A new journey in faith

So, this summer I am directing a day camp and there has been an interesting turn of events that I would like to share about… Here we go!!

The weeks leading up to Sonshine Day Camp were filled with wonder. Wonder of what I were supposed to do (being a first time director was intimidating to say the least). Wonder of if I was doing the “right” things. And Wonder of what the future would bring. The week preceding this week, my assistant director and some of her church youth group went on a local missions trip called “Serve”. Upon return, many of them fell ill, and she fell victim as well. After visiting the hospital, it was concluded that my assistant director would not be able to participate for the first week of camp.

When I received the news (on Saturday), I was pretty devastated. To make things worse, I was scheduled to help lead worship the next day at The Way Community Church and I felt like I couldn’t give it my all. Despite my feelings, I decided to proceed with leading worship because I really like the worship leader that was leading that day and she doesn’t lead with us very often. On Sunday morning, I was making lots of mistakes during rehearsal because my mind was on what I had to do with SDC and was kinda freaking out. Even though I hadn’t told the worship leader my situation, after rehearsal, she came up to me and told me that she felt like I was holding back in my guitar playing. She then told me to just let everything go and just play my heart out for God regardless of any mistakes that I would make. I felt comforted by what she said and I did play hard, I did make (many) mistakes, and I did pour out my soul to God. The two songs that stood out to me that day were the songs “Everyday” and “Lead me to the Cross” by Hillsong. Both songs reminded me to lay myself down and live for God and to shine my light. This gave me comfort that God would always be there even if my assistant couldn’t. I didn’t have to go through this situation alone.

Almost right after service, I got a text message from one of our volunteers who was not scheduled to help out for week 1. She had found out our situation through an announcement made at Broadmoor Baptist Church. Now this was one of our volunteers who was extremely shy and didn’t feel comfortable stepping up in many situations, yet when the need arose, she was the very first person to step up. Not only that, but she asked me to help instead of the other way around.

Throughout the week, I learned to rely and trust my volunteer team heavily. Even though we had lots of new volunteers, they all rose to the challenge and helped make the first week of SDC a success. I am so grateful for each and every one of them!! Whenever one volunteer could not come out another person would come and take their place.

On Wednesday, my greatest highlight happened. I am mainly in charge of the worship portion of the day camp and my assistant director is mainly in charge of the crafts portion of the day camp. Interestingly, the craft idea for this particular week was an idea I had and it made me feel a little bit more confident because if she had planned it, then I would be constantly worrying if I was doing the right thing.

Actually, the craft idea I had in mind had to do with worship, it was to create a song album for the campers to take home (check out https://soundcloud.com/edward-dengler/sets/step-by-step-an-sdc-album) and enjoy and to have them decorate the cover as they pleased. Many campers had a blast singing and it really made my day. I played the CD as they decorated and the campers and volunteers would sing along and do the actions. This helped me see the light that I shone in the camp. I couldn’t previously see the light I cast because my shadow of doubt covered it from my sight, but now that I am aware of it, I will try my best to continue to let it shine for the rest of SDC. I always here compliments about my musical talents and I’m always flattered but would kind of think of my other friends whom I perceive as more talented and brush the compliments aside.

I pray that I can stop being so insecure about the talents given to me and to help others see their light as well.

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REALLY Holding onto God

Blog post number two of what I learned on my weekend away at a youth retreat.  So my last post was about turning your life around to find God, and this one will talk about Holding onto him.  I mean REALLY hold onto him.  I hope this will speak to those who are feeling like God is allowing things to happen to you that you feel like you are not ready for.  Maybe you are mad at God for this (hopefully not).  I’m not saying that what I write in this blog will be exactly the answer why, but I pray that if will open up your perspective to think more broadly in terms of why God COULD be putting you through these situations.

Two things happened on Saturday that really stood out to me as good imagery for holding onto God.

The first was this.  So there are two leaders from our youthgroup that are siblings.  The brother was sitting in a chair waiting for Saturday morning worship to start and he was talking to people around him and tipping the chair in front of him back and forth.  His sister come by and is about to sit down when he tips the chair and accidentally hits her in the knee.  She pretended to be really hurt and offended and he tried to lighten the mood by apologizing and asking her to forgive him and saying that he needed a hug from her to prove that she really forgave him.  She decided to play “hard-to-get” and refused him the hug (GASP!!).  As she sat down on her chair, her brother went up to her to give her a hug and she kinda halfheartedly put her arms around him.  He said, “That’s not a REAL hug!! Do it properly!!” and you won’t believe what he did next…  He tipped her chair backwards while she was sitting on it (he was still holding her at this point) and her reaction was to grab onto him tightly.  Then he set the chair back to normal and said, “you REALLY hugged me that time!!”  (Oh how I love these two siblings, they really know how to brighten me day!!)

