*Happy Sigh* Family camp. The time of sharing life with friends; the time of getting away from it all for a few days; the time of seeing church members in a new light; the time of talking with church folks about more than sports; the time for walking on trails and admiring God's beauty through creation; the time for doing fun things with fun people. Basically, a happy time. :-) Family Camp this year was last weekend, and I've spent a few hours transposing my logs and thoughts here, so that I can share my experiences, my joys, and my attitude adjustments with you all. God bless you as you read this most exciting tale. Oh yeah. :-)
Thursday, July 19, 2001
I took a day and a half off of work and headed up to the campground on Thursday afternoon, July 19th. I arrived at the camp at about 3:30 pm, and played Ratkiller with the Berchenbriter girls for an hour or so. That was quite a fun introduction to life at camp. :-)
After that, I went and registered at the Snack Shack. Then it was time for dinner, and after that I walked along the Fox Trail (and walked back with Tim and one of the Berchenbriter twins).
Before the evening service, I was called up to the sound booth, with the idea of watching Pastor Kory that night so I could take over for him when he left on Friday. I was planning to be gone picking up Heather on Friday night, but I volunteered my time for Saturday night and Sunday morning.
The camp speaker was D. (Dave?) Clardie from Illinois (I think). He spoke in the evening sessions and in at least one of the three-per-day morning seminars in the tabernacle. Here are some notes from the evening service Thursday night:
- clean laughter is a good thing
- story about witnessing to Eric Clapton
- Acts 9:26 -- coming face to face with the Holy Spirit
- spiritual provision on Straight Street
- let God do the changes (no judging) -- Ananias said "Brother Saul" before Saul became Paul
- Acts 9:10-18 -- baptism
- Holy Spirit having me rather than me having the Holy Spirit
- "worldly pleasure"
- Gal. 2:20 -- Satan can't kill us because we're already dead
- Paul had all of God and God had all of him
- 2 Timothy 4:6-8
- Acts 9:26 -- burn for the glory of God
After the evening service I stayed at the tabernacle to watch the afterglow movie "The Road to Redemption." This is a Billy Graham-sponsored movie about a woman who through some connections with the mafia owes $250,000. In order to get the money, she tries to restore a long-neglected relationship with her grandfather, who is wealthy, but is in a care center because of a heart condition. He agrees to give her the money if she'll take him fishing. She agrees, and they embark on a multiple-state journey in the woman's VW Beetle. Eventually the two are left without transportation or supplies, but through a few unexpected turns of events (Christian motorcycle riders, etc), they eventually get to carry out their fishing date. Throughout the course of the movie, the woman's heart is slowly changed as she grows closer to her God-fearing grandfather and especially as she almost loses him to a flare-up of his heart condition.
During the movie I sat by Sandy Merritt and her kids, and for a while Amy Lehman and her kids. This was a good experience, as it was a chance to share a little time with church folks in a setting other than a church service or a formal church gathering of some sort. And besides, one of the Lehman toddlers enjoyed standing by my knee (how cute).. :-)
I spent a little time after the movie at the campsite (I stayed in my car Thursday night, parked near Sam's camping area, although Sam didn't arrive until Friday evening). I went to bed a little after midnight.
Friday, July 20, 2001
Friday morning I woke up about 8:00, and then read my Bible some in the car before the morning seminars.
The morning seminars were held at the Tabenacle (on the tables in back). The first was a game/message from the camp speaker D. Clardie, the second was a testimony / life story from District Superintendent R. McClung. The third seminar was a talk by the new camp manager Jeff Robbins (also the new pastor at Faith Wesleyan in Cedar Falls). Jeff talked about Ezekiel 37 (dry bones). Some memorable comments are "every member a minister; every minister a servant," and "happy members == productive members"
The seminars went until noon, and then it was lunchtime. After lunch, I walked along the trail that follows the river east(?) of the soccer field (a rarely-used trail, I think). Then, at 1:55 or so, I left in the car for Minneapolis to pick up Heather. I had tried to some extent to arrange a ride for Heather, but nothing presented itself, so I went to pick her up. The trip up was an all-right one. It rained at least half of the way up, but not heavily, so it wasn't bad. I was thinking that it would take about two hours to go from Floyd to Minneapolis, but in the end it took closer to three, considering that I took 35W, the long way to Guidant, and there was a good deal of rush hour traffic in Minneapolis at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday. But I made it to Guidant at about 5:15 (after only one major wrong turn, finding myself on the southbound road near Guidant, instead of the northbound, which is the one I needed); after arriving I had a nice chat with the guard, and picked up Heather.
