SHPC Youth | Blog

SHPC Youth | Blog

Learning to Lament: Leaning into the Struggle

As I have spoken with those finishing middle school and high school seniors, there has been so much sadness. There has almost been some kind of competition on who has lost the most. I don’t get to do this… well I am not getting to do that. We are all losing in this situation. Some more than others. But it’s important for us to sit in the pain and hardness of it all. So many seniors that I have spoken to realize they just need to feel the loss and grieve it. When teenagers are sad or angry, parents often rush in to fix it, to give them something or do something to cheer them up. What if we just accepted, that we can’t make this up to themAnd that’s ok. What they have lost is a celebration that is so special to this time in life. The end of senior year cannot be replaced. If we try to fix or take away the pain, it teaches our teenage friends or children that emotions like anger and sadness need to be numbed or fixed, instead of processed and felt.  We don’t want our teenagers to feel like they aren’t equipped to deal with hard things. What if we leaned in and engaged with those negative feelings?

Let us show our seniors and other teenagers struggling how to lament. Let them cry, be frustrated, be sad. As we have prayed through Psalm 91 as a church the past few months, I am reminded how Scripture – especially the Psalms – invites us to give voice to the disappointment we feel and the pain deep inside through prayer.

One of the worst things we can do to a person who is grieving is to meet their pain with all the reasons they ought to be grateful, all the reasons that they shouldn’t feel the way they feel. God doesn’t do that. He invites us to bring our hearts to him, broken and hurting, battered and bruised, and to be honest with Him about what is going on inside of us.

We often hesitate to lament because we don’t want to be the complainer or act like a child whining to God. But actually, lament is holy confrontational and leads to trust and love in our relationship with God. God invites lament – there is a book called Lamentations for good reason. There is an open invitation from God to offer up prayers of lament to foster a more intimate relationship with him. It deepens our friendship with Christ. Even though He knows what we are thinking, He longs for us to tell Him what we are struggling with, and how it is hard to trust right now. Open honest communication is what we long for in any relationship, and Jesus doesn’t want it any different. Counselor Julie Sparkman often says that the Psalms of lament begin with anguish, “GOD WHAT ARE YOU DOING????” through which the Holy Spirit moves us into curiosity, “God, what are you doing?” I love that. God can soften our hearts towards Him as we spend time with him in quiet time and prayer.

Every part of Scripture reminds us that God resurrects what was dead and redeems what was lost. As I think about all that has been lost, especially for 5th, 8th, and 12th graders, it seems that we won’t be able to get what was taken away. But God promises that he redeems all things. Considering all the suffering that is going on in the world right now,  as I have spoken with seniors some have felt a little ashamed to be down about missing graduation festivities or having them not be as they hoped. While there’s no shame in the disappointment, the awareness is redemptive itself. God is using this situation (among other things) to move seniors from the self-centeredness of childhood to a mature concern for what others are going through. If God can redeem Christ’s crucifixion on the cross, He can redeem anything!

Laura

 

Who are you? Who do you want to be? | Psalm 139:1-3
Anna Klepzig | May 11, 2020

Who are you?

Who do you want to be?

Two different questions but sometimes I feel like we answer the first like we are answering the second.

You see someone’s really cool instagram picture and decide, you too, want to move to an island and eat all fruits and do yoga consistently. Even though you’ve never been on an island in your life and the last time you tried to do yoga you couldn’t stop laughing to hold a pose.

But the next day, you watch a Gossip Girl, and decide you want to move to New York and wear heels everyday.

I don’t know if anyone else can relate to this, but as an enneagram nine, I struggle with identity. I changed my mind on what I should major in about a thousand times and have a new life plan every three days. As the great Hannah Montana once said, “You can change your hair and you can change your clothes, you can change your mind that’s just the way it goes. You can say goodbye and you can say hello, but you’ll always find your way back home.”

You can chose daily who you want to be. You can change friends, change styles, change majors, quit your job, quit your habits, start new habits, etc.

But who ARE you? How do you know?

