Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Who will go first?



"We tell lies when we are afraid... afraid of what we don't know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger." - Tad Williams

I’m in a missions program. I have people paying me to be on the field. I am working with a church and working for God daily. Shouldn’t I be immune to mistakes? Shouldn’t I be stronger than this? Shouldn’t I have more integrity?

These are just a few of the thoughts I remember thinking when I was on the field. Somehow the label “AIMer” was supposed to make me perfect. Imagine my surprise when I started messing up. I couldn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t ask for help. I couldn’t admit that I was losing control.

The word integrity runs through my head. What I do when no one will ever know or see - that’s who I really am. Paul, even when in prison, rejoiced. He didn’t curse God. He didn’t blame God. He didn’t use his circumstance as an excuse to sin. He had integrity. Yet here I sit in a foreign land, a beautiful place, not a prison, and I want to run from God in embarrassment. I want to find comfort wherever I can.

When asked how I’m doing or asked what’s wrong, I lie. I lie because I’m afraid. I lie because I don’t know how others will react or what they will think. Every time I lie, the fear grows stronger. The chance of me talking about this becomes smaller and smaller.

Someone has to go first. Someone has to be willing to admit the struggle.

I worship at a place where we try to be real - no Sunday School answers, just reality. I see it over and over. Once someone goes beyond the surface and admits something tough, hands begin to go up, and one by one people say, "Me too… I’ve done that… I thought I was the only one."

Someone has to go first. Someone has to be willing to admit the struggle.

About 5 or 6 years after I returned from the field I began to actually be honest. I began to go beyond the surface and talk about my experience and my mistakes. I reached a point where I was no longer afraid of the reactions. The reactions couldn’t hurt as bad as the secrets. It was worth taking a chance. Once I told someone, once I went first, I found out what I should have known all along: I was never alone. I was never the only one.

I thank God for lessons learned. I thank God that He keeps growing something in me that is bigger than the fears that keep me down. Something bigger than depression, addiction, divorce, fear, insecurity, doubt. Whatever the struggle, whatever the fear, He is bigger.

"This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us." - 1 John 3:19-24

Take confidence in this thought. It is true!

And please, find someone to talk to. Be willing to go first.

-Paige Foreman

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Battle Against Ourselves




People that know me well know that I really like comic books. I know, I know -I am geek. I like them because they often have themes of self-sacrifice, endurance, and personal growth which relate well with our Christian walk. One of my favorite characters is Adam Warlock because he is constantly caught in difficult situations that seem far above his capability to overcome.

Adam often has to wrestle with his own struggles and come to grips with his personal weakness. When fighting against the his arch enemy the Magus, Adam is quite literally wrestles with himself.

What do I mean by that?

Well his nemesis the Magus is actually a evil counter part of himself from the future. I now it sounds pretty ridiculous but stick with me. The Magus is basically the dark and evil side of who Adam is. The Magus is what Adam himself could become if he were to go down the wrong path. So for Adam Warlock the saying “I am my own worst enemy” rings all the more true.

What I really like about Adam is that he has to duel against an evil counter part of himself and comes out as a more holistic person. It seems that before we can really become the whole beings that God intends us to be we must first own up to our greatest weaknesses, struggles, our inner “demons” if you will, and allow Christ’s working power to overcome them.

I have time and time again heard people say that the most difficult thing that they had to face on their mission field was themselves. On the mission field, right in the midst of all of the culture-shock, language barriers, team conflict, support issues and so on, we are easily blindsided by our own sins. Without realizing it our greatest fight becomes the fight against ourselves.

This fight is one that we all must face. Paul talks about this internal war against ourselves when he says, “When I want to do good, evil is with me... waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body.” All of Romans 7:13-25 is about this internal war. Really, the entire gospel is about this war, because when we come to Christ we become a whole new person. We put the old person to death so that Christ might truly live within us.

”You took off your former way of life, the old man that is corrupted by deceitful desires; you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds, you put on the new man, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.” -Ephesians 4:22-24

I hope and that you can overcome your personal struggles so that you can fully put on the likeness of Christ. This is my prayer so that you can become fully mature, whole, and complete, the "you" that God intends you to be. To undergo this process is the very story of the gospel being lived out. It is the story of Adam Warlock, it is Paul’s story, and it is our story as well.

Peace and Blessings,

Gary Ford II

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

FAILURE IS [NOT] AN OPTION


Trials tap into the stockpile of every filthy word you’ve ever heard. They invite you to indulge your favorite acceptable vice for comfort or escape. They drive up stock in Kleenex. They make it really hard to find a reason to get out of bed or take a shower. Trials are a relentless hurt.

And strangely enough, a Christian going through trials may at times find very little encouragement by church services, reading the Bible or even prayer. They appear to be on the verge of insanity, rifled with poor judgment, weak in their faith.

Fortunately, we’re not working on a pass/fail premise here. But if we were, this is one time in which it’s more beneficial to fail!!! It’s in the failing that you recognize what’s lacking, what God is seeking to cultivate within you. Trials give you a look in the mirror and a chance for an extreme soul makeover. It’s encountering His strength in your weakest, most vulnerable state.

