Farewell Camp, Hello Summer!

My mountains as seen from my hometown

My mountains as seen from my hometown

Hellllloooooo, Rancho Cucamonga! I got home from camp just over a week ago on Friday, June 7. Since then, I have:

  • Watched almost a full season of Heroes on Netflix.
  • Deep cleaned my room and given away bag after bag of clothes and fabric. (I LOVE simplifying my life!! Occasionally I would go on rants about materialism, and then start throwing things out of my closet. It was magnificently freeing.)
  • Crafted more handmade vintage-y greeting cards which will very soon be selling on my new etsy store! (Official announcement pending)
  • Babysat twice and have set up dates for more.
  • Officially made Refuge House of Prayer my home church!

I did not get the “ideal” summer job I had been hoping for. I was a little bummed, but I have concluded that God was protecting me from an overcrowded schedule. My first priority this summer needs to be my online IHOPU classes. As it is, I have arrangements for babysitting over the summer for a number of families. I will be very busy the next two months, that’s for sure.

As excited as I am to be home for a few months, it’s also rather difficult to leave my camp. Summer camp 2010 was my first full-time job. I’ve spent large portions of the past three years there, totaling about 16 months. I’ve learned and grown so much. From general leadership skills like initiative to flexibility to guest service skills like saying “yes” (whenever feasible) to outdoor science school skills. I am now the master of dozens of different ways to get and keep attention, teach about the environment, survive (theoretically) in the wilderness, keep kids busy kids with a game, etc. Throw me on the trail with 20-30 5th graders, and I will be completely in my element.

And even beyond all those handy professional skills, I grew a lot relationally. Since I never lived on campus during college, camp was my first real communal living experience. I’m a solid introvert with a tendency toward isolationism, so being “forced” to “do life” with so many people was just what I needed. The teamwork, fun, and fellowship has been simply wonderful. I love these people so much and will always treasure the memories I’ve built with them.

I’ve also learned how to intentionally carve out time for God. I had to do it at APU, but it got harder at camp. That’s why the camp prayer chapel and a couple of other lookout locations have become so precious to me. I’ve met with God there, because I’ve determined to set aside time and treat them like appointments that must be kept. The key is intentionality and priority. It’s planning ahead and putting my Bible in my backpack (even if it means I end up hiking the mountain with it for half a day). It’s taking advantage of small – or large – blocks of time. If I want to spend time with God, then I’ve got to fight to make sure that happens when no one else will do it for me.

The mountains have bewitched me, body and soul. I see God in them every time I look around. I see him when I marvel at the rugged, delicate, colourful, brilliant beauty of this world. Golden, flaming sunsets. Leaves rustling in the breeze. The rich petrichor smell of the forest in the rain. Colours, shadows, textures, shades of life. So much depth and creativity… they all reveal the heart of the Artist.

Those three years were one of the best gifts my Father has ever given me.

Now, Rancho. Family. Home. And classes… SEEP starts tomorrow. I’m going to be throwing myself into studying the Bible at a level I never have before. I’ve sat through classes at OTI, but there was no homework. I’ve done Bible classes at APU, but that was APU, not IHOPU.

This is going to be a summer to remember.

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Weekend Ambush

Last weekend was absolutely splendidly NOT what I had planned. I was planning to go camping in Joshua Tree on Saturday with a few of my co-workers. From the start I wasn’t sure if I wanted to, because although I love these people and I could use a change of scenery, “roughing it” is rarely my cup of tea. I determined to go and enjoy it, though, so even when the plan fell through, I was proud of myself for at least refusing to be scared off.

Instead I spent my Saturday working the rock wall for the Christian camp. I’ve never properly worked ropes with the rec staff before, and I ended up loving it! By dinner time I was already thanking God that he had a better day planned for me than I had planned for myself, but he hadn’t even begun to surprise me. I let myself be talked into going to chapel in the evening when I heard that Tommy Green, the lead singer of Sleeping Giant who has a powerful ministry, would be speaking. I went with my roommate and sat through an hour of a student talent show. There was a definite amount of talent, and also a definite amount of… well. It was well worth it, though, because when Tommy came to the front, the first thing he did was pray for people in pain to be healed and the second thing he did was prophesy over some of the performers.

