Trayvon Martin and Identifying My Own Racist Thoughts.

In my first weeks of my first year of teaching, when I was still adjusting to being the only white lady in the room, I asked the kids to get out a pencil. A boy in front, so dark that the students around him referred to him as “Black” as though it were his name, with thin, chin length locks bouncing around his head, stooped down to his backpack.

In that split second my heart began to race and my palms began to sweat, as though someone were coming after me or my not yet born baby girls. “He has a gun” I thought. “He is reaching for his gun.” I calculated how many steps it would take to get to the emergency button…too many. “What are you doing?” I snapped, saying his name sharp and loud like the gunshot I feared.

“I thought you told us to take out a pencil,” he replied showing me his brand new mechanical pencil in his favorite color. A splurge for the beginning of the school year.

I am sure my face turned red. I learned that semester that blushing is a hazard when you are the only white girl in the room. My shame crawled onto my face, hot and sticky.

In the spring of that year I heard the tale of an older brother being shot for making the mistake of reaching for his vibrating cell phone out of habit. The assumption was he was reaching for the gun he did not carry. He died in the arms of his little sister, the white dress she wore to school for her seventeenth birthday stained with the memory of her brother’s death. I know because she was in my poetry club. She wrote about it. That story never made the national news; no newspaper in the country was interested in the tale. So I keep the story in my filing cabinet. I want to make sure that someone remembers.

Two years later, between my second and third years, I found out when checking my email a few days before school started that one of my former students had been shot and killed over the summer. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong skin color. His death hadn’t even made the local news. My principal had to email me about it, just in case I cared.

Trayvon Martin is not the first young black man to be shot simply because of the way he appears. And sadly, he won’t be the last. Everyone keeps asking, “How could something like this happen?” But sometimes not only does this happen, it doesn’t even make the news.

I am a woman who wanted to teach in an all black school. I chose it. I was raised by parents who didn’t blink an eye when my sister started dating a black man. Uncle Calvin is one of my daughter’s very favorite people.  I would never hesitate to ask him to watch my girls. Yet, when a certain type of student, classified that way simply by his dark skin color his hair and his propensity for saggy pants, reached into his bag I assumed he was reaching for his weapon. Even when I had instructed him to get a pencil.

My parents did not teach me to think that way. I didn’t even know I did think that way until I had the thought. No one in my college classes suggested to me that I needed to fear my black male students. And yet, I did. Where did that come from?

Everyone wants to talk about how horrible George Zimmerman is (and he is) and how terrible his actions were (and they were). But not very many people are talking about how we live in a society that teaches us to fear black men. Not even men, any black kid over the age of 10 or so could be a threat. If we look into our own selves we can identify just an inkling of the thoughts that sparked George Zimmerman’s behavior.

We live in a society that perpetuates thoughts. The things that I have watched and listened to my whole life have encouraged my mind to think one way. The wrong way. I don’t like admitting that I have racist thoughts, but the only way to get rid of them is to identify them. Once those thoughts are identified, we can start calling other people out on them. We can refuse to watch things that perpetuate those stereotypes. We can begin to call things as we seem them. As unacceptable.

I would like to believe that Trayvon Martin’s murder is just the case of one crazy vigilante. It would be easier for me to see it that way. But I would really like for this to never happen again. That has to happen one person at a time, one mind readjustment and I am starting with me. And I am coming after you next.

From Pee to Living Water

I think sometimes I overlook miracles. Ones that happen everyday so they no longer seem impressive. They happen every day at my house, two under two lends itself to miracles. Two babies with clean diapers at the same time, synchronized nap times, first words, first steps, a not-yet-two-year-old who agrees to go along with the plan. They don’t happen all the time. But enough that I forget they are miracles.

Lord, allow me to pour out you Living Water.

But it is emotional miracles, change of heart miracles, miracles you can’t see I have been noticing lately. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the healing, the manifestations, the return of $900 for your $500 deposit. I’ve seen them, and plan on seeing more. But the emotional miracles, the ones you can’t see. I’ve been seeing a lot of those lately.