The insurmountable “Why, God?” will always beg for answers. And sometimes there’s just no good reason to be found. Incredibly painful and unjust things happen in life. But searching for meaning within the trial is different than searching for its reason.

James refers to “trials of various kinds” because lots of things put your faith on trial besides persecution - things that test you and threaten to bring out your worst.

  • grief – divorcing the person you made vows with, mourning a tragic death.
  • financial straits – seemingly inescapable debt, losses due to economic recession.
  • health concerns – facing cancer, tackling autism, making peace with Alzheimer’s.
  • loneliness – being orphaned, aging alone, single people searching for community.
  • homosexuality – confronting attractions to the same gender presents a major crisis of faith for so many brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • depression – the uncontrollable sadness and loss of interest in livelihood, loss of vitality.

But don’t be too quick to dismiss your situation if it’s not on someone’s list, as if it weren’t difficult enough to be considered a trial. Granted, a trial is more than just a bad day, but never underestimate a gnawing chronic state of dissatisfaction at work, a loveless marriage or the stagnation of a passionless existence. Some trials damage by lingering until they penetrate and mar the soul.

And though it may feel like punishment or judgment, God takes no delight in your wounded spirit or seeing your hurt. God isn’t up there poking you with a really long stick.

Instead, God offers to redeem any season of adversity by developing something that’s not yet present in you. It can help you grow up in the faith and shed your childish skin that craves selfishness, impatience, laziness…

To “get there”, it takes living in the spiritual realities of life, being aware of unseen truths. And the truth is, God’s crying with you. With furrowed brow, tender eyes and outstretched arms, His embrace waits for you.

The really hard thing in all this is the perseverance that’s required. Trials don’t have expiration dates, so we never know if we’re days or decades away from freedom. Even when the need continues for a long time, we retain the practices of trusting and never giving up, praying even when it feels futile, banking on the promises of God, remembering his goodness and mercy. Nietzsche calls it a “long obedience in the same direction.”

Perseverance is more than a mere gritting your teeth and bearing it. It develops a disciplined lifestyle and inches us closer to maturity.

So, if it boils down to a tremendous opportunity to grow closer to Jesus and become more transformed into his image, you have to ultimately decide if that’s worth it to you. Because it’s some HARD STUFF. Difficult moral dilemmas.

Is God worth it?

If you conclude that He is, discern His truth for your path and cling to it for dear life, because it’ll be challenged over and over and over again.

But if you conclude that He’s not, that God doesn’t care about your suffering… God won’t hold your grievances with Him against you. He just loves you. After you commiserate with David’s rants in Psalms, God loves you still!!! And you’ll never be separated from that love.

Keep on keeping on,

Angie Burns

AIM 1991, Portugal


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Joys of Gardening


“I am the true vine, and my father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit…abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” John 15

Our great God, The Vinedresser, is always busy tending and nurturing His olive tree. His process requires the utmost patience, moment-by-moment attention and a careful hand. If you’ve ever split the roots of a plant or pruned a plant so as to cause it to grow then you know the meticulous effort and painstaking work involved in the process. Thank God He loves us enough to wound us to make us more fruitful.

Had you asked me at eighteen I probably would’ve told you that I thought Jesus’ words in John 15 likely referred to the harvest of lost souls and the tireless effort of those involved in it. Little did I know. From somewhere and somehow I came to believe that God was primarily concerned with my production of ‘fruit’ in the form of teaching others who would teach others. It took a little while for me to realize that I was gravely mistaken and on a serious road to burnout. Not only that, but I was completely missing the point about what it means to be deeply loved by my creator. As I struggled in those early years -- learning to walk –- the belief that I wasn’t producing enough ‘fruit’ was overwhelming. As the great vinedresser tended and nurtured me, I discovered His true vision: the growth of the ‘fruit’ of His spirit made manifest in my life. And as we should all know, the fruit of the spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience and the like. (Gal 5) This, of course, meant a significant shift in my expectation of myself and of others. I began to understand God’s plan for me in the context of a loving creator and Father instead of a distant taskmaster whom I feared. I believe this process completely natural; Solomon told us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. I love the idea that God desires more peace, more joy, and love from us. These are remarkable things to attain to that, in great irony, make us better and more effective proclaimers of the gospel. Healthy fruit is aromatic and pleasing to the eye – just ask Eve.

This, of course, is not to say that God is snipping, clipping, and awaiting only a celebration to be born from our hearts, though this has definitely occurred in me at times (and is highly recommended); He is also very concerned with the less popular matters of faithfulness and self-control. Painfully, this is where the great vinedresser tends to draw upon more stringent measures to inspire us.

Romans 11 is a rich passage that uses the Vinedresser imagery to describe God’s tending of Israel by breaking off the natural branches of the root of His olive tree (unbelieving Israel). This seems like a drastic and destructive thing for our Gardener God to do but is explained as the mechanism that would bring ‘riches for the world,’ allow for the gentiles to be grafted into the rich root of His olive tree and ultimately inspire natural Israel’s jealously and ultimate repentance. I think this is a beautiful picture of God’s courage and wisdom to do what is necessary to save as many lives as possible and even enrich His cultivated olive tree with a bunch of wild olives like us. For the last 2000 years this olive tree/mustard tree kingdom has been growing aggressively and pressing against the gates of Hades. Thanks be to God!

