Walking With

God is so baffling. 

Deep inside, I think all of us really would like Him to simply swoop in and take care of business. I mean, do we really need to live through that toddler having a diaper explosion in the restaurant? Couldn’t he just nudge us past the calls from the school principal, the stomach flu, losing a beloved grandma, or holding that old and faithful dog in our arms as the vet puts him to sleep?

Goodness, I’ve been a Christian since I was four years old. I know that He can. I’ve seen miracles, I’ve lived beside miracles, but for some reason that is not God’s usual modus operandi. 

On most days, He simply walks with us or rather, draws us into walking with Him.

Our family experienced just such a moment this week. The terror and the beauty of journeying through something we absolutely did not want to experience and yet being struck by God’s undeniable presence throughout it all. 

Last week was the Camas Spring Break Survival Camp. A day camp where kids get to learn how to (safely) start a campfire, tie knots, boil water, set snares, build survival shelters, and use a compass among other skills. Scruffy was sidelined with a fever and chills and so Choco took up the slack. I stepped in to help as well and things were proceeding despite his illness. Our camp nurse asked if we needed any help, but we couldn’t think of anything for her to do and declined.

Then we got the news from our mechanic, our car was on its final lap around the track. Yikes! So I jumped online to see if there was anything in our price range. A vehicle, 2.5 hours away, that seemed perfect. Scruff was feeling good enough to car shop, but we were needed at Survival Camp. So we called up that camp nurse and said that yes, we needed her help after all. 

Right before she arrived, Scruff began to experience chest and jaw pain. I went to camp and had a chat with her. We found out that jaw pain was a huge red flag and so I called our Dr. who recommended an ER visit. Scruff didn’t want to go in, but said that it was my call. We sat on the couch, trying to decide and I looked back over the day. Everything just lined up too nicely, enabling us to get to the ER, now that the nurse had arrived to help. Was God nudging me to take him in? I didn’t know, but told Scruff that we were headed to the ER all the same.

At the ER all his tests came back great. He figured that we were wasting their time and the nurses and Doctors told us that we would be on our way home as soon as Scruffy’s blood work came back. Then our room began to fill with medical professionals. 

There is an enzyme released when the heart muscle is damaged. It only shows up 4 to 6 hours after heart damage. We arrived at the ER 4 hours after his chest pain, they drew blood for the test at 5 hours, perfectly within that window. That test came back positive for heart damage. Something had happened and we arrived exactly when we needed for the Doctors to discover it. 

As Scruff was talking to the cardiologist, another heart episode occurred. “You are having a heart attack,” she informed us in stern tones. “Sign these consent papers!” As various nurses were stealing his pants and putting nitro pills under his tongue, he signed on the dotted line and they rushed him away on a rolling bed.

We had plans for a 7.5 hour drive the next day. In case you are wondering, Nitro is not readily available at your average gas station or greasy spoon. 

Another heart event occurred in the night. It required a Nitro drip and an hour and a half to resolve. We should have been in Oregon, far away from home and doctors and all those powerful medicines that saved the day.

Scruffy did not have a blockage, however. It was inflammation of the heart muscle and lining. With a good diet, calm exercise, and taking it easy for a few months, his heart should heal just fine. We are heading into the summer camp season where diet is extravagant, exercise is extreme, and taking it easy is unheard of. But now he knows to guard his health and get the help he needs rather than just pushing through and doing everything on his own.

Sure, God didn’t swoop in the save the day. Yet, in a way He did. He was so clearly with us, every step of the way. So I want to encourage you, just because the path is dark and the obstacles are horrendous, that does not mean that you are forgotten by your Creator. He walks beside His children. He tugs at their heartstrings and draws them to walk beside Himself. He loves, He moves, He is there in all His Glory and Grace. It just doesn’t always look like what we would have chosen but is no less real all the same.

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. –Psalm 23

 

Boo Boo

 

Quiet Miracles

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Have you ever wondered if God is really there?

That’s a big question, the kind of query that philosophers and theologians have spent lifetimes debating. Yet, no matter our chosen vocation, educational background, abilities or limitations, it is a question that each of us must face.

All this is made harder by the fact that God doesn’t always make sense. If He would just always answer our prayers with a big heavenly “YES” and keep all believers from injury, illness, death, and taxes it would be easy to believe. But He has His own way of doing things.

