I hope that all of you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year, filled with a deep sense of awe and wonder at God's love for us and plan for the ages, and a deep security in His love and presence. December went, for us, way to fast. For me the Thanksgiving and Christmas season is my favorite of the year, but every year it seems to speed up and fly past faster than the last. And yet, when I look back and ask myself what about it I shouldn't have done, should have changed, etc., I can't see that there is any part of it I should have skipped. (A little secret, just between us . . . I am going to watch a bunch of Christmas movies this week and listen to a bunch of Christmas music to catch up what I missed and to try and immerse myself in the wonder of God's gift now that the flurry of celebrating it has passed. But, don't tell anyone!)
Mary Ann and I got back down "off the mountain" this Sunday night, returning from Hume Lake Christian Camp with 24 high schoolers and 4 other adults. It was a really incredible weekend, but we were sure tired. I wanted to share two things about it that might bless you—one from the mountain top, and one from after we were home.
On the Mountain: While up there I reflected on the number of youth (and counselors) we've taken there (or to other similar types of events of concentrated God time). This was our 19th winter taking kids to Hume, and I think for me somewhere around trip number 33 or 34 with kids to Hume, plus I don't know how many times as a family or to other events there. I was struck in my reflecting by one of those moments when things were very clear in their simplicity.
As I reflected on the chapel times there, and on countless similar times counseling people as a pastor, chaplain for the fire department, etc., that there is an irony in that we "get" that being good at anything takes work, and yet we seem so surprised when we invest nothing in our relationship with God and after a year wonder why we aren't closer to Him. As I looked at the youth, and thought back over the past, I saw how many of them are so diligent and make so many sacrifices for sports, grades, 4H, etc., and wouldn't expect to excel in any of them without personal discipline and sacrifice . . . and yet do little to nothing to grow in Christ and wonder why they feel so distant from Him and hear so little from Him, or fall so quickly back into old patterns. (This truth applies equally to adults.)
So, the last morning, I shared that with them and I am hoping it resonated. I told them that they understand that growing in something takes work—they demonstrate this understanding in many things they apply themselves to—and that their walk with God is no different. And I reflected . . . isn't it puzzling how such an obvious truth to us seems to so easily elude us in our Christian life. We somehow act as if simply acknowledging God will make us grow with Him and be stronger, and yet we'd laugh if someone said that simply saying they like football or school will make them a good football player or student. Anyway, it was just a thought—a moment of clarity—and I thought it might bless you or be something you could share with another in an example that would ring true with them.
Back Home: Then, this morning, an elderly gentleman who grew up in this area but now lives in town, read about our trip in the article I write for our community newsletter and called to thank us for our work with youth in these hills and valleys. I was sharing with him that we are taking 35 youth between this trip and the upcoming middle school one, and how crazy amazing that is considering how small our community and church is. We got talking about how, though, a lot of those youth don't stick after Hume, or grow, and how we have to trust that God's word was planted for later harvest, and that they know they were loved and cared for. As we talked it reminded me of a pivotal moment in my life when Mary Ann and I were very discouraged after a youth camp we put on and were talking to the pastor at the time (the man I took over pastoring for). He asked us a simple question—"Did you do what God asked you to do?"
After thinking about it we replied that we felt we had and he said, basically, "Then that is all God asked you to do. He is responsible for the results." It was one of the most freeing moments of our life as I realized that I am, indeed, only responsible for doing what He asks me to do. I have had this and similar revelations free me tremendously when, say, counseling a struggling marriage or an addiction—the problem is really God's to solve, it is not my problem. I am responsible for being obedient and usable, but ultimately it is His. This is a wonderful realization because the weight of the burdens around is too much to bear. It doesn't mean we don't care, we don't weep, we don't love—but we recognize that the results are God's to bring about, what He asks of us is to be obedient.
God bless all of you and, as always, thanks for sharing in my life! —Erick