Before I jump into a post about our experiences at Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp, I wanted to share some insight as to how writing is going for me lately. I commented in an earlier post about how writing is not as much fun for me these days as it used to be. The other day, when I was on a walk, a realization struck. While bipolar has lost its grip on me, and life is so much less of a burden, writing has become more difficult. Thoughts and words don't flow as easily and freely as they once did. I have to work at it more now. It's a trade off, I suppose. When life was hard for me, words spilled out of my brokenness. Now that healing and wholeness have come, words don't flow as freely. That's okay. I would rather life be easy and writing be something I have to work at than the other way around. So, I will work at my writing, it's worth it to hone that craft. My apologies if my efforts fall short of the mark, but I will pray that they still make an impact. More importantly, I will pray that God can use them for the building of his Kingdom. May God grant it for Jesus' sake.
Now, on to better things. How was Bible camp? Well, for as much worrying and fretting as I did beforehand, it far exceeded my expectations. There are really two main reasons why it exceeded expectations. Number one, I experienced the love of God in countless refreshing and rejuvenating ways. Two, I experienced the fellowship of community in a way that deeply impacted me and my family.
Why was I worried about camp? After all, Bible camp isn't a new thing for my family. My husband and I met at a Bible Camp for foster kids. In addition, we were camp counselors as young adults and have attended several during our 18 years of marriage. But this time was different. In full disclosure, church has not been a priority in my family as of late. It would be easy to blame that on covid, but the truth of the matter is, we have not felt much like attending church this past year. Even when online was available, we didn't fully access the opportunities it afforded.
There were other reasons for why I was worried about this week at a Christian camp. My son is a homebody and hates even leaving his bedroom these days, let alone our house. In addition, my daughter is deeply questioning her faith these days. In short, they are both teenagers who bring their bad attitudes with them everywhere they go. How were we going to make it through a whole week of being in close quarters? We were a very imperfect family attending a Bible Camp. Would lightning strike the minute we drove on the grounds? Sounds ridiculous, but in all honestly, I felt a little unworthy of being there.
The thing about God's love that I was reminded of this past week? He meets you where you are. No expectations, no requirements, no sin or failure can keep him from recklessly pursuing you. He loves with a never ending, never failing love. I was reminded of that again and again over the week we were at camp. From silly skits, to worship at the campfires, to the teaching for the week, I was reminded that God's plan for humanity has always been one of restoration and redemption. In other words, he doesn't condemn my many shortcomings and failures. He doesn't reject me because of them. Rather, he invites me closer into a living, breathing, active relationship. He met me there at camp, just as I was, and provided me with greater insight into how very deeply and dearly I am loved by Him.
The other awesome element at camp this week was the aspect of community. I don't know about you but living in community with others is something I've been sorely missing in my life. Oh I've tried to tap into it a bit, mostly through the dry mirage that is social media, but this past week, I was reminded that being in community with God's people is like being part of an oasis. In fact, our speaker for the week set the tone by calling our week long experience together an oasis in time. And truly, it was an oasis. I experienced fun and fellowship in new and refreshing ways through things like games, activities, adult bible study and meals.
It was so refreshing that, in fact, by the end of the week, I was dreading returning to the "real world" and leaving this oasis behind. But that Friday morning, we were encouraged by the speaker to remember that this oasis is God's first and foremost. In that reminder, I came away with a new vision for myself and my family - to find a way into an oasis community both in church and amongst my neighbors. See, I don't want to just wait until the next time my family and I get to go to a week long Bible camp to find community, I want to be intentional now about finding a church to plug into. I want to experience the fullness of God's grace in a community that shares his love with each other and always leaves room at the table for more. God willing we will find that community in our little corner of the world.
What about you? Are you trying to fill your bucket with the empty promises the mirages of this world have to offer? Do you feel separated from God and his Oasis here on earth? Are you craving community? I can't think of a better way for you to experience God' grace in community than to attend a week long Bible camp. It might be too late this summer, but it's never too early to start planning for next summer. Below, I've listed links to three Lutheran Bible Camps that I've been able to attend, Outlaw Ranch in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Sky Ranch in Colorado, and Ingham Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp in Iowa. Really, though, the options out there are limitless. Think of a destination you've always wanted to visit and I bet you'll find a Bible Camp there. Feel free to reach out if you have your own favorites to add to the list. Til next time, keep growing in God's grace.
Ingham Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp - https://www.okoboji.org/
Outlaw Ranch (Black Hills) - https://www.losd.org/outlaw
Sky Ranch (Colorado) - https://www.skyranchcolorado.org/