Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Camp Berean

 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.  And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” Genesis 28:16-17
They say smell is the sense most associated with memory. Familiar smells conjure up places, events and feelings from our past or make us think of loved ones. Imagine you’re in a deep wooded area and that smell of the forest wafts into your nostrils. That’s the smell of Camp Berean. Throughout my life, since my first visit to the camp at the age of five, that fragrance of the trees and leaves, with a hint of campfire, is my return to Bethel – the House of God.
My earliest memories of church were at Berean Gospel Temple in inner-city Indianapolis. Though I was only eight when we left, I can still picture that building and imagine the sound of Pastor Porter’s booming voice with its natural echo that came from his powerful vocal chords as if he were speaking through a coffee can and into a megaphone. Though his message was always pleading and inviting, I often fell asleep to the sound, laying my head in my mother’s lap, napping in the pew at the age of three. The old building was hot in the summer, but the ladies always wore their hats anyway, fanning away the summer heat with those old paper fans with the wooden handles. The sanctuary had a wrap-around balcony where we frequently sat near the sound booth where my dad would help with running who-knows-what of microphones and reel-to-reel tape recorders.
Mom was a Bible teacher. It was a role she took very seriously. Often I would tag along as she went to gatherings with the other teachers at church. They would create visual aids to go along with the Bible stories they taught in Sunday School, Junior Church and neighborhood Bible clubs. I have such a fondness for flannelgraph, the scenery and movable figures that illustrate the stories. My mother and her cohorts honed their skills, making the pages of the Bible come to life as they told the stories and manipulated the figures to stir our imaginations.
When I was five years old, Mom said “yes” to an invitation to teach Bible classes at Camp Berean for one of the weeks in the summer of 1962. Because I was too young to be an official camper, I stayed with my mom at one of the on-site houses. My older siblings were in the cabins with the rest of the campers.
To think of so many children coming to the campgrounds and learning about Jesus gives me a warm feeling in my soul. I have bits of memory about little details. We would gather around the flagpole by the lake in the morning and start the day with prayer and devotion. In the dining hall, every meal began with prayer and everyone saying together, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31” There were fun activities like boating, swimming, tether ball, nature hikes, horseback riding and craft time. I can still picture the little lanyards we made from flat, plastic strings. Every day, there was a Bible class and in the evening there was preaching in an open air auditorium.
On our final night of camp that week, we all gathered around a huge bonfire and the speaker delivered a sermon about Barabbas. But before he got up to speak, there was a time of testimony. Several people stood up and talked about how God had worked in their lives. I remember one specific testimony – a counselor stood up and said, “I was younger than most of you when I came to know the Lord. I was five years old at the time.” I immediately looked up at my mom and whispered, “I’m five years old!” She patted my knee in agreement. As the preacher delivered his message, he explained how Barabbas and Jesus were presented to the people as Pontius Pilate offered to release one of them as was the custom. Barabbas was a criminal who deserved to die. Jesus was the pure and sinless Son of God. The people yelled, “Give us Barabbas!” When Pilate asked, “What should I do with Jesus?” they said, “Crucify him!”
I couldn’t help but notice how much my name sounded like Barabbas. Though I was only five, I realized that I, like Barabbas, was a sinner. When the invitation was given, I rose from my seat and stood in a crowd of taller-than-me campers. We had all responded to the invitation to trust in Jesus as our Savior. Mom came up and pulled me to the side, kneeling down with me and talking to me about how to pray to receive the gift of salvation. Kneeling on the other side of me was Mrs. Rheeling, my Junior Church teacher, who I know mentored my mom as a teacher. I prayed and asked God to save me and make me His child. I was baptized some time later back at our church in Indianapolis by our pastor, Dr. Ford Porter.
This year, my daughter had a sweet and wonderful idea for my big 60th birthday, to revisit places from my childhood. On the day before my birthday, she and my daughter-in-law and all three of my granddaughters traveled with me around Indianapolis to various landmarks and houses where I had lived. My husband, Bob, asked me what I wanted to do on my actual birthday. Without hesitation, I said, “I want to go to Camp Berean.” I wasn’t even sure where it was, so I texted my brother Andy and asked. Bob and I got up on Sunday morning, my birthday, and headed to Martinsville. I wasn’t sure what we’d find. The camp had closed many years ago, but it was still listed on the map. As we pulled into the main drive, a woman was blowing leaves in the front yard of the first house, so we pulled up to talk as she was turning off the blower. “Is this Camp Berean?” I asked. She smiled and said “Yes!” though both of us knew the camp days were long gone. I explained it was my birthday and that we were visiting meaningful places from my childhood, so she graciously agreed to let us explore the grounds and take pictures. She even snapped a photo of the two of us as we toured the ruins.
I guess it’s true that Time is the fourth dimension. Here I found myself, 55 years in the future, scouring that sacred ground for the exact spot where I heard the Gospel and felt the Spirit tugging at my heart. I reflected on a lifetime of (albeit imperfectly) following Christ my Savior. I owe everything to Him for putting me in that place at that time to be birthed as His child.
Everyone who knows the Lord has a “Bethel.” A place and point in time when the Lord reached down, grabbed their heart and drew them to Himself. For me, that most sacred of places is Camp Berean. “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you!”
Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.” (Genesis 35:3)
This isn't the original flagpole, but the same spot where we started the day.