When I have faced significant trials that test my resolve and bring me to frustration, I am reminded of God’s severity and willingness to do whatever is necessary to prune me for His purpose. I am learning to view this severity as His great love for me—though it’s always hard. And if YOU have ever born fruit, He WILL prune you again and again. “…and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit.” If you are a fruit-bearing branch of “The Vine,” Jesus Christ, then you’ve been blessed to experience this at The Vinedresser's hand. “…abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me.” As he clips and prunes – sometimes severely – we are forced deeper into the vine for sustenance and the restorative power of Jesus. We reach into his Heart for the strength and character to be be reborn with new growth, stronger tendrils, heartier leaves, and healthier, more delectable fruit.

As the Lord loves you severely into His holiness, may you consider it pure joy and be fruitful again and again bearing ‘fruit that will last,’ ‘much fruit,’ and so prove to be His disciples.

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” Rom 11:33

Nathan D. Myers (Aim Alum, Russia 95)

Monday, November 1, 2010

AnimAimer Doubts





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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

To Suffer With


One of the things I learned while I was on the field is how to suffer.

I know, I know, that’s so dramatic. But it’s true. There are so many different kinds of trials that it’s hard to talk about them in generalities, so right now I’m going to focus on compassion, otherwise known as suffering with others.

When I was in Mexico, I learned something about three different friends in the youth group there: one who was 15 and pregnant, one struggling with homosexual feelings, and one who was abusing drugs. I was totally overwhelmed by each of these situations, knowing full well that I had never dealt with any of those specific things, and I had no idea how to help. These were obviously not the only overwhelming or painful situations I encountered in my ministry, but these were the ones that hurt me most. I remember one night in particular, going into the bathroom in our apartment and just sobbing as silently as I could. I didn’t even know what to pray to God, much less what to say to them. I felt helpless as a missionary, and even more importantly, as a friend.

But the story isn't over. A favorite verse of mine is Psalm 56:8 – “Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record?” I love the thought that God knows our every tear. One of the shortest verses in the Bible, “Jesus wept,” demonstrates one of Jesus’ defining attributes: his compassion on humanity, manifested by his coming to our world and suffering with us to show us that he cares and to save us from the worst of fates. Paul says to the Colossians that he rejoices in his sufferings for them, that he is “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, the church”.

These words convince me that there is something inherently and yet intangibly valuable in our sufferings here on earth. I wish I could calculate it right away, but I guess that’s where trust comes in; it’s not an exact equation. In these situations with my friends that I described, I cried for them and let my tears be a prayer for healing and redemption. My suffering isn’t like Jesus’ in the sense that his washed away our sins, but my suffering can, like Paul’s, make a difference in my own soul as well as others, by the grace of God. Sometimes there are happy endings, and other times we just have to wait and watch, remembering that God really does care. I’ll end with this poem I wrote after that night of crying in the bathroom:

c

o

u

n

t

my

tears;

save them

in a cup, just

like you promised.

If you can walk on water,

you can build my tears into

something beautiful. I trust

you, more than ever tonight.

This pain must be used for

something valuable,

healing, like yours.

Please.


-Brettin White


Monday, October 18, 2010

Another Night At A Temporary Inn

C.S. Lewis in his book "The Problem of Pain" talks about the fact that we humans will never experience true peace here on earth. The reason for this is simple. God wants us always to remember that there is something better out there for us. "This world is not our home." So, we dwell on this earth in "pleasant inns," not mistaking our temporary shelter for the permanent homes God has for us in eternity.

Suppose C.S. Lewis is right. What if God in his great love, purposefully chose to allow us to endure trials here on earth, if for no other reason than to remind us that this place is not where we want to be? What if pain on earth were a tool of evangelism? Could sorrow be an instrument of God, always reminding us that life here is not like life there?

Today, no matter the trial, no matter the sorrow, we find temporary peace. Our peace comes from the inescapable truth that good things are coming on the horizon. No matter how hard we try or want it, earth will always have some level, some amount of pain. And yet, just like the light from the empty tomb overpowering a wooden cross, God's blessing isn't far away either. One day we will be with him in comfort. One day we will have our permanent peace.

- Chris Johnson

Monday, October 11, 2010

Meet the AnimAimers




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Property of the AIM ALUMNI ASSOCIATION. Feel free to use this graphic digitally.  Simply copy and paste this graphic where you would like it, and then link this image to the AIMER HUB BLOG page. All other requests for using this image should be submitted to the AIM ALUMNI ASSOCIATION on Facebook. Redistribution of this graphic for monetary gain and/or altering this image in any way is strictly prohibited.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Burden Lifting God

Numbers 11:10- Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The LORD became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. 11 He asked the LORD, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? 13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.” 16 The LORD said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.


I hate that Moses was so frustrated (but it helps me know that it’s okay to be frustrated). I hate that he was so tired from carrying those people that he was asking God to take him out (but it helps me know that it’s okay to be honest with the Lord).

I love that God heard him in his frustration (it helps me know that He hears me when I cry out in frustration). I love that God gave him a solution and let Moses know that He recognized his pain (it helps me know that He gives me solutions as well and recognizes my pain).

