Monday, July 1, 2013

Last month of internship?!

Can you believe it?  Just a few weeks more, and I'll be finished with my internship - and the next school year kicks off with the new interns.  (Once they get their blogs up I'll put up links for you.)

Something I would like to share with

One of the first questions I asked in intern class, and have been consistently re-asking, is - how do we continue to actively seek to know God more deeply while still accepting that He is beyond our comprehension?  (Admittedly, the question is perpetually being rephrased - this is a more elaborate form of it than what I first asked.)  It's tough for me - I like knowing things and understanding.  You might recall me addressing this in my January update.   This summer, UNT FOCUS has a discussion group on Monday nights that working through a study of 1 & 2 Samuel.  And as we're going through this, I'm fighting myself again - and recently summarized some of my thoughts in a way I thought would be helpful to you.

Academic knowledge about who translated the Bible, knowledge about the structure of Hebrew script and vowel pointing and translations into the Septuagint and Masoretic Text - all of that is just as useful to showing me God's heart as studying physical sciences shows the wonder and detail of God's creation, or studying history and sociology shows me the incredible grace that God has poured out onto humanity.  That is, it's all good and useful for seeking God - in proper balance.  Jesus rebukes the people who pride themselves on their knowledge and applauds those who live and serve with humility and thanksgiving.  And may I never be a person who values burying my head in a book over going out and serving somebody with a love that comes from only Christ.

In our intern class, we're preparing our final sermons - the topic being the three biggest lessons we've learned out of the class.  I can't wait to tell y'all more about what things I decide to share in this sermon!  From pastoral applications of the Beatitudes to consistently returning every topic to Jesus - and most importantly, what it means to genuinely seek the heart of God.

What's going on this month?

In my last month of being an intern, I have a few ongoing tasks to be working on.  Our large group meeting in the summer is fairly laid back but there's still some things that need to be done to keep everything running smoothly.  I am participating in a study of 1st and 2nd Samuel, and I attempt to be a model student in that class.  UNT has freshman and transfer orientations all throughout the summer, so I'm organizing having students help with that and then facilitating having people contact the incoming students and befriend that!  I have the opportunity to preach one more time this semester and am very much looking forward to that.  And, of course, I'm moving apartments this month as well as spending quite a bit of time searching for jobs- so summer has maintained a fast pace in my life!

So what's next for me?

Short answer: living in Denton and currently looking for a job!

Long answer: Many in our church feel like God is calling us to plant a church in the Denton area.  I can tell you that I've seen a spiritual need in this community - certainly there are other churches here already but I, too, see this hole when it comes to integrating college students into a community with diverse ages and backgrounds. I could talk at length about what God's working here - so if you'd like to hear more, pick up your phone and call me!  The point to that is, I'll be staying in the Denton area and living with two of the incoming interns - Danielle and Sarah!  I am in the midst of a job hunt so please be praying for that as well.  I honestly couldn't tell you what direction God is taking me here but I am so excited to continue to be part of what He's doing in this city.

How can you help?

Keep on praying!  I can't express just how much I appreciate the support, both prayer and financial, from my friends and family.  Pray as Matt is selecting the leadership team for next year.  Pray for the incoming interns as they fundraise - and consider that you may be the answer to their prayers and ask if you should be supporting them! Thank you again for all that you do!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

June update

Summer has begun!  Wednesday we kicked off our Denton large group meeting for the summer.  This summer we're reading through the book of James. This week Matt read the whole book out to the students.  Hearing the words come to life was powerful, and much more meaningful than just sitting and reading.  So if you haven't read the book lately, why don't you grab a friend and read it out loud?  This letter is so practical that we thought it'd be a good way to have some different students share as well, so most of the teaching that happens this summer will be coming from students who have established that they're reliable and have a heart for God's word! 