In quarantine, I’ve had a lot of time to think (too much time, perhaps) and identity keeps coming up. I think quarantine is a defining time of identity. You can say all you want that you love to workout, that you love baking, that you are an avid reader… but what did you do when you had all the time in the world? Who were you when no one was watching, when there was nothing to post? I think how we chose to spend our social distancing says a lot about who we are.

We had all the time in the world to pray, to read our bibles, to be intentional with the people around us… did we take it?
The truth is, whether we know who we are or not, God does. Psalm 139:1-3 says, “O LORD you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.” The LORD knows our true selves, He knows our hearts. All this time at home didn’t surprise Him. Take comfort in the fact that you are truly loved by someone who truly knows you.

And know that we can decide today that we want to be better. Maybe you didn’t make the most of quarantine so far, but now you have so much time to make who you want to be, who you are.

Anna Klepzig | SHPC Youth Intern

 

Thoughts on Cancer, COVID, Honesty, and Hope
Bennett Neece | May 7, 2020

My mom has cancer.

I found that out on March 17th, and nearly two months later, it’s still tough to admit. I still, when I really think about it, get that sinking feeling in my stomach. I still, when I say it out loud, feel like I’m in a strange bad dream.

When my mom and dad first broke the news, that stomach feeling was a lot bigger. That was the shock phase. Shock and despair. As I spring-broke that first week with Sarah and friends at Sarah’s lake house, I spent a lot of time fighting off tears, toying with my food at dinner, and staring off.

Since then, though, there’s been a long sort of numbing phase. COVID-19 has put us all in a weird limbo, and I learned pretty quickly when I got back home that since Mom was at heightened risk, my parents and I would really be limited to the company of each other. This limbo, and the resulting boredom, have turned down the shock a bit. My emotions have, in a way, resembled the stock market in the past three months. There was a big drop. Then there was a sort of rally, a little bit less volatility every day, bringing me into an odd neutral. I guess I also fear, just like the market, that there’s another drop I can’t see coming.

There have been good days. We found out in early April that Mom’s cancer has not spread beyond one breast and a lymph node. This meant that the cancer was operable, with a surgery planned for August. I also got a job offer in late March amid a week that was otherwise frankly terrible. These were good days.

There have also been bad days. Of course, finding out was the worst day. But I’ve also hated the days following another chemo round, when I watch my mom get sick. I hated watching my mom have to go through losing her hair two weeks ago. These were bad days.

Tomorrow, May 8th, is a good and bad day for me. After six weeks at home, I’m headed back to my apartment to spend my final weeks with college friends and roommates, and looking for another apartment as I prepare to start work in June. It’s good because cancer or not, six weeks with only your parents will drive you up a wall. It’s bad because since my mom has cancer, I won’t be able to get close to her, hug her, or be there if things take a turn for the worse. “Time to move on,” writes Tom Petty, “what lies ahead I have no way of knowing.”

A mentor of mine has often said that “if you’re not being honest, what’s your point?” Honestly, when I found out that Mom had cancer, I think I had a weird thought that my life would actually be happier as a result. I think that we, Americans, Christians, like to hear stories about cancer making us stronger, more thankful, or closer as a family. That is Biblical, but I’ve learned that it doesn’t mean the process doesn’t suck.

I thought my mom having cancer would make me stronger. There are, to be fair, times when I feel very perseverant. But there have also been days when I’ve failed to do anything. I’ve spent many nights distracting myself with sports documentaries and Law and Order’s till three in the morning only to wake up at noon and wonder where the time is going.

I thought my mom having cancer would make me more thankful. To be fair, there are days when I am very thankful (like I mentioned, there have been very good days). And cancer in the family has certainly made me more prayerful. But frequently, my prayers to God are angry or forlorn. Lots of why God why’s. The quarantine has also prevented my family from seeing friends or support groups that might really help with thankfulness. I often feel thankful, yes. But I also often feel that God is being unfair or not present.

