Many of you know Cheeks. She’s been the Program Director at Bethany Birches for many years (this will be her 9th summer). She also happens to be my wife. We got married after working here at camp together for a few years.
To me, Cheeks has been a gift from God. Let me explain:
Many days I realize this through various circumstances. Today, I realized it again. This time it was related to the fact that she doesn’t get distracted by stuff (you could even say she doesn’t care much about stuff). Seriously. She doesn’t like to spend a lot of money on stuff. She uses stuff until it breaks down entirely. If she looses something, she shrugs it off and mentions that she didn’t really need it anyway. Take her purse/bag for example. Right now, there’s a hole in it and one handle has broken off. She’s still using it. If it broke entirely, she might never get a new one. She might use another bag in the closet or fill her pockets.
I am quite different. I like stuff. I like high quality stuff and I like when it performs well. If it gets scratched or damaged, I like to repair it. Take my bike for example. I rode it today and it was wet. When I got home, I hosed it off and set it in front of a fan to dry. I washed it so the chain was free of grit and used the fan so that nothing would rust.
Here’s the thing. We only get so much time on Earth. Old people tell me that it goes fast. Researching, getting and taking care of stuff takes a lot of time. And, those of us who care about our stuff can at times be on the verge of caring too much for it. This is part of why Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell his stuff.
Back to me and Cheeks. She is a constant example of what it looks like to care less about stuff. With her attention not focused on stuff, she tends to focus on people… and she’s very good at considering others! Not only is this a blessing to me, it’s a witness.
I hope you find a way to bless those you live with today like Cheeks blesses me. When that way is unclear, look to Jesus. He will show you.
A lot of snow + campers + BBC= SNOW CAMP!! Undoubtedly campers love going to camp: to see friends, to see the staff, and at BBC- to learn more about God. We (a group of volunteers) had a great time with the campers in a non-stop action packed weekend, but the focus wasn’t necessarily on snow – It was on God.
Something that stands out in my mind from the weekend was a conversation that a couple of us (volunteers and campers) were having. I remembered one of the campers – he has a brilliant mind but had a hard time processing the existence of one almighty God. He and his family tended to be polytheistic and as we talked about the story of Elijah found in 1 Kings in the Bible, he asked some really good questions – like, “Why did Elijah call upon Baal to bring fire down when that wasn’t Baals ‘gift’ or ‘power’? He wasn’t the god of fire so of course he won’t be able to send fire down on the altar.” Hmm, good point. We continued to go deeper, yet at some point he seemed to reach an impasse, to which he said, “I’m a skeptic…” as if he thought that by saying that I would stop asking questions. We pressed on. He said that it would take a REALLY BIG miracle to prove to him that the God of Abraham is real.
It was a blessing to be a part of that discussion. He was processing the Christian story. He was asking good questions. He has a deeper knowledge now than he had before – whether that translates into a trust in Jesus and eventual service of God’s Kingdom is yet to be seen. At least a weekend at camp filled his heart and mind with knowledge of the truth. Sometimes these conversations can be a challenge, but they’re the ones that can also bring about the most change and can give us the most encouragement to keep going, to keep proclaiming the message of the gospel to a world that so desperately needs to hear it, see it, feel it, experience it – and Bethany Birches IS all of those things to EVERY camper!
I was writing in my journal this morning after reading a booked called Enjoy the Silence. Great book. Geared toward teens but relevant to adults.
In my reflection, I was thinking about the fact that last summer was our second most attended summer ever. And that high attendance came after a spring of virtually no advertising and very little marketing. We were focused on the cabin renovations and simply being able to use the building in time for summer.
Any increase in attendance couldn’t be traced to communications work done that winter and spring. I believe it was God who brought the increase. For me, this is a reminder that it is God who sustains all things (and even lets us partner sometimes in this effort – like when we tend our gardens). It’s God who provides the air we breathe and the life we were born into.
Pray with me that we will remember this each day and that once again, this summer, God will bring many campers so he may inspire them and encourage their hope and faith. We are told that faith is what pleases God. And with God we have life to the full.
So yesterday I hiked up the back side of Mt. Washington with some friends. We wanted to get some late season skiing in!
I have a cool GPS map but there’s an error with the file. If you could see the map you’d notice that we were all over the place! After hiking up, we walked to different areas of the mountain to see how the skiing was over there (and then over there… and over there). We did this because we didn’t know the mountain very well and wanted to find out where the sweet spots were.
This is not so different than the life of faith. For example, Jesus tells us in the Bible that he is “the way, the truth and the life…” For many years, it was hard for me to understand what that meant. I hadn’t experienced him enough to know that what he said is true or understand how it worked. I hadn’t found out where the good skiing was, yet, so to speak. In fact, yesterday I had to trust that there was good skiing up there somewhere. And I trusted that there was because many people have said so, and, I had been there a few times before.
