40 Days - Day 23

Being the last day of this extraordinary year, I find myself thinking back upon all the memorable times, things I did wrong and events that I would love to relive. For me, this was a hard journey full of intimidating trials, exhausting climbs and unfortunate set-backs. However, I still feel that I have been blessed. My relationship with God has grown more than I had expected, though it was harder than I had anticipated by far. And, while I had originally thought that I would be able to look back and say, “Wow, I’ve finally made it! This is it!” I have only reached what I thought to be the top, finding it was a mere cliff. Still the view is amazing, and a view that many people go their entire lives without seeing has been opened to me.

A few of you know this, but at an AMAZING event this past summer (The Call 07.07.07), I experienced God like never before! The encounter was so overpowering, and I decided to do something that I’d wished to happen every year. Not really knowing what I was getting myself into I prayed for hours, begging him to “break me of myself.” I reached a place in time that I felt closer to God than ever before (right as school was starting), and then at the height of it all, I began to be painstakingly broken. For a while I didn’t understand what was happening, and while I still pressed into God, I sought the counsel of my “godmother” Vicki who is a marvelous woman of Christ. She began to help me out of the spiritual state of oppression and encouraged me to continue pressing into God. After many months of fighting for truth with myself I have reached a place of achievement and trials. The process has been long and hard, but I have learned the importance of enjoying life and living it through the love of God.

I know that many of you are looking back at the previous year’s happenings and finding the many things that stick out to you as “good” or “bad,” and a few of you are even wishing for more time, finding it now gone. I too find myself wishing for things to have worked out better, but I know that no matter what I say or think about it, the past is history. It is in this understanding and experience that I encourage you to join me in beginning the New Year with this verse to head us off and really press to have this Scripture reverberate through us as a body of Christ day to day.

“So brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I beg you to offer your lives as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be only for God and pleasing to him, which is the spiritual way for you to worship. Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect” Romans 12:1-2 NCV.

Abba Father,

We praise Your abundant love, adore Your mighty power, and seek Your mercy in our lives. We come to You with the most humble hearts - thanking You for the blessings we have been given this year. It’s been an amazing journey, and we cry out for more. God, You are all we need. We desire only to seek You in everything we do. Our hearts and souls beg for You to enter every crease and fold of our hearts. God, I have felt You in waves of utter awe, and I pray in Jesus’ name that You give each and every one of us a new burning love for You. We ask that You forgive the sins we committed this year knowing that You will forget them and remove guilt other than that we choose to bring up ourselves. You are an awesome God, and we love You! Let our hearts be pure before You and our minds clear. Father we thank You for loving us before we even thought, for being so amazingly forgiving. We ask that You lead us into this Winter Retreat with an overpowering desire to have nothing but You in it. I pray that we keep our minds on Your glory through it and our hearts enflamed with Your love.

In Christ, Love Always Endures,

Marisa Anne


40 Days - Day 22

After listening to “Alyssa Lies,” I finally realized what it really was talking about. A little girl met a new friend on the playground named Alyssa. Her parents abused her on a daily basis, and Alyssa tried to cover up all of the bruises she had. I had heard this song before, but this time it was different. I was sitting down at the computer listening to the words, singing to the top of my lungs, and reading the lyrics. When I got to the chorus, I noticed my eyes were filling with water.

This song reminds me of Joash. There was a wicked woman named Athaliah whose son, the king, had just been killed. She decided that if she killed all his children (her own grandchildren), she could rule the kingdom. Fortunately, Jehosheba, the dead king’s sister, took Joash, son of the dead king, and hid him from Athaliah. Joash remained hidden in the temple for six years, while Athaliah ruled (2 Chronicles 22:12).

If you ever feel in danger, there is always a place for you to be safe, just like Joash was saved from being murdered. When you are in a safe place, pour out your heart to God. He made you and will heal you. Think of Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" NIV.

After reading these passages and listening to this song over and over, I remembered our group's first session over Elevate weekend. I was sitting there listening to all of the horrible things that girls the same age I was had gone through. I sat there wondering to myself, why would anyone want to endanger a child who was created in God’s hands and eyes? Some kids think they have mean parents who don’t love them, but there are children out in the world who have gone through some terrible things.

My prayer for the Winter Retreat is if you ever feel down or abused, cry out to God; He will help you get through it. The Bible has many passages that talk about biblical men that were abused.

