That time I was placed on academic probation…

CCW Spring Retreat ’16

I started my journey of undergraduate work in the Fall of 1998. I was a music education major at Jacksonville University. Music seemed like the one thing I was made to do on this planet. I was excited to start freshman year and have the college experience by living on campus. It wasn’t long, though, that I become disinterested in the academic discipline of music. Going to the practice rooms felt like a cruel chore and eventually, that feeling made going to class in general feel like torture. Maybe it was immaturity, or I just needed a new major. My scholarships were linked to my major so I felt stuck.

By the end of the spring 1999 semester, I heard my advisor say those two scary words: ACADEMIC PROBATION. It wouldn’t be the last time I heard those two words, but the first time was dramatic enough. Probation meant my scholarships were placed on immediate hold. Since I had already taken out a couple of loans, my options were limited as to how I would remain at JU. After it was all said and done, I decided to transfer to UNF – where my undergraduate journey would include many highs and lows (more lows than I am ready to admit) for the next 6 and half years. But on that April day in 1999, I honestly believed my life was over.

This is the moment that every young adult fears: the consequences of your actions being more severe than you realized. Yes, I had issues with JU’s music department, but I knew this was my fault. On the outside, I probably appeared confident and care-free. On the inside, I was reconciling myself to the idea that I had failed at life.

What I needed at that moment was someone to tell me this is not the end. I needed someone to remind me that while these mistakes were significant, they weren’t strong enough to predict my future. I needed someone to reassure me that I could overcome – that I was not the first person to be placed on academic probation or to be forced to transfer because of it. I did NOT need someone to make sure I understood the gravity of my situation – I was already doing a great job of that whether anyone knew it. I needed a unique voice that could speak into my college/young adult experience. I needed a voice of hope that my future was still secure in Jesus; and I found that voice in the guy who was basically my campus minister: Kendall Hunt.

Don’t get me wrong – I have amazing parents who have always cheered me on and they were very supportive throughout my undergraduate journey. I also had strong friendships with other young adults on and off campus. And I had a beautiful church family who continued to create a loving and merciful environment for me. But no one spoke to my life the way Kendall did in that season. Kendall’s job was to pastor college students, and that specific emphasis made his words ring so much louder than all of the others. I got through that season (and a few others) because God sent Kendall to be my college pastor. Years later, Kendall would take me to a leadership conference in Atlanta where he encouraged me to consider pastoring college students alongside my friend (and his future wife) Alison. I don’t think you need a degree to figure out why I told him yes.

I’m starting my 15th year leading ministry to college students this fall. Right now, young adults are driving up to UNF and starting to move in. Others will be heading to Flagler this weekend and JU next week. They are all hoping to have the best experience of their life on campus. But the truth is, some of them will hear messages like “academic probation”, “C grade for the first time”, “you were not accepted into the program” and “the funds have run out.” Friends, I am still in campus ministry because when this happens, I want to be the first person they call. I want to be the voice of hope through the seasons of their college experience.

Some folks think campus ministry is unnecessary – calling it simply “youth group 2.0”. Not only does that diminish the great work of youth leaders, but it also shows a clear misunderstanding of the importance of campus ministry. Ministry to campus students is a unique opportunity where fun and games fill up less than 5% of our time. We are missionaries and counselors who have the grand privilege of loving and leading emerging adults as they figure out where their life is heading. Campus ministry is vital to the continued development of young adults and critical for the future of Jesus’ Church. And I am humbled to work with an amazing team of people as we serve college students on three campuses in Northeast Florida.

Campus to City Wesley Foundation turned 5 in August 2016. As we head into our 6th fall semester, we are stronger and busier than we have ever been. We are convinced that serving college-aged young adults is important for the Church and the world. On Saturday, August 27 we are gonna celebrate all that God has done in the last 5 years and anticipate the miracles that await us in the future. I’ll be reflecting on that April day in 1999 when I thought my life was over and I heard that voice of hope from Kendall. And I’ll be re-committing myself to be that same voice for college-aged young adults for as long as the Lord allows.

5th_Anniversary_Instagram_PostPS Everyone (especially the older than college crowd) is invited to join us for the Anniversary worship night at Mandarin UMC on August 27. For more information, click here.

That time I was placed on academic probation…

God of the Busy

I started a series a few weeks back at CCW called “The God of the Busy”. The goal of the series of messages has been to help our community discover God’s presence in the midst of a busy life. Way too often, I say to myself that I will be able to encounter God best when my life calms down. Yet I have found that my life never really calms down, and I would argue that it is not supposed to. My assessment is that our problem is not the busy schedule, it is our inability to practice the presence of Jesus in our everyday lives. There has to be a way to engage our relationship with Jesus even in seasons of busy-ness.

One practice that I have stumbled upon over the last few years could be called Selah moments. Selah is a Hebrew word, primarily found in the Psalms, that has been loosely translated ‘to pause’. Selah moments are small spans of time when I allow myself a second to pause and be reminded that God is with me. It happens in traffic, waiting in line at Starbucks, on a short run, sitting between meetings and even when I am in the shower. It is more than a few minutes to think or be aware of how I feel. In these few minutes, I confess that God is present and actively working in my life. The goal is to once again, submit my life to His leadership, listen for His direction and engage His presence in the small details of my day. If done right, I will see the small cracks in my faith…the moments where I am leaning on my own understanding instead of trusting in His grace. These Selah moments have become super helpful in my decision-making, my stress and my blood pressure. The challenge in the Selah moments is that they do not just happen.

Practicing the presence of Jesus means being intentionally open, present, and available to Jesus. Feeling Him in the busy life ultimately comes down to waking up to the truth: God is with us. He is completely engaged and moving in our lives. He is paying attention to the pressure  we feel and the problems we are trying to solve. He is walking with us through the 20 hour days. He sees all and feels all.

If you are reading this post, maybe take the next minute to remind yourself that Jesus is sitting right next to you. Maybe take the next minute and raise your awareness of Him being with you. Pause, lean in and make a decision based on that awareness. Who knows what might happen. Selah.

God of the Busy