Day 40: 1 Peter 4:1-8
Camp Don Lee was the place I first learned to “love deeply” as the NIV version of the letter suggests. It’s also the place I honed my ability to “think like” Jesus as the MSG version encourages us. There was safety from the camp community to emerge as a Christian leader. There was safety to make mistakes and be forgiven; or make mistakes and have a sailing staff patch back your rudder; or make mistakes and have a chance to try a new experience the next day. Jesus showed up with teachings throughout the adventures of a day at camp and sometimes more profoundly in the seemingly mundane walks to meal times than the best of John Farmer’s morning watch sermons. Camp Don Lee taught me that to think like Jesus means to appreciate the beauty of His nature and His people. When we see beauty around us, loving people and Creation deeply becomes that much easier.
In the years since my last summer at CDL, the lessons of leadership have grown with me into the secular workforce. We can accomplish so much together when we love the people on our team. I know it’s been a good day in the office when I feel connected to my community. I’m an encourager and an ally. I’m a coach and a student. I’m a forgiver and a whistle blower. Don Lee formed these identities in me and showed me how Christian servant leadership empowers the lives of others. My time at camp also taught me that being the best servant requires me to value my own mental health. Thank you to my fellow campers and staff those many summers, my counselors along the way, and the leaders who were and are there year in and year out ensuring God continues to bless that strip of land along the Neuse.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the everyday glimpses of what it’s like to think and love like You. Form in us a posture of encouragement and gratitude for the community we currently reside. May your lessons and beauty continue to bless Camp Don Lee. Amen.
Submitted by: Andrew Tait- former camper and summer staff member
Day 39 (Good Friday): When hope seems lost
From time to time, it feels like you just can't win and the worse will happen no matter what you may do about it. Over the last few years, we have been "visited" by several hurricane and big "northeasters" here at Don Lee. The Don Lee pier has been washed away several times in recent years. In the fall of 2005 the pier was lost. After many prayers, fantastic financial support from generous givers, and outstanding volunteer labor we had the pier back in place for summer 2006. This drew hard on our resources of willing volunteers and long time supporters. When the hurricane season ended in late fall of 2006 and the pier was still there, there was a sighing of overwhelming joy and thankfulness. But it was only a few weeks later that those feelings seemed to be premature. I had felt we had made it without a loss to the pier. We had a bright road for the coming months. Then a huge storm with northeast winds blew into the river. The water began to rise all day long, the forecast was for it to continue to rise and it seemed immanent that the water would come over the pier.
As dark began to fall, I could see the water had overtaken the lower dock and was within only a few inches of the top deck boards. During that long night the wind continued to blow and I went to the pier three or four times to check, not that I could do anything. I just needed to know. When first light began to appear I went again to the pier. The storm has passed and the pier was still there. Yes, the lower docks were gone, but the main pier was firmly in place. There was a special indescribable joy that came over me and a feeling of special blessing. I drove out of camp and down the road to see how the general area had fared. As I turned around on the main road and stopped to look down the road back at camp, one of God's great promises was given to me again. There was a full rainbow in the morning light arching from beyond the airstrip back into camp and the end of the rainbow was positioned about where the end of the pier stands. What a feeling of resurrection and new life. What a feeling of new birth and absolute hope came over me as I was reminded once again, Don Lee is a place that God has blessed!
Submitted by: Rev. John Farmer- Camp Director for 38 years, retired in 2015
Day 38: John 13: 1-17, 31-35
One of Jesus’ last acts of service before his crucifixion was washing his disciples’ feet, even those of Judas who would soon betray him. Afterwards, Jesus charges his Disciples by saying “you also should wash one another’s feet”. He explains that no one is better than anyone else and calls them to serve in this same way.
Camp had a way of reminding me of this. At Don Lee no matter where your group of campers or the staff on your team came from, we were all equal. We all had to cook and eat that meal in the woods together, help each other over the wall on the challenge course, do our part during Capers, go without showers on overnight camping trips, and have our boat capsized during a tacking drill. No matter what school you went to, where you were born, or what you wanted to do in your life, Camp had a way of bringing everyone together and humbling us.
After washing their feet, Jesus says to his disciples that they cannot follow him where he is going and tells them in verse 34 and 35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Don Lee was an environment where I had to work with others, I was different from in so many ways, yet we were and are called to love and to serve each other. It is because of the acts of service shown to me by my fellow staff members and campers that the light of Christ was so apparent to me at Camp Don Lee. In the same way that we were called to enter a community and love those different from us at camp, so we are called to do this in the world. Because that is how we shine the light of Christ, and that is how the world can tell we are set apart, through our love and through our service.
Prayer: Dear Lord of service, help us to put aside ourselves so that we might serve others selflessly and love sacrificially in the way that you have called us. Amen.
Submitted by: Anna Britt Harty- former camper and summer staff member
Day 37: Hebrews 12:1-3
I see echoes of this scripture in the Don Lee experience. If you have ever been to Camp Don Lee for a day, you know the word race would be appropriate to describe what goes on during the summer. From morning watch to lights out, the staff works hard to facilitate activities that range from fun to silly to spiritual. They pack a lot into each day at Camp!
From the staff in the kitchen, to the program staff, to the counselors, to the director, Camp Don Lee creates an environment of a great cloud of witnesses that often follow campers long after the wash off the Neuse Juice and head back home.
Back at home, campers hear all sorts of messages about what they should look like, act like, and focus on. Camp Don Lee provides campers and staff that place to throw off extra baggage, get rid of sin, and fix eyes upon Jesus.
How are we taking time for sabbath so that we can hear the voices of the great cloud of witnesses who speak the truth of the Gospel to us? Do we put down our phones and fix our eyes upon Jesus instead? What are we doing every day to get rid of the sin that trips us up? We may not be able to spend time at Camp Don Lee this summer, but let’s make some space for Don Lee moments in our lives where we stop, enjoy the breeze, listen to the crowd of witnesses in our lives, and spend quality time with our God who loves us so much!
Prayer: Living God, grant us Don Lee moments of sabbath in our busy lives. May God bless all who spend time on the pier this summer! Amen.
Submitted by: Mary Frances McClure- pastor in residence and mom of a summer staff member. Pastor at Bethel UMC
Day 36: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
My Leader in Training (LITs) group (1993) was nearing the end of our four week beautifully grueling journey. Our coordinators, Clif Ferrell and Cathy Cameron, invited us to think about what gift we wanted to give to camp as a thank you. We met with Rev. John Farmer (Camp Director at the time) to glean possible ideas. Among the many things he shared that morning, the one that stuck out the most for our group was the fact that there was no outward or visible sign to anyone going past camp on the river that Camp Don Lee was a Christian camp.
A full on discussion ensued that ended with our group settling on the idea of placing a cross at the end of the pier. Yes, such a symbol might be foolishness to many, but for us, and we prayed for many others, it would be a clear sign of the power of God at work in this place that God has so clearly blessed. With that settled, we set about the work of building and installing the cross.
For over 25 years (1993-2018) this same cross stood at the end of the Don Lee pier. It somehow (though I think we all know how) withstood every hurricane and Nor’easter that hit the Neuse River. For thousands it became a powerful centering point. For me as a staff member (8 summers: 1994-2001) and for my son, Stuart, a camper (8 summers 2014-present), it was the first place we went upon arrival at camp and the last placed we stopped before departing. Too numerous to count are those who experienced the saving power of God sitting at the foot of this cross.
Then came the fall of 2018. A horrific hurricane tore through camp leaving virtually no building or space, including the cross, unscathed. For a moment it looked like all might be truly lost. But with God, everything that looks like it might be an ending, simply becomes a new beginning. The NC Camping Ministries Board, Director Kate Metts, Camp Don Lee staff, and many of you did what you do best. You went to work. Camp was literally rebuilt in a matter of months. What looked foolish and or impossible, became reality! To cap it off, the 1993 LITs reassembled for a reunion in January of 2019 and restored the cross to the end of the pier!
