Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Summer of 2008, Ligonier, PA - Part 1

Being an introductory post to this topic, this may be a little dry.

This summer, I was a Summer Camp Counselor at Ligonier Camp & Conference Center in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. It's a Christian Summer Camp of the traditional summer camp variety, if that makes any sense, and it is a pretty awesome place. I ended up there for the summer because a friend of a friend said they needed more guys, and I needed a summer job. They really did need more guys, and I am incredibly glad that I was there.

LCCC, as it is called, is actually a fairly complicated operation. There are three Camps: Summer Camp, which runs all summer; Next Level, which is more intense/extreme, exclusive to older campers, and only runs the first third of the summer; and On The Edge which is outside groups like church youth groups coming to Camp. There are Summer Camp Counselors, Next Level Counselors, Wilderness Staff who run all kinds of activities, Counselors In Training (CITs) who are High Schoolers who love Camp so much that they'll clean the toilets, Next Level CITs whose job remains a mystery to me (not that they are idle, I just don't know what they do), and a whole bunch of other staff, some of whom live and work at Camp year-round. I was a Summer Camp Counselor, and this meant that every Session I was placed in a cabin with at lesat one CIT or Co-Counselor and up 10 boys, and collectively we were a "Tribe". I was specifically a "Unit 2" Counselor, and this meant that my youngest was 8 years old and my oldest 13, but mostly they fell in the 10-12 range.

Camp is divided into "Sessions", which are either one or two week, and kids come to Camp for a Session. Sometimes kids stay for more than one Session, but that is rare. Anyways, two-week Sessions are less popular than they used to be, but a lot better than one-week Sessions, because there is just a lot more time to do awesome stuff. Camp is, as you might expect, very structured; a typical day at Camp runs something like this:
  1. Staff Meeting in the Dining Hall. Sometimes this closed with singing, other times with a little devotion or sermon type thing from someone.
  2. The kids come down for breakfast, having been woken by their CIT.
  3. At the end of morning announcements, we disperse for our morning rotations, which were decided at the staff meeting. This might mean...
  4. Bible Study!
  5. Prison Dodgeball against at least one other Tribe. The best games involved as many Tribes as possible.
  6. A "Skill", such as Archery, Riflery, Frisbee, Swimming, Volleyball, Hockey, Basketball, the Craft Hall, etc. When it's Skill time, counselors trade tribes and teach kids they don't know very well.
  7. Now we would all return to the Dining Hall for lunch!
  8. After afternoon annoucements, we all go to our Duty Areas (haha, I said doody!), which meant cleaning up some section of Camp.
  9. Rest Hour. Oh we love Rest Hour.
  10. If this is a one-week Session, it's time for another Skill. If this is a two-week Session, it's usually time for Electives! Electives are little classes, such as Target Sports, Guitar (which I taught), Boom Whackers & Stomp, Gospel Choir, Drama, Fitness, Swimming, etc. Sometimes in a two-week Session, it would just be extended Action Options. What does that mean? See below.
  11. Now it's time for Action Options. Many kids believe Action Options to be Free Time, but many Counselors have called it, in jest, Calvinist Free Time. This is to say, you only think you have a choice. The kids get to choose what they're gonna do, but it's from a limited set of options, such as The Rec Deck (Foosball, Ping-Pong, Chess, & more), The Pavilion (Basketball, 4-Square), The Pool, The Hub (the Camp Store), The Craft Hall, and maybe something special, like Chubba-Chubba-Can-Can (a game which I will not explain at this time).
  12. Dinner! Yum. Dinner also closes with the Run-On Skit, which introduces that evening's Wide Game. This year, the skits were all about Indiana Groans and the Legend of the Crystal Flamingo (Gasp!)
  13. After Dinner, everyone descends down a massive hill to a flat field to play a Wide Game, which means a field game. Selections include: Gold Rush, Medic, Ninja Warfare, Spy vs Spy, Predator, and (new this year) Siege. I do not have the space to explain them here.
  14. After Wide Game, there's a little bit of downtime, which means a trip to the KYBO ("Keep Your Bowels Open", aka the bathroom).
  15. Then it's time for Club, which is a lot of loud music (generally about Jesus), jumping up and down, hand motions, maybe a Silly Skit, maybe a Scripture Skit, or maybe Club Talk.
  16. Bed. Finally. Well no, first, evening devotions. One time I was able to give a little talk/sermon in which I connected Judges 3 to 1st Corinthians 12. Look them up.
  17. Now the kids would go to sleep, or else get in trouble and lose some priveleges, and we Counselors would sit out on the decks and chat quietly, or go to the KYBO and brush our teeth or take a shower.
  18. Bed. Finally.
Now, not every day was like this, but that's a standard day. I woke up at 6:30, cause Staff meeting was 7:30 and I am really, really slow in the mornings, and I'd get to bed around 10 or 11 I think. It's not like it's easy to stay up when there are hardly any lights around.

