Monthly Archives: July 2014

Bringing Young Life Camp to my “Daily Grind” – part 2

IMG_0327My last post was part one about the wonderful experience Rob and I had at Young Life Camp as two of nine adult guests. As hard as it was to leave home and the office for a week with no responsibilities (spoken tongue in cheek, and in all seriousness), both of us came back better people for it! I encourage you to scroll down to the last blog — or not.  😉

Continuing with observations in no particular order, because I am overwhelmed with things to take away and apply in Tallahassee (this is really #5, but it’s above my paygrade to get my blog to start numbering there for a new post):

  1. all these people and more  got fresh clean towels!
    all these and more got fresh clean towels!

    There were roughly 700 people at Young Life Camp. Over 600 were campers, a handful of full time staff (what an amazing job for these talented people), and A LOT of mostly high school and college-aged volunteers who gave their summer and paid their way there to work for free, so that kids could have a blast and hear about Jesus! Young Life exemplifies a servant’s heart.  700+ people — all provided comfy beds with crisp, clean linens, towels in the cabin, towels by the lake and pool (thats a LOT of cleaning and washing and folding EVERYDAY for the tawashies and laundry girls – makes my job at home look ridiculously easy). We all had our quarters cleaned (including the private bath each cabin enjoyed), 21 meals and countless snacks for all 700+ people all week long. Home cooked and served at a seated meal — baked breads, buns and desserts (at least twice a day). Linen napkins folded differently each night … teachers, life guards, actors,  singers, hometown leaders (deserving a number all their own)… all serving the safety, comfort and care of campers with varying dietary concerns, disabilities and boundless energy — and all doing it to speak the Gospel to the campers and invite them to trust in Jesus. The staff and volunteers are all a tremendous testament to the power of Jesus in our lives, if we let Him.  John 11:26 says “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. As a mom, that servant’s heart came naturally when my children were young, and I held various “official” volunteer roles. But what about in my everyday life as a member of the sandwich generation? At the office? With my neighbors? The questions deserve my prayer that God will reveal intentional paths to serve Him and others in little private ways — while continuing my  planned neglect, as I seek His will.

  2. IMG_0325At Young Life’s core are the volunteer leaders in each high school, Many of them are college students juggling academics, other extra curricular activities, the development of their own faith, jobs… and still they give an unimaginable amount of time to high school kids. They develop relationships and earn the right through love and caring to speak about Jesus. They don’t let the crazy busy pace of college or the culture stop them from serving. They sit at high school ball games, lunchrooms and hangouts. They make real friends. They prepare weekly for club and share their stories, all in the hopes a child will come to camp for “the best week of their lives,” to hear the Gospel and accept Jesus as their personal Savior. At camp they are in the trenches and the bunks. Exhausted, they rely on Jesus to answer questions, wipe tears, and to give them the stamina to pray and play hard. Their maturity of faith and their love for  Jesus and the kids are both powerfully evident. But camp is only the beginning! They come home with the kids and lead them in Bible studies and the beginnings of a lifelong walk of faith.  These YL leaders inspire me! What plan do I have to intentionally love people and lead them to Christ? Am I busier than the next person? 50 years are behind me. I’ve taught Sunday school and led countless Bible studies, but after camp I felt  compelled to pray for forgiveness. How much more I could have loved and lived out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Couldn’t I have at least one or two people God places on my heart to chase after for Him? To pursue in love, showing them Jesus in the process? Learning about their work and family, inviting them to church? And then never stop being available to the next one Jesus places on my heart?  I want my “back nine” to count so much more for eternity!
  3. Rest. At Sharp Top Cove, despite the full schedule and borderline chaos at times, I felt rest — Sabbath Rest. I’m guessing others did too… like the little boy who said it was the first time in a long time he had felt safe while sleeping. Rest is important. It’s a gift from God, and a commandment. Currently I am under the weather and resting with Him.
  4. IMG_0239At Camp I experienced God’s abundance in wonderful ways. I don’t know the intricacies of Young Life’s budget, but I do know that they don’t carry debt to fund projects. They pray and build after the money is in — and then they celebrate God’s bountiful blessings! How? The average meal (and I’m talking about good food — even the adults with developed pallets love it) costs $1.71, because they are good stewards and they have a kitchen FULL of volunteer cooks, dish washers, bakers and servers — the body of Christ willing to humbly serve. Without them, camp wouldn’t work. I think God is powerfully multiplying some loaves and fishes here, because at Young Life Camp, we all felt His provision in every way (even in the weather that was forecast to be rain and more rain — but proved to be beautiful!). Psalm 65:11 promises “You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.” At YL, they EXPECT God to show up and work miracles. They don’t believe they can accomplish His work without His Hand, nor do they want to.  Whatever He provides, they work with it. And all credit, praise and honor goes to God.  I’m not a nonprofit — so how can anything similar apply to me? Am I a good steward of all God has given me? Do I give freely of my time, possessions, and talents, specifically for His Kingdom?  And most importantly for my life, am I actively joining where God is already at work — to use the gifts He has given me as part of the body? Sometimes, I’m too much of an island. I go to church and leave, and try to accomplish God’s will and commands with just the two of us. At camp, I saw the power of community working together, corporate prayer and worship. I think if I listen, He will call me to humble and stretch myself — to serve as the “pinky toe” (or wherever He leads me) of the body of Christ in whatever place He is already moving. This in addition to where Jesus wants me to act privately and personally.
  5. IMG_0241At Young Life Camp they meet people where they are. In Mark 2:17 Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” It’s not the mission of Young Life to judge or fix people, but to love them and show them the way to Jesus. God does the rest. To accomplish their calling takes tolerance and authenticity. A few kids spout expletives and ridicule the process. They are loved in return.  Many leaders courageously share their stories. Stories of anger, failure, self righteousness, promiscuity, pride, partying  and the like.  Stories of brokenness; stories like mine and possibly yours. But they don’t stop there. They share how through the valleys and mountaintops, Jesus restores us! He saves us and heals us. They share how much fuller and more abundant life is with Jesus — and the kids see it for themselves and know it is true.

