2016 Dates and Fees

We’re getting really excited about SPEC 2016 this summer! We had a planning meeting last night via video conference and there are some really great things emerging around our theme this year.

Some basic info that will be helpful for all of us! 

Dates: July 23-30

Fees: All fees remain the same as 2015. See detailed info on the Registration page.

Theme: Connect

If you have questions or need more info about a specific topic, please contact us at spec@CofChrist.org.

Maybe…maybe there IS hope

Maybe I’m watching too much news. Maybe I’m not watching enough. Maybe I’m paying a little too close attention to the events around me. Maybe I’m not paying enough attention. I’m definitely not doing enough. I’m anxious. I worry. And if I’m truly honest with myself, I’m a bit fearful. Ok, I’m more than a “bit” fearful.

Sarah wrote a great blog last week about Mary’s decision to let go and follow God. Even though Mary didn’t quite understand, was worried and apprehensive, she still put her trust in God.  This is the beautiful season of advent – preparing for the birth of Jesus. (For real, this is one of THE biggest events in Christianity. Imagine being told you’re going to meet your favorite celeb. Think about how you’d prepare for that meeting. What would you wear, what would you say, can you do it without fangirling out but still make a lasting impression, will they like you, what if you become friends, omg omg omg. Ok, so preparing for the birth of Jesus is a little different. But hold on to that excitement. That’s the shared experience here.) So this time of year is supposed to be joyful and exciting and light and all the feel-good warmth and hot chocolate with marshmallow sweetness of “the most wonderful time of the year.” Right? At least that’s what I’m told. This year, I’m sort of experiencing all of those things, but they’re mostly whispers. My anxiety is speaking louder. I’m doing my best to keep the season alive for my young children, but in the evening when they’re in bed I check out the news and I’m saddened about this world they’re growing up in:

Fear. Hate. Anger. Divisiveness. Racism. Bigotry. Aggression. Terrorism. Lies. Selfishness. Vengeance. Shootings. Loss. Grief. Death…

…Birth…Hope.

In Accidental Saints: Finding God in all the Wrong People, Lutheran minister, Nadia Bolz-Weber (See her picture at the end of the post. I’m pretty sure I’d fangirl out if I met her.) retells the original Christmas story in a way I’d never heard before. It  was “a story of alienation, political tyranny, homelessness, working-class people, pagans, and angels…. [The leader, king Herod is a] scheming, frightened, insecure troglodyte who puts a hit out on a toddler…. The story reveals a God who has entered our world as it actually exists, and not as the world we often wish it would be…. We often behave as though Jesus is only interested in saving and loving a romanticized version of ourselves or an idealized version of our mess of a world, and so we offer to him a version of our best selves…perhaps so we can escape the Herod in ourselves and in the world around us…. The story of Christmas is as much about comfort and joy as it is about how messed up our world actually is.”

Ok, I’m with you. Our world is definitely messed up. (If I’m totally honest, I don’t care to think about the Herod in me.) So, where’s the comfort and joy?

This week, Jenn Killpack (Spec Director, extraordinaire) sent out another take on the season from Bolz-Weber from a recent sermon, “Bullies, Terrorists and Anxiety: A Sermon on Defiant Hope.” You can find an audio to the sermon and the transcript at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2015/12/bullies-terrorists-and-anxiety-a-sermon-on-defiant-hope/   Here is an excerpt:

