Thursday, December 1, 2011

Off to Haiti

Haiti team
Back row: Cathy, Mike, Zack, Anthony, Alex, Greg, David
Almost back row: Erika, Kira
Middle Row: Nicole, Ali, Courtney, Sarah, Adam, Zach
Sitting/kneeling: Carrie, Bryan, Emily, Regan, Nate, Jared

Please pray with us for Jared and the team of students heading to Haiti December 4, 2011.  They will be serving with Team One.27 (name taken from James 1:27) by helping a couple of orphanages in Port-au-Prince Haiti.  In addition to doing some manual labor jobs, the team will be helping with a Christmas party for an anticipated group of over 4,000 street kids and orphans. 

Please pray with us: for travel safety, that all luggage gets transferred between planes and makes it to Haiti with the team, that no one gets sick during the 10 day trip so they can all focus on service, that God will do in and through the ROC team whatever He desires.

There is a team blog that they will be posting to during the trip.  You may access the blog by clicking here.

Thanks!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Merry Christmas!

A week or two ago I was looking at some pictures my daughter, Anna, took of my son, Isaac.  There is one shot in particular that really touches me.  I’m not sure if it’s the outstanding photography (in my opinion) or Isaac’s eyes or that I simply know and love both the photographer and the subject.  Whatever it is, I am drawn into the photograph.  Or maybe a better way of saying it is that I’m “grabbed” by the photo.  When I look at that particular shot, I end up staring at it for several minutes mesmerized by the beauty and wonder of the picture, of life, and of the relationship that I have with my family. 

Such wonder surrounds the season of Christmas as well, or at least it should.  It is a wonder-ful thing to be brought back year after year to the unfolding story of light entering darkness as we remember again the miracle of the incarnation of God.  This year as I have been contemplating this gracious condescension I am struck anew with the amazing love the infinite God has for us that He would surrender glory to take on flesh.  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:5-7). 

I imagine that there were times (and are times) that the Father looked upon Jesus and was just struck with His eyes and His manner of life and His obedience and just stared at him mesmerized by the wonder of His Son.  Through the incarnation we too are invited to be caught up in this amazing relationship of Father and Son and the opening of the divine relationship that we too are embraced as children of God.  Because of Christ’s incarnation those who receive Him are drawn into this relationship and we get to experience God’s loving gaze without fear, without shame.

In Colossians 2:9 Paul wrote, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” and this wonder we celebrate as we look toward His Advent again this Christmas season.  In celebrating the incarnation, we are likewise called to embody the same great, gracious love that Christ demonstrated.  This year I pray that we will all be so caught up in the wonder of God’s love in Christ that we will bless friend and acquaintance, family member and stranger with the kindness and compassion, love and joy given in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Merry Christmas! 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sacrilege thoughts

You do something very important during your late teens and early twenties: you reconsider just about everything you think you know and what you hold dear.  Some of us can hardly wait to leave home in order to become our “own” person though, whether we recognize it or not, we are always influenced by someone or the media or by a community.  This is definitely true for the churched person.

Growing up in church may have given you the idea that being a Christian is about being nice and not doing “bad” things.  You may have been taught not to ask certain questions lest you be thought a “heretic” (whatever that might mean for your given church culture).  In his book Sacrilege: Finding Life in the Unorthodox Ways of Jesus, Hugh Halter encourages you to ask questions about what it means to be a follower of the One who came to blow the doors off the religious establishment and reveal the heart of God for the lost, the sinner, the poor and the oppressed. 

I challenge you to rethink what it means to be a disciple of Jesus by reading this book.  If you take up the challenge, you’ll find in Halter a mentor for living out a life shaped by apprenticeship to Jesus. 

If you have written off the church but still think highly of Jesus, you will find a lot of encouragement and challenge from this book also.  Halter is straightforward and doesn’t pull punches and that is the sort of prophetic word we all need to hear.  He suggests that Jesus doesn’t want any more followers who look like each other.  Instead Jesus called people to follow HIM.  But sadly the church scene is one where, “followership, instead of true discipleship, has been the norm, and thus we Christians have produced a lot more people who are like us than people who are like Jesus.” 

