Thursday, December 27, 2012

Serving the City Together

At the end of each year, my team and I get the opportunity to visit our ministry partners and say "thank you" with a tithe basket. This year, we made some delicious treats, roasted coffee and created a calendar filled with Denver pictures. Also included in the basket is a check, as CSM values tithing and gives a portion of any income to our ministries.  I love the opportunity to thank our partners for the work that they are doing and for allowing our students to serve alongside them.  

My staff and I have been reading the book Space for God by Don Postema. He spends time in length talking about gratitude and at one point says, "A humble give-and-take between people breaks through false independence."  He also says, ". . .you realize for an instant that you are part of something much larger than yourself or your surroundings. You acknowledge that you are surrounded by God's indescribable generosity." 

It is amazing how nearly every visit we made this year we were greeted with "We should be thanking you for bringing us groups of volunteers!" It reminds me that a huge desire of mine is to truly be partners with our ministries. We both need each other. When we have student groups in the city we try to teach them that we shouldn't be doing things for others, or to them, but with them.  

- Keysha Boggess, CSM Denver City Director

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Advent - Love

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Romans 3:22-24

The most beautiful thing I have learned in my journey with Christ is that no one deserves love.

Not one of us. We are saved by the Grace of God, and that alone.

No matter how good we think we are, how obedient, how generous – we have all sinned and fallen short of the grace of God.  We all have places of ugliness in our lives and we all continue to grow through them and see how God’s infinite love has truly saved us. That is the amazing beauty of grace freely given to an entirely undeserving people.

Tomorrow we celebrate the day that God, the Almighty Creator, took on the most vulnerable of all human forms – a helpless, dependent baby – to save the world while it still rejected him.  Now, that’s a love full of grace. That is real, larger than life, amazing love. The beautiful thing about this great big story? We know it’s real because we see it acted out every day.  Love grows when it’s fed by the choices of a grace filled heart.

You choose to hope in a hopeless situation? Love grows.

When you choose peace when you have the right to argue? Love grows.

When you choose joy instead of anger? Love grows.

The truth is, it’s easy to see the negative things. The driver who cut you off, The angry person yelling in the park, The guy that is in such a hurry to catch the train that he knocks you over and doesn’t even say “sorry.”  Those stories stick in your hearts and eat your joy for breakfast - killing love.  

In the process of noticing and pointing out those things, though, we miss absolutely radiant beauty and love that is everywhere!  When I stopped to look around for love, I saw that Boston is just overflowing with it! Like Mary-Ann, who stops to visit her friend Mark, who is homeless, when she has to do a burrito run for work, and not only remembers his birthday, but gives him a card and a present – that’s God’s Love! The stranger who holds the door for me when I’m struggling to carry my stuff – there it is again!

Little acts of love are all around us. We just have to train our brains to notice them. I can guarantee that when you start seeing all the love in the world, it will change your life.

A friend of mine has named this concept “The Love Snowball.” We make love snowballs when we pass forward kindness: one act of kindness inspires another, which inspires another, then another and the more love you pass forward, the bigger it gets! Eventually this love snowball will turn into a great big avalanche (love-alanche) of care and kindness, washing over everything in its path! It is an absolute miracle to watch this love grow in the community. Regardless of background, choices or circumstances, we are all loved infinitely more than we could ever dream of deserving. This Christmas I cannot wait to get out and tell people that they are loved exactly where they are.

No conditions.
No maybes.
No changes.
Just as they are.
We all have flaws and we all have ugliness but I rejoice that I am a child of a God who knows even my ugly thoughts and that He truly loves me and blesses me anyway. I encourage you and challenge you all to spread light at every turn. It’s just as contagious and easy as spreading negativity, but it heals you and heals others as well. Hope, Peace and Joy build a heart set on love. Without even one of those things, love is not complete.
It is my prayer for everyone reading this, that as we move into this day of great celebration you will have hope for the future, peace with your past, joy in the present and love overwhelming your heart! 
God Bless & Merry Christmas! 
- Jessica Fothergill, CSM Boston Associate City Director

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you a VERY Merry Christmas from all of us here at CSM!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Celebrating A Year of Ministry in Boston!

We are coming up on CSM Boston's one year anniversary! It seems like just yesterday that I was starting my job here at CSM, charged with the task of opening up CSM Boston for its inaugural year in the city. To start the year, I spent much of my time getting to know Boston, its people, and its problems, finding and building relationships with various ministries around the city, and many long hours planning and scheduling out what summer would look like with actual groups in the city.

After some intense months of training for CSM, I was able to jump right in and start building relationships with local ministry partners. CSM had partnered with some sites when they brought in "test groups", like Place of Promise and Seafarer's Friend, but many other beautiful, new relationships were formed with some amazing ministries like Eagle's Nest Learning Center and New England Seafarers Mission.

As June was quickly approached, I was able to see the fruit of many hours spent scheduling groups, traveling across the city to meet with different ministry partners, and hiring a staff team to lead the groups that would come in to serve.

