Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Playing Whac-A-Mole? - A discussion of Personal Demons

Have you ever played Whac-A-Mole? For those less refined, I’ll describe it. You hold a padded mallet in your hand…there is a board in front of you with several holes in the top…randomly, and with increasing speed, a little mole sticks his head out of one of the holes…it is your job to whack it before it drops back into the darkness of the machine. If you are looking to expand your human experience, you can find this troublesome game at amusement parks and traveling carnivals.

I think that game is a pretty good illustration of what it is like for a person to battle his or her personal demons…all alone.


We all have them. Generally, we do our best to hide them; these personal demons. But, sometimes they pop out of no where and play havoc with our self-esteem, our spiritual self-worth, and sometimes with our public reputation, our professional careers, and our relationships. There are plenty of illustrations in the news these days.


What are they?


They are those sinful things that we are prone to do, despite our better intellectual and spiritual judgment, and of which we are too embarrassed to admit to others that they still exist in our lives.  We don't want to do them.  We hate them.  We still fall prey to their sneak attacks.


They can appear as a dichotomy against our public, spiritual persona. When revealed against our will they cause others to cry “Hypocrite!” However, does this dichotomy really equal hypocrisy? Probably, sometimes yes. Often, and perhaps usually, NO.


Hypocrisy on one level is simply saying one thing and doing the opposite, but in a deeper sense, it is INTENTIONALLY doing WITHOUT REMORSE those things that are in opposition to your publicly stated beliefs and convictions. Generally, when one falls prey to the hidden personal demons, they are in fact racked with remorse. Intellectually, they know it is wrong, but they are carried away by a temptation, and hate the fact that it has any power in their life. Eventually, they feel powerless and trapped.


The Apostle Paul stated it this way:


“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate…I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” Romans 7:14-20


“…the evil I do NOT want to do—this I keep on doing.”


The personal demon!


As I said, we ALL have them. Don’t try to tell me that you don’t. I won’t believe you. It doesn’t make you less of a person to admit they are there. If you are willing to admit them though, it will make you wiser than the foolish person who continues to deny their existence.


We have two problems in “whacking” these demons: 1. we are self-deceived into believing we are the only ones with the problem, 2. we place our leaders on insulated pedestals where they feel so obligated to present a perfect example that they feel like they cannot disclose any personal flaw.


Are you the only one? 1 Corinthians 10:13

"No tempation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear."

Paul…the man who kept doing what he didn’t want to do…says that “no temptation has seized you except what is COMMON TO MAN.”


You are NOT the only one…regardless the problem. Drink too much? So do others. Does pornography snag you? There are plenty of others. Got a mean temper? Lots of company. You name it, and you can find others with a similar issue.


What about the leaders on the pedestal?


First off, they need to come off the pedestal. They are just men and women like you and I. Worship God, and Him alone. Secondly, they need to have a safe place to be open with their lives…because they have the demons too. Look at King David. Look at Abraham. Paul had his “thorn in the side.” (It is my opinion at the moment that Paul’s “thorn in the side” was a spiritual weakness or sin that he could not beat. God left it as a struggle for him so that he would not become spiritually conceited.)


So, you may ask, how do we deal with these personal demons? Well, I don’t have all the answers. If I did, I wouldn’t have my own to battle anymore. However, I do offer the following suggestions:


A. There’s safety in numbers. Join with one or two other people in the struggle to beat these things. I’m calling this a “Micro” ministry. (I wish I could claim this description, but I borrowed it from a ministry in Chicago called Godgrown. See http://www.godgrown.org/ ). I was able to experience this as a young Christian, and there is something truly special about being able to be completely honest with someone else. It lifts the burden and frees the soul.

B. Flip on the light. Don’t hide it in the darkness. It will only fester there, and in the mean time you are giving off a false impression that can lead to the claim of hypocrisy. Cockroaches breed in the darkness. Sin committed in secrecy will breed a lifestyle that spirals into destruction. You can break that cycle by simply turning the light of honesty on in your life.


In short, be honest about the fact that you have weaknesses (personal demons), and find one or two people with whom you can be brutally truthful. Don’t play Whac-a-demon all alone in the corner, but hand a couple of mallets to your friends and get some help!


