Monday, August 20, 2018

Reaching for the Beach!

Since before I can remember, Camp Calumet has always been a place where I have felt at home.  
I remember tent camping with my family at the family camp. 
At age 8, I headed off to resident camp which meant a week away from home.  
I believe I was homesick most of the week, but I endured.  

Look at me rockin' the Camp Calumet Lutheran t-shirt (farthest on the right.)

My week in Girls Cabin 1 was memorable enough that I headed back again and again.  
After about 8 summers as a camper, I may have taken a summer away.  I remember visiting my friend Jane at camp and as I left, I was camp sick.  I realized that I missed being up there.  There was something about this place, that I really wanted to return.  

The summer of 1991 I was a JC (Junior Counselor) and lived in Girls Cabin 3 for the whole summer with co-counselors Amanda & Lisa.  It was a summer that changed my life.  For the next 9 summers I was up at camp for as much of the summer as I could be.  I ended up spending several weeks a summer away from camp as I served at urban day camps in Providence, RI, New Haven and New Britain, CT.  

It was through my summers on staff that many of my pastoral gifts were brought to the surface.  Each summer I would return home and my mom would look forward to the young woman I continued developing into.  I was able to share my faith with campers as we learned about God's love through Bible study, games, and crafts.  I was able to question my faith as deep conversations happened with other staff members and our relationships with God and with another deepened.  

I think what impacted me most was that camp was a place I could truly be myself.  Whoever I thought I needed to be in school or back home was different than the confidence I had in myself at camp.  By seeing my confidence grow, I continued to try new things, I learned about being a servant leader and how to teach God's love to kids and adults.  I took on more and more leadership positions.  

Camp Calumet has given me so much or should I say, pulled so much out of me.  It has brought to the surface the God given gifts I have for ministry and day-to-day life.  
The gifts that I share with the youth at Trinity were nurtured and lifted up at Calumet.  
The comfort I have with teaching and leading adults were discovered at Calumet.  
The way I share what I believe and how I live as a Lutheran was deeply formed through all my experiences as a camper and a staff member at Calumet.  
My love for camp and understanding of its importance has led me to serve on the Board of Directors at Bear Creek Camp (the Lutheran camp in my synod.)

So now I answer the call to give back, to see all that has been pulled out of me and help as many kids as I can have the same experience.  

On September 15-16 I will participate in Reach the Beach, a 200 mile relay race, as one member of a 12 person team.  Over two days, we will cover 200 miles, laugh, run, sweat, sleep? and run some more.  Everyone on my team is running for Calumet.  We are all seeking donors to reach our goal of raising over $100,000 for the campership fund at Calumet.  That means every penny we raise goes into a fund to get kids to camp so that no child is denied a camp experience for financial reasons.  

Check out my fundraising page  Calumet Reach the Beach to read more about the 72 runners working together the reach the beach all while helping kids reach camp.  

My personal goal is to receive donations from 75 different donors/families each with a donation of $25.  I believe I know 75 individuals or families who have experienced Calumet itself, or have experienced Calumet through my ministry, collegiality or friendship.  

If you are able to donate $25, that would be fantastic!  If you wish to donate more....awesomesauce!  
If you can share this with others willing to donate, that would also be great.  It's all about kids going to camp.  It's that simple.  

Updates about my training will be here from time to time as will reflections after the adventure in September.  

Thanks for reading.

Until the next post...







Thursday, August 2, 2018

Hey August, how you doin?

And here begins a month with two separate areas of focus. 
The first, back into the wholehearted journey.  Last month...coming off the gathering, enjoying VBS and a week at camp (no excuses, really) I didn't focus on the guidepost of Play and Rest.  Well, I guess I got plenty of play with VBS and camp.  I rested when I was sick...But I had not intentionally focused on it.  I've decided to revisit this focus in November. 

This month is all about cultivating calm and stillness and letting go of anxiety.  

My hopes/practices for this month are as follows:
Read & journal - While it's not total stillness, it brings me a sense of stillness and calm and takes me away from mind numbing games on my phone.  
Sit (phone free) with coffee - Listening to the birds in the morning, letting my mind roam, allowing by lungs to just breath is a sacred time and space for me.  
Yoga and/or home stretching - I have a book titled Stretch and Pray.  It's time to bring that back into practice to help with my flexibility and mediation/prayer life.  

