The 92

Kids go to camp. Many go to more than one.

Yesterday at church I called for all the kids who were going to Camp Bandina to come on stage. There were 92 of them. I offered a prayer of blessing and then moms and dads got their kids and their stuff on two huge, beautiful busses and off to camp they went.

I saw a few parents with a few tears and a few parents running to their cars in freedom.

With 350 total campers and 80 adults to serve them there will be an outpouring of love and faith; an amazing experience of friendship and fellowship.

Here are nine thoughts about the “9” in “92”

  • nine are first time campers
  • nine will miss home and want to call mom or dad
  • nine will develop a crush on someone
  • nine will make friends with kids from other places
  • nine will deepen friendships within our group of 92
  • nine will have life-affecting conversations with their counselor
  • nine will come home thinking about their futures for the first time
  • nine will make some kind a decision about who they are with God
  • nine will return a bit sad because it’s their last year at Camp Bandina

We have excellent people at the camp this week. People who will guide the campers well, who will model Christ for them, share their lives with them and be available at all hours of the day and night.

Camp is for having fun and the campers will have a blast. But camp is also for disconnecting from their tech, from gaming systems, cell phones and tablets. It’s a week of discovery about themselves, others and God. It’s a week of personal connection. A time when their hearts and minds will be open, available and receptive to healthy influence.

May God bless them all.

I loved camp.

The Future Looks Bright!

FAMILY CAMP

Camp United is our annual retreat for young families. Young means parents with children of all ages. We use the Trinity Pines Christian Conference Center just a few miles outside of Trinity, Texas. It’s camp! But it’s a fun camp.

There’s paddle boating, fishing, swimming, kid’s games, a ropes course, a fabulous playground, hiking trails and so much more. We have a massively chaotic color war and a hilarious finger rocket battle. We worship and praise and we learn and we grow. We become a little better equipped as parents.

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Cups of colored corn starch, 140 people, you can do the math. That’s not me at this year’s Camp United, but it’s close, really very close. 

THINGS I NOTICED THIS YEAR

Parents holding hands with their kids while they walked around the camp. With one family the kids were fourteen and twelve.

Watching single moms with their children. Single moms are all in because they have to be. Everything is up to them. Some of the sweetest and most impressive kids at camp were one parent kids.

I watched young mothers caring for their babies and toddlers. They were loving, patient and nurturing. I got to hold a few of them. They still wiggle and squirm and want down!

I saw young fathers spending time with their young children. They played games and walked along the lake and hung out together. Nothing touches my heart like watching a young father be a good dad.

The campfire Saturday night was special. We were sitting in circles around the campfire, kids, teens, parents and adults, worshiping and singing praises. Then, it was Smores. It was so on.

At the pool I laughed and laughed watching some dads compete to make the biggest splash off the diving board. It was comedy gold.

In our Sunday worship we took time for each family to find some space on the floor or to circle their chairs. They were to share the Lord’s Supper as a family. They huddled close to read scripture, to talk and to learn about the bread and the cup. Parents were teaching their children. Fathers were leading their families. It was a beautiful thing.

IN CLOSING

Saturday was my birthday. I spent my birthday at camp; at my age you don’t really care where you celebrate your birthday. But being there, and turning sixty-three, reminded me that there are far more days behind than there are ahead. I will be long gone when those parents reach my age.

So, I have to tell you, I like how the future looks.

Different But Not

A DEAR FRIEND

A friend of mine was at church yesterday. It’s a friendship that was born through Hope For Haiti’s Children (HFHC), a faith based non-profit serving the needs of Haitian children. My friend, who is now Vice President of HFHC, was in Houston over the weekend and came to visit.

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Not me as I am today, but close, really very close.

Between the two services she gave a presentation about HFHC and shared some stories that really touched me. She spoke of a chance meeting with a little girl from Cite Soleil, a horribly impoverished slum of Port-au-Prince. As her story unfolded she shared how she was, of course, wearing shoes but the little girl wasn’t. Holding hands, they walked along  when suddenly the little girl hurt her foot. It was cut by broken glass.  

THE IMPACTFUL PART

She had assumed that since the girl lived in poverty that her little feet would be tough, hardened and immune. They weren’t. She ended her story with this confession. 

