Friday, December 03, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Advent is not a time in Campus Ministry when we are able to do much programming (or at least I am able to do much). Most folks that I know in Campus Ministry have to wrap up most of our small groups/worship services during the first week of December due to finals and end of the semester stresses. A couple of weeks ago, though, I got a copy of the Rethink Church Advent Resources. I’ve decided that I’m going to use the introductory video for the only Chapel service that I have during Advent.
Hope. Peace. Joy. Love. These are the words that are shaping the program developed by UM Communications. I am planning on using the great little introductory video in my very last chapel, but that is our only chapel during the whole season of Advent due to wrapping up of our semester. I tell you what, both me and my campus are ready for more hope, more peace, more joy, and more love! It seems that despite the busyness of all that the is ahead of us as we approach the Christmas season, we need to focus on what is at the center of the season. And that is hope, peace, joy, and love. I wish that I had more time to devote specifically to the reminding my students about what it is to live in the reality of the Prince of Peace especially during the season of Advent, but I am grateful for the change to get the season started, at least. I hope that you will too!
Friday, July 30, 2010
- I've written several times about my involvement with a prayer campaign for campus ministry in the United Methodist Church. Well...we're counting down. Read this article from The United Methodist Reporter and then click on over to our website. It will launch on August 2 and the prayers will be available in time for our August 23 start date for prayer.
- My former Asbury colleague, Dr. Guy Chmieleski, has organized an online conference blog--a-thon for next week, August 3-5, on his blog, Faith On Campus. He writes about his blog here. He's got an incredible lineup of campus ministry types from all over the country who are going to be writing and weighing in on other posts during the three days. If you can, check in (and chime in!) during between Tuesday and Thursday. I've even written a blog for one of the days.
So...between preparing for the new school year and getting a little bit of rest, there is much going on! I hope that you'll join.
PS The picture is one painted by a SC student in our campus prayer room. It has been my prayer this summer.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
One of the themes that arose from the day of teaching and prayer was that God is stirring in the hearts of the Church for the people of our college campuses. It is our intention to remind the people of God to be intentionally prayerful on behalf of college students. The intentional season of prayer that we are calling for will last first for 40 days—August 23-October 1—but really is to usher us into a life of prayer. We’re asking campus ministers to demonstrate a life of prayer on their own, but also to prepare their students for the Holy Spirit to teach them to pray on their own. The life of prayer is not one for the faint of heart. Rather it is one that requires sacrifice—of time, of personal agendas, of self-interest. But it is a life that we are called to as Christians, and as Methodists, as we seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Monday, June 07, 2010
Hi, I’m Ashlee, and I’m an adrenaline addict. Not the adventure-seeking-bungee-jumping kind of addict, but the let’s-see-if-I-can-squeeze-in-one-more-thing kind of addict. I came to this realization about myself a little over a month ago when I felt my pulse quicken as I turned toward my bank, despite the fact that I had an appointment in 5 minutes and I was 3 minutes away. I wondered if I could get my errand done and still make it on time. I did, for the record.
That pulse-quickening, highly-efficient, no-margin-of-error kind of living is the lifestyle that I renounced last year, but this experience that day at the end of April brought home to me the fact that my high need for efficiency is pretty ingrained. Usually one would say that efficiency is great. However, I’ve recognized that for me, efficiency is actually reliance on myself, rather than on God. It’s also pride and hubris, as I act as if the normal boundaries for healthy people somehow don’t apply to me.
So I must confess my sins of self-dependence and pride and admit that even though I’m not hurting another person in my adrenaline-addictive ways, I’m also not living the sort of life when I can truly understand what the Psalmist means when he says, “Be still and know that I am God.”
In order to break my addictions, I’ve done three things, and I have to say, I’m feeling more and more freed from this nasty habit.
