Tuesday, July 27, 2010

But if not...

He separated darkness from light.
He governs the day and night. 
Creator of both land and sea. 
The bringer of life says, "let it be". 
Lord of heaven and earth. 
Through Him all things find worth.
Father of all nations and kings.
For Him all creation sings.
My God is able to keep me from harm.
My God is able to steer me from danger's arm.
My God is able to lift me when I fall.
My God is able to break down all walls.
My God is able to keep the path clear.
My God is able to protect the ones I hold dear.
My God is able to carry me on eagles' wings.
My God is able to do all things.
But if He does not, may His name still be praised.
But if He does not, above all others may He be raised.
But if He does not, upon His name I will still call.
But if He does not, He is still Lord of all.
My God is able to do all things.
But when He does not, do I know He's still the King of kings?

"Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazzing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O King. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.'"
- Daniel 3:16-18

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Over the River and Through the Woods

...to Grandmother's House We Go. (Or to the Teen Challenge Site...)

If I was Sadie I would have all kinds of great pictures to illustrate the awesomeness that was this weekend. But alas, I am not so I will just have to paint a picture for you with words :)

Yesterday almost the entire staff left the lovely city of DC and I drove them all out (soccer mom style in the mini van) to my grandparents' house to celebrate my birthday. My grandparents' house is about an hour west of DC and sits on 10 acres of land. They have lived out there since before I was born and it was always one of my favorite places to go visit growing up. I could not have asked for a more perfect place to celebrate with family and friends yesterday. You can ask anybody on staff and they'll tell you that this job is awesome and they couldn't think of a better way to spend their summer. But, it's also exhausting. And you don't really get to do the whole summer thing of relaxing. So having a few hours where we could leave the city, go swimming, pick berries, go fishing, shoot a bb gun, eat chicken and burgers right off the grill, and just truly enjoy each other's company was incredible.

I love those moments where parts of your life that seem completely separated from each other just mesh together - and yesterday was one of those. My coworkers/friends from this summer, who have been a huge part of making this summer as awesome as it's been, came out to my grandparents' house to hang out with my family and a dear friend from school met us all there. It's so easy to compartmentalize these different parts of my life, especially when I'm so focused on one of them at a time. But when these different parts come together I feel like I get to experience a little piece of heaven. When people who ordinarily would have no reason to all be together come together for a common cause. Yesterday it was to celebrate my birthday, but underneath all the love that I felt it was also a gathering of believers taking time to celebrate God and the incredible work that He has been doing in each of our lives this summer. I could not have asked for a better birthday, spent in the company of so many loved ones and in the middle of God's awesome creation.

Now it's about time for another week to start. Staff meeting starts in less than an hour and groups will be here in about 4 hours. And Steph and I get to head out into the middle of the woods once again. But we're not going out to a place that's familiar to either of us. We're heading out to the alternate housing site that's been out of commission for all but 2 weeks this summer. The housing site that's not even in DC but out in Maryland. The one that has a gravel driveway in the middle of the woods. The one with the bathroom that caught on fire last weekend. Yup. I'm going to live out there this week. With Steph. I'm not sure who thought that was a good idea. Apparently God did. I mean, He's orchestrated everything so well this summer that I have no choice but to trust that He has something incredible up His sleeve for this week. Just like this past weekend, there's really nothing other than God that could bring a youth group from Greenville WI and two random girls from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts to a house in the middle of the woods outside of DC. God has a little bit of heaven to show us as we travel over the river (not really) and through the woods (very literally) to serve Him this week. And I can't wait. :D I'm sure I'll have stories to tell from this next week - be prepared!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


You know how sometimes you have those moments, or days, or even weeks where you just wish you could hit the pause button and take some time to figure things out and get everything back on track? This summer has not been one of those times. At least I didn't really feel like I needed that pause button. God had other plans. It's about 2:20 on a Wednesday afternoon. I should be out at VBS or working with one of our other kid sites. But I am sitting in the staff office, on my computer, blogging. I didn't feel like I needed a week off. But that is what happened.

Last Thursday when Jason came by for my site visit he mentioned that the number of serving groups was going to be smaller than expected and there would probably be one host who would serve as a "floater". He said that it was down to either me or Steph who would be floating around, helping out around Star and filling in for anybody who needed/wanted a break. Turns out neither of us got assigned to a group so we're both on call this week.

