Camp Fall-Out

With my nine-year old having gone off to camp for a week for the first time by himself this summer, I've addressed a bit of that journey: reasons to send your child to Bible camp, preventing homesickness, and the follow-up report on my son's experience at camp. There's one more element of going to camp for a week to address.

I don't know if this is a common occurrence, but I think it happens a bit: Camp Fall-Out. That's my name for it at least. My son, while having an extremely wonderful time at camp, comes home and has moments of grouchiness, argumentativeness, and fighting with his brother.

The frustrating part, of course, is that this happens after having spent a week getting along great with strangers and hearing messages about Jesus and living like a follower of His. It's annoying. There were brief moments when we were sorry he was home. He's not supposed to act like this, after all. Not after going off to Bible camp!

* * * * * *

One of the things going on, I believe, is a change from dependence to independence back to dependence. He had a week away without parents telling him what to do. Yes, there were camp rules and I'm sure his cabin counselor had his own rules, but parents weren't around. I think there's an adjustment phase coming back home after a week away and being (kind of) on your own.

Part of it, naturally, is tiredness. The kids are up later than normal bedtimes every night, waking up for breakfast each morning, and having a full day of activities. Tired children equal less-than-pleasant children.

Some of it is also just coming down off an intense week of spiritual highs. Yes, the kids learn about the Bible, and Jesus, and how both apply to how we live. They've likely made some spiritual decisions to follow Jesus (more or better or for the first time). They intend to come home and live out the things talked about at camp. But younger children, especially, may have a hard time with the adjustment of being in a intense, spiritual setting and coming back to their regular routines. It's a hard adjustment for adults; it's going to be hard for children.

* * * * * *

I don't know if I have advice on preventing or curtailing the Camp Fall-Out effect. But the good news is that it goes away. Within a week of parents being frustrated over the back-talk and bad attitudes, our son was back to his (mostly) pleasant self. He and his brother have (mostly) been getting along. He's been (mostly) helping out around the house. Mostly, because he's never been perfect, and we won't expect him to be.

As parents it helps to just be aware of what's going on and acknowledge it. We don't have to put up with it (we reminded him several times that his behavior was not okay), but it helps to know that it's not permanent. We tried talking through it and encouraged him to write down what was going on since he couldn't talk about it. He never did any, but we gave him the space and permission to do so, and I think that helped.

He had several people ask him about his time at camp, and I think being able to recount the lessons learned and fun times helped. It connected his present to the past week at camp.

So if your child is expressing symptoms of Camp Fall-Out, know that it will go away. And in it's place will be the benefits of having been away at camp for a week (a little more mature, a little more of a disciple, a lot of good memories). That's the hope, anyway.


Family Reunion

The old grey house has beenIn the family for over a hundred years.
Little has changed since
It was last occupied:
Crackled yellow paint in the kitchen,
Family portraits on the walls,
The claw-foot bathtub upstairs.
The front porch is where
Generations gather and sit
And eat on humid summer nights.
The back yard boasts
A burlap-sack rope swing
Hanging from the largest,
Oldest tree, as well as enough
Space to seat a hundred people
Around tables when they gather
For the annual family reunion.
From the children who grew up
In the house to their great-
(and sometimes great-great) grandchildren,
They gather around to eat and talk
With cups of pink lemonade
Or cans of Miller Lite
To quench their thirst.
The children (as well as many-a
Child-like adult) grab squirt guns
And water balloons in a yearly
Tradition of staying cool.
Then Great-Uncle Richie
Passes out straws and bags
Of little white beans and
The pea-shooting begins.
As the day fades away
And left-overs are brought
Out for supper, chairs are moved
To the front yard where
Ultimate Frisbee and
Tug-of-war are played;
Sparklers are lit and waved,
While ice cream is consumed
From the Dairy Queen across the street.
Darkness gathers, as gathered family
Slowly disperses until next year.


Guest Blogger: Anders' Week at Camp

A few people have wanted to hear about Anders' week at camp, so I thought I'd let him share. It was the first time he got to go to camp for a whole week by himself. It was actually pretty easy to put him on the bus, knowing he'd have a great week, but we were all happy to have him back home. I'll be transcribing (and putting my own comments in italics). 

* * * * *

Camp was awesome!!!

