Lake Lundgren 2010, Day 4: A Devotional Day

On Tuesday, I'd decided to forgo camp breakfast. Jeff and the girls went off when the bell rang, but I stayed behind to enjoy a quiet, relaxed devotional time (and a protein bar I'd packed for just such an occasion!). I liked it so much that I opted to continue the practice on Wednesday and then through the rest of the week.

And on Wednesday, I took time to write this reflection:

"Too Simple" Obedience

The old adage says it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Now, I have yet to discover if that is actually a biblical concept - though the idea of perseverance certainly is. But I have seen what I believe to be the validity of the concept play out in my life recently.

At the end of June, Tiany from The Homeschool Lounge (THL) offered all of us there a Summer Devotions Challenge, asking those interested to commit to daily Bible reading/study for at least 15 minutes a day between July 1 and August 31. Being afraid of not keeing up, I almost chose to abstain. But, on the other hand, I'd been trying with limited success to regularly read short Joyce Meyer devotionals and passages in a one-year Bible, and I finally determined that The Challenge might help me be more consistent with that.

And that
has been the case. Most days I've spent just 15 minutes - the amount it's taken to merely read through and meditate a bit on the devotional and daily passages - without taking additional time to pray or journal or consciously apply concepts that stood out to me. A few times, I squeezed in my time late at night and struggled to stay awake. And one day I skipped it entirely. But the presence of The Challenge has kept me basically on track for exactly 21 days now.

I've known - at least intellectually - from years of trying to walk as a Christ-follower that the Word of God is powerful. I know that God says His Word does not return void when it goes out. And I'd seen an inkling of this in my life at other times when I'd tried to consistently read or study.

But, truth be told, I wasn't at all sure if my readings would have an impact on anything in my daily life. After all, I've merely been reading. I haven't been
studying anything deeply. I haven't been taking notes. I haven't actively tried to apply anything I've read beyond a few minutes of reflection. And, while I always pray informally throughout my days, I wasn't even taking time for deliberate prayer in the devotional time. How could something so simple - with such little effort on my part - matter?

Yet it has, and I've seen some very obvious fruit just in the last few days - as I approached the 21-day point in my journey.

For example, we are this week enjoying our annual family vacation at Lake Lundgren Bible Camp and, while we all cherish our time here each year, I have typically been stressed by some of it (i.e., living in close quarters all week, managing tasty but less-than-calorie-conscious camp food, dealing with unexpected circumstances and sometimes unthinking teen campers). But I've noticed that I've felt less ruffled by all that this year than in the past. I attributed that to my devotional time, but wasn't exactly convinced of the connection until Tuesday night.

Tuesday's scheduled supper was meant to be an outdoor cookout and - though light thunder had rumbled intermittently through the afternoon - the cooks kept to that plan because the forecast indicated that significant rain would not come until after the dinner hour.

As the dinner bell rang, light rain fell - what Rachel said was "God's watering can" - but we headed down to the picnic area anyway, where all the hamburgers and hot dogs were waiting on the grill and side dishes were lined up on two long tables.

And then - just moments before we were to pray for the meal - God opened up His faucets in Rachel's imagery, and it absolutely poured! Buckets! More than I'd seen in a long time - even in what has been a remarkably rainy summer.

We all bolted for cover, and Jeff, the girls and I ended up on the tiny porch of the old camp office with about half a dozen others. I think we all expected the deluge to be brief, but it continued steadily for well over 10 minutes before the cooks directed us to come grab the soggy food before it got wetter. And it continued just as heavily for over 10 minutes after that.

Abigail was crying because of the thunder, and I was a bit stressed trying to calm her. But then Jeff said, "You're handling this very well." And at that moment - when someone else (who knows better than anyone else how poorly I usually handle unexpected, difficult circumstances!) noticed peace in me - that I understood what had been occurring during my "effortless" devotionals.

I've been feeding myself with the Word for about three weeks, and, though I didn't think I was really doing anything "significant" and didn't "feel" amazingly different after my 15 minutes a day, God has been using that spiritual food to silently nourish me. And so, when the storm came - literally - my "house" stood because I've been building on the Rock (Matthew 7.24-25) through simple obedience (Psalm 1.2; 1 John 2.5). God could shine through me in a situation that would normally cause me much obvious angst because He was
in me through my daily readings.

There is certainly a place for strenuous, focused study of the Word and deep, ardent prayer times - and I must say that my recent reading has increased my appetite for that type of devotional as well. But I'm sure God has wanted to teach me a very specific lesson through my simple reading; that is, my spiritual growth does not come from the amount of effort
I exert. Instead, even my small acts of obedience can be used in big ways by Him. Consistent obedience in choosing to get the Word into my mind and heart - not any "bells and whistles" I might like to attach to demonstrate my "spirituality" - is what it takes to unleash His power in my life.

I've seen other types of fruit, too - evidence that's clear enough to prove this truth to my heart and more than enough to encourage me to continue on with (at least) my 15 minutes a day when The Challenge is over. I obviously need to keep my heart open to the Spirit in those times - and prevent it from becoming a rote exercise. But I now see how simple it really is to provide a welcoming "home" in me for the Lord (Psalm 91.1) - and how developing a good habit can really make a difference.

The girls returned to the cabin when Jeff headed over to do morning chapel; they played inside and took a "prayer walk" near the cabin while I finished up. Then we made our way to Purple Park and the campfire area for a short time while we waited for Jeff to get done.

And then we all took a hike - to a place Jeff dubbed "Pooh Sticks Bridge" our very first year and, eventually, up to Big Rock, the gigantic rock formation that juts up quite impressively on the edge of camp property.

It was a bright, sunny day so the girls could barely contain themselves during cabin time after lunch; they knew they'd get to go swimming again, very likely for much longer than Tuesday's weather had allowed. They made it through their math worksheet and reading time, but afterwards kept chirping, "Is it time to change? Is it time to change?"

At Lake Lundgren, the Bible teacher and missionary speaker take turns at the waterfront all week, helping to run the "buddy board" system (every swimmer must have a buddy - or groups of three can buddy-up - and each buddy team must check in and check out at the buddy board; in addition, the lifeguards do "buddy checks" every 15 minutes). And Jeff and Pastor Jon had decided to take turns every other day so Wednesday was Jeff's day at the buddy board.

But we'd decided I'd do it - I did once last year, too - so he could swim with the girls. I was very busy because, as it turns out, the day was perfect for swimming. But it gave me a chance to interact with some of the campers, and Jeff and the girls had a blast. In fact, they were Team 1 at the buddy board check-in and stayed in the water for the entire swim time - two straight hours! All three got some nice color out of it, too. In fact, Abigail looked like our "little Indian" afterwards - just like my brother, her Uncle Tom, always did growing up!

After dinner, the girls played with Elena and Caleb, two of the head cook's children, whom they'd froclicked with in the water that afternoon and have enjoyed in past years as well. They all made a "fort" in the hollow that runs between the dining hall and cabins.

In the meantime, I was able to enjoy one of several wonderful conversations with the kids' mom, Megan, whom I've known since my college days (when, as she might want me to clarify, she was in middle and high school!). Megan is a fellow home schooler - just starting out, officially, as Elena has reached school age - and we love "talking shop."

So, all in all, another great day at camp. The girls fell asleep earlier than they had the night before - no doubt due to all the swimming. Jeff took what became his "daily constitutional" on the ball field after we did lights out for the girls. As for me, lights out for them was effectively lights out for me, too - more "catching up" on previously lost sleep!


Now, don't forget to stop by tomorrow, when I'll answer the question, "What's this 'seasoned' missionary man doing with flowered fleece?"

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