I thought my mom having cancer would bring my family closer together. It has in some ways. The quarantine did give me a chance to live with my parents again for two months, and I’ve had some fun. I also talk to my sister, who lives in Pennsylvania, a lot more than I have in the time since we lived together as kids. But I’ve learned that even during cancer, a family can still argue. Tempers have at times flared. There have been arguments that my father and my COVID concerns are too economic or optimistic. Arguments that my mother is too much the opposite.

I think, as it turns out, that what Mark Lampley told me in late March was very true. Cancer “robs us” as much as it gives us a chance to rethink life. So, what is there to take away from my mom having cancer?

A friend of mine said something to me when we graduated high school that I think, considering he was only eighteen, was pretty profound. “I think we should take life as an experience,” he said, “and learn to become better from it.”

One thing we’ve probably all learned is that just because we’re Christians, that doesn’t mean life will be easy. There are constant reminders of this in the Bible. Israel, not America, was God’s chosen people, and the Israelites were conquered, imprisoned, and enslaved more times than I can remember. It’s a lesson in itself that I thought my mom having cancer would make things better for me.

The second thing that I’ve learned is that what Andy wrote to Red in Shawshank Redemption is really true. “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.” In the moments where I’ve been pessimistic, angry at God, or cynical about my circumstances, I haven’t felt strong, satisfied, or even totally honest with myself. On the contrary, I think that when things get tough, it may be best to have hope. I hope that my mom has a successful surgery in August, and that this whole cancer thing just shuts up for a while. I hope that when you see me two months from now, I tell you my family was incredibly lucky. I hope that my other family members never have to go through what my mom is going through. I hope that this coronavirus thing shuts up soon, too. I hope that we all get to see our friends soon, keep our jobs, and watch Tennessee football in the fall.

Hope. It doesn’t make me dishonest. My mom has cancer. But I think God wants us to have hope when things are hard. I think Moses had hope in the desert, and I think Daniel had hope in the lions’ den. With hope, not despair, I’ve felt at least some of the resilience and thankfulness I had hoped I would grow in as a result of this. So, I guess my message is that you can still be honest with yourself and have hope.

Bennett Neece | SHPC Youth Volunteer Leader


I hope you see how the Lord was with you,
and use it as an altar in your life
where you learned to lean into the Lord. | May 1, 2020

Heavy on my heart this week has been high school seniors. Last week, three of our church’s seniors gave their “senior sermons” on Youth Sunday. Each mentioned the heartbreak of knowing their senior year was cut short, and they would not be returning to campus to see their friends, say good bye to their teachers, have a senior skip day, play a prank, and most likely not hold a graduation ceremony.
I remember my senior year of high school being one of the best times of my life. I loved the last month of being in school, just soaking up all that I had achieved over the years and all that the community of my high school had given me. Although I was so ready for college, I needed the closure of saying goodbye to my teachers, counselors, coaches, teammates, and feeling like I left my legacy at my school. I can’t imagine how our seniors are feeling without their final sports seasons, getting to celebrate their accomplishments, or getting to spend time with their friends before many will leave for college.
And for the most part, I have heard so much maturity from these seniors. I have heard acceptance of their reality and compassion for people who have it so much worse than them. I have seen them lean into people telling them the best is yet to come, and that it won’t matter that much in a few years that they didn’t get this chance to finish. I have watched them accept heartbreak with so much grace and strength, and pour out compassion for others.
But I know, that deep in their hearts, this is really hard. And for many it is probably one of the hardest things they’ve been through at a young age. At a time when they want to grieve what is being lost, they are being told they shouldn’t. It can be so confusing to know what to feel. To not want to be selfish and be upset. I know many are probably feeling both heartbreak and thankfulness, sadness and joy, afraid and excited.
So seniors, this post is for you. I want you know that God sees you. I know many of you are feeling unseen – glazed over by our world for more important matters. Just as He saw the woman at the well and knew her story. Just as He saw Zacchaeus in the tree. Just as he saw Leah feeling unloved by her husband. And Adam and Eve naked in the garden. He sees each of us and knows how we are feeling. God hears you. Just like he heard the Israelites in exile. And King David’s prayers. And Paul in prison. And Jesus in the garden.
The bible says in Psalm 34:18 that “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit,” and “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3
God is here during this time for you. You can rely on Him for comfort and hope in knowing that He will be right here with you. He will show you how to heal your heart if you let Him. It’s okay to cry and to be sad. Cry out to the Lord; He wants you to bring you burdens to Him. He wants to carry them and to heal them in His time.
This time of loss and time of stillness in quarantine can be a time of revived strength in the Lord if you let it be. You can walk away knowing that the Lord has a “plan to give you a hope and a future” (Jer 29:11). He hasn’t abandoned you. The bible says He “keeps track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8. The Lord is mourning with you and all of us who are hurting during these unprecedented times. The Lord sees our tears, hears the cries of our heart. I know that for me, He has used this to give me a longing for Heaven. For seeing him come back and take us to a place where there will be no more tears and no more sorrow. To have Him wipe the tears away from my eyes.
I hope that you will feel seen and loved by the Lord. I hope you will find hope in the sadness and peace in the stillness. I hope you will learn to look to Him to supply all your needs and heal your brokenness. I hope you look back on this time in the future and see how the Lord was with you, and use it as an altar in your life where you learned to lean into the Lord.