Megan Johnson


40 Days - Day 21

I felt strange at first, thinking about praying for something that I wouldn't even be attending or see any of the effects of, and for the first few weeks, I felt strange praying for Winter Retreat considering that I wasn't even going to be able to go myself. Since then I've realized that regardless, I'll still feel the repercussions of whatever happens there; I'll still be affected by those things. It's strange because lately I've faltered in more areas than I've ever faltered before, and I've slipped in all of these places in the past. Yet, now I'm slipping much more than I have before, and while before I had slipped in each of them separately, I now slip in each of them at the same time. It bothers me because all of it is coming right at a time when we should be at our highest, going into Winter Retreat. Frankly, I don't know what to think. I've spent so many nights praying for the best, praying about so many things, Winter Retreat included, and every piece of me wants to run in an entirely different direction. I don't know what this is. I don't know how to describe what this is. I look around at my friends and see the same things; some of my best friends, some of the people who I truly love and truly trust simply throwing their lives away, picking them up and throwing them out the window, and that hurts me more than I can put into words. It hurts me to know and to see that regardless of what I may say or what I may do they will persist to throw their things away. There's nothing that I can do but watch. My prayer has brought me one thing - these words: Don't Stop. So, I can only assume that there's a purpose and reason for whatever this is right now and all of the pain I'm going through. So much of me wants to simply withdraw and pull away, but the words given to me in my darkest hours have told me otherwise. I know that something big is going to happen this year at Winter Retreat; I can feel it, and I don't feel like I'm alone in this pain and suffering. I feel like there are many others, probably reading this right now who can relate, probably just solemnly nodding their heads along with this passage. Maybe I'm the only one who will come up front and tell people what my pains are, but we all have them. Still, I believe that we serve a God of Healing Graces; so my prayer this Winter Retreat is that whatever it is that you're going through, whatever issues, temptations, problems, failures, whatever pain that has been inflicted upon you, whether it's Satan, or as it so often is, just us beating ourselves up, that it may be healed.

“You see, Jesus didn't die just to take our sins away, He also said, 'Here, give me your worries too, I'll carry those too. Here, give me all of your pain, I'll carry that too.' Those things are simply too much for us to bear, and so Jesus came to offer to help us carry them.” -Nathan Oates

In His Great and Healing Love,
Jonathan V. Rarick


40 Days - Day 20

As I began to look through all these blog entries, I kept seeing this verse over and over again: James 1:2-4 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” NLT.

As I looked through these entries and saw this verse, it reminded me of a time in my life where this verse meant the most to me. Here’s my story:

As most of you know, my mom was diagnosed with cancer in my 6th grade year. I began to stuff all of my emotions and pretend like God was in control of my life. I continued all throughout 6th and 7th grade year pretending like everything was okay, and I was a perfect little Christian girl. My answer to everyone’s “Are you okay?” and “How are you dealing with this?” was either “God is so good!” or “I’m relying on God all the time!” However, inside my heart was screaming “NO ALYSSA! TELL THEM THE TRUTH!” I just had no clue how to let everything go to God. I didn’t know how to give it over to Him and let Him deal with it.

In the middle of my 7th grade year, after my mom’s cancer was over, I went into a depression. I wouldn’t go to school, I would cry myself to sleep every night, and still I was pretending that everything was okay to everyone around me. I eventually was so overcome with fear that I had to sleep with someone every night. I started going to a counselor, and I didn’t listen to anything she would say because I thought she had no clue what I was dealing with. After awhile of all this, my parents begged me to go to school, and I did. I got little sleep every night, and I my health was showing it.

Finally, Christmas break came along, and it was time to go to Taylors, South Carolina, my hometown. We go there every year so it was no big deal. Two nights after we had arrived I saw Amanda writing in her journal and reading in her Bible. I had nothing else to do so I took out my notebook and my Bible and began to write:

God, I need your help. I’m so tired of dealing with this. Just give me something to let me know you are there.

Immediately after I had finished writing, I opened my Bible. A note card slid out of my Bible and landed on the floor. There, written on the note card was James 1:2-4 in my hand writing. I still, to this day, do not remember writing that verse down. From then on, my life was going all uphill. I began to trust God with everything I had, and that made all the difference in my life.

As Winter Retreat approaches, I believe that we should pray for those people. I think we should pray for those people who are struggling in their life, but they are just too scared to admit it. We are all struggling with this feeling of being alone or that God isn’t there, but I truly believe that if we all pray continuously for this Winter Retreat, all of us will finally realize that we aren’t alone.

Alyssa Baldwin


40 Days - Day 19

“The LORD is great on Zion, exalted above all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name: holy is God! O mighty king, lover of justice, you alone have established fairness; you have created just rule in Jacob. Exalt the LORD, our God; bow down before his footstool; holy is God!”

Psalm 99:2-5 TNAB

Hey guys, hope you all are having a great holiday! This time of year is usually a time to give thanks for what you have. This is also a time to give thanks to the Lord for the gift of life.

I grew up as one of those kids who had to go to church because my parents said I had to. I didn’t really understand what the Lord meant to me or if He really existed for that matter. Two years ago, I joined the Student Ministry at The People's Church in Spring Hill.

If it wasn’t for all the support from the other students, as well as Todd and all the other adult leaders, I would still be one of those kids. Ever since I joined this youth group, I have grown so much in following the Lord. At Elevate this year, I officially gave my life to Christ and to let him lead my life anyway He wants to.

This Winter Retreat is all about prayer. For this Retreat, I pray that we all can go more in depth into our Lord’s message. I pray for everyone’s health and safety over the holidays. I pray for our guest speaker, as well as all of our volunteers, for making all this possible. The Lord gave His only son to give us eternal life. I think that deserves some glorification of our Lord. God is all powerful and mighty, and we should want to bow down and worship at His feet.

