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Trouble at the Inn

Posted by on December 24, 2019

Trouble at the Inn

For years now, whenever Christmas pageants are talked about in a certain little town in the Midwest, someone is sure to mention the name of Wallace Purling.

Wally’s performance in one annual production of the Nativity play has slipped into the realm of legend. But the old-timers who were in the audience that night never tire of recalling exactly what happened.

Wally was nine that year and in the second grade, though he should have been in the fourth. Most people in town knew that he had difficulty keeping up. He was big and awkward, slow in movement and mind.

Still, Wally was well liked by the other children in his class, all of whom were smaller than he, though the boys had trouble hiding their irritation when Wally would ask to play ball with them or any game, for that matter, in which winning was important.

They’d find a way to keep him out, but Wally would hang around anyway—not sulking, just hoping. He was a helpful boy, always willing and smiling, and the protector, paradoxically, of the underdog. If the older boys chased the younger ones away, it would be Wally who’d say, “Can’t they stay? They’re no bother.”

Wally fancied the idea of being a shepherd in the Christmas pageant, but the play’s director, Miss Lumbard, assigned him a more important role. After all, she reasoned, the innkeeper did not have too many lines, and Wally’s size would make his refusal of lodging to Joseph more forceful.

And so it happened that the usual large, partisan audience gathered for the town’s yearly extravaganza of crooks and creches, of beards, crowns, halos and a whole stageful of squeaky voices.

No one on stage or off was more caught up in the magic of the night than Wallace Purling. They said later that he stood in the wings and watched the performance with such fascination that Miss Lumbard had to make sure he didn’t wander onstage before his cue.

Then the time came when Joseph appeared, slowly, tenderly guiding Mary to the door of the inn. Joseph knocked hard on the wooden door set into the painted backdrop. Wally the innkeeper was there, waiting.

“What do you want?” Wally said, swinging the door open with a brusque gesture.

“We seek lodging.”

“Seek it elsewhere.” Wally spoke vigorously. “The inn is filled.”

“Sir, we have asked everywhere in vain. We have traveled far and are very weary.”

“There is no room in this inn for you.” Wally looked properly stern.

“Please, good innkeeper, this is my wife, Mary. She is heavy with child and needs a place to rest. Surely you must have some small corner for her. She is so tired.”

Now, for the first time, the innkeeper relaxed his stiff stance and looked down at Mary. With that, there was a long pause, long enough to make the audience a bit tense with embarrassment.

“No! Begone!” the prompter whispered.

“No!” Wally repeated automatically. “Begone!”

Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary and Mary laid her head upon her husband’s shoulder and the two of them started to move away. The innkeeper did not return inside his inn, however. Wally stood there in the doorway, watching the forlorn couple. His mouth was open, his brow creased with concern, his eyes filling unmistakably with tears.

And suddenly this Christmas pageant became different from all others.

“Don’t go, Joseph,” Wally called out. “Bring Mary back.” And Wallace Purling’s face grew into a bright smile. “You can have my room.”

Some people in town thought that the pageant had been ruined. Yet there were others—many, many others—who considered it the most Christmas of all Christmas pageants they had ever seen.

 

 

Merry Christmas from your Camp Family at Brookwoods, Deer Run and Moose River Outpost.

 

 

Advent – He is on the Move

Posted by on December 9, 2019

Happy New Year – It’s Advent – He is On the Move

by Matthew Kozlowski, Brookwoods Alumnus

Every December, in the season leading up to Christmas, Christians celebrate Advent.  But Advent is more than just a countdown.  Here are three points to remember about this season.

1. Happy New Year!

In the church calendar, Advent is actually the beginning of the year.  We start anew, as we await the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  It’s interesting that the year starts with a period of watchful waiting.  So much of our culture demands action – what can be done now?  Advent says the opposite: don’t rush to act, but wait, stay alert, watch.  This is the only way that we will recognize the coming of Christ.

