Month: July 2014

Church Camp: More than Kumbaya


My daughter is home from a week of church camp, and she is glowing, and it’s not from the extra layer of dirt and sun that is coating her body.  She’s been rejuvenated.

Camp is her wellspring.  She draws on this one week away for the rest of the year.   Camp sets her spiritual and moral compass in the right direction,  it puts her on square footing and it restores her soul.

Now, you could say that all camps do this at some level.  There is something crucial about putting kids in nature with other kids and taking away video games, phone, televisions, and all electronics.  There is something crucial about allowing them to form relationships and take responsibilities without parents present.  There is something crucial about letting them experience a canoe ride and a high ropes course, and allowing them to see that they are braver than they thought.  There  is something crucial about creating  a community where people are intentionally inclusive and welcoming. — Where it’s cool to say “hi” to strangers  or ask if you can help, or stand on chairs and sing silly songs, and have campfires and lose track of the days.  Most good camps provide this kind of experience.


But Church Camp is different.  I’m not talking about the emotionally charged camps that require alter calls at the end of the week and ask kids to reflect on their sinfulness.  I’m not talking about camps that take advantage of kid’s emotions and make them question their salvation.  I’m talking about camps couched in the Reformed Tradition that use scripture, discussion, worship, communion, and community to build a lasting relationship with Jesus Christ. It was at church camp where I was given a Bible and a devotional time.  It was under an oak tree at  Camp Stronghold in Oregon, Illinois that I first felt the presence of God.  It was the older kids,  the camp counselors and the adults who came along who  would sit beside me on a rock and share their faith with me and ask me about my own.   There was something powerful about being prayed for and praying for others. – When you are 12 years old, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about praying for others, or knowing that you are being prayed for.

This Sunday, the lectionary is on Jesus giving all of these illustrations about the  Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is like a pearl in a field, a mustard seed, yeast, a treasure.    I’m not entirely sure I understand all that Jesus was saying in this passage, and frankly I think the disciples were confused too.  But here is what I do understand, mustard seeds, once planted became unmanageable and out of a control.  The results of that little seed can spread like wild-fire.  One week away for an impressionable kid with other adults who testify to their faith and encourage them to do the same,  can be more of an impact than any overture before the General Assembly.   When we give kids  time in sun and with the Son, their faith is like uncovered yeast on a sun porch.  It expands and grows in surprising ways.

Around the country Presbyterian church camps are running out of funds and Presbyteries are having to make difficult decisions as to whether or not they should be sold.   The reasons for these hard discussions are multi-faceted.

Kids have so many choices throughout the summer, and the checkbook only goes so far,  so if it’s not a “need,”   the decision to go to camp,  can quickly go to a “want.”  Further, denominations are dwindling and Presbytery  funds are declining, so are our camps.

After the last General Assembly gathering in Detroit, a parishioner asked,  “When is the Presbyterian Church going to focus their General Assemblies on growing disciples and faith formation?”   I thought it was a valid question. Although I’m sure much of what was never mentioned in the press about G.A. was  focused on discipleship and faith formation. But never the less, I wish we spent as much talking about providing opportunities for our kids and adults to plant seeds of faith than we do talking about language and procedure.  I wish we spent as much time praying for each other and looking for the pearl in the field than we do tossing the field out all together.  I wish we adults could remember camp.  I wish we could some how encapsulate the inclusivity, hospitality and the community of camp in our worship services  on Sunday morning and in our church community throughout the week.  I wish the Holy Spirit that shows up at camp, showed up at Presbytery and session meetings.

I know camp doesn’t fix everything.  Experiences like camp and mission trips are times set apart, and we can’t stay on the mountain top forever.  But, it would be good to go back there from time to time, either mentally or physically and remember, and be restored.






The Stay at Home Dad

We are one of those families.Picture 115

We hadn’t planned it that way.  I always thought I might be a Stay at Home Mom. I would have rocked it on the P.T.A.  I know I would have been an awesome  volunteer and made lovely meals, with every food group represented like my Mom did for us when we were growing up.

I always imagined my husband would wear a shirt and tie every day and that I would support him in his career.

Things didn’t work out the way we thought they would.  They worked another way, and today we are parents holding non-traditional roles: I have a profession outside of the home and he works in the home.  At first, it just made sense.  We had three little kids ages 4, 3 and a new-born.  Why would we work just to pay for childcare?  So at first the idea was my husband would stay home for the short-term.  The short-term became longer term and now we find that my demanding job requires  high demands on the other parent.  So while this set up is not necessarily intentional,  it’s where we are and we have learned some things along the way.

We have learned that everyone wants to feel and know they are valued.  I have long days filled with challenges. He has long days of laundry and picking up dog poop. Both of our roles have value and meaning and purpose.  We have learned along the way how important it is to appreciate the other person’s contribution to the family.  This realization did not occur over night.  It took time to see that work is work no matter where  you are or what you are doing, and it’s always greener on the other side.  It took a long time for us to get our egos in check and for us to  realize that we both wanted the other person to express admiration for the work we had  done that day.  Don’t get me wrong, we fail at this a lot. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own days and checklists we often forget to thank each other for the work we have done. It’s easy to take each other for granted. It’s easier to still to about the work and not about the life.

Stay at Home Dad’s are isolated.  Stay at Home Mom’s go to parks and do “stay at home mom activities” with other Mom’s. I think it’s harder for men to reach out, ask for help, or  chit chat.  I know there are a lot more stay at home dad’s out there today, but they don’t network the same way as women.   I wonder how they experience a sense of connection with peers and friends? I wonder how our society needs to change and will change as more Father’s take on the role of full-time parent while Mothers work full-time? How will children understand their roles as parents? How will schools address parents?  How should schools utilize Stay at Home Dad’s as volunteers and tutors? How will men see their roles differently in the future?  How will women change expectations of themselves?

As a Mom,  I want to do it all. I don’t want to miss a practice, or a bedtime book, or a doctor’s appointment.  But sometimes my job does not permit me to get to those things.  One of the hardest things for me has been to give up control and to let my husband be the one to go to practice, or read the book, or go to the appointment.   The hardest thing has been to release control, and let him be in charge and enjoy those moments that I have to miss. This is hard, because of the appendage of guilt that clings to my back like an annoying little monkey and says, “you should be there, all of the other good mothers’ are there, why aren’t you there?”  It’s hard because I grieve the experience and wish I could be there.   I think one of the greatest gifts I can have given my husband and myself is to let go of the guilt and rather have gratitude that he is able to be there and provide support to our children. Guilt turns in to resentment.  Gratitude turns in to joy.

Sometimes our son will come home and ask, “What does Daddy do all day and why doesn’t he have a job?”  There’s always this awkward silence and then we say, “Daddy’s job is being a Daddy and making good meals, and being home with you when you get home from school and helping you with your homework.”  “Is that a real job?” he asks.  “Yes, that is a real job.”