Category Archives: Faith

A Pioneer’s Journey

The story of Jack Taylor’s faith as he went from new kid on campus to national storyline

BY MICHAEL SIMMELINK

Jack Taylor found out firsthand what it’s like to receive unexpected fame as a college student. He put on his on No. 24 jersey for the Grinnell Pioneers on November 20, 2012 and scored 138 points in a basketball game. And people lost their minds.

“Put Up a Number”

You haven’t seen a style of basketball like “The System.” And before you can understand what Taylor did, you need to understand the context in which he did it. The warm-up shirts for this year’s Pioneer squad read, “Put Up a Number.” That symbolizes the attitude Coach Dave Arseneault, Sr. has for the team. If the Pioneers can meet certain statistical benchmarks, including shots taken and turnovers forced, the statistics say they have an extremely high chance of winning.

It was developed by Arseneault, (you can call him Coach A) in the late 80s. He took over a Grinnell program that hadn’t had a winning season in 25 years. He took the run-and-gun style of Paul Westhead’s Loyola Marymount teams to a whole new level – one that has resulted in Grinnell leading all of college basketball in scoring 17 out of the last 19 seasons.

Arseneault’s system involves rotating a fresh five players approximately every minute. They employ a full-court press all game. The three-point attempt is the golden egg of the system; the more attempts the better. Offensive rebounding is vitally important, and any board grabbed is sent back out for another three-point attempt. Ideally that attempt would be from the player who just missed the previous shot. Because of course it is. There’s a lot more to it, and FOX Sports Live has a video that can enlighten you further.

The System has standards that are appealing to any young basketball player, especially one like Taylor, who thrives on the offensive end of the court. Coach A plays his full 15-man roster equal minutes and encourages players to shoot the ball as much as possible. What’s not to like? Who doesn’t want to try this? Why did I use my collegiate eligibility playing jayvee soccer?

It took a while for Taylor to warm up to Grinnell. He turned down a scholarship there once after high school and once after a year in prep school. After attending the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse for a year, Taylor looked to move on once again for school in 2012-2013. Coach A wasn’t interested in being led on again, so he let his son/assistant coach Dave Arseneault, Jr. deal with throwing the bait to Taylor another time. “The third time he made it known Grinnell would be a possibility for him, I told my son he could recruit him if he wanted to,” Coach A said. “But I would not. I guess my son is a better recruiter than I am.”

“Basketball wise, I knew I made the right decision,” Taylor said. “Being an offensive player, creating [scoring chances] off my dribble, I knew I could get fit in the System.”

The Night

Taylor did indeed fit into the system, and that was no more evident than the game two nights before Thanksgiving in 2012. The season was young, but Taylor was “shooting poorly” and in a scoring nose-dive. With an obviously outmatched opponent, Faith Baptist Bible College, next on the schedule, Taylor was given the green light to shoot out of his slump.

So Taylor put the ball up. Again, and again, and again, and again. By the end of the night, Taylor had scored 138 points on 52-for-108 shooting. He was 27-for-71 from three-point range alone. Eighty of those points came in the second half. He shot the ball every 20 seconds. He scored 28 consecutive points for the Pioneers. Do you even have the ability to contemplate what those numbers mean?

ESPN interviewed him that night. He made an appearance on Good Morning America, the Today Show, and Jimmy Kimmel Live! the following day. Taylor was no longer anonymous; he was the topic of discussion in every form of media. One day he was a transfer-happy guard living in obscurity in the cornfields of Iowa, the next LeBron James wants a copy of the game footage. How does someone move forward from that point? What else could possibly be accomplished on the hardwood?

Taylor gave his best attempt to remain humble in the face of newfound fame. He plugged his faith in interviews at every chance, but the national stations never aired those segments. Taylor still came off as a good kid, constantly thanking his teammates and coaches in the ESPN interview he gave that night. A Christian though? No one would have known it thanks to big network editing.
The sheer quantity and scale of the interviews could have been intimidating for Taylor, but he was ready, or at least as ready as a college student can be for national attention.

“I wasn’t scared,” Taylor said. “I had been praying and asking God that if I got that opportunity, that I would use that platform for his glory, and not my own.” He admitted it was “hard to remain humble,” but the way he deflected praise in interviews drew the eyes of fellow Christians around Grinnell’s campus.

