Room to Breath and Play and Live

So Scruffy and I were chatting with a friend the other day. This particular friend loves math and science and always has info about some strange and fascinating study for us to consider. Last week, he was telling us about “The Rat Park.”

What? You don’t think we should build a rat park at camp? No, I’m not suggesting that we invest in a rat park. We have sufficient amounts of rodent wildlife already, thank you very much. But there was this experiment involving a rat park and it fascinates me because it says something about community and space and how God made us to thrive. We are certainly not rats, but there is a lot that we can learn from our whiskery friends.

A scientist was looking at that famous experiment where drugs were made available to rats in a maze. The rats quickly became addicted, so addicted that they ceased to do everything except get high. It was very sad. Well this scientist wondered if perhaps there were other factors involved. So he recreated the experiment, only he made drugs available to rats who lived in this huge and fabulous rat park. There was space and fun things to do. It was a rat heaven which also included unlimited access to drugs. The rats tried the drugs…but they did not become addicted. They also played and ate and ran around doing rodenty things. The scientist even took rats who were already addicted to drugs and placed them into the rat park. These rats started to live life instead of just get high, even thought the drugs were available.

Now, when you come up to camp this summer, you will not see a rat park. We hope that you will not see a rat at all, maybe a squirrel or an elk or a bear… Anyway, if the whole rat park thing seems like a pretty large leap away from a discussion of summer camp, I understand. A whole lot of crazy things make me think about summer camp. I live here. It is on my mind a lot. But this rat park story made me see that we are striving to give campers something that God created us to have. 

We were made to have beauty and space and fascinating discoveries. We were made to stretch and live and love. We were made for community and compassion. We were not made to be trapped and alone.

God tells us in His word not to forsake meeting together. He tells us that the wonders of His creation speak clearly of the Glory of God. At camp we want to offer space to run and play and see all the Glory of God around us. We want to offer a fun and kind community where kids are safe and cared for.

Sometimes we find ourselves living in a tight little maze, packed full of bad options.

At camp we want to offer something different. Wildflowers and the wind ruffling your hair. A sprint through the meadow with a water balloon in hand. A quiet moment with friends, praying for each other. God made us for things such as these.

Our hope and our passion? To spend this summer offering life at its best to the kids God has seen fit to send us. God around us in His beautiful creation. God in each of His people, putting aside self to love others. This is our goal.


Boo Boo

Spring CamasCon Update

CamasCon is a very strange and lovely creature. Like a hippogriff. It is hard to describe, but is amazing all the same. Did you ever watch Cheers? I didn’t. I was of a tender age at the time that it was running and my parents didn’t allow. But I know the theme song and caught a few episodes here and there. CamasCon is a little bit like the bar in Cheers, a safe place, where everyone knows your name. Sing it with me now… So, a hippogriff, a run down Chicago bar, am I confusing you yet?

There is no alcohol at CamasCon and no magical flesh-eating horse-birds. But what we do have is a unique camp that welcomes a wide variety of people who have one thing in common, they love to game. 

And that is how CamasCon has campers who are in their late 60’s and campers who are gradeschoolers. Campers who are in full-time Christian ministry and campers who are atheists. Campers who play deeply contemplative Euro games and campers who will only play if there is a superhero, an elf, or some kind of ship from Star Wars on the box.

Watching the campers at CamasCon this last week gave me an eureka moment concerning ministry.

Sometimes we think that it is our message that frightens the non-believers in our lives away. I realized that this is simply not so. Jon (Crush) Johansen provided three solid and challenging Christian chapel sessions last weekend. He did not mince words. Did those in the crowd who weren’t sure about God or who straight-up didn’t believe leave camp? Nope, after chapel they played games with Jon and ate snacks and held animated debates and played more games.

We don’t always get notes of encouragement from campers. It is an occasional blessing that we hold dear. But do you know who does send Scruff encouraging notes? Both of the regular attenders who are atheists. They rarely miss a CamasCon, and have both written their thanks, for providing a place where they belong.

I learned something this week. Service, ministry, the great things of God…they look like chapel sessions and open Bibles and bowing the head before meals. But they also look like laughter and inclusion and being willing to actually listen to someone else’s opinion with respect. Much ministry went on at CamasCon. Jon heard stories about people who found freedom from sin, people who learned how to relate to their family, people who had changed since he’d spoken to them last. But the quieter, gentler ministry cannot be forgotten. Good food cooked with a smile, a lively conversation in which you can participate without fear, respect and consideration from the people around you, knowing that you are in a place where you are loved. I am challenged by the realization that people may not hear the amazing message of Christ’s love for them if the gentle ministry of love and graciousness does not accompany it.

So yes, CamasCon went well. Many games were played, many snacks were eaten, very little sleep occurred and I for one went away having learned something valuable.


Boo Boo

The Power of Play


I am always interested when I come across info that is relevant to camp ministry. What do we have going for us here at camp? Woods, friends, getting away from screens of all shapes and sizes, focused time learning about God, and time to play. Being in the forest feeds the soul and stepping into a new adventure grows you as a person. Seeing someone a little older than you who is hungry for God’s word changes you. But this week Scruffy was listening to a podcast on the value of play. 

This weekend is the CamasCon Christian Board Gamer’s Retreat. It’s a perfect time to look at the value of play. 

So, Scruff was listening to a podcast, as he often is, and came across a fascinating study. As many studies do, this one had its roots in tragedy. Up until recently, the largest school shooting occured in the 1960s. But the perpetrator left a suicide note asking if someone could figure out why he felt the way he did. And so a scientist was assigned this task. Why did this man in particular kill? He studied the killer’s life, perfect student and soldier, always getting great grades, never getting into trouble. But one thing stood out about this man’s life. He never relaxed and never played. He was always on task. The researcher looked deeper and found out that this man’s father had prevented him from playing, ever, even as a young baby. Taking the idea further, the researcher went into prisons and started interviewing killers. What many of them had in common, they didn’t play.

God did not design us to live like this.

Exodus 23:12–“Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed.” 

Mark 2:27–“Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

Now, if you don’t come up to CamasCon or Summer Camp this year are you going to go on a shooting spree? Probably not. But this startling story emphasizes the value of something simple that we try to accomplish here at camp. We play. At CamasCon they sit in front of complicated strategy board games for 3-11 hours at a time. At Junior Camps they ride horses and have water fights and run all over the woods looking for chess pieces hidden in the forest. At home, my boys snuggle their chickens and ride bikes and have monster pillow fights. My step dad would go hunting or chop wood. My grandfather fiddles around in his wood shop. I curl up with a good book and a cup of tea when I am weary. These are all forms of rest, forms of play.

Hiking and crafts, paintball and slip-n-slide, night games and singing and three legged races in the meadow. God made us to work hard and to accomplish great feats. But He also made us to rest and play and be refreshed. He knew that the human soul needs careful care. He knew that we would see Him in the gentle way that sunlight filters through the branches of a forest and in the sound of laughter as kids dig through bowls of mashed potatoes looking for Skittles. He understood that if our souls were never at play, they would shrivel and die.

And so I challenge you today, have you taken the time to play? Walk a mountain trail, grab a picture book and pull your child into your lap, set up a board game with you sons, make a craft out of pine cones with your little girls. Remember how God made us. We must pause from our perpetual accomplishment and take the time to be refreshed. It is to our benefit that we rest. How can we ever see God if we are constantly focused and busy. He will not always chase us down and tackle us demanding that we see His glory. Sometimes we must rest and be quiet, or laugh and be loud in order to see Him at work and find rest for our souls.


Boo Boo