Today there remains at Camp Don Lee at the end of the John Farmer Pier, for all who pass by on land or sea to see, an outward and visible symbol of God’s redeeming love made known through Christ’s saving work on the cross! Yes, it may seem foolish to some, but for us, for those whose lives have been transformed by the incredible ministry of Camp Don Lee, it remains an unending source of strength and hope. Thanks be to God!
Prayer: Loving and Redeeming God, we give you thanks for your steadfast love that never ends. May the message of the cross continue to rescue the perishing, provide hope for the lost, and serve as a reminder that your love for us never ends. Amen.
Submitted by: Ben Williams- Former camper & summer staff member, current camper parent & pastor in residence. Pastor at Christ UMC in Chapel Hill, NC
Day 35: Isaiah 42:1-9
Anyone who has experienced Camp Don Lee has also experienced the work of the Lord’s servants through our camp. As it is said in the first verse of chapter 42 in Isaiah, God has chosen and upheld us who serve Him. As those within the camp ministry, the Lord puts His Spirt in us. We have been called upon so we may bring justice to our world.
But what is our vision of bringing justice to the world?
In this passage, Isiah tells us that the servants of the Lord do not raise their voice or use violence to deliver justice. Instead, with faithfulness as their guide, the Lord’s servants bring justice through demonstrating God’s righteousness. True justice is not this big, grandiose, act that must be done on a global scale. That is because justice is not an act at all, it is an idea and value that everyone is inherently deserving of what is right.
Justice is cultivated and created through communities that value it. Camp Don Lee is one of those communities. With deep rooted values of inclusion, radical acceptance, and empowering others to be the light of God, Camp Don Lee quickly became the place that I love best.
When I first arrived to Camp Don Lee for the first time in 2018, I had no idea the community I was about to experience. I had put my trust into God (and into a friend who convinced me to work at a camp I’d never heard of), and dove right in. While working five seasons at Camp Don Lee, I saw first hand that justice is built within in a community. It is built when we make sure everyone is squeezed onto the same bench at morning watch. It is also experienced when we give everyone a space to speak at vespers. You can watch it happen when someone makes sure everyone gets a dinner roll. By instilling a value of justice into our community, it brings justice into the world.
Bringing our values outside of our community is how we bring justice to the world, because only showing that light within our own communities isn’t what God called His servants to do. He called us to go out and bring justice to the world. As we hear the cry for justice and righteousness in our world, we need to keep in mind that we are capable of creating change by reflecting our community’s value of justice onto the world.
Prayer: Lord of justice and righteousness, breathe your Spirit into us. Compel us to show others justice in our everyday lives. Let the light of our values shine into the world. Amen.
Submitted by: Hannah Kate Mulanax Grobin - former summer staff member
Day 34: Mark 10:32-34
Who Guides Your Trip?
In the early 80’s, in the week before staff training, several of the returning staff signed up for a Hobie sailing trip to Portsmouth Island. Nearly every member of our group was an experienced sailor and our guide and trip leader was a long time camper, sailing staffer and sailing master. It has proved to be a joyous memory in many ways, and I think of it often.
It happened that we were able to set out on the trip a day early. The waters were calm for hours as we drifted toward the mouth of the Neuse River. As we approached the sound our guide motioned to press on with a hot sail to Portsmouth bypassing Cedar Island which had normally been an overnight stop for the first leg of the trip. We made landfall at Portsmouth after about a seven-hour sail. Our guide pointed out a favorable place to camp on the shore and everyone worked together to complete the needed tasks. Each day, we gathered on the sound side campsite for meals with plenty time for building relationships. During our stay we took a walk to visit Portsmouth Village. Biting bugs were fierce, and we were glad we had been advised to wear long sleeves and pants for this visit. This outing was complete with the view of the small wooden church. The days and nights on the island were enjoyable as well as challenging. On the return sail to CDL our guide spotted a thunderstorm at a distance in the sound. We were all directed to a small island out in the sound and watched as the storm passed by in front of us. Soon we were off again to a smooth sail back into camp.
I remember feeling no anxiety or doubt during the trip following the directions of our guide who had made that trip many times before and had experience when things had not gone as smoothly. His knowledge and capability helped to guide us down the right path. There is a point in time in the sound where you cannot see land. Had I not listened and had I strayed from the group and our guide, I may not have made it safely on my own.
This very much like my life and walk with Jesus. He guides me through his teachings down the right path. If I stray from his direction I could be lost forever. I continue to learn each day and many days I fall short. I am thankful that God provides grace to bring me back to the correct path. I am thankful for the help of friends, family, and above all the love and grace of Jesus Christ who died on the cross for my sin, then rose from the dead and lives in each of us.
Prayer: Dear Lord we pray for your everlasting guidance as we navigate our lives. Help us to serve you and follow you in our walk. Amen
Submitted by: Keith Cannon - Family camper, camper, staff member 81-83, & 89, local committee, and NCUMCCRM board member
Day 33: Philippians 1:21-30
I recently studied the book of Philippians in a New Testament class I am taking in graduate school. It was a great class, and I learned a lot from the professor as well as my classmates.
What exactly did I learn?
I learned that Paul wrote the letter to the church in Philippi from prison. An important lesson is the theme of joy in the letter. Paul finds joy in Christ and in the Philippian church. The Philippians were a growing church, and they shared their joy and blessings with Paul and others.
Camp gives me a lot of joy, and I know I am not alone in this. Camp has touched countless lives—those of the campers, staff members, families, churches, communities and more.
I especially received joy when I served as a pastor in residence during the summer of 2019 at Don Lee. I will never forget that experience. The passion and joy of the staff in leading worship, teaching Bible study, singing songs and leading activities made a big impression on me. I received a tremendous spiritual boost during that week.
I experience joy at camp when I visit the Wardlaw Clergy Cabin with my family. We have enjoyed some of the camp activities and boat rides across the Neuse River. The cabin has been a haven for rest, reading, writing and much-needed solitude.
Joy also comes from witnessing the beauty of the camp. The views of the water are breath-taking. Walking out on the dock to catch the sunrise is awe-inspiring. The sounds of laughter and delight from the campers add to the joy. Camp is a creative place, too. God is discovered in new and exciting ways.
One more way that I find joy at camp is through faith. I am encouraged in my walk with God through all of the examples I have just described. In reference to Philippians 1:21-30 specifically, Paul talks about his faith and his desire to be with Christ. Paul also praises the Philippians for their faith. Paul wants them to continue in their faith, to stand firm and to live for Christ as he is doing despite the struggles.
I am thankful for the opportunities that I have had at Camp Don Lee to grow in my faith. I have been surrounded by a faithful and loving community there. I have learned spiritual lessons to enrich my life. I have been blessed by my visits to camp. I am affirmed in my desire to live for Christ.
I look forward to my next visit to Don Lee. There is usually something that has been updated or added or changed that is interesting to check out. Checking in with friends is fun, too.
Hopefully, you can visit and take part in camp soon. You will have good opportunities to boost your faith. And you will find joy as well!
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the joy of camp. Help us to see your majesty and grace in all of creation, including the experiences of camp. May we share this joy and beauty with others. Amen.
Submitted by: Liz Hounshell- Pastor of Zebulon UMC, former pastor in residence during summer camp
Day 32: Psalm 31:9-16
The Psalmist is sending out an SOS. May Day. May Day! The distress of his condition is harsh; he is spent and his strength is failing. Calling on God in times of distress is something we who sail the Neuse know how to do. The wind and waves can whip up in an instant. It takes strength, knowledge, and courage to navigate rough water.
My family went down in a boat when our children were small. The chop was deep and a wave swept over the boat. The boat sank like a stone leaving us holding on to each other praying that someone on the shore would see us and weather the rough water to come save us. It seemed like an eternity waiting for help. But help came. A young seaman motored out to get us. We saw the light of Christ in him. We have never forgotten this incident.
