Monday, November 29, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I read Becca's post below. I have to say we all have been there and yet UDLC is special, isn't it?
I came to UDLC without ever really thinking too much about it. I came and fought back the desire to compare it to my old church, the one I grew up in. I grew up in a BIIIIIG CHURCH! We had a HUGE YOUTH GROUP and we did HUGE EVENTS!!!!
So when you move from that as your only point of reference and come to a smaller church, you start to look around and say "well at my old church we did..." and "in our service we ...".
Yet, moving is what Church is about and honestly think about it, who handles change better than kids and teens. New schools, teachers, friends, teams.
Yes new is scary, but new is refreshing. New ideas, new experiences, new friends and new seasons of life.
Lutherans have been accused of being afraid of change, but oddly, we started the reformation. We started change. How do you fear what you start. You may be afraid of uncertainty, but that is because of the anxiety.
All the teens and jr. Youth take a chance that youth will be enjoyable and they will have friends and that the adults will try to understand them. Truth is, the kids and teens in there programs hope the same thing about the new group.
WE HAVE AWESOME TEENS AT UDLC and that is because we have AWESOME AND INVOLVED FAMILIES. Church communities are about families. Families don't just mesh because they have the same genes. TRUST ME I KNOW! Families work at it. Spend time together and as the grow become close and know each other. Church communities are no different.
We have all been where Becca is, when we left our last church for UDLC, or went to college or moved away and came back.
EMBRACE THE DIFFERENCES AND THIS WEEK GREET SOMEONE YOU DON'T REALLY KNOW AT UDLC AND SAY"HEY THERE FAMILY!" Yes, they will stare, but blame me and get to know them by name and tell them yours.
FAITH AT 31,000. Why name it that? Because I have faith that this is not my last will and testament and that if I were to not make it home I will see all my family and everyone in heavan will welcome me to that new family. I KID!!!! I KID!!!! No, I marvel at the idea man can fly from one part of the world to another in hours and get in a metal multiple ton object and by morning can be across the country.
THIS IS RAY, SIGNING OFF FROM AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 1044 from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Philly.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Well, I can say that being true to my faith and to myself is full of ups, downs, and surprises. The people at the lutheran university center (ELCA!!!) here are certainly friendly and welcoming; I've spent a few hours at the center for dinners, at service, and even at a Pirates game/OAR concert. But, to be honest, they aren't UDLC people. I'm not used to being the youngest, I'm not used to being new, and I'm not used to them as a group. Realistically, I feel blessed knowing that "ELCA people" exist just down the road, but I don't feel that establishing a new community here is essential to maintaining my relationship with God. I have me for that. I also have a book [An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor] from P. Dizzle that constantly surprises me. Some chapters have seemed to appear at exactly the right moments over the last few months, while other seem to be ones I should put aside for a few years before returning to them. Regardless, the practices Taylor alludes to are a definite stepping stone for me, and have brought on hours of reflection and "absently" staring out my 19th floor window. Reading each chapter allows me time to be alone and to be with God.
My faith and how I keep it are more personal experiences here, but I definitely haven't given up on the LUC crew just yet. Besides, it's in our Lutheran nature to call those who stop showing up, so it isn't even really an option ;)
p.s. GO FLYERS
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
It's creeping up on a month since I've moved to Pittsburgh, and I can't decide what my opinion of it is yet; it changes too frequently. Most days I love everything about it: the people, places, walks, etc. Other days, I can't help but miss home for the very same reasons. It's conflicting because I am faced with the task of deciding how much of home I want to leave behind (certain people, places, material things) and how much of home I need to hold on to. I love so many people at home (or abroad) and can't even imagine a world without them, but there are so many more I wish I could delete from my life as easily as I can delete them from my phone or from facebook. Someone told me the essential purging of "high school" life was a huge part of growing up... Hopefully I'll figure out when I'm ready for it.