Happy Holidays,

Tyler Smith


40 Days - Day 18

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light;" and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. And God said, "Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day" Gen. 1:1-8 NRSV.

Everyone knows that passage, backwards and forwards. We’ve been taught it since we were old enough to talk and walk, sometimes even earlier. Yet, most of the time we read this and don’t think twice about what we just flew through. I even admit to not thinking much about it when I read it.

I think I was at Crash when I first heard this analysis of Genesis 1. The writer of Genesis, along with God of course, chose their words carefully when they wrote this. “While a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Now most people don’t even catch this mark in the writing. Again, I’m definitely not the one who originally stated this, but I will restate it because it will lead to a big point in a second.

When Genesis was written, the Hebrews were, if I’m not mistaken, under control of a Middle Eastern kingdom. I can’t remember who, but it will make sense of why I’m saying this at this point. In the Middle Eastern creation myth, water was viewed as the instigator of all chaos on Earth. In this view, the writer of Genesis used this to show that when God created the Earth and separated the waters to create the “dome,” or land, He had complete control over chaos.

So here is where I can tie all of this in. A lot of you may not know that I have had a real crazy past couple of months. From surgery that ended my football season to a lot of craziness and hoopla mumbo jumbo, I haven’t seen much outside of the craziness and chaos that has basically taken complete control of my life. I never meant it to, but when you deal with the same things over and over again every day, it tends to find a way to slip in and take control of your life. I know that I’m not the only one who has had to deal with this; so this is why I write.

This Winter Retreat is about prayer. When I heard that I thought, “Wow, that’s really simplistic.” Now that I think about it, it might just be the one thing I need. In a life full over craziness and chaos and water: God is the only one with the ability to take control of my chaos. There aren’t many things that we can have complete control of. You can’t control how friends may act or treat you. You can’t control unfortunate family situations. Heck, we can’t really control how thumb joints decided to bend and pop out of place and tear your Ulnar Collateral Ligament. The one thing we can control, however, is to let God take control of our chaos, whatever that might be. I’m still learning to do this as well.

So my prayer for all of us, as well as myself, is to let God take control of our chaos. While everything may not make sense to us, God is just waiting to separate our waters and let the domes of land to emerge.

Hope everyone had a great Christmas.

In Christ,
Zack “Zoosee” Flowers


40 Days - Day 17

"Go and do the same." - Luke 10:37 NASB

I am currently reading Red Letters by Tom Davis. I bought the book on a whim one day in Borders. The book is subtitled "Living A Faith That Bleeds." The above passage from Luke is the lead-in to the 1st chapter, which speaks of a living gospel. The book does a fabulous job of making me want to change out of my pajamas, empty my piggy bank, and get on the next plane destined for a 3rd world country. Red Letters ignites the fire in my soul to change the world.

Christmastime excites me: the lights, the food, the family, the gift wrapping, the seasonal drinks at Starbucks - especially the seasonal drinks at Starbucks. I like the feeling in the air and the experience of the holidays.

However, the thing I like the most about Christmastime is seeing people bless others out of the goodness of their own hearts. This makes me smile.

I was listening to 88.7 the other day in my car, and Jeff from the morning show was sharing a story about a bank in North Dakota. The employees at this bank get a Christmas bonus each year of a thousand dollars. However, there is a catch to this bonus! The employees must spend every penny of their bonus on someone ELSE. The workers of this bank are given a video camera and sent on their way. They must help a family in need, a single mother, or give it to a soup kitchen. They are required to document the experience with the camera.

As we enjoy Christmas Day and the holiday season, my prayer for our youth group is to give and bless out of willingness, not out of obligation. Even as the holidays wind down, Christmas lights are put away, and the ugly sweaters from grandma are "conveniently forgotten," I still feel the challenge to bless those around me who are struggling in some way. Just because the fever of helping others out during the holiday season dwindles away, we still need to fuel the fire of servitude. The mending that takes place in the lives of those who are helped is incredible, but I never grow tired of the peace and blessing that rains down on MY life; it's a feeling that I will always remember.

I come to you on Christmas day, the day that your Son was born. I thank you for sending Him for me. I thank you for the incredible blessings that you have placed in my life, and I thank you for the opportunity to use those blessings to reach out to those in need. I pray that you ignite an urgency in the youth to serve in Your name, Lord; I pray that we are a living gospel, and we "Go and do the same," like it says in Luke. I pray that as Winter Retreat comes closer, you soften hearts so they are willing to abandon and cry out to You. I pray that You continue to anoint the leaders and staff of the youth group, and that you bless them with wisdom and guidance. I know that You have a plan for our time at Winter Retreat, and I pray that the youth group, as a whole, is willing to drop worldly ideas and follow You without a second thought. You are a Mighty God, a God that can move mountains and cleanse the deepest wounds.
I love you Daddy!



