Monday, June 27, 2016

Music Video Stars...No Big Deal

Seriously though, what day is it? All I know is Camp started this week. I think it was yesterday or the day before. Anyway, have I mentioned that I haven't held down an official full-time job since I was single? Draw your own conclusions.

Ahem. Back to life here. We are BUSY! It's actually very fun, but perhaps I know why staff housing is offered to all of keeps us close by so we can come handle any situation that arises lickety split. Welcome to Scott Burtis's new life. The more responsibility you are given, the more hours you work. Did I mention we love it though? We do.

All the preparing is done and Camp is open! Our first guests have arrived and settled in. The grounds are filled and we are all super excited to start.

Here's a litte snapshot of this past week.

My Front Desk staff arrived and have been trained. Allow me to introduce you to Emily, Amanda (she's here year round), Rachel, Sarah and Karen. They are doing a fantastic job making reservations, stuffing packets, running errands, selling birthday cakes, radioing other departments, giving out keys, collecting keys, answering phones, not to mention serving our guests in hundreds of other ways. Exaggeration, you think? Ask them. It's alot and can be intense. I'm very grateful to have their help.

After our official photos were taken, we lost all decorum and professionalism. 

Because we are very busy at work, I didn't feel like there was enough time to get to know my girls, so I invited them to our place for dinner.

I can't even tell you  how much I loved hearing their stories. Truly a highlight of my week. Five special women whom God has a wonderful plan for. Two of them have a long history with Word of Life, just like my kids - so woohoo! It's a privilege to spend a whole summer with them.

Then there's this. In keeping with our desire to be 'all in' here at CAMP-of-the-WOODS, why provide one of the first patients in the brand new infirmary?
Worse case of poison ivy I've ever seen. I'll spare you the closeup shot. It's super icky.
Poor Ben! Did I mention my little guy turned 21 this week?

Scott's favorite part of the week happened one evening after work. The music staff put together a montage of staff dancing around Camp to accompany one of their songs and invited us to participate. In agreeing, I think I referenced MTV which was a mistake. As if I didn't already stand out as considerably older than everyone here. Not cool.

I mean, technically you could call us music video stars. Not to brag, but Scott and his right hand man, Adam (you may remember me writing about him last summer), sort of knocked it out of the park with their very hip 'moves'. And you thought white men can't dance.
Of course, being the supportive wife I try to be, I may or may not have said something like, "Don't quit your day job." One day my filter will kick in before I speak.

My girls and I had a small part too, among many other staffers, but by the sound of the first guests who viewed it, it was all about the guys. I'll let you know if the marketing team decides to put it up on youtube. In the meantime, come be a guest and you can see it at the Saturday concerts.

As I sat in training and worship meetings throughout these past weeks, I was once again thankful for what our Director consistently shares with all of us, both full-time and summer staff.

"Many of you ask me how best to serve here at CAMP-of-the-WOODS. My answer is always the same: make your quiet time, Bible study and prayer alone with the Lord, your daily priority. If you do that, you will be amazed at how God will use you and bless you." 

Amen. The best advice for every situation in life. This is the kind of leadership I can get behind. Can't wait to see what is ahead for the rest of the summer

Speaking of what's ahead....less than four weeks until our first grandbaby is born. Eeek!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Summer Has Come....In Every Way

Well, it was a long winter. Even though I say all the time that it is my favorite season, I sure am enjoying Spring/beginning of Summer. Our little town here in the mountains pretty much shut down for many months of cold weather and we stayed inside a lot. 
A. Lot.

But now? I insist on almost daily sunset walks along the beach. The whole staff, who we spend most of our time with, is practically giddy with the sunshine, warm temperatures and gorgeous landscape coming alive.

Camp starts next Saturday when our first guests arrive. This week summer staff started to arrive. I believe we will gain about 300 to our number by Monday. It's all so exciting. Everything is abuzz! 

