Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Week Ten: Finishing One Race, Starting Another

Well, here I am, back at home after what I can honestly say was the best summer of my life. For a while, I couldn't honestly say that because I wasn't sure. But being back for 3 days and missing it so much cemented it in my mind.

But what happened in that last week? Well, I finished working Saturday night, closing down Garrett Popcorn shops for the last time. It was really relieving walking home knowing I didn't have to scoop, shake, or bag any more popcorn. (Side note, my dad didn't get to come down to Chicago to visit me, so I took him to the Garrett in 12 Oaks Mall in Michigan. I couldn't even go a week without it.)

Some things I learned from working at Garrett:

  1. If I set my mind to something, I really can be good at it. I became one of the fastest baggers in the store over the month and a half that I worked there. 
  2. Sometimes thinking can get in the way. Only in sports and bagging popcorn do you do better by doing, not thinking.
  3. Even if that is true, I couldn't stand doing this job for a long time. It was a good time, which I genuinely enjoyed, but I am glad I am going to school to be a nurse.
  4. It was pretty easy to start surface level conversations on spiritual topics with my coworkers. One even got a little bit deeper, as she allowed me to explain some of my views. It showed me that if I look for opportunities, it is possible for the working world to be a mission field. But you have to be looking, or you could just fade into the crowd. (A cool article on the topic-  http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-glorify-god-at-work)
The last week, as we closed out the mission and had our last action groups, evangelism times, and group meetings, was absolutely crazy. Thankfully, we still found time to relax as we inserted our own times to show appreciation for each other. Sunday night, during the time when we normally have our directors meeting, Zach, the other male director, and I took the women directors out to dinner at Flaco's Tacos, where we got to talk and laugh, as well as read them a letter that we wrote to encourage them. An excerpt reads:

"You are both beautiful women who God has blessed with leadership and strength, and by making you both directors he has blessed us in turn.  You have become like sisters to us, which is so clearly evidence of Christ’s work, as we look past our individual differences, striving towards the common goal of Christ and his kingdom."

The next day, the staff directors who had left for the second half of the summer returned to start helping us wrap up. This was a multiple day affair of going out to get food or coffee, giving advice on how to better help students transition into his or her role, how the set-up could have been different to make things go smoother, etc. 

For me, that looked like sitting down with Ryan Janosko, a staff member from Ohio State University, and going over the numbers. I feel comfortable now saying that at the beginning of the second 5 weeks, Ryan had handed me the remainder of the summer mission budget in cash. Overwhelming isn't a strong enough word to express that feeling of responsibility. So we went over the receipts that showed what we spent it on and discussed how to make future Ops Director's lives easier.

But that, honestly, was the boring stuff. We also had multiple dance parties, a final banquet, a last meeting, and many other lasts. But one of the most exciting parts of the last week was seeing the relief of those who completed the last responsibilities of their roles, one by one feeling the weight lift off of their shoulders. They may not yet realize what I have been able to see, which is how strong those shoulders have become. First was the Men's and Women's Event planners, then the community team responsible for group meals and community events, then the campus team leaders, then the other community team, then the Final Banquet team, then the meetings team. These people have worked so hard all summer to make everything run smoothly, and as the man people had to come to to get money, I knew everything that we spent money on, and therefore everything that we did.

The amount of planning and preparation that went into each event most likely went unnoticed by the general CSM population, but not me. I was lucky enough to see almost all of it, even if I wasn't able to attend the event. That meant sometimes I knew the surprises beforehand, and sometimes I saw the missteps that no one else outside of the team did, but it was worth it to see these people come together with the common goal of using their individual talents and passions to advance the role they were given to benefit the mission as a whole.

As the week progressed though, I started to realize my role was not going to be lifted off of my shoulders so easily. This is a pattern that I have realized I fall into, not being able to fully rejoice with others because I begin to be worried about myself and my own feelings and desires. While the fact that my role as Operations Director had many responsibilities at the end was true, it isn't Christ-like to be secretly envious of others. This feeling came over me once or twice, but I was reminded of Christ as the suffering servant, not thinking highly of himself, even though he deserved to be thought highly of, and doing what he had to do, not complaining about it.

As the mission finished off, I had to finish paying for things like the last meeting, the final banquet, and past expenses. We had some extra money left over in the budget, so for the last meeting I ordered Jimmy John's for everyone. In the last 24 hours of the mission, while pulling an all-nighter, I had to locate everything that belonged to the mission and put it in a locked closet that we have in the Dwight. This included things like printers, tables, the box of games, the ping pong paddles, sports balls, and vacuum cleaners. At about 3 am on the last day, I realized I had to collect those things, and finally put the last thing away at about noon that day, after running to and from the lobby to say goodbye to people, pack my own things in my room, and to the closet.

