camp

Even countries apart, it astounds me how God connects us in peculiar, yet pure Kingdom moments.

Several days ago I got a Facebook message from a friend that the Methodist camp staff in Missouri had been let go. To be completely sincere my initial reaction revolved around the fact I live in Haiti and while I was sad for the pain those I love are experiencing…there is not much I could do. I wasn’t even at camp this year, and due to work related mission trips, I hadn’t spent a whole week at camp in a couple of years.

Then, more and more things started popping up on my radar. More Facebook messages. More text messages from students that were heartbroken, and wanting to know what I thought. More photos assaulting my Facebook feed. More emails. Then last night as I saw a photo that got posted…I was reminded of camp in 2011.

Honestly, I didn’t want to be there. I was organizing the biggest relief effort the church I worked at had ever fielded. I was sending teams and leaders twice a week for what would be an entire year, and traveling myself at least once a month…on top of everything else I was already doing. The friendships gained over that time were countless and so incredibly special. However, while I was juggling mission responsibilities and student ministry responsibilities I was completely burning myself out…because I was giving myself to good, God honoring things and in my heart I did not have time to be at camp.

But God’s time table did place me at camp.

I was placed as a leader in a small group that would have a ripple effect on my life, and life outside US borders for years to come.

I shared about surrender one night. One of my co-leaders had shared from the perspective of marriage, and I felt led to share my perspective on surrender as someone who God has created and called to life beyond ‘social norms.’

Afterwards, one of the students followed me and said, ‘Can I talk to you about what you were sharing?’

I will never forget that night. I will never forget that conversation. I will certainly never forget the intense presence of the Holy Spirit over what was shared.

My friend shared that she felt called…to a strange place she had never been and couldn’t explain why she would feel called there. Those she had already shared it with had told her she was crazy, and it couldn’t possibly be a real thing. Callings like that didn’t come to people like her.

I was the first voice in her life to say she wasn’t crazy. She felt called to Africa, and I knew she wasn’t crazy because when I became a believer in college I had the same calling in my life. I had the same well-intentioned, or not, people tell me I was crazy, and even ‘You are a young, new Christian. All new Christians feel that and you will get over it soon.’

I knew what it felt like to be in her place. I knew what challenges lay ahead for her. During that evening I knew God had placed me in her life to encourage, love and pour into her with all of the gifts and experiences God had placed within me. It is called discipleship…and it started at camp.

We prayed her through years of obstacles, and she traveled to Haiti with me in 2013. It wasn’t Africa, not yet, but it will be. She came back to Haiti with the organization I work with in Haiti this summer. She has been ignited, and went home ready to change her major at her university. Now we are praying her through God’s plan for her. He is certainly the only one right now that knows where he will lead her.

I first felt the call to Africa in 1999, God didn’t send me to Liberia, West Africa until 10 years later. Now he has landed me in a place that if I arrived blindfolded, then had it taken off outside of the airport, I would ask ‘Why has Liberia started speaking French?’

Calling is real, and sometimes God speaks into it in the most beautiful ways.

I did not grow up in church. I never went to ‘church camp.’ My first experience with church camp was as a leader for our students as a student ministry director. Our church had many discussions on where we should take our students to camp each summer. This particular camp is not the slick and modern camp that many of our students were craving, and thought they wanted. The tradition of silly songs is awkward for me at times, but this is a place God preserved for transformation. It is a place students are challenged to leadership in planning, praying through and doing nightly services for their peers. It is a place where all are told they have talent and all talent is affirmed. It is a safe place to toss out your doubts, your disbelief and be challenged to be more for the Kingdom of God. It is a place that the Holy Spirit shows up in very significant ways.

God has used so many moments within the camp setting to heal, ignite and send out students to live a Kingdom life. Even in my short time with the leaders and students, I have a plethora of stories I could share.

Nothing within me naturally wanted to be a part of camp, but God revolved it around a deep community that I was absorbed into so easily and seamlessly. Kingdom community is sacred. It does not always revolve around place, nor should it, but sometimes places are sacred, too, not as an idol. Moses didn’t take his shoes off to idolize the ground, he took them off because he was on sacred ground.