IMG_2229The campers are attracted to the Salt and Light that is all over camp — or they choose to run from it. Whether the campers accept Jesus at camp, later in life, or not at all — they have heard and experienced His Truth. They have seen His reflection in the faces of His children, and it is beautiful. That is something I can definitely bring home to Tallahassee. I hope Pink Reflections (my blog) is a little part of reflecting Jesus to the body and those living outside their purpose.

Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Young Life.




Bringing Young Life Camp to my “Daily Grind”

IMG_0237I don’t want to spoil any of the over-the-top surprises and wonders of Young Life Camp for future high school-aged guests. From a camper’s perspective and experience, you’ll see and read less here than you can on the YL website. What I want to write about is all God wants me to bring home and live out from my adult guest experience at Sharp Top Cove.

Rob and I ended our wonderful week at camp on my 50th birthday. I have felt God teaching me this last year about ways I need to change, and how my life should look on the “back nine.” With Young Life Camp as the exclamation point on His year of lessons, what is He saying? How shall I live?

what better way to spend my last week in my 40s than to play like a teen at camp?

On the outside Young Life Camp feels and looks like all fun and games. No one is bored with the Gospel there! A beautiful setting with everything taken care of for the campers, who are treated like royalty. As they walk through a human tunnel of  enthusiastically cheering kids their own age — truly just glad the campers have arrived to be served — the campers get their first glimpse of the week ahead: the best week of their life! “Let me take your bags and show you to your cabin.” The kids walk in to the lodge style accommodations and are taken aback by the professional decorations and attention to detail and comfort. And it’s all for them.

As they get off the bus they are told that for the week, this camp is yours! Off they run to freedom — to blob, zip line, slide, swing, play and hangout with their friends. The running, frenzied pace at which they try to experience it ALL that first day, makes you think they think it may be a little too good to be true.  In an unstable world, it seems they’re trying to grab it all and take it all in, while they can! The one thing removed from their world this week (that is so pleasantly notable) is electronics of all kinds… no phones, computers, itunes… just friends and this awesome camp.

IMG_0195Behind the scenes, it’s the staff’s  intentionality in all the details and the spirit of the abundance and the fullness of God’s provision that impressed me. A philosophy of excellence, service and surrendered trust in God is apparent in every aspect of their ministry. This attitude in each moment and each task is what I want to bring home to my everyday life. Colossians 3:23-25 (MSG) says, “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.”