I remember at camp how counselors would lead devotionals at night.  A lot of times they would ask, “Where did you see God today?”  This is a good thing to ask ourselves in Advent!  Keep watch, stay alert, He is on the move.

2. The Second Coming

While Advent most clearly awaits the incarnation of Jesus on Christmas, the season also speaks of the time when Christ will come again.  As it says in Mark 13:26, “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”  What will this be like?  The Bible gives us descriptions of the end of times, and many of these descriptions are troubling.  But Jesus also says in John 16:33, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.”  

I had a counselor friend at camp who struggled for a while about whether he was ‘truly saved.’  He confided this to a few of us, and someone replied (gently but firmly): “Look, do you believe in your heart and confess with your lips that Jesus Christ is Lord?” 

My friend replied, “Yes, of course.” 

“Well, then, you’re saved. End of story.”

Thinking about that conversation now, it seems like a good thing to keep in mind during Advent, as we await the second coming of our Lord.  We are assured that Jesus is ours, and we are His.

3. Most Highly Favored Lady – Mary

Advent is a time to consider Mary, the mother of Jesus.  But wait, you might say, is Mary only for Catholics?  While, Roman Catholics have unique devotions to Mary, you don’t have to be Catholic to think about Mary at this time of Year.  In fact, Christianity Today just ran a front page article on this very point.  

The Bible says that the Angel told Mary, “The Lord is with you!”  Indeed, the Lord Jesus truly would be with Mary, growing inside her as an unborn babe.  She literally held the son of God in her body – and years later, after Jesus had died for our sins – she would once again hold his body, this time at the foot of the cross.  At camp there is a place called “Inspiration Point.”  Well, I think that Mary is a “Point of Inspiration.” May her love, courage, and devotion inspire you this season.

He Is On the Move

Well, I couldn’t close this article without mentioning Narnia at least once.  Remember, in the depth of winter, Mr. Beaver whispers to the children, “Aslan is on the move!” I believe that God is moving today, all around us.  Yes, there’s plenty for us to do at this time of year.  But that’s no match for what God has already done, and what God is doing right now.  

Advent Blessings to you and yours!

 

The Rev. Matthew Kozlowski is an associate priest at All Saints Church in Chevy Chase, MD. He lives in Alexandria, VA with his wife, Danielle, and two daughters. “Koz” was a counselor at Brookwoods and Moose River between 2002-2005, where he taught sailing and wrote mildly amusing skits for the Staff Special. matthew.koz@gmail.com

 

 

 

Making Time to be Grateful

Posted by on November 27, 2019

Making Time to be Grateful

by JB Hecock, Brookwoods Alumnus

No doubt that your calendars are filling up with holiday events, parties, get-togethers, and shopping trips. It’s super crazy this time of year. It’s hard to find time (or more accurate, give time) to reflect on what we are thankful for. Ever since our kiddos were little, my wife Iris has had each of us take a piece of construction paper and draw or write what we are thankful for since last Thanksgiving. Stickers, markers, and crayons cover the table each year. If we had guests, they were no exception to our Thanksgiving morning tradition—everyone fills up a piece of paper with thanks. It’s pretty cool to go back now over the last decade or so, and see what was going on in our lives. Call it a tradition, or a spiritual discipline, it’s definitely worth giving time and space to these moments.

And about those moments…for me, it’s hard to live in the moment. It’s hard to be present to what is going on around me. I tend to be focused, albeit too much, on the future. This is even more true when I am going through a difficult or stressful time. Over the last few years, we have faced some incredibly difficult and challenging times, almost feeling as though the entire world was against us. Against me. And in the moment, it is hard for me to see God in the midst of it all. I can only see what is directly in front of me. The fog of the hard keeps me from even seeing the next step.