We started back to camp quickly and stopped only once -- at the TA in Albert Lea -- we ate at the McDonalds there. From there it was straight back to camp, except for a stop at the quaint new gas station in Floyd (with their gas price of $1.289/gallon). We got back to camp a little before 9:00 (just missing the evening service). Our first priorities were finding Heather a place to stay, and getting her registered. Heather ended up staying in the car while I stayed in Sam's large tent with Matthew -- so it worked out all right, I think.
After settling in and registration, Heather and I went to the soccer field -- this was about 10 PM and strangely enough it was still sort of light out, and the combination of that and the thick haze made stargazing difficult. Heather wanted to get to sleep too, so we went back to the campsite and Heather went to sleep. I stayed up a little and talked with the the Sam fam for a bit, and went to bed at about midnight.
Saturday, July 21, 2001
Saturday morning I got up at 7:45 a.m. I then ate breakfast at the campsite (just a couple granola bars). It was at breakfast that I first got a chance to ride in Rob Braden's new(used) Jeep (oh the funness of open-top cars), and heard about Tom's car issues (which involved missing a turn, running over a curb, bending the wheel rim, and having to leave the car in Charles City until Monday or later).
Then Heather and I headed off to the morning seminars. The first was another game/talk with the camp speaker -- a talk on Psalm 145. After the first hour, Heather was restless and wanted to enjoy the happy outdoor weather, so we walked around for the next couple of hours -- walking to the campsite, the spring, the soccer trail, the river, and the fox trail (basically the grand tour of Cedar Springs outdoor attractions). We spent the most time at the river, skipping stones and fun stuff like that (neither of us fell in, thankfully). We also followed the fox trail further than usual -- past the rope, to the point where the trail basically ceases to be a trail, thanks to Heather, the explorer with the safari Guidant hat.
Then it was lunchtime, and after that Heather and I went walking again. We were passing through the apple orchard on our way to the baptism at the spring when we saw two deer. They were less frightened than we expected, and they stayed fairly close by for 15-20 minutes, at one time getting as close as 30 feet away. Eventually the cars on the nearby road scared them into the cornfield (amazing how they can avoid the barbed wire), and we went on our way. The baptism was a good time, with about 5 people being baptised, mostly 5-15 year olds. One woman was also baptized -- a woman who was from the Minneapolis area and stayed in the camper next to Sam's.
After the baptism we came back to the campsite because for a while it looked like rain (but it didn't really rain much that afternoon). This was the beginning of what we might call The Badminton Issue. Heather & I played badminton for awhile at the campsite, but we were finally hindered when our one birdie got stuck in the tree. We had a frisbee with us, and tried to use the frisbee to get the birdie out. After a few throws the frisbee also got stuck in the tree. It was then that the camper neighbors donated some horseshoes to the cause, and managed to get three of them stuck in the tree at one point. Then Sam joined in the fun with a football, but it got stuck too. Finally, Sam had a four foot (or so) tent pole that he threw into the tree -- and it got stuck on the first throw. Now it wasn't as though we had all of this stuff in the tree at once, but things were constantly getting stuck in or falling out of the tree. Finally, after maybe 15 minutes we managed to get all the stuff out of the tree. We decided to put the badminton game away then. Soon after one of the camp workers came by with a step ladder to help, but we were already done. I'm not sure how much good the short ladder would have done anyway though; I suggested we could have used it as a battering ram -- as in throwing the whole ladder into the tree and trying to get the other stuff out that way. Thankfully we didn't need to do that.
After that event we played cards for a while (Ratkiller, of course). As usual, we went back and forth exchanging cards for quite a while, but just before I lost it was time to go help the music team set up the PowerPoint slides and such, so we postponed the end of the game.
