Author: Meredith Gordon

Cultivating a Lifestyle of Thankfulness

Last week our college Lifegroups hosted Thanksgiving parties – hundreds of students gathered in houses and apartments to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal, complete with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie and everything in between! These parties are a great way to invite friends into community and also begin preparing our own hearts (and stomachs) for the Thanksgiving holiday.

But, we also acknowledge that as great as these parties are, most of our students are looking forward to a Thanksgiving at home. Even for me, though no longer a student, there’s something about going to my hometown, being in my parents’ house and taking in all the familiar sights and scents. During this season we are expected to reflect on all we have to be thankful for and intentionally express gratitude at a new level.

Sometimes that can feel difficult.

BUT I’M MORE CONVINCED THAN EVER THAT THANKSGIVING IS A LIFESTYLE, NOT MERELY A HOLIDAY.

I wanted to give you a few practical challenges you can try out while you’re home for Thanksgiving. My hope is that thankfulness will eventually become the natural overflow of our hearts no matter the season.

  1. Begin every prayer with “Thank you, God..” // Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving…” If you start your conversation with God every day by expressing your thanks, you’re paving your own road into His presence…brick by brick, you’re entering in. Before you begin asking Him anything else, take several moments to really think about who God has been, is and will be for you, and the amazing things He has done, is doing and will do for you. Then, tell Him “Thank you!”
  2. Make a list and pick out the highlights // For a set amount of time (10-30 minutes), sit down with a pen and paper and write out anything and everything you’re thankful for. Engage things in your heart and mind that you typically take for granted – ask the Holy Spirit to help bring things to mind. After you’ve made your list, go through and circle the ones that stick out to you most, or seem most significant or special. For those items that you circled, pinpoint a person you can thank (If it’s your car, who helped you buy it? If it’s that vacation you took last month, who was with you or helped pay for it? If it’s for your education, who worked hard to provide while you were in school?) Then, either tell that person face-to-face or write them a note expressing your thankfulness – this doesn’t have to be a long, risky conversation, but rather a simple acknowledgement.
  3. Do something that says, “thank you” // Don’t just let thanksgiving come out of your mouth, but also out of your actions. Help clean up the kitchen after a meal. Offer to take the kids to the park. Be a good steward. Give up the best seat in the house for movie night. Pick up some flowers to take home with you. Give hugs. Our generation can kick entitlement out of the house, if we’ll step up our game and actually express thanksgiving with our actions out of love, not just with our mouths out of obligation to a holiday.

I pray that this Thanksgiving is restful, refreshing and fun for you and your family. I pray that we all walk in greater revelation of all that we have to be thankful for, and greater obedience to express that thankfulness to God and to those around us. Let’s let the thanks keep rolling straight through every season.

By Meredith Gordon – College Ministry Staff

Making Summer A Win

Summer can mean a lot of different things for a college student: maybe you’re at home with family and working a part-time job, maybe you’re at camp scrubbing dishes and keeping 10-year-olds suspended on a ropes course, maybe you snagged an internship in a new city and are getting great experience for your future career or maybe you’re in Waco taking summer courses and hitting the BSR cable park.

WHEREVER YOU ARE AND WHATEVER YOU’RE DOING, HERE’S SOMETHING I KNOW ABOUT SUMMER: IT CAN BE THE BEST OF TIMES AND ALSO THE WORST OF TIMES FOR A COLLEGE STUDENT.

We’re about a month into summer, and maybe you’ve already felt both. So, I wanted to share some thoughts on how to continue living your summer to the fullest potential, gaining ground in God, thriving in your relationships and making memories that will fuel you into the next school year.

At the end of the spring semester, our college ministry spent four weeks discussing the Holy Spirit – His person, His gifts and His fruit so that we could pursue the Holy Spirit all summer long. I’d encourage you to go back and listen to those messages on our College App or our Vimeo page. Then, revisit the summer plan you made in discipleship – what fruits of the Holy Spirit did you say you wanted to produce this summer, and how were you going to position yourself in order to see those fruits produced? Have you checked in with your discipleship group to let them know how you’re doing, and ask them to continue praying for you and holding you accountable?

A LACK OF CONNECTION TO COMMUNITY CAN OFTEN TAKE YOU DOWN A PATH YOU DIDN’T INTEND.

So, it’s important to keep your friends in the loop of what’s going on with you spiritually. They can encourage you, fight with you and celebrate with you if you let them in – but if you don’t, you’re on your own. Reach out today.

I ALSO WANT TO WARN YOU OF ONE OF SUMMER’S BIGGEST TRAPS: SELFISHNESS.

