Sunday, October 27, 2013

throwing out the to-do list.

This week we had the privilege to go to Trail West, another Young Life camp, for a staff retreat. We spent three days together worshiping, playing games, drinking lots of coffee, and hearing from speakers. It was absolutely wonderful.

the girls at trail west.

One of the speakers, Reid, talked about Moses and his relationship with God. Moses was not a great king nor did he have high ranking in society, but God appeared to Moses and called him to lead 2 million people out of slavery and into the promised land of freedom. As you can imagine Moses was a bit overwhelmed and doubted God's calling. He said to God, "What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The Lord did not appear to you'?"(exodus 4:1). Then God told Moses to throw his staff to the ground, and when he did it became a snake. God instructed Moses to pick the snake up by its tail and in doing so, it became a staff again.

Reid challenged us by pointing out that sometimes God asks us to throw things down to the ground, to remove them from our controlling hands, and give them to the one who is in control of all things. It's quite likely that we could throw down something new every day. 

As I thought about this and asked God to reveal to me what it is I needed to throw down the word 'religion' came to mind. I was a bit confused for a moment, but things have become much clearer now.

Over the past year, my focus has slowly diverged from my relationship with God to a list of things I should do as a Christian. It's quite a long list, really, of things I need to do daily in order to call myself a Christian...

  • read my bible
  • pray
  • love people well
  • forgive others
  • be truthful in the words I say
  • think thoughts glorifying to God
  • be thankful in all circumstances
  • obey my authority

The list goes on. But checking these things off a list doesn't get me anywhere. What God really wants from me is an intimate relationship in which I give him my everything. C.S. Lewis writes it this way, 
"The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says 'Give me All. I don't want so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good."
God doesn't want my completed list. 'Throw that to the wolves', he says, 'and give me you. Give me your dreams and desires. Give me your pains and sorrows. Give me your struggles and strongholds. Give me all.' It's when I can finally throw down my religious list and give him my all, that I can be in true, intimate relationship with him. 

A marriage relationship came to mind when I was processing these thoughts. A husband and wife are in relationship with each other similar to the relationship we have with Christ. There are expectations husbands and wives have... a list of things they should do to play the role. But checking things off the list doesn't create an abundant marriage relationship. There has to be passion and desire to know each other intimately. The same is true in our relationship with God.

So today I'm throwing down my Christian to-do list and I'm spending intimate time with God. I desire to know him deeper. I desire to give him my all in hopes that he will be able to use me for his glory and his purpose. And I challenge you with the same question Reid challenged us with... What is God asking you throw down, to remove from your gripping hands, and give to him who is control of all things? 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

the journey to here.

A lot of people have asked me lately how I got here to Crooked Creek Ranch and it's really got me thinking. It isn't by chance or random circumstance that I've landed in the mountains of Colorado doing ministry at a Young Life camp. My journey has been orchestrated by one who has bigger plans than I could ever imagine... my journey has been harder than I would like to admit... and my journey has been  a sweet time of learning what it means to follow God wholeheartedly.

During my high school years I was involved with Young Life and absolutely loved it. I loved the relationships I formed with my leaders, I loved hanging out with kids I wouldn't normally hang out with at school, and I loved learning more about God and what it meant to be in a relationship with him.
my leader and I in high school
The beginning of my senior year I made the decision to go to Carthage College in Kenosha, WI which was slightly difficult knowing there wasn't a Young Life club in the area. I desired to be more involved with the organization but it wouldn't be entirely possible during my time at Carthage.
After a series of difficult times during my freshman year of college and searching for more adventure in life, my Young Life leader encouraged me to apply for summer staff at Timber Wolf Lake. I came up with a laundry list of reasons as to why this was not a good idea and eventually threw my hands up in the air and said "what the heck, I'll just apply". That 'on a whim decision' led to being accepted to do summer staff and the jeep and I heading to Lake City, MI for the month of July. 

