(I don’t know if this counts, but Amanda asked us to share our thoughts about worship this morning. So, here goes…)

Sometimes we all need to be reminded that we are merely humans. Thank you, RISE, for the much-needed reminder this morning that we all need a break. Even God took a day to rest after creating the universe. So, what makes US think we can do it all? What stops us from taking a deep breath, from stepping outside and admiring a beautiful sunset, or from just taking a walk to clear our minds? On that note, I will be taking a break from Facebook and Twitter this week to clear my head. What can you do this week to give yourself a break?

Who do we let name us?
Small Things with Great Love Means Loving Yourself

This post was submitted by Phil Quagliariello.

Yesterday at RISE we had the incredible privilege of hosting Margot Starbuck, author of several books, including Small Things with Great Love.  If you haven’t read the book yet (why haven’t you?), the basic premise is that in the quest to change the world, it’s often not the huge, attention seeking gestures that make a greatest impact, but it’s showing love in small practical ways in your everyday interactions.  I won’t give you a book report, but I would encourage you to read the book, because if you are like me and find yourself often frustrated by the magnitude of the world’s problems, there is an incredible freedom in showing love in the little things. It can also, for however brief a moment, remind you that your life matters, and that to the person you are showing love to, that act of love is just as huge as an act of love that impacts a wider audience.  

As part of the “Stories and Voices” series, we were asked to share practical applications to Margot’s talk and how we feel this applies to us on a personal level.  For those of you who know me or have heard some of my story, you know that the past year or so has been a difficult one.  Filled with life altering traumas, from the ending a marital relationship, close friends being tragically killed in car accidents, losing a job, transitioning into a leadership position at RISE, and the list seems endless.  As a result of these many events, I have been forced (not literally) to do some serious self-evaluation and processing of not only these events, but the underlying themes that maybe have correlational (is that a word?) relevance, namely trying to figure out what my part is in all of these happenings.  

What stood out to me in Margot’s sharing yesterday was this statement, “It’s often easy to believe that God loves the WHOLE world, it’s often more difficult to believe that God loves ME”.  Ok, so mind, heart, and soul officially blown apart by that statement, which brings me to my realization, which I would like to share with you who are reading, and hopefully by my sharing, it may resonate with you.

For me, I have always been an “other-centric” person, which is not a bad thing.  I try to dedicate my time and energy and passions to helping people in practical ways.  Most often this presents itself in overachieving, overworking, and being generally overzealous about everything.  I don’t think this is negative per se, but it could be, depending on the motivation.  For me, it clicked when Margot made that statement, that maybe my super outward focus stems from a place of codependence and an inability to accept the fact that I am worth something to God, and that it’s ok to allow God to love me right where I am, right in my mess.  My response to my mess has been to compartmentalize it, shove it down, pretend it’s not there, and focus instead on fixing everyone else’s messes.  This brings up several questions.  I will only present questions here for two reasons; one, that I don’t have the answers, and two, that offering an answer or solution totally negates the idea that I am trying to convey.  

Could it be that I/we are not called to fix other people’s messes, but instead to allow God to fill us with his unfathomable Love, so that we can then give that Love to people who need it, from a place of wholeness, instead of a place of neediness?  

Could it be that I/we are trying to solve the world’s problems to cover up some hidden need in our own hearts and souls to be loved ourselves?  

Could it be that God is big enough to be aware of all the world’s messes, including mine, and that the best way to Love people is not to attempt to fix their messes or solve their problems, but instead to allow ourselves to be made whole by God’s love?  This then frees us to sit with people in their struggles, and not necessarily offer solutions (which isn’t always bad), but to just allow them to be and to allow them to feel on the deepest level that we are saying “Me too!”.  

So, to me, Small Things with Great Love means loving ourselves, not in a narcissistic manner, but in the way that we give ourselves permission to accept and receive God’s love without fear, shame, or guilt.  This is exactly why we say “Receive Love. Give Love. Repeat.”


The RISE Bakery: Exploring the Dream

On the weekend of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Amanda shared two dreams with the RISE community. We like to think of them as our big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs). One of these dreams was to start a bakery that would not only provide jobs for people in our community who need them, but also be a place for neighbors to gather and grow. Since January, a team of six inspired individuals has been exploring the possibility of such a bakery in Harrisonburg. Here’s an update from the team on what they’ve been up to.

Fellowship is a very churchy word and it generally involves food. Connecting with others, however, is a very real thing, a very important thing, and food can definitely help to facilitate that connection. The RISE Bakery Team has been meeting for six months now, and we have decided that while Harrisonburg might not need another place to purchase food, there is a very real need for connection. There are many different people groups living among us who may or may not feel connected to the Harrisonburg community, and we acknowledge that this idea of community means different things to different people. Many of these groups struggle to assimilate into a culture that is quite unfamiliar and are burdened by a language barrier that is very difficult to overcome. It’s possible to live in Harrisonburg and not even know they exist. One group in particular that is often marginalized in communities across the country is the refugee population.

During a time of great turmoil in their country of origin, refugees leave behind their homes, friends, and possibly even the majority of their families in order to find safety. As would many of us if forced to leave a familiar place, many refugees feel lonely and lost when they arrive in a brand new country. They might not have the job skills that are typically valued in the United States, or their education may be limited by our country’s standards. Over the last year and a half, we have had the tremendous opportunity of getting to know some refugees in Harrisonburg through our RISE & Shine hygiene ministry. As we have journeyed through the idea of a bakery we’ve realized that God has put these people in our midst for a reason. We want to better understand their needs and help them to feel at home in what may still feel like a foreign land.