Music practice was a fun time. Heather and I got to be in our natural environment (computers, of course), and got to mess with the computer that was annoying because you couldn't type more than a sentence or two before it would act as if you'd pressed the up arrow -- very annoying, especially when you're trying to transpose a whole song quickly (just ask Heather). [Someone at work says that Compaq trackpads are known for such issues.]
After practice, we finished our card game (it took me about 30 seconds to lose). Then we walked down by the river and along the fox trail again, where we found Sam working on the trail. Then we walked back to the fox trail entrance with Sam and then went to dinner.
The evening service was our first experience of being in charge of the PowerPoint slides in front of lots of people. Heather got to be the official space-bar pusher to advance the slides. A fun time.
Here are some notes from the evening service message:
- 1 Thess. 3 is all about faith -- leads to holiness
- Heb 11 -- by faith
**1: God wants to give me faith (1 Thess. 3:2)
- Eph 2:8-9; 1 Cor 3:11; Luke 19:10 -- LA street corner, etc.
**2: God wants to examine my faith (1 Thess. 3:5)
- 1 Cor 13:5; Luke 17:5
- the devil sets the fire and then makes us blame each other for it
- 1 Peter 5:8 -- seeking to devour; we need to recognize and resist the enemy
**3: God sends help for my faith (1 Thess 3:6)
- God is still on the throne
- "gift" of discipline and correction
- better to have the gift of encouragement
**4: God uses my faith (1 Thess 3:7)
- to help others
- God still works miracles
- for many problems we *cannot* do anything -- our faith *has* to work
**5: God wants to increase my faith (1 Thess 3:10)
- Romans 10:17
- don't limit God (with lack of faith)
- drink as deep as you want to drink
- **God is still on the throne**
After the service there was a reception for the Rittgers, who are going to be moving to Emily Minnesota where Gary has bought a hardware store. This was a weekend of transition of sorts, since Rittgers' were leaving as camp managers and the Robbins' were just starting.
At the end of this reception I think I maybe was stressing Heather's patience (not to mention my own) trying to figure out what to do about finding Heather a ride home on Sunday afternoon. From the outset, I had intended to find someone from Minneapolis to take her back, but I hadn't found anyone yet, and I was getting tired of asking, and for whatever reason I was slowly forming the thought in my mind that I was "supposed" to take her back myself (call it an unction from God, or not, I'm not sure what it was). So I waited a long time to ask Gary about it, and I finally decided not to ask, thinking that *if* God wanted to find a ride for her besides myself, it was up to Him. This caused me a theological issue, because I couldn't figure out where the line was between "Trust God" and "God gives you a brain" -- In one sense I feel like if I don't make things happen, then nothing happens; on the other hand, trying to make my way happen doesn't always leave room for God to move. So sometime during the sermon or shortly afterwards I committed myself to the second trip to Minneapolis barring God's further work, and I didn't ask anyone else about it.
So anyway, after the reception, Heather and I went out to the soccer field again and watched stars from the picnic table. We formulated a theory, which states, "Stargazing is an excuse to talk" -- one of those "wow" statements that I think is really true. We talked about a lot of things (mostly I listened, but that was okay). It was an inspiring time for me, I think, since it was one of the very few one-on-one, in person, substantive conversations I've had with someone my age this summer. (Happy Joe) After awhile, some other folks drove to the soccer field as well (Rob, Tom, etc), and we left when the added talking became distracting. We ended up out by the orchard again, where we talked some more abut life and other such fun topics. Then we went to sleep in the car and the tent (same as last night), at about midnight.
While I was waiting for sleep to take hold of me, I was thinking some random thoughts, which I later wrote down. My unfinished words of art were something like this: "Memories come like tye-dyed paint on an upright canvas: smeared, blurred, and quickly dripping; non-distinct, yet distinctly powerful..." That's as far as my thoughts took me.
Sunday, July 22, 2001
Sunday morning I woke up about 7:40, and proceeded to eat breakfast at the campsite. During breakfast, we learned of Sam's trials -- you'll remember he had worked on the fox trail for a couple hours on Saturday, and probably had not given his body enough time to heal from a previous pinched nerve sort of problem. So he was suffering on Sunday morning, and later Sharon took him in to the doctor, who gave him a pain shot and some medication and told him to take it easy.
