January is a pretty different month from our "normal" months throughout the rest of the school year. Half of it is still considered Christmas break, although we on the FOCUS staff come back to work on January 2nd. And then the other half is filled with exciting things like Winter Camp and getting back into the swing of things once school starts again. I think I've just about found my rhythm for this semester and I love being back with our students again!
There are three things that were just so special to me this month that I want to share with you, hence the cryptic title! Once you've been writing blogs for a while, there's only so many times you can use titles like "Happy New Year" for January and "In Like a Lion..." for March, you know? :)
|Traveling to Staff Retreat!|
Getting back from holiday travels, we went straight into our winter staff retreat! Each year I love these staff retreats more. I know part of it is because I've become closer with our senior staff and feel more like family with them. The other part is that these retreats are so refreshing and renewing to me! I come out of them ready to start another semester of ministry, having been refocused on Christ and with a clear vision of why what we do is important. I'm so thankful for this time of "playing and praying" with my coworkers on God's mission!
We read a book every year over the break and then spend a couple sessions at the staff retreat discussing the book. This year, we read "Working the Angles - The Shape of Pastoral Integrity" by Eugene Peterson. His main idea was nothing new...to be a good pastor, one must be constantly engaging in these three areas (his "angles") - reading the scriptures, praying, and receiving spiritual direction (mentoring).
All year long, God has been reminding me that unless I'm doing these three things, all I have to offer the students I meet up with is myself. I can be a nice person on my own, and even a highly spiritual person, but if I'm neglecting these three things in my own personal walk...I am not a true disciple of Christ and have nothing of worth to offer anyone! The last thing these students need is more of a human being. They need Jesus!
This book was a good reminder that my "pastoral integrity" needs to stand, regardless of what tries to conflict with it! I should never be too busy to read my Bible and spend some time praying each day. I should never "get enough of God" during my meetings with students or in studying the Bible with them. I need to check my heart when reading and praying have become "too boring" to spend time on consistently. God doesn't NEED me to read my Bible or pray so that He can check off a list and say I'm a good Christian. I NEED to read my Bible and pray so that I know Him better and can live more like Him every day.
Ok, so the accent is just the tiniest part of what was cool, but I needed another A for alliteration! ;)
|Traditional stop on the way to camp!|
Some of you may know that each year we have a Winter Camp for our students right before they come back and get into the full swing of college life again after Christmas break. This is one of my absolute favorite events of all time - partially because it's longer than Fall Camp (which I LOVE, but is only 24 hours...Winter Camp is almost 4 days!), partially because students get the big picture of what God is doing across campuses in the DFW metroplex, and partially because we always invite a special guest speaker for the sessions.
|Rikk and Kelly (obviously star-struck)|
This year we invited Rikk Watts to come speak! Rikk is an Australian professor (there's the accent!) at Regent College - a theological seminary in Canada. Because good portion of our ministry has been listening to him via audio lectures for years, he was somewhat of a celebrity when he arrived! But in interacting with him, the students soon learned that Rikk is no different in person than he is in the audio lectures. One of my favorite things about listening to him is that you can tell that this man LOVES Jesus. That love for Jesus just spilled out as he was speaking to our students! Many of them saw Jesus in a new light and were provoked to love Him in a fresh way!
|Winter Camp 2013 (top) & 2016 (bottom)|
On the very first day, one of our worship pastors accidentally (oop, could have used that A!) coined a phrase that became a second theme of the weekend: Get over yourself!
This might seem like just a sassy, kind of rude statement, but the way God used it to impact students' hearts was so cool! A lot of times we as people (not just college students, you know?) are so inhibited by maintaining a facade for others that we miss out on so much! Particularly in worship, we miss out on connecting with God as closely as we could because we're worried about what others will think of us. Our voice might not be the best or if we raise our hands or dance, we might look silly!
Heaven forbid we look silly before people, instead of reveling in freedom of expression before the God who created us! It was beautiful to see students take that challenge seriously and to connect with God in ways they might not have before.
|The whole group! 500+ students!|
|Horse back riding with friends!|
|Dominoes in the Game Room!|
I wanted to share a story and two answered prayers with you this month!
I've been studying the Bible with this girl over the course of this school year. She's been around the ministry for three years now, but up to this point, was kind of resistant to studying the Bible with anyone or really to taking her faith very personally or seriously. God has been calling to her, though, and she's been answering!
It started with her getting some accountability in her relationship with her boyfriend. She knew that their relationship didn't look like what she wanted or thought God wanted from her. Then she agreed to study the Bible with me and has been learning, questioning and growing in her relationship with God! But as big as these leaps and bounds forward were, there was a huge thing holding her back from giving Jesus her whole life: she is a self-proclaimed control freak.
In every area of her life, she wanted to be in charge - to manage and direct - having to be certain that every aspect was going according to HER plans. The idea of letting God have full control of her life was terrifying, not to mention vague...how do you even DO that?
At Winter Camp, God put it on my heart to start praying for her in a new way. He was already calling to her and she was hearing His call! Now she needed to recognize the depth of her need for Him, how her methods of control were no longer working in her life, and how much better He would be at it, if she would just let Him!
Sometimes God is so fast at answering prayers, it's insane! Two weeks after Winter Camp, she and I had some serious discussions. She had made some decisions that weren't the best and it was a clear wake up call that she wasn't controlling her life well. God broke her proud heart and showed her how much she needed Him, instead of Him being a nice addition to her ordered life. She responded by submitting her life to Him and letting Him be God, instead of her trying to be God.
This life event was so encouraging to me for a couple of reasons: 1. She is on a totally new path with God and in such a good place right now! I'm excited for her life going forward and that I get to be part of it! She knows that every day she's going to have to decide to trust God's control, and that's hard. But she's trying to make it a consistent habit.
2. This is such a good reminder for me. Following God is a DAILY choice to lay my vice-grip of control of my life at His feet and say "What pleases You, Lord?" Sometimes it seems like me being in control will be better, but it's so tiring striving to make things work right and to do it all on my own. How sweet that we can simply let God be God and rest in His good plan for our lives!
The other answered prayer is that Austin found a job! Wooohooo! Thank you for all of your prayers for him. He's now full time with National Motor Club. He's had training all this week and has really enjoyed it so far. I'm excited to see him grow in this new environment! Be praying that he can figure out what it looks like to minister to his co-workers now that he's "out in the real world!"
|Hanging out with friends and puppies!|
As always, I am so thankful for each of you who takes the time to read through this blog and pray for the things happening in Denton, Texas! You are a huge blessing to me and to the Kingdom of God.