“A World of Difference”

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.001

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,  ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ 

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.002


Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. 

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.005

Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.’ Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth;

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.007

and the Lord said to me, ‘Now I have put my words in your mouth.  See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.’

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.010

     I came back from the Montreat Youth Conference, and everyone asks, “How was Montreat? Did you have a good time?” And I answer, “Yes, it was great!” But then you start to talk about what happened at this huge PC (USA), 5-day youth gathering, and you don’t know where to begin!

The setting is so important.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The people you come with are SO important.

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.014


Your attitude is SO important. It takes faith to listen for God’s voice and commit to the Spirit’s work, to have your own identity and calling as a child of God–loved by God, used by God for God’s glory– confirmed. It feels like magic when you’re there; I don’t know how to explain it, except that it’s the Spirit of God that draws us, embraces, refreshes, heals and challenges us in our comings and goings, year after year.

The theme was “A World of Difference”–emphasizing the acceptance and embrace of differences in the Body of Christ and the great diversity of the world! It was also a call to discover and live out our different callings–every one of us, but most of all, the youth–and Make a World of Difference TOGETHER, loving and serving God and people in new, creative, and bold ways.

“Prophesy!” one speaker urged us. “Prophesy to the Church!”

We only had 1 youth from MIPC go this year–a young man who has attended youth group faithfully and has happily gone to Montreat several years in a row. But we all proudly claimed Jacob as our own! At times, I think Jacob looked after us as much as we looked after him. Since this was my first Montreat Youth Conference, I was always asking Jacob questions–especially how to get to where we were going. He led me and his mom, Leslie, on footpaths (shortcuts) we would probably not have found on our own! He’d walk ahead of us with his long, youthful strides up and down steep slopes–grassy–rocky and sometimes paved, but usually not. We would follow, more slowly and carefully, behind him, sometimes struggling a little to keep up. He’d smile and toss helpful phrases back at us: “Don’t fall!”

We had a zillion jokes about how there were 4 adults to watch over 1 youth–5 if you count Elizabeth who went as a small group leader and stayed in different housing. Larger youth groups filled up entire pews during worship and keynote. We had plenty of space to spread out on MIPC’s pew!


Cindy, our back home leader, organizer, and driver, would say, as we prepared for worship or another activity, “Let me check and see if everyone is here.” She would pretend to look around, before pointing to Jacob sitting right in front of us.

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.018

“One!” she’d call out. “OK, we’re all here!” But sometimes we’d get overconfident about Jacob, who is really a young adult. He graduated from high school this spring and works full time. Sometimes, we would be talking to each other and we’d suddenly realize that Jacob wasn’t with us. We’d look at each other and say, “Where’s Jacob?” And laugh–because here there’s 4 or 5 chaperones–and we’ve lost track of our one youth!! He was usually ahead of us and we’d meet up with him soon after. He has the confidence of one shaped by Montreat experiences and the Spirit of nurture with his family and his church!

Worship happens every morning and evening at the conference. Worship is active, begins with something called “Energizers!” which are difficult for uncoordinated, middle aged people like me! But they get us all up and moving and bring smiles to our faces. I loved that worship was packed with visuals, such as video clips, photos, and skits. Youth are involved in every aspect of worship –flying banners, carrying lit candles, bearing pieces of a heart that come together and other symbols of the Spirit’s presence and uniting, healing, power among us!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Worship leaders played piano and guitar with traditional and contemporary pieces, including original compositions, such as the theme song for our week, “A World of Difference.”

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.022


The words to every song–original, modern and traditional– were projected on two large screens on either side of the stage.


Twice a day, youth and some adults led or participated in small groups. We studied scripture and discussed serious topics relevant to teenagers raised by the keynote speaker or evening preacher. One teen shared how she had stayed up late the night before listening for 2 hours as another teen shared a problem he had, a struggle he had never shared with anyone else. She had tears in her eyes as she described how they prayed God would heal him–as God had healed her, when doctors and counselors could not.

I celebrated my birthday at the conference with my back home group that gave me, among other gifts, a Montreat T-shirt and an adorable card with kitty voices meowing “Happy Birthday.”

And I celebrated my birthday in my small group, bringing cookies to share. They made me a beautiful card and signed my Montreat shirt–so that I would remember them by name and pray for them by name. I promised I would! :o)


They let me take their pictures. Here are some of my new friends!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



The Jeremiah reading fits perfectly with the day we celebrate youth and share about our annual trip to Montreat. What a powerful passage this is–the call of Jeremiah, coming just a few years before Jerusalem is destroyed, and Israel is captured and exiled to Babylon, about 600 years before the birth of Christ. The call is more like the call of Moses than the call of Isaiah, who has an elaborate vision.