40 Days - Day 16

“Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”
Psalm 100:2-3 ESV

My prayer for this Winter Retreat is that we simply come prepared and that our hearts and minds are focused on the right things. I always seem to hear people pray that God will show up during certain events. That isn’t the wrong way to pray or anything, but I try to look at it another way. God is everywhere. God is ready to do wonderful things in all of our lives. He wants to move in miraculous ways, but I believe we get too worried about Him just being there that we almost forget to be completely ‘there’ ourselves. Obviously, we are physically ‘there,’ but most of the time, our hearts and our minds seem to wander. I pray that this year we will be prepared. I pray that this year we will allow God to move in us. I pray that this year there will be no distractions. I challenge you guys to start preparing now. God has a plan. He is going to do something, but we must be ready to be used.

Stephen Winn


40 Days - Day 15

In his beautiful yet terrifying sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," Jonathan Edwards declared, "If God should only withdraw his hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it."

Yet so many of us ask the question, why do bad things happen to good people? I believe this is altogether the wrong question to be asking given the reality that we live in a world where sin is manifest around us, in us, and through us. The more reasonable question to ask is why do good things happen to us bad people?

Looking at life through this biblical lens, we begin to see that everything good in this poor fallen world is yet another example of God’s overflowing mercy and abundant grace. Praise the Lord who holds back His wrath from us undeserving people! Is not our endless praise and thankfulness due to Him if for no other reason but His unspeakable greatness?

Even Christ’s example of the correct way to pray begins with praising God’s holy name saying, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…" (Mathew 6:9 ESV). All throughout Scripture, believers are commanded to praise the name of God (e.g. Revelation 19:5). Furthermore, Hebrews 13:15 says, "Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name."

In his masterpiece, The Imitation of Christ, Thomas A. Kempis quips, "Oh, that we had nothing else to do but to praise the Lord our God with our whole heart and mouth! Oh, that thou didst never want to eat, nor drink, nor sleep, but couldst always praise God and be employed solely in spiritual exercises! Thou wouldst then be much more happy than thou art under the necessity of serving the flesh. Would there were no such necessities, but only the spiritual refreshments of the soul, which alas, we taste too seldom."

Therefore, my prayer is that we would be a people who praise, glorify, uphold, worship, and thank God the Father Almighty, the creator and sustainer of heaven and earth.

May we echo the words of Christ in Mathew 6:9-13 (ESV) praying:

"Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Praise the Lord!
Kory A. Lewis


40 Days - Day 14

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing” NKJV. Well, I tend to find that verse a bit intimidating. When I was younger, I thought it meant eyes closed, head bowed and don’t think about anything else type of praying, and in my case that would be impossible. There is No way I would ever be able to pray like that for more then 30 minutes. When I finally understood what way of praying worked for me, it made that verse seem possible to carry out. For me, praying is having a conversation with God. Half the time how I hear God talk to me is through nature: a beautiful day, a pretty sunset or the rain is just a few of the ways I find myself hearing God talk to me. And for me talking back to God isn’t always “talking.” It can be singing, dancing, painting/drawing, photographing... Really any way for you to express yourself to God is a way of talking. So through these 40 days of prayer, I just want to encourage you to find the way that works best for you and pray for those we are interceding for that they will find the way that works for them as well.

Would we all will find the way we pray? God would you just break down any walls that people have and are putting up? Would you go ahead and surround the camp with angels? Would they come in ahead of us and wipe out any evil that is there already and start to keep any evil from coming in? God start to soften people's hearts. Make us mighty God. Help us to step into your protection God. I love you Daddy.

Love you guys,
Casey Tinius


40 Days - Day 13

"But for you who fear my name the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free." Malachi 4:2 NLT

We have all been wounded at some point in our lives. Many of us swallow our hurt and hide our scars in a valiant attempt to appear invincible. Perhaps we feel as though we are the only ones who have ever gone through our struggle and fear of rejection is worse than just keeping our pain inside. This is not how God intended us to live! He never said life would be pain free, but when we do struggle, He doesn’t want us to pretend everything is o.k. God created us for community - one in which we share our struggles and bear each others burdens.

My prayer is that Winter Retreat will be a time in which we are vulnerable enough to share our struggles and receive healing.

Hilary Morris


40 Days - Day 12

Hey ya'll, it’s Caleb. I’m new at this so I'm not sure how this is going to turn out.

I was listening to my iPod the other day (when I should have been studying for exams), and a song by the Gaither Vocal Band came on called “My Name Is Lazarus.” Previously I would always sing along with it. I thought the song had great meaning, but the other day I finally stopped and truly thought about the song.

The song is set back during Jesus’ time while he was on Earth. It states that while we don’t know much about the men that carried that man to Jesus, we can create an idea of what it was like.

The illustration is thus:

There are four men that are going to see Jesus, and they are carrying a mat with their crippled friend on it. They are all talking to each other, and during the conversation, they start to doubt Jesus’ power.

The first man says:
“I hate to doubt it
For Jesus touched my eyes when I was blind
He made me see and there’s no doubt about it
But this man’s needs are more serious than mine.”

The second man says:
“No need to bother
This man’s condition will remain the same
Though Jesus touched my hand when it was withered
I don’t believe He can heal a man so lame.”

