Sunday, July 27, 2014

Summit Summer, 2014

   Most of you know that my sister and I have been to a Christian worldview conference for the past three summers in a row. This conference is hosted by Summit Ministries, and since I've never blogged about it, I figured it was about time to!

    Everyone asks us questions like "What was it like?" "Where did you go?" "What did you learn?" - and honestly these things aren't easy to explain, mainly because there is so much that we go through during those two weeks.

 But I'll give you a little taste of it...

  At Summit we are introduced to several different worldviews and where you can find them in modern society. We hear stories from all different sides and accounts. We are taught to think well, to discuss differences well while still holding onto a solid foundation, but most importantly we're taught to love well.

Our speakers are amazing and brilliant. They do their absolute best to convey to us the story of what God has done in their lives, and how we can let Him use us as well.

One of my favorite speakers was Dr. Brown, who spoke on Christianity and culture, he expressed such a sense of passion about the subject and compassion for people that it's hard not to love him.

The speakers also spend most of their free time answering our questions or listening and giving educated, well thought out answers if they have them. It's good for us to know that we can ask the difficult questions.

Because we sat through 7 hours of session a day, we had lots of free time to play and get all of our energy out during the afternoon. The main sport? Volleyball of course!

One afternoon, one of our speakers ( Mike Adams ) walked a group of us down to Dayton so that we could see the courthouse where the Scopes Trials took place in 1925.



When we arrived, the courthouse was getting ready for a reenactment of the Scopes Trials, above is a picture of a piece of a local newspaper from 1925 announcing the trial to the town. And on the right is Dr. Adams explaining to us little details of this significant historical event.
I'm a bit of a history nerd, so this part was particularly interesting for me. ;)

Another thing I absolutely love about Summit is our staff. Somewhere toward the beginning of the second week we had two speaker Sarah and Barton Stone come and talk to us about the different aspects of masculinity and femininity. They remind us how we're all made in the image of God and how as a woman one of the ways we show that is by giving life to others with our speech, actions and behavior. I can't tell you how many times I sat and talked for hours on end to one of these ladies just because I needed someone to listen and give a little advice, or saw them going out of their way to do something special for a friend, or giving an uplifting hug right when you needed it. Their amazing.

And for the young men, we talked about how part of their job as being made in the image of God is to be protectors and sustainers of life. I think out of all the meals I attended ( three a day ), I even carried my own plate away more than five times at the end. There was always someone to courteously offer to take it for you. I don't think I ever had to open a door for myself, or at least very few times while I was there. But more than these chivalrous deeds it means a ton to us women that the young men ( staff and student alike ) were there learning how to be good leaders so they could take it back home with them and introduce it back into culture.

                                                                                               (The Staff )
    Without them, we wouldn't know what it looked like to be young men and women pursuing a lifestyle of servant hood for Christ.

 And on that note, one of the absolute best parts of Summit, in my opinion, is the people. That's what you miss the most when you leave, the interaction, the laughter, the hugs, the late night card games, the smiles, the words of affirmation. And trust me, it is hard to leave these people!




So I walked into my dorm one evening and saw this mattress in the hallway. Some of the girls in my small group had emptied out one of the girls rooms! Poor girl came back to an empty bed and shelves, and then got "surprise attacked" by the others! Gotta love these expressions of love. ;)


The campus of Bryan College (where I am applying for next year! ) is beautiful on top of all this, and we were grateful for mostly sunny days and even some 60 degree weather!

  This is a picture I took one evening after having a chat with one of our more charismatic speakers Debbie Brezina, she spoke on Churchill and WWII. I remember that the night was cool, and I could hear a train in the distance. I also remember that I stopped and looked at the faintly lit sky ( which the picture does not do justice to ) and paused just for a moment to take in the atmosphere and have a heart of gratefulness for everything I was taking in. These moments are the moments I remember the best; laughing, singing, playing, studying and working with each other and thanking God for it all the while.

  One afternoon we went to a nearby campground called Fort Bluff and enjoyed some time away from studying and just took time to be with each other.

  Whether it was praising God in the evenings with 300+ people, sitting and chatting with a friend, having a heart to heart with your small group, and even during the morning sessions when it was sometimes hard to stay awake, there isn't a second that wasn't worth the trip.
  Some of the most meaningful moments for me are when we were told to break up into groups of two or three and pray about one thing or another. To hear the two young men next to me being leaders, and all the rest of the students in the background lift up their voices to God on behalf of each other, was such an amazing way to see God move and work among us. They couldn't tell but it sometimes made me a little teary. ;)

 I can't say enough how joyful it makes me to see young men and women acting out the things we've learned and loving each other as fellow children of God. Using our unique gifts to bring life and help each other through life for those two weeks.