Last night as I drifted off to sleep.  I repeated Psalm 46:10 with intentional breathing between each phrase.  

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am.

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be. 

August is also known in my family as GSD (get stuff done) month.  It was termed by my brother-in-law (thanks, Sean!)  
So those projects include:

Gutting the pantry.  
Organizing the spare room so it contains space for our multiple hobbies - photography, quilting, music.  
Framing & hanging random artwork.  

Bring on August.  

I'll keep you posted on the stillness, calm and creating de-cluttered spaces.  :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Hospitality - This changes everything.


July 8, 2018
7th Sunday after Pentecost
Ezekiel 2:1-5
Psalm 123
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Mark 6:1-13

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Before we left for Houston, at our last meeting with youth and adults, I talked about how as soon as the vans arrived at 3:30am on Monday, that we would be totally dependent upon the hospitality of others until we arrived back at Trinity the following Monday.  It’s similar to the calling Jesus gives to his disciples in our gospel lesson this day. 

And then Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out…take nothing with you, Jesus said, no bag, no bread, no money in your belts, wear sandals….

Discipleship, as Jesus describes it, lets the disciples and us know that when we leave this building, or the company of other believers that we are totally dependent upon the hospitality of others – in essence, the hospitality of strangers. 

And then Pastor Jen called the lucky 13, and reminded them each day in Houston, that they would always travel in pairs, that they (unlike Jesus’ disciples) would take a bag with them that would contain a filled water bottle, their cell phone, snacks, any money they may want for souvenirs, sunscreen and an extra layer for those air conditioned spaces.  Also, they would wear sneakers, NOT sandals!

But the message of being sent was the same, stay focused on your surroundings, be with the people of this place, see God in your midst, tell others why you are here, spread the message of love in all that you do and say. 

As we entered the city each day, we were ready to be the presence of Christ, to see God in our midst and we were ready to be changed through this experience.   

And through it all, we were most definitely dependent upon the hospitality of strangers. 

We circled up in prayer with one of our drivers at 3:21am on the morning of June 25 and prayed for safe travels as we departed from Robesonia. 


We navigated through the airport, made it through check in smoothly, and immediately found Jesus…Sweet Jesus, to be exact. 



We we’re picked up in style in Houston when our driver met us at baggage claim with a pen written sign saying, Jen D.  He escorted us out of the airport and onto a party bus! 


Neon lights, comfy seats…and even though we were exhausted we sang along to a great play list as we journeyed to our hotel. 

At this point – still day one of our trip – we had already been dependent upon multiple drivers, airport employees, flight attendants and pilots and folks working at the food stands at the airport. 

After checking in at our hotel, we entered into the Houston heat and walked to Denny’s for a filling and satisfying lunch, had a rest-filled afternoon and then enjoyed tasty TexMex at Don Carlos that evening. 


We were cared for by a wonderful server and skilled cooks.  The chips didn’t stop coming!

While I do not have the time to walk you through every minute of our trip, you can get the sense that we needed the hospitality of those we did not know to make our trip possible. 

We were dependent upon the care, hospitality and openness of others to make our travels possible. 

So many times, throughout the week, I saw God in our midst in through the hospitality of strangers placed on our path through our travels in Houston.

As we navigated public transportation we were helped and assisted by transportation employees and Houstonians alike. 



This helpful gentleman also gave us the heads up that Jackson Street Barbeque was the best Barbeque in the city….we made there a few days later and it did NOT disappoint! 

And I have to tell you, that the day we ate at Jackson Street, they allowed us to wait out a serious thunderstorm that rolled through the city after lunch.  They were fine with us, sipping water, writing postcards and waiting out the storm until we were able to head on our way for the rest of the day. 

From Metro employees, to Houstonians, to cooks and servers, we were continually fed, hydrated, cared for and welcomed and that made a world of difference. 

It was a true joy to see our youth appreciatively respond to the hospitality of strangers.  They continued to be grateful and thankful for the care and compassion bestowed upon us as our week continued.
Discipleship is fundamentally dependent upon the other…when we leave the building we are dependent upon the hospitality of the stranger.   