The third man says:“I hate to question
But no one here is more skeptical than me
Though Jesus cleansed me when I was a leper
This helpless man will never walk, you see.”

Then all of the men turn to the fourth man to see how he is going to “criticize and doubt” Jesus. All of the men are completely taken aback when they hear what the fourth man has to say. He says:
He said, “My name is Lazarus, could I testify?
My name is Lazarus, it feels good to be alive
When I in chains of death was bound
This man named Jesus called me out
If you think your little problem is too big for Him to solve
Take it from the one who’s heard the mighty voice of God
A living testimony of his death defying touch, my name is Lazarus!
All of these men had seen the incredible miracles of Jesus right before their eyes, but they still doubted. I think that we all doubt Jesus at times and wonder if he is really there. Granted, none of us have been raised from the dead by Jesus, but as Nathan (AND GOD) said previously in his message, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains.” If you have any problem that you think is too big for God to handle, just remember that He is God and created everything that you see; He knows your thoughts before you even think them. It is as simple as completely giving your problems to God, don’t hold anything back. He might not deal with it the way that you want him to, but He will always act on it the way that is best.

My prayer for this Winter Retreat is that God is evident everywhere. That everyone will be able to see God, and that God will move in everyone in some way. I pray that everyone will come away from camp different than when they first arrived. I pray that if anyone has something that they are dealing with and are afraid to give it up to God, that they would just realize that He can handle it: no problem is too big for Him.

Caleb Reynolds


40 Days - Day 11

Ever been without your cell phone? Say you were out one day, texting yourself into oblivion, and then the unthinkable happens-- the ‘low battery’ message flashes across your screen. Moments later, your phone dies. You gasp, horror stricken, at what has just happened. You left your charger at home and won’t be there for hours and hours. How will you stay informed? How will you find out if anything is going on? Surely you will miss some big event that everyone is going to be attending. Everyone, that is, but you because now you have no way of knowing about it. You begin to feel lost, completely out of the loop and in some cases even a bit angry.

This universally understood scene illustrates the importance of prayer. Prayer, in a sense, is like our cell phone-- it enables us to speak with the Almighty Creator of the Universe (commonly referred to as God). It is made even more important because it is the only thing that allows us to do this. Yet humans tend to get more in a tizzy over their cell phone dying than we do about not talking to God. We go out of our way to make sure we are never out of contact with the wider world or with our circle of acquaintances (car chargers anyone?), and in some cases, we even have devices that can communicate with people in more than one way (iPhone, anyone? Yeah I wish, too). Many cell phones today allow you to email, text, get on MySpace and Facebook, and oh yeah. . . call people. Ha. Somewhat shamefully, we spend the majority of our time doing this, but how much time and effort do we put into talking to God?

Throughout the Bible, prayer does some pretty awesome things. It gives unfertile families children; it heals the sick; it’s used to give thanks to God; it calms storms, liberates whole nations of people from slavery and sin, and makes great men out of ordinary ones. It stops plagues, ends famines, and most awesomely of all-- it saves our wretched souls from hell. (We could never accept Christ as our Lord and Savior if we couldn’t even talk to Him.) Prayer allows us to speak with God. Such a simple statement, but look at all of the things that this fact enables to happen. So why don’t we spend more time doing it? I have found that the times in my life that are worst (and consequently, the times when I am farthest from God) are also the times when I tend not to pray. At least, I tend not to pray until things get so bad that I realize that I must; for just like Solomon in Ecclesiastes, I realize that life without God truly is meaningless. None of the awesome things that I listed earlier in this paragraph can happen if we don’t communicate with God. It’s like throwing a party, sending out no notice or invitations, and then expecting people to show up. They just won’t.

So I challenge you, reader of this blog (and congratulate you for getting to the end) to pray about Winter Retreat. Pray long and hard about what God is going to do over the course of those few days and all of the days surrounding it. Because if you aren’t in communication with God, you just might miss out on His big event that everyone is going to be attending. And really, who wants to miss that?

Cameron Nations


40 Days - Day 10

Micah 7:8 says, “Do not gloat over me my enemies for though I have fallen I will rise again, though i sit in darkness Christ will be my light” (from the DALE off the top of my head version).

This whole week has been long and relentless. I realized it does not feel like Christmas yet, and I wonder if that is because it is just now getting cold or if I just haven't been in the mindset of Christmas. I feel so busy that I forget Christmas is coming, and I don’t get anyone gifts until the last moment. Above that, I do not give Christ what is Christ's until way after the due date. Something is not right about this. So when I remember how fallen I am, I am thankful for that faithful eve when an angel appeared to shepherds keeping watch over flocks by night. If there was no baby in the manger that night, if Mary had a miscarriage, or an abortion, we would have no Savior. Without a Savior, Micah 7:8 would read "and I sit in ceaseless, bludgeoning darkness." The mood of Christmas should be our normal attitude as Christians. We are called to celebrate and worship Christ every day - not merely in the Christmas season but in all seasons. When we do sit in darkness, Christ will be our light. When we fall down, we can get back up.

