Advent – Joy

In my praise band leading days, Joy to the World was one of my go-to songs when Christmas season rolled around. I wish I could say that my choice was based on the song’s deep theology, but sadly, I chose it for its musical accessibility. Christmas songs can be crazy difficult to play, and thanks to Chris Tomlin’s rendition, Joy to the World was the rare exception. 

Now, when Christmas season rolls around, this is still the song that often comes to my head. Christmas is a season of joy. We can feel it in the air as lights and trees go up and we see the first flurry of snow. Christmas is a season of joy. The Lord has come, sin is defeated, and we repeat the sounding joy!

And yet, while Christmas comes with the feeling of awe and wonder, it is almost always accompanied by an acute sadness. Sometimes it’s because of growing older and feeling the loss of innocence. Sometimes we have to spend our first Christmas without someone beloved. Sometimes things are just not going well. We might look back to last Christmas and feel a sense of defeat or loss. Sometimes we’re still stuck in that pit, even a year later.

There are places in the Bible that speak of pure joy in the sense that we typically understand it. This is uninhibited joy; all seems right with the world. But often, Biblical joy is placed side by side with hardship. Consider two examples. 

First, look at Hebrews 10:34. Reminding believers of their attitude when they were first believers, the author says: “You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.”

And then of course there’s James: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Joy in the face of suffering? When my property is being plundered? Not exactly what comes to mind when I think of joy. But the Hebrews passage makes it clear that what makes this joy explicitly Christian is that it isn’t founded on something like houses or cars or anything that can be taken away. 

So what does this mean about our faith? I think usually we hear things like this and think that good Christian faith means that we don’t care about the things around us. Being a good Christian means caring less about your family and caring more about Jesus. Then we will be joyful because we will only care about Jesus because he is secure…right?

This leads us right to the birth of Christ. He became like us, identifying himself with us. And living the life of a human, he died and rose again – in a physical, perfected human body. The point is this: joy is not found in slowly deciding that our families and physical lives mean nothing to us. No, joy is found in slowly realizing that Christ is going to redeem all things.

He’s not going to abandon his creation. He’s going to renew and restore it. Many people live their lives thinking that our hope is in some cloudy angelic place that has no resemblance to earth. And if we’re honest with ourselves, this doesn’t bring us a lot of hope of joy. 

But when Jesus took on flesh, he was saying “Your destiny is now wrapped up with mine.” This is why the angel came with news that would be joy to all the people. Christ has come, but as some spiritual being, but as a man. And I’m doing so, he has made a way for this earth and everything in it to be resurrected and redeemed.

So this Christmas as we remember the people we’ve lost or the things that could have been, we can have joy. This is not because we’re turning a blind eye to pain and pretending it’s not that bad. No, we can have joy because we know that we have a Savior who actually cares about the things we care about enough to put aside his glory to be made like us.

“No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.”

Advent: Faith

I don’t think this is a particularly hot take, but I love Dr. Seuss. Our house is full of all kinds of children’s books and I’ve logged five years of reading them for about 30 minutes each day, and Seuss is easily in the top three. My favorite is a tie between The Lorax and Fox in Socks, but high on the list, mainly for its rhythm, is Oh the Places You’ll Go.

The story of Oh the Places You’ll Go is that of a young boy who has brains in his head and feet in his shoes who can steer himself any direction that he choose. His life has ups and downs – he gets stuck in a lurch and a slump (and unslumping oneself is not easily done) and at one point he gets famous because of the things he can do with a ball. But at one point after the unslumping, the boy heads towards a place which Seuss dubs “the most useless” place: The Waiting Place.

This, of course, is for people just waiting. “Waiting for the fish to bite, or waiting for wind to fly a kite, or waiting around for Friday night, or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake, or a pot to boil or a better break. Everyone is just waiting!” And Seuss promptly offers his commentary on this waiting place: “NO! That’s not for you! Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.” And of course, the boy faces up to his problems and paddles up many a frightening creek where enemies prowl and Hakken-Kraks howl. But these things can’t stop the boy because he has mountains to move. And will the boy succeed? Yes! He will indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed)

The second week of Advent beckons us to consider the idea of faith. Faith is the means of our salvation – it is by grace we are saved through faith. In fact “without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6) This is what he wants from us – faith that he has died and will come again to save and redeem us.

Now, many of us understand faith as a mental assent to a doctrine. In other words, we have faith that Jesus rose from the dead. We believe in our minds and hearts, with a dash of doubt now and then, that this happened. During the Advent season, as we look back to the first coming of Christ, we look ahead in faith to his return. We haven’t seen this happen yet, but we believe that it will.

But I would like to suggest that faith is not simply mental assent; no, faith involves the way that we live. In fact, if you go to the most famous faith-focused chapter in the Bible you will see that faith is demonstrated by action. Noah’s faith is seen in building the ark. Abraham obeyed and went. Moses left Egypt. Many martyrs faced horrible death and suffering. These things, the Scripture says, were done by faith

Now, I don’t know much about Seussian theology (One Fish, Two Fish doesn’t give much away), but for as much as I enjoy Oh the Places, I believe that his idea about waiting missed the mark. Consider this psalm: “Wait for the LORD; be strong and courageous. Wait for the LORD”. (Psalm 27:14) 

Waiting, contrary to Seuss, is an action of faith. It takes a lot of faith to wait. The Israelites were people who wanted to carve out their own future and ensure their own protection against enemies. Time and time again, the kings of Israel are rebuked for putting their trust in human alliances. David is rebuked for taking a census, probably because he was trying to ensure his might against his enemies. People did not wait, they strived to ensure the outcome they wanted. This angered the Lord, because he alone was their strength and might. He alone would rescue, save and protect.

