Now that we've lived in Colorado a full year we decided to really see what this state has to offer. So we packed up our truck with all our camping gear and headed out to explore, thinking this would be a wonderful way to welcome the summer in. At our first stop we pitched our tent at Molas Lake, which boasts a higher elevation for a full-service campground than any in the lower 48 states. The cool evenings froze our water and the "Ladies" (our three corgis) curled up to keep us warm. One evening, I inflated my float tube to flyfish offshore. Shortly after pushing off, a mayfly hatch began. Thousands of beautiful, tiny aquatic insects hovered across the lake, luring the rainbow trout to the surface. The frenzy of fish swirled and jumped, roiling the water like a cauldron. I landed seven trout that evening as the sun set under the cold, treeless ridge of the Grenadier Range.
The wind toyed with our fire, too. As the freezing temperatures seeped into every layer we had on, we tried all the harder to get a flame started. It took a box of matches just to get the paper and kindling started. Jonalyn held up a sleeping bag to offer some wind protection. But once it roared, the fire gave us a welcome place in the mountains, boiling our water and flaming our smores. I threw my head back to take in the wide expanse of sky. This is the way most of history viewed the stars, without the artificial lights of town. Today, we must carve out time to climb the hills. We must put a stop on our mail, or get a house-sitter, someone to watch our cat while we're away. It takes a lot more work now to see the grand display of Space that the people of old enjoyed every evening. Modern humans traded it for industry, the ease and convenience of not lighting a candle to find the outhouse. Even still, beyond the haze and city glow, the stars still sing their songs.
Beside our little campfire, I put myself into Abraham's shoes. He found himself traveling after a Voice, going where he didn't know, trusting a God he'd recently met. Abraham knew the stars, but they took on new meaning when Yahweh promised him, "See those stars, your children and your children’s children will be as countless as those" (Genesis 15:5).
What a new meaning assigned to the night sky! Every civilization on earth through countless ages benefit from the Jewish metaphor beaming goodness down. Every night, before sleep, Abraham would gaze up. He couldn't miss them. God was fulfilling his ceaseless promise for the world, a people to follow Him and reveal Him, a people to receive the divine, a people to invite everyone into the great dance. Just as the stars light up the dark night, so the Jews would light up the dark world.
As non-Jews grafted into those Jewish promises, Soulation is continuing to touch lives with news of Abraham's God, the mighty one who comes near and knows our names. Here are some seasonal updates to keep you posted on the influence and mark Soulation is having.
Our e-publication of fledge hit a new milestone of nearly 1,100 subscribers and growing rapidly. And we get regular feedback from people touched by them.
One of our recent articles, "Talking to Spiritual Designers" prompted a publisher to contact us for a book idea on the topic. Our proposal has already been sent to see what kind of help we can be to the wider church.
And speaking of books and writing, Jonalyn and I each completed a chapter in a forthcoming book on the "new apologetics." Jonalyn took the angle of "apologetics and gender" and how Christianity values women in a way that our explanation of the Gospel glosses over (not surprising as the majority of apologists are men). Not only did Jesus invite women to learn with the men, but he uniquely affirms and loves women in a way no other religious founder does.
My own chapter covers "apologetics as soul formation," couching apologetics in a more human way and explaining the various ways it builds the soul. Be on the lookout for this Harvest House release (the working title is Apologetics for a New Generation) later this year, edited by Sean McDowell.
This past Spring has been loaded with opportunities. After large events at the National Pastors Convention and Biola University (listen or watch), we changed gears to work with high school students in April and May.
April took us to Fremont, CA, for a school of 300. Our three days in chapel and classrooms rewarded us with some intense conversations. Even the biology teacher invited us to have a talk about sexual purpose and intimacy to a class of wide-eyed, curious sophomores. Though we are not typically asked to address sexual education, we relished the challenge. I imagine it’s fairly rare for teens to hear from a husband and wife explaining the value and meaning of sex together.
After Fremont, we drove down the road to San Jose to speak for a posh high school boasting over 1,200 students. Every morning we met them for chapel, 600 students flanked on each side of the gym.
Even with a student body this size, we managed to get their questions and address them each day for chapel. Many hurting and confused students emerged to talk more. We are still cultivating friendship with students who are writing us emails with further questions. Responding to students with guidance, Biblical instruction, reading material and spiritual formation exercises is beginning to take more and more time as the word spreads. Soulation is being tapped.
In San Jose, we chose to visit several 90-minute classes every day. In one classroom of rowdy teens, the question was raised about swearing. They didn’t see why swearing was a problem and thought words themselves were merely sounds that carried more emotion than meaning. They expected us to us to come down adamantly with a simple "it's just not right" response. We moved from language into customs, manners, and class. What does it say about yourself when you mouth off so easily, so quickly? Immediately even the rebel-rousers hushed. Nobody wanted to be thought of as less than high-class, especially in a school whose tuition rivals some colleges. Nobody wanted to be thought of as lacking self-control, assaulting manners, as someone who disregarded others. And we all began to realize that words are more than sounds and emotions but carried meanings. Several conceded that emotions could likely find better outbursts in utterances less volatile to others.
