Own It!

This week, over 11,000 athletes are competing in all kinds of events in Rio, Brazil for the Olympics. It seems, that just for a moment, the world is uniting together for one common goal: to go for gold.

Here at Jr. High II this week, we’re celebrating the Olympics! Dorms are split into countries to compete for medals, and the Tabernacle is lined with flags representing 16 different countries.

One things that Olympians all have in common is that they own their skills and talents. They own it.

This week, we’re looking at how “owning it” translate into the Christian walk. You see, when it comes to faith, it has to be your own. It can’t be your parent’s, your siblings, your friends, your pastors faith. It has to be your own. You’ve got to own your walk with Jesus because that is what He’s calling us to.

As Christians, we’ve got to embrace that God is calling us to give Him everything, not just a little drawer or box in our lives. He wants everything we are and have to offer. 

Just like an Olympian competing in the Games who is filled with pride and joy to be bearing their countries flag at the Olympic Stadium, we should be torches for Christ: shinning His light proudly and boldly to a dark and weary world.

Free to Be Beloved

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It’s been a really amazing week here at Teen Camp! We have over 8o senior high campers out at Lake Agape, and so far, it’s been such a blast!
The theme this year is “Free to Be”. We’ve been looking at how we can find our freedom in Christ in so many different ways. We are free to be unplugged. We are free to be loved. We are free to no longer be slaves to our sins. We are free to be offerings. We are free to be children of God.
One of my favorite things about Teen Camp is always the Wednesday morning activity. On sleep in day, the staff always prepares an amazing surprise, which tends to become a spiritual highlight of the week. Last year, we looked at how people in some third-world countries live their lives by physically walking around camp “in their shoes”. However, this year, things got a little more introspective.
This year, students and staff walked barefoot around camp in a set of pre-ordered stations. Each station had a task that was going to make you think. The first station my group went to asked, “What is it that separates me from God?” After some time to think it over, we were asked to write down a word a phrase that symbolized the thing that separates us from God on the top of our feet with a washable marker.
The next station my group went to was a station that was asking us: “How do I see myself?” There, students were asked to grab a mask, and on the inside, they were to write three things they thought about themselves. It could have been positive, negative, or even neutral, but it had to be honest. On the outside of the mask, was the following Hebrew phrase: ahuvah. In the third station, we were asked to look at ourselves in mirrors for 10 minutes, thinking about how we, others, and Gods sees us.
After each group was finished with their third station, we all moved towards the beach. Set up at the beach were 9 chairs and 9 buckets of water. From there, counselors each took a spot at a chair, and had their students line up and began washing their feet.
This week, I have the privilege of serving as a Teen Camp counselor to some pretty wonderful senior high girls. I’ve seen foot washing so many times, and read about in the Bible. I’ve seen it at weddings, and even at camp before. Yet, for the first time, I was taking part in it.
Getting the chance to wash my camper’s feet was emotional. As I watched the words they had written on their feet earlier dissipate into the water, I felt closer to God and was able to see even a small, microscopic percent of how much He loved us. He humbled himself to come down into the earth, to bring us redemption. Because he loves us.
After the student’s feet were washed, we gathered around the flag pole in front of a giant cross. One of the teachers this week began to share a story about a 14th century painting that was done by a Russian artist. It’s called “The Trinity”, and it depicts three angels in a triangle to represent the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. What some of the researchers who discovered the painting were trying to figure out was why the artist left glue residue right in the center of the painting. Their best guess? The artist had intended the painting to have a mirror affixed to it, right in the center of the Trinity. We asked the student’s to bring us their mirrors, and as they did, we began fixing them upon the cross.
You see, it doesn’t matter how we see ourselves, our how our friends, families, schools, or even sports teams view us. It doesn’t matter if we think we aren’t good enough. It doesn’t matter if we believe that God can’t really love us. You past doesn’t matter. Your failures don’t matter.
We are free to be because God calls us ahuvah. And you want to know what that means? Beloved. In Christ, our identity is a beloved, child of God. And that’s really all that matters, isn’t it?

What if Christmas, Perhaps, Means a Little Bit More

How the Grinch Stole Christmas courtesy Cartoon NetworkOne of the best things about Christmas for me is the movies and the specials. I love curling up with a nice hot mug of hot chocolate (with mini marshmallows of course!) with a blanket and watching everything from Elf to White Christmas.

Of course, Christmas would not be the same without some of these classics! One of my favorite Christmas movies is How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I always make sure I watch the original special and the life action movie. There’s something just special about that story!

One of my favorite moments is the ending, where the citizens of Whoville are singing a carol after loosing everything. For them, despite having nothing, the spirit of Christmas survived!

For me, the monologue about the Grinch’s heart growing three sizes larger perfectly sums up the Christmas season.

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

This week at camp, we’ve been learning about the characters of the Nativity story and how, even in July, the story of Christmas is always relevant.

The true meaning of Christmas, as the Grinch realized that day, isn’t about wrapping gifts, trimming trees, and hanging the best lights in the neighborhood. It’s not about baking gingerbread cookies or carving the roasted turkey. Christmas is about God, humbling Himself to take on flesh and send His son as a baby to save, redeem, forgive, and overcome the world.

We can all use a little bit of Christmas spirit throughout the year. You see, Jesus is more than just the “reason for the season”. God doesn’t just work for twenty five days in December and rest for the remaining 240 days a year. He’s the reason for everything. He should be the reason for every day of our lives. Because, you know what? God means a little bit more.

This week, I was reminded of that. In fact, so many of us we’re reminded about how Jesus came to save, to love, to heal, in the most humble and unexpected way possible; as a little baby in manger, wrapped in swaddling cloth.