So the stubborn people of God are sent into exile where they are forced to do one thing – wait. And in exile, the waiting place, the prophets would say lots of things like this: “O LORD, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble.” (Is. 33:2) Or this: “but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Is. 40:31)

Many will enter this Christmas season in a harder place than usual, perhaps even a waiting place. And in response, hoping for life to progress in the direction we want, will make a New Year’s resolution to be better in some way. “Covid can’t hold me down!” you may say. 

“Wait,” says God. He calls us to wait on him. This doesn’t mean “do nothing,” but waiting requires faith because waiting involves not putting your faith in human solutions to problems. Faithful waiting means letting God work on God’s time. Faithful waiting means looking at an unsure future and remembering that God is your provider. Faithful waiting sometimes means staying in the muck for a while. Faithful waiting means living as if he alone is your rescuer, savior, and redeemer.

Faithful waiting sometimes means staying in the muck for a while. Faithful waiting means living as if he alone is your rescuer, savior, and redeemer.

How are you taking matters into your own hands this Christmas? How are you turning your back on that waiting place because it’s “not for you, all that waiting and staying”? Could it be that God wants to use this waiting place to teach you that man does not live by bread alone? Let us not miss this moment to learn to live by faith. 

This Christmas, we look back to Mary, faithfully waiting on Jesus to be born. And we look to the heavens, faithfully waiting for him to return. Will your time in the interim be faithful? Will you lean on him? Or will you take matters into your hands to move your mountains? Let us wait on the Lord, for our hope is in him coming to make things new. And will He succeed? Yes! He will indeed. (100 percent guaranteed)

Advent: Hope

The whole world groans this year in pain, difficulty and struggle. An invisible force has arrested governments and individuals, taken lives, incapacitated many and it’s exit seems to be far off. Time has more or less stopped as we wait to resume the joy of daily living in community and connection while we are in battle with this invisible enemy.

I find myself caught between a strange mix of a dreamer and a realist about the pandemic. The dreamer in me finds it easy to hope that this will all be over soon, but the realist quickly takes over, extinguishing any of those hopes and dreams. Instead, I force myself to find the silver lining in the pandemic because perhaps if the longing that I have won’t come true, it would be a devastating experience for both parts of me. Hoping against hope takes so much energy and potential sadness. 

Sarai was about 75 years old when God told her she would have a child. It is clear that she and Abram both struggled to believe that God would bring such a gift out of her barrenness. Ishmael was a living reminder of their doubt. But when 25 years pass and Sarai is told once again that she will bear a child, she does what we might do – she laughs. God promises to bring life out of barrenness and the proposition is so unbelievable, so out-of-touch with reality, and maybe even so frustrating that all Sarai can do is laugh. She says, probably with a voice of exasperation, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

This year often feels barren and full of disappointment. We hoped for graduation parties and weddings or even to be able to attend the funerals of the ones we love. We hoped for an Easter or Thanksgiving full of friends and family from far away places. We hoped for internships in a different country and landing an easy job after college. We dreamed of our first year of college full of new friends and big gatherings or our baby coming home from the hospital to a big family welcoming him or her with open arms. We dreamed of prom, ring dance or walking across a stage after years of hard work only to be met with an excess of screens and rules and half-faces.

This Christmas season, we all find ourselves in a unique situation that is unfavorable and awakens us to dissatisfaction with this life in a way that we haven’t encountered in many years. We join Sarai in her exasperation. But at the same time, as Chrsitians, we also know that disappointment can lead us to real, lasting hope. It is in Sarai’s barrenness that God shows us that He is hope. It is in your hurts, frustrations, and deep disappointments that God will meet you. Christ came to earth, not just to put on a great display, but so that he can empathize and walk with us. (Heb. 4:15) 

It is in your hurts, frustrations, and deep disappointments that God will meet you.

We often run away from our negative feelings, not allowing ourselves to the pain of the world around us. Instead, we continue full force ahead with blind optimism, forcing ourselves to be happy with the current circumstances or finding a glimmer of hope in the latest movement toward stability or normal. Instead, what if we collectively lean into our lament about the current state of affairs in order that we might find a transcendent blessing this Christmas season in relationship with God. Though Jesus has not promised to bring back our normal, (in fact, he says we will have trouble). He does promise a deeply satisfying relationship with the Father and citizenship to the Kingdom of God that serves as a foundation to our lives and provides peace beyond understanding. He promises to be with us, especially in the dark places. Paradoxically, it is our lament that leads us to the one thing, the one Person, in this life that does bring satisfaction. This Christmas season, let our lament lead us into an interactive relationship with the Creator of all things who has overcome the world.

Racial Unity

Last night at 6:33, we talked about race and the church. How are we, as a body of believers, to understand racism and our role in the effort for justice and unity. If you missed that message, check out our Youtube channel.

Below is a follow up from last night in the form of a letter from Jenna Moss. I hope you will take time to read and reflect on her words.

Representatives from the racial unity group share their perspective at 633.

To my brothers and sisters in Christ,

Thank you for being here. Thank you for choosing to spend your time reading what the Lord has laid on my heart. As you already know, this post is a guide to breaking down last night’s message. I can say with full confidence that last night the Holy Spirit was doing some work in our hearts as we digested and processed through our call to racial reconciliation as a body of Christ. Honestly, as a white female navigating through this conversation and my role in it I still find myself challenged and somedays overwhelmed. I just want to affirm whatever you are feeling right now. Whether you feel confused, overwhelmed, encouraged, upset, curious, or passive, all of these things are acceptable to feel when confronting this heavy topic. Take a deep breath (or two) here. I encourage you to just sit in whatever you are feeling and surrender it at the feet of the cross. The good news? Our hope lies in our perfect, sovereign King Jesus in whom we can find guidance, rest, and experience a deep heavenly peace on this earth.

