Connect – Daily Themes

This year’s theme, “Connect” has led us down all kinds of paths that have intersected at interesting points along the way. Current events and the 24/7 media cycle can make it seem like everything is coming apart at the seams.

Fear, worry, and a desire to separate ourselves from that which make us uncomfortable can shape our daily interactions in subtle ways. As we explore ways to “Connect” this week, we’re taking a stand against fear and hate and bigotry.

The only way forward… to peace… to love… to community is by connecting to God and to each other to form real, lasting relationships.

  • Sunday: Connect
  • Monday: Have Courage
  • Tuesday: Show Compassion
  • Wednesday: Live Authentically
  • Thursday: Embrace Vulnerability
  • Friday: Connect

2016 Daily Schedule

Below is the daily schedule for 2016 SPEC,  as of June 21. 


July 23 – SATURDAY

10:00–2:00      Delegation & Staff Registration, Sports Sign-up (MSC America’s Rooms)
2:00–4:00        Adventure Class Sign-up & Performing Arts Information (Quad Tent)
3:00                  All Staff Worship-Delegation Leaders Meeting (Shaw Auditorium)
4:00                  Sports Staff Meeting (Closson Multipurpose)
4:30                  All Camp Orientation (Amphitheater)
6:00                  Dinner (Quad) eat as a delegation
6:30                  SPEC TODAY Facilitators Meeting (Walker)
7:00                  Delegation meetings
8:00-11:00      Opening Ceremonies (Amphitheater) and  SPEC Ice-breaker
11:30                 In Dorms – Devotions (every night)
12:15                 Lights Out (every night)


July 24 – SUNDAY – “Connect”

6:30–8:00         Breakfast (Commons)
8:15                     Camp Photo (Amphitheater)
8:45–9:30         Morning Celebration (Gym)
9:40–10:30        “SPEC Today”
9:45                     Delegation Leaders’ Meeting (Commons)
10:40–11:00      Delegation Meetings
11:10–12:00      Adventure Classes I
12:00–1:00        Infirmary Open
12:10–1:00        Adventure Classes II
1:00                     Lunch (Commons Lawn)
2:00                  “We are ALL Connected” (Various)
5:30–8:00         Dinner (Commons)
7:30                  “Let the Games Begin!”
9:30–10:00        Infirmary Open
10:30                  Campfire  (Commons Lawn)
11:30                   In Dorms – Devotions (every night)
12:15                   Lights Out (every night)


July 25 – MONDAY – “Have Courage”

7:15–8:30         Breakfast (Commons)
8:45–9:30         Morning Celebration (Gym)
9:40–10:30        “SPEC Today”
9:45                     Delegation Leaders’ Meeting (Commons)
10:40–11:00      Delegation Meetings
11:10–12:00      Adventure Classes I
12:00–1:00        Infirmary Open
12:10–1:00        Adventure Classes II
1:00–4:30         Lunch (Commons)
2:00                    Sports & Activities
4:30–8:00         Dinner (Commons)
9:00 – 10:30      Sean Bott – Mentalist (Shaw Auditorium)
9:30 –10:00       Infirmary Open
10:00                  Soccer, Track (Stadium)
11:30                   In Dorms – Devotions (every night)
12:15                   Lights Out (every night)

 


July 26 – TUESDAY – “Show Compassion”

7:15–8:30         Breakfast (Commons)
8:45–9:30         Morning Celebration (Gym)
9:40–10:30        “SPEC Today”
9:45                     Delegation Leaders’ Meeting (Commons)
10:40–11:00      Delegation Meetings
11:10–12:00      Adventure Classes I
12:00–1:00        Infirmary Open
12:10–1:00        Adventure Classes II
1:00–4:30         Lunch (Commons)
2:00                    Sports & Activities
4:30–8:00         Dinner (Commons)
8:30 – 9:45        SPEC Worship (Amphitheater)
9:30 –10:00       Infirmary Open
10:00                  Soccer, Track (Stadium)
11:30                   In Dorms – Devotions (every night)
12:15                   Lights Out (every night)

