I would win every time.

Well hello again.  A lot has happened since my last post (which is the reason for the delay).  I have been up to my neck in schoolwork lately, so all of my time with fast internet has been spent doing actual work, rather than getting to blog, which is unfortunate.

So!  When I last left off I was planning on running a 5k last Sunday.  Well, that happened, and it was pretty great.  There were a lot of people there-I think there were at least a hundred who participated, not to mention folks who came to cheer on their loved ones.  I ran it with Nason, and I saw my dad at three points: In the beginning, at the end, and when he was finishing a loop of the course that I had just started.  My dad is pretty in shape, so I wasn’t surprised.  The biggest shocker was the story he told me after the race-apparently, when he was in view of the finish line, one of my middle school students who was right behind him decided to pick up the pace and sprinted past him at the last minute!  It was pretty funny, to think that an 8th grade girl beat my dad, who is still active duty with the Air Force.

Meanwhile, Nason and I were about 5 minutes behind.  We both claimed injury on Sunday-Nason woke up with bad knees, and I developed a sore back throughout the day.  It put us on an even keel, and we finished with decent times.  I finished at 30:06 and Nason finished at 30:50.  The 5k was pretty non-competitive, so all three of us ended up in second place for our age group!

Overall, the 5k was a success.  The guy coordinating it raised about $3500 for Rapha House, and there were no injuries or anything negative.  It ended up being a really cool day, and I was happy to participate in it.

This week has otherwise been a blur of midterms, work, and shooting guns.  I found a handgun that I’ll be picking up this weekend (more on that later), and I will be done with my midterm exams after tomorrow morning (I had three this week-yikes!).  Life is busy right now, but oh so good.

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Some time ago, I learned about a situation involving one of the elders at my church.  It is pretty well known that he is an avid beer drinker, and he had posted something online about the brew he was working on.  A member of the church (I am not sure who) took offense to this statement and complained about how he was ‘not setting an appropriate example’ as an elder and youth ministries leader.

Although the story was told over lunch, and to quite a bit of laughter, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of annoyance.  This elder is a really good man, with a wonderful family.  He is smart, kind, and a natural leader, and here was somebody questioning his example because he brews his own beer!

I feel sometimes like we get so focused on the little details and the technicalities of following Christ, we forget that ultimately we are called to a life of freedom.  We get to enter into a relationship with the God of the universe, and here we are debating about alcohol and tattoos!  It’s annoying, to say the least.  In fact, it’s more than annoying.  It’s wrong.

I’m not saying that we get to live however we want (we don’t), nor am I saying that Christians are not called to a better, set apart way of life (we are).  What I’m saying is that when Christianity is treated as a ‘religion’ with rigid rules and a specific do and don’t list, the true beauty of salvation gets lost in the details.  This ‘set apart’ life we are called to is not always easy, and it comes with expectations, but it is so amazing and free and beautiful that it makes me sad when it is trivialized by legalization.

I could go on and on, but I think I’m going to go have a glass of wine and look at my tattoos.

Note: if you haven’t already, you may want to read part 1 first.

When I last left off Nason and I made it back safely to the campground after a truly amazing hike.  By the time we got back more people had started to show up, and everywhere we turned we saw new faces that were not there when we had arrived.  Several of those faces belonged to our students, and we spent some time hanging out with them.  Now, some of our students thought it would be a good idea to prank Nason and I.  While we were getting a fire going, a few of them went up to their ‘fort’ (a pretty cool rocky place up the same hill where we were camping).  A little while later I was walking up to my tent and I saw them.

Ben: “Hey, Rachel, like our fort?”

One of the culprits

 

Me: “Yeah, that’s pretty sweet!”

Ben: “Do you like your tent?”

Me: “I think we found an awesome place…oh.”

They had flattened it.  The poles were still in the tent, but it was laying flat on the ground.  I shook my head, got what I needed, and showed Nason.

“I’m going to kill them” was his response.

Later that evening, after I distracted them by starting a game of Egyptian Ratscrew, we formulated our revenge.  We wanted something simple, yet effective.  We couldn’t get all four of the students back that were there, but we came up with a plan to prank two of them-the two I personally suspect were behind the whole thing.  The two boys were sleeping in the same tent, apart from parents and siblings, so the opportunity was perfect.  We were going to do the same thing they did to us-the only difference was, we were going to do it while they were inside the tent.