Like the time just this weekend when God changed pee into living water. I wish I was speaking metaphorically here, but I am afraid that a misguided child snuck into a friends house and offered his practical joke in the form of peeing in her boot. A child that she could have ignored, but instead has been kind to. A child no one else thinks about much. His parents are too busy, too sick, too overwhelmed, too underserviced. The best that they can is not enough to meet the needs of the kids they have in the house. So the child sneaks into another house, and pees in a boot. Who knows why really, he probably doesn’t know himself.

The pee in the boot was not the miraculous part. It was the gross part. The miraculous part was the Living Water that was poured back out. The initial reaction was expected, I am calling the police (you should I responded) I am telling those kids I am done (be done I agreed) I am telling those parents that I don’t care how overwhelmed they are, they need to get a handle on those children (it is for the children’s own good I encouraged.) But then we prayed about it. And the bitter, stinky, gross puddle of waste that was pooling in our hearts was touched by the finger of God. And as the puddle rippled…..the piss in my friend’s heart was turned into Living Water. I love praying with Godly people.

I wonder if those kids would like to go to church with us? (I wasn’t so the church’s kids community could handle all that.) I had planned on asking those boys to walk my dog with me, I wonder why I never asked the parents. What would it look like if I were radically kind to those boys in direct response of being pissed on? It would look like Jesus. Like what Jesus did for us. What Jesus does for us. Even when we know we are doing wrong and continue it anyway, just because we feel like it.

I know that there are other miracles that are flashier, water to wine lets you continue to party. Manna every morning lets you keep walking. Being healed of blindness, lameness, leprosy; tumors disappearing all of these are glorious things. But turning a puddle of pee into living water, and watching someone pour it out to the pisser. How do you get more miraculous than that?

This post was written for Just Write. Go check it out!

What my students taught me about Kony2012

Last week, I had a whole big non-fiction unit planned out where we were going to use the book a lot and maybe read a memoir. I love memoirs….but then a student said to me, “Ms. Norman, we should watch the Kony 2012 video right now. It is important. It was like almost thirty minutes, but I watched the whole thing.”

I know that may seem like a not big deal, but it is. Try getting a tenth grader to pay attention to anything for more than 5 minutes, then you will know. This was a big deal. And all of my kids were talking about it, not just my sports kids or my drama kids or my under or over achieving kids. All my kids. What? Okay…maybe this is a thing.

When I got around to looking it up on Friday night my facebook page was already full to the brim, with the video, thoughts on the video, articles and rants about what was good and what was bad. Apparently this was a thing. As of writing this it is the most viral video of all time.

It was a little crazy getting to the copier every morning. It was even more insane teaching articles that had been published just hours before. While everyone likes to claim that they just loooove when their students are engaged, engaged students are unpredictable and you never know what is going to come out of their mouths when they have an opinion about something.  Plus they forget to raise their hands and talk over each other and then you have to yell.

But it was worth it. I saw, in even my most cynical students an awakening of something. This was big enough to care about. This thing mattered. They were able to look at the bigger issues, the deeper story. We talked about nodding disease and Gulu town thanks to this article. My students were quick to point out that these stories were too complicated. “There are too many characters, ” they told me. This is true for both twitter and simply too many people to talk about. “We are uninterested in complicated issues,” and “How will we know when those problems end. This seems doable.” They are nothing if not honest, my students.

We talked about how a video goes viral with this article, (but I found this one later, and it is better. This is what happens when you are doing a lesson plan in real time). My students are so brutally honest about what appeals to them. No punches pulled, no attempt at saving face so they can look more benevolent than they really are. Pure  answers as to what gets their attention and why. “We want to feel like we matter.” “We want to feel like we could make a difference.” “No one wants to think that hard” (Did I mention their honesty?) “It is easier if someone tells me what to think.”