 

 


July 27 – WEDNESDAY – “Live Authentically”

7:15–8:30         Breakfast (Commons)
8:45–9:30         Morning Celebration (Gym)
9:40–10:30        “SPEC Today”
9:45                     Delegation Leaders’ Meeting (Commons)
10:40–11:00      Delegation Meetings
11:10–12:00      Adventure Classes I
12:00–1:00        Infirmary Open
12:10–1:00        Adventure Classes II
1:00–4:30         Lunch (Commons)
2:00                    Sports & Activities
4:30–8:00         Dinner (Commons)
6:00                     SPEC Recital (Carol Hall)
8:00 – 9:30       Extravaganza (MSC)
9:30 –10:00       Infirmary Open
9:45 –10:45       Marcus Monroe – Comedian/Juggler (Shaw Auditorium)
11:30                   In Dorms – Devotions (every night)
12:15                   Lights Out (every night)

 


July 28 – THURSDAY – “Embrace Vulnerability/Be Present

7:15–8:30         Breakfast (Commons)
8:45–9:30         Morning Celebration (Gym)
9:40–10:30        “SPEC Today”
9:45                     Delegation Leaders’ Meeting (Commons)
10:40–11:00      Delegation Meetings
11:10–12:00      Adventure Classes I
12:00–1:00        Infirmary Open
12:10–1:00        Adventure Classes II
1:00–4:30         Lunch (Commons)
2:00                    Sports & Activities
4:30–8:00         Dinner (Commons)
8:00 – 9:30       “SPEC Presents” (Shaw Auditorium)
9:30 –10:00       Infirmary Open
9:45 –10:45       Communion (Amphitheater)
11:30                   In Dorms – Devotions (every night)
12:15                   Lights Out (every night)


July 29 – FRIDAY – “Connect”

7:15–8:30         Breakfast (Commons)
8:45–9:30         Morning Celebration (Gym)
9:30–11:00        RetroSPECtive (Gym)
11:00                   Delegation Meetings
11:00–12:00      Infirmary Open
11:00–4:30        Lunch (Commons)
1:00                     Sports & Activities
4:30–8:00         Dinner (Commons)
5:00–9:00         “Art in the Park” (Zimmerman Tent)
8:00–9:30         SPEC’s Got Talent and School of Rock
9:30–10:00        Infirmary Open
9:30–11:30        Dance Party on the Quad
11:30                   In Dorms – Devotions (every night)
12:15                   Lights Out (every night)


July 30 – SATURDAY

6:30–7:45         Breakfast
8:00–9:15         Delegation Worship
9:30                  Closing Ceremonies (Gym)

 


GU Schedule Highlights

1:00–7:00         Daily – Escape Room Open
2:00–5:00         Daily – Fun Activities under the Tent
1:00                  Tuesday – W.B. Smith Applications Due\
6:30–7:30         Tuesday – New Student Reception
4:00–6:00         Wednesday – W.B. Smith Reception

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.

Finding God

flowersAsking the Question

What if someone asked you, not about your ideology, religious history or practices, but simply who is God to you? We as Christians have an amazing ability to express our faith and love through praise, worship, prayer, service, and in community but what may get lost in translation is why we do it. Would our church camps, reunions, and Spectacular be as amazing if not for the divine spirit that draws us together and unites us as one? Take a minute or so and jot down just some initial thoughts on “Who Is God to me?”