- I’m leaving five minutes earlier to get where I need to get. I have realized that I love the rush of wondering if I’m going to get somewhere on time. I don’t like to waste one minute of being “early,” preferring to be “right on time.” But usually that means I’m about 2 minutes late since I saw someone on the way across campus or got held up by a stoplight. I don’t like being disrespectful to people and being late is one of the common discourtesies, so I’m trying, I really am, to be a few minutes early. And I’m learning to enjoy sitting for a few minutes if I am early. Huh, whowouldathought?!
- Secondly, I’m growing a tomato plant. I’m only taking partial credit for thinking this up as a way of breaking out of my adrenaline addiction, as part of it actually goes to one of my students. I have a student who apparently has a burgeoning green thumb. He managed to convince a staff person here on campus to let him take over a lapsed garden and he tells me that he is growing quite a few veggies. He gave me a tomato plant in a planter so that I could make some fresh salsa later this summer and he continues to ask me how the plant is doing. I can’t tell him that I’ve let it die, so I water it. And I check on the little developing tomatoes and I do my best to will this little plant into abundance. I really have no ability to make this plant grow and that’s where I’ve seen that the plant is a long term investment of my time. Since my adrenaline-addictive habits like to see immediate success, this plant is exactly what I need to remind me of a sustained, steady, slow, progress that isn’t even guaranteed. My travels preventing me from watering it, the birds, or even a bad storm could completely demolish the potential of my summer salsa plans. But I water it anyway.
- Finally, my third (and most important) intervention to breaking the adrenaline habit is to linger longer in my morning (and afternoon, and evening) prayers. Instead of hurrying to get to work, I stay just a few more precious moments longer in studying scripture or praying. From the worldly perspective, I’m wasting time (and lots of it!), but from the spiritual perspective, I’m doing the most important work of the day. My head is clearer, my heart is more emboldened, and I’m far less inclined to be anxious about the things that I can’t control.
So, I suppose that I’m a recovering adrenaline addict, or on the road to it at least. I might just have to start investigating bungee jumping after all…
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I wrote last fall about a prayer effort that my colleague in the world of Campus Ministry, Creighton Alexander, and I were leading. It was 40 days of prayer to coincide with the start of school for college campuses around the country. We had some good encouragement in the prayer effort last fall and felt a sense of calling to once again, invite others to join us in prayer for the fall of 2010. This time, we've partnered with The Upper Room in the effort leading up to the 40 Days of Prayer and they are hosting a group of people to spend a day in prayer in anticipation of initiating a prayer effort for August 23-October 1, 2010. We will be meeting in Nashville at the United Methodist Communications Building, from 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m., being led in prayer by several teachers of prayer. Our "prayer faculty" are:
- Vance Ross - GBOD
- Tom Albin - The Upper Room
- Margaret Therkelsen - Lexington, KY
- David Blackwell - Campus America
- Dana Hernandez - Campus America
We know that there are some who would like to join us in the prayer conference that day, but who will be unable to do so physically. So, we'll have a live webstreaming of the conference in which anyone who is interested can participate. The link will be available here. You can also find information about our Prayer Gathering in Nashville at that link, too.
Twelve years ago, I read Bill Hybels book Too Busy Not to Pray. One of the things that has stuck with me was based off his general premise--the "busier" one gets being involved in ministry, the more one must rely on the intentional guidance of the Holy Spirit in prayer. You could say that I've been doing a lot of relying on the Holy Spirit lately. Each day, I eagerly anticipate the work that God is doing (and will continue to do) as we faithfully work out our calling in ministry through prayer. Please, seriously consider joining our little group of pray-ers next week. I really believe that God's Spirit has been weaving together a beautiful message for us through the people who will be teaching us about prayer.
If you are interested in prayer, ministry with college students, and are available to join us in the event next week, we still have a few spots left. Please RSVP to Ashlee.Alley@sckans.edu.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
This week heading up to Easter is one of mixed emotions. Nearly 6 weeks ago, we started this Lenten March toward Easter remembering that from ashes we come and to ashes we will return. We’re faced with our own mortality—and with the mortality of Jesus. It is Jesus’ mortality that I feel so keenly during this Holy Week. I know that the celebration of his divinity and his triumph over death is coming on Sunday, but each day that we move closer toward Friday—the day that we call Good Friday, despite the tragedy that befalls the Savior that I love—I feel a stronger sense of sadness. In these days, I remember most vividly the humanity of Jesus. There is a time in the last week of Jesus’ life that often captures my attention. It is told in the synoptic gospels—Jesus’ prayer the night before he is arrested. In a request that gives us a glimpse into the vulnerability of Jesus, he asks the disciples to stay up with him while he prays. Read these words from Mark 14.
