The Beginning of the End

In exactly three weeks, my season here in the Northwoods will be coming to a close, and I will begin my journey home.  When I say journey, I mean a road trip that may or may not take me to South Dakota, then through Chicago, then eventually to Nashville before the 30th – the day classes start.

I am not sure I will ever be able to fully communicate the significance of this summer in my life.  God has redefined my perception of Him and has transformed me as He has filled me with a fuller love for Him and for people.  I am changed, yet I am more fully myself as He has intended me to be.

Though three weeks seems like short time and I am both dreading my departure date and looking forward to the next chapter, there is a lot happening before I hit the road!  On Monday, I am leading a group of 22 high schoolers on a rafting trip.  I did not realize I would be the only leader, so I was a bit shocked when I learned I would be fully responsible for taking the students and leading the trip, but my friend Bri said she would join me, so I am looking forward to the adventure!  I love white water rafting and am looking forward to investing in these kids, if only for a day.

Monday begins the last week of res camp.  The campers all go home early Friday morning.  Saturday morning, the staff heads out to Presque Isle where we will go cliff jumping, hang out, and celebrate the victories of the summer.  I am stoked!  That night, I will begin training for Passage.  I am leading a group of college freshman for two weeks with another college student (from Wheaton) and collaborating with a Wheaton professor.  I am thrilled to be taking part in this adventure and have high expectations for what God will do in the lives of the girls, and in my own life through them.

There is so much I am going to miss about HoneyRock.  I will miss my dear friends, living in a community of believers, the unbelievable beauty of the Northwoods, and being involved in camp ministry.  I know, however, that God has another adventure for me this semester, and a new community for me to share it with.

I have been learning a lot about community this summer through HoneyRock and the intentional close community built here, but also very much through my dear friend Elizabeth, who is invested not only in the HoneyRock community but also in the Three Lakes (local) community.  She has taught me the importance of investment, discipleship, and loving people as God loves.  Observing her ministry has caused me to think a lot about my community back home and where home should be for me this next semester.

Living at home for a year was great and while it had its ups and downs, I really believe God wanted me there.  I really missed Nashville, but I felt like I was where I was supposed to be.  This summer, I have missed Nashville quite a bit, and have been tossing around the idea of moving back to the city.  I am in contact with someone right now about potentially rooming together, but really want to be in the community where God can use me most and wants me.  I do not want to make any rash decisions, so my prayer is that if this door is not supposed to be open, it will slam in my face.

If you can pray that I will not worry about where I am going to live in a few weeks, but that I can be open to God’s will and very attentive to His voice and Spirit.

I love you and if I haven’t seen you in a few months – I’m looking forward to seeing you soon!

-s

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the Book

I watched the Book of Eli last night. Twice.  And it was powerful, stirring my spirit and raising many questions in my heart.

The plan was to write yesterday and tell you about my trip to Wheaton and how great it felt to eat non-camp food (though I’m not knocking the HoneyRock grub), how it was weird to be back in “civilization” after 2 months in a place apart, how it’s always interesting to go back to my home town.  I was going to tell you about learning to drive stick-shift some more and driving most of the way into town in a storm and without my license.  I was going to write about laying out under the stars with Amanda (my new roomie) and talking and just realizing how big God really is and how expansive the Heavens are.  I was going to tell you how much fun it was to jet ski and go wakeboarding all day last Friday, but then I watched this movie and my plans changed.

I am not going to give away the movie, because I strongly urge you to watch it for yourself.  I will, however, tell you that the character of Eli probably is not the image you have in your mind of a die-hard Christ follower.  He is too gruesome, too rough around the edges, too violent, too mysterious.  Or so our cookie-cutter Christian culture will tell us. But that is where my perspective was rocked.

This man was COMMITTED to memorizing and studying the Word, even when no one else on earth was familiar with the Bible or could keep him accountable.  He also was careful about who he shared Scripture with, in part to keep it safe, but maybe there is more to that.  I found myself asking if we are too often over-zealous about evangelism and forget the impact of the message we carry.  Should we be more discerning in how and with whom we share our faith?  Not because it is our faith, but because it is TRUTH and sometimes some hearts are not ready for the full dose of truth.  Sometimes I fear we try to say all we know instead of allowing people to digest new thoughts and process the full meaning of faith in Christ.

