“For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” There it was. The first verse I was supposed to dedicate to memory during my summer long study on Romans. I was a little annoyed by it. I had memorized this verse when I was about 6 years old. Hello! Awana Bible drill, platinum crown holding Christian club member here! I’m gonna need a little more than a 12 word prepositional phrase to feel challenged.
David Kaplan sits in a room full of men. The mood is somber, yet welcoming. Heavy, yet free of judgement and shame. He fidgets slightly in his chair as another man shares why he showed up tonight: the struggles he can’t beat on his own, the sins he’s been fighting for ages, and his desire to be known and loved despite how messed up he is; how messed up he feels.
Have you ever been a part of something historic and experienced that moment when you think, “Wow, I am so glad that I got to be a part of that!”? I am thinking of truly historic culture defining moments like, the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin wall, the first Free Willy movie, and now Summit’s 2017 Backpack Drive.
When I showed up last summer for the first night of For Her, I expected it to be a good opportunity to hear from some of the prominent female voices in our congregation and to hangout with my girlfriends. But I did not expect to feel so deeply understood and seen in a room full of women.
I’m going to be honest... this spring the Connect group I am a part of did an in-depth study of the book of James chapter-by-chapter. It was amazing. However, when we found out that Summit was doing a summer long series on the book of James there was a little (or maybe a big) moan of “oh man…we just did that!”
My friend, Maria, is a social worker for an elementary school in a distressed neighborhood outside of Atlanta. At the end of this last school year, a third grade girl was brought to her office after having a melt down. The girl had always been a good student and never had any behavioral problems. The teacher’s aide escorting her in said that the young girl had been found crying in the bathroom clutching her backpack.
When I first accepted Jesus into my heart, I experienced a supernatural peace that defied all logic or understanding. It went to the very core of my being and I knew that there was a God who loved me and that my sins and guilt were washed clean.
I often viewed Christianity as simply one giant do-not-do list. Stay away from doing X, Y, and Z and you’ll be in favor with God. I suspect much of the outside world views Christianity in this same light as well.
At the IJM Orlando Prayer Gathering, we got to hear about the work that’s happening to end slavery and we had the opportunity to pray for some specific issues IJM is facing around the world. Whether or not you were able to make it, these are the things that were prayed for and we will continue to pray for.
James is a countercultural letter. That much is clear from the very outset: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”? I mean, come on, James, you don’t know what I’ve been through! I actually had a really good reason to not consider it pure joy.
My husband, Aaron, and I became parents in March of this year and we felt as prepared as we possibly could. My undergraduate degree is in psychology, when I was growing up my job was always as a babysitter, and I’ve spent the past ten years working in children’s and student ministries. I’ve basically had as much exposure to children and parents as a person could possibly have without being an expert in the field.
Although born near Chicago, a portion of my early childhood was spent with my mother’s family in a small village in The Philippines. By western standards, most of our village was extremely poor. Truth was, each family didn’t own very much and alone some would not have survived. Because we did life together, though, we thrived. I was never hungry nor did I feel unprotected (even with some wild animals for neighbors). Our community was living in abundance without much stuff.
Like many of you, I took the James challenge this summer and read through the book of James over the course of a week. This is not the first time I’ve spent time in James. Unlike my friend and pastor, Zach Van Dyke, I really enjoy this book of the bible! It’s practical and I am a taskmaster, so I can easily relate and understand what needs to be put into action. But mostly, I love that in different seasons of my life God speaks to me through this book in different ways.
Kaylee Vance and her Connect group gathered around a table one night, marveling at Kaylee’s delicious soup recipe as they ate from goofy bowls. They had each walked into her house that night, not only with the funniest bowl they could find to bring, but with armloads of food and household goods ready to pack up to send to Harvest Time International.
So much of my happiness in life is wrapped up in circumstances. Circumstances, more often than not, are outside of my control. When I place my happiness in circumstances, I’m taking a big chance, one that rarely ends up in my favor.
One of the highlights for me of the reGROUP calendar is our graduation ceremony. I would highly doubt that there are many people who would put “fun” next to “reGROUP” in a word association game, but that is likely because they’ve never seen graduation. I more often hear words like hard, painful, depressed, addicted, and lost when people talk about reGROUP, though talk to a reGROUP graduate and you may hear a different story—one of transformation.
Take the trauma, the loss of community and culture, the years of displacement, the culture gaps, language gaps, poverty, etc. cover it all in an invisibility cloak, and you can begin to understand the challenges a refugee faces.
On June 12, 2016, 49 beautiful lives were taken in the city of Orlando. It's a day that will remain fixed in my memory forever—one that was filled with some of the deepest sorrow and feelings of helplessness I have ever experienced. In the days and weeks that followed the Pulse tragedy, I continued to grieve with my community.
“The Church is people devoted to God, in community, on mission, for God’s glory.” This is the identity statement we have been internalizing as a church family over the last two years. Starting in January of this year, we began focusing in particular on what it means to be on mission as a church.
Uncomfortable topics and difficult conversations. I’m thankful to be part of a church that doesn’t shy away from these things. Summit engages a wide range of such topics, but in March we specifically looked at four injustices in our world. Four I-can’t-believe-this-stuff-is-happening-in-our-world-and-even-in-my-neighborhood kinds of injustices.
I’m learning to see the beauty in my plans not going the way I’d hoped and my expectations not being met. The Saturday of niceSERVE 31 fell on our son Finn’s final YMCA soccer game of the season. His coach (and Summit’s Connect Director), Dan Sherfield, had a great idea to bring niceSERVE to the soccer field in the form of a cleat exchange.
We, a group of friends from Summit and their children, stood in the airport terminal, holding balloons and flowers. A few of us displayed signs reading “Welcome!” and “We are so glad you’re here!” in Arabic. We attracted quite a few glances while we waited.
“I still can’t believe they don’t have kids that go to this school and this is how they are spending their Friday night! I don’t have friends like that…” That was what a parent told me at one of the events my Connect group hosted at the elementary school in our neighborhood.
It has been just over a month since the In Justice evening on racial reconciliation in March. As we approach niceSERVE week I want to come back to one of the main themes of the evening as well as touch on a major line of questioning that came up during the Q&A following the service. There were a number of questions that fall into the “How?” category
It started as a note on my desk a week before last Christmas, “Becky. Ramp. Ask Dan.” I walked through the office to our Connect Director, Dan, to follow up. Becky had approached him in the Summit Lobby to ask if the church knew of a trustworthy company that could help build an accessible ramp for her elderly parents. A few minutes later, I sent two emails.
A lot of people ask me how things are going in our 33rd Street Jail campus, and I enjoy sharing what church looks like on “the inside”. Most people know that we have two church services each Sunday inside the Orange County Jail—one in the men’s facility and one in the women’s facility. What most people may not know is that our entrance each Sunday is never guaranteed.
As I reflect on the last month, and specifically on the Justice/In Justice series, I am reminded of how glad I am that I get to be a part of the Summit family. It is humbling to see our church family take on the weighty, God-honoring work of seeking justice in our world.
I find green beans to be gross. You know—those mushy, over-salted blobs of green floating in some sort of mystery juice. Growing up the only way I would eat them was in green bean casserole, and even that was really only for the gravy and the fun little make-believe onions.
Refugee.It's a strange word—one I'd only ever associated with faraway, war-torn countries. I had never considered the difference between an immigrant and a refugee. I had never internalized that coming to America was more than just a physical journey.