February Prayer Update

Friends and Family,

This Spring semester I continued in a tradition this ministry has maintained for the past several years. A collection of students contribute writings and reflections based on a different Scripture for each day during the season of Lent. These reflections get compiled, edited by a CU writing professor, and put together in a booklet. I read one particular reflection this morning that caught my attention in a new way. A student reflected on Psalm 63, reminding us of the Psalmist’s frequent pattern of praise to the Lord, in light of God’s character and care. This particular student is working toward a PhD in Musicology so naturally, she provided us with an anthem on YouTube called, “I sat down under his shadow,” to go along with her devotional. It’s a mesmerizing tune about the delight we can experience in sitting under the shadow of a faithful God.

For me, the contrast here is the shadow I more frequently sit under. I wish I were more disciplined than this, but far too often I sit under the shadow of my own unmet expectations, of life’s trials made black and charcoal gray, like a tree’s shadow cast far out into the street ahead. The Lenten season is meant for us to take stock, to look at our lives with realistic and sobering eyes, acknowledging our sin and need for God, so that the celebration of the resurrection can become that much more profound and delightful. The song that accompanies this student’s reflection pulls me right out from underneath that trees’ far casted shadow and helps to settle me under the shadow of a God who is already right with me. It makes me think of spring, casting aside winter’s broken branches and darker afternoons, trading it for new growth and vibrant colors. This is the hope of the resurrection that keeps us ticking through the reality of Lent. That the dark shadows of life are not the end of the story, and therefore we can persevere.

I find myself so grateful for these students and the work that I get to do. Many of them offer me frequent reminders of the hope the cross offers. The Pope wrote an article on Lent, calling people to be grow in their awareness of others, casting aside all indifference and making themselves open to others. Recently on the CU campus, we learned that students of minority populations, particularly the African American community, are feeling ostracized, oppressed, or even unwelcome. There is an illusion of inclusion so folks are often numb to the issue, while racist rhetoric and negative comments are heard regularly, leaving students to feel unwelcome and completely “other.” I’m proud of our GCF students and how they are taking care to prayerfully consider how to respond. The first year small group has decided that during Lent they will daily take on a practice of praying for these students and begin to discern how we can actively respond as a community. They want to be a community that welcomes, includes, and loves, regardless of background.

Lent may be completely foreign to you, a totally un-touched experience or a simply distant curiosity. Regardless of how you experience Lent, or if you do at all, perhaps today can be an opportunity for you to not only be aware of others, but to rest in the shadow of a God good, with whom our care is rooted and grounded. I’ve included a PDF format of this Lenten Devotional for your use, giving thanks that your support has provided opportunities like this to exist in the life of our community. Simply click here to access:

https://gallery.mailchimp.com/4024c6caebef02735fe16f830/files/Lenten_Devo_2016_Digital.pdf
God is at work here and your prayers and support have gone a long way.

Many Thanks,
Emily Ballbach

Prayer Requests –
1. So far I have been subletting a place here in Boulder but the original renter will be back at the end of May and I’m in the process of looking for something new. Prayers for housing would be great!
2. The Spring retreat is happening next weekend, March 4-6 and we’ll be focusing on what it means to be a mature Christian. Prayers asked for save travel, great community time, and growth to take place!
3. We’ll select our leaders for 2016-2017 in April – we’re praying that God will compel great leaders to apply and that we will have wisdom in the selection process.
4. Unity and reconciliation among students on campus and that GCF would be a catalyst for this.

http://donate.intervarsity.org/support/emilyballbach

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Big Updates – Major Moves

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A little over a year ago, I went radio silent on this whole blog thing. Though I have continued to write offline, an internal process was taking place that could not yet be aired. I trekked the land of the Andes Mountains and ended my last day in my twenties with a hike up to the infamous Incan ruins at Machu Picchu. That trip and the time spent reflecting on my twenties lead me to consider that my thirtieth year may be one holding a transition of some kind. I was not sure what that meant but was eager to discern. The following is a letter I recently sent out to friends and family, it highlights the newest announcement and fills you in on an impending move!

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21

Dear Friend,

I have heard it said that thirty brings folks a sense of settledness in themselves, what they want from the world, or even how they might contribute to the world and those around them. While some of this has been true for me over the past year, turning thirty more accurately brought a sense of impending transition and new adventure. The verse quoted above has never been truer to me, that God could do more than we could ever ask or imagine. God is in the business of making all things new, often using you and me to help. Over the past four years I have had the opportunity to serve at Laity Lodge Family Camp, recruiting, mentoring, and discipling our college and high school staff. It has been a gift to be used in this way, and God has used this work to make more specific His call on my life in pastoral ministry. Students in a collegiate and academic setting have always been a passion of mine and God is opening up that exact opportunity – doing more than I could ask or imagine.

Thus, I have accepted a position with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, to serve as campus staff to graduate students and graduate faculty at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I will have the opportunity to initiate conversations that are intended to point students and faculty to the life changing Gospel. It will be a joy for me to help students grow in their understanding that God has called all of us to be ministers of the Gospel, whether as a psychologist, engineer, or musician, and beyond. Ultimately, students will enter the world, in their fields of study and work, and have the potential to change the world in each of their contexts. I want to help them find their grounding in God’s Word, purpose in using their unique gifts and strengths, and fellowship among believers, all for the work of the Church and the glory of God.

As some of you may know, InterVarsity has long been a ministry supported entirely by the charitable gifts of individuals and churches. With that statement alone, you have figured out that this is not only an announcement, but also a support letter, acknowledging that it will be my responsibility to raise my personal salary and the ministry budget, needing much help to do so. My goal is to begin this work with students at CU-Boulder in the Fall, meaning I will need to raise a large percentage of support in order to get on campus. Consequently, I am asking a team of people to partner with me prayerfully and financially. Will you consider partnership with me?