“As a society our anxiety is at a fevered pitch as the powers and principalities rage around us.
And yet…it’s Advent. A time when we are supposed to be finding hope and peace.
So in the cacophony of other messages from the rulers of this world…in the midst of this, I wonder if maybe we are quiet and tilt our heads a certain direction, if we can again hear the word of the Lord – who skips over all that crap and comes instead in the promises from John the Baptist saying ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
That’s right – not ‘all shall see tyranny’ or ‘all shall see terror’ but all shall see the salvation of God.
I want to claim that promise as our own. But it’s so hard right now….
So if you too are anxious and can not pray maybe we can all take a note from an Advent message from Brother Curtis of the Society of St John the Evangelist: who suggests that maybe what we can do is to pray for the conversion of our anxiety. Because, he says, when anxiety is converted, you know what it becomes? It becomes hope…If you have anxiety now, you are almost hopeful. You’re like, superclose.
So here’s a word from the Lord to an anxious people praying for the conversion of our anxiety: Here is what pushed me that tiny distance between anxiety and hope this week. It was when I realized this:
You know that list of powerful men at the beginning of our reading? You know, the ones whose power at the time must have seemed insurmountable? – the names of these emperors and rulers and governors and power brokers who were so feared and powerful at the time- you know what? The only reason anyone knows their names…the only reason anyone even says their names – the only reason these tiny, pathetic so-called powerful men are even remembered at all 2,000 years later is as a footnote to Jesus of Nazareth. Those who were caught up into the powers and principalities of violence and empire and greed – whose power at the time they were alive felt so absolute– are only a footnote to Jesus. Jesus – the prince of peace, the man of sorrows, the friend of sinners, the forgiver of enemies.
So my prayer this week when I just didn’t know what to pray was simple. I named every single thing and person that seems so powerful right now as to feel inescapable – rulers, tyrants, my own sins, societal forces etc. and I named them and then said ‘footnote’.
Pontias Pilate – footnote
The Islamic state – footnote
My own participation in the things I say I don’t believe in – footnote
The gun lobby – footnote
Your depression – footnote
Your boss – footnote
Student Loans – footnote
Xenophobic violence – footnote
Don’t mistake me – all of these things are very real and the horrible effect they have on us and on the world is also very real. But in the big picture I defiantly believe that God can redeem it. All of it. Our God will be victorious turning swords into plough-shares and anxiety into hope. I will cling to the promise that ALL flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

What feelings, big or small, are preventing you from living hope, love, joy and peace?

Take a moment to list them out as Bolz-Weber did and next to them give them their proper label – footnote. (Feel free to list out some of those in the comments section or on our Spec Facebook page.)

Let the idea of “footnote” sink in.

Defiantly let God redeem all of it!

Know that in the world you and I and my kids are living in, there is hope. Love. Joy. Peace.

Know the promises from John the Baptist, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall me made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

My hope for you is that you reflect upon how the Christmas story relates to what is happening around us today. May you find comfort and peace in that. May you know the excitement of Advent. May your anxiety morph to hope. May the rest of this year and all of next be full of God redeeming your footnotes.

With love,
Callie

 

nadia-bolz-webber.jpg

Nadia Bolz-Weber (Alex Baker Photography http://www.christiantoday.com)

 

 

Get Ready…Get Set…

by Sarah Steinberg

Stores have been preparing for months. Children start scoping out toy catalogs and lists are being made. In my house the day after Thanksgiving is the day that the boxes come out of the basement and the decorations start going up. Christmas is coming!

Last Sunday was actually the start of the advent season. Advent is the few weeks before Christmas that we start preparing for the birth of Jesus. There is a lot of preparing that happens at Christmas. We prepare decorations and gift lists, for parties and festivities we only do once a year. These are all things that mark the season. They are a big deal and we spend time getting ready. But recently I keep thinking, am I really prepared? Not just for the decorating and parties but am I really ready to say yes to this amazing thing- when the Christ comes a little closer to this place again this year.

What do you do to start getting ready for the birth of Jesus? Do you think about mangers and sheep and what it would have been like to be born in a stable? Kinda gross probably- not my first choice. Do you think about what a dangerous time it must have been? All those people with such great expectations? Some who want Jesus to save them- be their king and yet they stare into the face of a child and are confused and doubt. I think I would too.

I often think about the already but not yet-ness of Christ. We know he’s come and is coming and will come again. That he’s here with us now and will come again, both in our celebration and remembrance of the gift of the Christ child born in a manager but we also prepare for the coming of Christ in the future as we continue to prepare his kingdom here on Earth.

It’s all a little confusing and yet- I sometimes wonder if I just go through the motions of Christmas. If faced with the same challenges as Mary and Joseph- would I let go, and say yes?

There’s Something about Mary

So… here we have a girl, likely 13-15 years of age. She’s a peasant and she’s engaged to a pretty religious guy. An angelic figure visits her saying that she’s found favor with God and is going to conceive a son by the Holy Spirit.

I’m not sure about you but I think I’d be a little freaked out. We don’t think a lot about Mary until it’s time to dust off the little figurine for the nativity. This week I started thinking about Mary and what she had to say ‘Yes’ to and what she had to let go of.

