Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Reminders from Bible Camp

I'm in the final week of conference speaking for the summer, down here at Forest Home, a Bible Camp in Southern California with a rich history and legacy as the place where people encounter Christ. My wife Donna came down at the end of last week, stayed with me through the weekend (including our first ever encounter with a large rattlesnake while hiking), and then returned to Seattle yesterday. This camp was the place where, as a Jr. High girl, Donna received Christ. What a joy it was to walk with her to the campfire circle and stand together with her at that significant spot. Later she would tear up with happy family memories and remembrance of her roots as all the campers sang, "How Great Thou Art", the song which is so deeply rooted in Forest Home's history.

For myself, it's both a joy and humbling privilege to stand in the space where Billy Graham stood back in the 50's and declare Christ to the many couples who have come here because this is a place where Christ is declared. God did some profound things in the lives of people last week, and I hope you'll pray with me that He continues to work this week, expecting that His faithfulness and fruitfulness will prevail as we who lead make ourselves available to Him.

Bible Camp is like any camp. There's a zip line, swimming pool, lake, craft house, climbing wall etc. The difference is that instead just KIDS going to camp, and focusing on soccer, or math, or horses, the entire family goes to camp, and focuses on Jesus. There's about 11 hours of direct interaction with the Bible, as campers receive teaching from the word and then break into small groups to apply the truths.

Because of the profound changes I see, I'm sitting here pondering why more people in the world aren't willing to relieve themselves of cooking, cleaning, shopping, internet and cell phone access, all the rest of it for one week in order to, as a family, go deeper with Christ? The truth of the matter is that I can think of no better way for a family (or a couple, and yes there were single adults there too) to invest one week each year. It's a way of calibrating, checking our spiritual compass, assuring ourselves that, indeed, we're walking in God's story rather than our own. People from last week made huge decisions as a result of being here: quitting 2nd jobs to choose intimacy over income; releasing bitterness; renouncing destructive patterns -- all because they showed up and listened for God's voice.

As a result of this, I'm reminded once again of just how important it is to make time in our lives to meet Christ. Yes, the week per year is excellent, and I'd recommend it for anyone. But whether or not you do the week, please, please: CARPE DEIM - seize the day. Make a little time for meeting God in His Word each day, a little time for listening, pondering, understanding. This principle of showing up is enormous.

LET'S HELP EACH OTHER!! Do any of you have resources that you've found meaningful for help in daily Bible reading? You'll find a little bit about both the challenges and fundamental principles of how to read the Bible in my book, "o2". But there are countless other resources out there. What's been helpful for you? Please share both the challenges you face and the resources you've found helpful, because as I've been reminded this week, good things happen when we show up and allow God to speak to us.


At 5/8/08 11:04, Blogger BenMc said...

Other books always help me keep up with regular Bible reading, actually. God's Secretaries, about the translation of the King James Bible, gives a good warts-and-all discussion of how the KJV came to be and some of its influence over other writers. I find that exploring the historical context of the Bible helps me put it in my own context better -- I'm sure that works for analytical personalities at least.

I can also recommend Tom Wright's Bible for Everyone commentaries -- it helps to have a short, engaging commentary to read along the way and those are short enough to read in parallel with the Bible often. The problem is they're kind of expensive -- 15 bucks for a trade paperback.

I guess this works only if you like reading so much that it doesn't make the task seem more onerous!

At 5/8/08 14:38, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome back. Your multilayered experience sounds fantastic. It must be gratifying to reach so many through teaching, and have your own personal experiences with your wife at a place she holds so dear.

I have a couple of questions, and do not want them to sound more personal than they are. Did your children attend the same camp growing up?

When attending a camp like this, or hearing your own wife's story of accepting Christ, do you ever wonder at what age a child can actually understand they choice they are making?

Accepting Jesus is amazingly positive, no doubt, but I sometimes ask myself when/how I want my own son to come in contact with Jesus on his own.

I bring such questions up, as I attened a Christian sports camp between the ages of 9-13. We had fun, we had alot of chapel, and we also had the choice of accepting Jesus.

My friends and I chose to, but I can truly tell you that it had more to do with peer pressure than it did with us understanding the word of Jesus.

I have always looked back as the experience as a positive one, as it was the first time adult sport figures spoke to us honestly about their trials and tribulations. It embedded a framework of right and wrong, that truly kept me from making poor decisions in the future.

You know what, I think I just answered my own question...

Fast forwarding to today, after watching the documentary Jesus Camp with my wife, I would be alarmed sending my child into such an environment...that seemed more harmful than my own experience.

At 5/8/08 15:12, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

I've not seen Jesus Camp, though should have done so by now. We took our own family to a different camp, where I spoke regularly throughout the 90's. It was a significant place for them just as Forest Home is for Donna.

Though I've not seen Jesus Camp, I know that the experiences from my own childhood were overwhelmingly positive. It was certainly easier to encounter Christ and believe in the camp environment than it would be in, say, Somolia, with a gun at your head ready to kill you if profess faith in Christ. However, such environmental circumstances don't in themselves force a decision. I'd hate to live in a world where people couldn't be enthusiastic and articulate about their belief systems, creating environments where others are encouraged to change their world views. After all... isn't transformation just what all of us need?