Over the course of the summer, we had close to 300 students and leaders from 17 different groups come through our doors! Groups from as far away as California to Canada traveled to serve here in "The Hub". They were able to serve in areas from homeless ministry to kid’s camps.

Here’s a sample of some of the feedback we received after a long summer from group participants and leaders:

"CSM challenged the way I thought and made me realize that I had been stereotyping and judging certain types of people. CSM opened my eyes and helped me to work through this.”

"I love the way faith is integrated into everything at CSM, without implying that we have it and others don't. I love the emphasis on Jesus' heart for the poor.”

"I really enjoyed seeing the city with all of its diversity. It’s an amazing city and I wish I had more time to serve here and experience the culture.”

We are overjoyed with the ministry that happened in Boston this year! God has heaped amazing blessings not only on this city, but us here at CSM as we opened our doors in our 10th city in the US. Thank you to everyone who has been faithfully praying and financially supporting this endeavor!

We here at CSM Boston would LOVE to have you come serve with us in 2013! Please email or call 949-248-8200 to find out what dates are available.

We are still in need of more financial partners, too. Please consider giving to the Launch CSM Boston Campaign today!

- Chris Nazareth, CSM Boston City Director

Monday, December 17, 2012

Advent - Joy

“I get joy when I think about what He’s done for me!”  I love this line in one of my favorite gospel songs.  It is a simple and catchy tune and 100% accurate.  I truly am filled with joy when I reflect on what God has done for me.  This is similar to Mary’s delight found in Luke 1:46-49.  She states the following after finding out she would be the mother of the Son of God:

“And Mary Said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.’”

Can we just take a moment to try to imagine Mary’s joy?  What if the Lord appeared to us, us common folk, and said we were going to carry the Son of God?  What if God considered you or I so special, so wonderful, so worthy, and so loved—to carry the Son of God?!?  The humble and miraculous joy must have been almost unbearable for Mary. 

Now for the crazy part.  We can and do carry the Son of God!  Through the Holy Spirit we can experience the same indwelling of God, the same miraculous power and mercy that Mary spoke of in the Luke passage.  Oh, the joy that arises when I think about the fact that God considers us so special, so wonderful, so worthy, so loved that we have the opportunity and privilege to carry around the Spirit of God!

If everything around us appears gloom, depressing, and hopeless, there will always and forever be one thing to bring us joy—the knowledge that God dwells in and amongst us.  We are loved.  Mary experienced it over 2000 years ago and we can experience it today.  Thank  you, Jesus! 

Rebekah Bolin, CSM Los Angeles Associate City Director

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent - Peace

“Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace.”
(name that tune)

I’ll never forget the advent calendar we had growing up.  It was made of fabric, hung on the wall next to our staircase, and had a little pocket for every day leading up to Christmas.  On the top was a velcro tree with a bunch of little cloth gifts – candy canes, gift boxes, and toys.  Every day, my brother and I would take turns removing a gift from the tree and putting them in the daily pocket.  We would get more and more excited every day as the little tree got emptier and emptier, because the day we removed that last gift, we knew we were getting the real deal – actual presents under our actual tree.  Sometimes I wished I could just move 5 at a time to make Christmas come that much faster.

Advent is all about anticipation.  So in that sense, my childhood advent calendar served its purpose well.  But as I grew up I realized more of the deeper meaning of this significant part of the Christian calendar.  It is actually about anticipation of the celebration of Jesus’ “adventus” – or “coming” - into our world.  For some, advent ends with anticipation of gifts under the tree.  For others, it ends with the anticipation of Jesus’ birth.  While that sounds sufficient, our participation in advent isn’t complete unless we reflect on the depths of what Jesus’ birth actually means for our world.  It can’t simply end with images of an “8 pound, 6 ounce newborn infant Jesus” with a donkey and some wise men.

So what did Jesus’ birth mean for us?  Last week we heard from Jay in Denver about the hope that we have because of this historic event.  Today I’d like to say a little about the peace that Jesus’ advent brings.  It’s easy to have a misguided view of peace.  It goes beyond the absence of conflict and tension.  Two people can hate and avoid each other their whole lives, which may fit that definition, but it’s not peace.  It’s more than that.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Romans 5:1)

The biblical word for “peace” comes from the Hebrew word, “shalom”, which is more than just simply peace; it is a complete peace. It is a feeling of contentment, completeness, wholeness, well being and harmony1.  When we reflect on and accept that  God loves us so much, that he sent His Son into the world to live among us, struggle with us, love us, forgive us, guide us in truth, heal us, and ultimately save us from our sins, we can stop fighting.  We can stop fighting each other over petty things, and we can stop fighting God over what we want for our lives.  Everything is put in its proper place.  And there’s shalom.  This has huge implications in our personal lives, in our families, and in our cities.  This advent season, may you experience life-altering peace with God. 

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

-Chris Zwakenberg, Washington, DC City Director


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