Hope in the Waiting

This week’s devotional is pulled from d365.org that recruits ministers across the nation to write a devotional that flows from prayer to reading scripture to reflection to prayer and ends with a challenge.  I pray you enjoy it as you recover from turkey (or tofurkey for our vegetarian friends) overload! You can follow these daily devotionals here.

Pause: This is only the beginning. God is up to something amazing in you. Wait for it.

Listen: The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill my gracious promise with the people of Israel and Judah. In those days and at that time, I will raise up a righteous branch from David’s line, who will do what is just and right in the land. – Jeremiah 33:14-15

Think: Ever found yourself in a sticky situation? Not literally, like trying to walk on a sticky floor. Sticky, as in, stuck in an unhealthy relationship, place, or habit. Those situations may make you wonder, “How did I get myself stuck here?”

Israel had found themselves in a series of sticky situations, to say the least. Jerusalem was surrounded by enemies. Leaders were captured or put in jail. They were stuck. At least, we can imagine they felt stuck. And yet, God, through the prophet Jeremiah says “I will fulfill my gracious promise” (v. 14).

In sticky situations, there’s always the option to believe that we will always be stuck, that things will never change. However, the God of Israel, of all creation, of you and me, seems to always be offering another option: hope. God, through Jeremiah, offered hope to Judah and Israel way back then, and God offers hope to you and me today. No matter what our sticky situation, God is able, and even promises, to help us get unstuck.  – Tasha Gibson

Pray: Promise-keeping God, thank you for coming to me in my sticky situations. Please set me free so I can offer others your hope. Amen.

Go: This is not the end. God is up to something amazing in you. Wait for it.

 

Go in peace. I look forward to seeing you all back on campus this week!

Chris Wondree
Campus Minister

Pobody’s Nerfect 11/12/18

Matthew 18:20 says that “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (NRSV); though, for our first BCM 6:19 meeting, one might have added, “…with your blemishes and all”.  As many of you I am sure know, we are undertaking some renovations at the BCM center–the majority of which started at the end of the summer and are continuing. Renovations are a messy process, and while we do not have a Chip or Joanna, we have a willingness and determination and excitement to improve the building that has provided so many wonderful experiences in our ministry.

Additionally, our building has had, from time to time, “structural challenges”–one of which literally burst into being the day of our first BCM meeting. A pipe had burst, along with an ongoing leak in the boiler room, and maintenance people would not be able to fix it by Thursday evening. And so not only was it raining outside (as it had been all summer), but it

was raining inside as well. With these new obstacles, it might have been easy for us to be uneasy about how the first 6:19 meeting of the year would go. This, of course, was in the midst of our renovations: painting, staining where old carpet once was, a collection of paper towels, brushes, and old paint cans–all displayed under the dim and flickering lights of our worship room. And, once 6:19 rolled around and everyone shuffled in wet and late from an on-campus dinner, all of that was still there (plus a fan for air circulation).  

But we were there and so was God. The scene was far from polished and put together, but it all faded into the background as more and more people began filing in, ready to worship. The BCM center was not displaying a flawless, contemporary worship aesthetic, but our hearts couldn’t tell the difference. In the midst of imperfection starting with the 1,000th rain of the summer to the water still dripping from the ceiling of the men’s restroom, people showed up–a lot of people; and most importantly God showed up, with our blemishes and all.

Brandon Hawley
Associate Campus Minister

At the Table

 

This is my fourth year as the college/young adult ministry intern at Harrisonburg Baptist Church, and during the majority of that time, we have had college lunches. To me, and I hope to everyone else, these lunches have done more than just feed students, but have allowed students to experience what it’s like for people not their age and likely not people with whom they would interact on a daily basis to open up their home for part of an afternoon and serve them. 

Cultivating a healthy intergenerational environment between college students/young adults and members of other generations, both older and younger, is essential to have a healthy church, and I get as much out of these lunches as I hope everyone else is getting. We are in our 3rd or 4th year now of these lunches, and have probably been doing our lunch/discussion format–same place every week–for probably a year or less overall. It is great seeing these lunches become something really special. Whatever outer layer of awkwardness of being in someone else’s home, using their bathroom, wondering if you’ve tracked any dirt onto their carpet, etc., originally existed, it has since given way to laughter around the lunch table and many bags of leftovers to take home. It is a couple of hours each week to truly sit together, eat together, and talk about Jesus–a beautifully simple and filling thing, and I think one of everyone’s favorite parts of the week.