 I hope and pray that as you continue reading through these key takeaways from last night’s message that you allow Jesus to challenge, pursue, and encounter your heart.

  1. Racial Reconciliation is a critical component of the gospel.
  2. John 3:16 – “For God so loved the WORLD in this way: He gave his one and only Son so that EVERYONE who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” The words WORLD and EVERYONE points to the love that God has for a diverse people group and that his salvation covers a diverse people group.
  3. 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 – “From now on, then, we do not know anyone from a worldly perspective. Even if we have known Christ from a worldly perspective, yet now we no longer know him in this way. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come! Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God.’” Christ calls us to be ambassadors of reconciliation and He must be at the center of all reconciliation.
  4. Revelation 7:9-10 – “After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” The gospel is for all nations, tribes, peoples, and languages and they are all a part of God’s vision for His Kingdom.
  • Racism should not be politicized, nor should we look to our political parties to solve this issue.
  • John 17:20-23 – “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.” Racism is a sin and we are called to reconcile all sin through Jesus. We cannot defeat sin without Jesus. Our world and the media is loud and speaks their own “truth” into this topic, which often times leads to further division and disunity amongst people groups. Jesus calls us to unity as a body of Christ. Our salvation, loyalty, and hope lies in the Kingdom of God. Racial reconciliation is the work of the father, not the Republicans or Democrats.
  • You are called to action by Jesus and have an important role in defeating the sin of racism.
  • Micah 6:8 – “Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.”
  • Isaiah 1:17 – “Learn to do good; Seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
  • Matthew 6:10 – “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Our joy as Christians is the opportunity to bring tastes and visions of heaven to this earth. Part of God’s vision of heaven includes all nations, tribes, languages, and peoples. We are called to bring this vision of heaven to earth through participating in multiethnic church congregations and creating spaces for these congregations to flourish.

Remember earlier how I encouraged you to surrender all the challenging things that the topic of racial reconciliation was stirring up inside of you? I ask you to surrender them again. And again. And again. These feelings will come up over and over again throughout your lifetime. As believers we have to consistently look to Jesus to know His heart for this issue and our role in it. Jesus has called each of us to action. I encourage you to do something outside of your comfort zone to challenge yourself, your beliefs, and what you have learned growing up about race. Below are three easy ways to challenge yourself:

  • Come to Racial Unity Group Tuesdays at 12:30pm
  • Read a book about Racial Reconciliation and the Church’s Role in it. The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby, Woke Church by Eric Mason, and White Awake by Daniel Hill are all great places to start.
  • Listen to podcasts that address systemic racism, talk about the Church’s role in racial reconciliation, or allow you to gain more insight into another culture. Be the Bridge Podcast with Latasha Morrison, Racial Heresy | Making Racial Reconciliation a Spiritual Practice, NPR’s Code Switch, The New York Times’ 1619, and Centering: The Asian American Christian Podcast are some podcast that I recommend or have read good reviews about!   
Your author, Jenna. Image unashamedly stolen from Facebook.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I genuinely hope that you feel encouraged and curious about how you can learn more about this topic. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and you have to keep on praying and taking deep breaths along this journey.

With so much love and gratitude,

Jenna Moss

So Will I

In today’s blog, we see a beautiful tribute to God’s creation. Will Booth has traveled the country this summer and written about how he encounters God as he leaves society and goes outdoors.

Will Booth in action

This year I have chased the setting sun across the horizon and watched it set at the lowest point in North America. I have raced to meet it rising again on different coasts and meet it in some of the most photographed spots in the world. Chances are if you know me you know how much I love the outdoors. From hunting and fishing to hiking, and just visiting, the outdoors has been a part of me as long as I’ve known life. I have been to more national parks this year alone than most people visit in 10 years. Within the outdoors I encounter scenery that many people may never see. You see, for me, nature is not a separation from God, it’s an invitation from God. Nature is his creation, in a sense undisturbed by man. There are no skyscrapers built to reach the heavens, only mountains that have risen to meet them. My favorite National Parks documentary refers to this as “The Scripture of Nature”. The idea of lands where folks travel to replenish the spirit. For me, this idea extends past National Parks, National Forests, and National Lands, all the way to the lands my family owns in little ole Franklin County.

Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Nature is the Lords handiwork displayed for us to play in and pray in. Sleeping beneath the stars in a tent allows me to have a more direct line of communication with God. A different peace washes over me while in nature. These are not man-made sites I’m taking in. I’ve never found time amongst cities to be as replenishing as time spent amongst the trees. The air is cleaner, crisper, you hear the birds, in my case often bald eagles. With nature so clearly Godly made and in front of us who are we to reject him?

Romans 1:21 goes on to say,” For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Involving myself so heavily in nature is an easy way to give praise to his creation. As it’s made for us why not enjoy it. One of the most notorious park entrances Roosevelt Arch on the Northern Yellowstone entrance is inscribed with “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People”. Early visitors to the National Parks were aroused with this sentiment that going into the park was enjoying God’s creation.  

Nature has always been the place I am nearest to the Lord. I think something about being one of very few people to experience certain aspects of that life gives a different meaning to being there. Not that I feel like Adam in the Garden of Eden, taking in a wild place God created for the first time, but its breathtaking some of the places I’ve been because I love fly fishing or love the outdoors.

