Spy Games: do justice, love kindness, walk humbly

What can make a grown man cry and the most level headed of adults become paranoid, selfish, and more valiant than the average college kid? If you guessed a stalker with a squirt gun, then you are correct. Spy Games is an annual game at Toccoa Falls College which is just as much a part of SGA Fall activities as the Christmas banquet or the Fall Festival. Despite the craziness which the game causes each student to come to grips with, we would admittedly not feel like the semester was complete. Spy Games means a lot to a lot of people. That sounds like a very general statement, but allow me some of your time for an explanation. This is not a soapbox, but neither is it a comprehensive history of the game which has changed the TFC relationship dynamic since it first came here.  Life at TFC is a journey, and this game is an important part of the journey which every TFC student goes on for about a month.

Mr. Intense (or Ms.)

He does not need an introduction when he enters the building. You know it by the rapid eyes, windswept hair, half-filled squirt gun (which is most likely not the one SGA delved out), and near run which quickly turns into a nonchalant yet intentional walk once in the safety of the building. When you eat with him, you know you do not have his full attention. When you talk to him, his mind is far from the conversation, unless you are talking about Spy Games. If he dies, the word “conniption” barely covers his reaction. You either hate him or you are rooting for him. Either way, he will not be ignored even though that’s all he’s done to you since the game started.

The Mistake

Every year there are a handful of these people. The ones who, within the first week, realized that $2 is not worth their mental stability, relationships, nor the extra thought that must be put into the game for the sake of winning. Every individual drops out or allows losing for one reason or another. Some realize grades should be given more focus, and some plain go crazy. Either way, winning is not an option, because playing the game was an unfortunate mistake.

The Spy

Maybe this player exists, because I want him to. Like a girl wishing for a prince to exist, I wish at night for the perfect player who finally understands what it means to be a Christian spy. He does not just toss aside his salvation for a game, yet remembers Micah 6:8 and all it entails, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,and to walk humbly with your God?” If you do not fit under the upper two categories, there might be a chance that you are here. There is also a good chance that you are already dead. If you are alive, then may God be with you.

The Bystander

There may not be a payout for you at the end of the game, but you are the smartest group of people on campus. Pat yourself on the back and walk peacefully knowing that you will not be ambushed by a personal stalker assigned by SGA. There is not much separating you from “The Intelligence,” except the fact that you will not humor the other fanatics of this game. You may know stuff, but you honestly do not care about such a trivial matter.

The Intelligence

You are not playing the game, but you are the most important part of it. You are the person who sits in class and remembers who is in it. You know schedules, practice times, and who eats meals at what times. You have what the players want- information. Be proud you are the most important and the most dangerous person on campus (take a second and pat yourself on the back for your natural cunning and wit which may win someone the game). It is up to you on how you use what you know. Some people sell it, some people use it as personal leverage. Either way, the game needs you.

If you do not feel like you fall under any of these categories, you probably do not attend TFC. The game is more of a test of character than anything else I have ever voluntarily experienced. The weight of glory, and the factor of money combine to make the most valiant of Christians into the most crazed of young adults. Once you die, like a spell being broken, life goes back to normal. For me, it felt like taking off my super suit then converting back into my mild mannered alter ego. Life goes on and winner from one year to the next is never guaranteed. Whether you play or not, courage and cunning should not be limited to one month a year. We should always remember that life should never be limited to mere comfort zones. In the end, remember that you should never judge a girl by her cover.

The 2013 edit: Tiffany Rowlett wrote the above article before entering her second season of Spy Games. She won the game in 2011 and placed 4th. in 2012. This is what she would like to add concerning this season of the games.

Every year I get the same question from my friends, acquaintances, and even a few strangers, “Are you playing Spy Games this year?” During the middle of the fall semester at TFC, the reign of incognito is supreme. Whether or not you paid for a water gun, you are playing the game. In a previous article, I wrote about the different types of player. Now, I wish to remind us all who we are despite how we play.

As Christians, we are told who we are constantly. We even sing about it and pretend we can remind God of how cool and special we are. Ultimately, we have lost focus of whose we are. Christians have been bought with a price, and that’s pretty great. If we’re so willing to embrace God’s grace, we should also be willing to protect it as well. People have their own opinions of Spy Games which are surprisingly set in stone. However, we must never lose sight that this is just a game. Granted, it is one of my favorite games I have ever played, it is still just a game. So what does that mean for our spirituality? It means we should not compromise our God given identity for the sake of winning a game. I challenge players this year that however and whoever wins should give God glory. We’ll one day graduate and move on to even riskier games. God’s foundation at this school will never be shaken.

TFC’s First Annual Spikeball Tournament

If you have seen four guys jumping and diving around a tiny trampoline in the past couple of weeks, they are not crazy, they are practicing for the upcoming spikeball tournament. You might be asking yourself, “What is spikeball?” It is a game created by a couple of college guys from Chicago which has gaining enough popularity throughout the United States.