  These are just some of the books they suggest we read while at Summit, their always saying: "If you want to be a leader you have to be a reader!" And it's very true, so hopefully my collection is a good start. ;)

                                                                        My small group! I love them quite a lot.

                                    And this is the whole crew, over 300 students and somewhere around 50 staff.

  No Summit summer session in Tn. would be complete without Josh Bales, so here are a few of my favorites from him, mostly filmed at Bryan, accept for that last one :


    It's definitely hard to say goodbye, but it is a plus to have friends all over the country! And reunions are in the near future. ;) 

                       And this is the beautiful lady who took the majority of the pictures above, isn't she amazing??


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"My own plans are made..."

 Coming back from a two week worldview/leadership conference where you're completely saturated in Christ and surrounded by people who are admittedly traveling this narrow road with you is a very difficult thing indeed. There is much heartache involved but also much joy. The lessons we bring back with us however are immeasurably important to our walk with Christ.

 One such lesson I learned this time around was a surprise to me, as I thought I had already learned it. But it turns out that God's ideas of "lessons learned" and mine, are completely different.

 I used to think that in order to be a good Christian I had to wake up early every day, spend at least an hour reading the bible, at least another fifteen minutes praying, and I had to be not just happy but joyful about it.
 Well if you know me very well, you know that I am not a morning person the majority of the time. So this was quite a challenge for me, and most of the time I ended up feeling like a complete and utter failure, because I just wasn't good enough for this lifestyle that I wanted to live. And I didn't have a heart yearning for Christ enough to put my self aside and just rise early or enjoy worship. It wasn't until I returned from Summit and started talking through my experiences that I realized what God had taught me.

 At Summit we are broken up into something called small groups, divided according to age, so there were only seven to nine in a group. They are designed to create a safe place for us to talk about and relate everything going on in us during our time there. Each group has a leader, either a guy or girl depending on the gender of the group. Their jobs are to invest in us, help us grow and be there for us when we need a mentor, counselor, or friend.

  My small group leaders name was Sarah Jane Hall, and a apart from her being stinkin' amazing. She also did an amazing job of helping us know Christ better just by loving us well.

  There was a particular instance where she was there for me in a way I thought no one could be. I remember talking to her late one night about this particular problem and feeling absolutely accepted and loved. Not seen for my sin, but seen as a redeemed person in Christ. I went to bed feeling closer to Christ then I had in a long while.

  Sarah Jane was able to open the door to let Christ love me through her, and it touched my heart in such a way as to bring me closer to Him. I remember praying that night just before sleep took over : God, I want to begin with you and end with you, everyday. I had reached an understanding not just with my mind but with my heart that Christ was my home. The place I felt accepted and loved and cherished. And I knew that as long as I could begin and end there, then I could poor out to the people around me in the same way Sarah Jane had done for me.

 This experience prompted me to want to be with Christ even when I got home from Summit. So I created a plan of study time, and started spending time every morning ( no matter what time I got up ) and evening just talking to God. Or maybe in more simple terms, going back to the place I had come to know as home.

  And it hasn't taken any excruciating effort, because my heart is in it. And it's what I want.

 I don't want to say that rising at the crack of dawn, reading for an hour and praying for fifteen minutes every day is a bad thing. But I've come to realize that it does not have to be how you spend time with God. As simple of a realization as that sounds.

  The act of having devotional time, means literally being devoted to Christ. Which means it is a matter of the heart.

 My suggestion, if you're struggling with having a heart for it, is this : sometimes your heart does not always want what's right and you have to use your feet to take it there. This may sound crazy, but sometimes just doing the deed will get you there.
 Also, cry out to God. Tell Him you want to have a heart for pursuing Him but you're not feeling it that much. He's a big God, He can handle our feeble little hearts and our uncooperative emotions. Ultimately it will be a change of heart that gets you there, and Christ will have to change it for you if you cannot.

