Monday, December 20, 2010

Stick Figure on Ascent

Have you ever drawn out your life map?  When I taught seventh grade, I would have my students sketch one. Their roads were highlighted with elementary school events and birthday celebrations complete with Crayola colored balloons floating above the path. Some roads would dip down.  Age 5: Parents divorce.  It was interesting to see their perceptions of their thirteen year old life trajectory – what they saw as really affecting it and where it was going.  It would be interesting to create such a life map every five to ten years for comparison. How does understandings of life’s moments, their impact and influences, change over time – that party you weren’t invited to when you were eight might not be penciled in overtime but the rejection of a boyfriend in high school perhaps subconsciously influenced you to pursue a degree in counseling. Age 16: Broken heart.  
The title of our camp blog is “Memories in the Making.”  It is our hope that Prescott Pines is drawn on many such life maps. Age 8: Discovered Jesus’ Love. On my life map, camp would certainly be highlighted.  There would be a sketched mountain top with a soccer ball at its base. Then me, as a stick figure, starting the ascent, with a little stick figure group behind me. Age 20: Camp Counselor. After that summer, I graduated with a degree in education. Years later, I served in China. Now I am working here. Age 33: Communications Coordinator Prescott Pines. As I consider all such events, that summer I severed as a camp counselor was one of the best of my life. 
At Prescott Pines, all our summer workers are volunteers. When the season is over, we award scholarships. The fund is called “Servant’s Heart” and over the last three years, we have given $91,000 in one hundred and one scholarships. Many of our summer staff use the money for schooling but there are several who also put it towards ministry opportunities or spiritual growth like attending Acquire the Fire or Student Leadership University.  This year a young woman is going to serve in Nepal and another is going to Cambodia. One young man even donated his scholarship to his church so that more children are able to attend camp.  I would love to see their life maps and where the road will eventually lead. Each person’s life map intersects with others. As with our summer staff, we see the eternal impact we can have on one another.  Our hope is that we are able to grant even more scholarships. Would you consider being a part of this work?  Mark it on your map. Draw a heart around it and see where it will lead. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Red Paint, Wedding Lists, and Christmas Trees

    If someone were to tell me, “Sandra, in honor of your birthday, I cut down a tree and put it up in my living room,” I would think, “Cool! Odd, but cool.” Then I most likely would lament about not getting a gift.  Very well aware that most of the ways we celebrate Jesus’ birth is based on pagan customs and traditions, I still appreciate the twists and the turns we make in them in order to connect us to Christ and prepare ourselves for His arrival. Here at camp, that idea of preparation is on the forefront of our minds this season.  As I type this, my fingers are splattered with red paint.  In the afternoons, the staff has taken on work projects around camp.  There are few guests here during this time so we take the opportunity to prepare the camp for their arrival - tearing up old carpets, repairing broken lights, putting on fresh coats of color.  Today we were painting the dining hall in Frontier Village where we hold our summer camps. Radiant red covers the bottom half of the walls (and incidentally my shoe as I happened to step into the tray.)  In the middle of the work, it is easy to become distracted, impatient and grumblesome but imagining the hall filled with campers’ laughter and the excited screams of eight year-old memory makers, the monotonous roll of the red takes on meaning.  The preparation is part of building the anticipation, focusing our hearts, and bringing us together.   
    I painted next to Chris and Cassie, our Guest Coordinator, the other day. In January, they will be married. Counting down the days until they are wed, they too have been preparing.  Some question the worth of all the time and planning that a bride puts into a day that only lasts a moment, not to mention the money that some brides pay for their dresses alone. The preparation though is not so much for the event itself but for what is ahead, a lifetime of love and partnership.   We prepare the camp not just for the arrival of the guests but for transformation where life is awakened to the joy that is ahead. We hang up lights and display decorations not just for December 25th but for what the welcoming of a Savior into our lives means not only for the here and now but for what is ahead into eternity.  Preparation builds the anticipation, focuses our hearts, and truly brings us together. 
Boom Town 2010 Chris and Cassie in the front
  I see evidence of it in the red painted walls, in wedding to-do lists, and in the trees that now stand tall in living rooms. In the gospels, Jesus reminds us to be ready, to be prepared.  Maybe the parable is told not only for what is ahead but also for the here and now – His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Perhaps He knows, and I am almost certain that He does, that preparation is good for us not just as individuals but as community, as family.  Preparation can be agonizing to say the least, but the outcome – an expounded hope, an attentive heart, an  intimate unity – is more than worthy of tree display and red paint.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Dangerous Opportunity for Marshmallows