This stuff was on top of writing a 8 minute-ish talk for the last meeting, writing notecards of encouragement to the men on the leadership team, coordinating with the other directors to write a letter to everyone on mission (to be read on the way home), finishing up discipleships, and having time to myself (which honestly, there wasn't very much at all).

It would be so easy to complain if I didn't have so many people helping me with all of these things. The directors all met to write our talks and the letter, so many people helped me to find supplies that last night, vacuums, and anything that I asked for, really. I won't list names because I know I would forget someone and that would be truly a tragedy. I was pulling my first all-nighter at the time, so I will cut myself some slack.  If one of these people are reading this, thank you so much. I hope you know who you are.

As I have been home, for what has now been 3 days, I have entered a sort of in-between space. I will be back to school to start RA training on Thursday, August 18th, which is too soon. I don't know how long it will be until I get time to process some of this summer. I guess I have to make time if I don't get it. One thing I know from others is that it is going to be hard. Summer Mission was a bubble, and outside of it things aren't so easy. There aren't always going to be men around me that are running as hard after God as I am, who can challenge and encourage me. There aren't always going to be people who know that the best fun comes when you can remember every second of it. But there is always a God who is pursuing me and calling me to pursue him back. The challenge from here on out is to truly believe my own advice, which I gave to the entire mission as the last part of the entire talk at the last meeting we had in Chicago.

"You are ready. God has used this summer to change you. It’s a fact. Anything else is the enemy attacking your heart. In the past 10 weeks, we have become comfortable here, with our friends and our schedule, which means it’s about time we go home. But as the name eternal pursuit suggests (the theme of our last week), the pursuit doesn’t stop here. We should not stop pursuing each other, we should not stop pursuing God. He never stops pursuing us. As much as I love seeing you here, I will love even more hearing about the ways God has used each and every one of you outside of this city, and how you have grown. We love you all.  "

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace." (Numbers 6:24-26)

[Side note: Things are a lot more meaningful if you read them slowly. Don't let your perceived lack of time rob you of real encouragement and advice.]

Keep me in your prayers.
You are loved
Student and Staff Directors

Director Squad

Leadership Team looking spiffy

View from Navy Pier

Chick-fil-a is a highlight of Chicago for sure

Myself and the two men I had the privilege of discipling, Ryan and Bryan

Friday, August 5, 2016

Week Nine Update: Climbing Over the Wall/The Home Stretch

The Leadership Team in the middle of our creative date

My mom, brother, and I at the rehearsal dinner right off of the beach

The four directors: Zach, Abbey, Amanda, and myself

The Leadership Team walking back from swimming after our creative date

My roommate Frankie and I unintentionally wore the exact same outfit

A note that has been on our door for weeks, but really hit home this past week.

As you can tell, it has been really hard to keep up with the blog over the past two weeks. I haven't even really thought about posting until the last few days. It was one of those "oh, darn, I still have to do that." I really see it as valuable though. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read these, and that means I appreciate YOU, the person reading this right now. I hope that one day I will be able to sit down with you and describe the amazing things that happened here in Chicago. I say one day because I know every day after the mission ends is an opportunity to reflect and learn more about the things God did this summer and what he taught me. What I understand now pales in comparison to what he actually has done and even will do with our last week here.

This unfortunately will be a shorter post, and will have some mistakes in typing. I have to go to work in 35 minutes, but I want to post something to let you all know that I am doing well and I made it back safely from LA.

Alright, let's get this started.
I got back safely from California, really refreshed and happy about the weekend. The wedding was beautiful both aesthetically and spiritually. I could tell both the bride and the groom as well as both families were both following after Jesus, and it was amazing to celebrate their union under God as a representation of the relationship between Christ and us, his church. 

Coming back from that however, was a really rough transition. I came back to my apartment, dropped my bags, and headed right over to the bible study that was going on, and right into the flow of meetings and responsibilities that happens on Sundays. Then, in a flurry of unforeseeable circumstances, the directors had to make quick decisions to what we believed to be the best interest for everyone on mission. As it has so commonly happened here on mission, communication was not the best, people ended up getting left out, and some feelings were hurt.  There was also a situation with an individual we had to navigate.

