Monday, June 30, 2008

SSP 2008 Work Day 1

It’s been a truly spectacular SSP day…which means no one was on the roof…no one got hurt and it wasn’t 100 degrees. The Table Bluff Reservation where we are serving this year is located on a bluff overlooking Humboldt Bay and it is a truly beautiful site. It is a small reservation on which 8 of the 9 work sites are within site of each other. The ninth site is a few miles up the road in Arcata. We find ourselves doing a lot of handicap ramps this year, which means today there was a lot of digging and tomorrow there will be a lot of concrete being mixed. Wednesday will see a lot of nails driven and probably a few black and blue thumbs.

We are here this year with the Loomis UMC, the Campbell UMC and the Lafayette UMC. This is a great bunch of campers and counselors and we are really meshing well at this point.

Back to the weather…I don’t think it got above 65 all day and the sun didn’t come out until about 1:30 pm. It doesn’t seem like its going to be out for much longer.

There is an extraordinary thing happening this year. The Wiyot people (that’s pronounced WEE’ yot) are cooking us both breakfast and lunch. In 17 years of SSP this has never happened. I’m completely blown away by this gesture.

Now a few kid moments. This was Rachel’s first time on the trip and she is on one of the teams that are doing ramps. When I talked to her today about how it went and what the favorite part of her work day was she talked about how great it was that everyone on her team was pitching in. There was no one on her team that just sat around while others worked. I’m very glad that she had a good first day. For Alex, also a first timer, the demolition that needed to happen before the ramp construction begins was the favorite part of his day.

It’s almost time for evening program, so I’ll cut this short…you can be very proud of this SSP work team. Under Mandy’s leadership the leadership and spiritual maturity of our youth is making a difference in this community. It is a blessing and privilege to share this time with a group of kids that are eager to grow in their discipleship and in their relationship with God through helping other people. While I know that my being here puts a great deal of strain others who pick up my load when I am gone, please know my heartfelt gratitude for all that you do to make it possible for me to be part of this spiritual journey with our youth just as I continue to be challenged in my own.

Until tomorrow…

SSP 2008 Day 2
Yosemite National Park
This was a beautiful day with perfect hiking conditions. We had the largest group ever take the hike…20 people!! Of the 20 who started, 13 made it to the cables, also a record. For those of you who know the hike, it is challenging and even though we were somewhat slowed in coming down the hill we all made it down safe and sound. We really missed you Becca!!!! Love and kisses from all of us.

SSP 2008 Day 3
Our travel day to McKinleyville proved to be quite eventful. Our path to McKinleyville was closed due to the fires that are scattered throughout the forests of Northern California. Steve Gould was working to get me up to visit with Donna Brantly so that we could plan Jim’s Memorial Service and due to the road closures it would have been impossible to see her without missing my flight. The Spirit created a strong pull to be with Donna which necessitated me missing my short trip home to be in worship for Pastor Cathy’s last day. It was with great sadness that I missed that event, but the time spent with Donna proved to be more important than I could have possibly imagined.
Enough about me. It was a long day of traveling for the team, but they made it to McKinleyville and were greeted warmly by Donna’s daughter and son in law. We had stacks of tasty pizza, soda and desserts. It was a wonderful and relaxing place to chat, play games and unwind from the road.
We bedded down for the night in the non-profit Karate dojo that is connected to the Church of the Divine Healer UMC. This is where Donna has been attending these last months with her family. The church was very warm and generous in their hospitality and welcome of us. It was a great place to spend the night and worship the next day.

SSP 2008 Day 4
Sunday was kind of a slow day. We started with Church and while I visited more with Donna and her family the rest of the team went to the movies (Wall-e)…a great time was had by all. After a short drive of 30 minutes we arrived on site and the grand adventure of work began.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

SSP Log 2008

Parallel to my regular postings for the next few days I’ll give daily updates about the MUMC Youth Trip to the Sierra Service Project. This year we’re serving the Wiyot people who live just south of Eureka, Ca, near the town of Loleta. This will be my second Project trip to Loleta and I look forward to cooler temperatures and ocean breezes.

Over these next several days I’ll share the events of the day, including pictures. You’ll hear of the different ways in their own words, some of the ways that the youth and other adults are experiencing SSP.

