Monday, August 1, 2011
When the planting is done
Over 400 kids, almost 7000 meals, (eaten by all of us, not just me!) 3 long weeks, and less than 4 hours of sleep per night, the children's Bible camp my family helps with each year has come to a close. Still dizzy from the frenzy of activity, I sat this morning, sipping freshly ground coffee when I read this quote: "Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant." Robert Louis Stevenson. Immediately the three very different weeks of camp came to my mind. Teen week came first with a smorgasbord of cowboy boots, skinny jeans, flip flops, plaids, and diverse backgrounds. From 7 different states these 13-18 year olds walked onto campus, most of them genuinely ready to meet with God in some very real way. 7-9 year old week came next--a hurricane of young ones with energy that, if harnessed, could power our country naturally for quite some time. Many of these were so small, their main purpose was to have fun. Our purpose of course, was to show them God's love while they had fun. Not always easy. Then there were the 10-12 year olds. Wave upon wave of them rolled in, pillows, suitcases, and duffel bags in hand. 170 of them! We were like an anthill that from the outside looks like little people running everywhere, but upon close examination, there is direction and purpose to every step. These were the children who stood at the crossroads ready to make some long term decisions about what they will believe and whom they will serve. Again, our goal was to reveal the love of God and point them in that direction. One Saturday between camps, I ran home and planted some winter squash and pumpkin seeds for fall harvest. The conditions must have been perfect because seeds that normally take 14 or more days to germinate were over an inch tall the following Friday when I returned home. I couldn't believe how quickly they came up this year. That was teen week in a nutshell. We planted, we watered, and we saw growth that very week. Overwhelming growth. Then there was the week of young campers where we slugged it, kissed boo boos, hugged necks, combed hair, wrestled, encouraged the occasional shower,(why do kids hate to shower?) all while constantly pointing with our hearts as loudly as we could, to the love of God. We taught, we shared, we tickled, we prayed, and we prayed again. But the fruit, the harvest is not as evident in these young ones. It isn't that they don't grow, but growth is measured differently at that age, and much of what we are doing then is just laying the foundation. On what will these little ones build their lives? A loving God? A world that offers bigger gaming systems, newer cell phones, and a Justice fall line of clothing just in time for back to school? We pray they left camp with a heart that stands on the love of their Father. And finally we swam in an ocean of 10-12 year olds where one was as distracted as my chocolate lab when a squirrel crosses our path, and the other was as focused as my chocolate lab becomes on said squirrel. One's listening, one's not, and we were just praying, "God let them all hear. Let them understand that we've tried both foundations and yours is better. Yours is greater. Yours is enough." Some of them come to tell you what they learned, but many are quiet and you are left to wonder. Did they hear? Did they understand? Being a dorm mom, I was with the kids constantly. There were many glimpses into the fruit that was ripening in their hearts. One little girl said to me, "I didn't know that God's hand would never be against me. I didn't know He will always love me until I came here." Fruit. Thank you, God. Another little girl after sharing about a life in foster care said, "I think I need to forgive my mom." Amen. But I have to wonder about the kitchen staff--those who labored tirelessly in over 80 degree temperatures, chopping, slicing, stirring, and kneading with little to no interaction with the kids. These were the servants who fed their tummies so others of us could feed their souls. A child with a full belly is in a much better place to feed their soul. But, those who worked in the kitchen didn't get to see any fruit. They just served with a spiritual dot dot dot at the end of each day. Was what they were doing impacting eternity? There were also those who wrote checks and those who planted seeds in a prayer closet somewhere far from the campus. There were the people who showed up weeks before to clear out the cobwebs and prepare the campus. None of them had the privilege of hearing how God had worked in these little ones' hearts. They saw no fruit. But they served. They planted seeds. Without planting of seeds, there is no crop. The last two years my garden has yielded enough cucumbers to make salads and eat with my family. But this year, I've had so many cucumbers that I'm giving away bags full to others, and still have baskets filled all over my house. Here's the interesting part, I've planted the same amount of seeds each year. There's a passage in I Corinthians, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused it to grow. So neither the one who plants counts for anything, nor the one who waters, but God who causes the growth." Who can say why one year I have mountains of cucumbers and another I have few? Who can say what the real fruit of Canal Lake Bible Camp really will be? We can count conversions, rededications, callings to ministry--if we like. But, truly it is God who causes growth. I'd rather not try to measure the harvest. Instead, I'd like to find myself content in knowing, I planted. I planted with all my heart. With every ounce of energy and strength I had, I planted. And so did the kitchen workers, the cleaning ladies, the prayer warriors, the board members, and many others. And now, we'll pray to the Lord of the harvest to bring about fruit in all these hearts. Imagine what would happen if all of these over 400 kids chose to continue to seek after the heart of God in their lives! Imagine what would happen in ours schools, in our town, in our state if they chose to build their lives on the truths of Jesus and not worldly wisdom. And I'm praying to that end, but I remember too, the parable of the shepherd who left 99 sheep to find one lost lamb. As a child I loved that story, but as an adult I realize that even if all the fundraisers, all the meals, all the work yielded only one heart turned toward God, it would be worth it. It would. God's not willing that any should perish, and His love knows no bounds. He will reach to the ends of the earth to restore His children to Himself. Pray with me to that end, please. God, we know you were sovereign in each child that attended camp. We know you were sovereign in each adult who helped in some way. We know you have purposes that are far beyond our understanding. God, we've planted with everything in us, will you bring about growth? Will you protect these seeds, bring them warmth, bring them sun, bring them rain and let them take root? Will you bring about a safe environment for them to grow? We trust you with the harvest. Thank you for letting us plant. Amen.