I was carrying some burdens. Those burdens included but were not limited to: family, guilt, resentment, confusion, pain, loneliness, sin, heartache, insomnia, and addiction. I felt a lot like Moses when he told God “the burden is too heavy for me”. Much of my burdens were the result of poor choices … they were my own fault.

But you know what? God still delivered me. He heard my cry and He reached out … and took that load off my shoulders.

Had anyone asked me how any one of those burdens should have been handled I would have had my ideas for solutions. I don’t know that I would have chosen God’s solutions if He had asked. But He didn’t really ask … He just answered. Answers came through: divorce, confession, forgiveness, Bible study, prayer, surgery, moving, quitting a job, starting a new job, faith … and learning to trust a group of folks that would eventually help me carry the burdens that were still too heavy for me to bear.

- Paige Foreman

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Just a few things I loved about AIMSTOCK

So… our first AIMstock just ended. (Why the red underline, MS Word? This will be in your dictionary soon enough…)

And to be honest, I hate camping. I hate sweat and bugs and outdoors when they are all at the same time. But for good people… I will do it. And so this was a weekend I would do it for. I had no clue how appreciative I would be by the end of it.

So here are some of the reasons why I loved this weekend, and what I loved about it:

*When Jason called me to tell me that the place hadn’t been cleaned as expected and they had to bug bomb it on arrival, I knew immediately that this was a group of friends who could handle it and wouldn’t freak out. They’d already been taught to be flexible. And besides… most of us lived in less than Hilton conditions on the field.

* Arriving late to a campfire and familiar faces I don’t get to see nearly enough. Waves and smiles from people I dearly love… realizing we’re about to pick up where we last left off… no matter how long ago it was.

*Sitting under the stars and talking about how big God is… And seeing it at the same time.

* Our kids… playing together like no time has passed.

*Hannah falling asleep in my arms.

*Singing around the campfire. Singing. Singing. Singing.

* Singing Alabare, and No Hay Dios, and Solamente in Cristo. Then someone asking if we could sing something in Russian or Thai. Nope… can’t.

* Smores. Glowsticks. More Stars.

* Walking up to the cabin in the dark and overhearing the kids have this conversation with each other.

“Won’t it be so cool when we grow up and we’re all missionaries together?”

* And hearing the rest of that conversation:

Her: “When I grow up, I’m going to go to AIM, and then do whatever God wants me to do.”

Him: “Yeah. Or you could be a wrestler.”

* Seeing the little girls set up their bunks. Together. And Tonya gets mom of the year for sleeping on the top so the girls could be together.

* Walking out the cabin door to see all the tents neatly lined up. Knowing those tents are filled with more people I love. Every single one.

*Early morning mist.

* “A cow woke me up.”

*”There were wild animals. And I think I heard three gunshots.”

*Seriously yummy sausage gravy.

* Walking in and seeing friends reading their Bible, getting up early to go pray, alone or together. And no one’s making them.

*Remembering why I have such deep love for these people. Even the ones I don’t know well…yet.

* Discussing how AIM, for many of us, was our spiritual parent…the first real experience of discipleship, by which we judged all other experiences, good and bad. Appreciating more that simple but profound reality, and it’s place in my walk with Christ.

* Seeing Kris and Barb walk in. Then learning they’d taken a motorcycle 8+ hours to see us over lunch, and then head back another 8 hours.

* Knowing in this crowd… even if a job isn’t delegated…everyone pitches in till whatever is done. Serving is ingrained. It’s fruit of a life lived loving Christ.

* Listening to mountains and valleys...

* Talking. About stuff that matters.

* Watching friends relax. Watching my friends hang out with my kids. Realizing this really is more like family.

*Getting to know people I knew I’d love… and loving them.

* Watching a second generation of kids learn to “be flexible”. Little Piper and Michael could take a nap on a concrete floor with the best of them.

* Being out on a beautiful lake with my husband and kids in a rowboat.

*Hearing, (while in that rowboat…) “Mom, go right! Go right!” Now left. Left. LEFT!!!” Realizing they’re too freaked out and we have to do this more. THEN realizing the last time I said those same words, I was in a dugout canoe in the rain forest with a 12 year old Ecuadorian boy leading us to find caiman… in AIM.

* A huge slip and slide. Smiles all over kids faces.

*Seeing Cory dump his kids off in the middle of the lake.

*Tigger getting back in the lake just to help Eli and Allison get on the floating dock… jumping back through memories from years ago that I never knew would lead up to moments today that I appreciate so deeply.

*Being especially content and more relaxed than I’ve been in a long time. Coming to a mutual realization that in AIM, we learned to have very deep, intimate, friendships…. and that most of us have a hard time ever finding that quality of friendship again.

* Steak and Chicken for dinner. Cajun Shrimp boil for lunch. Seriously? Who EVER gets that while camping?!?! De.Lic.ious.

* Sunday worship… a meal together. Hearing our children ask questions about our relationship with Christ. Sitting around the tables… a family of almost 40… and yet every bit intimate.

* Breaking bread and communion within our families. Explaining… to my kids, as my friends explained to theirs. Knowing they’ll remember.

