Big Lake, Summer Camp, Oregon, Christian, SDA, Adventist, Kids, Summer, Sisters, Hoodoo

Big Lake Community!

We are so happy to be able to share something so dear to our hearts with you.

In recent years, the Big Lake staff have published devotional books for our community. This year however, we have created year-round resources for you. Here you will find exercises, devotions, and challenges to grow your faith in God. Our hope is that these will help you in your faith journey.

Thank you for being a part of our Big Lake family.

Keeping you in our prayers always,

The Big Lake Staff

 

If you have any questions or concerns in this area, please contact me.

 

  • LOVED

    Week One

    • John 1:3 “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

      In 2016, I decided to take RAD Rock Climbing. I had never done RAD before, and I had never done rock climbing. I was super excited to get closer to God that week at camp—and that is exactly what happened. We ended up traveling to Smith Rock State Park to do our climbing. The whole place was magnificent. A small river flowed through beautiful orange and red rocks. We ended up staying the night at this place called “The Property.” One night, we had worship during a sunset. The sky was clear, but was filled with an orange, red, pink, and purple glow. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen. On top of that, “The Property” was on a huge hill that overlooked a valley. I could see the Three Sisters, Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, and Mount Saint Helens. The sunset painted the mountains an array of colors. It was such a tremendous moment. Sean Chiasson, the RAD Director at the time, was playing his guitar and singing a worship song. I could not have asked for a better moment. I then realized that God shows himself through nature, and that he created this beautiful world because he loves us, and we should appreciate his creation more often. When we spend time in nature, we are spending time in God’s love. His nature is an actualization of how much he loves us.

      By Brandon Hughes

    • IMG_7699 Think: How do you see God’s love through this sunset? Why does God create such beautiful sunsets?
    • Challenge: Find 3 ways to show your family that God loves them through nature today.
    • Journal: What is the most beautiful place you have ever been? How did you see God there?
    • Read Genesis 1
    • Create a piece of art from things in nature that remind you of how much God loves you. (sticks, dirt, moss, etc.)

     

    Week Two

    • I made the team. Finally. I hadn’t made the basketball team. Ever. I had always been too short, too small, and not good enough. It was game day. Nervously, I sat on the bench until the coach called my name. We were up by 15 points! I didn’t really want to play, because I didn’t want to mess up in front of my friends, my coach, and everybody else I knew. But I went in anyway.

      Upon entering the game, I was passed the ball. As the point guard, it was my job to run the plays and take the ball down the court. I did exactly what the play said to do – dribble down, stop at the free throw area, and hand the ball off to my teammate for a layup. But it didn’t go this way. You see, they had figured out the play. Their shortest player, who was around four feet tall, picked the ball away from me, and took off towards his own basket. I was furious–I didn’t want to look bad! So I sprinted after him, probably with a crazy look in my eye. I lept–high. I grabbed the ball out of the air with my elbow, a massive block.

      Then, I landed. For some reason, everyone fell silent. They were staring at me as I began to try to get up, and failed. My knee had popped out, and I was in shock. My parents, both nurses, rushed out to help me. My team struggled as they worried about me. When I hobbled back out with a swollen knee, they picked things back up and won the game. After every game, my team did a victory lap around the gym. I was bummed, because I couldn’t run. As I waited for them to get back, I saw one of my best friends, Nick, walking towards me. He picked me up and carried me around the gym. As I high-fived the fans, tears welled up in my eyes.

      Sometimes, people show God’s love by giving gifts, by saying nice words, and by giving hugs. Other times, it is by helping people get back up when they can’t. My friend Nick showed me love in a special way that made sense only when he did it. It can be hard to find these opportunities to show God’s love to others through helping, but if we are on the lookout, these types of things happen way more often than we expect. Showing God’s love can be easy, we just have to look for opportunity.

      “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:7

      By Hayden Sherrill

    • 36598092_10156716612399301_3029135894364815360_n Think: How can we support each other in love? How does this picture capture that concept?
    • Help carry someone through a hard day today. Show them that you love them. Perhaps do something extra fro them so that they can take a bit of a break.
    • Write about a time that someone helped you achieve your goal. How did you feel loved through that situation?
    • Read 1 Corinthians 13
    • Create an all pen drawing about a time someone made you feel loved.

     

    Week Three

    • The Bible is one of the most amazing books ever written. It has been bought, sold, stolen, copied, and read–more than any other book in the history of books! But I’ll be honest, sometimes when reading the Bible, I am tempted to skim over various passages that don’t seem so important. Things like genealogies and numbering tribes and armies can become tedious and boring to read; it’s like staring at the dashed lines in the middle of the road–they pass by with nothing apparently interesting to offer. So, I ask myself: “What does the numbering of the tribes of Israel or the dividing of the land have to do with me? Maybe it was important back then, but what does it mean for me today as a non-Jew living in 21st century America?”

      I’d like to suggest to you something: I’ve discovered time and time again upon searching for an answer to this question.  Every single passage of the Bible has some relevant meaning for us today and tells us something about the truly amazing character of God and his undying love for us.

      For example, we read in Numbers chapter one an account of the tribes of Israel:

      “The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head.’” (Numbers 1:1-2).

      The chapter then goes on to list the tribes and their numbers and can make for some dry reading. But it’s especially in passages like this where we need to ask: “What can this tell us about God?”

      A renowned French medieval rabbi known as Rashi asked this question long ago. He explains that God enjoyed counting the Israelites because of his special affection for each person. This is to say that the census is a reminder that the children of Israel are not just a collective whole–a mass of indistinguishable clones. No; it is a nation of individuals. Each person has a face, a name, a story, and each of them matter to God.

      Moses and Aaron counted them according to their “generations, by their clans, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, head by head” (Numbers 1:20). This gave every Israelite the opportunity to tell his name and be counted as an individual who mattered.

      Furthermore, there’s a question asked in Jewish literature about Adam, the father of all humanity: “Why does all of humanity descend from a single human being? To teach you that whoever destroys a single person is regarded as if he destroyed an entire world [of people] and whoever saves a single person is regarded as though he had saved an entire world” (b. Sanhedrin 37a).

      In other words, they reasoned that each person is as valuable as Adam, the first human being. No one is simply a number on a page. Even more so, the same discussion about Adam points out that every person is a unique individual with different interests and abilities that may be used for good in the world:

      “[Adam was created] to demonstrate the greatness of [God]. If a smith strikes a coin from one mold, they all look identical, but the King of kings [made] every man in the image of the first man, yet not one of them is identical to his fellow…” (b. Sanhedrin 37a).

      We all matter to God. The world was created for each of us to live in and thrive in, to change it and improve it for the better good of everyone. From God’s perspective, we are not a nameless number, or faceless crowd of people. Each person is unique, special, and loved. God cares for you personally. Your concerns are His concerns, and He wants the very best for you.

      By Bezi Lizzi

    • IMG_20180621_063432349_HDR-EFFECTS Think: What is the smallest, yet most beautiful thing you see in this picture? How is God shown through that thing?
    • Challenge: Go outside and count 25 small things that matter. Share 3 of those things with someone.
    • Write: What is a detail in your life that you see God caring about.
    • Read Joshua 2
    • Create a geometric drawing or painting that reminds you of how God loves you–even in the details.

     

    Week Four

    • Weston had bought a new boat. He had worked on the engine for two weeks and run it in a small pond near his house, but it was time to take it on a big lake, to really stretch it out and see how fast it could go. He invited Russell and I to go with him, and we had nothing better to do. We drove the boat up to Mark Twain Lake–a long snakey lake in central Missouri that stretches out for miles but never gets very deep. We pulled in at the public access and put the boat into the water, looked out across its glassy surface, smelled the hot summer air and felt the sun on our faces. It was a perfect day for a float.

      Weston got the boat running while Russell and I took turns diving off the end of the dock into the cold water. When we heard the engine roar to life, we both swam over and climbed aboard. Now, the boat was used and nothing too beautiful to look at: just a bit of cherry red and ivory, only about twenty feet long from tip to tail. But it was fast. We blasted out over the lake and sped down through the uprights of the bridge. We had a vague idea of where we were going; we had all lived in this area for years and had camped around the lake many times. But this was our first outing on a boat. It was excellent. The wind whipped through our hair and Russell took a video of Weston looking very captainly sitting high on his swivel chair, scoping out the curves of the lake. Around the corner and about a mile on, the lake gets wider, with a bluff on both sides. There’s a bridge across that leads to the small town at the heart of the central branch of the lake. And just as we crossed the bridge, we all heard a tremendous PING from the heart of the engine and all other noise ceased. The boat drifted silently to a stop, and Weston turned around in his chair, a look of shock smeared across his face. Russell broke the silence.

      “What happened?”

      “I don’t know.”

      And that was about the size of it. Looking at the engine, there were no leaks, no broken pieces, nothing obvious. But when Weston turned the key, nothing happened. The inner guts were bound up tight, and we had two pliers and a length of wire. Weston pulled out his phone and called his grandfather.

      “Hey, we’re out on the lake and the boat died. No, I don’t know what happened. No, it won’t turn over. Well, if I had my tools and the boat were at home, I could do that. No, we’ll be fine.” He hung up, and looked at us. “I have ten percent battery. You, Russell?”

      “Five. Robby?”

      “Don’t look at me. My phone’s in the truck.”

      We were trapped. The sheer walls of the lake rose up on either side and the lake behind us stretched out for mile upon mile of impassible treachery. The path back to the truck would be a climb up the bluff and back along the bridge to the boat ramp. The float back to the truck would be two or three miles of paddling. We all looked at each other. We didn’t need to say it. It was a terrible day for a float.

      There were two paddles. I don’t ever want to paddle a powerboat for the rest of my life. We were making good headway, maybe pushing about one or two miles an hour when the wind was behind us, but it was taking us forever. We made it about a half mile, and our spirits were lifting. Maybe this is possible. This last half hour of paddling was the right decision. We might be back by nightfall. That’s when we came around the headland and into the wind. A terrible storm was rolling in from directly ahead of us, wind whipping the tops off the waves, and a cloud front that was wicked purple and blue. The bottom side of the clouds was turbulent and beautiful and Weston pulled out his phone to photograph them. His phone turned off, blinked off, dead. Russell’s phone was long gone.

      We soldiered on into the storm until the wind was pushing us backward faster than we were paddling forward, and we broke for the shore. The rain started falling in fat drops and the lightning crackled through the clouds. I have to admit: I panicked. I started building a shelter because I was sure we would have to stay the night. Weston’s boat slowly crept up the sandbar we landed it on, pushed by the wind. Russell and Weston looked at my frantic low-skill survivalism and felt increasingly tired.

      I am unbelievably glad to report that we did not spend our last minutes huddled in a makeshift shelter on the shores of Mark Twain Lake. The storm cleared and the sun went down and we pushed back out into the water to continue our half-mile-per-hour paddle back to the boat ramp.

      We could barely see anything in the thin starlight, but we could see where the shore was, and we knew where we had come from generally. We needed to paddle until the lake cut away to the left, and then follow that under the first bridge. Totally possible. But even with one of us resting and two paddling, our nerves were wearing thin. Weston was mad at the boat. Russell knew his wife was worried about him. I was the least composed of the three of us–having run back and forth collecting old downed logs and milkweed to make a bad shelter that we didn’t use. An hour passed. The curve had not come. Then, suddenly, far off to the left, we saw a small, red light.

      It was the bridge. We turned and made straight for it. It seemed invitingly close. We paddled in silence for a while, then singing what snatches of song we could remember. Russell was quiet. I was nervous. Weston was pained. An hour passed. The light was no closer. We started to see headlights as cars crossed the bridge. There was a rising moon by this time, and we could see the strange shape of the lake in the dark. We couldn’t remember it. It had been six hours since we passed under the first bridge, and, calculating based on our current speed, another would have to pass before we got back.

      Then, out of the dark far ahead, we heard a voice. Who could it be? There wasn’t anybody on the lake. Not at this hour, anyway. We waited and heard it again. It was a distant voice; his words were unrecognizable. Russell pulled out his headlamp (always in his backpack) and shined it at the bridge. We stopped paddling and listened, and far away, almost silent, there was one distinct word.

      “Weston!”

      His uncle had come to find us. His uncle had called the marina patrol on the other side of the lake. His uncle had waited an hour in the dark for us to appear, calling Weston’s name. We got closer and closer to the bridge until we could have a shouted conversation. Every one of our relatives was up-to-date on the situation, a long phone chain having formed in our absence.

      I struggle, sometimes, to understand the love of God. The idea of capital-letters Eternal Love is so big and nebulous. I can’t wrap my mind around it. But God has tried to help us understand. In the Bible, God describes Eternal Love by using parent metaphors. God is our Father, our Mother, a hen gathering her chicks (Matthew 23:37) or a bear robbed of her cubs (Hosea 13:8). God is our family, and God will drive an hour up to the lake to stand on a bridge for an hour in the dark, yelling our name. Sometimes, my family is on a different continent, or tied up in surgery, or they’ve passed away or left my life. Sometimes, I can’t call on them. It’s times like those that I am very glad to remember that God is family to me.

       

      By Robby Van Arsdale

    • 19113583_10155527572584301_2271210273081801947_nThink: What does it mean to love someone who walks in a different pair of shoes?  
    • Challenge:  Show your parents/guardians nothing but love for this week–even if you don’t agree with them.  
    • Write: What is a time that you have been very frustrated? How did you react? How can you continue to love people even when you are frustrated?
    • Read Matthew 5
    • Write a thank you note to someone who has helped you this last week. Tell them how much their love means to you.  

     

    Week Five

    • Love is something that is so fundamental to being human, making it such a big topic–but I want to give it a go. There is a song entitled ‘If You Want Love’. The chorus goes: “If you want love, you’ll have to go through the pain; if you want love, you’ll have to learn how to change; if you want trust, you will have to give some away. If you want love…”

      Love is something that we all need.But at times we question if we are doing it right. It brings about so many different feelings that we may not understand, but cannot forget. As the song says, if you want love, you have to go through the pain. Love does not just come to you and immediately make everything better. But rather it takes conscious effort everyday to dive in and give, even if there’s pain. When you love someone, you will go through all of the valleys in life with them because you love them and care for them. When bad things happen, if you truly love someone, you are right there helping them up. Pain can test love, but should only make true love stronger.

      If you want love, you’ll have to learn how to change. Nobody in this world is perfect, so don’t pretend as if you are. If someone truly loves you, they will push you to work on the blemishes in your character, and they will challenge you to be the best you can be. Showing love happens through humbling yourself, changing from what you are accustomed to, and changing to help those around you. Love is the act of putting others before yourself–and a lot of times, doing that will require you to change something in your life to be the best version of yourself.

      If you want trust, you will have to give some away. Sometimes, we feel like we can hop right into a trusting relationship. Maybe we just find a great person and know they won’t whisper our secrets to someone else. This may be true, but it limits our own effort in the trust. In order for someone to trust you, you have to give up some of yourself. You must be vulnerable, and if they are a good friend that loves you, they won’t throw that trust away. Rather they will reciprocate and you will learn to hold each other up. There aren’t many situations where someone will trust you with their secrets, their time, their efforts without you giving up some of yours as well.

      In everything, love and trust are things that we all desperately need in our lives. However, they can be the hardest things to give to others. It’s safer to try and make your life a place where you receive more love and trust than you have to give out. It’s a game people can play, trying to keep the ratio in their favor. These tactics however lead to shallow relationships.

      These are all practical things that we can use in our day to day relationships. Being prepared to stand through the pain that comes with caring about others, being able to change yourself because no one is perfect, and being vulnerable is the best way to improve yourself–however scary it may be. Moreover, the more love and trust you give to others, the more you will receive. Taking that first step to battle the fears of being rejected, and giving more than you expect in return, will open yourself up to love and trust. It’s scary to give more than we receive, but that is what God asks us to do. And through him, it will come back to us overflowing with blessings.

      If you want love, you’ll have to go through the pain. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” We are called to help others through the trials in life. By doing this, we will strengthen ourselves and shine God through our actions.

      That is what we are called to do as Christians: take the shirt off of our back to help the person next to us and walk that extra mile with them. By having a constant relationship with God, we will always find the energy to help others. As Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who turn to the Lord, will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Pray to God, because the stronger the relationship, the more energy, time and love you will have to then give to others–even if it is painful.

      If you want love, you’ll have to learn how to change. As Romans 12:2 says, “Allow God to transform you. He will mold you and renew your mind as he changes your way of thinking. You will be changed from the inside out. Then you will always be able to decide what God’s will for you which is good, pleasing and perfect.” Learning to allow God to come into our lives and mold us is a challenge. We all feel like we know everything, and can do it on our own. But only through God, only through being changed from the inside out can we truly share God’s love to those around us. Our thoughts are the root of all of our actions and habits and he can help us make all of our thoughts, actions and habits good, pleasing and perfect. This process may be painful as well, but allowing God to scrub away our sins, in the end will have us feeling brand new. This allows us to best share his love with others, as Christians are called to do.