We talked about who controls what stories are told (here) and how Americans have a savior complex (here). “Mrs. Norman” they said, “If we had been told other people were already doing something good and we were just supposed to join it, we wouldn’t.” “We like it when things are all about us. Even when they aren’t.” Isn’t that the truth about humanity?

And at the end of the week, when I was burned out by the way the story was told and the money that was put to making the video, the misrepresentations and and the feeling that even if we somehow managed to do this one thing (through the leadership on the ground locals who know best how to navigate a complex situation), it wouldn’t be enough, even then my most cynical kids had this to say. “It isn’t right that this is happening. Anywhere. Period. If it were happening in the U.S. someone would stop it. Why should this be any different?”

I was reminded why I like to work with teenagers. Particularly the younger half of high school. They still believe in the should. They believe that if something is wrong it should be corrected. Even if there are other problems that should also be corrected, when something is as wrong as Joseph Kony is. Teenagers still believe that our actions matter.

All this week we will be in the computer lab, using photo story for windows to make our own videos, informing more on the complicated issues in Uganda, or advocating for our own charities. I hope to have my own youtube channel next Monday where I show you the work of my students. But last week, the work of my students was to renew my hope.

Where we used to sit.

I remember where we used to sit, a worn comfortable table that we never worried about spilling or scratching. Those spill and scratches, bumps and bruises only added to the tables warmth, its charm.

We started out across from each other, carefully bringing what we had to offer, setting it on the table. Explaining what we had to share. But pretty soon we scooted the two chairs next to each other, threw everything on to the same plate and ate right off of it. Together. I don’t even know when it happened. It just made sense at the time.

And in that sharing because it made good sense, my soul was fed. It was like our hearts came right out of our bodies to meet each other, recalibrate their rhythm and beat again, differently, better because of each other. My heartbeat as much my own as yours. We were doing this thing together. We were less alone in our struggles, less alone in our joys. I would tell people I had a tiny piece of the community I am sure is waiting for me eternally.

I don’t know who moved first. Honestly, I no longer care. I only know that we are no longer sitting next to each other, sharing, saving the best bites for each other. We have migrated away from the table. And in our worst moments we were across the room with our arms crossed and glaring. I may have even stomped my foot in frustration that you won’t see it my way.

We have since approached that worn table again. Uncrossed our arms from our chest so that our hearts may hear each other. We are sitting across from each other again, but on opposite ends of the table. Offering the things we know the other will need. Soon we will pull out the chairs and sit again. Perhaps you have already.

We are careful with each other. Thank you’s and pleases and are you sures, each taking what we need but keeping our portions small and polite. I miss the days of sitting next to each other, everything on the same plate.  The simplicity of sharing everything, sure that there is more than enough to go around, sure that everyone will get their own best bites.

I can hear our hearts reaching for each other across the table and the awkward silences. Wishing to recalibrate once again. We inch to toward the seats we were once comfortable in, prints worn into the wood reminding us that the seats next to each other are where we belong. The plate is still there, between the two seats waiting for the offering of shared lives.

I am hopeful we will find our way back there, next to each other. That it will once again feel like one heart beating, one story told. My heart yearns for that once easy communion. The way it once was. The way it will be. Forever and ever. Amen.

I Can’t Talk About Me Like That

Today started out like that other terrible day this week. Rooster is running a mild fever do to her four month vaccines so she is uncomfortable and can’t sleep well and I was just going to lay my head down for 5 more minutes….and this time I didn’t wake up until 17 minutes after I am supposed to leave the house. And the traffic was terrible because no one in Atlanta really knows what inclement weather is so they slow down to 35 when it is a little rainy out. (Seriously people, 75/85 isn’t just the interstate number, it should be the speed minimum!)

So I had to call my co-worker for the second time in three days and ask her to unlock my door. When I showed up at school the announcements were on. Another co-worker who also has an itty-bitty and a blooming toddler at home was holding down the fort. Both women told me it was no problem as I admitted how embarrassed I was. As the voice in my head chided, two days in a week you pull this? Get it together Abby!