*“Time for a drawing!” It’s the FORD family. It’s the FORD family. And again… it’s the FORD family!

* Nerts. I still liked the loser table.

* “It’s the end of the world as we know it. It’s the end of the world as we know it… It’s the end…”

* Taboo.

Cory… thanks for ruining this game for me forever.

Chris… playing so well... After it’s over. “Stupid.” You were the best part of the game, friend.

Donovan and Brandon’s faces… caught in pained silent laughter and tears as Katie tried so hard : “It’s when you’re in a car accident, and you don’t wake up , and your uh, …. and you don’t remember anybody…. “ “COMA!” “Yeah! “Oh wait…. it’s’comma’.”

*Our poor kids actually putting themselves to bed…whether going to the cabin by themselves, or bringing up sleeping bags to sleep on the floor in the dining hall while we played and laughed and played.

* Realizing it felt so late… and it was only 9:30.

*Cheese crackers. Twinkies. Guacamole.

*Morning on the lake.

* Smalel groups. Question #8: “Is anything keeping you from sharing the difficult parts of your experience like Paul did?” and sitting there, choked up, wiping tears from my eyes, praying that God will help me figure out how to say ‘pride’ and ‘judgment’, and it make sense, and not make a fool of myself…and not being able to do it. Then Alisha says “Pride and judgment. Does that make any sense?” Ummm..yeah. Thanks.

* Mountain and Valley notebooks. Okay. Who didn’t rip into those like a 3 year old at Christmas? God knew us when He said to encourage one another….

I could go on and want to… but I’ll wait for next year. It’s on my calendar. :-)







- Heather Pitney Thornton

Friday, September 10, 2010

Aimstock

This Year's Aimstock was a hige success. Here is a video to see what the week was like.


video

Friday, September 3, 2010

One Person's Brain Child Is Another Person's Labor

We are just hours away from AIMSTOCK. While I must admit that it was fun sitting with Tim and Jason last year "dreaming up" this brain child of ours... now a year later I watch as the labor process comes to an end. A lot of hard work has gone into this year's event. Just for an idea, here's AIMSTOCK by the #'s...

41 attendees
2042 acres
15 lbs of steak
10 lbs of chicken
12 lbs of shrimp
16 kids
$1200 in donated goods
60 ft long slip n slide
10 rotating and box fans
7 bags of potatoes
5 eskimo jugs for lemonade
10 gallons of juice and milk
80 fruit filled pastries
..... ok.... I need to stop typing this so I can't start loading..... you get the point...

AIMSTOCK IS GOING TO BE A BLAST
You should join us next year (Labor Day Weekend) for AIMSTOCK 2011!
- Chris Johnson








Aimstock 2010 Schedule

Saturday
1:00 - Move in and set up camp
2:00 - Starting Matters: In the Beginning - Pavilion
Kid’s activity
3:00 - Refreshments and M/V stories
4:00 - Free time
6:00 - Dinner - Cherokee
7:00 - Size matters: Your God is bigger
Kid’s activity
8:00 - Bonfire and singing

Go to tents/cabins whenever your family needs to.


Sunday
7:00 - Lakeside devo - Meet at welcome center
8:30 - Breakfast in dining hall
9:30 - Inside Matters: Your inner world - Dining Hall
Kid’s activity
12:00 - Lunch in dining hall
1:00 - Free time
5:30 - Dinner
6:30- Communion Matters: Finding unity in the body and blood
7:30 - Refreshing Matters: Let’s Celebrate!

Go to tents/cabins whenever your family needs to.

Monday
7:00 - Lakeside devo - Meet at welcome center
8:30 - Breakfast in dining hall
9:30 - Perspective Matters: Seeing clearly is hard
Kid’s activity
12:00 - Lunch in dining hall
1:00 - Final goodbye and prayer
2:00 - Clean up

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Where AIMSTOCK Comes In

I have recently had the privilege and difficulty of working with multiple marriages that are on the brink of divorce. Though the arguments have different words and the wounds have distinct patterns, it is clear that there is a theme that runs through each situation. As each couple’s individual relationships with God go, so their relationship with each other goes. This is rarely clear when you’re the one going through it, but it is painfully obvious when you are looking for it from the outside. Each person is in desperate need of healing and renewal. Though the devil tempts them to think that the main issue is communication or behavior modification, these are simply a symptom of the bigger problem. Each one of them must fully embrace their relationship with God and allow Him to heal them. Then they can work on the specific issues in their struggles.

But you don’t need to be struggling in your marriage to have the need for healing and renewal. You also don’t need to be experiencing reverse culture shock and identity shock to need healing and renewal. We all need it and we all need it often. No matter how great my life is going, I am still experiencing the devils’ schemes which often wound me. These scrapes and abrasions that wear me down, not even considering the massive direct hits that I sometimes take, need healing. Jesus is clear that if we open our eyes and hearts to him and then turn to him, he will heal us. (John 12:40) But we are constantly tempted to think that if we just keep moving surely things will work out. Until they don’t.

We all need help and God meant for it to be this way. We need to periodically take time to break free from the distractions of life, surround ourselves by people who have the same focus and give our attention fully to turning to Him. In a perfect world, we would experience this often with our local church, but too often more attention is paid to keeping order than to mutually seeking healing in these gatherings. Even if we do receive this regularly from a group of Christians, the 1 or 2 hours we get barely gives us time to begin to connect.

