Saturday, August 29, 2009

What God taught me this summer

I take, O cross, thy shadow
for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than
the sunshine of His face;
content to let the world go by,
to know no gain nor loss,
my sinful self my only shame,
my glory all the cross.
-Elizabeth Clephane

Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.
-Frances Ridley Havergal

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Props to my props makers!

This year was a unique year for the programming at camp and it required some additional props that would take some creativity to figure out. Each day, we went through the life of Moses and, to put it lightly, Moses experienced some pretty incredible stuff. At the end of the week, right before Moses died on Mount Nebo, Spirit of Prophecy says that God showed Moses the plan of salvation. It was from that angle that the kids viewed the sacrifice of Christ.

Unfortunately, I don't always have the practical skills to go along with my hair-brained programming ideas. Thankfully, I have several friends who have more than enough handy skills. So I came up with the ideas and helped with the plans and they helped me put it all together. Thanks Teddy, Alex, Jen, and Caitlin for all your help!

These "bulrushes" provided a perfect place for Miriam (Emily Knott) to hide and watch the Princess find Baby Moses. Alex sawed a log in half and then drilled holes for the greenery. (Sorry that I don't have more 'in-action' pictures!)

The Red Sea was something that stumped me for a long time. How could I to portray the parting of the red sea in any tangible way? The best plan that I could come up with was to pain an ocean scene on a large sheet and have Israelites walk past it as if they were walking on dry land. Providentially, my good friend Jen Seal, who also happens to be an accomplished artist, worked as a volunteer at camp this summer. She and Caitlin produced this beautiful red sea painting for me!
Pharaoh's chariot was probably our most fun prop this summer. Pharaoh would ride in this chariot and chase the israelites past the red sea painting. I love working with my friend Teddy because he can take my ideas and produce them in concrete form in hardly no time at all. I sat down with Teddy, told him my crazy idea and not long after, he came back carting this awesome chariot behind. He told me he'd always wanted to make something with wooden wheels!

This tombstone was placed in front of the fireplace in the chapel during the scene of Christ's resurrection. Teddy made me a circular frame out of wood and then we covered it with cardboard and painted it.

I need this wooden door frame for multiple reasons. One being that I needed someplace for Moses to paint the "blood" of a perfect lamb to save the first-born Israelite sons from being killed in the last plague on Egypt. Second, it worked perfectly for a door to an inn where Joseph and Mary tried to ask for shelter in the Passion play. Teddy made it, complete with wooden pegs instead of nails! :)

This Samaritan Well was used to bring out the portrait of Jesus being our living water. I modeled the Passion play after the types of Christ that are seen in the life of Moses (living water, serpent lifted up in the wilderness, the rock of Christ, manna, etc) so I decided to include the Woman at the well story as one of the snapshots that Moses would see. With help from some willing camp staff (Jackie in particular!), I painted a large sheet of cardboard with a brick texture. Then, Teddy built a well stand to fit inside, complete with an six-sided wooden bucket and a handle that actually turns!

Mount Nebo took quite a bit of planning. This was definitely not my original plan but it worked out quite nicely. What we did was take two sheets of plywood and hinge them together so that they would fold up on each other. Alex and I took a saw to the top to create a jagged, rock-like edge. Then, I took all manner of trash, cardboard, milk cartons, etc to build up a 3-d mountain. We also used paper mache (thanks kristin!) and many, many cans of plumbing foam sealant. Then I spray painted the whole thing grey and Jen added the finishing shadow touches. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture with Moses actually up on the mountain but it looked pretty cool. We had a table behind that he would climb up on and so it looked like he was on the top of a mountain. It was from this vantage point that he was shown the life of Christ in our Friday night Passion play.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Leather Book Cover

On day off #6, Teddy and I went to a trading post in Saranac Lake that we frequent every summer, despite grave trepidation on our part regarding the store owner. We put on brave faces and made our way to the back room where there are stacks and stacks of leather. I got a nice red piece of cow hide to make a book cover out of. I worked on it around camp for a while and just finished it here at home. Here is the finished product:

Monday, August 17, 2009

20 Minute Transformation

This used to be my favorite sweatshirt (sorry for the back view, like usual, I forgot to take a before picture. On the front, there was a lemon with the word TART.) But then I lost it for several years. I just found it as I was packing up my room. I almost tossed it in the give away pile but then I realized what awesome fabric it would make for a project. And then I looked at my computer lying on my bed and an idea hatched in my mind. Thankfully, our sewing machine wasn't packed yet. Here is the result:

I'm not quite finished because I want to put some cool yellow buttons on the front. But our buttons are already packed up so that will have to come later.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


This is me in my programming office at camp. It's located in a VERY small, VERY full corner of the directors cabin and office. I love my "office" because it is definitely not your typical office. Instead, it is chock full of fun stuff like a six pound bucket of yellow play doh, bins of party supplies, rodeo costumes, and paint; extension cords, blankets, plastic alligators, markers, mexican hats, road signs, wigs, old C-collars, and so many other exciting things. If I were a 7 year old, the things in this room would occupy me for a whole year! I think it's pretty cool that, at 20, it is my job to use this stuff! I'm in my office for one last time. I'm about to finish punching holes in my newest project: a leather book cover. Here's a preview:

This summer has been incredible. God has been incredible. My spiritual vision has become so much more sensitive to that fact in the past several months.

