Playdates with God: College Summit

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One of my fellow Writing Coaches, Jamecia. What a gifted and passionate young lady she is.

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There were about 39 kids in our workshop, from various schools and counties.

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Here I am with our Writing Coach Coordinator, Lionel. He is awesome.

I look into his dark eyes and think about my own children—this brown-skinned boy who towers over me is someone’s son, someone’s grandson. I don’t know all of his story; but I have watched him shine among his peers for four days—boldly daring to step out from the crowd and be noticed.

For the past few days, I’ve been volunteering at a College Summit Workshop. College Summit is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “transform the lives of low-income youth by connecting them to college and career.” It was founded on the belief that every student deserves the chance to go to college. Through them, at-risk kids from at-risk communities all around the country are invited to stay on a college campus and work with volunteers to learn about financial aid and the college application process, craft a college application essay, help a college coach compile a list of possible schools to apply to, and grow in confidence that they can further their education.

My job has been as a writing coach to a small group of students—we call them peer leaders, because that’s what they are: leaders. They are daring to believe they can be more than a statistic. They are reaching for more than what their communities have told them they are capable of.

A funny thing happens over the days as I coach the kids. We hear stories of loss and trauma, violence and addiction, abuse and neglect. And we see resilience, strength, beauty. We watch kids of all different color, from diverse backgrounds and stories—we watch as they hug and lean on one another, laugh and cry together, lift each other up and celebrate the uniqueness of one another. As I coach these kids, a funny thing happens. I not only grow to believe in them and their beautiful hearts, but I am reminded to believe in myself also.

These kids teach me about acceptance, about love, about grace. And I begin to understand that our struggles are what make us human in each other’s eyes. I begin to understand once again how important it is to share our stories. This is the only thing that will help us see past skin color and invisible social barriers this world has imposed upon us: Sharing. We were created for each other. To share our stories.

On our last day together we have “closing circle.” The adults and kids join hands and form a circle. Anyone who wants to enter the circle to share words or acknowledgement does so. After that, we form two concentric circles. The volunteers and staff join hands and form a circle, facing out. All the kids join hands and form a circle around us. We stand, face-to-face, and the leader tells us to thank one another with only our eyes. No words. She talks us through this uncomfortable exercise.

“With your eyes, tell this person how thankful you are that they are here. Tell them how valuable they are, and what this weekend has meant to you.” After a time, she tells us to take a step to the left. We make our way slowly around the circle like this, looking into the eyes of each student.

This is how I come to be standing in front of him, this beautiful, sloe-eyed boy who towers over me. The exercise draws to a close and the leader says, “As the music fades, I want you to move toward the person in front of you in any way you are comfortable doing so.” Before I can even take a step he reaches for me. I feel small as the strength of his embrace wraps around me, consumes me. But he whispers gentle words in my ear—a blessing, his gratitude, his heart.

I could be holding one of my sons. It feels like I am.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

Playdates with God: Give Yourself Away

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To choose the little people, the little joys, the little sorrows and to trust that it is there that God will come close—that is the hard way of Jesus. … Something in me always wants to turn the way of Jesus into a way that is honorable in the eyes of the world. I always want the little way to become the big way. But Jesus’ movement toward the places the world wants to move away from cannot be made into a success story.” ~Henri Nouwen

Palm Sunday comes crashing in with all its raucous celebration and we have been caught up in the noise of life. I read every version of the triumphal entry to prepare for my sermon but the days are the thickest text. I know how important it is to withdraw to a quiet place when life thrums like a bass drum in my ears. But I am still learning to turn this knowledge into action—to heed the still, small voice that beckons me away from the triumphal parade into the olive grove.

When I step away from my schedule, my obligations, my worries, my deadlines—this is when God comes close.