This continued to play out as we gathered with 31,000 Lutheran youth in NRG stadium.


I don’t know about you, but when you get this many people gathered together, dancing, singing, praying, hearing inspirational speakers and worshiping together, the Holy Spirit will be movin’! 

The employees of NRG Stadium, who worked nights and a weekend for us, kept us moving in and out of the building as safely as they could and took care of us when we were in their presence. 

I don’t have a bathroom picture to share – because, well, that would be weird, but one of the placed I saw God was in one of the female employees at NRG Stadium who was working her tail off to keep the women’s room tidy and ready for a sea of women.  If you’ve ever been at a concert or convention, you know the lines around bathrooms.  Guys, if you haven’t experienced them, you’ve at least seen the lines coming out of the ladies room as you wait for your spouse or friends.

And so here, in the midst of bathroom busyness, this staff person, moved from stall to stall, insuring it was clean and ready for the next woman who needed it.  She stocked toilet paper, she stocked paper towels, she mopped up water and did it all with a joyful spirit.  In one of the places you least expect to see God at work….God was there in the hospitality of that woman in that bathroom. 

Sometimes we forget how dependent we are upon others, until we leave the comfort of our own homes and communities. 

I would be remiss, if I didn’t share one of the highlights of our trip…which you will no doubt hear about from others when they share stories in August.  But I have to tell you about Daisy’s Deli. 

We found this place on Yelp, saw that it was just as close as Denny’s but it was locally owned so we wanted to check it out. 

As we rounded the corner at the address in Yelp, we found ourselves at an office building.   The group waited outside as I checked with the gentleman at the front desk to make sure we were at the right place. 

He said, down the hall, turn left and it’s on your right.  Thanks, I said and reminded the group that we were entering a place of business as we made our way down the hall to a tiny little deli. 

The surprise on the owner’s face as her deli was filled with 17 people was priceless.  She promptly walked us through the menu and took our orders, within 20 minutes, all our bagels, breakfast sandwiches and breakfast tacos were hot and ready.  They were delicious.  We enjoyed fresh watermelon and cantaloupe, too.  We were well fed. 

As we walked back to the hotel that morning, I asked, so breakfast tomorrow Denny’s or Daisy’s?  Daisy’s!  Was the resounding reply. 

The next morning, Kiara called our order in, so that our crew would be expected.  We were welcomed with open arms…and we ate, again, like champs. 


Pil, and her co-worker Wong, were willing to be in a picture with us. 
She may have even teared up a little when I asked if we could hug.  She was touched by our presence and we by her hospitality.  If we could have eaten there again we would have. 

Several of our youth explained to the owner, Pil, why we were in Houston and how we found her place on Yelp and how we had to come back a second time.  

When hospitality is extended, lives are changed.  

As we leave this place - this sanctuary, this community of faith - as disciples we are sent to proclaim God’s word through word and deed, we are dependent upon the hospitality of strangers.  We are called to meet them where they are, listen to their stories, and walk with them on this journey. 

May you be embraced by the hospitality of others as you continue to extend God’s hospitality to others. 

And may the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen. 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sermon for June 24

June 24, 2018
John the Baptist

Malachi 3:1-4
Psalm 141
Acts 13:13-26
Luke 1:57-80

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.  

In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us.

This is the refrain to sung as part of morning prayer in our hymnals.  The rest of the canticle or hymn, is known as the song of Zechariah.  It is the second half of our gospel lesson today.  

In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us.

On Friday mornings at seminary, a small group of us would gather for Morning Prayer and we would sing this refrain a part of our morning prayer.  The rest of the final verse incorporates the refrain with some additional text:

In the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.  

I have to be truthful here.  I spent lots of time this week wrestling with this text as I listened to the news and as I packed and prepped for Houston.  

In the tender mercy of our God…as we listen to this canticle, we know that part of it is Zechariah rejoicing over the birth of his son and rejoicing because he is now able to speak.  Earlier in the gospel of Luke, when the angel Gabriel announces to Zechariah that he and Elizabeth would have a son, he questions Gabriel, saying, “How can this be?”  And because of his disbelief in the proclamation, Gabriel renders him mute.  

His ability to speak returns (as we heard today) after he writes that the child shall be named John.  

