A Year of Brotherhood and Unity

About one year and two days ago, I was formally initiated into the Beta Upsilon Chi fraternity. It is a national Christian fraternity, and it is the absolutely last thing I thought I would be doing with my time in college. It is also one of the best things I could have possibly done with my time. It is so hard to believe that I have already been a part of this organization for a year. It has so quickly become a huge part of my life, and the friends and brothers that I met through it have rapidly become some of the most important people in my life. Today, as I close out the first half of a brutal week of finals, I can’t help but reflect on the year that I have spent with Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX), and I look forward to the year ahead with anticipation.

When my roommate first approached me about the idea in February of 2014, it didn’t take me longer than a couple of seconds to write it off. For some reason, I never really gave Greek life a fair shake, and had convinced myself I didn’t belong in a fraternity. Besides, I was going to study abroad next semester, or something cool like that. I definitely wasn’t going to be a part of starting some lame Christian fraternity. Well, obviously I could not have been more wrong. Through an interesting series of events, BYX started to come together, and I started to become more convinced of the need for it here at UTC. Finally, I jumped in with both feet and decided to become a founding father, and was then fortunate enough to become the founding Chaplain. I swallowed my pride, regretted all the times I told God what I was and wasn’t going to do, and embarked on an adventure of a lifetime.

FoundingFathers
The Founding Fathers of Beta Upsilon Chi at UTC

We got initiated during finals week of Spring 2014, were fortunate enough to do a joint formal with the UTK chapter, and then we all went our separate ways. It was a whirlwind of excitement, and nobody knew what the summer was going to bring. I served at a camp for the entirety of the summer, and was pretty out of touch from most of my brothers. However, that didn’t stop us from hitting the ground running for the Fall semester. We held our first “Rush Week” and were astounded, amazed, and humbled by the amount of guys that came out to see what this was all about. We still barely knew what we were doing or what this would look like, and yet God blessed us with 19 pledges. A few short months later we had the honor of initiating 16 members of the Alpha pledge class. We closed out the Fall semester tired, worn out, and thoroughly amazed by what God had done over the last few months. Guys were growing together, and closer to God. We were slowly starting to shine a small light into this campus, and were able to give a small picture of what a Christian community could look like.

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The Alpha Pledge Class

 

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Our first chapter retreat in Cookeville, TN.

I was surprised and overjoyed with the first couple months of serving BYX, and I was thrilled to continue my chaplaincy into the next school year. I, along with the other newly elected officers, went to Texas for a weekend of officer training, where we gained a much bigger picture of what BYX has been and what it could be. We learned a lot, we were overwhelmed, and we couldn’t wait to bring this vision back to our chapter. 2015 was going to be our year.

Christmas break turned out to be a pretty tough time for me. I came into the new Spring semester feeling just as tired and overwhelmed as when I left for the break. I was feeling broken, beaten down, and honestly, pretty empty. I felt that I had nothing to give. I was in this position to lead and to pour out to others, and yet here I was struggling to take care of myself. I was blown away by the way my brothers came around me through that difficult time. They cared for me, they loved me, and they showed me how to lead through my brokenness. And more than anything, they pushed me into the loving arms of God, who provided the rest and healing that I so desperately needed. I will forever be thankful for the brotherhood that surrounds me, and I’ll never be able to explain the impact they have had on me.

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One of our first open worship nights.

Sometimes it feels silly to get so caught up in a fraternity. Sometimes I sit in the library with the BYX sticker on my laptop, staying hydrated with my BYX water bottle, sipping coffee from my BYX mug, while wearing a BYX t-shirt, and I feel like a sell out. I feel like I am just advertising for the Gospel of BYX, and worry about being too consumed with an organization. But, then I am reminded of the deeper meaning behind it all. BYX is not my church, and it is not my salvation. But on college campuses across the country, it is an outstanding representation of the saving love of Jesus Christ. Now that is something that I am willing to advertise. That is something worth giving my life to. We aren’t worthy of representing Christ, and yet He chooses to use us anyways. I don’t understand why He works the way He does, or why He has entrusted this ragtag bunch of guys with representing Him. But I am eternally grateful that He has. In everything that we do, and in everything that we say, I pray that Christ is glorified.

Formal
Spring Formal 2015.

At the end of the day, yep, it’s just an organization. It is just a fraternity on a college campus. But to me, and to so many guys, it is a whole lot more. Sometimes I get frustrated with it, and sometimes I feel like I might be wasting my time. But then I look around and I see what God has done. I see my brother who was rescued from suicidal thoughts and led to Christ, and was then led to a community that brings him so much joy. I think about my brother who came into college with every intention of joining the party scene but ended up rooming with some guys from BYX who radically changed his life. I praise God for my brother who spent his first year of college in loneliness and isolation, but now serves as a leader among our guys who can’t seem to contain the joy of Christ in His life. I consider myself, who floated through my first two years of college trying to figure out where I belonged, bouncing between communities, struggling through a spiritual desert and not really knowing which way to turn. Christ is my joy, and He is my salvation. He has rescued me and redeemed my life, and I will forever praise Him. And He is the common bond that holds this beautiful thing called BYX together. Today I am thankful for a year of brotherhood and unity in Christ.