You may be thinking what does this have to do with God giving people situations that they are not ready to handle.  Well, think about it… In this story, did the girl expect her brother to tip the chair when he was hugging her?  I don’t think so.  Imagine that you are that girl and God is the brother in the story.  Something happens to you and you are hurt and so God says, “Give me a hug… A REAL hug…”  You choose to oblige only when he initiates the hug by putting his arms around you.  Even then you only put your arms around him softly, barely qualifying your choice of action as an embrace.  So God tips you back quickly but slightly and unexpectedly, while holding onto you tightly.  How do you react, do you return the embrace and hold him tighter?  Do you panic, freeze and blame him afterwards and never want him to get close anymore?  What do you do?  You see, the thing I love about this story was that the brother had the whole thing planned out and was in complete control of the situation, just like God.  The rest of the story was up to the sister to decide.  So what do you do?

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The second story I want to tell you is this.  So at the lodge that we were retreating at, there was a ropes/obstacle course.  Our youth leaders were in charge of running this event during free time.  Now on this particular day, it was raining hard.  The whole time we were out there we only had three participants show up.  We kinda got bored (OK not kinda, we DID get bored…) so we decided to try some of the obstacles.  The one that we were particularly proud of accomplishing was climbing a 12 foot tall wall as a team.  The way this works is we had to get someone over the top (without help from the top) and then everybody else would be pushed up from the bottom and helped by the person that already made it to the top.  Once at the top, we were not allowed to go back down to push the last person from the bottom (though spotters were allowed to support him/her when he/she jumped to try and grab the people at the tops hands, they were not allowed to push him/her and hold that person until they had a firm grip with the people up top).  Therefore it is up to the last person to work with the people at the top to make it over.

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Similar to the first story, imagine that you are that last person to get over the wall and God is the people at the top of the wall and people that support you in life are the spotters.  God is reaching down the wall to you and it is up to you to jump and grab hold of his outstretched hands.  Once you grab hold you cannot let go or else you will fall, but if you fall you have at least two choices, get back up to try again, or stay lying down on the wet ground (as far from God’s reaching hand as you can be).  Other people may support you in life (like the spotters at the wall), but they cannot push you up and hold you there.  YOU need to hold on and work with God to pull yourself over that wall (or whatever situation you need to get over).  It doesn’t work if you only let the people up top pull you over without using your own effort to get over (in fact that might hurt you more than falling).

I think that when these situations happen to you, it’s because God wants to test you to see if you trust him (if so how much and to what extent).  Also God knows that you won’t have to go through the situations alone, and he wants you to realize this fact.  Of course there could be many more reasons why, but these are the two that really stood out to me this last weekend.

So what do you choose?  Will you hold tightly onto God when something you are unprepared for happens?  Or will you let him do all the holding and just pray that you make it through?  Do you choose to work with God to get over that wall with the support of others?  Or do you choose to again let him do all the work and just pray that he manages to pull you over the wall?

Turning around and finding the right place in life

So here we go, the first part of four blogs where I will talk about things that I personally learned from the youth retreat that I attended, as well as events surrounding it.

Today I want to talk about being lost.  Are you, or have you ever been, spiritually lost?  Like that feeling where “God” is just a word that exists only in your vocabulary and not your life.  Like that feeling where it is just so hard to believe in him because of all the strife.  Like that feeling where you are your own person, because there is no heavenly father to call you son (or daughter).  If so, I pray that this post will speak to you personally.

So here we go…

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We headed out on Friday afternoon for what was supposed to be an hour and half bus ride.  Suffering slightly from sleep depravity I fell asleep for the first hour of the bus ride.  When I woke up we were still on the Highway and about 20 minutes later we pulled off onto an exit and reached a fork in the road.  The bus driver thought that we had to turn instead of driving straight.  We thought that we were getting really close to the Lodge because we were driving by lots of wooden residences and we were ecstatic!!  5 minutes later we no longer saw any residences and the thoughts running through my mind were, ” I think we are on the right track.  I mean it’s a lodge, so it would be further away from all the other residences… right?  Wait, there is no longer any lights around on this road…  Did I just see a Yeti?…”  OK maybe not that last part, but you get the point… WE. WERE. LOST.  It actually took a wooden gate blocking the road for the bus driver to realize this fact.  After much looking at the GPS on someone’s smartphone (don’t you just love technology?!?!?) we figured out where we went wrong.

