Sunday, August 29, 2010

Raft Trip

This summer Greg and I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to West Virginia with 140 middle and high school students for Raft Trip. Greg participated in this as both a rafter and a leader while he was in high school and we couldn't wait to get the chance to help out with something that had such a large impact on his life. Greg always spoke of this trip with such enthusiasm and excitement and I was so thrilled to get to experience it for myself.

The trip itself was amazing. Just being in God's creation for a whole week without cell phones, computers, and tv's to distract us was great. I was reminded, so often over the course of the week, to be in awe of God's creation. The speaker for the week opened the first night with a story about a little boy and a ring pop. This little boy was so excited when he finally opened his ring pop (after trying for what seemed to be an eternity) that he stated with wonder, "It's Wed." Just imagine how this little boy was so excited over a red ring pop. Think about it. After this sermon, we walked outside. I looked up and the sky was painted with hues of pink, peach, and red. I couldn't help but say "it's wed!"

The whole week was filled with wonder, awe, excitement, laughter, and praise. We saw 15 teenagers get baptized in the New River. It seemed fitting that they were baptized there, they are new creations. I thought of how similarly their baptisms were to the first church. No troughs, no bathtubs built into the church, just them, a river, and God's creation. We heard stories of healing and of pure joy for being adopted into Jesus' family. I was reminded of how articulate teens can be. I also forgot how much energy they have! Sheesh, I just couldn't keep up with them!

We served, made meals, and simply spent time with the kids. Not to mention, I got to spend time with one of my best friends Cassie and her husband Caleb. We white water rafted, hiked up a raging creek bed, and slid down sliding rock. We praised Jesus with worship in a cathedral created by trees and light from the campfire. We prayed. We loved it. The experience was tiring and I was glad to be home. Now, a month later, I am longing to be back there. Life seemed simpler there, less distracted. I hope that someday we can do something similar for the teens we know. Take them away from cell phones and facebook and reintroduce them to their creator.

The Students getting ready to go

The view from the New River Bridge

Baptisms at Sliding rock


This was my favorite moment, father and son right after he was baptized.

Didn't these girls prepare such a nice meal?!

Sliding Rock

Sliding Rock again

Kickball Tournament

Beautiful view from Babcock State Park

The creek we climbed through

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Eyes fixed forward

It was inevitable. Life is back in transition. I have finished up my summer job and now I ought to be planning for my upcoming school year. Normally, around this time I am excited to go back to school. This year, I haven't had that yet. I've been getting more and more excited as the school year approaches, however, it's not at the same level.

This summer I had the privilege of working for Food Finders and I spent my summer feeding local kids. I loved working part time, coming home, and being free. I had time to spend with my husband and friends, time to build relationships, and time to be passionate about something again. I know that after next week I am no longer free. I am tied down to school and internship and then second semester teaching on top of it all. (Don't I sound excited?) However, and this is a fairly big however, I am excited to begin my internship as an elementary school counselor. After all, it is my dream job.

Other than all of this, we are currently going through some other tough transitions. If you know anything about me, you would know that I'm fairly flexible in day to day life, but I hate big changes. God sure is stretching me. I'm feeling like I'm about to break. But, God say's he won't give us more than we can handle so I will cling to His promises. Things will turn around. I am working on being patient in my suffering and thankful for trials because of what they produce. I will be stronger because of this. Romans 5:3-5 puts it best " 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." So, for now, I am fixing my eyes forward. Looking to the future and knowing that God has something good in store for us. I am trying not to dwell on and get stuck in the present because that usually leads to bitterness and anger. If I look forward, I am already moving on and letting go.

I will say that I have been on creative overload lately. I am working on editing a ton of pictures, finding decorating ideas, baking, and looking for things to sew once I actually get a sewing machine. I am actually really excited because tomorrow I will be taking pictures for some friends at the Indianapolis zoo. They have 2 kiddos so I'm pretty stoked about the possibilities.
That's all for now. I will post some of my edited pictures soon!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sometimes I'm a Jonah

I should start this post with talking a little bit about what my last week has looked like. Greg and I had the great privilege of serving a bunch of middle school and high school kids on Raft Trip. I will have more posts with pictures and stories later, for now you get a recap of a sermon that really got my attention.

I have a confession. Sometimes, I act a lot like Jonah.

Now, I must explain, the Jonah I know today is much different than the one I knew about when I was little. You know, Jonah who runs away from God, gets swallowed by a whale, repents, and goes to Nineveh to preach to the people.

Today, after this sermon, Jonah looks a lot different to me.