That week was grueling on our bodies and souls. Some of our favorite rest times were walks we took with our Ladies (3 corgis) every day.
In addition to chapel and several classrooms a day (we loved every minute of it!), we also invited students to join us at lunch where we met at the outdoor amphitheatre. The first brought about 15 teens. By Friday, about 50 students came, lunch in hand, to hear questions answered and to have meaningful conversations about anything from hard questions about God, to sex and dating, reasons to trust the Bible, to being rescued from the party atmosphere.
After San Jose, we were done with our second two-week trip of the spring semester. A third came a few days into May when we left for Auburn, CA, near Tahoe, to spend time with students at one of the most discipleship-oriented schools we have found, then to San Antonio, Texas.
Again we spoke in chapel and classrooms, challenging those who wanted to go deeper, including a packed-out room of parents one evening who came to see what their students were raving about. Students feel validated when their questions are taken seriously and when they are met with the presence of someone who cares.
We were beginning to feel weary as we pulled away from these amazing teens to fly to Texas. There we experienced the way the Holy Spirit gives us strength and attention as we worked extra hard to engage and love students at a small, private school for our final Spiritual Emphasis week which revolved around themes of C. S. Lewis. We also enjoyed some hang out time with a former Talbot colleague (who invited us) at San Antonio's Riverwalk.
We've learned that we need to guard our schedule more rigorously, not only maximizing our time in each community with multiple events (which is beginning to happen!). Daily, we're fielding questions from teenagers all around the country. Students and adults are sending email after email indicating they long to grow healthy souls and pursue the good life Jesus offered. We are encouraged by all the hunger for true spirituality, but are feeling the fatigue.
This Spring has produced many talks, some have been edited, and more are waiting to be edited from all these schools to put on our website.
Editing costs us about $100 per talk, allowing us to make these available online for free for as long as Soulation endures (hopefully beyond our years). With these needs we've determined to begin exploring what it would look like to seek fundraising. We long for Soulation to grow and for our voices to reach those who need to hear the good news, but we also long for others like you to join us in the journey and be part of our growth, reach, and influence. We've come to realize the irony that what makes Soulation valuable is sometimes overshadowed by what makes Soulation run. Creativity, writing, speaking, engaging needs are all necessary things that can easily get clogged by bookkeeping, event coordination, and marketing. Wearing all the hats, we see how our Messiah carries us along us even when we cannot fill in all the gaps. With the economy slipping the way it is, I know many feel the same way in their own homes.
Yet God meets us in unexpected and creative ways. A friend of Soulation recently asked if he could start a Cause page for us on Facebook. You may know that Facebook.com is one of the largest networking sites online. It differs from myspace.com in that you are bridging networks largely through people you already know. And through these networks, you form alliances and initiatives. Our Cause page on Facebook, launched just a few days ago, spreads the word about Soulation as well as gives people an opportunity to give to the work. It informs those who join with us in prayer, encouragement and financial goals on where we need finances the most. So if you have a Facebook account, consider joining our Cause and recruiting those you think share our vision and would be excited about spreading the word. In addition, if you are interested in supporting us in prayer by committing to lift up our specific needs every week, please email Jonalyn and she will add you to our separate, private, personal Soulation prayer blog.
This summer we have cleared our traveling schedule. No planes. No long drives. No going out of town. No dog kennel. We are working with our community locally, doing local things, cultivating local relationships. Part of that local work is a Bible study we've put together every Monday night until September 1. The first three weeks have packed out our living room. And the numbers are growing (over 30 at our last meeting). We've called it, "Seeing Jesus through the Eyes of Mark." Chapter by chapter, we're working through the book of Mark, highlighting what sort of Man this Jesus is. Our group is open to anyone, including whole families, who wants to be refreshed by Jesus and get a better look at who he really is (and not just who they think he is)—Christians, spiritualists, atheists. If you find yourself passing through northwest Colorado on a Monday evening, feel free to drop in. We'd love to have you.
One teen wrote us an encouragement about the study, "Thank you oh so much for the session tonight. It has been a long time since I have been spiritually refreshed as I was tonight. I've been to youth group on and off but it does not stand in comparison to your teachings. Tonight was truly a long-awaited answer to prayer. I look forward to coming to as many of the sessions as I possibly can."
You can drop in via our webpage anytime. Our audio editor has bumped up our weekly Bible studies (including our tag-teaming style as we co-teach) to top priority so each study is online weekly. See the first two on our home page.
The rest of our summer plans include resting, working on our next book projects, teaching locally, and dreaming and developing a new idea: A Soulation Retreat Center for those looking to expand their souls with extended conversation, learning, and refreshment (more on that as it unfolds or if you’re interested in financial development ideas, shoot us an email).
Like the stars in the sky, we are constantly reminded that God's purposes for our planet are vast and deep. You are reminders of that. Thanks for being friends of ours and of this work. We are all growing more appropriately human!
Dale & Jonalyn Fincher
A publication of Soulation | www.soulation.org
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