Scripture | Psalm 16 | Isaiah 41: 1-10
Hannah Sturgeon (10th Grade), Nathaniel Carlson (11th Grade), and Ellie Hussey (6th Grade)
A few weeks ago our high school youth left for Triennium; a presbyterian youth gathering at Purdue University. Not knowing what was in store for us we boarded a bus along with the youth group of the Broad Street Presbyterian Church in Columbus. We knew little about each other having just met, but that was soon to change. Before arriving at the camp we had the opportunity to stay at the 2nd Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. Our stay there allowed us to get to know each other better while still serving others in the community around us. When we finally arrived at Triennium we were overwhelmed by the massive amounts of people all joined together with one purpose, to worship and learn about our amazing God.
One of the coolest, most God-filled experiences of the whole camp was having the opportunity to fill almost 6,000 seats on three separate floors full of people ready and willing to worship God. Worship for me was the best part of everyday. There is nothing more moving than standing up to sing your praises to God and then looking around you to see the other 5,000 + people in the same room as you singing and swaying and crying all because their love for God is the same strong, moving love that you are feeling too. Even amidst all the noise and excitement of the camp around us, we still were reminded that God is also with us in the silence. We were reminded that even as we left to go home, God would always be with us.
One of the most important things I learned at camp was to never give up on God. This may seem obvious but have you ever wondered how God handles it all? Sometimes I wonder if God is choosing his issues. If God is deciding whose problems to deal with today. But no, he’s not. At Triennium we learned that God is never too busy for our issues or our struggles. God will always be there to listen in the silence and in the noise.
God is a F-U-N God. Forgiving, Understanding, and Never-too-busy.
So no matter what kind of day you are having, or what struggles you are going through, God will always be there to listen and help guide you. So if there is one thing you take away from today, remember, God is a FUN God and he is always there to listen and help lead you.
Central to the message of today’s scripture reading is that god is always with us. As I was reading this scripture I couldn’t help but think that if god is indeed always with us then why isn’t it apparent in all things in life? If there truly is someone watching over you at all times why does the bible have to tell us? I’ve certainly had moments in which it became apparent that god was with me, but my life has been far from full of them.
While I was pondering about these moments I thought of my church choir tour. For those of you who are unfamiliar, this summer the youth choir sang at churches all around New England. This trip was a beautiful experience and it was awesome to get to meet so many new people and see so many different churches, but the part of the trip that really struck me the most was actually unrelated to singing or churches in general.
Our trip finished up in Maine and we stayed at a hotel a short walk from the rocky outcroppings that are characteristic of the Maine seashore. My brother and I decided to catch the sunrise on our second to last day of the trip so we got up at 4:30 AM and managed to persuade our groggy selves to walk to the beach. Maybe it was the lack of sleep on an already tiring trip, or maybe it was the beauty of the sunrise, but in that moment the rocks of Maine seemed to be as close to heaven as anywhere on the planet. In that moment I really felt that god was with me.
I really felt like this moment really sums up the whole reason the bible has to remind us that god is always with us. God gives opportunities to find him all the time, but in order to truly find god you have to seize the moments he throws your way. I could have decided that sleeping in would have been a better option than getting up early, and had I slept in I probably would have had a pretty good day, maybe even a fantastic day, but because I took the opportunity I was given I really got to experience God more fully. Maybe for you finding God doesn’t mean waking up at 4:30, but focus on looking for whatever god throws your way and when god gives you an opportunity, don’t let it go.
There are times in our life when we cannot feel God’s presence. In these moments we do need the bible to remind us that God is with us.
If we aren’t distant from God ourselves then maybe there are those around us who are. There are those around us whose lives are in shambles. Not enough food, illness, loss of loved ones. . . and we ourselves as Christians need to reflect God’s love to them through music, prayer, love and grace.
