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 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 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 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 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 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