WHAT?!!! This might be pretty standard ministry in my usual circles, but at this camp? In the three years I’ve worked here, I have NEVER seen a single healing take place in that chapel, or a single prophecy be released (though granted I can’t claim to be there every time the doors are open). Not that God doesn’t move here or that the camp and its guests don’t believe in the gifts, we just don’t… tend to practice them very often.

I’ve spent so many hours over the past few years pacing the camp prayer chapel -and plenty of hours elsewhere too- praying for Holy Spirit to do crazy things in that chapel. I’ve tasted revival, and I am desperate for this camp, my home, to taste it too. Seeing what Tommy brought on Saturday was a beautiful down payment of the revival that I believe is coming.

But the night got better. Tommy’s message was about worship as warfare, and this generation releasing a new sound that literally shifts atmospheres, and the seven Hebrew words of praise, especially “tehila” spontaneous singing and “shabach” shouting, and how powerful dance is as an expression of worship… I could have closed my eyes and heard Jake Hamilton’s voice. (I actually just found out that Tommy has actually worked with Jake on the Voices conference Jake put on last year. So yeah.) I have never felt so completely in unity with what’s going on in that chapel as I did that night. Especially because after talking about free and powerful worship, the band came on stage and we DID IT for an hour and a half! My roommate and I ended up up pushing back the chairs in the back of the room and dancing and worshiping and crying until we were completely overwhelmed. I haven’t worshipped that freely since… well, since the week I left IHOP. The two of us helped clean up the chapel and watched as the campers settled into small groups, then went back home and prayed together until we fell asleep. My heart was full to bursting with the sheer excitement of loving God and watching him move.

Sunday was quite amazing as well. I went with a friend to her church for my second visit. The church is called Tithemi and is actually led by Eric Gregson, a close friend of Tommy who is (was?) also in Sleeping Giant! Bam. Small world. This little church is a beautiful, grungy, passionate band of young tattooed believers who worship with full hearts and pray with abandon. That Sunday night I kicked off my sandals and started dancing during the song Divine Romance, and by the time we’d sung the chorus about ten times the worship leader asked anyone who wanted to dance to come do it on stage. So I went. And we all danced for several more minutes before Eric invited us all to return to our seats.

As I was sitting down, he started talking about how powerful worship is, and how powerful dance is, and how that first person to dance serves the community by providing a “covering” for everyone else’s awkwardness… in other words, that person sets the tone for how free the group is allowed to be. It was a huge blessing and confirmation for me, because I knew that I was the first person to start dancing that night, and because I have so often been told about how my dancing creates an atmosphere of freedom and worship for others.

Even when I know something, I love it so much when God remembers and tells me again. He sees me, he knows me, he enjoys me. And he’s using me through my simply enjoying him. I’m just being who I was created to be, and he’s encountering me and using it to bless people.

Also, I’m so grateful for the community I’m surrounded by. From the people I worked rec with, to the people I was in chapel with, to the people at Tithemi, I am so deeply blessed to get to be around like-minded people who love me and are going after the same things. I love them all, and I love my Father for giving them to me.

Oh… one more thing. On Wednesday at camp, I went into the prayer chapel to spend my break. The first thing I did was unwrap a Dove dark chocolate square. And what did my wrapper say?

Be the first to hit the dance floor.

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Prophetic Dove wrapper (torn and taped)

The Road Home: Embryo

…as in, “the embryonic stages of my journey back to Kansas City.”

Hi, all. So it’s been nearly two months since my last post… my bad. I’ve been back working at my outdoor science school in the mountains of SoCal for about six weeks now. I love being here. I work with some completely amazing people who inspire me every single day. It definitely does feel like being home, and I’ve loved discovering what God has in store for me during this season.

I know I’ve been mentioning going back to Kansas City in the near future. Yep, I am going back in August to start IHOPU, even though when I started OTI I had ZERO intention of that happening! Here’s the story of how that changed.

One Tuesday morning in the internship, we had a class on Joel and what it says about the role of the church in the period of history in which Jesus returns. (Hint: our main role is to PRAY.) At one point, our teacher asked us to name different verses about the end-time praying church. We shouted out references like Revelation 22:17, Isaiah 42, and Luke 18:6-8, and like a diligent student I scribbled them all down in my notes.

That night in the prayer room, at about 11:30 pm, I decided to get started on my assigned meditation for the week, which was Luke 18:6-8.