Scripture

So often throughout the Bible, God is described by many names Jehovah, Yawae, Father, Holy One, Alpha and Omega, and the list goes on and on. People have been trying to conceptualize God from beginning of time. Our scripture this week comes to us from 1 John 4:8-16:

Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

Focus Moment

Last week we touched briefly on not always feeling God’s presence with the reading of the Footprints in The Sand poem. This week’s video is one that you may be familiar with as it is a few years old, but I find that despite not being your typical “worship” song, it is very profound because it asks the tough question. In Lamentations and some of the Psalms, God’s people lament, cry out, sometimes even complain to God about not finding him in their lives. It is an important practice to try to find God in everything that we do. But when we can’t, we tend to wonder why.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFg_8u87zT0

Enduring Principles

Over the next few weeks we will be exploring Community of Christ’s Enduring Principles.

Our Enduring Principles define the essence, heart, and soul of our faith community. They describe the personality of our church as expressed throughout the world.

The Foundation: God, Christ, Holy SpiritGod’s revelation in Jesus Christ and continuing presence through the Holy Spirit, as proclaimed by scripture, is the foundation of our faith, identity, mission, message, and beliefs.

We do our best to uphold these principles (values, concepts, themes) as a faithful response to our heritage and our continuing experience with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

  • Enduring Principles
  • Grace and Generosity
  • Sacredness of Creation
  • Continuing Revelation
  • Worth of All Persons
  • All Are Called
  • Responsible Choices
  • Pursuit of Peace (Shalom)
  • Unity in Diversity
  • Blessings of Community

Each principle includes statements that help explain its meaning. These statements are not meant to be limiting or comprehensive.

Grace and Generosity

  • God’s grace, especially as revealed in Jesus Christ, is generous and unconditional.
  • Having received God’s generous grace, we respond generously and graciously receive the generosity of others.
  • We offer all we are and have to God’s purposes as revealed in Jesus Christ.
  • We generously share our witness, resources, ministries, and sacraments according to our true capacity.

Sacredness of Creation

  • In the beginning, God created and called it all good.
  • Spirit and material, seen and unseen, are related.
  • Creation’s power to create or destroy reminds us of our vulnerability in this life.
  • God is still creating to fulfill divine purpose.
  • We join with God as stewards of care and hope for all creation.

Continuing Revelation

  • Scripture is an inspired and indispensable witness of human response to God’s revelation of divine nature.
  • God graciously reveals divine will today as in the past.
  • The Holy Spirit inspires and provides witness to divine truth.
  • In humility, individually and in community, we prayerfully listen to understand God’s will for our lives, the church, and creation more completely.

Worth of All Persons

  • God views all people as having inestimable and equal worth.
  • God wants all people to experience wholeness of body, mind, spirit, and relationships.
  • We seek to uphold and restore the worth of all people individually and in community, challenging unjust systems that diminish human worth.
  • We join with Jesus Christ in bringing good news to the poor, sick, captive, and oppressed.

All Are Called

  • God graciously gives people gifts and opportunities to do good and to share in God’s purposes.
  • Jesus Christ invites people to follow him by becoming disciples who share his life and ministry.
  • Some disciples are called and ordained to particular priesthood responsibilities and ministries for the sake of the community, the congregation, and the world.
  • We respond faithfully, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to our best understanding of God’s call.

Responsible Choices

  • God gives humans the ability to make choices about whom or what they will serve. Some people experience conditions that diminish their ability to make choices.
  • Human choices contribute to good or evil in our lives and in the world.
  • Many aspects of creation need redemption because of irresponsible and sinful human choices.
  • We are called to make responsible choices within the circumstances of our lives that contribute to the purposes of God.

Pursuit of Peace (Shalom)

  • God wants shalom (justice, reconciliation, well-being, wholeness, and peace) for all of creation.
  • Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God’s shalom (peace), reveals the meaning of God’s peace in all aspects of life.
  • The vision of Zion is to promote God’s reign on earth, as proclaimed by Jesus Christ, through the leavening influence of just and peaceful communities.
  • We courageously and generously share the peace of Jesus Christ with others.
  • Led by the Holy Spirit, we work with God and others to restore peace (shalom) to creation.
  • We celebrate God’s peace wherever it appears or is being pursued by people of good will.

