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Inn Reflections

Decisions aren’t always black and white, but God is present regardless

If you haven’t been to the Inn yet this year, you have been missing some great talks.

A few weeks ago I had a student come to me seeking some advice. They had just gotten a job they have wanted for a while, but they were unsure if they should take it. The main reason they were conflicted was that taking the job meant they would be unable to fulfill their Student Leadership commitment for the year.

Needless to say, I was super impressed with this student because they were actually taking their SL commitment seriously! Props. As we continued to talk, though, I realized that this student was also struggling with the decision because they felt it carried significant spiritual consequences. Essentially, they told me that they were torn because, in their words, staying here and continuing on with SL would be completely oriented around God, while taking the job would not be. Somehow, they had come to believe that God was more present in one of the choices than the other. Somehow, the choice between what seemed to be two great opportunities had become a choice between pleasing God or not.

I share this story because I think it highlights a tendency in our generation to constantly see things in life as right or wrong, good or bad, black or white. Even in our spiritual life, we see things as either part of God’s plan or not. Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes there are clear, easy distinctions and I think God would prefer we chose the smart thing when we know what it is. But what about stories like this one? What about when the choice isn’t between “good” and “bad”, but between “good” and “good”? I think we have a hard time making decisions between two good things because somewhere along the way we have been told that even when the choice is between “good” and “good”, there is still a “preferred good” and a “lesser good.” And that rating system is based on the size of the sacrifice required and the impact made.

What I loved about Janie’s message from week two was her point that God’s love and promises have nothing to do with how amazing we are, but everything to do with how amazing he is. God’s love for us does not hinge on how much we sacrifice for him. For this student, staying here and continuing on with the commitment they made would definitely have been the more self-sacrificial thing to do. And maybe the people around them would have praised their devotion, but it wouldn’t have earned them any extra “God points.”

The truth is, God will be just as present with them in their new job as he will if they stay here. The same is true for all of us. But I think in order to trust that reality we have to test it. My hope is that this student will take the job and keep their eyes open. I’m betting they will see God all over the place.

Chris Sherman, UMin Missions Coordinator

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“Will you be with me?”

My inclination when it comes to reading the Bible is to turn to the New Testament. I’ve always believed that that’s where Jesus is, so that must be where I will learn the most about what it means to be a Christian. Plus, the Old Testament seems so daunting. Simply because of how bulky it is with references to so many characters I’m unfamiliar with. That being said, the fact that we’re taking time to go through stories of the Old Testament at The Inn will probably be good for me in more ways than one.

This last Tuesday Janie spoke on Abraham and the promise of God. To summarize what I understood from her talk was that God made a huge promise to Abraham that seemed unthinkable, but Abraham saw God through on his promise and amazing things came from it…for example Jesus was born.  Abraham screwed up plenty of times along the way but as Janie said “none of his failures were fatal.”

How encouraging is that? God saw Abraham through because God’s promise to Abraham didn’t rely on how great of a person Abraham was or how successful he was. Simply that he trusted God and God was faithful!

What if I were to live my life out as if to show I believed that? What if we all did? That God will be faithful to us and use us regardless of our failures. Often times I get caught up in how “I mess things up” or when I fall on my face in my walk with God. I’m my own worst critic and I spend far too much time beating myself up for my little mess ups. And then the insecurities sink in that I’m not good enough for the task at hand. When in all reality God is patiently waiting for me to get over my self-absorption so he can continue being faithful to his promises to me.

This is proof that the Old Testament can teach everyone a thing or two (or maybe it’s just me because I rarely seem to open those pages). But looking at Abraham’s story reminds me that through the failures, doubts, and impatience…God is faithful and always will be. I don’t need to get my act together or wallow in the ways I screw up. God’s bigger than that and his promises are for me and for you! None of it is rooted in how we perform. God blesses us before we even take a step and His promises are rooted in how amazing he is, not in how awesome we think we are. That’s a truth that rejuvenates me and hopefully encourages you as well.

Brooke Watson, UMin intern


Why are We Here?

This picture is the reason I enjoy going to work every day, and it’s not because it’s the Inn on Tuesday nights. To be a part of hundreds of college students coming together to worship God is a blessing. This is a special place where we gather on Tuesday nights, and it’s not because of the place or the setting. It is because of the people. The people that are in this picture inspire me and others to be a part of college ministry in the U-District.

Over the past 2 months God has been showing me what an amazing opportunity it is to spend time with college students. I think it is so special because I am not that far removed. It excites me to be a part of students’ lives because I know what I had in college, and I know what I desired in college. It was to love the Lord with everything I have. Yet there are so many things that get in the way of that. That is what gets me up in the morning.

Working with you all also makes me think of such a simple yet important reality that I wish I fully understood in my college years. That idea is that it’s not about what we do. Too often we are bogged down by the things we do wrong and how we aren’t worthy of Christ’s love. And you know what? We aren’t. But that’s what Jesus died for. He died for us so that we wouldn’t have to worry about the things we do wrong. One of the most important things I learned and am still learning in the past few years is that I cant spend my time trying NOT to sin. God doesn’t want me to try not. The idea is that we would seek after Christ with everything that we have, and our actions would follow. Doing “the right thing” is a byproduct of loving Christ. When we mess up, God doesn’t ask us why we did it, or what we were thinking. He simply says, “Do you love me? Then go feed my sheep.” Let us love Him, and let everything else fall into place.