And the worst part is, I may have lied to them. (I did) I may have told them that I was late because the Rooster had a fever, and not because the Rooster had a fever which made me tired so I made Christian take her a half hour before the alarm went off, so I lazily fell asleep after I turned off my alarm. (I just left out the part that made me look bad.)

Lucky for me the Lord convicted my heart and gave me the chance to come clean and apologize. My sweet grace giving colleagues forgave me and decided the grace they extended previously still stood. (I was not planning on confessing in person. I was planning on sticking an apology on here where neither of them go…that dang pride again.)

I was, I am, ashamed that I messed it up twice this week. My pride could not get over it. I am better than that. Other people are just big screw ups, but not me. I am not allowed to over sleep because I don’t do that. But I do, do that. I was easily the biggest screw up in my department this week, and it isn’t even Friday yet.

This morning I tweeted this: Kill my pride oh Lord; steal it from me. Let your grace fill those spaces.

God has heard my prayer of less than 140 characters. I decided to fight the lie that I am not good enough by treating myself to lunch, on a day I certainly did not deserve it. Besides, I had to go to the bank because I had no toll money to get home.

On the way out of the door I ran in to a teacher on duty. (Duty- the time once a week a teacher has to stand somewhere and bother every kid that walks by for a pass. It is necessary, but it is no fun.) She asked me where I was going and I asked her if she needed anything. Was I going to Starbuck’s? I was not. So we left it at that. Until my errands drove me right into the Starbucks parking lot. Literally, my bank and the Starbucks have adjoining parking lots. Cafe Mocha’s for everybody!!!

And when I delivered it to her, she told me I was good to her. She told me I was good, and I believed her. In that moment, by God’s grace, I was good. Not a screw up, not someone who better start doing better. And I had a beautiful conversation with another mom about how we don’t give ourselves the grace we give everyone else.

Sometime in mid-October I was telling Jill all the terrible things I was and she stopped me with this line, “I’m sorry, but I don’t let anyone talk about my sister like that.” She doesn’t let anyone say mean things about me, not Starcha who told me I was buck-toothed in the second grade who Jill threatened to beat up in the cafeteria, and not me about myself in my own kitchen. And now, I don’t either. I’m sorry, but I can’t talk about me like that.

Confessions of a Grudge Holder

You would think I would have learned my lesson by now. The one about withholding forgiveness do to my skewed sense of justice. The justice that does not hold hands with mercy but instead demands that I get my due right now! The justice that, when I have occasionally gotten it, leaves me vindicated….and hollow inside. Not at all the way I thought I would feel. Because that justice isn’t of the Lord and from the Lord. It does not wait for the redeemer to come and paint a beautiful picture out of a fragmented mess. That justice is of the world……and this is not the first time it has seduced my heart.

 
You see, I am a grudge holder. Part of it comes from my excellent memory. I remember what people promised and did not, said and did not say. I remember. And more often than I care to admit, I hold it against them. And when the Lord calls me to repent, to go to my sister and brother in Christ and confess that my heart has been hard toward them….I tell Him no.
 
I grew up spending summers at my grandparents lake. There were thirteen cousins when I was young, with ten of us squished in to the span of 10 years. It was fun much of the time, but when there are that many cousins squished that close together, someone is bound to feel left out. And the dynamics were not in my favor. Looking back from an adult perspective I can tell you that much of the time it wasn’t anyones fault, and with my propensity for fit throwing I probably deserved some of  those doors that were slammed in my face. But I needed someone to blame. So I picked my cousin Rachel, the one who was born just six months before me. The one who had no need or desire for the close relationship that I longed for.  I hardened my ten year old heart toward her. And as I grew older I did not put away the ways of my childhood. I continued my grudge-holding. 
 
When I was in college we both were believers and the Lord called me to confess to her, that I had been storing up slights (real and imagined) since I was ten and holding them against her without her knowledge. But I refused. “No,” I told him, “she snubbed me she should go first. If she has this relationship with you then she should know how much she hurt me. She should come to me. I deserve that.” Typing this now makes me cringe. What a foolish brat I was. Year after year when we were getting together at Christmas or in the summer I would hear the Lord call, and every year I ignored it. I had stopped adding new slights to the pile and figured that was good enough. Even when I knew it wasn’t. 
 