The college kids assigned to Scott and me are mostly all here and we've been training everyday. I've noticed we've already started putting in the expected 54 hours a week, more really. But when you love your job, it's not hard to do. Good thing we live only a short walk from our home. No travel commute.

Anyway, so today after work I took a stroll through Camp to see what's happening and thought you'd like to see some pictures. Allow me to narrate.

First stop, I see the Guest Services 'limo' golf carts are out of storage and zipping around. This is Scott's area.
Either I'm getting old or I'm starved for color, because everyday I mention how gorgeous all this green is. Every day. If I had a quarter for every eye roll from Scott and Ben...
It was a long brown winter if you know what I mean.

It didn't take long to wander into the Arts and Crafts building, one of my favorite spots. I see they are busy setting up all the crafty possibilities. Thursday nights are for adults only and they can't come soon enough.

Next up the Trading Post (aka best gift shop in the Adk). It was locked, so this crazy lady tried to take a pic through the window. Lucky for her, she knows one of the higher ups who carries a key to everything......sssshhhhh.

 Last summer I pledged to purchase one piece of jewelry each week. I may or may not have achieved that goal.

 I don't know if 10 weeks are enough...

You see my problem?

May have to double up this year.

A cute guy came by and walked with me....

to the beach. Ahhhh. 

Flowers everywhere - finally.

I heard there was an ice cream shipment delivered here today. I guess I'll have to check that out too. I mean it's my job to participate in all areas of Camp. I don't see how I have a choice.

Everywhere you look God shows off His creative genius in the natural beauty of blue skies, mountains, streams, tall pines and so much more.

 We will hear amazing speakers here.

Scott is quite proud of this fountain. I guess it hasn't been functional for some time. This is our view when we walk home everyday.

It is not lost on me that one year ago this weekend our lives changed in a big way. We thought we were just coming for the summer to prevent us from rattling around our house with no job prospects and no kids at home in hopes that one of us wouldn't snap and possibly harm the other. Ahem.

We didn't know they would have two year-round full-time positions perfectly suited for both of us. That we would serve Camp guests sort of like we used to serve our church people.

We didn't know by the end of our 9-week contract that we'd be selling our home and moving our life up here to Speculator, NY.

We didn't know that once a week our dining room would be filled with strapping young men who could use a Mom's cooking and a Dad's kind, loving presence.

We didn't know I would have so many young women to love, encourage, learn from and pray for.

We didn't know God would restore all that we had lost in a long season of un and semi-employment.

There was so much we just didn't know.

But God did. He had been preparing it while we were in the dark. When we didn't know but dared to trust Him anyway. If you missed that story, you can catch up here.

The moral of this story is that God knew. His eye was on us and we were on His mind. He was listening to our prayers.

Yes, He made us wait. Yes, we were confused. Yes, we were hurt. Yes, one of us cried buckets of tears. Yes, we were straining under the weight of the wait.

Then just when we were hoping most and praying hardest for it, even with no indication on any horizon that it was near, He showed up! Not only did He show up, but He showed off. (See Psalm 66)

We love Him more than ever now.

He really is a good, good Father. He leads His sheep tenderly. He doesn't let even one get away from His gaze. No, not one.

Look at me now, I'm talking to you. Are you waiting? Are you confused? Are you hurt? Have you cried buckets? Do you wonder if He sees and hears you? If He cares?

Let me say with confidence He does. Don't grow weary or lose heart. Fix your eyes on Jesus. He loves you. He is working in ways you cannot see but make no mistake, He is working. One day it will be revealed to you and you will see.

Hang in there. Hold on tight (to the promises in His Word).* Soon you will marvel and so will everyone who has watched you wait. It will all be worth it.

A place of beauty awaits you.

*Just for fun, do a word search in the Bible for 'wait' or 'waiting'. You will be amazed at the volume of blessings promised to those who endure.

