Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Word Filled Wednesday James 15:16

The purpose of Word Filled Wednesday is to share the Word through a photo and a verse. This is one of the guys from my own church - who was also the drummer for our worship team at Camp last week.

James 15:16 - Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

One of the BIG things we talked about at High School camp last week was CONFESSION. We talked about it, we practiced it, and we rejoiced at the broken hearts that were beginning the healing process. On one night, we opened up the microphone to allow the youth to come forward and get something off their chest. What happened - was nothing short of a miracle. Out of the hundred people at the camp, at least ninety percent of them were up front at one time. All together, in a huge, hugging, crying bunch. Staff and campers alike. Almost all of the youth had something to say - something to confess, and support to offer each other. No sooner had one young person confessed something, than another young person would take the mic and confess to having the same problem. The overwhelming amount of encouragement and support was way beyond anything we could have imagined. It was an absolutely beautiful, although tear-filled, occasion and one that nobody in attendance will soon forget.

If you have a moment, please say a prayer for strength for our youth. Now is the time that they are the most vulnerable, and most prone to being attacked spiritually. I have a few campers reading my blog today - and I want to tell you that I love you, I believe in you, and you are SO WORTH IT to me!

Please visit Extravagant Grace for more inspiring, and uplifting posts from other WFW Contributors - go right now!

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Talking to God

I typically don't go around photographing people having personal time with our Heavenly Father. This past week, the glory of the Lord shone so brightly on the faces of these amazing young people that I felt compelled... no, more like LED, to capture some of these moments. I do not look for comments, I just want others to appreciate what I got to get a glimpse of... open hearts and humble spirits. I love camp, and I love each and every one of the people that I got to share my week with.


A week of Good Things

Another year of High School camp has come and gone. Another week in complete awe at how God works in the lives of those that trust in Him. This year of camp was a little different for me than before. I got to BE one of those examples this time. I put myself out there, and God came through yet again. He never fails. Why do we always doubt?

This might be a rather lengthy post because I'm holed up in a hotel room by myself for the day with no internet connection, so what else do I have to do but write? I'd take a walk, but my feet are swelled up like little watermelons and I'm trying to give them a break.

So where was I? Oh right, High School Camp... 2009. This whole camp experience came about because of some really curious circumstances. I do not believe any of the events were coincidences, matter of fact I don't think anything in my life happens by coincidence. I believe that there is a purpose for everything. I choose certain paths to walk in my life because I was blessed with free will. When I look back in time, I clearly see evidence of God's hand spinning the web of my future way before it ever takes place. Even when I choose the wrong road, I can take a glance at my history some years later and see times that even though I was on the wrong road, I eventually took a detour and found the narrow path again. It's the more difficult trail, the one God would have me take. I know it's no coincidence because it's happened time and time again. You'd think I would learn by now just to STAY on that path, but I'm just a silly girl who tends to make silly choices from time to time. Thank you Jesus for forgiveness, and thank you for the ability to learn from my mistakes.

When I was asked to help with a worship team for camp this summer, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that an inspired event was about to take place. For months prior to this, Mr Nice Guy and I went through a process of heartbreak and grieving over losing one of the outlets for our passions – worship. It's not that we couldn't worship anymore, but we were no longer able to worship in the way that was most meaningful to us – with our team at church. It felt like we lost a piece of ourselves, a piece that we were unsure we'd ever get back. The way it happened hurt too. We knew we wouldn't be doing the same ministry forever, we knew it the day we stepped into our roles. Ministries change, and people who minister grow and move on to something more challenging while someone else steps in to fill the spots we leave behind. It's normal, natural and it's ok. But then so is death. And we still cry when someone dies even though it's natural. That's sorta what we went through.

So during the process of letting go of something we held near and dear, our attentions began to focus on something else we loved. Grove Christian Camp. I grew up attending this camp, every single summer all through my school years. Each year, my faith was renewed and I gained lifelong friends along the way while building a strong foundation for my life. Occasionally the foundation would get chipped away by the wrong friends, or the wrong choices, but it has been repaired and restored and I am still standing on it!