      If you want trust, you will have to give some away. God has an unending, reckless love for us. As Psalm 136:26 says, “Give thanks to the God of Heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.” God’s love is unwavering and will never dry up. It is such a human thing to try and give less love and trust than we receive, because that is safer. But rather, God is the exact opposite. He pours His love into our lives, and only gets back a fraction of it, but is never discouraged. As 1 John 4:7-8 says, “Let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God, and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because GOD IS LOVE.” Take the words love and trust and replace them with God in the chorus of the song I started this with: If you want God, it will be painful, it will require you to change, and it will require full giving from you. In the end, as humans, that is all we are striving for. We all want love in our lives, but many do not recognize that as needing God in our lives. He can be the missing piece that will help us feel the ups and downs in life. I challenge you to share this love, not only with loving words but loving actions. Be prepared to turn to God through prayer to receive the energy, time, and effort to give away more love than you expect to receive in return. This will cause you to get closer to God in the process.

      By Evan McGraw

    • 20729175_10155733298944301_1153570142936068994_nThink: How does love take trust? What is love without trust?
    • Challenge: Take a song that challenges you to be a better person and play it for your dearest friend.  
    • Write: Write a letter to your future self. Describe the kind of person you want to be when you are older.  
    • Read Mark 12
    • Create an “I am” project. For example, put the words “I am” at the center of the page. Underneath or around those words write phrases that help define you–such as “beautiful,” “fearfully and wonderfully made,” “brave,” etc.  Here is an example that might help you come up with an idea of your own!cb220c7bae20e9d65034882607a40199

     

    Week Six

    • Sometimes I get stuck. We all do. We all have our own special little pitfalls.  The one I’m talking about right now is the, “I need to do more, be more, learn more,” pitfall. You’re probably thinking to yourself, ‘How is that an issue at all? Those are all good things.’ Well, you’re not wrong.  But intentions are everything no matter the outcome. Being loved isn’t about what you can do; it isn’t about how much you can love. You’re loved no matter what you do. I have always had trouble justifying my actions–the good ones. That may sound absurd, but think of it this way: if you do things for people just so they will think you’re awesome, where was your focus?

      For a long time my focus was me; I was trying to get people to love me.  Love is something we all want and need whether we admit it or not. I thought I needed to do things and become something incredible to deserve that love. However, it breaks down to a very basic concept: who are you? Who am I and how do I measure my value as a person?  The problem is we attach ourselves to all these temporary things such as money, skill, fame, talent, intelligence, and good looks.  If it’s something you can gain on this earth, it’s probably something you can lose–so it can’t define you.  But then what does?  Love. Specifically, God’s love–unchanging, ever extending, never ending, and always pursuing love. Live your life in servitude and love, but remember those are only small reflections from the One that defines you as a person. He loves you unconditionally, and nothing you ever do will make Him stop loving you.

      “Friends, we are given freedom, but don’t use it to build up only yourself, use it to serve others in humility and kindness.” Galatians 5:13

      By Jacob Welch

    • tumblr_mm9aqqyXpC1r42bd3o1_500 Think: Where does God’s love end? Could it ever end? In such vast places as the sky, how is God’s never-ending love actualized?  
    • Challenge: Read an article that shows you a different perspective. Is that perspective loving? How could you use it to grow yourself? Discuss your findings with someone.
    • Write: What is your philosophy on love? How do you implement this every day?
    • Read Luke 5
    • Do some calligraphy art of your philosophy on love. Draw it, paint it, frame it. Then put it somewhere you will see it often.  

     

    Week Seven

    • My challenge for you is this: Have the courage to believe you are loved with an everlasting abundance of love, because you are. You are so loved; I can’t tell you how loved you are, because our minds can’t wrap around it. You are loved completely–every single part of you is. You may be wondering: where does a love so wonderful as this comes from? The only answer is that it comes from God.

       

      Many times in my life I didn’t feel like I was enough; I didn’t like many parts of myself, and I couldn’t love myself. I had heard “God is love” so many times but it never felt real to me.

      One day I went to a Friday night program at a church on a school trip. That night the speaker emphasized a specific part in a song called ‘Good Good Father.’ The lyric went like this: “And you tell me that You’re pleased and that I’m never alone.” He wanted us to realize that God is pleased with us, and loves us even when it feels impossible. I thought to myself: “How could God love and be pleased with someone like me? I mess up so much and I don’t feel like I’m good enough.” I had this thought tucked away in the back of my head as the service ended.

      My friend and I were walking towards the exit of the church when this lady stopped us. She asked us what our names were and we told her.

      She smiled and said, “This is going to sound a little crazy, but let me explain. I wasn’t going to come to church tonight, but I felt a huge impression from God that I needed to come to talk to two girls. When I saw you two, I immediately knew you were the ones I needed to talk to.” My friend and I looked at each other with disbelief. The lady continued on and told us what God wanted us to know.

      “The first thing God wanted me to tell you was that he loves you so much,” she said. “The love that he has for you is so large that you can’t understand or even comprehend it. He also wants you to stop believing those lies that the world keeps telling you and that you keep telling yourself. All of that negative self talk needs to go.” She looked at us with love and conviction.

      I looked at this lady who I didn’t know and had never met before, and I believed what she said. She spoke with such a passion and genuine love and I could feel tears start to come in my eyes. Did God really care about me enough to send this lady to encourage me?

      She continued,“God also wants you to know that you are beautiful, and he wants you to fully believe it. He wants you to be reminded that He formed and made you beautifully in His image.”

      The last thing that this lady said struck me the most.

      She smiled and said, “The last thing is that when God looks down at you, He smiles.”

      What?? How could that be true?? I thought. But suddenly I realized that I was seeing things all wrong.

      When God looks at us He doesn’t see this broken mess that needs to be fixed. He doesn’t see trash or a disappointment. You know what He sees when He looks at you? He sees His child. His son or daughter. God looks down at you and smiles and says, “My child is so beautiful, strong, and has so much potential. I am going to use her or him.”

      Before, I saw a God that I couldn’t trust, the guy that I could blame my problems on. Now, I was seeing the true picture of who he was. We have a saying at Big Lake that says: “That which gets recognizes grows.” God recognizes all of the good in you even when you can’t see it yourself. He doesn’t shake his head and think “Oh he/she messed up too many times, I don’t have a purpose for them because they’re not good enough.”  In my mind I had so many reasons to not trust in God, but in the end I don’t have any reason to not trust. God’s love for us is never ending and full. I challenge you to let that sink in. Tell yourself: “I am loved. I’m a child of God.” After my encounter with that lady, my heart was full. I know that God sent her to me that day so that I could listen to exactly what I needed to hear. I was reminded of a love that I had forgotten and one that I needed to believe in again. I have learned that one of the bravest things you can do is see that God and other people love you and learn to love yourself too. I also learned that there is love in this world for me and for you.

      “But whoever loves God is known by God.” 1 Corinthians 8:3

      Diana Quiroz

    • 36628940_10156716611694301_1262344390702006272_nThink: What kind of adventures do you want to have with God? Think about how excited he is to have these adventures with you.  
    • Challenge: Every time you see yourself today, smile.  
    • Write: Write down a list of 7 things that you like about yourself that you think God loves as well.  
    • Read Luke 8
    • Make a crayon drawing that makes you smile.  

     

    Week Eight

    • Jesus was sitting with friends, talking about God. Some women from the nearby town decided to bring their children to Jesus. They had heard that he was a miracle worker–maybe even the son of God. They wanted their children to be blessed by such a man. So they gathered their kids together and headed out to where Jesus was teaching.

      Upon arriving, Jesus’ disciples tell the women and children to go away. “He doesn’t have time for you”; “He can’t be bothered with children,” they said. The mothers felt downhearted. The children were disappointed–they had wanted to see Jesus. The disciples continued to smugly send the children and families away.

      That is when the small commotion caught Jesus’ eye. He saw the children who were coming to meet him, and he smiled. However, when he saw his disciples turning them away, he became upset. How could they send away people who were so precious to him? He called out to his disciples: “Let the children come to me! Don’t stop them!” The disciples were a little confused. Why would Jesus want to waste his time on kids and women? In their time and society, a Jewish teacher wouldn’t be interacting with such people. They had been being good disciples–they had sent away the unwanted, those who were going to be a distraction.

      But Jesus wasn’t like the Jewish leaders of that time. He looked at the children coming to him and saw his children. That’s all. He didn’t see a waste of time, or a distraction, or a disgrace, or someone who wasn’t as important as him. He saw his children. He saw people he loved. That is pretty crazy! The children ran into Jesus’ arms. They sat around and talked and played. Jesus blessed each of them. Their mothers stood off to the side, hearts full.

      Then Jesus told his disciples: “Unless you become like these children, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” This once again confused the disciples. What ever could he mean? They were already grown men; how were they supposed to become like children? Jesus rarely came straight out and said things; this time is no exception. He tried to show his disciples that we must want to just be with him. We must be willing to follow him in faith. Kids are so good at having faith. That is what Jesus was calling his disciples to: to have faith and go to him.

      Jesus was always crossing boundaries. He crossed social, religious, and economic boundaries to show people that he loved them. Jesus did the same for those kids– he loved those kids too much to not make time for them. When Jesus looked at them, his heart overflowed with love. That’s how it is with us. He looks at us and loves us. He looks at us and smiles. We don’t have to be doing something incredible. We just have to be his children–which we all are. That is the beauty of it: we don’t have to work to deserve his love. He just wants to be with us. He just loves us. How crazy is that?

      At times in our lives, we may face things that hurt, or people who tell us that Jesus doesn’t have time for us. In those times, remember this: you are a child of God. God wants to give you every good thing. He wants to chill with you, play with you, eat, and journey with you. He wants to do life with you. That is what a parent should do after all–do life with their kid. When Jesus told his disciples that they needed to become like children, he is saying that their Heavenly Father just wants to do life with them. Those kids were open, willing, and quick to accept God’s love. In our own lives, let us be like children–accepting and loving God. He loves you more than anything in the universe and will cross every boundary for you.

      “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” Mark 10:14

      By Kiana Brusett

    • IMG_8231-2 Think: How can you become more like a child in your own life? How can you increase your faith?
    • Challenge: Stand up for someone today. If you see something that is out of place, someone who needs some help, stand up for what is right. Maybe you will have to figure out exactly how you can stand up for someone–but do it. Try to show that person a glimpse of how much God loves them.
    • Write about a time that someone stood up for you. How did it make you feel? How did it feel to stand up for somebody else?
    • Read Mark 10
    • Create a piece of art that reminds you to be like a child–because you are a child of God.

     

    Week Nine

    • LOVE. What a rich and powerful word! Unfortunately in society today sometimes it’s an overused & undervalued term. I’m preaching to myself here though. For example if I counted the amount of times I said I “loved” something or someone yesterday we would be here for ages… “I love Noah’s chocolate chip cookies.” “I love wake surfing.” “I love your top.” If we were actually acting out what we were saying daily, we might use completely different language.

      What is love? I’m not an expert here, but if I were to take a wild guess I would say something along the lines of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always TRUSTS, always hopes and always perseveres.” So love is merely sacrificing yourself for those around you. So why then do we toss it around so nonchalantly all the time? Let’s be real, would I do ANYTHING for Noah’s chocolate chips cookies? No. Would I take a bullet for your top? Sorry sis–probably not.

      In the Greek language there are multiple words and meanings that go hand in hand with the word “love.” Focusing on one word, “Agape”–the highest expression of love. It is a pure, selfless, benevolent, unconditional expression. God, by bible definition, IS love. Pure, inspired, unconditional, unreserved LOVE! When we spend time with our Heavenly Father, He helps is to become more like him. The more you spend time with someone, the more you become like them and copy their mannerisms. If we spend time with God, eventually we can become like Him—and He is love.

      How incredible our world would be if we all loved each other through agape glasses, just like Jesus did. Imagine loving each other with pure intentions and a selfless heart. It’s having authentic and deep conversations with strangers. Love is something we are all searching for but aren’t willing to give out to just anyone. Let’s be vulnerable, real & authentic Christians. I encourage you: LOVE someone today. Not wishy-washy love that is found on all American TV shows, but take the time to delve deeper into someone’s world. Take interest in someone’s journey and what they have to say. Invite the Holy Spirit in to transform your heart. Love thy neighbor as yourself. Spend time with God becoming love.

      “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

      1 Corinthians 13:13

      By Jess Palu

    • Think: What does real love look like today? Sometimes is can be hard to figure out–considering all the distractions. But what does real love look like in your life?
    • Challenge: Do some extra chores around the house this week. Try to show those around you that you love them more than whatever you would have been doing with the time otherwise.  
    • Write: What is it about God that is love? How can you become more and more like him?
    • Read Psalm 5
    • Create some kind of crayon creation. You can just draw or you can try to melt them with a hair-dryer. Create something that shows you God’s never-ending love.  
  • LIVE BRAVELY

    Week One

    • Live Bravely. Those are words that have power to change our lives when we put them into action. I was in Cuba on a mission trip a few years ago, and we were handing out flyers for a Ministry Program we would be putting on later that night. It was after a while of walking the streets that I noticed a man standing by the side of the road, facing away from us. He was large, and about as red as a tomato. Upon further inspection I realized that he wasn’t just standing, he was peeing–on the side of the road–in public. It became apparent from his walk after his bathroom break that he was drunk. I figured if anyone could use a promise of a better life, it might be this man.

      So I took a breath, and crossed the street. As I walked closer, I began to doubt my decision, but none the less I felt a rush of courage that insisted I continue forward. As I approached him, he reached out to shake my hand–with the hand he had been using only seconds ago to go to the bathroom. I shook it anyways. I then proceeded to invite him to our ministry series and he nodded and then proceed to talk in such slurred Spanish I couldn’t make out a single word. But I think he was talking about me. After a while of saying ‘si’ and nodding my head in agreement, he proceeded to reach under my shirt and grab my chest. After a little while he let go, and went on his way. I never saw him again.

      Bottom line: Living bravely may not always visibly pay off. In fact sometimes we may just come out of the experience worse than before, but never in my life have I regretted living bravely. Sometimes that means being bold enough to ask for a job you don’t deserve, or telling someone how you feel. Other times it could be as small as introducing yourself to someone you don’t know. To this day, that memory of a drunk man is one of the most precious ones I have. Because it showed me something really incredible about God: even when we think we can’t, God shows us we can. Because God didn’t ask us to be realistic when it comes to serving him, he just asks us to follow his calling. And even though sometimes his calling may lead us to end up flat on our face, it’s never something that I have doubts about. God hasn’t asked us to lead ordinary lives, or to play it safe. He’s asked to be courageous, no matter the circumstance. For all I know, that man is still on the streets of Cuba drinking away his problems, or maybe God may have started something that afternoon, slowly working on his heart. Because even though we may not always have a guarantee of it turning out great, God will always be with us. Besides, if life was all guaranteed, following God wouldn’t really be faith or living bravely, it would simply be living safely. So go, and live bravely!

      Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.” Mark 1:20

      By Josh Peinado

    • Think: What kind of courage does it take to simply speak up, or to walk across the street, or do any of the “small things”?
    • Do something small that takes a lot of courage for you. This could be speaking up in class, or saying hi to someone at the store. Ask God for the courage to accomplish that task–even if it’s small.
    • Write: Take your favorite fanastic story (something like Narnia). Do you see courage in that story? How so? How can you apply that to your life?
    • Read 1 Samuel 1
    • Create a piece of art that forces you to think outside of the box. What kind of courage does it take to think outside of the box?

     

    Week Two

    • Be Brave; this concept seems to have followed me around ever since I said yes to Christ on the day of my baptism in 2014.  For the longest time, my life had been ruled by fear. The choices I made were based almost entirely on what I thought would keep me protected or comfortable. Stretching myself and trying something new? That meant the possibility of failure, and embarrassment–letting people down, or unfulfilled expectations. I absolutely dreaded the very idea. Well, on the day I was baptized, and every day forward, I felt a challenge from God–a calling. Not one, but many. He made it very clear that I was going to live a life of service and worship. It would involve learning new skills and pushing down the boundaries I had set up to keep myself safe. One of the biggest challenges God set in front of me was the call to work at Big Lake Youth Camp. It was a high demand position of leadership that would normally require years of experience. I had none. Also, I wasn’t the first, or the second choice for the position.

      But I was God’s first choice.

      When I gave my life to God, I gave Him the keys to my car and got in the passenger seat, Regardless of what limits I had set on myself or the limits that others had set on me, God said, “You have no limits because I created you, and I have no limits.” God hasn’t guaranteed me that I’ll do a perfect job, but He has guaranteed me that He will be there every step of the way. Any time I felt like I just couldn’t do it on my own, God would send people to help.

      A lot of times when we’re stressed walls seem to close in around us, and we just don’t see a way out. However, there are people–friends, loved ones, and even strangers–that God has divinely appointed to give us support and show us solutions that we wouldn’t have been aware of otherwise.

      During my training week I was ready to run away. I was ready to go back to feeling protected and comfortable. This “Be Brave” thing was a nice little experiment, but I had no idea how to do my job and so I raised my hand to throw in the towel. But right before I did, I talked to someone about how I was overwhelmed. They promptly shared my fears with others–which really wasn’t what I had in mind–and before I knew it, I had a team of people ready to support me and share the burden. When I saw how much other people I barely knew cared and were willing to step in and help, I knew God had my back. My mind was made up. I was here to stay.

