The BEST WEEKEND of My Life

If you have ever met me before, you may know that I love to describe everything as “the best thing in the entire world!” or perhaps, for some variation, as “the best thing that has ever happened to me!” Most people roll their eyes at my obvious enthusiasm and tell me that I am exaggerating and that whatever has recently happened to me is actually not the best thing that ever happened. This then starts the frequently repeated discussion where I explain that it really is the best thing that ever happened, because it was happening at the same time as I remembered all of the other wonderful things that ever happened to me. And if something wonderful happens tomorrow it will be even better because tomorrow I will also have the memories of today and every other day!!

Most people think I am crazy.

On that note, this weekend was possibly the best weekend of my entire life! For one thing, I did not even have to solve even ONE math problem or attend ANY extremely long lectures. Instead I got to spend the weekend learning about the Word of the Lord and fellowshipping with Christian friends (and drinking lots of tea!) At this point you are probably wondering to yourself, how did Holly manage to have such an awesome weekend?? What a great question! Cornerstone St. Andrews (the church I have been attending here in Scotland) decided they would arrange a weekend away for the Uni students and I decided I would go along.

At first that may seem like an easy enough decision to you: to leave on a Friday afternoon and go for a weekend away in Comrie with your fellow Christian students. Sounds easy, but I was really scared. After all, I have only been in Scotland for one month (today is my one month anniversary in Scotland!) and have only known these girls for a couple of weeks. What if they did not like me? What if I had an awful time? What if they all thought my American accent was weird and decided not to talk to me for the entire weekend! I was quite scared about how the weekend would go.

Despite my somewhat ridiculous fears, the weekend turned out wonderfully! We left on Friday afternoon and drove for about two hours to a small house in a small town called Comrie. Let me tell you, Comrie has got to be one of the most beautiful places ever! It is surrounded by rolling hills, forests, and rivers with riverbeds of small stones. It was one of the most beautiful places in the entire world! One of my favourite parts of the weekend was going out to the river each morning to spend a half hour praying and reading the Word.

Honestly, I am not quite sure who WOULDN'T want to live here!!

Honestly, I am not quite sure who WOULDN’T want to live here!!

The theme of our weekend was ‘Facing Reality.’ We talked about how in our Christian lives surrounding our whole selves to God is more than an afternoon walk in the park and much more than occasional afternoon or evening entertainment. In our small groups we talked about how surrendering your life to God is something that is more about asking the Lord to change your heart and your thoughts than just trying to be a “better Christian” by just doing more “religious stuff.” It is about changing your entire outlook on life and living your entire life for God. We also had an amazing speaker (called Laurence) from the Netherlands who came with us for the weekend and shared his testimony about how he surrendered his life to the Lord at the age of 17 and the ways that the Lord has grown him in maturity and understanding since that time.

A favourite memory from the weekend occurred on Saturday afternoon. After lunch on Saturday we were given a free afternoon until dinner. I was sitting there thinking to myself, what am I going to do with myself all afternoon? Everybody here looks like they all are going to have fun things to do, but what if none of them wants to do anything with me?? But before I could worry anymore about how I would entertain myself, the girls from my Bible study group invited me to come the nearby town of Crief with them! And we had the most FANTASTIC time! We went to a coffee shop to have some tea/coffee and then we went to the park. Let me tell you, Scotland playgrounds have the funnest toys EVER! At first I was not sure if they would all think I was crazy if I threw my backpack on the ground and ran over to the swings and bouncy things, but then I decided that the opportunity was too good to miss!

You have got to admit it looks like a lot of fun! We were running around like crazy! :)

You have got to admit it looks like a lot of fun! We were running around like crazy! 🙂

After this wonderful weekend in Comrie, I am starting to realize that I really love being in Scotland. I love the scenery, and the weather, and the people I have met. I LOVE the girls in my small group and the time we spend studying the Word together every Thursday evening. I am really starting to feel like I am part of a community here in Scotland!

The 8 girls who went to Crief: 4 mums and their 4 academic daughters!

The 8 girls who went to Crief: 4 mums and their 4 academic daughters!

(P.S. Another sweet moment occurred on the first night we arrived in Comrie. My small group of 8 girls were all staying in one room together in a set of 4 bunk beds. That night everyone was getting ready for bed when I went to take a shower. I took quite a long time and expected everyone to have gone to bed when I got out. I came into our room to find that everyone HAD gone to bed, but that they had left the light on for me anyways! All seven of them were rolled up in their duvets like little burritos to keep the light out, but left it on for me so I would not have to search for my bed in a strange place in the dark. It was one of the sweetest things ever and made me feel really welcomed and loved ❤ )

We were excited to find a sweet shop in Crief! :)

We were quite excited to find a sweet shop in Crief! 🙂

 

Is Erskine a Christian College?

One thing that I get asked a lot by family, friends, and random people I meet on elevators is whether Erskine is truly a “Christian College.” (I will clarify that the people asking me on elevators are usually those curious sorts of people who have first asked me where I go to school and what I major in.) Does Erskine really offer a Christian education? Do they truly have a combination of faith and academics?