For some reason, the rational part of my brain took a vacation yesterday. I chalked it up to being a case of the Mondays, but by the end of the day I knew there had to be something bothering me more deeply than the day of the week. My first conflict with a friend, confusion on his part about "finding himself" and my remembrance of how much that time period meant to me, beginning the summer before senior year and continuing indefinitely, brought so many old emotions to the front of my mind that all rational capabilities seemed to take a back seat. It's days like that when my instincts need to change. Rather than putting every thought I have, relevant or not, into a minor situation, or calling someone from my past, or ranting via facebook, or depriving myself of sleep, I need to just....
and this is where the thought process ends. I truly don't know how to act when I get overwhelmed. Writing this is a great start. But deciding who gets to see it brings up new problems. I guess I put it here, in a safe, church-based community, and hope that God is as high tech as we are.
Anyway, moral (and challenge) of the story: remain calm, don't over-think, and stay true to yourself.
I'll be walking that road with you this week. (and probably always)
Coming Soon! Check-In #2:: Keeping the Faith
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Growing up as the oldest cousin, a babysitter, and an older youth, it was common to be reminded that I must be a good role model. Youths (youth?) and adult are often expressive about the role models they've had throughout their lives, and which truly made an impact. Today, sitting in the pew and reflecting on the things I've read this week, I realized that most of the time, people consider those who are their elders to be the candidates for role models... but really, someone who affects your life in that way can be any age. I looked to my left, admiring my friends beautiful cross necklace that she recently received for her confirmation, and knew instantly that she has been a role model for me this year. I wish I had become closer with her sooner, but I know we will be friends for life. Her constantly peppy attitude and her dedication to her faith, friends, and family are truly inspirational for me. Also this summer, I was privileged to meet a younger guy from West Virginia. His enthusiasm about helping, his unconditional love for his family, and his dedication to protecting his younger siblings was admirable. I am constantly surprised by the enthusiasm and dedication to the program that the youth younger than myself have for this program and for each other, whether we're winning jackpots at chuck e cheese, climbing (or falling down) mountains, hammering, shooting each other with paint or lasers, or sleeping on the ground, indoors or out.
So anyway, whether you consider yourself young or old, remember that there is likely someone who considers you a role model.
It made me realize that while the updates on this blog are currently happening with fair regularity, coming off of a fantastic year at ASP, they will soon stop as we all get geared up for school, work, and life again, just as it did last summer after national gathering.
Martha's attitude in life, and our pastor's conviction that the vast majority of our congregation had a similar attitude, was definitely a wake-up call today. Rather than get caught up in work, in school, in a social life, or in ourselves, let's get caught up in Christ. He is truly the only one who will always be there for us, no matter what. It is a reminder to take time every now and then to consider what is important in life, from family & friends to the Lord, and remain focused on them. Taking focus off of material things, busy work, and what "society" says is okay allows the mind to focus on things that actually matter.
So this week, let's challenge ourselves to be more like Mary, and try to take a step back from life and really listen to what's going on around us. You may be surprised by what the world (and the Lord) are trying to say.
And as for the blog, I hope that the contributors can take time every once in a while to focus on their spriritual life and write about how it changes/is affected by the busy-ness of our lives.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
As youth workers and adults who work with youth, we often get hung up in fundraising, details, the project, etc. This year was a different kind of trip for me for a number of different reasons. Yet, one of the main reasons is the time I had to spend with the youth in the group.
In 1994, a friend came on The Appalachian Service Project with me for the very first time. He was a year younger and I was not sure how he would fit in with my “older” friends. At the time, he did and it was fine, but I remember thinking how awkward it was. Matt was not the most conventional of friends. Why, because he was a kind, wonderful person, who didn’t seem to really understand holding grudges and was just happy laughing.