At first glance, this glimpse of Jesus’ life is not the picture that we would imagine for the Savior of the World, is it? It’s a desperate man—asking his friends to wait up with him. It’s a man who reverts even to child’s language, calling his Father the equivalent of Daddy—Abba. It’s a glimpse of a man who is asking for release from the job ahead of him and shows his frustration with his friends. But…when we look at what happens to him in the next few hours, we see that this glimpse of Jesus underscores the obedience that he shows by willingly giving his life for all of humanity.
But I can’t get over the vulnerability that I see in Jesus! He is so bothered by what is happening that he asks—no, he begs—his friends to watch and pray with him. I’ve had friends in desperate situations before—as I’m sure that you have, too. If a friend of mine explicitly asks me to do something for them—I do it, even if it is inconvenient. Even if it requires a sacrifice on my part. So, we can imagine, then, that Peter, James, and John—Jesus’ three closest friends—stayed up all night and prayed with Jesus in his darkest hour, right?
Sadly, no. Despite the request to watch and pray (3 times, by the way), they fall asleep.
Peter, James, and John—these three privileged disciples who have witnessed so much and thus, are entrusted with so much, they fail to meet this fairly simple and straightforward request by their friend and Messiah. Jesus picks one of the disciples from the three, Peter, and calls his name: Simon. He doesn’t call him by the name that he had given him: Peter. No…Peter means “Rock.” This is Simon—the pre-Jesus version of himself. The one who reminds us of a faltering faith and gives us the foreboding feeling that even one of Jesus’ best friends could deny him. This—Simon! He is the one, with the others, too, of course, who slept when Jesus specifically said pray.
This, Simon, who did not resist temptation.
Perhaps Jesus even has another garden, Eden, on his mind as he warns the disciples to resist temptation. For it is in the story of the Garden of Eden that we see sin coming into the world and it is in this Garden, Gethsemene, that we find Jesus preparing to defeat sin.
And it’s this same Simon, though we know him forevermore as Peter, who writes in 1 Peter 4:7, 7 “be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” He may have lost the battle with temptation in that precarious time with Jesus in the Garden, but he did not lose the war. He got it! He recognized that it was possible to stand up against temptation—and pray!
The very same guy who yielded to temptation that fateful night in the garden, evidenced a transformed life in the book of the Bible that bears his name.
But Peter is not our hero. It was Jesus whose life Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 4 saying that because Jesus suffered in the body—starting that overwhelming night in the Garden—he lived his earthly life for the will of God.
This is huge! Even Jesus—who is God—suffered. Even Jesus learned to be obedient and do the will of God. And now—for Peter and for you and me—it is Jesus who gives him inspiration to actually follow through on his intentions. Whereas that sad night in the Garden, his spirit was willing but his flesh was weak, we now see a new understanding in Peter, the Rock. He tells them to be self-controlled, so that they can pray.
So why should we be concerned about prayer?
I’ve been contemplating prayer for nearly a year now—I’ve read about prayer, I’ve prayed, I’ve talked to others about their own prayer lives, and I’ve prayed a little more. I can’t help but think that Jesus seemed to think that something significant happened in prayer, or else he wouldn’t have insisted that his disciples stay up all night and pray with him. I can only deduce that for Jesus, prayer was a way to offer oneself to God’s purposes. It was a way to reorder one’s own priorities, even as Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but your will be done.” Prayer became, then, a time not when Jesus was at his weakest, but rather, he was at his strongest. That’s why he urged his disciples to watch and pray, and thus stand up to temptation. It was through an honest encounter with God through prayer that they would see their own vulnerability and in some way take on the countenance of Christ.