On a big white board, the list began.  Terry was chosen to be the scribe because she had the best hand writing.  No matter how beautifully it was written though the situation was far from glamorous.  “Okay, let’s make a list on one side of the damages and what we need to pray for,” Jim spoke to the worried, almost frozen staff. (This would be the first of many hours, days, without heat.)  The list was nearly overwhelming.
A few hours earlier, on their way to the office that cold December 7th morning, Ryan, Laura, and Cassie noticed smoke -billowing smoke- coming out of Hilltop Two.  Taking the radio from his pocket, Ryan asked somewhat casually, “Umm, do we know about the fire in Hilltop Two?”   And true to camp form, witty charm met the concern, “I’lll bring the marshmallows. Who’s got the chocolate?”  The fire department was called followed quickly by the decision to survey the camp for further damage. Ron and Rob set out in opposite directions.
Soon the second call came, “Ah, Jim. We have a tree in the dining hall.”  With hopeful humor Jim reassured Rob, “Yes, we know. We designed it that way.”  “No, there’s a second one.”  Seventy five mile per hour winds violently snapped a tall ponderosa pine in half and the blast of the burst  threw the broken tree through the roof. In its wake it left a fourteen foot hole, busted crossbeams, a bowed out roof line and many uncertainties.  A third call came, this time it was the gas tank that was hit, lifted from its raised metal frame.  And to top off the list, another tree was found on the roof of Eagles Roost that misaligned the roof and destroyed the internal dry wall.
So when the staff gathered for prayer that afternoon, Terry with her beautiful handwriting listed all the damages for everyone to see.  “Now, on the other side of the board,” Jim looked to lift the thoughts of his staff (and perhaps more so himself), “Let’s write some praises. What are we thankful for in the middle of all of this?”  One by one, the list grew longer and longer as the staff offered up ways in which God could indeed be seen in all of this.  There were no guests during this time. No one was injured.  Staff housing was untouched.  The gas tank did not leak. The fire was contained.  In a place full of notoriously brittle pines, twenty-three trees snapped but only three damaged structures…
The Chinese word for “crisis” has offered inspiration and hope to many found in such a situation. It could be interpreted that the two characters making up the word consist of  "danger" and "opportunity."  Last year's winter storm presented us with such a “dangerous opportunity.”  Looking at the list from one side, anxiety and fear could have spread throughout the camp just like the fire that had  over taken Hilltop Two. But looking at the other side, such adversity could become an opportunity for joy in trial and a chance to dream of impossibilities.   
The days that followed were challenging as communications were down along with heat and running water. Kitchen staff managed what they could as staff gathered for each meal. “Despite the awfulness of the situation, it really brought us even closer together, “ Cassie recalls.  Misconnection after misconnection with the insurance company was met with frustration.  By the third day, the staff found comfort in a night at a warm hotel. Once in town, the word was quickly sent out to camp constituents. “Afterall,” Cassie stated with appreciation, “It was not only our lives that were affected but their camp.”   And in response, love and support flooded in. 
Now only a year later, we have a new beautiful and bigger dining hall. “A dream that we would have never dared to consider had it not been for the storm,” Jim smiles.   Of course, we have not stopped seeking people to pray for protection this coming winter but we are also reminded to praise Him for his provision and grace in it all.  The ability to see the threads of opportunity in such trials testifies to our assurance in His goodness and faith in His sovereignty.  How do we choose to see it all?  Does it depend on how it is written?  In beautiful cursive or pitiful print, in standard English or complicated Chinese, let us remember He is the author after all and it is a always a good story. Always. So here at Prescott Pines, we invite you to gather around the campfire and retell such stories of trial and His victorious prevailing grace. I’ve got the marshmallows. Who’s got the chocolate?     

Monday, November 1, 2010

Inward Feet, Upward Lift

All her classmates had gone and it was her turn now. A little overweight and awkward in her pre-adolescent frame, she turns her attention to the dirt at her feet. She doesn’t want to go. “It’s fun!” her classmates shout. “You don’t need to be afraid,” the teacher assures.  But the ground is her only comfort and that is where her slightly turned-inward feet want to stay.  “Come on! We know you can do it!” they gently coax her.  And she begins to lift her gaze.  Someone hands her a harness. Before she knows it, a red helmet is on her head. Still hesitant, she is now hooked onto the zip line’s cable.  Then it happens- they begin to chant her name, “E-ri-ca! E-ri-ca! E-ri-ca!”   She grabs a hold of the rope attaching her to the line, takes a deep breath, and whispers to herself to stop shaking. Her loosely tied sneakers seem to be listening to her classmates now as they take the steps forward  to leap off the end of the dirt runway.  And now she is flying! And her classmates are cheering! And her name is heard throughout the woods as the yells of delight overtake her fearful scream.  Safely down the ladder on the other end, her teacher wraps her arm around Erica, “Well, was it worth it? Was that awesome, or what?”  Erica just smiles, the biggest smile her teacher has ever seen.  As they walk back up the hill, the awkward girl’s body seems to take on a new confidence.  She turns to her teacher and quietly tells her, “No one has ever cheered for me before.”