That is where AIMstock comes in. All of us have the common theme of AIM as a connection (whether we were an AIMer for a minute, for years or we joined the adventure by marrying someone with this experience). We have been wounded in various ways. We want to take time to break free of distractions for an extended period of time and mutually encourage each other to put our focus on God and His work in our lives. Whether you feel strong in your relationship with God or are struggling with whether He even cares about you, this is for you. The organizers of AIMstock know that we are not big enough, smart enough or powerful enough to make this work. We are simply stepping out in faith based on what we have witnessed God doing and we are praying that God will take our meager efforts of faith and create something that is so much bigger than us.

Whether you are able to be part of AIMstock this year or not, I encourage you to make it a habit of seeking renewal and healing. In my recent reading of the minor prophets, a consistent theme was that people had tremendous problems in their lives, but failed to make the connection that these problems were ultimately the result of their failure to stay connected to God. Thus the need for the prophets to tell them. I run into people that have this same blindness regularly and often one of those people is me. Renewal and healing is critical and only takes place when we make time to be connected with our Father. My encouragement to us is to make that time: Adjust the calendar, modify the schedule, prepare to sacrifice some other things that we would love to do and make some plans to connect to our Father who longs to heal and renew us!



- Jason Thornton

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Final Details On AIMSTOCK

It looks like details with AIMSTOCK are almost completed. So far, we have 31 people attending, meaning this year's event should be very successful and a whole lot of fun. Even though we've made a deadline for signing up, we are still accepting last minute reservations. If you'd like to join us for the retreat... don't hesitate to call us and make reservations (405) 312-0092
Again, what makes AIMSTOCK a success is alumni participation. We'd love to have you here with us!


- Chris Johnson



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Video: My Favorite AIM Memory



What was your favorite AIM memory?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

This Is My Command...

I've been writing some letters these days.

At the risk of stating the obvious, I'll mention that reverse culture shock has been really, really hard for me. It's so easy to justify sin when things are stressful, and any sin, no matter how seemingly trivial, hurts our relationship with God. Honest self-examination before a God that I know really loves me is so healing at these times. Healing comes full circle at the point of confession and repentance. How awesome that his grace is new every morning!

But one thing to consider is this - many sins we commit day to day are sins against other people, too. And as long as we ignore the effect that lies, selfishness, pride, lust, gossip, etc. have on our closest friends and family, we won't truly be free from sin and its consequences.

I've recently written two letters, and can already think of one more I need to write, where I do just that. I confess the things that I did to hurt the other person, clearly and honestly. And I apologize, both for specific, named actions and words and for the motivating attitudes behind them. It's really intimidating, but so far, it's been so powerfully healing.

I've learned from many recent mistakes that I can't really apologize when I'm too busy pointing out to the other person what he's done wrong to me. And you know, I do think there is a place for lovingly confronting someone, but that's not been my problem. My problem has been me saying something to this effect: "Well, yeah, I did that. And I shouldn't have, I guess. But you've done all these things, and have you noticed what I'm going through these days on top of all of that?? I mean, what do you expect? I'm not perfect!"

I've learned that this is not what God calls us to. It's true - relationships have dynamics that are way beyond our personal control, like another person's actions or reactions. But to make that an excuse to not do the things that are in our control is not being Christ-like. "If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" Romans 12:18. This is not a cop-out; this is a command to do whatever is possible. How often do we really do that?

Back to my point. We as Christians are to be ministers of reconciliation. We proclaim the good news of how to be reconciled with God. And the very same Bible tells us news that if we aren't doing whatever we can to be reconciled to our brother, than we are hypocrites. I still have a long way to go, and I hope to God that next time I remember to be slower to anger and quicker to seek peace. But by God's grace I'm taking some steps of faith. I hope this encourages you all to do the same.

"[Love] is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth." - 1 Corinthians 13:5-6

"This is my command: Love each other." - John 15:17

Your sister,
Brettin White


Thursday, July 29, 2010

New AIMstock Deadline Approaching- August 4th

When AIMapalooza first started, the goal was to bring together those “few” AIM alumni that were at the Tulsa Workshop. We were shocked to have over 70 attend the first time and over 40 each year since. Every time I am part of AIMapalooza, I am struck with the immediate connection among those that are a part of it and am blown away by the singing. I sing all the time, but there is something about singing with those that have been part of AIM that is somehow distinct. I can’t explain it, but it is amazing. A consistent conversation that comes up at AIMapalooza is how great it would be if this could be for more than just a few hours and that is where AIMstock comes from. We know that many won’t be able to attend based on location and availability, but we hope that this first retreat will be a model for other retreats in other parts of the US.

For more details you can check out the info at AIMstock on its FB page. One thing that we do need is to get a solid count on who is coming and where they will be staying (tents, cabin or lodge). We need this info a month in advance, so we are now asking to receive registration forms from everyone by August 4th in order to lock in the facilities and space that is needed. We would love to receive payments at that time, but are flexible as to when those are received. The real issue is simply knowing how many to plan for.