“By the end of the night, Taylor had scored 138 points on 52-for-108 shooting. He was 27-for-71 from three-point range alone. Eighty of those points came in the second half. He shot the ball every 20 seconds. He scored 28 consecutive points for the Pioneers. Do you even have the ability to contemplate what those numbers mean?”

Long before Taylor was the one turning heads on campus, he had to have his eyes set a different direction.

Running in transition

Basketball was the easy part. From an academic and spiritual perspective, Taylor was unsure about what Grinnell held for him. According to U.S. News and World Report, the school is known to be one of the top liberal arts schools in the nation. Taylor would receive no special treatment as an athlete. As a member of NCAA Division III, athletic scholarships are not allowed to be awarded at Grinnell.

The school is also known for being noticeably liberal in comparison to the private colleges surrounding it. Many of the students are not religious in any sense, even fewer actively practice a faith at all. Taylor was a relatively new Christian when he arrived on Grinnell’s campus. He had only become a committed follower of Christ about a year earlier when a teammate at his prep school shared the Gospel in such a way that it clicked for Taylor. He had gone to church as a kid, but it hadn’t really taken root in his life.

“I was partying, cheating on my girlfriend, really just living for myself and the game of basketball,” Taylor said. “I realized basketball had become an idol for me.”

Taylor had a conversion in the radical sense that the old self had passed away. He chose to take the experience of his past with him, but the verve of parties and thrill of new girls no longer brings him the energy it used to. That girlfriend he cheated on? They worked through it together and are tying the knot this summer.

Spreading the floor and spreading the Gospel

It could be easy to expect Taylor to split Grinnell’s campus into two sides, an “us-versus-them” mentality. The Christians being pictured as the few who must remove themselves from the negative influence of secular higher education. It’s the fear of turning into “one of them.” He doesn’t fall victim for that imagery. Mission trips over breaks and the summer don’t interest him because he sees the need to “reach the lost” on campus.

“There’s a lot of people here looking for love and looking for acceptance,” Taylor said. “It’s really challenged me to share the Gospel in a loving and accurate way.”

Taylor believed that most of the Bible studies offered on Grinnell’s campus “weren’t biblical. They looked at it through their own lens, how they wanted to see it.” This meant that instead of looking at Scripture and adjusting their lives as the Spirit lead; they chose to adjust Scripture to how they had been living. So Taylor started his own Bible study. Today, about 30 men are involved in a group called “Legacy,” which has been a chance for connection and accountability amongst the Christian males on campus.

“Legacy is a place to gather and worship and meet people that you may otherwise not have known, or not have known they were Christian,” said Morgan Kinsinger, a member of Legacy. The senior was a captain on Grinnell’s football team the past two seasons and was asked by Taylor to be a part of the Bible study. “Going to a secular school it can be difficult finding like-minded individuals, and in a tough academic environment it’s easy to push my faith to the side,” Kinsinger said.

What Taylor has helped form is a place for Christian males to gather and deal with the specific problems that face them in their outnumbered position on Grinnell’s campus.

“There’s a lot of people here looking for love and looking for acceptance,” Taylor said. “It’s really challenged me to share the Gospel in a loving and accurate way.”

A career in basketball is still an option for Taylor after graduation. He’s hoping to play overseas for a few years before untying the sneakers and putting on scrubs at medical school. He can see himself returning to Black River Falls, Wisc., the place he calls home.

“I’d like to use my platform back home . . . because our society really values sports and that gives me an opportunity,” Taylor said. “I’d like to be able to work with youth who might be living like I was. I’ll use this platform as long as God allows me.”

It is anyone’s guess how long Taylor’s record will stand. All it takes is one coach finding an overmatched opponent and a player with a hot hand, and Taylor may find himself in second place. Will people still care about the message he is sharing? When will his name fall into the pot of forgotten facts used on Stump the Schwab? Should any of that matter? The refreshing vein in this story is that Taylor believes he can have significance for spreading the Gospel outside what he has done on the basketball court. But he’s certainly not rejecting the opportunities draining three-balls has provided, and isn’t looking for that to stop anytime soon.

And maybe that’s what the other 98 percent of college students who will never be famous need to take away from Jack Taylor. Whether it’s a corner 3 or a conversation on the Gospel, the most important thing you can do is take your shot.