These places I’ve been this past year, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Horseshoe Bend, Bryce Canyon National Park, Death Valley, The Valley of Fire, Rocky Mountain National Park, The Badlands, The Grand Tetons, and countless National Forests and BLM lands are all natural wonders of testament to the Lords immensity. In the darkest of places I’ve been at night, when all the light has faded beyond the horizon and the only light left is either your campfire or your headlights as you move down the road, you can look up. When you look up, you see the stars, and the immensity that is the heavens as something you haven’t seen unpolluted before. As “So Will I” declares: “Every painted sky, a canvas of your grace, If creation still obeys you so will I.” It is that simple for me. “If creation sings your praises so will I.”

I feel more connected with God inside his creation than I do within a large subdivision of manmade structures. John Muir said, “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out until sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” This is how I feel. Going into a forest or a river resonates with me spiritual feelings that I don’t get inside a packed church. Sure, the spiritual vibes may be higher there, but my relationship is just that, it’s my relationship. I don’t need a building to meet the Lord. I’d rather go out and meet him somewhere he’s already been and will always be. Tall trees form the cathedrals and through the sounds of nature the gospel of Christ echoes to life.

I think it’s easy to look for God in areas and look for what he is currently doing, not what he’s done. You often here God is moving here today, but a lot of times you don’t see people say I felt God here. It is the expectation that we want to see God at work, never that we have seen God at work. Nature is like that for me. National Parks and places that don’t occur frequently geographically are those Edens of modern earth, and these are testaments to what God has done, just the same as the rising sun every day is a testament to what God is doing.

Man was placed in nature as he was created, to me this displays God’s desire for us to be within his creation. Who am I to deny him appreciation of his creation? All great artists like having their art appreciated. To appreciate God’s work is to go into nature and be among it. When I can go into nature and not have another person within 10+ miles of me. That is leaving only the Lord and I together. I can be physically alone, but the immensity of my environment makes me never feel alone. “If everything exists to lift you high so will I.”

The natural world is forever an Eden to me, because you can sit outside in the quiet and just hearing wind blow through the trees or the utter silence brings a peace that doesn’t come from everyday life. The outdoors is a testament, to me, to what man cannot do. He cannot rise mountains out of plains, and he cannot carve canyons into the earth. These are only things the Lord can do. In the same vein as nature, splendid as it may be in its individuality, to him I am the same masterpiece.  Each person is as unique to him, as the geysers of Yellowstone, the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier, or the Court of the Patriarchs in Zion are unique to us, his children. It doesn’t matter whether if I look at myself and see a Grand Canyon (pit) of despair or a Grand Teton (mountain) of sin, God looks at me and sees the same craftsmanship as he does those same landscapes. And as long as nature exists for him, so will I.

  “He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth – The Lord God Almighty is his name.” – Amos 4:13

VT Eats and Treats: An Adventure into VT Dining

After a blog hiatus we are back with a pun-filled blog ranking the Tech dining halls. You may not agree with sophomore Matt List and you may groan at the puns, but you have to admire his passion. Let the debate begin!

Matt on a mission trip to Nickelsville, Va.

Another day, and one more blog about food! This time we’re moving ON campus and I’ll be talking about my personal rankings for the dining halls on campus. You may be saying, “hold on a sec, who exactly are you?” Well I’m glad you asked! 

My name is Matt List, and I am a rising sophomore majoring in Computational Modeling and Data Analytics – it’s a mouthful but it’s a bunch of fun. I love food – specifically doing my own  things with it – like cooking shredded chicken in A1 steak sauce, seasoning it with Montreal Steak Seasoning, putting it in a quesadilla, then making that quesadilla into a burrito. But I’m not here to talk about my own forays into cooking – I’m here to talk about VT’s fantastic dining halls, specifically West End, D2, Owens, Hokie Grill, Burger 37, and Turner ranking which ones are more fantastic than the others – at least in my opinion. 

I’m going to take a hot second to explain my ranking system before we get going. I’m only judging off of two categories – the food itself and the mood of the building. I will also be mentioning the variety of food offered, but it’s not a part of my ranking because I’m one of those weird people that can eat the exact same thing every day and be completely happy. Lastly, EVERY dining hall at VT is amazing, and I would recommend trying each of them to make your own decisions – this is simply how I stack them up. We’re going to start with the bottom and work our way up, so without further ado – let’s get started! 

Enjoy this football picture before the inevitable debate.

6. West End – This one is probably the hottest take in this list – or maybe the second hottest. For the food, I have simply not had a good meal at West End. Granted, I have only been there twice, but I haven’t liked either of the meals I have had there. On top of this, the feel of the place doesn’t make me want to stay. I can’t put my finger on it, but I just don’t like being in West End. Because of this, I cannot attest to the variety of food choices as I have not experienced all they have to offer.  I recognize that this is some Hokies’ favorite dining hall, but it just doesn’t make Ends meet for me. 

5. Turner – First off, the food here is great. There is a wide variety of options and they are all great choices. I personally go to Qudoba every time I go there (you can get a brisket and queso burrito – that’s all I have to say). The only thing that holds it back is that it is often crowded when I go there. This makes sense, as it is the only dining hall on the academic side of campus, but I still don’t like it. While I have had some great meals here, I’ll Turner-round for some of these other options 9 times out of 10. 