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.041
The call of Isaiah

Moses, who has a speech problem, hears God’s voice plainly, but like Jeremiah feels unworthy and unable to do what God wants him to do.

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.042
The call of Moses

Jeremiah protests, “I’m just a boy! I don’t know how to speak!” But the Lord doesn’t say, “Oh, yeah, you’re right. You’re just a boy. What was I thinking?”

God says, “You’re the one I want. No one knows you better than I! I have known you since before I formed you in your mother’s womb! I’ve been planning this all along; you are consecrated–set aside as holy–to be my prophet to the nations!!”

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.044
The call of Jeremiah

The call of Jeremiah brings to mind the call of Abraham, as well, for the Lord doesn’t specify Abraham’s final destination. He says, “Go, to a place I will show you!” The Lord assures Abraham that He will be with him wherever he goes; he needn’t be afraid!

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.043


The Lord, in a similar way, assures Jeremiah, “You shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.” God’s mighty word will lead to the “plucking up, pulling down,” and destruction of nations. But the promise is there for God’s people, though they will suffer greatly in their captivity and exile of about 50 years. Our God of mercy will also “build” and “plant.” In Jeremiah 29:11-13, we are assured of God’s wonderful plans that are still true for us today! “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.”


Someone asked me what I liked best about Montreat. “That’s easy,” I said. “Getting to know the people from my own church!!” We had lots of uninterrupted time together, in between scheduled conference activities. We stayed in a 100-year-old house without a/c, TV, radio, or Internet.


It was a simple life, except you had to go outside and down a flight of stairs to go from the bedrooms to the kitchen, dining and family room

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.049
Mike in our downstairs dining room

where we ate meals, played Uno, and snacked endlessly.


The bathrooms were interesting. Glad we didn’t have to use the heat; it was ancient!


Also for entertainment, Jacob and Mike played a rope game on the back porch.

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.056

And an orange kitty came to visit one afternoon.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I was sad when I had to leave a day early. I needed to get back to prepare for Sunday worship and a funeral Sunday afternoon. I was sad to leave Montreat, at all. For at Montreat, our group was united and renewed in faith; we had our callings as children of God, loved by God, used by God for God’s glory, confirmed! We grew to know and love more the Lord and one another. I missed the last night when Jacob and all the other high school seniors gathered around Lake Susan. They lit candles.

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.062


Then the adults and other youth laid hands on them and prayed for God’s blessing.

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.063


That Friday night, I was with them in spirit. And I continue to pray for Jacob and the youth I met at Montreat, the youth of our congregation, and the youth of our community we haven’t yet met. My prayer is that they will seek the Lord and hear God’s voice as clearly as Jeremiah heard God calling to him when he was “just a boy.”

I pray the Lord will continue to lead us and all our young people to make a WORLD of difference, as we sang in our theme song at Montreat.

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.064
Click below to hear “A World of Difference”

Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.065Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.066Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.067Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.068Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.069Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.070Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.071Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.072Aug. 21, 2016 images for blog.073


Will you pray with me?


Holy God of mercy, thank you for claiming us, calling and equipping us to love and serve you with our lives! Refresh and renew us by your Spirit, filling us with the gifts we need to do your will. Awaken in the hearts of every believer a better understanding of your plan and purpose for them, a plan that you have had for us since you formed us in our mother’s womb. Restore unto all of us the joy and peace of our salvation. Lead us to boldly and creatively reach out to the children and youth in our community with your love. In Christ we pray. Amen.

Published by karenpts

I am the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown, New York on Long Island. Come and visit! We want to share God’s love and grace with you and encourage you on your journey of faith. I have served Presbyterian congregations in Minnesota, Florida and Ohio since my ordination in 2011. I am a 2010 graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and am working on a doctor of ministry degree with Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I am married to Jim and we have 5 grown children and two grandchildren in our blended family. We are parents to fur babies, Liam, an orange tabby cat, and Minnie, a toy poodle.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Consider the Birds

Pastor Karen shares thoughts on faith, scripture, and God's love and grace revealed through backyard wildlife.

Practical Resources for Churches

Everyone has a calling. Ours is helping you.

F.O.R. Jesus

Fill up. Overflow. Run over.

Becoming HIS Tapestry

Christian Lifestyle Blogger

Whatever Happens,Rejoice.

The Joy of the Lord is our Strength

Stushie Art

Church bulletin covers and other art by artist Stushie. Unique crayon and digital worship art

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

WordPress.com News

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: