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more on the gathering...

Thursday, May 31, 2007
Well I made it back from Fayetteville, and now am in Illinois for my niece's baptism on Sunday. It is somewhat of a whirlwind of a trip for traveling 1500 miles.

My travels yesterday were less than pleasant, so I'm hoping that my trip back will be better.

So a few more thoughts on the gathering... I met some amazing people, dogblogger, Ben and a bunch of others like Michael, Marcia and Melody...

Here is a picture of Tim doing some teaching...

And Doug doing some teaching...

And Mike and Billy leading us in some praise time...

Here is the New Mexico delegation. It was good to hang out with these guys as I don't get to see them too often other than Jeb the guy in the hat who I see now and again with youth stuff in Albuquerque.

I'm still struggling through what I've learned, but here are some quotes that I managed to copy down and still need to sort through...

"You don't get to complain about anything that you are not willing to fix."

"I want to find life, and chase it."

"The kingdom of God is living in the rhythm of God."

"Fear is powerful but it just doesn't motivate. Possibility has to motivate."

"Now that you're saved... what next? What if we've got it wrong and you aren't saved from something by God, you're saved by God for something. "

"Faith is detached from imagination, creation and what it means to be human beings made in the image of God. Our structures and rhythms reinforce that… being Christian ends up detaching us from reality."

"We should see worship as a corporate public spiritual discipline designed to shape us communally in a way that we cannot by ourselves."

"Do you want a church for you or do you want a church for your great grandchildren?"

Of course there are lots of other things I could say about everything that went on, and I am quite certain that the whole event will affect me in really profound ways for sure. I'm really excited for next year's event and hopefully will even get in on some of the planning of the event. In any case, I'm glad I got the opportunity to go and make some connections with South Central Jurisdiction folks.

An interesting observation...

Friday, May 25, 2007
I've loved the worships we've had thus far here, good discussion, good singing, but the most interesting thing has been that men are seriously outnumbering women at this event so there is just this interesting mix of mostly male voices while we are singing.

This is a rarity in churches, as it is also a rarity in churches for people to sing at all sometimes. But thankfully, this group isn't afraid to sing.

Ok, on to a new session.

not what i was expecting...

Thursday, May 24, 2007
I am not convinced that I know what I was expecting for this event, but holy cow it is blowing me away.

We're taking a break currently, and a lot of us are staying in here to watch the finale of LOST together.

I've got a ton of notes so far, and I can't wait to make sense out of them. I think there is so much going on in my brain that I really doubt I'll be "live blogging" anything because there is just so much to sift through.

I was saying to another person today that through today, only 24 hours into it, I have this tension of feeling both discouraged and encouraged. The dichotomy is astounding and is telling me there is much more to this story than I am beginning to scrape through to.

I'm fascinated by the story that's gotten me here to this place in this time, and I know there is a lot more to it than I can even begin to understand. I'm looking forward to working towards figuring it all out.

A quote to share to sort of put me in my place in regards to all of this so far....

"And the end of all our searching shall be to return to the place where we started and know it for the first time.” -T.S. Eliot

blogging generationxy

Wednesday, May 23, 2007
I'm out of town at generationxy and will likely be doing some live/ sort of live blogging from it throughout the weekend.

Highlight so far... riding to the retreat center with Doug Pagitt and Tim Keel and Mark, one of the organizers. I got to hear all about Tim's trip to Africa and talk about the current dying trends in the UMC. We're meeting here to try and see what we can do about stopping it and getting some young adults involved in the UMC... should be good times.

two perspectives...

Sunday, May 20, 2007
Just a warning, this post is much more rant than I would like it to be, but if I don't get it out, I won't get it out, and for my own sake I needed to get it out. So be forewarned.

It is rare to get two sermons on the same scripture in the same weekend for me. Especially when the two churches I go to do not follow the Lectionary, so I always think it strange when they intertwine. It is also rare for me to have two teachings based on the same scripture that are on completely opposite ends of the spectrum.

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

"For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. - Matthew 16:24-28
I'm a big fan of taking scripture in context. Of understanding the story within the story. You cannot use this scripture out of context. It is so easy to quote this scripture and use it in any way you please, to understand that giving up your life you will gain much is something that is pleasing to Christians who don't look at the entire scripture.

The line before losing your life is what I am seeing as important here. This morning, the pastor leaned heavily on the line "Let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Shane Claiborne, in The Irresistible Revolution made a solid point to this line for me and I just hear it reverberating in my head over and over again... for so long, the church has taught us to lay everything down at the cross, but fails to provide us with anything to take up.

Jesus makes it ever so clear that laying your burdens at the cross isn't enough. It isn't enough to say, "Yes Jesus, I am yours, now my life is going to be awesome." I don't think that's true at all. For most of the people I know who have the most exuberant faith, life isn't easy when you say yes to Jesus. Instead, life becomes pouring yourself out so that others may know life and life to the fullest.

I think this is all part of what I'm working towards. I'm pushing against ministries that are "me" centric, and seeking out how to be in ministries that are "kingdom" centric. I'm working on not thinking about what I can get... and thinking about what I can give. God has not blessed me so that I can be a happy content Christian, God has blessed me because I need to pour out blessings on others. It is not enough to just go to church every week, it is not enough to "live life to the full" so to speak unless I am working towards making the lives of others better.

I guess what I am getting at is something that my friend Tara shared with me last night when I was filtering through how I was feeling, and that is that I cannot be satisfied unless my goal is to make this world a little more heaven and a little less hell. If you ask any of my families what hell is, most will say they've lived through it. If you ask anyone who is living on the street what hell is, most will say that they are living through it. I cannot stand by and be happy and content when I know that the world around me is suffering.