Mary Klepzig | SHPC Youth Intern


The beautiful catastrophe | April 21, 2020
Romans 8:26-28

During Youth Sunday this past week, Cayden read a passage of scripture that we have been looking at in small groups lately from Romans. I feel like it is so pertinent to where we are in life right now as we lean into what Jesus is trying to teach us. Romans 8:26-28 says:
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

Right now, somedays I feel like I am good, trusting in Jesus and having a firm faith. Then I wake up the very next morning, so overwhelmed, not sure about what is to come, feeling trapped with the same 4 people, and exhausted. On those days, I have trouble seeing God’s Word as the same as it was the day before. But I find comfort in this passage. There are days where I literally have no idea what to pray, how to talk to God, what to ask him. But he promises one thing here. He has given us his Holy Spirit. That Spirit that lives inside each of us, when we choose relationship with Jesus, helps us to pray, when we have no clue what to talk to him about. When we are frustrated, when we are lost. The Spirit of God is with us.

Then Paul goes on to say that ALL things work for our good. The Romans were going through struggles, and felt like things were happening that didn’t feel good. But Paul gently reminds them that no matter what is happening, nothing is outside of God’s control. He’s got this! The same God that allowed Christ to be crucified, is also the same God that raised him from the dead. Death and life. He does both!

JRR Tolkien coined this term Eucatastrophe. “Eu” in the greek meaning “good” and catastrophe meaning “destruction.” Life brings us things that seem catastrophic (like a pandemic) but Jesus can show us the beauty in them. The beautiful catastrophe. So right now, know that your God is working for good, that he will make all things beautiful in his time. How is Jesus teaching you in the hardships and showing you that in ALL THINGS He works for your good? May you see God’s goodness in your life this week.

(Pic of these wild 4 who have worn me out during this Pandemic, but God is teaching me to see the goodness.)

Laura Cutter


WORLD QUARANTINE | April 14, 2020
May your heart be encouraged.

I read this passage the other day and it gave me chills. I thought it was so prophetic and life-giving to think of all God might be up to during these days of sheltering in place. May your heart be encouraged. Where might God be inviting you into 2020 vision this year? And remember 20+20 = FOURTY!

“The Latin root of the word “quarantine” is “forty”.

So what does the Bible say about 40?

The flood lasted 40 days.

40 years Moses fled Egypt.

40 days Moses stayed on Mount Sinai to receive the Commandments.

Exodus lasted 40 years.

Jesus fasted for 40 days.

Lent is 40 days.

40 days for a woman to rest after giving birth.

A group of theologians thinks the number 40 represents “change”. It is the time of preparing a person, or people, to make a fundamental change.

Something will happen after these 40 days. Just believe and pray. Remember, whenever the number 40 appears in the Bible, there is a “change”.