Distress and trouble come to all shapes and sizes of us. Life can get pretty miserable when illness, financial trouble, job loss, relationship problems crash in on us. Much can happen quickly to pull the rug or sink the ship before we have time to prepare. It sometimes seems like terror all around, like the world is plotting against us. It's even worse when we feel like people are whispering about us. And sometimes our own smugness vexes us as we think we have just skated through unscathed.
No matter our lament, whatever trouble comes, hope arises when we remember God with us. The Psalmist speaks a faith that remembers, " I trust in you, O Lord! I say, You are my God." We are not alone to face any trouble we may have. When our faith is grown to a place where we can say with conviction and confidence, "my times are in your hands, O God," we are equipped to handle rough seas and big trouble. We can get to the other side of pain and loss. We can rise up to live another day with joy. In such living we know what salvation is.
Such is the journey of Lent. This is our season of reckoning, repenting, and re-ordering a life that leans into Resurrection and Life. We spend time at Camp Don Lee acknowledging that this is a place God has blessed. We remember the blessing and take it with us that we too may pray the Psalmist's words, "Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love." We sail to on to other breezes, gentle and cool. We watch the sunrise and the sunset with assurance that trouble is not the end. God is. God holds the end. Thank you, God.
Prayer: Gracious God, let your face shine upon us. Bring healing and hope to the world in our time. Increase our faith and trust that the world may know You in the way we live our lives. Amen.
Submitted by: Lib Campbell - Long time friend of Camp Don Lee, retired Pastor Emeritus of Spiritual Formation at St.Mark's United Methodist Church
Day 31: Psalm 143
Growing up, my family was active in church and we went to church most Sundays; I was active in Sunday school, then youth group, participated in small groups and mission trips. Each of those things allowed me to grow in my faith in a variety of ways however, I never felt extremely close to God in those settings. I started going to Camp Don Lee in third grade and it quickly became the place I felt closest to God.
Every year, I looked forward to going to camp. It was the highlight of every summer. It wasn't until high school that I really started reflecting on my faith and spirituality. Reflecting on Psalm 143, I was reminded of why I always felt closer to God at camp. It was a time to take a break from what was going on in the “real world”. That continued as I went to college and eventually became a staff member. I struggled with my faith in college, I said many a prayer like David in Psalm 143. I turned to God in times of need but did not rejoice in him in times of happiness. I, like David, turned to God when I was ready to give it all to him, to allow him to guide my path and rescue me from my "enemies", which for me was nursing school.
Nursing school was arguably one of the toughest things I have done. I questioned myself daily, worked my mind and body into the ground to make the grade, and let other things fall to the wayside. I said many a prayer regarding passing exams, asking God to show me if this is what was meant for me, to guide me on the right path. I questioned his plan frequently until I would reach a breaking point and turn to him. This was a repetitive cycle in my life.
In verses 4-6, David speaks about his spirit growing weak and reflecting on God’s work of the past. In verse 6, he spreads out his hand to God and gives it all to him. My one constant during nursing school was CDL. I was reminded of the closeness I felt to God at camp. In watching the sunsets, thunderstorms, the friendships, the relationships I saw others form with God at camp. It was a grounding factor for me. Reminded me that even when I wasn’t physically at camp and was dealing with the stressors of everyday life, God remained constant through the good and bad.
I keep this reminder to this day. My time going to camp as a camper and staff member are over and I am now a neonatal ICU nurse but, every day, I look for the small reminders and I bear it all to God. In verse 12, David states that he is God’s servant. Like David, I reflect on God’s power, what he is capable of, and I too, am his servant.
Prayer: Lord, hear our prayer. Allow us to give ourselves to you. Lead us to what is meant for us and guide our hand to be your servant. Surround us with love and lift us up from our enemies. Allow us to find you in each day and be reminded of your power. In your name we pray, Amen.
Submitted by: Emma Brown - former camper & summer staff member
Day 30: Ephesians 2:1-10
God gifts us grace, every day. It's not something we earn, it is a gift. Doing good works is our response to God's gift of grace, not a requirement in order to receive grace. When we've been shown this great love, how could we resist sharing it?God made us to serve and show God's gifts of love, compassion, grace, and mercy with others. One of the ways we can do this is by volunteering or working at Camp Don Lee.
The "ways of this world" for many young adults includes "getting serious" about their career path or financial status as soon as they graduate high school. However, several studies have shown that meaningful friendships bring more happiness than wealth. The NIV bible I am reading from translates the heading of this scripture as "Made Alive in Christ". God has made me alive in Christ throughout my time working at Camp Don Lee - through life long friendships, worship-filled summers, and experiences that have pushed me and grown my leadership skills.
God is molding this coming summer's staff and calling them by name to do good works in response to God's gift of grace. Who do you know that might need a nudge to respond to God's gift of grace in this way?
Prayer: God of grace, bring me out of a life full of transgressions and make me alive in you. Thank you for the free gift of grace, and for the ways this grace is sharing through all ministries at Camp Don Lee. Amen.
Submitted by: Jackie Lytton- Family Camper, Summer Staff 2010-2015, Faith Formation & Retreats Coordinator 2019-2021
Day 29: Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29
Are you one of those people who wake up fully alert, energetic, and ready to leap out of bed to carpe diem? Or do you like to approach the day ever so slowly? Or perhaps you prefer to pull the covers over your bed and hope that the day will pass you by.
Todays scripture provides a good foundation both to help us get out of bed each day and to prepare us for the quickly approaching Holy Week and the journey with Jesus we are invited to travel. The psalmist provides us an orientation to the journey, beginning and ending the passage with the same message of God's goodness and our joyful response. These bookends hold a story of rejection and redemption, of sacrifice and salvation. Through it all, the psalmist sings out, "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."
How can we approach the new day, which will be filled with untold troubles and unexpected blessings, as an invitation to praise God? How can we start and end our day with the same kind of gratitude as the psalmist?
The psalmist invites us to "rejoice." The word rejoice means to give ourselves over to joy. Having joy is not the same thing as being happy. Happiness is often felt as a result of an experience. Joy, however, is a fruit of the Spirit and buoys us through anything life can bring us.
Tomorrow morning, pause before leaving your bed and ponder how you can live into joy in the new day, knowing that no matter what happens to you in the course of the day, nothing can separate you from God's love for you.
Recite this as a breath prayer: "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it."
Submitted by: Karen Oliveto, Disciplines, The Upper Room, 2023
Day 28: Psalm 77:1-2
I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that he may hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord: in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.
Day 27: Romans 8:38-39
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, now powers nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Day 26: Psalm 130
It seems waiting never gets easier, at least not for me. The anxiety that can come with waiting for test results for yourself or a member of your family. The worry that can come with waiting for that text, “I’m home” when kids and parents travel. Waiting can be lonely, waiting can rob us of today as we worry about tomorrow; and the reality is, we will spend a lot of our lives waiting. However, waiting is something common to us all.
Perhaps that helps us empathize with the psalmist as the psalmist describes waiting for God; waiting for God’s promise, as they plead for God’s mercy; knowing they don’t measure up, acknowledging it is impossible for anyone to measure up on their own merit with God.
“My whole being waits for my Lord— more than the night watch waits for morning; yes, more than the night watch waits for morning!”
Being on night watch in the times of the psalmist, working when others are sleeping, I can’t imagine this was the premier shift to work; but your watch at night was important, it helped others to feel safe, gave others the opportunity to sleep. Yet, how ready were they for their shift to be over? Working when the world sleeps takes a special someone, and as the husband of someone who has worked night shift in the NICU for over 20 years, I know sometimes morning can’t come soon enough; so they can walk to their cars, and hopefully make safe travel home only to do it all over again.
“My whole being waits for my Lord— more than the night watch waits for morning; yes, more than the night watch waits for morning!”
Too often we spend time in the past, thinking about regrets, mistakes, and missed opportunities. However, a new day brings new opportunities. The troubles and sins of yesterday give way to the promises and opportunities of a new day, the promises of an awesome, forgiving, and faithful God. May we live with each day like the psalmist, with passion and hope while waiting on God’s promises.