You can check out Sacrilege and customer reviews of it by clicking here.  Get it.  Read it.  Then take up the challenge of living out the life to which Jesus calls you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Blessing

Have you ever been to a place that was unfamiliar?  Maybe the food was different, the temperature wasn't what you were used to and you couldn't understand the language.  Perhaps the pace of life was unusual and the way that people treated one another was strange.  What would it mean to you to have someone come along side you and walk you through the strange cultural differences and help you learn the language?

Can you imagine moving thousands of miles away from home and living in a completely different culture where you don't know anyone and all of the strange things listed above are true?  Thousands of international students do this every year.  Last fall (2010) here at OU alone there were 1,483 international students representing 95 countries.  All needed to adjust to the SE Ohio culture.  While some didn't have a problem with the language, others really needed assistance from friends who welcomed them to the United States and to Athens in particular.  These friends were conversation partners who volunteered an hour a week just to connect and chat. 

I encourage you to consider volunteering as a conversation partner.  Come along side another to help him or her navigate the customs and language here.  In doing so, you will be a blessing.  You can sign up to be a conversation partner by clicking here.  It's very simple.  You will meet a new friend and be able to help acquaint one of the many guests in the USA right here at Ohio University.  Thanks!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Belonging

“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matt. 7:22-23)

    Being precedes doing or, put another way, our doing flows out of our being.  We can do all kinds of good things, righteous things, powerful and even apparently holy things but if our hearts are not right or our relationship with God is not one in which we are known by Christ, that doing is evil.  That may seem rather harsh but that’s what Jesus says.

On the other hand, the one who is humble enough to come to God, admit her/his failures and request forgiveness is received with open arms as the Father received the prodigal and lavished his love, grace and welcome just because the son returned home (Luke 15:11ff).

It appears that the kingdom is too small for the prideful.  However, the King has wide open arms and plenty of room for the humble.   This open-armed welcome and belonging is the sort of hospitable expression we hope to express this fall and always.  

As new students explore the campus and experience campus life and as you veteran, returning students show up for another year, we are delighted to be able to connect people in relationships with one another and with the Father who loves us so much that He is seeking us out.  No one has to be perfect to be part of ROC.  Actually, we’re a haven for sinners being transformed by God’s love and grace and the power of His Holy Spirit.  

Our first value, “belonging—to God and each other,” expresses this goal of enfolding people in relationships with one another and with God.  We believe that it is through the ongoing interaction with one another in God’s presence in community and service that we are formed into the image of Christ.  This life on life experience is not unlike the discipleship that occurred with Jesus and His apostles (Mk 3:14).  He brought them together first to be with Him and then to send them out to preach.  The being with was necessary in order for them to do the preaching.  Their doing flowed out of their being!   

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Banner Problem

Apparently the ROC banner that is up at the College Gate has the wrong location for worship tomorrow night.  Cross Walk will be held in the South Pole all year this year at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday nights.  The banner says the ROC House.

Sorry for any confusion this brings folks.  Time for a new banner!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

ROC Pizza Party!

Welcome to (or back to) Athens! As you navigate moving into your dorm and floor meetings, class schedules and dining hall hours, bookstores and laundry mats, here’s a chance to break the routine! You’re invited to ROC’s introductory pizza party on Labor Day, September 5th! It’ll be at 5:30pm, right after the conclusion of the involvement fair on college green. You can head over to the South Pole (under Nelson Dining Hall on South Green – see map below) to get some FREE PIZZA! You’ll also have a chance to meet the ROC staff and student leaders, learn more about ROC, get to know some other new students, and find out how you can get involved right now!

We hope you’ll come join us on Monday at 5:30pm at the South Pole!
South Pole Entrance (back of Nelson dining hall)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Preparing for the Harvest!