Rachel died in a car accident the summer we were twenty-one. I never did have that conversation with her. I know I shorted myself out of the relationship that God intended for me to have, and it jacked up my relationship with my aunt for awhile. Until I confessed it all to her. She was gracious enough to forgive me. Good thing she isn’t a grudge holder.
 
A month ago I wrote a post about Christ-Giving, about how I wanted to give this advent season the way that Christ had given to me. At the time I was thinking about financial generosity. He has been so generous to our family this year. But that is not what the Lord had in mind, and apparently He takes the intentions I profess to the internet seriously. He gave me forgiveness, and He has been asking me to forgive others, more like He forgives me. You know, no strings attached. And oh is my heart a tangled mess of strings attached it seems.
 
I was called to let go of a grudge I had been nursing for a long time. Grudges are like stray cats; they only hang around as long as you feed them. And if I am really honest with myself I have been nursing that grudge because I know that the person I was mad at doesn’t really understand how badly I was hurt, and likely never will. I only wanted to confess my grudge if that person would then tell me how I had a right to it, and that I was of course forgiven because what they did was in fact as terrible as I had thought. I only wanted to confess if I would be told that my grudge holding had been justified all along. Which, thrown out in plain English like that, isn’t much of a confession at all. 
 
But that wasn’t God’s plan. Before any interaction with this person my dear neighbor Esther, who speaks truth in a gentle way I hope to one day emulate, had looked at me and said: perhaps the Lord will allow you to restore your relationship. If that wasn’t enough, the Lord gave me the exact words to say on Saturday, moved me to tears in worship on Sunday, and then because God knows just how stubborn He made me, had my pastor list the fruit of the spirit, and stick forgiveness where faithfulness belongs. I know my pastor knows the verse, that slip of the tongue was just for me.
 
And then God showed me something else. That I had been extending grace and mercy in a certain situation only because I expected that person to repent, and repent soon. The string attached to the love I had been so proudly extending to my friend was that she would change on my timeline. And I was frustrated because my time limit had come and gone and yet….no outward change. I felt like this person didn’t deserve that grace and mercy anymore because they hadn’t changed. How gross is that?
 
Christ has given me forgiveness, no strings attached. Even if I never repented of anything He still would have come to earth as a baby and grown into the man who chose to die a horrendous death for the sins that I committed. And this Christmas season, I want the gifts that my savior has given me to spur me to give to others, even if that doesn’t mean what I thought it meant when I wrote it the first time. And the Lord has certainly granted me forgiveness. Even forgiveness for holding grudges; no strings attached.
 
I don’t want to be a grudge holder anymore. The Lord has scrubbed that crevice of my heart clean. It is raw and a little tender to the touch, but that piece of my heart is clean. 
 
 
 

Oh the death spiral…..

The Rooster is sleeping upstairs. The Peanut is at Elizabeth’s sleeping in her toddler bed, (her toddler bed! I know…I don’t want to talk about it!) and I am sitting on the couch in my silent living room feeling like a bad mom, a bad friend, a bad writer and wife….. I guess bad is not the right word. More like…..not enough. I am feeling like I am not good enough. And I know that I am not enough, but that through the grace of Jesus Christ He makes me enough, more than enough. But right now in this moment I don’t feel like that. I feel like I don’t cut it.

 
I suppose I should recognize the pattern in my life. I have been believing some lies about my body lately. Lies about what is\t should look like two months post partum. And so I skimp on the food for the day, not a lot. Just enough to be a little bit hungry. And by not feeding my body I am feeding this lie. That my body is not good enough. And that pretty quickly bleeds into how I am not good enough. At anything, because my kid is not with me, because my house is not clean, because I don’t write in this or anything else enough, because…because….because. My sister calls it the death spiral.

I know you know what I am talking about. A post baby body becomes “my body isn’t good enough” becomes “My kids are crying because I am not a good enough mother” becomes “my house becomes evidence of my inability I can’t even get the toys off the floor” becomes “I am not a good enough wife” becomes you crying in a heap on the couch. Because I fed the lie. The first one. And I have learned that the only way to combat those lies is with truth. It is the only way to stop the death spiral. Because truth brings life just as lies bring death.

The truth is that I am good enough. That God has empowered me to be what my family needs for me…..He gave me them, He knew what He was doing. The truth is my house is a mess…..and my friends don’t really care. They get that two kids under two means chaos reigns, and they respect my choice to let the Peanut take all the pans and spoons out of the kitchen drawers while I make dinner so that we can all be in the kitchen happy. They are perfectly happy to trip over those pans. The truth is that my worth resides in not the happiness of my kids, the cleanliness of my house, or even the quality of my words and whether anyone is impressed with them. My worth resides in Jesus Christ, what He did for me on the cross. My savior thinks I am enough, perfect in His abundance. And when you start spouting that, the death spiral has nowhere to go but up.

I’m back! and talking about love?

Sorry for the unannounced hiatus. Apparently between the summer school, the just over one year old, and the growing a baby, I needed a break. So, I took one. Next time I hope to at least actively decide instead of spending a month promising myself I will write tomorrow.

 
Something this week really caught my eye. Don Miller, a Christian writer and blogger, wrote a 2 part series about how to write your love story. I wasn’t a fan. Rachel Held Evans, a Christian writer and blogger disagreed with him, in a post I loved. Since then Don Miller has taken down his posts and issued an apology. I have always had a lot of respect for him as a writer, but never more than I do know. He really and truly exudes grace and truth….even when he gets it wrong. Rachel Held Evans is quickly becoming “my girl”. Everything she writes I love and I can’t wait till her new book is out!
 
Anyway, this whole dust up was about the incredibly controversial subject of….love stories. Right, not something I think of as controversial either. But it did get me thinking about love stories, how God writes them, why does he write them, who is the star etc. I was a teenager when the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” came out. And suddenly, every youth group was doing a series on courting vs. dating, love, purity. And every Christian author had something to say about Godly love stories and also how to not have sex outside of marriage. In fact, one summer we talked so much about what the Bible has to say about sex I remember telling my youth group leader if we continued to talk about NOT having sex and NOT thinking about sex I would start having it because all this talk about not having it made me think about it a whole lot more than I normally did. I don’t know how well that went over, but really how much can possibly be said about how to keep your pants on?

But love, and love stories….I think there may be more to say on that. I have read more than one book on Christian dating that basically says the man needs to make all the moves, and the woman needs to wait…and wait… and don’t say anything and wait. It is the man’s adventure and he invites the woman to join him.

Surprise, surprise I never really followed those rules. I don’t know….I guess it was just the whole waiting thing. I wasn’t great at. Also, the not saying anything. I am terrible at that. Though I didn’t ascribe to this whole thing, I had an opportunity to watch this play out a lot in college. I was involved in a major campus ministry that supported this model. Plus, I had an absolutely adorable roommate who fit more easily into this romantic mold than I did. And quite a few boys wanted to date her. So….every once in a while (but DEFINITELY more than once a semester, usually more than twice) a boy would show up to our room and I would make myself scarce because the boy would want to DEFINE THE RELATIONSHIP, or DTR. One of two things would happen. Either my roommate would be totally taken off guard and have to let this poor boy down gently, or she would ask for the opportunity to get to know the boy better and his feeling would be all hurt because he had really wanted to date my roommate and she just didn’t know him well enough to say “Yes! I want to be your girlfriend.” The other thing it did was encourage girls to pine away for whichever random boy caught her eye. She would build this boy up in her head as her perfect guy and maybe just maybe he would show up at the door one day and “define the relationship.” On the occasion that the boy DID show up….the relationship was a disappointment because the girl was into the boy in her head and not the boy that actually existed.