Early the next morning we woke up (Nason and I are early risers when we’re camping anyway).  We walked down the hill and got a fire going.  He and I were some of the first people up that morning; there was no sign of the boys yet, which meant they were more than likely still asleep.  Slowly we crept over to where they were sleeping, and Nason quietly untied the strings that kept the front upright.  We each took a side, and on the count of three, we yanked the poles out of their slots. 

And it didn’t fall.

There was rustling inside the tent-they were waking up!  Frantically I tried to push the tent over, and then I looked and saw that Nason had already run away.  So I followed suit.  At that point the two guys were awake and probably confused.  We took our places by the fire and tried to act innocent, but they had seen us.  Although their tent didn’t fall, it looked pretty funny. 

Later they tried to get us back again, but all they did was take the rain fly off of the tent and tape my pillow to a tree.  I feel like that wasn’t really in the same spirit as the two initial pranks, so we laughed about it and packed up our stuff to prevent any further retaliation.  It was pretty fun, and although we weren’t able to prank the two girls that flattened our tent (one of their fathers suggested a cold bucket of water, but Nason thought that was pretty mean and wouldn’t help me), we managed to come out even in the end.

Check in tomorrow for part 3!

This past weekend was the Whitetail picnic-an annual tradition at my church-where we move the entire church up to Mt. Lemmon, hold a service, have a picnic, and hang out together as a church family.  Last year they started renting the Whitetail campground the day before, so people could camp overnight and then attend service the next morning.  This is where we were this weekend-camping on Mt. Lemmon, surrounded by beauty and friends, enjoying one last trip before school starts again.  And, it was quite a trip.  It was such a cool trip, in fact, that I’m going to write about it in three parts, because I came back with some pretty fun stories.  So this is part one.

Nason and I got to the campground a little before the check in time (1:00).  We drove around and took some pictures, then headed back.  We were some of the first people there, so we had our pick of camp sites.  Of course, we didn’t camp on a camp site-that would have been silly.  We wanted adventure, we wanted to risk getting eaten by bears, so camping on one of the sites wasn’t an option.  Instead, we walked up a nearby hill and found a spot overlooking everything.  It was beautiful.  We set up our tent in record time and then turned to each other.

“So…you still want to hike?”

“Yeah, let’s do it!”

So we went hiking.  Now, the hiking was much like the tent pitching-we wanted adventure.  So, rather than find a trail, we made our own. 

We started by visiting the hill where Nason proposed to me two years ago (yes, it was at the Whitetail picnic two years ago), and we spent some time there reflecting on the past two years.  Proposal Hill is just as beautiful as I remember it-the sunlight filtering through the trees, the stillness, the fantastic view of the forest below-it is a wonderful spot, and it is where I want to camp next year.  We looked ahead, and saw another hill, so we hiked to it to see what we could see.  And it was even more beautiful than Proposal Hill!  It was higher than the previous hill, so it had a better view, and what a view it was!  Nason joked that this was where he should have proposed, so I named it The Hill Where Nason Didn’t Propose (not the most creative name, but it fit).

From there we went downhill, and came across this field.  I was feeling silly and wanted to frolic through it, but in addition to all of the neat plant life, there were a lot of sharp rocks, so we opted not to.  Nason wanted a picture by a tree we thought was very small, but when he walked towards it we discovered that it was much larger than anticipated!  It still made for a good picture, though.

That was our turning point, so we headed back after taking some more pictures.  The hike back up the Hill Where Nason Didn’t Propose was very steep, so we were out of breath by the time we made it to the top.  The next hill was easier, and then we were back, tired but happy.  Overall Nason said we probably hiked about 2 miles, and it took us a couple of hours (keep in mind, it was all uphill and downhill).  It was perfect day for hiking, and I’m glad we took advantage of it!

Check back tomorrow for Part 2: The Prank War!

I have a sore throat.  This morning I woke up and felt that nagging pain, and I thought, well that’s not good.  But, I stayed positive, thinking that maybe with a glass of water, a hot shower, and cough drops it would go away.

No such luck.

The pain is still there, and when I realized that it wasn’t going away (at about 7:30 this morning) I started to panic.  See, a sore throat and croaky voice may not be a big deal to most, but to someone who uses her voice to lead worship every Sunday…well, let’s just say it threatened to ruin my day.  I didn’t know what to do.  I started thinking of the best way to resolve the issue, all the while desperately popping Ricolas and praying.  Should I go see a doctor?  Should I go home and try to sleep it off?  Should I drown myself in tea?  This can’t be happening-I’m a singer, for goodness sake!