Monday, June 6, 2016

There Are No Shortcuts To Lasting Growth

I like to read autobiographies and biographies. For some reason unknown to me, I mostly read them in the summer. I'm not sure when this started but it's been a pattern for some years now. When my kids were being raised up I insisted they read at least one missionary biography every summer. These were the heroes I wanted to put before them. They were mine too.

I have expanded my interest and will pretty much read anything recommended to me. We can learn so much from someone's story. If nothing else, how to be a student of our own. That inspires me.

This summer's first selection is Never Broken by Jewel. She's a popular singer/songwriter. I've likely heard a few of her songs on the radio but to be honest I'm not very familiar with her music. I picked up the book because I learned that her family was the subject of a Netflix show I got interested in last year. Alaska, The Last Frontier.

Her story is so heart wrenching I can't put the book down. This particular passage has my attention.

"Great survivors have the ability to yield, adapt, give. This stopped me in my tracks. My life was not teaching me to yield, it was teaching me to cover up, protect, harden. I felt a panic. Hardening was the opposite of yielding. I walked home deep in thought and wrote in my book, things that don't bend break. This lyric has stayed with me my whole life, reincarnated in many songs. It made such an impression on my soul.

Slow growth meant thoughtful growth. Thoughtful growth meant conscious choices...hard wood grows slowly. If I wanted to grow strong and last, and not be brittle or broken easily, I had a duty to make decisions that were not just good in the moment but good for long-term growth. I would not let myself drink or do drugs because that was a quick fix to escape an uncomfortable feeling. The better thing was to get to the root of what I was feeling. It meant solutions had to be the right ones for long-term happiness - there were no shortcuts. I could not use drugs to numb, I could not use anorexia or bulimia to lose weight, and it also meant not using cynicism to cover my real feelings of anxiety or vulnerability. In a world of cool, casual, hip, and snarky, I knew if I indulged in these feelings, I would sink to the bottom of my life like a stone. I had to respond to my life with vulnerability, sensitivity, honesty, because they were my only real defenses in this dangerous endeavor called surviving life. I vowed to try to remember to take the time to grow slowly. To take the time to make notes and study. To stay in my body even when I was in pain. 

I have summoned this motto repeatedly in my life. It helped me...with countless decisions that shaped not just the kind of artist but, more important, the kind of human I would become, as well as the kind of longevity I would have."

I highlighted the sentences that really struck me. I mean, seriously. Where was that kind of self-awareness when I was in my late teens/early twenties? I regret that it was nowhere to be found. One poor, pathetic decision after the next was more of my story. I had no real forward thinking strategies in place. Present choices were not being made with the desired future in mind.

I think this particular portion jumped off the page because I have a daughter at this very same stage of life. How could I not ask myself if we have trained her in wisdom such as this?

Will she know what could cause her to sink to the bottom of her life like a stone and avoid it? Does she know how to make decisions that are not just good for the moment but are best for long term growth? Will she be present enough and hopeful enough to stay in her pain, considering it is part of becoming the kind of person she aspires to be? Or will she self-medicate, run the way the culture around her is running, not giving much thought to a deeper, better life?

I agree that slow growth is lasting growth. In a world of quick results and instant gratification, this will take some self-discipline for people of every age. This is why the practice of sitting down every day in a quiet space to read my Bible, talking and listening to the One who created me and has a good plan for my life, who loves me no matter what, is the most important thing I can do to grow.

A slower pace is really where it's at. Being able to read the road signs posted all around my life requires alertness, paying close attention both to who I am and who God is. This is not acheived by flitting about from one activity, one noise to another.

You'd better believe I have read the above paragraphs to my girl. We've discussed them probably longer than she cared to. She didn't roll her eyes though, which is major progress! I want her to benefit now from what took me decades to nail down (slow growth is lasting growth). This is the major calling of my life. I don't think we can talk too much about important things to our kids. My number one go-to parenting verses shows that God thinks so too:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Dt. 6:4-7)

That's a lot of talking. Good thing that comes easy for us Burtis's. Diligence I can do. One of the gifts of raising the next generation is that we can teach them to avoid our mistakes, learn from them and choose better. God makes promises we can count on. I have seen one of my favorites come true in living color. When we are faithful to live according to His Word, He will change the course of generations.