One of my favorite things was the blob. The blob is where there's a person at the end of a big floating thing filled with air and a person who's going to jump onto the back. And when the person jumps onto the back, the other person goes flying into the water.

The things that we did every day would be chapel. We also had a day game like whip-n-strip which is a game where every person had a sock in their pants. There were four teams and each team had a cone in a circle, and the first team to get all four cones in their circle wins. There was a tricky part where if someone pulled your sock,  you had had to stand and wave your sock until someone came to save you. (Think four-way capture the flag where you can get caught at any time--it's not as lewd as the name sounds.)

One of the really fun night games was capture the duck, which was pretty much capture the flag except that it is pretty much always girls against boys. There was a girl's duck that was a yellow rubber duck and a boy's duck which was silver with a few red feathers.

Another one of my favorite things was the red shark. You had to pay one dollar at lunch, and then they had a floaty thing that looked like a long, red shark. You could put seven people on it, and it was pulled behind a motor boat, and they tried to flip you over. (He seems to have spent most of his time on the water--it was a really hot week. He passed his swim test easily.)

Cabins were usually little brown, small house-looking things. Inside were walls made of stone and bunk beds made of wood. Luckily I got to stay in one of the new cabins that had a bathroom in it; it was a lot nicer and more comfortable.

Two of my cabin mates were from my church, so all three of us felt more comfortable. Our counselor and LIT (Leader-in-Training) were really nice and fun. I became friends with all of the people in my cabin, which was really nice. I guess that also helped make me feel more comfortable. (Covenant Pines Bible Camp shared pictures and videos on their facebook page each day. It was fun to pick out Anders in activities throughout the week. When he got home, we went through them together and he talked about all his friends from the cabin. His counselors were great. One was the college student who was working there all summer. The other was a high school student who was going through the Leader in Training program so this was his week to be an assistant counselor. Anders was very impressed with him. I got to meet him at the bus pick-up stop. An all-around great guy.)

Chapel was probably different than it sounds. Instead of just sitting there reading your Bible and singing some hymns, they had some verses of the week that they would put into songs and they had some actions. That was really fun. They also had lots of other fun songs where you got to go up into the center of the chapel and jump around doing crazy actions. That was also crazy fun.

One of my two favorite songs was a song based on the music of the Power Rangers theme song. Another was in the music of the Ghostbusters theme song. The Power Rangers song was Psalm 51:10 "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me"--he's been singing this one and doing the actions quite a bit).

During free time, sometimes I would go swimming with some of my friends. You had to have a buddy. Sometimes I would go up to the canteen and gift shop with my friends. You didn't' have to have a buddy there. Other choices were the climbing tower that has a big zip line at the top of it, the playground which might have a ga-ga ball game, or sometimes there could be a neucom game (at the volleyball courts). You could also go up to Fireside and play some board games or card games. There was the craft hall where you could buy material to make friendship bracelets or necklaces or stuff like that. You could also paint rocks, which was free. One of the rocks I painted was a s'more. I found a small square rock which I painted the tops brown and the inside white with little specks of black.

My cabin got to do something called "Outcamp" which is where sometime at night we would pack up and hop onto the trailer and have a hay ride to somewhere over in the forest. It was really fun looking at the stars. We got to make lots of s'mores (that weren't made out of rocks) and tell funny stories. Most of them were about wetting our pants as campers. We got to sleep in a big kind of house on stilts. It didn't have any beds. It was just the sleeping bags you would put down on the ground. It was still pretty comfortable. The cabins that got to go that night were cabin 21, which was us, and cabin 20.

* * * * * 

He's already planning on going back next year. He received several letters from different family and church friends throughout the week--I was thankful to see them in his suitcase. A few of the letters even contained some spending money. All he bought was a few snacks from the canteen and a picture of all of the campers. I believe he also gave a little to the missions project (clean water for kids in Africa), but he wished he had bought more and he wished he had bought a few things from the gift shop. It's a lesson in budgeting, calculating what things cost, and spending wisely. We honestly haven't done much work with that yet.