At 5/8/08 16:47, Anonymous Anonymous said...

blessings on you brother. The idea of pulling apart is not a new one for Christian Camps, but as we fill our lives up to the brim, we forget the value of disconnecting from all that distracts.
Firwood is in full swing, and I need some help if you get a minute. I called the church and alas you are away. I can be reached at or 360-223-6840. If you are anywhere near your cabin, lets spend a day on the lake together.

Rob Lee

At 5/8/08 20:27, Blogger postcall said...

Richard, Anonymous:

From 4rd to 7th grade, I attended Forest Home camps for one week during the summer. A friend at school invited me, and after my mom looked into it, it sounded harmless, and so I went.

At the elementary school level, it was called "Indian Village," where you were divided into 6 rival camps (e.g. Sioux, Pawnee) and competed against each other in things like relays, cheers, and teepee cleanliness checks. We learned some things about indians, and of course, about God. Every night we had worship around a campfire, and afterwards a combination of skits and talks. Thursday night was when they did the altar call. I was already a Christian before I went to the camp, but I distinctly remember becoming good friends with one guy, and watching him get up from his seat and respond to the call that night. I can't speak for the documentary "Jesus Camp," but my experience at Forest Home was not coerced or pressured at all. That friend I talked about came because someone else invited him, just like me. And there were plenty of kids who just stayed in their seats and didn't accept Christ.

Most of the week was spent playing games and checking out the cute girls. But aside from that, I was up at Indian Village when I heard that Donnie Moore, a relief pitcher for the Anaheim Angels, had committed suicide. For those of you who who aren't from SoCal, he was the pitcher who gave up the 2-run home run when the Angels were one pitch away from the 1986 World Series. It all seemed so confusing to an 8 year old, and I remember a counselor sitting down with some of us and talking about it. Then there was this other talk given by this gorgeous brunette counselor. Her name was Julia Richards--I remember, because her name sounded so similar to Julia Roberts. Man, she was so pretty. Anyways, the title of her talk was "One is a lonely number," talking about her depression and loneliness, and I remembered thinking, what the hell did she have to be depressed about! Those things stick with you.

I highly doubt that the majority of the kids that attended that camp, or the junior high version, have stayed with the faith, especially those whose parents didn't take them to church. It's not that we don't understand, but its just such a long time until you get to college and can start living your own life apart from your parents' mold. But that's not to say that God didn't touch everyone somehow. The baddest kid at camp every year was this guy named Kyle. I remember he used the F-word a a lot and got into a lot of fights. But I remember one camp, he stood up at the final Friday night campfire, where people usually talk about how happy they are to have accepted Jesus the previous night, and he talked about how his teepee counselor told them about the time when the counselor was working at McDonalds, and the store was robbed at gunpoint. At that moment, the counselor suddenly realized that the only thing that mattered was Jesus, and that he suddenly was not afraid of the gun pressed against his chest. And Kyle said that he never knew that knowing Jesus could help you conquer fear. It was cool to hear Kyle, of all people, say that.

Anyways, sorry for rambling. But it makes be glad to hear that you're speaking regularly at Forest Home, Richard. I have great memories of that place, and I do feel that it helped shape my faith. I never knew there was a version where you could go together as a family, but I'll definitely keep that in mind, once I have a family of my own.

At 7/8/08 00:34, Blogger Kristie said...

Great post. It was such a great week and I just posted an entry that talks about what our kids experienced...I feel like all I hear is how God genuinely moved in all of our lives. He's so amazing.

My mom's parents didn't go to church. She was invited by a Jr. High friend to come to Forest Home to Lost Creek Ranch (now creekside). My mom asked Jesus into her heart that week. The next year, the friend that invited her, a fellow 7th grader, died suddenly.

My mom didn't attend church until she was 18 and she went and found a church and as she says she "picked up where she left off" in Jr. High.

Years later, after marrying my dad, they began taking us to Family camp beginning at age 3 for me, and 2 for my brother. Every summer we went to Family camp and I truly believe that it is the foundational cornerstone of my faith. WHen church was strugging at times...Forest Home was always a place I could go to meet with God and sort of review the year...make goals...etc.

I'm almost 30 now...and I worked at Forest Home a few years...and then have taken kids up every summer from churches I work at.

I don't know what the right "age" is for a person to come to Jesus on their own. For me, it was when I was 6 yrs. old in a wooden chair at church. I really was surpised to find out that I wasn't already a christian so I made sure to ask Him in my heart ASAP. :) I did this about 45 times more just to make sure it had really stuck. I believe now that I've had a lifetime of a privelege of knowing Jesus.

I believe that these defining moments are so important...but often they are about a journey. I feel like Jesus asked me each summer at Forest Home: "would you like to walk closer with me next year?"

And I answer "YES!" it is so good to know Jesus and the redeeming way He helps us know life.


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