“Write while the heat is in you. … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.”
—Henry David Thoreau
And so, I write. Because the heat is still alive within me.
This past week I went to summer camp with my church. I know, I’m a graduate, but I couldn’t resist spending more time with my amazing church youth group. Plus this is the first time my brother and I have done an overnight event with the church, so his attendance put some indirect pressure on me too. Even though my summer is crazy busy, the time was so worth it. Since I could spend pages and pages and pages summarizing all that happened, here are 12 things that I learned at camp—in no particular order.
#1: The river is my happy place. I knew I loved the river from canoeing and tubing on various camping trips, and that love was confirmed. On Tuesday I went whitewater-rafting. Rafting was a new experience, and I fell in love…again… The river is such a beautiful analogy for life: the bumps, danger, and twists are accompanied by serenity and security. I feel at home fighting to overcome the rapids, calmly floating down the river, and reveling in the surrounding nature.
#2: Powerful worship doesn’t need to be fancy. In fact, the most powerful worship is often the most simplistic. Two individuals, a vocalist and a guitarist, led camp worship. That was all it took to lead me into some of the most sincere worship I’ve experience. I felt God’s presence strong and close during the past week. Praising Him in the company of other believers is a taste of the Kingdom of God.
#3: Even at church camp, teenagers will be teenagers. Not that I expected any differently. There’s drama, bullying, and stupidity. Young love wafts through the air. I was once again reminded how frustrating humanity is. Yet it is a good reminder that we are all broken people in need of a Savior.
#4: There is hope for humanity. The above statement contradicts the last one. While I was frustrated (“frustrated-frustrated”) by people at camp, some of the young people I met greatly encouraged me. Middle schoolers worship the Lord with passion. New high-schoolers have deep thoughts on deep issues. God is changing hearts and using His children. I met people of conviction, who are respectful and thoughtful. Yes, the next generation doesn’t look so bad after all. I want to be a part.
#5: My brother is cool dude. When Forrest and I went to camp together six years ago, it was a painful and traumatic experience. Yet God completely redeemed that situation. Forrest gained new friends (including some of my friends). He made me proud through his sense of adventure, his athletic skill, and his humor. And when we returned home, Forrest announced that he wanted to stay for another three weeks!
#6: People are watching. During the week we had an opportunity to write encouraging “Warm Fuzzies” to our fellow campers. I think most people were surprised at some of the people who wrote them and the messages they received. The truth is that people are watching. It’s a poignant reminder to be careful about our words and actions. all. the. time.
#7: I am more than a bruise. During the whitewater-rafting excursion, I jumped off a huge rock into the water and landed in a seated position. The force burst blood vessels along my thighs, and I have massive bruises on my legs. Not only are they painful, but they are also just plain ugly. I fell prey to complaining about the bruises’ presence. At the end of the week, I received a “Warm Fuzzie” from a friend reminding me of my identity in Christ. She wrote at the end, “Now stop feeling self-conscious. I simply forbid it.” We all need a little honesty in our lives.
#8: Living life on the edge is worth the risk. I went rappelling for the first time on Thursday. Sometimes I do well with heights; sometimes I don’t. So I was a bit apprehensive. But God gave me incredible peace and confidence as I leaned back and descended down the ninety-foot cliff. I could have this peace knowing that I was secure in the harness. The same goes for my relationship with God. Sometimes I need to step out of my safe perch and take a risk. I can have peace knowing that I can trust God to take care of me. Trusting in the rope allows me to have faith to step off the cliff. Trusting in God allows me to have faith to step off into the unknown.
#9: Contentment comes from being who God created me to be. I struggled all throughout high school with simply being myself, and as a result, I was lonely and unhappy. As I became more comfortable in my own skin, I felt happier and more accepted. And the past week was proof. I didn’t care how people saw me. I took risks. I laughed—a lot. I joked around with people. I met new friends and renewed old friendships. I worshipped with my whole heart. I didn’t wear makeup and I sweated—a lot. I was “me” in my rawest form, and I was perfectly content.
#10: God continues to inspire through visions. My friend, Ellie, shared a vision she had during worship that inspired me. She said that she was in a boat on the ocean and she could see Jesus in the distance. She climbed out of the boat to swim towards Him. The others in the boat tried to convince her that they would reach Jesus eventually but she was not persuaded. Despite the waves, she continued to swim towards Him. The truth is that when we focus on the waves, we can only see how far we have to go. We are caught up in the struggle. When we focus on Jesus’ face, we see our end goal and have hope. It doesn’t matter how you swim; it only matters that you reach Jesus by persevering. Others may say that we’ll reach Heaven eventually and can live for Jesus when we get older, but we desire to bring about God’s Kingdom on Earth tangibly right now.
#11: I can be an example by living a life of conviction. 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity,” (MSG). Next year I will be on a college campus with intelligent secular professors and peers. However, by staying committed to church, Bible study, prayer, and morality, I can live a life that shows others that I am a Christian in deed and not just in word. Our speaker this week spoke about living a life of conviction. Because we are saved by and through the Word of God, we should live the Christian life by and through the Word of God. Christianity is not a banner; Christianity is a lifestyle. This is my challenge to myself as I enter the lion’s den next year. I will be tested, but God has equipped me.
#12: Given the opportunity, teenagers will rise to the occasion. The world considers teenagers lazy, indifferent, and unmotivated. I would argue that teenagers just aren’t given enough opportunities to be more than themselves. This week I saw teenagers rooting for each other, coming up with creative cheers, sharing openly in small groups, and praying over friends. I witnessed them standing up for and intentionally encouraging people they didn’t even know. That is the power of Christ at work.
– – Phebe