Needless to say, there is much reason for Zechariah to rejoice, but it is more than the birth of his son and the return of his voice.  The reason to rejoice is because of God’s great mercy. 

The word mercy, in our passage today is defined as showing kindness or concern for someone in serious need.   

Last month at the Poconos, I led a session that talked about God’s infinite mercy. Part of our time together allowed the youth time to come up with a definition for the word mercy.  

One group said it was that game where you bend your partner's hands back until they say mercy...it caused the adults in the room to shudder.  

But most of them came up with a working definition that had to do with acting kind or gentle or with compassion when in a position to do the opposite.  

The key that we discussed in the definition was that mercy is shown when a person in power or a person who has power or privilege choses to show compassion when they have the opportunity to use his or her power to their own advantage.  

Does that make sense?  The key to mercy is that when a person is in power or in a position of power, she or he decides to respond to a situation with compassion, instead of hurt or harm.

Mercy is tough stuff.  

Thank God that God's mercy is endless.  

When we mess up (yes, there are consequences) but God gives us second, third and millionth chances.  God, whose power is infinite, shows compassion and mercy.  

Yet it’s hard for us to live out of God's grace and mercy modeling that for others.  As soon as we get a glimpse of that power or authority or control, we hesitate to give it up.  It's easier to use that power to maintain power or the control that we think we have rather than show mercy and compassion to others.  

This isn't a new problem...humankind has always struggled when it comes to power, who has it and how you act with it.  
We, the people of God, the family of God, are called to live out humble lives of service and love, extending mercy and compassion when we could hurt or harm others.

So, if mercy is to show kindness or concern for someone in serious need., then who is in "serious need"? 

In our text, it might be that the barrenness of Elizabeth had put her and Zechariah in need.  (Stoffregen) The "needy" are defined in verses 78 & 79.  Spoiler alert…it’s us.  
People sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death. 
People who are not at peace.  

It’s us, the imperfect ones.  

The ones who struggle daily with the divisiveness coming from our political parties.  
The ones who struggle with wondering how in a world that produces enough food for 7 million people, that people in our own community go to bed hungry.  
The ones who struggle to make ends meet.  
The ones who live in or are trying to mend broken relationships.  
The ones who worry about how they will be seen or heard.
The ones who struggle with self-esteem and body image. 
The ones who post the perfect images on social media as they covet the perfection of their neighbors and friends.  
The ones who are imperfect…
It’s you, it’s me…

Look, it’s us.  
We still walk in the darkness in this world.  
Yet God, who loves us unconditionally, reaches out from a place of extreme power and offers us compassion and mercy and a place of love and a place to be loved.  

But I have to tell you, in receiving that love and mercy and grace and compassion…we are transformed.  We are placed in a path in the light to walk the way of peace.  

And when we walk that path…we illumine the path for others.  
I’d like you to watch part of Chris Pratt’s acceptance speech for the Generation Award at the MTV movie and TV Awards from last week.  

He begins with words of thanks to his family and a nod to his son and then enters in with the 9 Rules from Chris Pratt.  

When I shared this video in worship, I left out #7.  While it was on MTV, it didn't really fit in with the sermon as part of worship.  


It sounds some what reminiscent of a Lutheran sermon, no?  I  mean, he used the word grace!!   Chris talks about each of us having a soul, about how we are called to act around others and to know God loves us, to pray and that grace is a gift!  

That grace, my friends, is Jesus.  There is nothing that we can do to earn this gift. 

Through God’s love and mercy, Jesus came into the world to break us free from the power of sin and death and transform us into humble, grace-filled servants in the world around us.  

When we live out of that grace, I can’t say this enough, we are empowered to show mercy and compassion to others…to walk along the path that Jesus set before us as the Prince of Peace and to make a difference in the world because we are loved and forgiven and sent to serve.  

A wise woman (my mother) said to me this week, “We need to be that grace in action.” 

So whatever it is you find to do…you should do it with all your heart.  
Lead with love.  
Respond with mercy.
Continue to walk humbly with God.  

Let us pray, 
Good and gracious God, thank you for loving us.  Thank you for creating us in your image and for continually calling us to live lives that model your compassion and mercy.  We give you thanks for offering us forgiveness when we mess up or miss opportunities to serve and care for others.  Help us to see all humanity as our neighbor.  Help us to build relationships, model humility and show mercy.  And all God’s people say, amen.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Truth is...