There is hope after all. Romans 8:1-2


“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”


Now, where’s that light switch?

http://www.godgrown.org/

Monday, December 27, 2010

A New Year-Resolutions and Plans

Has it happened to you yet? Has someone asked you the question? You know. The question that everyone asks, and the question that everyone gets asked on a yearly basis…

“Have you thought about any New Years resolutions for next year?”

I was driving along with my wife yesterday, and we were just chatting about various things when she suddenly popped that question. Other than my 2011 Fitness Challenge, I realized my answer was: Nope….I guess not.

It’s one of those things that make you scratch your chin and think.

I’m not a smoker, so I can’t quit that. I don’t drink much or very often, so that’s not an issue. I’m already set to work on the weight and fitness. So, what else should I be “resolved” about?

I guess I’m still thinking about it. What about you?

Here are some of my possibilities:

1. Spend less time on Facebook
2. Watch less TV
3. Go to bed earlier
4. Make more sales calls
5. First organize, and then keep my office organized
6. Read more books
7. Read more of my Bible
8. Spend more time in prayer

I’ll probably pick a couple out of that list and try to focus on them. I could also work on some personal character traits like being more thoughtful, or being a better listener to my wife. It’s always a good idea to work on things that will make you a better spouse. Based on the US divorce rate, people must not be putting much energy into those.

I could work on avoiding procrastination, but I think I’ll wait and do that next year.

I do have some sketchy plans for this blog. Here are some of the ideas that I’m contemplating for Caaamper’s Thoughts for 2011. Let me know what you like, or what you’d like to see more of.

A. More posts on spiritual issues
B. More posts on societal issues
C. Pictures that I’ve taken and that I find interesting
D. Stories from growing up in the 60’s and 70’s in Muncie, Indiana
E. A series of posts based on a class I’ll be teaching at church in the spring called “Christianity 101”
F. An occasional “Henry the Preacher” cartoon
G. An occasional short story

Unless I get really motivated, I probably won’t spend much creative energy on politics. I suppose that might change as 2012 nears.

I do have a potential post rolling around in my head on the subject of "Personal Demons."  Look for that in upcoming weeks.

I guess that’s it for now. There’s not much else on my mind at the moment.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Seasonal Reasoning-Merry Christmas!

Tonight is my 49th Christmas Eve. (Wow, I guess I’ll have a milestone Christmas next year.) I’ve been thinking about the DeCamp Christmas Eves today, so I thought I’d share some memories with you.

For as long as I can remember, it was all about the presents! Christmas Eve at my house was the one time of the year when the whole family came over for the evening. We would share a meal together, and then gather around the tree and everyone opened presents. They would be handed out one by one with each person opening one at a time until finally the little white cover around the base of the tree was bare.

As kids, we didn’t care if we ate anything on Christmas. I do remember that Mom usually made her fruit jello salad. Good stuff. We generally had some sort of ham; typically in sliced form for sandwiches, and homemade macaroni and cheese. I couldn’t have cared less about the ham, but the macaroni and cheese was AWESOME! Thankfully, my wife now makes it just as well, if not better.

It seemed like the meal took forever.

“Can we open the presents now?” we kids would all beg.

“Not yet,” was the reply. “We’ve gotta smoke one more cigarette.”

(Another reason for me to hate cigarettes!)

So, off I’d go with my niece and nephew in tow to either my bedroom or the basement so we could breathe for a few minutes until they were done fumigating the living room. We’d do our best to distract ourselves while we awaited the wonderful words to cut their way through the fog to our eager ears.

“Time to open the presents!”

You didn’t have to tell us twice! We made a beeline to the tree.

Of course, it didn’t always flow quite that easily.

First of all, we ALWAYS had to wait for my sister to arrive. It didn’t matter what time Mom had told her to come, she was always at least an hour late.

Then, there was the fussing.

“You didn’t bring anything!”
“That’s not what I said I wanted!”
“Give one to Krista!”
“Don’t let anyone have my chair!”
“Get up!”
“Slow down!”
“Shut up!”
“You shut up!”


Awww, the sounds of CHRISTmas!  And, of course, I cleaned up the language.


