Saturday, December 12, 2015

Some Major Comings and Goings

Thank you for another great year! Your support has made a huge difference this year, and will continue to bear fruit into the coming years. I have a few exciting things to share and a brief reflection on Christmas below.

Fall Pizza Theology

This Pizza Theology had nearly 100 more students than we've ever had before!
One of our most exciting events of November was the semesterly event we call Pizza Theology (a nod to CCF for the name and idea!). We had 400 people show up to hear 4 hours of teaching on "How to Think Like a Christian." Oh, and one hour of pizza and fellowship in the middle! I got consistent feedback that the 4 hours flew by and they couldn't believe it was over.

Garrett started us off teaching about paradigms and objectivity, among other things. He's such a great teacher, and he had us all laughing--often at ourselves! I taught about how we need to integrate scripture, tradition, the arts, the sciences, and our experiences in order to think through topics that the Bible doesn't directly address. I also talked about the need to proportion our agreement to things, understanding that there is always more information out there, much of which I don't have access to at any given moment. And then we had a panel of very smart, thoughtful Christians discuss the recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. They had this discussion in front of us to demonstrate to the students how to have thoughtful conversations that drive learning and growth. We got incredible feedback on that portion.

The audio quality isn't the greatest, but if you're interested in listening, I highly recommend it. You can find the recording here.

Saying Goodbye to Travis

Garrett and I laid hands on Travis and prayed for him at Pizza Theology. Many of the students gave him a standing ovation for his years of service to them.
Travis Jones, who has been on our staff for nearly 5 years, served at 5 of our campuses, and helped us plant new ministries at Richland and UTA, is transitioning off at the end of this semester. We have loved working with him. He is so sweet and kind. He's up for anything, and is always serving however he can. He's done a lot of our graphic design work over the past few years (which we frequently get compliments on from other groups on campus).

Our staff has been in conversations about this for awhile, and while sad, we feel great about this transition.

Saying Hello to Casey!

I'm excited to share that Casey Worsham (my little bro!) is coming back to work with FOCUS half-time as our Administrative Director.  Our admin team is currently a patchwork of volunteers, part-time staff, and campus ministers who take on some specific role on the side, and we've been in great need of someone to come in and manage all that. Casey is a great fit because he has experience managing people in the marketplace and also, as one of our past campus ministers, really understands what we do and how we do it. Mandy and I are excited to be able to devote more of our time back with students as Casey takes this role off our shoulders.
Look how business-like he is!
Celebrating Christmas

God calls us into His family, and one of the things that really defines family in my mind is celebrating holidays together. And Christmas is such a great holiday to celebrate together as Christians! This year, we had a candlelight devotional to really think through the real meaning of Christmas (a special thanks to the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Richardson for hosting us!). We also had a fun party with the theme "High School Christmas." Our small groups came dressed as their favorite high school cliques, but the staff came as the lunch ladies and served a meal that would have made my high school alma mater proud, complete with segmented lunch trays! 14 of the small groups performed various high school themed Christmas songs/skits in front of the community. If you want a little taste, you can see one here.
UTD and Richland staff "lunch ladies." Note the hairnets.
This season of advent is our opportunity to celebrate Jesus' first coming and to wait longingly for His return. Light has dawned (Is. 9:2), but we eagerly anticipate the full light of midday.  Each of us gets to hold and share a part of that light, no matter how dark the world around us may seem. Henri Nouwen offers these questions to ask ourselves. I encourage you to reflect on them and be purposeful in reflecting the Light of the world: (Thanks to Shirley Bobbink for reminding me of them!)

“Did I offer peace today?
Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? 
Did I say words of healing? 
Did I let go of my anger and resentment? 
Did I forgive? 
Did I love?
These are the real questions.”

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