4. Burger 37 – If you like the best burgers and the most satisfying shakes, then Burger 37 will be your top choice. If you’re looking for a variety of choices, then maybe this won’t be your swing. Burger 37 does a couple of things, and it does them very well. Their burgers are fantastic, and their shakes are the perfect compliment for them. The mood of the building is also great, and I am always happier walking out of ‘37 than I was when I walked in. What does a cold Hokie bear say? Burrr-grrr. (If you can make a better pun with just the words ‘Burger’ and ‘37’ please let me know – I tried for about an hour and only came up with this). I also know that this Hokie bear would love to go to our next stop on the list.

Source: https://twitter.com/hokiedining

3. Hokie Grill – What’s not to like about this place? With your choice between Pizza Hut, Chick-Fil-A, and BBQ, there’s something for everyone here. I don’t think I have to go into why having a Pizza Hut and a Chick-Fil-A on campus is a good thing, but it’s even better than you think it is! Hokie Grill also has a great mood about the place. It may just be the vast amount of Hokies in the building, but it just feels so friendly! Now let’s move on to the runner-up, and trust me – I’ve been Grilled about this before. 

2. D2 – If my bottom ranking wasn’t a hot take, then this certainly is. The all-you-care-to-eat style combined with the joyful mood in the building makes this a no-brainer for me. I will admit, the quality of the food may leave something to be desired, but it makes it up to me in the quantity of both choices and the food you get. While it may not be the best place to study during peak hours, I have had some of the best times with friends in D2. If my parents wanted to know where my dining money went, all they’d have to do is hire a D2-ctive, but the rest of it went to our final spot on this list. 

  1. Owens – I absolutely adore Owens. They’ve got smoothies, bowls, quesadillas, two different kinds of chicken (trust me, it’s a lot more important than it sounds), and a glorious display of sweets – there’s really no competition for me. My go-to is always a Quesadilla and a strawberry banana smoothie, with the occasional chocolate chip cookie. And the cherry on top of this Hokie-themed sundae is the immaculate vibe of the place. I have spent so much of my time in Owens, I may as well be considered a permanent resident. Whenever I’m in Owens, I simply don’t want to leave, as the mood of the place always helps me recharge my batteries for the rest of the day. With how much time I’ve spent there, I may start Owens-some rent before too long.
Speaking of puns…the winner! Soure: https://twitter.com/hokiedining

I hope that y’all have enjoyed reading about my take on dining at VT, and while you’re enjoying all the wonderful dining options that VT has, keep in mind this passage from Deuteronomy: “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which he has given you.” Deuteronomy 8:10. 

While you may not be working the land to enjoy your meal, you can always take the time to thank God for the food he grants you! 

Alumni Spotlight: Fibroadenomas and Faithfulness

I often say that the post-college transition is the hardest one. It’s not often talked about, but post-graduates often struggle to find community, adjust to working life, and find direction. 2019 graduate Morgan Smith has has a particularly tough journey, so I asked him to share about his journey over the past year. I hope you are encouraged by God’s faithfulness in his story.

Morgan and Maryanna Smith

I was alone, and with tears rolling down my face as I merged onto I-65 South headed toward the Elizabethtown Hospital, I found myself screaming and crying out to God. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, and if it was going to happen, it was supposed to happen years and years down the road. But there we were just mere weeks after saying our vows waiting on a biopsy report from the hospital. A lot of thoughts flooded my mind on that drive. Why us? Why now?  I know you’re with me. I know you’re in control. What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to handle this? Just, why?

I was graduated from Virginia Tech in May of 2019. What I didn’t know was how my life of leisure as a second semester senior taking 12 credit hours (just to stay full-time as a student) would rapidly change over the next 15 months. My life since the day I flipped my tassel has hardly been, well, any word I would even equate to meaning stable. For example, over the last year I have had 4 jobs, lived in 4 different houses, been a member of 3 different churches, started graduate studies at Southern Seminary, and, oh yeah, I got married. The last on that list has been by far the greatest but has also been the biggest adjustment.

Morgan reppin the Hokies. Maryanna reppin UK,.

What you may not know is that just a few weeks into our marriage, my wife found a lump in her breast. Now, this would be a shock for anyone and a downright terror for some. Let’s just say you can count me in for the latter of those two emotions. As a young man, fresh out of college with only a part time job while studying full-time at the graduate level, I felt like I was walking in my own worst nightmares. You see, it wasn’t supposed to happen like this. The first year of our marriage we were supposed to be free of all worries from the outside world. Just two kids in their twenties trying to learn how to love each other more deeply while learning to live in the same house. As you can see, our honeymoon phase was abruptly ended just weeks into our newly sealed marriage. The weeks we spent going to different doctors, waiting to find out if my new bride had cancer were without a doubt the most horrifying and stressful weeks of my life. I spent countless hours praying and crying out to God wondering why he had allowed this to happen. While I still can’t completely answer that question, there’s some good news. The positive side is that my wife does not have cancer, for which I still praise the Lord! What she found were multiple lumps of varying sizes, medically named fibroadenomas. These lumps can vary in size and while they can cause pain and discomfort, they are never cancerous. She had the larger of these lumps removed around thanksgiving and after the healing process was complete, we haven’t had any major problems with them since. While this was hands down the biggest thing that faced us over the past year, it was hardly the only one.

Maryanna in a hospital bed awaiting testing.