This psalm reminded me of a picture I captured early one morning from Vesper Dell during a Father/Child Retreat in May 2015. I click on this picture often to remind myself of camp, but also to remind myself of the beauty of the God of new beginnings.
Prayer: Holy and awesome God, during this Lenten season may we wait with hope, living as people holding onto the promises of God, and may our collective witnesses bring glory and honor to You. Today and always. Amen
Submitted by: Phillip Edwards - Former camper, former summer staff member, father of three former campers.
Day 25: Psalm 130
This is a prayer of lament, a prayer of complaint. The psalmist cries out from the depths of pain and sorrow. We do not know if this is a personal struggle or a situation outside the psalmist's control, but we do know the psalmist is in a season of disquiet, disturbed and uneasy. The psalmist prays for God to bring new life through forgiveness and redemption.
We can relate to the psalmist's cry. We find ourselves in situations when we have messed up. We have broken relationships. We have lost hope in others. We grieve losses of all kinds. We hold on to anger when nothing goes our way. We reside in the depths of misery and hopelessness.
The psalmist shows us how to be in an authentic relationship with God, bringing troubles, pain, and complaints to God. We do not have to come to God with a holy reverence or a happy heart. We do not have to have our lives all together before we talk to God. We can come to God angry and hurt. We can cry out to God in our brokenness and loss. We can come to God to demand that God hear us and listen to our cry.
The psalmist cries out even without the promise of God's response. The psalmist believes that crying out to God and vocalizing the trouble is enough. The psalmists place their trust in God even before God responds, putting their hope in God to redeem God's people and bring new life. God can handle our grievances. God can handle our anger. God can handle our complaints. God hears us, and being heard is sometimes enough.
Prayer: Hear my prayer, O God. I life up my worries and sorrows to you knowing that you hear me and want me to know your peace, forgiveness, and redeeming love. Amen.
Submitted by: Robert Brewer, Disciplines, The Upper Room, 2023.
Day 24: Colossians 1:9-14
9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[a] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[b] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
We are here to serve.
When I read this verse, I think of Staff Worship. Just ten minutes after we eat the best chicken sandwiches and about an hour before we welcome 200+ kids into the gates of CDL, we are given a time to settle, hear God’s word, and prepare ourselves for a busy week. It is a time of peace that allows us to center our focus on the campers we serve each summer. We are prayed over, each day, week, and month we are at camp but the prayers at staff worship are always about being disciples of Christ.
That is what I read here. God brought us out of darkness, brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, taught us to be good, and then sent us out in the world to be disciples. We are disciples at Camp Don Lee. Whether that be praying before a meal, leading a worship service, helping someone learn how to swim or sail, and even letting someone when get a snack on your store account. You are opening your heart and letting God show through you. You are also setting a good example for your campers. That may be shown by the way you interact with other staff, the way you help out around camp and also if you play four-square rather than sitting out and watching. All of these are both an example of showing God’s love through your actions and setting a good example.
I see myself opening my heart the most when I am in the gates of CDL. There is truly something special about this place. The quiet and sometimes wet morning walk to Vesper Dell for morning watch, the typical summer rain storm that cancels sailing and swimming and sends the staff into a frizzle, the sunset over the river/pier at worship, and the relationships you form. I find peace at camp. I find myself more open to accept God’s word and his plan for my life. I feel uplifted at worship while I listen to friends and campers sing songs that glorify the Lord. I also feel empowered to lead. I have supportive co-workers that lift me up and encourage me. They are an example of God’s love shown through action.
I feel happy. That is God’s plan for each and every one of us. He wants us to be joyful, strong, patient, and holy. I feel all of those things at Camp Don Lee and I am sure every one of you do as well.
Prayer: God, thank you for bringing us out of darkness and into your light. Thank you for giving us places like Camp Don Lee that we can be open and accepting in. Lord, we ask that you continue to give us strength, knowledge, and patience. We are thankful for the places and people that you give us. Amen
Submitted by: Anna Blount - Summer staff member 2020-2022.
Day 23: Exodus 17:1-7
Day 22: John 1:1-9
Every Lent, the first story we hear frames the whole journey: Jesus being sent into the wilderness to face hunger, thirst, temptation … and it always sounds a little bit like the beginning of every story I would hear on overnight sailing trips. Leaving the comfort of camp, and the abundant provision of the dining hall … and journeying out to other shores where you’ll be responsible for navigating your boats, pitching your tents, and cooking the chicken to ensure no one ends up with any … extra … challenges.
While I never got to go on an LIT trip to Portsmouth, those were always the trips I looked forward to the most for campers. I loved that for most of them, this was a final step of a summers-long journey as a Tweeker, Mariner, and finally an LIT.
As someone who did not grow up at Don Lee, it took some time to understand that we really, truly, sent teenagers into the ocean on sailboats under the supervision of 21-year-olds. On paper, it sounded like a terrible idea. And for those of you who are reading this who aren’t closely familiar with the program and the Portsmouth trip, you probably would agree, right?
And even after hearing more stories about these trips … it continued to seem, in theory, like a terrible idea. Stories of black spots on the radar, masts breaking, powerboat engines failing, Coast Guard rescues … how could this be a good idea?
Except, every year, when those campers returned. Those sunburned, dehydrated, often injured, exhausted, un-showered campers – they also returned enthusiastic, encouraged and proud. “We almost died – and it was the best week of my life!” was a comment I heard regularly.
There’s something about the wilderness that we all need. There’s something about a journey that tempts us, challenges us, forces us to confront our own shortcomings and limitations, that also shapes us in all the right ways.
We usually see Jesus’ story as one of temptation and trial only. This wilderness is not a good place, right?
Except every step of the way, Jesus is prepared, Jesus is sustained, not by his own knowledge or understanding, but by his connection to scripture, and the words of the prophets. He quotes the prophet Isaiah as he meets the tempter at every turn. God provides for him in this time, just as God has provided for generations before him. Even for the son of God himself, the wilderness is a place where he is even more formed in his identity as the fulfillment of the prophets, and the hope for the future.
Turns out, we all need the wilderness. And we’re not the first ones to have learned this. Tale as old as time. Our ancestors for generations have been going into the wilderness … and if we pay attention to their journeys, maybe we can learn something.
Maybe we can discover that we need the wilderness, not simply for the outcome, but for the journey itself.
What is the wilderness teaching you this year in Lent? How is God’s provision showing up for you in new ways? And how are you being formed more into the person that God is calling you to be?
Prayer: God of the wilderness, open our eyes to see your care for us and who you are shaping us to be in this time. Amen.
Submitted by: Melissa Cooper - Faith Formation and Retreat Ministries Coordinator 2009-2011
Day 21: Isaiah 61:3
Lenten greetings from Surf City, NC. The beach is a beautiful place to live, and I love to get out there by the shore whenever I can.
When I do, I often see people scouring the shoreline for seashells. As they search, they often are seen bent over, sifting, scrutinizing and examining shells of all sorts and sizes. They look closely at the beautiful formations that often times create a prized shell.
My father used to collect shells, and he found some magnificent ones. He had collections that included conchs, olive shells, sand dollars, sea urchins, egg casings and the coveted state shell of North Carolina, the scotch bonnet. He was quite the sheller.
The shellers I observe sort through piles of shells, especially at low tide when the previous high tide deposited new treasures on the beach. Their routine goes something like this. They pick up a shell. Examine it closely. And, then, “whoof,” they toss it
aside. It’s repetitive. Pick up a shell. Examine it oh so closely. And, again, “whoof,” it is often tossed aside.
As I have watched this over the years, this routine continues repeatedly as the beach goers are trying to find that perfect shell – the one gem of a find that can go in their collection to fulfill their finds of flawlessness. Yet, what is found on the beach more often than not are shells that are not whole. They aren’t perfect. They don’t really resemble anything, much less, a prized shell.
On the beach (and in life,) people are looking for perfection. Yet, I propose that in brokenness, there is surely beauty. And, I recommend that the next time you are by the shore that you pick up a broken shell and examine it as closely as you would a “perfect” shell.