This June e-update is from ROC Associate Campus Minister, Jared Ott. 

What a wonderful time of year!  It’s a joy to go to a local farmer’s market these days and see all the delightful fresh produce available.  Even the local supermarket is noticeably stocked with much more healthy looking fruits and vegetables; you can actually find a tomato that looks and tastes like a tomato, instead of the styrofoam-like things you get at other times which Garrison Keillor jokes are “strip mined down in Texas.”

It is a wonderful blessing to be able to enjoy the fresh bounty of the harvest.  Of course, we also recognize that those delicious fresh fruits and vegetables didn’t simply pop out of the ground of their own accord.  It is a regular occurrence these days, when driving by local orchards or gardens, to see laborers hard at work harvesting the treats that will soon reach our tables.  In recent months you may have been able to observe farmers planting the vast fields around the Midwest (when the rain quit long enough to allow them!); now it is easy to observe the work of harvest.  A great deal of labor goes into the vast and diverse results that we get to enjoy at our tables.

It’s easy to notice how much slower things are around Athens this time of year as well, as those of you who have lived here during this time can attest.  All the hustle and bustle of the school year has subsided, and one can more peacefully navigate the streets of Athens.  You can even find a parking spot uptown these days!  But it won’t be long before another Fall is upon us, and the busyness of the school year resumes.  During that time, it will be easy to see all the work that goes into the ministry at ROC.  One can readily spot the labors of staff and students in the midst of retreats, Crosswalks, outreach, and service events.  The work that yields the bountiful blessings of life together in this community are quite visible when classes are in session.

I am currently struck, however, by the vast amount of work that happens even when things appear more calm on the surface.  In the case of that tomato or raspberry you may have recently enjoyed, there are so many important processes that must be accomplished during the late fall, winter, and early spring to allow that produce to grow to its full potential.  There is watering, fertilizing, pruning, weeding, and many other processes that even happen out of our view; it is more difficult to always see the important things that happen outside of the more visible harvest season.

So it is with ministry.  As we move through this season, there is so much to be done!  There are lessons to be planned, new students to be contacted, curriculums to be tweaked or developed, etc, etc. etc…  We recognize that although this seems like more of a fallow time for ROC, it is an extremely important time, and will make all the difference in the world to what ministry looks like this Fall.  We thank you for the support you provide, whether in thought, prayer, or financially; although often unseen on the surface, your labors are vital to the harvest of discipleship that occurs yearly.   Your support also enables us to faithfully prepare for that harvest, both “in season and out of season”—Thank You!  May you also find yourself blessed as you continue to serve where you are, and in whatever season of life you find yourself.   And please do me this favor...go find yourself a nice ripe tomato and enjoy it!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May e-update

An old 80s Faberge commercial talked about telling two friends about the wonders of the shampoo and they told two friends and so on and so on.  As the model spoke the “and so on” the pictures of her multiplied until the screen was filled with small pictures of her face.  The multiplication factor of evangelizing for the shampoo was quite effective.  (You can still find the commercial on youtube.)

Paul said it this way, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).  This is Paul carrying on the commission that Jesus gave to the disciples recorded for us in Matthew 28, “As you go, make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to obey everything I commanded you” (Rich’s rendition).  The process of making disciples is an ongoing, as you go, journey.  It happens formally in teaching times and small group Bible study times.  It happens informally as we sit down for a meal together or hang out together in the ROC House or in coffee shop and talk about what Jesus is doing in us and what he is calling us to next.  It happens when we are serving together at a prayer table offering prayer for others who do or do not know Jesus or sweating together as we do a service project for others.  

Lately, we’ve been thinking about it in terms of rock climbing.  When I first learned to climb, a friend showed us “the ropes” . . . literally.   He talked with us about the basic knots we needed to know and the basic verbal commands we needed to learn and give.  Our mentor challenged us to keep our eye on the big picture and not get overly distracted by the minute.  After a rather brief “classroom” time we went climbing because the best way to learn how to climb is to climb.  