All that's still standing of the auditorium is the fireplace.

Several houses are still on the property and are home to several generations of the current owners.

You might call this a log cabin.

Close up of where the auditorium used to be. Those are stacks of limestone sitting on the old foundation. The original fireplace is still in the background.

This slide is from the original playground.

This chicken coop sits on the foundation of one of the cabins.

This shower house was surrounded by cabins where campers stayed.

Inside the shower house roof.

This may be the spot of the sermon around the campfire.

Friday, January 06, 2017

For Christmas this year, I had a little fun with some old jewelry boxes, painting and antiquing them to give to my three granddaughters.

I started by taking them apart and painting with a base coat of chalk paint.

Next, I applied some dark antiquing wax. I was surprised at how much it changed the color. The three colors I selected for the three jewelry boxes were Ballet Slipper, Lavender and Maize.

I put a few pieces of jewelry in each one. Some pieces I made, some I bought and some from my stash of old jewelry. The girls all enjoyed opening them on Christmas.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Little Good News

"Bad news on the doorstep"... it was a line in a song but now it was my reality. I can't remember the exact wording of the headline, but it's timing and irony were unsettling. Reaching down to pick up the paper, I heard my mother in a worried voice asking me to fetch her jacket from the canoe. She had forgotten the word "closet" and had substituted another. Yet another "c" word had invaded her brain. My dad, in desperation, had planned this trip and began loading suitcases into the trunk of the car. Laetrile was a controversial treatment for cancer and had been banned in the US. Dad was willing to go all the way to Jamaica to save his beloved, so now we prepared to drive them to the airport.

The doctor had said there was no treatment available here for Mom's form of cancer and that she likely had two months to live. A diagnosis like that hits you in the gut with a feeling of utter hopelessness. My dad, the eternal optimist, firmly believed if all the doors close, you open a window. He began to search for alternative treatments and found this hospital in Jamaica that specialized in natural cures for cancer.

Did he know, like I knew, that the headline was a message... a harbinger? The newspaper told the story of a local family whose son was battling cancer. The parents had been the objects of criticism as they fled to Mexico seeking laetrile as a cure for their boy. We had followed the story for months and it came to a conclusion on the day my parents were flying to Jamaica. The young boy had lost the battle and it was plastered across the front page. Who are we to blame them for trying to save their son? Who could blame my dad for wanting to save his wife?

Mom called me several times while they were on the trip. Some days she sounded like her old self again - as if the fresh air and sunshine were lifting her spirits above the pain that racked her body. Hearing her voice gave me hope, but those hopes were dashed when we picked them up at the airport. In my head I can still see the paleness of her face as her wheelchair came through the corridor from the plane. She was getting weaker and thinner and losing the will to fight. I remember telling my husband, Bob, that I needed to prepare myself to let her go. As Dad wheeled Mom out to the car, my two-year-old, Darcy, sat on her lap getting reacquainted with Grandma and asking questions about where they had been.

Somehow I had celebrated a lifetime worth of experiences with my mother in just twenty-two years. She was my friend, my teacher and a dependable listener. Most of what I knew and understood about God and the Bible came from my mom who had led me to the Lord at the age of five. She had lived to see me get married and was there at the hospital when we our first child arrived. Now as I was about to celebrate my twenty-third birthday, I was expecting our second baby. Sadly, mom passed on to glory a month before our second little girl was born.

The grieving was eased by knowing Mom's great faith was a testimony of her relationship with Jesus. It was sometime after her death that the Lord brought to mind something that had happened years earlier... another headline that read: "Quake Jolts Indiana, 19 Other States." I was a mere twelve years old when that headline landed on the doorstep. The day before the headline, I was at my mother's bedside and she was dying... and I was praying - when, suddenly, the room began to shake like God had grabbed our house and grabbed my attention. My prayer was a simple one: "Please let my mom live long enough to see my first child." Ultimately, my mom rose up from that death bed and recovered completely from her illness. God granted her another eleven years with us, and for that news, I'm very grateful.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Contrasts in Contentment

Every day on my way to work, I pass Fall Creek Baptist Church. In January the sign in front of their church posed a thought-provoking question, "Are you too content?" It made me ponder two types of contentment. There is a time when it’s good to be content such as Paul writes about in 1 Timothy 6:6, "Now godliness with contentment is great gain." and Philippians 4:11 "...I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content."

Maybe the contrasting question is, "Are you content enough?" To be content with our current circumstances, as far as wealth or position, is beneficial. If we can say, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." we have learned an important lesson in contentment. The "American Dream" has long influenced our society to believe the more we own, the happier we’ll be. Time and experience have proven otherwise. Some of the most miserable people in the world are the rich and famous. No wonder Jesus asked, "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26). We also see people at the opposite end of the financial spectrum who have adopted an entitlement mindset and believe the government should provide everything we need. Whether we find ourselves with abundance or in need, as followers of Christ we should observe what Paul said "I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." (Philippians 4:12). This is a worthy example - to trust in God for our needs and to thank Him for His provision. We grow in our faith when we learn to serve and to give in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.