At 8:30 Heather and I made our way to the tabernacle sound booth once again to take the reigns of the fun computer and PowerPoint. The music team practiced for about an hour, and then there was a special video at 9:30 -- a farewell to Pastor Joe & Della Mott, leaders of the Family Hour, a show on TV in Austin Minnesota...the final episode was hosted by Pastor Randy Peterson, the current pastor in Austin.
Here are some notes from the Sunday morning service (D.
- 1 John 4:4 & 5:4 -- greater is He that is in me
- **Victory** and how to gain it
- you're never more vulnerable to defeat than immediately following a victory
- Ps. 34
- all people get trapped in a "rinse cycle" sometimes (trials)
***A. victory comes when I accept (receive) the Lord (Ps 34:8)
- Ps. 34:18,22 -- God is a refuge; Romans 8:1
- the need of the heart is the same for the music star and the prostitute
***B. victory comes when I commit my fears to the Lord
- 1) trace your fears (perfect love casts out fear)
- 2) face your fear (Is 41:10)
- 3) place your fear (on Jesus)
- 4) space your fear (Matt 6:33-34)
- Ps. 34:4 -- deliverance from fear
***C. victory comes when I call out to the Lord
- seeking the voice of God
- God never mistakes our voice
- Hebrews -- angels are ministering spirits
The morning service was over at about 11:30, and we left camp soon after that, perhaps 11:45 or 12:00. We saw some "cool" clouds between Floyd and Mason City (storm clouds), and had some rain to go along with them. We drove through and stopped in Albert Lea again, this time stopping to go through the drive thru at Burger King (west of I-35). The rest of the trip to Minneapolis was fairly uneventful. When we got into the Minneapolis area, there wasn't the rush hour traffic that there had been on Friday night, but that almost made it worse, since cars were trying to merge onto the road at 55 MPH instead of 10 MPH. I had an issue when 4 cars tried to merge as I was going by, and I couldn't switch lanes. They all got in somehow, but I'm sure they weren't all real happy. Then when I pulled into Heather's apartment parking lot, I was rushing to beat the door from closing on me, so I had a little side-mirror issue -- you know, when you get a little too close to the side and scrape your mirror. I was glad it didn't knock the mirror off completely.
I took a short break at Heather's place, and then was off again on my way back to good old Cedar Rapids. One of the fun things on the way home was seeing Brian (from work) and his wife as they passed me in their car near Manly...I assume they were heading back from their parents' homes in Hutchinson, MN. I stopped in Floyd for gas, and continued on. As I neared Urbana, I saw that a storm was ahead. As I drove further on, I found myself in the middle of the storm; some folks stopped along the side of the road; I kept driving, but at a slower pace, since I could barely see the road through the rain. It's always fun driving through thunderstorms. :-) But I made it, and finally reached home at 7:32 p.m. on Sunday night.
Well if you've read this far, you must really be interested in my life, and therefore my thoughts. I obviously enjoyed the weekend spent at camp, and even though it's a week later now, I think it has had some impact on my everyday life. I'll try and give an accurate portrayal...
First of all, there was the issue of travel. As I was planning this trip, I was hoping to not have to travel to Minneapolis. I sent email to some of the churches in Minneapolis about two weeks before I left, and didn't get a response. About a week before camp, I called several churches, and again didn't receive a response until it was too late. So I resigned myself to traveling to Minneapolis on Friday afternoon to pick Heather up. While at camp, I asked a few people about taking Heather back on Sunday, but no one really offered a ride. Eventually, I got tired of asking. I wasn't going to let this issue be a distraction from the weekend activities. Saturday night, I was frustrated about the state of matters, but during the service on Saturday night, I made up my mind (more or less) to take Heather back on Sunday, unless someone offered a ride based on my previous asking.