This led me to wonder how much our understanding of Scripture and Truth is seen and absorbed by those we encounter and how our understanding is interpreted and passed along to others we may never encounter.  We hear “actions speak louder than words” and know that people remember what they see us do, perhaps more than what we say.  But our perception of Christ and the Gospel – the way we portray it in how we live – is a testimony of something greater than ourselves.  It is not “our faith” alone that we testify to, so our behavior is all the more influential in informing the opinions and beliefs of others in regards to Christ.  In the movie, Eli prays with Solara when he meets her.  The next day, Solara prays with her mom in the same way – even though she did not know much about prayer.  Something felt right to her, and she imitated behavior she observed.

Another aspect of Eli’s commitment to memorizing and absorbing Scripture was an urgency and a need to preserve the Word of God for other ears to hear.  In America, many of us have multiple copies of the Bible in our homes, so we do not treasure the Living Word as we should.  I wish we could feel the urgency to know and have the Word written into us as Eli did in the movie.  For me, it was very powerful to hear Scripture as a part of his daily dialogue and I found myself craving that desire for Scripture and praying that my mind will be strengthened so I may meditate and memorize Scripture so it becomes more a part of me.

There is a lot more that I am still processing, and I am open to rebuke if my questions are not valid or misleading, but these are some thoughts.

I want to leave you with Eli’s prayer:

Dear Lord,

Thank you for giving me the strength and the conviction to complete the task you entrusted to me. Thank you for guiding me straight and true through the many obstacles in my path. And for keeping me resolute when all around seemed lost. Thank you for your protection and your many signs along the way. Thank you for any good that I may have done, I’m so sorry about the bad. Thank you for the friend I made. Please watch over her as you watched over me. Thank you for finally allowing me to rest. I’m so very tired, but I go now to my rest at peace. I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I kept the faith.

I would encourage you to watch the movie for yourself and form your own thoughts and opinions.

As always, I love you and pray that God’s Truth is revealed to you in new ways on this day.

-s

Puzzle Piece Reflection(s)

I’m going to try something new.  There has been so much happening lately, and this weekend was packed FULL, so I’m just going to sum up each day of the weekend (or highlights) in sentence fragments. Keep up!

Friday:  Many fun field trips. Rope course photography. Post-dinner skiing. Chatting with new roommates. Shower to avoid swimmer’s itch. Pretend racquetball. Lick-a-Dee Splitz.

Saturday: Alarm to start day. Breakfast buffet…but not really since I was late. Ate with kitchen staff.  Working and such. Lady collapsed. Called nurse and got her to relax.  Watered flowers, sorted mail. Sailing. Capsized three minutes in. Laughter, fear, victory. Bailed on sail. Victorious sailing. End to sailing. Burgers and movie. Jello with friends. Talent show observer.

Sunday: Parade before church (with Elizabeth). Worship at camp. Lunch that wasn’t chili. (Rest of day with Elizabeth) Grocery shopping. Learning to drive stick. Hanging with E’s friends and sister. Dinner at Pine Isle. Ski show in rain. Soaked to bone. Laughing. Lick-a-Dee Splitz. Eating in rain. More laughter. Rain drunk recaps. Fireworks postponed.

Basically, all of these should follow with exclamation marks, but for the sake of being as concise and monotonous as possible, I left those out.   Tonight I am looking forward to talking with Nancy, a woman who I am blessed to know and has become a mentor and friend in the past few weeks, then I am heading to the fireworks to meet Elizabeth and some other HoneyRockers.

I don’t even know what has been going on for the past couple of weeks since I’ve last written.  There are so many campers!  It’s CRAZY!  I love it though. I could probably live here forever.  I definitely dig the camp environment.  I will be back in Nashville for school in the fall, though, so if you are reading this and are worrying (mom) then have no fear!  I shall return.

