Summary: God makes himself known to us through amazing experiences so that we have those to cling to when the foundation crumbles.
God at the Lake
Jan 29, 2012 Ps 19
I’ve been looking for the perfect opportunity to share a particular story. I’ve been waiting for 6 months to tell it. I’ve been sure that along the way, in the course of preaching, there would be a spot where I’d need an illustration and this one would be absolutely perfect, so I’d be able to pull it out and pass it on.
But that hasn’t happened.
And I don’t want to wait any longer. So I’m not going to.
I’m just going to tell it, and let God shape the rest of this morning’s sermon around it.
July 17. My week begins, at Gull Lake Baptist Camp, with 6 of our church boys between the ages of 8 and 11, including my son Thomas. They are excited, of course. And so am I. This is our second year going to camp all together, and I know from my own years growing up, and our experience last year, that I’m going to see God at work, and I am going to like it. It is a perfect, central Alberta week. One day it is plus 34, and the word is all about hats and sunscreen and making each of your campers drink at least 3 glasses of water at lunch so they don’t get heat stroke at the beach in the afternoon, which is great except when you have a young assistant counselor who takes this a bit too seriously and so insists they all drink 3 glasses of water before heading to the food line. I’m not hungry. Pastor Steve, my stomach hurts. Can I go to the bathroom, again? Then the next day it is plus 12 and the evening thundershower turns the sky so black at 6 pm that the yard lights come on, and then the rain and the hail pour so hard that the banging and crashing and clapping on the roof and the windows drowns out the sound of the games leader, who is using a microphone hooked up to a good sound system and speakers. And even if we could have heard him, the sound of nature was far more majestic and worth listening to. It was the summer of the plagues. We were there during the massive infestation of mayflies, so many that the camp staff were literally vacuuming the walls and windows to suck them up. We would look up into the sky and see the massive cloud and hear the droning sound so strong we had to raise our voice to be heard over them. Tip: keep your mouth closed as you walk down the path.
The week has been great. Our boys laughing, getting along, including others, engaging in worship, and going straight to sleep when I turn out the lights. Honestly, and when the young, exhausted counselors from the other cabins saw my refreshed smiling face each morning and asked how on earth did you get them to go to sleep so quickly? I smiled and said that’s the good thing about being 40 years old and a father. Highlights were Gareth hitting the orge with the arrow, nerf wars in the lounge, dodge ball, and the creature from cabin 24.
Thursday, the last night, the night when each cabin sneaks out after lights out to go create some memorable moments, spontaneity we planned and scheduled on day 1. We are sneaking down to the beach, to build a fire, roast some s’mores, and make some memories. Our outdoor campfire ends, and I’m watching the sky and seeing signs of a storm, so we decide to head straight down to the lake a little early. But quietly. We don’t want the camp director to catch us sneaking out.
But first we have to fight our way through the mayflies. Heads down, mouths closed, and run. But not too fast. The path is full of deep sticky mud from the huge storm the day before. Halfway down, we stop in the middle of the path, between two swarms, and watch the bats scream across the sky, feasting on the flies.
And then we reach the beach. The bugs are behind us, and the lake is calm, but what we see is the sky. The prairie sky, miles and miles and miles of it, in every direction. We are looking west, across the lake, and the sky is alive. The storm is brewing across the lake. We can see the black, tall, thunderheads starting to blow together on the other side of the lake. Somewhere above our heads a swift wind is blowing thin clouds from south to north, and above them we see more and more bands of clouds, with streaks of dusky blue sky all the way through. But soon we hardly notice any of those, because of the sun. It hits that perfect spot in the sky where it starts to reflect off every cloud around us. The colors are so brilliant, so vibrant that eight 8 to12 year old boys go running to the edge of the water together and then come to a dead stop, and then they just stare. I am not exaggerating. Everywhere we looked, 360 degrees, the sky was slow-dancing with color. And then, across the lake the storm started to get more active, and the lightening started to flash vertical streaks, then horizontal, then flashes in the clouds that lit up the whole sky. The lightening started to dance, even more active than the colors and every time we saw the flash and heard the crash, all 11 of us cried out and pointed and jumped up and down, Did you see that? WOW! Surrounded by deep reds, burnt orange, wispy yellows of the sunset; with jet black clouds punctuated by huge streaks of lightening.