Deep Clean

I’m sitting here in my living room on cleaning day (yes, I have a day designated to clean — don’t judge, it’s just how I roll) and wondering how the blazes did it get like this in less than a week? The curtains are askue, there are fingerprints on the door, and the screen on the window looks like it could fill a truckload up in dust. The fish tank is in desperate need of a deep clean and is becoming a haven for some unknown kind of pleasantly coloured green algae that I am sure is keeping the poor guppies alive because I haven’t feed them in days. The Risk game is still on the kitchen table from the two day marathon the kids had with their friends. There is a bowl and spoon sitting here beside me as I type. I think it is from someone’s breakfast cereal this morning, and it wasn’t me, so add “failure to instruct children in good clean up habits” to my list of mom woes.

I’m contemplating how quickly my couches would burn if I lit a match. They are second hand, once removed, and have been decimated by cat scratches and greasy, buttered bagels served at leisurely couch-as-dining-table breakfasts. No worries though, they are creature free — if you don’t count the very large dust bunnies that lurk in between the cushions. But they are comfy, and I won’t mind at all if you put your shoes up on ’em and relax.

It didn’t use to be this way. I used to be much more particular. I love neat and organized cupboards and alphabetized collections. I recently binged watched YouTube videos about hoarding vs. obsessive compulsive cleaners in the UK. And although I have never spent 20 hours a week bleaching my toilet bowl, nor have 80 pairs of random shoes piled to the ceiling in my spare bedroom, I somehow managed to find a healthy balance of cleanliness and happiness. Today, on this cleaning day, a week before school starts, and on the brink of unexpected guests, I am just not feelin’ it. I’ll probably freak out and yell (or maybe silently fester) about it because my brain wants one thing and I’m faltering at obtaining the other. Ah, crap. So be it.

If there is one thing I learned from my blatant waste of time on YouTube, it was that both the hoarders and the OCD’ers struggled with something on the inside that resulted in their outside cleaning habits. Like Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees in the New Testament: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Matthew 23:25. How many times do I struggle with my outward vs. my inward? A lot. Introverts struggle even more, I think. Curvy girls? Double that.

I’m patiently waiting for God to show me how to clean up. Like scrubbing pots, it seems to be a long and tedious process. My heart has nooks and crannies that haven’t been vacuumed for years, and the cobwebs hang heavy. It’s a process, and each box of clutter has to be sorted, dusted and re-evaluated. I’m tempted to throw in the towel with the rest of the dirty laundry, and sell the whole blessed house in exchange for the country retreat… chicken coops clean themselves, right? But perhaps that would just be inheriting someone else’s mess. In fact, I know it would be inheriting someone else’s mess.

I suppose I will have to plod along and somewhere find the balance between the dust bunnies and the dust bins. I’ve put in the first load of laundry. That’s a start, right?

I Survived Summer Camp

Ever been to summer camp? Ever send your kids to camp? Better yet… have you ever been a leader at camp? Bless your souls, and extra jewels for you in your heavenly crown! It is not a task for the lighthearted. You VBS (Vacation Bible School) leaders know what I mean… you don your tye dyed staff shirt every morning and cut out what seems like thousands of paper circles, and then count billions of colour coded beads for the ultimate friendship bracelet, only to have your camper go into complete meltdown mode because you chose the wrong background colour of string. No one sees it, you spoiled, little brat! (Did I say that out loud?! Oh my, not a very Christian like attitude – will need to confess that at campfire tonite.) I have only been to sleepover summer camp once in my life. I have mixed memories of it. On one hand, I enjoyed the activities (became the fabulous archer I am today starting at summer camp) but the stress of pre-pubescent, introvert apprehensions constantly flare up when you are in close quarters with 8 other girls in a hot, sweaty cabin for long periods of time without the comforts of home. Just sayin’.

I did learn some survival skills at camp, though: bring salt with you when you catch frogs in the leech infested swamp. Sunscreen is slightly important. I became an expert at changing in a sleeping bag. Learned how to whistle with two fingers to attract cute boys, and how to endure long hours in a deflating, plastic dinghy with a slow leak. You will survive seaweed. I also learned to fake it.