What can we see in broken shells? The colors are amazing. Purples and orange, pinks and yellows, creams and white. The textures are incredible as well. Broken shells reveal ridges as well as soft smooth edges, bumps and grooves, wavy lines and
And, all of that makes me wonder what these once-whole shells have gone through to become fragments of their former selves. Did a seagull drop it on a hard surface to extract the live animal from it for sustenance? How many waves have crashed down upon it to shatter it into the pieces we find on the beach? How many times did the course sand smooth the pieces to produce its glossy edges?
As I recall the shellers on the beach here on Topsail Island, I also think that of anyone on this planet, we, as Christians know brokenness.
We have certainly seen it in our communities and churches. We experience it through broken relationships. With all the angst in the world, there are people who are broken spiritually and emotionally. We find ourselves broken over real or perceived failures. And, we can feel brokenness even from events that haven’t occurred through the anticipation of an unknown future.
Scripture promises that God remains with those who are broken and makes them stronger than before. In Isaiah 61:3, God promises to give those who mourn and are broken “a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.”
I find broken people of this world to be brave and beautiful, resilient and strong. Camps Chestnut Ridge, Don Lee and Rockfish have a faith-filled passion that allows them to respond to the calling to serve this broken world and to share the love of Jesus Christ at each of those delightful and unique sites. Among the many campers and guests we serve, we see many who have rough edges, those who have gaping holes in their hearts, those who are worn out and those who are simply broken.
Our mission is not to make them “whole” again. Rather, our campers and guests are welcomed as they are, and this camp and retreat ministry helps them understand how utterly beautiful and valuable they are and that they belong in the “collection” of God’s love and grace.
I hope and pray that you find beauty in brokenness during this Lenten season.
Submitted by: Dail Daly Ballard - NC UM Camp & Retreat Ministries, Inc. Executive Director
Day 20: Psalm 22
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me? I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but find no rest. ( Psalm 22:1-2 ) This reading from the Psalms usually finds itself inserted into a Good Friday Tenebrae service. The question it opens with leaps off the page and into our ears, “My God, why?” It’s the very question every one of us has asked of God at some point in our lives. If not, we will in the future.
In, A Surprising Companionship, Jerry Webber expands the questions with these words:
Who are you, anyway? And where are you enthroned? Have I totally missed you?
Real questions, like these, are one of the reasons that people like us return again and again to the ancient poetry of the psalms. They remind us of our connection with human beings who lived and questioned thousands of years before us. Perhaps you also recognize some of these words as those employed by Jesus while he experienced the agony of crucifixion. Placarded on a Roman instrument of torture, an earlier version of the electric chair, or gas chamber, Jesus speaks these same words: “My God, why have you forsaken me.”
For centuries people from the Western hemisphere have seized on these questions and tried to make sense of them. I mean, why would Jesus, of all people, speak to God in such a way? The basic answer usually comes back to something that sounds like this: “God could not bear to look upon sin. On the cross Jesus was taking all the sin of the world ( past, present, and future) upon himself - sacrificially - so God turned the other way, and Jesus felt all alone and forsaken.
Well, as our friends down East would say: “That’s momicked up!” Another way of saying it is:”That’s a twisted understanding of Who God is. So, in your greatest moment of agony, God is the One who turns away and hides his eyes? Really? Middle-Eastern Christians for centuries have asked us to claim the questions of Psalm 22 when considering Jesus’ amazing love, but they have begged us to move beyond the questions to the Affirmation of Faith found in Psalm 22. That’s right, while hanging on the cross, Jesus utters ancient questions, but he doesn’t stop there. And every Hebrew person within ear-shot of the cross that Friday afternoon, knew exactly what Jesus was quoting from. They’d memorized the psalms as children.
I believe Jesus’ words were much more than the anguished cries of a man in pain - who felt abandoned by God. They were an invitation to all who would join him, to put their trust in God.
In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
As a wise old pastor reminded me over thirty-five years ago. “It’s okay to question God, or even to be angry at God, because if God is God - God can take it!” We can trust a God like that. And with Jesus we can pray:
Time and again, we have trusted You, O God, and You have delivered us. We have cried to You, and in our anguish You have not turned away, but looked upon us with mercy, and saved us. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.
Submitted by: Jon E Strother- NCUMC Sound District Superintendent
Day 19: Genesis 1:1-2
If you have ever sat on the end of the pier and looked out over the water, you have seen and felt the Spirit of God. Whether at sunrise or sunset, noon or on a starlit night, the end of the pier is a sacred place, and it is because "the Spirit of God hovers over the waters." No other place speaks of God's amazing grace quite like it. You can look out all around and see His creation, feel his Spirit, experience His Glory and His love.
Close your eyes and imagine being there now and feel His Spirit who lives in you. His presence is always there to love, encourage, empower, and direct.
Prayer: Father, thank you for your Spirit who lives in us and thank you for blessing a place like Camp Don Lee so that we, your children, can experience your Spirit hovering over the water. Amen.
Reprinted from 2007 Lenten Devotion. Written by Dianne Bruton. Longtime friend of Camp Don Lee.
Day 18: Matthew 14: 22-33
On the recommendation of several friends I have been reading through Robert Bell's book, Velvet Elvis. Midway through the book, Bell uses the story of Peter attempting to walk on the water to make a very important point. After reaching out to save Peter from sinking, Jesus says to Peter, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" Reflecting on this story, Bell asks the question, who did Peter lose faith in? The answer is not Jesus but himself. Peter lost faith in himself. He stopped believing that he could do what Jesus called him to do. Bell goes on to say, "If the rabbi (Jesus) calls you to be his disciple, then he believes you can actually be like him. As we read the stories of Jesus' life with his disciples, what do we find frustrates him to no end? When his disciples lose faith in themselves." Bell's point is that God believes in us. God believes that we can do amazing things. So often we hear about our need to believe more in God or Jesus but what I am afraid we forget in our pursuit is just how much God and Jesus believe in us! What would it mean for us to learn to trust the One who first believes in us?
If I learned anything through my experience as a camper and staff member at Don Lee it was just this, God first believes in me! If I could sum up John Farmer's central message it is just this, "trust the one who made you to do great things through you." Imagine what could happen not only in our own lives but also in the world if we could reach a point where we dared to believe this was true. God has equipped us with tremendous gifts and talents. Do we believe it? How are we using these gifts? Dare we trust that God can use each and every one of us to help usher in the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven?
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for giving me the gifts to navigate through the difficult waters ahead. Thank you for believing in me, and continue to remind me that I have what it takes to reach you. Amen.
Reprinted from 2007 Lenten Devotion. Written by Ben Williams. Ben and his family are long time campers, Ben is often a pastor in residence over the summer. Ben is the pastor at Christ United Methodist in Chapel Hill.
Day 17: 2 John 1-13
2 John 1:6 “And this is love, that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”
As I reflect on this scripture, I visualize the many children, youth, teens, young adults, retreat groups, parents, clergy, and other adults that have walked in the sandy soil of the place called Camp Don Lee. I think of the stories my children told when they returned from a week spent in the summer of their elementary years. I think of the retreats my church families held on fall weekends.
All these images have an emotion attached: love. A love of the place, a love of the friend found, and a love of our Savior.
The scripture tells us that we are to walk in love with one another. When we spend time in fellowship and worship with one another, it strengthens us to walk in that love in our daily lives. We are commanded to carry that love to all we encounter and be God’s living examples in the world.
If you are reading this reflection, your life has been blessed by Camp Don Lee. You have experienced love in a dining hall, around a campfire, in Vesper Dale, and in the time counselors, staff, and pastors poured into you. It is our calling now to take that love and walk in it and share it with others. May our days ahead be reminders of sandy feet and walking in love with our Savior.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, We give thanks for this season of reflection. We give thanks for those people and places that have blessed our life. We give thanks for the example you have set on how to live and how to love. May we now be encouraged to follow in the walk you have commanded and to love others as you have shown. Amen.