I think Mary deserves our attention for at least a moment because in her we see what casting our lot with and being blessed by God really looks like. Namely that being blessed means seeing God in the world and trusting that God is at work even in things we can’t see, or understand, or imagine.

Mary saying “God, I’m yours. Let’s do this thing.” She said yes.

She didn’t say yes because she thought by doing so God was going to shower her with cash and prizes. No. Here’s where this girl had some serious chops. She got something I really struggle to understand: that getting a blessing is not the same as getting a present. She said yes not based on the expectation of things being awesome for her but based on the expectation that God can create something out of nothing.

“Ok, I don’t understand what’s going on and I know that my life isn’t going to end up looking like one I would choose out of a catalogue but I trust that God is at work in all of it.”

Blessedness is being used for God’s purpose more than it’s getting what I want or things being easy.

That yes she gave was fierce!

Christmas itself isn’t about getting what you want, or making sure you’re giving others what they want. To experience Christmas is to trust that God can do this thing again. God can again be born in me, in you, in this broken mess of a gorgeous world.

 

A Meditation Moment

Shane and Shane- Yearn

 

Try Out A New Mantra

This week I will say YES! I am being used by God.

 

Sending Forth

May the God through whom nothing is impossible help you to be like Mary….saying a fierce, or timid, or quiet, or confident yes.

Let Go- When It All Fades

Have you tried to to let go of something in life, move past a tough time but simply couldn’t? Maybe its failing a try out, getting into an argument with a friend, failing an exam, a break up perhaps. No matter what techniques you implement to move on with your life, those memories or signs of the tough times in life keep showing back up. What I’ve found out in life is that so often in life, when we let go, we only want to do so partially. We try to let go of it when it hurts, but when we feel lonely or doubt creeps up in our mind, we reach back for a time that once was. Imagine the events in your life that you try to move past are like a yo-yo. You toss it down, as hard as you can, thinking it’s gone out of your life for good. But as is the nature of the yo-yo, before you realize it, it returns and is apart of us again. Letting go fully can be scary because even if the mistakes and past times in life are detrimental to us, it can hurt to lose something that has been a part of your life for so long.

One of our spec camps Josh Soulliere reflects on his experience of letting go

New School, New Me?

When I first think of the idea “Let Go”, I think of my freshmen year of high school. Just like as in middle everything changed, I went from a small private middle school with a graduating class of twenty four to a public high school   With less than half of those twenty four friends. All I could think about was how good my old school was and how I missed it. These thoughts put limits on me. I became less interactive both inside and out of class. I became more sheltered and seclusive and limited talking to others. It wasn’t until half way through that harsh year of school that my friends Hunter and Nina encouraged me to try to enjoy the moment. I began to let go of the past and my longing for it and began to live my life. By deciding to let go, not to forget or to ignore, of my past I began to take steps towards a happier life. I soon afterword began to make strong friendships with all these strangers in school, which I still have today. I don’t know if I would be the same person today if I hadn’t let go and moved on. I don’t even know if I would have the same relationships I have today if I hadn’t made such a decision. One thing is for certain, I am glad I was able to let go to move forward.

Have Hope!

This scripture from this week comes from the book of Jeremiah. Chapter 29:11 “ I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering.”

Let It Fade

The focus video for this week comes in the form of a music video by Jeremy Camp. May the words inspire your spirit and help give you the courage to let go of what you’ve been holding for so long.