Unity in Diversity

  • Community of Christ is a diverse, international family of disciples, seekers, and congregations.
  • Local and worldwide ministries are interdependent and important to the church’s mission.
  • The church embraces diversity and unity through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • We seek agreement or common consent in important matters. If we cannot achieve agreement, we commit to ongoing dialogue and lovingly uphold our common faith in Jesus Christ and the mission of the church.
  • We confess that our lack of agreement on certain matters is hurtful to some of God’s beloved children and creation.

Blessings of Community

  • The gospel of Jesus Christ is expressed best in community life where people become vulnerable to God’s grace and each other.
  • True community includes compassion for and solidarity with the poor, marginalized, and oppressed.
  • True community upholds the worth of persons while providing a healthy alternative to self-centeredness, isolation, and conformity.
  • Sacred community provides nurture and growth opportunities for all people, especially those who cannot fully care for themselves.
  • We value our connections and share a strong sense of trust in and belonging with one another—even if we never have met.
  • Some disciples are called and ordained to particular priesthood responsibilities and ministries for the sake of the community, the congregation, and the world.
  • We are called to create communities of Christ’s peace in our families and congregations and across villages, tribes, nations, and throughout creation.

Which principle speaks to you the most or do you feel you are most drawn to? Why? Should we all value each principle equally?

Worth of All Persons

As we learned last week from the Skit Guys video, God doesn’t make junk. This week while we are exploring who God is, and what God means in our lives, we’ll explore the Worth of All Persons. We are told love others as we love ourselves, and as we love God. Matthew 25: 31-46 tells us how we are to treat those who are poor, helpless and have fallen on hard times. Even Matthew 5:44 tells us to pray for those who do wrong toward us. By living and loving as God wants us to, we are able to understand who God is.

But this unconditional love isn’t always easy to extend. As humans, when we get hurt, sometimes we seek to hurt each other. We lie to those we love, we betray trust, and don’t reconcile. Is it always easy to love as God would? When can it be difficult to express unconditional love? How can understanding who God is help to express love to those who have hurt us, or lied to us, or betrayed us?

Open Eyes

“I found myself a couple of years ago on a young adult retreat in Washington D.C. Young adults from the mission center gathered together for a weekend of community building and fellowship. This particular weekend we were greeted by an organization who works with homeless people in the Washington D.C. area. We heard amazing stories from people who had been previously homeless. The struggles they encounter, the drastic changes that their lives underwent in such a short span of time and most importantly how they were able to overcome those struggles. We were given the opportunity to serve the homeless in the local area. If you’ve never been to Washington D.C., much like other major cities, it’s often divided by the more affluent side, that attracts tourist, and then there is the side that has “fallen on hard times” the side that isn’t promoted. DuPont circle is one of the more affluent areas in the city. It is geographically close to the monuments, museums, and other well-known attractions that the nation’s capital is known for.  Much to my surprise, the area we went to serve was not the broken down parts of the city where I had expected to see homeless people, but instead we went to DuPont circle. My entire paradigm was shifted. I walked through the part of the city with my group, observing other tourist in the area shopping, having picnics, taking photos, and noticed, for the first time in my life in plain sight, people in great need all around. Lying on benches, perched up against trees, setting next to trashcans. We began to engage these people, passing out bag lunches, and hearing their stories. Each person was unique in their experiences, and in who they were. As our time came to a close, I came across a woman sitting on a street corner. In 90 degree heat she was sitting with heavy clothing on, surrounded by several large black trash bags. When I encounter those who are without housing, or other basic needs, many of them have signs, explaining their situations or expressing need, but this particular sign that the woman held was profound in its simplicity. It simply read, “I’m Hungry”. I was blown away by the situation that I found myself in, kneeling beside this woman, in the moment of community. Fast asleep, she was never aware that I was there. I placed the bag lunch by her side, and went on my way.”