These days, folks are all talking about how we need to KEEP Christ in Christmas. At my house, we needed to put Him in there in the first place. It wasn’t that we were intentionally anti-religious. It was just not something that was part of our family culture. We didn’t take Him out. He hadn’t yet become a part of it. Either that or He’d been gone so long that no one really ever recalled that He’d been a part of it in the first place.

Santa. Decorated trees. Colored lights. Frosty. Rudolph. Charlie Brown. Shopping.  Presents.  Arguments.

There’s plenty to keep the faithless busy at Christmas without Jesus being an integral part of it all. Sort of sad. But, don’t get mad about it. Most don’t know any better. Perhaps we who know the reason for the season should spend more time sharing that knowledge, and less time complaining. I think that’s what the message of Christ really is anyway…right?  Maybe less public demonstrations, and more personal demonstrating of how Jesus has made a difference to us.  Give the reason for the season to someone who needs it.

Let us mimic the angels:

“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

So, the next time you’re tempted to get upset because someone wrote “Merry X-mas,” just turn the X sideways and make it Merry +mas….or Merry Cross-mas.

Merry Christmas to you all! Thank you for reading my blogs this year. Your taking the time to read my ramblings is a gift to me.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bannack, MT

I've decided to occassionally share some pictures I've taken (or will take) from time to time.  In this post, I'm pleased to present a cool state park in Montana.  It is a preserved ghost town.  At one time, it was the capital of Montana.  The plan is not to restore it, but to not let it deteriorate any further either.  There is a nice little campground nestled next to a stream as part of the park.  The first photo is taken from atop a large hill that also holds the town cemetery.  Most of the buildings are open for your exploration.  If you are in the southwestern part of Montana, it is a worthwhile stop. 
Bannack, MT-A Preserved Old West Town


The Jail-This would be tough in January!


The Hotel


Schoolhouse/Masonic Lodge

Main Street

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A "Little Stream of Smoke"

Last week, I was sitting in a hotel room probably doing something on this laptop, and half listening to an HBO documentary on Fran Lebowitz, the writer. It was sort of interesting, and I would stop from time to time to pay closer attention. It was during one of those interludes with the TV that I heard Ms. Lebowitz comment on the subject of second-hand smoke.

Basically, she doesn’t believe that it is nearly as harmful as it is made out to be. I don’t have a quote, but she was commenting on the “little stream of smoke” that comes from a cigarette being too little to cause any issue.


My thought: Spoken like a true nicotine addict.


I should know. I lived with them my whole childhood and into my early adulthood.

I have always detested cigarette smoke. (Let me clarify, I don’t detest smokers.) I detest the smoke, the mess, and the cigarette industry. I detest the stink. I detest the illnesses. Ultimately, I detest the dishonesty that the nicotine industry has brought so many of us; from the companies who produce the cigarettes lying about their dangers to the addicts who consume them lying to themselves about their addition.


I grew up in a smoking home, in a smoking city, in a time when EVERY adult (and many kids) smoked. Everyone I knew smoked: mom, dad, siblings, aunts, uncles, neighbors. There were a few exceptions, but the key word is few.

The smoke infiltrated every nook and cranny of our home. The tar coated the walls and the windows. The smoke got sucked up by the furnace intake and was shot out all over the house. There was no where that I could truly escape from it except to go outside, and doing that in the winter was not a long-term option.

I used to spend a great deal of time in the basement…to avoid the smoke. When watching TV, I would often do so on the floor…to be under the cloud of smoke in the room. I spent a good deal of my young life coughing, hacking, and getting over colds.

So, from an early age, I was always anti-smoking. Sometimes, I would border on the militant as an anti-smoking advocate. I would harp and nag at my folks to quit. I would beg. I would plead. As I grew older, I became belligerent about it. As a teen, I became my mom’s driver….for my own comfort (I felt safer when I drove); and when she would light up, I’d either crank up the radio to irritate her, or I’d pull to the side of the road and get out and wait for her to finish. Not all that respectful….I know. What can I say? I was a teenager.

She would always say: “I’ll quit if I ever find out it’s hurting me.”


She was true to her word.


When she was diagnosed with throat cancer, she quit.