“I would never have walked barefoot there, but for her, what did it matter?”

Then it hit her: she actually had a lot in common with the girl. In fact, they were very much the same. We all have a lot in common with one another. We all hurt, grieve and struggle. We know loneliness and fear. We know heartache and heartbreak. Poverty doesn’t toughen the heart or callous the soul. The poor aren’t immune. 

It was a tough lesson to learn but a beautiful lesson to embrace.

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IN CLOSING

Of the many characteristics of Christ the one I respect the most was his ability to see everyone the same: young or old, healthy or sick, rich or poor. It didn’t matter. He saw everyone and sought everyone, for everyone needed him, and we still do. 

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Tonya, thanks for helping us look past the differences to see the similarities.

We are all different, but not!

Shalom 

Mental Snapshots

Yesterday was Easter and we, like most churches, do a little extra for Easter Sunday. Here are a few memories I’d like to share, I call them mental snapshots.

PASSOVER MEAL: The Wednesday before Easter we held an authentic Passover Meal, complete with roasted lamb. It was open to everyone, for members and guests, and was a beautiful experience. I especially liked seeing the young families with their kids. 

NEW CLOTHES: In both services I saw bunches of children in new clothes. It’s tradition for kids to get new outfits for Easter. Often the moms and dads get new clothes too. It was funny that so many girls came up to show me their new outfits. They were so happy and adorable. They were super-cute. Predictably, not one boy came up to show me his new clothes. Yep. 

HEIGHTENED ENTHUSIASM: Special Sundays elevate the energy of the church. The singing gets louder, the worship is sweeter, and the special readings and presentations add a depth of meaning that blesses the experience. Yesterday’s worship was wonderful.

GOOD TO SEE YOU: I’m not sure why but Easter brings people to church like no other Sunday. Maybe Christmas rivals Easter when it falls on a Sunday. But on Easter I know I’ll see people who I haven’t seen in months, and it’s always good to see them!

IT’S NOT UNUSUAL: I’m one of millions who celebrates the resurrection daily, who rejoices in the empty tomb and bases their faith on his rising from the dead. It isn’t unusual that I do. In fact, I would say that most believers require no special Sundays to acknowledge his resurrection.  

Just the same, I love Easter Sunday. 

TO CONCLUDE

Maybe I’m sentimental. Maybe. But I love seeing the kids in their new clothes. I like the big crowds. I’m lifted up by the heightened energy and the greater enthusiasm. And I’m richly blessed by the rejoicing on Easter Sunday. 

empty tomb blog
He is risen, he is risen indeed!

The Hands of Jesus

 Below are a few thoughts about the hands of Christ.

Seeing The Hands

Mary gave birth to a son, her firstborn, who was quickly absorbed by her love and warmth. She couldn’t stop gazing at his hands, those tiny hands, that curled sweetly around her fingers. She marveled that the hands of her son were also the hands of God’s Messiah. “How could that be,” she wondered? She knew his hands would one day help his father with the wood and stone; becoming rough and calloused. She knew his hands would one day help his Father in his Temple and Kingdom; becoming kind and caring. 

Those hands would cradle infants, bless children and touch lepers. They would comfort the grieving and soothe the broken. They were shepherd’s hands that gathered the lost  of Israel. They were healer’s hands that gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and strength to the lame. They were strong hands that lifted Peter from the stormy waves. They were righteous hands that shredded the money-changer’s tables. They were gentle hands that wiped the tears of Mary and Martha, and then his own.

His gentle hands lightly pushed the branches aside as he walked among the olive trees. In Gethsemane, were his hands raised in joyous praise or lowered to ease his body to the ground? He three times prayed, “Not my will but yours be done.” On a dark, cold night his sweat dripped like blood, were his hands red from wiping his brow? Did he reach out to the angel who came on his behalf? 

Then his hands helped him to his feet to face all that was next.

Perhaps he waved the disciples closer as the soldiers grew nearer. Perhaps he offered Judas a hand when he kissed his rabbi’s cheek? Perhaps he grasped the sword Peter used to attack the enemy?