Give Me Your Eyes

In that experience I had a couple of years ago, I was blind to the need of others until I decided to be vulnerable in those moments.  When we open ourselves to express God’s love, we are able to see through God’s eyes. Affirming the Worth of All Persons is understanding that all of our journeys, struggles, gifts, talents are different and unique, but are of equal important.

Can you think of a time where you affirmed the worth of another person? What about a time when you failed to do so? Have you ever felt that someone has not lifted you up as an equal? How did that make you feel?

Who is God? God is love.

Sending Forth

As we close this week’s devotion, keep in mind that God loves us all no matter who we are. See others in the world as God sees us. Amen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5AkNqLuVgY

Divine Purpose

let go photo
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others – Marianne Williamson

As we continue to walk through the paths of finding and defining who we are as individuals and finding our roles in our respective community, it is also important to explore within our identities, God’s plan for us; our divine purpose. Purpose is defined as the reason for which something is done or created, why it exist. I’m sure that each of us has asked that age old question to ourselves, “Why am I here?”

We search for answers in all kinds of places, sometimes the wrong ones. Just hoping that something will give our life meaning.

Scripture

While there a plethora of scriptures in the Bible that help us learn about our purpose, and God’s plan for us, the one that I felt spoke to me for this weeks devotion comes to us from the book of Matthew

Matthew 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

The journey that you live, the life it creates becomes a beacon for others. Whether you realize it or not your light helps other to push on, to find their purpose as we invest in the stories of others and in God’s plan for us. Even when things get hard, we keep pushing back the dark.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fF61jnKDyGg

Meditation Moment

This week’s meditation will be the footprints in the sand poem. Even when we are doing our very best to follow God’s plan, we can get distracted and lost. There may even be times, were we may not feel God’s presence. As you read through this poem, reflect on those times in your life, and how you overcame them, and if you are still living through that experience, how this poem may impact you.

One night I dreamed a dream.

As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.

Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.

For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,

One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,

I looked back at the footprints in the sand.

I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,

Especially at the very lowest and saddest times,

there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.

“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,

You’d walk with me all the way.

But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,

there was only one set of footprints.

I don’t understand why, when I needed you the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you

Never, ever, during your trials and testings.

When you saw only one set of footprints,

It was then that I carried you.”

– by Mary Stevenson

Reaching Our Goals

For this portion of our devotions, simply put, what are your goals? What dreams to you aspire to live out? What do you want to accomplish in this life? These questions were asked to the campers in my delegation this year at spec and it blew my mind. These questions are so simple yet profound.

How can we help others reach their goals?

God’s Masterpiece

Living God’s plan for our live, finding his purpose for us sometimes conflicts with the plans we have made for our own lives. Have you ever experienced this in your life? Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are God’s handiwork, created in Jesus Christ to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We continue to embrace the theme of letting go in that, we let go of our plans for life, our methodologies, and embrace the plans, the lives that God has created for us, long before we were ever around.  God works in our lives, and the changes he makes, we may not always understand. It can be scary.  God chisels the imperfections that we put on ourselves from this world. He takes away the guilt of shame, the fear of failure, the expectation of being less than, and fills us with purpose, within divinity so great that merely embracing it can change lives.

I invite you now to view the video below and see how God works in our lives. You are God’s original masterpiece.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QCkBL2DfVg&spfreload=10

A Matter of Time

Have you ever found that you’ve been pressured to reach your goals quickly? Do you ever feel that you’ve failed because you haven’t done so? Driving by 16, graduate high school by 18, college degree by 22, married shortly after. We are rushed through life to reach our goals and anything short of that can be perceived as failure. What I’ve learned is that God’s time is not our time. So as our devotion comes to a close this week, watch a video that was recently shared with me, that will change your perspective on time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usb2435vSZA

Sending Forth

“As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Continue to be God’s hands and feet, as we walk the path laid out for us. God’s purpose for our lives allows us to be the light that pushes back the dark. Be open and vulnerable to the spirt and the places it may lead you.

#connectionsacrossthenation