      When we say yes to God’s calling, He gives us challenges and develops our skills through circumstances that look downright impossible at first. The good news is He will show us which step to take; He will send people into our lives to help share the load.

      Before we know it, He has completely transformed us into the kind of person we never could have imagined ourselves being. We become someone who truly reflects God’s character and someone who knows the transformative power that begins to take place the moment they look at Christ and say:

      “Yes.”

      By Justin Canfield

    • Think: How does God’s view of us differ from our view of ourselves? How can that give us courage?
    • Challenge: Write messages to yourself and your family that help you to remember how God sees you; post them around your house where you can see them.  
    • Write: How much bravery does it take to follow God’s calling? How can you get to that point?
    • Read 2 Corinthians 4
    • Find an old book. Do some blackout poetry. Try to convey how God sees you through your art.  

     

    Week Three

    • Have you ever been in a surreal moment? A moment that came like a shock, something that felt totally alien, totally different, and while the moment is happening you can’t help but think that it’s somehow fake, that it can’t actually be happening? These are moments that, we describe them as slow-motion moments, where you see your life flash before your eyes, where you suddenly come to terms with the hardship that has afflicted you.

      It was 2011 and I had just finished the seventh grade in middle school, and had been attending the local public school in my hometown. It was the summer of 2011, and I had decided to join a few of my friends and go out into town, most likely to cause a bit of trouble. The people that I had surrounded myself with were mostly those who just wanted to hang out with the cool kids, and didn’t really care for anyone unless they were “cool enough,” or “fit-in.” These type of people were not helpful, but instead caused me to try to be something I wasn’t, pushing me to lie about who I was, and what I wanted to be. It was in this situation, with people I just wanted to please, that I did something incredibly foolish. I ran out into the street.

      That may not seem like something foolish, but someone had dared me to run across the street–right then and there, without so much as a thought to cars. So, I did. I ran through the street, and everything was going alright until one single moment. I looked to my right, and directly next to me was a car traveling at about thirty-five miles an hour. I had left the safety of the sidewalk, and was now about to get hit by a car–and that’s exactly what happened. I don’t remember much from what happened after that moment, but what I do remember is that I woke up in the drain ditch next to the road, on top of gravel and some loose black berry branches. I was hurt, aching. What’s worse is that the friends I had been traveling with ran away, leaving me there, and the car that had hit me never stopped to see if I was okay. I was completely alone, in a ditch in the road, and in pain. That has to seem like a fairly poor situation to be in. Yet, in that moment, something had become clear to me. I wasn’t living the life I wanted to live, I wasn’t being brave and standing up against the way people told me to live; I was just living to please people who didn’t care for me, and it ended up with me in a ditch. With that realization, I came to recognize something vitally important: I had lived despite being hit by a car and being left by my friends–and that shouldn’t have happened. For the first time, I felt God calling into my life.

      There is someone in the Bible who went through a similar experience. His name was Saul. Saul was a pretty bad guy. He hated Christians, and did everything he could to bully them, to imprison them, to hurt them. He went along with what others had told him, and believed that since others hated Christians, he should also hate them. So, one day he decided he would travel to a town called Damascus, where he would find the Christians and imprison them for believing in Jesus. On his way on the road to Damascus, however, something amazing happened. A bright, shining light appeared, and stopped Saul in his tracks. The light was Jesus, and Jesus asked this simple question: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Jesus confronted Saul, and revealed himself to Saul. This was such a traumatic experience that after that, Saul was left blinded and was instructed by Jesus to go into Damascus and head to the temple. Fast forward a bit, and Jesus talked to a Christian named Ananias, and asked Ananias to go and talk with Saul and lay his hands on him, welcoming him into Christ’s family, despite what Saul had done, and so Ananias did just that.

      Ananias had been willing to welcome a man like Saul into Christ’s family, and as a result Saul became healed from his blindness and was renamed Paul. What does this have to do with living bravely? Well, if you look at Paul’s life, when he was Saul he had been living according to the ways of the world; but when he became Paul, accepted into Christ’s family, he went on to change the world for God. He ended up writing the majority of the New Testaments Bible books. He became the first Christian missionary, and lived a life seeking God, a life that proclaimed that despite his past failures, despite what he had done, he had been claimed as a Child of God. He was cleansed by Jesus and given a chance to live a beautiful, brave life for God.

      Like Paul, after my experience on the road, I slowly began to have people who came into my life, teaching me about Jesus until I finally decided to seek God for myself. Before that, I had been living a hard, ugly life. But, when I finally came to Jesus, instead of running away from him, I found joy and peace–as well as a chance to live a brave life, a life for God.

      We make mistakes, and sometimes it takes a roadside in-the-headlights experience for us to recognize that we need God. Other times, it takes a quiet but brave decision. Regardless, Jesus is calling us to enter into a life with him: a life of love, of peace, of adventure, and of bravery. Jesus wants you to be a part of his family, and when you join that family, you will find that you can do incredible, amazing things.

      Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

      By Jared Frost

    • Think: How does God use “on the side of the road in a ditch” moments to change lives and thoughts? Have you had one of those moments?
    • Challenge: Stand up against something that you would usually go along with because you want to be liked. Pray for the courage to stick to what you know is right.
    • Write: What has God asked you to turn away from? What is he calling you to? How much courage is that going to take?
    • Read Acts 9
    • Create a piece of art that reminds you of a roadside experience you have had with God.

     

    Week Four

    • What does it mean to be brave? Often-times bravery means facing down challenges that require great courage or skill to overcome. The Bible is loaded with stories about individuals who faced down great challenges and obstacles. For instance, in 1 Samuel 17 we read about David, the skillful shepherd boy, facing down Goliath, a large and intimidating philistine soldier. In 1 Kings 18 we read about Elijah, the faithful prophet of God, challenging 450 prophets of Baal, the pagan god. And in the book of Esther we read about how the faithful Jewish woman (Esther) boldly pleaded with the king of Persia to put an end to the evil plan of Haman to kill all her people. And this is only a tiny selection of the bravery exemplified by so many individuals in the Bible. But I’d like to challenge you to think of bravery a bit differently. Because the likelihood of us having to face someone twice our size and strength in a duel that decides the fate of our entire nation is quite low. Not impossible, but unlikely. Moreover, for us to be brave when larger challenges of life come, it is the practice of the smaller, more mundane challenges of life that prepare us.

      So, what if bravery was something more? Something we can practice not only at times where something big and scary is staring us straight in the face, but something we need in every moment of our lives? Consider the story of Joseph. Genesis 37:2 introduces Joseph as a shepherd. I don’t know about you but watching a bunch of sheep all day sure sounds dull, and certainly not easy. Then, after a series of unfortunate events and betrayal by his brothers, we find Joseph serving in the house of the captain of the guard in Egypt:

      …Joseph found favor in his [master’s] sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field.  So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. (Genesis 39:3-6).

      What does this have to do with bravery? If being brave means doing something difficult that you would not otherwise want to do, then Joseph is practicing such bravery. Notice how Joseph handles each task that is given to him. It would be much easier to sit and do nothing than to watch a bunch of sheep all day. Joseph could’ve complained and said, “I’m not supposed to be here! My brothers sold me into slavery! It’s not fair!” But no: Joseph worked hard at every task he was given, from washing the dishes, to making the food, to looking after the livestock. He treated every chore, every routine work as if it was the most important thing at the time–so much so that his master didn’t need to worry about anything except the food he himself wanted to eat.

      We too have chores in our lives. Daily tasks that must be accomplished to survive and succeed, and they aren’t always easy. They require small doses of bravery. Maybe you struggle to get out of bed in the morning (I know I do), or maybe you have difficulty sitting down to practice the piano or another instrument. It is in those times where something seems difficult to do that our opportunities to practice bravery come! When you just want to stay in bed and do nothing, be brave and get up and clean your room. Be brave and show kindness to your locker-buddy who may smell bad. Be brave and face down the difficulty of getting your homework done on time. Practice bravery and talk to that kid sitting by himself at lunch. Be brave and eat those vegetables put in front of you. It is in the small, routine tasks of life, that we cultivate bravery.

      Yes, there’s no doubt Joseph faced great challenges as a shepherd, fighting off bears and lions like David (see 1 Samuel 17:34-36). But it was because he was responsible with the seemingly small, mundane tasks of “tending sheep,” guiding them to water, and leading them to safe pastures hour after hour and day after day that he was ready to face the bigger challenges of life. Without daily practice of courage in small acts, he couldn’t have made it through other situations like facing his brothers who had betrayed him, and leading one of the most powerful nations on earth through a famine. As it is written, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much…” (Luke 16:10). So be brave in the small things so that you can be brave in the big things.

      By Bezi Lizzi

    • Think: Why do the small things we do matter? Do they matter? How much?
    • Challenge: Do two little things that are pretty hard for you, but make you a healthier person. This could be something like going to bed earlier or avoiding sugar.
    • Write: What are the 10 most important small things in your life? Why do you consider them “small things”?
    • Read Genesis 2
    • Create a small piece of art that will remind you to have courage in the small things.

     

    Week Five

    • The Bible has a lot of great advice on building relationships with people and how to live. In James 5:16, it says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” I think this verse applies to more than just sins. I think that it encourages us to be open and vulnerable with each other about our sins, fears, struggles, hopes, and whatever else we need to be vulnerable about. It also encourages us to pray for each other and to support each other. Being vulnerable and supporting others who are vulnerable is a very healthy way to live, and I think that it’s an important part of what it means to be a Christian.

      Vulnerability is something that doesn’t come easy for me. But, as my themes are vulnerability and living bravely, I think that I should be vulnerable in this devotional and put myself out there a bit. It’s easy to think of vulnerability as a bad thing. We want to appear like we are strong all the time and like we have it all together–especially when we feel like we don’t. We often worry about people judging us. I’ve found myself falling into those traps a lot. But, that’s not a good way to live. Vulnerability is a strength, and it can be extremely helpful in many ways. Being vulnerable does take courage. But, I’ve found that a willingness to be vulnerable can be a source of courage itself. For me, the themes of vulnerability and living bravely are strongly linked.

      One of my biggest fears is talking in front of people. It wasn’t a fear that I was born with. When I was younger I was very friendly and outgoing. But, during the later years of high school and the earlier years of college I developed anxiety and fear. I would get nervous talking even in small groups of people if I didn’t know them. I hated reading in front of people, even though I used to love it and knew that I was a capable reader. I would have borderline panic attacks when teachers would go around and have everybody introduce themselves. The idea of teachers calling on me terrified me as well. As a student, going to class is a big part of my life, so this fear was a big part of my life, as well. Since I didn’t want people to know, I didn’t really tell anybody about it. I would avoid any situation I could that put me in a position where I would potentially show that fear to others. That drove my fear and anxiety to their highest point. It got to a point where I was skipping a lot of classes, and it was affecting my life in a lot of really negative ways.

      Eventually I decided that I really needed to do something about it, as it felt like this fear was running my life. It had already led to me having anxiety in other social interactions, and I knew I had to stop it. I didn’t know what to do. I got to a point where I felt like I had to be vulnerable and open up to somebody. So I told my family and some close friends. They were all really supportive of me. They wanted me to succeed and would stick by me even if I failed. Many of them even shared my fear of speaking up front to some degree. That meant a lot to me. It made it easier to be open about my fears. It got me thinking about why I was scared. I was scared because I thought people would judge me. But that wasn’t true. It’s easy to think that people are more judgmental than they are. But, most people try to support people who are vulnerable. I’m not saying that everybody will. But, if somebody judges you when you’re being vulnerable, that’s their fault and it’s their problem. The opinions of those people aren’t really worth much, anyways.

      Learning the fact that I had the support of my family, friends, and most people in general, was very helpful for me. It definitely helped with managing my fear to some extent. But, I was still fearful and I was missing something. I was making progress, but it was slow, hard, and often I was discouraged. Then, last summer, I started coming back to God. I’m not going to write the whole story of how that happened here because that would take a while. But in short, after years of God trying to reach me, I finally stopped resisting and let him in. Living for myself hadn’t been going that great, so I decided that I wanted to try to live for him.

      That decision has turned out to be the best choice I’ve ever made. Trying to live for God makes being vulnerable way easier than it is on our own. If we are willing to be vulnerable for God, our fears and weaknesses don’t need to be our problems. They can be strengths. If we are honest with God about our weaknesses and don’t try to just overcome them ourselves, our weaknesses just become opportunities for God to use his strength. I would rather have God’s strength over my own any day. The great thing about God is that he will use his strength for us. Second Corinthians 12:9 and 10 have some great points in them. In verse 9 Paul quotes God as saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” In verse 10 Paul says, “I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” God is for us–not against us. If we strive to follow him he will be there for us. Even if we feel like we’ve failed or he hasn’t come through for us, it’s just him leading us on the right track. I’ve had some embarrassing moments up front that have contributed to my fear. I haven’t been able to sleep on nights before times when I’ve had to present up front. They aren’t fun, and sometimes I’ve felt alone. But, I realize now that God never left and that those times were a part of God leading me back to him. If I hadn’t developed my fear and anxiety, I might never have come back to God. And coming back to God has made it all more than worth it. So even though I’ve had events that felt like failures, they really helped me get to where I needed to be. That means that they aren’t really failures because they have grown me. In fact, the times when I feel the least fearful are the times when I remind myself that because my goal is to follow God, the only times he’ll let me fail are when it’s what’s best for me. My fear isn’t completely gone today. And honestly, I think that helps my relationship with God, because I rely more on him. But, my fear is way better than it was and it keeps getting better as my relationship with God grows. God has done so many great things in my life to help me overcome my fear. And for a while now, I’ve done fine up front. Even if I’m super nervous before speaking, God comes through and calms me enough for me to get through it. And, every time I get a little bit less nervous.

      God calls us to be brave and vulnerable in how we live and how we love other people. It’s not always comfortable. We sang a song a lot at camp this summer that had a part that said that God “calls us out beyond the shore into the waves.” Shortly after that same song reminds us that “no fear can hinder now the love that made a way.” God calls us to be brave and vulnerable. The less we worry about ourselves, the braver and more vulnerable we are able to become. God will be there to protect us. He has made a way for us and has a plan for our lives. So we don’t have to worry about whatever negative consequences of being vulnerable we fear. This isn’t something that just worked for me. God loves you more than you can imagine. He wants you to be truly happy and to live your best life. If you’re willing to be vulnerable with him and vulnerable for him, he will give you courage and do incredible things in your life. Even if you lose your way or stumble, God will be right there to help you start where you left off. Trust me, if God had a limit for how many times you could mess up or reject him, he would have given up on me a long time ago. But he doesn’t. He will always be there for you and he will always be there to help you live bravely.

      Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

      By Alex Mason

    • Think: How does vulnerability play into our faith journey? How does being vulnerable relate to being brave?
    • Challenge: Be honest with people about how you’re doing today. Try to live in that space of vulnerability.
    • Write: What terrifies you? How can God use that fear in your life?
    • Read Galations 5
    • Create a piece of art that expresses how you are truly doing. Throw in your joy, sorrow, frustration, and watch it become something beautiful.

     

    Week Six

    • My sophomore year in high school, I had the amazing privilege to go on a mission trip to Rabi, Fiji.  Every year my high school, Portland Adventist Academy, set out for various mission trips during the two week long spring break. I was so excited to go to Fiji, and it was an experience that I will never forget.

      As soon as we arrived, we were welcomed with open arms as if we were a part of their family.  Although we were there to serve them by helping with a medical clinic, building bridges,rooms, and interacting with the people, they were the ones that truly impacted us the most.  It’s crazy how someone can have so little–only one outfit of clothing, only a sufficient amount of food to continue on their day, only a hut made out of sticks to sleep under for a night’s rest–but still have a smile on their face through it all.  No matter what circumstances were thrown their way, they never complained or made a fuss about anything; they just continued to smile. The people, the culture, and the atmosphere was like no other. They lived each and every day as if it were their last.

      Their actions and love for everyone made a huge impact on me. This experience made me want to strive to exemplify the joy they were sharing with us.  Whenever I feel down or as if everything is going downhill, I remind myself to stop and think about the people in Fiji. I think about how they handled situations that were far more drastic than my own problems.  Even though they have so little, their attitude showcases the total opposite.

      One of my favorite verses that reminds me of my experience in Fiji is Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  I saw light shining in the little island of Rabi, Fiji.  I strive to be that shining light to those around me. I encourage you all: be brave and be the light in someone’s day!

      By Ally Anunciado

    • Think: What kind of bravery does it take to find joy in the small things, to be content with what you have? How can you find joy in every situation?
    • Challenge: Don’t complain today. Instead, focus on all the good things around you. Try to shine into the lives of those around you.  
    • Write: List 10 ways that you want to grow in your relationship with God.
    • Read Philippians 4
    • Create a piece of art that encourages you to have the courage to be positive.

     

    Week Seven

    • As children, we all have fears that we grow out of eventually. Whether the concern was of the Boogeyman or the first time having to call and schedule an appointment, we soon learned none of these things were nearly as scary as we once made them out to be.

      One phobia I continue to struggle to let go of, however, is the fear of heights. Every time I stand next to an exposed edge, I imagine myself somehow tripping and falling to my doom below. After many years of maintaining my fear, I decided I wanted to try and conquer it, so I learned how to rock climb.