I saw these verses lived out daily in the staff, volunteers and activities at Sharp Top Cove. Despite their fatigue and the monotony of some of their jobs, it is those involved in the “daily grind,” the business of making Young Life Camp happen, whose faces  reflect the MOST love and joy. There’s a secret for me in that obvious truth. Another verse comes to mind,  2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV) “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

rope swing
rope swing

The skits and singing, the lake activities and climbing, through cabin time and quiet time, delicious AYCE meals and soft clean sheets — everything point to the Gospel and Jesus. Everything. That’s how I want to live my life — as a living sacrifice, fully alive, glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. Loving HIm with all my heart. soul, strength and mind, and loving my neighbor as myself. I’ve never seen a sincere, living example of the Gospel quite like at Young Life Camp.

The Challenge? How do I bring it home to my daily grind? Don’t get me wrong… my life is wonderful in most ways. Still, there is a “daily grind” so to speak… meals to prepare, floors to clean, clothes to wash and bathrooms to scrub. Bills to pay, necessities to purchase, calendars to manage — and that’s all outside of the office! No one is really taking care of the details for me here.  In addition most of us in the sandwich generation juggle family obligations and privileges at a pace that’s hard to explain or achieve. We just feel  crazy busy and struggle to even fit in our quiet time. Even so, I feel God is saying, you can experience that same camp life, here and now. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV)

I think this post will be ongoing… as I uncover more of what God is saying to me, so I’ll start with a few observations, in no particular order.

  1. IMG_0225At camp, there seemed to be more time in the days — I didn’t feel rushed, yet it seemed MUCH was accomplished. We had a very full schedule, but I didn’t feel crazy busy. Unlike Young Life Camp, in my daily grind, it’s not so normal to see two or three huddled together in prayer. We rarely stop in the frenzy of our days, like the college-aged mountain bike guides (and all the others) did, to acknowledge God’s beauty, thank Him and ask for His protection — before racing off.  Even if we do fit in our morning quiet time, we often segregate that time with God away from the rest, and move forward from it into “real life.” If we don’t take God with us and talk to Him all day, aren’t we driving further from Him throughout the day?  I want to pray more freely throughout the day, inviting God into my mundane chores and meetings and others into my prayers.
  2. IMG_0280Despite all the wonderful activities and great group of friends, club, cabin time, chalk talks… all the times we met together to pray and to talk about Jesus were the highlight of the day for most everyone I asked! At Young Life Camp people literally line up and run in to hear about Jesus! The distractions of all those wonderful 2nd tier things that are fun and useful, diminished in importance throughout the week, and our relationship with Jesus and others increased. The days just got better and better as the camp swelled with God’s love and the Holy Spirit’s notable presence. I want to make Luke 10:27 my life verse: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” I can never be reminded enough that God and my relationship with Him is my priority! My purpose in this world. All the other wonderful components of this life on earth are for my enjoyment and important —  but EVERYTHING pales in importance next to God. Everything. And loving people and meaningful relationships is top on the 2nd tier.
  3. IMG_0180I sang more than I have in years! Loud and free! Worship songs,  favorites from the ages, even pop songs I’ve never heard. My grandmother mentioned my poor singing voice once as five year old little me belted out “Happy Birthday.” She was right! My voice is not beautiful, to say the least. But I’ve spent too many years mouthing the words and shutting music out. At camp I loved singing like no one was listening, because it was so loud no one could hear me! Music is so awesome for bringing  bound emotions to the surface. I’m not so good with itunes (at least since I changed computers) and all the modern marvels of music. I want to get with the times, and get more music in my life — including some of the current tunes I feel too old for. I want to be relevant today and use the voice God gave me!
  4. IMG_0171The kids can’t take the lake, the mountains, the toys or the service home. The work crew, cooks and staff won’t be tending my every need in Tallahassee. But there is Someone enduring we can take away  — and in Him, we take the BEST of what felt so good at Sharp Top Cove. The last days at camp the frenzy to DO all the activities weined. We were more content to BE. Engagement in relationships, regular worship, prayer and enjoying God and His creation are available everywhere. Young Life Camp is more than a place. It’s a way of doing Life to the fullest. I’ll try to flesh out what this looks like in the weeks to come. I already knew Jesus as my personal Savior when I went to camp — but back home, I still may not really believe this world and all God’s treasures are freely mine while I’m here. I’m still a little rushed and frenzied to  achieve and experience all the good things the world offers — but they aren’t the main event! I need to shift my focus. Live more like the latter days of camp where there might have been less scheduled events, less activities, but there was no way God or people were going to be squeezed out. He was the focus, the reason, the celebration, and the gift, in and for all else.