Somehow, after a long, hard school year, we feel justified, and sometimes even entitled to the me-myself-and-I mentality. I need to rest. I need to be by myself. I don’t want to visit so-and-so. That’s a waste of my time. But let me say, now is not the time to be selfish!

IN FACT, THE BIBLICAL REALITY IS THAT TRUE LIFE COMES WHEN WE GIVE OUR LIVES AWAY.

So, my challenge to you is to invest in other people and contribute to a local church. Take a younger sibling to an amusement park, teach a neighborhood kid to ride a bicycle, make a meal for a family in your church, offer to run an errand for your parents or sign up to volunteer for the new ministry your church is starting. Whatever it is, you’ll find that rejecting your own selfish desires and investing in others will launch you into the abundant life you’re looking for this summer.

LASTLY, DO FUN STUFF THAT WILL FILL YOUR TANK!

Take road trips to see friends, meet people at the park to play Frisbee golf, host a movie marathon, learn a new sport or skill or hit the local pool with your family. Whatever you enjoy doing, do a lot of it! Stock up on good fun and make some serious memories so when you come back in August, you’re full of life and energy, telling stories and building excitement for what’s to come.

We can’t wait to see you all back in Waco soon – until then, make it the best summer of your life!

By Meredith Gordon – College Ministry Staff

Keep It Fresh: 6 Ways to Freshen up Your Time With God

It’s the middle of the semester here in college-world. The start of the year was chaos – the good kind – where things were new and exciting. But here in November, there is no semblance of this good chaos…it’s a settled routine and head-down-power-through, honestly just trying to make it to Thanksgiving.

Sometimes, that’s how it can feel to me spiritually around this time as well. I’ll start the school year with high faith, springing out of bed in the morning to meet with Jesus so He can fill me with hope and promises. But now I can catch myself going through the motions, lacking expectation, just to check time with God off my daily to-do list. But I’m convinced that a mundane relationship with Jesus is not what He intended, and I won’t settle for it as my portion today.

Here are a few ways I’ve found to keep my time with God fresh and exciting:
  • 1. Read an encouraging and challenging book.

    As part of your time with God, read a story that will inspire your own walk with God. Here are a few I’ve read recently and would recommend:

  • 2. Get new music for worship.

    We’re made to sing new songs – there’s got to be something fresh stirring in our spirit that makes its way out of our lips. Sometimes, listening to a new album (or reviving an oldie) will help stir that up. Or, listen to instrumental music and sing out your own song. Let God do a work in your heart, even if you’re not a worship leader on the stage.

  • 3. Change up your scenery.

    If you usually sit in the same chair in the same room every morning, try moving around. Either to your kitchen table or to a couch at your favorite coffee shop, sometimes just making a move helps readjust our expectation to meet with Jesus. You can also go for a walk around the neighborhood or around your campus – let God speak something new to you as you take in the world around you. Use the things you see as a springboard for prayer…you might find yourself walking and praying longer than you expected. One of the best things about God, in my opinion, is that He isn’t confined to a particular location. Wherever it is that you want to try, He can meet you there.

  • 4. Try new methods.

    Set yourself up to encounter God by doing something different. If you usually sit to pray, try standing or kneeling or walking around. If you usually read the Word first, try worshipping first. Write down things you feel like God is speaking into a journal and refer back to it daily. Read the Word out loud. Write it in your own words. Make notecards to help you memorize Scripture. Create a prayer calendar you can follow to intercede for your family, your sphere of influence and the nations of the earth.

  • 5. Do it with a friend.

    This one takes some cooperation from a buddy, but I believe it can help boost our own hunger and expectation when we spend time with God with a friend. There is something in the Spirit that can be contagious when God’s children gather to seek Him. Grab a friend, worship and pray together, study the Word and then hear God for one another. Doing this every once in a while can serve as a little shot in the arm that will keep us going on our own.

  • 6. Ask God for new promises and goals.

    There’s nothing that can keep your time with God more fresh than simply receiving new things from Him. Ask Him to speak new promises – words you can cling to in this season – and then pray those things. As you read the Word, ask Him to reveal ways you can respond. Set a goal with Jesus to see the Spirit produce fruit in your life. God knows exactly what we need, and He can set us up to thrive if we just ask Him.

Again, God designed us for adventure with Him. Our daily time with Jesus shouldn’t be boring or mundane. If you feel yourself at a plateau, press in and ask Him to make it fresh again. We are made to thrive and enjoy relationship with God!