For those unfamiliar with SSP…Sierra Service Project is a non-profit group that runs a serious of one week work camps, in five different locations. These work camps are for Senior High youth and their counselors. The work involves housing rehabilitation and weatherization for Native Americans who live on various reservations in California, Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. More than simply doing work, this experience provides the context for the youth and counselors to explore Christ’s call to service through discipleship in a real world context in a culture setting that is different from our own. This is my 17th week at SSP since 1989 (the year I graduated from seminary); needless to say the experience is very near and dear to my heart.

Now, on with our story…

With the Staypuft Marshmallow Van in the lead we head north through desert, the mountains and the valley. Our destination for day one is Indian Flat Campground just outside the west gate of Yosemite National Park. This has been a regular haunt for many years now. At about 20 minutes from Yosemite Village, it is a perfect place to stay. Tomorrow, the intrepid among us will head for the trailhead at Curry Village to begin our pilgrimage to the top of Half Dome, hopefully the weather will cooperate and we’ll enjoy the view from the top. Pictures from this trek as well as other pictures of the day will be posted on Saturday as I’ll have no internet connection available on Friday.

Before I loose signal, I’m going to end this note and post it. Until Saturday…

Trust Is a Funny Thing

I had an epiphany a few days ago. At the very least it was a mixed bag. I’d been stressed out over a variety of things in life and ministry and the compounding of these various stresses was working toward leaving me feeling increasingly isolated. In this growing isolation fear was beginning to dictate my action, or lack thereof. The epiphany came within the context of a meeting with my Stewardship leader. We were discussing a plan to encourage our congregation in giving and ministry in the current economic climate. It came to me as bolt from the blue…I wasn’t truly trusting God’s grace and providence nor did I really trust the congregation.

On the one hand it was a breath of fresh air blowing freely into the choking and stagnant fear that was sapping me of energy and passion. The fear had become a burden on my spirit that had grown gradually and imperceptibly. It had become a burden that I didn’t fully fathom until it was lifted from me. With the lifting of the burden came a flood of emotions…it brought me to tears and to my knees. The pathway that I’m called to follow is a pathway of trust over fear. I was reminded that I can trust God and I can trust this congregation. In so many things over the last eight years this congregation has given me abundant experiences that should have bolstered my trust…but instead I doubted.

There in lies the downside of the epiphany. I felt deeply convicted in the lack of trust. It would be all too easy to be intemperate with myself in this. As it has always been in matters such as this, God’s grace was sufficient to not only bring me back, but heal the guilt of having forgotten such a fundamental truth. I’m not sure if this is a sign of cynicism or spiritual maturity, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this won’t be the last time that I’ll need to have this epiphany. Such is life. Though I may very likely loose the grip on what I know now, in this moment I trust God, to always bring me back.

This trust has now broadened my platform for moving forward and answering Christ’s call and claim on me. It feels very much life a reaffirmation of my baptism. I have been immersed in God’s providential healing and grace, dying to the fear that sought to burden me and being raised to a new life of strength and courage. This is simply one more reminder that new life is always breaking out all around us if we would have the eyes to see and hearts open to the promise.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Synchronous Experience

As I have been pondering Paul’s writing about baptism in Romans 6 there have been some incredibly powerful images that have been coming to mind. While I haven’t before thought thoroughly through Paul’s conception of being buried with Christ and being raised with Christ I have had some unspoken and unreflective assumptions. The sense of it that I was most comfortable with was the notion of being alongside Christ. The language that best describes this is “the journey with Christ”, a phrase I’ve used a lot. My unreflective, default belief is best described as proximity. Being with Christ was simply a matter of being close to Christ; and with a disciplined spirituality seeking to be as close as possible. A closer study of Romans 6 has drawn me to a new conception. When I got there, I’ve found that this new conception was already a reality that I have been living into over these last two years. I simply lacked an image that matched experience

When Paul speaks of being buried and resurrected with Christ this is not simply a proximity-based reality. Paul is speaking of a reality that is more like incorporation or even co-mingling. In our baptism, Paul points to a transformation of life, identity and perspective that is rendered at the very core of a person. This transformation is affected by God’s grace in and through the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

As I reflect on these words and my own growing experience, I am persuaded of the strength and power of this idea. Through living a more disciplined spiritual life I’m discovering a new heart and a new strength for living, loving and serving. This new strength is rooted in a deeper experience and understanding of how Christ is at work in my life. My relationship with Jesus is no longer a proximity experience. Christ’s life is becoming more alive in me and my experience is becoming more alive in Christ. I’m finding great vitality and joy in a synchronous experience with Christ.