The puzzle pieces

In light of the Rev. John Stott’s passing last week, I belatedly offer up my Easter 2011 reflections which I sent to friends back in April.

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When I was 18 years old, I finally figured out the meaning of life. (Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. What took me so long?)

The cover story of the most recent issue of On Campus magazine is about a Bible study group at Slippery Rock University “where the Sunday school stories start to make sense.” That’s sort of what happened for me when I was a college freshman.

It was a snowy January in Meadville, and I was in one of the meeting rooms of the Allegheny College Campus Center with a dozen or so other freshman women, a sophomore named Mary and our CCO staff worker, Nancy. I had spent my Christmas break reading John Stott’s Basic Christianity in preparation for this freshman women’s discipleship group, and now we were working our way through a study of the first three chapters of the book of Genesis.

I diligently filled page after page of my notebook with new insights and discoveries—most of which can be summarized by reading the back of the enclosed Easter card, designed by my boss, Bonnie Liefer.

I’ve often described this freshman year experience as watching the puzzle pieces finally click into place.
Or to put it another way, the Sunday school stories were starting to make sense. I was given a framework that made sense of the world, and the God I’d always mostly believed in made Himself known to me in a new way.

I’ve spent the past couple of years interviewing hundreds of former students of CCO ministries, and while each story is unique, there are some common themes. My friend and former CCO colleague Betsy sums it up well:

The CCO ministry gave me such depth of understanding that I have a place in the world. I learned that I have something to do because God cares about every single aspect of His creation. Nothing is evil in itself, because God created it. That understanding shapes everything about how I live my life—how we are raising our kids, managing our finances, participating in our church congregation, interacting with co-workers, neighbors, the clerk at the grocery store. I wish I’d had that kind of guidance earlier in my life, but I’m grateful that I got it during college. Without CCO staff challenging me to develop my leadership skills, would I still be sitting in a corner, watching everything happen? I don’t know. I just know that I’m glad they helped me to understand my role in God’s world.

The CCO turned 40 on March 23, and I’ve spent the last couple of months working on a project that summarizes how God has worked through this ministry over the past four decades. I count myself blessed to have been a beneficiary of the CCO’s ministry, and to have the opportunity to bless others as I continue my work here. Thank you for being a part of that blessing.

Happy Easter!
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In John Stott’s obituary, published in The Guardian on Thursday, July 28, this excerpt caught my attention:

He insisted that Christians should engage in “double listening” – to the word of God, and to the world around them – and apply their biblical faith to all the pressing issues of contemporary culture. He himself researched, preached and wrote on a wide range of matters – from global debt to global warming, from the duties of the state to medical ethics and euthanasia. This was the kind of evangelicalism he embodied.

Rest in peace, John Stott.

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