I will be finishing my work with Laity Lodge Family Camp in mid-July, at the end of our summer retreats, looking forward to my transition to Colorado that will come soon after. I will be following up with you in the coming weeks with more information about InterVarsity, CU-Boulder, my vision and hope for this community, and the financial responsibilities included. In the meantime, I covet your prayers as I finish my work with LLFC and plan with anticipation for this next ministry opportunity.

Many blessings and thanks in advance,

Emily Ballbach

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Don’t Deny the Whole Grand Story

photo-1 copy(Photo taken at Deception Pass State Park in my home state of Washington!)

Week before last, I had a great time at home in Seattle, including a trek up to Vancouver, Canada where I completed my first half marathon. I’m wondering if I’ve caught the running bug and another race will follow before too long. I’ll post about my time away later but thought I’d once again link to my latest post completed for “The High Calling.” It came out over the weekend while I was at camp so I’m just now passing it along to you. Happy Monday everyone!!

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Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”

“No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same.

Although I have heard the story of Easter every single year I have been alive, the grace of God still seems so mysterious in its sacrifice and unconditional reach. But, in all the curiosity of the cross, sometimes I forget to talk to others about the power of the resurrection and all that it means for our lives. Though I may not deny Christ, it sometimes feels challenging for me to represent the fullness of his story.

To read more, click here.

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Not Ashamed

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As I mentioned in my last post, I have been writing some for work and wanted to link you to the latest installment. I wrote a devotional for one of our sister programs, “The High Calling.” The program is doing a series highlighting how we share our faith at work, the difficulties and challenges of it, and the real rewards of being a people unashamed of the Gospel.

My entry is as follows:

In the 90s, I found myself participating in something called, “See You at The Pole,” an endeavor that empowers students to stand up for their faith at school and pray around the flagpole before the morning bell rings. Unfortunately, there were not many students around the pole that cold Seattle morning. As the buses unloaded our peers, the jeering began and the insult ensued. I was mildly shocked, and we remained around that pole in solidarity until classes began. I remember feeling like I had stood up for my faith in some way, despite the demeaning environment. As the book of Romans charged us, we were not ashamed of the Gospel that had given us life (Romans 1:16).


 

To continue reading, click here.

If you like what you read, feel free to subscribe to The High Calling to receive daily devotions from really wonderful people that I get to work with!

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Summer is coming!

With summer on our heels, and a more immersed camping season approaching, my writing time has been mostly wrapped up in some Imageprojects at work. I know, I’m kind of lucky that way. I still want to share what I’m up to so I linked my latest work post over here if you’re interested. I hope to do more writing from the canyon this summer so stay posted. Also on the horizon? Some songs my buddy Sean and I are working on.

Happy reading folks!

April Family Camp Newsletter:

One of our values at Family Camp is to practice “intentional hospitality”. We hope you experience it from the moment you pull up in front of the Welcome House, as our team greets you and helps you to your cabin until the time you return home. Recently, I spent a lengthy car ride to Austin, Texas listening to stories on NPR. I was surprised to be moved by a flight attendant’s story. While I was not surprised that some flight attendants must find it hard to keep from growing jaded in their service, this particular gal found a way to see beyond the surface of her needy customers…

Read more here

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Cibolo : Part 5

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This place quiets me

I’m invited to come and listen to testimony of all that has already been done.

The Creator writes a symphony in sand-paper rustling marsh grass, brown to match it’s tone and winter’s scorch. Water crystals ping and ring at the river’s edge, and slowly my ears peel open a bit wider.

The birds sing a conversation, trading eights of melodies, and I remember those trumpet days and the lessons that followed. In high school jazz, no one is right and you can barely do wrong. My heart relinquishes the entitlements life has left and trades in for a more carefree melody.

Spring’s warm touch to my back takes the burdens that rest on my shoulders, melting and evaporating. I am quieted to hear the One who’s hand is capable of offering what is weightless, hemming in behind and before, and there is rest.

This place quiets me because the God who writes the best songs, in melody and lyric, is mastering His composition and is here to perform with grandeur and delight. We are His best work, yet we haven’t seen the best of the best, yet. In the meantime, I’m happy to be quieted to hear the songs that matter and the melodies that change and redeem.

And in this place, I am quieted.

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Cibolo: Part 4

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This place frees me.

Despite the broken branches and winter withered grass that match the condition of some my heart, burdens lay down on the rock terrain with each scattered step. Rock weights sitting on my soul go to the place they belong and weightlessness begins.

The Spirit in nature meets me without a cost. It requires no personal sacrifice other than open eyes to share its delight.

The river has been at a stand still for some time, leaving moss, leaves, and debris to settle on the surface, keeping me from seeing the depth below and my heart beats with empathy and camaraderie with the stagnant water. Downstream life bubbles up under tree roots and fallen limbs, barely springing up but still not done here yet. Again, my heart beats and head nods in understanding of my own stunted springs still bubbling up.

Mother trees fallen over have become nurse logs to needy new saplings in a dried up piece of the riverbed, all eager for rain. The shadow of the trees that still stand, reach out over the surface of leftover water. And the picture of life is just an arm reach away. The trees that droop wipe up any tears or wounded places and spaces inside me, blowing with new life when the wind passes through.

This place frees me because despite the dried up and dark places, new Spring green gives hope and trails of grace breath a breath of fresh air to dry tears or discontent. The grace of a big, great God require nothing of me but to open my eyes and reach out to receive the shadows of life and grace His Spirit offers me. And this place frees me because the Truth that sets us all free stands next to me by His Spirit, reaching out with me for the life that’s just an outstretched arm away.

And in this place, I am set free.

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