Saturday, January 29, 2011

Summer at Epworth-by-the-Sea,1979

Many years ago, when I was but a teenager, I had the privilege to attend a bible camp for teenagers at Epworth-by-the-Sea. (I had forgotten and was thinking it was called Epsom-by-the-sea, after the bath salts. The water there certainly tasted nasty!) I remember it took a week out of football practice during the summer. After a 5 hour bus ride we arrived at the campgrounds. $90 bought a week of lodging in the cabins and cafeteria food, which would be considered a bargain now, but back then was a small investment.

Pastor Bob Becknell organized the trip. [pictured] He was a man filled with peace, joy and grace; one could see it each time he preached. The love of Christ was so beautifully evident in him! The week’s schedule was filled with all kinds of various activities: scripture memorization; study groups; trips to the beach; softball, volleyball and football; evening preaching; and scheduled special events of silliness.

As an example of silliness, the teenagers would compete, boys verses girls, in an effort to raise money so that folks could go to camp who could not afford it. As a caveat, the victor would enjoy the spoils of "slave day," where the losing side would act as butlers or maids during one dinner service. Now, the girls would knock themselves out doing everything they could to raise more money than the boys. Little known to them, we had a secret plan.

You see, the boys would schedule a Saturday where we would wash cars all day for free at a local bank, and get pledges from the neighborhood for each car washed, usually 5 to 10 cents per car. We would accept donations as well. Then, we would stage a mock "auction night" at Youth Ranch. Crudely painted tin gallon cans with the words "Skylab" painted on them would fetch $700, a remarkable sum at the time. The girls would sit and fume as teenagers without a penny to their name would bid 400, 500, 600 dollars! To top it off, the guy with the winning bid (which was always pre-planned) would whip out the cash and walk up to buy it in front of everyone, beaming over his new hunk of junk.

In the mornings we would have quiet time, where we would read and memorize scripture. I still remember some scripture to this day, 31 years later. Let’s see…. “Whoever lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering, for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed.” Not quite perfect, but close.

Teenagers need wisdom, because although they feel grown up, in most cases they lack the life experiences to make good decisions. Spiritual wisdom is to be especially desired, for to be led by the Holy Spirit is a precious gift indeed. More valuable than money, more prized than any earthly gains, the Holy Spirit lights the path which we must walk, in order to avoid losing our way amidst the jungle of cares that concern us.

We had “kangaroo court,” a stylized, self-mocking send up of third world justice if there ever was one. Lee, the king of the court, would don a towel over his back in the manner of a royal cape and read the list of offenses. We would be called up (we being, the most annoying of us- I was usually first,) one at a time, to hear what we had done. Such crimes as “throwing shaving cream-filled water balloons,” “sedition,” “treason,” “throwing food in the lunchroom,” and the ever popular “peeking in the window of the girls cabin” were all among the charges. The Smith brothers, Wesley and Weldon, two fast, hulking completely insane twins served as bailiffs.

What made it amusing was not only the fact that some of the charges were completely false, but to hear the excuses being made by the victim/accused. “It’s… it’s… it’s VERNON’s fault! Yeah! He tempted me!!!! I DIDN’T DO IT! NOOOOooooooo!!!” Even better was when the accused tried to make a break for it. They would be dragged back, kicking and screaming by the terrible twosome. The punishment was always something equally silly, like peanut butter facials, motor oil shampoos, public admittances of said acts, etc.

These and many more beautiful unwritten memories remain with me. I am thankful for those times, and for those who were with me. Thank you, Lord.


Snoopy in the Fast Lane

Snoopy was such a wonderful dog. He had a penchant for getting into trouble, and yet, I could never blame him. He just did what came naturally! For example, he would dig underneath my chain link fence in the back yard. I knew when I let him out, he would wait until I was not looking, then go to work. Dig, dig dig! He should have worked for the Army Corps of Engineers, or been a professional thief, perhaps. Once he got a hole big enough, it was squeeze, squeeze squeeze and OUT he would bound for freedom! Yes! The capability and culpability of running around the neighborhood, free, tongue hanging out slackjawed from his mouth as he ran and ran. Mikey would alert me because she refused to participate in Snoopy's illegal and nefarious deeds. She would begin whining and groaning and throwing a fit after she was left behind.

Out I would go to look for him. Usually he could be found in one of the neighboring yards, but I always worried he would get himself into trouble, or worse. Bells Ferry Road was out behind my house, past the woods, and cars there drove fast. It is not quite a highway, but 40-45 mph is common.

One day, Snoopy got out and I could not find him. I called and called but he did not answer. So I made sure Mikey was safe inside the house, and then hopped into the truck. "SNOOOOPYYYY!" I called out as I drove down streets in our neighborhood, my eyes and ears open for any sign of him. He was nowhere to be found. I was worried and prayed for his safety. I loved him very much and was very concerned.

