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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Imaginary Torch...

Part Three of "My Calling" Series....

Tanako was my foot in the door to understanding who God really was. I remember stepping into the minivan leaving the gate of the camp and going back home thinking that I was leaving the only place that I could worship at. When I walked in the garage door of my house, I was greeted by my sister making fun of me and my family critiquing every move that I made. It was common for them to say something a long the lines of, “That’s a real Christian thing to do!” It ate me up inside for a real long time until I finally told them that one week at camp wasn’t going to be a cure for me to be a perfect Christian. I don’t think it was until I left for college that they really understood that.

7th grade was the first year that I could join in the youth group. I was so pumped! I had been waiting for this day ever since Abby started going to youth. When I wasn’t old enough to stay at home alone, I would go to work with my mom at the church. She shared her office with Mike Meeks. He was new and each day I sat next to him as he did his work and asked him a million and one questions. He showed me funny videos and projects that he was working on and got me really excited to be involved in church.

My very first youth meeting was in the middle of the summer. We had a movie night in the youth room and watched “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” I laid on the futon mattress surrounded by other youth around the room. In the back of the room was Mike sitting in a metal folding chair yelling at the TV for everything that was happening! There were only two things that I was thinking about that night. One was that this guy was even crazier than I thought he was and two was that I really had to fart. What can I say? I was in the middle school! Might as well be honest here!

The whole entire school year was filled with new experiences and some heart breaking moments. I was as involved at a 7th grader could be! My sister stopped coming to youth so I was once again alone. There were a lot of people there, but I didn’t really fit in with any of them.

One night at Wednesday Night Ignite, I was leaving Bible study and going to worship. The senior high students were still in Bible study so we ran around like the crazy fools we were. I was not feeling that well that night and stood in the back of the room before worship started. One of the 6th graders came up to me with a pen and decided that my arm was a coloring sheet. She inked up my whole entire arm as I was trying not to scream in pain. I started to cry a little bit, but I didn’t want to look like a baby so I kept it in until I got home. One of the first things I did when I got home was go on Facebook. I logged on and there it was… a message that saved my life. Laura Barito, a senior in high school told me that if I ever needed anything that she would be there for me. Well, I took her up on that offer and had an amazing friendship with her! Because my sister and I never got along, she became a sister figure to me.

A few months later, she was getting ready to graduate. The youth group sat in the youth room one day before she left for Stevens University. We had a slideshow of pictures in which we rarely saw her face! (She was always hiding from the camera!). And then Mike gave a little speech about moving on to the next steps in your life. He gave her the job of passing the torch on to someone in the youth group and she did. She gave the flame to Bobb, her brother, and the handle to me. After the party, I gave her a graduation present… a bag of purple skittles with a note. At the end of the note I signed off with “That loser…. Becca.” She read the note, looked at me and laid the paper on the ground as she ripped the words “That loser” off and threw it away. She told me to “be Becca and no one else because Becca is not a loser.”

I took the responsibility of holding on to the imaginary torch handle throughout my time in youth. It taught me one too many lessons about moving forward, getting off my high horse, and last but not least… remembering who I am. 7th grade was tough, but a few years later after I realized that I survived… I learned that my God is tougher.

God Bless,

Becca

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Not of this World...

Part Two of "My Calling" Series...

It was 8 years ago when I was standing in the back of the outdoor chapel at Tanako. I had never been to a service that wasn’t led by an organ before. I kept thinking to myself, “This is church?” What was even more confusing was the emotions that I experienced at each worship service. Some of the older girls would cry and look for comfort in each other while I stood there thinking that I was in the midst of a cult!

The last night we had worship we were all gathered together and I was standing next to a few of the girls I had become friends with that week. It was all unplugged music with the lyrics on the screen. I looked up at the screen to see a blue background with a silhouette of a hand in the center. The lyrics in front read, “Here I am to worship, Here I am to bow down, Here I am to say that you’re my God.” That night was different than all the others. I started crying uncontrollably and didn’t know what to do. Before I knew it I had all these girls were surrounding me and giving me hugs. After the song was over, the singer announced that the night was over and if we wanted to go back to our cabins, we could. I bolted out of that chapel as fast as I could, hoping that Mike wouldn’t see me crying. At this point, I had not been in youth. This was my very first activity as a youth so he barely knew me and what he was going to face for the next six years.