A do-over perhaps and I am so grateful for it.

I'm only about half way through Jewel's book. I hope by the end I read that she has found the truth of the Gospel and accepted it as her own. Man's wisdom can only go so far in the pursuit of a meaningful life but one lived by the wisdom of God is what lasts for eternity.

PS. You should really read someone's story.

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Few Good Men

This week we celebrated an anniversary. I wrote him a love note on one of our many leftover, unused wedding invitations I still have. He brought me roses at work. Small tokens of a big love. I couldn't be more grateful that God didn't let me marry the last few guys I dated. Seriously. Makes me thankful for prayers that were answered with a NO. He does know best.

Twenty six years of marriage. How in the world? Sure doesn't seem like more than a quarter of a century, but then again it does. We've settled into a very comfortable, secure rhythm of love and commitment that takes years to acheive. Don't quit too soon, young marrieds. The good stuff comes with years.

It is no coincidence when I picked up my Bible early the morning of our special day, I would read the first few chapters of Job. Look how he was described:

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. (v.1)

Behind the scenes where God lives, a conversation with Satan occurred. The snake was looking for an opportunity to show God that His true followers only loved Him because He blessed them with a good life...

And the Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?' (v. 8)

I don't know about you, but I sure would like God to describe me like that. The drama-filled story continues - you should read it.

As I read the familiar verses and felt Job's pain of bad news upon bad news and loss upon loss, stunned at his unwavering faith in God, both when He gives and when He takes away, I couldn't help but think of my own husband.

Scott can easily be described as Job was. Easily. He is blameless (unless, of course I blame him for something that technically I did). He is upright. He lives by wisdom. No drama. Fun yes, foolishness none. He fears God with the utmost reverence. He turns away from evil. I'm not talking about avoiding those who smoke, drink or chew and go with girls who do. He chooses to stay away from anything that might dishonor God, his family and the church, even in the smallest of decisions. He doesn't flirt with anything that might grieve the Holy Spirit. He will never tell you this, but I've seen him live through some seasons of loss, pain, confusion and silence, and just like Job, Scott did not sin or charge God with wrong. (v.22)

I realize with the freedom of writing my own blog I could blather on proving what a great man Scott Burtis is, but what would be the value for you?

Instead, I want to speak to those of you who are raising boys and young men.

Last weekend I spoke at a women's retreat here at Camp of the Woods. I told the story of how my beloved firstborn Drew pursued, dated and married his wife Brittany. I often tell it because it is extraordinary in my opinion. So unlike the norm of our current culture. Not the only way of course, but a darn good one!

You see, he purposed in his heart (in advance) two things. 1. To not throw the powerful words 'I love you' around until he could back them up with a committment, a promise to love her and only her forever, with an engagement ring.

2. In a bold effort to not take what didn't belong to him before marriage and to protect their purity individually and as a couple, he didn't kiss her until she said yes to the proposal. Two years they dated. No I love you. No kissing. Self control. Delayed gratification. It was countercultural and inspiring. (Very Romans 12:1, 2 - look it up.)

Without fail, whenever I tell this to a group of women, some come up to me and say, "That story about your son is so beautiful. Do you think anyone else is raising sons like that? Will there be a principled young man for my daughter(s) to be loved by?"

It's a good question. Of course it is happening. But there certainly doesn't seem to be a large supply. I'd like to see more. I pray for God to bring this kind of man to the young women I know who are asking and waiting for a blameless and upright man to come into their lives.

Makes me want to throw that challenge out to you. Raise one. Raise more than one if you can. You can do it. But you won't do it by accident.

Model Biblical virture first and then train him how to reach it. Blameless and upright. Fearing God and shunning evil. If you want amazing results, you have to raise the bar up past what is normal, easy and status quo pointing as high as Biblical standards describe.

