Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Onward Christian Campers!

But the place which you have selected for your camp, though never so rough and grim, begins at once to have its attractions, and becomes a very center of civilization to you: "Home is home, be it never so homely." - Henry David Thoreau

Megan and I don't really like to "rough it".   For us an ideal vacation typically would involve us close to a big body of water, listening to the waves crash and reading a good book while taking in some rays before an afternoon nap back at the hotel.  Suffice to say camping is not our cup of tea!
Recently we were invited to Pine Cove Family Camp at Crier Creek near Colombia, TX but it didn't sound ideal for our family.   South Texas heat and humidity and two kids in diapers for a week seemed like it might result in two (or four) unhappy campers.   Still the offer was there and with adventurous spirits we decided a week away might do us some good.  We had no idea what was in store for our little family.

Day 1 was a hard travel day and then we were up most of the night when the girls didn't sleep well.   Thus, day 2 was the perfect storm of child crankiness and parental frustration.   That night Megan and I were considering faking an illness and heading back north to the our comfortable routine and the modern luxuries of central heat and air and separate rooms for each of our children.

But the counselors showed up on day 3 to watch the girls while we went on a couples morning trail ride complete with a cowboy breakfast.  After the ride we looked across the table at the other exhausted but grateful couples and began to relax into what would be an unforgettable week.   I found myself sitting on the bed later that night (around 10pm!) with my worn-out girls and nothing else on my mind but gratitude for a hard, full, memorable day.  We'd been plucked from our regular routine and were now completely off schedule.  Yet once we'd surrendered to the discomfort, God began to show us why He'd brought us there.

We later confessed to the other parents that the week at family camp had allowed us to let go of trying to be great parents in our flesh and enjoy the chaos for a little while trusting that God is indeed the leader of our home...not Megan and me.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. - 2nd Cor. 12:19

Control in the midst of struggle is an illusion in a world that is chock-full of spiritual dimensions (Eph. 6:12) that are beyond our comprehension.   Yet we labor under the ever-oppressive yoke of decreasing discomfort and minimizing detours in hopes of reaching our set goals or perceived needs in a timely fashion.    Often times what seems like a disruptive curse can actually be God trying to get our attention (read: a blessing!) so that we might learn to hear His voice in the midst of uncertainty or suffering.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. - Rom. 8:28

Did you notice that "in all things" bit?   There is no part of our life that God is not completely in control (i.e. sovereign).   Thus even when we believe Him to be distant, He is not.  He's incessantly working on our behalf.
For instance, we learned throughout the week that while many assume God was absent during the intertestamental period, in working through the lives of Pagans to create the perfect circumstances for Jesus Christ to enter the world He was anything but silent.   

In 323 BC Hellenization began and ancient Greek culture spread rapidly through many people groups.  Greek became the universal language which would eventually allow The Gospel of Jesus Christ to be far more accessible and consequently, spread faster.  (Read: God at work in the silence!)

In reaction to Antiochus' issuing a decree that forbade Jewish religious practice and calling them to worship Greek Gods in 167 BC, The Maccabean Revolt occurred reasserting the Jewish religion, expanding the boundaries of the land of Israel and leading many Jews to re-examine their hearts and seek God's holiness once again.   Without doubt this revived obedience readied the hearts of many to receive John The Baptist's prophecy and his eventual declaration of The Messiah's presence among them. (Read: God again at work in the silence!)

If God is not silent even when He seems silent why should we ever worry?  Even when prophecy ceased in 400 BC God never ceased unfurling His majestic plan for the salvation of mankind.   When Christians suffer they can be sure that they're merely being tenderized to the hear the voice of the God who is there.  This leads to a greater hope in His ultimate faithfulness to us.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. - Rom. 5:3-4

When David wrote:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me - Psalm 23:4

..... it's clear that to him death is only a shadow.  Yet death is a looming reality for all those who are not comforted by God's rod and staff.  However for those, like David, whom God has kept "the apple of His eye" (Psalm 17:8) and "take comfort in the shadow of His wings" (read: the outstretched arms of Christ on the cross)  death is merely an illusion.

If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things. -  John Calvin

Last week at Family Camp we learned a blessed lesson in becoming content.   Taking long walks in hot weather, enduring tired and embarrassingly cranky children and less sleep than we're used to were all blessings in disguise.   Once we became content our hearts became grateful and we began to enjoy our time with an entirely fresh perspective.   We might have missed all that had we had a less trying week.    We'll be back next year for more....it was a difficult, trans-formative, eye-opening blast! 


P.S. The blog above may not have seemed like an advertisement for camp but it actually is!   Megan and I could talk and sing for hours about our time at Pine Cove Family Camp.  We are now converts....we get it!  Check it out even if you don't like camping!

This Week... 

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am, Wednesday AM - Kings Cross Chapter 7 
   @ 2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

* The Magills @ The Forge Bistro - 7pm-10pm, Friday Night - Ben Wheeler, TX 
* The Magills - Lindsey Pond Benefit Concert in Bergfeld Park - 11am-1pm, Saturday
   Visit www.BenefitThePonds.com for tickets!
Next Week...

Men's Lunch @ Dakota's in Tyler, TX - Mondays @ 12pm - Keller's Kings Cross - Chapter 8


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