Brandon Hawley
Assoc. Campus Minister

Giving and Taking

Something that I have been looking for this past summer has been a small group–one outside of BCM. I think it can be easy for me to use my time at BCM as a means of my own spiritual growth. While that seems to be a positive thing on the surface, my responsibilities this semester (and in past semesters while interning) have put me much more in a behind-the-scenes/production mode rather than in a receiving mode. That sort of dynamic makes sense from a bird’s eye view–that a staff person would be more of a person who helps with the logistics of the experience rather than fully receiving the experience themselves (I stress “logistics” because it is God who creates the experience!), but I have found myself in the trap of trying to both do and receive simultaneously, perhaps forgetting that my role, especially now, is on the “putting things together” end of the ministry.

While I get a great deal out of BCM, I have been fortunate enough to find a small group and not be concerned with what needs doing in relation to the ministry. I can simply go and ​get something without thinking about what needs to be done on my end. And I don’t view “getting” as something selfish or lazy; quite the opposite! In order to help fill others or fill in other areas, people need to be filled themselves, and that has been consistent with my small group experience. Just a group of people, around my age, outside of any other responsibilities I have, allowing me to just sit and take in Jesus.

Brandon Hawley
Associate Campus Minister

Prayer for Prayer

Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life
Amen

a prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

Every year the date comes around and every year I remember the tragedy of 9/11/01.  Without fail, all the memories of the day flood back.  I have to admit that some are fuzzy while others are as crystal.  It was the last period of the day and I was sitting in my eighth grade Science classroom, two columns from the door, in the third seat back.  Attendance in the room was low because others had been called out of previous classes throughout the day, but there was another boy named Steve sitting in front of me.

After a few minutes of minimal conversation and zero teaching, the teacher began a somber monologue about what had been going on that day.  He then turned on the old bubble television in the corner and we watched as the news channel covered the three crashes and the subsequent disastrous aftermath.  Aside from the low drum of the news, the room was silent.  One more student was called out while we all sat in a muddled puddle of confusion, fear, wonder, anger, and disconcertment.

I don’t remember what my teacher said.  I don’t remember what my parents said when they sat my siblings and I down later that night.  I don’t remember the student’s name who was called out of the classroom in eighth period.  What I do remember is thinking I should pray, so, I did.  However, I didn’t know what to pray.  I sank into the depths of my thoughts, scrounging for something familiar and profound.

I found nothing.  I simply prayed, “Lord. I don’t know what to pray, but you know what I’m thinking.  Just… formulate the words I need.”

Now, every year, I find this prayer comforting and fulfilling.  I pray it over and over again and search the depth of the words each time.  I pray you, too, find some comfort and guidance in these words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.  I pray you are the instrument the Lord plays to bring peace.  I pray you are the seed the Lord sows to love when there is hatred and anger; forgiveness when there is only thought of retribution; light when reality is covered in shadow; and hope when there seems no promise for good.

A New Year, A New Chapter

We’re back… from Summer camps, classes, beach weeks, road trips, work, sleeping in, staying up late with old friends, and everything else we try to squeeze into those few months between the joyfully mournful Finals Week and the mournfully joyful Welcome Week. I pray you were able to find rest and be present with those around you this past Summer.

This year, we’re focusing on Covenant with God.  We’re starting allllll the way back with Abraham and moving through Jacob, Moses, David, Isaiah, up to Jesus as a “new” Covenant. It’s a very exciting time to be a part of BCM@JMU.  We have an amazingly gifted and reverent Leadership Team.  We’re bringing on an Associate Campus Minister who’s been a long-time friend of the ministry.  We have a growing campus and thousands upon thousands of students who need a fresh, experiential relationship with Christ.  It makes me giddy to just think about how BCM@JMU will continue to be the hands and feet of Christ here!