She beat the cancer, but died anyway a few months later due to complications created by the treatment, and a really weakened body. In our family, she is a sandwiched loss due to cancer from smoking between her brother (lung cancer) and my brother (throat cancer). Then, there are the other losses in our family due to heart conditions likely finding a root in the smoking addiction; my dad, uncles, others.


A few months after my mom’s death I took a phone call from a woman who asked for my mom by name. As is my custom, before I told her that Marge DeCamp had passed away, I asked who was calling. She replied that she was x(don’t recall the name)x from some national smoker’s rights advocacy group.


I replied: “My mom died a few months ago from cancer caused by years of smoking.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” she said. And then: “I really apologize. This is just a job.”

Oh, really. You might want to get a different one. That’s what I thought, but I don’t think I actually said it.


My sister recently quit smoking too. She was lying in the hospital, and a doctor told her that she was a sixty-five year old woman with an eighty year old’s body.


Some young people seem to find smoking “fashionable.” Really? When my smoke-addicted mother used to burn her own hair with her cigarettes, I didn’t think that was very fashionable. When she lived with us and I had to force her to smoke in the garage in the winter to keep her from burning her bed and our carpet (putting all our lives at risk), I doubt she thought that was very fashionable.


Burn holes in clothes, stinky hair, yellow teeth, nasty ash trays, cancer, heart disease, and self-deceit. What’s not to love?


So, does that “little stream of smoke” really hurt other people second-handedly? Maybe not too much all by its self, but combined with dozens of other little streams, I think so. At the very least, I don’t want to be breathing it in against my will.


Ms. Lebowitz can lie to herself all day long, as can so many other smokers, but please do it in the privacy of your own home. Let the rest of us have the fresh air.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

2011 Fitness Challenge-Guidelines

Here they are!  My guidelines for my 2011 Personal Fitness Challenge.  Join me if you dare!

Let me know if you're interested, and I'll send you the mileage tracking sheet that I built in Excel.

2011 Fitness Challenge

GOAL: To complete 2011 miles in the year 2011 by either walking, running, or cycling leading to a significantly more fit body by the end of the year.

ACTIVITY GUIDELINES:


1. Only miles completed outdoors count*

2. Exercise bikes and treadmills do not count*

3. All miles must be completed between the beginning of the day on 1/1/2011 and the end of day on 12/31/2011

4. Track miles daily

5. Add other activities to your personal preference and interests—these activities do not contribute to the miles total, but they will, however, contribute to the goal of a more fit body
* An exception to these guidelines can be made for medical conditions that inhibit physical activity under very cold, very hot, or wet weather conditions.


FOOD/NUTRITION GUIDELINES:


1. Focus on curbing starch/complex carbohydrate intake

     a. Whole grains only

     b. Whole grain cereal okay for breakfast only

     c. Greatly limit bread, potatoes, pasta, and rice intake

2. Eat fish or chicken before beef or pork

     a. Grilled or baked preferred

     b. No breading whenever possible

3. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables

4. Be sure to have a protein element in every meal

5. Maintain the regimen Monday through Friday—Weekends are free

6. Drink 64 ounces of water per day

7. Take multi-vitamin and fish oil supplements nightly

8. One snack allowed mid-afternoon

9. No food after 9pm

10. Extra food intake permitted during high-intensity, long-duration periods of physical activity—walking or running more than 5 miles, or cycling more than 20 miles

11. Limit soda intake to 2 per day—1 or less preferred

KICKOFF: A 48-hour fast on January 2nd & 3rd to exert control over eating habits and set the stage for a new direction following the Holidays.

Are you game?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Embrace the Pain

Everyone has a different level of tolerance for physical pain. As for me, I’d say that my ability to handle it is lower than I’d like it to be, but better than it used to be. At least I’m not a crybaby anymore. When I was a kid, the threat of pain caused me to miss out on all sorts of things, and created complications for me that could have been avoided.


For example, I didn’t play football beyond 7th grade. Why not? Fear. I didn’t like the pain of the physical training. I didn’t like the pain of the running. I didn’t like getting hit. I was fearful of the pain of the sport.



As another example, I avoided defending myself as a young person in a number of situations where I was being bullied. Now, I didn’t avoid fighting out of some misguided sense of right and wrong. No. I avoided it because I was afraid of being hurt. I was afraid of the pain. As a result, I was often picked on, and I just put up with the verbal abuse. (I wouldn’t suggest that you test me with that these days.)



