Monday, July 31, 2006

Did you know Wheaton is south of Chicago?

Here's a humorous story that took place last night. I attended the Pine Bluff Villagepalooza as I have tried to do for most of the summer. Villagepalooza is basically a semi-humorous way of saying "village meeting" where the campers are introduced to the counselors and other staff members in the village and where they learn the essential rules of village living. Anyway, we staff members were going around introducing ourselves, where we were from, what our favorite cheese is, who are favorite superhero is, and what Biblical character we thought would make the best cabin counselor. We get to Seth Carlburg and the conversation goes something like this.

Seth: "Hi. I'm Seth. I live just south of Chicago."

Campers cheer loudly.

Seth: "Some of you live south of Chicago?"

Camper: "Yeah. I am."

Seth: "I'm from South Holland. Where do you live?"

Camper: "Wheaton."

At that reply I started hysterically laughing for the next three minutes. I have a very peculiar laugh and apparently there are several variations to it. Apparently, each one of the variations was heard during those three minutes as Mike Zoellner so kindly pointed out to all the campers. What a riot.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Camp Stuff

Last Saturday as we were cleaning the animals cages and feeding them, Packer got loose. Packer is a green and yellow parrot. She can be quite viscious at times, but she's treated me rather decently this summer. Anyway, we wear this heavy flannel shirt over our arms when moving Packer so when she bites, she doesn't bite us. On Saturday, as I was carrying Packer back to her cage, she bit through the shirt and ripped out a small piece of my flesh on my arm. It hurt, but I was really proud of myself because I didn't throw her off or anything. I used to watch those animal shows and wonder how animal trainers could let a creature bite them and not seem to have a care in the world. Now I know.
This week is high school week and I've been given the opportunity to counsel again. It's been going great and I have an amazing group of high school juniors and seniors. This makes my 52nd week of cabin counseling here at Timber-lee. I've spent one entire year of my life doing this. It's a great way to have spent a year.
One of my campers this week is a camper I've counseled before. He's quite eccentric and unique, but he's a very humrous and fun-loving guy. He has a lot of issues and has had to deal with a lot of major problems in his life at a fairly young age. I love this guy. I'll call this camper Dale.

Dale says a lot of random and funny things. Sometimes the things he says make no sense, but are funny. Other times they are almost morbid, yet not quite. Below are some of my favorite quotes that Dale has said this week.

After having only been at camp for a few hours and while we were waiting to start devotions, Dale points at me and says, "Tom, I want you to start writing the alphabet backwards but you'll need a co-signer. You, Ned, be the co-signer and pretend to be a mime who has his hair on fire." It was so random and hilarious.

We were making cardboard boats to race for the tournament on Thursday morning and as we were finishing our boat, Dale looks at the boat and says, "We need to put a number 3 on here." "Why three?" "Because that was Dale Earnhardt's number. He was a great racer. May he rest in pieces." "What did you say?" "I said Dale Earnhardt was a great racer, may he rest in pieces."

We were doing word associations and someone gives me the word "flannel". I said, "Spam" (I was thinking of the old Monty Python routine). Dale says, "I hate spam. Everytime I go to check my email there's a bunch of spam in there trying to tell me how to make my buttocks more beautiful."

"I want to dress up like Abe Lincoln and wear a beard of slugs while delivering the Gettysburg Address."

"My home is the insane asylum."

"My favorite movies are Jaws and Jackass."

"I hate that song 'Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.' Hollywood and the media takes a song like that and blows it out of proportion so we end up with things like BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN."
"I've hated soccer ever since I was in the 8th grade when they made me play skins."
-----Aaron Leonard
"I've never seen Josiah Hager sleep. I don't think he sleeps. I think Josiah's a vampire or something." ---Dan Pinkhaus

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Lady In the Water

Tonight I had the opportunity to see LADY IN THE WATER. It's a movie about faith and hope and perseverance. I enjoyed it immensely. It's a fairy tale set in a modern setting. Since the death of Jim Henson, there hasn't been a director (Terry Gilliam could have, but he never has) who has brought a fairy tale to the screen the proper way. That has changed because M. Night Shyamalan has done it. I love movies intensely, probably even more than I love books. There are many movies I've seen that make me think, many more that make me feel good, and a few that do both. However, even if I feel good after watching a film, it is rare that I leave the theatre feeling happy. LADY IN THE WATER made me feel happy.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


About a month ago, I went with some camp friends to get a late night snack. We were going to go to Taco Bell but the inside was closed so we went to Dominoes instead. Anyway, we were sitting there eating our food and a couple of the girls started talking about these two girls from Taylor University who were in a car accident about a month ago. One of them died and one has been in the hospital slowly recovering. It turns out the girl that "died" is actually alive and the girl that everyone thought was alive is actually dead. It's a major mix-up (and how it can happen in this so called age of technology with DNA and blood tests and all that jazz, I'll never know) and is getting national coverage. One of the girls that was talking about this made the comment, "You know when you think about who will show up at your funeral, well now she knows."