The greatest joy for me lately comes when I read aloud to the children in Mrs. Crum’s third grade class and Mrs. Ashworth’s kindergarten. When I drive out to their little school, it feels like a tiny retreat—like I am driving into a different world. Those kids welcome me with hugs and smiles and for a time, the little way is the biggest of all ways. My heart swells for them. And when I am reading them a story? What a gift to see how their faces reflect the story back to me.

Beauty is tucked away in the places the world forgets.

Here are the books we read this week.

With the third graders:

What do You do With an Idea? Written by Kobi Yamada, Illustrated by Mae Besom. Oh, how I love this book, which celebrates the thinker and encourages entrepreneurship and creativity. Having fought with my own ideas and dreams for so long, I think this is an excellent book for grown-ups too. This book stimulated conversation about ideas that changed the world. We talked about the Wright brothers and space travel and all kinds of good stuff.

How to Be Interesting (In 10 Simple Steps) by Jessica Hagy. This is really a book for teens so I have to edit it a little (For example, one of the suggestions is talk to strangers. I skipped over that one). We read one step each time I visit the classroom and it’s been fun to watch the kids’ reactions.

More than Anything Else story by Marie Bradby, pictures by Chris K. Soentpiet. This is one of my all time favorite books to share with kids. It’s the story of Booker T. Washington’s dream to learn to read. We talked about what it would be like if they weren’t allowed or able to go to school and how their worlds would change if they couldn’t read. The kids got it. It was awesome.

With the kindergartners:

Unlovable by Dan Yaccarino. This story about a cute pug-faced dog was one of Jeffrey’s favorites when he was younger. My copy is falling apart but the kids didn’t mind. They loved this sweet story that makes us think about the way we treat others.

My Little Artist by Donna Green. This is a sweet story but I mainly wanted the kids to see the illustrations, which are beautiful, intricate watercolors. We talked about the hard work that goes into becoming a good artist and how that applies to most everything in life.

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak. Yes, they begged me to read this one again. In fact, they insist I read it every time I come. They would have me read it twice if I allowed it. It’s such a silly book and they all have most parts of it memorized by now. It’s so fun to watch how excited they get as we approach the silliest parts.

As we enter into holy week, why not give yourself away? Spend some time with others, meeting a need in your community. Maybe you could clean out your closet and give away unused items to a local clothes pantry, or visit a nursing home with Easter baskets to give away. Jesus always made time for those in need, no matter what pressing issues were on hand.

Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

Laura Boggess

 

Playdates with God: Sole Hope Shoe-cutting Party (and a giveaway!)

Yesterday, we gathered all those jeans with the holes in the knees. We gathered those milk jugs we’ve been saving. We brought quilter’s cotton and safety pins. Some of us had pinking shears and some didn’t even know what they are. But our small group came together and brought our offerings for a Sole Hope shoe-cutting party.

We watched this video together. As the images of poverty-stricken children rolled across the screen, I watched the faces of our  own kids.  When Asher Collie said that many of these children had never owned a pair of shoes before, I saw it in their faces—they wanted to help.

So we did. We traced and cut and pinned and counted. And when it was all over we had the makings for 30 pairs of shoes. We will box these up and mail them to the Sole Hope offices in North Carolina, where they will then be sent to Uganda for a local seamstress to assemble before they find their way to little feet.

I’ve been reading Michelle DeRusha’s new book 50 Women Every Christian Should Know in my morning quiet time. I’m going slow through this one, getting acquainted with each woman intimately. This morning, I read about Mother Teresa. This is a woman who “chose to act deliberately in small ways” and made a big difference. Michelle quotes her as saying, “There are many people who can do big things, but there are few people who will do the small things.”

This is what I think of when I watch Dan Ingram tracing patterns onto the legs of old blue jeans. Or Tom Smith struggling with how to best use a pair of pinking shears. And when I see my friend Marci balance her toddler Luke on her hip as she gathers up bits of material in one hand. Or see our teenagers cutting on milk jugs. I am so blessed to love these people and do life with them.

Small things.