I wasn't really sure what this week was going to be like and wasn't really sure that I was going to appreciate this break from hosting a group. Monday and Tuesday weren't bad at all. We got to tag along with the big group from Michigan for dinner Monday night and VBS yesterday afternoon. We also got to sleep in yesterday and help Kristen around the office. Yesterday evening we had what I like to call "forced bonding" with the entire staff - which really isn't as bad as it sounds because our staff is awesome. Although we did have to write "poetry" round robin style. That was interesting. So my first day and a half of floating wasn't bad at all - in fact it was actually quite enjoyable. And then today happened. And Steph and I have been at Star all day. Except for those 30ish minutes when we walked across the street to the laundromat to wash sheets, towels, and blankets. I was not terribly excited about staying at the building today to clean and do more office work.

However, in the midst of everything I was reminded of a verse that I used to think about all the time. "Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" Be still and know that I am God. Essentially working from 5pm Sunday to 10am Saturday does not really allow for a lot of time to be still. Don't get me wrong - God has been revealing Himself in some amazing ways through all the busyness. But God also knows me very well. And He knows that as much as I protested and didn't want to take this break I needed some time to just be still and know that He is God. So for this week, God pressed the pause button for me. Because He knows me better than I know myself.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Industrious Farmer or Mighty Warrior

 So today in church we started a new sermon series entitled "legends" where we're basically learning about the lives of biblical legends. Today we kicked it all off with Gideon. I was super stoked about this because Gideon is my favorite old testament figure. (Not including Jesus, because he should be everybody's favorite, Peter's my favorite new testatment guy) 

There are a lot of parts of Gideon's story that I could talk about tonight but then this would probably be longer than one of Sadie's posts and I wouldn't want to do that to any if you ;) 

When we first meet Gideon he's in a winepress, threshing wheat to keep it hidden from the Midianites. He's an average farmer working hard to keep his crop from his oppressors. And then an angel just comes and sits down under a tree and says to him " The Lord is with you, mighty warrior" or "mighty man of valor". Nobody had any reason to believe that Gideon was a warrior. Let alone a mighty one. He was just a farmer. But, as Pastor Mark said today, God loves to give nicknames. But these aren't names for things we are or have done. They are names for what He knows we can and will do. (I mean, Abraham was childless when he was called the father of many nations. Peter was anything but solid and strong when Christ told him he'd be the rock on which the church was built) Gideon was by no means a mighty warrior when that angel met him under that tree. But God knew what was in store for him. He knew he would go on to glorify Him by defeating the Midianites with only 300 men. 

I know I am not God (shocking, right?) and I do not have the ability to see or know what people will do in the future. But what if I started thinking like that. Not so much in an "I'll like you when you change" kind of way but in an "I'm going to love you now because of who you will become" kind of way. How differently would my interactions with people be if I truly considered their worth in the Kingdom of God? 

I've realized that I have no trouble feeling compassionate towards the weak and downtrodden. I know that I have a heart for the outcasts of society. It is not hard for me to see Christ in the lowest of the low - and that makes it easier to see them as the warriors they can become instead of the farmers they may be. But I am not a very merciful person. Especially towards those I feel have control over their situations. And I saw that this week. When my group didn't answer my questions during debrief or seemed uninterested in digging deeper into their experiences to see what God was showing them, I got frustrated. They had all the resources they needed to make this a meaningful experience but they weren't willing to put in the work. It was their fault. They deserved whatever they got out of their time here. I saw them only as the young, immature junior high students I saw in front of me. But what if I had taken some time to consider the men and women of God these kids are going to grow up to be. What if I had taken time to think about how this experience would shape the people they would eventually become? Maybe I would have been a little more patient. Maybe I would have probed further. Maybe I would have gone out of my way to help the kids feel comfortable opening up to me. I don't think it was a bad week by any stretch of the imagination. But it definitely could have been better. I think the group learned a lot and they certainly worked hard and had hearts for all God's children. But I don't think they quite grasped the purpose behind their service. And I can't help but wonder how much of that is my fault. There's nothing I can do to change this past week, but I can learn from it. The next time I see somebody who appears to be an Industrious Farmer* like Gideon, I need to look deeper for the Mighty Warrior they will become.

When that transformation from farmer to warrior occurs there is room only to praise and glorify God. Gideon led 300 men into battle against the Midianites and came out victorious. Abraham fathered Isaac from whom an entire nation was born. Peter, probably the most ridiculous of all the disciples, became the leader of the early church -the best model of Christian community we could ever ask for. Joseph, the arrogant young dreamer, saved multiple nations from a deadly famine.

In each of these individuals God looked past the farmer to the warrior He designed them to be. I'm not God. I can't know what that warrior looks like for each person I encounter this summer. But I can look for it. And I can have faith that God knows the warrior inside each farmer. And He knows how that person will eventually be able to boast only in His triumphs.

*I do not think there is anything wrong with being a farmer, I am merely using an illustration from the story of Gideon to make the point that the Children of God are more than they appear in the here and now*

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oh Hey YoCo - Welcome to DC!