I think this is where we might have made some mistakes as the church.  Christian discipleship is about a life lived following Jesus in the ordinary day-to-day world.  We all know this.  But when we think about the practices that make up the “training” of a disciple too often they are primarily cerebral and passive.  We are to live the Jesus life in the world; not compartmentalizing it to particular “religious” times during the week.  The Spirit empowers us to live out God’s rule in the midst of daily existence.  We are empowered to live holy lives in very unholy contexts actively engaging others with the grace of God and calling them to follow Jesus and to tell two friends who might tell two friends and so on and so on.  Thanks for enabling the “and so on” here at OU!

Friday, May 27, 2011

April e-update


Dad’s brother was in a nursing home at the time.  Uncle Tiny had an infection that resulted in gangrene in his leg.  He refused an amputation and was dying as the gangrene spread.  My dad sent me to the nursing home with my saxophone to play a couple of songs for my uncle who, by this time, didn’t always know the people who came into his room.  I was young and scared.  I didn’t want to do it.  I hadn’t played the saxophone for very long at the time and didn’t think that I would play well enough to be much of a blessing but Dad said that Tiny would enjoy it so I went; mostly out of obedience.

Dad’s family was a family of musicians.  The tapes that I heard of my Uncle Tiny and his brothers playing saxophones together were incredible.  They were technically flawless, superb instrumentalists.  This is probably one reason I was so nervous.  But I was sent to play.

When I arrived with my horn, music stand and music in hand, I was shaking.  The room had a peculiar smell beyond the smell of urine that seemed to permeate the nursing home in general.  I greeted my uncle and put my sax together got my music on the stand and began to play a couple of songs that I don’t remember now.  I remember that my uncle was awake but I don’t remember that he acknowledged me or that we had any real conversation at all.  I finished playing, put my horn away and left not knowing if my uncle was ever aware of my presence.  I had been sent by my dad to bless.

Regardless of the results that’s exactly what we’re all called to be and to do.  We are blessed and sent to be a blessing.  Last month Jared wrote how he, Crystal and some students were sent to be a blessing in TN during spring break.  This quarter as Jared and I have taught in Cross Walk, Jesus continues to send us to class mates, neighbors, friends, family and even strangers to be a blessing.  One way that happened this month was through a “Who is Jesus?” table at the College Gate on Good Friday.  The students made themselves available for conversations and gifted people with books and one with a Bible.  Another way we (Teske family) sought to bless was by welcoming students into our home for the annual Teske Easter celebration (there were 17 of us all together).

Whether in groups, by two or three, or as individuals we are seeking to do our best to play the music of the gospel for others who may not even be aware of the import of the melody line.  We trust the Holy Spirit will make these attempts a blessing to others.  Thank you for enabling us to do this here at OU.  God bless you as you are sent to play the gospel so that those around you are blessed.

Friday, April 8, 2011

March e-update

This e-update was written by Jared Ott about the trip he and his wife, Crystal, went on with 9 undergraduate students.

As Spring finally arrives, many of you may notice the many birds who begin their migration back to newly thawed Northern locations. It may also be observed that many college students make an annual migration South about this time. For most of these students, the goal is a beach, some friends, and to have as much carefree (and often thought-free) fun as possible.

This Spring Break, Crystal and I also loaded up a car and two vans full of college students to head South. Yet, this trip had a much different goal than those of many of these student’s classmates. We were going to Johnson City, Tennessee to serve, to learn, and to fellowship.

The trip only lasted five days, two of which were primarily travel days. Yet, we still found ample opportunities to serve with local ministries. We went to a local “Coalition for Kids” organization, which provides after-school programs and care for children whose parents have to work long hours and can’t afford child care. We worked with a local Good Samaritan Ministry, which organizes and distributes aid to thousands of needy individuals over six counties in East Tennessee. We helped to prepare and serve a lunch and a breakfast meal to homeless, low income, or just plain hungry community members. We also got the chance to interact with a local “Interfaith Hospitality Network”, which provides shelter and skill counseling services for homeless families.

