Rest

For those who just finished another academic year, congratulations! It’s the Monday after finals week and commencement here at KU. In Lawrence today, it feels as if the university and the whole community has breathed a giant sigh of relief. Traffic is lighter. People are calmer. The pace is a little slower.

We have arrived at a space of rest.

Rest is biblical. Jesus often went on retreat — a protracted period of rest and recovery — especially after public and large (likely stressful) periods of ministry. Jesus also spent time in retreat before beginning important new ministries or undertaking difficult tasks. In this context, his retreats were prayerful times of preparation.

As disciples, we would do well to take our cues from Jesus and routinely make time for prayerful periods of rest, recovery, and preparation. Retreats undertaken in this spirit are regenerative.

As for me? I just finished my first academic year in full-time ministry as campus minister. Like many students, faculty, and staff at this time of year, I am tired from the year of many good things and much activity. I need rest.

So today, I’m leaving for a retreat. It will be a mixture of rest and recovery, prayer and preparation. I pray that it will be a period of renewal yielding fertile soil.

What practices do you use for regeneration?

–Susan Mercer, Wesley KU Campus Minister

 

 

Speak Up Often, Listen Always

An Open Letter to Campus Ministry Student Leaders

I’ve spent the last two semesters as an outreach intern for Wesley KU, a campus ministry of First United Methodist Church. I’d been a member of campus ministries before and I’d led student groups before, but this was much different. We were starting a community from nothing and that comes with many ups and downs. If you’re doing the same, I applaud you. I encourage you to do this, even if you’re afraid of failure. You’ll learn patience, you’ll learn optimism, and you’ll learn a whole bunch of other things that I may not have. Here are 3 lessons I learned this year (sometimes the hard way), dedicating my heart to the founding of this ministry.

 

Be propelled by your “wins”, not halted by your “losses.”

As I said, there are bound to be many ups and many downs. I won’t lie to you, sometimes the disappointments and the feeling of failure will consume you. This is a community you already love. Something you believe strongly in, but it might take others awhile to take the time to explore it. You know this will be good for people, that this could change their lives, but they may look at it as a nuisance at first. That can be heartbreaking. Putting yourself out there and inviting everyone you know to give the ministry a chance and then to only be met with indifference was the hardest part for me.

I took me too much time to realize that constantly being mad about the people who didn’t show up is wasting time. Even if one person shows up to worship, it should be celebrated and they should be shown only appreciation and gratitude. As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, well a campus ministry can’t be either. So, instead of seething through worship that people you invited and maybe even people who said they’d come didn’t, smile and be joyous in the moment. It’s still a victory.

Be constantly in reflection and find where you are.

A huge part of my internship was taking time with our campus minister to discuss our personal faith journey and how we are developing that part of ourselves. Never be afraid to have these conversations with your leaders. Talk about your confusions, your frustrations, and your passions. You need to take time to reflect in yourself, but don’t think you need to do it all alone. People are there to help you. You’re not perfect. Take this time and use this great opportunity to learn something about yourself. If it’s a strength, rejoice in it. If it’s a weakness, continue to grow through it.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do this internship was to learn more about myself and to further my faith. I felt confident that I was strong enough in my beliefs to share it with others and help them build their own. I learned that my spiritual journey is not finished and I’m the only one who could have seen that. I know I want to servce God, but I haven’t figured out how quite yet and that’s okay.

Speak up often, listen always.

In your meetings with your leader(s) and your peers, you’ll find times where you want to hold an idea or opinion in. Maybe you think it’ll seem stupid. Maybe you think it’ll be unwelcome. Make it heard anyways. Find a way to say it respectfully. They might ask you to explain and be prepared for that. If you hold words back, you could stew over them later in anger and that only hurts you. In the same way that you want to be heard, hear your leaders, peers, and any other community members. Everyone’s voice is valid, even if they lack your experience or knowledge in the matter.