I had a whole bunch of stuff I wanted to post about last week and this past weekend. But time kind of got away from me with all the fun I was having. Sorry. I'd love to go back and reflect on last week with you, but I can't because that would be taking away from this week.

It's been different. Very different. But this week has not been without it's challenges. We have not had any real complications and on the surface it would seem that this week is running very smoothly. Last week's group was very mature. Not always in their day to day activities, but when it came to their relationship with Jesus, they were strong. And not just individually, but as a group. This week, the group (from my home town) is very young. In age, and I'm assuming in their faith. They are quiet. Not so much right now, as they just finished attempting to dye a kid's hair red with kool aid, but when it comes time to talking about the real stuff. I know very little about the heart of these kids. And that's been hard. Because I feel very responsible for their growth while on this trip. Which, while technically that's in my job description (you know, help the groups process their experiences through a Biblical viewpoint), is slightly insane. Because I know that God has to open their hearts for anything to happen.

I've come to the conclusion that just about every challenge anybody ever faces can be boiled down to an issue of trusting God. Last week we had to trust Him to handle our physical circumstances. This week I have to trust Him to handle the hearts of these kids. And I know He will. He told me. "'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.'" Jeremiah 31:33

Welcome to DC, YoCo! You ready to meet God? He's here, keep your eyes open!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"Well...it was stolen...so we can't look in the glove compartment..."

I'd say that after this week the rest of the summer should be a breeze, but I'm afraid I'd jinx myself. Especially since on Sunday morning I said I felt prepared for the week. And then this week happened. Now it hasn't been an awful week. Quite the opposite, actually. It's been an incredible week. But, we've had just about every possible curve ball thrown our way. So that's been fun.

I think the best way to go about this is just to give a general overview of the week. And then we'll talk God things. Which are always good.

So...the groups started to arrive during/after our staff meeting on Sunday. Our group was the last to arrive, which was good because Steph and I needed to pack up the food and stuff to take down to the alternate housing site in Anacostia. We met the group, recruited some boys to carry food to the vans and after cramming our stuff, the food, and 12 people into the 12 passenger vans, we drove down to the church we stayed at for the week. As the kids unpacked, I met with the leaders and Steph took dinner orders. Good thing we called the order in only to find the restaurant closed early on Sunday. So instead of starting the trip off at one of our "family owned ethnic restaurants", we took 24 people to IHOP. I should have known it was going to be a long week. From IHOP we went our our prayer tour around the city. Which was great. Until half our group took 395S into VA instead of 295S into Anacostia. I was with the half that stayed in DC so we finished the prayer tour and met the rest of the group back at the church. The leaders split the kids into two serving groups, we went over schedules then went to bed.

On Monday my group went to Food and Friends where I went with one of the leaders and two kids to make deliveries. After driving all over Maryland (not really, but it certainly felt like it) we picked up the rest of our group and met Steph and her group at a park for lunch. The kids enjoyed the free time and actually rented roller skates and skated around Steph and myself as we ate our lunches in the middle of the outdoor roller rink. After lunch we went back to the church and sent the kids out to deliver fliers for VBS and a summer camp the church runs. We ate dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant and then went down to the (National) Mall to debrief and talk about the day. Debriefing went well and the group took some free time to walk around and check out the monuments. In the middle of walking around, it POURED and we found out that the church had lost power. Great. Luckily by the time we got back to the church power had come back on and I went with the leaders to buy ice cream for the kids. I may or may not have bought a pint of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream for me and Steph. And we may or may not have sat on the floor in our room eating out of the cartons with plastic spoons And we may or may not have almost finished the entire pint. After our first full day with the group. As I said, I should have known it was going to be a long week.

Tuesday my group went to work at DC Central Kitchen, which really was a great experience. You know, except for getting stuck in traffic and waiting 45 minutes to even get on the interstate. And being 30 minutes late. But they fed us lunch when we were done. And that was really good. We met the other group at the Basilica where they were eating lunch and hung out until we went to a nursing home where the kids went around in 4 groups and visited with the residents. Steph's day was a little rougher than mine as she had to deal with a leader who was scared out of her mind to walk down a street in the city and pray for it. We ate dinner at Ben's Chili Bowl and right as the food was coming, I got a call from my boss saying the schedule for Wednesday was changed, which meant Thursday's schedule would change as well. Sweet. It's all about flexibility, right ;). Debrief at the FDR memorial was awesome and then we headed back to the church which still had power :D.