His hands were bound by the hands of criminals. Could there have been a bigger farce than to bind the hands that built the world? Could the soldiers have known that ropes, shackles and chains were useless? Sure, go ahead, clap him in irons, lock the chains and use all the rope you can get. But, it won’t matter. Could atomic sized power ever be contained by a plastic bag?

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How could he surrender to those men? Those lesser men impassioned by hate, immune to truth and lacking humility. But surrender he did, for it served their mission well, their mission of murder. Why did he do it? Because he knew who he was and why he was there and what he came to do. And what he came to do requried their violence. 

So, see the hands. Rough and calloused from the wood and stone. Scarred and gnarled from the hammered steel and splintered with shards from the old rugged cross.

Jesus hand nailed

See the hands that removed the cloth and rolled away the stone. See the hands of Jesus, and be absorbed by his love and warmth.

empty tomb blog

Happy Easter

The Town Garbage Dump?

I don’t know why but boys between the ages of six and eleven love a good pile of junk. It’s the stuff people set out to be collected or the free treasures found in a town’s garbage heap. I would joyfully take junk home to our garage. Dad understood but not for long.

“Ricky, what are you going to do with all that junk,” Dad would ask? “I don’t know, maybe tear it apart and build something?” ” Throw it away by Friday,”  he would say.

Throw it away? I just got it from someone who threw it away. 

OUTSIDE OF TOWN

All kinds of things can be found on the edge of towns, outside city limits. There are small town trash heaps, unwanted stuff at the dump, and all manner of dilapidated sheds and crumbling barns filled with rusted but interesting stuff. 

You know what else you could find outside of town? Well, if you were in Jerusalem around 33 AD you could find Jesus on a cross. It was Passover and the important people who deeply resented and passionately hated Jesus were busy getting the Romans to kill him. They succeeded.  

“And so Jesus also suffered outside the city to make his people holy through his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the city, bearing the disgrace he bore.” Hebrews 13:12-13

He was crucified outside the city so as not to contaminate the Jews with dead bodies and Roman rituals. They wanted to remain undefiled in order to participate in their most holy feast: Passover. 

Here is a favorite of mine by George Macleod:

“I simply argue that the cross be raised at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a Cathedral between two candles but on a cross between two thieves; on a town’s garbage heap.

At a crossroad so cosmopolitan they had to write his name in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek; at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where he died. And that is what he died for. And that is what he died about.”

FROM SCRIPTURE

If you read your Old Testament you’ll discover that the Kidron Valley, between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives, was Jerusalem’s garbage dump for idols and all things related to idol worship. It’s where idols were crushed, broken, and burned. It’s where unwanted things were thrown away. 

ARCHAEOLOGY

In 2013 and 2014 archaeologists from the Israeli Department of Antiquities did some excavation in the Kidron Valley and discovered a massive rubbish site dating back to the Roman occupation of Israel. The Kidron Valley was Jerusalem’s garbage dump.  

The Bible

IN CLOSING

Jesus died outside the city and it was possibly in or near the Kidron Valley. It would make sense because his enemies thought him a false teacher, false messiah and a blasphemer.

To them, Jesus was a piece of unwanted trash to be thrown out with the garbage. 

Was he?

Shalom

What’s Cool?

Back to the summer camp in the New Mexico Mountains that I wrote about on Monday.

HIKING

One of the fun activities for campers was to go on hikes. Once or twice each week the counselors would take their campers hiking.

I would hurry, as the Pots & Pans Washer, to get the kitchen cleaned up so I could go on the afternoon hike. 

INCREDIBLE VIEWS

The hikes always took us to a places with amazing views. Once we arrived we rested, or explored a bit, until it was time to head back to camp.

On one beautiful mountain day at a magnificent vista were some hikers who were there when we arrived. There were four of them and they were sitting at the edge of a high cliff looking at whatever there was to be seen. One of the counselors and I walked over to say hello. They seemed surprised by our presence and were not in a chatty mood. They seemed familiar to the counselor, he smiled visited for just a moment and then we walked back to our group and back to camp. 

They were interesting to see. They were relatively young, I guessed maybe in their 20’s and had long hair and were wearing things that seemed odd to me. They wore old ratty jeans, hiking books, vests and had head bands. They wore bracelets of silver and leather and they sat there at the edge of the mountain, quiet and still. 