Those two things set a rough start to the week, but I thankfully had a few days before going back to work to relax, go to campus to share with people, and spend time discipling the two men I have been entrusted for the summer. Nevertheless, by Tuesday I had noticed a bad mood had settled in on me, like a dark cloud. I was angry, frustrated, in despair over many different things.

Wednesday, I tried to read my bible during our weekly Night with the Lord, but I could not focus. As I attempted to diagnose why I was feeling so poorly, I just was getting more and more sad. I ended up talking to my dad for a little bit when he called, and that improved my mood a little bit, but the next day I still felt the same. Thursday went fine as I went to work and then to the weekly Thursday night meeting, where I served in the worship band playing a drum called a djembe. After the meeting, still feeling in a funk, I told my roommate Frankie, who I look up to in many ways. He was very gracious to me in my bad mood, even when I rebuked him for saying that he knew exactly how I was feeling (both a nursing and a ResStaff response). He suggested I spend time praying and reading my bible, talking to God and being honest about how I was feeling. In that time, I read Psalm 139, which says " Search me O God and know my heart!" I desperately wanted to know that God was there and that he cared about me. 

Long story short, this feeling lasted a whole week. It would be lifted for a little while based on circumstance, and then I would settle back into the rut I had been in. Finally on Monday night, I pleaded with God, asking that he would reveal his purpose for this time, and that if I felt better, let it be permanent. The next day, one of the students here I hadn't talked to a lot told me, upon hearing my story, that a great thing about emotions is that they are not truth. Just because you feel awful and far from God doesn't mean you are actually far from him. That was so liberating for me, to be reminded that my condition on earth no longer affect my position to God because of the saving power of Jesus. 

I have to go soon, but the week has been going well since then. God has answered my prayer in that my positive mood has stuck for the last few days. It is a lot of work, preparing to leave in now less than a week. It is sad, because the friendships we formed here are not going to be the same after we leave. However, it is exciting, because each and every one of these people are able to go back and have a major impact on their campuses for their ministries, bringing a new motivation for spreading the gospel.  That's what this mission is about in the end. Going home.

I'll probably post more later when I have more time. So much has happened, you would need the 10 weeks for me to tell you about it all.

Prayer Requests:

  • That this last week would provide closure to the students here on summer mission, and prepare them to be excited to go home next Friday
  • That God would use this last week to make the final push to bring people closer to him and to each other
  • That his good, great, and perfect will would be done
  • See previous posts
You are loved.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Week Seven Update: Seeing the Forest

So I am currently in California, sitting inside of a house that we are renting.  Don't worry, I didn't give up and run away, I am in California this weekend for my cousin's wedding, flew out Thursday night from O'Hare and will be here until Sunday afternoon. It's fun being here, but it it isn't going to be a picnic. Managing distant family relationships and trying to keep current ones from crumbling will take up most of my energy while I am here. But this weekend offers a unique opportunity to reflect on how this summer is going from a distance, when I can see the whole picture, the forest instead of just the trees.

First, I realize from being away how much each day counts on a summer mission. It has not even been 2 days, and I have already missed going to a White Sox game (watching them get beaten by the Tigers!) and getting caught in a torrential downpour that I'm sure will be the subject of a few stories when I return to Chicago. I miss how much I could have learned about each person in those times together, how God has designed their personality and temperament. I love learning about all the people on this mission, they are all so unique, from so many different backgrounds, and with so many different ways of looking at life. Most importantly, they were all made in the image of God, and that alone makes them worth getting to know.

Secondly, I'm understanding the burden of leadership. We have had to make many decisions as the leadership team of fifteen as well as the team of four directors, and we realize that the decisions don't make everyone or even the majority happy. We are called to lead and shepherd the rest of the mission in a direction we feel God has called us in. We come to that decision together, of course taking into account the popular opinion. One difficulty I have encountered because of this separation of responsibility is that in a lot of things I have felt alone, like I can't vent my thoughts to anyone else besides the directors. A part of this feeling comes from feeling like I have to be secretive about decisions we are in the act of making, or that I shouldn't burden anyone else with something that is not their problem.

In a night of frustration, I called the staff member who had this role when the staff were here, Ryan Janosko. We talked on the phone for about an hour about many things, one being this feeling I was having. He reminded me that it is ok to confide in others, and even suggested I be more open with the men I am discipling on the leadership team. I am not alone here on this mission, and it's no use pretending that I am. I can share my burdens with God, as Jesus called us to in Matthew 11.

