From age 8 to age 20, I spent at least one week of every summer at a place called Camp Timberlee. Each year I’d venture off to camp and cram the week full with new friends, bunk bed living, campfire songs, and arts and crafts. I remember the sound of a hundred screen doors slamming as we zigzagged our way endlessly in and out of our cabins to swim in the lake, practice archery in the field, horseback ride, eat snacks and play games at the canteen, and attend sessions in the chapel.
I was a camper, then a teen counselor, then a counselor, and then a program director. Camp Timberlee—the place, my friends, and my leaders—is woven into the texture of who I am today in countless different ways. As a camper, I learned how to cry when I missed home, how to play hard but fair, how to dream beyond what seemed possible, and how to trust in God. Later that place taught me how to lead and communicate creatively, and how to risk being seen as ridiculous for the purpose of something bigger then just me. It was the routine, the rhythm, the habit, the commitment of going there every summer that afforded me so much growth and so many great memories.
One summer when I was a teen counselor, I remember the youth pastor leading us in some fireside singing like we’d done every night that week and every summer prior. Toward the end of the week, when all the campers knew the songs, and the sky was cloud-free with just the stars shining, I remember the youth pastor waving his hand to stop the band from accompanying – leaving just the voices of about 250 2nd-5th graders and the crackle of the fire, all lifting up our voices to God. I’ll never forget that moment. It was so pure and true – it was full and free and powerful. Because I went to Camp TimberLee every year, I was there that year – and I’m so glad I didn’t miss it.
This past Sunday at church was another moment I’ll not forget. The sound system basically stopped working, and by default we were “unplugged” and at some points “just the voices” remained, and the effect was unpolished, beautiful and sacred. Because our church community has the habit, the rhythm, the routine, and the commitment to worship together weekly, we were together for that moment. I’m so glad I didn’t miss it.
As one of my seminary professors, Vernon Grounds used to say, “May the ruts of routine become the grooves of grace” in your life today.