Archive

Posts Tagged ‘meditation hill’

LYFE Camp Week I 2009 – Thursday

This week, I’m blogging about LYFE Camp, the week-long United Methodist Church youth camp where I’m in my fourth year as Dean. While my blog is usually about creativity and writing, I hope regular readers and campers’ parents alike will find inspiration in reading stories about camp. Thanks for reading, and your comments are always appreciated (I’ll pass them along, too, as I’m able).

Every year, we a good portion of Thursday is spent on a Quest. It’s a difficult process to explain; it’s the sort of thing you just have to be there and experience to understand. What I can tell you is that it’s full of prayers, affirmations, self-reflection, letting go, and growth of faith all wrapped up into one powerful afternoon. This year we had three new moments and three returning moments and the mix really worked well for many people. One gets out of Quest what they put into it and it was clear to me that many people took away a lot. I’m afraid I won’t get into too much more detail, dear reader, as I hope to protect the secrets and surprises of Quest from future campers who may stumble across this blog. I will say that this blog, up until last night’s entry, has been buried in a time capsule somewhere at Decision Hills. What was Quest about? Where is this time capsule? You may simply have to ask someone who was there…

Dinner was take-out pizza from Jimmy’s followed by a subdued, moving evening worship. We had a testimonial from a CIT who has gone through some tough times and was able to express how important it is to surround yourself with loving, strong people. Their message touched many people throughout the camp and it helped set the tone for small group discussion. I stepped outside to grab my camera and heard the thunder and watched the clouds roll over camp. Rain would prevent us from going onto Meditation Hill, so Chaplain Kent J. and I decided to provide communion – something we were going to do Friday, instead – and proceeded to have a “love feast” of bread and juice. Between communion and a little extra discussion time, we were able to hold off just long enough for the rain to pass and give us a brilliant, beautiful window of time out on Meditation Hill with a sunset across the lake and cloud-to-cloud lightning drifting off into the distance behind us. It was an interesting ying-yang experience to behold in the sky.

Root beer floats and an indoor campfire (too wet outside!) closed the night. Highlights of the day included SCs having a chance to connect with each other several times throughout the day, introducing “The Yoddler” to new campers, weather moving from high chance of severe thunderstorms to hot and sunny all afternoon for Quest, and our time on Meditation Hill spent less and less as individuals all spread around and more about small clumps of people huddled together with hugs, smiles, and tears. Those are the moments I treasure.

One day left before we merge with back home…

-nm

LYFE Camp 2009 Week I – Tuesday

This week, I’m blogging about LYFE Camp, the week-long United Methodist Church youth camp where I’m in my fourth year as Dean. While my blog is usually about creativity and writing, I hope regular readers and campers’ parents alike will find inspiration in reading stories about camp. Thanks for reading, and your comments are always appreciated (I’ll pass them along, too, as I’m able).

We tried our best. We sang “Johnny Appleseed” as grace for dinner at the beginning of the week and when it came time for the line, “the sun and the r— and the appleseed,” we sang like we always do: “the sun and the Son and the appleseed.” And yet, well, Tuesday was a rainy day. The nice thing about LYFE Camp, though, is that it’s adaptable.

Due to the rain, a few of our regular activities moved indoors throughout the day and evening. Afternoon recreation time was spent indoors in the Camp Center / Rec Center. Small group and pick-up volleyball games were on the indoor volleyball court with a boombox blaring tunes throughout the gym in lieu of the excellent sound system that SC Eric M. brought and set up for camp in Bent Twig – the cabin immediately facing the outdoor sand volleyball court and beachfront. We also had some basketball games like PIG as well as some guys tossing around the pigskin, while a diverse, co-ed group ranging from ages twelve to forty/fifty-something (I shall protect SC Robert B.’s age here…) got together for an intense game of Four Square. Meanwhile, a few groups lounged about in the Camp Center foyer, chatting away about camp stuff, back home stuff, and even some juicy celebrity gossip, thanks to a magazine brought by camper Caroline D.

