doing good things. I had finally realized that there is more to life than avoiding sin. If I want to reach the goal of greatness that God calls me to, I am going to have to stop living my life with a focus on avoiding evil and get a new focus of doing good. 

If Jesus set the perfect example for us with a focus on avoiding sin, he would have simply done the bare minimum while never messing up. Instead, Jesus lived his life to the fullest by having a focus on love and actively seeking others out to teach them how to live lives of greatness. Paul compares living the Christian life to a race, writing in 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.” To properly live the way God intended, we need to go all out for God, leaving it all on the playing field. God calls us to do so much good that we do not have time for doing any bad. 

As I now know, the most growth happens when I trust God and play an active role in the Story that God has written. I take a step closer to who God made me to be every time I choose to follow Jesus’ example of living with a focus of love. 

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By Kyle Johnson  

Like many others here on campus I am someone who spends their summers working at a camp. My home for the last 2 summers has been Hidden Acres Christian Center. At Hidden Acres we take campers on Sunday and have up until Friday afternoon to give them the full camp experience. In my 2 years on staff I have gotten the privilege to be the counselor to 101 young men from the ages of 5 to 17. The one constant I have always seen throughout the weeks that I’ve been with them is that you never know when your opportunity will be. 

My first summer on staff I was given the position as Senior Counselor, but the title of Senior Counselor is slightly deceiving. I was still a first-year counselor with limited experience, and during the 5th week of the summer I was paired with another first-year counselor who wasn’t very experienced. Our cabin consisted of eight 4-6th grade boys and to be honest they were not the best behaving bunch in the world. We went through the week doing the normal camp activities like swimming and playing games, but whenever it came to chapel or devotions the kids just wouldn’t pay attention at all. This all came to a peak on Thursday night, when after a camp-wide game of capture the flag one of my campers got upset and ran away into the woods. Later that night the same camper got in a fight and ended up punching one of his cabin mates which put me in damage control mode for the rest of the night. By this point I was super stressed out and tired, and we were scheduled to go back to our cabins for our cabin devotions. Well, perhaps needless to say, my devotions sucked. I wasn’t enthusiastic about it at all and I just wanted to get it over with so that we could all go to bed. 

After we turned out the lights I went to go and shower and when I came back inside my camper, Sam, (who got punched earlier in the night) told me he wanted to talk with me. We ended up going outside and we talked about his home life and he admitted that he was the one that started the fight. After a bit more talking, he began asking questions about the things I said during my devotion that night and I began to calmly explain what I had talked about. Sam told me then that he wanted to live with Christ and on July 6th 2017, on the porch of our cabin, Sam dedicated his life to Christ. Was this because of anything I did? No, this was the work of an amazing and awesome God who uses us even in our weakest points to do glorious works in his world. God gave me an opportunity to fulfill his mission even when I least expected it.

img_8097By Courtney Mithelman

Some of my favorite moments of worship take place by myself in my little red Camry. I love road trips and visiting family and friends, so I find myself listening to a lot of music during those car rides. I love worshipping my Lord in the car and in solitude. During different seasons of my life, certain worship songs resonate with me more than others, and I often find myself in tears and in awe of the goodness of our God. 

This past weekend I was driving back to school and stumbled upon a song that I’ve listened to a lot but hadn’t taken the time to think more about. It’s called “In over My Head” by Jenn Johnson. Based on where I am at in life right now, this song resonated with me in many ways, but one way in particular is where I will end up post-graduation. I will come back to this in a bit. 

As a senior, and with only three months until graduation, stress and worry has been a constant in my life recently. I am incredibly excited but also nervous to leave Northwestern and enter a new season of life. The job search is exhausting and defeating, and if I am honest, this life transition is the most nerve-wracking thing I have experienced. I think that it is important to feel this discomfort and nervousness, but I do not think that it’s something to sit in for a long time. The Word reminds us that God is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1) and calls us to trust in Him. Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”. This verse is powerful. Our God is a God of hope who fills us with joy and peace when we trust in him. 

This has been a lesson I’ve learned lately. In the past year I have really seen how God has instilled true peace and joy into my life. His timing, provision, faithfulness has been ever-present to me this year in almost every aspect of my life—in school, relationships and extra-curriculars. However, the first step in all these things is to fully trust in Him, and this is something I still struggle to do completely. I love planning, knowing where life is heading and having an answer. But this isn’t what fully trusting God looks like. He doesn’t say, “trust me and then you’ll have life figured out”. He calls us to the unknown, where we must fully rely on Him. 

This is where it comes full circle. In the song, “In over My Head”, Jenn Johnson sings: 

“And further and further my heart moves away from the shore Whatever it looks like, whatever may come I am Yours 

Then You crash over me and I’ve lost control but I’m free I’m going under, I’m in over my head And You crash over me, I’m where You want me to be” 

When I put my trust in God, he crashes over me and while I may feel overwhelmed and in over my head at first, I am free. God has me here he wants me—with Him. This is something I must remind myself of daily, especially in this busy season of life. I can make all the plans I want, but ultimately those plans may fall through. Full trust and submission to Him is the best place I can be. 

