I was way out of the my “comfort zone” when I took the photo at the top of this post. It was located above the fellowship hall of a church where our youth group was staying. We were on a service/learning trip. The high school youth really didn’t know one another very well and really didn’t know me.
There were a lot of challenges. Sleeping on the floor of a church. Not having access to cell phones 24/7, not eating familiar foods, being exposed to people from a different culture who had a different life experience … there was a lot of being outside one’s comfort zone. The group hadn’t really connected with one another and they were having a hard time cooperating. Over time and with effort as the challenges were faced and the group experienced the power of working alongside one another and being of service, and letting go of expectations, the trip provided opportunities for them to see the Spirit alive and at work in our lives.
During this season of Lent one of the recipients of our Change for Change offering will be our camps. Rainbow Trial Lutheran Camp and Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp both offer programs that change lives. It gets youth outside their comfort zones. The challenges that youth face at camp help create openness to learning and growing. They get to cooperate with one another on so many levels from doing KP to high ropes courses. It is such an amazing opportunity that I hope you will consider helping make it possible for those are challenged by the cost. Personally I am committed to making sure there are no financial obstacles preventing any of our youth from attending camp.
Now back to this week’s 3 C’s; comfort, challenges and cooperation. As we reflect on two of the scriptures for this first Sunday in Lent, I invite you to let them speak to your condition, your life, your situation whatever the may be. God is continually speaking to us and inviting us to find connection with God. Every afternoon at camp there is a “rest time” and we know that Jesus took time away to pause, to pray, to find comfort in the connection with his heavenly father.
Comfort: the invitation here is a both/and. I invite you to consider both trusting God to comfort and care for you and be willing to get outside of your comfort zone. Noah listened to God’s command to build an ark and get in it. Stepping out his comfort zone, ignoring the contempt and criticism of his neighbors he did as God instructed. After forty days in the Ark, with everything familiar now underwater God makes a covenant with Noah. This weekend we hear God’s promise to Noah and his sons that never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.
Water destroying ceiling tiles, dry wall, carpet, items in closets- that wasn’t part of the covenant. Part of the power of community is that we get to seek perspective. Seeing the devastation in Texas puts this office “flood” into perspective. Frozen water and pipes is a bad combination and I had to keep reminding myself that no one was injured, buildings can be fixed, and ruined items can be replaced. I hope you will join in considering how together we can care and support our neighbors in Texas who are facing really big challenges.
Challenge: This past Monday, I went to the church building for a quick “check the phones and drop off a few things” stop. The alarm system was screeching and wouldn’t easily turn off as it does when it needs a simple reset. When I glanced into the church office on my way to other alarm panel I saw the water. It was coming out from under my office door. The hallway leading to the equipment room had inches of standing water and there was water pouring out of the ceiling from an office farther down.
The challenge is to keep perspective, to trust God is more powerful than any of our fears or problems. In the wilderness Jesus was not alone. The angels ministered to him. There were so many times this week that I saw how those on our Property Committee and Church Council were working to be part of the solution. The restoration people came out quickly and they worked hard. A big shout out to Ricardo, who worked many hours this week to help care for our campus. Challenges bring opportunities. Challenges are both opportunities and …. Challenging.
The same water that brings life and causes things to grow can destroy and devastate. This weekend we read of Jesus going out to the Jordan where from the waters of his baptism Jesus emerges to hear the voice of God say, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Beloved. That is the name God has for you also. Beloved when you are in the midst of challenges- trust God is with you.
Together we can encourage, support, give aid, listen to one another, provide opportunities to love, serve and grow. When we learn to live life on life’s terms not only seeking connection with God in times of trial or only when all is well- instead seeking that God connection in all the ups and downs we get to learn to cooperate.
Cooperation: working together. When we work together we learn some things that we don’t learn in the same way by doing it ourselves. I don’t know about you… for me whenever there was going to be a “group project” in school I totally dreaded it. It wouldn’t be in my control; not according to my timing, my perspective, my way of doing things. Working together takes a particular effort and intention. Over time I have come to appreciate what I used to dread. The slowing down to draw upon a variety of perspectives, sharing the work load, enjoying the very process of a project and not just rushing ahead to get it done are a few of things for which I am grateful.
When I have been privileged to attend camp with our confirmation students I was regularly amazed and impressed by the level of cooperation they instill in middle school students. Each morning the day starts with a representative from each of the camp villages who comes to help plan out the day. Leadership, flexibility, give and take, asking for help… it’s a huge “wow” for me to see the skill of the camp staff in guiding the campers to learn to cooperate. There is weather and resources, skill sets and time constraints to factor in and much of what is learned is flexibility and relying upon one another.
In this season of Lent I encourage you to consider how you are being invited to cooperate. This journey of following Jesus is a both a journey we each take and a “group project”. Recently I shared with a new member family how important for me the word “we” is in my ministry and in my life.
We pray to “our” Father. We are followers of Jesus together. There is strength in numbers. Unlike my earlier self who dreaded hearing that it would be “a group project”, now I am so incredibly grateful for the “we” of our faith community. Right away after seeing the water seeping out from my office door I knew there were others to call to help share the burdens. We get to be in this together as we show up, help, cooperate and as we worked side by side.
With time, that service learning trip became a powerful experience touchpoint for both the youth who participated and myself. Taken outside of all of our comfort zones, facing the emotional, physical and spiritual challenges we learned the power of being together, how we could cooperate. Together we were able to accomplish and experience things that we couldn’t alone. Cooperating with one another and the power of the Spirit, guiding and directing us, we all learned and grew.
In our lenten journey of being C students, I invite your reflection upon these 3 c’s; comfort, challenge and cooperation. And when it gets to be a lot in your day, in your life- consider taking a break, pausing and find consolation -perhaps in a cup of coffee and most certainly in the assurance that Christ Offers Forgiveness For Everyone, Everywhere.