I recently read an article by a seemingly accomplished online writer who shared her experiences as a Catholic-raised teen who attended evangelical Christian summer camp for most of her growing up years. She even did leadership training and became councillor for her own cabin. And although she knew she was raised differently than the other bible wielding, kumbaya singing, born-againers, she learned the lingo and wrote out her testimony along with the others. I’m sure she knew the four spiritual laws and had prayed the sinner’s prayer over s’mores and stories as the embers of the staff campfire dwindled late into the night. But, I wonder, did her church camp truly change her life? How many of those teenage friends became divorcees, or struggle with self esteem, or felt isolated as new moms? Did they still support each other as they vowed they would over stringed friendship bracelet pacts?

We have learned to fake it. We know what we should do, so we pretend. We say we spent our two hours of daily devotions reading the psalms, but really we just doodled in our notebooks. We say we practised our memory verse every day for the last week, but really we just spent the last half hour cramming to get our token badge for memory work. We go to hear the missionary speak of saving the “unreached” tribes, and sit through his slideshow, but secretly envy the girl two rows ahead who has the best. hair. ever. We say we love our neighbours, but are clique-ish and spread rumours and gossip.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think summer camp experiences do have the potential to shape lives. I think gospel seeds can be sown, and I believe God changes the lives of countless young people. But only if we are honest. I also think summer camp has changed from my “back in the day” experiences. The frogs are no longer easy to catch… we’ve poisoned our lakes. Staff now no longer have to have to learn how to whistle, but they do have to complete a 3 hour long online course on vulnerable sector safety and proper conduct. I’m sure they still have to count out and colour code beads… but now they do it according to the Pinterest instructions and ordered the craft supplies online via their Amazon prime accounts. Campers now have to be tolerant of and ignore the outcries of kids with special needs who are included in their cabins. They still share stories over campfires, and then their Instagram accounts. They not only have learned how to change in sleeping bags, but they have also learned to hide the scars from last year’s cuttings.

It’s hard to be a kid today. And yet, I think our kids are so much more aware now. Does that make it better or worse? I don’t know. Do we, as adults, still sit in our Sunday pews and smile and nod as we reminisce about camp songs and tell others we will pray for them as they go – while our teenagers talk about gender fluidity and what the Bible says about artificial intelligence?

I pray, that as my children have their own experiences of summer camp, they they not only learn how to put a worm on a fishing pole, but they learn that the fish have a significance in God’s world. That they learn not only to swim and build sand castles but that they learn to be real. That they learn that art and the world around them are created for God’s pleasure and that He gives them these things to enjoy. I pray they learn that friendships are deep, and that the people they play games with will struggle with pain and rejection and doubt their faith. And that it is okay. It is not just about learning your Bible verse and saying the sinner’s prayer. It is about asking questions, and not understanding, and being fearful but overcoming your fears. It is about being vulnerable. And trusting that the God who made the starlit sky is still in control, and smiles down at you as you lick the sticky, marshmallow goodness off your young and full of potential face.

A Time for Everything

Ecclesiastes 3 The Message (MSG)

There’s a Right Time for Everything

There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:

2-8 A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.

9-13 But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I’ve had a good look at what God has given us to do—busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time—but he’s left us in the dark, so we can never know what God is up to, whether he’s coming or going. I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift.

14 I’ve also concluded that whatever God does, that’s the way it’s going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God’s done it and that’s it. That’s so we’ll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear.

15 Whatever was, is.
Whatever will be, is.
That’s how it always is with God.

God’s Testing Us

16-18 I took another good look at what’s going on: The very place of judgment—corrupt! The place of righteousness—corrupt! I said to myself, “God will judge righteous and wicked.” There’s a right time for every thing, every deed—and there’s no getting around it. I said to myself regarding the human race, “God’s testing the lot of us, showing us up as nothing but animals.”

19-22 Humans and animals come to the same end—humans die, animals die. We all breathe the same air. So there’s really no advantage in being human. None. Everything’s smoke. We all end up in the same place—we all came from dust, we all end up as dust. Nobody knows for sure that the human spirit rises to heaven or that the animal spirit sinks into the earth. So I made up my mind that there’s nothing better for us men and women than to have a good time in whatever we do—that’s our lot. Who knows if there’s anything else to life?

It’s a funny thing, Time. Just this week we celebrated birth and death. We did laundry and dishes and went to work and played ball. Our summer is flying quickly by and I have been reminded -yet again- of how time never stops. Time keeps on ticking. We are finite. God, however, is infinite. Only He can see the “big picture” for what it really is. And so I muse, And invite you to ask the question as well: What have you done, my friend, with your time?