It always amazes me though, how God will provide for our small struggling faith. That time I snapped impatiently at someone, but couldn’t leave my young children unattended to go and apologize. That prayer: “Lord, if I should address this, You make a way.” And the answer, the very person I’d been short with, standing in the lunch line right next to me. The free astro van that a friend of a friend provided only weeks after Scruffy was concerned that we needed something. I had balked and then shot an impatient prayer up to my Lord: “If Scruff’s right, then You’re just going to have to do something, Lord, because I don’t see how this is going to work.” There were bigger things, like the pony my parents never intended to buy me that I prayed about for a year. Out of the blue, someone gave Shortcake to our family, against my parents wishes. The time God sternly indicated that we should send our oldest to public school, even though I already had my home school curriculum all picked out. Then there are the hard things, answered prayers when my step dad was dying of cancer. Those prayers for healing, not the answer we wanted. But time after time my mom was given divine assistance that just didn’t make sense. That moment she couldn’t lift Dave and she prayed and someone just happened to knock on her door. Over and over the Lord showed His presence, yet in the end Dave still died, with God right there, showing Himself, walking beside my mom. 

I have a story from this summer. A quiet miracle that could so easily be missed. It did not send a revival through camp, bring a lost soul to heaven’s gate, or change the course of nations. But it meant everything to me.

Scruffy is fabulous with connecting with campers and staff and old school buddies and random strangers who need help reaching something off the top shelf at the store. Me, not so much. Give me a blank Word document or a sheet of paper and I can communicate with the best of them, but present an actual living breathing human and I tend to not do as well. 

Despite my inadequacies, a senior high camper friended me on facebook last year. Let’s call her…Cordelia. We had several meaningful exchanges. But then the terrible truth hit me like a semi truck barreling down Blewett Pass. I wouldn’t recognize Cordelia in real life! We’d made a connection and due to my deficiencies in recognizing actual human faces, I was bound to walk right past her if she came to camp again. I rushed to Scruffy and demanded that he describe this camper in detail. He did, but so many girls could fit that description. I peered at Cordelia’s tiny profile picture on facebook and scrolled through photo after photo on her feed. It was no use, I could not be certain that I would recognize her in real life. I was bound to hurt her feelings when next we met. Finally, as a last resort, after doing my best to memorize her photo, I prayed. “Lord, I do not want to hurt this girl after our chats on facebook. Please, help me to recognize her.”

Did God answer my prayer?

Not the way I expected, but yes, He did.

I did not recognize her. Cordelia walked right past me on Lake day. My inabilities in the people department remained. Nary a twinge of new face recognition powers. I was hopeless. God however, is not.

One of the camp staff walked up to me and said “Did you see Cordelia. She is right over there.” She pointed and described the individuals surrounding Cordelia whom she’d driven to the lake with and even the color of swimsuit that Cordelia was wearing.

What are the odds? God came through for me, though He did not give me new abilities. He chose to work through someone else with the talent to recognize not only faces but clothing and swimming companions as well. Then God marched that talented person right over to my beach blanket and had them spout off all the relevant info in time for me to go and say hi to Cordelia before she left.

God is there and yes, He is working, just not always in the way that You and I expect. You can trust Him, at the lake out in the beautiful sunshine and at the side of a loved one who is passing away despite the fact that your heart is breaking. I can’t explain Him. I don’t know what the heck He is doing or thinking or planning. But I know that He loves and He works and He is here. Ever working, ever present, ever God.

I Corinthians 15:10–“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect.”

 

Boo Boo

 

 

 

Scruffy and That Boys Cabin

Jr. High camp has been an amazing and challenging adventure this week. Two girls and three boys chose to become followers of Christ, fun was had, kids were loved. A good week. But for this blog, I’m going to focus on a single moment.

There was a moment this week at camp. You know what I mean. A snapshot, an image that you never expected, a slice of time that you want to keep in your heart forever.

It looked like this…

Scruffy kneeling on the gritty linoleum of one of the boys cabins, weeping as Odysseus knelt at his side. And beside them were two twelve-year-old boys, praying for their camp director.