When it was first erected around six years ago or so, I remember many folks first seeing this large indoor gym and foyer as a giant eyesore that felt too much like “the city” in the more rustic setting of the rest of Decision Hills. But on rainy days like this, it’s a wonderful place to have available. Our forecast says we may end up spending a little more time in the Rec Center, though I think our camp will pull through just fine. I’ve been at LYFE Camp when there was a torrential downpour or severe weather warning nearly every day, so a light rain shower here and there this week is nothing, relatively.

Today’s theme was “Construction Zone” and the SCs reminded campers that construction isn’t always pretty and it may take a long time, but God can provide the detours we need to make it through. There’s also the possibility that while we’re working on one construction project in our lives, another can rise up out of nowhere and need emergency work immediately. SC Robert B. drew parallels to the 35W Bridge collapse, a recent homegrown tragedy which campers could relate to and understand in terms of the metaphor of today’s theme. The campers also watched “Kung Fu Panda” for movie night, hopefully being able to walk away with the lesson that they can build themselves up and do great things while having a few laughs from all of the slapstick comedy. CITs Leandra L., Trevor N., and Zach S. presented the story of Zaccheus at evening worship as a lesson in learning it’s okay to make a change in oneself if they don’t like what they see. And after worship, due to the rain of course, we had an inside evening campfire. Eric M. played his guitar, as always, and I jammed with my ukulele as everyone sang in a circle in the dining hall with a campfire made of assorted candles.

One thing that still happened outdoors despite the wet grass and chilled air was serenades. As is our tradition, guy cabins serenade the girl cabins and ask them if they may have the honor of escorting them to the dress-up dinner on Wednesday evening. I didn’t have a chance to see and hear all of the serenades, but I can tell you that what I did see was sweet, fun, and brought a smile to my face as I remembered what it was like to be thirteen. My favorite serenade was Southwest Back cabin laying their towels on the ground a la magic carpet and singing “A Whole New World” from Aladdin for the young ladies of Southwest Front cabin. I like the serenades because it’s a low-key, low-stakes way of intermingling guys and girls in a sweet way with just a touch of young tension. I think campers like serenades purely for the tension. I know I did.

Highlights off the top of my head include the Excelsior UMC seventh grade girls holding their own in Four Square against older, more aggressive male players, SCs Abbi D. and Wright B. leading a slew of afternoon pick-up volleyball games, creating a new inside joke for the Word of the Day (Call: “Do you remember the windmill?” Response: [knowingly] “Windmiiill!”), CITs Pete S. and Lucas J. keeping the tradition of “feeding” each other grilled cheese and tomato soup lunch alive, strong, and disgusting, hearing the touching story behind the hat Chaplain Kent J. has chosen to wear this week, singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in a round during mail call, knowing that small groups are really connecting well, a few choice rhymes during the song “Down By the Bay” including “Have you ever seen Dana do the Macarena?” and, when responding to the question “Choose your top three animals that can fly” out of a book of questions during SC Night Out, SC Robert responding with, “Bats, flying squirrels, and kites.”

Wednesday brings more small group time, the beginning of the volleyball tournament bracket system, our dress-up dinner, and the all-important, all-anticipated, all-camp dance.

-nm

LYFE Camp 2009 Week I – Monday

This week, I’m blogging about LYFE Camp, the week-long United Methodist Church youth camp where I’m in my fourth year as Dean. While my blog is usually about creativity and writing, I hope regular readers and campers’ parents alike will find inspiration in reading stories about camp. Thanks for reading, and your comments are always appreciated (I’ll pass them along, too, as I’m able).

Our first full day at camp was an excellent one to kick off the week. SCs have told me our small groups are already sharing and that new campers are fully participating, drama is at a minimum, and there’s a genuine attitude of cheer and optimism throughout the camp. Morning large group presentation introduced the day’s theme of “Rest Area” and people are talking about the stresses they’re taking a break from and returning campers are helping new campers understand how they can use LYFE Camp as a true rest area in their lives. Our group of CITs are really doing great work, too, spreading out and trying to include as many campers as possible. Basically, I have little reason to stress out and for that I’m glad.