Please know that during this “quarantine” rivers are cleaning up, vegetation is growing, the air is becoming cleaner because of less pollution, there is less theft and murder, healing is happening, and most importantly, people are turning to Christ. The Earth is at rest for the first time in many years and hearts are truly transforming.

So, during this time, enjoy it with your loved ones and return to the family altar together. Family prayer is a great blessing. Through prayer you will see the changes God can work in you and in your home. Christ promises us that everything works together for the good for those who love God: Romans 8:28!

Remember we are in the year 2020, and 20 + 20 = 40.

Also, 2020 is the year of the United States Census. Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, was born during a census.

Lastly, 2020 is perfect vision. May our sight focus on the Lord and living according to His perfect vision for us knowing He holds us in the palm of His hand.

May these days of “quarantine” bring spiritual liberation to our souls, our nation, and our world.

The best is yet to come.
Trust in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!✨”

Laura Cutter


Sacred Season Disrupted | April 7, 2020
Mark 14:12-22 | John 17:11b-15 

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of the disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guestroom where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely not I?’ …. While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’” –Mark 14:12-22

“Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one.  While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me.  I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves…I am not asking that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.” John 17: 11b-15

***

Spring has long been my favorite season.  When I was little it meant flowers would grow around the creek in my backyard; all the better for playing out Secret Garden scenarios. A little later and spring meant softball practices would run through family dinnertimes (yes!), and I’d spend the evenings with friends on my team, practicing our throws, chewing sour apple gum. In high school, the beginning of spring brought tennis practice, the stress of lurking AP exams, finding a dress for prom, Easter thrown somewhere in the mix, and ultimately graduation with all of the dinners, pool parties, and “goodbye, we’ll always be friends, I’ll see you at Thanksgiving-es” that it entailed.

Yep, I’ve always loved Spring. While the activities ramp up in Spring, heading into their championship games and final performances, Spring means celebrations, the time we recognize the resurrection of our Risen Lord, and a race toward summer where many of our obligations grind to a halt.

But not this year. Not this spring. I don’t have to detail for you how this unprecedented global pandemic has disrupted our lives lately because if you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re at home (not school), with your family (not your friends), looking for something–anything–to do. Instead of harping on the disruption of our present historic moment, I’d like to look back to an even more disruptive, historic moment because I think, at least for me, it will re-focus why Spring is so sacred anyway.

Some two thousand years ago, it was likely Spring when Jesus and his disciples made their triumphal entry into Jerusalem and prepared for Passover. Passover, the celebration of when God passed over the Israelites’ homes in His final plague and then delivered them from Egypt, was a sacred, familiar, Spring-time festival for Jewish people, including Jesus and his disciples.  To be a disciple of Christ meant leaving behind one’s former lifestyle for one of obedience and unexpected adventures with miracles and mobs of people, so I’m willing to bet that the thought of the Passover festival was not only sacred to the disciples, but I think it was probably a little bit comforting to them too—it represented the Lord’s sovereignty, but also customs, songs, and prayers that were familiar. When your day as a disciple might consist of feeding thousands of people from a few fish and pieces of bread, as thrilling as that’d be, I’m sure it’d also be pretty nice to just sit down to dinner with your friends and sing the same song you sang every year at that time.

Similar to how our Spring and Holy Week have been tremendously disrupted this year, the disciples’ Passover was mightily disrupted in Mark’s text. They knew that they were already on the verge of something unusual—the crowds around them were unmanageable, the religious leaders’ anger with them was growing, Jesus had foretold his death to them. You can hear the disciples’ desire for familiarity in their conversation with Jesus when they ask him where they should make preparations for their Passover meal. It reminds me of how I would ask my parents about my own graduation if I were a senior in high school this Spring—”will graduation exist? Where will it be?”

Jesus answers their question. They have their Passover supper, but before it’s over, literally “when they’re eating,” according to Matthew’s telling, Jesus tells his dearest friends that one of them will betray Him. And just like that, their moment of familiarity is disrupted; it becomes distressing and dark and mysterious.

