Project 365: Day 199 You Make Beautiful Things   Leave a comment

It’s the last night of Texas Youth Academy and I have this song rolling around in my head. The song is called “Beautiful Things” by the band Gungor. Some of the lyrics are:

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new


Being a part of Texas Youth Academy has been a transformative experience. It is impossible to explain to someone who is never been through this how important community and learning and doing things together can become. In just a few days we shared lives with each other and became like a family. It is Christian community at its finest, and indeed a beautiful thing.

As we prepare to go back to our homes and perhaps the chaos of life, it is my hope that we can always remember that the God of all makes beautiful things out of us.

He is making us new.











Project 365: Day 198 Social Justice and Poverty   Leave a comment


This afternoon at Texas Youth Academy we explored the issue of poverty in America. Students and adults had a chance to role-play the experience of navigating public transportation and grocery shopping on a WIC or SNAP budget. There were countless life lessons learned including:
• It is really hard to balance watching children, grocery shopping on a very small budget, trying to consider nutrition, getting to work on time, and navigating bus routes.

• Roadblocks don’t have to be very big to make a significant impact on trying to meet a family’s needs. Even something as simple as a child wanting a birthday cake can impact a family’s budget.

• If you look clean-cut, you may receive special treatment that others do not.

• Life for the working poor is very stressful.

• Immigrants have the hardest lives.

• Sometimes service looks like using a paintbrush or a hammer, other times service means impacting the policies that keep systemic poverty in place.

The next steps after an exercise like this is to figure out what a person as a Christian leader can do to make life easier for others. What does your church do to make a difference? What can you do?







Project 365: Day 197 Planning Worship   1 comment


One of the things we do at Texas Youth Academy is have the youth plan and lead worship services. My group led worship last night in the style of “high church.” Complete with pipe organ blaring, the service was beautiful, not perfect but beautiful. Our prayer was that people would grow closer to God through it and we may never know if that came true.

Today during the time we would normally plan worship, our group debriefed and talked about how the service went. As you can see in the picture, we enjoyed a little playtime as we talked. We talked through details, and remembered when things didn’t go exactly as planned. We talked about how difficult it is to plan a good worship service.

I asked the group if they felt like they were participating in the worship when they were leading it.

As it turns out, everyone who was leading the service felt preoccupied with the details and stressed about making sure each part went well. They didn’t actually feel like they were in worship.

This makes me wonder how many pastors and worship leaders feel the same way. I also wonder where these people might get to participate in worship in order to reconnect to God that way. Who is making sure our worship leaders are also fed spiritually?


Project 365: Day 196 New Creation and Social Justice   Leave a comment

This morning our first plenary speaker was Rev. Matt Stone on the subject of New Creation at a macro level. Among other things, Rev. Stone made reference to “thin places” of the earth, places where one feels closer to God. Texas Youth Academy is one of those thin places.


Next, Lanecia Rouse shared a look at new creation at the micro level. Through the creative use of stories and examples, she covered practical ways we can make the world a new creation, how even we can be new creations.


Indoor frisbee after lunch:


This afternoon, we went to Austin and to the Capitol building lawn to talk about social principals. Students traveled in small groups to discuss the United Methodist Church stances on things like racism, war, immigration, justice and separation of church and state.




My assignment was to teach on immigration, and in particular the children immigration border crisis in Texas, and on what our UMC social principles might say in response. As a mentor, I felt it was important to teach on what the issues were and let students realize that it’s up to them to form their own opinions and thoughts. We pondered questions like, “how do you imagine Jesus would call us to respond to the children flooding the border?” We explained UMCOR and shared the UMCOR Advance information.

Our day together concluded with a return to Perkins Chapel at Southwestern for worship in the “high church” style. In small-group time there was plenty to talk about.


Project 365: Day 195 Resurrection   Leave a comment





Posted July 15, 2014 by erinjackso in Personal Blog, Photo Blog, Youth Ministry

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Project 365: Day 194 Church Under the Bridge Austin   Leave a comment

This morning, Texas Youth Academy went to Church Under the Bridge in Austin for worship. We arrived empty-handed with the assignment to “go meet people and listen to their stories.”