The strange part of all this is how my thoughts changed over time, and how several things seemed to work together to bring about this result. First of all, on Thursday before I left for camp I wanted to check my email to see if Heather or Maya had any leads on a ride, but I couldn't because Iowa State's mail server was under attack by a virus -- quite the unusual event. Then, while at camp, I slowly realized that it was going to be hard to find a ride for Heather. At first I was upset, like I said, but eventually I got used to the idea. She commented once on Saturday that she had some issues with riding with people she didn't know (something I had wondered about), so that gave me more incentive to drive her back. Finally, by Sunday, I was almost wanting to make the trip, and almost hoping that no one would try to change my mind. I don't know if it was not wanting to let the weekend end, or just not wanting to have to change my plans again, or truly God's will, but whatever the case, I felt "God's peace" about it.
As I mentioned before, there is a theological issue here in trying to call this an "act of God". On the one hand, when trying to find God's will, we are called to wait upon God and for his direction and leading...supposedly we should just be patient, or "be still and know I am God". On the other hand, many are quick to point out that God also gave us a brain, and so for us to be completely inactive may just be our laziness -- and God may not rescue us if we do not make the effort that we can. There is a fine line here, and for me it was a problem (like it always is). Do I look for a ride, or let God decide? Always a hard question. Faith tells me I should let God decide. But my biased view of life and experience tells me that if I don't act, nothing will change. This is probably a bad attitude, but it is my perception most of the time.
Well if you haven't noticed , the weekend was obviously a "Heather weekend". I think this was something I needed -- one on one contact with a trusted friend, someone I could "be myself" around with all my dumb jokes and stuff. Before camp, I had been on a sort of downward turn, with the typicalness of life in CR and work and computer stuff and all the usual stuff. I had noticed my own lack of patience with some people, which bothered me. During the weekend, I think I was reminded of some of my higher-minded thoughts of a few months ago, a reminder that helped me regain a more correct and satisfying perspective on life. For example, this spring and summer has, to some extent, been a time of trying to keep in touch with people who apparently don't want to keep in touch. There have only been a few people like this, but those few have impacted my thinking, drawing me down into the once-familiar thoughts of "people are dumb" and other such evil thoughts. Since sharing the hours with friends and fellow Christians, my mind has been "softened" once more -- blessed with renewed hope, and, again, a new perspective. I truly thank God for the opportunity, for the time spent, for the messages heard, and for the safety we had while traveling.
One other topic that came up at least twice was passion. I think there are a lot of terms -- hope, faith, passion, "life" in that "life"ful way -- that all relate to similar ideas. Passion is something we all need, but often find hard to grasp, because it's not something we can purchase or wish into existence. It can only come from God, ultimately, and often it takes the cooperation of us all sometimes to share the passion with one another, and one of the goals of time spent with friends, I believe, is to encourage the godly kinds of passion and hope and faith that we all need help to realize. I'm tempted to say that happy phrase "love with skin on", but that particular phrase wasn't a highlight of my thought life this weekend, so I'll just leave it at that and let you draw the parallel if your mind chooses to do so.
Finally, I want to leave you with a reminder of the new phrase coined at camp: "Stargazing is an excuse to talk." If you know me, you know that I talk about stargazing a lot, along with sunrises, sunsets, watching hot air balloons etc. All of these activities in one way or another are my wishful thinking about spending time with people in a unique and special way. I've noticed this summer that conversation is often not very satisfying if it's not one-on-one. For me at least, often I find myself squelched out of conversation simply because I don't think "on my feet" as fast as some others, or I don't share the same interests. Perhaps the biggest issue though is that it's a whole lot easier to delve into "deep" subjects one-on-one, because in group conversation the topic seems to change quite often. Sometimes one-on-one conversations are that way as well, but there seems to be more of a chance to steer the conversation back on the subject.
Well, I don't know if my thoughts are profoundly coherent tonight. I have an idea of what has changed, and what the weekend has meant to me, and I think I've done a fair job of relating that to you...but, like usual, there always seems to be more to tell, because I'm longwinded. But nothing comes to mind right now, so I'll sign off. Just remember, go stargazing with your friends, not just to watch stars, but to make memories, and to share the thoughts and attitudes that the normal pace of life will not allow. And when you socialize with your friends, take a deep breath, enjoy it, and remember it, because you will probably realize (like me) that those are the best times in life. Amen.