Prayer requests…that I can continue to seek God over my own selfish desires and plans and that I can realize how far superior His ways and purposes are to my imagined ones.  Also, I’m leading our staff devo on Wednesday morning and am a tad nervous about that.  I’m not quite sure what God will have me speaking about and would love to know soon.

Anything I can pray for you for?

I love you all!  Blessings!

-s

Campers are Coming!!!

This is a BIG weekend for HoneyRock.  Yesterday we had our Friday fun day.  All the staff stopped working at 3pm and gathered on the lawn in front of Chrouser where there were a bunch of different games going on.  Sand volleyball, basketball, cornhole, soccer. . .so much was happening!  It was such a fun time!  After some sand volleyball, Elizabeth and I jumped in the lake with all our clothes on.  The lake felt amazing!!  We all ate dinner on the lawn then were entertained with an interactive drama put on by the Shakesperience class.  We walked around as they did different scenes on the balcony, on the lawn, and on the benches.  It was quite the event!

Tonight we have our talent show, which promises to be exciting.  Then, tomorrow we are fasting and praying as a community here at HoneyRock because, after 5 weeks of training, we are greeting our first campers on Monday!!!

Please join me in praying for us as a community – that we can be united together in love and one vision to love these kids as God loves them, and that each of us can continue to be renewed by Christ daily.

Healing

This past week has been an emotional whirlwind. I have full confidence more than ever before that I am supposed to be in this exact location at HoneyRock this summer. God has confirmed that through multiple interactions recently.  That does not mean, however, that it has been smooth sailing.

I have realized over the past week that there is a lot in past that I have never confronted and there is a lot of pain within that I have yet to deal with.  God has been placing women of integrity in my life to help me grieve and digest what God wants to do with me and for me this summer, and for that I am blessed.

All that to say, I am going to keep this short and somewhat vague.

I have had so many emotionally draining conversations over the past few days. No matter how amazing and truthful and freeing they have been, they have still left me feeling like I have nothing left to give. On Monday I literally felt like I was going to throw up because I was so full of unfamiliar emotions and grief.  But in the midst of my pain, I was thanking God continuously because I am SO very glad He is bringing me through these emotions and teaching me what He looks like as my Father. This is joy. I have joy like I have never experienced before, but there is hurt also, and there is a mental/emotional exhaustion.

For this reason, I’m not going to go into too much detail right now. Or maybe ever on this forum. I would be glad to answer your individual questions if you want to call, email, write. I can’t promise I’ll get back to you right away, but it’s just because there’s a lot I’m processing and it’s hard for me to pour myself out into many conversations about it all.

If you get nothing else from this post, get this – God is revealing aspects of Himself to me that I have never before considered or seen and He is showing me how He LOVES me – a love that I have always known about but never really believed in like I am beginning to.  He has orchestrated flawlessly conversations and encounters and placed people in my path to speak truth to me and I am abundantly encouraged and excited, even in this time of contemplation and deep emotional chaos.

I love you and am thankful for you. Thanks for continuing to keep me in your prayers and your heart. God hears you and is moving mountains!

-s

God things

I can hardly believe it is Wednesday again.  This means a week has gone by since I last posted.  This means we are a week closer to having campers here.  This means an entire week has gone by and I’m not sure how I missed it.

Though a lot has happened over the past week, I want to reflect mostly on the God things that have been happening in my life over the past few days.  If you want to hear a light-hearted account of my adventures, check out my post on the HoneyRock blog: http://honeyrock.typepad.com/parentandcamper/2010/06/my-eyes-were-glued-on-my-computer-clock-twenty-minutesten-minutessixthreetwogo-time-i-grabbed-my-bag-and-das.html.

Last night I happened upon a discussion panel led by some Wheaton professors.  For a couple of hours, students had the opportunity to ask any question of professors.  We talked about a variety of topics: how to better understand addiction in regard to sin, family planning, the significance of gender in creation, whether or not God is gendered, to name a few.

It was a really eye-opening experience and made me crave the theological discussion I had at Belmont, even though not all of the arguments I heard in my classes were biblically sound.  I had a great talk afterwards with a couple of the professors, and was really encouraged by their approach to certain issues.