This is what I would be praying right about now.

"Holy Father, thank you for your Son, not just today but everyday. This winter retreat attune me to do Your will. Thank you for never leaving me in complete darkness. Thank you for the times I get back up by Your strength. Thank you for providing for us and delivering me from evil. Amen."

I love ya’ll!

Dale Allen Lipscomb


40 Days - Day 9

Luke 6:27-28 has been laying on my heart lately due to some troubles I have been having with my friends, and I have constantly been going back to Luke 6:27-28 for guidance.

"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you" (Luke 6:27-28 NIV).

We need to love our enemies; maybe set some goals this year to send your enemy a Christmas card or a little present. If you are game enough, go to that person and actually talk to them. Forget your differences and love that person unconditionally. I've seen it work in my life with more than one person, and I'm amazed how much prayer can work! Even the simplest things seem to be 100% better once you pray about it. You seem less worried, stressed and you feel in control of things. : )

Ohhhhhhhhhh and there is more... : )We so often in our lives search for love in anything we can. We so easily forget that God is our strength, and He shelters us from harm. His love for us shines through the windows every morning when we wake up or when we look at the wonderful things He has made for us to enjoy in this temporary world. He protects us, gives us food and a warm bed to sleep in. We should be thankful for the things we have, but we should be willing to give it away.

I pray this season we'll show God's love to our neighbors and friends. Bake some cookies for a neighbor, or go caroling to the nursing home. MAYBE if you are game enough, go to someone that is your enemy, and like the Scripture says, go and love him/her. Give them a surprise note in their mailbox just saying something nice to them.

Be a light this holiday season. Show others what CHRISTmas is really about. : )

Heavenly Father,
For this 40 days of prayer, I pray our friendships will be mended, and our love for God will grow! I hope that enemies become friends again, and we will have the heart to forgive them! God forgave our sins and failures! We must forgive others so that we can be like God! He wants us to forgive! He says so in Scripture that He has forgiven our sins. So, we must forgive others as He has done for us. What an amazing and uplifting word, He loves us that much to give us all that! I pray this Holiday season we’ll get closer to our enemies, and we’ll forgive those who were in the wrong. Amen.

Merry Christmas!

Libby Smallbone


40 Days - Day 8

To be honest, writing this will be a struggle; in my own life, I often go many days and sometimes weeks without praying. I use the excuse that I don’t have enough time, or I find something else to do. I often don’t know what to pray for, or how to pray. I’ve tried using devotionals, but I never seem to commit to them.

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express" (Romans 8:26 NIV).

Lord, I thank You for this time and opportunity to write this, as You have shown me a weakness in my own faith. I take this time to pray for everyone who often finds themselves in similar situations. For the ones who struggle in finding time or the commitment to sit down for 5 minutes everyday and open Your Word, Lord, I ask You for guidance and strength. As we approach Winter Retreat, I pray for those whom are lost in this world. I pray for those who might be feeling all alone. I pray that You will show up in their lives, like no one has before. For those whom know You already, I ask You to turn over a new leaf in their faith by showing them its not about what or whom they pray for. As long as they pray, You will guide them and lead them in their lives.

In Christ's Name,

As I was writing, I felt I should share some of my testimony. I once played golf, 4-5 years ago. I traveled the state playing competitively. I was nearing the road of drugs, and I swore like a sailor. I was the most negative person you ever would have encountered. I know now that without prayer I would have never made it to where I am today. I remember times when I played golf; I would often find myself singing and praying to Lord. Even before I had accepted Christ, I prayed. Now that was some 4-5 years ago, but I remember the day I accepted Christ. I remember feeling so new and complete. Shortly after, I felt the Lord telling me to give up golf and to follow His path for my life. After several months of prayer and many sleepless nights, I finally told my parents about the decision I made months before. I had no clue where the Lord was going to take me, but I knew as long as I prayed He would show me. One night at Fusion, I got my calling. There was a spot open on the “tech team.” They needed someone to switch the slides on the PowerPoint during worship, and that’s where it all began. Years later, I am now a senior about to go to college. Throughout the years, I have often been confused on where in fact God was going to take me. It was often hard and frustrating. I remember feeling let down and abandoned at some points, but I always found the Lord's will through prayer.

I tell you this so that you will know life will not always be easy. Though I left out many specific details on the trials I have been faced with, I want you to know that no matter how hard it gets the Lord is always there: all you have to do is open your mouth and start talking.

Lord, I pray for the upcoming Winter Retreat. I pray You will show someone a new beginning - like You showed me many years ago. I pray for those who struggle, who are frustrated, and for those who think they're ready to give up. I ask you to show these people Your mightiness and comfort them in ways they’ve never felt before. I pray for people to know You are always there. It's so easy to give up and place the blame elsewhere. I thank You for the times You never let me give up and for the trials I went through. I ask You to show someone a new beginning, a new start to life on this retreat, or show someone You are God. Everything You do, You have a reason for even though we may not know the reason. However, we will eventually find it, through our prayers to You.