Sometimes a problem feels too big to make a difference. But this is one tiny way we can help. Providing shoes for thirty children will improve their health by decreasing the risk of contracting jiggers and other illnesses often spread through the removal of the jiggers. If you are interested in hosting a shoe-cutting party, read more about Sole Hope and their mission here. You can make a difference.

I’m giving away a copy of Michelle’s book 50 Women Every Christian Should Know. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post by Wednesday to be entered for a chance to win. I’ll announce the winner Thursday morning. I hope this book inspires you all the way it has me.

Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

 
 
The Playdates button:

Playdates with God: What Ought to Be


The medical students and volunteers who helped with the medical outreach.
“I thought that in order to help people, I had to go to medical school,” she said to me, with a smile. “But Missy has shown me that anyone can help.”
We were down by the river, surrounded by a makeshift tent city hastily erected that morning. This is where some of the medical students of the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine come once a month to provide free medical care to those in need. Along with checkups, social services, eye examinations, immunizations and other medical procedures, those who come are served breakfast and a lot of love.
My new friend Missy invited me to come and help out this past Saturday. Her passion to help the homeless population in the area is contagious, and I understood what this young medical student meant when she said Missy inspired her. I was grateful to be part of such a needed ministry, in any small way.
Since I was a new volunteer, I was put in the registration tent. All I had to do was talk to each person and fill out a little paper work. 
“These people have often been marginalized. They’ve been treated so poorly sometimes that they won’t seek the help they need,” Missy said to the newbies as she explained the registration procedure to us. “It’s really important to show them respect. Just talk to them.” 
And since ours were the first faces in the process, hospitality needed to shine. But how do you make a person feel welcome when all you have is a tent and a metal folding chair? It didn’t take long to see that the amenities were inconsequential. But something happens when you sit down with a stranger and look them in the eye. When you smile and aren’t afraid to touch a shoulder. Just the sitting down together changes the mood. And offering a person a seat in the shade might earn one a most grateful smile. We had to get folks through the line and on to the docs but I wondered about their stories. I wished I had more time to listen. 
There was too much to see it all. Follow up appointments were made, glasses were given out, people reclined in the shade with bottles of water. And the blue of the sky dipped down to color each moment, the warm of the sun seemed to radiate the love of all those busy hands. 
I looked out over the diverse congregation and this was my prayer: Lord, help us change what is into what ought to be. 
Only love. Only love can do this.

*The winner of the signed copy of Paula Huston’s  A Land Without Sin is janetb1! Janet, I’m not sure how to get in touch with you but I’ll do some sleuthing to see if I can find you. If you see this before you hear from me, email me at laraj@suddenlink.net.

How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

The Playdates button:

Playdates with God: A New Place


He came down from Baltimore and (his daughter says) took a wrong turn. That’s how he ended up here. Now he’s living in a halfway house trying to figure things out. I listened to his story, glad to be trusted with it.
“Sometimes, when you’re making a new start, it’s good to be in a new place,” I offered to him, as we stood side-by side beneath the dome-roofed courtyard.
“I don’t know what to think,” he said.
I came to help a small group of churches treat the residents here and local homeless folk to a picnic. There were hotdogs and hamburgers, pasta salad, chips and homemade cookies. Over a hundred people came and waited in line as their plates were piled high. I stood behind the drink table, watching. That’s when I noticed it.
We were all standing behind the serving tables. Except for a few brave souls who know some of these folks, all us “church people” let those tables create a boundary. I scanned the hungry faces and thought about how, for weeks now, I’ve been preaching to our congregation about stepping out of our comfort zones; about stepping into the lives of someone whose life might look a little different than our own.  And then I thought about what my friend Lisa might do.
And I stepped out from behind the table and let myself get swept into a new place. 
Over at The High Calling today, Shawn Smucker is talking about how he and his wife shared about the birds and the bees with their two oldest children. It’s part of our book discussion on  The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler. There are some good resources shared. Would you join us?
How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

The Playdates button: