Saturday, July 17, 2010

Surprised by God...Again

Again and again this week I have looked at a book laying on the table next to me. You see, I know that when I pick it up, I will be challenged and confronted and called by God. So, it lays there. I'm comfortable. Life is good. So, I don't pick up my Bible either. I keep myself busy with the business of ministry, disregarding the matters of the heart and soul and mind.

I go to work.
I come home.
I go to work.
I come home.
A comfortable, easy, appreciated pattern.

Tonight is different. I pick up the book. The opening pages have me turning to Jeremiah 1:4-10, and so it begins. God's call to Jeremiah is not just a command, but a vocation. God's call to Jeremiah leads to Jeremiah's immediate thoughts of inadequacy. God is not daunted. God called Jeremiah from his mother's womb. God has a job to be done, and Jeremiah is going to do it. It is no small task. My study notes say, "The renovation of the community is not a painless affair...The intrusion of the word of God is not a placid or pleasant affair." God intrudes on Jeremiah's life. And, now, God intrudes on mine.

Thank you, God.

Rueben Job says:
"Sometimes I forget that I did not think of God first, love God first, decide to follow God first, or even decide to permit myself to be sent by God. None of this was my idea at all. It all came from God. Even before I was made, God loved me and had already chosen me. How could I be so arrogant as to think it was my idea all along? Perhaps it was and is my desire to be in charge, to be in control of my own destiny, when deep within I know so very well that I am completely dependent upon God for all things." Now, isn't that the truth?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

High School Mission Trip 7

Getting Close!!!

Today we packed up camp at Cass at about 7 o clock AM. We stopped at McDonald's for breakfast. We proceeded to Cedar Point to spend an amazing day riding coasters. Nobody got sick, and nobody passed out, but everybody had fun. While driving to IHOP Marcy was really excited to drive through Fostoria. She kept saying something about a glass factory. We stopped at IHOP for a celebratory dinner. Today was my birthday (Sam) so they embarrassed me by having the waiters sing to me... After leaving IHOP we drove directly into a storm.... So, we stopped at McDonald's to wait it out. After about 45 minutes we reloaded the car, and drove the final 1.5 hours to the hotel. We received our room assignments and prepared for sleep. If you cannot tell, we are blogging a little bit late tonight hehehe. Tomorrow we will drive the final eight hours back home.

We can't wait to see everyone, and sleep in our own beds...
Thanks for all the prayers

Daniel Riekena & Samantha Figg

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Detroit Mission Trip: Day 6

Today was our last day working for the Cass Community. In the morning, we woke up and ate at the Scott Building like usual, but whenever we showed up they surprised us with Krispy Kreme doughnuts. After feasting, we progressed to the warehouse where we assembled tire doormats with tires found on the street, one of the many innovative ways they clean up the city. We then joined the people who live in the Cass center for lunch. We had the opportunity to learn some of the people's stories. We finished our day at the church completing the powerwashing of the showers. When that particular team returned, they smelled of a curious combination of gasoline and bleach... We then set up camp for the last time at the activity center and donned our swimming suits. We drove the 7 minute route to Rev. Fowler's house. We swam, ate hotdogs, and made smores. We then had our final Michigan devotion with Rev. Fowler, Gladys, Geneal, and Tashon. We all hope to see them again when they visit Missouri later this summer. Tommorow we head to CEDAR POINT to spend a day having a whole lot of fun. We will get up super duper early to load the van and make it in time for the park to open.

Thanks for all the prayers
We will see you soon

Daniel Riekena & Samantha Figg

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

High School Mission Trip ~ Day 5 ~

Hey Ya'll!
Tonight we are finally not blogging from Kendra's phone, so we can actually do a detailed blog. (Even though Daniel doesn't want to...) We began our day at the Home Depot, secretly buying plants for the side flowerbed at the Scott building. When we arrived (an hour late...oops), they were excited to see that we had purchased them flowers. While one group put in flowers, the other group loaded the truck we would take to the church, and biked in their green gym again. We spent our morning broken up into several teams which pulled weeds on the playground, painted the hallway, moved body bags out of the haunted house in the basement (which is a famous fundraiser for Cass Community Center), powerwashed and bleached showers, cut and replaced rusted locks using bolt-cutters, and caulked windows. We ended our evening spending time with some of the youth from the Cass church. We learned a few of the students stories, and told them a little about Missouri. They wanted to know if all we had were cows... (Yes.) We then mingled during dinner, and followed it up with a friendly game of basketball. Some of the students went to the playground with the smaller kids. They really enjoyed the face time with the students. We didn't want to leave the kids. One of the cooks from Cass gave our group a DELICIOUS cake to take with us!! It didn't last a half an hour. We are waiting for the sweaty boys that played basketball to get out of the shower so we can do devotion and go to sleep at a decent time...
Tomorrow we head to the tire shop to make mud mats.