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

As I was writing in my journal yesterday, I was pondering a feeling I have been fighting for the past few weeks of mission. This thought was that I was not having the "summer mission experience." I have known for a while now that I did not come into summer mission without expectations, like I was told to do. I realized yesterday that I still have ideas of what my "perfect summer mission" would look like, and I have been holding everything up to this standard. A big part of that has been me asking myself if this summer mission has been a life-changing experience. But the problem with comparing everything with this idea in my head is just that, it's in my head. It's imaginary. It is a collection of stories that I have heard from other people, my mind's manipulation of those stories, and my own desires mixed together into a melting pot, resulting in a product that the Devil has been using to condemn me whenever I don't live up to this unreachable standard I have set for myself.

Heavy stuff. But there is so much freedom in realizing this. I had a similar epiphany last Thursday when the other male director, Zach Booth, gave a talk about the cross. What I took away from that talk is that when Jesus was forsaken on the cross, enduring pain unimaginable to me, he still trusted God, calling him "my God," "my God." I have had a hard time trusting that the way mission is going is exactly how God wants it to go. Exactly. He will take everything and work it for the good for those who love him. I take comfort often in the fact that in all of my blunders, it is literally impossible for me mess up God's plan for the universe, another person, or myself. I don't have that much power, and I am so grateful for that. 

Long story short, I can just live my life! I don't have to be constantly worrying that things aren't going as well as I want them to. My standard is unrealistic, and God works infinitely more in the imperfect than in the perfect. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says, 

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

There is so much peace in that.

I gave a talk this past Monday, the 18th, in front of all of the students on mission. It went really well, and I heard from a lot of people that they really appreciated my vulnerability, and even some saying they really needed to hear what I had to say. I'm so grateful God was able to use me in their lives. He is such a master artist, he can even use a crooked tool to make straight lines, and scribbles to create a masterpiece. In short, I talked about 4 points:
  1. God makes himself known to his people. Although we are not worthy to see the full breadth of his characteristics, there is no part of his character that he is hiding from us.
  2. Because God has revealed his character to us, we can trust that his promises are trustworthy.
  3. God promises that when we believe that Jesus died for our sins, we will be forgiven of our sins when we ask and repent. We don't need to keep repeatedly asking.
  4. When we forgive ourselves, or more accurately, agree with God that we are forgiven, we are called to forgive and are capable of forgiving the unimaginable.
I enjoyed speaking so much, sharing with everyone how much God has used these ideas to change my life. I don't know if I will get to do it again, but I don't have to worry about it. If it happens, it happens.

One last point. In the last few weeks, I have been working 20 hours a week. As tough as it has been at times, I am so happy because of the relationships I have been able to build with the people at my work. I have taken every spare moment I can to ask them about their lives and goals. In those short conversations I have been able to hear the basic stories of at least four different coworkers. In learning that some are from a christian background, I was able to invite them to The Break Room, our open Thursday night meetings. In working there, I have been able to be a light for Christ through nonverbal ways a well, whether it be in showing up to work with a smile on my face or playing clean christian rap whenever I get control of the speaker in the kitchen, I have also witnessed the brokenness in the people I work with. Coming from the backgrounds that a lot of them do, I can understand. It just makes me even more excited to go back to work, not to scoop popcorn, but to be a fisher of men, bringing people to Christ.

And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 
Matthew 4:19 (ESV)

Prayer Requests:
  • That I would continue to rest in God's sovereignty, that I don't have to be constantly worrying about my every action and if they are in exact alignment with my "perfect" imaginary scenario
  • That the directors and leadership team would continue to grow closer together, enjoying each other's company so we can point each other to God and lead the mission out of that love for him and each other.
  • That my cousin Brett and his new wife Katrina would have a blessed marriage that would last until death do them part. In this world divorce is so common, it is hard to be optimistic. But as far as I can tell, these two are following God, and with his strength they can do what many of the world would deem impossible, staying faithful to each other.
  • That my family would have stronger relationships after this weekend, instead of letting relatively small disagreements force them apart.
  • That I would have a safe trip back to Chicago and be able to transition smoothly back into mission life.
  • See former posts.

The unmarried cousins and Grandma at In-n-Out

Walking into the rehearsal dinner

The rehearsal dinner location was right off of the beach!
As always, you are loved.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Week Five Update: Still Sprinting

Hey all, I haven't been able to set aside time to write this until now, and there are people hanging put up in the Sky Lounge eight floors above me, so this is going to be short.

I'm still flying at full speed at work, in my role, and just in everyday life. I feel like I am always doing something. So much as happened since I last wrote an update. The staff walked out on Thursday, very ceremoniously, and all of a sudden it was clear that we are on our own. 96 students setting out to share the good news of Jesus Christ while at the same time falling deeper in love with him.