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Why you shouldn’t count out accountability charts

BY TYLER FARR

I’ve heard a lot of negative opinions when it comes to accountability charts. You know, the little charts that parents use to make sure that their children brushes their teeth every day by having someone put a sticker on the corresponding day? To many, these charts are considered a way of guilt tripping others into doing certain things.

We started this little scheme earlier this semester on my wing, this time it was for reading your Bible. No one was forced to participate, and we bought a ton of fun stickers. These accountability charts are displayed on the wall right outside my dorm room. So every day I walk by and see who is being consistent and who isn’t.

I have never been very good at reading my Bible since discovering my faith 6 years ago, but I have always wanted to work at getting closer to God through His word. So when we put up the chart, I signed up hoping that peer pressure would remind me to at least read a few verses a day. I know this sounds like the accountability chart that I described above, but really it turned into more of an eye opening experience to me. It isn’t a shame chart, or at least I didn’t take it that way.

The accountability chart was an eye opening experience because I got to see how inconsistent I was, and also see how my wing mates were working on their commitment to read every day with me. I did not feel shammed into reading my Bible every day, I was inspired. I could see the girls who read diligently, giving me a benchmark of where I want to be. I could see the people who, like me, struggled with finding time in the day to commit to reading. I felt more human because I could remember that not everyone is perfect, and everyone that I know is at a different stage of her faith. So no, I would not call the accountability chart a shame chart. Today I would call it inspiration, and every day I hope to call it progress because the more time I spend in His word, the more I will understand and the more that I will grow. So don’t count out the accountability chart just yet, because it could represent a whole lot more than a little bit of shame.

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Why I dress up for church

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Photo cred: bendthelight.com

BY MICHAEL SIMMELINK

I was raised in a conservative Lutheran church in a Midwestern town. It was expected that my sister and I dressed up to attend church. It didn’t have to be suit and tie, but there were a few simple rules we had to follow. No tennis shoes with slacks. No jeans. No t-shirts. A collar was preferred. My sister wore dresses or skirts a fair amount. She wore earrings like my mom, and I had a couple clip-on ties to be like my dad.

Then we moved to another town. Our new church had less suits and more jeans. Some of my friends would show up to church in t-shirts and ragged shorts. My parents felt the pressure and let me get on the “causal-wear” bandwagon. I used all the well-worn excuses. “It’s about what’s on the inside, not the outside; I don’t want to be materialistic; I should be able to worship in what’s comfortable.”

I realized that as my dress for church got lazier, so did my attitude on worship. I stopped taking notes on sermons. I seemed to misplace my Bible more often. More casual dress was supposed to make my worship experience more intimate, but I was simply checking out.

I found there’s something sacred in the preparation of getting ready to go to church. Maybe nostalgia has more to do with that than anything. But when you spend a little more time in the shower, make sure you didn’t miss any spots shaving, and choose to wear the best clothes you got, it means something.

When I’ve visited Haiti and had the opportunity to worship there, it’s a far cry from our evangelical circles. People who feed families off ten dollars a week come dressed up in suit and tie, flowing dresses, polished shoes, and ornamental hats. Church is a big deal to them. They know they’re entering the presence of the Lord in his house, so you give your best effort as a result. A lot of kids take their only bath of the week on Sunday morning.

But when you spend a little more time in the shower, make sure you didn’t miss any spots shaving, and choose to wear the best clothes you got, it means something.

I think they’re onto something. What we wear to church isn’t about our comfort or what “works” for us. We’re entering into the house of the Lord. We could stand to have our worship services look a little more like the veneration before the throne of God in Revelation 7, or the reverence of Levite priests in Leviticus 16. Jewish rabbis often use the phrase, “know before whom you stand.” Dress is a part of that, and we could stand to remember that more often.

 

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Four ways to get the most out of reading your Bible

By: Michael Simmelink

How many Christians have you met that are satisfied with the time they spend reading the Bible? My guess is a miniscule percentage. Perhaps it’s even zero. It’s a tough thing to get into the Word on a daily basis, but there aren’t enough excuses in the world to make us think it isn’t necessary to healthy spiritual growth. My goal here is not to suggest what plan to follow as you read through the Bible. There’s plenty of resources out there for that. You can follow the link here and also here to check out the various ways to explore all of God’s Word. That means even Numbers and Song of Songs for all you who think the Old Testament isn’t important – you best be checking yourself.