I thought you were a servant of Christ, first and foremost.

This thought stopped me in the midst of my fretting.  See, I started reading Romans yesterday, and I took special notice of the way Paul defines himself in his greeting.  He calls himself a servant of Christ, and nothing but that.  I thought that was such a neat thing, that Paul would find his entire identity in servanthood, and I prayed that whole day for such an attitude. 

And now, here I was, freaking out about a sore throat!  I mean, it is true that I sing to serve, but even when my voice is compromised I am still a servant.  Unfortunately I forgot that temporarily, and I am sorry I did. 

But I learned something today (or rather I refreshed a lesson I had already learned but had forgotten).  In ten years I may not have an amazing voice.  I may not be a lot of things that I currently find identity in.  But one thing will never change-my identity in Christ, as a daughter and servant.

So, Aaron, the guy who leads the high school band, will be covering for me and Nason in middle school service this week.  And he’s going to do an awesome job!

Nason and I just got a futon.  We had been shopping around, and we hadn’t really said anything about it to anyone-it simply wasn’t something that came up in conversation.  Then, out of the blue, our friends Gene and Cecilia offered us their old futon.  At first I was thrown off.  I mean, how did they know we were looking for one?  We hadn’t mentioned it; we were still just browsing the internet for one, and it was sort of a low priority item on our list. 

And then it hit me: I had mentioned it in one of my posts.  It was just a passing comment about the progress on turning the house into a home, about how we were shopping for a futon and some end tables.  But it got us a free futon.

This got me thinking.  Before, I started my blog because I love to write.  I had a million ideas bouncing around in my head and I wanted an outlet to write them down and share them with others.  But I learned something about blogging:  it is so much more than that.

By writing on a public space like a blog, I am sharing a part of my life with others, and other bloggers are sharing their lives with me.  It is such an intimate thing to be able to share stories, thoughts, and passions with other people, and I think it is an amazing way to see into the lives of people who you may not ever meet face to face, but can relate to deeply. 

I think it meets a fundamental human need to be a part of a community, and although it can never take the place of relationships in the ‘real world,’ it can change lives and connect people across the world.  Blogging is a relational tool, and I didn’t really get that until recently.  I think it may change the way I do blogging a little.

I want to say thank you to Gene and Cil for the futon; Nason and I love it, and it’s very cute and comfortable!

On the sign for Log Cabin Village (the upper camp on the UCYC campus) it reads “a life changing experience.”  If I had to sum up this entire week into one phrase, that would probably be it.  For many of our students, this past week was life changing in some way or another.

Just a quick background on UCYC: UCYC stands for United Christian Youth Camps.  It was started in Prescott in the 1950’s and has since hosted summer and winter camps for students k-12.  There is a lower camp (Ponderosa) where the elementary camps usually happen, and an upper camp (Log Cabin Village) where the older camps happen.  The days are filled with competitions, games, activities like paintball and rock climbing, amazing worship (this year led by DSM) and incredible speakers.

All of these new experiences and opportunities leads to an atmosphere where students can try new things without worry.  The first challenge Matt, our speaker this last week, gave the students was to try.  he told them to try things they were nervous about, to try the things they had never done before, and most of all to try Jesus this week.

Our students definitely tried this week.  nearly all of our students did something new, or tried something that scared them, or took the lessons and the worship to heart.  We had a number of students either accept Jesus for the first time or rededicate or make some other decision to deepen their walk with God.  In my small group (we divide students up for discussion groups after morning sessions) we had some really awesome discussions; even though many were ‘off topic,’ they were still great discussions.  One that stands out is the morning we had a talk about how to really know if the Bible was true, which was tough (because the Bible can never be completely proven or disproven) but good (because we got to talk a lot about the evidence and also stepping out in faith).

There were so many stories from this trip, I wouldn’t even know where to begin.  I could fill so many posts with stories from camp.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I have at least one story about every student who went this week.  But I’m just going to leave it at this: we have an amazing, brave, smart, goofy, and beautiful group of students at my church, who took the ‘try’ challenge and rolled with it, making it an incredible camp experience for themselves, their fellow students, and us leaders.  It was a truly inspirational week.