Comfort in God

I am a strong believer that Love is the reason we exist. I believe that God created us to understand and experience the paramount feeling, and to express it in such a way that He does; So we can become more like Him. You don’t have to agree with that in the slightest, but with that being my philosophy to guide me through my days, you can imagine that I took, and still take, human relationships very seriously. I poured my heart and soul into every conversation I possibly could despite who it was I was conversing with solely because I wanted to grow with anyone and everyone who’s path crossed mine due to the idea that God created me to love the way He does. With this in mind, I am sure it isn’t surprising that I took my romantic relationships seriously as well and expected them to last forever every time. Not only because I was 16 and naive, at the time my story I am about to tell took place, but because I was in it for the long run. I would willingly look past tragic flaws and convince myself that these qualities in them didn’t exist. I think it is safe to say that I am a helpless romantic; I believe that when I am dating a boy, God placed them in my life because they are the one. To some that sounds crazy, believe me I think it’s crazy myself, but that’s just how I am. At times it helps such as in forgiveness, but it is perhaps also my greatest downfall. Here is my story: I  met a boy my freshman year of high school. This boy taught me to truly love and I spent the following three years with him. We grew close to Christ, and to each other. He made me feel genuinely beautiful, made me laugh on my most somber of days, and always believed in me. I of course was convinced he was the one. I gave him every ounce of my heart; He became the center of all my thoughts and of course, I loved him unconditionally. We planned our whole entire lives together and held on through every trial that came our way because we both agreed that we were the love of each other’s lives and that one day we would get married and start our own family. We dreamed on a grand scale and were determined to make them into a reality.  But then one night, he changed his mind. He left me. After three years of loving, sacrificing, patiently waiting, and of course ceaselessly praying, he left me. He found another girl and decided she was worth more than the plans we made. However, he didn’t leave quietly, he left me with an ounce of hope, saying he would be right back, and of course my stubborn heart and mind held on and clung to it with all of my life. I spent the following six weeks mostly in bed because it didn’t feel real. I didn’t want to know what life was like without him. The world seemed gray and I often questioned God’s reason behind it all. I was lost and my eyes were permanently swollen from the tears that stained my pillow that my eyes then lacked. For six months I was devastated. The plans we made were gone. The songs we used to sing made me cry. The hours we would spend talking were now spent in silence. His vanishing act, to me, was the crime of the century, and for some unexplainable reason he remained unaffected and I was left as the victim, asking God why he had to leave.

One night, I crawled into bed and immediately fell apart. I grasped the railing of my bed and cried my self into an anxiety attack. I couldn’t breathe, and having experienced this before, I cried harder when what would’ve stopped it before wasn’t working this time around. After minutes of being unable to breathe properly, my vision started to go; Life became crystallized and soon after everything began to fade. This caused for apprehension and I prayed because I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I prayed to escape this locality and to fill my lungs with air again. I slowly regained full vision as my mind went from focusing on the current situation to centralizing around my talking to God. As my outlet to him proceeded, my breathing slowed down and my heartbeat began to take a more languid pace. As always God took a hold of me. I prayed to him and told him I didn’t want to see any more nights that were similar to these. I told him my fears and I told him what I carried in my mind and what consumed my heart as if he didn’t already know. That night I told God I was ready to let go. I prayed to him to guide me through the rest of my days and to lock my gaze on him. I prayed for hope and to remind me that love exists and that it isn’t bad to date with marriage in mind, because it isn’t. (That is the end goal, right?) That night God took my worries off of my chest and I could breathe again. I let go of the plans I had with this boy and accepted the brighter future God had laid out for me. I trusted in him, and I Let Go. God gave me a love that the world could not offer and He took my broken heart and mended it. He promised me a brighter future.

This story might be hard to relate to for some who read it, but I imagine everybody has suffered loss and has grown bitter over it at some point in your life. If you haven’t, I am slightly envious because it is a pain unlike any other and I pray, for you, that when the time comes, it is easy for you to accept. I pray that if you are bitter over the loss of something, and the pain from its vacancy resounds throughout your days, that you ask God for the strength to Let Go. In Romans 8:18, Jesus tells us “The pain that you have been feeling cannot compare to the Joy that is coming.” It doesn’t seem believable, I know, but it is. Happy Holidays everybody, and may God bless you always and abundantly.

-Sydney Leal

Sending Forth

As you through out this week into the holiday and time spent with family and friends alike, find solace in the peace that Christ brings, in the comfort and blessings of community. The serenity prayer is one used in many organizations and support groups in which people are trying to let go and change. May it be a blessing to you as well.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,The courage to change the things I can,And the wisdom to know the difference.”

Blessings, and Happy Thanksgiving!

-Damon

Label

The Labeling Affect

This year spec we spent a couple of spec today classes focusing on letting go of image and judgement. These two things, though not done on consecutive days are very much connected. In life, so much judgement we may feel from others, that we may place on others, is based image. Image is so multi faceted, made up of what we think of ourselves, what others think of us and how we internalized. So often, it can affect the way we live life.