1. Print out a plan and follow it

“But I think God speaks to me better when I just open my Bible to a random page and start reading!” Yes, sometimes God chooses to speak to people by popping out certain parts of Scripture, i.e., Martin Luther and Saint Augustine. However, it’s much more likely that you’ll stick with something if it’s written out and planned ahead. It will let you know when you’re on schedule and inevitably fall behind. Most good plans have a grace days spaced out.

2. Get accountable

It seems like everyone wants you to have an accountability partner for everything. Someone to keep you accountable for working out. Someone to keep you accountable with lust. Homework, swearing, drinking in moderation, the list can grow and grow. But it’s entirely true that these things are easier when you’re not doing it alone, so don’t make it harder than it already is. Find a friend and start on the same reading plan. Text each other questions to see if the reading has been done.

3. Set a time

Saying you’ll find time to read the Bible will not last. It just doesn’t. Set aside time in your schedule to make sure you can open the Good Book. It doesn’t have to be daily at 5 a.m., but force yourself to make the time in your schedule. After practice on Monday. In between class and lunch on Thursday. Before work on Saturday. Let your accountability partner know so they can text you at the appropriate times.

4. Have a reason to think as you read

Give yourself some questions to think about as you read each day. Steve Addison writes in “What Jesus Started” about a friend who always asked four questions of any section of Scripture: What does this teach us about God? What does this teach us about humanity? Is there a command to obey? Is there an example to follow? Simple, general, but thought-provoking and action-based questions like these give you something to think about and take away.

What consistent Scripture reading comes down to is a commitment as an individual. No one can make you be disciplined, but hopefully these tips increase your eyes’ time between Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21.

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for the wildflowers blooming in abundance, hope, and freedom

Photo cred: Natalie Johnson

Photo cred: Natalie Johnson

By: Marilee Akland

I  am not sure when I began to struggle with my place as a woman in the church.  I think it was in Bellingham, probably, when I first came awake to the disparity between my church-at-the-time’s stated position on women and the practical reality.  I remember being taken aside when I agreed to serve as a worship leader and it being explained to me that I could lead the congregation in song, but I couldn’t preach.

Oh.  Cool.

At the time, I wasn’t too concerned, I don’t think.  I was more amused that they felt the need to clarify.  It was a bit unsettling (in the best of ways) that it wasn’t just, I dunno, taken for granted.  I had (and have) no plans to enter the pastoral ministry, and so there was no barrier put up for me personally.  But I’d found the glass ceiling.  I told most of my close friends about that experience.  I won’t ever forget it.  One little statement that opened my eyes and, long term at least, played a small but significant part in changing my life.

I don’t want a fight.  I really feel little desire to discuss this or argue about this with the people I know will disagree with me or be angry with me.  I want them to see things the way I do, because I’m finding such crazy freedom and joy on the other side of fear.  But I know how long it took me to walk this road.  I know the roadblocks on the way to freedom.  Allow me to elaborate for a moment:

1) But the Bible says…
2) But all these really smart and important people say…
3) It’s weird to hear women preaching, so it must be because it’s not natural.
4) What if I choose to embrace women in leadership and it’s wrong?  What does this mean for my salvation?  Is this a “slippery slope” type thing?

I know about each of these.  I’ve worked through these questions (and let’s be real, I’m still working through them) for years.  I’ve found that it’s a losing battle to argue with someone who already knows what they believe.  They have their reasons, just as I had mine.  I was not converted in a day, and it wasn’t one person’s clever argument.  It was a process of discovering a deep emotion inside me that embraced my identity as a beloved daughter of God.  I began feeling elation and hope any time I read blog articles about equality in marriage or in the church.  I began cheering for the “other” team.  I began to deeply believe that God desires to bring redemption from the Fall – not to perpetuate its effects – and that this redemption is, although not yet fully realized, something we, as Christ’s body, should work to bring to earth.  Your kingdom come, Lord Jesus, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

With the fall came weeds and pain in childbirth.  We work every day to lessen those burdens.  What are we doing to restore the equality of Adam and Eve before God?  I firmly believe hierarchy is descriptive, not prescriptive.

I believe in submission.  I believe in silence.  I believe in servant-hood.  I believe in these things because Jesusmodeled them.  Have there been times and places where Paul’s instructions to women made sense?  Why yes, in that culture.  Do the principles behind his instructions still make sense?  Yes, in so far as we understand them in their proper historical and literary context.  Do I believe that Paul meant for us to copy his instructions to first century Jewish/Roman culture in the present day to the letter?  Nope.  In fact, we don’t.*  So let’s not even begin to pretend that we do or that we should.