Truth is working out is hard this week. 

I'm not sure why.  I've had drive to run twice and the desire to not do anything else the other days.  
I know it's good to work out. 
I know I'll feel better when I do. 

But goodness, the emotional drive to do it this week has been a struggle.  
I've reached out to a private workout facebook group for some accountability.  
I'm wondering where my internal drive has gotten off to.  
The good news is that the prospect of running has been inspiring.  It seems that is all I want to do.  
But since I hurt my achilles tendon several years ago I have not been in the habit of back to back running days. 

With a Ragnar in the fall, I know that in July I'll kick into training gear.  Having a goal race and a plan to get me there works really well for me.  I know that having something larger than myself to work for I will be jazzed to run and workout.  In fact, I can't wait to start that training plan.  But in the meantime, I'm frustrated with my lack of internal motivation.  

It's been a weird week with feeling all or nothing.
I think I need to take it one day at a time.  

Today: 
I'll set out my clothes to get a spin class in at the gym before work.  
I will go 'screen free' at 8:30 and read until an early bed time.  

Tomorrow: Early morning spin. 

I'll tell a friend or two that this is my plan for today and tomorrow.  

I can do this.  
I will do this.  

It is good for my heart, body and soul.  

In other news, my weight has been fluctuating just a bit.  Since my last weigh post at 152.4 on May 21, I've been down to 149.6 and back up this week to 151.2.  All in all, it's not that much.  And, I think my body is good at this weight.  I like seeing numbers under 150, but this past week I have not been logging food as faithfully as I have in the past.  When I don't log it, I tend to snack more and not think too much about it.  

I don't want this post to be only frustrations and struggles...but I share them because they are part of this journey for me.  It's not all great runs and healthy eating.  I struggle with this.  It's work for me.  Truth is...it always will be.  

Some days are better than others.  
Yesterday I ran a sweet 3 miles with negative splits and ended up having a milkshake for dinner.  (win. win?)
I had a really good stretch and roll both yesterday and Sunday when I ran this week.  
I'll take the ups and downs.  
It's a journey and you learn along the way.  

Thanks for listening.  

Until the next post.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Some thoughts on mercy for today.

Collywobbles

Taradiddle

Widdershins

Bumfuzzle 

The list of words above is the way my Bible study at the Pocono Retreat began.  (This study came from Nick Diliberto's Youth Group Lesson on Mercy) In groups of 2 or 3 they needed to come up with a definition for each word that the judges thought was the best.  They received bonus points if they actually defined the word, but the creativity was my favorite part.  

After a few questions about how we determine success and how we think God determine's success, we read Micah 6:8.  
"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."  

We talked about how we are called to act in the world around us...and then back in those small groups, they defined the word mercy.  One group said it was that game where you bend your partner's hands back until they say mercy...it caused the adults in the room to shudder.  But most of them came up with a working definition that had to do with acting kind or gentle or with compassion when in a position to do the opposite.  
Merriam-webster.com offers this as part of the definition of mercy - a compassion or forbearance (see forbearance 1) shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power;

The key that we discussed in the definition was that mercy is shown when a person in power or with power or with privilege choses to show compassion when they have the opportunity to use his or her power to their own advantage.  

We watched the end of the Veggie Tales Movie, Jonah.  The scene when Jonah, played by Archibald Asparagus is flailing on the ground....ranting and raving about how upset he is that God has not rained down brimstone on the people of Nineveh.  But Jonah doesn't get it.  He never gets it.  Even though God extended mercy to Jonah, gave him a second chance, Jonah doesn't think the Ninevites deserve a second chance.  Jonah proclaims the word of the Lord, but has a hard time realizing how that word transforms, changes and impacts lives, his own included.  

Mercy is tough stuff.  
Thank God that God's mercy is endless.  
When we mess up (yes, there are consequences) but God gives us second, third and millionth chances.  God whose power is infinite, shows compassion and mercy.  