Unfortunately, we discovered that his shampoo, soap, toothbrush, and toothpaste were still on the bathroom counter after we dropped him off on the bus. We sent an email encouraging him to borrow some from friends and see if the gift shop had extra toothbrushes. He didn't do this, of course. So a shower was the first thing on the agenda when he came home. He did fairly well at changing his clothes--better than many of his peers at least. I washed plenty of socks and undewear, several shorts, but shirts was probably what he changed the least (there were plenty of clean ones in the suitcase). 

He said he really enjoyed the speaker in chapel, but hasn't said much about what he learned. But he had a great time, as did his friends who went with him. Thanks, Covenant Pines staff, for giving him a great week. (Also, the pictures were taken by the staff at Covenant Pines)


Mary and Martha

Tonight our pastoral associate did a first-person narrative of the Martha and Mary story from Luke 10:38-42. Most of us are familiar with the story. Martha works. Mary sits and listens to Jesus. Martha complains. Jesus chides her saying that Mary has chosen the one important thing.

I get it. I think I've done a sermon or two on the story. Relationship is more important than task. Time with Jesus is the most important thing we can invest in.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42, NIV).

When I was young, I thought that Martha got the shaft. Honestly, I still do. After all Jesus shows up at her house with at least twelve other men (the passage just says "and His disciples." We don't know if it's just the twelve. The beginning of chapter 10 starts out with Jesus sending out 72 of them. It could be men and women). It seems like it was possibly and unexpected, unplanned visit: Jesus and the disciples show up in town, Martha offers the hospitality of her home.

And Martha knows that hospitality means having the house orderly, preparing food for everyone, possibly having a place for everyone to sleep. There was a lot of work to do. After all, she couldn't just let everyone go hungry.

And then there's Mary. Slacking off, just sitting there at Jesus' feet when clearly things need to get done in order for all these people to be comfortable in their home. If Martha joined her, nothing would get done.

So I don't like it that Jesus just blows of Martha's need for help from Mary. It's a valid request. It's a fair request.

So maybe it just shows that I still struggle with relationships--especially with an unseen and invisible God. Maybe it's my task vs. relationship part of my personality. Maybe it's because I still struggle to find that balance in life sometimes between work and relationship and faith and everything else.

But when I look at it closer, I'm not sure that Jesus is so concerned about Martha's activity. The trouble isn't that she's too busy or working too much. "You are worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing is necessary" (CEV). Other versions say "anxious and troubled" instead of worried and upset. The issue is her heart.

And the issue is knowing what is most important in life. As Steven Covey once said, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." I remember hearing that quote from people at Covenant Bible College, capitalizing the second Main Thing. 

In the story of the Good Samaritan last week the lawyer who was testing Jesus knew that the most important commandment is to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. The main thing. 

I want to know the rest of the story--if Martha sits with Jesus, and if so, how the food and other preparations get finished. I think that Martha comes to understand who Jesus is better. We know that when Lazarus dies, Martha is the one who says that Lazarus wouldn't have died if Jesus was there. She comes to understand that Jesus has authority.

But I guess the more important thing is not what happens in the Mary and Martha story next, it's what happens with me. Will I choose the one important thing? Will I sit at Jesus' feet instead of letting my heart get worried and upset? 

I'd like to say yes.

Day by day  (as we are encouraged from Godspell) I hope to make St. Richard of Chichester's prayer my own: 
May I know Thee more clearly, Love Thee more dearly, Follow Thee more nearly.
Oh, dear Lord, these three things I pray.



In less than a month I'll be back working at school. I'm trying not to think about that yet. Of course, I'm still working--I'm just not getting paid for it. Some days I love my job, some days I can't wait to get home (unless I'm working at home--then I can't wait to get a bike ride or a swim in a lake or some other opportunity to get away).

I was at a team meeting at church this morning. Our pastoral associate brought up work: noticing the stress people carry from their jobs, the time consuming hours, the struggle with work and faith. It's the same for most of us. We put in our time, to make money, to have the American Dream. Only it causes more stress than a dream-fulfilled life.

In my book (here's a little taste of things for those who haven't read it yet) I address how one of the cultural traps we fall into is looking at our job as a career. Then we're stuck. We're only able to try and get ahead and make more money. We're defined by what we do.