Tonight is my last night at camp. Tonight I led out in song service for the last time. Tonight, I sang our theme song "Bound for the Promised Land" for the last time. Tonight, I spent my last Saturday night with the campers watching the slideshow and reliving memories. My hair is wet from one last lark with the girls staff. Tonight I will sleep in my lean-to and let the loons sing me to sleep for the last time. That place has been a haven for me this summer. Tomorrow is the last time I will wake up to the fog rising off the lake and the water still as glass.

Tonight is my last night before I enter a world that is unknown to me. Vastly unknown. Thankfully, there is Someone who is right beside me. This is not my last night with Him. He is constant when all else is change. He will last.

Good night, Camp Cherokee. I will miss you.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Mark Kurtz Photography

I met this guy last week on my day off. Kristin and I were walking down a street in Saranac Lake and we saw my last name displayed prominently on a sign across the street. Curious, we went to check it out. Mark Kurtz is a photographer and, after we compared notes on our shared last name, he showed us around his gallery. I was really excited because he told me all about the cameras that he uses, techniques, filters, and all types of awesome info! Check out some of his photographs. They are pretty cool, especially the ones of Upper Saranac Lake, my current residence of choice.

Friday, August 07, 2009

this day

this day was long

this day was exhausting

this day was frustrating

this day was disappointing

this day was complicated

this day was draining

this day was scary at times

this day was stressful

this day was unique, oh so unique

this day was miraculous

this day had the great controversy written all over it

this day I failed

this day I won

this day I invited 50 campers to surrender their lives to God when it was I who needed to surrender

this day I got angry

this day I cried

this day I both forgot and remembered how God has led in the past

this day was raw

this day was gutsy

this day stretched me

this day exposed my weaknesses

this day exposed my strengths

this day I prayed, a lot

this day, God answered my prayers

this was a day to top all days

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Camp Cherokee: where normal is as it should be

I love where I work. I feel privileged to be amongst such an amazing group of individuals, many of whom willingly gave up lucrative jobs to come minister here at camp. Camp Cherokee truly is an exceptional place. But, like Shama said, it is the people that make it that way.

There are very few places that have such quality staff all in one place as we have here. At Cherokee, it is a normal occurrence for campers to see staff in the early morning hours scattered around camp with their Bibles, spending time with God. It is a normal occurrence to walk in on spontaneous prayer sessions and spirited spiritual discussions. It is normal to see staff members carrying their Bibles or other religious books from waterfront to pool to cafe to horses, just in case they might have a few minutes of free time to read.

It is normal to see staff hugging campers, sharing testimonies, and singing hymns. It is normal to walk in on staff cheerfully doing piles and piles of dishes while listening to a Symphony. It is normal to hear discussions on topics like physics, music, medicine, nature, and other intellectual subjects. It is normal to see staff members taking time on their day off to bake pies and other goodies for their secret pals. It is normal for staff to visit the neighbors, taking them cookies and listening to their stories. It is normal for song service to be accompanied by cellos, violins, oboe, flute, and piano.

It is normal for the family campers, adults and children alike, to break down in tears at the end of the week because they don't want to leave this spiritual haven. This place is so different from the hectic chaos that many of them come from. They have seen a glimpse of a "more excellent way" and, for many of them, it's almost too good to be true.

Full-time, no-breaks, even-when-no-one-is-looking ministry is normal here at Camp Cherokee. I can't even begin to tell you how rare that is, especially for summer camps. Many of the staff here have worked at other SDA camps and every single one will attest to the fact that Camp Cherokee is in a completely different category. If you were to take away the pastor, skits, and even the whole spiritual "program" that is presented, you would still see God everywhere. Because He lives in the heart, mind, and life of each staff member here.

It is normal for miracles to happen here at Camp Cherokee. We are small. We run on a shoe-string budget. But God comes through, time and time again. I couldn't count the number of direct, overt miracles that took place just during staff training week and have continued to happen ever since. Take, for example, Shannon. She's from California. She's a Water Safety Instructor (WSI). We are required to have a WSI on staff in order to teach swimming lessons, an important part of any kids-camper's experience. Our previous WSI didn't return and our camp director was urgently praying that God would send someone. Then he receives a call from Shannon. She wants to work at camp. How did she find us? Out of the blue, she GOOGLED "SDA camp New York", found Camp Cherokee, and applied. God sent us a WSI, from California.