I’ve started giving space for reflection, inviting the Holy Spirit into that time. I know, that’s like Christianity 101. And though it feels basic, in our culture and for me, it is still incredibly hard to do. I’ve learned over time, that when I do give space and invite the Holy Spirit into my reflection, He shows me where He was in the hard. He shows me where He was protecting me in some cases, leading me in others, as well as present, but silent in yet others. And, perhaps the most unexpected thing, He shows me the blessings that were in the hard. His presence, voice, protection, leading—they are all blessings. Not necessarily what I wanted while walking through the hard, but they were definitely what I needed in the hard.

This season of giving thanks, anticipating Christmas, the start of a new year, I would encourage all of us to give space and time for the Holy Spirit to not only show us the tangible blessings of family, provision, snow, but to also show us blessings in the hard. I would encourage us all to pray for the supernatural ability to be grateful for the hard. Have a blessed holiday season.

JB and Iris Hecock along with their three kids, reside in Northern Ohio. After living an adventure of coffee roasting, community development, and church planting in Russia and Mongolia, they are now embarking on the adventure of leading a church that is growing in awareness of the Holy Spirit. In the spring of 1999, JB searched online for “Christian camp” and Brookwoods was the first thing that popped up! That summer he was a Moose counselor and returned in 2000 as the Senior Unit Director. You can reach JB at jb@bac.church.

 

 

That They May Be One

Posted by on July 12, 2019

That They May Be One

by  Craig Higgins, Resident Theologian

Click on Photo to see a short worship video

Just before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed for us, and he prayed for something specifically: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23). Jesus prayed that we, his followers, might be one so that the world may know the Good News.

One of the things that I love about camp is that—at Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost—we work very hard to practice the unity for which Jesus prayed. And we do this so that campers and their families might hear—sometimes for the first time, sometimes in a deeper way—the Good News, the gospel.

Another thing I love about camp is that, for several years now, I have had the privilege of helping with “Staff Week” (which is actually the better part of two weeks) by teaching the amazing people that God raises up to serve as our summer staff. This is—year after year—a group of young men and women who love Jesus, love camp, and love campers.

Bible Study at Camp Deer Run

But this group is very inter-denominational, representing just about every denominational affiliation that you can think of! And one of the points I stress to them is that while we are an explicitly Christian camp we are also a broadly Christian camp. We stress the importance of not dwelling on those things that separate us as Christians but on what we have in common—and that those truths we hold in common—the Trinity, the Incarnation, the atoning work of Christ—are, in fact, the most important truths! We emphasize that “the main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing,” and that the main thing is Jesus and the gospel.

Deer Run Sunday Night Vespers at Inspiration Point

This ecumenical emphasis can be life-changing. First of all, I’ve seen staff discover that the Body of Christ is larger than they realize, that Christians of other denominations are truly their sisters and brothers in the Lord. And the campers discover that, whatever their church background (or none), they are loved and welcomed.

Camp is a beautiful example of Christian unity in practice! But, of course, this doesn’t make our “unhappy divisions” (in the words of the Book of Common Prayer) go away. What can all of us—in our homes and home churches—do for Christian unity? Here are three things:

First, recognize the unity of the church. Remember that what (Who!) unites us is more important that what divides us.

Second, pray—daily!—for the unity and reunion of the Body of Christ.

Last, fellowship! I am a member of a Christian organization (comprised of Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and just about everyone else) in which we all commit, at least monthly, to working/talking with Christians from outside our immediate faith community. Building inter-denominational friendships is a great way to recognize our unity and to be reminded to pray for it. Plus, it’s fun!

And if you want to see a good example of genuine ecumenism—genuine Christian love across the sad divisions of the church—come to one of our camps. Here, we believe in the unity of the Church and we do our best to practice it every day!