I asked, "Do people actually think about that?"

"Yeah. I've only thought about it a few times, but yeah. You've never thought about it."

I replied, "No."

I had never thought about that until last night. Last night I ended up thinking about it quite a lot. I basically reached the same conclusion I had before. I don't really care how many people show up at my funeral. I'm dead and when I'm in Heaven it will not matter to me how many people are there. Funerals aren't for the dead. Funerals are services for the living. We say we do them in rememberance and honor of the deceased and though that is partially true, it is more accurate to say we do them for ourselves. We hold funerals to bring closure to our own lives with someone. We hold funerals as a way to constructively deal with our grief. The dead don't care about that. Some of them probably yearn that loved ones left behind will believe the Truth that they rejected, but other than that I honestly don't think those who die really care who shows up to their funeral or how many people are there. I've thought a lot about that these past 12 hours and to be honest, I don't really care how many people show up at my funeral or who does. I just hope that whoever does, that the experience is a positive one that brings them a little closer to Jesus.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Indians Love Tom Varner.

Indians love Tom Varner. Why don't you?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Frustration and Desires.

About the first time I first graduated from college, I had this idea for a series of six short stories. Basically, each of the stories were going to look at a man's life at three different points in his life, but from the angle of a life lived with faith and a life lived without faith. The first story was going to be about a young man who committs suicide in despair. The next story would illustrate how that man's faith had saved him from that. The next would look at the man in his middle years and how he had grown to become a cynic with the parallel tale of how faith helped him avoid that, and the last pairing would have told of the man in old age and how he had grown into a bitter, cranky coot and concluded with the story of how his faith had helped him avoid that, too.

I am a man of deep faith. I have been blessed to know Jesus for most of my life. I have had very long conversations with God on a fairly regular basis since I was about ten. My faith prevented me from the fate of the man in the first story. Suicidal thoughts I once had, but I know that it is because of my relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit that is a part of me that prevented those from transforming into anything more than thoughts. I know life has a purpose and has a meaning.

Yet, despite trying not too, I am afraid I am becoming the cynical young man. I used to believe and know that Bible versus such as Psalm 37:4-5 (Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this.) were true. Now, even though I feel that I know they are true, I find myself doubting that I believe that. I am a sinner and I make mistakes and foul up. Yet, I keep pressing on. I do delight in God and all that he has given me and I find myself committing my way(s) to him often. Yet, I have yet to see the things I have desired most in my life come to be. The dreams I had for the first quarter century of my existence were swept away as I was carried to a new path. It is true that those dreams have been watered with hope recently. However, these things are still buds that are just beginning to poke out of the ground. They are not a deep rooted realization, yet. As for the other desires of my heart, they seem so remote and distant that I'm almost afraid to believe that they will ever come to be.

I've never been one to say that the Christian life is easy. Jesus never promised that in this life it would be that way. Yet, I see people who do seem more blessed than others. Often these are people of faith. This combines with the constant sermons I have heard preached of how if "you just do this" God will "bless your life abundantly." I often find myself frustrated when this happens. Part of it is because of my own sin--I find myself jealous of those blessings around me. Yet, part of it is just frustration. I said I am a man of faith, but that's not really true. I still can't command a tree to jump into the sea (and I have honestly tried that before) so I don't even have the faith of a mustard seed. My faith is so small especially when I think of those giant saints in my own life whose faith might have let them command a tree to jump. When I think of those saints, though, I remember that most of them had incredibly difficult lives.

This should provide comfort. It should, but usually it doesn't. I'm a sinful creature and I want to have the good life now. I want a decent job, a wife, maybe some children, and a nice house in a nice neighborhood. When I attend my next high school reunion I want to be like my classmates who are there and not the lone outcast who couldn't even convince the girl next door to come with him so he didn't have to show up dateless again. I want to teach for a little while. I want to write. I want to get a break in show business. I want to make a mark on this world and be a sign that points to my God. But, that is the crux of the matter. All the other desires in my life are subservient to that one: to love and serve my King and be a sign that points to him. I am a man of flesh and sometimes it is so difficult to keep that central desire in focus. But, that is the key. I just wish there could be an easier way to do it instead of working it out with fear and trembling all the time.