As I have aged a bit though, I’ve grown to appreciate some positive aspects of enduring pain. Have you ever considered that?



There is a saying: “No pain, no gain.” The phrase stems from the sports world where you have to endure physical pain in training in order to grow stronger and gain endurance. I remember one time, a number of years ago, when I was doing a good deal of running, and as I was running along my legs began to hurt. They were aching something awful. I was tempted to quit. Then, it hit me….no one has ever died from a “leg attack.” So what if the legs were hurting? It was making me a stronger, healthier person. I learned to put up with and ignore that pain.



Cycling has done a great deal for me in learning to deal with pain. A few years ago, I was on the last leg of about a 40-mile ride, and I had about ten miles to go, when all at once I began to have a terrible, sharp pain shoot into my right knee with every pedal stroke. Can you imagine riding another ten miles with that happening every time you pushed the pedal down? I wanted to quit, but ten miles is a long distance to walk pushing your bike. A couple of years ago, I did a 108-mile ride. About 80 miles into it, I hit a stretch in the ride where as long as I kept my feet going around everything was okay, but if I stopped, it felt like there was a grinder in my knees when it was time to get going again. Once again, I felt like quitting, but I had a goal….and no one ever died from some knee pain….so I kept going and the pain eased.



This brings me to one of my favorite quotes, and I’m thinking about it a bit as I prepare for my 2011 Fitness Challenge. This quote comes from Lance Armstrong in his book “It’s Not About the Bike.”



“Pain is temporary, but quitting lasts forever.”



Pain is a passing thing. It comes. It goes. Sometimes it stays longer than we want, but it still goes. But,….if we quit….if we let the pain stop us from doing great things for ourselves or others….then, the failure is forever.



A little over a year ago, I tore my Achilles tendon. It was a painful injury. Recovery from surgery was actually even a bit more painful. Losing all of my fitness and much of my leg strength was quite discouraging. Gaining a bunch of weight between then and now has been a real set back. This next year will include a great deal of physical and mental pain as I begin to beat my body back into some semblance of healthfulness, but to quit is not an option.



Time to embrace the pain.


About 93 miles into a 108-mile ride.



Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Brrum Brrum Song

It’s that time of year again. The time of strings of multi-colored lights hanging from just about anything from which a guy can hang them. The time of chubby fellas in red suits with white beards; some real, some not so real. The time of endless Christmas TV shows, movies, and musical specials. A time that only comes once per year…thank goodness!

Don’t get me wrong. I truly enjoy the season. I like all of those things.

For some reason, there was a time when I didn’t really enjoy the holidays. When my wife and I first got married, I was a real Scrooge; grumpy and disinterested. That has pretty well changed now, and my wife greatly appreciates that fact.

My favorite things at Christmas are the movies “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story,” the food, the extra time spent with family and close friends, the food, the way that people take time to give, the food, and the Christmas songs. Did I mention the food?

I really like the songs. I like to sing them (those around me may not like that so much), and I like to listen to them on the radio….with one major exception. I detest that Wham/George Michael song “Last Christmas.”

“Last Christmas, I gave her my heart. The very next day she gave it away.” Blah, blah, blah. Over and over again. I’d rather go have my teeth cleaned than listen to that song.

I learned this week that my daughter has her own name for one of my favorite songs. She calls it the “Brrum Brrum Song.” Most of us know it as “The Little Drummer Boy.” I don’t care much for the Rankin/Bass clay-mation TV special, but I really like the song written by Katherine K. Davis. It gets me everytime, and tugs my emotional heart strings.

Why? Oh, okay. I’ll tell you….if you insist.

It’s all in the last few lines. The little boy comes before the newly born Jesus. All those around him have expensive gifts; gold, spices, etc. He apparently has nothing.

“I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum.”

Nothing, that is, but his drum.

“Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum? On my drum?”

That’s all he had to give. Just a simple talent. But, the unwritten thing is what makes it really resonate with me. It wasn’t just that he played the drum. It was that he had a HEART that WANTED to GIVE.

Again, it wasn’t just that he had a drum that he was willing to play.