Jesus knew this, and he wanted his disciples to know this. Thankfully, Peter came to understand it and teach us, as well. The conviction with which Jesus faced the cross was borne out of strength in prayer, not out of his weakness.
The work of Christ on the cross started in the Garden—the sin of humanity was defeated once and for all, and temptation no longer holds us hostage. And so, we can, like Peter—because of Christ—be self-controlled and pray. Our earthly life can be lived by doing the will of God. Our victory comes through Christ. What starts as grief in the Garden turns to grace. While we may start as a Simon, we can end as a Peter—the rock! The grief only serves to make the joy of Resurrection morning all the more thrilling. But while we’re still in the Garden—we are to watch and pray. Watch and pray. Watch and pray.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
A friend of mine, Guy Chmieleski, the university pastor at Belmont University, asked me if I would "guest post" on his blog. It was a good excuse to get me to write something that I had been thinking about and I thought I should link it up here. I'm grateful that Guy asked me to write something and glad to link up with him in ministry again (we were colleagues at Asbury College, now Asbury University).
Ironically, I read a post this morning by Scot McKnight that I thought went closely with the theme in my post.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Today I had lunch with Dr. Forrest Robinson, a longtime UM pastor in Kansas. His wife is in a nursing facility, suffering with Alzheimer’s disease and he asked me to join him because he doesn’t like to eat alone. We went to a local restaurant, where everyone who works there knows his name. Likewise for the after church crowd who also eat there. Forrest, a well-known figure in Kansas as much for his presentations on World War II, a war in which he served, as for his ministry in various places around the Annual Conference, is a master storyteller. We shared lunch, him over his standard chicken fried steak, me with a Fattouch Salad, and both of us with Cokes. Tomorrow I will go before the Board of Ordained Ministry in the Kansas West Conference, so the idea of committing one’s life to ministry was not far from my mind through our conversation. I was struck by the irony in our lunch date—him having served for many years as an elder in the UMC, and me just beginning, having served three years as a commissioned candidate for deacon. Forrest shared a story that captured my attention.
He and his wife were in their mid-30’s when he got a call to serve in ministry. After a series of events, he found himself enrolling at Drew University for seminary. His pregnant wife had to fly to their new home and he drove himself, all their earthly belongings, and their dog to the Catskills in New York, where he would soon assume pastoral leadership of three small churches. He said that as he drove the long drive by himself, preaching as he drove, even the dog was tired of hearing him preach. He had plenty of time to get nervous as he realized that he had never really preached a “real” sermon, and he soon would be responsible for three per Sunday. He woke up early the Friday before he would have to preach on Sunday, and decided “to pull a John Wesley,” and open up the Bible, asking God to show him a passage of Scripture. His fingers flipped open to 1 Corinthians 2 and he read, “And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Cor. 2:1-5). He recited these words, verbatim, revealing to me of their permanence in his mind and heart. He identified that while he had been feeling insecure about his role as a preacher, he certainly could preach about Christ. He said that he vowed right then that this passage would be the text of his first sermon at the churches, his last sermon at those three churches, and he hoped that it would be the text of the last sermon that he preaches. The power of this Scripture slowly began to sink in to me as I sat in the booth of the restaurant thinking about the task that lies ahead for me. Despite the fine seminary education that I received and the decade of ministry experience, I find myself in weakness, with great fear and trembling. In fact, I’ve noticed, that the more that I have “learned,” the more fearful I become. Not in the respect of being scared to act, but in the sense of recognizing my own inability to communicate the Gospel, except through the power of the Holy Spirit. As I sit before the Board of Ordained Ministry tomorrow, I think that this is a good thing. I don’t want to have wise and persuasive words in my own strength. I seek to know Christ, and him, crucified. I’ve seen that as Forrest’s ministry, and I desire that for my own.
