It’s July! July might be my favorite month of the year. I mean, what’s not to love…it’s warm outside, it’s often sunny, even if it does rain, the rain is refreshing, school’s out for the summer, and vacations are more frequent! Most significant, though, is that July is the month that I most often got to go to Camp Lutherwald…my favorite place in the world!
Now, I am not trying to persuade you into thinking that Lutherwald is your favorite place to go or into thinking you have missed visiting an important place in your life, but to get you thinking about places that are meaningful to you. I LOVE going to Lutherwald because Lutherwald is the first place where I felt God’s presence in a very real way. I felt God’s presence in a way that I can’t really describe to you, but can only say that it was the best feeling I have ever had in my life. It was a feeling of pure joy, love, worth, a desire to return the feeling to others, and so much more. Well…maybe I could describe it a little bit after all.
I know, now you are thinking, “here she goes again, she loves the environment.” Hang in there, don’t stop reading yet, you might be surprised! For my summer seminary class, I read Almost Christian by Kendra Creasy Dean, a book about what the church can learn from the faith of teenagers. In this book, Dean made many important observations and analyses, but one statement especially stuck out to me. Dean wrote, “We are most open to divine reconstruction when we lose our balance, when the LEGOs® of our carefully constructed selves fall apart so that God can rebuild us in new ways.” 
“Out of balance…fall apart…do things have to go wrong before I am able to be open to God’s presence in my life?”, I thought. I didn’t feel out of balance or in a state of falling apart when I experienced God so strongly at Lutherwald, so what made my experience of the divine so impactful, so strong? Did I really experience God? Did I imagine the whole experience? What does it mean to lose my balance? Is losing my balance always a bad thing?
Maybe losing my balance provides me a new perspective on my current situation. Maybe losing my balance allows me the opportunity to try again. Maybe losing my balance helps me to grow stronger and become more resilient. Despite my initial thoughts, I was actually out of balance at camp, just not in the way I originally thought. You see, camp is a place, rather, a community that demands authenticity and vulnerability from all of its inhabitants. I lost my balance at camp because I expected camp to be the world I knew, only in the woods, but instead it operated from a different set of operating procedures. It was a world away from the world, which operated as close to the way Jesus lived as I had ever experienced.
I lost my balance at camp because I was encouraged and empowered to be me. To be serious when I felt like being serious or to be goofy when I felt like being goofy. I had lost my balance at camp in a good way. I was in a community where people didn’t worry about what I was wearing or how good my grades were or who my friends were, allowing me to refocus my attention away from the worldly distractions towards God and God’s creation, and when I was least expecting it, there was God, in my midst, present for me in a way I was able to recognize and to breathe in.
This summer I will not be able to go to camp, but I am privileged to be leading two weeks of VBS where we will be exploring how God is present in our lives through the stories in the Bible. We will explore the stories of creation, how Rahab believes in God’s power, how God is with Gideon, how Jesus shows his love through his death and resurrection, and how God used Abigail to bring peace.
Psalm 139, the psalm from which the first day’s theme verse originates, celebrates God’s presence in our lives and articulates just how well God knows us.
leader. Of David. A Psalm.
You may not have experienced a camp community like I experienced Camp Lutherwald, but I hope that you are able to find a community that encourages you to lose your balance every once in a while, or even all the time, opening yourself up to God’s presence in your life. I hope that you recognize your ability to be that community, that family, to others, both within the PLUM congregations and outside them. God has created you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Wherever you go, God goes with you. Wherever you go, God is searching you and rebuilding you, just as you were promised at your baptism. How will you fearfully and wonderfully create an off-balance community of authentic Christ-followers which points people to the closeness and renewing nature of God?
Vicar Karyn Kost
 Kenda Creasy Dean, Almost Christian: what the faith of our teenagers is telling the American church (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 170.
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773