One thing that I love about summer is that our southern campuses - UT-Dallas, Collin, and Richland - have a joint meeting over the summer.  The juniors and seniors from our church's teen group are invited as well!  So this week we got together at the building in Garland to kick off our summer series: Built to Last. Ronnie challenged us to get a vision for where God wants us to be when we're adults - and to be building a foundation that will serve us well.  One of the really practical things that sticks with me is the reminder that how we treat our roommates is a foreshadowing of how we will treat our kids.  If we come home exhausted and needy all the time instead of looking for the needs of those who are already at home, why do we think it'll be any different with kids?  Why not learn today how to come home with a good attitude instead of realizing that's who we are when the kids point it out?  

students from every campus on Thursday night!
The interns read through "The Heart of Hebrew History" last month at a breakneck pace, excellent for getting the big picture of what happened in the Old Testament! Something that continually leaps out to me as I read about our history - really, the history of humanity - is how consistently we wander away from God... and how tragic the results are.

The statistics are sobering.  The Barna Group calculated that about 30% of those who grew up in a Christian home will stay faithful through college.  But a lot of people just wander into apathy and following their own cravings instead of pursuing God.  (Sound familiar, Israelites?)  And again we are so blessed to be part of a community which seeks to provide a thriving community for students to plug into.

But it's more than that. Jesus came to seek and save the lost - and we are living in a dreadfully lost culture.  We've all had neighbors who have never experienced Godly love; classmates who were raised in countries where Christianity is a tiny minority; friends who are bitter towards Christianity, but they see the love of Jesus in how we treat them.  One of the deepest honors of being an intern in campus ministry is helping to support students as they learn how to reach out to a broken world without themselves getting sucked in.  And that's what you're supporting!  Thank you again to each of you for your support and for keeping me and our campuses in your prayers!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May updates

It's wrapping up so quickly!  Last month I mentioned that our end of semester "Spring Formal" was coming up.  Usually this event signifies the very end of our semester, but this year it came a few weeks before everything wraps up! I just wanted to share with you one picture from our event – these are the ladies that I've spent most of my time on this semester. It's been such a blessing to see how God is growing them into powerful ladies devoted to Him.

Summer brings a whole new set of questions. After the frantic pace of finals, it's important to get a bit of rest. The first couple of weeks of the fall semester are also hectic as new students arrive and look for places to call home. More students than you'd care to think about come to college with no plans to plug into a Christian community. It's such an honor to be the people who catch the new students and remind them that God is all that matters in this world! But preparing the events that facilitate meeting people does require a lot of preparation – and that's also what summer is for.

One of the tasks on my plate this summer is the orientations for freshmen and transfer students coming to UNT. When I look at the numbers of students we talked to at orientations last summer and how many stayed involved in our ministry by the end of this year, I feel like it's inefficient – but ministry isn't a numbers game. This week I'm asking myself: what could make an impact on these students, even if we never see them again? What questions can we ask, what discussions can we prompt at an orientation that will spark spiritual hunger?

I'd like to invite you to be praying about these new student orientations as well!  Another exciting thing coming up is SICM, an intense week of learning and loving that more than 50 of our students are going to attend this month.  I can't wait to hear from the students what they learned and I hope to be able to share some of that with y'all!

Monday, April 1, 2013

I'm Sorry....

That's what we've been saying at UNT for the past week.  Two dozen people from CCF - a ministry at Western Washington University that we have a wonderful relationship with - spent their spring break on our campuses, learning more about just how different Texas is and talking to students about their spiritual beliefs.

We did the "I'm Sorry" campaign. You're probably wondering what that's about.  We invite people to voice their problems with Christians and engage them in discussions about that.  And then we apologize for the ways that we've hurt people - not just "I'm sorry that somebody else did this to you" - but personal apologies.  What sort of complaints do we hear?

Sometimes it's historical issues - one of the ladies I talked to cited the Crusades, saying that was inevitable because of the nature of "organized religion."

Some people pointed to the pop-culture presentation of proselytizing Christians.  Our media often paints a very negative picture of religious people and Christians in particular, and some of the people I talked to had never had a friendship with a living, breathing disciple of Jesus - so their only point of reference was these fictional images.

And sometimes it was more personal.  Cruel high schoolers or an encounter with a judgmental bigot.

I recently finished reading "They Like Jesus but Not the Church", which grappled with this problem - how some people don't ever give Jesus a chance in their lives because they've been hurt by Christians.  And it's little surprise that Christians hurt people - aren't we all human? - and all the more heartbreaking to me that we sometimes make it more difficult for people to come to know God.  The week of "I'm Sorry" kept reminding me of  Matthew 23:13 , where Jesus is rebuking the religious leaders of the day.  "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to."