In Christ's Name,

Andrew Bennett


40 Days - Day 7

Hey Students!

I am Kyle Witt. I am 17 Years old, and I go to The People’s Church in Spring Hill. I would like to tell you some things about me.

First off, I want to start by saying I'm not good at typing; so, please give me a break. Now instead of starting at the beginning of my life, I want to fast forward to age 11. When I was 11, I went to church, but I was only going because I was told to go. I knew there was a God and all; I just didn’t really follow Him like I really should have. Like today, being a Christian wasn’t really cool where I was from. Well, fast forward a little bit more to December of that year when my step mom was killed by a drunk driver, and instead of doing what I should have and taken it to God's feet, I turned away and blamed Him for it. I was ashamed of God because I thought He had purposely set out to destroy me. Which, as we all know, is not true.

James 1:2-3 (New International Version)
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

At the time, I had no idea that God could do so many great things through a bad experience. Fast forward even more to age 15, October 24th 2005, when yet again another person that I loved died in a car wreck, but this time I didn’t blame God. In fact, I tried getting back in the church, and about that time the youth group in Spring Hill was started. I went to the first youth group meeting, and two days later I went to Texas to visit family. The entire time I was there I wrestled with whether I should go back to this youth group or not. Well I prayed for the first time in a long time and asked God to just give me a sign; I needed Him to show me the way. Well one night a friend invited me to his church, and as we were driving, I looked out my window and noticed his tire was flat. As we pulled over to check it, a women comes out screaming, “help me, help me, my husband is very weak, and he has fallen. I cannot help him up.” So we run inside to help this man off his floor, and go back out. I stopped dead in my tracks: the tire was full. If that isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is. Needless to say, I did go back to youth group and went to my first winter retreat that year where God pulled my heart to a direction I never thought I could go - youth ministry. I suddenly have this burning sensation inside to spread God's Word to young people. I went from lost to found, from ashamed and abandoned to unashamed and loved, and I tell you all of this so that no matter what you go through good or bad, no matter whether it’s cool or not to be a Christian, never ever be ashamed of God because He loves you. His Word gives you power. If you only get one thing out of this, please let it be this: we are products of the most loving being ever! We are children of God, and no matter where you are or who is around you, please just spread that feeling and love. Don’t be ashamed of God. This verse is something I cling to tightly; I pray these words affect you like they do me.

Romans 1:16:
16I am unashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

God bless you all,
Your brother in Christ,

Kyle Witt


40 Days - Day 6

I love me some Friday Night Football.

To be specific, I love me some Independence High School Friday Night Football.

Allow me to set the scene for you:

- Four hours before the game, it is evident that our school has turned tailgating into an art form. We marinade our steaks, grill savory vegetable-and-shrimp skewers, stir up some mean chili and make enough of everything to go around.

- Two hours before the game, spirit paint is taken out and everyone starts "paintin' up" for the team. Not a face is left untouched.

- One hour before the game, music is blasting, adrenaline pumping and the student fans are squishing into the stadium. Noisemakers and drums are distributed. Everyone watches out for the team to come in. Then, we hear an all-too-familiar voice bellow,

The students are jumping. Cheering. You can literally feel the bleacher stands dip beneath your feet.
Once the game starts, everything is a blur. There are cheers, chants, songs and even dancing. The focus is on the team and only the team.

Because when those Friday night lights kick on, suddenly everyone in the stands is family.

So as I sit here on the first non-football Friday of the school year and reminisce at the greatness that is tailgate season, I begin to wonder,

"What would life be like if our youth group could be as dedicated, as passionate, as loving, as UNITED our football fans?"

Then, a certain prayer comes to mind. One that Christ himself prayed, and one that I want to echo today:

"I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me" (John 17:21-23 NLT).

I pray our youth group would begin to pull together and become a unified family. I pray that in these weeks leading up to Winter Retreat, we would gather and commit to preparing ourselves for what God has to do, just as fans get ready for the big game. I pray that in that unity - that love - that we have for God and for one another, others can't help but be blessed.

Nina Coyle


40 Days - Day 5

"Wilderness and desert will sing joyously,
the badlands will celebrate and flower—
Like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom,
a symphony of song and color.
Mountain glories of Lebanon--a gift.
Awesome Carmel, stunning Sharon--gifts.
God's resplendent glory, fully on display.
God awesome, God majestic.

Energize the limp hands,
strengthen the rubbery knees.
Tell fearful souls, "Courage! Take heart!
God is here, right here,
on his way to put things right
and redress all wrongs.
He's on his way! He'll save you!"

Blind eyes will be opened,
deaf ears unstopped,
lame men and women will leap like dear,
and the voiceless will break into song!
Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness,
streams flow in the desert!
Hot sands will become a cool oasis,
thirsty ground a splashing fountain!
Even lowly jackals will have water to drink,
and barren grasslands flourish richly!"

-Isaiah 35:1-7 The Message

Our God is a God of rest and renewal. He brings love and replenishment with every breath He breathes into His children. As we approach winter retreat, pray for an awakening of His love and power to take hold of our hearts. Pray that there will be permanent change, and springs will shoot up in the wilderness where there has been no water.