Convince him the benefits of a blameless, upright life far outweigh the price of slowing down, honoring God first then honoring every girl as one created in God's image for a great purpose. This is done by asking an important question before every decision, "Is there wisdom in this?"

As our favorite preacher Andy Stanley has said, "You can't expect extraordinary kids by raising them just like every one else." Amen.

I sincerely pray for young parents to be intentional in parenting. Stay a step ahead of your kids so you aren't taken by surprise at what's coming next. Recognize that you are raising an adult. Always keep before you the end product that you are aspiring to, and let that guide your decisions, boundaries and expectations.

With constant prayer and instruction from the Bible and the influence and support of wise people you admire, you can raise the next Job. What a gift he will be to the world.

One more thing - just in case. If there are any young men reading this, I throw a different challenge out to you. Become a Job. Don't wait for your friends to agree it's a good idea. You do it. You lead. Stand out and be extraordinary. Love God and turn away from evil. Step up your game. Reach for holiness (be blameless and upright) instead of lingering near the line of 'how little do I have to do and be and still be ok with God?'.

One thing I've always said about Scott Burtis is this: "What you see is what you get. He's the same guy at church as he is at home."

Blameless. Upright. Fears God. Turns away from evil. Continues to trust God when the life he enjoys falls apart for a season.

My sons are blessed to have been raised by a man like Job. I hope yours are too.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

You Really Should

I know I've said this many times here, but we really should read through all of the Bible. I heard a preacher say once that we need a 'deep and wide' view of the Bible. Go deep by taking a slow approach to studying chapters and verses in depth but also a wide view by reading the whole content so as to get a greater scope of God's activity in history.

I couldn't agree more. I chatted with a young woman the other day who told me she started reading through the Old Testament but got hung up on the tedious, difficult, boring parts. I get that. Some of it seems to have no modern day value. As isolated readings this could be true.

I used to think the same thing, until I got a few whole readings under my belt. Now when I reach some of those shall I say, less appreciated books, I see themes arise, repeated phrases and concepts jump off the page - and have great meaning. I mean, check this out...

2 Chronicles 6 - King Solomon's prayer

v. 14 "O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart..."

v. 21 "...And listen to the pleas of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen from heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive."

v.24, 25 "If your people....have sinned against you and they turn and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you...then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people..."

v. 26, 27 "When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, if they pray toward this place and acknowledge your name and turn from their sin...then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your servants..."

v. 29, 30 "whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own sorrow and stretching out his hands toward this house, then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know...for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind."

v. 32, 33 "When a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for the sake of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when he comes and prays, hear him from heaven and order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you."

v. 34 "If your people...pray to you..., then hear from heaven their plea..."

v. 36-39 "If they sin against you - for there is no one who does not sin...yet if they turn their heart...and repent with all their mind and with all their heart....and pray...then hear them from heaven...and forgive."

This is 2 Chronicles people!

You see it?
Hear and forgive.
Isn't that what we need the most from our Heavenly Father? To hear our I'm sorrys and forgive.

I wrote in the margin:

The ears of God always hear the repentant prayers of His people.

There's more. In Chapter 7

v. 14 "...if my people who are called by name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin..."

v. 16 " eyes and my heart will be there (temple for worship) for all time.

Chapter 16

v. 9 "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him."

The eyes of God.
The ears of God.
The heart of God.

He sees. He hears. He answers.

Reminds me of this from some years (chapters) prior:

"During those many days...the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant...God saw the people of Israel...and God knew." Exodus 2:24, 25 (don't even get me started on all the good stuff in Exodus 3)

He hears.
He remembers.
He sees.
He knows.

What a beautiful picture. Don't miss the heart of God toward you today.
And what an amazing gift He has given to us.

He always makes a way for us to approach His holiness, as greatly loved children.
If we...., then He.....
It's a promise.

I hope that brightens your day  as it has mine.

So many treasures tucked into God's written Word. We really should read all of it.