There was the rule that we couldn’t go inside of the cabin without our cabin counselor so I sat on the steps waiting for Stackey to arrive. The girls came up to me again asking me why I was crying. My only response was that I was overjoyed that I finally made friends. “I’ve never had real friends before, and now I do.” That sentence was followed by hugs and more tears as we went back into the cabin for more stories and activities.

I’ll always remember that night as the gateway to my relationship with God. I was worried about so many things that night and as soon as I met God… it all disappeared. The ugly outfit I had to wear to the dance, the fact that I didn’t pack my flip flops and had to wear tennis shoes all week, the cute boy that didn’t notice me, and the youth minister that had no idea what he was getting himself into.

This was my beginning into an exciting time in my life. The theme for camp that week was “Not of this World.” I remember before we left camp that Mike said, “Remember the progress you’ve made in here. The world didn’t stop for the week you were in here. It was still going on and people won’t understand what you’ve truly seen and experienced.” I never knew what that really meant until I was dean of that camp six years later and said that same exact thing to the campers that put an imprint on my heart. 

I could continue with what happened when I got home, but I’ll save that for the next part… Until then…

God Bless,
Becca


"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)"

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Hannah Montana Experience: Best of Both Worlds

If you follow my blog on a regular basis you know how I was raised. Every Sunday morning when I was growing up we would start the day at First United Methodist Church of Arkadelphia in the third pew on the right hand side. Every Sunday my mother would sit between my sister and I so we wouldn’t bicker with each other. Every Sunday after the service was over I would hand an offering envelope with a drawing on it to our pastor. Every. Sunday.

I recently read this post that a man who had some very strong opinions about contemporary worship wrote. Did I mention it was extremely one-sided? It was something that I couldn’t believe that I was reading. Although, I can relate because of the very evident conflict between contemporary and traditional in my home church of Arkadelphia when we proposed the idea of a contemporary service. A few of the arguments were, “It’s too loud, too expensive, too much…” It gave me an extremely horrible view on the traditional service. I expected the tradition to stay in the service, not the people. It was a foreign concept to me, the expectations of a Christian dissipated when these arguments were going on. We would stand in the sanctuary and sing songs called, “Here I am Lord” and “We are the Church” and then bash a person for worshiping in a different way. Does this make sense?

I was thinking about God and how he showed up in the major prophet’s lives. Did he use a burning bush every time? Of course not. Different people needed different things to understand God. So when I was in 7th grade and discovered God through contemporary worship, I fell in love with the faith growing inside of me. I might have been dealing with some heavy stuff, but on Wednesday and Sunday nights, I knew that I could let go, sing freely, and lift my hands to my Savior, my God.

This week the Arkansas Conference Council on Youth Ministry is in Clarksville at University of the Ozarks having their Junior High and Senior High Assembly camps. I was one of those youth that was involved with every event and making it happen and I loved every part of it. The senior high camp has a theme for the week called “Old School: Remembering the excitement of your faith when it was new.” I was excited that I was going to be in town and be able to attend the worship services for this event. Not only was I able to see all of my old friends, but I also got the chance to remember the excitement of my faith when it was new.

When do I hear God the loudest? When I’m standing in a room with the house lights down, stage lights up, music so loud I can’t hear myself sing, and the freedom to lift my hands and praise God! I never felt like I was able to do that when I was in traditional worship. I felt like I would be “out of bounds” or “the weird person.” When I felt like I couldn’t be myself in worship, I knew that something was wrong.

I got what I like to call the “Hannah Montana Experience” I was raised traditional, but then able to experience the contemporary worship movement. I got the best of both worlds! I will always hold my hymnal close to my heart, but if I wasn’t given the opportunity to sit behind a shaky laptop stand in a metal folding chair, my faith wouldn’t be where it is today. If you’ve never been in a contemporary service or opened yourself up to experience similar, you have no room to talk about what I feel or don’t feel in worship. It’s not a “passive non-involved activity” that I participate in. It’s how I hear God. It’s how I reconnect with the one who gave me life. It’s where I get to communicate with God on a personal level and if that offends you, read the words that are in your hymnal. They say the same things, in a different language and tone with different concepts.

At the end of the day…. We all worship ONE GOD. I would really like to believe that’s all that matters.

In the next few posts that I write, I’m going to be talking about how came into the calling of ministry. I would like to say it was one big moment, but it was a whole bunch of little ones that I can’t wait to share with you in the future.

God Bless,

Becca