These are some of the things that I shared in conversations or on notecards throughout the week - and some I've communicated back to the person I treated like this.

I'm sorry for being so caught up in my own life that I didn't make time to be your friend.
I'm sorry for treating you like you were fragile and afraid of having your beliefs challenged.
I'm sorry for being pushy about my beliefs and not accepting that you're content with what you believe.
I'm sorry for dragging you to my church events and not explaining better what was going on!  
I'm sorry that I didn't try harder to live up to my beliefs - what offended you was Melissa, but you respected Christ less because of me being a poor follower of Him.  

So I'd like to leave you with that thought this month.  What do you think of what people said about Christians?  (If I explained poorly please go read what Matt had to say about the week - he wrote much better than I did!) How did you contribute to their negative views, or how did you prove them wrong and show a true reflection of Jesus?  Don't hesitate to comment if you have something to share!

Thinking about next month - it's crazy to think we are so close to the end of the spring semester!  We have our end-of-year celebration coming up in just a few weeks and final exams shortly after that.  Keep praying for our students, especially that they would be faithful with what they're responsible for as the semester speeds to a close.  Thank you again for all your support!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Shortest month?

In spite of what the calendar suggests, February felt like the longest month of my internship! Several things happened this month that I'd like to share with y'all.

A couple of weeks ago we had our parent night/open house. This was an opportunity to invite parents, mentors, and other friends to see our ministry and to spend the night honoring their impact. Matt posted about it so y'all should read what he had to say! I'd just like to echo what he said about it – it's nice to hear from parents what changes they've seen God work in their children since getting involved in our ministry. One of my personal favorite parts of the night is when one of our students shared about how he came to know Christ through the love and friendship of Christian students.  This is the reality of our campus ministry - we're about spreading the Gospel to students from all backgrounds. 

Switching gears, we also had Valentathalon this month. This is an event that's designed to be a way of getting the community together to laugh and dance together and just another route to building new relationships. Something I love about UNT students is how energetic they are – and Valentathalon brought that out of them in a beautiful way.

From the perspective of one of the people “planning” the event, I just had to laugh at myself – because all of the hard work was really done by the students.  They kept the event going in new and wacky ways beyond what I thought it would look like - and part of that is me still getting used to UNT compared to UTD.  As much as I love my Comets, I have to say, they'll stand around awkwardly not knowing what to do, while a group of UNT students will just start building a human pyramid.

The other thing that really impacted me this month was having the opportunity to preach. The verse that comes to mind is James 3:1 - “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Being in such a position is a sobering experience for me – and though I've led small groups and mentored many young women over the past few years, I have to say that this was a very different experience.  In a small group, if I'm not clear about something, it's easy enough to check in with group; when talking to a hundred people, I have to be a lot more precise in my planning as well as scanning the room for visual cues.  

The biggest thing that I wanted to share with y'all, though, is what God taught me through that experience. Part of what my sermon was about was trusting that God can and will make us new. And as I was preparing for this, praying over it and really seeking what God wanted me to share with our students – it became clear that I didn't fully believe it. That there were things in my life I'd resigned myself to putting up with, and I hadn't surrendered it to God or asked anybody for help.  And I am still so thankful that MattAmyBrandon, and Mandy trusted in me enough to let me preach, and to Ronnie for all the work he's done with the interns to train us.  I feel like I'm finally giving some things up to God because of this experience.  Afterwards it was a peculiar feeling as a couple of people told me how the sermon related to something in their lives, and being reminded again that I was just a pencil in God's hand. 

At the end of March, we're having a group of students from Western Washington University spend a week with us and help out with on-campus evangelism and just continue to build community and share how God has made things new in our lives.  Please be praying for these students as they prepare to visit us and for our campuses to be open to talking about Jesus! 