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by Angela Brinkman

For the most part, I tend to be an open book. But there are still parts of myself that I will hide until it gets to be about 1:30 or 2 in the morning- which means that m
ost people never truly get to know me and my hidden struggles. Yet on January 4th of 2019 as I was searching for a worthy article to share with a friend, I had the idea to search for one that would also benefit me. 

This is what led me to type five little words into the google search bar: “boys don’t equal self worth.” 

As the chronically single friend, I find myself comparing myself to others and wondering why not me? quite often. This is where my true self comes out. I struggle to feel worthy of anything, especially the love and attention of not only a significant other, but even just my female friends too. 

But as I read this article, I was reminded that society is set up to constantly compare yourself to others – boys, girls, professors, employers, and even parents sometimes. This article reminded me that confidence placed in attention only leads to disappointment when the attention fades. 

One of the closing points of the article was that it is important not to seek validation from outside sources, because that will only heighten insecurities. This closely touched on a 2am conversation I’d had over break about refusing to compare myself to others, because that is what stands in between me falling short and success. My worth is not determined by how I “measure up.” By comparing, hurdles are put up that keep me from the success I’m after.  I can’t be truly happy without intrinsic support. 

But as this battle of “when will I be good enough?” rages on, in the back of my mind I am reminded of the time I was good enough. I know deep down that Jesus died for my sins. Suddenly, my “why not me?” is turned into a “why me?” What have I done that was good enough for Jesus to actually find some of the worth in me that I seem to think I have? And once again, I’m reminded that there is nothing worthy about me, but Jesus died for me because of His Amazing Grace. 

As that thought rolled over me, I realized that nobody could validate me in the way I need to be. Whether or not anybody else loved me didn’t matter, as long as I was loved by my dog and my Jesus. Since I already know Jesus loves me, the only other one that matters is my dog, and since I take him for rides in the truck, I’m probably set. 

But yet, that leads to one more person I forgot: Me. 

As I rolled my eyes later at the soap in our bathroom shower that was scented “Love” and recalled my littlest sister teasing me that that was what I needed for Christmas, I decided to read the back of the bottle. Instead of claiming that the scent of the soap would cause someone to fall in love with me, it claimed it would “inspire connection and self-confidence.” The pieces began to fall into place, and I realized what I think I’d known deep down for a long time. 

Even if I am loved by Jesus, if I can’t learn to love myself, how can I truly show love to others? Jesus didn’t love me out of duty, but out of choice. Though I might not understand “why me,” I am so worthy because Jesus has made me worthy of His own life, which is way more important and much cooler than mine. I must be someone worth loving, since I am loved by Him. 

This pressure to better myself so that I might measure up or compare to others then becomes ridiculous. There is nothing I need to do to prove myself worthy of love or attention, since I’ve already got that from a source way worthier than anywhere else. If the defining factor about myself is that I run fast, my hair is perfectly curled, I have straight A’s, or I have a doting boyfriend, then people will fail to see that my most important feature is that I am loved by God, cherished by Him, and worth dying for. 

I’d rather be known for that.

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by Kaleb Schrock

If you were to ask me, “Kaleb what Bible character would you say you relate to most?” I would not hesitate to say King David, but not because of his great victories in battle or his epic harp playing skills, but rather for his fall from grace with Bathsheba and his return to God 

I grew up in a strong Christian family for all my life, and I spent most of my time staying with my Grandpa and Grandma. I often joke that I was practically raised by baby boomers. For the longest time I believed myself firm in my faith, but it was in middle school and high school that I stumbled as David had. It was during this time that I was hit hard by lust and depression. I saw all my friends in relationships and they all seemed happy, so I became determined that that’s what I needed to be complete. However, God didn’t see things that way and I kept trying for girl after girl, each time being rejected and instead of heading to back to God. I wallowed in my own sadness and disappointment in myself. 

This is when I found my love of Westerns. My Grandpa has a whole wall in his basement lined with Louis Lamour Westerns, and I would read them and dream of riding on the open plains of the west – no one to answer to save myself, and nature itself a complete escape from reality. But sadly, that’s not how life is. I would always return to my world, looking for my value in a girl that I could call my own. 

Inspired by these dreams of the West, My Grandpa and I began two new hobbies: Rendezvouses and Civil War reenactments. I love to do these events to this day, and it was living out in the woods in a tent with my grandfather and the heat of the cannon during the battles that gave me a sense of freedom from sadness and lust. However, I would come home every time and be slapped in the face by lust that kept bringing me down. Every time I tried to be with someone it failed in rejection and I had a gut feeling that was trying to force God’s hand. Every time I would start I felt a weight on my chest like God was trying to tell me that she was not the one, but I ignored and was scorned. 

This is where the story of David comes in. Like David, I was strong in my faith and devotion to God, but I turned my eyes from God to that of other women trying to find my identity in that. But like David, I also saw that it is God that I should be seeking in my life and he is always there no matter what. I learned this after speaking with Professor Clark, and he told me that I needed to give up the reigns of my life to God. He reminded me of the verse Matthew 6:33 which says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you.” Through Westerns, rendezvouses with my Grandpa, and a change of heart, I have learned that following God and putting Him above all else is the only way that my life will fall back into place.