And the Lord said,“Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

I didn’t even realise that it had been on the list in class that morning, so I looked it up and thought, “Oh, the parable of the persistent widow– I know this story. Pray persistently, I get it, yada yada… I guess I ought to do it properly, though.” So I started journaling through the passage phrase by phrase like I always did on my meditation verses. The first few phrases were simple enough, and I thought it was cool that the verse highlighted “day and night” prayer just like IHOP is dedicated to, but then I started getting confused.

“‘Speedily’?” I thought. “Since when does God ever do anything speedily? Okay, this is just motivation to keep praying, because from God’s perspective it’s speedy, even though from our perspective justice may take forever to come.” And then I got to “when the Son of Man comes,” and got even more lost. I’d read this verse hundreds of times before, and never understood why Jesus made this sudden abrupt reference to his return.

Then I thought, Oh snap, this just became an end-times verse, and it suddenly all made sense. When God stirs his church up to pray day and night, it is because he IS planning to do something speedily. This is the faith that he’s looking for when he comes.

And it suddenly hit me that this verse had been on the board that morning. I frantically dug out my notes, and there it was– end-time praying church, Luke 18:6-8.

As soon as all that clicked, I realised in shock,

This is our story. This is MY story!

This verse is the very reason I am sitting in this room right now!

I still love the way God blinded me to the reality of this verse for YEARS when it was staring me right in the face until the time was right to blow my mind personally and lead me into my calling. I am wholeheartedly convinced that in one way or another I’ll be a part of the house of prayer/praying church/forerunner movement for the rest of my life.

My immediate reaction was along the lines of, “This is what’s happening! Jesus is REALLY coming back REALLY soon and the very fact that the Spirit is stirring us up with faith to pray day and night means that he’s coming SPEEDILY to bring justice to the earth and HOLY CRAP I’m right in the middle of it!!!!” I wrote in my journal that night, “He is looking for his faithful elect who will cry out day and night for the return of the Son of Man, the Righteous Judge.” And the path that was instantly crystal clear to me was to come back to Cali, work at camp for a while while keeping up with IHOPU online, and then return to start Year 2 in the fall. I’ve been figuring out some of the details, but I haven’t deviated from that plan since.

I’ll be working at camp till the beginning of June, then do a summer program called SEEP to catch up and be ready for IHOPU in the fall. SEEP runs June 17 – August 9 and I would (95% sure) do it online from Rancho. It’s a pretty intense program, especially since it includes 8 hours/week of required prayer room time. I’d probably do as many of those hours as possible at The Refuge, my local house of prayer. I’d love to also pick up a very small part-time job, possibly at the restaurant I used to work at. I could do SEEP in Kansas City, but I feel that doing it at home would allow me to 1) save two months of rent money! 2) get involved with an actual local church community again, probably The Refuge, 3) “test-drive” the lifestyle in a more “normal” environment, 4) get actual HOP experience outside of IHOPKC, and 5) spend more time with my family who hardly ever see me anymore.

At IHOPU I’ll be part of the Forerunner School of Ministry (FSM) and during years 3 and 4, if I stay that long, I’ll be on the house of prayer leadership track. Theoretically, after that I’ll go… somewhere… and plant a house of prayer.

So there are a lot of things that still aren’t perfectly worked out, but for the next few months at least I have my trajectory, and I am confident that this is what God is leading me into.

I would very much appreciate your prayers for the details to all work out, for financial provision (I may end up doing support letters this time, once I really get into IHOPU), and for me not to miss what God has for me in the here and now, even as I’m looking forward to the next season.

Home(s)

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I’m writing this from my living room couch in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. I graduated from OTI two weeks ago today, on December 16. That whole last week was… highly emotional, to say the least. I spent a lot of time with my beautiful core group, traipsed all over the mall with interns on a scavenger hunt, and experienced a wonderful last few nights in the prayer room.

Wednesday was always our favourite night, and God blew it up for us on our last Wednesday scheduled in the prayer room. We celebrated and enjoyed God’s presence together. Much laughter and dancing was involved. Our real last night in the prayer room was the following Tuesday, December 11. I ushered for the last time during the 8:00 p.m. set, or for the first part of it, at least. During the second intercession cycle the directors of the internship came up to the mic and prayed for us. All of the interns went into the aisles and people came and laid hands on us. Soon enough every one of us was bawling. I was mostly okay until Jordan Marcotte, one of our favourite worship leaders and a good friend of many of the interns,  played a song that had been written by one of the interns.