God offers us more. God offers us more than material things, more than being adventurous, more than a perfect life with a perfect family with a perfect job. God presents us with an opportunity to take up our crosses, to live like we mean it, and to open our hearts to others no matter what the cost is to us.

I feel for the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-31) who walked away from Jesus because giving up his stuff was too much for him. I fear that too many of us would react the same way to Jesus that he did if Jesus were to ask us what he asked him. John Wesley, one of my heroes, said this.. "[When I die] if I leave behind me ten pounds ... you and all mankind [may] bear witness against me, that i have lived and died a thief and a robber."

Convicting. Am I to this place where I can say the same thing? No. I'm not. And I struggle with it, I think we all do, but one thing that I think is important is that I am aware that it is something I am going to continue to work on.

Holy cow... growth!

Thursday, May 17, 2007
Last year, my call into youth ministry hit me hard again obviously. This started with our mission trip to Denver. 9 of us in a van. 7 kids. 2 adults. We had an awesome time, but I was hoping we would work towards having a larger group go on the mission trip this year.

Well our deadline was Tuesday, and it looks like we've got 17 18 going. 13 youth and 5 adults. And the cool thing is that only 1 of the adults going is a parent. And he is one of the cool parents. We're really excited about the whole thing. Now I've just got to come up with some completed forms and get them out in between all of my crazy trips. More on those later, but I just made the realization of how God has blessed my prayer and nearly doubled last year's group size which is awesome!

Edited to add: I mean 18 people going, I had one more youth that hadn't gotten back to me so I added her in. We have now officially doubled the number going from last year to this year. Amazing.

El Paso & Juarez pictures

Monday, May 14, 2007

Houchen community center: a place we might do some work at.

Lydia Patterson Institute: Our main reason we're going to El Paso, we'll be working here at least 3 of the 5 days that we do work.

You might be in Mexico if... it is amazing how much changes when you get into Juarez. Street signs included.

The alley right before where we worked with Pantera. The guys that we were working alongside said that 3 or 4 years ago, this alley was always in the news for being a place where people were found murdered. That isn't the case anymore. These guys have worked towards cleaning up a seriously bad part of town and are doing amazing things.

Of course, my obligatory self-portrait. In Mexico.

Looking back towards El Paso from up at the food bank in Juarez. Awesome view, but hard to swallow how destitute the houses were surrounding us.

El Paso and Juarez...

So this past weekend I went on a scouting trip to El Paso for the youth mission trip this summer. We had a chance to go into Juarez to do some future scouting, and some mission work down there. It was by far one of my best weekends since I moved down here as I was really touched by the groups that we visited with.

We spent the first day visiting Lydia Patterson Institute and Houchen Community Center, both of which are groups we are planning on working with in June. We then met on Friday night with a pastor who just got back from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to see if that really is where we as a church would like to go on our family mission trip next summer. It was amazing to hear his stories, and a group of us are beyond excited to go to the Congo next year.

On Saturday we visited with a couple of ministries going on in Juarez, and helped with some mission work in some rough parts of Juarez. The poverty difference just walking across the border was astounding. There were people everywhere in Juarez, and so much need. We met with one man who found Christ in prison and does ministry with the drug dealers, prostitutes and other derelicts of society down there. His story was impressive, and I am still being changed by the the willingness of his heart to be in ministry.

We also spent some time with a retired couple, who took us around Juarez, deep into the heart of the city to where we could really see more of Juarez. We met with an incredibly sweet 80 year old woman who they visit with every week, and then handed stuff out windows to people in the streets. It was really awesome seeing the relationships that they have with the people on the drive towards the bridge.

God truly blessed my time there this weekend and really began planting some seeds in me in regards to these border ministries. I can't wait to see what comes out of this trip for me.

What does a missionary do with her time???

Monday, May 07, 2007
Why volunteer of course.

I've been feeling slightly overwhelmed as of late, probably because I sometimes lack the ability to say no. Most of the things I can't say no to are things that are volunteer work. Stuff with counterculture comes up from time to time, stuff with the youth group that I am not yet the director of but still serve in a volunteer capacity, and as of late, I'm helping out my friends over at Mountain TOP to get some stuff ready for the summer.

When I was on staff there, a lot of our time was spent filling out what we called FUP sheets (Family Unit Profile) basically there were just crates and crates and crates of these sheets. I even have a great picture of me sleeping on the crates... ok so maybe it was a staged picture. But I'm sure I was tired. What can you expect on 5 hours of sleep a night?

In any case, these sheets were glued to our palms the whole summer, and we would have to rewrite the ones that we went to visit. I learned how to write really fast that summer I think. Sometimes I would even have nightmares about those yellow sheets.

Well the good folks on the mountain are going digital, so I'm helping by putting some old sheets into their new database. Good times for sure. I always feel guilty that I can't help in other ways for an awesome ministry that I love, so now my nights are filled with entering data and being flooded with old memories of ages past. Ok, so maybe it was only 5 years ago. But still, a lot has happened in those 5 years.

In any case, blogging has been sparse, and this is no excuse, but with gearing down at one job to gear up at another, you must forgive me. I wish I had some amazing story to tell about stuff that is going on at work or something, but right now it is quite the opposite of good stories, and I'm just not really ever in the mood to tell bad stories about stuff that is happening. Hopefully I'll have some great stories to tell as I get closer to being a youth director. After all, I do have some awesome trips with the youth and others over the summer that I am certain will at least provide a story now and again.
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