BACK TO CAMP

As we walked along I sidled up to the counselor and asked if he knew those guys. He said, “I don’t know them personally, but I know who they are.”

It turned out that they were a rock band, and a famous one at that. Being 14 I didn’t know much about rock bands, but Milton, the counselor was very excited that he got to talk with them.

THAT NIGHT

So that night, after washing the evening meal pots and pans, I got cleaned up and ready for the devotional. The guys in the band had long hair and wore leather head bands. So, I unlaced a leather lace from one of my hiking boots and wrapped it around my head and tied it in a bow at the back. UhHuh.

I thought I looked really cool. Mind you I had a buzz cut hair style, and there wasn’t a hair on my head that any chance of falling into my eyes. I walked up to Milton and he said, “What is that on your head?” I said, “Its my hair band.” He said, “Why are you wearing it.” And I said “To keep the hair out of my eyes.” Then he said, “You look ridiculous, take that dumb thing off.”

I did. 

TO  CLOSE

I didn’t really know what cool looked like and I really wasn’t the kind of kid who looked to rock bands to imitate their look. 

Eventually, I learned that my identity, values, and choices needed to be influenced by better sources, beginning with my relationship to God of holiness and righteousness. My life didn’t need to reflect whatever was popular at the moment. It wasn’t from the world that I needed to base my life, but on things eternal.

Besides, I needed to put the lace back in the boot for the next hike.

Shalom

Saying Goodbye

TO BEGIN 

It’s all natural. No, not food or food additives, but of the natural way of life, that it ends.

MY WEEK SO FAR

Sunday: I took a gift from a family at church to another family from church who very recently lost a child. I knew the gift would richly bless the family who will soon gather around their Christmas tree with their two children, but not three.  

Monday: I had coffee with one of our ministers and the conversation wandered onto the topic of death. I shared about our stillborn child. Our baby boy never saw the light of day. But he was perfectly formed, perfectly whole and perfectly beautiful. During  labor there was a complication. He didn’t make it. 

Tuesday: I attended a Christmas Party for our group of retired seniors. One of the couples I sat with brought their beautiful baby granddaughter Just a few weeks ago I had the honor of conducting the “Baby Blessing” for her and her family. It was lovely.

Wednesday: Today I’ll attend the “Celebration of Life” service for the father of one of our members. This family has experienced a long, cold season of grief and loss. I can’t recall another family who’s endured so much. It’s heartbreaking and it continues this morning at 10:30.

funeral

IT’S ALL NATURAL

We know that life doesn’t last forever. But we hope it lasts a very long time. And when it does it’s still a soul crushing event. When life doesn’t last a long time, but comes all too early, it’s even harder. People say, “No parent should outlive their children” True enough. But it still happens. 

The writer of Hebrews wrote that it’s appointed once for man to die. Solomon said, “There is a time to be born and there is a time to die.” I think He was right. 

Our minds tell us that death is just a part of the human experience. True enough. But the experience of saying goodbye to a loved one is altogether more difficult than chalking it up to the human experience. 

TO CLOSE

So far this week I wept with a family who has lost a child. I got emotional in the memory of losing our baby boy. I’ll attend the service of a friend saying goodbye to his dad. And I got to experience the exquisite joy of a radiant infant filled with beauty, light and life. 

We say goodbye to those we lose.

We say hello to those we gain.

And We Say Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord

It’s All Natural

 

Overcoming Insecurity: Ignore or Invest? Part Two

Introduction

In Part One of, “Overcoming Insecurity,” insecurity was defined as, “feeling unsafe or in danger.” Overcome was defined as, “to be subdued, defeated, or conquered.”

Being overcome with insecurity is being subdued/defeated by feelings of fear or danger. 

The Question

I closed part one with this question,

“If feeling insecure is a learned behavior then can it be unlearned?”

Ignoring the insecurity, or masking it, or living in denial are ineffective strategies.

Insecurity can be defeated, or at least minimized, by learning from new experiences and  processing new insights. Also, it may be that you need to consult a Doctor or pursue professional levels of help. 

As for this blog, I offer these thoughts.