Thanks for all the prayers

Daniel Riekena & Samantha Figg

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

High School Missin Trip Day 4


Today we returned to the Scott Building where we split our troops. Half of the group did landscaping on the front of the building. Gladise (the woman we worked with) was thrilled to have our help. The other half of tje troops were sent back to the kitchen. There we cooked many pizzas from scratch. There may have been a flour war..... The pizzas we had cooked we ate for lunch. They were amazing! We finished the afternoon creating electricity on the bikes in their green gym and creating order out of chaos in the warehouse. We then ate at Pegasus. We saw flaming cheese and men who didn't speak English. Afterwards we ventured to Rev. Fowlers house to swim in her really sweet pool. Tomorrow we will be working in the church across the street from where we are staying.

Thanks for the Prayers

Samantha Figg & Daniel Riekena

Monday, June 14, 2010

High School Mission Trip Day 3

Day 3 consisted of a lot of trash. We arrived at the Cass Community Center to begin our day in the kitchen. We created about 1200 sandwiches, wrapped them individually, and bagged them. Denver enjoyed plying pranks with some of the workers, and the boys found jumping out of the truck onto a load of paper quite enjoyable. We then ate dinner at the church and learned new basketball tricks from their youth intern. We really enjoyed all of the people at Cass and are excited to spend the rest of the week with them.

All Prayers Are Welcome

Daniel Riekena and Samantha Figg

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mission Corp ~ Detroit ~ Day 2

This morning we awoke at 6:45 AM to leave Auburn, IN and head towards Brighton, MI. We worshipped at the First United Methodist Church at their contomporary service. We were heartily greeted by everyone in the church. We ate at Lucas's Coney Island Restaurant. They have world famous hot dogs (and really good chili unless you ask Emmy...) Then we piled back into the two vehicles to trek to Detroit. We spent time circling the Cass Community Center deciding which building we were supposed to be in. We met up with Faith Fowler, the pastor, were she described the situations of the people in Detroit. This is going to be an eye-opening experience. We visited the Canadian border, the National Michigan Boat Museum, and Hitsville U.S.A. We ate in Mexican Town at a restaurant named Los Galanes. After the delicious sopapillas we toured downtown Detroit. Then we drove back to the Cass Activity Center. We set up camp and will do devotion and games later this evening. We are going to try to upload some picture...

Thank you for all of your prayers

Kellin Ferguson, Daniel Riekina, and Samantha Figg

Saturday, June 12, 2010

High School Mission Day 1

We departed Chillicothe at 6:46 a.m. and arrived in Auburn, IN at 5:30 p.m.--but it was 6:30 here. Here's what we did in between: Driving....Driving....Sleeping....Driving....Eating....Driving....Swinging....Sliding...Driving...Driving....Driving....Driving....Stopping....Taco Bell...Swimming....Upset Stomachs (Taco Bell)....Devotion.

We were really ready to exit the vehicles when we arrived to Indiana. Tomorrow we will set out for Michigan for church and then tour Cass Community Center where we will be serving for the week.

All Prayers Welcome :)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Wednesday--No Longer My Own

I recently learned of singer/songwriter, Adam Wheatley, and I can't seem to stop listening to his cd's. Depending on the day, I usually find one that I keep playing over and over. This doesn't happen to me very often. In fact, the last time it happened, it was Todd Agnew's Better Questions CD. (Which is still a favorite.) Well, last Friday, I heard Adam's song "Roses and Nails" again...and again...and again...and again...I can't stop listening to it, and I'm not sure why. (Except that it's so powerful and good and true and...) It says:

I saw my life as I had planned it, so I took it from the Giver's hand.
Then I buried it deep in the ground.
I trusted men instead of conscience.
I put hope in what my eyes could see.
Then You gently reminded me that it's easier to sleep than to dream.