IMG_0562More to come as I continue to listen. For now, “Abba, thank you! You gave me several periods of rest — in Europe, at the beach and at Young Life Camp, because you love me and care about the details of my life. You removed me from the frenzy of the daily grind and spoke to my heart. Many of the more stressful circumstances of my life are not yet improved, but I feel Your Peace. Thank you for reminding me to rest in You, trust in You, and to find life and love in YOU!” In Jesus name, Amen.

If you would like to receive future posts by email, please let me know in a comment below. Thanks!

Earning the right to speak the Truth

UnknownI took a class at Vanderbilt called Interpersonal Communication — the closest thing to a crip course I found, and ironically a really awesome class, if only for one memorable assignment.

I went to the campus pub with another student — a total stranger. We had a list of questions from the professor that we were to ask one another in turn. The topics quickly and progressively deepened. They touched values, ethics, personal experiences, relationships, faith… the unspoken point was not to accomplish the list, but to begin to know one another and find places of connection. The stigma in asking personal questions was removed, as was the ability to escape, if we wanted to pass.

Lemons are huge in Sorrento, Italy

What if it was normal to breach tough, intimate subjects in everyday life? To be real in our concern for others, without fear of offending? What if we really shared our faith with the intent of knowing another, and making a lasting connection? What if we cared enough to share the Gospel without fear of rejection or outcomes?

Following is a recent conversation with “nf” (new friend). I’ll pick up a few minutes into it — after the intros and niceties. For whatever reason, this time we were both receptive to getting real.

Me: Do you believe in heaven and hell?

nf: Yes — I mean, this can’t be it, right?

Me: Do you believe in Jesus?

Church of St Andrew in Amalfi Italy

nf: Yes. I grew up going to church. I guess I’ve always thought of myself as a Christian. I mean, there’s nothing I disagree with about the Bible, but there’s a lot I don’t really know. It’s frustrating that Bible stories sometimes seem contradictory… I went to  a Christian camp when I was in high school — that’s the closest I’ve ever felt to God. But it was hard when I was in college and even now, working. Sunday is my only day to just chill and get caught up on everything. I’ll probably get back into church and all when I’m married, and have kids.

Me: Why are you waiting, besides finding the time?

nf: I don’t know. I guess I just haven’t found a church I really like. The music is so bad. I think they are trying to be cool enough for the younger crowd — but they just whine instead of singing.  Or they are aspiring performers trying to “make it,” and they have a captive audience at church. I like Amazing Grace and all the old hymns. I do go (to church) sometimes… with my girlfriend, or my family on holidays. And I pray every night before I go to bed. I guess I just don’t think going to church is all that necessary. There seems to be a lot of hypocrisy and trouble there. But it will be good for my kids to grow up in church like I did, and I’ll definitely go then.

Me: It makes me wonder… you know a lot about Jesus, but are you are saved? You know, born again? Forgiven? (I didn’t know his church background or lingo)

Santorini Greece

nf: Do you mean am I going to heaven?

Me: Yeah, I guess that’s part of it. You said you believe in heaven and hell — an afterlife. Do you KNOW where you’ll spend eternity?

nf: No. I mean, no one does, right? We hope that the Big Guy let’s us in, but we don’t know till we’re there. I’m  a pretty decent, good guy. At least I try to be. But it seems presumptuous to say I KNOW I’ll be in heaven.

Me: If you were to die today — and you could, right? (he nods) Why would God let you into His heaven?

a tunnel in Amalfi Italy

nf: I know the right answer (smiles) — because I believe in Jesus. John 3:16. So yeah — I guess I am going to heaven. I believe in Jesus, and the virgin birth, and the cross and all that..

Me: So does Satan — if you’re saying you know all about Jesus — as in an intellectual belief. Satan has that too. Think he’ll be in heaven?

nf: Obviously not. But God decided that back when He threw out Lucifer and a third of his angels.

