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Arm Blog

#fools4Christ17 Week 4

After Tropical Storm Cindy moved on, we enjoyed a great – DRY! – week of extending the love of Christ to end substandard housing in rural Alabama! It’s hard to believe but this week marks the halfway point for youth … Continue reading

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#foolsforChrist17 Week 2

Week 2 of youth mission camp brought us 3 teams of new friends serving with ARM for the first time! Our Tuskegee team, Crossroads Bible Church, came all the way from Norris City, IL. They had 3 highly efficient construction crews … Continue reading

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Thievery or Providence?

This past Friday, after our Tuskegee summer ministry team was wrapping up the afternoon, a woman arrived at the church. She explained her involvement in a car accident. The ministry interns were trying to decide how to help and momentarily left her unattended in the fellowship hall. Our ARM merchandise table is stacked with ARM shirts, hats, cups and more. Earlier that day, the staff had a small fundraiser and a few mason jars that had some bills and change in them were in the room.

When the staff came back into the fellowship hall to help, she had disappeared. As they looked across our back lot into the Piggly Wiggly parking lot, they noticed her. She was now outfitted with an ARM sweatshirt (in nearly 90-degree weather) and baseball cap. There was also $40 in cash missing from one of the mason jars.

What would you feel in that moment? Anger? Frustration? Confusion? How could anyone boldly come into a church and steal from it? That money goes to help families with home repair, something she may not have known. Is there no decency anymore that someone can blatantly steal from the church and in broad day light? What nerve!

It was time to call the police. They described to the police what had happened and the police quickly arrived on the scene and picked up the woman. End of story, right? However, the police added some unknown details shedding some new light. The woman was mentally ill. During transport to a mental institution in Birmingham she had fallen out of the car. I guess that is how she defined a car accident. (That raises some questions on how well she was being supervised). The police had been searching for her with no luck until the students called.

As I pondered this situation, I felt myself overwhelmed with compassion for this woman, this daughter of Jesus. Before I knew the fuller story, I was wrestling with whether we needed to press charges or if we could design some type of community service. Hearing of her condition, that was quickly resolved. But then I thought further. If she had not stolen from our staff nothing would have triggered our students to call the police. They would have worked to meet her need and then sent her on her way. This meant she would have wandered aimlessly through the town. Night would fall and she would be a lone, vulnerable, and mentally ill woman navigating the streets of Tuskegee. No phone, no family, no friends.

Not fully cognizant of her actions, stealing may have saved her life. Funny how God can work in the hardest and most difficult of situations. God can use anything for His good and in the strangest of ways, He provides. This summer our day camp kids have a theme called “COGPOW” meaning Child of God, Person of Worth. After this woman’s actions, this puts COGPOW in a whole new light for me.

May we all have compassion and display love even when someone is doing something wrong. God may be providing care in a crazy, foolish, and upside- down way. I love our God! Jehovah-Jira, God our Provider!

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Being a Hero and Leading Up

There is research indicating that acts of heroism could have genetic foundations and that we can cultivate our propensity to “be a hero”. Through intentional acts of selflessness and generosity, even if small and seemingly insignificant, we can posture ourselves for a moment when heroism might be displayed. There is a hero/heroine in all of us.

I certainly experienced that a few weeks ago, for our first leadership cohort called LeadUp. Gathered with seven high school students and a handful of college mentors, together we identified some systemic problem areas in our communities and developed plans of how to help. Some of these students already contained a vision of their life’s work! I was excited, humbled, and challenged throughout the weekend.

Here are some observations:

  • Vision: These students understood that we all started with the divine image of God placed upon us. This is our most basic DNA as humans. God created us in his image and it was good. We all had value and all deeply loved. Our choice that led to the greatest of sin was opposite of what makes us heroes. We choose selfishness over selflessness. But, living in God’s grace helps us overcome that brokenness created by the first sin and gives us a vision of how we help others reclaim their divine image. It is how healing and community form. These students shared many visions: a vision to end homelessness in their community, to help at-risk kids develop a passion for their education or finding a skill set (a set up for meaningful workforce development), to help kids who have been sexually abused and more. I was inspired by these young visionaries!
  • Selflessness: It appears that at the heart of every hero or heroic act is selflessness. Indeed, Jesus says that greatness is found in serving others. Heroes sacrifice and seem even willing and prepared to die. Take your average firefighter-our everyday, modern heroes. These youth all displayed a type of selflessness not normally attributed to them. Culturally, we see them as pre-occupied, self-centered, whiny, and everything in between. Heroes? Not so much. But these students embraced the heart of servant-hood and serving others. It was noticeable in their conversations, how they quickly got to know one another, and how much they wanted to support each other. It was evident in how they discussed the problem areas and why and how they each wanted to help.
  • Perseverance: People dedicate their life’s work to the types of plans and visions these students developed. Some already knew the educational route they would have to take to live into these dreams. And, the perseverance to stay the course over the weekend! We worked them hard and it was all planning and preparation! I was really amazed they hung with us. Again, they radically dispelled the popular myths about youth culture.