Proverbs 17:22 says “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones” (NRSV).  There is so much to be joyful about for this year, which makes it easy to have a “cheerful heart.”  However, there is also a lot of pain in the world (and in our own hearts), anxiety in our minds, and spiritual need on our campus that can bring us to our knees.  In those times, we are often told to find the silver lining and simply fake it ’til we make it seem likely we’re happy.  We’ve decided, or been taught to, pray for the incoming storms on the horizon to pass by.  This sort of mentality was always the one my dad tried to empower me to embrace the gritty pain in training for athletics by telling me to never be a “fair-weather athlete.”

Vivian Greene has a famous motivational quote saying “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain.” I don’t believe this proverb asks us to go through the motions until we get to a happy place.  I don’t believe it is as simple as being “cheerful” instead of “downcast.”  I think it emboldens us to live like we believe, rain or shine, God is in constant relationship with us.   We have the choice to pray for the storm to have never come or we can join God and “dance in the rain.” 

Scary Close: To Others

Relationships.  We all have them.  Whether we invite them in or not, they are woven across every inch of the quilt that is our lives.  There are good ones, and there are bad ones.  There are some that seem to barely exist.  There are some that leave us scratching our heads.  They have a knack for influencing our decision-making.  We find ourselves thinking about them before saying “yes” or “no” to new and old experiences.  Relationships are everywhere and it’s important for us to learn how to navigate these relationships healthily, lest we fall into a Batman-like isolation where our only friends are the guy we pay to stick around and some furry flying rodents.

I learned the most about how I tended to operate in relationships during my time in college.  My time on the soccer field, in the classroom, and pledging my fraternity (Phi Mu Alpha) taught me which relationships were healthy and which were quite the opposite.  In one of our many late night discussions, my fraternity brothers and I spoke of the influence of relationships.  It was amazing to hear from people with so many different backgrounds (Jewish, African-American, Latino, White, Agnostic, Atheist, Christian, etc.).  We talked about who we choose to connect with and how influential that connection is on each of us as an ever-growing person.  One young man looked at us all over the fire pit we were sitting around and remarked on how we “adopt” characteristics of the people we spend time with.  In other words, the people we choose to have intimate relationships add swatches to our personality quilt, good or bad.

It reminded me of the talks my parents and youth leaders harped over and over again every Sunday at youth group.  However, it was never really real for me until that chilly, fireside chat.  I looked at these gentlemen who decided to dedicate their time and efforts for the betterment of one another.  I thought, “This is what my parents and leaders always meant.”  Then I began consciously choosing to fraternize with people who tried to have healthy relationships.  Those were the people I wanted to emulate.  They were the ones I wanted to grant some influence in my life.

1 John 4:7-21 reminds us of the type of love we ought to emulate.  The author calls forth the distinction between perfect and imperfect love.  The perfect love comes solely from God.  It is true, strong, loyal, honest, and authentic.  The imperfect love comes from people.  It is hindered by insecurities, unhealthy habits, unforgiveness, unresolved resentment, and the list goes on.  It has flaws woven throughout because people genuinely struggle to emulate the perfect love from God.  The author of 1 John gently, but firmly, calls out our inabilities to overcome these hindrances by describing a love to which we ought to aspire.  It’s as if he were measuring our standard against God’s standard.  God’s perfect love sheds light on our own versions of love, revealing the imperfections.  Though our relationships are prone to unhealthiness, but there is something we can do about it.  We can emulate the kind of love God has shown us, time and again.

One particular part of unhealthy relationships is an inability to seek reconciliation and resolution over power-hoarding and pride.  God, in contrast to our judge-and-jury-centered tendencies, acted in ways that sought resolution and reconciliation with a distant humanity.  Instead of condemning the offender (humanity), God sent Jesus to the world in an act of love seeking the purpose of reconciliation.  It wasn’t because God wanted to point out our flaws that Jesus, then the Spirit were sent to us.  No.  It was because God wanted to re-create the connection between the Divine and humanity, even if it was going to be painful and difficult.  God wasn’t averse to conflict!  God embraced it with dialogue and an attitude bent on forgiveness.

This perfect love of God through Christ is the ultimate standard for which we strive.  It gives a tangible example of seeking reconciliation and restoration within a relationship diminished by conflict.  Let us remember that God loves each of us enough to have hard conversations and deal with conflict that affects our relationships.  Then, let us do the same with those around us.  It may help to take a look around and see who is already handling relationships healthily and who isn’t, then learn from them.