Leading is incredibly hard. I am in charge of the budget, and as a result of that I am constantly fielding questions about money, what to do with it, and how much a particular team has, It's exhausting, but I was reminded by my roommate how much I am serving the mission by doing this. He was so relieved that he was able to fully enjoy other people because he didn't have to think and worry about what still needs to be done. I don't want to be constantly worried, God calls us not to worry, but to trust him, but I'm glad I am in position so he doesn't have to be. I am already seeing flaws that this position is bringing out in me, including instability in my identity, resulting in both pride and self-condemnation.

Now leading is not all bad. I am getting to know the other 3 directors and the rest of the team of students that are leading this mission. We will continue to grow together and mature as God uses all of us. But we are definitely still in the growing phase, and it is painful.

I will be discipling two other men for the rest of the summer. For those who don't know, discipleship is a biblical principle of coming alongside another believer with the intent of growing them as a person and in their faith. I have learned discipleship involves three things: relationship, scriptural study, and evangelism. I have been involved in this type of relationship since winter semester of freshman year, being discipled since then, but also discipling a freshman last semester. This summer I have been poured into (in other words, being taught, encouraged, and admonished) by a staff member by the name of Pete Avery, who is on staff with Cru at multiple colleges in central Illinois. The first five weeks I learned from him both from meeting together once a week and watching him as he interacted with students on campus, with his wife and family, and with God. I learned a lot from him, some of which I probably don;t even realize yet.

Because of my role as a director, I was chosen to disciple two other men on the leadership team by the name of Bryan and Ryan. The catch to this is that both of these men are older than me, one considerably so. But even if they weren't, this discipleship would not be solely one directional. As in any relationship, it will go both ways. I'm not sure how these times will look, but I know that in meeting with these men off God and getting to know them better, each one of us will learn and benefit. And I am so excited to do so, even more because I got to meet with both once them once already and go sharing with them.

God is doing big things, but it is not easy. This sprint is starting to get painful, but I will keep pushing on. The prize is worth it.

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable."

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV)

Oh, I also had the amazing opportunity to see this wonderful woman for 4 days this past weekend.
I miss her even more than I did before.

Prayer Requests:
  • That I would trust in God when I am afraid of the future
  • That I would rely on God for strength and energy when I have none left
  • That God would grow this community closer together even more so now that the staff is gone
  • That God would empower the leadership team with the Holy Spirit to be able to make decisions that are beneficial for the rest of the mission
  • That God would make me grow closer and closer and closer still to him
  • See previous posts
No matter where you are, what you are, and who you are, 
you are loved.


Monday, July 4, 2016

Week Four Update: FULL SPRINT

So...........yeah. I'm not waiting around anymore. The last week has been incredibly fast paced, and I'm glad I have some time today to reflect and let you all know what has been going on. Let's go chronologically:

Monday night I received an email from the assistant manager at Garrett, asking if I was available for training Tuesday afternoon. It overlapped with the beginning of my small group, which we call action groups, but my discipler and I agreed that it was about time I started working, so I went in. The first day I was mainly learning my way around, including how to take out the trash, where to find cleaning supplies, etc. Before the end of the day I was handing out popcorn bags and calling out ticket numbers. If you have ever been to Garrett Popcorn Shops before, you know that the popcorn goes in one bag, which goes in another bag, which goes in another bag. It's pretty intense. But, long story short, even though the manager told me that training normally takes two weeks, I became a full-fledged member of the team after two days. I have so far worked four separate shifts, two 5-hour shifts and two 8-hr shifts. I even stayed to close this past Saturday.

There have been some times when the shop has gotten ridiculously busy. On Saturday we were out of caramel popcorn for like 10 minutes, and the orders were piling up because they just kept taking orders. There was a crowd of at least 30 people in the lobby! But in those moments I also find some joy, because with nothing else to do I get to interact with the people. After apologizing for the wait, I surveyed the crowd on where people were from, identified with the Michigan people, bantered with the Ohio State fans, and overall just had a good time. I enjoyed seeing some people in the crowd smile.

It has had some hard things involved as well. I witnessed some pretty strong verbal abuse by one of the customers to the child she was with. I froze, not knowing what I could or could not do, and ended up not doing anything. It makes me so angry thinking about it now, that someone could look at anyone and treat them like their opinion doesn't matter. But it is a blunt reminder that this world is so broken, this happens anywhere and everywhere people don't look at others as being made in the image of God himself. On this 4th of July, it fits to say that to be treated as such, that is an unalienable right.

