Tag: faith

From camp to CMU: Knowing God beyond academia

I’m not sure what wild whim it was last February that had me filling out and submitting and application for Summer Staff at Camp Mennoscah.

Lizzie Schrag (far right) with her roommates from Camp Mennoscah. Lizzie Schrag: knowing God beyond academia

Lizzie Schrag (far right) with her roommates from Camp Mennoscah.

My relationship with this Kansas church camp was shaky, at best. I hadn’t gone every year as a camper, and not all the years I had attended had been particularly good experiences. From what I could remember it was hot, sandy, and full of both poison ivy and extroverts.

So when I arrived at camp last June, I had come because it was something in which I believed. I had taken enough BTS courses at that point to have a vague recognition that, when set up correctly, Christianity could be positive and life-giving instead of horribly destructive, as my own post-high school experience had led me to conclude.

Camp, then, was the best example of Christianity being “set-up” correctly, that I could think of: an intentional community that broke bread together; worked, played, and rested together; had healthy intergenerational interactions; and defied gender stereotypes—all on a place set aside as holy ground by the life-giving flow of the Ninnescah River.

Lizzie Schrag: knowing God beyond academia

But what I didn’t bargain for when I arrived at camp was, well, the Holy Spirit, the Breath of God: that Grace, eloquently described in Hamilton’s ‘Unimaginable‘, as “too powerful to name.”

When I started working at camp, I viewed all those aforementioned aspects of Christianity as a check-list, as if I could simply mark them off once they happened. I saw them as practices that brought us closer to God. But I had gone so long without feeling that overflowing, overwhelming love, grace, and certainty in who I was as a child of God, that I couldn’t quite dare to believe that I would again.

But God has a way of overturning all our assumptions and our expectations.

Somewhere between buckets of compost, stacks of dishes, and a little turtle poop (I was the nature person after all), I regained trust in my own ability to be strong, capable, and loving in service—a living example of worship.

And between hymn sings and hug circles, notes of love from our director and quiet campers pouring out their stories, I regained trust in the loving goodness of other people.

And on my last night with campers, as I was hanging back at campfire waiting to put it out, I found myself talking to a camper whose difficult story was eerily similar to my own, and in ministering to her, (I guess that’s what listening, and sharing, and praying really is), I regained my trust in God, and God’s ability to work through what is messy, and broken, and seemingly irreparable.

Lizzie Schrag: Knowing God beyond academia

I went to camp because it seemed like a place to live out what I had learned in textbooks and lectures. But I left knowing God beyond academia.

I affirmed that I need a place to write and think, to make sense of God amidst all the dangerous, damaging religiosity I have, and continue to brush up against. But I also learned that God’s mercy forces us to reevaluate our doubts, God’s grace can sass our bitter cynicism right back, and God’s love can come in forms as small as a baby turtle, and as expansive as a prairie sky.

At camp I slammed into a God who is in all and through all. Even me.

Elizabeth Schrag is in her second year of a Biblical and Theological Studies major. 
This post was first shared in Chapel at CMU on Sept 12, 2017.

Praying for rain: the politics and symbolism of water

I’m in the air right now, on my way to an old friend’s wedding in Edmonton, but I’m thinking about water. I’ve been thinking about water since Christmas Eve, actually, when I listened to a podcast about clean water while driving through a snow storm. I just didn’t expect the thinking to last this long.

Water: A beautiful river scene in BC. Photo courtesy of Marnie Klassen.

In the spring I wrote and presented a speech at the C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest about water pollution as a form of violence. I also donated my birthday money to Charity:Water, an NGO bringing clean water to communities in developing countries. This summer has been all about water as well, despite the pervasive drought here in BC.

Two of my summer goals were to canoe more, and to start overcoming my fear of sailing. I’ve somewhat accomplished these goals, with excursions such as canoeing Widgeon Creek and sailing to Gabriola Island on my parent’s Catalina 34, Elysium.

Water: CMU student Marnie Klassen worked for A Rocha Canada this summer in BC.

And, of course, there’s my summer job. I’ve spent the summer working for A Rocha Canada, a Christian conservation organization that focuses on watershed stewardship as a form of creation care. This means that I’ve spent my summer piecing together a video about salmon in the upper Bulkley River, and counting western toads in a pond while wearing hip waders.

I’m struck by both the politics and the symbolism of water, inextricably linked in my experience.

In early July my mom and I participated in the Paddle for the Peace Solidarity Paddle in Vancouver, protesting the proposed Site C Dam on the Peace River. Though I no longer live near the Peace, paddling a canoe that has traversed much of its length in solidarity with those who remain near it, was a profound expression of connection and commitment.

And still, it remained a political act. While rivers connect us, defying political borders, they also seem to divide us. Those of us paddling were clearly doing so spurred on by hope that we had because of political transition in the province. And the onlookers? Who knows. Perhaps some of them endorsed us, perhaps others remain more comfortable with the story the previous government told, about job creation at the expense of a river nobody cares about anyway.

Water: Marnie Klassen wanders through the wilderness of BC.

As the smoke clears, I don’t want to forget about the wildfires. With the change of government, I don’t want to assume that the story’s over. As I finish my job, I don’t want to lose my love for the western toad and the Little Campbell River.

Instead, I’ll pray for rain – for fires and farms and fish.

Marnie Klassen began her first year at CMU in January 2017.

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