Month: August 2016

Tell Me a Story

tell me a story

Tell me a story, Gigi.

It’s a difficult request to resist – especially when a cute little four-year-old granddaughter is making it…and she’s crawling up in my lap and waiting expectantly.

I’m not sure how this started. One day I told her a story about my own childhood, and now, just about every day, she asks for another story. They’re not terribly exciting stories – what I got for Christmas one year…how my brother and I played in the snow…the time a horse stepped on my toe. Stories of the every day – ordinary stories, but they are building up a picture of her grandma and of her family heritage one piece at a time.

My own mother was a wonderful storyteller. My brother and I would often sit with her on one of our beds and listen to the stories from her childhood and teenage years. Mom was orphaned at a young age and made the rounds of living with one or another of her large Catholic family until she left school. There were stories of the aunts with rhyming names and the uncle who was a better bricklayer when he was drunk and the grandma who owned a little mom and pop grocery store. Mom was good at describing people. And there were the places – most of all I remember her story about one of the houses she lived in in Gettysburg, the one that would have been right in the middle of the action during the Battle of Gettysburg, the house that still had bloodstains on the floor of the attic. Together we imagined the wounded soldiers that had been hidden away up there and tended by the anxious residents.

And then there were stories about how she felt – what it was like for her as a child. How she felt when a couple who had considered adopting her changed their minds. How she felt about going to Catholic school at a time when being left-handed was almost a crime and so it was tied down to force her to use her right hand. How she loved her Grandma – the one who handed out penny candy in her little store.

I haven’t heard those stories in many, many years, but I haven’t forgotten them. They are important to my understanding of my mother.

And who doesn’t love a good story, especially the story of someone you love?

What about you and the little people in your life? Are you telling them your stories?

  • Childhood stories
  • Stories of your young adulthood
  • Stories of your courtship and marriage
  • Stories of hard times and good times
  • Stories of your coming to Christ
  • Stories of God’s working in your life
  • Stories of their babyhood

Families are in so much trouble today, but maybe if we started sharing all those stories with our little ones, and we started remembering those times with each other, then we would remember that family is worth all the time and care. Maybe we would be willing to work harder to make sure that the story goes on.

For me, the next time a grandchild says, “Tell me a story, Gigi,” I’m going to dig up yet another story to tell.


Photography from Pixabay

Lessons Learned – Part 2

Lessons Learned - Part 2

Today’s post is a continuation of Lessons Learned at Church Camp.

To briefly recap from Monday – in my role as camp cabin inspector, I found myself having to scold a group of boys whose cabin was a mess and then doubted whether I had done the right thing.

However, God had plans to teach me and those little boys some lessons.

First, let me say that it never ceases to amaze me that God prepares us for the situations that still lie ahead of us. It shouldn’t amaze me because I believe that He is sovereign, but being a finite creature, it still amazes me.

The morning of the the reprimand, before I had ever seen that awful cabin, God had been working. In my Bible study that morning I had been doing some word studies in Colossians 3. One of the words I chose to study was “admonishing” from verse 16.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

The Greek word for admonish – noutheteo – means “exerting positive pressure on someone’s logic, urging them to choose God’s best”.

In the half hour before setting foot in that cabin, the idea of admonishing was intriguing to me and stuck in my mind. After I saw the cabin, I knew that exerting positive pressure and urging the little boys to choose God’s best was the way to go. It was a little harder to believe that when I saw them crying, but I kept telling myself it was the right choice.

The next morning when I saw a wonderfully clean cabin, I was thanking God again for leading me to be firm and follow what He had shown me.

I couldn’t resist hinting to the cabin counselors how pleased I was with the transformation and how I couldn’t wait for lunch time to affirm their boys. The counselors revealed a bit of new information. Almost all of the boys had pitched in to do the cleaning, but a couple had not. The other boys tried their best to encourage and threaten and beg the lazy ones to help, but nothing doing. Hmm…

I pondered on it and before lunch time came around I knew just what I needed to say. I had learned some important things and now it was time for the boys’ lessons.

After announcing the third place cabin and the second place cabin, I asked the boys and counselors of the messy cabin to come to the front. This is what I said,

“Yesterday, I called these boys up and talked to them about something. None of you knew for sure what it was, but you guessed. And some of you made fun of these boys. I wish you hadn’t.

“These boys and I have learned some lessons because of their messy cabin. First, I learned that it is biblical and right to admonish each other – to encourage each other to chose God’s best. I did admonish these boys yesterday, and they responded, they chose to go God’s way and now they have a perfectly beautiful cabin. I’m so proud of them!

“But that’s not all – this group of boys is learning another important lesson. Not everyone in the group helped to clean the cabin. Some did not pull their own weight. Unfortunately, that is reality in all parts of our lives. Not everyone in a family pulls their own weight. Not everyone in a church pulls their own weight. Not everyone in a community or even a country pulls their own weight. However, that does not stop the rest of us from doing what is right.

“Colossians 3:23-24 says,  ‘Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.’ Regardless of what people around you do, you keep doing right – not for me, not for your counselor, but for God.”

And then, I was about to let those little guys go back to their seats, but I called them back to announce that they had won the clean cabin award for the day. It felt so good for all of us!


lessons learned from church camp…

  1. Admonish one another – call your brothers and sisters to choose God’s best.
  2. Whatever you do, do it for your God alone.

Oh, yeah, and keep your cabin clean!!!

Lessons Learned at Church Camp

Lessons Learned at Church Camp
Freely Photos – Katherine Clark

Church camp is an amazing place where unexpected lessons can be learned. 120 hours in which to learn more about yourself, about the people with you, and about your God.