Moving on, we come to Wednesday morning. I had known this week was when the students would be learning what roles we would be taking on so that the mission would keep running when the staff leave this Thursday the 7th. However, I was caught off guard when the Operations Director texted me asking if we could meet. I stopped into the coffee shop where he was on the way to my second day on the job, and he informed me that for the second half of the summer, I would be taking over the Operations Director Role.

What that means is I will be a full fledged director along with 3 other students, directors of the entire summer mission and the direction it will go for the next 5 weeks. Along with that, I will be in charge of the budget and all spending that will go on as we continue the pattern of activities we have established these first four weeks. There is a lot of paperwork, forms, and math that will go into this.

That night, the entire student leadership team, which consists of 15 students, met for the first time. It was there I understood certainly the weight of my role. Every student was divided up into boxes on a page, a flow chart depicting who reported to who and who was in charge of what. My name was one of the four at the top of the page. I am really going to be a leader. As the night went on, I felt my shoulders getting heavier and heavier as the roles were described and our task was laid out in front of us, the first being choosing a theme and bible passages that the rest of the mission would be studying for the rest of the summer in action groups, large group meetings, and individually. It was just so much, and there was so little time.

As we went to have our first brainstorming session immediately afterwards, I left the room and ran up and down the stairs, with each step saying in my head what my heart did not fully believe. "I'm in the image of God, his image was not erased within me." Over and over again, I reminded myself that God knows what he is doing, and that I am working in his name. He trusts me and believes in me, as the staff do as well or they would not have entrusted me with my role. I felt a lot better after that.

It has been 5 days since that night, and I have felt slightly less overwhelmed with every passing day. Sunday we had meetings for all of our roles, and because of the many roles I have to play, I was in a lot of meetings, and I was exhausted, but it was a good exhaustion. The rest of my summer starts soon, this Thursday night, as the staff symbolically walk out of the meeting and move out of the Dwight Friday morning. People always say summer mission doesn't start until the staff leave, and I am already starting to feel that.

I don't know what the rest of the summer will bring. Each day is a new adventure in learning how to walk in God's way that day. But I think that is how God has called us to live our lives. It is only because I am here in Chicago that I feel it so much more, as my worldly comforts of laziness, complacency, and exhaustive planning are taken away. Here, I am bare before the Lord, and he will mold me as he sees fit. It will be really hard, I know that. But I am ready, knowing that it is not my master that is shaping me, to whom I yield out of fear, but my Father to whom I yield out of love.

Special Shout Out: To my mom and younger brother, who flew out to visit me on what happened to be the absolutely worst weekend to visit and still made me so happy and content, encouraging me with every word and action. I only had a little while to write this, otherwise I would have written more.

  • That God would guide myself and the other 3 directors in how to lead in a way that is honorable to him
  • That God would guide our leadership team as we pick a theme, sub-themes, and scripture for the next few weeks
  • That I would continue to remember that God desires to be with me even when I don't feel worthy, I am in his sight
  • Praise that God gave me the role that he did, in anticipation of what he is going to teach me this summer
  • That God would show me grace and humility as I learn to handle finances this week and have them handed over to me and my team next week.
  • That I would rest in who God is and the certainty we have that no matter what, he will win in the end
  • See other posts

Happy 4th of July!


Monday, June 27, 2016

Week Three Update: The Waiting Place

There is a famous poem by a man named Theodore Geisel that described the place I feel like I have been in this week. You most likely will recognize it, as it is often quoted to college graduates in countless speeches and conversational exchanges. It reads:

You can get so confused

that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...

...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting."

-Oh, the Places You'll Go!

If you haven't figured it out by now, Theodore Seuss Geisel also went by the pen name Dr. Seuss, and I have spent this week waiting. First of all, I have been waiting to start working. In my Week One blog post, I told you all that I would be working at Garrett's Popcorn at Navy Pier. Unfortunately that has been the last major thing I have done with it. Apparently the human resources department has had it rough these last two weeks, and my paperwork along with the three other students who have also been hired there has been at the bottom of the pile, not forgotten but delayed. So as of right now I am not working, but for those who have supported me financially, your prayerful donations have been supporting me these last two weeks without any extra cost to me or my mom, and of that I thank you very much.

