Today I Saw God

Be a Blessing

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"Every morning, I ask God to make me a blessing to someone today." says my friend, Dave. Over the ten years I have known him, I have seen ample evidence of God answering his prayer in the affirmative.

Make me a blessing. A simple prayer. A curious prayer. Even a bold, adventurous or risky prayer.

Blessing is defined as "the act or words of one who blesses" or "a thing conducive to happiness or welfare." Another definition of blessing says it is "something good that one feels grateful" or "lucky to have." We offer someone our blessing when we give our permission, support or approval for something. Whichever of these definitions you apply, blessing is a gift of grace and generosity in word or deed.

Counting my blessings from God is a spiritual discipline I have long practiced, because a habit of gratitude makes sense to me on every level. I am more likely to see God's hand at work in my life when I am actively watching for it. Gratitude is a choice to open my eyes and expect to see God's presence.

Yet the idea of actively looking for ways to BE a blessing, a practice inspired by my friend, is a relatively new intention for me.

My Bible tells me God wants to give us blessings. In fact, God delights in giving good gifts to his children. When I count my blessings, I am often overwhelmed with gratitude by the abundance I discover. Counting my blessings is good for me and brings my heart closer to God. Yet, I sometimes get frustrated by the use of the word blessing among people of faith, as if God is handing out party favors to his favorites. I get squirmy with the implication we somehow earned a prize by signing up for the right club. I cringe a bit every time I see the hashtag #blessed.

By contrast, I am energized and challenged by the idea that I am blessed in order to BE a blessing, the Kingdom of God in action. God's pouring in requires, invites, and equips my pouring out. As we begin to watch for opportunities to be part of God's blessing brigade, we find the possibilities are endless.

"God, make me a blessing to someone today." I dare you to pray this prayer and watch what happens.

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Blessed by Camp Hutchison

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As another year of Camp Hutchison comes to a close, I have taken time to reflect on all that this program has given back to me over the years. Initially, I took advantage of the opportunity to serve as a junior counselor for three summers while I was in high school. This was when I first discovered what a blessing working with the children of Hutchison Elementary really is for me.

Serving in the classrooms with kids who were always excited to learn was my favorite part of every summer. Forming relationships with these incredible students helped me to feel connected to not only my church and community, but also to my faith, as I could see God at work in these children's lives.

One of the most satisfying moments of this experience was the first time I watched a first grader who had never read in English before begin to truly associate words and letters after three weeks of practicing. Moments like this made me feel so proud of the kids and so glad to be part of a program that has such a great impact on the local community.

After graduating high school I had a busy summer preparing for college, working and saying goodbye to friends. I didn't take time that summer to volunteer at Camp Hutchison. By September, I noticed that something was missing in my summer. I spent too much time with a negative attitude at work and not enough time around the positive attitudes of the kids that never fail to bring me closer to God.

As I began my first year away at college, I realized that I was aware of more of the negativity in the world around me and felt less connected to God. I was struggling to connect with the good in my life and my community, and it began to feel like the negativity in my life was far more prominent than the good. I realized that I needed to spend my summer in a positive place where I could reconnect with God. So, I applied for the Serve Ministries intern position at Floris UMC.

Interning for Serve Ministries proved to be exactly the opportunity that I needed. Being able to spend my summer coordinating with volunteers and creating the most interactive and exciting camp possible for the children brought a large positive influence back into my life.

The first day of Camp Hutchison 2015 was one of the most stressful days of my life, but the smiles on the kids' faces and the joy they brought me made my stress and nervousness disappear. I realized that it didn't matter what I did, because God was in control and was working through these kids.

Now at the close of my second year as a Floris UMC intern, I have a hard time putting into words the changes that these two summers at Camp Hutchison have had on my life. I was able to go into this past school year with a higher appreciation of the little blessings we experience every day in life and focus on the positive things in the world. I feel stronger in my faith and more confident than before, which I attribute directly to the Camp Hutchison students. They remind me every day that God is constantly at work in the world and in the lives of people around us.

Submitted by Mason Dickerson.

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How Blessed

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Editor's Note: Lastweek 30 high school students and sixleaders traveled to Alajuela,Costa Ricato help with construction projects, work with children at a Vacation Bible School program and help meet the needs of the local, under-resourced community. The following is a blog post from one of the students, Laney Hartin.

My week in Costa Rica has been an incredible experience of learning and connecting with new people. I came into this mission trip not expecting much; however, I have bonded with not only other teens from the church but also with the people of Costa Rica.

I've learned how blessed I am in my everyday life and also how great it can feel to help others. Riding the bus through the multiple neighborhoods, seeing stray animals and rundown homes and shops made me feel extremely blessed to live in such a fortunate county with everything I could possibly need or want.

A huge moment for me was the first day when we went house-to-house praying for people and delivering rice. We heard many stories of the difficulties these families dealt with, which made me even more grateful for my family and the support I receive from my community.

One of the best parts of the trip was Vacation Bible School (VBS). It didn't feel like work at all because we were able to have fun with the kids while also making a huge difference in their lives and the community.

Over the course of the three days at VBS I bonded with a little girl named Linda who was so sweet. Linda loved to talk to me even though half the time, because of our language barrier, I responded with, "Lo siento, no comprendo." Which means, "I'm sorry, I don't understand." We still had so much fun drawing pictures, tossing the beach ball and blowing bubbles. It was really sad to say goodbye to her when we left, but she gave me a card that said, "Te amo," with a heart, which made leaving a little easier.

Aside from VBS, working construction was also a huge learning experience. I got to put others before myself even when I was physically exhausted, which in the end was a great feeling. I loved seeing the finished products of the team's hard work and how happy Antonio and the rest of his group were. Overall the trip was a great experience, and I will probably visit next year so that I can put even more work into helping the Costa Rican community.

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