I will be writing a lot more about this, that's for sure.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I don't do what I want to do

I have had a lot of schoolwork to do this past semester, and a lot of extracurricular activities to accomplish as well. Some of these extracurricular activities are things like leading a Bible Study, and that involves Jesus, and I try and put Jesus-related-things at the top, never mind the confusion of what is Jesus-related, what isn't, and how everything really is and ought to be. This has, however, left me with even less time to do my schoolwork than I normally have. To make matters worse, I have frequently found myself lazing about, talking to people, playing computer games or doing other things, instead of doing my schoolwork, which really does need doing. My Biology TA and my Russian Professor can attest to this, as I have not turned in a whole lot of homework in those classes. One of my friends has been constantly talking about terrible this semester has been, and I am apt to agree, at least on this front.

I said that I try to put Jesus-things at the top. Yet at the same time, how often do I read the Bible? Let me explain, for those not in the know. Christians think that regularly reading the Scriptures is a good idea. We think that "all Scripture is God-breathed, and thus useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." God says to Joshua, after Moses dies, that he should meditate on "The Book of the Law" day and night, and it should never depart from his mouth, and he should be careful to do what it says, so that he will be prosperous and successful. Jesus says we should build our lives on the foundations of his teachings, like a wise man builds his house on firm rock, not on shifting sands. We take things like this to mean that reading the Scriptures regularly is a good idea.

The thing is, I don't read the Scriptures regularly, but I say that I want to. The same goes for all kinds of things. I say that Jesus is right, I should pray, fast and give to the poor, but I only do one of those with any frequency, and that's because praying is easy. (If praying is easy, am I doing it wrong?) These are all very concrete things, almost a check-list. Let me go on, then. I'm supposed to love God above all things, then love everyone else, even my enemies. I agree that this is how I should live, yet my deeds do not match up with this. There are definitely people in this world that I dislike, there are even people I like to some extent that I don't treat the way I should. I look to other things for satisfaction; I don't find satisfaction in God. I don't live the way he wants me to live, I don't love the things he loves, and in general I find that I do not love God with all my heart, soul and might. But I say that I believe that I should.

Do I not believe, then? They say that actions speak louder than words, and I think it's true that your actions betray what you truly believe. If you ever find a church that says all the right things, then acts in a lot of wrong ways, you might want to think about leaving. They might say the right words, but that doesn't mean they believe the right things in their hearts. The problem here is that sometimes I do the right thing, so it is not as if I can claim to clearly be believing the opposite of what the Bible teaches. The very fact that I care what the Scriptures teach might be a good indication that my belief is not all a lie, a sham to trick Christian girls into dating me or something.

I used to only think about Romans 7 in the context of lust and, in particular, pornography. This is understandable, because that is a big issue to try and think about and deal with, and one that sometimes seems to have no hope. But if that is all I was applying it to, I was missing out on a lot. The Apostle Paul is wordy, as usual, but here he's talking about how Christ purifies our hearts, yet we still sin. In verses 15 through 23, he says the following.
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
Well now. That is pretty much a description of the problem I outlined above. As much as it seems a little thing, I really do think it is wrong of me to not get the work done that I'm supposed to get done. Sloth is one of the traditional seven capital sins, and for good reason; it's easy. Furthermore, it's easier in today's society, as I can attest. Paul, however, does not leave the issue here. He, and I read this as a cry of desperation, says:
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
That is quite a statement, I think, calling himself "wretched", but I also think it's accurate. To find yourself doing the things you do not want to do and to find yourself not doing the things you want to do is pretty shocking, worrisome, gut-wrenching, etc. It feels awful.

One time, I talked with my friend Alex about this. I don't remember why, the context, or anything like that. I think we were in his car, maybe. Either way, we did talk about how long Paul goes on and on about his problem, the problem of sin, yet doesn't provide a very lengthy explanation of the solution. He says one sentence in answer to his cry for deliverance, then moves on. Alex said that Paul does this because the solution is very simple, at least in the basics, the part that you really need to know. So who will save me and you and Paul from this body of death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
That is a great comfort, and it's true too.