Second, I am waiting for this community to come together. During the school year, when you listen to upperclassmen tell you about Summer Mission, one of the major things is the community that is created, unlike anything they had ever been a part of or had been a part of since. Talk about great expectations. But the fact is that community isn't grown in a day, it grows slowly. And it has been growing, slowly but steadily. Day by day, activity by activity, we are getting to know each other. I have met every student and know all of their names, if not in the moment than after a few seconds of thinking. But something I have had to come to terms with is that I will not be best friends with everyone, as much as I want to. There are too many people, and some of these people are very different from me. I haven't even been able to see the beauty in everyone yet. Some people are just a face and a name. But they are all beautiful, and with each passing day I know someone else a little bit better. Even last night we had the annual Student-Staff Kickball game, where I got to interact more with some new people and experience a little bit of who God made them to be. 
Our team colors were Red, White, and Blue. Photo Creds: Stuart Voltz

That's how I look at people I guess, everyone as masterpieces of which I get to see a little piece. A smaller group of people show me a bigger picture, and an even smaller few allow me to see closely what is harder to see from far away. These moments are precious to me, and it's amazing how those moments happen with close friends and also with people we talk to on campus. You who are reading this, you are a masterpiece, painted by the Master. Who you are is worth looking at and admiring.

Finally, I am waiting for change in my own life. God has been showing me so many things, among how I look for belonging in places other than him, and how I tend to seek to please others not to help them, but so I can be appreciated in return and proud of how much I help others. "Look at me, I can feel myself thinking." "Compliment me," As a result, I am held captive by what I think others think of me. That is sin, the things that keep you captive, in bondage to death, not life. But I want this tendency to change right now. This is the first time I can really remember being challenged by my brokenness, and I want fix it myself, be better, and move on. But I am learning that God doesn't work like that.   A quote from Miles J Stafford, taken from our small group curriculum, reads:

"The Spirit of God does not give immediate holiness of lie by faith or any other means. True, His method of producing holiness is by faith, but it is through the process of growth."

This is not a one stop shop. But I know that while I have to wait, I will do so if it brings about lasting change. I will also do so because, like many things I have experienced here in Chicago, that is the way it is going to be. I don't have control over it. So as much as that annoys me, I have to deal with it.

That's not for you!"
-Oh, the Places You'll Go!

I have not been just waiting.
During the week I went to campus as many days as the mission goes together, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Week 2 was a week for reading, Week 3 was a week of doing. I had 5 spiritual conversations over those three days, got to share the gospel twice, which I had not yet gotten to do. I'm so thankful for those conversations, and looking forward to one individual I will be meeting again in the near future. 

This week is a new week, and with a new week, comes new things that God has to teach me, new people God has for me to meet and get close to, and new things to go to him in prayer for. 

  • Everything mentioned in previous weeks
  • That I would start working soon
  • That our community would grow incredibly close together as soon as possible
  • That I would continue to grow to identify my sins and brokenness, but instead of driving me away from God, it would drive me to appreciate the power of the Gospel even more, because Christ dies for me while I was and am still a sinner. I didn't have to clean myself up for him, he takes me in all my disgusting brokenness and holds me close to himself.
I'll quote my good friend Luke Thompson-Kolar in saying,
"Blessings on your week."

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Week Two Update

To be honest, I didn't plan to be writing right now. Saturday morning is when a group of us goes to the nearby University of Illinois-Chicago campus to play soccer. I went last week, and it was a lot of fun. But I hit snooze one too many times on my alarm this morning, and woke up a half hour after everyone left. I have actually been sleeping a lot, getting at least my full 8 hours each night. But if you go to bed at 1:30, you wake up a little before 10. So I'm taking it as an opportunity to catch this blog up.

This week has been very sedentary. I didn't have orientation at Garrett's until Wednesday night, and even that was just talking through policies and procedures. I start training sometime next week. Honestly, that made this last week was frustrating for me. As I described in a previous post, I have trouble relaxing without feeling like I am being lazy. And the feeling is multiplied when it seems like most people around me are working each day at their respective jobs. Thankfully, I still had our weekly schedule for the nights, which looks like this:

Monday Night- Dinner and In-House Meeting at Harvest Bible Chapel
Tuesday Night- Dinner and Small Group Bible Study
Wednesday Night- Dinner and Night with the Lord/Date Night with Jesus
Thursday Night- Open Meeting at Harvest Bible Chapel

During the day this week I did a variety of things. I did a lot of reading of the Bible, focusing on the book of 1 Peter, which we are studying this month, as well as reading the two books The Finishers by Roger Hershey and Jason Weimer and Love Does by Bob Goff (Side note: I got a Chicago library card and they have a hug branch right by the Dwight Lofts where I am living, with a bunch of Christian books, where I picked up Love Does as well as Heaven by Randy Alcorn). I also took a personality test called the Enneagram that my discipler had found useful in his life for uncovering his motivations for some of his actions as well as reading on identity and masculinity for our discipleship time. 