      Climbing gyms that provided top roping–a type of rock climbing that involves a rope and harness, a person who makes sure the climber doesn’t fall too far, and an anchor which secures the line to the top of the route–created a safe environment for me to work on overcoming my fear.

      I had my first taste of outdoor climbing when a group of friends decided to venture out to Smith Rock–a cascade of reddish-brown rock with towers rising out of the high desert like spires on a cathedral. At our first location, the set up was easy: we could walk to the anchor where the rope would be attached and then merely drop it down to the bottom. Once fastened, we scrambled down a few boulders and began to climb. After a few hours though we chose to switch settings.

      At the new spot though, it was not possible to walk to the anchor since the route was on a sheer face. The only way to reach it was by climbing. A person would be required to climb up the wall while clipping the rope, which is solely attached to the harness, on to hooks in the wall, spaced approximately ten feet apart, until reaching the top where they would then tie the rope to the anchor. This job, against my own instinct, is what I volunteered to do. Even though my phobia of heights had diminished with increased climbing experience, it was still very much inside of me. And so, with a few deep breaths, I grabbed onto the first hand-hold and began to inch my way up the cliff, stopping every so often to clip my rope into the hooks.

      All was going well, until about three-fourths of the way up, when the next hold was a few inches out of my immediate reach, requiring me to jump for it. I knew my rope was clipped in, albeit several feet below me, and that my friend was belaying me, but I remained frozen, plastered against the wall, unwilling to let go, not wanting the chances of falling to be increased. But I knew my friends were depending on me. The only way we would be able to climb is if someone were to set up the anchor, and I was almost there. After two or three minutes of staying smooshed up against the rock, I breathed in, looked down at my friend and mumbled ‘I trust you’’ I finally relinquished my death grip on the current holds and jumped for the next rock. In my head I soared seven feet, but in reality, it was half a foot. Either way, my outstretched hand grasped the rock, and I held on. After a brief celebration, I finished the climb and stood on a small ledge, where the rope was now fastened to the anchor, and enjoyed the view before repelling down.

      Sometimes in life obstacles come up that require us to put ourselves out there–that push us to let go of what we are comfortable with and reach for something new and challenging. When this happens, we have the choice to hunker down and refuse to let go of what we know, or we can live bravely, trusting that God will help us along whatever path He is directing us, waiting to catch us if we fall. We just have to take the risk by jumping for it.

      By Madison Boskind

    • Think: How many mental games do we play with ourselves? How much courage does it take to overcome those mental blocks?
    • Challenge: Do something today that scares you. Pray that God will give you the courage to do it anyways. It doesn’t have to be big, but take that leap of faith.  
    • Write: What is a time that you were terrified? Did you trust God in that situation? How does trusting God change those kinds of situations?
    • Read 2 Kings 4
    • Create a piece of art that portrays you overcoming your biggest fear.

     

    Week Eight

    •  While looking over my past experiences here at Big Lake, I remembered my first time wake surfing. Most of the time I’m the kind of person who observes, takes notes, and then tries it myself. So after a few people took turns at the wake, I stepped up. Grabbing the board and the rope, I flung myself into the chilly water. Preparing my footing, and checking through my mental steps, I was finally ready. “Hit it,” I said. Off the boat took me, my feet pushing against the board and the water, my arms straining against the rope. I was up. I began to reposition my feet and obtain better balance. Relying on the rope, I carved into the wake, almost to the “sweet spot”. Then, splat! I was down. The unexpected wipe out left me gasping for breath. I composed myself, looked around for the board, waited for the boat to come around and rescue me, and tried again.

      Life can be like this experience. You can watch others and take notes to feel more in control before you take a leap into the unknown. You can take a leap into the unknown. But, like relying on the rope too much, when you block out the knowledge that God is always leading you, always has a plan for you, you will wipe out. Relying on too much of your own knowledge, will pull you under water, in over your head and too tired to try again. If you stick with God, He will provide a path and carry you through life even if you fall over and over again. Breathe, relax, trust, be BRAVE and know God guides you.

      “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

      By Kate Martin

    • Think: What is the difference between big acts of bravery and small acts of bravery in the everyday?  
    • Challenge: Do something brave today. Do something that you wouldn’t normally do. 
    • Journal: What is a time that you gave up control to God? How did everything work out? If you haven’t yet, what’s holding you back?
    • Read Mark 6
    • Create a water-color painting to represent one of the ways that God helps you live bravely. 

     

    Week Nine

    • When I was younger, I always felt like I was different. I didn’t really fit in with the other kids. So, I did everything I could to make myself belong. I would say whatever the other kids said and do whatever the other kids did. If they liked something, I liked it too. If they were rude to another kid, I was rude too. It got to a point where I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I was no longer my unique self.

      Throughout high school, I was quiet most of the time. I only showed little glimpses of my true self to my closest friends. After my senior year of high school, I worked at Big Lake for the first time. When I first arrived I was a bit nervous and didn’t know what to think. After a few days, I started making friends and opening up more. In the past I had waited for other people to come up to me and start a conversation but this time I decided that I would go up to other people and start a conversation. It was scary at first but I got the hang of it. I learned that I could cure my loneliness by seeking out others who were lonely and talking with them. Talking with someone helps them to feel like they belong and they are part of a family.

       

      As I would talk with people, I felt like I belonged as well. The best way to feel like you belong is to make others feel like they belong. A short conversation or a small act of kindness can go a long way. If you are feeling lonely or out of place, find someone else in the same situation and together you can feel a sense of belonging. It can take a lot of bravery, but it is worth it. At Big Lake, I am part of a big family where everyone cares for each other. You can create that in your environment. Start by talking to one person that looks like they need a friend. Show others that they are a part of God’s family. You may be surprised at the results. So this is my challenge: be brave and reach out to others.

      “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:16

      By Abby Rodgers

    • Think: What is God’s family to you?
    • Challenge: Talk to someone you don’t know well. Try to help them feel as though they belong with you and God’s family.
    • Write: What makes you feel as though you belong? How can you apply that to those around you?
    • Read Romans 8
    • Create something that encourages you to look outside of yourself.

     

    Week Ten

    • Paul, a follower of Jesus and the author of many New Testament Bible books, was trying really hard to spread the good news about Jesus. He was trying to convince people–the people of Corinth–that Jesus was their savior and the Messiah they had been looking for. The Jewish people in the town didn’t like this–they disagreed with him and insulted him. So Paul reached out to the other people in the town, those who were not Jewish. When Paul was doing this, the Lord spoke to Paul, encouraging him. He said, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” (Act 18:9, 10) Many of the people Paul was preaching to did learn to believe in Jesus and were baptized. Paul stayed in Corinth for the next year preaching and leading people to Jesus. This story is found in Acts 18:1-11.

      In this story, Paul faces a difficult situation. The Jewish people, those who most resemble the people and culture that Paul grew up in, are arguing with him and not listening. They don’t want to hear what he has to say about Jesus, the Messiah. So if people you should be able to relate the best to don’t want to hear what you have to say, won’t it be even harder to tell people that you don’t relate as well with? But Paul jumps right into a different crowd of people and shares his story and God’s story. He lives bravely by knowing that God is with him and that God will help him share the good news that he has.

      So many times throughout the Bible God tells us, “Don’t be afraid,” or “Take courage.” These statements are His promises to us to be with us when times are hard, when we have to do things that aren’t comfortable but are right, or when we are just scared of what will happen next. Here are a couple of my favorite promises to Live Bravely.

      Psalm 27:14

      “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”

      Psalm 56:3-4

      “But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?”

      Verses about Not Being Afraid:

      Genesis 15:1

      Genesis 21:17

      Genesis 26:24

      Numbers 21:34

      Deuteronomy 3:2

      Deuteronomy 3:22

      Joshua 1:9

      Joshua 8:1

      Joshua 10:8

      Joshua 11:6

      Judges 6:23

      2 Chronicles 20:15

      Isaiah 41:10

      Isaiah 41:13, 14

      Isaiah 43:1, 5

      Isaiah 44:2, 8

      Isaiah 51:7, 12

      Jeremiah 1:8, 17

      Jeremiah 10:2, 5

      Jeremiah 30:10

      Jeremiah 46:27, 28

      Ezekiel 2:6

      Ezekiel 3:9

      Haggai 2:5

      Zechariah 8:13, 15

      Matthew 10:26, 28, 31

      Matthew 17:7

      Matthew 28:10

      Mark 5:36

      Luke 5:10

      Luke 8:50

      Luke 12:4, 7, 32

      John 6:20

      John 14:27

      Acts 18:9

      Revelation 1:17

      Verses speaking to courage:

      Deuteronomy 31:6, 7, 23

      Joshua 1:6, 7, 9, 18

      Samuel 10:12

      1 Chronicles 19:13

      1 Chronicles 22:13

      1 Chronicles 28:20

      2 Chronicles 15:7, 8

      2 Chronicles 32:7

      Job 11:18

      Psalm 27:14

      Psalm 31:24

      Isaiah 57:15

      Matthew 14:27

      Mark 6:50

      Acts 27:22-25

      1 Corinthians 16:13

      1 Thessalonians 2:2

      Hebrews 3:6

      James 5:8

      1 John 2:28

      By Bethany Bradshaw

    • Think: What is it that makes us afraid? Why is it so hard to be brave?
    • Challenge: Take 3 of the verses from the devotional and post them around your school/house/job.
    • Write: What are you afraid of? How can God’s promises help you to be brave and face your fears?
    • Read Acts 18
    • Create a piece of art that shows your biggest fear, but also encourages you to be brave.
  • WORTHY

    Week One 

    • As young people in today’s world, we are told that we are not enough, that we are not worthy, and that we are not deserving. We decide to believe these things because we grow up hearing these things. We listen to them and accept these defeats because we believe what other people say about us. But, none of these things are true. How God sees us is really all that matters. He loves us and thinks we are more than worthy. He loves us so much that He sent His own son down to rescue us from our sins and to save us so that one day, we can walk with Him in our forever home. God is so great and is always working in our lives and through us every day. He finds worth and love in who we would consider worthless or unlovable. He is our Father and loves all of us no matter what. No matter what you do or don’t do in your life, or how unlovable you feel, or lonely or worthless, God is always there.

      In my life, when I have felt worthless or unlovable, I know it is because I’m seeking something–and that something is always bigger than any human or earthly being, because it is God. So, if you are ever feeling unworthy or unloved, ask yourself: are you seeking something that is not God and the love of Jesus? In anything that isn’t God, we will always be left feeling empty. I pray that throughout this devotional series, you will learn new things about yourself and find a new sense of self-worth as well as self-love. Remember that no matter what, you are worthy in the eyes of God.

      “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:18-19

       

      By Macy Kaufman

    • Think: How does what we put our time in affect the way we see ourselves? What should we invest our time in?
    • Challenge: Take a fast from social media. Spend your time with God instead.
    • Write: What can you do to remind yourself that you are worthy of love?
    • Read Ephesians 3
    • Create something that helps you dwell on things that matter.  

     

    Week Two 

    • Do you ever feel like you are insignificant, mediocre, or not good enough? If your answer is yes, then I’ve got news for you: it is officially confirmed that you are a human being. Every person in the history of forever has felt this way at some point–especially the ones who God calls to be his leaders.

      In Exodus 3, God reveals himself to Moses in the form of a burning bush. God tells Moses that he plans to use him to bring God’s people out of slavery to a land where they will flourish. Sounds like quite the good time, right? Well Moses didn’t think so.

      God comes through a burning bush and tells Moses that he will be used to do a miraculous work, and Moses’ first reaction is not one of excitement or thanksgiving. Like most of us would do, the first things Moses thinks about are his own weaknesses and reasons to say no.
      First he questions his own identity and self-worth by asking God: “Who am I to bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

      Then he questions God’s identity.He asks: “Who will I say you are when the Egyptians ask who sent me?”
      And how many of us can say we haven’t answered God’s call in this way? Moses’ reaction is one that I have had time and time again over the course of my life and one that I’m sure you all will face eventually, if you haven’t already. An opportunity presents itself and it has the potential to be incredible and it’s a one of a kind chance to be used for something bigger, but we push back and tell God: “God, do you know who I am? I’m nothing special. I’m just a school kid. I’m selfish. I’m broken. I cannot be a vessel spreading love when I have not even figured out how to love myself.”
      But the interesting thing about how God responds next is that he answers both of Moses’ questions with one phrase. Moses asks: “God, who am I? And who are you?” And God answers him by saying, “I AM who I AM.”

      I AM who I AM.

      You see, when God calls us to be his vessels, it doesn’t matter who we are or who we were or where we think we’re going. It doesn’t matter if we feel ready or equipped. Really, it doesn’t have anything to do with us at all. The truth of the matter is this: I am who I am because of who HE is. And you are who you are because of who HE is.
      God already knows our weaknesses. He already knows where we’ve been, yet he still chooses us. He sees you and your shortcomings and he sees magnificent possibilities. He sees a masterpiece waiting to happen.

      However, we have to be willing to let him silence the doubts in our own heads by living in this truth: He is who he is. He is our constant strength and Heavenly Father. We don’t have to be searching for where to go or who to be; all we have to do is hear his call and say yes.
      It’s easy to do as Moses did and say “God, they won’t accept what I have to say; God, I am not worthy, it would be great if you’d just call someone else.”
      But God doesn’t lend ears to our excuses. He will respond to us in the same way that he responded to Moses: “Remember who made the lame walk and the mute talk? That was me. Remember who breathed air in your lungs? Also me. Remember who can make you whole with the snap of a finger? Me. The Lord of the moon and stars, the oceans and mountains.”

       

      You are who you are because of who HE is.

       

      So today I challenge you–no matter where you are at in life–to say yes to wherever God calls you and to trust that he will take your weaknesses and turn them into something beautiful.

       

      By Becky Orozco

    • Think: What is identity? Where do you look for identity?
    • Challenge: Take 10 minutes today and pray. Ask God to show you how he sees you. Don’t forget to listen, as well as talk.
    • Write: How did God open your eyes yesterday? What is the way God wants you to look at yourself?
    • Read Exodus 3
    • Create a piece of art that conveys how God sees you.  

     

     

    Week Three

    • Some of us draw our worth from performance. What we do makes us feel worthy or unworthy. Others draw worth from possessions. What I have makes me feel worthy and what I don’t have makes me feel unworthy. Some draw worth from pleasure. I feel worthy only when I do what brings me pleasure. And still, others find worth in popularity. We feel worthy when we have a lot of Instagram followers and unworthy when don’t get invited to hangouts.

      However, as a child of God, the Creator of the Universe, who loved us more than His own existence, who came to be human and died in our place, our worth is found in Him. What we do does not determine our worth. What we have does not determine our worth. What we feel does not determine our worth. What others think of us does not determine our worth. Since we are in Christ now, what is true of Christ, is now true of us (Ephesians 1:3-14). We take on Jesus’ identity as our own identity. When God looks at you, He sees Jesus. You are the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8). What we do can never make God love us any more or any less.

      We grow in our worth and understanding of our true identity in Jesus by abiding in Jesus. Picture a tree in your imagination. You are the branches and you bear fruit. Jesus is the vine running from the roots, to the branches, to the fruit. God our Father is the gardener, taking care of the tree–taking care of you. Jesus tells us, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1,4,5). “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (John 15:9).

      A tree grows its roots into the ground. It does not question its identity or purpose, even in the winter when its leaves fall off. How strange would it be if we came up to the tree and said, “Please grow; don’t be insecure. It’s okay. I can help you.” The tree would answer, “What are you doing? I am growing my roots; I am resting for the winter.” In the same way let us be rooted in Christ, rooted in His love for us, in God’s delight of us. All that we can do is remain. We can’t earn it, work for it, or achieve it. God’s love and delight are already there; we just have to accept it. Then, we bear fruit. The fruits that we bear are fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23). The Spirit is the one who lives in us and works in us (Galatians 5:25).

      So how do we actually abide in Jesus and grow our roots in Him?

      First, schedule a time and place to be still. Then, create a space free of distractions (phone, people, etc.). Invite the Spirit to speak to you during this time. Read each identity statement below, imagining that it is now your identity. If you don’t believe the statement, then go to the passage and read the verse. Ask the Spirit: what is keeping me from believing the truth? Is it a lie about myself or God? Who would I be if I let go of the lie? What would it look like to believe the identity? Close with thanking God for the transformation he is doing in your life. You can always come back to this to remind yourself of your true identity and worth in Christ.