Small groups met in the morning for discussion and after lunch we had one of the most-beloved hours of the day: “Horizontal Time,” a time set aside to be in our bunks, horizontal, to be at rest and reflect (and sleep!). We took the swim test today, though it was cloudy and a little chilly. On the beachfront, many volleyball games were played and question books were tossed around to generate discussion in groups of people who wouldn’t otherwise socialize in the “real world” (a fact that is one of my favorite parts of camp). The week is still young and people are still feeling each other out. In the evening, small groups introduced themselves to the large group through a series of comedy sketches that definitely invoked quite a few laughs. While there are plenty of great group names this year like They Who Shall Not Be Named, Uninthenthionable (Unintentional), and OMG, I think Barb Churchill’s Face takes the cake. Two of Barb’s sons are at camp and in one of the small groups, her youngest, Zach, explained how she’s a realtor and his CIT, Pete S., remarked how he runs by her face every day during track practice. Pete meant Barb’s bus stop bench advertisement in Minnetonka and it wasn’t long before the small group had a new name and a comedy sketch to match. Be proud, Barb – you’ve been immortalized as yet another insane LYFE Camp tradition. 

A few highlights from Monday off the top of my head include our first Word of the Day (Call: “Oh, my God!” Response: “Isn’t He great?!”), dipping apple slices in pickles, pouring wax and molding candles in crafts, people playing a pick-up volleyball game while doing the Cha-Cha Slide, visits from George the Great Blue Heron, some SWOISAGE in our breakfast burritos, making friendship bracelets, guitars guitars everywhere guitars, blasting 80s pop across the beachfront (“Africa” by Toto, anyone?), and new campers Victoria S. and Maggie A. jumping in and singing songs at our first mail call (people must sing to receive their mail if they get a package or three or more letters in one day). A nice private moment for me was being the last one on Meditation Hill with camper Amanda G. when we saw a deer off to the edge of the hill – something I’ve never seen up there before.

More tomorrow. Please keep your comments coming!

-nm

LYFE Camp 2009 Week I – Sunday

This week, I’m blogging about LYFE Camp, the week-long United Methodist Church youth camp where I’m in my fourth year as Dean. While my blog is usually about creativity and writing, I hope regular readers and campers’ parents alike will find inspiration in reading stories about camp. Thanks for reading, and your comments are always appreciated (I’ll pass them along, too, as I’m able).

Today is the day my staff have been preparing for all year long. As a staff, we’re all fairly low-key this year in terms of feeling prepared. I’m the kind of Dean who likes as much preparation work done as possible before campers arrive to save on stress. We need our energy for the campers, not stressing out about stuff we could’ve already done. That said, our day with campers started peacefully but got nice and loud pretty quickly.

A handful of campers, new and returning, trickled in from 3:30pm-4:00pm. I had the chance to chat with some parents and meet new campers; usually, it’s the folks traveling from outside of the metro who make the drive up as families and I always encourage parents  to see Decision Hills at least once to help with context when their youth return home. Anyway, things were off to a nice and slow and quiet start… until the bus arrived at 4:00pm. Over thirty of this year’s forty-two campers rode the bus to camp (ably piloted by capable EUMC volunteer Liz R.) and it was made obvious that camp was kicking off to a boisterous start as they spilled into Camp Center. The bus also pulled into the back parking lot instead of pulling around to the side we’re used to seeing the bus arrive from, catching many of us by surprise. Registration was as smooth as I’ve ever seen it. Campers arrived with paperwork in hand, payments ready, and meds all set to go. From a Dean’s perspective, we’ve had those nightmare years when people show up with nothing they need, making phone calls home and faxed documents a priority on that Sunday afternoon, so thank you, parents. CITs helped campers make nametags and load their belongings into the cabins and played pick-up games of volleyball by the beachfront and lightning on the basketball court.