Friday, February 1, 2013

February update

Winter Camp was so good!  More than 350 students gathered together to spend the weekend talking about what life in God's kingdom can look like! Just picture this with me for a minute - hundreds of students from several community colleges and universities took the holiday weekend not just to hang out with friends but to learn!  

all our campuses together!

and here's the Denton crew!  
You can find the talks on our website and enjoy a piece of what we learned about at Winter Camp!  Besides the sermons, some of the most memorable pieces of Winter Camp are the walk-and-talks.  A couple of times through the weekend we take some time out to get to know other people better 

Next month we're having Valentathalon!  This is an event that has happen at our other campuses but this year will be the first time at UNT.  I think these pictures can tell you a lot more about the event than any description, and I can't wait to show y'all how it goes here!  

Finally, If I haven't already personally invited you -  I'd love to see y'all at our open house night!  You'll get to see how vibrant our community is and hear from some students and their parents.  Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Back in Denton!

The break was personally very relaxing and gave me some time to reflect on my internship experience so far. Something in particular that I'd like to share with you – well, let me quote from 1 Corinthians 8:1 - “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” This verse has been particularly relevant for me as I'm a person who is very intellectually curious, but I often find myself chasing answers that, while academically valuable, can miss the point. Knowledge quickly leads to pride if you're not careful. But look at how Jesus spoke to people when he taught – he definitely had all the right answers, yet he wasn't rude or condescending about it. So as I continue to grow closer to God and trying to seek truth in every area, I have to fight my tendency towards priding myself for my intellect. I'd like for you, as you read my updates, to pray that I would practice humility in how I view myself and how I relate to others. I would also like to invite you to comment on posts here with whatever you may be thinking!

Getting back to the campus, this year we've been centered on the theme of “Everything New.” You can probably think of an impressive list of things that God has made new in your life - new attitudes and expectations, new priorities, reconciled relationships, restoration of things thought lost, and so much more. Jesus didn't come to say that the status quo was sufficient. He radically changed lives and showed humanity what it meant to live! And looking forward to this semester I'm so excited to see what's in store.

If you check in on the other updates from UNT, you may recall that Amy is very pregnant. (By “very” I mean twins!) Amy has been such a blessing to our community and me personally - but her being due in a couple of months means that we're going to have some mid-semester changes up here!  And in just over a week we leave for Winter Camp. Though it's only a few days long, it's one of the highlights of the school year for our community. This year we're going out to Sky Ranch - just far enough away to get away from the hubbub of life. I'd like y'all to read what Matt has to say about Winter Camp and I can't wait to update y'all on how it went!   

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Can you believe the semester is almost over?

Such a strange feeling – walking out of the room we've met in all semester and knowing that we won't be back for a month and a half. Finals are rapidly approaching so we've had to wrap up our big group meetings for the year. Looking back over the semester we can see so many things that God is working in our community! Our students have reached out to so many new students and invited them into a loving Christian community - dozens of students are studying the Bible with dozens more - and students are making real commitments to live their lives in a way pleasing to God.   At the start of November we had a Pizza Theology, where students from all of our campuses come together to learn about a topic in more depth.  We had about 250 students show up - and I just love seeing that so many people were willing to spend a Sunday afternoon in a classroom learning!

In the midst of college ministry, I find it too easy to forget how fragile life is. But last week our community was startled - a freshman at UNT, Ryan Schutze, died in a car crash.  Something that really impressed me about his life was his vision for how God could impact our campus. Ryan was actively participating in campus ministries as well as a fraternity - seeing how many people whose lives were touched by him really showed that he letting Jesus shine through him! Please join us in praying for Ryan's family as well as that we continue in his dedication to sharing God's love with others on campus.

One thing that's in the works at our campuses is an international mission trip. Travis, who leads the ministry at Richland College, is also leading up this trip.  He visited us at UNT at the end of the month to host an informational session to see how many students at UNT were interested - and we almost filled a classroom with interested students!

Finally, we had our Christmas celebration last night!  We love having a party of some kind to celebrate the Christmas season.  This year we challenged the cores to perform some kind of song or skit and did our students show some impressive skill!  One video I'd like to share with you tonight came from a core that has really appreciated the diversity that God brought them.  