Earlier this summer, some of the middle schoolers from FPC went to Camp Massanetta. When we first arrived at Massanetta, I made friends instantly. We split off into small groups and with people we didn’t know from churches from other states or parts of the country, but we were all there for one purpose, to learn about God in new ways. We all kind of sat around in a circle and told everyone about ourselves. Again, we didn’t really know anyone but it felt special. We were children of the Lord gathering to worship Him, and it almost felt like we knew one another already.
That night, before going to sleep, we sat around a table in the little building by our cabins and we told each other about our day and the people that we that we had met. We were all tired from the long day and were kind of eager to get to sleep, but we stayed awake and listened as Ellen and Mark Atchison asked us questions and talked to us as we shared stories about our day. There was one question that REALLY stuck with me though; “What was God up to today?” I thought about this and thought to myself; “Well I don’t know what God was up to! Should I?” I didn’t really want to answer right that moment because I just couldn’t really think of what they might mean by that question. But, I didn’t know that in the next few days that answer would gradually present itself to me. That night when we got ready for bed I didn’t really think about it much until I climbed up into my bed and wrote down the events of the day. It wasn’t until then when I was sitting in my bed late at night writing about what I had learned that day that that question popped into my head again. “What was God up to?” I didn’t get it quite yet but I had a feeling that I might be able to in the days that followed.
The next day I awoke feeling so tired. Staying up so late was hard, not to mention getting up early. After going to breakfast we split off into small groups again. When I arrived there I tried to reunite with the friends I had made the day before, but today was different. It seemed as though it didn’t matter how hard I tried to be in a group with them. Somehow I always found myself as the odd man out. I started to feel like I didn’t matter to them. This was the first time that I started to get the message that the leaders were trying to send the night before.
After having sort of a sad morning when it was time to go to lunch, I met up with my friends and leaders from FPC. I realized how I can’t really let stuff like that bring me down. I knew then how much I mattered to so many people. Most importantly, I realized that no matter what happened that God was with me. And I knew that I would not be abandoned by Him. And as long as I kept Him close to my side, good things were going to happen.
After lunch I went back to my small group and I knew that God had a plan for me. I didn’t really let the bad stuff affect me and focused more on the happy stuff. This got me so much farther and I realized that things were going to be much better this afternoon. I opened my mind to new people and new ideas and to be quite honest I was 100 times happier. Things only got better from there.
That night we packaged food for stop hunger now; a wonderful organization that brings people together to help end hunger. We had so much fun and it felt so good to help people in need, while having such a great time myself. After packaging the food it kind of turned into a big dance party. It was pretty great. I noticed my good friend Avery from the FPC group was close to where my group was standing and a few friends from my small group and Avery and I made a little dancing circle and we had a fantastic time.
At devotions that night I re-asked myself the big question… “What was God up to?” The answer this time around was much clearer. And it only became clearer time went past.
The next day was the best day of the entire trip! After waking up we went to the morning service. The services were always exciting and full of dancing and music and intriguing messages. I thought again about what God was up to. I knew he had something planned for me.
That day everything was happy. We went down a giant slip and slide, we got our nails done, we spray painted our hair, and we went canoeing. I thought back on yesterday and how much things had changed for me. But realistically, nothing had changed except for me. I had become more open minded. I had looked past the bad and looked for the good. I knew that all along, this is what God had planned for me. This is what God was up to.
That night we had a real dance party and we had so much fun! I knew that if I hadn’t overlooked the bad things that went on in small group or opened my heart to meeting new people, I wouldn’t have had nearly as good of a time at Massanetta.
That night at devotions we were asked the same question, “What is God up to?” And this time I knew what that meant.
Its amazing the things you learn in 3 days. I knew I had grown a lot at Massanetta, and I was sad to leave the next morning but, now I knew that I could use the knowledge that God gave me at Massanetta, at home. So what WAS God up to? Well, he was basically telling me that life could be so much easier is you overlooked life’s problems and look for the good in life, because if you do, you can be so much happier. So I advise you to try to overlook the darkness, and look for the joy, no matter the situation.