At the beginning of dinner on our first night, I said, “Welcome to LYFE Camp 2009!” and was bombarded with a wall of sound. Applause, cheers, wooing, and one happy Dean with a big smile on his face. The Dining Hall holds seventy-five people this week: eleven Senior Counselors, thirteen Counselors-In-Training, forty-two campers, and nine Decision Hills Staff. That’s a lot of people screaming and applauding over their excitement for camp! After dinner we gave the rundown of suggestions for a good week (drink water, get sleep, act, dress, and speak camp-appropriately, etc.) and gave campers some free time before we dove into evening programming.

The Senior Counselors did a sketch to introduce ourselves we called “LYFE Camp Safari.” I grabbed Reed F., a first-year camper, and gave him a pith helmet that matched mine as the Indiana Jones theme played in the back ground and we met various SCs all dressed up as “wild” animals including a dog, cat, frog, pig, bee, alien, tiger, elephant, monkey, and ladybug. The CITs introduced themselves with a “Twelve Days of Church Camp” number including my favorites, “ten degree showers” and “three SWOISAGE (sausage) biscuits.” Calling sausage “SWOISAGE” is just one of the many odd, endearing, and long-standing traditions at LYFE Camp. I was lucky enough to be there in the mid-90s when it accidentally started at breakfast one day; really, I’m pretty sure most of our LYFE Camp traditions started by accident, which is probably the best way to go, anyway.

Everyone was placed into a small group made up of one SC, one or two CITs, and three or four campers of mixed ages, genders, and churches. They did some ice breaker discussion and made “secret friend” bags before worship brought us back together as a large group. I led evening worship with scripture from Hebrews 11:8-10 as the backbone to explain our theme this year, “LYFE Is a Highway.” We’re encouraging our campers to use this week to explore themselves and their personal faith journey, reminding them that the road they take will be unique and their own while also something they can share and do with others. Monday is “Rest Area,” bringing us to camp to take a break from the world back home. Tuesday is “Construction Zone” in which we examine where our lives need repair or something new or something demolished. “One Way, Wrong Way, This Way, That Way” on Wednesday reminds campers that they have a say in how they choose to live their life in terms of being the best kind of person they can be. Thursday will bring us Quest and “HOV Lane” seems quite appropriate, given that our small groups are definitely a high-occupancy vehicle for growing trust. Finally, on Friday we talk about how to “Merge” with the world back home.

Worship went well and was followed with a beautiful sunset on Meditation Hill with a large V of geese flying overhead, a rousing campfire, and get-to-know-you cabin meetings. As Dean, I was glad we stayed on time for our first night and, as far as I know, most everyone got a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow brings our first full day. Stay tuned, dear reader!

-nm

LYFE Camp 2009 Week I – Preparation Day

This week, I’m blogging about LYFE Camp, the week-long United Methodist Church youth camp I’ve been attending for fifteen years now. I spent two years as a camper, three as a Counselor-In-Training, six as a Senior Counselor, and this, my fourth year as Dean. While my blog here at Scrawlers is usually about creativity and writing, perhaps regular readers and campers’ parents alike will find inspiration in reading the stories of camp. I’ll blog as often as I can, though finding the free time to sneak away and write at camp is tricky. We’ll see what happens as the week goes on. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and your comments are always appreciated (I’ll pass them along, too, as I’m able)

The entire Senior Counselor and Counselor-In-Training staff, minus SC Robert B. who needed to preach at his church Sunday morning, SC Michael K. who traveled from Pipestone, and Chaplain Kent J. who helped with the bus on Sunday, carpooled up to Decision Hills Camp in Spicer, MN on Saturday to gear up for the campers’ arrival. We talked about our mission, the theme of the week, appropriate boundaries and role modeling, worship planning, and preparing fun stuff like nametags, the volleyball game schedule, and cabin posters to help campers know where to put their stuff.

I’m a fan of the Saturday / Sunday time for just the counselors because it helps our CITs get reacquainted and into the zone of serving our campers. Our scriptures of inspiration for training came from The Message translation of Romans 15:1-2 and Romans 12:9-21, if you care to see what direction we’re coming from this year. I’m excited about the ensemble we’ve assembled with this year’s staff; they’re going to do powerful things.

Campers arrive tomorrow…

-nm