It just all seemed so…confusing…cloak and dagger in a way. It also leaves the poor girl with no agency while the poor boy has to figure out if this could potentially be marriage material when he didn’t even know if he liked eating pizza with her. It seemed to confusing to me. Not that this method hasn’t worked for thousands of couples. I am just not a big fan.

Instead I have started to think that there is one great love story. The love story between God and man, creator and creation, Redeemer and me. A person who needed (and needs) desperately to be redeemed. And yes, God made the first move, but I responded. And love stories between two people are as unique as the love stories people have about how they met Jesus. Sometimes God shows up and says “I love you, love me” and you do. Sometimes God has been in your life forever, always being there for you until one day you wake up and realize He is who you have been looking for all along. Most times God shows up right when you are ready to be with Him.

However it starts, and at whatever pace. True Christian romances are all uniquely the same: God grows two people in a way that suits both the person and the partner. If you let Him, Christ uses all those imperfections you once thought of as impossible to get around to serve another person, sometimes it makes you uniquely qualified to love each other. God is a romantic and a pursuer of the church. And our love stories point to that.

Today is Red and White day

Every Thursday is Red and White day, all summer at Camp Ray Bird henceforth: CRB (except for discipleship week ….we’ll get to that.) The day where the campers learn that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead for the forgiveness of their sins. They learned about sin on dark day, Wednesday. Gold day is Tuesday, when they learn of the goodness of God, and Green day is Friday, when the campers learn how to grow in the Lord. (If you read your Bible and pray every day then you’ll grow, grow, grow.)

Christian and I worked at Camp Ray Bird the summer before we moved to Atlanta (Summer 2006). We had some friends on the speech team who encouraged us to get summer jobs there, so we thought “what the heck.” I spent the summer answering phones and messing up registration (seriously….talk about learning about God’s grace…) while Christian led activities that the counselors took their campers to. A job you don’t normally need a masters degree for (you don’t usually need to be old enough to vote….but Christian managed to fit right in.) What goes on is so much more than the sum of the stuff that everyone does there.

The basics are this. Around a thousand kids come through CRB every summer. Almost every single kid qualifies for a reduced fee. $30 for the week. The whole week, overnight, 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, and a t-shirt if they memorize all of their Bible verses. Not to mention swimming everyday, daily activities, crafts, the whole summer camp experience. From where I sit that is less than VBS at some churches, and all the kids eat there is a themed snack.

But the biggest piece is this. The kids are loved at CRB. The counselors, the kitchen staff, the lifeguards, the 16 year olds whose job it is to put the worm on the hook for the 7 year old girls, every single person is there to love campers, even if that means discreetly picking up wet sleeping bags and having them laundered before “horizontal hour.” Every worker believes it is their job to love the kids in whatever way they can.Even if it means cleaning toilets or roping off the field for games later that night.

And the kids, even the little ones, can’t leave without understanding who Jesus is and exactly how much God loves them. I’m not saying it fixes all their problems or anything, poverty is a beast for sure. But for a week, one week, kids who otherwise wouldn’t get the opportunity, get to do summer. Not sit in front of the TV all day because it is too hot or not safe enough in their neighborhood to go outside.There is no public pool in South Bend, so for most of the campers their week at camp is the only week they swim.

Christian and I feel so, so blessed to have been witness to what goes on there, to be able to participate in the ministry. This is the first year we won’t be able to visit, even for a weekend. The timing of it all just didn’t pan out. I’m praying for the ministry this summer. And praying that the staff can see beyond the grueling hours and incessant needs of the campers to the investment they are making in the name of the Lord. It gets hard sometimes.

And if you feel so called…even if it is just a couple bucks, feel free to click the pay pal button on the Camp Ray Bird website. I worked in the office, and can honestly tell you that NO ONE can stretch a dollar like the CRB staff. I’ve got details if you want them. Seriously, even 5 bucks will pay for bait for fishing for a week. And by all means put them on your prayer list!