So lay me on a bed of roses or lay me on a bed of nails.
Rest will find my eyes weary, searching for a place to land.

The illusion of a better story has fed me lies and called me friend.
I have overcome the smoke and the ashes to settle into You again.

So lay me on a bed of roses or lay me on a bed of nails.
Rest will find my eyes weary, searching for a place to land.

What other source can I find that leads me to a freedom and life.

So lay me on a bed of roses or lay me on a bed of nails.
Rest will find my eyes weary, searching for a place to land.

Yesterday, I was cranky. I had myself on my mind way too much. But today. Today is a new day. God's mercies are NEW EVERY morning. I've been reminded (thankfully) that it's still not about matter how much I try to make it so. Today, I'm thankful. I'm thankful for fellow believers (past and present) who remind me of what's good and important and real.

So, today, I listen to Roses and Nails, and I pray John Wesley's Covenant Prayer:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine.

So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Holy Tuesday--Feeling Cranky

I don't feel good today. I've been coughing and hacking for three days, and I'm finding that I'd rather be about anywhere else. Sometimes I wonder if my efforts are all in vain, and I ask myself "Am I really making a difference?"

As a church worker, much of my time is spent planning events (Mission Trips, Sunday School, Youth Group, Confirmation, etc) to partner with parents in the spiritual formation of the their children. The problem, it seems, is that the rhythms of life no longer move around the church. There was a time when most businesses were closed on Sundays and students NEVER had practices or games or any other school activity on Sundays. Even Wednesdays were quiet outside of church activities. This made it easy to plan and coordinate schedules. That's no longer the case, and now we're too accustomed to getting whatever we want whenever we want that we'd ever be able to adjust to not getting gas or groceries on Sundays. I've lamented with friends in ministry for years about this, but nothing changes.

I don't get why it's okay for the drama teacher to say you can't miss rehearsal or you're not in the play, or for the coach to say if you miss practice you don't play; but, it's not okay for God or the church to place any demands on our lives. It's a double standard, and I'm afraid our faith is getting the short end of the stick.

In response, I believe the church is watering down the Gospel...and that's no good for anyone, least of all the Kingdom. We have to stop worrying about making financially supporting members, big buildings, new screens, new pews, church buses and the biggest Vacation Bible School. We need to start making disciples. Being a Christian is not a "Get out of Hell" free pass. To say, "I'm a Christian" is to live like Jesus Christ, that is to love one another.

And loving someone isn't about being nice. Loving someone is active, humbling, and self-sacrificing. Loving someone is a choice. It's not something magical or something we fall into. Love is intentional. God created us on purpose. God chooses to love us. And God is active in the world--not just on Sundays and Wednesdays. Every day is sacred.

Maybe our 24/7 lifestyles are actually good for the church, because it's going to require more intentionality on the part of Christians. Maybe I should stop lamenting and start loving, because good or bad, this is the way we live. So, if I can get myself off my mind long enough, I can love others. I can intentionally practice my faith--in worship, in Bible study, in prayer, in life. And the church needs to provide multiple opportunities for worship and study--recognizing that all days are sacred.

To that end, we have no less than 8 worship opportunities between today and Easter at the UMC in Chillicothe, plus small groups, and a fellowship dinner. I'm imagining your church is offering multiple opportunities also. After all, it's Holy Week...but aren't they all?

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Confession, Holy Monday 2010

I've decided to try to blog everyday as part of my Holy Week preparations. Blogging helps me to explore my thoughts and reflect on my relationship with God. Lately, I've been nearly overwhelmed with thoughts. I imagine I have enough material for weeks of conversation running through my mind right now, yet at the root of all these thoughts is living faithfully.

Faithful(a): steady in allegiance or affection, reliable, true to fact or standard

Lent is supposed to be a time of intentional devotion--giving up, giving out, taking in. Pastor David Israel talks about creating margins in our lives, he says, "I'm choosing to think about fasting as what I gain rather than what I give up. When I fast, I am creating space to be in conversation with God." Well...if this is what Lent is about, I must confess. This Lent, I have failed. I have been steady in my allegiance to schedules and calendars and commitments in the name of God, but not so steady in my actual allegiance to God.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me...a sinner.