Not what you expected is it? Usually we see kids laughing and dumping water on their camp director, weeping themselves at campfire as they throw in a stick and share, or sitting on the wall by the bell tower listening to the camp director as he doles out a consequence for their misdeeds.

So this is how it happened. Once upon a time there was this really rowdy cabin of boys. And Scruffy gave them this totally awesome counselor because he knew just looking at the cabin assignments how very rowdy they would be. They met and exceeded all expectations and kept their counselor hopping all week long. After chapel the counselor asked Scruff to come and share his testimony, because you may not know it, but Scruffy did not walk out of the polished doors of a church and become camp director. His tale is more like that of C.S. Lewis, dragged screaming and kicking into the kingdom of God.

“I was born to a sixteen-year-old unwed mother, while my father was in jail…” was how Scruff began his testimony. And those rowdy boys listened. Because Scruffy hadn’t had everything going for him. He grew up without a dad and without a mom, surrounded by addiction, and eventually chose addiction himself. But God called and Scruff answered and never looked back.

Then cabin time was over and the boys left, all but two. Those two boys stayed and talked, for another hour. Because sometimes you need to meet someone who didn’t grow up with a dad and a mom who loved them and told them about Jesus for 18 years. Sometimes you need to meet someone whose Mom died before he started kindergarten, whose dad left when she was killed, someone who started drinking hard alcohol as a middleschooler, and was in the first stages of alcoholism before he could legally drink. And when you realize that this is the same man who has not been drunk since 1992, has served as a camp director for 15 summers, been a faithful and loving husband for 14 years this August, and a wonderful Dad for a decade, this is the kind of thing that can give a boy hope. Hope that we are not just the sum of our past plus the mistakes of our family. Hope that God has called us to be more. Hope that He loves us exactly how we are and can change us into something that we always wanted to be.

And when Scruffy shared about the fear that he did not have the skills to be the Dad to his boys that he longed to be. That without a good example, he was destined to fail. This twelve-year-old told him that he should pray and God would give him what he needed. Scruff asked the boys to pray for him…and they did.

And that was a moment that Scruff will never forget. Because sometimes God calls you to go on mission trips and become a camp director and preach mighty sermons before a crowded room. And sometimes He calls you to kneel on the floor of a messy boys cabin and ask two twelve-year-olds to pray for you. Pray that you will be more than what you were, more than you could ever accomplish on your own. Sometimes God calls us to kneel. It is hard and it is humbling. But God does amazing things when we are on our knees.

 

Boo Boo

The Art of Giving Courage

Encouragement

It seems insignificant, too simple, a side dish to the main thing of what we are trying to do at camp. But for some kids, encouragement is that fresh drink of hope that enables them to carry on.

I know someone who loved going to the dentist as a child. The receptionist always smiled, the hygienist told him what a good job he was doing at holding still and brushing and opening his mouth up wide. For several years he thought that he had a unique talent. That he alone could sit and spit and say “aaaahhhh” so that those cheerful dental professionals were wowed by his abilities. It was only later, in his adulthood, that he realized they did this with all the kids who obeyed. That they were simply being encouraging. But for a boy who had grown up without it, encouragement was a rare and dazzling phenomenon.

There was a girl who arrived at camp and didn’t smile. Most kids are excited, they are hyper and nervous and running around all crazy meeting their cabin mates and counselors and hugging their parents goodbye. Her face showed none of this, only stone. The next day our camp speaker sought her out, wanting to ask how her first day at camp had gone. He couldn’t find her.

Had we somehow lost a camper in the woods? Was she hiding in the canteen, buried amongst the snickers bars refusing to come out? Had she been abducted by Big Foot and a passel of squirrels?

Nope, she was smiling and he didn’t recognize her.

I see her once in awhile around town and she always smiles at me. The last time, she ran over to our car dragging a friend. She introduced me, told me she was coming to camp, and dug through her buddy’s backpack to yank out a camper registration. As we drove away they were double checking the camp dates to make sure that they had signed up for the same week.

As Christians, we should be in the business of giving courage. Christ is our hope and our strength when we have none. God has reduced Himself to one of us and died among us so that we might live. We have courage to give. A smile, a hug, a crazy skit, a cabin full of bran new friends. Encouragement. This is one of the things we strive to do at Camas Meadows. Pray for us this summer that in Christ we will succeed.