I’ve never been one to hold my tongue. I’ve always been outspoken and loud. But I had room to grow when it came to true honesty. I was chosen to share my perspective, so I had to learn that even when it differed from my leader and my peers, I had to speak up and let my opinion be heard. Even if it changed nothing.

“Words to Build a Life On”

I’m so proud to call myself a part of this wonderful organization and wanted to use some of my last experiences working as an intern with Wesley KU to showcase just what that love and community means to all of us.

I conducted interviews at the end of the spring 2017 school semester with Wesley KU interns, their campus minister, and members of the organization. We discuss who we are as a campus ministry, what it means to be a part of Wesley KU, as well as some of our favorite experiences sharing in worship and community together.

Take a look at our newest video below or on our YouTube channel and thank you to all who have supported our work and faith journey along the way!

-Lauren Muth, Videographer

Your One Wild Life

OneWild&PreciousLife.png

In this season of beginnings, I ask you consider what possibilities dwell within your deepest imaginings? What have you always wanted to try but never dared to do? What longing fills your heart with wonder? What observation fills you with awe? Sorrow? Joy? What have you always wanted to see?

What will you do with your one wild and precious life?

I believe that asking these questions and seeking their answers can lead us to a fuller life, to the very places where the colors are more vivid, the air is a little crisper, and we are fully alive.

I also believe that God calls to us through the answers to deep questions such as these. Answers that find their home in our hearts give us clues to who we are and the journey waiting for us — a journey filled with wild adventure, great love, and abundant joy.

–Susan Mercer, Wesley KU Campus Minister

365 Devotions for Rest

One of my favorite (and most needed) books was one my parents got for me for my 21st birthday. It goes without saying for those who know me realize I’m the girl who devotes every minute of her day to everything that I can be involved in. Often times I am so overworked that I forget to allow for “me” time or time with God. For those of you who would say your life is very similar or even those of you who just want a reminder of how to bring yourself closer to God in the midst of our everyday lives, I highly recommend reading this daily devotion. It will not only change the way you see the world and how you rank your priorities, but guides you to finding God in the simplest moments.

The biggest thing I struggle with is learning to say no, because I love to help everyone and provide the care that someone may need to make their lives easier. I’ve run into the problem, however, that the more I say yes to doing, the less I can take time to heal myself and my relationship with God. The devotion I read this morning is a perfect example, reminding us that it’s okay to say no.

No Guilt in No (from “365 Devotions for Rest”)

“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No.'” -Matthew 5:37

Fact: when you say no to one thing, it allows you to say yes to other things that are more important to you.

If you’re a people pleaser, it’s difficult to say no. You’d rather say yes and overwhelm yourself than say no and disappoint someone else. But when your yeses begin to pile up, they take valuable time away from other aspects of your life: your work, friends, family, church life, and your rest. When you say yes, it feels good to help someone out. But sometimes you’re hurting yourself in the process.

That’s why guilt shouldn’t be attached to the word no. Saying no isn’t selfish or self-centered or greedy; it’s simply treating your own time as valuable. Jesus didn’t say yes to everyone; He left the crowds, spent time with His disciples, and rested.

If you begin to say yes out of guilt today, stop yourself and ask God if you should- politely, gently, and lovingly- say no.

Prayer of the People

When I begin to yes out of guilt, Lord, stop me and remind me of my limits.

-Lauren Muth

Serving our Community

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. -1 Peter 4:10

It’s not often in college that you think beyond the works of what you have to accomplish every day. There’s tests, projects, assignments, activities, work, errands, social promises…but what stood out to me the most was an event that we were humbly able to be a part of this last weekend. The Big Event hosted by the University of Kansas is a large volunteer event which gives students the opportunity to sign up in groups to serve around the community and assigned to various homes across the city.

When we got to our assigned home in north Lawrence, we were pleased to meet some very wonderful people and given the task of helping enhance their yard. We raked many yards of leaves and pulled numerous amount of weeds, but most of all, we were able to see our hand in the community, doing as God tells us every day. Our ability to serve those who need it meant the most when we had the energy and passion to give back, as God has led us to do.

