Strengthening Your Hand in God-11th and 12th Grade Camp-Hopetown Highlight #1

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(This is something you could share in a family devotional or with the kids in your life.  We’d highly suggest you watch the movie Wonder together first!)

In the movie Wonder, the mom says to Auggie, “Your face shows where you’ve been and your heart shows where you’re going.”  This week at camp, we talked about the same kind of idea…but with hands, rather than faces.

Look at your own hands.  What scars and marks are there?  As Melissa said, in our first teaching, “We’re all marred.  We all have marks that show what our lives have been like up to this point…and your hands reflect a lot of those.”  And then, we turned to each other and told stories about our hands…times we had gotten stung by bees or fallen and gotten a scar on a certain finger.  Kids love to tell stories of injuries…have you noticed?  So could be fun to tell with your family.

And then, our hands conversation went a little deeper.  

“Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.”    

-Jeremiah 18:6

The Daystar model of counseling involves three words—Soften—Shape—and Strengthen.

We start with softening.  Softening has to take place before we can be shaped, just like pottery.  We all have a hardness we carry around inside of us.  It’s why we have dogs in the office, and our offices look like living rooms.  And why our counselors always start with relationship.  We then asked the kids to talk about how something in their lives has softened them?  What has softened you?

Shaping involves being molded by someone else.  It’s the actual teaching part of the model…the growth…the change each child and each of us are hoping to see.  We talked about how change takes place in ways that impact us the most, with an analogy of water skiing.  Have you ever tried to water ski?  You’re in the water alone.  Those big skis are going every which way.  People are shouting commands from the boat that make no sense…”Keep your skis together.”  Right.  “Let the boat pull you up.”  What?  And then you try…and fall.  So, at Hopetown, we started a whole new method.  We actually have one person get in the water with the new skier.  They hold the back of their skis and teach them by coming literally alongside them.  It seems to work better…in the water and in life.

And then there’s strengthening…which is where we spent the bulk of our time in teaching with these older adolescents.  They’re at the strengthening place in their lives.  They were an amazing group of kids…with depth and heart and passion and purpose.  And so, like clay, they were ready to be strengthened.  In fact, clay will never hold it’s shape until it goes through that process—which really does involve fire.  And risk.  And experiencing their own sense of purpose.

It’s teaching someone else to ski.  It’s going on a mission trip.  It’s serving as a leader with younger kids.  It’s deciding that you want God to use you.  It’s your choice.  As we say often, no matter what has happened in your life, you can still choose to love and care for others.  It’s believing that you make a difference.  You will get bored if you take in truth and then sit on it.  You are here for a purpose.  Each one of us is.  Look at all of the purposes that are sitting around you.  

There are 1800 references of hands in the Bible.  300 are literal.  The rest are symbolic.  When hands are talked about, they are mostly talked about to represent taking action.  

But, on some days, we don’t believe we can do it.  We don’t believe we can take action…that God can use us.  Our hands feel weak.  How do your hands, in particular, feel weak?  We talked about several different types of hands this week.  They are:

1.  Busy hands.  Busy hands are where we stay on the surface, and busy to avoid looking at our sin.  We also sometimes brag about busyness to feel important.

2.  Shaky hands.  With shaky hands, we’re paralyzed by the fear of messing up.  We can even fall into letting anxiety become an excuse.

3.  Tight hands.  Tight hands hold on to what we think we can control, maintaining an identity we created even at the expense of others.

4.  Fist.  With a fist, we push away others with anger and blame.

5.  Hanging hands.  Hanging hands hold back, waiting on others to meet our needs or lead the way.  We struggle with laziness.

6.  Performing hands.  Performing hands put on a mask, are competitive and self-focused.  We have trouble leaving the stage or spotlight.

There is good news.  It’s not really up to us or our hands.  But, before we get to the good news, we need to know the bad news.  And the bad news is where we specifically struggle…in this case, what weakens our hands.  It is also known as sin.  

“So let God work His will in you.  Yell a loud “NO” to the Devil and watch him scamper.  Say a quiet “yes” to God and He’ll be there in no time.  Quit dabbling in sin.  Wash your hands and purify your inner life.  Get serious, really serious.  Get down on your knees before the Master, it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet. PS Don’t bad mouth each other, friends.” 

-James 4:7-11, MSG

“Dear God, I’m so afraid to open my hands.  Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?  Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands? Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not my own, but what you want to give me.  And what you want to give me is love, unconditional, everlasting love.  Amen.” -Henri Nouwen

He wants to give us unconditional, everlasting love.  We get a fresh start when we wash our hands and come to Him with open hands.  And, then, we get the honor of allowing God to use us to strengthen the hands of each other…which is exactly what we did at camp.

Each camper would come to the front of the room and talk about how they want to change—about how they want to be different with their fresh start.  And then, as with Jonathan and David in 1 Samuel 23:16, we had an opportunity to strengthen each camper’s hand in God.  After talking about change, they would choose three people who would challenge and speak words of truth and encouragement to them.  

The 35 campers at hopetown this week walked out in front of our staff what it looks like to be in the Potter’s hands.  Their hearts were soft as they shared their stories and struggles with each other.  They came alongside and shaped one another, and received rich truth.  And, they strengthened one another’s hands in profound ways.  As they spoke to each other, each camper was strengthened by not only the receiving of truth, but the speaking of it themselves.  That’s how strengthening works.