The game consists of two teams of two people, and the easiest way to explain it is that it is a cross between volleyball and four-square. One team serves by bouncing a ball off the net, with the goal being that that the ball hits the ground before the other team can bounce it back off the net. You and your partner have up to three hits before you have to bounce it off the net again, much like volleyball, and you can only gain a point if your team served. The game is finished when a team reaches 21 points.

A Spikeball tournament will take place at TFC on Saturday, October 26th, and will start at 1 p.m. on the intramural field. It is being headed up by Intramural Athletic Director Johnny Miller, who is very excited to implement this new sport into the intramural program. The tournament will be in a double elimination format, with matches being played best two out of three, so there will be plenty of games for everyone to play.

The tournament on Saturday offers prizes that will be awarded to tournament victors. Miller contacted one of the founders of Spikeball through their website, and when they found out TFC was hosting a tournament they gave the school three free Spikeball sets, a value of $150. The winning team will get two of the sets, one for each player, and the third set will be raffled off in a random drawing. The team who comes in second place will be receiving Chick-Fil-A coupons.

There are currently 14 teams signed up for the tournament on Saturday, and registration is going to be open until 11:59 p.m. on Friday. Anyone can sign up, as the event is going to be coed, and it is completely free of charge. You can register online through the schools intramural website, www.imleagues.com, or through the Facebook page, TFC Intramural Spikeball Tournament.

Whether you are a hardcore Spikeball player, enjoy hanging out with your friends, or simply do not have anything to do this weekend, go online and get registered, because the tournament is sure to be a great time!

TFC Volleyball Season Winding Down, Team Heading into Regionals

It has been a long season for coach Selina Slate and the Women’s Volleyball team here at Toccoa Falls College.

The girls have already played over 23 matches, and are fast approaching the region tournament. The team consists of 11 players, five whom have never played before at the collegiate level, and Coach Slate is excited about the way her team has performed so far. Even though the Lady Eagle’s have an overall record of 5-18, with a majority of their losses coming to bigger, scholarship schools, they have won when it matters most, going 5-2 in region play. The team is looking to build upon their success within the region, and take that momentum into the final two weeks of the season.

One of the reasons why the Lady Eagle’s have been able to consistently perform well and maintain a positive attitude derives from the team’s philosophy. In talking to Coach Slate, she broke this philosophy down into four main points, which are based off of Philippians 4:13 and Romans 12:3-5:

1. Represent Christ everywhere we go.

2. Every day strive to demonstrate selflessness, unconditional love and understanding.

3. Don’t be content with where you are as a volleyball player and teammate.  Work hard and give your all every time you step foot on the court no matter what.  Do this and your skills will improve individually and as a team.

4. Every player on the team is considered a “Captain”.  Every player is responsible for and expected to lead, follow, listen, care, encourage, motivate, be motivated, communicate, work hard, respect others and be a good example to the rest of the team.”

Coach Slate fully believes that “if every player strives to follow this philosophy on a daily basis, that win or lose, the team is successful.”- Slate

One of the reasons why the Lady Eagle’s have had success this season is that they have worked hard on achieving the goals coach Slate has set for them. Their primary goal is to implement their team philosophy on a daily basis. The team does this by keeping Phil. 4:13 and Romans 12:3-5 in mind every time they take the court, meet for practice, come together as a team, and even when they are away from the game. The overall goal is that each member will become a better individual player so as to become a better team. One of the ways that Coach Slate has seen her team achieve this is by their improvement in blocking. Despite being undersized both in height and in number of players, the Lady Eagles are 18th in all of NCCAA Division II in blocking, showing the commitment of this team to become better.

The women’s volleyball team will be playing their final home match on Tuesday, Oct. 29th at 7 p.m. against Spartanburg Methodist, and it will also serve as the team’s senior night. The regional tournament will take place Oct. 31st-Nov. 2nd  in Tampa, Florida.

What Not to Say to a Doubting Christian

     Just have faith. It is a friendly little Christianese phrase that can serve as a source of encouragement in many contexts.  For example, if someone is planning a mission trip and needs God to supply the financial support, telling them to just have faith serves as a reminder that God is faithful and will fulfill their monetary needs; they need only to stifle their doubts and trust that he will provide the needed support through his providence. Here, telling someone to just have faith is supposed to encourage them, helping them to reaffirm their trust in God’s calling, goodness, and provision.

But what if the focus of one’s doubt is not on God’s characteristics or his calling? What if the focus is on the very existence of God? And what if this is serious doubt that is heavily affecting them? Here, this short expression of Christianese support can be dangerous and harmful. I believe, based on personal experience, the testimony of friends, and much reflection. I hope to convince you that you should never say just have faith to a doubter who has come to you seeking advice or counseling.

Overall, the attitude of the evangelical church towards doubt is highly negative. Anything short of absolute certainty when it comes to the existence of God and/or orthodox doctrine is either condemned as sin or heavily discouraged as being hazardous to your faith. This makes doubters weary of asking for help. No one wants to go to a pastor, church leader, Christian counselor, or even friend if they believe that all they will receive is condemnation. Unfortunately, this context is rarely taken into account when a doubter actually takes the frightening step of coming to voice their doubts.

