The saddest day of the year

Today is one of the saddest days of the year for me.  While the date on the calendar changes each year, this day always comes.

It’s the last day of camp.

Happy school children playing tug of war with rope in park

For nearly 20 years I have done multiple weeks of camp every summer. From as few as three to as many as 12 weeks in one summer, children’s camp, student camp, family camp… I don’t care. I love camp.

And, this summer is no exception as I have had the privilege of speaking to a couple thousand campers.

Very often my family comes with me, but when they don’t I do miss them terribly. Still, from the beginning they’ve always been behind my “over-camped” tendencies.

What makes camp so amazing? Well, let’s first define what it isn’t.

  • I don’t love camp for the accommodations. Often you’re sleeping on wafer thin mattresses, stacked on wooden crates, in barely air-conditioned facilities. Believe me, that’s not the draw.
  • I don’t love camp for the food. Did you know it’s possible to eat multiple kinds of starch every meal for more than a week, and still survive? If not you should’ve seen yesterday’s dinner: chicken strips, corn, mashed potatoes, and a dinner roll. So, yeah… it’s not the food that keeps me coming back. It may send me to the hospital someday, but it’s not really the draw for camp.
  • I don’t love camp for all the fun activities. Feeling the wind rush as you plummet down the zip line, sending a camper shooting into the air after you jump on the lake pillow known as the blob, paintball domination, basketball anytime of the day, hiking the trails (and the not so much trails), disc golf in the morning, a nap in the afternoon and a campfire in the evening… that’s all great, but after the second, third, fourth, fifth week it begins to lose it’s luster.
The real reason I absolutely love camp, and have devoted so much of my life to it – at least one month of every year – is what I see happen in the campers lives about the second to third day.

They unplug.

Their connections to smart phones, computers screens, athletic schedules, overburdened calendars, Xbox, stressful

jobs, dysfunctional relationships, unachievable expectations all begin to fade away.

I see sponsors start acting like kids. I see kids, start acting like… kids!

And when that guard is dropped, the still small voice of the God of the universe that’s been whispering to us every moment, of every day… we can finally hear it.

And that’s why this is the saddest day of the year for me.

Because I see everybody walking back into their previous practices. The things with screens get charged up again. The headphones are uncoiled. The routine is reengaged.

I know there is no reality on this side of heaven that could keep us in this environment 24/7/365, but…

riverbend retreat center

I just wish we could remember the lesson camp teaches us. It’s so important to unplug from all that mess we call life.riverbend retreat center

That we would have fun, kick back, relax, dedicate some time to give God attention, and hear from the most wonderful voice in the universe.

He is speaking all the time, every day and in every place. God does not live at camp. But, maybe it’s at camp where we start to really live.

Colossians 3:1-3 “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. ”

Let’s make it our habit to recreate camp everyday. Do whatever you have to do for a little bit everyday to stay away from things that beep and blink. Ignore the demanding, life-eating calendar for one hour. Let the noise of this chaotic world fade into the background. Put yourself in a place where God can have your undivided attention.

Just unplug.


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