Submitted by: Paige McMillan- camper parent
Day 16: Psalm 95
Camp Don Lee is a way to feel God's presence through nature. Before my son Edgar was old enough to attend overnight camps, we took him to family camp. At Camp, the wind is so strong; it feels like a hug from God.
The first time we took Edgar to Camp, we decided to blow bubbles in our free time. We found a quiet place and started blowing. I held up the wand and noticed the wind was so strong it was blowing the bubbles. We were blowing bubbles with the Lord.
The best thing about Camp is that you feel God so viscerally. When you need God the most, Camp is the place to go. You feel His presence so strongly at Camp.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for giving us beautiful places to go to commune with you. Thank you for coming to us when we need you the most. Please help us to protect your creation so that others may have these moments with you. Amen.
Submitted by: Hope Capps - camper parent, serves the NCUM Camp & Retreat Ministries
Day 15: 1 Corinthians 1:18
"For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God."
Day 14: Colossians 1:15-23
In Colossians 1:15-23, Paul writes about Jesus and encourages the Colossian church to remain faithful to Jesus despite the pressures they are facing. In this passage, Paul gives us a glimpse of Jesus' supremacy over all things, and reminds us of the impact of Jesus' sacrifice on our lives.
Firstly, Paul reminds us that Jesus is the perfect picture of the person and character of God. He is the image of the invisible God, and if we as Christians want to know what our God is like, we must get to know Jesus. Jesus is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being. Therefore, when we see Jesus, we see the Father.
Secondly, Paul emphasizes that Jesus is the preeminent and supreme over all things. In Him, all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. Jesus is not just a created being but is the creator of all things. He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together.
Thirdly, Paul reminds us that Jesus is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, demonstrating His authority over death. In everything, Jesus has the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him. Through Jesus, God has reconciled to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.
Finally, Paul challenges us to keep faith and to not lose hope in the gospel. Through Jesus' death on the cross, He has broken down every barrier that separated us from God. Jesus' sacrifice has reconciled us by His physical body through death to present us holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation, if we continue in our faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.
In conclusion, Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the preeminent and supreme over all things, the head of the church, and the reconciler of all things. Let us keep our faith in Jesus and hold fast to the hope held out in the gospel, for in Him, we have all we need.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your Son Jesus to reconcile us to you. Help us to always remember that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, and the head of the church. Help us to continue in our faith, established and firm, and not move from the hope held out in the gospel. We thank you for the forgiveness of our sins and for making us holy in your sight, without blemish and free from accusation. We give you all the glory and honor, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Submitted by: Kathryn Wynne- former summer staff member, Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Day 13: John 8:1-11
During vespers at camp, saying something that you did not like during the day or something that upset you was called a "thorn." Although we no longer do that because we would like to focus on positive experiences throughout the day, we know that every day is not perfect because we are not. Whether it is getting into an argument with a friend who skipped you in the four-square line, someone you don't know refusing to get out in the gaga ball pit, or you're tired after a long week of camp, we have all been there. Even when we are outside of camp at home, you could disagree with your siblings, friends, or even your parents!
John 8:1-11 is the story of a group of Pharisees bringing a woman guilty of adultery to Jesus to get him to disobey the law of Moses. When Jesus spoke with the Pharisees while they were demanding him to condemn the women they captured, he responded, "let him who is without sin amongst you throw the first stone at her." Jesus is saying that none of us are perfect and that we should not judge others or get angry at them because we have been in their shoes.
I remember hearing something from the hundreds of worships and morning watch services I was a part of during the 11 summers I spent at camp: giving others grace. Giving others grace can mean many things, but at the root of it, grace means forgiving others, as God forgave us through Jesus. Jesus tells the woman that the only person that can judge her is God and nobody else, so she is free to go. It may be hard not to judge others, and I can personally attest to that, but at the end of the day, we were made in God's image to love one another. God knows that we are flawed and will have moments of anger and confrontation, and he will forgive us, so we should forgive others. Whether you are at camp, home, the park, or even at work, we need to give others grave and realize that we are not the ones meant to judge them.
Prayer: Dear God, we thank you for giving us the ability to live in your presence every day. We thank you for our friends and family. We praise you for giving your one and only son to teach us and protect us. Help us to give others grace and be patient on our worst days. Help us learn to love like you love. Amen.
Submitted by: Peter Taylor- former camper and summer staff member
Day 12: Isaiah 65: 17-25
This passage of Isaiah offers us a glimpse of God’s vision of peace. The prophet’s words offer us nourishment and hope, and these words also raise our consciousness to the possibilities of what our collective life might look like if we resist the forces of the world and choose an alternative way of being in community with one another.
In a world where there is one war after another, God’s plan for peace in the world seems hard to imagine. But God has a different vision. Prophets are people who are called by God to serve as a channel of communication between God and the people of God. They are often not very popular because they call out injustices. But we should pay attention to them because they offer us messages of hope and an invitation to enter into right relationship with God and our neighbors.
This text from Isaiah is an invitation for us to be a part of building a new society, and this invitation is not intended to be something to be lived out in the life to come after our time ends on earth. It is an invitation for us to enter into a peace that surpasses all understanding beyond what we typically see on earth, a place where we will all experience spiritual and emotional well-being, a place where we will return to the vision of creation that we read of in Genesis before it was disrupted by sin.
In this new creation, there will be a reversal of unjust systems that have benefitted some people at the expense of others. Political and economic justice will be restored. We will be a people of cultural humility, where we take on a posture of Ubuntu, which speaks of the very essence of being human….it is to say, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” None of us are whole unless all of us are whole.”
We are called to be a people who co-exist without placing some people in a social order above orders. We are called to be people who live in harmony with one another.
The word we often use as “peace” comes from the Hebrew word “shalom” which means more than without violence. It means well-being, wholeness, welfare, prosperity, and safety, for ALL of God’s people.
The prophet Isaiah is offering us a glimpse of what our world might look like if we allow ourselves to be shaped and formed into the people God intended when we were created. It is possible for ALL people and nature to flourish. There is enough. We are not called to passively wait for God’s Shalom but invited to actively pursue it, now. Let it be so.
Prayer: Creator God, you have created us to be in community with one another and have placed a divine spark within each of us. Help us to see all people the way that you see them, and to be people that are agents of your shalom. Amen.
Submitted by: Claire Cox-Woodlief - Board Chair, NC UM Camp & Retreat Ministries
Day 11: Numbers 21:4-9
Why have you brought us to the wilderness?
I'm sure that's exactly what my third grade son was thinking when we first dropped him off at Camp Don Lee. As a NC native raising children in Florida, I wanted to provide our children with a connection back to our state. A connection to everything that represented CDL in our family - faith, fellowship, lasting friendships, and a place and environment to find and embrace God.
That first year, not knowing a single soul at camp, not knowing exactly why we were dropping him off in the wilderness, I hoped he would believe. Believe in my guidance. Believe in my love. And believe that God could be found along the banks of the Pamlico Sound.
In this Lenten season, we need to believe in God's path for us, his love for us.
For nearly two decades, CDL has been a guiding light in our son's life and the adult he has become. And all because we left him in the wilderness to find God.
Prayer: Dear God, Help us remember that your path for us may lead us into the wilderness. Into territories or situations where we're not sure of the direction, or the destination. And we will trust in your way, in your love for us. Amen.
Submitted by: Amy Nowell- mother of long time campers & staff, family connection to camp through generations.
Day 10: Isaiah 51:6
“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the art beneath; the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.”
"I am the one who creates the light and makes the darkness. I am the one who sends good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one who does these things."
The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, reminding us that from dust we were created and to dust we will return. A version of this idea is found everywhere in scripture, it is a reminder that God gives us often.
In Isaiah, God is preparing God’s people for exile, for the challenging time that they will face soon. God reminds them to ground themselves, to look up at the heavens, up toward the sky, then look down at the ground, at the beauty of creation. God gives warning of what is to come for God’s people and for the earth as a whole. God does not just leave God’s people with the devastation, but God promises to be with them through salvation.