I decided to drive out to Bells Ferry Road and as I came to the intersection, I saw a flash of white fur by the sign to the neighboring subdivision across the road. I waited for a space to open in traffic and pulled out, then into the road caddy corner across the street. I parked and hopped out of the truck with the leash I had brought along, but Snoopy did not try to run away. Instead he rolled over on his back and smiled at me and wagged his tail, swishing the pine needles furiously underneath him as he panted. What a glorious reunion! I hugged him and let him kiss me, then we put the leash on, and he hopped into the cab of the truck.

You might wonder if there is a reason I relate this story. You see, many years ago, Jesus told a story very similar to this one. Jesus was eating with people that the religious leaders looked down upon, tax collectors and sinners. After receiving criticism from them, he told them this parable, from Luke 15: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

As I mentioned in my previous article about the Lord's Prayer, we all do what comes naturally, even when it may result in serious consequences. But Jesus is the good shepherd. We need spiritual insight to discern dangers we cannot see or understand. How much more is the love of God in Christ compared to our own earthly, faulty love! I can hardly believe it, but it's true.

So we come to you, Lord. Let us love you even as Snoopy loved me, with a pure heart. I love you!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Lord's Prayer

The Lord's Prayer

I have been considering this for a while- considering the words of the Lord's Prayer. Jesus was preaching to the multitude at one point in his ministry and a question/request came from the crowd. "Teach us to pray." It was a moment that has been and shall remain a time where unexpected wisdom, humility, understanding, and love poured from the lips of our savior. They reveal his compassion, his message, and his gentleness. So come, now, and join me in prayer! (control-click to open the music while keeping this page open)

Our Father

God is our spiritual father. He made us. We come from him, and ultimately we will return. He loves us with a love so deep and so powerful we cannot even fathom its nature. Words do it injustice. If the Holy Spirit draws us, we cry out, "Abba, Father," in our spirits, much as a baby cries out. "Suffer not the little children to come unto me, for such is as the kingdom of God." Jesus described the Fatherly love of God in the parable of the prodigal son.

Who Art in Heaven

Heaven is a place we cannot understand, from our perspective. It is beyond the bounds of our earthly senses, yet it exists, even as God HHHimself does. Our limited understanding of the spiritual realm is hampered, yet, even as we see the beauty of His workmanship in nature and in the creation of the universe, heaven must also reflect His glory. He and His creation are both… beautiful.

Hallowed be Thy Name

The Lord is holy. He is all powerful, all good, all love. He is separate, sacred, and worthy of all praise and adoration. Even with all this, He chooses to be intimately involved in our lives, if we will only let Him. For He desires that we choose to follow Him voluntarily.

Thy Kingdom Come

Jesus told many parables about the kingdom of God. When he was taken before the Roman governor Pilate, he was questioned about being the king of the Jews. Jesus replied that his kingdom was not of this world. He referred to a spiritual kingdom; Christ in us, the hope of glory. Therefore, when I pray for His kingdom to come, I am praying for His presence in my spirit, and for me to recognize and accept His lordship and rulership in my heart and over my life.

Thy Will be Done, on Earth as it is in Heaven

God is not slow, where some count slowness. Rather, He is patient and longsuffering. He is willing that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance. It is His will that we seek Him and grow close to Him. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Give Us This Day, our Daily Bread

And when he had given thanks, he broke the bread, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. And again, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Jesus and God’s word- we need each daily.

And Forgive Us our Trespasses as We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us

My sins are personal, they are willfully committed. I ask that You forgive me and change me, by the payment of Your son Jesus on the cross. I forgive all who have ever done me wrong. Let those things not count against them, and bless them. We all like sheep need to be lead, myself foremost. Help us all that we may reflect not our own hurts on others, but rather, that they may see Your *love* through us!

Lead Us Not into Temptation, but Deliver Us from Evil

Let those who are weak call upon God, for in our weakness is His strength made manifest, so that He may be glorified. When we fall, his mercy is greater that our sin. We are encouraged to run the race with perseverance, as we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Lord I yield to You- let your strength be with me that temptation may be resisted; for I can do nothing, but You can do anything.

For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory, Forever and Ever

When Snoopy was still alive, I would watch from the back porch as he and Mikey would chase each other around my backyard in total abandon, running and barking and loving every moment. I would marvel at them, just loving them as I watched them go. People are much the same way, although without the chasing. We do our thing, and God watches us with love, desiring that we commune with Him. For you see, all the moments of our lives are gifts from Him; the good to rejoice in; the bad, to learn from. Thank you, Lord, for all the times and moments of my life! For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. Life is all about Him.