I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for anything and sincerely hope we can continue to serve in this tradition for the future. Check out some of the photographs and video I’ve compiled as a part of our experience working together through Wesley KU. A special thank you to all who joined our team!

-Lauren Muth

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Holy Week Reflection

On Sunday, we rejoiced as we retold the story of your triumphant ride into the city on the back of a donkey. Hailed as a King. Our King. Glorified. Revered. Worshiped. We waved palm branches. We celebrated. We cheered.

Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!

As we sweep up the palm branches left strewn along the parade route, we remember the rest of the story.

We know what is on the horizon. We know what we did.

There is none like you. You turned everything on its head. And as much as we wanted change, we were also afraid of change. Change brings the unknown. Uncertainty.

We could not wrap our minds around the new reality of your reign. And so, we let old habits and reactions take hold, instead of letting you take root.

The crowd turned cold. The shouts of jubilation became jeers. Anger built. A mob formed. You knew what was coming next. Still, you stayed. You took your place and played your part. You gave your all for us.

Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!

Oh, God. Forgive us. We know not what we do.

Take root in us. Renew us with the tenderness of spring growth. Strengthen us so that our faith is You. For you alone are holy. You alone are good.

-Susan Mercer, Wesley KU Campus Minister

Daily Encounters: Scripture

The past few weeks of my life have been chaos and I apologize if anyone has been trying to follow my blog series, “Daily Encounters.” Next up in the series is how to incorporate reading scripture into you life from day to day. I’ve never been able to simply sit down and read a random chapter of scripture on a regular basis. So, instead of telling you to force yourself to read the Bible for a certain amount of time every day, I’m going to illustrate some of the reasons you can turn to scripture.

3 Things You Can Find in Scripture

1) Guidance

Whenever I open my bible on my own, it’s usually because I need answers. Maybe I am lost and in need of direction. Maybe I am frustrated and need help understanding a situation. I’ve been a Christian my entire life. I’ve gone to church where we read scripture, I’ve attended youth group and bible studies, and I’ve sat at the table while my father explained God’s word to me. I’m still confused sometimes about what God wants or thinks of certain dilemmas. As a young adult, I’m still deciding my own ideas and faith. I think that certain phrases in scripture are open to interpretation and I can only find my own understanding by private study.

Here’s an example of when I’ve turned to scripture for answers. It was a couple years ago and there was a lot in the news about animal rights, particularly when it comes to poaching and trophy hunting. I knew this activity upset me, but I wanted to evaluate why. I eat meat, but I believe God put animals on this earth to for more than just our food. I looked up the word “animal” in my bible’s concordance and found all this information where God refers to animals being our equals in many ways and emphasizing that we must respect them.

2) Support

Similar to looking for an answer in God’s word, I have found support when I already knew my answer, but wanted to find agreement. I don’t necessarily mean you should use the Bible as a source for debate. There are many passages in God’s word that seem to contradict with one another. Like I said before, I am on a journey to find my own understanding of God’s word. Maybe I do agree with something I heard in church growing up, but I want to be sure I have it right. Deciding our moral code is incredibly important, especially if you want to share your faith with others. Those who are strangers to Christianity will need your help to make some sense of it and if you’re going to spread the word, you should probably fully understand it yourself.

3) Comfort

When I first came to college, I was lonely. I didn’t know anybody at KU and my roommates and I didn’t connect. I was used to being around those who knew me and loved me unconditionally, but those people were an hour away. God was there. I could pick up my bible and read the words from someone who I felt understood me. I could connect with someone even though He couldn’t actually speak to me or physically keep me company. Once you’ve built a relationship with God and have your own understanding of his words, you’re never alone.

 

 

 

Disclaimers: In this post, I refer to the Holy Trinity as “God” and I refer to God occasionally as “He.” I recognize that there are three parts to the Holy Trinity and fully accept that God’s gender is ambiguous. This language is to make the writing easier to understand and more to the point.