I think often times we miss out on thinking critically about aspects of life because we believe that God knows what’s best and will automatically make life easier for us.  Well yes, God does know what is best.  But God has also equipped us with minds to comprehend the teachings of Scripture so we may form perspectives related to the Word of God and its relevance in our lives.  I think this thought process helps us to experience God.

There are two ways to experience God, I think.

First, you have the intellectual head knowledge.  This is fostered by listening to sermons and lectures, reading thematic theological essays and books, reading material concerning hermeneutics and exegesis…the list goes on.

Then there is the heart knowledge which can be fostered through prayer, Bible studies, scripture reading, devotionals, and reflection.  For the sake of my simple description of these two experiences, I am going to say that this experience is the belief in God’s existence and the affirmation in our hearts that God should be evident in our lives and guide our actions.

I LOVE the intellectual side of this experience.  I feel like I am really understanding the complexity of God and it reshapes my mindset so that I don’t keep God in a box.  I love discussing ethical issues with believers who have studied the Bible intensely and who have wrestled with different theologies.

I also LOVE the personal relationship I am able to have with Christ.  Reading Scripture that is ALIVE and RELEVANT and is a continuous timeline that began way before my lifetime and will continue until Christ’s return.

I feel, however, that sometimes we choose one over the other – the personal/heart experience rather than the accompanying theology or more unfortunately, the theology over the personal adoration of our Savior.

I crave both.  Each component of my relationship with Christ makes me excited about the Gospel and its relevance for us today.  As I read new material and new ideas regarding God are revealed, I am awestruck because a piece of my perception of God is shattered, and truth (if I am consulting reliable materials) replaces my ignorant views.

Last night’s discussion energized me.  I went back to Loberg and started reading Piper’s Desiring God, where I was confronted with a perspective that is already revolutionizing my walk with Christ.  It may take time to fully sink in and change the way I live, but I was stoked to be able to sit and read the account of a Christ follower and theologian and compare it to Scripture and see how God’s plan is so far beyond my reckoning and understanding.

I want to be able to be used by God to further the ministry begun by Jesus and his disciples.  However, to maximize my effectiveness, I want to be continually seeking out truth.  My church, the Journey, has been a huge help in this area.  I know most of the leadership team personally and have been able to have conversations with individuals about precise steps taken to pursue truth to the fullest.

I want to run hard after God, and to do that, I need to be disciplined and I need to be held accountable.  I am writing this to ask you to help keep me accountable and also just to encourage you in your walk with Christ.  My prayer for both of us is that we may be entering into situations and having intentional conversations that further Christ’s Kingdom daily.

I have been continually blessed over the past few weeks and am growing a lot.  For one, I have been waking up around 5:30 every morning (if you know me well, you know I am a night owl, not an early riser) to be at a devotional of sorts at 6:30.  We have “Morning Watch” or quiet time until breakfast at 7:15, then we have staff devos at 7:45, then a brief reflection which lasts until about 8:30am.  My group meets later in the day to discuss the devo topic.

I have been overwhelmed by the effectiveness of this consistency.  Guess what?  Paul wasn’t joking when he said a community of believers is neccessary for growth.  It is really amazing what can happen when God is literally the entire focus of the day.

My prayer for you is that you can not only find time for God this week -every day – but that you can rearrange your heart so that God is first and foremost in every aspect of your life.  I am enjoying the challenge of this discipline and am loving it, yet I am secluded in the northwoods and not bombarded with the chaos of everyday life.  My prayer is that my discipline will hold up when I return to reality.

I know this has been long-winded and there are a lot of thoughts crammed into this post, but I hope something will resonate with you.

God is not in a box.  And we cannot control or manipulate no matter what our westernized Christianity has to say about it.

I hope you feel small against God so that the love of Christ will be that much more immense when you experience it, perhaps for the first time in a long time.

I love you!

-s

The One with the Sailboat

Each day has literally been a new adventure.  We joke that each day feels like a week, yet somehow, by the end of the week, we can’t believe it’s over.  The best way I can think to convey to you my week is to give you little snapshots of my adventures.  It may drive some of you crazy that it’s not chronological, but hey, let’s mix it up a bit.

