September 15, 2008

Pastor Connie Larson DeVaughn

The first weekend of September fifty one ABCers gathered at Camp Colby Ranch in the nearby Angeles Forest mountains for Church Camp. Our theme, “Together,” was lived out in fun activities, deepening spiritual exercises, sharing our life and faith journeys and just plain “being” together. While we acknowledged the challenges of coming from diverse backgrounds, we also increased our awareness and appreciation of God’s plan in bringing us together as His Body.

We tried to unpack this multi-layered truth: “We are connected to each other with the same bond that connects us to God.”  Intentionally choosing to connect to each other means opening ourselves up to the sufferings and burdens of the other. But it also brings immeasurable richness and joy into our lives that will never exist without the sacrifice. And surrounding, under-girding, supporting, sustaining, infusing all our efforts, is the mystery and power of God’s love.

Sixteen-year-old Benjamin Zobrist came back from Church Camp and wrote down some reflections on his own spiritual journey, which he allowed us to share in The Messenger:

Living Love
by Ben Zobrist

Over the past year I have been learning so much about who God is. I am constantly surprised at the simplicity of all my epiphanies, realizations, and revelations. My greatest realization was truly understanding the statement that God is Love. I capitalize Love because it is God’s first name, as Pastor Connie put it at Church Camp this year. My most recent revelation is that we need to live a life of Love.

I have come up with a list of tangible ways to show Love to people. A few of my examples are: practicing hospitality, listening, and service to others. A list like this can go on and on because there are so many simple ways to show Love.  But this list helps me to understand that Love is making a choice. I can choose to listen to a friend’s problems or not. I can choose to invite the awkward kids to hang out or only hang with my friends. I can choose to acknowledge the homeless or avoid eye contact. When I realized that Love is choosing, it helped me to know when I succeeded in acting like Jesus as well as when I failed.

This concept of Love being a choice is what led to my revelation of living Love. I considered Jesus’ life. It was perfect. He made every right choice. This is our goal, to live a life of Love like Jesus did. I believe that we need to make Loving a part of our very existence, breathing it in from God and exhaling it out to others. This can seem overwhelming, but we just have to take it step by step and choice by choice.

I came to this realization on my own, but I believe that it was God who gave me the thought. A few days after I came up with this idea God confirmed it to me through this verse at Church Camp. Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.â€?

Everything I just wrote is summed up in that verse, and much more eloquently I must admit. We are connected to each other with the same bond that connects us to God.