Over the weekend before the start of our Spring semester, I had the opportunity to attend a spiritual retreat called Unplugged with several other Pepperdine students. The goal of the weekend was to focus on our relationship with God before diving into the new semester. For the entire weekend, we left all our electronic devices behind and intentionally sought-after God. Not having my phone was a strange experience and there were several times when I would reach in my pocket for my phone and panic when I realized it wasn’t there, or I would have a question that was left unanswered because I couldn’t Google it. Conversely, there were also some really cool aspects of not having electronics including reading more books, sleeping better, getting out of bed quicker, and having exclusively face to face interactions. My favorite experiences were at meal times though, when the entire cafeteria was full of people and nobody was on their phone. Although I loved going without my phone for a weekend, the reality is that for the majority of us, our phones are incredibly useful tools that serve a purpose in our life and can’t be left behind completely. I have spent this past week back at school with my phone trying to monitor my usage so I wanted to share a list of my positive experiences and finish with a discussion on how our phones may be holding us back from being our best self.
So what? I completely get it; the phone is a wonderful feature of our modern society. I am not encouraging everyone to launch their phone into the ocean, but what I am encouraging is that people treat the phone like what it really is—a tool. Think of your phone like a really fancy hammer, use it when you need to complete a job or a task but then, put it away. You wouldn’t sit there staring at a hammer or grab it first thing when you get out of bed, so why do we do that with our phones? I believe that by leaving our phones behind we get to experience so much more than what can be revealed to us through the 5” screen. I hope to see our community here at Pepperdine become less captivated by our phones and realize more of our full potential.
I would love to hear what everyone thought about today’s blog! Have you had any experiences related to this topic or have any encouraging words to share? Please comment below and let me know what you think!
Hi, I’m Jess and I’m a know-it-all. I gain power during trivia nights. I get a little nerdy high in class when the professor proclaims my answer correct. I have an affinity for the Old Book Smell and obscure references to high-brow literature. It would be a path of least resistance, then, for me to write a blog post from a position of seemingly supreme wisdom. It would be easy.
Satan waits in the reeds where life is easy. Today, I’ll do my best to steer toward what is harder.
A revised introduction, then: hi, I’m Jess and know-it-all who knows nothing. I’ve never figured out how to braid hair. Or do a somersault, for that matter. I still can’t decide whether or not I like teaching, and I’m going to be graduating with a teaching credential come April. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with my life.
It gets worse.
I don’t know how to pray at night without falling asleep mid-sentence. I don’t know how to remember God in between Sundays. I still don’t really know what the Word is in John 1— something about Logos? I don’t know how to finish the Bible. I’m bogged down in the psalms— the psalms!— of all places.
I don’t even know how to be a Christian. Like, a real Christian. As a minister’s kid, I learned from a very early age how to put on a good face. But— and I’m sure you can all relate— many days I feel like a sham. I know how to pray and the words to at least five verses of “Amazing Grace”, but my life is not always pervaded by the love of Jesus Christ. I don’t know how to be a Christian because I don’t know how to put others first. How to put God first. People tell me that I have my life together. My reply to them is that it is easy to have your life together when you’re only looking out for yourself.
I don’t know how to be a Christian. I don’t know how to be selfless. I don’t know how to say, “I’ll help!” when people in need come knocking. Honestly, I don’t even know how to say, “I’ll help!” when my friend needs an early ride to the airport.
I don’t even know how to start being a Christian. Admittedly, I’ve tried. I soothe my guilt by spiritual journaling on Sunday mornings and telling peers in need that I’ll pray for them. But at the end of the day, I still know in my heart that I am unworthy.
What a convenient religion Christianity is, then! The point is that we will never be worthy, right? I can clutch the grace of God like a pacifier to stop my guilt mongering. I can sit in this comfortable space, forgiven, and tell myself tomorrow is the day when I start acting like a real Christian. Tomorrow I will look out for the little guy. Tomorrow I will talk to the homeless man across the street. Tomorrow I will wake up with God’s goodness on my mind and His praises on my tongue.
Tomorrow, I will be better.
What a treacherous trap to fall into. They say awareness is the first step to breaking bad habits, so here I am, aware. What now? I itch at my sins like mosquito bites and consider drastic measures as potential salves. What if I serve abroad for a year or two? Will this make me a real Christian? What if I just…uproot my entire life to kickstart that WWJD mindset? To be anything more than a mediocre Christian, do I have to become extraordinary?
Jess, God has been known to whisper to me. It’s smaller and it’s bigger than that.