He was playing with more than his drum. He was playing with his heart. He gave Jesus what he had…with his heart.

“I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum.”

He didn’t just give him a little tune. He gave his best.  He gave his heart.

“Then, He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum. Me and my drum.”

Isn’t that what we all really want? Let’s just cut it all down to the simple things. Don’t we really just want Jesus to smile at us?

Then, go ahead. You can do it….

Pick up your drum and play with all your heart.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Caaamper's Fitness Challenge

I recently had a new idea for expanding my blog some. I’ve been thinking about carrying around my camera and taking occasional photos to post. I like photography, and despite being an amateur, I think I take a good shot now and again. You can look for some of those in the coming weeks and months. However, an interesting thing happened today when I finally got around to firing up my little Sony Cybershot…I found some shots from my personal fitness challenge in 2009; the SFP Challenge.

I had forgotten that I had those pictures. In fact, in the blur of my last year recovering from a torn Achilles Tendon suffered in a softball game about a month after “The Challenge,” I had almost forgotten about the big bike ride altogether. However, looking at the pics, it all came flooding back.

That was a tough day.

The deal was that in 2008, I had gained a bunch of weight. I tend to do that from time to time.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve gone through this weight gain/weight loss roller coaster. One year, I go up. The next year, I go down. Each time I go down, the effort to do so gets harder and harder. So, as 2009 rolled around, I was looking for a challenge that would push me to work on my health and fitness, and be something I would actually enjoy doing. After a little bit of thought, it occurred to me that I had never ridden a century ride.

For those of you who aren’t into cycling, a century ride is to ride your bicycle 100 miles in one day.

As with photography, I fancy myself as a pretty good amateur cyclist. Not a great cyclist by any means, but not bad when I’m in shape. That said, I’d never done the century. I’d done 75-milers, but not a 100-miler. It was one of those milestones that I hadn’t done, but that I did just want to do. It was something I liked, but would be a definite challenge that I would have to work to get ready for.

To make the challenge even harder to back out of, I made it a big public thing. I started telling everyone I was going to do it. I even announced it in front of the whole church where I worship and serve. I wanted it to be so embarrassing to quit that I’d be sure to suffer through whatever physical pain was necessary to complete the task.


All done

Ultimately, I didn’t find an organized century ride that fit my training plan and schedule well enough, so I opted to ride the 100 miles alone, but on the Cardinal Greenway near Muncie, Indiana. The completed portion of the Greenway at the time was 27 miles long running from Losantville on the southeast side of Muncie up to Gaston on the northwest side of Muncie. To do 100 miles, I would need to ride the full length up and back…twice. The total mileage of the journey was 108 miles.


I completed the challenge on September 19, 2009. I started at about 8am, and got off my bike at the end at about 6:45pm. 108 miles done. It was a long, HARD day. A special thank you goes to my wife who spent the day driving our car ahead to each rest stop to meet me, encourage me, refill my water bottles, and make sure that I ate something. It had to be a boring day for her, but her help was a tremendous factor in my completing the event.




Then, one month later, I tore the Achilles Tendon. Surgery. Cast. Walking Boot. Months of recovery. Regained weight. Now, I’m back at the top of the roller coaster.

 Time for a new challenge.

It was a wild-haired idea!

Introducing the Mike DeCamp 2011 Challenge. I’m going to complete 2011 miles in the year 2011 by either walking, running, or biking. If you do the math, that would be almost 6 miles every day of the year! Obviously, there will be days when I am sick, traveling, or otherwise cannot complete the necessary miles, so I added the biking to help me catch up during the cycling season. I haven’t worked out all the details and rules for myself yet. You can look for those in the coming few weeks leading up to January 1st. However, there will be both an activity aspect and a nutrition aspect. I’m going to cover both bases.

Wish me luck, and if you want to join me in the challenge, let me know.  I'll be blogging on my progress.

(You can see more pictures from the 2009 SFP Challenge on my Facebook page.)






Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Another holiday season is upon us.  Turkeys and mistletoe, cranberry sauce and fruitcakes, pilgrims and Santa Claus.  Ahhhh, the sights and sounds of the season.  The day after tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I'm looking forward to a feast!  I know many of you are too, plus football and long naps.