A Hallowing Experience

I found myself a few weeks ago on Halloween sitting at a McDonalds. A few friends and myself decided to take advantage of the new all day breakfast. Few things as amazing as pancakes for dinner. I remember as a child on those rare occasions my grandmother would take my brother and I to McDonalds before church and how excited we would get. As we sat, noted a string of students, both young and old coming in and out of the restaurant. There was such a wide variety of customs. Pirates, doctors, zombies, some I would wear, and others that didn’t look to comfortable. As I refilled my cup before getting ready to depart, I saw a small boy enter all dressed up with his mom. He smiled at me so I knelt down and asked him what he was dressed as and his favorite thing about Halloween. He was someone from a movie I had never heard of but his reason why is what was profound to me. He said Halloween was his favorite because it gave him a chance to dress up and go as someone else.

What a revelation. What would we give if we could choose the day, maybe once a week, a year, once in a life time to go as someone else? To leave our insecurities, our fears, our uncertainties and failures behind and go as our ‘dream selves’, go as someone we feel has an image, and labels that we would approve of and others would approve of.

Scripture

You are the one
who put me together
    inside my mother’s body,
14 and I praise you
    because of
the wonderful way
    you created me.
Everything you do is marvelous!
    Of this I have no doubt.

15 Nothing about me
    is hidden from you!
I was secretly woven together
    deep in the earth below,
16 but with your own eyes
    you saw
    my body being formed.
Even before I was born,
you had written in your book
    everything I would do.

Who Are You?

As our scripture tells us, everything that God does is marvelous, including creating each and everyone of else. We may make mistakes, hurt those we love, fall short of our goals, but we will always be wonderfully created and loved in the eyes of God.

Yet in our daily lives of work, school, sports and so many other things we encounter labels. So often we hear, “you’re fat” or “you don’t be long here” from others. So often the hardest labels to shake may be ones we place on ourselves, “I’m not good enough”.

The video posted below offers a new perspective on these labels and the affect they have on our lives.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0qD2K2RWkc

Making Sense of it All

After watching the video you may ask, are all labels a bad thing? A perspective I had not considered even after watching the video until I shared the experience with a friend. As I sat in community with a few members of my congregation and with many others gathered online from countries around the world, I sat in awe. My friend Kevin spoke with passion and a desire in his heart to make sense of it all. He said I am proud to be who I am. He spoke of the pride felt for the things he has accomplished and why wouldn’t he be? And why shouldn’t we strive to succeed and appreciate the hard work we have done as we look back on life as it was and prepare for life as it might be, could be. I’ve learned in this life that like most things we experience, labels and judgements are what you make of them. That while words can sting, hurt us, and may always retain their power, we can relish and find comfort in knowing that we are loved.

So as you go throughout your week, remember that, there are some labels that you can wear proud. Be it that we are christians, flawed, imperfect but filled with love. Disciples prepared each day to serve others and to create community.

Campers, staff and whomever else may read this, I wish you a blessed week.

-Damon

Road Trip and ANTs

Spec 2015 challenged and encouraged us to Let Go and allow the divine to fill in the newly emptied space.

Since Spec, I have been challenging myself to improve my self-talk. Basically, self-talk is the voice inside your head.

At Spec 2015, Kevin Pearce (kevinpearce.com) briefly talked about ANTs—Automatic Negative Thoughts—while sharing a story about dropping his cell phone in the toilet. Today’s devotion provides some additional insight into ANTs and I’ll share my story about how ANTs impact our mind, body, and actions.

Road Trip

My 89 year-old grandfather spends the winter months in Tucson, Arizona. Every fall we drive from Kansas City, Missouri (Go Royals!!!) to Tucson. It’s roughly 19 hours of drive time that spans 2 days. Grandpa loves to drive the 2-lane highways that cut across the United States. We drive across Kansas, the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles, New Mexico and through southern Arizona. We see small towns, abandoned barns, towering grain silos, mile-long trains (this year’s longest train was 1.5 miles), beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the desert, and miles and miles of fields. I’ve done this trip 12, maybe 15 times, with Grandpa.

For one reason or another I get frustrated during this trip. Usually it’s because my routine gets out of whack. I’m not eating my normal foods, sleeping my normal times, it’s difficult to find time to exercise, and on and on.

