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 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.

Monday, May 21, 2018


It's been a few weeks since my last weight post on April 30.  
Since then there have been downs and ups, which pretty much is a regular thing for me with this whole weight loss journey.  

April 30 - 149.6
May 7 - 149.4
May 14 - 148.8
Today 152.4

I feel like I'm on repeat.  Down, down, down...up!  

I can pinpoint a few splurges this past week...yesterday's dinner of hoagie dip and cake may not have been the best way to finish a day after homemade pizza for lunch, but it is what it is.  

I can say that the scale continues to be a motivator for me.  I'm not on it every day, but once a week helps me get a good jump start each Monday.  Either I've got something to maintain or I am motivated to make a difference in the coming week.  

So here I sit, hydrating instead of snacking on a Monday afternoon and wondering how the rest of the week will pan out.  This week's work schedule equates to lunches and dinners out on both Tuesday and Wednesday, which means they are out of my personal control.  I know I will be able to make smart choices, but it does make it a bit challenging.  Knowing back to back days of eating out are coming, the workouts will be more focused on a mid of cardio and strength training.  I will spend mornings at the gym, knowing that the rest of the day will be an adventure a good adventure.  

I think that's the other part of this for me, is that I need to continually remind myself that this is a fun adventure.  I know that my body feels better with some pounds gone, and my outward appearance is something that is changing and I feel good about that.  

So yeah, no deep insights today, well except for this one:
Sunday dinner of hoagie dip & cake = a rough (really rough) 5:30am Grit cardio class at the gym on Monday morning.  

Thanks for reading, friends and helping me with butter accountability.  
Here's to a new week and whatever it may bring.  

Until the next post...

Monday, May 14, 2018

May I have this dance?

May 13, 2018
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
Psalm 1
1 John 5:9-13
John 17:6-19

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

Psalm 1 is the appointed Psalm for the day, give it a listen. 

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Welcome to the book of Psalms.  With Psalm one, we are invited into this book of the Bible, into words of poets as we learn about God’s great love for us and the life we are called to live in response to that love. 

And the book of Psalms begins with the word, Happy! 
That’s a great beginning, right? 

What does it mean to be happy? 
What is happiness? 

For the psalmist for today, and pretty much all 150 psalms, the primary subject is not the psalm writer, or human beings in general, but rather God. 

Happiness for the psalmist, then is not primarily about what we human beings feel, desire or accomplish…it’s not about doing what we want to do.  Happiness is about doing what God wants done.  (McCann)

Happiness is about doing what God wants done. 
Now that’s not to say that when we are doing God’s will we’re not happy….but the root of that happiness, the root of our own joy and happiness comes from something deeper, something greater, it’s a gift from God. 

God delights when we do God’s will, by loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and strength AND loving our neighbors as ourselves. 
And that leads us to a choice, the psalmist suggests, and the choice is this:  that we live our lives doing God’s will by loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and strength and loving our neighbors as ourselves or we don’t.   

Psalmist is saying that there is a choice….not a choice about whether God loves us or not, that isn’t a choice, God loves you no matter what! 

But the choice the psalmist says that we are faced with is which path will we take?   How do we or how will we respond to God’s love in our lives?  How do we respond to God’s deep, deep desire for us to live lives filled with love, care, compassion and service? 

Will we choose God’s way which promises life or will we choose to go our own way which promises death?    

We have the opportunity to make this decision every day…sometimes we don’t choose wisely, but other times, we make a decision that leads us along God’s path, and when we do, others notice. 

This picture popped up on social media recently.

The written post that appeared with it reads, “Spotted this specimen trying to dance the other week.  He stopped when he saw us laughing.” 

Yeah.  Just sit with that for a second.  We always get to make a choice to how we respond to others in our midst.  Do we lift them up or put them down? 

Then Cassandra joined in to respond.  She wrote: Anyone know this man or who posted this?  There is a huge group of ladies in LA who would like to do something special?  

This tweet was shared over 2,000 times. 

This was Cassandra’s next post:

Dancing Man,
We don’t know much about you,
But a photo on the internet suggested
that you wanted to dance and were made to feel like you shouldn’t be.

We want to see you dance freely and if you would have us,
We would love to dance with you.

We are prepared to throw quite the dance party just for you, if you’d have us. 

To be clear it’s 1,727 of us. 
And we are all women.

It this isn’t appealing, we’re okay with taking no for an answer,
But we’d like you to know – the offer stands. 

May we have this dance? 

An occasionally overly enthusiastic group of young women in California. 


Then some famous people joined in the conversation…

Pharrell Williams (known well for the song, Happy) and Moby – a musician, DJ, record producer and singer song writer)

And they say that no one should ever be ashamed of themselves and no one should be ashamed about dancing. 

And then, Dancing Man responded. 

And, needless to say, replied yes to the invitation. 

And they danced, and danced and danced….


This is what happens when God’s love is lived and shared.

This is what happens when we are able to see all of God’s children as beloved, beautiful beings created in God’s image. 

This is what happens when God’s children are truly free to be themselves and free to dance. 

This is what happens when we respond out of God’s love and grace and compassion for others.  
And it is noticed by others…and it makes a huge difference. 

God reaches out to each and every one of us in this Psalm and says, may I have this dance? 

God says, I love you and I want you to experience and know my love for you and for you to live that out in your everyday life. 

How will you respond to this amazing invitation? 

And all God’s people said, amen.