Recently back from our church family camp and counting all the blessings – even though I’m not especially good with big numbers. 10, 000 reasons territory, to be sure!
I love living in my tent. I love living without too many things, just getting by with the contents of my bag for a week or so: a hair brush, a tooth brush, some knitting and a really good book. I like to cook a less complicated dinner every night, using just one ring of the two ring gas stove, just one pan and getting everyone to help. Our juice is in jam jars, your food will be served on white enamel plates with a bright blue rim, as camp food should be. Under our canvas we fill the days with simple tasks: washing, collecting water, keeping the camp kitchen clean and doing dishes.
For most of the time our phones will be off, there is no wi-fi, we talk to each other much much more. On the way to the showers old friends pass by, people we have not seen since family camp last year. A smile and a hug. Good people sit with us around the porch of the tent, they tell us their family stories and we tell them ours. All of our children are growing up strong. We did a good job didn’t we? After all we went through? We parented these young people and they stand on our shoulders. You can not know how much I love to see your kids all grown up, how much I want to tell you it turned out well. When we turn in at night the stars are all out in the sky. We share a torch and it’s difficult to to find our pyjamas in the dark. Sunshine and outdoor living have made us tired. The dark slowed us down when the pink sun set. We will sleep soundly after such a good day.
In the morning looking out across the camp, the roof of all these canvas homes are a mass of waving flags. I’ve walked with these people for nearly thirty years. Bright sun and blue sky I’m thanking God for everything they are and all they will be. I’m simply stunned. The church is a wonderful thing, an awesome place and heaven’s gate (Genesis 28.17), chosen to proclaim (1Peter 2.9), called to make known the manifold abundant and never ending glories of God in Christ (Ephesians 3.10). All you people are God’s people, faithful people, lovers of God, you can and will change your worlds with words of astonishing grace and acts of tremendous faith.
We will gather for our evening meetings and we will sing our songs of praise to the God who has never ever let us down. We will know His presence and stand shoulder to shoulder with brothers and sisters, strangers and friends, young and old, the church who declare his praise as they were meant to do. And all around the meeting God is speaking and His Spirit is active. Hearts are changed, seeds of hope begin to grow, callings are heard for the very first time and old callings forgotten or abandoned spring to life.
Out on the platform the music from the band and the singers fades. There is a lull in this programme of well led worship and no one much cares for this pause is pregnant. We stand together waiting for a word and a new song is sung, a new song in a strange tongue. One man stands and sings unmistakably the song that God has given. All across the room, hands are raised, eyes turned heavenwards. Recognised by many longing hearts, though never heard before. Here is something more, deep calls to deep and the old familiar words fail.
There is always more. He is the God who promises blessings that are new every morning, new blessings as fresh as the day. On every day for all eternity there will be more, more of eternal God making all things new. No copies. No imitations. A new day presence of a new day God.
(photo credit: picture taken by my friend Rachael Ledgeway)