Perhaps I purposely set myself up to fail by casting ambitions too high, telling myself that being a real Christian requires some great quality that I will never have. Here is a lie, the kind that Satan likes to prey upon. God doesn’t ask for perfect Christians. Just real ones. And being a real Christian occurs in the moments of extraordinary mundanity: in the simple and groundbreaking act of saying yes.
Yes to putting others first.
Yes to putting God first.
Yes: not in abstract terms but in tiny day-to-day moments. Lingering in dark places with friends that need you. Noticing pain. Even talking to the homeless man across the street. Seeing beyond yourself.
It should come as no surprise that this self-proclaimed know-it-all doesn’t have any of the right answers, but I’ve since discovered that my cluelessness doesn’t matter. To be a real Christian, I only need to know one answer— one right answer— at the end of the day. A one-word, world-changing answer: the matter between doing nothing or doing something; indifference and compassion; fake and real Christianity; death and life.
When God asks, “Will you serve?”
I know to answer, “Yes.”
And it is enough.
Picture by Derek Pinto
This event was based on Paul’s instruction in Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing”, as we highly believe in the power of prayer and the unity it can bring to this campus. Our vision was to see students, faculty, and church members come together and pray over the campus, each other, and the world. The event began Thursday, November 9th at 8:00PM and continued until 8:00PM on Friday the 10th in the Stauffer Chapel.
Pepperdine students volunteered to lead various hours of the event, with many brave souls who volunteered through the wee hours of the morning. Each hour looked different. Some chose to lead communal prayer, worship, scripture meditation, and many more unique ways of connecting people to Christ.
One of these unique hours, led by senior Cassie Nagle, was called Prayer For the Nations. Last year, while she was in Buenos Aires, she came across an album called "Prayers for Nations" by Sean Feucht, where each song on the album is written for and dedicated to a different country. She played this album, allowing the participants to pray how they feel most comfortable - silently, out loud, artistically, etc. Cassie expressed her hope that 24 Hours can become an annual event, so that the Pepperdine community can grow in its intentionality with prayer. Freshman Braden Ritchey led a group prayer on the first night and before going in he asked God to use him as a tool and to put the words He had to say in his mouth. He felt the Lord working through him as he said, “Usually when it comes to talking in front of people I tend to stutter and choke up. During this experience, however, it was the opposite. The words came so easily and I was able to speak my emotions.”
Another way of connecting students to the Lord was through the prayer wall. Participants could write down their prayer requests and stick them to posters hanging along the sides of the chapel. Then, other people could read the requests and pray over them, placing a sticker on the request, with each sticker representing a prayer. By the end of the 24 hours, the walls were covered by stickers burying the prayer requests.
This event was a time of reflection and realization for many students. Sophomore Jenny Lau responded to the experience, saying “ it was wonderful, but made me realize just how much little room we give the Spirit to work on campus. It made me angry, but inspired me to make a change in the amount of vulnerability that I show on campus.” Similarly, Cassie Nagle commented that “24 Hours of Prayer was a time for the Pepperdine community to come together and to lift up the hurt, the lost, and the needy. But shouldn't stop there. This event reminded me that when the going gets tough, our first instinct should be to get on our knees and to pray. May our hope remain in Him. May our prayers be steadfast. May His love always be on our lips.”
Hi ! My name is Jaylene Ramli and I am a freshman here at Pepperdine. I am working under the Spiritual Formation team for Campus Ministry and have absolutely loved it! I am a nutritional science major and some of my hobbies include playing volleyball, swimming and just being with PEOPLE. Thanks for reading and I would love to hear back in the comments about how you responded to this blog or just to say hi!
If you’ve ever ridden in a car with me, the title of this blog makes total sense. If you’ve never been given the opportunity to risk your life in my vehicle, allow me to introduce myself: Hi. My name is Claire, and I am the world’s worst driver. Okay maybe top three, at best.
Now, let me reassure you, it’s not that I try to be unsafe or drive recklessly… I am just not endowed with the same manual skills needed to drive a car like the rest of the population. It’s not that I absent mindedly don’t see traffic lights turn yellow, it’s just that my depth perception is a bit lacking. I don’t intentionally zip through the canyon at night, it’s just that I take lane lines as more of a suggestion when no oncoming traffic is in sight. I understand how to parallel park in theory, but the actual execution of that concept on steep Pepperdine hills proves to be quite a feat. I would like to switch lanes on the freeway without squealing, or stop being deathly afraid of u-turns, or remember not to lock my keys in my car. I really would. Alas, thanks to various memes and daily horrendous parking jobs, I am often reminded of my driving incapabilities.