What a gift my lunch with Forrest was! He’s the example of a minister who served churches in cities and in rural areas, in the church-related college, and even for a while, in state government. He’s a presence now of a Christian life that though he has endured difficulty, he’s still preaching Christ. Forrest, I don’t know what the text of your last sermon will be, but the text of your life is indeed 1 Corinthians 2. And this Christian is so grateful.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
My church is spending the next six weeks “Rebooting” and asking some pretty basic questions about our faith. We’re also having a variety of people share a testimony that responds to our question for the week. I got to share today. Here is what I said, plus a little more.
The question of whether or not we can trust God is an important one. For if the answer is no, then we may find ways to serve God or even obey God’s laws, but we can’t truly love God. Having grown up in a church and in a Christian family, I was well aware of serving God and obeying God, but it took me longer to recognize what it would mean to love God. I think my childhood perception of God—that God was somewhat like a cosmic Santa Claus, blessing me when I was “good” and cursing me when I was “bad”—actually did carry over into my adult understanding of God, certainly in more mature ways, but they remained. But thankfully, there did come a point when I learned that not only could I serve and obey God, but that I could trust God, too.
The summer after my sophomore year, I served as a summer intern at FUMC, Winfield and from a series of some conversations—with the retiring pastor, Rick Frisbie and with the youth pastor, Bill Podschun, I began to think that God was maybe, possibly, might actually be calling me to something. I had no idea at the time that it would be to become a Campus Minister, but just knew that I was feeling a stirring about ministry.
If you know me very well, you know that I’m a planner. I like to know what’s going to happen, when, and be able to prepare for it. But as I walked further in faith in learning to trust God, I began to see that my plans simply couldn’t be made. I couldn’t have a “back-up” plan, just in case this whole ministry thing doesn’t work out! The stories of people in Scripture became my stories as I read about how Elisha burned the plow that had been at the core of his livelihood before he was called to serve God and about how Peter walked on water, faltered, but believed again. I wanted to be like these servants of God and believe, but I feared—what if it doesn’t work that way anymore?
As I grew in my understanding of the trustworthiness of God, I had a series of everyday experiences when I saw glimpses into God’s heart, but none was more powerful for me than an experience I had just before my last year of college. I had, by this time, responded to God’s call to ministry, but still was unsure what that would look like. I decided to do a semester-long internship in Colorado that cost a significant amount of money—more than I had access to. I was working with a group of High School girls that summer and asked them to pray with me for $2000. We prayed all summer long. As August was coming into sight, I still was short this money. However, would you believe that August 1 came, I got a letter in the mail that said I had been awarded a scholarship in this exact amount! The girls who had prayed with me and I celebrated God’s faithfulness. And then I did the math! I actually had a need of about 1 more thousand dollars! Why hadn’t I done the math first before we started praying?! Anyway, I knew that I had about that much in savings and could just pull it out and live on ramen noodles for the semester. The week before I was to leave, I got a phone call from the secretary in the office where I was working that summer up at Southwestern. She told me that she knew of my need and her church wanted to support me by giving a small scholarship which had already been sent to the financial aid office. As I went up there the day before I was to leave for Colorado, they told me that since it had been from a church, they were matching it and I would it would total $500! I was silently thrilled and recognized that I was only short $500—which I could easily cover with my savings. I stopped back by my mailbox one last time before leaving campus and discovered a card…once again from the same secretary whose church had given me a scholarship. It was a note wishing me blessings for the semester ahead and inside a check. Guess the amount? Yep. $500. If I ever wasn’t sure if I trusted God, in that moment I knew that I did! The day before I needed it, God provided the exact amount of money that I needed. I remember saying internally to God right then, “God, you are SO good!” And echoing back in my mind, I heard God say to me: “why are you surprised? Is it not my character to be good? Is it not what I do to provide?”
Can I trust God? Yes. Is it always easy? No. But we can learn to trust God when we recognize that God’s character is trustworthy! God is a provider, full of grace, and the definition of love. Recognizing that it is this very God who wants to be in relationship with me and will even give me the courage to step out in faith allows me to be able to trust that while I may not know the details, I’m responding to a God who does! God is good, and now I’m not surprised!