Kevin Petermeyer, UMin Intern


Relationships are in the air…

As I look out the window of my Seattle office this morning, the sun is shining, there is not a cloud in the sky and I’m beginning to see buds on the trees and shrubs around the neighborhood. It’s an indication that spring is not too far away.

Of course when the trees begin to blossom, something else begins to blossom in the college students I work with: hormones. With Valentine’s Day approaching this coming Monday and the season of twitterpation among us, we are set to kick-off a new series about dating and romance at the Inn.

There is no doubt that it is, in fact, hormones that seem to influence most of the early decisions about dating and romance. I’m confident to say that it is by design. Attraction and excitement is important in a dating relationship, especially in the early going. A first date that feels like someone’s cross to carry should likely be their last date with that person.

What does the Bible say about this subject? Not much. The Bible is primarily a book about God’s rescue mission to the world. As such, it is not a manual on how to date well in 21st Century America. The Bible does, however, communicate to us some values of God’s heart and Kingdom that folks should keep in mind as they approach the dynamic experience of simply getting to know someone else. Exploring a handful of these values is really the goal of the next four talks at the Inn.

Our starting point is to understand that dating is primarily about discovery. It is about the discovery of God, and God’s image and likeness in another person. It is about the discovery of God’s grace and redemptive work in another person. It is about the discovery of God’s presence in us as individuals. Dating is not merely spouse tryouts, rather it begins with a process of discovering who God is by seeing God’s image in ourselves and others.

Dating is an unavoidably risky. If one is to do dating well, it will at some point require honesty about one’s story and personality that may not necessarily be favorable or exciting. We necessarily risk being rejected and judged. No doubt this can be a painful process. But anytime we are going to share ourselves we open ourselves to that risk. Dating is no different.

However,  we need to resist being reckless. Someone who follows Jesus, I believe, can take a risk without being reckless. Keeping our friends close helps us avoid being reckless. Establishing healthy expectations helps us avoid being reckless. Embracing ourselves as God’s children, not being a slave to what others may think of us helps us avoid being reckless.

Dating is risky, but it should not be reckless. We get reckless when we leave our community out of it. We get reckless when dating and relationship becomes a secret. We get reckless when we try to control someone. We get reckless when we reduce someone to merely a body or specific part of the body.

My hope over the next four weeks at the Inn is that we can set some folks up to take a risk in dating without being reckless with someone else’s heart, or their own heart for that matter. I hope we can capture a vision for how we can practice the lost art of commitment as good daters during spring quarter.

Written by Ryan C, UMin Director


Imagination…

At the Inn on the Tuesday night I made the statement: “unless we use our imagination, our view of God will always be too small.” Engaging the story of God, especially Revelation, requires imagination if we are going to have any shot at grasping who wide and long and high and deep is Christ’s love.

The quick, and correct, push-back to this would sound something like, “But we can’t just use our imaginations to make Jesus whoever we want Jesus to be.” I agree, wholeheartedly. As one of my former colleagues, Raeanne Jones, used to say, “Jesus is not tofu, we can’t just make Jesus into whatever we want.” So how do we properly use our imaginations as we seek to be faithful to who Jesus really is?

To the delight of some, to the chagrin of others the answer to that leads us back to the Bible. As we seek to engage our imaginations as those seeking to be faithful to Jesus, we need the 66 books that comprise the Bible to guide and shape our imagination. In a lot of ways, the words of the Apostle John in Revelation are an example a vision that is shaped by the contents of the rest of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. Pastor and scholar Eugene Peterson notes:

“I do not read the Revelation to get additional information about the life of faith in Christ. I have read it all before in the law and prophet, in gospel and epistle. Everything in the Revelation can be found in the previous, sixty-five books of the Bible. The Revelation adds nothing of substance to what we already know. The truth of the gospel is already complete, revealed in Jesus Christ. There is nothing new to say on the subject. But there is a new way to say it. I read the Revelation not to get more information but to revive my imagination. St. John uses words the way poets do, recombining them in fresh ways so that old truth is freshly perceived. He takes truth that that has been eroded to platitude by endless usage and sets it in motion before us in an ‘animated impassioned dance of ideas.’”

We need a canonical imagination. That is why we need to use an imagination shaped primarily by the story of God contained in the Bible. When we stop to think about it, there are countless examples in Scripture where using our imaginations to understand the story of God is required: Noah and the great flood, the Exodus, David and Goliath, Daniel and the writing on the wall, numerous healings from Jesus…just to name a few.

Only with imagination that is rooted in reality are we able to begin to grasp the mystery of a God among people that is both fully human and fully God. To begin to comprehend this foundational principle of the Christian faith, imagination is required.

The encouragement is to engage our imaginations this quarter as we study Revelation at the Inn! This encouragement is not to make Jesus into whoever we want Jesus to be, but rather to get a more accurate view of the love, power and grace of God that is reveled in Jesus Christ. The whole of Scripture works as our primary guide to understand Revelation and to use our imaginations as we do.

Written by Ryan C.