These many opportunities to serve were very different in many ways, and some of the students naturally fit into some more than others. We were stretched by some of the activities, and made to stop and ask questions about others. It was a chance to learn through doing, and match our faith with action.

We also had opportunities to learn in other contexts. We dropped by Emmanuel School of Religion and interacted with a few of the professors there. We also spent an evening with the Campus House at East Tennessee State University, which is a sister campus ministry to ROC. The students led devotionals along the way, and had the chance to reflect on some of their experiences. Needless to say, there was quite a bit of thinking that went on during our trip.

Finally, the students had the great opportunity to fellowship with many gracious and hospitable people during the trip. Host families from a local congregation welcomed the students into their homes for the trip. Several of the students commented on how the Campus House felt just like “ROC, only in Tennessee.” It was a wonderful demonstration of the breadth and depth of the body of Christ as we interacted with so many who were once perfect strangers, yet treated us as the dear friends that we are in Christ.

I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that a fair amount of barbeque was consumed (how could one go to Tennessee and not eat BBQ?). Indeed, we were lavished with wonderful food, fellowship, and care from our brothers and sisters in Johnson City. I think you are beginning to see this was quite a full trip!

While I am excited to be able to share these experiences with you, I am even more excited to see the effect they will have on the 9 students who joined us on this trip as they seek to live and serve here at OU. We thank you for your many prayers and gifts, that make such opportunities possible! May the coming warmth of Spring also bring new opportunities for you to learn and serve wherever you find yourself!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

John Chrysostom said...

John Chrysostom (ca. 349-407) was an early church preacher, a "Doctor of the Church" who was trained in rhetoric and who, it is said, had the entire Bible memorized.  I found the following quote while reading the wikipedia article on him. 

He said, "It is not possible for one to be wealthy and just at the same time.  Do you pay such honor to your excrements as to receive them into a silver chamber-pot when another man made in the image of God is perishing in the cold?"

We might say, "How can you spend so much money on your toilet when other people are starving?" BUT Chrysostom was bluntly stating much more than merely criticizing the amount of money you spend on your bed pan.  He was stating that a wealthy person cannot be just. 

What do you think?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

spiritual disciplines

Last night Jared began winter Cross Walk teaching times with an introduction to spiritual disciplines.  We will be talking and practicing a number of disciplines this quarter.  I look forward to learning with you all!

Jared mentioned that we should think of the disciplines (which he will enumerate in talks to come) as tools in our tool box that enable us to put ourselves before God--to grow in relationship with Him.  I like that.

I've also always appreciated the image of God as a potter.  There's a wonderful account in Jeremiah chapter 18 of God telling Jeremiah to go to the potter's house and watch him...here it is:
1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.


5 Then the word of the LORD came to me. 6 He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.
While this text is ultimately about judgment, the image of God being a potter stands.  God is able to shape us, make us into whatever he desires.  He is also able to reshape us when we become marred in His hands. 

What has this got to do with spiritual disciplines?  Think of the spiritual disciplines as ongoing practices that enable us to climb up on the potter's wheel so that the Master Potter might shape us into the vessel He desires us to be.  Don't think of prayer as a way of getting what you want or becoming a better person.  Rather think of it as a way of putting yourself in God's way, on the wheel, under His hands so that He might form you and shape you into a beautiful vessel of His choosing.  God's greatest work is done on surrendered hearts.  All the classic spiritual disciplines do this very same thing.  They all put us on God's potter's wheel so that He can do His amazing work in us.  Let's put ourselves on His wheel, in His path so that He can have free access to us to mold us into the image of His Son, Jesus.

I'm interested in what stories you have.  How has God used the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading/study, fasting, service, worship, journaling, etc., in your life to mold you?