And yet, as negative as my self-imposed title seems, I have learned valuable lessons from it. Every morning, somewhere deep in my subconscious, Carrie Underwood softly sings “Jesus take the wheel” because I know I can’t rely on my sub-par driving skills to get me to school safely. I am reminded over and over again of an infinitely important concept: surrender. Because in the same way that I have to rely on God where my incompetencies as a driver arise, I also must rely on God in every area of my life.
Let’s talk about this unpopular yet vital practice of surrender. Why is it so hard?
1. Surrender means giving up control.
We are beings that thrive off of control. From class schedules to lunch plans to study-guides, we try to anticipate and determine every possible outcome. Control minimizes uncertainty, and we like to have every detail figured out. As a senior in college trying to figure out what the next post-grad step is, uncertainty is a daily reality. In the midst of this tension of the unknown, I try to predict and control as much as I possibly can. Giving up is hard. This why one of my favorite verses is Proverbs 16.9: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.” This tells me that no matter how hard I try to micromanage my daily routine and my future, God is still determining my path, step by step. How much easier would it be to actively let God determine my steps instead of holding on so tightly to what little control I have?
2. Surrender is scary.
Giving up control means living in that very uncertainty that we try so desperately to stay away from. Yelp reviews, budgeting, ordering food ahead of time on apps-- these are all mechanisms we use to reduce the amount of uncertainty in our lives. While most of these are not inherently bad, they do teach us something about human nature. The unknown is a scary, anxious place. And yet, Jesus says to not worry about the unknown. He says in Luke 12, “Do not be anxious about anything. I know what you need. Just seek things of eternal importance first, and I got this.” God knows what you need before you even ask for it! Don’t let the fear of the unknown hold you back from seeking things of eternal worth.
3. Surrender implies trust.
Your plans, thoughts, and desires are important. If you are going to surrender them fully, you need to be reminded of who you are surrendering them to. God, the creator of the universe, full of grace and mercy, counter of all the hairs on your head, maker of chocolate and coffee and every other good thing, promises you this one thing: He is working toward your greatest joy and greatest good. What’s more, your failures, weaknesses, and incompetencies are not hindrances to this plan. Do you trust him in this?
Surrender in itself is scary. But this is the paradox of surrender to God: giving up control to Him actually brings you more certainty. It’s like Jesus said-- I got this. (perhaps a little paraphrased)
This is why I am grateful for my self-proclaimed title of “World’s Worst Driver”: I get to practice daily surrender. Although I hope I’ll get better some day, for now I can trust God in the areas of my life that are out of my control. But here’s the hard part and the continuous challenge for you and me. Surrender in the areas where you DO have it figured out. Think of areas of strength, where control has been a good thing and where giving up to God seems unnecessary. It’s one thing to trust God in your weaknesses, it’s entirely different to trust Him in your strengths. If there is one thing in your life that you would not be willing to give up to God, that may be the very thing that He is calling you to surrender.
Let’s trust Him with absolutely everything, friends. You have a loving God who is working for your greatest good-- there is no better time to surrender than now.
"The Holy Spirit is living within us, our body is the temple for the Holy Spirit and because of that, we need to commit to using our body to glorify God."
When I was growing up, my family always tried to maintain a tidy house. However, the reality of the situation was that the busyness of our lives outpaced the speed at which we were able to clean our home, so slowly but surely, our house became messier. It would continue at a slow downhill pace until one of two things happened: we got fed up with the state of the house and committed to cleaning it, or we were planning on having a guest visit. I don’t know about your family, but my mom was adamant that for any guest to set foot into our home, it must first be in an orderly state. Any time news arrived of a potential guest, cleaning the home became the priority, and at the time, I had a hard time appreciating why my mother cared so much if our home was clean for the guest. I now understand it was an act of hospitality; the guest would be more comfortable in our home if it was neat and tidy. When the house was clean for the guest, anything that disturbed the order was unacceptable. I would get the infamous “mom look” if I even considered leaving my shoes or backpack by the door, or even for a moment left my dish on the table.
So, what is my childhood story about a clean house doing on a spiritual blog?
Well, in this analogy, the guest is the Holy Spirit, and the home is our bodies. I know that the analogy is a little rough, but bear with me. I am NOT saying you need to clean yourself up before the Holy Spirit can visit, and I am NOT saying the Holy Spirit cannot handle our internal mess, but the point I am trying to get across, is that since we have the Holy Spirit living within us, we should try to maintain a hospitable environment. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul instructs the church about the Holy Spirit. He writes, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” In this verse, Paul makes it very clear that the Holy Spirit is living within us, our body is the temple for the Holy Spirit and because of that, we need to commit to using our body to glorify God.
Practically, what does this look like in our lives? How can we be hospitable hosts for the Holy Spirit? Just like in the clean home example, we show hospitality by maintaining order. In our bodies, order is maintained functionally through proper sleep, diet, and exercise. In other words, take care of your body’s physical needs. Feed your body nutritious food, get a full night of sleep, and find time to incorporate movement into your day. In my own life, I have worked towards these goals by asking myself the question, “Is this beneficial for my body?” If the answer is no or if the answer appears blurry, I know it should probably be avoided. For me taking care of my body looks like attending CrossFit classes regularly throughout the week, managing my time to allow eight hours of sleep at night, and whenever possible, choosing food that is healthy for me. However, I’m not perfect at this. I do skip CrossFit, I don’t always get my full eight hours, and I’ll be the first to admit that I have a sweet tooth and very little will power. I allow room for error because I know I am not perfect, but knowing my weaknesses is important because it gives me the knowledge to make decisions that help me avoid situations which might not be healthy. Each person is created differently so find methods that work for you and stick to them.
We should also strive not to make any new messes in our “home”, so in every way possible, avoid sin so as not to disturb the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel of Luke, the Holy Spirit is described as a dove and I think that image is the perfect way to understand the Holy Spirit: pure and innocent. Because we have such an innocent guest, we should take special care not to offend. God truly wants the best for us, so although it may be difficult to take good care of our bodies and avoid sin, let’s give it a shot and we may just find that our bodies are a more enjoyable place to live.
I hope you have enjoyed today’s blog! I would love to hear what some of your strategies are for maintaining a hospitable environment! If you have any strategies or questions, leave them in the comments down below; I would love to read them. Check back in next Wednesday for a new blog post, and in the meantime, have a wonderful week!
"Often times we do not remember that our cups should be vertical towards God, but in community God can pour out love through our loved ones."
The church is not a building, but a body of people. The church is not meant for perfect people but for broken people to heal in God’s boundless grace. The church is not about the number of people flooding through the doors on a Sunday morning chatting with a Styrofoam cup in hand but about the people gathering to lift up His name in praise and worship. The church is not a shield to hide behind hate and bigotry but a body that embodies love and compassion to all of God’s children. The church was not created for belittling people for their mistakes or for their sins because we are ALL sinners and have fallen far short of the glory of God. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rom 5:8).
But I have good news friends-God created his people for community, he did not want us to fight the spiritual battle alone that is why the church was created, a body of people who will fight the good fight and love one another unconditionally through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. God said in Genesis 2:18 “For it was not good for man to do life alone.” Even Adam who was in close relationship with God was given community and a ‘helper’ in Eve.
If the church was simply just a building for people to put on a facade of a cookie cutter life, we are missing the freedom that comes with God’s grace, shouldering the burden of our own standards of perfection. But God is a shepherd to his lost sheep, herding us together in love, and creating community for us to grow in faith and to have an unconditionally loving support system. Sometimes, as it is in my case, it takes losing who you believed were your best friends to find that community your heart longs for in Christ-the people who love you along with all of the flaws you shoulder. It is so worth the heartache and perhaps periods of loneliness to find these people because they see your worth in Christ even when you do not.
To be a part of God’s community means to serve your family of believers and exemplify Jesus’ example of servant leadership in all stages of your life as He did when he washed the feet of His disciples, humbling himself as a servant in all of his perfection. In Ephesians 4, God describes the body of Christ as a legitimate body, “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be….so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (Ephesians 4:18, 25-26). The body simply does not function as it is meant to without all of the parts working in unison to accomplish its ultimate goal. Each one of you was placed where you are meant to be, with a unique, God-given purpose.
Part of God’s purpose for us is to share the Gospel , or good news, with all nations and all of His people. How would we “make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” if we are not filled in the first place? While at Forest Home Christian Camps in Forest Falls, California, Megan Fate Marshman came to speak that weekend to a room full of broken teenagers. Megan, during one of her sermons, began speaking about the cup analogy. Basically we have a full cup and we take this cup and splash a little love on people: on our teams, on our friends; we support this person and that person. But then we turn our cup to our friends-to guys or to girls we like, to our teachers, to our parents, to our siblings waiting for our cup to be filled with love, acceptance, and with a desire to be loved but it just remains empty.
Then she said, do not hold your cup out waiting for others to fill you up. Instead, turn your cup how a cup is meant to stand, facing up, towards God to fill you up, so much so that it will overflow with his love. Often times we do not remember that our cups should be vertical towards God, but in community God can pour out love through our loved ones. When the devil taunts us in our loneliness or in our feeling of worthlessness, he created us in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ to point us back to Him, who truly fills us with joy.
One of the most impactful sermons I ever heard was when a pastor told us to Remember, not to dwell on the past but rather look back on the trials and the joys and see what God has done in our lives. See from a new perspective how He was working in your life to lead you to your purpose. Most importantly, see the people God has put in your life who built you up, those people who helped you find your passions and skills and use them to further God’s kingdom.
In Colossians, God specifically instructs us on how we should treat His children, “12 Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 and above all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3: 12-15).
Be thankful for all that He has done and become people of compassion for others. For God is good, He is SO good. It may not seem like He’s there as you suffer from a loss, a disaster, depression, an eating disorder, loneliness, worthlessness, disappointment, falling short, rejection or whatever you struggle with on a day to day basis. But if you take the time to look, truly look, you’ll see the people God has used to change your little bubble of the world. He is so incredibly faithful. Don’t you ever give up on finding your community because they are just around the corner waiting for you, waiting for you at the Well or in house groups or at the beach in surf convo or even waiting in line at Starbucks, waiting to love you and ready to see you just how God sees you through his eyes. Take the leap of faith and trust in Him.
I find myself again in awe
Miniature lights pierce the black that clothes the sky in madness
Clouded with sadness, bitter tragedy that once competed for the better half of me
Now cloaked in light
Too radiant for this night
It's existence would transform it into day
Leaving me in this state too light for the weight of this broken world
Instead, I levitate
Inside my soul, your spirit elevates
Initiates a wind of change
Who can know where the wind blows?
For your ways are higher and thoughts are wilder
But what I know is that wind propels, provides energy
Revitalizes the deepest parts of me
Once thickly caked with shame and dirt
Wet with tears and stained with hurt
You transform into a masterpiece gilded with gold
Platinum, dances with diamonds, resilient and resistent to the concrete that confines
Not a scratch can develop on your perfect love that binds
My broken soul to your brilliant mind
My own, once blind due to the outstanding luminescence of your power now showers
My soul in grace
And displaces the sin that over years crept in
And kept me from running away
That held me back from the light of day
Confined me to self-loathing and bitter hate
Now skates across ice and slides away
Disintegrates like Bo's daily contacts
Sin disintegrates daily, momentarily, instantaneously
Because of your death Jesus
It lives with in us
As evidenced by Your Holy Spirit that finds a temple in my earthly body
I look across the sky still clothed in black
But now I see the horizon, illuminated by the faint lights of airplanes and city smog or ocean fog
(It is challenging to discern between chaos and freedom)
But entropy is evidence of Your existence
The second law of thermodynamics counters my self-sufficiency
These dividends do not add up
My resistance, laughable, Your persistence unfathomable, in the pursuit of my soul.
Which I try to hide from you.
Do I not understand?
For even the night sky is transparent to you and even the clouds, like glass,
Even the horizon obeys your infinity
So please God let my heart be filled with your divinity.
Hello and welcome to the blog- we’re so glad you’re here!
Our blog posting has been inconsistent as of late, but we are revamping the blog and will be posting weekly!
Our mission as Campus Ministry is to “draw Pepperdine students into a transformational relationship with Christ, through our intergenerational church community.” We do so through our core values of worship, service, life together, discipleship and spiritual formation. This blog will mainly be focusing on spiritual formation through posts including stories, devotionals, and prayers.
God loves you and His grace abounds. Our hope is that this blog would be a tool to help you grow and mature in your faith and relationship with the Lord. In Psalms 42, the author writes “as deep calls to deep”, showing that inside of everyone, there is a longing for a more profound relationship with the Lord. A deep relationship with the Lord creates ultimate freedom and a lasting joy. We hope to journey with you into this transformational relationship.
We would love to get you involved! If there is anything on your heart, whether it be praises or concerns, please leave a prayer request down below and our team would love to pray for you! Also, if you are interested in being a guest writer for this blog please fill out the form on the side of this page, we would love to hear from you.
Spiritual Formation Team
All Pepperdine students are invited to join us on Sunday mornings at the University Church. The University Church of Christ meets in Elkins Auditorium on campus at Pepperdine University to serve Pepperdine students and Malibu residents as an expression of the love of Christ. Sunday mornings at the UCC include singing, communion, teaching and fellowship.
See you there!
At Campus Ministry, we love finding ways for incoming students to get to know one another quickly through shared experience, quality conversation, and purposeful discovery. Over Labor Day Weekend, we took forty incoming freshmen (and transfer students) fourteen miles on the Backbone Trail. We had an incredible three days with everyone who attended Base Camp 2016! If this is what the first weekend of school holds, it's going to be a pretty epic year. Check out more of the story on Instagram at #cmbasecamp
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