But, you know, it isn't called THANKSgiving for nothing.  Besides the pecan pies and pigskins, it is a time to reflect on how we've been blessed.  Sooooo, here's my feeble attempt.  But, before I go too far, I have to make a deal with you.  If you read my list, I want you to do me a favor and post ONE comment... (okay more if you really want)... one comment about something YOU are thankful for.  You can leave it anonomously if you prefer, but I like comments and I want to read what you have to say.

Before the list, a story:

A few years ago, I tried to establish a tradition in our home where we would go around the table and share about one thing each of us was thankful for before we ate our Thanksgiving feast.  I think I'm the only one who had much enthusiasm for the idea.  It could be because when we're trying to do that there's a hot, delicious, crispy bird with all the fixin's sitting right under our noses. 

I will tell you one story though.  It was funny to us...maybe it could be for you too.  We were all gathered in our living room, my family and my nephew's family.  We were going around the circle sharing what we were each thankful for, and when the turn came for my nephew's oldest boy to share (he was in about sixth grade or so), I could have sworn that he said:  "I'm thankful for violence."

Huh!  What?!  We all turned and looked at him like he was some sort of giant fruitcake.

"What did you say?" I asked as calmly as I could.

"I said I was thankful for violins."

Giant sigh of relief.  He's not a psychopath...he just appreciates classical music.  Well, when you grew up on the south side of Muncie, that could seem pretty crazy too, but we were all feeling much better about his thoughts anyway.

Enough with the stories, and on with my list:

I am thankful for...

1.  Nancy Elaine DeCamp--A wonderful wife, an amazing mother, and a close friend.
2.  Angela DeCamp--A beautiful young woman with a brilliant mind and an even more brilliant talent  for art.
3.  Andrea DeCamp--Another beautiful young woman with a heart that knows no bounds in its love and loyalty.
4.  My employer--It keeps us under a roof, clothed, fed, warm, and is a company with integrity.
5.  My church family--They have embraced my family, given me new depth, and put me to work.
6.  God--His patience with my faults, His Grace in forgiving me, His willingness to make me useful.
7.  My fellow elders at Southeastern--They are all very different from one another, but seem to complement one another nicely.  I think our Father has assembled us for a very good reason.  They sometimes frustrate me, but mostly they humble me and support me,...and sometimes give me a good-natured hard time.
8.  Dale Robinson--We became fast friends about five years ago, and I always enjoy spending time with him.
9.  Greg York--This friendship was slower to develop, but has recently been a real joy to me.  (Thanks for the long talks after our meetings!)
10.  Physical Health--Last year, I tore my Achilles Tendon and at Thanksgiving I was in a cast and on crutches.  Over the last few years, I've herniated a disc in my neck, had a stress fracture in my foot, and torn the Achilles.  Each of those events has made it more and more clear to me just how precious physical ability is.  I am way out of shape right now, but I'm on the mend and will soon be back in the action.

I could go on and on...my boss, other friends, folks I work on committees with.  I have much to be thankful for.  I guess I should also say that I'm thankful for Google Blogger.  It's given me a nice outlet.

How about you?  Share one for me please.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mike's Bucket List

I’m sure that thousands of folks have done this, and some will say I’m too young myself, but I’m sitting here watching The Bucket List on TV, and I’m thinking that you can never be too young to recognize the primary things that you’d really like to get done while you can get things done. After all, no one is promised tomorrow. Should I wait until I retire or get a terminal illness to start? I think not. Time slips by so fast, and the older you get, the more you know that that fact is true.

So, here goes…my “bucket list” as it stands today…in no particular order.

1. Spend at least one night on each continent.

2. Hike to the lowest Everest base camp.

3. Bungee jump in New Zealand.

4. Become a published author of a novel.

5. Spend a week hiking the Appalachian Trail.

6. Circumnavigate the United States by car.

7. Preach a sermon at a major church conference.

8. Drive to Alaska, all the way to the north coast.

9. Witness the finish to the Tour de France in Paris.

10. Ride in the team car at a mountain stage of the Tour de France.

11. Explore the ruins of Machu Picchu.

12. Take a week long horseback adventure into the Rockies.

13. Take an African Safari.

14. See Hudson Bay.

15. Ride a boat on the Sea of Galilee.

16. Raft the entire length of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

17. Spend a week at a fly-in cabin in the Canadian Boundary Waters.

18. Take a bicycle tour of Scotland.

19. Visit each country in Europe.

20. Take my grandchildren hiking in the Grand Canyon.

That’s enough for now. I’m sure I can come up with more as I consider it further.