19 hours is a long time in a car with someone.

19 hours in a car also provides an opportunity for ANTs.

At one of the gas stations we visited on this year’s drive to Tucson I had a good cell signal and called my wife. During the call she mentioned that I seemed “happier”.

This confirmed what I had been feeling that day. Taking on the ANTs was working. As I mentioned above, this summer at SPEC I made a decision to improve my self-talk and being aware and intentional about the thoughts I allow in my head.

Prior to driving my Grandpa this fall I decided to do the following on my trip:

  • Let go of my agenda about driving my grandpa to Arizona.
  • Let go of control of the route, which roads, when we stopped, etc.
  • Take charge of my eating on the trip.
  • Exercise on the trip.
  • To stop and see some of the sights (we stopped in Hatch, New Mexico, the chile capital of the world and bought a string of chiles)
  • Meditate when I noticed myself feeling annoyed.

I recognized the connection between what I was thinking and how I was feeling. My body reacted to my thoughts. When I had an angry or unkind thought on my trip I began to feel my heart beat faster, my hands would get sweaty, and my breathing became faster. When I had a happy or kind thought my muscles would relax, my breathing would slow down, and my hands became dry again. I was also intentional about keeping myself in a positive frame of mind.

ANTs

Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) are sad and depressing thoughts that creep into our mindset. Simply stated, ANTs cause us to feel sadness, despair, and cause us to isolate ourselves. A basic ANT equation looks like this:

Sad, angry, unkind thoughts = feeling bad.

Happy, hopeful, kind thoughts = feeling good.

Our thoughts can make our mind and body feel bad or good. Most thoughts are automatic and happen without us thinking about them. (Think about that. We don’t think about our thoughts.) Also, our thoughts are not always true.

It’s important for us to be able to decide which thoughts are helpful and which thoughts are hurtful. Learning how to adapt our thinking can be a useful tool.

Moment of Reflection

What is one ANT in your life? Name one. Write it down. Examine the thought. Respond to it. (Is the thought true?) Replace the negative thought with a positive thought.

If you heard a friend say an ANT about themselves, what would your response be?

Spiritual Practice – Meditation

The technique I use is quite simple. I like it because it can be used in a variety of places (including a car). It goes like this.

  • Deep breath in and say/think, fill me (Positive word, like love).
  • Deep breath out and say/think, let go (negative word, like anger).

When you breathe in think of a good, positive word such as, hope, joy, love, peace, compassion, grace, calm, etc.

When you breathe out let go of the bad and negative word such as, despair, hate, sorrow, anger, judgment, frustration, fear, etc.

Our thoughts have real and tangible impact on the way we feel and the way we behave. The connection between our mental and physical well-being impacts us constantly. Take some time this week and pay attention to your ANTs, then replace them with positive ones.

Peace,

Doug

Some information in this devotion is paraphrased from the following article: http://ahha.org/articles.asp?Id=100

For more information on ANTs feel free to check out that link.

Restart

Restart

Restart.

I don’t believe it has been done formally so I would like to welcome everyone to our new blog home. It has taken a few weeks to get everything figured out, get things moved over and to get you all invited and subscribed. Apologies for the weeks without the devotion, but the long wait is over.

More exciting news is that we have many new contributors, from other spec today facilitators to campers such as yourselves (if you feel led to share, please let us know). We realize that not every devotion will speak to you, but as is the nature of many activities from camps, reunions and spec, simply being open to the experience can have profound impact on your life. Now that the administrative details are over, I want to welcome you again. In life for one reason or another, obstacles, becoming overwhelmed or simply losing track of things, we have to restart. Now this doesn’t mean that we lose all of the progress we have made, the goals we have reached simply go away, just as in the case of our devotional, the plan God has for our lives can get away from us. Even as we try our best to keep up, we can get lost and so we must restart. This week’s introduction come us from camper Josh Soulliere (North Atlantic Delegation).