We are more like Jonah than we realize.  It's so hard for us to live out of God's grace and mercy modeling that for others.  As soon as we get a glimpse of that power or authority or control, we hesitate to give it up.  It's easier to use that power to maintain power or the control that we think we have rather than show mercy and compassion to others.  

This isn't a new problem...humankind has been in a constant struggle when it comes to power, who has it and how you act with it.  

Many of us have heard the story of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10:25-37.  The lead in to the familiar part of the parable is that a lawyer is testing Jesus about eternal life.  The lawyer knows the command to 'love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ 

But the lawyer wonders aloud, "Who is my neighbor?"  

The parable reveals that the one who is the neighbor is the one who shows mercy.  The one who, when in a situation to help or hinder the situation, has decided to help.  This individual choses to take a situation and make a difference in a positive way, in a way that will dramatically change the life of another.  

In this story, the neighbor, the one who showed mercy, was the one least likely.  This story reminds us that loving our neighbor means caring for those who are different than we are.  We are called to show mercy to God's children who have backgrounds, ethnicities, beliefs - religious and political, genders, sexual orientation and skin colors that may not be our own.  That, my friends, is not easy, but it is the call of the gospel, to live lives out of God's love, grace and mercy.  

When have you received mercy?  

How did that moment make you feel?  

When have you been in a position of power or control?  

Have you used that position to extend mercy?  How has that transformed you?  

God's mercy is infinite.  

We are called to live out humble lives of service and love, extending mercy and compassion when we could hurt or harm others.  

Will you have the opportunity to do that today?  Tomorrow?  

Good and gracious God, thank you for loving us.  Thank you for creating us in your image and for continually calling us to live lives that model your compassion and mercy.  We give you thanks for offering us forgiveness when we mess up or miss opportunities to serve and care for others.  Help us to see all humanity as our neighbor.  Help us to build relationships, model humility and show mercy.  In Jesus' name, amen.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Have you recovered? Nope.

The number one question asked after returning home from the annual youth retreat at Hickory Run State Park is,

"Have you recovered?" 

I can happily reply, "Nope, and nor do I want to."  

Because here's the thing.  I spent the weekend with 40 amazing youth and 21 dedicated adults and it was awesome.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love that my call to serve at Trinity involves spending time with youth who are ready to learn and live out God's love and call in their lives.  

The weekend kicked off with great mixers, some study, some games and the holy experience of joining hands as everyone participated in a time of prayer.  As we gathered together that first night, the group was comfortable enough to share worries, joys or just a word of thanks as we prayed aloud that night.  It was wonderful and holy and a fantastic beginning to the weekend.  

As I feel asleep, I gave thanks to God for safe travels, milkshake and fresh baked pretzels.  I thanked God for clothespins, laughter, music and a game we invented in the Poconos called El-ball.  I thanked God for voices that prayed aloud and asked God to be present with us as the weekend continued.  

I woke before the alarm went off and had time to listen to the podcast Pray as you go as I been by day with the quiet beauty of God's creation, just before the voices of youth were heard in the distance.  


The day began with breakfast, and a crew who started a game of sick ball that pretty much went on all weekend.  The sessions the youth went through in the morning, helped them prepare a skit for skit night, play some team building games and learn a little more about God's mercy.  

We enjoyed a tasty lunch of nuggets, tots and freshly baked cookies before heading out to Boulder Field.  I'm deeply thankful for the number of adults who attended the retreat who were willing to help transport the crew to and from Boulder Field safely.  

We had some laughs on the boulders...


We took some selfies on the boulders and even captured a bride and groom!


(laughter to the point of tears, not pictured because I almost stopped breathing for a bit)

Then it was back to camp for some free time, a snack and some small groups where the guys and girls had some time for highs and lows and chit chat.  

After an incredible feast of lasagna, garlic bread and salad, we enjoyed Skit night.  The three groups did a fantastic job of sharing Biblical stories with a twist - David's dancing was told by Joy from Inside Out, Queen Esther had to save the Jewish people from dinosaurs, and we saw what compassion from the Good Samaritan looks like in our day and age. 

In addition to these skits, youth shared songs, skits, a poem, jokes and dance routines that they created on on their own.  I was blown away by the talent in the room and the courage to share these talents on a stage in front of a group of people that had only been together for 24 hours.  

We then ate s'mores like champs.  (We don't mess around on this retreat.)