Jesus then re-defines the Passover ritual by creating a new one—the first communion—but if I were one of the disciples, I’d probably only have heard two things: I might be the one to betray my leader whom I love more than anyone, and that this is the last time I’d dine with him before he dines “new in the kingdom of God”—whatever that meant, Jesus probably wouldn’t eat with me normally again.

Surely the disciples were distraught and frightened by Jesus’s words, and while I don’t want to equate our current crisis and time of uncertainty with the Last Supper and Jesus’s walk to the cross, there is comfort in their parallels.

According to Matthew and Mark’s telling of the Passover meal, it ends with a song and then Jesus foretells that they will all desert him, and, in particular, Peter will deny him. Their Passover meal has taken a dark turn indeed, and it’ll get darker still before it’s all over. Yet, before they leave the meal and go to the garden where Jesus is arrested, at least according to its placement in John’s gospel, Jesus prays a prayer of protection over his disciples. According to John’s text, after speaking with his disciples, Jesus turns his face to Heaven and pleads, “Holy Father, protect them in your name…I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete” and that they “would not be taken out of the world” but instead “protected from the evil one” (John 17:11-15).

Christ knew His disciples and He knew the believers who would come from them and He knew the fear that they were facing then and He knew what we would continue to face throughout history.  So He prayed for our protection, too, saying, “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one” (John 17:20).

This Holy Week is certainly different for us. And as difficult as it is to restructure my Spring rituals this year, I’ve been humbled to see how I’ve idolized a season’s fun more than its holiness. Still, we don’t know what the rest of our Spring will look like. We don’t know what our summer will look like or if we’ll be with our friends much before fall, and these are heartbreaking realities which don’t even touch the truths of how people are falling ill across our country, healthcare workers remain unprotected, and our economy is in crisis.

What we do know, though, is that when Christ looked on to His lonely, final hours, He prayed that His Father would safeguard His disciples. He prayed that God’s love would be in them, that they wouldn’t be taken out of this world, and that His prayer would cover every believer to come, which includes you and me in 2020 during this Coronavirus crisis (John 17:26).  Then—and here’s the real joy—after a few days, God answered Christ’s prayer in a way that He has every day since: with a vacant grave and a permanent hope.

Let’s remember Christ’s protective prayer as we walk through this Holy Week and this pandemic because, despite the darkness, Sunday is Coming.

Frances Howell


Perspective | March 30, 2020 | Job 26:7-14

 

Perspective.
Have you ever been on top of a mountain, looked around, and just felt small?
Or have you ever looked up at the stars at night and tried to count them and get baffled at just how many there are?

All the craziness of COVID-19 has made me feel something similar. I tend to get wrapped up in the busyness of life- school, work, friends. To be honest, I forget that the world doesn’t revolve around me, that school isn’t the end of the world and there are bigger issues out there. With schools and businesses closing, being ordered to stay home, not being able to see friends and family, I am reminded that I am one mere human to our great God. The world doesn’t revolve around me. I am not invincible. I am not in control, no matter how hard I try to be.

Job 26:7-14 says, “God stretches the northern sky over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing. He wraps the rain in his thick clouds, and the clouds don’t burst with the weight. He covers the face of the moon, shrouding it with his clouds. He created the horizon when he separated the waters: he set the boundary between day and night. The foundations of heaven tremble; they shudder at his rebuke. By his power the sea grew calm. By his skill he crushed the great sea monster. His Spirit made the heavens beautiful, and his power pierced the gliding serpent. These are just the beginning of all that he does, merely a whisper of his power. Who, then, can comprehend the thunder of his power?”

When I get so caught up in my own life, I make myself my own god. And, I’m not good at being God. The past few weeks I have been able to slow down and realize how much I have tried to do things on my own, how much control I thought I had.

It’s like America thought it was invincible, too. I would have never thought schools and businesses would close for months. I would have never thought that we would be ordered to stay home. But here we are. And we are alright! Maybe all those things weren’t as important as we thought. Maybe we aren’t as important as we like to think we are.