In spite of my failure, God is faithful:
Psalm 33:4
For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.

Psalm 36:5
Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.

Psalm 86:15
But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Psalm 89:1
I will sing of the LORD's great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.

Psalm 89:8
O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you.

Psalm 92:1-3
It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.

Psalm 108:4
For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

Psalm 115:1
Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.

Psalm 143:1
O LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief

Lamentations 3:22-23
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Romans 3:3-4
What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness? Not at all!

1 Corinthians 1:9
God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Thank you, God, that my lack of faithfulness will not nullify Yours.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What if each Teenager had 5 Caring Adults?

The older I get, the more I understand...or at least appreciate God's faithfulness. When I started in youth ministry sixteen years ago, I had no idea how much I would be shaped by the students. In fact, when I started, I didn't know much of anything. I knew I loved God, I knew God loved me, and I knew I wanted students to have some of the same experiences I had in youth group.

When I was in youth group, I must admit, I was a nominal participant at best. I didn't take scripture too seriously. I thought Sunday School was boring. I said, "Yes" at the end of Confirmation Classes because I didn't want to look stupid. In fact, I thought the best part about church on Sunday mornings was going out to lunch afterward. No one would have looked at me or my life and thought, "She's going to be in ministry one day." I've talked a lot about pointing out ministry gifts in students, and we definitely need to do that. However, we need to be sure to leave room for God to work on that too.

The one thing I loved about Youth Group was the opportunity to travel. I love to travel. When I was in high school I went on a church ski trip to Colorado, and I went on a Mission Trip to Kentucky. That was fun. I also remember we did a Spaghetti Supper and Gong Show as a fund-raiser. I liked that too. I don't remember either of them being particularly Spiritual, or my life being transformed, or my heart strangely warmed. I do remember feeling loved and valued--and feeling like I belonged.

Last month, I went to Perkins School of Youth Ministry in Dallas, and I was in a class lead by Bishop Richard Wilke. Bishop Wilke wrote the Disciple Bible Study series--a Bible study that truly changed my life. When I signed up for the class, I did not know who he was, and I had no idea that hearing him unpack the scriptures would be so powerful. It was an experience I won't soon forget, and one that I have thought about again and again. He asked us (a room full of student ministers) who mentored us--who were the disciples who made us disciples? Then, he asked us what made those people important. Most often, the answer was "time." An investment of time from loving, caring adults, made all the difference in our lives.

I have been so blessed by all of the students God has placed in my life. So many of my "kids" are now adults--some married, some with children, some teachers, some musicians, some in grad school, some computer techs, some serving in ministry also. It is so hard to describe the truly overwhelming sense of joy to still be able to share in their lives. There is not a week that goes by when I don't communicate in some way with students who have become adults.

Last month, at the conference in Dallas, I got to room with one such young person. I met Kelly when she was 14 and serving on CCYM. (The Conference Council on Youth Ministries for the United Methodist Church of Missouri) She was from Lee's Summit, and an all around super cool kid. :o) You know that feeling--when you sometimes just instantly like someone, but you don't really know why. Well, Kelly Mustoe is one of those people. I called her "Mustoefunk" (still do). Kelly graduated from college last year, and is now serving in Student Ministry in Kansas City. That was not her plan. Yet, God called, and she answered. Last Sunday was youth Sunday at her church, and she preached her first sermon. She sent me a copy, and I was moved to tears. Here's her sermon:

"My church journey started pretty much at birth because my father is a pastor. I used to think that defined my life and defined who I was as a person.I grew up in the church and was always very active within the church. I went to youth group and Sunday school every week. I went on every youth trip and loved going to church camp. But, the part of youth ministry that affected my life the most was the countless adults investing their time and energy mentoring me and being an active part of my life.

"As I began my work here, I tried to identify goals for this youth ministry. I asked myself a list of questions: What do these students need? What can St. John’s offer them? Do we, as a church have the strength and passion to have an effective student ministry? I believe the answer is YES!