Instead, I propose we use the language of "vocation." It comes from the Latin for "calling." What if we look at our work as a place God calls us to, to serve Him? (And maybe we need to look to our spiritual community for more discernment in where God has called us at times.) We tend to think of calling only for those in full-time ministry, but I believe God has called us all (you're going to have to read my book for more about what that means).

Vocation means we work for God, not just a boss. It means we are there to serve and look for areas where the Kingdom of God is at hand. It means God is present with us at all times and we can learn to practice His presence. The monastic community knows about this. Even though they are called to ministry, most of them spend their time teaching, washing dishes, farming, etc. But wherever they are working, they see it as an opportunity to serve and love. They also know how to play and enjoy life (which we seldom picture them as doing, but it's part of why they can work so well).

The other aspect that I think most of us miss out on is God's commandment of Sabbath. Often we think of honoring the Sabbath as simply attending church. That may be part of it (but not necessarily--when I was in ministry, church was work and my Sabbath took place on another day of the week), but it is more about the rhythms of our life. We work and we rest. That's how God designed it.

We take one day where we trust God with our checkbook and don't make any income. It's easy to be legalistic about the Sabbath, but I try to do as little work as possible. When we've Sabbathed well, we've even made our meals the day before so we don't have to spend time working in the kitchen. I sometimes need a restful, playful time with my family; I sometimes need a little quiet time for myself. Sabbath will probably look different for each person, but I believe it is a need in our life rhythms.

I confess that I haven't done either of those things well lately. I've been working for years on practicing the presence of God wherever I'm working. I'm still not very disciplined at it. But the days I invite God into my job and seek to serve Him and others tend to be the more enjoyable days.

We haven't developed good Sabbath rhythms well yet, either. After our move to Minnesota, Beth worked irregular hours, so we never had one set day. I would try and do Sunday, but it's not easy when it's only part of your family doing it. And now that we need to bring food to church for supper, we're often doing some work on Sunday afternoons. We do take time to rest and enjoy time together; we just haven't done well at creating the rhythms for it that we need to work well.

Those are my intentions, however. And I fully believe that they help us shift our mindset about work and make life more abundant. But, again, be sure to check out my book, and leave some comments on your experience with work, faith, life, and the balance of it all.


Spiritual Goals Failure

I confess: my spiritual life this summer is not going as I had planned.

I had planned to fit in some quiet time each day to stay caught up on my Bible reading. 

I had planned to maybe do a fast ever-so-often to acknowledge that sometimes I desire food more than I should and to temper that time with prayer.

I had planned to be more prayerful and practice more spiritual disciplines.

I had planned on practicing the presence of God more.

I haven't done much of any of those things. I am reading some good spiritual writing, yes. And I take time every once in a while to journal/blog--especially after church so I can reflect on what God's saying to me. But these are my typical practices.

Yet, it doesn't do me any good to feel shame about my lack of progress. 

Maybe I just need to adjust my plans to what the realities of summer are. I do need to be more spiritual disciplined--that I will still confess.

But I am also connecting with God--just not in the ways I had planned. 

When I am outside in natural settings, I tend to be more in-tune with God's presence. And I am outside a lot more in the summer. It is refreshing and draining at the same time.

I am in my yard a bit more, which helps me connect with neighbors more. I am spending more time with friends at soccer practices, camping trips, and picnics. I am connecting more with others. When I am more connected to others I tend to be more connected to God. Relationships are at the core of a spiritual life. It is how God created us to be.

I am with my children each day. Now, while sometimes they do want to make me curse, most of the time we are together enjoying summer activities and I am striving to be a better parent. In practicing a more conscientious fatherhood, I feel more connected to my Heavenly Father.

I am also enjoying life more. Yes, there is a never-ending stream of housework and chores to do. I am trying to work on some writing projects and marketing my book. Summer is very busy. But I also don't take it as serious as I do the rest of the year where I'm giving it all at work, then coming home to make supper and clean, and not having much time for other things. And it's not that I'm not enjoying the rest of the year, but I'm definitely more caught up in the busyness of life. With about 10 weeks of summer break, I want to make the most of it. And I think God intends life to be as much about enjoyment as He does work. Often our work distracts us, makes us more selfish/greedy, or diverts us from the things that matter.

And, yes, I can often distract myself with meaningless distractions. I work a lot, to be sure; but I confess to times when I get lost in something that's really a time waster. 