This community is my brand of crazy, and they desperately want to preserve time and space for God to show up…in whatever way God has planned. But in God’s plan, not the human plan that revolves around human perspective and opinions. Five years ago, I never would have cared that a Methodist committee decided to close some camps, but God does usual things at times and I find myself wanting my friends to persevere in how they feel God is leading them. I find myself praying for the leadership, students, staff…that God would speak for all to hear and obey gracefully.

I have no revelation about where God is at work in this. What I do know is that his glory will shine through this and I desperately want the time preserved for young women who are from small churches to meet other crazy, Jesus loving, Kingdom living women so they can hear that they are not crazy and God’s calling is real.

fire

Fire fall down
Fire fall down
On us we pray
As we seek
Fire fall down
Your fire fall down
On us we pray 

Show me your heart
Show me your way
Show me your glory 

Several months ago I was with some students on a mission retreat. Our students love mission trips. And they are greatly impacted by serving others so we had planned a low key service and worship retreat. What that meant was our worship was a djembe drum and one guitar. The students had learned a new song a few months before, and I hadn’t heard it yet.

I will never forget my reaction to their deafening praise on what we like to think of the ‘jam’ at the end.

As they worshipped all I could think was…they have no idea what they are asking in these words, because it they did, then they wouldn’t be worshipping like this to these lyrics. They can’t possible know what that means. They can’t possibly be ready for that. They don’t know what they will be igniting among themselves. They aren’t prepared for that…

That thought has stuck with me for months…through our mission trips with both age groups. Then through worship and though seeing their favorite worship verses posted on social media.

In the back of my mind, when we sing those words, the thought keeps nagging me that they have no idea what they are asking of God…but it keeps colliding with a second thought.

That they do know.

They know that God’s power is infinite. They know that the Spirit of God cannot be contained. They know how strong their community is, and that God is fiercely among them. They know that the Holy Spirit is empowering and flowing through people all around them. They know that they are being called to incredible purposes in the Kingdom of God. They know he is igniting them to be change. They know he has set his people apart to be his heart for the world in all contexts, not just checking off ‘doing good’ on a list each week. They know that through their praise to the God who reigns…the God over the universe…that his definition of who they are at the core of their soul is the only one that matters.

Fire fall down…on us we pray.

Last Sunday on my birthday, the Worship Center set list had ‘The Stand’ at the end. One of my greatest gifts on Sunday was waiting for the chorus to come, looking toward where the students sit…and seeing their hands fly up in the air as they sang:

I’ll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the one who gave it all
I’ll stand
My soul Lord to you surrendered
All I am is yours

My prayer is that fire does fall down on them, and in ways they cannot even imagine, because they do know what they are asking.

They know because on Sunday nights the Holy Spirit is so thick it is actually tangible in the room. You can feel it when you walk in. It’s electric. It’s God present to those worshipping with their entire hearts. The whole reason they worship is their craving of connection to their Father, because they know they need that connection wherever they go. Especially when at the core of their worship is an undeniable thirst to be a force for good against injustice, and to live as God’s sent people.

Their service fuels their worship. Their worship fuels their service. It is a beautiful cycle with God’s word woven through both.

So God, bring that fire down, because I know this generation is capable of doing great things for the Kingdom. Honestly, it’s an honor to know them and pour what I’ve been taught into their hearts. But the injustice happening to the students right now is that there is a minority of people that are committed to pouring into them as disciples of Jesus. There is much to learn from our students, but there is also much that could be given in relationships from a community of believers. Holy Spirit, move in the hearts of your people and let your fire fall down on all of us.

*Fire Fall Down and The Stand, both by Hillsong United*

 

blood ties

Family: Love and complication interwoven with a healthy mix of surrender and humility.

I get the honor of being the ‘oldest’ cousin. Sometimes it is a pain in the ass, but other times it means you get to see these amazing small people turn into even more amazing adults…beards and all. Labor Day weekend is a family tradition for us. We all gather at my grandma’s lake house each year, and as this weekend proved there are plenty of memories to reminisce.