"Two weeks ago, Doug and I took a group of students to a youth rally in Springfield. There were 2500 other Methodist youth there. When we arrived at the event, I was busy getting our name tags, filling out forms and checking in. As we got situated and began walking around the conference center, I started seeing faces from my past. My boss from Camp Galilee instantly embraced me with a hug and a big smile. He couldn’t wait to hear about what I had been doing. I talked to Bev, my old youth coordinator, who helped me find my leadership potential. I talked to Andre and Dana, who directed a camp that I counseled at. My former youth leader was there. I caught up with him. Kendra was also there, who has been my mentor since I was 14 years old and continues to mentor me today.

"I kept seeing these wonderful adults that have helped shape me into who I am today. And it hit me: Those adults are the reason that I am in ministry today. They cared about me and poured themselves into me. They loved me. They believed in me when I didn’t. They took the time to form a lasting relationship with me. They truly mentored me. Without those adults and the time they spent with me, I would not be the person I am today. I may not even be a follower of Jesus. There is a common thread that ties all of my mentors together so listen carefully: My mentors had their own mentors and in turn, they mentored me. Because someone invested in them, they invested in me. And because they invested in me, I am trying to mentor the students at this church. What a beautiful cycle. What a beautiful story. Think of all the lives that have been changed and saved because of caring adults! Think back on your own life. Who mentored you? What adult choose to spend time with you, invest in you?

"Let’s look back at our scripture readings for today: In Timothy, we read that no one should look down on anyone because they are young. Our students are to be an example to other believers in speech, thought, behavior and love. What a powerful calling for youth. God calls them to be leaders in the church. Yet, how often do we think of youth as leaders in the church or see youth as leaders in the church? We read in Jeremiah that God has plans for each and every one of us, to give us hope and to give us a future. So, let’s ask ourselves another question: What is God’s plan for this youth group, for all of the children and youth at St. John’s? How can we, as a congregation help foster and nurture their relationship with God? What is our role?

"Contrary to popular belief, simply providing teenagers with pizza and “supervising them” doesn’t do much for their spiritual growth. Having the “right” curriculum isn’t going to get them to fall in love with Jesus. There is no perfect curriculum and there is no perfect youth pastor who can single-handedly transform the youth program into a life changing experience. Youth need caring adults in their life. No one was meant to do youth ministry alone. Timothy and Jeremiah are inspiring. I think a lot of the time, teenagers often hear, “just say no to sex, drugs and alcohol “and that’s about it... Of course, they should stay away from sex, drugs and alcohol but, what if we conveyed this message in a different manner? What if, instead of putting our focus on saying no to all the bad things in life, we told our students to say YES to a lasting marriage, YES to a family, education, service, a healthy lifestyle and say YES to their talents and gifts? What if they heard what they should do instead of what they shouldn’t do? What if they heard that they are to be an example to the rest of us instead of the exception? What if we told them to say YES to God’s plan for them and then helped them figure out what God’s plan is for their life? That would be mentoring at its best, which is a crucial part of effective youth ministry!

"Our youth don’t need another “cool” person in their life. They need someone who is authentic and someone who is real. They don’t need you to speak their language or know who the Black Eyed Peas are. They simply need people who genuinely care about them with no strings attached.

"Let’s imagine a scene for a second: Imagine walking into St. John’s on a Sunday morning and observing. What would we see? Now, imagine this: What if each youth had at least 5 people who knew their name and knew what position they played in football or how they did in their swim meet or recital? Imagine if our youth had at least 5 adults that knew what their school day was like and what subjects they struggled in. Imagine if each youth had adults that took them out for coffee and spent their Sunday evening in the youth room, being present during youth group? Now picture this: The teenager that you spent hours with and invested in grew up. This same teenager continued to have a strong and vibrant relationship with Christ because you showed them what it meant to live like Jesus. What if the teenager you spent time with went into ministry or was a missionary because you helped them realize God’s calling in their life? Do you see where I’m going here? Adults have so much influence over children and teenagers.

"If you’ll turn with me to the bulletin insert, there is a list of opportunities to volunteer within our youth ministry. I invite you to take this list home and prayerfully consider where you see yourself. These opportunities all take different gifts and talents. There are so many ways that you can support our youth. How do you see yourself being involved?

"I leave you with these thoughts: Our youth are the church of today AND the church of tomorrow. Youth need to know that they are valued and recognized in the life of the church. Students need to know that other adults beside their parents care about them. How can we help to form these students into who they will become? How can we change their lives? Will you be a mentor?"

Good questions, right? What if...