And where does this all leave me practically speaking?

I find myself standing in a wide open grassy place with wild flowers blooming like crazy all around me.  I raise my hands toward the sky and spin in joyous abandon.

I’m free.  I will do my best to follow God where He leads me.  I don’t know where that’ll be or what it’ll involve.  That’s the crazy thing about following that same crazy call that uprooted Abram from all he’d known and transplanted him squarely in the unknown.  Maybe I’ll have kids and stay at home with them.  That sounds nice.  Maybe I’ll go to seminary and write books and teach college kids.  That sounds nice.  Maybe I’ll do nothing “important” with my life.  That sounds nice, God doesn’t really need me anyway.  His promises will prevail in spite of my best attempts to stand in the way.  But I want to be faithful to Him in each small choice I make, and I want to have the boldness to speak up when He calls me, in whatever forms that takes.

Here I go.

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*head coverings, women speaking in church and leading ministries, to name a few things that come to mind.

“Just Pray About It”

By: Tyler Farr

I don’t know what it is exactly that irks me about the phrase “Just pray about it” or some other variation. I understand that it is an encouragement designed to remind me that God is listening and that he will provide the answers. It is supposed to be a phrase that directs me toward God rather than being self-reliant. However, it makes me want to do the exact opposite. When someone tells me to just pray about it when I am having a problem, I just want to say, “Well just because you said to, now I’m not going to.”

What needs to be realized in this situation is that praying is a natural, and expected part of my faith. Don’t get me wrong, I do pray in my everyday life. But when it comes to a decision that I am trying to make, or an outcome I am hoping for, I tend to rely on what I can do in this situation rather than what God has planned for me. In Psalm 3:4-6 it says:

So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight…

This is a struggle. I want to be free from relying on my parents and others because I am growing up. I want to be able build a life for myself when I leave college. That’s why I hate when people tell me to pray. This verse, however, is a gentle reminder that I cannot go at this alone. The phrase needs to be a reminder of the importance of praying and relying on the Lord. I have to remember that I will always need God, no matter the circumstance. So when someone tells me to “Just pray about it,” like my mom just said on the phone not 20 minutes ago, it is a gentle reminder that I am not alone. And not only that I am not alone, but also that I can’t do everything alone. I need to rely on him.

I still don’t like the phrase, but the Psalms remind me that the phrase is more than just something people say to get under my skin. Instead, I need to lean on God and just pray about it.

How to Celebrate the Superbowl Spiritually

Photo cred: quickmeme.com

Photo cred: quickmeme.com

By: Nick “Tapobu” Rohlf

It’s that time of year again – FOOTBALL time!  No, not that liberal wussy “soccer” stuff with the fake injuries and the red cards.  I mean REAL football, AMERICAN football!  And if you’re a real American, you’re probably preparing yourself for the best super bowl party of the year.  But are you preparing to celebrate your super bowl in a godly fashion?  Don’t get me wrong, everything about the super bowl just screams “this is a Christian sport” – what with the running at each other and tackling each other and scoring points and all that sort of thing.  But why not go the extra mile for your super bowl party and make it a true celebration of your faith?  Here are some ideas.

1)      Practice your “Tebowing.”  No, Tim Tebow isn’t playing this year, and no he’s never actually made it to a super bowl.  But he was on the Broncos once and he did pretty reasonably well. So practice the Tebow stance and do it every time your team scores.

2)      Pray for your quarterback.  It really takes very little time, and you’ll be doing your part to ensure your team’s victory.

3)      Envision the entire game as a holy war.  Your team is naturally God’s army, and when they inevitably win after an epic battle that was always predetermined to go on your favor, you can celebrate by claiming that you knew all along who was going to win.  If your team loses, just remember that God loves the underdogs.

4)      Instead of watching the NFL half-time show, invite a local pastor to give a super bowl themed sermon – while wearing his/her favorite jersey, of course.

5)      Order a keg of sparkling grape juice.  Who needs alcohol anyway?  And what could possibly go better with buffalo hot wings than grape juice?

Hopefully these ideas will help you enjoy your super bowl while still keeping time for your faith.  Of course, alternately you could remember that Jesus himself happened to enjoy a good party now and then.  Just don’t turn your water into whine if your team starts to lose.

Where Is Your Identity?

Photo cred: Natalie Johnson

Photo cred: Natalie Johnson

By: Trey Soto

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? 
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, 
and to listen than the fat of rams.”  1 Samuel 15:22-23.

Being new to college means new things. New friends, new teachers, and a new major. But one that is greatly common among college students is a new identity. High school is over and it is time to become known to the college world. But like myself, we forget where that our real identity is in Christ alone. Everything else is secondary.

When I was a freshman in college, I was great at many things and because of that, I got involved in many things. Missionary organizations, choir, you name it. One that was very important to me was writing for the school paper. I was and still am a freelance writer and although it was low pay, I managed. I wrote and published over five articles throughout the year, covering movie reviews and TV series’. I absolutely enjoyed my work. I put so much effort in my writing and enjoyed feedback from people. I was beginning to live the journalist dream. But sometimes your dreams can become your nightmares.

With the new school year came new management, since the staff the year before had graduated. The new staff was a little more picky and difficult to work with. I pitched my first article summary to them and they said I could give it a shot. This article was one I wrote twice last year, which was about T.V. series’ to watch and stay away from. But two days before the publishing, they contacted me and pulled the plug on my article, stating that it was something the student body didn’t need to be informed about. I became furious and offended on the in my heart. “I have been doing this for the past year” I thought, “and they think they can just cut it at the last minute?”  As the year went on, I tried to work outside of the A&E section and work in opinions or features only to get denied every idea that I pitched to my editors. Total count: five. I became very discouraged and envious of other friends and students who were journalism majors. Many of them got an early start on their career as far back as high school when they worked for the school yearbook or paper. For me, I never had those opportunities and I felt that I had to catch up and be on the same page. But despite everything I did and achieved, I never found satisfaction for anything I did.

During this time of my life, I figured that my relationship with God was rock solid. I learned so much from my biblical courses, church, and I enjoyed studying apologetics. But I still felt uneasy in my heart. I met up with a church elder and close friend of my father to discuss what was going on. After I told him everything that was going on, he replied back with something I never expected. He said “Trey, seeing you growing up, you have been good at many things. But the one thing I’ve seen you struggle with is doing all those things at once.” And then these next words caught my ears and left me in silence. “You can be good at many things and not master any of them.” And then it hit me. I was becoming a seeker of attention and praise, and became an idolizer in my work. He then asked me “Are you trying to please somebody?” I replied back without question that I was trying to please myself. But then he asked me something I didn’t think he would ask. “Trey, between the two of us, are you trying to please your father?” I took a long pause, put my hand over my face, and began to tear up. He was right. Out of everyone I was trying to please, it was my father. I told him how I felt that if I failed a course, fell behind, or did anything short of excellence, my father would be disappointed and look down on me. Now, let me be clear that I have nothing against my father. He is a strong man in The Lord and a great provider for his family. But there was that sense of pride that I wanted to make dad more than just happy with me. I would lie so much about my grades to him, claiming that I was succeeding when really I was struggling. And then he said to me “The relationship you have with your father can greatly reflect the relationship with God.” And then it hit me even more. I was trying to please God based on the works I did without even going to God directly asking if it was what He wanted from me. In my own eyes, I thought I was doing the works of The Lord. But the sad fact was that I never asked Him about it. I just did it. I was focus on pleasing The Lord with my work when really He wanted my heart and attention. Not that works of The Lord are not important but God wants our heart over our works any day because if don’t have a heart in our works for Him, what good are our works?

Throughout the entire week, God continued to have people speak into my life about what was going on and it became almost annoying. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t focus on homework and I was like “God, I get what you’re trying to tell me here!” But His reply was, “No Trey, you don’t get it and you’re not going to unless you fully realize what I am trying to show you.” God was trying to make himself known to me and I was greatly overlooking it. After I prayed hard that night, I began to have more quiet time and make the Lord first priority. I talked to my father a week later about what was going on and he was more than gracious to me. “Trey,” he said “I can never be disappointed you being my son. You do not have to prove anything to me other than that you really doing your best for the glory of God in everything that you do for Him.” I began to cry, as I remained speechless. Since then, I have been putting the Lord at the center of everything I have done and have tried my best to refrain from trying to be the center of attention and worry about what others think of me. True or not, what people think of me doesn’t matter compared to what The Lord thinks of me: an adopted child of His.