As a result of all of my reading, a couple of things from this past week have really stuck out to me, and they actually go together. 

First of all, I am discovering that in my heart, I don't put ministry as a priority. I went to campus on Tuesday this past week, and got to talk with two more individuals, sharing a little of what I believe about the nature of God with one individual. On Wednesday and Thursday, I could have gone to campus again, but I chose to stay behind because of reading I wanted to do, and little tasks I wanted to get done. It struck me on Thursday how much I was avoiding going to campus more than I was "required" to. This came upon both as I was thinking about the main purpose of this mission, which is to grow in our faith by sharing the gospel with other college students and people in Chicago, as well as the main message of The Finishers, which is about taking the gospel to all corners of the globe, to all the unreached people groups who have never heard the gospel. (If you are curious, check out https://joshuaproject.net/

I saw my quickness in shrugging off going to share my faith on campus that Thursday, and it really showed me how I still have a fear of sharing. Is this catastrophic? No, not really. But I do think that this is one way of God revealing to me how I think very highly of myself, and, as I asked him to do, he is revealing my strengths and my weaknesses so I can rely on him for both.  Now there are many ways I could receive this news. I could wallow in shame, feeling horrible for putting myself ahead of God. And I would do that too if I needed to prove myself to God, that I am worthy of his forgiveness. But I'm not worthy of his forgiveness. This is by no means the first time I have put myself before God in my life, and it won't be the last. But by his son Jesus I am forgiven if I turn from those ways and fix my eyes on him. And that leads me to a better way to respond to his conviction of selfishness in my life, and my last story of this post.

On Tuesday night, the entire Chicago Summer Mission participated in our own version of Chopped. We had a half hour to make a dessert from Cheezits, Bacon, Guava juice, Semi-sweet chocolate, and Orange Jello mix. I was pretty confident in my room, but honestly we didn't do that well. None the less, we were on our way to the lounge area where we would be presenting our food. As we attempted to deliver our chocolate dipped bacon and Cheezits with an orange-guava sauce to the judging table, another young man on our mission turned around very quickly in front of me as I was carrying two of our three plates. Bacon and cheezits went everywhere, and we were suddenly one plate short. This gentleman, who will go unnamed, was immediately thrown into distress, repeating over and over again, "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry," I tried to tell him it was ok, it was just a game, but he kept repeating it over and over again, a pained tone in his voice. I wrapped my arms around him, and said in his ear, half talking, half whispering, "It's ok, it's ok, I forgive you. Now stop saying I'm sorry." 

Love Does has a similar story. Bob Goff was driving without a seat belt when an elderly woman ran a stop sign and hit him, totaling his car and sending him through the top of his Jeep and out onto the street. Miraculously, he was not seriously injured. The woman was very shaken up, and after they had exchanged information, called him multiple times in the next two weeks telling him how sorry she was. Bob, who did not hold anything against her, actually sent her an order of flowers with a note, saying, "It was great running into you...Now stop calling me! Bob." 

I'm going to make the same point Goff makes in his book, that we don't have to keep apologizing to God. That is bluntly not believing in the promise he made that if we asked to be forgiven and repented from our sins, he would forgive us. What's more, not believing that he has forgiven me is not believing that he is a good God. I want to believe that, so I will not keep beating myself up for my lukewarm attitude towards reaching God's people. He loves me too much for that. Instead, I will trust that as I get closer to him, my heart for his created people would grow.

Prayer requests:
  • That I would start working at Garrett's next week
  • That God would grow my heart for reaching the people that don't know him
  • For the people I am going to meet/did meet (depending on when you read this) at our city outreach this afternoon in the city of Chicago, as we go around asking people what they value and share our values and beliefs with them if they desire it. 
  • That God would continue to grow our community, which has already banded together to do so much in the lives of others and in the lives of people on our mission
  • That the people in other student's lives would be moved to give to the mission, as many students are not yet fully funded. 
  • That God would be working in my heart to seek out those on the mission who I have not gotten along with so far and get to know them, not letting first impressions ruin how I see them for the rest of the summer.
  • That God would continue to show me the ways I disobey him and by result am not perfect, so I can give him full credit for saving me, and not deceive myself by thinking I have any part in my salvation because of my vain glory.
Thank you for your prayers, and don't hesitate to reach out and say hello!