There's a lot about summer that doesn't go as planned. I think I always expect it to be three full months long, rather than just two. I haven't been in my hammock once.  So I guess that's maybe part of the lesson: I need to slow down sometimes and rest, I need to stay focused in the work I'm doing and not get distracted by inessential things, and I need to remember that God desires a relationship with me--not a checklist of dos and don'ts.

The summer's not over yet.


Sunday Night Musings: Being Neighborly

So, let me retell tonight's Bible story in a more modern setting, since it's a story most of us are overly familiar with:

A seminary professor approaches Jesus and wants to know what Jesus says about gaining eternal life--to make sure Jesus has the right theology. "So, Jesus, what do I need to do get eternal life?"

Jesus turns it back on him. "You've studied the Scriptures--what do they say?"

The professor replies, "To love God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and to love your neighbor as yourself."

"Bingo," Jesus says. "So do that, and you'll live."

The seminary professor, thinking he's done all that pretty well, wants to hear from Jesus confirmation of how he's loved his neighbors. "So then, Jesus, who is my neighbor?"

Jesus tells a story. "The other day this man--a member of a local congregation--was walking through a shady part of town while on his way to help at a soup kitchen. He was tailed by some hoodlums who pulled him into an alley, beat him up, took all his money and valuables as well as his shoes and the shirt he was wearing, and left him for dead in a pile of garbage bags."

"A priest walks by, wearing a cross around his neck and his white collar, notices the man lying in the alley, but keeps on going. He had a lunch meeting with another minister to get to."

"The head of a non-profit organization that helps victims of abuse walked by, noticed the man, but was worried of anything happening to her, too, so she kept on going to her office."

"A Muslim man walks by and notices the man who was moaning in pain. He hailed a taxi, took the man to a hospital, and sat by his side through the night while nurses tended to his wounds. In the morning he gave the hospital his billing information, not knowing if the man had any insurance. He came back later to check on the man and make sure he was taken care of."

"So, who was a neighbor to the man who needed help?"

The seminary professor replied, "The man who helped him, of course."

Jesus declared, "Go and do the same."

* * * * *

It's a story we all know. We all know how we're supposed to love our neighbors. We may even understand that the neighbor in the story wasn't who it was supposed to be. It was the "enemy" of the Jews.

I get all that. I understand the story. I try to live it out.

I fail.

When it comes to the homeless person on the street corner with the sign asking for help for her and her children, sure I may occasionally have a box of granola bars in the car to give her, but most of the time I turn my head and try not to look directly at her.

Jesus doesn't tell the story of a man who called someone else for help for the injured person, or who just threw money at the problem. He told the story of a man who is there for the injured man. He stays the night with him. He makes sure he's taken care of. And this is scary to me. I worry about the things that could happen. I fear that something will end up like in the movie Patch Adams, where the girl helps the guy who ends up killing her later.

Of course, right before this story Jesus heals the sick, raised the dead to life, drives demons from a possessed man. He shows that we don't need to fear illness, death, or evil. But I still have fear. If I'm honest with myself, I admit it, and I acknowledge that it sometimes keeps me from loving my neighbor.

I want to love my neighbors. I do. I don't always know what to do or how to help. I'm not always willing to take the time from my family's schedule to help. I've got a lot of excuses. I struggle to love and show mercy. But I've been loved and given much mercy.

Jesus shows mercy.

Do likewise.

Bike Ride Pause

Sunday morning, after my wife gets back from her run, is usually my time to get in a bike ride. A real bike ride. Not one with the boys where I'm needing to go as slow as possible at times. A bike ride where my heart rate increases, my muscles burn, and my glasses have beads of sweat dripping in them. 

That was my intention. After the 8th time of my chain derailing and getting wedged between the gears and the frame (I've been meaning to get it back to the shop where my wife bought it but obviously will be making sure that happens this week) I decided God was trying to tell me to stop. 

So I am. I've let my frustration go, got back into my neglected Bible reading, and had a little prayer time. I guess the summer has been more "go, go, go" than "slow." 

Sometimes spiritual life and growth seems daunting. But more than a checklist, it's about relationship which is probably why it seems daunting to me. I'm not great with relationships. 