Thankfully, God is in control. And even in a time that seems scary, He knows better than we do. “Who, then, can comprehend the thunder of His power?”  I don’t have the answers, I don’t know why COVID-19 is happening. But perhaps that’s exactly what I needed reminding of. That I don’t know, and I wasn’t meant to know, because I am not God.

This week slow down and remember who is in control. Let Him be in control. He is good at being God and we can trust Him.

Anna Klepzig
Middle School Intern


What Do You Think? | March 23, 2020 | Matthew 18:12-14 

Today I’ve been thinking a lot about Matthew 18:12-14, which says, “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:12-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As I see so many posts about “it’s only 3% fatality” “it won’t be bad if you are young and healthy”, all I can think is how these people who are not young and healthy must feel, and how the most vulnerable must feel as the world tries to belittle their humanity, as if they are not important enough to protect.

So today I am grateful for a God who cares about the one. A God who loves each of us and is excited for us to come home to Him. Today I am grateful that God doesn’t react the same way humans do. He doesn’t pick and choose who is most important based on their qualifications, their age, their health. Instead He gives his love freely and abundantly to any who seek Him. He is delighted when the one comes home! When just one person is saved!

In hard times like this week it seems there is little to find hope in but the truth of scripture, and today this is where I’m putting my hope! Oh Jesus may we be a people more like you. That we may decrease so you make increase and be delighted at the many ones who may be saved and may realize the truth of who you are!

Mary Klepzig,
High School Youth Intern

Mary Klepzig | SHPC Youth Intern

COVID-19 Plan | The Loft Youth Ministries of SHPC

Youth and families, 

As you know, Sequoyah Church events as well as the activities of many businesses and schools, have slammed on the breaks as the coronavirus spreads throughout our nation and towns. SHPC has put together a Church Health Task Force (CHTF) to help make decisions regarding meetings and gatherings within the church. As a person who thrives on human connection, the coming days are going to be a challenge. Many aspects of what’s to come are going to be hard, as fear, frustration, isolation, and weariness begin to set in. 

I want to share with you our plans and hopes for what is to come over the next weeks in the LOFT. As of now, we will not be meeting for sunday school, weekly worship, small groups or sunday night fellowship through March 29 (at least). I know, the basketball tournament will be postponed, so sad. These plans are ever fluid and we will keep you posted as the CHTF makes decisions as we move into the month of April through Lent and into the Easter season. While we are unable to meet together in person, we are hopeful for some creative and unconventional ways for us to join together as the body of Christ. Lean in my friends, this experience is going to push us, and I’m interested to see what God will be up to in us during the process.

Check out what’s ahead from us in the LOFT in the coming days:

  • Regular Blog Posts – We will be starting this blog as a space to provide our students, their friends and families with resources and articles of encouragement during this hard time. Be on the lookout for these. We will update you on our social media when new blogs have been posted.
  • InstaConnect – Be looking on our Facebook and Instagram, for fun questions, insightful conversations, live videos to connect you to the truth of the Gospel amidst your questions and wonderings. We would love for you to comment, DM and connect with us anyway you would like, to help you stay involved and connected to the church during these strange days.
  • Small Group Messages – Be active in your small group messages. We will have a “Thought of the Week” each week that will go out in your group chats. We would love to hear from you about what you think and how God may be meeting you right now.
  • Resources – The interns and I will be working to share links and digital downloads with you while we are away. Our hope is that we would still make space for you to “learn” mobilly. This might include liturgy, scripture, downloadable art, prayers, songs, or videos that may feed your soul.
  • Service Opportunities – Right now, Thrive is closed for the next 3 weeks, but our friends there still need to eat, do laundry, and maintain life at home. Click here for a list of items that are needed for families at Thrive. I will have a laundry basket on my porch. Feel free to drop off items at any time throughout our time of “social distancing” and we will get them to Thrive Parkridge and Lonsdale. 