This is my family
Father who sits on the throne
Jesus Christ, Son of God
Holy Spirit
This is my family
No one can take my family
Thank you, Lord
Thank you, Lord
Jesus Christ

And of course even though the lyrics are about the Trinity being our family, in that moment I looked around at all of my interns crying, hugging, and praying, and thought, “This is my family.” And then the tears came and didn’t stop for quite some time.

Nearly six months with these people. The most spiritually intense season of our lives, and we spent nearly every waking moment together. We laughed and prayed and learned and questioned together. We prophesied over each other, prayed over each other, provoked each other onward in our faith… I consider every single one of them to be a most beloved friend.

Driving away on Sunday afternoon was the strangest thing. There were so many mercies in those final few days, though, that made saying goodbye easier. God was so good to us. (I’m pretty sure we’re his favourite internship ever. 😉 He loves us, individually and collectively, a whole freaking lot, and he loves to surprise us and play with us. But there are far too many stories of that to share right now.) The last week was structured so that we had plenty of opportunity to savour our relationships and to say goodbye thoroughly. Also, on the last day, a large handful of the interns went out to Olive Garden together after graduation, so we had that chance to hang out and share those strange first few hours as “former interns” together. Then even on the drive home I had my roommate with me until Phoenix, so it was a blessing I didn’t have to say goodbye to everyone all at once. She is wonderful. 🙂

Christmas with the family was delightful, of course, and I’m currently relaxing at home a bit, spending as much time with my family as possible, and preparing to go back to work camp early in January. I’m planning to work there through the rest of the school year, then move back to Kansas City sometime in the summer to start IHOPU.

I find myself in an interesting position these days. During my time in Kansas City, the area became very much home to me. I know the streets, I have my favourite shops, I have a heart for the UMKC campus, I found a home in the Boiler Room church, and I absolutely love the prayer room and the IHOP community. I felt a lurch in my stomach and a breaking off of a piece of my heart to leave it. Still, I know I will be back. I belong there, for one more season of my life at least.

Now I’m at home in Rancho Cucamonga with my family, where I’ve lived since 2001. My family is here, my church(es) are here, I’ve gone to school, performed in plays, and gotten in car accidents here… my world is more here than it is anywhere else. Rancho will always be my hometown no matter where else I go.

Then, next week I will be moving back up to my camp in the mountains. I’ve been a camper there many times since 5th grade, and I’ve been on staff since 2010. I’ve hiked those trails in every season and I know almost every inch of that property. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences there and made so many precious friendships. That’s my mountain. In KC, I was homesick for camp as much as I was for Rancho.

They say home is where the heart is… but my heart is in three completely separate places. At least that’s what it feels like most days.

Last Battle quoteIn my more peaceful moments I remind myself of the home that I really belong to. I am on pilgrimage here. Rancho, KC, Crestline… ultimately it doesn’t really matter at all. None of these places are my home. The city I belong in is called the New Jerusalem, and that is where I will spend eternity with my Jesus. (Rev 21; Heb 12:22; Gal 4:26) I’m a foreigner in all of these places, because I was created for that heavenly city. He is where my heart is; his presence is my only home. One day I really will walk through those gates made of solid pearl (Rev 21:21) and never, ever have to leave.  In that moment, I will feel more at home than I ever have on earth.

Whether I’m in Rancho, KC, or up at camp, that’s where I belong. That’s the city my spirit is yearning for. Jesus is where my heart is. I am hidden in Christ , and his desire is for me to be with him where he is. (Col 3:3; John 17:24) I’m with him now, but I won’t be fully with him until that day when Christ who is my life appears and I appear with him in glory (Col 3:4), and we enter that glorious city together. So there’s a tension, the age old “already but not yet” of the kingdom. But the good news is that it has nothing to do with what corner of this planet I’m in. My anchor is there, not here. In him, I am always home.

All Payments Are IN!!

BAM. That is how I feel right now. I just called the IHOP business office and paid the remaining $4500 for my internship in July. I did just wipe out nearly half my bank account, but that’s okay, because I have a few more paychecks coming before I’m done with the OE season at camp. And it definitely feels so good to be all paid up and confirmed.

July is coming up so fast… as RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED as I am, I will also be very sad to leave camp. This place has been home for the past five months, and on and off for the past two years. I’m being less careful with my budget than I should, but I don’t want to miss a single chance to hang out with these wonderful people. Sunday night church followed by hanging out at a restaurant has become the highlight of my week.