By Meredith Gordon – Antioch College Staff

mere-blog

Back to School Tips: College Edition

College students – we’re so glad you’re here! Waco just isn’t the same without you. As we kick off another semester, we want this fall to be a win for you. Check out these tips to help you get your year off to a great start:

  • 1. Get expectant:

    Be sure to spend time asking God what He has for you this semester. Write down specific passages from Scripture that you feel will be important for you to memorize, meditate on and cling to throughout this semester. Tell a friend what you’re excited for and what God has said. Pray into all of these things and let God build faith in you for the fulfillment of these promises.

  • 2. Get organized:

    Settle into your new apartment, make it what you want it to be, make it your home and place to relax. It shouldn’t be a mess that stresses you out every time you walk in the door. Get all the books and supplies you need for classes. Make a schedule, order your personal finances and set goals in various areas of your life. It is best to start out the year feeling peaceful and put together.

  • 3.Get out there:

    Make new friends, try things you haven’t done before and make the most of what’s happening around you! Be involved on campus, take ownership of your Lifegroup, start discipleship groups and serve the community. Get out there and do what God’s made you to do!

Whether you’re a senior or you’re just about to begin the next four (or five) years of college, we believe these years will mark you for the rest of your life. We’re so excited for this year to be your best yet!

 

By Meredith Gordon

meredith gordon

Awakened

There’s nothing that makes me feel more alive than sharing the Gospel. No matter what fear and doubts I may have had before opening my mouth, there’s something that happens when the message of hope manifests in my own voice.

But I didn’t always know this.

I remember the first time I went on Awaken, our college ministry’s spring break mission trip, I was hesitant to say the least. One evening, my team was doing an outreach in a neighborhood park, and honestly I was discouraged. Looking around, it didn’t seem like there were very many people who were paying attention to our drama, much less actually interested in the message. Though I was tempted to sit passively and allow others to engage in evangelism, I simply asked, “God, what do I do?”

I had been reading in the book of Romans, and almost immediately, He brought to mind several brief passages about the power of the Gospel and our purpose in sharing with others. Even if just for a moment, these passages provided an answer to my question that moved my feet forward, one after another, until I found myself standing in front of three young girls at the edge of the park. Two of my other friends joined me and we began engaging with the girls. I was able to share the Gospel, in a less-than-impressive manner, with a 12-year old named Lessly.  Frankly to my surprise, she decided to give her life to Jesus! I told her from that day on she could walk with God, hearing His voice and being led by His Spirit. When I asked her how she felt, if anything was different, she said, “I feel good. I feel clean.”

I felt good too. I felt alive.

My conversation with Lessly had released a joy and freedom in me and I realized this must be the design of God. Isn’t He clever? My friend was able to share with Lessly’s cousin, Amanda and she also gave her life to Jesus. We taught them to pray, read the Bible and share what God had done in their lives with their friends and family. As I was leaving the park that evening, I knew Lessly’s life would never be the same. And neither would mine.

Every year on Awaken, I face basically the same fears and doubts I faced that first year.

And every year I remember Lessly and I’m more convinced with every interaction that the Gospel really is the power of God for salvation to all those who believe (Romans 1:16). Jesus is the answer for every human heart. That’s why I go on Awaken and resolve to take this message of hope to those who have never heard. It is my destiny in God. It is what makes me come alive. And it’s for you too! If you’re a college student, we hope to see you in Edinburg March 5th – 11th. We have a final training day for the trip this Saturday, February 27th from 9 a.m. to noon in the Auditorium. Register online today!

By Meredith Gordon, College Ministry Staff

meredith gordon

How To Thrive This Christmas Break: College Edition

‘Tis the Season

Wow, it’s hard to believe the fall semester is over! Against all odds, you made it through finals and are running into Christmas break with open arms.

Right now, it might feel like ‘tis the season to sleep forever – to go straight bear hibernation mode. And while that may seem possible, it may not be exactly what you need. Here are my top two “must-do’s” to help you thrive over Christmas break.

1. REST

That’s what you wanted to hear, right? You’re planning on being nestled all snug in your bed and letting those little sugar plums dance away in your head? It’s true – you may need to catch up on sleep, and get your body back on a normal schedule after the late-night studying you’ve been doing. Now listen, crazy college student: don’t be a complete loaf. You do not get to use the “I’m a college student” attitude as an excuse to be lazy. Yes, you may need to sleep in or take a nap on occasion, that’s okay, but you need more than just physical rest.

You also need to rest spiritually. You need to get intentional time with Jesus, who is our Rest, every day. Spend mornings reading the Word, praying and worshipping God – get filled up with His spirit so you have what you need. Invest your time cultivating a deep relationship with Jesus, listening to Him and obeying Him each day. Make declarations of His truth over yourself and journal your revelations from Him. The way of the Kingdom is that the more time you spend with God, the more rested you’re going to feel when you come back in January.