We’ve also learned that we’re not the only ones who have been dreaming about a bakery with a job-training component. Others in our community have this dream as well and we hope to partner with them in meaningful and purposeful ways. We’ve also taken some time to explore similar models across the country (via some web research) and in Virginia (via visits to these sweet establishments!). One example that we are already in love with is 2nd Helpings in Roanoke, VA. Imagine something like this in Harrisonburg! We hope you’re as excited as we are! Many details are still yet to be determined, but we do know this:

1.     LOCAL. We’re keeping it local and focusing on the Harrisonburg community.

2.     JOB TRAINING. We’d like to create a job-training component that will help refugees to learn basic professional skills that they can carry into future employment.

3.     BREAD. We hope to sell bread, including recipes from some of our refugee friends.

4.     SMALL BEGINNINGS. We hope to begin with a table at the Harrisonburg Farmer’s Market in April 2013.

5.     COMMUNITY. We want to meet people where they are and support them in the ways that they want to be supported, not just what we think they want.


Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support over the last several months of this process. If you have questions about the bakery, please contact Laura Toni-Holsinger (LToniHolsinger@yahoo.com).

What the Sun Doesn’t Say

This post was submitted by Jessica Strickler.

As a member of the Harrisonburg community, I have lived in this area my entire life, and during the month of July, I visited five locations I have never been before:

At EMU Hill, I prayed with someone I barely knew, but as it turns out, we were facing some of the same challenges and heartaches in our personal lives. For this reason, prayer was a realization that we are not alone in what we face, even though it may seem that way at times.

White Oak Lavender Farm started out as a gray evening, and after a long conversation with a little bit of prayer, we opened our eyes to see a spectacular sunset that literally got wider, wider, wider. As it spread, the colors changed, projecting the beauty of a thousand dreams and hopes across the sky, mine included.  

The JMU Quad was completely empty, and it was humbling to know that in just a few short weeks, as the students return, it will buzz with activity long past sunset. For myself, as an out-of-state college student, this also points directly towards my return to school.  

While at the Miller Farm, the prayer took on a new level of conversation, getting to know two people my own age a little better. The ease of smiles and small talk are seemingly mundane, but this is what allows us to recognize how all of the little moments are what fill the big picture. This moment of simplicity and relaxation carried me through the week with a spring in my step.

The final evening of prayer brought mixed emotions, and mixed weather. The sky atop Reddish Knob was dark and we could see rain approaching from the distance. There was only the smallest sliver of sunset through the clouds, and the wind was fierce. From the highest point in the area, watching the storm attempt to push out the sun, but the sun fighting back, and even winning just a little, reminded me so much of how we can be tempted in the world to abandon our God.

I’d like to close by sharing my favorite poem, written by the 14th century poet, Hafiz. For me, this is a perfect culminating description of Sunset Prayer: 



All this time

The sun never says to the earth,


“You owe




What happens

With a love like that,

It lights the



Anna Woelk and her family shared the love from the mountains of Red River, New Mexico!
As you travel this summer, get a picture or video of you in your RISE shirt and post it to our Facebook page or here on our blog!

Anna Woelk and her family shared the love from the mountains of Red River, New Mexico!

As you travel this summer, get a picture or video of you in your RISE shirt and post it to our Facebook page or here on our blog!

Mark Fries is sharing the love in New Mexico!
As you travel this summer, get a picture or video of you in your RISE shirt and post it to our Facebook page or here on our blog!

Mark Fries is sharing the love in New Mexico!

As you travel this summer, get a picture or video of you in your RISE shirt and post it to our Facebook page or here on our blog!

"Even the biggest villain is still a child of God."

This post was submitted by Jen Kratz.

This morning my heart was overwhelmed, with both sadness and gratitude.  Gratitude for this much needed rain and sadness for the events in Colorado.  I felt this overwhelming desire to spend my time as I traveled to work praying.  I turned the radio off and just begun praying out loud.  Thanking God for this wonderful rain and thanking Him for reminding me that while the day may seem dreary, this weather was a much needed blessing to so many!  And then I started praying about the tragedy in Colorado.  Of course I prayed for the victims and their families and then I heard myself say “and God please be with the shooter”  WHAT DID I JUST SAY???  I was honestly taken back by my own words.  And I took a moment and questioned why it was I was praying for this individual that had taken the lives of innocent people and affected the lives of so many more.  But I went with it… I continued to pray for him and found myself stumbling over my words as to what to pray for exactly, in regards to him or why I was even doing it.  And then… then the words came “Lord, be with him because He is a child of yours!”  

Instantly I was reminded of a recent message at RISE that referenced praying for everyone, because everyone means everyone.  That even the biggest villian is still a child of God!  ”…even the Sandusky’s of the world” echoed in my ears.  

I am thankful for the opportunities, like this morning, to realize that what I am hearing each week is really sinking in and even, dare I say, sneaking into my everyday life!  

Preparing for Sunset Prayer (photo by Catie Hatcher via Instagram)

Preparing for Sunset Prayer (photo by Catie Hatcher via Instagram)