When Mary and I moved to the Louisville area we struggled for a long time to find a church home. We visited more churches than I can count on one hand but for one reason or another we never felt like they were to be our church home. The hardest part about church searching is that it takes time. It’s not like you can visit a different church service every single day for a week and then pick your favorite. In fact, in a lot of cases (including ours), it can take weeks or months to make this decision. Because of this, we felt very alone during some of the lowest points of our marriage so far. As humans, our souls crave community. We were made to be not only in community with God but with other believers. This community allows us to support one another in every way. We feed each other’s passion for our creator and the love he has commanded to show to one another. We were missing that…and we felt it.

The last few months have been much smoother, so I’ll jump to the question you’re asking internally: What have a I learned from this crazy season of my life? I can’t fully answer that question with just one word or phrase, but I can certainly give you the theme I’ve noticed through it all.

We were given more than we as humans could handle so that we would understand the only way we will ultimately be satisfied is in Christ.

Morgan Smith

God is faithful. While it’s been crazy, to say the least, the Lord was always in control. He knew exactly how he was molding us, and he walked alongside us every step of the way. While we can work very hard to be faithful as Christians, we ultimately can’t be. At least, not the way we should. I know this because I’ve tried. Since Adam and Eve, we have struggled to be faithful to our Lord and the commands he gives us. Now, don’t misunderstand me, we should certainly try! In fact, we are commanded to. God expects believers in Christ to follow his commands and to love him and 1 John 4:19 says “We love because he first loved us.” At the end of many days I found myself frustrated with God and his plans and somedays that frustration looked much more like anger. Looking back, however, this season of my life will serve as nothing less than a way for my wife and I to bring God glory and THAT is the ultimate goal. He was faithful to his plan for our lives. He knew that this would happen, and he knew it would be tough. We were given more than we as humans could handle so that we would understand the only way we will ultimately be satisfied is in Christ. The tears rolling down my face, the screaming and calling out to God weren’t for nothing, and they weren’t punishment. They were my creator being faithful to his plan for my life and his glory. A lot can happen in a short amount of time but I know my creator and my savior, and I know he is faithful.

The lovely couple.

Freedom in Christ

Today we hear from rising sophomore Mackenzie Vining. I’m humbled to share her story of finding freedom in Christ. Enjoy!

In the Bible, Jesus talks quite a bit about the freedom He brought to earth.  This freedom is not the ability to tell God goodbye and live our lives however we want.  Instead, it is the ability to pick up our cross every day and tell Jesus we are going to follow His leadings.  Definitely not the definition of freedom found in Merriam Webster.  

Although it is not an “attractive” definition to our flesh or to the world it is Christ’s way.  In my personal life, Christ has given me a new perspective on life and showed me a relationship with Him is better than anything the world has to offer.  Let me explain.  

Mackenzie on the left

When I was 12, my parents separated and eventually divorced; causing my family to be alienated at times in our church and I felt the rug had been pulled out from under me.  While that was painful, the most difficult part was still to come: the emotional and mental abuse from someone I trusted deeply.  Their choices to harm my family and not to care for the ones closest to them tore me apart as a sensitive little introvert.  Many nights were spent in tears, handfuls of meals were missed because I had no drive to do anything; I would lay on my floor reeling from the abuse.  I was numb to love or any feeling except pain.  The relationship crashed and burned and by high school graduation I stopped seeing, talking more than necessary, or sharing any life details with this individual.  There were also legal matters which I couldn’t discuss with others and often I allowed to devil to take over and bind me with anxiety.  I was broken in pretty much every place possible.  I was anxious, prideful, jealous, deeply afraid that I would become just like my abuser and hurt my family, scared of dying, angry, bitter, rigid, and much more. 

Those chains held me tighter than my grandma did on Christmas morning.  Jesus saw them and my absolute filth and broke them – in half.  The devil is powerless when Jesus takes action.  Even when I didn’t realize how often I lived in the shadows, afraid to get close to people, afraid to try new things, afraid to stay home alone, afraid to be alone, you get the gist.  Here’s one example:   

The devil is powerless when Jesus takes action. 

Mackenzie Vining

I clearly remember Jesus freeing me from anxiety the summer before coming to Tech (2019 AKA pre COVID).  My family and I went to Colorado to celebrate and we decided to tour Mesa Verde National Park, complete with high ladders and narrow tunnels.  Needless to say, I was terrified to do that but I wanted to enjoy the park and not let my family down, I was sick of being afraid of everything.  The night after I scaled the high ladders and crawled through the tunnels, I was listening to the worship song, “No Longer Slaves” by Bethel Music.  I clearly remember a weight lifted off my shoulders mid song and I could almost hear the chains falling off of me as the Holy Spirit broke them; releasing the Devil’s tight hold.  After that night I am not bound by anxiety, I have struggled with it, but I know Jesus Himself personally has called me to live a different life.  

       Mesa Verde National Park

During COVID, Jesus has freed me from so much more, such as my pride, my selfish ideas that I have to participate in Christian events to be loved by Him, that I have to be in a relationship with a guy to be special, that I have to work to be loved by the King.  In His gentle leadings Christ shows me the way; with Him.  As a single college student living in a broken home post abuse, still dealing with harmful individuals, a sinner through and through, I am free.  Absolutely free.  Let me tell you, it is amazing, and I can not describe the feeling except being on a cloud floating with Jesus.  (Please hold all judgement I’m not an engineer) I do not have to impress anyone, show off my personality, run 10 marathons, save the world, or be perfect because frankly, I am not (phew).  Only Jesus is perfect and there is a reason for that.  He came to set everyone free on the cross, not only from eternal hell, but also in our daily lives.  He’s got those spiritual bolt cutters anytime you need.

As a single college student living in a broken home post abuse, still dealing with harmful individuals, a sinner through and through, I am free.  Absolutely free. 