For me, this year’s lessons began in a messy boys’ cabin. I know that sounds weird, but one of my roles at camp is cabin inspector. Every morning while the campers and counselors are at breakfast, I use my master key and inspect each cabin for cleanliness. On the second morning of camp, I thought I was seeing the messiest cabin I had ever seen. The lights had been left on,the towels were hung haphazardly (or not hung at all), the sinks were smeared with toothpaste, and (most shocking of all) someone had hung their underwear on the porch right by the door. Yuck!

So…after I presented the spirit stick for the first place cabin, I mentioned that one of the cabins was in need of work and that the underwear had better disappear. I thought that was the end of that.

I was wrong.

The next morning I approached the same cabin expecting to see great improvements. Hmm…socks on the doorknob. I knew that was a joke from one of the counselors so I ignored it as best I could, but when I walked into the cabin, I have to say that I lost it a little bit. If anything, the cabin was worse than the day before. Now there were suitcases open with the contents strewed out all over the floor. Had they tried to get messier? Was this some sort of conspiracy? A messy cabin of the year conspiracy?

I had until lunch time to consider how to handle these little clean cabin malefactors. I knew I had to be careful not to totally humiliate them, but I needed to make it clear that rules are rules and that, for the good of everyone, keeping your cabin clean is a rule that cannot be ignored.

The time came and I announced the top three clean cabins and awarded the spirit stick. Then I asked the boys of the messy cabin to come up and talk to me. I put away the microphone and explained to the boys just exactly how disappointed I was and how I expected them to change their behavior. Then I instructed them to use the first fifteen minutes of swim time to clean their cabin. Yes, ma’am, and they went back to their seats.

When I got back to my table everyone wanted to know what I had said to make that pack of little boys listen so carefully and return with their tails between their legs. I wondered, had I been too severe? Then, to my disbelief, I saw that several of the boys were crying their eyes out! Of course, I went to their table and hugged on them and told them it would be okay, but now I was really questioning myself and wondering if everybody thought I had become the clean cabin witch. Those thoughts followed me all day long.

The next morning it came time for cabin inspection and I approached the, by now, notorious cabin. The clothesline was perfectly neat. The water shoes were perfectly lined up on the front porch. I opened the door and saw one of the cleanest cabins I have ever had the delight to look upon. Plus a basket full of handwritten notes and little treats. I could scarcely believe what I was seeing. And I was thrilled! I was so thrilled I knew it would be hard to wait until lunch to make the announcement.

First, however, God had some lessons He had been working on and needed me to put together in my heart.


What were the lessons learned at church camp this summer? Check back on Wednesday for Part 2 to find out!

On the Edge of Giving Up

There are moments in life when we come to the end of ourselves and are absolutely forced to acknowledge our helplessness to do what is right on our own. Those times are, at best, difficult. Difficult actually means distressing, humiliating, stripping away defenses and camouflage, making us vulnerable and defenseless.



uses these moments,


His grace

prepares us


carries us through them.

Yes, I can personally testify to these truths. This is my story.

Last week I decided to start studying and memorizing the New City Catechism. Question 1 is “What is our only hope in life and death?” The answer is “That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.”

Seemingly an easy question with a straightforward answer. Monday I started memorizing the question and answer and briefly read through the accompanying commentary which emphasized the idea that we are not our own but we are God’s. The writer of the commentary, John Calvin, said, “For, as consulting our self-interest is the pestilence that most effectively leads to our destruction, so the sole haven of salvation is to be wise in nothing and to will nothing through ourselves but to follow the leading of the Lord alone.”

On Tuesday morning I listened to Tim Keller expound on the question and then I read the prayer by Thomas Brooks that ends the teaching on this question. Eight times in that prayer, Brooks refers to giving up. Over and over he says the he is giving himself up to God.

“I am lain down in thy will, I have learned to say amen to thy amen; thou hast a greater interest in me than I have in myself, and therefore I give up myself unto thee, and am willing to be at thy dispose, and am ready to receive what impression thou shalt stamp upon me.”

I read through the whole prayer and then read it again praying it to God for myself. I had the weirdest feeling of teetering on the edge of something. Could I really pray that and mean it? Did I really believe that God has a greater interest in me than I have in myself? Could I fully trust that whatever, and I mean whatever, God sends to me is good for me? Intellectually, I believed that. Tuesday morning I had to decide if I fully believed it and was willing to act on it – to be “willing to be at thy dispose.”

Thirty-six years of following the God who can be trusted pushed me over the edge…and straight into a trial of the prayer I had just prayed.

A few hours later I was faced with a disappointment that sent me reeling and made me want to fight back. Thankfully, my first impulse was to get away by myself, and my second was to tell God that I couldn’t handle this by myself – that I really couldn’t handle it at all and that He would have to do it for me.

Of course, that was all he wanted me to do – to admit that I am not my own and that He is my only hope in life and death.

As I walked and prayed, my attention was drawn to a pond.


The pond became a symbol to me that day. I could jump into what God had for me without fighting back – take the chance that He really knows what is best. I might end up in the calm part of the pond and just be wet and cool or I might end up in the middle of the fountain with water pounding me and getting in my eyes, making it hard to see and forcing me to depend on Him.

Or I realized that there was yet another choice. I could just dabble my feet in the water – get a taste for it – see if I really could trust this God who invited me to give up and to jump in.

However, if I only dabbled my feet in the edge, this is where my feet would be:

pond scum

That’s right – pond scum. Did I really want to dabble my feet in pond scum or did I want to risk it all and jump into the middle of the pond – the middle of God’s will for me?

So I chose to give up and trust God with my disappointment. I’m having to do it again and again. It’s only been two days and I have climbed out of the pond several times, getting pond scum on my feet in the process, but I am jumping back in again.

God’s interest in me is greater than my own because I am His. I can trust Him, stop teetering on the edge, give up, and jump into the pond.

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