Turning back was not easy, we were in a big bus and we were on a narrow road, but eventually we were turned completely around and on our way again.  At the fork in the road we went in the right direction.  Once we arrived I was taken over by a wave of familiarity and memories flooded back.  You see this particular lodge that we went to, I haven’t been to since 6 years ago and at that time I was one of the youth.  Now that we return to this place, a few of the people from the other youthgroups and I return as leaders of our perspective youthgroups.  It was also six years ago at this very location that I had an intimate encounter with God and I broke down during one of the worship sessions.  Upon arriving, I knew this was definitely the right place to be at.

So for those of you struggling and feeling lost, I want to encourage you with this thought.  Imagine that bus that my youthgroup was on was you.  You travel on the road of life in search of the place that God is at.  You arrive at a fork in the road and you choose to go in the direction that doesn’t lead to God (whether this be by accident or intentional you are still on the wrong road).  God still gives you signs that you need to turn around.  You may see other people building residences along this road, but they are sparse.  Soon enough you come to a point where there are no people around, just wilderness.  And finally, you hit that wooden fence.  You see this fence is not a dead end, you could keep going on past it, but it would keep leading you further and further away form God; therefore this fence is a point of decision, keep going or turn around.  What will you choose?

Turning around isn’t easy… You are a big bus on a narrow road and it may take a while before you are fully turned 180 degrees around.  Then it’s the slow process of getting back to where there is life again (the occupied residences) and then fully back onto the path that leads to God.  When you get to where God is, you will know it is the right place, because at sometime in your life you have been to a similar place and have gotten this feeling of God’s presence.  Question is, are you wiling to turn around?

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Children: The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven

Oh the things that you can learn from children.  What they say, how they act, some of it is just so precious.  My parents are preschool teachers and some of the stories that they tell are so intriguing.  There was this one child that was being tested by an observer to see if he needed to be put into the school districts ESL program.  My parents described the incident saying that the observer was asking questions that were required to be asked to determine if the child needed to be put into ESL.  Meanwhile, the child is talking about all the things that he is interested in and all the amazing things that he can do.  After a while he (the child) noticed that the observer wasn’t as interested in the topics that he was so passionately describing so he stopped talking and said, “You aren’t listening to me!!”  Imagine the feeling of being scolded by a child like that… “You aren’t listening to me!!!”

Today I had twenty minutes to teach a group of grade 5-6 students how to execute a netshot in badminton.  I had the lesson plan all made out and it looked great, but when the students came into the gym, it turned out that it was the same group that my colleagues taught on Tuesday, so they had already learned everything that we were going to teach them today.  My group was a rowdy, restless group of boys.  Wow were they full of energy!! The whole time I was trying to teach them through the proper progressions, but they just wanted to play a game of badminton.  It’s not like they were proficient at the skills that I was teaching them, but they knew how to do the skills, and which ones they were good or bad at.  They weren’t scared to tell me when they were bored or when they weren’t good at a certain skill.

This honesty, boldness and innocence.  No wonder Jesus told his disciples that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven would be children.  They know exactly what they want and want to do and they are honest and bold enough to tell us so.  On top of that, they have this obedience that we sometimes lack.  The group that I was teaching today, sure they were rowdy, and yes they didn’t do what I told them to do the whole time, but when I asked them to stop and listen, they would.  Children have this faith in grown ups where whatever grown ups say and do must be right (even though many times we are not right).  That’s why they will stop and listen to you, but whatever impression you put into them is the way that they may grow up to be (so we need to be cautious in how we teach them).  Therefore we need to have the faith that they have (in us) and try to be the best that we can be and strive for what we want and need in life.

Sometimes we should learn from the children that we come across in our lives.  When was the last time you knew exactly what you wanted to do and had the boldness to ask to do that, yet have the obedience to abide when people tell you “no”?  Take my parents’ student’s advice and listen to children when they have something to say.  Maybe you can learn something about yourself and what are important virtues in the kingdom of heaven.

I pray that I can find childlike faith.  I pray that I can listen when someone tells me that I am not listening.  I pray that I can trust myself the way a child would trust me and do what is right and required of me.

I hope that this song will encourage you to listen carefully to things around you.