       

      I am the salt and light of the earth. (Matthew 5:13-14)

      I’ve been given a spirit of power, love, and a self-control–not fear. (2 Timothy 1:7)

      I can find grace and mercy in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

      I am hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)

      I am complete in Christ. (Colossians 2:10)

      I am a masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)

      I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. (Colossians 1:14)

      I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

      I am a citizen of heaven. (Philippians 3:20)

      I know that God will complete the good work he started in me. (Philippians 1:6)

      I may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12)

      I am God’s workmanship. (Ephesians 2:10)

      I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18)

      I am a child of God. (1 John 3:1)

      I am a saint. (Ephesians 1:1)

      I am loved. (Jeremiah 31:3)

      I am a minister of reconciliation for God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)

      I am a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

      I have been established, anointed, and sealed by God. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)

      I am a member of Christ’s body. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

      I have been bought at a price. I belong to God. (1 Corinthians 6:20)

      I am free. (Galatians 5:1)

      I am God’s temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16)

      I am God’s coworker. (1 Corinthians 3:9)

      I cannot be separated from the love of God. (Romans 8:35-39)

      I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit. (John 15:16)

      I am righteous. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

      I am Christ’s friend. (John 15:15)

       

      By Vineta Gleba

    • Think: Of the identity statements yesterday, which one resonates with you most? How could that change how you see yourself?
    • Challenge: Read the identity statements to 2 people today.  
    • Write: What is the lie you tell yourself most about your identity? How can you stop telling these lies to yourself? How can God help you?
    • Read John 15
    • Create a piece of art focused on the identity statement you most need to remind yourself of.

     

    Week Four 

    • When I was a young child, I was dramatic and adventurous. I loved running through the woods, making up games and my own private worlds. It was a blast. Often during these active days I would come back into the house thirsty. My mom would give me a cup of water. I would chug it down and run back off into my made up scenarios.

      I remember one day, I came into the house, thirsty as usual. This time however, I didn’t want to get thirsty again. I wanted the water to sustain me indefinitely. So I devised a plan. I climbed up on the counter and wrangled down the sugar container. Grabbing a spoon, I dropped three big helpings of sugar into the water. I mixed it up as best I could, and sat down to have my satisfying drink. As you can imagine, it wasn’t satisfying. Perhaps one spoonful of sugar dissolved, however the other two sunk to the bottom in a slimy heap. My attempt to make lasting water didn’t go so well. I drank a little of my sugar water and decided I would rather be thirsty all the time than drink that.

      In the Bible, John tells the story of a Samaritan woman who was also desperate to have lasting water. She didn’t want to have to continue to go get water every day. The well was far from her house, and the women in the town were mean, rude, shaming. She knew they had valid reasons to dislike her, to spread rumors about her, and to shun her. She didn’t live a good life. She was known for her disgraceful lifestyle. But she didn’t know any better. So, she just kept trying to find a way to quench the thirst within her. She avoided the women of the town, avoided the well in the morning when the other women would go.

      Then one day, during the middle of the day, the woman went up to draw water. Upon her arrival, she saw a man sitting at the well. She knew at once he was a Jew. This was quite the awkward situation, for men and women didn’t mix in that time. Jews and Samaritans clashed even more. She stood on the in the shadows, deciding whether or not to go to the well, perhaps waiting for him to leave. But he didn’t leave. He sat there. He looked exhausted. She resolved to get the water despite his presence.

      With her head down, eyes trained on the ground, the woman walked over to the well. The man sitting there looked at her with the strangest look in his eyes. It was a mix of tiredness, and love, and compassion. It was something the woman had never seen before. She quickly averted her eyes, refocusing on the task at hand. Then the most surprising thing happened. The man spoke to her.

      “Will you give me a drink?” the man asked. The woman was taken aback. He was talking to her? Asking her for a drink?

      “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.” A wave of nervous laughter washed over her. “How can you ask me for a drink?”

      The man just smiled and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asked you for a drink, you would have asked him and would have given you living water.” The woman thought back to all her failed attempts to quench her thirst, all the sugar waters she had concocted. Yet she knew it couldn’t be true.

      “But sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep.” She could not believe that he could fix her mess of a life. Frustrated with this man, with this situation, and with her life, the woman asked bitterly, “Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his flocks and herds?” She could feel herself breaking; she could feel the wrongness of this situation. She should not be frustrated with a Jewish man—or at least she shouldn’t show that frustration. And all of this just made her more frustrated. The man cocked his head to one side, smiling that smile again.

      “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” This man was puzzling: a man, a Jew, and a vague talker—not to mention he was talking with a woman.  The woman wasn’t completely sold on this idea of everlasting water, but she wanted it so badly. She figured asking wouldn’t hurt.

      Trying to keep the desperation from her voice, she replied, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” The woman had dreamed of not needing to fetch water from the well. She would no longer have to hear the women making crude remarks, see their pointing fingers, or deal with the shame of going to the well.

      The man stared straight through her. “Go, call your husband and come back,” he said discerningly.

      A wave of shame washed over the woman. How could she tell this man who has offered her the most beautiful freedom the truth? He would undoubtedly take back his offer; he would certainly shame and shun her. The woman paused, thinking. But what did she have to lose? Why would she care what this man thought of her?

      She gathered her courage. “Sir,” she responded. “I have no husband.” Her moment of confidence fled. She focused on the ground near the man’s feet. She braced herself for the comments, the shame. But they didn’t come. The man was still looking at her, his eyes full of kindness.

      “You are right when you say you have no husband.” The man leaned into the conversation. “The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is quite true.” The woman was taken aback. How could he know such things? She searched his eyes for the teasing laughter, the condemnation.

      Even though the man knew the woman’s deepest shame, there was not a hint of hatred, shunning. She tried to change the subject. She tried to revert to her old ways, grasping onto her sugar water. But the man saw through that. He told her that her old life didn’t have to define her anymore; she could be close with God. He told her that she was worthy of love. This was the opposite of everything she had ever been told. The man spoke truth into her life in that moment.

      Once the woman had grasped this idea, she couldn’t contain it. She ran back to town, told every person she laid her eyes on. She even shared with the people who had shamed and shunned her. A crowd gathered around the man, hearing his stories, experiencing his love. He showed each of them that they had worth.

      The man in this story goes by the name of Jesus. Just as he interacted with the woman, he wants to interact with each of us. It doesn’t matter if we have done shameful things, what others think of us, or what we think of ourselves. Jesus looks at us and loves us. He says, “You are worthy.” To him, you are worth everything. He has a water that will quench the thirst deep inside of your soul, and he is longing to give you that water. He want you to know this more than anything else: He loves you; you are worthy.

      By Kiana Brusett

    • Think: What kinds of people do you see as not worthy? How can you change that in your mind? Do you think you should?
    • Challenge: Tell an outcast of your community that they are loved. Show them that they are worthy of that love. 
    • Write: What was a time that you felt excluded, alone, and/or ashamed? Did anyone reach out to you? What did that mean to you? How did it change the way you viewed yourself?
    • Read John 4
    • Do an abstract painting that reminds you that you are worthy.

     

    Week Five

    • After I got baptized in August of 2017 I decided to start a mid-week bible study for the young adults at my church. I didn’t know many people and I didn’t know too much about the bible; all I knew was that I wanted to know God more and I wanted others around me to seek answers in the bible, as well. I hadn’t been Christian for a year yet , but I started inviting people to my bible study–and people started coming. Some nights quite a few people would come. Sometimes I felt so inadequate as a leader. As I tried to prepare I wouldn’t know what to talk about. I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to teach anything important to anyone or even be able to facilitate a productive conversation. Self-talk filled my mind about how the things I was trying to do were so small and insignificant. My mind told me how I also was so small and insignificant.  Why would these people who barely knew me care about what I had to say? But by God’s grace I would remember to pray before the night started and God would show up and teach in spite of me. Sometimes he guided my words to teach; sometimes he just prompted us to read straight from the Bible; sometimes he used the discussions of others around me to inspire thought. The group became more than a study group. It became a place to lay down pretenses and embrace vulnerability. Some nights we literally held hands on top of a hill overlooking our city yelling out prayers. Tears and hugs were shared and tough questions about faith were discussed. God called me to host this Bible study. Even when I felt like I was unworthy God said I was worthy, because he loved me and would be there with me. He used those Tuesday nights and my living room as a ministry to serve a lot of people.

      God doesn’t just call the qualified he qualifies the called. We are loved by God and he sees us as worthy. As we step out in faith on the water of his calling we get to experience being in the palm of Jesus’s hand. When we say yes to God’s calls that seem too big for us, the light that will shine from us will only give God glory for all to see.

      “But Moses pleaded with the Lord, ‘O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.’

      Then the Lord asked Moses, ‘Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.’” Exodus 4:10-12

      By Lindsey Stennett

    • Think: How does God use those who consider themselves unworthy?
    • Challenge: Do something you feel underqualified to do. Lean on God and ask for his leading in this.
    • Write: What is a time that God brought a community together in your life, despite qualifications?
    • Read Exodus 4
    • Create a piece of art that shows you that God qualifies the called; he doesn’t call the qualified.

     

    Week Six

    • Who is worthy? Who is ‘enough’ to be considered worthy?

      I’ve been privileged to work closely with horses, and there are many lessons that we can learn from them.

      There was this one situation that involved a horse with a very particular character. One week he’d be content for me to just hop on his back and ride, but then the next week he’d perform with a substantial attitude. It was the same horse–different attitude.

      Just because this horse was acting out or being difficult did not mean I’d stop loving it. Instead, I saw what this horse could achieve with more riding and teaching. So it is with us: God sees potential and worth in us. He loves us unconditionally. The world will keep trying to point you in the wrong direction– showing and teaching you things that are empty and worthless. The world will see you mess up and choose to stop seeing the good in you. God will never do such a thing; God never gives up on us. By me not giving up on helping that horse he had a chance of meeting his fullest potential. Because of my love for him he was worthy in my eyes.

      Many times we can feel defeated, pressured, or helpless–for we are all sinners and are unworthy on our own. But if we lay our burdens down at the feet of Jesus, all those insecurities and doubts can be replaced with an ever fulfilling worth in Jesus.

      Colossians 1:10 reminds us to “walk worthy of the lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every food work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” At times, it can be difficult to believe we are worthy of love–especially from God. But just like I gave love to the horse no matter what, God always looks at us and sees us as worthy. With God all of us are worthy sons and daughters of the King.

      “For we know, brothers and sisters who are loved by God, that he has chosen you.” 1 Thessalonians 1:4

      By Kelly Paul

    • Think: How is it that God counts us as worthy even when we mess up again and again?
    • Challenge: Today, try to see everyone the way that God sees them–as worthy of love.
    • Write: Who is someone you would do anything for? How would your life change if you started to treat everyone in your life in a similar fashion?
    • Read 1 Thessalonians 1
    • Create a piece of art of how resilient God’s view of you is. Let it show you that no matter what you do, God will see you as his child.  

     

    Week Seven

    • At Big Lake, there are a lot of super great things to do and experience. One of my favorite things to do is to clean the kitchen grills. I love the sound of charcoal scraping at the gross fried food, the smell of the oil sizzling, and the feeling of getting rid of all the grime that was once acquired on it. A lot of my friends ask me, “Why do you enjoy cleaning the grill all the time?” “It’s boring and it takes forever to clean, plus you get dirty.” I tell them, “I like it because of the feeling after I clean it all, and the way it openly shines.” Once the grill is all clean and shines, people always come over to gaze at the grill that was once all dark and nasty but now looks brand new and sparkly.

      This simple analogy illustrates how we have sin that is dark and full of nasty things. The amazing part of it all is that God loves to get into our hearts and to clear our sins and to make us new and whole again. We may not feel worthy of God’s infinite love for us, but by getting to know Him as a friend and experiencing his faithfulness and grace toward us, we can know that we belong with Him and find peace. Whenever you feel down or stuck in a rut, know that God is just knocking at your heart and all you have to do is say, “Yes.”

      “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”  – Revelation 3:20

      By Kate Rudd

    • Think: What does God do to make us sparkly and clean again?
    • Challenge: Find a way to watch Skit Guys’ “The Chisel” skit. How can this apply to ‘worthy’?
    • Write: What is an odd job you really enjoy because the result is satisfying? How can that apply to your spiritual life?
    • Read Esther 5
    • Create a piece of art using something untraditional. How does God use the mess of us to make beautiful things like this?

     

    Week Eight 

    • It was Friday night at Big Lake and the Girl’s Village Director told us to grab flashlights and go to the Sail Dock. Super excited about this surprise adventure, I hurried down to the dock with my flashlight to find that we were going to go night sailing. I love sailing, and sailing at night was one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had. It happened to be the night of the meteor shower, which meant I got to see some of the most beautiful shooting stars and meteors I have ever witnessed in my life. It was a clear night, there were stars all around me–in the sky and reflected in the water. It was like being in a bubble. All I could think about was how small I am and how big God is.

      As I was laying out on the sailboat, I realized that the God who made each and every one of those stars was with me. I am completely loved by him and that is what adds value to my life. My worth and value come from God. It wasn’t until I was out on that sailboat, surrounded by stars, that I realized that I’d spent my whole life trying to find my value in my grades, my position on the basketball team, my friend group, etc. That night I realized I am worthy because I am a child of God and I am more valuable to him than the stars that surrounded me.

      “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4

      By Natalia Perry

    • Think: How does God show you your worth through the nature he created?
    • Challenge: Find an object in nature and find some way that you find yourself loved through it.
    • Write: What is a time you felt incredibly small relative to God? How does that affect you faith journey and identity?
    • Read Psalm 18
    • Create a piece of art that portrays a place in nature that reminds you of how loved you are.
  • WONDER

    Week One

    • I was following my brother on a grand tour of beautiful places in the North. We had seen the Badlands and Mount Rushmore, the Missouri River through the Great Plains and now we were driving directly into the Rocky Mountains. Philip was driving the lead car, and I was just behind him, mile after mile. He told us that we were going to a place called Devil’s Tower National Monument. I didn’t look it up. I trusted his taste in destinations–and so should you. I know your phone is already in your hand and an image search is always a tap away, but I implore you. I beg you. I cry: do not look up Devil’s Tower. I didn’t.

      Philip told me that we were only forty miles away when we turned off the main highway. On our way, we slid through valley after valley, the low trees dotting away across the grass until they disappeared, rolling over the next hilltop. I was starting to get antsy. I wanted to arrive before sunset, and it was growing late. The road started to climb, and just as the car came up over a ridge, I spotted the tower.

      It is unlike anything I have ever seen before or since.

      I did not grow up in a land with volcanoes. You may have been lucky enough to do so. I have never known what strange shapes lava can create. You might have personal knowledge of these things. I had never seen Devil’s Tower. I hope the same is true for you. I hope, because I have never felt such pure, untethered wonder as when I rounded the top of the hill and saw this monolith launching its way up into the gloaming sunset. It is inconsistent with the low, sloping hills around it, unbelievable in a way that aligns directly with that word. I could not believe it. I had to stop the car.

      Devil’s Tower is an old up-thrust of lava that cooled and hardened. The surrounding ground fell away, destroyed by time and weather, but the tower remains. That’s the geologist’s explanation. The American Indians tell stories of enormous bears and raking claws, and their ideas are just as plausible when you’re standing underneath the rock. Philip led me in and I kept the car on the road, but just barely. I was too absorbed. Maybe it was unsafe for me to drive. I didn’t care.

      There is a path that circles the base of the monument. It’s technically a short walk, probably only a fraction of a mile. It took me two hours. I was trapped at the southern side, watching the sunset slant its way across the uneven pillared side of the tower. I had a camera with me and I filled it, just taking picture after picture as the sunlight grew ever redder and the tower grew ever more wondrous. By the time I was done staring at the nearly straight-up-and down lava leavings, Philip was bored long since, and I think I know why.

      He had to search for the place on his map. He had to see pictures of it in order to get to it. He accidentally primed himself, destroyed the first impression of the real thing. While I was standing and gaping, he told me “Yeah, it’s cool,” but he didn’t have a transcendent experience. I did. Where he was impressed, I was awestruck–as though physically smashed by the sight of this tower.

      It is my challenge to you to find moments of transcendence in your everyday, to grasp moments of wonder. God has made a world of tremendous wonder that is constantly available if you know where to look. A single anthill can be a colony of millions of individuals. Big clouds weigh more than a freight train. Water will run uphill if given a small capillary tube to funnel through, and that’s how sequoias can get water so high up in the air. And sometimes, when lava pushes up through a weaker surrounding rock, it can leave a tower shaped so strangely it has to be seen to be believed. So, please don’t look it up, or at least, don’t look everything up. Sometimes, just let yourself be smashed by the wonder of what God has made.

      “Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy.” Psalm 65:8

      By Robby Van Arsdale

    • Think: Why are some things unexplainably awesome? Why can pictures not bring justice to certain things?
    • Challenge: Find something today that captivates you. Just spend some time dwelling on that thing.
    • Write: How can you share the wonder of God with those around you?
    • Read Psalm 65
    • Create a piece of art that captures the feeling of wonder.

     

    Week Two

    • When was the last time you experienced wonder? Deep, spine-tingling, earth-shaking wonder. The kind of wonder that causes you to stop and check to see if you are actually awake. Then, in the next instant, you realize that you have never felt more awake in your life. Yeah, that kind of wonder.

      I was guiding an expedition in the Himalayas when I experienced one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I heard a rumbling. The guest house that I was staying in started shaking. It seemed as though a freight train was passing by the outside of the building. I jumped out of bed, grabbed my warm clothes and ran out into the brisk morning air. Across the valley was the largest avalanche I had ever seen in my life. It was a mile wide and tumbling over a mile straight down the side of Annapurna. Sunbeams reached their flaming fingers through the clouds and exploded the mountains into a kaleidoscope of color. Just as this avalanche roar died down, another woke up, seeming to leap off the mountain before tumbling into the glacial valley below. Each avalanche filled the valley with clouds of snow and echoes of sheer power. The show continued for hours as I sat, transfixed.