After the campfire, we gathered for worship.  
We confessed our sins, we heard Jesus say, "Peace.  Be still." to the wind and the waves.  We heard that Jesus says, "Peace. Be still." to the storms and worries and stresses in our own lives.  

We shared in a time of prayer, greeted one other with hugs and smiles as we passed the peace, and we shared in the Lord's Supper.  

We ended worship by the light of the candles that we lit from one another as we sang the song Sanctuary.  

Lord prepare me,
to be a sanctuary, 
pure and holy,
tried and true.
With thanksgiving,
I'll be a living sanctuary for you.  

Often, this is a song sung at the beginning of worship or study time as an opportunity to focus our hearts and minds on God and the worship experience.  As we sang it at the end, I couldn't help but give thanks (again) to God for working inmates among and through us as we deepened our relationship with God and one another as another day was coming to a close.  

Here is one youth's depiction of the weekend:


As I headed off to bed, I did so brimming with gratitude, thanking God again, for moments of peace, moments of laughter (to the point of tears) and all the moments in between.  I was thankful for pancakes, nuggets, tots, lasagna and s'mores.  I was thankful for study, games, worship and skits.  I thanked God for God's infinite presence among us that day and all days.  I prayed that God would bring us all peace in the midst of life's storms.  

The storms rolled through during the night.  The rain sounded wonderful on the roof and the trees.  

Sunday morning began and we were packing, cleaning and posing for a group photo before breakfast.  
We enjoyed sticky buns, strata and a breakfast dance party (sorry no photos) that was the best ever!  

From Shout to Ballroom Blitz (a new Pocono breakfast tradition) Handclap and Bohemian Rhapsody, we rocked that dining hall.  We danced, we laughed, we ate and we danced some more and after that, we were ready for worship..no seriously....Bohemian Rhapsody was our prelude to walking out to the chapel for worship.  

Our closing worship included songs, prayers, another reenactment of the Good Samaritan, and interviews as we practiced sharing our experiences from the weekend.  

Worship wrapped up with a time of laying on of hands as the chaperones blessed the youth as they prepared to depart from the retreat.  

With safe travels home, and a quick unpacking of the truck, everyone headed home for showers, naps or both.  

Now, as a few days have passed, you may wonder, have I recovered?  
And the answer is a firm, nope!  

Have I caught up on sleep?  Yup.
Have I adjusted to not eating with 60 of my closest friends?  Yup.  
Have I gotten back into the swing of things at home? Yup.  

Have I recovered?  Nope.  

Recovering from the weekend means that I have returned to a normal state of health...which is far from true.  This weekend transformed my heart and my life.  It transformed how I respond to the needs of others in my community and in the congregation I am called to serve.  This weekend has transformed my relationship with God and the relationship I have with the youth and adults in this congregation.  I am far from recovered and that, my friends is a good thing.  

This was the 50th year of this amazing retreat.  I'm thankful for those who have made this event a success in the past and prayerful for the hearts, hands and volunteers that will continue to make this event a life-changing experience for the youth of our congregation and community.  

If you haven't realized yet, I love what I do.  I'm deeply thankful that I'm called to serve a congregation where I can show and share God's love with an amazing group of youth AND do it with the help of so many amazing volunteers!  Really, y'all, I couldn't do it without you and the youth! 
I thank God for you, for this opportunity and this amazing life we are called to live together.  

And so with their permission, I close this post with a poem written by Phoebe E. and Jillian U. 

They shared it as part of skit night and have allowed me to share it with you. Thank you Phoebe & Jillian.  

For God’s love led me here, 
And I’ll always know that He is near.  

He leads us to do good deeds,
From building tables and planting seeds.

The earth is the Lord’s for all is his,
He led me to YouthQuake where I met Nizz.

I love laying in God’s green pastures,
as I listen to the words of my amazing pastors.

when I walk through his holy rivers,
the strength of the Holy Spirit gives me shivers. 

The skies above that shine through,
proclaim the work of His hands to you.

The friendships here will always grow,
and that is one thing we all will know.

One day I really hope,
we’ll be lucky enough to meet the pope.  

God’s love is never ending,
His angels are always tending.

For God always loves you
no matter what sins we will do.