If you have any questions whatsoever about the retreat, email me at Jason@memorialdrive.org or call me at (918) 838-1621. There are no dumb questions. One question I have heard pertains to non-alumni spouses. I do want to point out that most AIM alumni didn’t marry an AIM alumnus (I believe that is a true statement, though it may only be 51% true). We want non-alumni spouses to come. We are primarily connected by the blood of Christ, not AIM, so consider yourself doubly welcome!

I cannot wait to see everyone that is able to join us. I am super-thrilled just thinking about it!

Jason Thornton
"Let the Chains Fall Away"
March 23-26, www.tulsaworkshop.org




Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Knock Knock! Who's There?

KNOCK KNOCK!

WHO’S THERE?

No joke. Somebody’s always knocking, ringing the doorbell, calling, texting, emailing... Someone wants something. When I wrestle with “Let Me In” vs “Leave Me Alone,” LMA usually initials the high score. I suspect that the era in which I let everyone in may have helped form my soul’s current enclave.

If you’re wondering how I can have over 500 facebook friends and still have isolation issues… There are too many anomalies to number in my life. I’m a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside and enigma who constantly reapplies lip gloss. I am an extravert and an introvert. I am conservative and liberal. I am naughty and nice. I am Elphaba and Glinda.

Everyone keeps others at arm’s length to some extent. It’s healthy to have boundaries. Letting people out may be more of an issue for some of you! Jesus knew the value of retreating from the world to be with the Father. But maybe a look at my tendency to set up camp there can help us all strike a better balance.

Isolation is no longer reserved for monks, hermits or those in solitary confinement. It’s often shrouded by busyness, even the constant activity of ministry. The size of your family, your congregation or your facebook friends list is no indication of whether or not your soul is isolated.

I’m filthy rich when it comes to having several deep and abiding spiritual friendships in my life. I’d elaborate, but it might lead you to envy! I’ll just say I’m blessed beyond. My battle is to become more engaged in relationships that are right in front of me instead of continuing to lean on my tried and true to the exclusion of others.

The price I’ve paid: Stagnation looms. My local community, my dating life and my spiritual benevolence are all lacking because of constant retreat into my small fortress.

In examining why, I come closer to the core. Let’s count the reasons we can justify…

Wounded in the past always ranks big. Then there’s fear. Fear of being judged, embarrassed, humiliated, rejected… Or fear of being revealed: I’m boring, I’m pathetic, I’m a disappointment, I’m inadequate, I’m not smart, I’m faking it, I’m a hoarder, I’m ashamed, I’m difficult, I’m selfish, My marriage is on life support, I’m not a good mother, I cannot handle life’s pressures, I’m too stunted, stuck, sad…. The bricks of legitimate woes mingled with the indistinguishable bricks of perceived woes build the impenetrable wall.

So we carefully construct how we present ourselves by what we show and what we withhold, fiercely guarding our inner insecurities. Shane Claiborne has remarked that we choose our own longings, addictions, emptiness… over community and grace and love. And we are left “ill with want” in the words of the Avett Brothers. We become skilled at escaping, avoiding, posing. And our sin lies in rejecting reality and daring to impose a world of our own making, leading to a deeper retreat into self.

Unfortunately, God hasn’t been exempt from my craziness. Our relationship mirrors my ways with people: some truly great ‘highs’, nervousness that things are about to get messy followed by cordial neglect.

The remedy lies in this primary relationship. I can’t live the one another passages without The One. It’s in the comfort of His love and grace that I’m more willing to allow others across my threshold. Life as the bride of Christ cannot function as a gated community.

In 1981 blind country music artist Terri Gibbs asked, “Somebody’s knockin’. Should I let ‘em in?”

Who is it? Could be a new BFF. Could be a self-serving individual who will abuse your trust and wound you. Could be Jesus. Or in Terri’s case, could be the devil wearing blue jeans. Don’t do it, Terri! It’s Christian gambling, and you have to risk big to win big.

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” – Revelation 3:20 NLT


- Angie Burns

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

You Might Be An AIM Alumni....


(in the style of Jeff Foxworthy's: You Might Be A Redneck)

You can't answer the question, "Where are you from?"

The U.S. feels like a foreign country.

Wal-Mart's cereal aisle has ever made you cry.

You have a time zone map next to your telephone.

You would rather eat seaweed than fast food.

You call cookies biscuits and biscuits scones.

Your life story uses the phrase "Then we went to..." five times.

You watch nature documentaries, and you think about how good that would be if it were fried.

You think in grams, meters, and liters.

You speak with authority on the quality of airline travel.

You don't know what year you graduated AIM, but you are certain what year you started it.

You go to the U.S., and get sick from a mosquito bite.

You've ever gotten peanut butter and Kool-Aid for Christmas.

National Geographic makes you homesick.

You have strong opinions about how to cook bugs.

People simply don't understand you.

You have friends from or in 29 different countries.

You do your devotions in another language.

You sort your friends by continent.

You keep dreaming of a green Christmas.

"Where are you from?" has more than one reasonable answer.

You are grateful for the speed and efficiency of the U.S. Postal Service.

You realize that furlough is not a vacation.

You've spoken in dozens of churches, but aren't a minister.