When a doubter finally comes forth out of this context, it is normally after a long period of dealing with the problem on their own…and failing.  Knowing there is no one to talk to about their doubts that they have kept to themselves, all the while feeling ashamed and afraid that the God they grew up believing in is not there. For them this is no small issue; it is something that has caused a great amount of despair. Their entire worldview is crumbling apart and they may feel like coming to someone for help is their last hope to get out of this mess. Furthermore, if they are anything like me or some of the people whose testimonies I have heard, they have been praying desperately that God would grant them faith while searching scripture for answers.

In this context, saying just have faith (and building the rest of the conversation around that central theme) does not come off as helpful support; it comes off as a condemnation. Because of the doubter’s background there is an implicit message that the one counseling does not realize they are giving. It is not as if stating just have faith is going to give them an Aha! moment where they finally realize that just having faith is the solution to the problem they have been dealing with for a long time, because most doubters spend most of their time attempting to do just that. It is going to sound a lot more like this: “You need to stop doubting and just have faith, because your “attempts” to have faith and trust God during these weeks/months/years of doubt have obviously not been sincere since you’re still doubting. You’re either lying to me about trying to have faith or else you’re ignoring God’s help or else you’re not actually saved.”

Here is where it gets dangerous. A doubter, after an extended time of doubting God’s existence and trying to have faith in him––whether by regular prayer, reading of scripture, church attendance, etc.––has come to someone else for a solution. They are then told that the only solution is exactly what they have been doing…which has not worked. Moreover, their plea for help was met with implicit condemnation. With no other solutions in sight, what will happen to the doubter?

What should one say to this kind of doubter, then? I do not pretend to have a working answer to that question, but I do think there are a few things we need to keep in mind.

First, faith and belief are distinct. Faith presupposes belief and belief is prior to faith. Evangelicals tend to erase this distinction, defining their faith/belief conjunction such that it is equivalent to some type of irrational, blind faith. In scripture, faith is much closer to trust. Do you believe that God exists? and Do you trust him? are separate questions that should be dealt with on their own terms. Accordingly, the advice to just have faith given to someone dealing with the former question misses the mark entirely.

Second, there are different kinds of people with different kinds of doubt and different theologies. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. This means that there is going to be much more work involved than a single meeting where you deliver the Christianese one-liner. You may have to actually invest in someone’s life.

And third, while this would take a whole other post to defend, we have to keep in mind that God has good reason to allow doubt. Doubt can lead to a more vibrant faith and allows the forming of many Christian virtues.

The only way someone can say just have faith to a doubter of God’s existence is if they have failed to appreciate what the doubter has been through, how they feel, and the biblical meaning of belief and faith. You may never have to counsel a doubter. But if you do, do not make this mistake, and do not think that a solution will be easy.

Photo credit: thegospelcoalition.org

Recap Homecoming 2013: The Block Party

Among the many festivities that occurred during homecoming weekend at Toccoa Falls College, a favorite for the alumni was The Block Party hosted by the Student Government Association. The event was pleasant, tastefully diverse, and family-oriented. There were bouncy houses, train rides, and many free sweat treats to fit any personal preference!

Many vendors, including alumni, set up their colorful booths and provided friendly conversation to those who passed by. TFC clubs that were present included the Student Missionary Fellowship, The Philosophy Club, Ratio Christi, and The Forrester Yearbook Staff. SMF representatives painted henna tattoos and doodles on cheerful children and raised financial awareness for their internships. SMF asks that we all send support through prayer and monetary donations to next summer’s interns. The Philosophy Club was a huge hit with their bacon brownies and challenging brain games. Ratio Christi made an appearance and asks that SGA and the student body support their desire to continue their movie series. The Forrester Yearbook Staff sat at a small table with last year’s yearbooks and tracked down some alumni to hand them a little piece of history. Yearbook Editor, Caroline Wilson, asks that if you know any alumni or if you are alumni, that you contact her as soon as possible to receive your yearbook. Her email address is carolinewilson@tfc.edu.

Other vendors that attended this event included artist, Amy Smith, that brought some merchandise from her business A Glimpse of Heaven. Amy Smith personalizes painted gifts, cards, and her paintings are absolutely beautiful, fitting for any dorm room! You can contact her at glimpse.heaven@yahoo.com. Talia Kohl also had a booth set up for her home business that includes a variety of services such as: photography, home catering, basic layout and designing, cake decorating, and wall painting. You can contact Talia Kohl for any of these services at 706-244-2533. Another booth that caught the eyes of many onlookers was of The Leon and Rachel Gathany Museum Foundation. This foundation was created to fund and build a museum for the history of Toccoa Falls College. This museum is to be used exclusively for charitable, educational, and scientific purposes that will embrace the heritage and beginnings of our wonderful school. Please, show your support by visiting www.gathanymuseum.org.

As always, SGA is to be thanked for their incredible and commendable work to make activities like the Block Party a part of student life.