For me, every day at camp is a reminder to ground myself in the beauty of creation. I am glad that each grounding does not come with a direct message from God to remind me of devastation around the world. But with how connected our world is now, it’s hard not to know what is going on and going wrong everywhere.
The beauty of camp reminds me of the goodness that God has provided us through what God has created. And even more than that, it reminds me of the good and great that God has promised to us through salvation, and that that is even greater than what God has created here on earth.
Prayer: God remind us to find time each day to look up at the sky and to feel the ground beneath our feet. Remind us of the beauty that surrounds us despite the chaos. Remind us of the good that you have promised us, and the great that is to come. Be with us in the right now. Amen.
Submitted by: Adria Foreman- summer staff member 2022 & 2023
Day 9 - Isaiah 45:7
"I am the one who creates the light and makes the darkness. I am the one who sends good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one who does these things."
That is one awesome verse, and it really comes alive on the shores of the lower Neuse River at the place we know and love ---Don Lee Center.
The camp has certainly seen both the good and bad times that God's kingdom has to offer. Just last year, Hurricane Ophelia put a real hurting on the beach front, pier and on the sailing hut. This was a challenge and it bruised our hearts to see such destruction. But, we rallied. The good times returned when the good people did what needed to be done. With God's help we fixed, we repaired and moved on. The pier was repaired, the beach front stabilized, and it was all due to the good will and hard work of caring Christian people. The good times and the bad times from the One who does these things.
Our personal lives also see the light and the darkness as we try to do the best we can with the gifts that have been given us. There are countless Camp Don Lee stories of danger and fear. Likewise, there are countless stories of joy, smiles and happiness.
For our family, Camp Don Lee is a reminder of how sweet life can be among loving friends and family. And it's a reminder of how abruptly things can change toward unfavorable circumstances. Each visit we make to Camp Don Lee is renewing, refreshing and truly humbling experience. It is also a reminder how God truly has the whole world in His hands.
Prayer: Dear God, help us to remember that you are the one who creates the light and the darkness.
Reprinted from 2007 "The Spirit Moves" Lenten Devotion Booklet. Written by Kevin Seymour, Former camper, former summer staff, camper parent. Past chair of NC United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries Inc. Board of Directors. Currently serving as pastor, Ebenezer United Methodist Church.
Day 8: Psalm 121
“Where did you see God today?”
This is a common question at Camp Don Lee. You might remember hearing it in a Tweeker worship, late night Vespers with your small group, or during LIT debriefing. It’s a simple question that centers us and remind us of God’s presence—particularly in creation and community.
Likewise, Psalm 121 is a powerful reminder of God's constant presence in our lives. The Psalmist describes how they look to God for help and find that God is always present to offer protection and comfort. It begins with the declaration and question, "I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth." Throughout Psalm 121, we are reminded of God’s presence and protection.
As a young camper at Don Lee, I had the opportunity to experience situations that pushed me out of my comfort zone while surrounded by a safe and loving community. Whether it was learning to sail (and being afraid of hitting the pier) or learning to communicate with a group to achieve a common goal, I had moments where I felt unsure at first but ultimately safe. I knew where to look for help. I also knew to be on the lookout for God’s presence.
The psalmist also says, "The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand" (v. 5, ESV). This verse reminds us that God keeps us safe and secure. This doesn’t mean we will never face challenges. But just like the shade protects us from the heat of the sun, God's presence in our lives protects us from the trials and difficulties we face.
Where do you look for help? Where do you look for God’s presence. As we reflect on this psalm, we can are reminded that these elements are intertwined, and we can take comfort in knowing that God is always with us.
Prayer: Gracious God, we thank you for your constant presence in our lives. We lift our eyes to you, knowing that you are our help and our strength. As we journey through life, we will face storms and challenges. Help us to see you in unexpected places and to stay centered on your presence. Let us trust in your unfailing love and seek your guidance in all that we do. Amen.
Submitted by: Hannah McMillan- former camper and summer staff member
Day 7: Matthew 18:10-14
This is one of my favorite parables: The Parable of the Wandering Sheep as it is put in my Bible. Jesus is speaking to the disciples. Some of the disciples have recently experienced the transfiguration and it will not be much longer until Jesus enters Jerusalem celebrated as a King. Jesus is teaching and preaching and healing constantly in these chapters in Matthew. In this parable, Jesus says ““What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?” (Matthew 18:12 NIV)
I think a lot of times the commentary on this parable centers us as the lost sheep. And I have certainly been a lost sheep. I have felt the love and compassion of Jesus searching for me, meeting me where I am and bringing me back to the fold. I am truly thankful for these experiences. Today, I want to think of the ninty-nine. The ninty-nine who were not lost, did what they were supposed to do, followed the directions of their shepherd. I wonder how they felt?
Did they feel it wasn’t fair to be left? Did they think the lost sheep didn’t deserve to be found because it made the choices that led it astray? The man rejoices even more upon finding the lost sheep “And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.” (Matthew 18:13 NIV) We may not have thought about it this way before, but we’re the other sheep jealous? The lost sheep received the blessings and praise of the master, what did they get?
We think “of course, I would not be jealous, I would be happy!” But I don’t think that is really true. I’ve seen the way the world reacts and I think we as humanity have much more in common with a jealous ninty-nine then we do with the lost one. This all just theoretical. I have no idea how the other sheep felt, but I do know people and they can be jealous, judgemental and unwelcoming at times.
How can we posture ourselves this lent the be like the man? Like Jesus? Searching for the lost, celerating their return and welcoming them into the fold? As we practice prayer, fasting and giving this Lenten season, let us pray for the lost and broken, fast from judgment and jealously and give generously to those who are in need. And may we celebrate extravagantly the return of even just one of Gods beloved children
Will you join me in prayer?
Gracious and Heavenly Father, help us focus on You this Lenten season, as we pray for the lost and broken, Lord give us strength to go after them as boldly as You do for the lost ones, help us see You on their face. Lord we ask that You help us fast from judgement and jealousy this season. Remind us that none of us deserve the love and Grace you bestow on us, it is a gift from You Lord Jesus to all. Help us be generous, with our time, our assets and our love, for the world is full of lost sheep, and God we know you search for them, and we humbly as you to let us join You, so we can all celebrate together, in the company of heaven, with all of God’s children. Amen.
Submitted by: Julia Royall Johnson - former summer staff, Administrative & Program Specialist
Day 6: Psalm 19
“How do you know God is real?” the young boy asked as our group was having vespers on the end of the pier. The answer came quickly: “how can you look at the beauty of this place- the river, the stars, and the moon- and possibly doubt that God is real.” A wonderful discussion about the wonders of God’s creation and the beauty of our world followed, and soon any doubts that existed before were erased.
I was reminded of this story when I read Psalms 19. It states “the heavens declare the glory of God: the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” As I reflected on this lesson I was reminded of the many examples the heavens declaring the glory of God in the skies over the special spots on the Neuse River.
At Camp Don Lee we are able to encounter many of those wonders: from laying on the pier looking at the stars while hearing the water lap up against the pilings, watching the moon rise over the river, beginning our day with song and prayer at morning watch sometimes catching the sunrise, and the ultimate worship experience as the sun is setting. The sky and river often take on a magnitude of colors and a peacefulness and calmness come over the river bank. In these moments there is no question that God is in this place.
Many people have come to know God and grow in their faith at Camp Don Lee. It’s a simple place, but rich in the beauty of nature. With all of the opportunities that God provides for us to enjoy the beauty of His creation, it is no wonder that so many people say they feel closer to God at camp than any other place. In this time of Lent as we reflect and seek to renew our faith, take time to look to the heavens to see the beauty that God has put before us. Surely the heavens declare the glory of God.