I'm personally looking forward to December and having a chance to catch up with students from other campuses and especially back at UTD.  Winter Camp is also coming up fast!  I can look back at my experiences at Winter Camp and really see how God used that in shaping my heart.  I'm so excited that our students are about to get to experience that as well and I know that Jesus will be working in that!  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Being a pencil in God's hand

This year, the leaders in our ministry are reading through Finding Calcutta, a book about some of the profound questions raised by one American's journey to work with Mother Teresa. Something that leaped out to our group this week was Mother Teresa's imagery of being “a pencil in God's hand.” It's not that she did these amazing acts of love and service to the poor – she let God's love flow through her. And it's like that for us. Everything we do in campus ministry isn't us - it's God using us. It begged several questions for our leaders. Do you truly let Jesus use you to write His plans? Do you try to claim responsibility for things that were actually things incited by the Spirit? Why do we pretend like we're “good people” instead of pointing all praise to God?

 Just this week I heard a story of how one of the students led God use her for something she wasn't expecting! One of the students I spent time with every week, Rachel, shared this story with me. She was at a coffee shop with several friends, including Natalie, a freshman who has made learning more about God a priority in her life. Part of how she's doing this is by studying the Bible with Rachel! During a break in their homework session, Rachel stepped outside with one of the guys. Their conversation turned to how Jesus heals people – spiritually, physically, emotionally. Rachel suspected that somebody who had been sitting near them in the coffee shop was listening in, but wasn't entirely certain.

 As the evening wore on, most of the group finished up their homework and went home, but Natalie stayed behind. And then the guy that Rachel had noticed earlier struck up a conversation with started a conversation with Natalie. Maybe he had found the group intimidating - maybe he was working up the courage and questions to jump in and realized he had almost missed his chance – maybe there's other reasons that I can't begin to grasp. But Natalie, a freshman who is young in her faith but eager to learn all about God, was tossed into this conversation with a fellow student who was brimming with questions. He said he was atheist, but something in his heart was longing to know more about God.

 Natalie let herself be a pencil in God's hand – being used to plant seeds in this man's heart. Praise God for using Rachel to mentor Natalie, and praise God for giving Natalie the boldness to speak up! This story reminded me of 1 Peter 3:15 - “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

Radically shifting topics - something that I love about the end of October is our Halloween parties – yet another excuse to dress up and hang out with each other. This event was entirely planned by students and was so well done!!

Matt as Mr. Green, Krysten as Matt, Matt as Bert the Chimney Sweep, Rachel as Matt, Natalie as Matt, and Matt as a ninja.

 Looking forward to next month – in a couple of weeks we're having Pizza Theology, which is when we dedicate a Sunday afternoon to diving into some topic that's more involved than can be covered in sermons on Friday nights.  I hope you're excited to hear how it goes!

Last thing I wanted to share with you was that we had a baptism tonight!  Marissa decided to be baptized after studying the Bible with Ana.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The school year is in full swing...

Another month in our ministry has flown by. We just returned from our fall retreat, a 24-hour getaway when students have lots of opportunities to get involved in community. You learn so much about people when you have a LOT of people in a small space. Who is looking for opportunities to help? Who is looking for ways to invite new people into their lives? It's a great time to gear up for the rest of the semester with ideas on how to love each other like Jesus loves us.

This morning we had some FOCUS alumni come speak to our community about how involvement in a ministry in college has impacted their lives after graduation and how God has changed their lives over the past few years. Seeing what God has done for them is so beautiful! And speaking of beautiful - check out our group picture! Over a hundred people were involved in the retreat at some point.
God has been teaching me so much through this internship. I think one of the biggest lessons of late has been, basically, getting over myself and being willing to be imperfect when speaking in front of people.

At retreat we had a time of sharing with the group based on the prompt “how has Jesus' death and resurrection made us new?” God put something on my heart to share but I spent a while procrastinating, afraid of looking foolish if I tripped over my words. After I spoke, I wondered why I didn't just speak up when I first knew I needed to – and a couple of minutes later, another person spoke in response to what I had said. If I had let myself get stuck in my own head and not shared, I would have robbed the community of both what God wanted me to share and what this other person shared. You have to wonder how many other ways we steal from our communities by our own selfishness! I'm so glad that I paid attention to this lesson after speaking rather than realizing it after being silent.

So much more is going on – God is working in amazing ways in the lives of students here and I am so blessed to be allowed to be part of it!