Lead Up puts our focus on Jesus. Leadership is about service, sacrifice, and a core value of true humility. I am excited this group of youth is ready to embrace that mantle of leadership and use it to serve others and mine the divine image of God out of each person. The only way we solve the social ills of our community, nation, and world is to gain a Godly vision of restoration, roll up our sleeves, and go to work for the good of others. Lead Up!

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Friday is almost here! The weekend. Finally. But this weekend for a handful of us, is not about rest, relaxation, and laundry. It’s about passion. Easy…not that kind of passion 😉  We are preparing to host ten youth on an experience called “Lead Up”. Lead Up is an intentional weekend where youth learn a framework for turning ideas into action. And it’s not just any idea. It’s the idea that burns inside of you, that may keep you awake at night, that inspires crazy dreams, that will not go away.

I read through several other blog posts on finding your passion. Some were pretty good with 6-7 easy steps. Sometimes when I look through a list, I ask “what is missing?” There was nothing about ministry, serving others, or a reference to using passion to right the wrongs we see in the world. It was all self- driven, self-motivated and mostly contextualized around career motives. That’s not bad. It’s just not complete.

We are helping youth find their passion regarding what is broken in the world. Nehemiah is a story nestled towards the end of the Old Testament with an incredible storyline.  Pregnant with passion, conflict, and prayer, it unfolds a story of heartache, vision, and restoration. Passion gets the movement rolling. I will not retell the story here so go check out Nehemiah. But here are a few thoughts:

  • What problems do you want to solve or believe need solving? Passion is about sensing broken relationships that emote a deep longing to see them righted. It’s always about relationship in this context. People or creation being abused in some way: human sex trafficking, lack of decent housing, child abuse, animal abuse, girls prohibited from going to school, pollution, exploitation of workers, or racism. The list goes on.
  • What is your understanding about God and His created world that helps you understand a “righted” vision? God created in perfection. God created and called it good. God created with all things in proper balance. (See Genesis 1). Fall and sin distorted relationships and perverted the balance (Genesis 3). If justification is keeping items in proper order, keeping them aligned to a standard, then when we see abuse and distortions we can find the purity of the word “justice”. Passion becomes the burning desire to make things right. To restore to the original design God intended.
  • Passion is linked to conversation with God. In many ways, whether we recognize it or not, we are working with God, co-creating with God, partnering with God to restore; to make all things new. We are supposed to do something in the waiting period of Jesus’ return. And it has to do with using our talents and not exploiting other people. (Remember the parable of the talents, the workers in the vineyard, or the teaching about the thief coming in the middle of the night?) Our prayers and conversations, if we are open, can lead us to a lifestyle brimming with work towards making our world, in our limited time, look like what God intended.

There really are not any easy steps. I left out a few here of discerning passion to keep this relatively short as there volumes of books lining our shelves on this very topic. But let me condense one more time:

  1. What do you see wrong or unjust in the world, that you believe should be changed? What keeps you awake at night, makes you angry, or makes you hurt for someone or something else?
  2. What is your vision of what “right” looks like? What is the God vision that corrects that injustice and distortion?
  3. What prayers and conversations do you have with God and others who you can partner with that together can restore the injustice? The Holy Spirit will open our eyes and our heart if we listen.

Nehemiah heard about the wall of Jerusalem that had laid in ruin for 152 years after the exile of the Israelite nations. It made him weep, pray, and fast- as in not eat for several days. It eventually led him to travel to Jerusalem and through God’s help, establish a vision to repair and restore the protective wall around the city and rebuild the community. But it was that passion, a burning desire to restore, that became the launching pad for action and movement.

We have 10 juniors and seniors in high school coming to discern their passion and act this weekend. It will be a weekend burning with passion and a desire to restore. I hope you might do the same!

And just for fun, here is a little quiz I found about passion. Very easy and some fun perspectives:

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