But sitting along the river, feeling the breeze, listening to the sounds of birds in the trees and runners and cyclist passing by I am finding a moment of restful pause. A moment to be with God. 

And I may not feel like I'm doing very well in that time with God. But in doing it. And that's exactly what I need to do right now. There will be another time for a bike ride--assuming that I get back to the car. 

Post Script: After a nice break, the chain only had one issue on the ride back to my car (yes, I drove down to the river--I'd rather spend my time along the hills there than the big, nasty one near our house coming back up from the river). Was it really God telling me to stop and pause or was it just a bike that is in need of a tune-up? I think both. Either way, a pause was just what my soul needed.


A Poem for Summer

The boys pant slightly
As their legs pump
The pedals on their bicycles
Up a long, steady hill.
Sweat beads up under
Our helmets as we
Ride through neighborhoods
Of old two-story Victorians
And Ranch-styles with
A variety of flowers
In bloom as we head
To our friends' house.
Vegetables on the grill
Sizzling with olive oil;
A sweet smell rises
From searing meat.
Water droplets bead up
On the outside of glasses,
And a cool breeze
Brings some relief
From the sun's rays
Which seem so much hotter
Once you step
Of the tree's shade.

Good friends gathered
Beneath the canopy
On chairs made of wicker
And woven plastic strips,
Eating, laughing, talking,
Picking pieces from
Corn on the cob
From between their teeth.
In the glow of
A string of lights,
A plate of strawberries,
Bananas, and chocolate-coconut
Sauce drizzled over
Vanilla ice cream
Slowly disappears.


Summer Camp Advice: Homesickness

Back in May I wrote about why you should send a child (whether your own or not) to Bible camp this summer. My son leaves for camp next week. Having worked several years at a camp, I've seen my fair share of cases of homesickness. Every good camp nurse is prepared for it--most "sicknesses" that camp nurses see are manifestations of homesickness.

The major cause of homesickness is parents.

Got that? It's true. Most children will do fine on their own once they get to camp and get into the activities and begin to make new friends. Yes, they may miss home and may wish their parents were around, but without parental influence children will generally do fine.

1. Don't make promises that will cause trouble. Often parents will promise their child that anytime they need to talk, they can call home. It's a promise made with well intentions: you want to be there to comfort your child. Or they'll promise that they'll come get their child if they can't make it. Again, good intentions, but have confidence in your child that they can do well on their own without you around. That's the point of parenthood--to raise children in a way that one day they will be successful at living on their own. Most camps don't allow campers to use the phone unless there is an emergency, anyway. Phone calls breed homesickness.

Instead, promise them that you'll be thinking about them and praying they have a good week. It's okay to send a family photo or something from home that will bring them comfort if they need.

2. Be careful what you say in any letters you send to them. Don't write a letter to them them how much you miss them. Don't mention all the fun stuff going on at home or anything exciting their siblings are doing while they're at camp.

Write letters. You can send them one any day if you want. But focus on how much fun your child must be having at camp. Ask questions about new friends they might be making, activities they're enjoying, and what they're learning in chapel. Instead of telling them how much you miss them, tell them how much you love them.

3. Don't develop a culture of homesickness within your child. Fostering a "clingy" child who is afraid to be away from their parents' eyesight will hinder their success. Don't coddle them. Definitely don't bring up homesickness before they leave for camp.

Instead, develop their confidence. Remind them no matter where they are that your love for them does not change. Encourage them. Develop a healthy sense of independence--help them to know that you will be there for them, that they do need you, but also that they're able do well without you around. Encourage them to make new friends, try new activities, and have a great time.

The best cure to homesickness is time. With a homesick child I usually try and bargain with them for a little more time: "Let's play this game, and then we can see how you're doing." "Let me tell you a story before bed, and then we'll see how you're feeling." "Why don't you go get a treat from the Snack Shack and then we'll talk some more."

Sometimes it's just diversionary tactics. But with a little time, going minute by minute, eventually the camper will gradually find themselves enjoying camp. It's not unusual that by the end of the week, they don't want to leave. Yes, there may be some cases where a camper just can't handle being away from home, but most homesickness is curable. As long as we parents don't meddle too much.

Yes, parents are the main cause of homesickness, but we can also be the main reason for camper success.