Me: Okay, then what does it mean — to you personally — to say I believe in Jesus?

nf: I guess it is sort of an intellectual belief. I agree with all the Bible says about Jesus and His death on the cross. I know He did it for me too, if I believe. I know that is the only way to get to heaven… that I can’t get there by being good enough.

Santorini Greece

Me: You did spend some time in Sunday School, didn’t you? (but he’s not smiling — he’s deep in thought, and in my uncomfortableness, I tried to “save” him from that)

nf: So, yes — I guess I do know I’ll spend eternity in heaven (he looks up, comfortable again with his faith)

Me (back on track): NF, would it be okay for me to challenge you on that notion? Only you know the correct  answers. I just want to make sure you aren’t counting on something you don’t have.

nf: Okay. ( I can tell he’s a little hesitant and would like to change topics)

Me: Just so you know, I’m not trying to convince you of anything, or tell you where you are right or wrong. I want to share how believing in Jesus has changed my life. Because, if I don’t share it and help others to know Him better, I’m not doing what he asks me to do — which is to love you!

nf: Sure. Go ahead.

IMG_2229 Me (I feel the disconnect — the defensive posture) Nf, I think I was saved back when I was 14. I was at a Baptist youth rally, and heard the WHOLE gospel for the first time. Everything else fell away as I understood I was a sinner deserving of hell — in need of a Savior. And that Jesus died for ME just as fully as if I was the only person in the world. They said I had to accept His work on the cross, personally. I walked forward as a profession of faith. I still think I was saved then (I probably won’t know for sure till heaven)… but I didn’t understand much at all about Jesus my Savior, or that He was also my Lord. I went about my life as if I wasn’t changed… does that all make sense?

nf: Yes — that’s sort of like my camp experience.

sunset over the Bay of Naples

Me:  Well,  Jesus has taught me a lot since then — about having a personal relationship with Him — praying as if he’s really listening, because He is! About not being entitled to anything, about trusting Him in everything, and living my life as if it’s about HIM not me. I get a lot wrong, and still have a lot to learn… but I am constantly changed by His presence in me, through the Holy Spirit. And it’s not just about heaven… He offers me abundance — here on earth!

I guess my challenge to you would be this — if  you know that God died for you, and Jesus isn’t affecting your decisions, your thoughts and your actions, every day — if you don’t want to worship Him, spend time with Him, follow Him… do you REALLY believe as John 3:16 requires? Can a personal encounter with Jesus, really not affect you every day? change you?

Don’t you think something would be different in your everyday life, if the Holy Spirit moved into your body! The Bible says that having the Holy Spirit dwell in you is better than the disciples living with Jesus! Is He that real to you? Do you believe that?

IMG_1873nf: Can I just listen and not respond?

Me: Absolutely! I’m not looking for your answers, but Jesus might be.

Sadly, this conversation only happened in my imagination.  I’ve encountered many people with whom I’d like to talk more deeply about faith, but I haven’t earned their trust to a point that we can go there. I want to share, but haven’t discovered just how to build that into many relationships.

I’ll be spending the last week in my 40s at Young Life camp as an adult guest. What better place than summer camp to turn 50, right? The wonderful people at Young Life do a great job of earning the right to talk to kids about Jesus. Of loving kids, sharing the Gospel, and trusting God with the rest. I know I will laugh and enjoy myself, and I pray I will learn a lot about building relationships that include faith-talk from my week at camp.

As I shared in my last post, “God’s Will and Planned Neglect,” I may not be called to action in every instance. First, I need to protect my time with Jesus, and listen for God’s leading. Then, when those unexpected divine appointments happen, I need to obey immediately. Jesus is a game changer as John 11:25-26 makes clear: “whoever believes in me, though he die yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me, shall never die.”

IMG_0569When God recently used me to lead a friend to experience salvation, I was humbled and changed. I’ve felt called for years to talk to people who believe they are Christians, but have never really heard the Gospel and don’t know Jesus personally. It is such a JOY to see the light turn on in these wonderful, prayerful, thoughtful seekers as the Holy spirit enters their hearts for eternity.

My prayer is that  a similar conversation to the one above will soon be a reality for me and someone Jesus loves.

Do you struggle as I do to talk seriously about salvation? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you find ways to introduce a deeper conversation  when you feel led to talk about faith outside Bible studies and churchy venues.