      I love the way David describes it in Psalms 8: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have ordained; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?”

      Have you ever wondered about your own significance? Do I matter? Am I valuable?

      David now responds that God had made us just a little lower than the angels and crowns us with glory and honor. Imagine that! God honors you. God even wants to give you glory.

      I want every person to experience not only the wonder of God’s power, but also the wonder that comes when you recognize that you are part of God’s family and the Divine that honors you.

      By Les Zollbrecht

    • Think: What kind of thought do you think God put into creating such beautiful places such as mountains and oceans?
    • Challenge: Spend some time outside. Allow yourself to be captivated by the beauty. 
    • Write: What is a time you were captivated by the environment you were submerged in?
    • Read Psalm 8.
    • Recreate the most beautiful place you’ve ever been with pencil. 

     

    Week Three

    • God can seem like a concept–something far away and impossible to understand. Aren’t we supposed to have a relationship with God, just like we would with a person? So maybe we call God a father; we picture a big man with a long beard who sits high above. We talk to the sky and hope. He’s a distant figure, and we’re straining to relate.

      But one person saw him face-to-face. Moses led the Hebrew people out of Egypt, where they had been enslaved. He worked miracles by God’s will: turning the Nile to blood, releasing hordes of frogs and flies, blocking out the sun in the day, putting boils on the skin of the Egyptians. He spoke God’s words. And after he walked God’s people on God’s path to God’s mountain, he walked up to the top to speak to the Big Voice in the Sky.

      There, Moses held out his hands and received two stones that God touched with a fingertip. I can’t imagine. He ran his finger over small marks made by the creator of the universe in solid rock. And when he asked to see God, the most powerful force in existence showed himself to Moses. God folded Moses into a rock, covered him up with a hand, and let all his goodness pass beyond. I try to imagine what that must have felt like. I don’t suppose God is a physical force, blasting like a wind, ripping like a wave, crushing like a rock fall. I think maybe the force of God falls fully on your spiritual self, on your mind, and it must be too much to bear. Even through the rock, through the hand of God, looking only on God’s back, Moses came away changed so much that people feared to look at him. He must have been a little more than human after being blasted by God’s presence. But that’s not what impresses me most about Moses. Sure, he was the only human to stand in the presence of the ultimate bigness, but I like him because he was like me.

      The Bible is so kind to Moses. It says he chose to leave Egypt to live in the desert with God, rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Sure. But the truth is that he was running for his life after he committed a crime. Moses may have spoken the direct words of God, but he complained so loudly and so pitifully that God yelled at him. “I can’t talk to Pharaoh because I stutter!” So God yelled to remind Moses that God gave him that voice, and God can use it how he needs to. I love that he was the messenger for God in Egypt, and God performed miracles through Moses like splitting the sea. But when God first asked Moses to perform a miracle, that frightened child threw his walking stick down like God said to and then screamed when it turned to a snake. God wanted him to pick it up, but he couldn’t, or wouldn’t–which is the same thing, actually. Moses may have touched the marks that God made with a finger, but our hero, big loud galoot full of human anger and self-importance, our hero Moses threw those beautiful marks and smashed them against the ground because he was angry. I can’t imagine.

      God has held this broken fool’s hand every step of the way, pushed him when he dragged his feet, lifted him when he fell down, gave him power and a voice and constant reassurances, and this angry little child broke the most important rocks in the history of rocks. And honestly? What blows my mind is the connection I didn’t make yet. My socks have been blown clean across the room by the fact that God loved Moses so much that all that stuff with the one-and-only face-to-face interaction? That stuff with the infinite grace and forgiveness? That stuff with the total love of God? It happened after the running from the law, after the complaining of stutters, after the screaming at snakes, after the breaking of stones, after countless other mistakes and idiocies, after he was the worst, again and again. That’s how God works. And as amazed as I am by the thought of Moses seeing the person of God and what that must look like and feel like, I am more amazed at how unending is the forgiveness of God.

      By Robby Von Arsdale

    • Think: What kind of God do we have that if we spend time face-to-face with him, we glow? How crazy is that?
    • Challenge: Go for a walk with no electronics. Focus on the beauty around you.
    • Write: How would you define your relationship with God? What do you want it to be like?
    • Read Exodus 34
    • Create a piece of art that portrays what you think Moses might have looked like after being face-to-face with God.

     

    Week Four

    • I had been hired at Big Lake, and I was so excited to get to camp so that I could see the stars. I had lived in the city most of my life, and I hadn’t had the opportunity to fully appreciate a starry night. I couldn’t wait to just sit out under the sky and watch God’s wonder unfold.

      I arrived at camp and was met with many challenges. Nonetheless, I was so grateful to have the job. I had never had the opportunity to come to camp as a camper, but I did have the opportunity to be blessed as a staff member.

      I remember one night in particular: It was my day off and I finally seized my moment to go and see the stars. I got in my friend’s truck and drove out to a campsite off of the Big Lake road. I sat in the truck bed and just watched. The stars were so beautiful. The Milky Way was bright, and the stars seemed as though I could reach out and touch them. In that moment, I was so grateful. I was so thankful to God for the opportunities I had been given.

      God shows us his wonder all the time. He shows up in night skies, in relationships, and in opportunities. Even in the city, far away from where you can see the stars well, you can see the wonder of God. Just relational connections are crazy beyond everything. Look around at the world we live in. It is crazy! Ask yourself: how can I see God’s wonder around me today? Trust me, if you look, you will see incredible wonders as you follow Jesus.

      “Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever. To him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:3-4

      By David Echevarria

    • Think: What is the place you have felt wonder for God the most?
    • Challenge: Today, keep your eyes open for things that leave you awestruck. When you see something wonderful, say it out loud; let other people know.
    • Write: How do you see the wonder of God in the way he orchestrates lives and plans?
    • Read Psalm 136
    • Create a piece of art that shows how God orchestrates everything.

     

    Week Five

    • God loves each and every one of us, and we can show God’s love to others through service. What does that mean, though? Well, the Bible calls us to love others as we love ourselves: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12). Sometimes–well most times–just saying kind and encouraging words to someone who needs it is service–like feeding the homeless.

      Way back in my eighth-grade year at Skagit Adventist Academy, one of my friends was having a rough time. She was doubting whether she was truly accepted by her friends and family, so she took this pain out on herself. One day, she sent me a text with a picture of her scars. Not knowing what to do, I flipped and freaked out. This was the first time I had to deal with something so real. But I took a few breaths, waited until the next day, and then took the issue to my health teacher. It was the most awkward thing to do because I had no idea what to even say. I told him, and he talked to my friend about what it really means to love yourself. She absolutely hated that I was telling teachers about her problems, but later on in life, she understood how important it is to pay attention and help those in need.

      You can show God’s love by paying attention to those who need it. It can be something as small as smiling and showing others that they matter. By doing this, God’s wonder can shine through you. All it takes is a willingness to be used by God, and a little courage.

      By Matt Rowe

    • Think: How can you see God in people’s interactions with each other?
    • Challenge: Watch the way that people care for eachother and be amazed. Then, go be the kind of person that the wonder of God can shine through.
    • Write: What is a time that you saw God work heavily in someone’s life? What kind of wonder does that make you feel?
    • Read John 15
    • Create a piece of art that reminds you to shine the wonder of God.

     

    Week Six 

    • Do you ever find yourself obsessing over something for a long time? I often find myself overthinking situations. As humans, we wonder, we think, we ask questions, we observe, and we learn from experiences. There are moments in life where we question more about ourselves, people around us, and wonder about God.
      God is so extraordinary that our minds can’t physically understand the power and ways of God. God doesn’t keep time. He knows all and is with everyone all the time. His love is so vast that it covers everyone and everything. God produces good–and when awful things happen, God uses those circumstances to create good. There is so much to wonder and question about God. However, no matter what, it is important to remember that God’s love is something that is always there. We may question it, but it is the most constant thing in the universe. God will work miracles through us as we show his love to everyone around us. Luke 5:26 reads, “Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, ‘We have seen amazing things today!’” This is such a powerful verse, because God shows his wonder everyday that we may have confidence in his love and that he will always be there for us!
      Sam MacLachlan

    • Think: How does the wonder of God apply to your everyday life?
    • Challenge: Find something that happens every day in your life. Point it out to 3 people. How can you use that thing to remind you of God and his love for you?
    • Write: Journal about all the things you noticed today that showed the wonder of God. How long of a list can you make?
    • Read Luke 5
    • Create a piece of art that portrays the wonder of God that happens every day. Small, routine things are important, too.

     

    Week Seven 

    • My first encounter with vulnerability and seeing the wonder in it was when I was a junior in high school. I had just started learning guitar and playing worship songs in my room but that’s as far as it went. I didn’t believe I was good enough to go outside of my bedroom until my dad caught me playing inside the meeting hall after church. He had never heard me play and sing so when he finally did he wanted me to share my “gift” with our church that next Saturday. However, I was not willing to sing in front church. I was afraid. What if everyone hated it? What if people thought less of me?

      So that whole week I was really on edge. However, the night before, I had a realization: if I was willing to play songs about Jesus for myself, I should be willing to be brave and go out and share my gift. So the next day I had a complete mood change. I started to understand it wasn’t about me; it was about who singing about–and that was Jesus.

      After I played, many people walked up to me and asked me to play more and to sing in-front during the worship. Even though I was afraid, I decided to use my gift for God. And from that time on I’ve been blessed with many chances to lead worship–all because I decided to make myself vulnerable so God’s plan for my life would start to be clearer. Vulnerability can be terrifying, but if you allow yourself to live in that space, you can watch the wonder of God unfold.

      “Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.” Psalm 105:2

      By Zach Richardson

    • Think: What might God be calling you to do? Could it open up opportunities to see wonder in your life?
    • Challenge: Live in a space of vulnerability today. Do something that takes a lot of bravery for you. You might be surprised at the wonderful things you see.
    • Write: What doors has vulnerability opened up for you?
    • Read 1 Corinthians 12
    • Create a piece of art that encourages you to be vulnerable with your gifts.

     

    Week Eight 

    • Imagine this: You and your best friend are out on a beautiful, tropical island called Roatan. As you sit on the white sand beach, you are listening to the calm waves crash onto the shore, the colorful birds singing as they fly through the sky, and the gentle ocean breeze moving through the palm trees. The sun is setting, producing a beautiful red glow above the open ocean. As you stare off into the sunset, you can’t help but think, “God, You are good!”

      This was me and my best friend a couple of summers ago. We were on a mission trip on an island called Roatan, off the coast of Honduras. This mission trip was tough! We worked much harder than I’ve ever worked before. To give you some kind of idea, my job was to haul five gallon buckets full of wet cement from the street where the cement was being poured all the way up a couple of flights of stars and across a field to the site of a new basketball court. If you’ve never carried buckets of cement up stairs and across fields, I envy you. Those buckets of cement become extremely heavy as they are filled. I think it would actually be easier to carry an elephant on my back than to carry those buckets. But anyways, we worked hard–incredibly hard. My friend and I were exhausted when we went to go sit down on that beautiful beach. As we were sitting there, and the sun was setting, we couldn’t help but wonder. I was in awe of what God does for us and through us.

      My friend and I sat on that beach for a while that night. By the time we started moving again, it was dark and the stars were sparkling in the sky. We looked up and suddenly came up with an idea–a good one too. Before we headed back to go to bed, we were going to go on an epic stargazing adventure. We ran over to where the kayaks are kept and we each grabbed one. We picked up our paddles and dragged our kayaks to the water. The water was warm and we were excited. We got into our kayaks and immediately started paddling out into the open ocean. About a half mile off shore we stopped paddling, and we looked up at the sky. The stars were so bright. We could make out constellations and we would see shooting stars left and right. I was amazed. Then I looked into the water. I couldn’t see much, it was so dark, which scared me a little bit. I decided to put my hands into the water anyways, and as I moved my hands in the water, the water lit up and looked exactly like the stars in the sky. I was shocked! I put my paddle in the water and moved it around, the same thing happened! The water all around was glowing with little tiny lights. It was being lit up by bioluminescence,–when parts of animals glow and make light. I sat in my kayak and couldn’t contain myself. I began thinking all over again, “God, you are good! Not only do the stars give you glory by lighting up the night sky, the animals in the ocean bring you glory as well.”

      That night changed my life. I sat in that kayak and was surrounded with the majesty of our God. He created us, He created the stars, and He created those unique and beautiful animals that light up the dark oceans. I sat there in wonder. I was overwhelmed. We serve an amazing, powerful, and loving God. Psalm 136:6-9 says, “Give thanks to him who placed the earth among the waters. His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to him who made the heavenly lights. His faithful love endures forever. The sun to rule the day, His faithful love endures forever. And the moon and stars to rule the night. His faithful love endures forever.” God created all of this because He loves us. He loves us with an unchanging, never-ending love. He will always be there for us. Just look up to the stars, or into a sunset, and you can’t help but be filled with wonder. God is good!

      By Zach Hoffer

    • Think: Is wonder essential to faith? What would our faith look like without it?
    • Challenge: Go find a specific place to be immersed in the goodness of God.
    • Write: What kind of adventures do you want to go on with God?
    • Read Exodus 14
    • Create a piece of art that portrays how you see God’s goodness.

     

    Week Nine 

    • From our first encounter with Jesus in scripture, wonder surrounds his story. In the story of his birth, we see miracle after miracle. And right from the get go, we see miracles in his ministry. The first miracle we see is Jesus turning water into wine. I know, it isn’t really all that exciting. However, it is pretty crazy.

      Let’s set the stage: Jesus shows up to a wedding party. Wedding parties in that time were a big deal. They would go on for days at a time. So, Jesus is there when all the grape juice runs out. Jesus’ mother, Mary, is aware that her son is something special. She goes to him and pleads with him to figure out this problem of having no more wine. Jesus isn’t super down to start doing miracles yet. But mothers always knows best. She tells the servants to listen to whatever Jesus says to do. So Jesus busts out his first miracle: the water turned into wine.

      It seems like a simple story, but making grape juice is not an easy task. When I was a kid, my mom would draft my brother and I into making grape juice. It took days in the kitchen to finally have a jar fresh grape juice. Back in Jesus’ time, it was even more intensive because they lack some of the technology I have had access to. So as simple as this story may sound, it wasn’t.

      The servants took Jesus’ wine to the master of the house. The guy was super impressed! He wondered why the bride and groom had waited so long to put out the best wine. The guests loved the new wine. The servants were full of wonder. Some people even put their faith in him after that.

      At times, life can be like this. Life is just going, and things are happening. And in the midst of all of that, sometimes we run out of something we need. Maybe it’s energy. Maybe it is the motivation to do things that matter. That is when Jesus shows up and does miracles. They might be small, but if you think about them, they are crazy! God giving us energy when we’re tired is crazy! God showing us what to do with our lives one day is crazy! God just loving us is crazy! It doesn’t have to be this water-to-wine-miracle to be a miracle. If you look around–notice the things that God is doing for you–you will be filled with such wonder.

      “As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.” Mark 9:15

      By Kiana Brusett

    • Think: How many crazy things happen every day that are so small we just don’t notice them?
    • Challenge: Count 32 small miracles that happen today.  
    • Write: What is the most awe-inspiring thing about Jesus and God in your opinion?
    • Read John 2
    • Create a piece of art depicting one of Jesus’ miracles.
  • YOU BELONG

    Week One 
    • Working at Big Lake is such an adventure! During the summer months you see so much life come out of the forest, the occasional fish in the lake, and of course the many types of bugs to discover. But Big Lake has a problem: it’s incredibly dusty. The dry dirt just blows around in the wind so easily it can travel miles at a time. If you leave your windows open on a windy day you’re sure to find some dust lying on your countertops, windowsills, and generally everything. We don’t like the dust–it clogs filters, stains white objects an uneven brown color, and will always find its way into your nostrils.

      Sin is like this Dust, it exists everywhere and effects all of us, staining our hearts and making us dirty. We don’t want sin in our lives making us feel guilty, leaving us feeling empty, lost, and like we don’t belong in heaven.

      But we can be clean again! Jesus offers us a life where we don’t need to worry about the dust and dirt of sin clogging up our lives. We can live a life guilt free with nothing to hold us back from being ourselves, from being happy. When we choose to live a life focused on loving our neighbors, we are asking God to help make us clean again.

      When Big Lake is covered in a couple feet of white powdery snow during the winter months, everything stays so clean. The snow keeps the dust and dirt out, washing away all evidence of it. Being at Big Lake in the winter is a whole new experience; it’s always so quiet and peaceful. It’s a great opportunity to discover your calling in life. The view is always white, what you see is always clean. This is what God had intended for us. And when you stand in the midst of it all, the only thing you can find to say is: this is where i belong.

      “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalms 51:7

      By Tobi Lizzi

    • Think: How does God make us clean? How does that relate to us belonging?
    • Challenge: Find something dirty and clean it. Put it in a place that it fits. Think about how God kind of does the same for us.
    • Write: What is an adventure you have had that could relate to God making us clean?
    • Read Psalm 51
    • Create a piece of art that portrays how God makes us clean, makes us belong.