Yesterday, instead of leaving at 5:30 we got to sleep in and leave at 7:15 to go to ThriveDC to work in the kitchen and serve breakfast. We had lunch at the National Arboretum and hung out there for a while. We then went to our last site for the day, the World Vision warehouse out in Maryland. One of the leaders had gotten a really bad headache so she stayed in the car and slept. She woke up and came in to help around 3:20ish. Around 4, right after I had called and made reservations for dinner, we found out that the groups rental van had been stolen out of the parking lot. Yes. Somebody came and stole a 12 passenger van. One of the girls in the group is convinced the thieves are taking it to Mexico to transport people across the border. Probably. So. Reservation cancelled. Carryout ordered. New rental van waiting at Reagan (yeah...the 1st person we talked to at the rental agency really did ask the leader to get a form out of the glove compartment. Hence the "well...it was stolen...so we can't look in the glove compartment...") While the other van drove out to pick my group up, Steph kept the news from her kids and kept them working. She was now by herself with the group. When she finished up, they walked to a place where she felt safe and they could get picked up after we were dropped off at the main housing site. Good thing they witnessed a man getting mugged. Yeah. Long debrief last night.

Today, my group went and worked at our other alternate housing site (about a 15 on the sketch scale from 1-10) and Steph and her group went out to a farm to "glean". Just like Ruth! Now we've sent them out around the city to do their Urban Plunge where they have $2/person to feed themselves and hopefully at least one homeless person. Steph and I are chilling at Ebenezers and enjoying some relaxation. Yup...it's been a great week.

For real though. It's been a crazy week, but it's also been blessed. More on that later :D

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Moment of Truth

So this is it. 5:00 today the first groups come. At 5:00 today Steph and I will be leaving the main housing site and heading down to Anacostia with our group from Kansas. And that's about all I know right now. Come 2:00 we'll have our first official staff meeting and get our schedules for the week. But right now I know next to nothing about what this week will hold. Not only do I not have a clue what's going on for the week, we're also not going to have Internet for the week. Which wouldn't be a huge deal if I hadn't been planning on mapping everything out on google maps to get from site to site. I told the staff that God is probably laughing in my face right now. I'm not a huge fan of not knowing what's going on. I like to plan and be prepared. But there's only so much prep work you can do when you only know your cohost, the state the group is from and where you're living for the week. "You said you wanted me to challenge you this summer - you've got it. I'll start by making you as uncomfortable as possible going into your first week. Get ready!" I'm pretty sure that's what God's saying through this. 

And don't get me wrong. I am SOOOO excited for this week. I'm ready to meet the group and show off this city I'm falling more and more in love with each day. I'm just feeling slightly out of my element. Which is a good thing because I can't expect to grow if I'm not. As Steph said at dinner last night - I want to be uncomfortably guided by God. 

For me, last night at church and even dinner afterwards was the perfect culmination of everything I've been learning these past two weeks. Pastor Mark preached out of 2 Corinthians 13:5 "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" Basically he talked about the importance of examining our spiritual selves. And using scripture a the mirror through which we see ourselves. If I could only come away with one thing from these last two weeks it would be the emphasis on doing everything for the Glory of God and how necessary it is to be in the Word to know what brings Him Glory. Anything I learned about hosting will go back to that idea. Getting around DC, maybe not. But also not quite as important to the overall significance of the trip. And that's why they make maps. We ended the service with communion, after reflecting on Colossians 3:1-17 (the same passage we discussed in training last week) and then recited the Apostle's Creed. After church Craig Steph and I went to dinner with a group of people from NCC and Will, the small group leader who also happened to spend two semesters hosting for CSM in DC "grilled" us with some thought privoking questions regarding our first week and why we're here this summer. Talk about self examination. It was pretty perfect actually. 

Training has been great. We've spent a lot of time getting to know each other as a staff. We've worked the different ministry sites, eaten dinner at some of the restaurants and circled DC probably about 50 million times. And it was awesome. I loved having the opportunity to serve along side the rest of the staff and taking time to get to know this place I hope to call home in the future. But it's not about us anymore. I mean, it never really was, but as much as these two weeks were about God and serving this city, they were also very much catered to what we needed to know and do to be succesful at our job this summer. But now, after serving God, it's our job to cater to the needs of groups we host. My will, my life, is hidden in Christ and it will be hidden in the people I serve this summer - both residents and guests to this city. It's not going to be an easy summer. God's pushed me too much already for everything to be smooth sailing the entire way. But I am prepared. Jason and Kristen have made sure that we know everything we need to know to host this first group. And God has made it very clear that this summer isn't about me and He is the one guiding each and every group that comes to DC this summer. 

So this is it. Training's over. Jason and Kristen have handed over the reigns and I'm handing them right over to God. This is the moment of truth. I'm not quite ready for 5:00 tonight. But God is. And He's ready to move. And that's a truth that I can cling to.