This story I heard was from a man named Kevin. Kevin was a blue-eyed man in his 50s, sitting with his back up against the bridge support, a bag with all of his belongings at his side. As soon I smiled, introduced myself and shook Kevin’s hand, he began to tear up. I decided to sit down and listen for a while. This is Kevin’s story:

Several years ago, Kevin, a trained plumber, electrician and HVAC repairman, had a great job making over 6 figures. He was married to an RN and their family lived in a nice, three bedroom home in a beautiful neighborhood. They had a beautiful daughter named Jennifer.

That’s when things began to slowly fall apart…Kevin was diagnosed as manic depressive. Problems with work. A couple of family members died. Kevin developed a drinking problem and then got charged with a DUI. He spent years in jail for his crime, his family had fallen apart, he lost everything. He shared stories of when he tried to put things back together, but just kept facing new setbacks. Today he was six weeks a free man, living on the streets of Austin, not a drunk, waiting for free dental work to be completed so he could work and smile again.

I know I don’t know his whole story, but somehow this set of circumstances had lead up to us meeting here, at the church service held under a bridge overpass in Austin, Texas.

I said, “You had a choice about where you could go this Sunday morning, what brings you here to this church?”

His eyes welled up again. He confessed that he just wanted to feel God back in his life and that he felt so lost.
I asked Kevin what was keeping him from letting God be in control, he pointed to himself.

And I wonder if that is just our human condition. How often do we try to do things in our own way without asking God to be first? How well does that work for us?

Before I left, I spent time in prayer with Kevin. My prayer for him is for healing, reconciliation and wholeness. I pray that he has the strength to get back on his feet, I especially pray that he finds God back in his life.

I realized today just how fragile all of our circumstances may be. It would not take much for a comfortable lifestyle to fall apart. No matter our circumstance, God needs to be put first for direction. I am so thankful I took the time to listen to another’s story.

Whose story do you need to hear? Who needs to hear your story?

Project 365: Day 193 Sabbath   Leave a comment

I rested today. I filled my soul and relaxed with activities like play, friend time, healthy food, resting.






It was a great day to reflect on all that is very good.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

How do you make time for sabbath rest?

Posted July 12, 2014 by erinjackso in Devotional, Personal Blog, Photo Blog, Youthworker Self-Care

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Project 365: Day 192 Passion TYA Day 5   Leave a comment

The topic today at Texas Youth Academy is the Passion.
We often think of “passion” to mean things like love, devotion, strong feelings. The word actually means “suffering” or “a change of state”.

“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us are who are being saved, it is the Power of God.”
1 Corinthians 1:18

It is mind boggling to think of the sacrifice made for us on the cross. Our idea of passion should be stretched by the cross. Christ, in dying on the cross, fills us with love for God and with love for other people.

How far will you stretch for justice?


Project 365: Day 191 Incarnation – TYA day 4   Leave a comment


Our plenary professor, Dr. Natalie Carnes of Baylor University, taught us today on Incarnation. The scandal of the cross was preceded by another scandal – “the scandal of the breast”. Imagine this: the God who died at the hands of humans, first lived at the hands of humans. He was once a helpless, needy baby, even a baby nursed by a loving mother.

Today at Texas Youth Academy, we studied the incarnation and we also talked about how we can be the body of Christ to others. We learned about homelessness and made gifts to help encourage people who happen to be homeless:




We finished our day remembering the body and blood of Christ through communion:



We are encouraged to be the hands and feet of Christ:


Project 365: Day 190 Creation – Texas Youth Academy Day 3   Leave a comment

Today’s plenary session was on Creation. If I had to pick only ONE key point to pass on, I would say that “complex, important topics need to be talked about a lot and in more than one way.” Seems that advice could help in a lot of areas.



Posted July 9, 2014 by erinjackso in Personal Blog, Photo Blog, Youth Ministry

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