As we discussed Grove Camp, we discussed things we loved to do and had a passion and some gifts for doing, we (I say we, because I do not really know who “thought” of it first) came up with the dream of putting together a worship band for a youth camp. At first we thought of it as just a really cool thing to do. Then we thought of it as an awesome thing to be able to participate in. Then, when someone else mentioned it, I thought it would be an amazing thing if it ever happened. It got put on my 101 in 1001 list as one of my goals in the next 3 years or so, and then something really wild happened. We actually got asked to DO it! Not only that, but we got asked to lead a worship team by the one guy who directs the same camp that I work at each year already. The SAME CAMP! Not the other 9 weeks or so, but the ONE camp that I already commit to working at anyway.

The day Bob, the director, called was a day I will not soon forget. He might not think it was that big of a deal, but too many things happened at one time for me to chalk it up as “coincidence”.

He asked if Mr Nice Guy and I would be interested in leading worship. He understood it would be something we'd need to think and pray over before we answered. I wonder if it took him by surprise when I didn't even take a day or so to talk it over with my husband. I just said YES. We had already talked it over. We had already prayed. We just needed someone to ask us. Plus I knew that if we waited, that the seeds of self-doubt and those old insecurities from recent wounds would have time to take root and it could be disastrous. Nuh uh, not gonna happen! I saw the work of God in action, and I grabbed hold right then and there.

But Bob surprised me by continuing,“Do you know anything about blogging and social networking? Could you teach a class on it?”

Um... uh... is this a trick question? Who put you up to this? Of course I KNOW stuff about it. Matter of fact I know an awful lot about it. But a class? I don't teach! I do not DO public speaking. Hello... this is the shy little girl coming out, and feeling oh-so rejected and disregarded that nobody would possibly WANT to hear what I have to say. Let alone learn anything from ME.

“Bob,” I said, “I'm gonna have to think about that one.” And so we hung up.

Then my brains took over. Sometimes it's crazy when that happens, so I'll quote myself. You might get a kick out of this:

Worship from the background? Yes. Speak from the heart? Yes. I knew it the moment he asked.

Wait... what? I didn't say yes! I said NO – I said I'd THINK about it, which means I just really don't want to tell you no yet, and I'm hoping while you wait for my answer that you'll find someone better, or more qualified or just... someone else. ANYONE else.





*big booming voice* JONAH!

Ok, fine, I'll think about it.

No you won't, we already said yes.

I did not say yes!

Do you love these kids?

YES! I do love them. I love them so much it hurts. I want to protect them and help them and let them see ways they can serve you and others in ways that work. I want them to not feel the pain, the guilt, and the shame of their addictions, and the worry about what other people think of them. I do not want them to feel some of the things I felt – I want them to be happy, full of joy, and excited for the Lord!

Then “Yes” it is.

*slumps* I suppose you're right. I can do this, I guess. But I'm gonna need some help.

And anti-nausea pills.

A while later, I told Bob that I'd be happy to help teach a class and the only thing I asked was that it not be with a HUGE bunch of kids in a lecture-type setting. I wanted a smaller room, everyone sitting in a circle or something, everyone contributing, and I'm sure I would make a good “facilitator” of a discussion on things such as blogging and using MySpace or Facebook. I'm not a teacher.

A few months later...

The worship team began to come together. Again, more miracles. We had a small group, just enough to know that it would be by the grace of God that things would work out. We began leaving room for miracles. We didn't have a drummer. We prayed over it. We talked about it. We knew a couple people who we would have liked to accompany us, but we just weren't sure it was the right thing to do. Then one day, my husband and I were in town, headed to the store, and we found out we BOTH could only think of one person who we really wanted to be the drummer for our group, so we decided we'd just have to give him a call and see what he thought. Ugh... what if he doesn't want to? What if he doesn't think camp is his thing? Again, more doubts.

Then it was God's turn.

We walked into the store and came face to face with our drummer.

Mr Nice Guy and I shot each other those wide-eyed looks reserved only for moments of disbelief, and then since we were getting whacked up the side of the head with a plan that was clearly not ours, but God's, we asked our drummer what he thought of helping us out for camp. He immediately said yes. No hesitation, no “I'll think it over”, he said YES. And not only that, but he looked excited!