I Thessalonians 5:11a–“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”

 

Boo Boo

Camp Speaker in Limbo

Finding speakers is always a tricky business. For our last week of summer camp Scruffy was able to get Java, a former camp counselor, to take a week off of work and drive up from Bridgeport to speak to the kids. His work gave him the time off until…they didn’t. They changed their minds and told him he couldn’t go.

Um….

So they switched the camp schedule around and Java drove here every day after work. He was exhausted and using up tons and tons of gas, but besides that it was working. The lessons were good, the kids were listening, things were snapping into place until… they didn’t.

Wednesday is lakeday. We have to do the lesson either in the morning before we leave or at the lake. Why??? After a day in the water and the sun the campers all fall asleep if we have chapel late at night. But Java would be at work during those times. So he handed over some morning devotional material, took a look at his speaking notes, sighed, and kept them to himself. There was no use giving those to Scruffy, they would just have to skip it.

Scruffy was just about to run up to the amphitheater for Morning Jam (A loud and enthusiastic time of singing that occurs in the morning) when he felt that they really should have something a little bit meatier than just a devotion. He decided to share one of the stories of king David like Java had been doing, but which one? The devotion was on David-the man after God’s own heart. David had done a lot of terrible things, how exactly could Scruff show the kids that he was a man after God’s own heart. Then Scruffy recalled how David spared Saul’s life again and again even after he tried to kill him. He decided to read the story of David sparing Saul a second time, emphasizing this verse.

 I Samuel 26:21a—“Then Saul said, ‘I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today…”

Even after all that he had done, God considered Saul’s life as precious…and so did David.

And so with just a scant few minutes of preparation Scruffy walked up to the amphitheater and told the kids this story about David. How just like God, he considered the life of his enemy as precious. The way the God considers out lives as precious even when we were His enemies. Then the campers went off to their devotions.

Later in the day, when Java showed up at the lake after work, Scruff mentioned the story that he had told the kids. He didn’t want to mess up Java’s speaking schedule so he warned him that the kids had just heard this particular Bible passage.

Java stared at him, stunned.

“That was the passage I had planned for today. It was in my notes.”

The notes that he had looked at with disappointment, because he would not be able to share them with the kids. The notes he had given up on and put back in his bag. But God knew all of this.

Work schedules, lake day fatigue, and last minute blunderings do not stop God. David considered Saul’s life precious and the campers needed to know that. So God brushed all of our difficulties aside and brought His Glory among us in the form of a simple story that refused to go unheard.

 

Boo Boo

Glorious

Scruffy was asked to speak in church last week. How did he express with only feeble words what camp ministry is all about? He shared a moment.

A moment that shows us that God’s call is not faulty, that yes those 20 hour work days in July are doing something other than giving Scruff gray hair, and that God is faithful to bring His glory into our shattered world.

The image was of a ten-year-old girl standing at the back in chapel, her eyes closed, her hands raised, singing “Everything Glorious” with the other campers.

“Boo Boo”, you might say, “singing happens all the time at camp.” And I would have to agree with you. But this moment was part of a story and God is ever at work in the stories of our lives, even those small quiet moments that we overlook.

A little boy came to camp one year and the next year he came back. When he walked into the lodge Scruffy remembered his name and he told us that this meant everything to him. He poured his heart and soul into camp and somewhere along the way he told Scruff about his cousin. She was so young and walking the kind of road that would overwhelm you and I. They conspired to get her to camp and succeeded. Seeing that little girl free of responsibility and strain for one glorious sunny week, pushed Scruff over the edge. She had to come back. There was no money for another week, but our local church came through and the little girl returned. And our worship band from church visited camp.

They played “Everything Glorious” by the David Crowder Band.

My eyes are small but they have seen
The beauty of enormous things
Which leads me to believe
There’s light enough to see that

You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
And I am Yours
What does that make me?

  And the little girl stood in the back of the room singing, her eyes closed, her hands raised to Heaven. Because God’s church stepped into her world and sent her to camp, she had another week to be a child, a week to play capture the flag in the black forest, to hide an entire cabin’s shoes on the lodge roof, a week to pray and to cry and sing and to realize that even in the midst of a dark and terrible place God had made her glorious.