A Note to the Class of 2020 – 

As many of you are driving home from Spring Break plans that have been changed or sitting watching Netflix because your cruise got cancelled, my heart is broken for you. We don’t know what is ahead, but your GOD does. We know how valuable some of our traditions at SHPC are, like seniors teaching on Youth Sunday or your Senior Banquet Celebration. While we do not know specific dates and times of our plans at this time, please know that we are working diligently to make sure you get your “senior experience” in some way. Please know how loved you are. It has been a gift to get to journey through these days with you as a teenager at SHPC. We celebrate you! Simply know, we are doing everything we can to make sure the end of your high school career is celebrated.

Our God is not surprised by what we are experiencing. He wants to be our strong tower, when everything around us has come tumbling down. As I was praying and asking God to show me what he is up to, how is this life giving, what is he trying to tell us. He led me to Psalm 91 through a Young Life Africa post. I believe Jesus is inviting us towards trust, away from fear, towards the hope of his resurrection, away from the disease of this world, towards his rescuing heart, away from the arrows that may fly at us. 

May we know how He will never let go. Hang in there friends, our God is fighting for us and will never stop.

Laura

Join us in praying Psalm 91 for 91 days!

Learning to Lament: Leaning into the Struggle

As I have spoken with those finishing middle school and high school seniors, there has been so much sadness. There has almost been some kind of competition on who has lost the most. I don’t get to do this… well I am not getting to do that. We are all losing in this situation. Some more than others. But it’s important for us to sit in the pain and hardness of it all. So many seniors that I have spoken to realize they just need to feel the loss and grieve it. When teenagers are sad or angry, parents often rush in to fix it, to give them something or do something to cheer them up. What if we just accepted, that we can’t make this up to themAnd that’s ok. What they have lost is a celebration that is so special to this time in life. The end of senior year cannot be replaced. If we try to fix or take away the pain, it teaches our teenage friends or children that emotions like anger and sadness need to be numbed or fixed, instead of processed and felt.  We don’t want our teenagers to feel like they aren’t equipped to deal with hard things. What if we leaned in and engaged with those negative feelings?

Let us show our seniors and other teenagers struggling how to lament. Let them cry, be frustrated, be sad. As we have prayed through Psalm 91 as a church the past few months, I am reminded how Scripture – especially the Psalms – invites us to give voice to the disappointment we feel and the pain deep inside through prayer.

One of the worst things we can do to a person who is grieving is to meet their pain with all the reasons they ought to be grateful, all the reasons that they shouldn’t feel the way they feel. God doesn’t do that. He invites us to bring our hearts to him, broken and hurting, battered and bruised, and to be honest with Him about what is going on inside of us.

We often hesitate to lament because we don’t want to be the complainer or act like a child whining to God. But actually, lament is holy confrontational and leads to trust and love in our relationship with God. God invites lament – there is a book called Lamentations for good reason. There is an open invitation from God to offer up prayers of lament to foster a more intimate relationship with him. It deepens our friendship with Christ. Even though He knows what we are thinking, He longs for us to tell Him what we are struggling with, and how it is hard to trust right now. Open honest communication is what we long for in any relationship, and Jesus doesn’t want it any different. Counselor Julie Sparkman often says that the Psalms of lament begin with anguish, “GOD WHAT ARE YOU DOING????” through which the Holy Spirit moves us into curiosity, “God, what are you doing?” I love that. God can soften our hearts towards Him as we spend time with him in quiet time and prayer.

Every part of Scripture reminds us that God resurrects what was dead and redeems what was lost. As I think about all that has been lost, especially for 5th, 8th, and 12th graders, it seems that we won’t be able to get what was taken away. But God promises that he redeems all things. Considering all the suffering that is going on in the world right now,  as I have spoken with seniors some have felt a little ashamed to be down about missing graduation festivities or having them not be as they hoped. While there’s no shame in the disappointment, the awareness is redemptive itself. God is using this situation (among other things) to move seniors from the self-centeredness of childhood to a mature concern for what others are going through. If God can redeem Christ’s crucifixion on the cross, He can redeem anything!
Laura