I greatly encourage you, reader, to keep your identity in The Lord and not of worldly desires and desires of your heart. Ask yourself, “Where Am I with God?” Dig deep into his word and in everything you do, do for his glory. Grace to you.

Tapobu’s Redemption Story

Photo cred: Natalie Johnson

Photo cred: Natalie Johnson

If you are interested in reading all of Nick “Tapobu” Rohlf’s story at once, here are the links to each section. 

–Justine Johnson, Editor

I: As The Pieces Fall Apart

II: Broken Puppet

III: The Scales in My Eyes

IV: Love Revisited

V: Home Again

Epilogue: One More Walk Down That Sacred Road

 

One More Walk Down That Sacred Road

Photo cred: Natalie Johnson

Photo cred: Natalie Johnson

By: Nick “Tapobu” Rohlf

Epilogue

One More Walk down that Sacred Road

 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes,what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:8-12

The following was written May 31, 2013. 

My heart has been heavy lately, heavy with memories of events that once shook me to my very core.

Four years ago began the storm.  As I rushed home, not knowing where I stood among those I loved dearest, I ventured out onto that sacred road, not sure what I would find.  I was afraid.  Afraid of the darkness, afraid of the unknown, afraid of the future and of the past, afraid of myself and of those around me, afraid to die but more afraid to live.  And yet I continued down that sacred path, that one quiet road in town where cars rarely bothered me.  I fought with You, I pleaded with You, I shouted at You, I turned my face away from You.  And yet, every way I turned, still You remained.  I asked for but one thing and promised the world in return.  Still You remained silent.  Days turned to weeks, and soon I returned to that place where I had once felt I belonged.  Around every corner I saw enemies, phantoms awaiting to assault me.  I sought out that quiet again, but nowhere in town seemed safe to me.  There was no quiet, for every corner contained shouting memories of my failure.

And then, of course, I was gone.  Exiled.  Banished.  Perhaps never to return.  After a semester of my attempts to solve my own problems, I had reached the consummation of my humanity.  I no longer feared the future; I simply no longer believed it to exist.  You were silent, and I had been abandoned.

And yet, against all reason, the days continued, as did I.  Slowly I returned to that sacred road, this time with no demands, only remorse.  My promises no longer rang hollow; I promised to find a better way to live, and with your help I was able.  Still I walked that sacred road, fearing again for a future that now seemed to come all too quickly.

And then came that final semester, the fifth year.  I expected people to know who I was, what I’d done; I expected them to avoid me.  How relieved I was to discover that nobody had any idea who I even was.  The semester came with full force, and though at times I failed, one truly wondrous thing occurred: I met my sister.  Though we both faltered, we both stumbled our way through that semester, it is only with each other that we were able to make it to that finish line.  Looking back, I realized that had I never failed in the first place, we never would have met each other.  What, then, would have become of our lives?  I always thought to myself, how lucky I am that God had used my failure to achieve something so wonderful.

And then tonight, I walked that sacred road once more with the desire to feel as though I’d come far, as though I’d accomplished something.  Here I was, a changed man, for the first time in my life in charge of my own destiny.  I will find my way, I will make the world a better place, I will…

But all thoughts of my own righteousness fled my mind as I reached the end of that road.  As my shadow crossed the path of a railroad sign, for the first time I noticed something that had always been there: the shadow of a cross, and as I passed by it appeared as though a man was on that cross.  This shook my sense of righteousness out of me as I remembered all I’d suffered.  As I remembered all the suffering my desire to control my destiny had wrought upon me thus far.  As I remembered who truly bore the brunt of that pain.  As I reflected on that shadow, I reached the end of the sacred road, and for the first time I stopped to look at the sign.

And then I wept.

I wept for all that was, all that is, all that ever shall be.  Before I’d ever lived in that town, the road had existed with that sign marking its beginning.  Before I’d ever set foot on that road, the Almighty already knew that someday I would haunt its dark, peaceful stretches.  Before I’d ever heard the name Northwestern College, I had started on a path to fail, on a path to be exiled, on a path to a slow and cautious return to somehow redeem myself.  And yet, I had already been redeemed, long before I even knew that road existed.  I wept as I gazed again upon that sign, as I was brought again to that darkness that stands outside time.  I wept with the understanding that I am no longer afraid of what is to come, for it has already been decided.  For on that sign at the start of my sacred road was written, had always been written, the name of my sister.