This week’s theme is restart. To me there is a particular story that reminds me of restarting.  The story goes that a man is hiking through the woods, when all of a sudden he falls into a hole. He stays stuck there when all of a sudden a man approaches. The fallen man yells for help but the man above the hole does not here him and keeps walking. A few minutes later another one man approaches. The man in the hole yells for help once again. The new man above hears him and says he has no rope, ladder, or tools to help. The man above apologizes then leaves. Finally ten minutes later a new man arrives and notices the other man in the hole asking for help. The man above leaps off of the trail in the hole with other man. He tells the other man who had fallen early that he too had once fallen in this hole. He then points out that there is a tunnel out of the whole that was unseen before. Both men then proceed to make the journey out of the hole together.

In life we all at one point fall off the trail and into a hole. It can happen so quickly that we don’t even know what happened; all we know is that we are trapped in a space we don’t enjoy. For me this time was in the beginning middle school.  If being shy, awkward, and confused like most teens my age wasn’t enough, I was going to a new middle school surrounded by completely new people. That idea terrified me in all honesty. When change happens we can lose our path and end up falling in such holes. In sixth grade I felt stuck living in the past rather than being present and living in the moment.  As in the story I felt that my new and old friends either didn’t see me stuck or didn’t know how to help and didn’t address the issue. I felt that I was stuck there forever. In my mind I felt hopeless and that there was just no time to restart. This further sent me into a hard depression that year. However, my story changed when I talked to my best friends about how I really felt. My friend helped me find an advisor. Like the man who jumped in the hole to help the fallen man, my advisor and my best friend helped me by showing me an unforeseen path in my hole, which we all walked together. Today I might still have been stuck in such a hole if I hadn’t reached out and gotten the help I needed.

Moment of Reflection

Take a few moments to think about all the things you’ve accomplished so far this year, academically, personally or any realm that it is important to you. What happened according to plan? What things occurred completely unplanned or out of your control? What goals did you fall short of? In our moments of highest achievement or when we fall short, it is helpful ask God to help keeps us grounded. We have to ask God, to hit the restart.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Va9UrSqnFkk

Scripture

This week’s scripture comes to us from Isaiah 43:18-19

Forget the Past

The Lord said:

18 Forget what happened long ago!
Don’t think about the past.
19 I am creating something new.
There it is! Do you see it?
I have put roads in deserts,
streams[a] in thirsty lands.

Isaiah 43:18-19, is composed of three simple, yet profound, statements said by the Lord. He says to us, “Remember not the former things, nor consider things of the old.” This is His way of telling us to forget what our pasts contain. We can’t go back and alter our past; so simply forget about it. The things we have done, the things that keep us from finalizing our relationship with Christ and that make us feel unworthy of such a radical love, are only things we  even still consider. Our God has long forgotten our sins. He has taken our mistakes and has casted them out into a sea of forgetfulness, never to reel them back in, and never to use them against us. To Him our past isn’t what matters. To Him it’s what we do with the now.

   He goes on to tell us, “behold, I am doing a new thing.” “Now it springs fourth, do you not perceive it?” God wants us to do good. He is giving us a new moment, a new chance, just so we may do better than we did the time before. Our God is such a forgiving God. His second chances are plentiful and His forgiveness and grace know no bounds. He goes on to question “do you not perceive it?”, and to me that’s almost a phrase with disappointment behind it. He is so excited and ready to show us redemption and a new beginning, but we are still blinded by our past that we seem to fail to see the opportunity to become new that He has placed right in front of us. He’s saying “I’m trying to show you that I forgive you, and that I love you, and that I haven’t given up on you. Can you not see it? Let me, please, let me give you a new beginning.”

   “I will make a way in the wilderness.” He says, “and run rivers in the desert.” Even in the midst of our chaotic lives, when we make a mess of ourselves, God will search for us. He will find us and He will show us the way out. When our faith runs dry and our days, now barren, begin filling with doubt, God will replenish us. He will drown us in His love and in His grace.

   Our God is a jealous God. He is jealous for your attention, and for your heart, and for your soul. All he wants is you. How you are, how you were, and how you will be. (Sydney Leal,  Texas New-Mexico Delegation)

Drawing to A Close

As we draw to a close for this week, think back to your spec experience. When you had obstacles or failures, let downs during the week. Maybe it was not winning at a particular sport, or not getting to attend an elective you really wanted to. Whatever the hardship may be that you faced at spec, or in life, remember that God helps us to let go. To not carry around the burdens of the past, but instead empowers us with his love to start a new.