Suggestions

  1. Write It Down

I have found journaling helpful. Write about your insecurity. What is it you fear? What is it you are looking over your shoulder to see? Be honest and specific. By identifying what overwhelms you, you’ve taken a healthy step in coping with it. So, write it down.

2.  Think It Through

Think through the fear and sense of doom, all the way to the end. What happens if it happens? Could it happen? Is it likely? Often, what scares us most are the things that are most unlikely to happen.

An example: During Hurricane Harvey’s five days of rain my insecurity surged with a foreboding of our house flooding. But our house didn’t flood, not even close. Throughout the storm there was no reason to believe that it would. But I was still afraid, and the fear came from insecurity. But it helped when I finally owned up to the idea that if it did flood then we would deal with it. We would be okay. It would be a huge mess and a giant hassle, but we would be all right. Instead of being overwhelmed with dread and fear I arrived at a calmer place. So, think it through.

3. Provide Faith Messages

Our self talk when insecurity hits us becomes really important. Write about that too. What messages do you give yourself? Are they negative? Full of dread and fear? Are they messages that reflect the worst possible outcome? Or are they positive and strong, full of faithful optimism? Are they messages of trust in God? Giving ourselves a steady stream of healthy messages will help diminish the fear and doom. So, give yourself some good reinforcement. 

The Word

Fine strength and comfort from these verses:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition… present your requests to God ….the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he will lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.”                                                                I Peter 5:6-7

In Closing

The Apostle Paul said,

“Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”                                            Romans 12:21 (NLT)  

Unsubstantiated, irrational fear comes from an evil place, for God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear. Yes, when danger is real, when we are threatened, then we act accordingly. But fear generated from insecurity doesn’t have to own us.

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We can overcome!

God Bless You

Overcoming Insecurity: Ignore or Invest?

Overcoming Insecurity, Part 1

Introduction

What is insecurity? What is it to overcome it? Let’s define the terms.

Insecurity:Subject to fear or the fear of harm, feeling unsafe”

Overcome: “To be subdued, defeated, and conquered / to subdue, defeat, and conquer” 

To be overcome with insecurity is to be subdued by feeling unsafe and afraid.

The Insecure Child

When children are overcome with insecurity they:

  1. are afraid of something new
  2. believe something is going to hurt them 
  3. struggle to believe that they are good enough
  4. are overly alarmed by things that go “bump” in the night
  5. feel unsafe when they are unloved, neglected, or unprotected  

A child overcome with insecurity will often have a defeatist attitude and may exhibit the behaviors of a conquered person. They fear what’s new and what’s next. 

scared cute little girl under the blanket in her bed

The Insecure Adult 

When adults are overcome by insecurity they:

  1. are afraid to try new things or meet new people
  2. have a foreboding sense that something bad is about to happen
  3. struggle with body image and their appearance 
  4. believe that others judge them and find them lacking
  5. feel unsafe when they are unloved, neglected, or unprotected 

An adult overcome with insecurity will often have a defeatist attitude and may exhibit the behaviors of a conquered person. They fear rejection or abandonment.

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An Illustration

I was a shy child, but I wasn’t born shy, I learned it from painful experiences. In time I learned to squirm when introduced as the new kid in class or participating in something different. To some extent, the insecurity I had as a child stayed with me as an adult. There are moments when I still feel overwhelmed by fear, or by the sense of something bad about to happen.

Oddly, I’m no longer shy, the shyness drained off a long time ago. But the memories and feelings of fear dug in deep, rooted within my soul. Have I been overcome by insecurity? 

Growing and Overcoming 

The options? Well, I can ignore my insecurity. Thats what we do, we put it in a jar and  tighten the lid. Does it work? Or maybe we pretend and deny. Sometimes we learn to excel at something to camouflage our true selves. It’s painful being overcome by insecurity. 

However, if I learned to be insecure by allowing fear to subdue me, can I learn not to be? Rather than ignore it maybe I can invest in something that helps me. Can I conquer my insecurity rather than be conquered by it? 

In Closing

This is part one of Overcoming Insecurity. Stay tuned for part two on Wednesday morning. I will answer the above question with practical suggestions, warm encouragement, and something valuable from the Word of God. 

Hang in there.