Remember there is nothing that can separate us from His love - no sin too wide for His arms to reach past and no insecurity too deep for His truth to uproot. Pray we will become utterly desperate for our King, and we will not be satisfied by anything less than who He is. He has been preparing us for a renewal - a fresh breath, an eye-opener, a time of healing. Now is the time to seek Him for who He is in this dry desert. Let Him repair you and once again and fill your voice with song. Open your hands and let go of the ruins of the past, and let Him begin to rebuild you in your desperation for His presence.

Olivia Brunson


40 Days - Day 4

Well… as some of you may know, Winter Retreat is about prayer, and I am honored that I got the privilege of writing this.

So, I am here to ask you, “HOW do YOU pray?” I really want you to think about that. Like, what does praying mean to you?

Is it, “Dear God, I really like the way that you made the sky, and thank you for my food. I love you. Amen?”

OR, “Father God, thank you for all that you do for me. Thank you. I love you so much, but God I have to tell you the way things played out with my girl friend sucked so much. I can’t stand life right now at home, with friends, at church, at school, at work, and the list goes on… I have to be honest with you; it is hard for me not to doubt that I am capable to serve you in a way that could be pleasing to your eyes, ears, nose, or mouth… You are really going to have to help me out here because I cannot make it alone… I need your grace. I love you Jesus.

OR, “Father God, You AMAZE me. I love you.”

Well, the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter to God at all! So, you’re either like duh! Where is this going, or um ok? Then, what was all that I just read?

I simply wanted to point something out. I wanted to point out that God doesn’t care what we pray. All that matters is that we are praying. The Word says to “never stop praying” (1 Thess. 5:17 NLT). We are called and commanded to pray constantly. So, will we pray?

There is a song by an older Christian artist called Eli. The song basically talks about this man who died and went to heaven, and when he got there, he was walking down the streets of heaven as the houses kept getting smaller and smaller. He gets to his house and asks God, “Why is my house so small?” God replied by saying, “That was all the wood you sent ahead of you.” So, all of that to say, I am going to ask you guys not to only pray for what happens at Winter Retreat, but I ask you to also pray for what will happen before Winter Retreat. Let’s bring a lot of wood so that God can build whatever He has the plans for.

Nathan Tinius


40 Days - Day 3

Hey friends!

My name is Marlee Richmond. I'm 14 years old, and I go to The People's Church in Spring Hill. I'd like to share with you a little bit about my life.

I've had a lot of struggles growing up. When I was 3, my mom left my dad, my little sister, and me. When I was 6, my dad remarried an amazing woman named Stacie. She's made me happier than I've ever been, but it took time. God helped me make some incredible changes in my life. I learned that being strong isn't something we can do on our own. The strength we have comes from God.

I've recently discovered that God's been trying to speak to me all along. I just never took the time to listen. When I prayed to Him one morning, asking Him to tell me what it was He wanted me to do with my life, I immediately thought about the Bible. I got my Bible and turned to Psalm 105:1-5. The Scripture reads:

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles and the judgments he pronounced." - NIV

Those verses really helped me to know that I get the chance to tell others of His wonders, His grace, His mercy, and His love. If you're a young teenager like me and you haven't figured out what God has planned for you, just ask Him. He will answer you, but you have to be patient. Remember...you are loved.

Keepin' the Faith,

Marlee Richmond


40 Days - Day 2

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
James 1:2-4 NLT

The writer of James doesn’t say to “count it all joy” only when things are going great. He’s not saying that you need to be happy all the time, but too often our prayers consist solely of our wants, needs, and complaints. God loves it when you come to Him with your problems. He delights in blessing, but He is not just a vending machine that shoots out happy endings every time we ask. In fact, there are times when it will seem like He’s not even listening at all. “Count it all joy,” James says. Not because life is perfect or easy, not because you’ve gotten everything you want, but because God is Great. In the midst of my trials, heartaches and failures, He is still moving, and I am blessed just because of His presence. So as you begin to pray for Winter Retreat, look past the “now” and remember what God has done in your life and the lives of others. Remember who He is and rejoice!

Emily Wall


40 Days - Day 1

O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
-Psalm 63:1 NIV

As you find yourself from day to day,
drudging through the ordinary and the plain,
remember that God is just a prayer away
with a bucketful of water that refreshes,
a bucketful of water that renews life
and teaches your soul how to thirst and long for Him again.

I pray that as this 40 days of prayer kicks off that you will be renewed by a bucketful of renewing water from heaven and that every single person coming to this retreat will experience it right along with you. Maybe those around you won't get drenched like you, but they will get splashed and start longing for more. Pray that God will be earnestly sought after in this dry and weary land where there seems to be no water.

Christina Vickman

Yea, you found us!!!

Hey Peoples!
So, like, starting today we're going to pray until Winter Retreat, and this is where we'll post the prayers and all that good stuff. So, you'll wanna check this blog every day. Please feel free to comment and add to prayers and stuff.
You rock my face!