You stockpile Dr Pepper.

You know what real coffee tastes like.

The majority of your friends don't speak English as a first language.

Someone brings up the name of a team, and you get the sport wrong.

You believe vehemently that football is played with a round, spotted ball.

You know there is no such thing as an international language.

You tell Americans that democracy isn't the only viable form of government.

You realize what a small world it is, after all.

You never take anything for granted.

You know how to pack, and have made an art form out of it.

All preaching sounds better under a corrugated tin roof.

You know raw fish tastes better than cooked.

Going to the post office is the highlight of your day.

When you sing songs to yourself in a language other than English.

When you get excited over finding Doritos at 7-11.

When after the church service you look for a slide projector to put away.

When wearing shoes in the house sounds disgusting.

You carry Bibles in two languages to church.

You watch an English language video and read the foreign language subtitles.

When you dream in a foreign language.

When you carry a dictionary everywhere you go.

When you forget how to count American money.

When adults want to pay you to teach them English.

When you would rather sleep on the floor than on the bed.

When you find a picture of yourself on someone's refrigerator and the words "pray for me."

When you know how to send a fax using an international call back service.

When you have carried the same dollar bill in your wallet for four years.

When you write in your diary in a foreign language.

When driving on the right side of the road gives you the willies.

When eating with chop sticks seems natural.

When you refuse to change hands when eating with a fork and knife.

When the message on your answering machine is in two languages.

When you move into a new house you take a gift to all your neighbors.

When cleaning up means sweeping the street in front of your house.

You consider parasites, dysentery, or tropical diseases to be appropriate dinner conversation.

You tell people what certain gestures mean in different parts of the world.

You have stopped in the middle of an argument to find the translation of a word you just used.

You calculate exchange rates by the price of Coke.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Joseph as a missionary- Reverse culture shock

I still remember coming off the mission field as an AIMer. I can recall all the excitement of knowing a new culture. I still remember the feeling of having seen new things, done new things, and been places that others just hear about in stories. The world was my oyster (whatever that means). Just hours off the mission field and all was well.

And then "poof".... reality came and burst my bubble. For starters, no one back home really cared about my experience (which makes since because I didn't care about what they had been doing either). Few people understood, and fewer people had time to act like what I did mattered. Over time, excitement transformed into frustration and even a bit of bitterness. Like so many before me and after me, my AIM experience was tainted by the foul aftertaste of reverse culture shock. I was an emotional wreck, struggling to understand my own purpose and identity in the world. Many things got under my skin and agitated me. From church to family to the cereal aisle at Wal-Mart, God's mission in my life was turning towards resentment and sorrow. Wow... that was a fun experience I can tell you!

When God took Joseph of Genesis out of the care and comfort of his family's arms, Joseph never knew what would happen next. Joseph had a winding, adventure filled road. One day he was a slave, the next a prisoner. One moment he was involved in scandal, the next he was involved in politics. Joseph eventually became king, ruling over the Egyptian people... what a ride! However, at the pinnacle of Joseph's success, Joseph was forced back into connection with his Hebrew roots. Scripture says Joseph's family didn't recognize him (Gen 42:8), didn't speak his language (Gen 42:23), and feared his foreign ways (Gen 44:15). Likewise, Joseph responded to his family with hesitation (Gen 42:15), hostility (Gen 42:7), and deep sorrow (Gen 42:24). In every way, Joseph sounds like a man going through reverse culture shock!

I can totally relate to Joseph here. I get his pain, his anger, his frustration. What I don't quite understand is how Joseph "bounced back" at the end. It amazes me that after multiple interactions and "tests," Joseph manages to reconcile his relationship with his family and even bless them. Joseph brought his family to Egypt where he gave them purpose, power, and provision as God had given Joseph earlier. I guess that's the key... isn't it? How do we take our experiences and use them for good? How do we take bitterness and turn it into blessing? Joseph was able to do that. How? Maybe because he understood that some scars only God can heal. Maybe because he realized that what people intended to do for evil, God intended to do for good. So, I guess our story isn't over yet either. Reconciliation and forgiveness are still possible, even after the adventure.

- Chris Johnson

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Express Yourself

If you haven't heard, the AIM Alumni Association is taking ministry to another level this month by offering a new way for Alumni to express themselves. With several events and ministries on the horizon, we have decided to open up a T-Shirt store as a means of raising funds for future Alumni activities. Unlike most alumni groups, we don't charge dues and aren't constantly soliciting our members for donations. This is one goal that we have striven for and hope to always maintain, above others. Being a member of our group is free, and should always remain that way. It's nice to know you can be part of something for free. In fact, we value this truth so much that many times we offer things for free (like our stickers at Tulsa this year). Freedom in membership is high on our value system. However, like most alumni groups, we do have plans for all types of special events for the future, which can cost money. At some point, money is required to make good things happen. So, what solution do we have for this dilemma? Simple, we are opening up a store! Please feel free to click the link above called "Shirt Store." If you see something you'd like.... buy it! It you'd like something special... tell us and we'll look into making that. Remember, 100% of all profits go to the AIM Alumni Association. Funding helps us to function, is for a good cause, and gets you some seriously cool stuff!

- AIM ALUM