My answer has always been yes.

No, Erskine is not one of those colleges where students are required to sign a statement of faith before attending their first day of class. But the overwhelming majority of the professors are Christians and actively striving to incorporate that faith into their teaching. Some professors choose to do this by getting to know their students on a personal basis and spending quality time as mentors. Others ask students to think about how what we are learning could apply to a Christian’s walk with Christ. Several of my professors have prayed in class before tests or lectures. It is my personal opinion that at a Christian college, even if you are not directly speaking about a faith related topic, you will see more fruits of the Spirit in people then you might anywhere else.

At Erskine there are many opportunities for students to get involved in discipleship. Besides the actual discipleship movement (which just started this year), we have ministries such as Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM), Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), and a whole host of other large and small groups that students can be a part of.

My favorite times of Christian fellowship are when we all meet spontaneously. When my friend Sarah comes to my room and when we decide to read the Bible together. The times when I see Lolly in Java City and end up walking around campus for an hour talking and praying together. When Heather and I go on runs and pray together. When my roommate, Victoria, decides to share something in her life with me, and we pray together.

One of my most treasured memories from Erskine will always be from the night before the 2013 graduation. This was the year of the class ahead of mine, and I had been in a sort of weepy mood all day because I knew most of closest friends were going to graduate the next day. That afternoon the seniors had a whole bunch of ceremonies and classes, and that night was baccalaureate. Everybody was busy running around and doing the last things they wanted to do before graduation the next morning. (For our friend group this was packing, since none of us had bothered to pack pretty much anything in our dorms before that night!!)

Late that night, before all of us went to bed, we met outside in the memorial gardens for one last night of worship. They are some wooden benches out there and we all sat in a circle. There were somewhere between fifteen and twenty of us there that night, I am not sure how many. It was not formal at all, a bunch of seniors had just decided that they wanted to worship together on their last night of college and just invited whoever they saw throughout the day. We sat in the dark and had a hymn sing; whoever felt the spirit lead them to a song or a Bible verse would just start singing or speaking, and everyone else would join in if they wanted to. One of the boys brought his guitars and strummed a few simple chords to each of the songs that we sang.

That night was one of the most sincere nights of worship I have ever experienced in my whole life. The group who came was random, we were not all friends and not all of us knew each other. No one was in charge, and no one had written a script. We all contributed what was on our hearts and minds, and worshiped the Lord together. I think it will always be one of my favorite Erskine memories.

Heart of Worship

Worshipping Together

While Erskine is a very challenging academic campus, I have also found it to be challenging spiritually as well. Surrounding by students in this Christ-centered environment, I am always learning new things about myself and my faith. Part of this comes from the various interactions with fellow students on campus, but also from the several worship opportunities we have. Some of the opportunities for fellowship include Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Baptist Collegiate Ministries, Reformed United Fellowship (The Barn), as well as chapel services offered by both the College and the Seminary. While I have attended many of the previously mentioned organizations, this past weekend I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the Barn.

DSC_0023This year, the Barn has officially become RUF. This off campus barn is located about 4 miles out of town and is attended by several Erskine students on Sunday evenings. However, this past weekend, the worship was opened to the community as a special barbecue dinner was provided as well as a hymn sing led by three vocalists of Indelible Grace. This time of worship offers students a change to enjoy the cooling temperatures and the sound of nature as we sing and praise God for all of our wonderful blessings. I left feeling energized for the week and calmed from the stresses that school often bring. Something about sitting on hay bales in the cool of fall brings me closer to my own faith and helps me reflect on the true meaning of life.

Freedom to Worship

With hands lifted high...we worship our Savior.

With hands lifted high, we worship our Savior.

People of different majors, different countries, different races, different sports, different ministries, all came together to worship our God and Savior about a month ago.

Why am I just now writing about it?

Well, at the time I don’t think I fully appreciated and valued the ability to be able to come together and worship our Lord so freely. Not only do I live in a country where I can express my religious beliefs freely, but I also go to a college that doesn’t shove the Bible down my throat. Instead Erskine encourages me to examine what I believe and freely express my beliefs.

There’s something very powerful about corporate worship. The Bible declares that where two or more are gathered in His name, there He will be. That night we had quite a crowd and the presence of God was definitely heavy.

A lot of times, as a worship leader, I get so caught up in the details of the music and making sure everyone is on the right harmony and the instruments are keeping a steady beat, that I forget the point of it all. None of that is for my glory. None of that is to hear people say well done. None of that is to please mankind. All of that is to bring glory to God. All of that is to hear people say they were touched by the music. All of that is to heal mankind.

Music has the ability to heal a multitude of problems.
I’m a firm believer that music about our Savior goes deeper than secular music.
It literally can go straight to the heart.

So, do yourself a favor and tune your radio to something other than a pop, hip-hop, rap, station. Fill your mind with positive, uplifting, Christan music (not that stuff labeled Christian…but songs that actually talk about our Savior). It’ll lift your spirits and leave you feeling extremely fulfilled.