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When you are allowed the honor of witnessing the family bonds in action, it plays out like a well rehearsed script that had been acted out for 24 years. In our extended family teasing, playing and sarcasm are staples of the blood bond we all carry…with the well intentional family spat and competitive spirit along the way.

As we’ve grown older my absolute favorite moments are the ones when we get so caught up in conversation that the whirlwind of family can blow around us in volume and action, but the conversation carries on. It is in those moments that we build on the foundation of family, and create memories that carry us to the next time we see one another.

In a world as fast and vast as ours we only see each other once or twice a year, and as with our world, it’s easy to get caught up in life and not keep up.

I’m guilty of that with my own brother. I hate we don’t live in the same town anymore. Honestly, I hate that he’s as old as he is…mostly because I still see him as the little brother he isn’t anymore in size, stature and life path.

Being intentional is hard when people are not physically close to you, but we have to take on the responsibility. I know my brother knows I love him. I’ve spent his entire life telling him, but if I don’t back that up with actions…does a piece of that family bond slacken?

But isn’t the purpose of family to make us a part of something bigger than ourselves? That we are not alone in this world. With all of the dysfunction and pain in this world we are pulled to hold on to those times that bind us together.

Isn’t it the same in a group of believers…are they not bound the same? We may not be tied by earthly blood lines, but the moment something goes downhill and they set everything aside to help you…earthly blood ties don’t matter, we are all family bound by the blood lines of Christ.

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Frankly, the students in Youth Group remind me so much of watching my cousins interact, but the teasing, playing and bountiful sarcasm are just a piece of what ties them together. For our students the are bound so much tighter through growing in Scripture, worship, mission and their common belief in Jesus. The blood lines of Christ. Strong aren’t they?

It’s beautiful. Just as I was enamored with spending a few days with my cousins who I have watched grow since they were babies, I am equally enamored with seeing how God will continue to grow those around me, and being thankful of the time God has given me to watch. I know well how strong the blood ties of Christ make a relationship, and I am grateful that our students are learning that as young as they are.

Here’s to the time we have, what we choose to do with it and the ‘family’ God has placed around us.

enthusiasm

I feel like I just got a booster shot of enthusiasm to keep me going the entire week…which seeing as how the end of this week is the Family Mission Trip…that may be  excellent timing.

This afternoon found me at the Mavericks hockey game with nineteen 5th & 6th graders. They were loud. Very loud. They actually beat another section for the ‘loudest’ and won Chick-fil-A coupons that they (and I) were very excited about. And I was still reeling from the Noodles coupon that rained into my hands after the 2nd period was over.

They ate a lot of junk food…cotton candy…nachos…pretzels…hot dogs…pop…kettle corn…just watching made me sick!

They got free Mavericks jerseys!

They got on the big screen…4 times I think. They were VERY proud of that feat!

I saw kids who have never experienced a hockey game before, jumping up and down, hair flying each time the team made goals.

Station #5 from Mission Stations at Club 56

One of the things I love most about these kids is their enthusiasm.

Honestly, they deserved a week off of the 56 routine at church.Last week, we did a mission station Sunday where they went around to 5 different stations and experienced different aspects of mission…global and local. I will spare you the details, but the excellent element is…this week they are still talking about it! Several of them said, ‘I am still praying for _____.’ Or, ‘Hey could you tell me more about this ____.’ And, ‘Did you see what I posted on Facebook about _____?’With the same enthusiasm they have while cheering and being loud at a hockey game…they have for continuing the mission that Jesus started when he walked onearth.

They may not clean their room. They may argue about taking out the trash or doing homework. But when it comes to being a part of Jesus’ mission…these kids are all in.

If you have ever wanted to make a difference with digging into mission, and keep telling yourself it isn’t something you can fit in, or aren’t ready to travel globally or even to Joplin…consider the enthusiasm these kids have for mission. And most of them have never done anything outside of a Sunday night at Club 56.

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Also consider, ministering to these kids and growing a love of mission in them. It is just as much a part of God’s mission as anything else. God doesn’t ‘rank’ mission…God just pours his love on us so we can spread it around.

Where are you spreading God’s love this week?