 For me, Christ had to change it. And now that He has I find myself drawn in more and more everyday.
To quote a favorite artist of mine who I'd say pretty accurately describes the longing for this place I now call home :

 "Wisdom will honor everyone who will learn to listen, to love, and to pray and discern and to do the right thing even when it burns and to live in the light through each treacherous turn. A man is weak, but the spirit yearns to keep on course from the bow to the stern and throw overboard every selfish concern that tries to work for what can't be earned. Sometimes the only way to return is to go where the winds will take you. And to let go of all you cannot hold onto. For the hope beyond the blue."
  "Trouble has beset my ways, and wicked winds have blown. Sirens call my name, they say they'll ease my pain, then break me on the stones. But true love is the burden that will carry me back home. Carry me with the memories of the beauty I have known. I'm sailing home to you, I won't be long. By the light of moon I will press on. So tie me to the mast of this old ship and point me home."

                                                                          ~Josh Garrels

And here's another from a brave little mouse because it so articulately describes the cry of my heart :

  “My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world into some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise..." 

                                                                  ~ Reepicheep

Friday, July 4, 2014

America the Beautiful

  What is America? Or rather : who are we, Americans, as a nation? This is a question I am seeking out answers to always. Perhaps a better way to phrase it would be : who do we want to be?

  After all, we are a nation who is supposed to decide, rather than have someone decide for us, who we want to be. Our ideals, our motives, our morals, our outreach and our limitations are entirely decided by us. Because of this however, it can also go to waist the second we decide not to take responsibility for our nation anymore.

  We tend to blame all of the problems in our nation on those who do not have the same moral beliefs that we do. Those who oppose our views and choose to do something about it.
  Don't get me wrong, I think a lot of the political, moral and ethical problems our nation currently has are due, in part, to this. But I think just as much of the blame falls on those who have the moral obligation to be involved ( because this is our nation ) but simply, don't. That means you and me.

 Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:

" Silence in the face of evil, is evil itself : God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak, is to speak. Not to act, is to act."

When he said this he was in the wake of a morally devastated country. Ridden with hatred, malice and much death. He understood that during Adolph Hitler's rise to power the people were on Hitler's side. And that they were on Hitler's side, because Hitler knew exactly what to say to an otherwise uninvolved majority of people. Because they were not self educated or rightly educated it was very easy for him to feed them lies and sway their opinions and passions.
 Bonhoeffer knew this and tried his best to turn the tide, but to no avail. He even had the opportunity to stay in America where he would be safe for the rest of his life after provoking Hitler himself through assassination attempts. But he chose to go back, because he did not want to abandon his country to a tyrant. He risked his life several times and eventually died for this cause, for his country.

  And we think that standing in our back yards having a BarBQ with friends while waving American flags around makes us patriots?

 Again, don't get me wrong. We were meant to celebrate on this day! After all John Adams said on July 3rd of 1776 :

  "But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776 (the day the Continental Congress approved a resolution for independence), will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."

    "It ought to be commemorated..", but let that not be the extent of our patriotism.
  I know there is good reason to hate politics. It's dirty and tangled and messy and a lot of the times completely immoral and hard to keep up with. I know this because I've been making an effort to keep up with it since I was sixteen years old. But it's very necessary.
  I know it doesn't feel like anything we do will not make that much of a difference to the entire nation. But it is essential that we act on behalf of good. Our nation needs us to hold fast to the truths we were founded on, so that we don't lose them entirely.

 As with anything, being a good citizen in our nation starts in the heart. Who do you want to be? Someone who pretends all of these problems don't exist? Or someone who takes them head on and fights with truth and dignity?

 I have decided that I truly love this country. For her people, her morals ( the ones we were founded on ;) ), her hope and everything else that has brought people here for hundreds of years.

 We are a nation who accepts anyone, brings them in, protects them, takes care of them, gives them an opportunity for new life away from whatever oppression they faced before. We give people the benefit of a doubt, we uphold standards of justice, we fight for the freedom we once claimed. We know that no one man is greater than another, and that everyone has the right to choose what they will believe. The right to say what they believe, the right to live freely.
  We know the value of a life and the value of those who are different from us. Our lady of liberty stands in our northern harbor where she's welcomed people from around the world for hundreds of years as a light and a hope for them.

I love this country because she is close to my heart. And I will strive to serve her and her people well. So Happy Birthday America, may your shores always be welcoming, your people always humble and your values never forgotten.

Below is a sonnet written by American poet Emma Lazarus in 1883, which was placed on a plaque underneath the statue of liberty in 1903.

                                                       The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

            Below is one of my favorite versions of "My country 'tis of thee." By 17 year old Abby Anderson. Take a look and see what you think. ;)