Sunday Night Musings: Sending the 72

Last night's passage (yeah, the Sunday Night Musings is a day late) at church was from Luke 10:1-11:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’
For most of my life the message of the story of Jesus sending out the 72--36 pairs, 12 x 6, 6-squared partners (all sorts of numerology to play with)--usually about Jesus equipping us to do what He sends us to do. He'll empower us, equip us to do miracles, that sort of thing. But I heard and noticed something different this time.

First, I've always got questions to ask--questions that often don't have a readily apparent answer. First I want to know about these 72 others. Were they men and women? People who were around Jesus as much as the 12 disciples were? What's their stories? And Jesus sends them out to prepare the way for Him. What happens when Jesus goes to each of these places?

I'm noticing that Jesus tells them to "Ask the Lord of the harvest" to send out the workers. We often talk about Jesus telling us to go, but we seldom talk about asking Jesus to send people. And when He does tell them to go, He also tells them to be weary because they'll be like lambs among wolves--that there are people out there who will want to slaughter them. Jesus also tells the 72 not to greet anyone along the way. This seems rather unfriendly...is it because Jesus doesn't want us to talk to strangers? Or does it have to do with getting distracted from the mission. He also tells them to look for people of peace--that they will be the ones ready to hear the good news.Which makes me wonder why Jesus didn't send them to bring peace to the places of unrest?

So I have plenty of questions about the passage (as I think you should after reading any part of Scripture). Some I could probably find answers to in commentaries and other places. Others I'm not sure have answers. Regardless of the questions, there are also lessons to be learned.

The first is a reminder that we're not supposed to do this on our own. Often we thing of evangelism or helping others in "I" terms. "I can't share the gospel with that person--it would be too awkward." Or "I don't know how to help them--I'm only one person." But Jesus sends out people in pairs. He doesn't expect us to go alone. This is good news for me. I don't like to do those uncomfortable evangelism tasks on my own. I can do it much more easily with someone else with me.

Second is a reminder that God will provide. The disciples weren't supposed to take anything with them. But God's provision means that we must be open to letting others be generous to us. I don't always like accepting help from others. It's part of the Scandinavian farmer community I grew up in--you always help others, but you never accept help. It's a sign of weakness or something. But Jesus wants us to let others take care of us--especially if we're out there to help others. It's the flip side of that whole "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" thing. Don't be a mooch, but receive willingly from others. This also means that we need to have a willingness to be generous as well.

Third is a reminder to be people of peace--and to seek out others of peace. This, I believe, is part of the fullness of the Kingdom of God being near. And remember we're just preparing the way. We don't have to do the full work--Jesus will do that. That takes a lot of weight off our shoulders.

So go and share the good news of the Kingdom, but don't go alone. Be generous and accept generosity from others. Seek out peace.

That's a few of the things this Scripture passage says to me. What do you hear?


Scenes From a Sleepover

Our oldest son turns 9 tomorrow. For his birthday, instead of throwing a party with nine friends (we've been letting them invite one friend for each year of age), we let him have his first sleepover. We mutually decided two friends was a good starting point (which made it easier to plan, but harder for him to chose who to invite--friends were going to get left out, which is hard for him, but it was also the Fourth of July weekend, so not everyone was available anyway).

It was all fairly simple. Any free time was spent playing with Legos or looking at Pokemon cards. We didn't plan much, other than the obstacle course, which our youngest son made sure happen. Low-key, but fun and enjoyable: that's our motto.
Eating some yummy grilled food outside.
Followed by a birthday fruit-cicle with a candle in it.
A obstacle course has become almost mandatory. Complete with water hazards. Which ended up in a water fight, of course.
The boys just changed into pajamas after being wet. They had a little time playing on the Wii together. Then they watched Swiss Family Robinson. They were pretty tired out by that point, so they got some decent sleep! (Having been up late the night before for fireworks may have helped this, too.)
After breakfast we decided to go to Home Depot to partake in their Kid's Workshop.
So happy birthday, to our robot-and-clone-trooper drawing, empathetic, soccer-ball kicking, bicycle-riding, swimming-and-diving, comic-book-reading nine-year old. It seems like yesterday that we were driving to the hospital in Lake City, Iowa. I can't wait to see how you grow in the next nine years!