     

    Week Two 

    • Have you ever been the last person picked for something? Maybe you were the last guy chosen to be part of the track team, or maybe you’re a girl that only made it into the school play because someone else got sick, or maybe you’re just someone who feels like you never make it into anything no matter how hard you try.

      All these scenarios leave us feeling wrong inside. We feel unwanted, underappreciated, and maybe even a little guilty at times. But I’m going to tell you that these are completely normal feelings! Everyone gets them at some point in their lives.

      I come from Zimbabwe in Africa, and in the schools there, sports are very important. If you were skilled enough to be in the first team for just about any sport, you were given a level of high respect. But that just wasn’t the case for me. I was not very athletic when I was younger. I was small and I couldn’t run very fast. I was afraid of the hard ball when playing cricket, and I thought Rugby was just much too violent. These sports were just not for me! But to give everyone a fair chance, the schools made sure everyone was put in a team according to their skill level. Consequently, I generally ended up being in the third or fourth teams, and that’s not a great feeling. I never felt proud of myself, and I always would’ve preferred to not play at all. I just didn’t feel like I belonged.

      But that’s okay! Because I found a Bible promise that gave me hope, and it can give you hope too! First Peter 2:9 tells us how God has specially chosen each and every one of us to be set aside as a part of His people, His family, His team! A team where everyone is equal, wanted, and has an important role to play. We are special to Him. He gave us our unique talents and abilities and lovingly decided where in the world we could do our best, and that is where he puts us! He wants us to accept His love and trust Him in such a way that we share who He is just by the way we think, speak, and act. He wants to show us how much happier we could be on His side–the side where we belong.

      What do we have to do to be a part of God’s team? It’s easy! All we have to do, is say “YES!”

      1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen generation a royal priesthood, a holy nation. His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

      By Ryan Spies

    • Think: What does it mean to actually belong?
    • Challenge: Do something that you feel you are good at. How can you incorporate God into it?
    • Write: What is a time you felt unwanted? How can you prevent those same feelings from happening to someone else?
    • Read Matthew 4
    • Finger paint the way you see the family of God.

     

    Week Three

    • Have you ever wondered what God has planned for your life?

      I have wondered about the future many, many times.

      It can be frustrating and debilitating to feel like your purpose isn’t clear yet. Sometimes asking God what He has planned for you doesn’t work out how you want it to, and that can be discouraging. Starting my college career involved some of the most stressful decisions I’ve had to make. What classes do I take? What major should I pick? Doesn’t it seem like everyone has their life figured out? How often do people actually have it all figured out? Not very often. I decided to start taking courses toward a nursing degree. Many times I felt so discouraged that it wasn’t the field for me, that I wasn’t good at it, that I should quit and find something that I loved ALL the time…now I’m heading in to my final year of nursing school and I’m still wondering where God will ultimately place me. My wondering in the past has usually been linked to something negative because I don’t have it figured out and it’s hard to live in peace with that.

      Instead, what if you could shift your wondering state to something positive?
      God has a way of working that isn’t always immediately revealed and patience is sometimes key to His developing plans for your life.

      One of my favorite worship songs gives me courage to wonder positively about God’s purpose for my life with these words: “I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done, every part designed in a work of art called love. If You gladly chose surrender so will I.”

      Looking back at my life, I can see how God has designed it with the utmost love. Note I didn’t say He sent me on the easiest journey, but I did say He did it with love. God is our Father and like a good father, He takes us through journeys that really stretch and challenge us. It can really reveal what you’re capable of and how God can grow you. When you feel uncertainty or go through challenges, imagine Him cheering you on and waiting with open arms. Knowing this, I can wonder in peace and with anticipation instead of dreading the unknown. If God can so easily choose to surrender and love us through our doubts, how can we not surrender and let him lead our life? I want to put my career and purpose in His hands, to mold it into something for his glory. If I can surrender my doubts and control then God can work to reveal who He wants me to be. I know that no matter what wonderings I have, I belong in God’s plan for me.

      Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us.None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.” Psalm 40:5

      By Valeria Sanchez

    • Think: What does surrender look like in real life? How can surrender help us know that we belong?
    • Challenge: Don’t plan your free time today. Go with the flow. Trust that God will put you where he needs you.
    • Write: How hard is it for you to surrender? Have you done it before? What was the result/what do you think the result will be?
    • Read Mark 9
    • Create a schedule for the rest of your life. Then paint over it. Perhaps use colors that you love. That is what life is really like with God.  

     

    Week Four 

    • When I was asked to visit Mr. B in the assisted living facility, I knew he did not talk. He had not talked for months. Now he had stopped eating, almost. Once a week I would go and sit by his bed, silently for twenty minutes. On my third visit Mrs. B was there. This was unexpected. As I sat down, Mrs. B looked earnestly into my eyes and started to talk. However, part way through her sentence, she stumbled and stopped. She tried again. And again. And always with the same result. Her intensity broke my heart. I tried to help, tried to supply what I thought might be her next word. No, Mrs. B would shake her head. I was so frustrated and embarrassed for her.

      On my next visit, it popped into my head to sing to her and her silent husband. To my surprise, she could sing along with me. She knew several old hymns and children’s songs. Four weeks later Mr. B  died.

      At the memorial service the chapel was crowded, so I had to sit near the back. Up front sat Mrs. B , with her daughter and son-in-law, a CEO of our local hospital. As the minister gave an eloquent message, I kept glancing at Mrs. B., sitting there silently. When the eulogy was over, the minister invited anyone to say a few words in honor of the deceased, Mr. B. As I looked over at Mrs. B, I knew I had to do something. Somehow her voice was needed here, she was the widow. This was her husband of many decades. Yet her stroke had silenced her into mute submission.

      Without thinking, I found myself standing up and walking down the aisle to the front, to Mrs. B. A hush crept over the room as I knelt in front of Mrs. B and we held hands. She looked me in the eyes, a familiar friend. As soon as I started singing, she joined right in.

      “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so,

      Little ones to him belong, they are weak but He is strong-

      Yes Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me

      Yes Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.”

      Mrs. B had found her voice. In spite of the stroke, her singing had found it’s way into her husband’s service. And Spirit gently blew Herself into our hearts. And we heard, “you belong here, you belong to us, you have been seen and known.”

      By Daniel Tworog

    • Think: What kind of bravery does it take to show someone they belong to the family of God?
    • Challenge: Tell someone that they belong in the family of God. Ask God to open your eyes to see who you should talk to.
    • Write: What makes you feel like you belong? How can you help others using those same things?
    • Read Matthew 26
    • Create a piece of art that expresses how you feel you fit into your community.

     

    Week Five 

    • In this stage of your life, everything is confusing and uncertain. You might be in middle school figuring out who you want to be friends with and what hobbies you enjoy. Or you might be going into senior year of highschool, with not a single plan formed for what could be next in your life. And in the middle of all that confusion, where do you belong? It’s a question we all face and the feeling that follows is one of pain and emptiness.

      Growing up I was very serious about doing well in school, and looking out for myself. Even in kindergarten, I can remember not having many friends because I “just wanted to do my homework.” Well, grades wise I was doing fine, but something was missing. I tried playing sports and I was actually pretty good. Basketball allowed me to connect with friends and grow myself further. But something was still missing. I tried getting into music at my school (I was blessed to have gone to an Adventist school) and the music helped me reflect on my relationship with God. But something was still missing. I didn’t quite feel like I was done growing. I felt like there was something that needed to happen in my life that would be significant and powerful. Freshman year of high school was difficult, trying to fit in, and do well in school and sports. I should’ve felt happier than I did–most people would’ve–but there was this emptiness inside. Almost a feeling of despair, because I felt lost in my own life. I was a stranger to myself.

      That spring, I signed up for a mission trip. We were going to Washington D.C. I was so excited. I had never left the states of Oregon and California, so to FLY across country was something else entirely. We got there, and it was hard. The hours were long, the mornings were early, and the showers were freezing. But for some reason I wasn’t miserable. A strange feeling filled me. I just assumed, living with my friends day in and day out was why. One day, we woke up extremely early, and went to a soup kitchen. Homeless people crowded the sidewalks. Most were sleeping in beat up sleeping bags and some, just on cardboard. My heart ached for them. A lone tear escaped when a single mother with her young child were patiently waiting outside the soup kitchen. There were faces worn and eyes were tired. A feeling of helplessness occurred in me. “What could I possibly do to improve such dire situations?”

      We began to serve the homeless people that came in, and talk with them too. Some indeed were miserable like first thought, and others…were happy. Happy to be fed and to be talked with. Us going there to be with them meant more to them than first thought. I felt God’s hand with us those two weeks we were there. And when the trip was over, I had realized the hole in my chest was able to be filled with service. Serving others is something that kindles a fire in your soul. Serving others gives your life purpose. And you find that when you serve, you naturally belong. You belong to something bigger than yourself. You find that that still small voice telling you to serve others is God saying: “Serve with me, I promise: you belong here.”

      This is no easy task however. Acknowledging the purpose in service is one thing; doing it is another. This is where getting outside of your head is so important. You know what you should do, but you just don’t want to. Do it anyway. It is a test of willpower. Only you can overcome your decisions. You don’t want to help clear dishes, or help that elderly lady with her grocery bags, and maybe you had a hard day. Maybe you’re exhausted, or you’ve been mentally and emotionally pushed to the edge. But, that small voice inside you is telling you to serve. That is where it counts, that is when it matters. Because if it was easy, everyone would do it. I wouldn’t be writing this devotional. But it is hard, and I am writing this devotional. Because I believe you can overcome the feelings of loneliness, and the choice to do nothing. It is possible because God says it is, and God is patiently waiting for you to take that first step to serve. And the blessings that follow are immeasurable. When you decide to follow God, and follow in Jesus’ footsteps God says: “Welcome home. I missed you. This is where you belong.”

       “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10: 43-45

       “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13: 34-35

      By Rose Tovar

    • Think: How does being a part of something bigger than yourself change the way you see the world?
    • Challenge: Today, look outside of yourself. Do something because it is the right thing to do, because it is what God asks us to do. Ask God to lead you to what you should do.
    • Write: What cause are you dedicating time to? How does it make you belong? Can you use it to help others feel as though they belong?
    • Read Luke 6
    • Create a piece of art that reminds you to look outside of yourself.

     

    Week Six 

    • Last year I went to school in Spain, and during my time there I took advantage of my proximity to the rest of Europe and traveled. Every other weekend I was in a different country seeing the sights and tasting the food. One of my favorite and most memorable trips was to Athens, Greece. This was also my last trip. After school got out and before I flew home I decided to go spend a week in Greece by myself. I was super excited and nervous because this was my first time traveling alone. My excitement was quickly subdued shortly after leaving the school in Spain. I walked to the train station that would take me to the airport and bought a ticket. I was carrying my bible and devotional book because there was no room in my travel bag for them.

      When I went to purchase the train ticket I set the books on top of the ticket machine to free my hands. The train showed up right away so I rushed out and got on board. As the train pulled out of the station I realized that I had left my books at the station, but I couldn’t go back for them because then I might miss my flight. So I went on, hoping that they would still be there when I returned from Athens.

      I arrived at the airport and went through security without any difficulties and boarded the first flight that would take me from Valencia, Spain to Istanbul, Turkey. After about two hours of flying, we landed in Turkey. I checked my phone and saw that it was almost eleven o’clock at night; I had two hours till my flight to Athens. I was pretty tired, so I decided to find a spot to take a nap. I found a waiting area that had several empty seats that I could lay across. I set my alarm and closed my eyes. After about an hour I got up and headed to my gate. When I arrived at the gate it said that the destination was Berlin, Germany. This was a problem. I wanted to go to Athens, Greece. I had already been to Berlin–and as much as I enjoyed my time there, I was wanting to go somewhere new. I went and found an electronic board that said when and where all of the departures were, and sure enough I had the correct gate. At this point I had 15 minutes till my scheduled departure, so I went back and waited a few more minutes at the gate to see if my plane was just running late.

      The sign never changed and my plane never came. I went back to the board and looked very closely to make sure that I had not made a mistake. I made a mistake. There was a clock on the sign and it was an hour faster than the time on my phone. I didn’t know that Turkey was in a different time zone than Spain, and because I did not have cell service my phone could not automatically update to the correct time. Here I was stuck in Istanbul, Turkey.

      After kicking myself for several moments, I went to find an internet connection so that I could ask my friend back in Spain to send a message to a man in Athens who was waiting to pick me up at the airport because I was renting his apartment for the week. I didn’t have his contact information because my friend had booked the apartment on his account. After I figured that mess out, I went and found the customer service desk and bought a new ticket at an unreasonably high price that would get me to Greece and back to Spain. The next flight wasn’t till morning–which wasn’t too bad because at this point it was almost two in the morning. I went back to my sleeping spot and tried to fall asleep, making sure that I would not miss this new flight. Morning came and I got on the plane without further setbacks and headed to Athens.

      Greece is beautiful. As soon as I got off the plain I was met with clear skies and a warm breeze. I took the train into the city and found the apartment I would be staying at. Pretty soon the owner showed up, gave me the keys and a tour of his apartment, and wished me a pleasant stay. I had made it. I spent the next several days touring around Athens–going to the beach and swimming in the warm Mediterranean, and learning about all of the history and architecture for which Athens is famous.

      This was my first trip alone, and although everything was new and exciting, I started to get lonely. I wanted to be with friends and family. Lucky for me, I am part of this world wide family known as the Adventist church. So on Sabbath, I headed out to find the English speaking Seventh Day Adventist church. As soon as I walked in I felt like I was home. Everyone was so kind and friendly. This church was mostly made up of people from other countries around the world who have come to Greece to find a better life. During announcements they spoke about members who were needing jobs and other members who were struggling financially. After the church service, they invited me to a huge potluck lunch. I am a white American who has always had more than I needed and these people who had very little were giving what they had to me.

      That is the family of God that I want to be a part of. Although we may have more or less than those around us we can chose to make everyone feel that they belong because God tells us that we belong to his family, and that makes us all Brothers and Sisters in Christ. No matter where we are in the world or in life we belong to God. We can always find family around us–especially here at Big Lake.

      P.S. When I got back to Spain, the train station had my Bible and devotional book in their lost and found. God is good.

      Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.” Ephesians 1:4-6

      By Apollo Lizzi

    • Think: How does God show us we belong in small ways every day?
    • Challenge: Go out of your way today to help someone you wouldn’t normally help.
    • Write: What is a time that you saw God come through in your life in a way that couldn’t have any other explanation than God?
    • Read Acts 12
    • Create a piece of art that reminds you that miracles still happen.

     

    Week Seven 

    • “How to Build Treehouses, Huts, and Forts” is a really great book about building treehouses, huts, and forts. Once my best friend Kirsten and I decided to build one so we could have our own special place to hang out and to invite other people to. We chose the A-frame treehouse to build in the three Douglas Fir trees in the field behind my house. My dad helped us plan and measure and hoist up the platform, nail on the roof, and pick out waterproof paint for the porch. It was such a cool treehouse because it camouflaged into the trees, and it was twelve feet off the ground!

      One morning soon after building the treehouse, I woke up and saw pinecones and tree limbs scattered all over the field. “Oh no!” I thought. “There must have been a windstorm in the night! My treehouse must be blown to pieces!” I ran through the long dewy grass down to the three trees. I saw a glimmer of white roof with lots of fir needles and fir cones stuck to the dripping metal. There it was: my treehouse just as we had built it, twelve feet off the ground up in the trees. “Whew!” I was relieved that our fine work wasn’t destroyed! I walked around the base of the trees to be sure no nails were missing and no boards were splintered. There, all around the frame of the treehouse were giant new boards nailed to the original ones we had built the other day. My Daddy had woken in the night when he heard the storm, and he had built reinforcements so the treehouse would stand strong.

      The next day Kirsten and I decorated our treehouse with pretty rocks, and we drew pictures on the walls in chalk. I felt like I belonged in the treehouse, and even though it has grown old and so have I, I still feel like I belong when I go home and visit it. I think I feel belonging there because I have experienced love there–like the love Daddy showed me when he put in reinforcements to protect it from the windstorm. Once someone told me to go back to the places where I have experienced God. I’ve experienced God at Big Lake and on trips down the Deschutes River. I’m working on going back to both of those places this year. I’ve experienced God’s love in the people at Big Lake, and in the beauty of the Deschutes River. These places are where I belong. You belong in God. Where have you noticed God’s love for you?

      By Emily Segura

    • Think: How have you seen God’s love in others?  
    • Challenge: Go be someone else’s reinforcements on their tree house. How can you be that love for others?
    • Write: Make a list of the place where you have felt God’s love the most in your life. Try to go and visit those places again this year.
    • Read John 6
    • Create a piece of art depicting the place you have felt God the most.
  • RESILIENCE

    Week One
    • Sometimes when I’m climbing, I’ll be a hundred feet or more off of the ground. That’s a long way to fall. But I don’t have to worry about falling, because my friend is belaying me. That means that she’s holding the rope that I’m tied to. That way, if I fall, I’ll be caught by the rope instead of hitting the ground. Having a trustworthy belayer lets me feel safe, even when I’m on a really hard climb.