But, back to the question on the church sign... I’m sure it was referring to a different kind of contentment - the kind that bids us rest on our laurels and say, "I used to..." We as Christians need to press on to greater things than our past has afforded us. God’s mercies are new every morning and He is mapping out a fresh course for each of us. Remember Paul’s mission statement in Philippians 3:12-14, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

Pressing on through trial and through blessing, we have the opportunity to see God’s kingdom grow in our church, community, nation and world. Are you content? I hope your answer is yes and no.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Settling Dream

The man’s face was gaunt with sunken eyes and a short, barely-there beard. He didn’t smile much and I soon learned he had little to count as joy. I had been sitting in a large open area of the mall watching my granddaughter climbing on a toy in the play area when the man approached and sat down. He was the first to speak, as though he needed a confessor. Listening has always come more easily than speaking for me, so I sat and listened to his story. He fumbled through words to express the weight of what the doctor delivered. Not much time left – a terminal diagnosis for a man who looked older than me but in reality was ten years younger. The urgency of his situation shook me out of my silence and I spoke out of compassion.
“Do you know where you’re going when you leave here?”
He knew I was referring to eternity, not the mall. For the first time in our conversation, he appeared agitated… annoyed. “How are things at the Baptist church?” He asked.
I was puzzled that he knew I was Baptist. I had barely introduced myself, let alone revealed my denomination. Are we so well known for our eagerness to talk about Heaven and Jesus? Is that really a flaw? Why was he so snide in the way he said it? What was it about Baptists that seized his mind and snatched away his civility?
Then I looked down at his lap and realized he was carrying a Bible. My expression most certainly betrayed my thoughts. Here is this stranger, a dying man who is offended at my concern for his destiny, carrying the very words of hope I count so dear. What wounds has he suffered that cause him to lash out like a dying beast.
Looking into his eyes, I realized he was no stranger. We were friends once, before he left like a thief, stealing the wind from our sails, forsaking everything sacred. For the first time now, I felt true pity on him that he can never return to former glory, choosing rather to be a vessel of dishonor. Was he ever truly one of us?
 “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Screen Addiction

You would think that after 8 hours of staring at a screen in my office I would go home and find something different to do. But no, I find myself watching TV, checking Facebook, playing Words with Friends and looking for fun stuff on Pinterest.

My husband's addiction is even worse. I tried to get him to turn off the TV last night but he said, "I like to have it on in the background." (He was playing golf on his computer.)

There are good and bad things about these flickering screens in our lives.

Good things:
  • I can keep up with my children who are across the country and friends who are halfway around the world. (I love Skype.)
  • Last week I friended a woman on Facebook who found me by accident on Words with Friends. We may even meet face to face when I go on vacation in May.
  • My daughter has started a writer's group on Facebook and that has inspired me to revive my blog and post something today.
Bad things:
  • Men are the worst offenders at this one: interacting with a smart phone, ipad, computer or TV rather than having face to face conversation. Seriously, look around in a restaurant and you're bound to see people who are out to dinner with their families but staring at their phones.
  • Wasting time.
  • Negative images and talk on any screen.
Do you have a screen addiction? Feel free to share the good, bad and the ugly of how you deal with it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It was 35 years ago today... 5:30 AM to be exact, when I jumped from bed with a jolt and a splat. I was 5 weeks shy of my due date and as a young, first-time mom, I wondered if this meant delivery was imminent. "My water broke" I said to my husband, who along with me had been up until 3 AM with our friends from church. (He immediately began to shake with fear.)

Every Sunday night was an after-church party for our young married group. I remember sitting on the couch holding our friend's little girl, April, who was only 10 days old. I had remarked to another young woman from our class, "If I had this baby tomorrow..." I said as I patted my belly "I would not be ready at all." I was looking forward to Tuesday evening when the ladies from church were planning to have a baby shower for our little one.

Now I'm wondering what is about to happen. I called my mom. She assured me I would be having my baby today. She and Dad got in the car and came right over. At the time, Bob and I were borrowing a truck from my brother - a very bouncy truck, so Mom and Dad drove me to the hospital while my nervous, young husband followed close behind.

Our sweet little 5-pound, 13-ounce baby girl arrived just a few hours later. I remember how relieved I felt to hear her cry and to see her face - such a beautiful child! I held her briefly before they whisked her away to the intensive care nursery where she would spend the first week of her life. She arrived on a Monday, fair of face. On Tuesday, the ladies wondered if they should still have the baby shower - they went ahead. On Wednesday, the doctor was ready to let me go home, but our little girl was fighting to breathe. So I went home, and then we went to church - Wednesday night prayer meeting where everyone prayed intently for baby Darcy to survive. She turned the corner that night, praise God!

She was finally released to our care when she was 3 weeks old. She has grown to become a Christian, a missionary, a world-traveler, a musician, writer, songwriter, poet, photographer and so many other amazing things. She is a wife and a mother of two beautiful children of her own. Happy birthday, Darcy. I'm so thankful to be your mom.