It’s too early to say goodbye yet, though. I have five weeks (possibly four) left, and I intend to soak up every minute of them. A lot can still happen in five weeks.

Pockets of Peace

I have been on CR at camp this week. CR stands for Concurrent Responsibility, in which I am acting as both a trail guide and a cabin leader, when usually I am only a trail guide. I spent Monday morning through Friday morning responsible 24/7 for ten 6th grade girls, making sure they’re dressed, clean, healthy, on time, and reasonably happy. Plus teaching them and hiking them with my cabin of boys. The only breaks I got were an hour and a half Monday evening, an hour on Wednesday, 45 minutes on Thursday, and whatever minutes I could snatch after the girls went to bed.

CR is not especially fun. I went into this week expecting to just grit my teeth and survive. And survive I did, but with a lot more joy than expected and a lot less teeth gritting.

For me the secret to CR is three words:

pockets of peace.

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These little moments can be found everywhere, if I’m looking for them. A two minute conversation with a coworker while the kids are lining up for breakfast. A hot shower where I can be alone with my thoughts. A couple Dove chocolates with another stressed coworker during afternoon cabin time. A handful of licorice and a little Colbie Callait during a rare break. (Yes, candy is a theme with me.)

I don’t even have to be alone to find them. Just walking through the woods, even with 21 kids strung out along the trail behind me, I can look at the light through the trees and marvel at the colors and shadows. Even if I have only the time for a half-formed, wordless swell of wonder and gratitude before an eleven-year-old is peppering me with questions about bobcats and stories of lost iguanas, it’s enough to refresh my soul and give me energy until the next pocket of peace presents itself.

When it starts to feel like my entire life is this cabin and these kids, God reminds me in a thousand little ways that I am not CR. CR is just what I do, and “this too shall pass.” I am so grateful I have a God who never lets me get bogged down in stress, busyness, or fatigue. He ALWAYS sends me little moments of joy and peace to get me through. ♥

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7 ESV

PS – I am on CR again next week. In the snow. With two new cabin leaders and over thirty students in my trail group. Please pray that I will still be able to find this peace.

Light and Darkness

One of the best things about living at camp is that in between my weeks of working outdoor ed (a secular program), I can work with the Christian program on the weekend winter camps. These weekend programs are basically a shorter, colder version of what I’ve been doing at camp the past two summers. I love going into chapel and worshiping with the students.The speakers are often really good, too, and even though they are targeting the jr high/high school crowd, I’m surprised by how often something they say can hit me so hard.

Friday night in chapel the speaker was Kasey Myers from High Desert Church.  The program theme is Light, and he was speaking about light and darkness out of Genesis 1. All it took was one sentence for my mind to begin spinning.

“God did not create darkness.”

God created light, and darkness is merely the absence of light. Maybe that’s a “duh” for you, but to me, the implications of that are profound. I pretty much tuned out Kasey for the next five minutes and chased that idea down.

Here are the verses:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
(Genesis 1:2-5 ESV)

To me, it looks like this:

Nothing. Sheer nothing. No matter, no space, no dimensions, no vacuum. Utter lack of existence.

SOMETHING! Space and a great wet earth are created. (Still no stars or other planets yet till verse 14.)

But it is all so… very… DARK. Black. Cold and empty. The Spirit hovers over the ocean, as though running his fingers over a blank page. The entire universe is silent save for the gentle lapping of the waters as the wind brushes over them. Every spirit holds its breath, waiting for what the Spirit will do next.

“LET THERE BE LIGHT.”

LIGHT! Without warning, a great burning brilliance flashes over the horizon, overtaking the black waters and transforming them into a dazzling deep blue.

 And God saw that the Light was good.

Notice that the darkness was never called good. The darkness just was, before the light.

And the story continues:

God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.

But God names the darkness. He did not create, it and he did not call it good. But he did give it a name.

What’s in a name? POWER.

God has power over the darkness and, not only that, but he uses it for his purposes. (Psalm 74:16, Jeremiah 33:20)

So if this is true of the natural darkness, might it also be true of evil? To recap:

God did not create or approve of darkness.

Darkness is the absence of light.

God has power over the darkness and still uses it for his purposes.

I don’t know about you, but this little sequence of thoughts blew my mind.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

1 John 1:5