Mackenzie Vining

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever.  So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.’”   John 8:34-36

Thoughts?  Questions?  Concerns?  Email me: macborn2ride@vt.edu

Some Freshman Advice

Happy Monday! Since freshmen will be arriving on campus in four days (!!!!) I thought this would be a good time to post some freshmen advice from rising junior, Jessica Drake. Enjoy!

I present to you, Jessica Drake

These are some topics that most college freshman will have to do deal with at some point. Hopefully some of this is can be helpful!

Get comfortable with doing things by yourself (aka joining a new club, eating etc.)

I have seen friends not join clubs or try new things because they never had “anybody to go with”. Please do not miss out on an opportunity you may love because you have no one to go with.  Going to activities you enjoy is often a great way to meet new people.

For example, none of my friends were interested in going to the homecoming parade on main street last fall because it was too early and cold. I ended up going by myself and I am so glad that I did! It would have been a shame to have missed out on this Hokie Tradition and now I know that I will definitely go again. 

Jessica with some friends at her first football game.

Roommate Advice

If there is any verse in the bible that can apply to college roommates, its Proverbs 15:1-2 and 6: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools.” 

You are going to be living with another person that you probably do not know. Misunderstandings are certain to happen. If your roommate says or does something you thought was unkind, stop and think that maybe your interpretation of what they said was not what they intended.

Apple picking with some friends from West AJ

Also, do not get caught up on problems or differences with your roommate, there are ways to overcome these issues.  For instance, sleep schedules between roommates do not often line up. This was the case for my roommate and I, who for two years had quite different sleeping patterns.  My roommate liked to go to sleep early, I soon learned that it was best to study either at the library or work in common areas of my dorm so she could sleep undisturbed.  In return, when she got up early in the morning, she was always super quiet so I could sleep well. We never verbally agreed to do this, it was just an unspoken courtesy we developed by “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.” 

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools.

Proverbs 15:1-2, 6

All people have a different capacity for sharing. Do not automatically assume your roommate will be fine with you borrowing their wardrobe or eating their snacks. This can cause issues, so go slow with this at the beginning.  Of course, no one has to share anything with anyone; however, keep in mind that a little sharing can go a long way in building a roommate relationship. Sharing snacks is a good example of something that can be easily shared and help you become “friends” with your roommate.

I use food as an example because it is the easiest way to share without crossing any personal boundaries and a way to show some kindness to your roommate without going out of your way. If there are things you do not want to share, it is important to have boundaries. For example, if you do not like sharing clothes don’t ask to borrow other people’s clothes. When you go to borrow other things, always ask for permission so others will feel the need to ask you for permission before they borrow something from you. If they ask, just politely say no. If you feel that saying no could hurt your relationship then briefly explain why it is important to you not to share that item, so they will know it isn’t a personal attack on them. 

Thursday night football!

Some people will spend all day in their dorm rooms and others will only be there to sleep. Be mindful that your roommate may want some alone time in the room, just the way you might want to. Having different places to study (also a good study tip) and naturally having other places to be like clubs will help give your roommate some space and hopefully they will reciprocate that same treatment.

Do not complain about your roommate to friends you both have in common or even acquaintances down the hall. This may negatively affect the way others feel about your roommate which is not fair to them.  Remember, “do unto others …”

I also want to encourage you to have an open mind about your roommate. I’m sure there are a lot of people telling you to prepare for the worst, but having that mindset will only cause you to see the worst in your roommate. I am not saying your roommate will be your best friend. But I do think there is a great chance for good comradery between you and your roommate. Give them grace and remember Proverbs 15:1. Nobody is perfect, so give them grace, flexibility and be willing to take the high road when needed. It may feel good in the moment to get your point across, but most of the time it is not worth sacrificing a peaceful living situation.

Who doesn’t love apple picking?

Doing your laundry

As someone whose first-time doing laundry was in their college dorm, I am giving this advice from experience.  Doing laundry is not particularly hard, but it is definitely something worth doing a few times before coming to college.  In addition to learning what buttons to press and what settings to use, get familiar with how to separate your clothes before washing so you do not end up with stained clothes afterwards.  Some people separate light clothes from dark ones.  My strategy is to not mix items that can cause stains (I individually soaked my colored clothes in a sink full of water, if they release color then that means they stain) with white clothing. 

Doing laundry also costs money.  This was also the way that allowed me to spend the least amount of money on laundry.), figure out how often laundry actually needs to be done (weekly basis, bi-weekly basis), and 

From left to right, Megan, Jessica, and Gabby during Jessica’s freshman year at a BCM social.

Also knowing how to properly fold/hang clothes will save you time and keep your wardrobe in top shape.  And another little tidbit is to make sure you either have a decent supply of quarters or laundry money on your hokie pass.  You do not want to be ready to move clothes from the washer to the dryer and then find out you need to go to another dorm to get quarters. 

Finally, know what type of detergent (liquid or powder) and how much to use.  Also, get familiar with dryer sheets or dyer balls.  They are very useful!

Comfort Zone

Today we hear from rising senior, Sydnee Burnette! I hope you are encouraged and challenged by hearing her journey of learning to step out of her comfort zone during her freshman year.

The lovely Sydnee Burnette

Transitioning from high school to college was hard for me. My life changed in a lot of ways, and even though I like to think that I’m good at adapting to change, this was on a different level. For the first time, I was living away from my parents and little brother. I had to share a tiny dorm room with a roommate and walk down the hall to use the bathroom. I was starting to take college classes that were much more difficult than the schoolwork I was used to. Plus, I had class with hundreds of strangers and professors who flew through lectures faster than I could write. I have a terrible sense of direction and I didn’t know where anything was on campus. (I literally used Google Maps to get everywhere!) All that to say, I had a rough time during my first two weeks at Tech. All the big changes made me nervous, anxious, worried, and very homesick.