I was scared out of my mind for what that month was going to mean for my life, but trusted it was a part of God's journey for me. I was giving up all comfort and the things I knew for something greater than myself. And I loved every minute of it. I experienced deeply rooted community for the first time. I made friendships I still have today. I played just a small part in kids' lives being changed. In fact, I loved it so much that when two friends asked if I wanted to road trip with them to a Young Life camp in New York and do another month of summer staff I said yes. That was one of the biggest risks I've taken so far in life. I agreed to get in a car with 4 guys I just met to go to a foreign place to do summer staff all over again. Let's just say the Lord had his hand over me and blessed me in incredible ways.
friends from summer staff at timber wolf
the guys (minus one) I ventured to lake champion with
sweet ladies from lake champion

Following that summer of amazing adventure and spending so much time at a Young Life camp I knew the Lord was leading me closer to that in the future. The summer after my sophomore year of college I was hired to be an intern at Timber Wolf Lake. Again I was scared for what was ahead, but trusted it was in the Lord's plan for me. That summer was a time of growth, humility, and learning so much more about the ministry of Young Life through camping.
timber wolf lake interns 2011

After spending two summers at a Young Life camp, I simply couldn't imagine not being there for my final summer as a college student, and was delighted when Timber Wolf asked me to return. This time I thought a lot more about Young Life camping as a career and discerning if that was where the Lord was calling me next.
timber wolf lake interns 2012

Much thought, prayer, and encouragement from friends led to me apply for the Year-Long internship at Crooked Creek Ranch in October 2012. A few months later I had an interview and then a few months more I was packing to move to the mountains. The day I left tears filled my eyes as I thought of all the Lord has brought me through to be at this point... all the laughter, tears, good times, hard times, fears, and hopes. It was an absolute dream of mine to work at a Young Life camp for a year and the Lord has brought that to be.

Never ever give up on your dreams. Some day you just might be headed west with all your belongings in the back of your car. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013


If I'm being honest, I'm not that comfortable here at Crooked Creek. Yes, I am surrounded by amazing people. Yes, I find joy in simple things. Yes, I am so happy I live in this place. But I don't feel a lot of comfort.

Up until my time here I was very comfortable in life. I lived in a place I grew to know and love. I was surrounded by friends who became family, knowing me inside and out, yet still loving me. I was doing what I did for the past 15 plus years of my life. And though life got really hard at times, I still felt a sense of comfort. 

Coming to Crooked Creek has brought about a different story, however. The first few weeks I really felt out of my shell. I rarely knew my surroundings, I just met my fellow interns, and had never worked at this camp before. There was no comfort, but I had hope it would come with time. Well... time has come and I still don't feel comfort. About a week ago I became really frustrated with the whole situation, and I started searching for a little glimpse as to where that comfort might have gone. 

And this is what I realized. I had comfort in Kenosha because of all those things... 

 The people that surrounded me brought me comfort. They knew exactly what to say. They knew what I struggle with. They knew how to encourage me. They knew when I just needed to get ice cream and do some retail therapy at Target. They knew when I needed to be called out. They knew about the past. They knew about my fears, hopes, dreams. They just knew.
   And the places brought me comfort. Carthage became a security. Kenosha was familiar. Common Grounds was a place of solitude. Lake Michigan reminded me of the Lord's beauty and sovereignty. My room was a place of rest. Wisconsin was home.
   And school was a comfort. I could do that well. I knew how to study. I knew how to write a paper. I knew how to teach a lesson. I knew how to be a college student. 

All those people, places and things brought me comfort. And then suddenly they were ripped from me. I thought I was prepared for that but I was not. My comfort is lost because these people, places and things have been removed.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.                                                          {2 corinthians 1:3-4}

I read this a few days ago in the midst of my frustration, and felt both conviction and relief. My comfort should not come simply from the people, places, and things that surround me. My comfort should come from the God of all comfort. God may use people to comfort us, but he is the ultimate source. When that is so, comfort is not lost when people are at a distance because God comforts his children in their troubles.

And so I am starting to search for comfort not in the people, places and things here, but in my God. The God of all comfort. Because one day I will leave these people, places and things as well, and I want to be certain my comfort will follow. 
May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.      {psalm 119:76}