 

 

Boo Boo

 

 

 

The Wheelchair Hike

There are moments that stick. Memories that remain adhered to the heart years later, like the curling photos that cover the front of our fridge and the Elementary artwork that adorns my boys’ bedroom door. I want to paint a camp moment for you today. One of my husband’s favorites. The wheelchair hike.

 Ryan only came to camp one time. It was his freshman year in High School and his folks and big brother conspired together to make a week of outdoor adventure possible. Ryan has Muscular Dystrophy which confines him to a wheelchair.

Wheelchairs are not the most user-friendly means of getting around the bumpy grass meadows, narrow dirt paths, and steep mountain roads around camp. But with his brother and dad there to help Ryan navigated a week of camp with aplomb. They even managed to zip him up to Inspiration Point with the other campers in a large three wheeled jogger, but later in the week the group wanted to go off road.

This was the moment that stuck with Scruffy and Frodo and the speaker that week, and through their words it has stayed with me as well.

 Frodo and Abu, Ryan’s Dad and Scruff, these men determined to get Ryan to the end of the hike, without a road or even a trail. I talked to Ryan about that day and he remembered how the guys had to lift the jogger over logs while pushing him up the steep incline to the top. He told me about the hot sun beating down on them and the branches slapping back toward his face as they pressed on.

“I was just amazed and grateful to have these guys helping and working so hard to get me all the way up to the top.”

For Ryan it was an amazing hike that he participated in with his pears. For Scruffy it is an image he holds onto of God’s children at their best. One of those times when Christ steps down among us and we open our arms to His love and His ways and are never thereafter the same.

That’s the thing about Camp and about life as well. Sometimes it’s not just a hike. Sometimes it’s a moment. Sometimes it’s Him, right there with us, you just have to recognize the miracle around you and obey.

 

Boo Boo

Zoe and the Midnight Puke Fest

Yesterday I didn’t have anything to write for the blog. I had procrastinated too long and missed my chance to interview our fabulous cook and I was in a panic. I rushed downstairs where the kitchen crew was playing a board game with Scruffy and Choco and informed them that I needed a quick and brilliant story about camp. Zoe kindly succumbed to my panicked pleas and agreed to an interview. When I asked Zoe if she could define camp for me, what it is that makes it such a strange and beautiful place, this was the story she told.

Once upon a time there was a sweet young C.I.T. who had a debilitating fear of vomit. And once upon a very similar time (the same week in fact) there was a camper who traipsed off to summer camp, even though she had the flu. The queasiness was just nerves, she assured her mother, it would improve upon exposure to camp and its various activities. But what actually happened, was that she shared.

And then, in the quiet darkness of the night, the flu bug struck down two or three of Zoe’s campers. One of whom leaped up out of a sound sleep, dashed from her cabin, down the hall, into the speakers room, and proceeded to vomit onto the speakers bed…while he was sleeping peacefully therein.

And so Zoe and her senior counselor proceeded to gather up their pukey charges, clean them up, and settle them back into their beds until their parents could arrive and collect them.

Finally, it was about 2:00am and all of her campers had succumbed to a fitful slumber, but there was still one task to be done. Clean up the vomit.

Although the campers were small, their collective stomachs had produced a spectacular mess that ranged down the stairs and into the domain of the speaker himself. Zoe pushed down her encroaching panic and went to the kitchen for the mop. “Ahhhhh!” her mind screamed, “All the puke! ALL THE PUKE!!!” But this was what she had signed up for and this was what being a C.I.T. was all about wasn’t it? Doing all the terrible chores until one matures enough to have sole charge of the campers. Through her tears Zoe filled the mop bucket with warm soapy water, retrieved the mop, and proceeded to her doom.

 And then, out of the nether Splinter appeared (a senior guy counselor) who was also up with his own troubled campers and he said something to Zoe that changed the way she viewed Christianity, and service, and the body of Christ. 

“Don’t worry about this, I’ve got it. Go be with your campers.”

And so Splinter and Shinobi cleaned up the vomit, even going so far as to clean around the unconscious speaker as he slumbered on in his pukey bed. Zoe went to bed and then awoke the next day to base her own service with the kids and the cook staff at camp, upon that moment. When someone who was older, who had more seniority than her, and needy campers of his own, took up her burden, her mop, and cleaned up all of that wretched vomit himself.

  Galatians 6:2–“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”