When we got down, one friend mentioned that he feels like he knows the mountain much better now. (He’d better – we spent 10 hours walking around on top of it!) When following Jesus, in faith, it feels very much like this. A little like wondering around for a while on top of a mountain. And, we get to know him better after spending time with him or trying out something he said. Then we come to a knowledge of him. Knowledge of him (or of the mountain) is beyond faith in him (or trust that the mountain will have some sweet spots).
Just one of the many reasons I’m excited for Summer Camp 2013. Another chance to explore the life of faith and come to know Jesus. Please share if you too are excited for camp (or have been up Mt. Washington in the spring!).
What about you – what’s the life of faith like for you?
I’m coming back to BBC and I am excited!! I was unable to be at camp all summer last year and that has made me even more excited for group games, GAGA, the water trampoline, Wet n’Wild Wednesdays, the slip n’slide, cooking over a fire, and so much more. Fun is everywhere at camp!
Along with the fun I am looking forward to the serious relationships that camp builds. My hope is that I can grow the relationships that I have started already while creating new, meaningful, ones with all the campers I am going to meet for the first time this summer. I have learned so much in the last year and a half since I was last at camp and I can hardly wait to share what God has been doing in my life. I also look forward to all the things that you all as campers will teach me.
All of you campers should come back too because everyone at camp is important. That is another reason that I could not stay away from camp for another year. Everyone is welcome at camp. I have never been another place that was as welcoming/accepting as camp.
You should also come to camp this year because we have one of the coolest themes ever. Mission Possible! I think I have a little bit of a bias opinion because the theme relates to one of my favorite bible verses, Philippians 4:13 “for I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” You should come back to camp because we can do everything through Christ so who knows what might happen this summer. Whatever mission God give us is possible. The theme also makes me think of mission impossible one of my favorite games to play at camp.
Lastly I know I will not be alone there is a group of staff coming to camp that I am sure are great. I have already started to ask that Christ give me the strength that it takes to play games and talk about God, so that we can make this summers’ mission possible. I’m excited to see all of your smiling faces at camp summer.
I’m excited for camp because it’s when camp comes alive. It’s when people are singing all the time. People are [video_lightbox_youtube video_id=”N3bzb-fjVG4&rel=0″ width=”640″ height=”480″ anchor=”getting messy”] all the time (then cleaning up). It’s when I get to run out of the office to play group games or four square or pretend to be really angry about something which sets the stage for a Mission Impossible skit for the coming night. It’s a time when my faith in Jesus is stretched, challenged and encouraged. It’s a time when I make new friends.
That brings me to my next point – making friends. In her blog post from 2011, Pepper talked about the relationship building that happens here at camp. And it’s one of my favorite things! Ever since college, I learned the value and joy of community. And at Bethany Birches, we talk a lot about building community. Particularly a community of love. The kind that lets us see God smiling at us. God is often near, it’s just that we often have a hard time seeing him. And somehow, at camp, as we build a community of love together, we can see God more often.
I hope you’ll join us this summer to make some new friends and hopefully, see God. He’s often not far…
Despite the snow on the ground and the fast approaching winter camps we are gearing up for another summer of fun, God, friends and nature. We’ve finalized the dates for SUMMER 2013, added a few programs to mix it up and will be ready to accept registrations NEXT Friday (Jan 18). Keep in mind, if you register within the first week of registration opening you’ll receive a $50 discount!
See the sessions and dates below and stay tuned for opening of registration, updates on new programs and the announcement of 2013 summer theme! Summer’s coming, are you?!
Mission Possible Week – Ages 11-14; August 4-8: It is exactly what it sounds like. A week where we play the favorite game Mission Impossible MORE THAN ONCE! This week is for returning campers who love the game, love camp and want to learn more about completing the mission that is LIFE. More details to follow.
W.O.W (week of work) – Ages 15-18; August 4-8: A week of work for any returning teen camper who wants to spend more time at BBC. Opportunities to help in various ways will abound along with plenty of time to hang out with friends and experience God in new ways through serving those around you. More details to follow.
Shortened Pioneer Session (ages 7-9)
There’s not better place to be during the summer than BBC! Hope to see you on the hill:)
The hill is finally snow covered. Actually, camp is snow buried. For those of you that have seen me at a snow camp, what I’m about to write might surprise you. My heart sinks when the snow starts falling. There’s no arguing the snow is beautiful. Clothed with adequate warm weather attire I love to go tubing, snow shoeing, skiing, snow painting or falling in the snow to make a snow angel. What I hate about snow is driving in it! I hate the fact that the roads I drive daily become unpredictable and dangerous. The additional travel time is detrimental to a chronically tardy person. I don’t enjoy the increase of blood pressure and white knuckles that are my body’s response to driving in the snow.
The other day I was lamenting all of the above as I watched Tuna drive away in inches of snow towards Killington. It’s so natural for Tuna to drive in the snow. As I pondered the many differences between us small indentations in the snow caught my eye. The indentations led straight to a tree. My gaze then caught another set of tracks. These were much bigger leading from the road to the woods. I was suddenly reminded that I am not the only one adversely affected by the snow. As the snow gets deeper moving around the woods becomes more challenging for some animals. The whereabouts of animals become more easily detected after a fresh snow fall. Despite the increased challenge, God gives these animals adaptations to make snow survival more possible. I was reminded of the adaptation God has given me in an AWD Subaru to get around in the snow. Despite my fear, I can usually get where I need to go in the snow.