Thank you God... point taken.

We left the store, totally and completely on the edge of our seats about what God had in store for our group of musicians... each one imperfect, and each one totally willing to give it up to God and see him work though us. We couldn't wait.

As the weeks and days passed until the first day of camp, I realized that I was not getting any help with my class. I got a little miffed that I was giving large amounts of help to my husband so he could lead the worship team, but he was not helping me with MY stuff. So, I asked my husband (you know... the TEACHER? The guy who lectures for a living?) and all he could tell me was to write an outline. GREAT, I thought, and OUTLINE. Wooooo... and how, exactly, do I TEACH from that?? I don't even know what to put IN the outline! I need HELP!

He was a pain in the rear about it. I expected more. I didn't understand why he couldn't just do all the writing, and I'd just try do the talking part. Haha! I was sure it was a sign that I was destined for failure and I should quit while I was ahead. And then random things would pop into my mind. Things that would be really NEAT for the kids at camp to hear, so I'd write down little notes. I wrote notes at the Women's Retreat when I heard something useful. I wrote notes on my smartphone while waiting in the drive up at McDonalds so I could look at them later. I even wrote scripture references on the palm of my hand (aka my “palm pilot”) when I was without paper or my phone.

Then, the outline began to come together. Sort of. It was a complete mess. The week before camp started, I included actual notes. I knew that I avoided speech in High School, and I also managed to skirt around taking an actual speech class while I was in college, so something inside me DID NOT WANT to speak in front of others. Apparently one of the reasons is that I CAN'T FIND MY WORDS when I need them!

I wrote down lots of words. And then, I grabbed entire paragraphs and moved them around until it made sense. I decided to narrow down my thoughts, and zero in on evangelism, on telling others about their experiences with Christ in a non-threatening manner. I asked my husband for help only once after that – to help me with a sentence that a mechanic might tell someone that made no sense at all to the average person. The point I was trying to make is that if you have a website or a blog (or facebook or whatever) and you're trying to convey things to a non-Christian that you need to speak the language of a non-Christian (well, not ALL of the non-Christian language... stop thinking that way!). You can't use jargon or “Christianese” because you'll just get a blank stare and it turns people off. Don't be talking all churchy – use normal words that anyone can understand. Just for fun, here's my example:

Mechanic's Example:
“The thermal dynamic expansion in the cylindrical combustion compartment is being diminished at an escalating rate as the point of plasma originating at the electron is manifesting after the optimum point in time.”

In plain english please?
“You need to have your timing adjusted”

Yeah, that was fun. I had to clear my throat and drink a whole glass of water just to say that sentence, but I think I made a point.

The class itself went over pretty well. I ended up with half the camp at a time, in a lecture type setting (wait, I said I didn't WANT to do it like that didn't I??). I got to teach my class twice on the last full day of camp, so by then I'd already warmed up to all the kids and wasn't so paranoid about feeling rejected or laughed at. Ok, so they laughed at me, but only when I warned them not to sit too close because I was feeling nauseated. I was very open about the fact that the only time I'd ever been left alone to teach a class was with five year olds at VBS, so they'd better raise their hand if they had to leave to go to the bathroom too.

The benefits I received of teaching on the last day, were that I got to reiterate points made by other speakers, and incorporate thoughts, scriptures and devotions the kids had already been going through. The best part about it, was that NOBODY was disruptive. Only one kid fell asleep (too many late nights!), and when I threw my pen at him (much to the delight of the other campers) he stayed alert the rest of the time. I pulled a secret surprise the day of my “talk” and I printed off actual real life Facebook pages of people they knew. One was a camper, one was another staff member, and the third was a former camper that I had counseled the year before. The kids hung on my every word as I literally read off what those people had on their Facebook pages, and how they were either being a good or bad example of how to live out their faith. I talked about how to not be a hypocrite, to not bring others down and to be REAL. The good examples I used were from people in attendance, the bad example – was the former camper (whose name was changed to Jane Doe, of course, to protect the not-so-innocent).