The One with the Sailboat

It was  a perfectly windy day and a perfectly beautiful day.  The sun was shining, the water was refreshing, and most of the sailboats were out on the lake.  Amy and I decided we wanted to go on a sailing adventure, so as soon as a boat started coming in, we ran into the water to meet it.

After we put the sail back up and adjusted the daggerboard, we were off.  I learn best by trial and error – by someone showing me how to do it once, then trying it and learning from my mistakes.  Amy showed me how to steer the boat (when you want to go right, you pull the steering mechanism to the left) and after a few wrong turns, we had a nice rhythm going.

A quick intro to sailing – you manipulate the wind by turning so that the sail will swivel to the other side of the boat.  So you are turning, holding the sail, and ducking and moving to sit on the other side of the boat pretty much all in one effort.  For starters, Amy held the sail and I steered.

We were having a blast and made a great team.  Nothing could stop us.  After a while of cruising around and making some wicked sweet turns, we decided to try and tip the boat, just for fun.  Amy had sailed before, but I never had.  I am always down for trying new things, so I agreed that we should try to tip.  We turned hard and it seemed like we were going to tip, but we didn’t.  Second time, we were basically standing upright, but we still didn’t tip.  Finally, on the third time, we gave it all we had and jumped out of the boat as it went down.

I am told that righting a tipped boat is a fairly easy procedure.  One person raises the mast/sail on the front of the tipped boat while another person puts his/her full weight on the daggerboard in back.  The leverage makes the boat stand upright.

So we followed procedure and gave it all we had, but the boat made no upward movement.  We tried again.  Nothing.  We switched places.  Still nothing.

Fifteen minutes later, our efforts are making no progress.  There are some sailboats somewhat nearby, but they either do not see how they can help, or can’t tell that we could use the help.

Soon I hear a man’s voice on the other side of the boat.  A guy in a motorboat had pulled up to try to help us out.  He said he couldn’t get out of the boat because he didn’t have an anchor, or he would leave his boat and help.

I’m not sure what he did, but between the three of us, we somehow got it back up…for two seconds.  The wind quickly slammed it down the other way.

Amy’s arms were killing her from holding onto the daggerboard, and I was trying to figure out the best way to swim down to get the mast while not getting caught in it and keeping my life jacket on – those three things were not going to happen simultaneously.

I heard a splash and the man had abandoned his boat to come to the rescue.  Amy and I both held onto the daggerboard and tried to force it down with our combined weight while our good Samaritan tried to lift the mast.  After that didn’t work, he came to the back with me and Amy swam to the front.  Soon the boat shot back up, and we steadied it before it could flip again.

Amy and I climbed back into the boat and thanked the man before he swam back to his boat.  As we floated in the middle of the lake where we had been struggling for a good twenty minutes or so, I had to tell Amy what I had been thinking, “Good thing that guy didn’t know we flipped it on purpose.”

Epilogue

Sailing is one of my new favorite things.  I wasn’t scared and found it to be funny and exciting, but I was a little tired of just chilling in the middle of the lake while trying to hang onto the daggerboard and all that jazz.

The rest of my week was pretty adventurous and exciting – almost died kayaking because I forgot about my wet exit, but an eskimo rescue happened, so it’s all good.

I played piano at church on Sunday, which was outside, right on the lake under beautiful pine trees (it’s called Cathedral Pines).  And the wind was tremendous and the power of God was awesome, but JOUNREY PEOPLE – I missed you!! I’m praying for you all and am so excited about the new Mt. Juliet campus!  I can’t wait to hear about it all coming together.

This week I also had some really great conversations with some awesome people, who I am tremendously thankful for.  It’s so awesome how believers can feel like family so immediately.

I actually had a list of stuff that I wanted to write about tonight, and this is about 1/16 of that list, but hopefully you got a kick out of my sailing experience.  Tomorrow I am kayaking 2 hours to Lick-a-Dee Splitz with the rest of Hero Support and then 2 hours back, so we should be back by dinner time.

I love you – whoever you are – and pray that God may lavish His love on you this week in ways beyond your imagination!

-s