At this moment, I am watching a group of family campers help rebuild an important retaining wall that has been slowly shifting its way down the hill towards the lake. These are campers who are donating their vacation time which they have paid money for in order to help camp. This type of thing happens all the time. It is normal to get phone calls from previous campers wanting to know how they can help, what they can donate. It always happens just after a new need arises.

The greatest miracle, however, is the miracle of a changed life. Like *Jaden. He is eight years old and full of life, pain, and a yearning to be loved. His blue eyes sparkle with mischief and fun and he always has an impish grin on his face, unless he isn't getting what he wants. He came with the speaker for tween week, who had given him a home for the summer. His family situation is, at best, sad. When he first arrived at camp, it didn't take long for the staff to realize what a handful he would be. He pitched fits, he refused to listen, ran off in anger, and generally caused problems wherever he went. He was starved for firm boundaries, healthy attention, and most of all, love. Little by little, the staff began to get through to him. With everyone working together to enforce rules and let him know what was acceptable, he quickly began to realize that things were going to be different here. Love was poured out. I would frequently walk up to see Joel rocking him as he cried after having pitched a fit. He stayed for two weeks and the change we saw in him was incredible. Stephen (his counselor) told me that he asked if he could read his Bible every night by flashlight. By the end, he was obedient (most of the time) and showed affection openly. He went around multiple times telling us all goodbye and I cried as I watched him hug my brother. He was going back to his family. I haven't seen him since but I know his time here made a huge difference. Camp changes lives, mine included.

I am incredibly blessed to be at a place where God works miracles each and every day, where faith is exercised, love is tangible, and lives are changed. I am blessed to be at Camp Cherokee, where "normal" is as it should be.

*Name changed

Monday, August 03, 2009

I/E N T P - Knowledge seeker

My score (each out of 20):
Introvert - 13
Extrovert - 13
Sensate - 8
Intuitive - 16
Thinker - 13
Feeler - 6
Judging - 7
Perceiver - 15

I like analyzing people, including myself. That's why tests like the Myers-Briggs test intrigue me. While I don't think it gives you the whole picture, it can definitely help you to understand different personalities better. Of course, many other factors must be taken into consideration: birth order and gender being two very important ones.

My family has long debated over what my letters were. My parents thought I was an introvert but my brother was sure I was an extrovert. Everyone knew I was intuitive but there was great controversy over whether I was a Thinker or a Feeler. We kind of just assumed I was a J because I can be very opinionated in my viewpoints.

You see, my parents are almost polar opposites. The only letter they have in common is the N. No wonder I'm so middle-ground!
Mom: strong E, N, strong F, strong J
Dad: strong I, N, strong T, P

As this past year progressed, we began to become more decisive about my personality type. I realized that much to everyone's shock, I am an introvert. Outgoing, yes. But I have to spend a lot of time alone in order to recharge. So then I thought I was an INT/FJ. But again, as more time passed, I began to realize that my T side usually won out over my F. Yes, I have strong emotions (I get that from my mom) but usually I am able to eventually suppress them in favor of the more rational decision or behavior.

So that would make me an INTJ. I still was kind of confused about the J vs P part though. It wasn't until Sunday, when a bunch of staff decided to take the Myers-Briggs test in a book that Bekah had on it that I finally understood. I joined in just for the fun of it (plus, I wanted to see if everyone's personalities were the same as I had previously analyzed. See, I'm a true N. lol. It was actually quite hilarious because each person represented their personalities so well as they took the test and reacted to the questions. It was so easy to tell what their letters were without them even adding up their scores!) And guess what I found out...

I'm a P!! I got so excited (that's my E side coming out)!! In fact, I'm a relatively strong P. As I was answering the questions, I realized that the perceiver fits me so much better than the judger. I am VERY flexible and love being spontaneous. I'd almost rather NOT have a plan so that I can do things spur of the moment. I'm perfectly fine leaving decisions undecided until the last moment (that's also partly because I'm a procrastinator). I'm not necessarily very organized (though I like to be[sometimes]) and can function well in chaos. Anywho, I was just very excited and decided to blog about it!

I was rather surprised that I scored so low on the Feeler part. I think I'm a stronger F than the score indicates. ... ...

Yay for analyzing!! And yay for my day off when I actually have time to blog!!!!
Oh dear! I got so excited writing this blog that I forgot to go check on the yummy apple pie/crumble/surprise/deliciousness that Kristin and I put in the oven a little bit ago. I'd better go do that!


Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Missing Foundation

During camp meeting, I was asked to be on a panel of young adults during the adult sabbath school. We were asked several questions that the adults had submitted:
  1. How do you maintain your Christian experience in today's culture?
  2. Why are so many youth who have been brought up in the church leaving?
  3. Why should we turn the church over to the young people?
Overall, I think the panel was able to show the older generation that there is more to young adults than just a quest for worship "entertainment". However, I left feeling unsatisfied with one of the answers given.

The answer for question number one involved the expected items such as Bible study, prayer, and active involvement in service. I wasn't assigned to answer that question so I kept quiet but I went away feeling like there was some key element missing. Not that the answers given were wrong but they just didn't seem complete. All those actions are good and right, but many people, young and old alike, are doing those things yet still coming away dry and empty. Sin still reigns in their lives. Where is the disconnect? Paul asks this question as well: "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:2) At the time, I couldn't put my finger on what was missing (Paul goes on to identify it as well). But as I thought about it more, I realized the answer was right under my nose.

The story of the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-30) is a very good illustration of what I feel is the underlying cause of many personal and church-wide problems. Here is a young leader who is doing everything "right". He's keeping the commandments, going to church, and paying his tithe. He probably reads the scriptures, prays every day, and is actively involved in service to others. But yet there is still something holding him back from eternal life. He has not fully surrendered everything to God. There is an area of his life that he is holding back: his wealth. Jesus is asking the man to surrender what has commanded greater loyalty than Christ.

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." - Luke 9:23.

Whenever Jesus talks about the cross before His death, He is referring to the cross of His followers. The cross represents death, but not necessarily a physical death. Rather, it is more of an emotional death, involving the laying aside of opinions, preferences, tastes and will. Crucifixion was usually forced upon the victim but Jesus is asking for a voluntary surrender: "take up his cross".

"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain." - John 12:24

Death to self is a prerequisite to Christian growth and victory. "[Our] growth will be proportionate to [our] dependence on the Spirit's help." -EGW, "Character Building," The Youth's Instructor.

Paul explains: "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. ...Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin."

Notice that Paul doesn't list Bible study, church attendance, or good works as solutions to sin. The cross is the answer. Complete surrender, even unto death. This cross experience is sought for by these other things, but not substituted by them.

"The new birth is a rare experience in this age of the world. This is the reason why there are so many perplexities in the churches. Many, so many, who assume the name of Christ are unsanctified and unholy. They have been baptized, but they were buried alive. Self did not die, and therefore they did not rise to newness of life in Christ." -Ellen G. White, The SDA Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1075

"There is a great deal of modern preaching which presents, as a remedy for sin, love, social regeneration, culture, self-development, etc. According to the Scripture, the only way to deal with sin is to begin with death.... Undoubtedly the great difficulty with the majority of believers is that they are trying to live Christ's life without first having died Christ's death.... It is much more popular these days to talk about life than death, but not more necessary, for death is the way into life. Many have not seen or understood the necessity of this death; and others, having seen it, are afraid or unwilling to die.... It is the daily dying of self that makes room for the living of Christ." - Meade MacGuire, The Life of Victory

As a young adult, it is this daily surrender to God's plan, even when it is not what I would prefer, that keeps my Christian experience alive. It is a deliberate decision each day and one that I put into practice by accepting the circumstances that God leads me into. This submission brings me to a point of complete dependence on Him in whatever area of my life He is working on.

It is for this aim that God allows trials and heavy decisions. He knows that we humans are stubborn and many times have to be let to our own devices until finally we come to the point where the only thing left to do is rely on God alone. That is why so many times, His answer is simply, "Wait."

It is not involvement, Bible study, or other "works" that keeps my relationship with Christ alive, though those are all powerful tools. You see, once I have emptied myself of "self", something has to fill that empty space. That's where those other things come in. Then the Holy Spirit begins the beautiful process of growth and character development. But first, 100% surrender is required. (See also EGW, In Heavenly Places, p. 155)

"No outward observances can take the place of simple faith and entire renunciation of self. But no man can empty himself of self. We can only consent for Christ to accomplish the work. Then the language of the soul will be, Lord, take my heart; for I cannot give it. It is Thy property. Keep it pure, for I cannot keep it for Thee. Save me in spite of myself, my weak, unChristlike self. Mold me, fashion me, raise me into a pure and holy atmosphere, where the rich current of Thy love can flow through my soul." - EGW, Christ's Object Lessons, p. 159

Deciding to surrender everything to God is one of the toughest and most deceivingly enslaving choices one can make but it results in an astonishing freedom. I echo Hudson Taylor's sentiments when He says, "I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest position He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient." -Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret, p. 163

*I have gained great insight on this topic by reading Daniel Augsburger's essay on the topic, "Living a Life of Victory" found in the book "Here We Stand", edited by Samuel Pipim.