I finished up with asking how the kids (and adults too) were portraying themselves online. I'll throw my questions out there for my readers here too. Are you being fake? Are you being a hypocrite? Do you say you're a Christian, but then throw up all sorts of stuff that IS CLEARLY NOT Christian? Do you post suggestive photos? Do you complain a lot? Do you spend more time building online relationships than you do with face-to-face relationships? Are you causing someone else to stumble?

The response was absolutely overwhelming. Several kids said they were ready to dump their myspace pages (too many porn temptations) and many were ready to befriend me on Facebook so I could help them be accountable, or open a Facebook page so they could be a witness to others. One parent said he was now going to trust his daughter with a social networking site, because he saw how she could be held accountable by her Christian friends (and me – the accountability police!) and how she could actually bless others with what she would be willing to share. Many more said they wanted to go home and clean up their pages because they were not happy with how they had portrayed themselves over the past few months.


That's all I could really think of between the smiles. I knew without a shred of doubt that God helped me speak the words I spoke. He helped me write the paragraphs so I wouldn't sound like a talking lunatic (even though I hardly used all of the words I wrote!), and he gave me peace in my heart and a calm feeling in my tummy and I gotta say... after all was said and done...

I liked it!


Saturday, July 4, 2009

What This World Needs

First, I want to wish everyone a very Happy Independence Day. Even though I have multiple things going on (mostly in my head right now) I want to acknowledge this important date, and express just how grateful I am to live in such a wonderful country, with such amazing freedoms. Even though things aren't how we always wish they were - politically and such - we are so lucky to have that problem instead of other ones!

Today is a day of anticipation and hesitation all mixed into one. The "can I really do this?" thoughts swirling around in my head are heavy and at the same time the "God won't give me more than I can handle" thoughts tend to flick the other ones away just as easily as they come.

Tomorrow is the first day of High School Camp. Our theme for the week is "What This World Needs". This is the third year I've accepted the call and the challenge to go forth and do something real! The kids and the staff at this camp are amazing, and I feel so privileged to get to spend a part of my life seeing them grow.

The difference this year is that I got a promotion. It's my positive way of saying I've been given extra responsibilities and duties. Not only that, but I'm dragging my husband along this year too. He's never been before, and for some reason it's made him a bit anxious too. I prefer to call it a healthy fear. We have joined forces with a couple more great people from another church, and the group of us will be leading worship for the entire week. This is one of those things that started out as a thought, a comment, a discussion just between two of us, a little tiny dream, and when the day came that we were asked to serve in this capacity, it was very hard to not see God's hand at work. We accepted, and have spent weeks preparing, practicing, changing keys frequently and singing in the car. We are EX.CI.TED!

The other new thing I'll be tackling is a class. I don't think I've taught an actual class since that year I led 5 year olds at Vacation Bible School when I was barely 20. This is an entirely different caliber of students, and an entirely different world we live in than when I was in High School. My chosen topic (or perhaps the one God chose for me?) is How to Minister through Blogging and Social Networking.

Hello? Was someone sneaking around and telling the director of the camp what I did in my spare time? Nope - I found out it was just something he asked me out of the blue - and boy did he ask someone with just a bit of knowledge or what? Crazy weird. That's what I call it. I am not a teacher, I am certainly not a public speaker (this is about as public as it usually gets right here!) and I totally am hanging WAY out of my comfort zone. So far out that I need an extra pair of support hose. (Don't picture that, it's not healthy)

So - along with the weeks of prep for Worship, I've secretly been hiding out and preparing to talk to High School students about how Facebook can change lives. I've written notes on how to totally turn off an atheist using your blog. I've got an example of how MySpace completely ruined someone's chances of working at a church because he couldn't hide his online hypocrisy. I'll also be showing how Twitter can be an integral part of a young persons evangelism.

Am I ready? Noooo way no how. But I think I've got a few things worth sharing, and I pray, and ask your prayers as well, that the hearts and minds of the kids this week will be open and receptive through the words they hear, the music they sing and the activities we all participate in as we discover what this world needs.