Dr. Craig Higgins is the founding and senior pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in the Westchester suburbs of New York City. Whenever possible, however, he is at camp, where his nametag reads “Resident Theologian.” His wife, Ann, serves year-round as camp’s Director of Development. They have three young adult children, all three of whom were campers, and all have been either LDPs, on staff, or both. You can find him on email, craighiggins@trinitychurch.cc

 

 

 

Christ’s Desire on Good Friday

Posted by on April 19, 2019

Christ’s Desire on Good Friday

By Zane Kang, Brookwoods Alumnus

“With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”

That’s what Jesus told his disciples over dinner, right before he was betrayed. And though it may sound a bit funny, that isn’t a typo – that’s a literal translation of Luke 22:15 from the Greek. For obvious reasons it’s usually rendered “I have eagerly desired” (NIV) or “earnestly desired” (ESV). But “desire” in the Greek is a fairly strong word; if the context were different, it could even be translated as “covet” or “crave” —it’s a profound longing. All this to say: Jesus really did earnestly desire to have this meal with his disciples.

Why? Why did this meal mean so much to Jesus?

…If you think about it, we actually put a good amount of time into thinking about who we want to eat with. We pore over our calendars and text up a storm trying to make meet-ups happen. We do this, intuitively knowing that meals are significant, and we tend to remember our meals with people—whether it’s with a loving friend who can make us laugh and lift our spirits, or someone who’s a bit of a wildcard who sometimes makes it hard to keep the food down because you’re never quite sure what they’ll do next. And when it’s to celebrate a special event like a wedding or a holiday, all the more so we find that we remember those; whether we want it or not, our minds have already hit the ‘record’ button and the memories are etched into our minds forever, whether good or bad.

For Jesus, this is His final meal signaling his stepping into Good Friday—the day He changed history. The day the curtain was torn, and the new covenant in His blood inaugurated. Multitudes now with their sin forgiven could run and fall before the throne of the living God and actually call Him “Abba”…Father. And the Father would lovingly forgive and accept them; the world would be restored to loving fellowship with Him once again. These disciples here at the table were the ones who were with Him the entire time He unwaveringly made his way toward this mission; they would soon finally understand what He had really come to do, and see the full extent of His love for them. Certainly, a meal commemorating that was worthy of some anticipation!

But, also ask yourself…how well would the food be going down your throat and settling in your stomach, when you knew that in a matter of hours, you would be betrayed by one of your own, falsely accused, spit on, beaten up, the flesh of your back torn into a bloody mess with a brutal torture whip, have a ring of spikes shoved onto your head as a cruel joke until you bled, made to carry a 100lb log to which you were literally to be nailed, through your hands and feet, those nails being the only things holding up the entire weight of your body, the very weight which will cause you to suffocate to death while you listen to everyone who hates you glare and yell insults at you, your life escaping you breath by laborious breath, blood-drop by blood-drop. And you deserved none of it; this was a sacrifice on their behalf—but an incredible darkness would begin to encroach upon your soul as the Father Himself turned His face from you, and everyone who had promised to be by your side to the very end will also have completely abandoned you….the very people, in fact…who are sitting at the table with you, right now, having dinner!

In the very final hours of Jesus’ life…these were the folks that He earnestly desired to have a meal with?

…In these sacred last moments of Jesus’ life—at the Last Supper, and then at the cross—we see a picture of that paradoxical truth of Hebrews 12:2 captured right before our eyes: “for the joy set before Him, [He] endured the cross…” Such a height and depth exist in those few words, a height and depth we could never know, a height and depth that only Jesus Himself could traverse. But on this Good Friday, may we ask the Lord to help us step into it, if even just a little bit. Because our God is one who desires to be with us and is not diminished in the least-even though we were the very reason for His suffering on the cross.

Zane Kang served as Camp Pastor to Brookwoods and Deer Run in the summers of 2014-2016, his wife Elisse joining him in 2016 to help the office staff. Zane has been working as the Director of Small Groups and Young Adults at Park Street Church in Boston; he and Elisse are preparing to be sent as long-term missionaries to Japan in the near future. zkang1008@gmail.com