Now, as a 32 year old man, I can say this and be honest, but I was not always the best friend to Matt. Not saying that we were “best friends” but saying as a friend, I failed a lot. However we shared a unique bond in scouts besides youth and high school. I remember when Matt would agree with where to go or what to do his answer was “good call, in fact that was an excellent call. We joked of killer, kudzu eating, radioactive, suicidal, and cliff diving deer on the way to my Sr. Year on ASP. Matt, Mickey, and I spent one of the greatest weekends with the youth group in Washington DC. (SIDE NOTE: This is also the trip where Pastor Bill Bixby told us we were ROLE MODELS and people look up to us. We both look at him and say, well we don’t want to be, and we want to have fun. Bill explained that you can do both, but we are getting older and need to learn that others will look to us.) That weekend we played Frisbee on the Mall, ate at the Hard Rock, and talking about things in life that perplexed us like girls, parents, and what life would be like when we grew up.
Well here I am grown up (ok, how about chronologically older and a little wiser). 14 days ago my friend Matthew Ryan Hoffa died. We had been through a lot in the passed few years and time had separated us, but in 2005 when I learned my friend was in the Hospital waiting on a new heart, I was there to see him, talk and on a few times I just sat in his room while he slept. A few of these he may not even have known about, but I did and that is what mattered. His faith even then was an example to me. He was my ROLE MODEL and we spoke of times growing up and friends. He told me of the people in the hospital who inspire him to keep hope and be positive.
Recently, Matt had been ill 2 times since March this year and each time friends would tell me and I would say, OH I HAVE TO GO SEE HIM! Well, like all “important” people I got busy. Then the second time in the hospital, he was home the day I was going downtown to see him in Jefferson Hospital. Little less than 2 weeks later, my ministry friend Dayle Malloy had to tell me that Matt had passed. This was the Friday before I left for ASP. I WAS CRUSHED, I thought, I need to be here to say goodbye. Then I thought about it and back to those talks with Matt in 2005 and high School and with all the teens who tell me how amazing ASP is for them and I realized I had to go and not just go, but go and take Matt’s spirit and heart to serve with me.
All week I had struggled with missing Matt. People asked what was wrong and I just blamed the heat the first two days, but then on Culture Night (Tuesday) a man came to sing. He had been doing this for ASP since 1994. That year he also wrote a song “Love isn’t Love, until you give it away” which was also the theme of the summer and Matt and my first year. It was then, that I knew Matt was with me and God had put me in this place to be a “ROLE MODEL” share my skill, humor, and love with the people of Williamson, the youth on the trip and families.
I still miss Matt; I still need to deal with this loss. As someone who struggles with depression, I can tell you any death is like ripping open your heart and yanking on emotions (though given Matt’s issues, ripping open my heart seems appropriate) and forcing me to deal with it. I read a post on our Youth Blog (udlcyouth.blogspot.com) and it showed me that thanks to my wife Deena, my church friends growing up like Matthew Ryan Hoffa, and the adults who I work with now in ministry I am able to still be a Role Model and hopefully prepare and send out other Role Models who will share their lives with others to show God’s love, but more importantly who they really are not worrying about what other may think they should be.
Thank you to my awesome wife, ASP team this year, the mentors in my life, and those who continue to “give it time” to figure out my style is different, but genuine.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Amanda Couch and Becca Kehs, in one of Rays extra shirts that he brings every year.
Andrew Grafton and Amanda Couch working on a ramp.
Andrew used for drills at once!
Amanda Couch and Willie Thornton.
Cheryl Rozinski and Meghan Evers.
Ray, Shaughn, and Renee.
Todd with his famous monkey.
Our tuesday night entertainment.
At our first rest stop, Matt Merritt bought a huge burger. Where does he put all of the food? It was over 1000 calories!
Sunday, July 11, 2010
This program grants opportunities to serve both at home and abroad, it allows people who wouldn't otherwise meet to develop life long relationships, and it gives us a safe place to go for advice, for a shoulder to cry on, or just for a couch to sit on.
I am forever thankful for the adults and youth that have been present in the youth programs throughout my last 8 years or so at this church, as I truly believe I'd be a different person if not for their guidance, support and love.