 

Campus Minister
Chris Wondree

Scary Close to God

Thanks for tuning in! Last week, we started our new series, Scary Close.  In this series, we’re engaging what Scripture and faith have to say about relationships.

Our first edition looked specifically at how we can relate to God in new and radical ways. Don’t worry, we’re not talking about going crazy with our relationships.  We won’t be hitting anybody over the head with a Bible anytime soon.  Instead, we found that to be in relationship, four basic factors need to be examined: proximity, time, trust, and communication.

To keep it simple and silly (KISS… not the band), generally, relationships with people are more like cats than dogs.  Dogs will return to sniff, lick, sneeze and don’t think twice about loving on you excessively regardless of what you do. People, however, are more like cats.  Cats keep relationships on their own terms.  They don’t seem to mind if you pet them… as long as it’s the right spot, the right length of time, the right this, the right that.  And watch out, because if you pet one too many times, you’re about to get a good swat with a paw and then watch your little buddy prance away all smug and content with leaving you alone as they find the next best spot of sunlight to nap in.

Ok, maybe people aren’t entirely like cats, but they do treat one another differently than God treats each individual.  In Psalm 139, the author provides a real and authentic display of a close relationship to God.  This relationship is one that realizes how close God always is to each of us (Proximity).  It’s the kind of relationship that has been consistent since before the author was born (Time).  It’s a relationship where vulnerability and authenticity are the rule and not the exception (Trust).  This Psalm, along with innumerable others, offers an example of a person who has been in commune with God for a time – talking and listening (Communication).  AND these talks reveal very deep and potentially unflattering thoughts about the author, yet they continue to trust God to not condemn them for wicked thoughts, but instead, guide them back “in the way everlasting.”

The type of relationship God wants to have with each of us is not one for the faint of heart.  It is a type of relationship that requires work from both parties involved.  This relationship will hurt sometimes.  It is extremely uncomfortable to allow someone else to know everything about you.  When that happens, we no longer solely hold on to the power.  It is shared, and that other person has the chance to swat at you with their paw, then walk away smug and secure as they find the next sunny spot to control.

God is not a cat.  God is right here beside you and is not going anywhere. Where can you go from God’s spirit, or where can you flee from God’s presence?  Wherever you are, wherever you go, God is there.  Scary Close.

 

Chris Wondree
Campus Minister

 

From Who Am I? to Scary Close

The Fall semester is well underway and we at BCM have made sure to take advantage of every ounce of the extension of summer weather.  We’ve been working hard to connect with students on campus through campfires (and s’mores!), tailgating home football games for our 5-0 Duke Dogs, handing out freezee pops, and hosting a 3v3 basketball tournament at UREC.  We’ve also been discussing a topic that leaves every person with a sense of wonder and bewilderment: Identity.  Our identity is rooted in something, but what is it?  Who can we ask for guidance?  Where is our “home plate” we can come back to?  These aren’t easy questions, but we’re wrestling with them, nonetheless.  

Last week, we finished up our “Who Am I?” series that helped us learn how to remind ourselves we are instituted, imperfect, and invited Children of God.  Beginning this week, we venture into our next series: Scary Close.  It’s one thing to know of somebody, but it is a completely unique and different thing to know somebody intimately. Often we find our relationship with God, others, and ourselves strained because we merely know of them.   In contrast, we’re called to experience and embrace the often messy – always scary – intimacy of relationships. Ever thought your relationships need a revamp or a jolt to take them from acquaintance to lifelong friend?  You’re not alone and we aren’t shying away from this crazily daunting idea of intimate relationships.  
 
Join us Thursday night for food at 6:19 PM, then worship at 7 PM, where we will discuss what it looks like to be in a Scary Close relationship with God.
Chris Wondree
Campus Minister

Hello world!

Welcome to our page! We’re in the process of updating/rebuilding what this looks like, so please share some much needed grace.  We will soon begin to share news about upcoming events, Family Groups, Thursday Night 6:19s (this is our weekly worship time), and some thoughts we’ve been mulling over each week.  Check back in with us each week to see what’s been happening and how you can plug in!

Chris Wondree
Campus Minister for BCM@JMU