      One way I like to think of God is as my belayer in life. When it gets tough, he’ll be standing there beneath me, calling out encouragement, and ready to catch me when I fall. I just have to remember that he’s there, and that it’s okay if I fall sometimes.

      The point of climbing isn’t to never fall. It’s giving your all and doing your best to get to the top of a climb–even if it’s hard, and even if you fall a couple times. Likewise, life isn’t supposed to go perfectly all the time. We will encounter hard things, and sometimes we will fall. But God promises to be there when it’s hard, and to help us get back up when we fall.

      “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2

      By Emily Nagele

    • Think: What is our rope in terms of our spiritual life? Does that thing help us be resilient?
    • Challenge: Try learning something new today. Ask God to help you be resilient as you learn.
    • Write: What is the hardest thing you ever accomplished? Did you ever fail? What gave you the courage to keep going?
    • Read Acts 27
    • Create a piece of art of a high difficulty. Don’t be afraid to fail. Keep trying until you are satisfied with what you have created.

     

    Week Two

    • All throughout life, there are going to be good times as well as bad times. Sometimes, those bad times seem as if they are never going to end, or there is not going to be any light at the end of the dark tunnel. Even though it may seem that way, we can turn to God and he can help us see the light and the good in a bad situation.

      Jesus Christ reminds us throughout the Bible that He will always be with us in tough times. Joshua 1:9 says: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

      When you find yourself in a bad time, look to Jesus. He can give you the strength to continue to stay strong and find the good in things. Ephesians 6:10 says: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”

      A while ago, I found myself in a super dark time. My parents got divorced about 5 years ago and after the divorce, the unthinkable happened. It devastated me. At first, I turned away from God and questioned Him, but all that did was make me more discouraged. I isolated myself and kept myself from reaching out to others for help.

      A week or so after this chain of events began, I realized that the situation was not God’s fault, and that I had been going about things all wrong. I began reading devotions and bible promises that helped me find strength that I didn’t even know I had. Thanks to God, I got through a situation that I never thought I could. I came out of it with an unimaginable strength, and best of all, a stronger relationship with Jesus Christ.

      Even though I still do not know why that situation took place in my life, it helped me to learn to be resilient when life throws the unexpected at me.It taught me how to turn to God for my strength in those situations.

      When you find yourself in a hard time, set your sights on Jesus.He can help you be resilient and face situations that you couldn’t face on your own.

      By Alexandra Tyler

    • Think: What about God has carried you through hard times? What might carry you through in the future?
    • Challenge: Write notes with Bible Promises on them. Give these to at least 3 people to encourage them.
    • Write: Pick a Bible Promise. Write about time that this promise could have/did/will help you.
    • Read Psalm 32
    • Create a picture depicting one of God’s promises that means a lot to you. You can make it extra fun by creating your picture out of dirt.

     

    Week Three

    • When I think of resilience in the old testament, my mind almost immediately turns to Moses, leader of the Israelites. And I’m sure you can imagine why. The story of his life and deeds are found in the chapters of Exodus.

      He started off his life in a position of prestige and privilege–seemingly at the top of the world. Yet when he made the mistake of killing a man in defense of another, he couldn’t muster up the courage to face the consequences of that action. So instead, he ran off into the desert forsaking his entire legacy in cowardice.

      But God had big plans for Moses (as He does with you and me too). Moses found himself in connection with a godly man, Jethro, who soon became his father-in-law. By being a living example and learning many valuable life lessons, Moses became a very resilient man. He was able to respond to hard situations in a wise and prayerful manner. We can all recall at least one situation where this happened. His response to the burning Bush. His encounters with Pharaoh–his stubborn half-brother. His attitude towards each plague, and how he obediently initiated each one. While at the same time he prepared his people the Israelites–and many more! Each of these situations threw a curveball at Moses, but each time he was able to take in what was happening and react in a successful way. He was so faithful that God chose Moses to become one of the few people to go to Heaven early!

      These successes are very contrasting in comparison to the reaction we saw after the mistake earlier in his life. But God works through even our mistakes; he just asks us to be resilient. God had put Moses where he needed to be in order for him to be ready to do God’s great works! This is true for every one of us. God uses our lives to further God’s Kingdom. The trials God allows to come our way are our training opportunities, and our reaction to that circumstance is how well we do. When we have learned to face every problem prayerfully and in a good manner, to accept the will of God and bounce back to happiness, and determination to do God’s works, then we have taken the example of Moses to heart and become resilient!

      By Ryan Spies

    • Think: How do trials grow our resilience? What happens if we choose not to learn from such situations?
    • Challenge: Use a gift or trial you have been given to further the kingdom of God today. This is pretty vague, so ask God to open your eyes to know what to do.
    • Write: What mistakes have you made that forced you to be resilient? What did you learn?
    • Read Exodus 2
    • Create a piece of art depicting a mistake you have made. Try to also incorporate the lesson you learned from that.

     

    Week Four

    • “What do you call this instrument again?” Our new friend Roberto asked in Spanish, puzzled, as he methodically traced the outline of our ‘small guitar’ onto a piece of plywood.

      “We call it a ukulele, and we want to teach the kids back at the orphanage how to play.” My friend Mikelle beamed a smile; her dream was about to happen.

      Some friends and I spent a school year in Boliva volunteering at an orphanage. There were about thirty boys, girls, and young mothers who became dear friends. The home was nestled in the mountains and sat on an organic vegetable garden. Since arriving with lofty dreams to teach English, we met the more immediate needs of daily life and learned to love better. We spent our time cooking, tutoring, working in the gardens, and most importantly engaging with the children. Blessed with houses full of singing, the kids came alive with music, yet were never given the opportunity to learn how to play for themselves. These kids were heroes in our eyes. Kids who had grown up on the streets and raised themselves or left tough family situations had created a home together.

      With only the phone number of a stranger, and Mikelle’s ukulele, the two of us traveled by bus hours away to the poorest section of the largest city. There, we found the most welcoming family of three which hand-crafted guitars and happened to be fellow Christians. When they heard of our dreams, Roberto said that not only would he build us ukuleles and guitars, but graciously offered  extras for free. “We’re all in the same family,” he grinned.

      Not only did we start music lessons, but a company back in North America, offered to sell us ukuleles for the same price. We were reminded of the depth of community and beauty of finding yourself loved in the process of reaching out. We had the best and noisiest worship services.

      I wonder: what simple ways you can reach out to the brave yet often unnoticed around you?

      Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.” John 14:23

      By Joshua Bradburn

    • Think: What kind of bravery does it take to be resilient?
    • Challenge: Interact with people with intentionality today. Even if you get annoyed, have the courage to be resilient and invest in those around you.  
    • Write: What is a time you had to be resilient in your relationships? Did it make that relationship better?
    • Read 2 Kings 4
    • Create a piece of art of something you have had to work at again and again. How does this remind you to be resilient?

     

    Week Five

    • Resilience is defined in the American Psychological association as: “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.” Vulnerability is defined as: “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” These either seem like the same thing, or two entirely different ideas of living. But really, they are choices that complement each other.

      When I was in 8th grade my mom was diagnosed with kidney disease–an autoimmune disease, which basically meant that her own body was fighting against itself. I was numb to the fact, and refused to believe it. My mom, strongest woman I know, continued to push on, and be the best mom. She packed me and my brother a lunch every day and worried excessively about us too. Because of my mom’s strength in the adversity and courage to her situation, I turned a blind eye as long as I could. Until sophomore year in high school… I remember looking at my mom’s face and thinking: when did she begin to look so worn and discouraged? My mother’s energy and strength began to fade as her health deteriorated. She began looking to us for help and encouragement, as well as strength.

      Unfortunately, it did not end up working out like a story book. My mother couldn’t keep her job; we were tight on money even with her help. And my parents began to fight almost every day. And every day my mother’s health got worse. Deep breath in…Deep breath out. “How can I help my family?” At the end of my sophomore year during a basketball open gym, I completely tore my ACL. My world was shattered. I was finally beginning to understand how to help my family. I was going to get a job, and I wasn’t going to play basketball that next year. If I needed to, I would drop out and continue schooling at home to work more. I had to be able to help. Everyone in my family was telling me I had to help out my mom as much as I could, that I couldn’t be a burden–then that happened. I was becoming an independent and capable person. I had just begun to believe in myself to carry the weight of my family crashing down.

      My mom had her surgery for her catheter right after my ACL surgery. I could barely stand on my own, let alone help my mom. “What a worthless, useless, incapable person I am,” I would tell myself. School was no better. I refused to tell others about the struggles I was enduring and instead chose to face it alone. No one knew that their jokes about me crippled me far worse than any torn ligament could have. I felt my life purpose ripped from my fingertips the second I saw my leg after surgery and couldn’t recognize it. I felt my strength wither when the doctors told my mom her kidney function dropped to 13% and she would have to go on dialysis. Breathe in…cry… pray…

      Eventually my leg was good enough to walk on normally and eventually play basketball again–though not with nearly the same confidence. Meanwhile my mother’s condition worsened. My school found out about it, and my church did too. I didn’t want people knowing how much I was struggling–how much my family was struggling. But when that hand extended toward me, I gripped it like my life depended on it. Because in a way it did. And in a way, I was meant to.

      The next year, we began to receive help from the community like I had only ever read about. My classmates I still kept in the dark for the most part, but with my church, everything was in the light. We were in the light. Senior year in high school, my mom got a miracle phone call saying the doctors found a kidney for her and she wouldn’t have to go through dialysis. The only thing was she and my dad would be in Portland for a month. For the first couple weeks I tried being strong for myself, but I couldn’t do it alone. I was way over my head with college plans, and basketball trips, graduation, and a little brother to look out for. So, I began to do something I hadn’t tried before. I got on my knees and I prayed, and I asked for help.

      My church family wrapped their arms around me and my brother, and I was able to see God shining through them. It was still hard, but not nearly as hard as trying to go it alone. I thought that in doing everything on my own, that I was being strong, when really I was just afraid. When I thought opening up to others about my struggles was weak, I found out that it took courage. Me struggling alone, was being stubborn. When I began to let others in on my failures–that was being vulnerable. Allowing them to help me roll with the punches–that was resilience.

      Resilience to me, is not always a solo act. It is a choice that determines how I will deal with adversities that come my way; being vulnerable is being willing to risk going through those adversities to grow in character and to experience life. I think that God wants us to be resilient in Him, and to be vulnerable with him, too. God is there–always. He is the ultimate healer and loving creator. He knows how we can roll with the punches and get back up again. He’s just waiting with arms wide open to comfort us as we stand. He is an all-knowing God. He knows what makes us vulnerable and weak, but He patiently waits while we choose to confide in him. He has a hundred solutions on the tip of His tongue He won’t force on us, and a presence so peaceful He won’t impose on us. But, He is ready when you are. When you are ready to be vulnerable with God, you won’t believe the way he will work to secure you. And when he’s secured you, you won’t believe the strength that he will have given you to go through the storm again and again.

      “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” Luke 12:22-26

      “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

      By Rose Tovar

    • Think: How can you be resilient in terms of vulnerability? Should you be?
    • Challenge: Open up to someone today. Tell them what you’re going through and be real about it.
    • Write: What is the hardest thing you have experienced? How did resilience play into getting through it? Did you have to be vulnerable at all?
    • Read 1 Samuel 20
    • Create a piece of art that expresses how you are really feeling. Then explain it to someone close to you.

     

    Week Six

    • Big Lake is one of my favorite places in the whole wide world! One of those things that makes it my favorite is when the staff get together after lunch to play softball. I will say, however, it’s not always easy for Big Lake softball to be fun. I was so nervous for every game because I wanted to do well and help my team succeed. But on more than one occasion, I didn’t do well. I couldn’t hold on to a simple catch. I struck out each time at bat. I felt like I let the team down. I sure let myself down. After the game I couldn’t help repeating in my mind the scenes of my failure: the ball bouncing out of my glove, the bat missing its purpose as it swung through the air. Going back to work with joy and energy after such a disaster was not happening.

      This ability to “bounce-back,” to find motivation to work hard and be positive after feeling defeated is what many refer to as “resilience.” It’s one of the most essential skills we can cultivate as individuals. The ability to “recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change” will help us to be healthier and happier individuals who can accomplish great things for the good of others.

      But how does one acquire this “resilience?” Maybe you’ve experienced some sort of disappointment or even a heartbreaking event. Maybe you lost your favorite pet, got a bad grade on your report card, or there’s a false rumor going around school about you. Yet life must go on. We have to go back to work, to family, to friends, and to fun! But how do we make it so that when we fall in the pit of sadness and despair we don’t just set up camp, but rather find the strength to jump right back in again?

      Think for a moment about trees. Mmhmm, yes, trees. There is something very grounding about trees. They are solid, nearly motionless, and display a glorious net of branches dancing about their heads. In the Bible, people are often likened to trees. For instance, in Deuteronomy 20:19, one interpretation reads: “…man is a tree of the field.” (See also Numbers 24:5-6, Jeremiah 17:5-8, Luke 6:43-45). The sages of Judaism suggest, then, that if you want to learn something about yourself and how you can develop life skills like resilience, take a closer look at the trees.

      So, we must ask ourselves, how is it that trees are able to thrive through four drastically different seasons? How is it that some trees can withstand wind speeds of over sixty miles per hour and others can live to be over 2,000 years old?! In other words, how is it that a tree can remain so resilient?

      The answer lies in the dense roots of the tree. The roots span much farther and deeper than the branches of the tree and they just keep growing. And what is the root of our being? The sages reason the root of the soul is faith in God. But what is faith? In Hebrew the word for faith (emunah) means loyalty and reliance. It is not simply accepting certain ideas as true–such as, “God exists.” Rather, it is a word that implies action. When you have faith in someone, you do what they say or ask because you trust they have the highest good in mind for you. And there’s no doubt God has the very best in mind for you. As it says in Isaiah 54:10, “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken…” When we practice faith in God by doing what He asks of us we are like a tree that is continually reaching into its source of life growing ever deeper in peace and security and letting His strength flow through us.

      So, to develop resilience, there’s two main things you can do. Number one: search the Bible and find your grounding in what the changeless creator of the universe says about you: That you are unique. That you are gifted. That you are loved. Do not let your identity be determined by how well you play softball or how high your test scores are. Yes, those things are good, but you are so much more than that. You are a beautiful child of God created to do amazing things for the world with the gifts and talents given to you. As it is written, “we are his workmanship, created in Jesus the Messiah for good works…” (Ephesians 2:10).

      Which leads to number two: extend yourself outwards and focus on helping of others with their needs. For instance, during softball now, when someone catches the ball on our team, we all run to them and start cheering. When the other team makes a great play or hits a good ball, we give them a big cheer. By putting our focus on celebrating the presence of everyone out to play and letting them know they are valued, we create an atmosphere of positivity in which no one can lose. And there are countless more ways we can reach out to people to improve their well-being in any aspect of their lives.

      Serving others according to their needs takes the focus off ourselves and our worries that get us down. Let us share the love rooted in and flowing from God so that when we are shaken, we remain grounded and able to bounce back from the winds of strife. As it says in the Psalms:

      “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the Torah (teaching) of God, and who meditates on his Torah day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” Psalms 1:1-3

      Dig into the word of God; find strength in the fact that He loves you even if you do fall short sometimes. God will never reject you. He will walk with you through the fire. He will sit with you in the disappointment; and when you’re ready, He will take you by the hand and lead you through another game, another project, another relationship–you name it! When the storms of life come, we may remain unmoved as a tree.

      By Bezi Lizzi

    • Think: What are your roots grounded in?
    • Challenge: Go and learn something about resilience. Do some research to see how it can affect your life and your faith.  
    • Write: What can you do to deepen your roots in God?  
    • Read Genesis 22
    • Create a piece of art portraying what you are rooted in.

     

    Week Seven

    • The resilience of people is mediocre. We fail, try again, fail, try again. And that is good. But I think the true model for resilience is the resilience of Jesus. Throughout his life he was mocked, ridiculed, rejected, out casted, and eventually killed. Yet through all of it, he continued to love us. He continued to work to be with us. That is an incompressible love, and an insane amount of resilience.

      The first time Jesus was ever one hundred percent disconnected from his father in heaven was when he chose to die for us. He took on all of our sins, all of our failures, and faced one of the most humiliating and cruelest deaths. In those moments, Jesus was wrestling with whether or not to go through with it. It was hard. It hurt. It didn’t look like it would ever get better. But then he saw us and chose to continue on.

      I think that is what real resilience is: even when you don’t see light at the end of the tunnel, you keep marching forward. Something I have been told is this: the only way to fail is to quit. So, in my mind, true resilience is never quitting, even when you desperately want to. We, as Christians, are called to be like Jesus. So don’t give up. Even when you want to. Have the courage to keep going. Love people recklessly. Pursue goodness, mercy, and justice. And when you feel like quitting, when you are almost at the point of failure, choose to continue on. God will be with you every step of the way.

      “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b

      By Kiana Brusett

    • Think: What is the resilience of humans relative to that of God?
    • Challenge: Today, pray that God will make you more and more like him. Choose not to quit on the things you are trying to accomplish.  
    • Write: Do you think you would be able to push through something so difficult as what Jesus went through for us? What kind of resilience did that take?  
    • Read John 19
    • Create a piece of art portraying Jesus’ resilience for us.