You can engage in a particular activity in order to rest mentally and emotionally. Whether it’s playing games with your family or going for a walk around your neighborhood, find something you enjoy and find refreshing. Think of activities you’ve wanted to do all semester, but never had time for. Invite family or friends to be a part of those activities – baking, decorating the house, serving at a local shelter, sledding (hoping for snow), whatever it may be. When you aren’t focusing on academic deadlines and making it to your next meeting on time, you’ll find space for this kind of rest.

2. CELEBRATE

This is easy, you’re already good at it – you probably have a Christmas party planned for every night of the break. Here’s what I mean practically: take time to remember what God has already done in you, through you and around you this semester. How did you come into college back in August? How are you different in December? Maybe you had great relational breakthrough in your family, or you finally got free from that sin pattern, or learned who God is as your provider. Recall the things He has done and celebrate them by thanking and worshiping God. Then, look forward into what God has promised to do and the things you’ve yet to see. Stir up your faith, increase your expectancy for what’s coming in 2016 – store up those things in your heart, knowing that God is faithful to do what He has promised. The best way to celebrate is to have fun in everything you do – be silly and ridiculous, laugh until you can’t breathe, love your family like crazy, give generously to everyone and eat really good food.

Rest. Celebrate. It doesn’t sound so hard, does it? But I promise if you pursue these two things every day over Christmas break, you’re going to find yourself straight thriving. You’ll be ready to conquer the spring semester. We can’t wait for you all to be back in Waco!

Merry Christmas!

By Meredith Gordon, College Staff

Three Ways to Have the Best Summer Ever – The College Edition

Summer: potentially the most anticipated season of the year. For our college students summer means a break from a stressful school load, reunions with friends and family and opportunities to gain great work experience. For others, summer may look like baseball practices, remodeling your home or taking trips to the pool. But for all of us, if we’re being real, summer is all about the snowcones.

Whatever you’ve got going on between trying all the snowcone flavors, it’s certain that summer will bring new rhythms and routines. Here are three tips to help you prepare for your summer:

1. Finish well. Every year, there comes what I call the “Pre-summer Float.” The “Float” is an attitude that says, “I’m just trying to make it through, taking each thing as it comes, until I’m rescued by summer.” Imagine you’re in a river – you can simply float, dodging the rocks and debris that come your way while waiting for the water to get shallow enough or the banks narrow enough for you to get out. Or, you can swim. The “Pre-summer Float” is reactionary living – swimmers are proactive.

Make sure you’re living proactively, initiating conversations and projects, and looking ahead for what’s coming so that you can quickly, easily and joyfully transition.

I’ve found that I feel much more excited about a new season when I know I’ve done the previous one well.

2. Anticipate the change and commit to disciplines. Of course your summer is going to look different than your school year. Anticipate that change so you’re not paralyzed in a new structure. You’ll need to discover effective rhythms for a new routine and environment and evaluate early what is needed to thrive during summer.

Staying committed to the basic disciplines of spending time with God and connecting with community will be absolutely essential to your summer health.

Make sure you’re carving out time each day to worship Jesus, pray, read the Word and hear His voice! Even if you’re in other parts of the state or country, commit to checking in with your close friends for encouragement and accountability throughout the summer. Write letters, make phone calls or even roadtrip for a weekend so you don’t feel disconnected. Be watchful for the enemy; know your weaknesses and tendencies and resolve to guard your heart and mind from his schemes.

3. Set new goals you can get excited about. One thing that gets me excited for the summer is planning getaways and vacations. It’s important for each one of us to get time alone to connect deeply with God in a fresh way, so I encourage you to plan at least a one-day personal retreat in order to do that. We’re also made to connect deeply with family and friends, so planning some kind of mini-vacation with those we love is definitely something to be excited about. Another thing I love about summer is having a little more time (at least the sun stays out longer) and flexibility. I’d encourage you to be intentional with that time – pick up a hobby you’ve always wanted to try and learn something new. Read. Paint. Swim. Write. Build. Anything goes (our house is currently very into badminton)! Just do something new. When summer ends, you’ll have something fun to show for it.

These are simple tips, I know. If I had to choose a season that should be simple, it would be summer.

IN RESPONSE:

Take some time to think through how to make the most of your summer. Ask yourself what it will take to finish well and ask others to hold you accountable. Brace yourself for change and commit to saying yes to the things that really matter. Finally, set aside some time to list a few goals you want to accomplish this summer.

When you’re prepared for it, I think summer has potential to be not only the most anticipated but the best season of the year, and that’s what I’m believing for you. See you at the snowcone stand.

By Meredith Gordon, College Staff