Quackity quack! Yesterday (Sunday, June 10th), we arrived in Ducktown. This large and quite beautiful camping grounds is located at the TN-NC border in the mountains and has been the place for the last four years where Peachtree Presbyterian Church (Atlanta) treks for a middle school retreat every summer. A classmate from Candler asked me to be the keynote speaker for the week and I humbly and nervously accepted. I have never, not once, spoken in this capacity or environment so to say I’m nervous is an understatement. Granted, theyare middle schoolers. However, they’re impressionable and young so I truly want to have some sort of impact on at least one kid’s life. Anyway, I’m doing my part and the rest is going to be left up to the Big Guy. Below is the message I gave last night. I haven’t blogged for some time so I figure sharing this would be a good update to give.
Note: I’m speaking to rising 7th and 8th graders. I use “dude” and “y’all” often.
[Hot seat = anyone can ask me any question but I have the power to turn it back to them.]
“Well, I was reading this book a while ago and it started off somewhat differently than most books. It made me put the book down to view a video online. I was pretty shocked, and honestly, annoyed because I was actually in the mood to read…not watch YouTube videos! But I did it anyway. So the video is of a dude named Francis Chan who lives in Southern California showing us how amazing God’s creation is. We won’t watch it but I’ll sum it up. Have you guys every used Google Earth? If not, it’s this really cool thing you can use on the internet that lets you see the earth from a birds-eye view. So you can even google earth your address and see your house, or google earth a town. Well, it starts off with a birds-eye view from the town in California he’s from and he pans out in increments…it ends with a picture of what it looks like if you’re 100 million light years away. [Show picture.]
My initial thoughts after I watched this video for the first time were thoughts of awe and amazement. I mean, look at how massive outer space is. And look how small we are in the GRAND scheme of things. Crazy! Then I kept reading the book and was told to instead think about how detailed God’s creations are. Take our bodies for instance. Do y’all realize how intricate and detailed the human body and all living things for that matter are? I am not good at biology but I do know and think it’s pretty cool that every single thing attached to us or inside of us has a specific function, sometimes more than one function, to keep us alive. Anyway, after thinking about that I found myself in awe, again. But soon after…I stopped thinking about God’s awesomeness and kept reading.
But why stop there? Why stop at just thinking about God’s amazing creations? After thinking about that video and thinking about the intricacies of everything, I realized that we should most definitely be in awe of God’s creation…but we can do more after that. We can put our thoughts and beliefs into actions. Over the next few days we’re going to talk about the major topics that makeup our story as Christians. In short, we’re going to cover the basics of what it means to be a Christian. Tonight we’re going to talk about: Creation! So, even though I’ll talk about different things each night, my hope is that you guys will take we talked about and find a way to live it out…to do, not just think.
Ok, I want to ask y’all a question. When I say “God’s creation story” what comes to mind? Feel free to just shout out your answer…Well, I would say those are all legitimate answers. But I believe that there is another message in the creation story of Genesis 1. We are created by God in his image and therefore good. And because of those things, we are dependent on God and called to have a relationship with him. But also, as it says in verse 28, “God blessed them.” “Them” meaning humankind. Them being us! Sometimes we overlook that part of the creation story. We always need to remember that we are created in the image of God, but we often forget that we are blessed by Him from the start. Therefore, he loved us from the start. We are loved by God and called to love Him. We are called to have a relationship with Him.
I want to share a story with y’all. I was in Kindergarten and my brother was in 4th grade and we were on our way home from school. Back then, walking home alone (or with your older brother and his friends who thought it was fun to make you eat ants) was not a big deal, especially where I grew up. I lived in a big neighborhood and our elementary school was actually inside the neighborhood, so we never really walked on big streets and usually just went behind houses to get home. Anyway, this one day my brother and I got home but noticed our parents’ cars in the driveway. This was weird because our parents worked during the day and we had the routine of calling them as soon as we got home. Well, my brother and I walked in through our garage which was below the house, attached to the basement. There was no door to the top of the stairs leading from the basement. I remember, like it was yesterday, walking upstairs and seeing a white puppy with black spots with a big red bow tied around its neck waiting for us at the top of those stairs. Oh my goodness I was so excited! This was me that day…[be dramatic] I remember seeing it and immediately running towards it, falling to my rear because the dog was excited too, and saying, “I love you, puppy!”
That was my first pet. Her name was Zoe and she was a Dalmatian. She was my companion and I spent hours on end playing soccer with her. Or my favorite activity was being pulled by her down the street while I was wearing rollerblades. (My Mom didn’t really like that.) We would always cuddle on my favorite bright pink bean bag chair. [Show picture.]
I could go on and on about Zoe, but I won’t. What I want to remind y’all of is what I said to her…my first words to her. Do y’all remember what I said when I saw Zoe for the first time? Yep, I said that I loved her. I was only 5 years old at the time and had the capacity to love something. See, God created us to love! Think about your parents…the first thing they more than likely said to you before you were even born was “I love you.” It’s what we were created to do. We were created to love. We were created to love in return and have a relationship with God.
So to recap, let’s remember that it’s OK to be in awe of God’s creation. We should be in awe of His creation. Every beautiful sunset, especially at the beach, reminds me of God’s love. And when I’m on a mountaintop and feel like I can see for miles, I’m reminded of God’s love. But let’s not stop there. Let’s remember that God created us for a purpose and even though sometimes we might be confused as to what that purpose is, the one thing that is a constant for the rest of our lives is to know we are blessed and loved by God and that he wants so badly for us to have a relationship with Him.
[End with a prayer.]”
That was my message for the first night. I didn’t use notes or anything and I legitimately think I blacked out for all of it. I was so nervous. But I have to give a major shout out to Chris for being so supportive. I love you. You’re amazing. Best teammate ever. And also to Sarah for reading it beforehand and giving words of encouragement. Y’all gave me the confidence I needed and the Holy Spirit was definitely in the room. The feedback my temporary “boss”/classmate gave me was that the kids loved me and thought I was funny. Focusing on one major point was the best approach. She was also glad I didn’t say “umm”. I did get booed, however, when someone asked me during the “hot seat” time, “Georgia or Georgia Tech?” I replied, “Well, at first I was a Tech fan because both of my parents went there. (That got a few cheers.) Then I became a Georgia fan when my oldest brother went off to college there. (That got a large number of cheers.) And then, I went to the University of Tennessee for graduate school so now I’m a Vol fan.” (Everyone booed me.) Anyway, I seemed to do a pretty good job of keeping them tuned in and attentive. So, one down, three to go!