Sunday, June 23, 2013

Let Your Light Shine

This summer, the theme for camps is "Light Up The Sky" so there was all kinds of fun stuff about light and fire and stars and candles everywhere. My "thing" is generally worship, which suits me. Even though my personal preference is not the "happy-clappy" style, there is a simple beauty to the innocence of summer camp worship that is always striking and moving and powerful to me. One of my jobs is working on the evening Vespers. My active, visible, role is kind of a comedic character that does a little bit of scientific teaching. I know it's hard to believe that I can pull off playing a nerd, but I do it quite well and have a blast with it. But underneath it all, there's still theology happening. It doesn't always come out in the way I might envision it, but it's always there and powerful and there are moments when I can see things clicking in these little heads.

My other big project for this summer was working on the communion service, in particular doing the altar. I had the freedom to just kind of take off and run with all these ideas and materials that I had and it was amazing. I spent the majority of the day of the communion service locked away in the auditorium working on it. And while it doesn't seem like setting a table would be an all-day affair, it was more than simply doing a job. This was a holy moment for me. I turned on my favorite album of hymns being played on the piano (The Living Room Sessions by Chris Rice in case you're interested) and I was just praying as I went and as I worked. I could feel the Holy Spirit in that place in a way that I don't often feel it anymore. I could feel it working in me and through me and it was absolutely beyond words. When I had done everything I could do, I took a step back and was absolutely in awe of what had happened in that place.

I've thought about it before, but worship planning and design really and truly is something that suits me. This is a part of my light, and I'm so incredibly thankful for things like this that give me the chance to let it shine. I really do feel so incredibly fulfilled when I have the chance to be creative in that way. I don't know of other ways/places I could work this into my life, but I know that when the chance comes I'm not going to pass it up!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Rest and Vision

It's almost time for summer camp!! Who is excited? THIS GIRL!

I have had a complicated relationship with my beloved Camp Sumatanga throughout my life, particularly related to summer camping. It was an amazing place full of amazing people that I credit in large part for helping me become the person I am today. But I was a relatively late-comer to the camp world, not until I was a sophomore in high school. I dove in head first and soaked up everything I could, serving any way I could. But there was a part of me that always felt like I was an outsider. Even now, there is a group of folks that I generally went to camp with that get together regularly. I love them all and think of them all fondly, but I am not a part of their group. Yes, it still hurts. Yes, it will probably always hurt.

After I graduated from high school I decided it was time to take a step back from camp for a while. Something just didn't feel right about it anymore. It didn't fit the way it once had. I knew I was trying too hard to make myself squeeze into a place that I would never fit and it was better for everyone if I backed off. Life happened and I got busy and I stayed away for about 7 years. I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea that not only could I be involved in something for seven years, I could be AWAY from being involved in something for seven years and have returned! My return was generally thanks to a wonderful saint named Allison who somehow never forgot about me and saw something in me and wanted me to be a part of her camping magic that she always works.

Coming back, everything suddenly fit. I had a place. I had people. I know that a part of that was my own personal growth that had taken place (and has continued to take place over the past several years). I felt like I was a part of something that mattered. I was able to connect - with God, with people, with myself. It really was a homecoming in the best sense of the word. 

I'm sure I've said it before but I'll say it again because it matters. The name "Sumatanga" means "a place of rest and vision." While you are working on summer camp, those concepts seem a bit elusive. But it is a kind of rest from the things and stress of the world and allowing yourself to simply be and take the things of the day as they come. The vision is definitely there, but it is something that you have to be open to seeing in fleeting glimpses. I definitely see moments where the Kingdom is right there in that place. I see moments where I know who I am and why I am doing what I'm doing. I even see hope and peace and joy and love and all these other amazing things that are so much harder to see in "real life" and thus reminding myself what it means to look for them. The REAL rest and often times the understanding of the vision comes later, but without this time and place couldn't come at all. Let me tell you, there is NOTHING like the sleep you get the night you come home and crash into your own bed after an amazing but exhausting week! 

I need the rest. I need the vision. I need the excitement and exhaustion and sunburn and chiggers and laughter and sweat and tears and hugs and everything else that comes with a week at camp. I need to be reminded of who I am and whose I am. And so I will joyfully return...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Academy Update

So it finally dawned on me that I never did my usual update after my last session of the Academy for Spiritual Formation. It was a very full week of experience but was very different.

The first thing that was different is that I had to leave early because we were going to a wedding for Jeff's cousin in Georgia. I am so incredibly glad we did, but it changed the dynamic of the whole week because I know there were plenty of times that I wasn't fully present. It was different from my late arrival at session 3. Part of this that made it hard was that, in order to avoid the multiple vehicle issue, Jeff drove me up and dropped me off for the first day. This wasn't really a big deal except that I didn't have as much time to "settle in" as I normally have or like. I also had to hit the grown running as soon as I got there, which is not really something that seems to "fit" with my experiences there.

Day 1 - our theme was "hospitality"

The reason I stayed so busy during last session was that I had volunteered to do the altar design for the week! Although I attended a workshop on altar design a few years ago, this was my first chance to actually do it! I can honestly say it is probably the most fulfilling creative outlet I have ever had in my life. I loved my quiet time in the worship space at the end of each night after everyone had gone to bed and the great silence was being observed where I could allow the Holy Spirit to move with me and within me to create something meaningful. Although it's not exactly a secret who does the altars each time, it's not really broadcast either. I don't have much interest in preaching (although there are a few who keep trying to convince me I should) and I'm not clergy so I'm not able to lead communion. Maybe at some point I will take a more "active" role in worship but this opportunity was amazing. It meant so much to me to hear people talk about their experiences of interacting with the altars! The woman who had done them for the previous two sessions is a professional artist, so she was a hard act to follow, but I was pleased with what I had to offer. I have to be honest, it was a huge boost to my ego when someone made the passing comment "you obviously do this all the time" and I got to tell them that actually, no, I had never done this before.

In addition to my role there, I was also a convener/facilitator for my covenant group. The responsibilities of facilitating are passed around each group so that everyone gets to do it at least once. My group has been very cohesive almost from day one which has been a huge blessing so facilitation wasn't much of a chore. Still, it was something that was always in the back of my mind as I made my daily preparations so I was constantly trying to stay one step ahead of my "work" and pay attention to the things that had meaning and relevance to my entire group, not just me. Again, it was a great insight and experience, but it was different!

Although I didn't walk away with nearly as many epiphanies as I would have liked, I did have some wonderful experiences and conversations, as always.

I also walked away with a challenge - to begin thinking of my covenant for the second year. We are challenged to come up with a covenant that we can share as we shift our focus from our own inward journeys to more of the outward concern for/with others. I recently had an idea for mine, but I'm still working it all out in my head. No matter what I decide, it is something I will be sharing here as an extra layer of accountability.

It's hard to believe that it will be time to return before I know it. The thing I am looking forward to most about our next session is that one of our faculty members is also one of my former professors from Vanderbilt. I don't know if he'll remember me, but I'm thrilled to have the chance to learn from him again! The only downside to going back is that each time we get closer to the end. This community has already been so amazing and it's going to be very difficult when we are no longer gathering regularly!