Prayer: Creator God, Who has filled the world with beauty. Open our eyes to the gracious beauty around us. Help us to rejoice in the whole creation and to use the gift of the Spirit to make you known. In your precious and holy name, Amen
Submitted by: Phyllis Williams
Day 5: Jonah 4:1-11
But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight” Jonah 4:10
Is it right for us to be angry? God said to Jonah, you’ve been concerned about this plant but you have not cared for it. Are there things in our life that we are angry about, yet we have not taken the time to foster and grow?
In these verses, God is being a coach, helping us grow. When Jonah is angry with God, he is wanting God to give him the answers without putting any work in himself. As we know, our God is much more merciful than that, much more patient than that. God is wanting us to find the answers, with Him alongside us, guiding the way.
Have you ever heard the phrase: give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, you will feed him for a lifetime. God wants us to be spiritually filled for a lifetime, not just a day.
It is more important than ever to turn to prayer in our times of struggle, but what are we praying for? Are we asking for a quick fix, or are we praying for a patient guiding hand to help us show and share mercy the way He calls us to?
Prayer: Merciful God, we ask you to turn our moments of trial to moments of mercy. Help us be spiritually filled for a lifetime. We turn to you, broken and angry, and ask you to help us grow. We thank you for your mercy, and we pray to show mercy as you've taught us to those around us. Amen.
Submitted by: Kathryn Wynne- former summer staff, Marketing & Communications Coordinator
Day 4: Matthews 18: 1-7
One of my favorite things about camp is that you get to embrace your inner child no matter what age you are. Every summer my favorite thing is to go to the pool and jump off the high dive. Not only does it give me pure joy but the campers also love to see me having fun.
Jesus reminds us in this passage to be more like children. But what does that mean? To me it means that I need to let the weight of the world go and to enjoy life. It also means that I need to lean on God more like children lean on the leaders in their life. But mostly it reminds me how important children are to the future of the world!
Verse 6-7 state: If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!
We are called to be examples for one another. Jesus is reminding us here that children look at our every move and we can’t lead them astray. We need to build them up, we need to understand them, and we need to walk with them in their relationship with God.
We are all called to make disciples for the transformation of the world but are we creating space for children to transform the world?
Prayer: Creator God, Thank you for creating spaces in this world for us to remember what it is like to be a child. Help us to listen and learn from the children around us so that we can continue to transform the world. I pray that we all remember that we are children of God and that you created each and everyone of us for greatness. Amen
Submitted by: Mykela Bricka - former Duke Divinity Intern, Faith Formation & Retreats Coordinator
Day 3: Hebrews 2: 10-18
Most people I know who were able to attend Camp Don Lee as teenagers for a multi-week summer camp program have some sort of story that reigns supreme in their memory from one of the trips. I would say that 9 times out of 10 this story lives on, not because everything went swimmingly, but because there was some sort of adversity that the GROUP had to overcome together.
A summer storm brewed on the horizon and the group knew they had to hunker down to get through it. The spaghetti sauce was accidentally left behind on the camping trip, so we made up the most delicious, albeit weirdest, meal out of what we had. The funny and low-risk “sufferings” that groups must get through in summer camp feel like tiny experiments in how we get through the bigger sufferings that we may encounter once camp ends.
In the passage from Hebrews we are reminded of the humanity of Christ, “the Savior took on flesh and blood” from verse 14 in The Message Paraphrase. I love that this season of lent invites to us meditate on the humanity of Christ. If I’m honest, I’m more prone to focusing on Christ’s divinity.
A friend of mine says that Ash Wednesday is her favorite day of the whole year because it’s a day where we are all given permission to be fully human and given permission-even encouraged- to tell the truth about our limits: “From dust to dust.”
In his 1910 “Man in the Arena” speech ,Theodore Roosevelt says:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
May we all be reminded that Christ took on flesh and blood and got in the arena of being human with us not to judge us, but to be with us and save us. May we find comfort in knowing that Christ intimately understands suffering. And may we remember that Christ is indeed with us, even on the journey we find ourselves on today.
“Spirituality is the work of forgiving the world for being imperfect and consenting to live in it anyway with an open heart.” –Danya Ruttenberg, Nurture the Wow
Prayer: God who got everything started and keeps everything going, Open our hearts to the suffering of those around us and to recalibrate our own understanding of our sufferings. We thank you that Jesus Christ has been in the arena with us, understanding every detail of human life. Give us the strength and wisdom to tell the truth about our limits, knowing that you created and called us to community in the body of Christ. To you, God be the glory. We pray in the name of Jesus our Savior. Amen.
Submitted by: Genevieve Brooks- Former camper, summer staff member, and full-time summer program director
Day 2: Romans 1:1-7
Greetings from Paul
1 This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News. 2 God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. 3 The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, 4 and he was shown to be[a] the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit.[b] He is Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through Christ, God has given us the privilege[c] and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.
6 And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. 7 I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people.
May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Today’s passage is a letter from Paul reminding us that we are all called to be servants for Christ. We are all called to be God’s holy people but how often do we forget that? How often do we get caught up in the little things in our day to day life that put us in a bad mood? Did someone cut you off on your drive to work today? Did you spill your coffee in your lap? Did you get a late start this morning and struggle to get the kids to school on time?
We often have days that seem to just truly stink. But in those moments we forget about the privilege and authority that God has given us. We have the privilege to be a light for God, to remind people that even when the days seem tough that we belong to Jesus Christ. We belong to a God that through the Holy Spirit raised his Son from the dead.
How are you, who is called to be God’s own people, serving God? How are you receiving grace and peace and showing that grace to the people around you? How will you over the next 39 days reflect on your relationship with God and continue to grow in that relationship?
Let’s remember that even in the darkness there is light….the light of God is always shining, so let’s absorb that light and spread the love of Christ.
Prayer: God of grace and peace, thank you for choosing us to be your people. Help us to show the love and grace to others that you show us daily. Fill us with your love throughout this Lenten season and help us use the gifts you have given us to further the kingdom of God. In your precious and holy name, Amen.
Submitted by: Mykela Bricka- Duke Divinity Intern 2019, Faith Formation & Retreats Coordinator
Day 1: Joel 2:1-2, 12-1
"This is why the Lord says, "Turn to me now, while there is time! Give me your hearts." Joel 2:12
Thank you for joining this Lenten devotion journey as we prepare together for 40 days of prayer and repentance with a camp community that spans 75 years and thousands of people who have experienced God's presence at Camp Don Lee. The Holy Spirit moves through the wind and the water and the people who have served this ministry over time and our many, many campers. Although our camp community is scattered across the country, it is my prayer that we will be renewed in our faith and commitment to Christ through this time together.
Today's passage finds God's people in the midst of calamity and chaos with a plague of locusts destroying the land and crops. Can we relate today to calamity and chaos? It may look different---pandemic, war, natural disasters, social injustice---but I would imagine the stress and feelings of hopelessness are similar. In our contemporary culture, do we scramble on how to respond by listening more to the internet, cultural commentary and politicians or are we truly listening to God in His word?
The prophet Joel admonishes the people to turn to God with fasting, weeping and mourning. As we begin our Lenten journey, we are called to pray, to repent and confess our sins to Jesus so we can draw closer to Him. We are thankful to serve a God who is gracious and merciful and not easily angered. “He is filled with kindness and is eager not to punish you.” Joel 2:13.
Just as Joel told the people to repent and reconcile with God, today many of us will mark the beginning of Lent by attending an Ash Wednesday service. This solemn day reminds us of our own mortality, our need to repent and reconcile to God and that Christ died for our sins so we may have eternal life with him.
In our own time of calamity and chaos, we are reminded that God is in control and loves those who repent and turn their hearts to Him, just as the prophet Joel shared with people thousands of years ago.
Prayer: Creator God, I confess I have fallen short of showing my devotion and love for you when I have not loved my neighbor or heard the cry of the needy. Lord, I give you my heart. Help me to grow closer to you in this Lenten season through prayer and sacrifice, focusing on Christ’s life and teachings. Amen.
Submitted by: Kate Metts - past camper, staff member, camper parent, current director