Brian Clay was our speaker for the week and he really opened my eyes to the real story of Jonah. The following is somewhat of a recap of a sermon he did about Jonah.

Jonah was kind of a punk. First, he runs away from God, which as we all know is silly since God is everywhere. Silly, Jonah. Then, when a storm comes upon their ship he tells the men to throw him overboard. Sounds like a selfless thing to do, right? Well, when we dig deeper into the consequences of throwing a prophet overboard, we find that because prophets were so important during this time, it was well known that death would come upon anyone who harmed a prophet. Basically, this means Jonah was not only willing to die so he didn't have to go to Ninevah, but he was also willing to let innocent men die for harming a prophet. He could have jumped of the boat, right? But he didn't, he asked the men to throw him over. The men knew that he was a prophet, so they tried to row back, but the storm grew worse and they had no choice but to throw Jonah overboard. Jonah 1:14 says "They cried to the Lord "O Lord, please do not let us die for taking this man's life..." They knew what they were about to do could mean death for them.

After all of this, the sea quiets, and Jonah is swallowed by a giant fish and the men live. Now, this isn't Jiminy Cricket, he didn't sit with a lantern in the belly of the fish. He was swallowed. Yuck.

Now, this is where things get interesting. We were all taught that Jonah repents and the whale nicely coughs him onto shore. Sounds like a nice story, right? But wait, go to your bible and look up Jonah 2:2-10. Once you have it looked up, circle all the I's and Me's in his prayer. Here, I will help you out.

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God.

2 He said:

In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry. 3 You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. 4 I said, 'I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again towards your holy temple.' 5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in for ever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God. 7When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. 8Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.9 But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.10And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

So, usually when someone repents, they say Sorry, Lord, I really messed up, please forgive me, I will do whatever you ask. I just don't see that in Jonah's prayer. I hear a lot about what happened, how he prayed to God, and how he is still bitter towards the Ninevites, even implying that they have already forfeited the grace that could be theirs. Then, get this, the fish VOMITS him onto dry land. Not cough, not deliver, not even spit. He VOMITS. I'm sorry, but this does not seem pleasant to me. I really don't think God was too happy with Jonah, but he was gracious and merciful and gave him a second chance.

At this point, we expect that Jonah would go into the city, willingly, and preach God's grace to them. I mean, he was just shown an enormous amount of grace for being so utterly disobedient. First we need some information. Nineveh is a BIG city, it takes 3 days to travel through. Yet, Jonah walks in, and on the first day (of what should take 3) basically says there is no hope, your all gonna die. Jonah 3:4 "On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed " Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." Sounds hopeful, right?

Here is the crazy part. Nineveh repents and turns away from their horrible ways (these people were bad people, I mean they sacrificed babies to their false gods kind of bad). God shows them grace and did not bring destruction.

Even crazier is what Jonah does next. He rejoices and the story ends. Wait. No, thats not what happens! He pouts and becomes so angry with God that he even tells God off. I'm sorry, what?! He tells God off. He, acting like a three year old, responds to God by saying he is so angry he could die. Then, wait it gets better, he goes and builds a shelter outside of the city to watch and wait for them to screw up. He wants them to fail. He is so prideful and self righteous that he hopes for their failure.

Even more astounding is what God does next. At this point, I'm fully expecting some righteous anger from God. But what does he do? He gently and patiently teaches Jonah a lesson about grace and love. He provides a vine to shelter Jonah, which makes him happy. Then, has a worm eat it. Not surprisingly, Jonah gets mad and wishes to die again, and then God speaks.

"9 But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?"
"I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die."

10 But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?"

We don't get to see Jonah's response, but I'm hoping it was of repentance. I had never read the book of Jonah with this view before and it has opened my eyes so much. I saw God's patience, love, and grace shine through this entire story. God could have easily let Jonah die, and find a different prophet to do His will, one who was obedient. But He didn't, he chose to teach Jonah a lesson. Not only Jonah, but many more, including me.

I got 3 main points from this: 1. When we are disobedient, we look foolish. 2. God has more ways of accomplishing His will, than we do of avoiding it. 3. God is full of grace, compassion, and patience.

I can see Jonah in myself sometimes. I get impatient with God, mad about things that I shouldn't, and run away when I should be obedient. I pout about things not going the way I think they should. Sometimes, I forget how patient and full of mercy God is. I forget that he is often trying to teach us lessons in loving one another, even those who seem unlovable.

I will forever see Jonah in a different light and I'm thankful that God has opened my eyes to see the real story of Jonah and the whale.