In my many attempts to get used to my new college life, I began to cling to the people and things that stayed constant. Almost everything I did during my first two weeks at Virginia Tech was with my roommate and long-time best friend, K (I’ll just call her K for privacy reasons). We walked to class together, spent free time together, ate meals together, and studied together. We also had a few other friends from high school who lived in another dorm, so K and I even visited them together. I didn’t go anywhere new unless it was with one of these friends. I was comfortable around them, and being with them made it easier for me to adjust to my new way of living at college.

Sydnee became really great friends with some of her hall mates freshman year.

At first, staying in my comfort zone of friends did make it easier. As those first weeks passed, I got used to walking around campus and going to different dining halls. I learned where all of my classes were, and I even started making a few new friends in class. It was nice to have gotten over that initial wave of anxiety that had hit me at the beginning, and spending all my time with K was a great help with that. At some point, though, I wanted to try doing some different things that my high school friends didn’t necessarily want to do. I had been wondering what it would be like to go to club interest meetings and see some campus ministries, but I was still uncomfortable to go alone. One night, K agreed to come with me to a large group worship service at BCM. We found the building, went inside, and were immediately greeted by two of the nicest girls (who I now know as my friends Dani and Sarah!). They invited us to come sit with them, and my nervousness faded away as we all talked and waited for worship to start. By the end of the evening, K and I were invited to come to bible study a few days later, and I was glad to feel so welcomed into this place that I had only just discovered.

Sydnee hiking with her good friends Reagan (right) and Delaney (left).

Later that week, K and I went to a club interest meeting together, and I also wanted to go to the bible study at BCM. K didn’t want to go with me that night, so I realized that if I went, I would have to go alone. Going alone was the last thing I wanted to do, but I was genuinely curious about what bible study at the BCM would be like. I finally made the decision that I would go, but I was extremely nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t have my friends to comfort me. But I went anyways. I walked at a quick pace and gave myself a mental pep talk as I went inside the building. I didn’t want to chicken out. I went to the room labeled “Green Family” (BCM bible study groups are called “family groups” and they are all named by colors) and saw the door was closed. I took a deep breath to keep my heart from pounding out of my chest and opened the door. Without hesitation, the whole room turned and shouted “HEYYY!!” There were about 15 people, and they all kept talking and laughing as they pulled up a chair and made room for me around the table. They asked about me and how I found the BCM, and they were all so friendly and fun to talk to. Just like my last visit to this building, I felt my anxiety fade away as I spent my evening with this new group of people that would soon become some of my best friends.

Green Fam in Fall 2017, when I first started going to BCM!

After bible study with Green Fam, I went back to my dorm room and told K all about it. I remember feeling so relieved that my choice to step out had paid off. From then on, I made an effort to go to BCM worship and bible study every week. I made tons of friends there, grew my faith in God, and had lots of fun college adventures. My experience helped mentally encourage me to step out of my comfort zone in other ways, too. I joined the Rotaract Club (it’s a club centered around community service – related to the Rotary Club), and I met one person in my classes who became one of the best study partners and truest friends I have. And all that was just in my first semester! I learned that even though it can be nerve-wracking and scary sometimes, it is both rewarding and freeing to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. That being said, if you are a new freshman or transfer student at Virginia Tech (or anyone who struggles to step out of that comfort zone), here are my suggestions for you:

Sydnee met Sarah in her Appalachian Studies class, and they planned this trip to the Floyd Old Country Store to get class credit. They’ve been friends ever since!
  • Don’t be afraid to start up a conversation with a stranger in class. I have made some great friends from my classes, and they all started with a simple conversation about our names, hometowns, and majors in school.
  • If you’re even slightly interested in a club or student organization, go to a meeting! Clubs are always welcoming new members each semester, and most organizations would be glad to see you join one of their meetings. If you’re unsure about meeting times or locations, try to find the club online or on social media and send them a message.
  • Don’t just confine yourself to the high school friends who came with you to VT (or even just the ones you meet on your hall). It’s okay to stay in that comfort zone at first, but try to branch out as soon as you can! Meet people in your residence hall, in your classes, on the bus, or at a club meeting. You could find that one of your future best friends is just a short conversation away.
  • Don’t automatically think that you’re bothering someone else. This is something I do a lot. In most cases, though, it’s simply not true. Most people are willing to talk to you, and on the off-chance that you are bothering them, they will let you know.  
  • Don’t be discouraged if a new conversation goes nowhere or if you decide you don’t really like the new thing you tried. This will happen at some point, but don’t let it get to you! There are over 30,000 students and about 800 student organizations at Virginia Tech. There are plenty of other new people to talk to and clubs to try.
  • Remember that you’re not alone. Tech usually has around 7,000 incoming students each year, and everyone is in the same boat. Everyone wants to make friends, and everyone wants to enjoy their college experience. If I (me, the most nervous, introverted freshman out there) can work up the courage to step out on my own, then you can, too!
Enjoying the snow day on the Drillfield in Spring 2018. 

Looking back, I’m so glad that I finally made those decisions to break through my comfort zone and try some new things. If I had waited until later, there’s no telling how many opportunities I would have missed out on. Keep that in mind as well – when you look back on these decisions to step out of your comfort zone, will you see missed opportunities, or will you see great friendships and memories?