I hope that someday I become more comfortable traveling in the snow but after 5 winters of white knuckled driving on the hill I’m not so sure I will. At camp we often look around us to attempt to learn from nature. Seeing animal tracks in the snow reminds me that despite increased challenge, fear and adversity God gives each creature the resources required to live. (Philippians 4:19) God provides us with whatever we need to make our mission possible.
Come see for yourself, join me on the hill this winter for some animal tracking:)
I (Cheeks) took a few minutes to reflect on the past year. 2012 was another year full of learning and challenge. The various challenges and uncertainty left a lot of room for God to work. As God moved and worked here on the hill I learned a lot about prayer. All summer long we tell campers to pray when they are in trouble, when they are thankful, before meals and any time they want to connect with their Creator. We teach them a variety of ways to pray. We encourage them to pray for each other. Staff pray for campers all throughout the year. And yet this topic has alluded me of late. But as I reflected on 2012 the resounding theme was ANSWERED PRAYER. I was so aware of God answering prayers consistently throughout the year. Read on for my recollection of the top 5 answered prayers of 2012:
Bobcat Campers enjoying the snow
1. SNOW for SNOW CAMP: The week before Bobcat snow camp there was a vital ingredient missing: SNOW! I called my mom and told her we had no snow on the ground for snow camp and asked her to please pray for SNOW. I started planning for a snowless snow camp while praying snow would come. We could see grass on Thursday afternoon, but by Friday afternoon the hill was covered and night time sledding was a blast! I don’t know if God changed the weather pattern specifically for a BBC Snow Camp, but I learned to trust more in God as the snow covered the ground.
Lynx snow-campers with Marlin and Guppy in the middle. (This was just before we got the bad news from the fire marshal.)
2. SHEPHERD for SNOW CAMP: Two weeks before the 2012 Lynx Snow Camp camp was shepherdless. Person after person turned down the offer to come teach Jr High campers about Jesus. One night after exhausting the last person I knew to call I prayed – “God who will shepherd these campers?” The next day Marlin and Guppy called up saying they wanted to make room in their life to drive 12 hours both ways from VA – VT to help at a snow camp – did I still have any needs? YES! Marlin and Guppy shepherded for Lynx Camp and a good time was had by all. I continue to learn that God will bring people to do God’s work.
3. FIRE MARSHAL RALLY: You may have heard the story of the cabin upgrades required by the fire marshal in March (If not, scroll back to earlier blog posts). The whole fiasco was so discouraging at times. And yet, in each discouraging scenario we prayed. Prayed for God to bring funds. Prayed for God to bring volunteers. Prayed for God to bring materials. And each time God answered. One time God answered with a generous donation from the First Congregational Church of Woodstock. Another time God answered with 2 of Tuna’s Aunt and Uncles coming for a week to do all the electrical work. Another time God answered with camper parents who were willing to volunteer their carpentry skills. Another time God answered prayer with a 10K check from an individual supporter. God answered each prayer and I learned to trust him for all my needs.
Summer 2012 Staff
4. STAFF SHORTAGE: Going into March there were only a few applicants to counsel for summer 2012! We had recruited at colleges. We invited past staff to return. I had sent out emails. And still, the applications did NOT come. Finally, I committed staffing to prayer. Every day I diligently prayed for young adults to be drawn to BBC. By the end of March we had an excess of male and female counseling applicants. God does not always answer prayer on a timeline that I’m comfortable with but I’m learning timelines are overrated!
– MORE CAMPERS: We can only have camp if campers come. When it comes to camper attendance, “the more the merrier!” is always true. Since the end of Summer 2011 I had been feeling like camp should have more campers. At the beginning of 2012 I started praying for more campers. God, bring more campers to camp! And God did. One week God answered by having one camper family invite their entire basketball team. A worker at a social services agency used to attend BBC as a kid so she sent every camper she could. Word got out. BBC was the place to be this summer. Camp saw over a 12% increase in camper attendance during the summer of 2012. God brought more campers and through each one, more of himself.
Join me in praying for BBC in 2013. Don’t be surprised when God answers.
This blog entry from Peg Smith, the CEO of American Camp Association caught my attention today. It is in response to the Sandy Hook shooting. It is relevant to our faith. It is relevant to the question: how should I parent? And, am I raising my child well?
It seems to me the heart of her answer is a command: Transform. Or, Grow.
Can I find a way to help parents understand that as much as we may want to wrap our children in a cocoon that we must realize that environments that help young people to engage, explore, and experience how to learn about and understand others are more important than ever? Authentic connections are as imperative as the ability to accomplish math.
May God transform each of us as we seek to love instead of all other alternatives.