The Time I Was a Professional Writer

If, for some strange reason, you keep up with my blog, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted a new one in a pretty long time. There are a couple of reasons for that. For one, I gave up social media for lent. I’m not sure what this says about me, but for some reason I felt less motivated to write knowing that I wouldn’t be sharing it with anyone. But that wasn’t all. I value writing in general, whether anyone else would see it or not. The main reason I haven’t written on my blog is because for a couple months, I, Scottie Hill, was a professional writer.

Now, okay its not as cool as it sounds. When I think about professional writing, I envision Ernest Hemingway sitting at a lamplit rustic wooden desk, maybe smoking a pipe and sipping on some sophisticated kind of tea, crafting elaborate stories on a note pad. My experience was nothing like that. Most nights involved me hunched over my 2008 MacBook in the 24 hour zone of my library, sipping burnt Starbucks coffee, furiously pounding away at my key board, trying to put ideas into sentences and anxiously watching as the word count slowly crept up towards my goal. I was a professional writer, and for about 8 weeks, that was my life.

It all started in January when the local coffee shop I was working for ran into a difficult stretch and had to cut back on hours for employees. With a couple of big expenses coming up, including a spring break snowboarding trip, I knew that I had to find a way to make some extra cash. Well, I thought, I have always liked writing. Maybe I could find someone willing to hire me to write? It turns out there are entire websites for that very purpose: connecting freelance writers with clients willing to pay them. Freelance writing. That sounded pretty cool to me. So I signed up for a site and within a couple of days, I had miraculously landed a gig. There was a website out there that was actually willing to pay me to write articles for them! How cool is that?!

Newman_desk
This is NOT where I wrote my articles.

And it was cool. Just not as cool as I thought. The website was essentially a study tool for high school students covering a wide range of subjects. I, as a History major, was assigned to U.S. History and European History. These were right up my ally. However, I soon discovered some of the pitfalls to freelance writing. Deadlines. Long hours. Pay per article, not per hour. Sketchy proofreading. Lifeless articles. Soul crushing word counts. Too many hours behind a computer screen, and not enough in front of other people. This junk was hard. At my peak, I was writing about 12,000-14,000 words every 10 days. On top of schoolwork, fraternity responsibilities, and attempting to maintain a social life, I was swamped. Any spare hour was devoted to catching up on articles. And when I was caught up on articles, I had school papers to write. My school papers started to become as monotonous and lifeless as the articles. My life started to dissipate into a sea of historical events, with dates, names, facts, and figures taking up all of my brain space.

The final straw came when I decided to check out my articles on the website. I was initially pretty excited when I recognized the title of one of the articles I had written. I was published! However, I clicked on it and was met with dismay. I barely recognized the article. I pulled up the draft I submitted and compared the two. They hadn’t changed anything. No, it was all there, just like I typed it. As I clicked on the other articles of mine I noticed the same thing. I could barely remember writing any of the 15-20 articles. These words were strangers to me, blindly spilled from the keyboard in my frantic effort to meet my deadline and reach the word count. These were definitely my articles, but this was not my writing.

I write because I like to tell stories. I write because I like figuring out how to convey emotion. I write because I like to make people feel things, see things, imagine things, and experience things. It brings me life to formulate an idea and see it captured in words on a page. And I love being able to share that with people. Whether it is an experience I have had, a lesson I have learned, or an idea I developed, I write to communicate my thoughts. I like to think that my writing can bring joy to people, and I even like to think that somehow, someway, people can catch a glimpse of the Creator in my writing.

I’m not saying I would never write for money again. And I wouldn’t even write off the thought of pursuing a career in writing. It is something I am passionate about, and it is something that brings me joy. If I can somehow write with those purposes in mind and make a source of income, I would be thrilled. However, when my words cease to have meaning, when they become dull, lifeless, and fail to evoke emotion or feeling, it will no longer be my writing. I’m not an idealist, and I don’t assume that all professional writers always write about what they want, or that I’ll never pick up a freelance job again. I probably will. However, this experience has in a way renewed my joy and love of writing, simply from not being able to do it for so long. It has reinvigorated my commitment to tell my story, and to share it with others.

No matter what other projects I take on, or where life takes me, I pray that I always find the time to write. Consider this my recommitment to this blog. May it ever be a source of passion, joy, and inspiration. I don’t know what I will write about, and I don’t know if anyone will read it. What I do know is that it will be my writing, and the words that I use will be like good friends to me, familiar and significant, unique and meaningful. This is my commitment. This is my blog. And this is my writing.