Things I've Learned:
~ Never take things for granted. There are things I and my peers have access to, from material possessions, to opportunities like schooling & work, to having transportation, that many teens in our own country and in others can only dream of.
~ Family is important. This sounds obvious, but, it is insane how evident it becomes after spending weeks in foreign situations. I think one of the most important lessons most of the ASP participants take away each year is to value their family above their material possessions and above themselves.
~ Families can (and likely should) be unconventional. Whether it includes neighbors, friends, church members, pets, or strangers, it is necessary to have a strong support system behind you, every step of the way.
~ Follow your heart, wherever it may take you. If you are called to teach, teach; if you wish to light candles, or bake, or run marathons, do it!; if you feel compelled to travel in a van full of teens for 12 hours, well, you're probably insane.
~ Eat. Eat whatever you want, when you want. Eat with your friends, eat with your family, eat alone. Food can be fellowship, food can be delicious, and food sustains.
~ Drink. Stay hydrated when it's 102 degrees outside and you're nailing things together or putting shingles on a roof or sawing things. Use it as an excuse not to eat. Take the time to experiment with different flavors, then share the best and worst with your friends.
~ Bob Topper LOVES Swedish Fish.
~ HAVE FUN. Sing & Dance. Play a new role. Run in circles. Socialize. Meet new people. Keep in touch. Frolic.
~ Cherish everything. First dances, new friends, relationships, your favorite candy, the last bite of ice cream, moonlit walks, camping trips, bonfires, long car rides, and so much more. Some day, high school will end, you'll have a job, people will have moved on or passed away, and you'll regret moving through life so quickly.
~ Wait before reacting. Some of the worst decisions made are made in anger, despair, or haste. Write down your emotions in a situation, or think about what to say, then don't. Give the situation a few hours or a few days to settle in your brain, then when it's finally time to react, you'll be capable of a mature and reasonable conversation.
~ Make decisions and stick to them. If you don't know what you want, how can you expect to have productive conversations about anything?
~ Learn from everyone you meet. You will learn life's most valuable lessons when you least expect to.
~ "Take things in stride" No matter your situation, always make the best of it.
Again, I want to thank all of the wonderful adults and youth that have helped me through my best and worst moments in my adolescence. Thank you especially to Ray Hopkins for being a mentor, a friend, and even a relationship therapist when necessary. You truly go above and beyond for us, and make this program the best it can be.
<3 Rebecca Jean Kehs (a.k.a. Ke$ha.)
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
If you are like me, your summer can be just as busy as the fall, winter, and spring. We talk of the lazy days of summer, what lazy days? There is time for BBQ's, shore trips, amusement parks, and time in the pool. Maybe not exactly like this:
The things we seem to miss, is the relaxing and enjoying the weather and sun. I say this as I blog on a laptop from my back deck, because obviously I take the time to relax...
The thing i would remind everyone though is that s we slow down, enjoy this time to relax and be outside or with family and friends, because we all know when it gets colder we will wish it was warmer.
Also, don't forget that you can still worship all summer long. In fact, our church has a an out door glen we use for worship at 9 AM every week and unless it is a heat wave and muggy, it is often the most relaxing time of my week.
Our teens and a group of adults will be venturing off to Ming County, WV the week of July 4th and working to repair homes for Appalachian Service Project. Keep following the blog and we will post photos, reactions, and some short video clips from the week.
Until our next post:
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Sunday, May 2, 2010
WHY NOT USE THE BLOG MORE?
What better way to get it going, then report the 2009 National Gathering Videos, to the blog.
Coming soon...Summer events Calendar and guest youth writers:
Monday, January 25, 2010
I am going to aks one of the teens to take over for Lent. We will be doing a Sr. High Small Group about Doubt and Secular Lives with a faith lens. I hope the youth will provide deeper meaning for you all than any derived words I may put up here.
I am also fairly certain that the grammar andspelling will be much better.