A couple of things have occurred to me as I’ve written this list. The first is that it is likely a pipe dream to think that I could actually accomplish all of the items on the list, but just attempting it would be a huge adventure in itself. The second is that the list is made up of a large number of items that are largely selfish. There are other things that are really more important in the big picture.

For example:

A. Building a life-long relationship with God.

B. Grow a family to be proud of—DONE!

C. Use my life to help others.

D. Be an influence for good in all of my interactions and relationships.

E. Be true to myself and act with integrity with others.

I could go on, but you get the point. The two lists aren’t mutually exclusive, but to me the second takes precedence over the first. What good would my life be if I accomplished everything on the first, but failed in any significance on the second?

I’m going to chase the first, but no compromise on the second! Now, which drop do I plop into the bucket first?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Treasures on a Speck of Dust

Treasures on a Speck of Dust

Mike DeCamp


 
I have spent much of my life

Wallowing in the depths of self-pity,

Wishing for riches I did not have

And yearning for the roads I did not take.



How amazing it is to awaken,

And step out from among the oblivious

To see the true blessings of life.



To love and be loved,

And to have a life worth living

Are the purest of treasures.



These enrich my life,

Though I am only a speck of dust

Residing upon a speck of dust

In God’s great universe.

Salvation-All About the Relationship

It’s been an uncomfortable week. I’m not sure which is worse…trying to sleep on a bed of broken glass, or trying to sleep with a chest full of congestion. I’ve experienced the second this week. Last night, I fell asleep in my chair until around 2am. When I got up out of the chair to go to bed, my chest was full of….well….stuff. I think I woke up the whole neighborhood trying to clear it out. Nasty is the only word that I feel comfortable using to describe the experience. Here’s to hoping that I’m finally on the downside of this thing! If this post seems a little “out of sorts,” you can blame it on the cold.

Wednesday night, I taught a class at church on the topic of Salvation. Ten minutes before the class was due to start, I had zero voice. Then, just as we are ready to begin…there it was…back in my throat where it belongs. I made it though the class, and then was worn out. I don’t know if the class was any good, but it seemed to go okay despite my ailment.

One aspect of “Salvation” that we discussed on Wednesday is how we so often focus on the negative in order to try to convince someone to follow Christ. Like the billboards say: REPENT or PERISH! So many times, people become Christians in order to avoid Hell rather than to embrace the relationship with the Father that so wants to be in their lives. Other times, they appear to choose God, when in fact the appearance is all there is. Other factors, like family or social pressures drive them to make a commitment that isn’t true to their inner choices.

The bottom line to the whole salvation thing is: God is all about the relationship!

You don’t enter into a relationship to avoid something. You don’t develop lasting friendships by focusing on what you can get out of them. Has anyone really every felt close to someone that they were pressured into spending time with?

If we use those motivations to try to convince someone to come to God, we are only creating a fa├žade that won’t last. Negative motivators usually become de-motivators. You can only scare me into doing something for so long before I will have had enough of it.

The LORD is my shepherd. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. Psalm 23 is one of the most beautiful examples of how God wants to be there to bring us peace, restoration, and fulfillment. Take a look at verse 6: Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.


Isn’t that the fulfillment that we all desire. That’s what a relationship with God brings…and, He’s all about the relationship.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Saying of the Day

Be the person today that will lead you to be the person you want to be tomorrow.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Waters of Encouragement!

I had one of those days yesterday. It was one of those days when you just feel like a rain cloud is hanging over you…even inside the house…, and you feel like hanging up your cleats and retiring from participation in this mutual game of ours called life. I felt like just going inactive; like maybe just starting to let life happen instead of trying to have some impact on it. I had joined the major leagues of discouragement!

Why?

It had been a rough week that was capped off by a bumpy Saturday morning. I mean, I’ve got my hands in a lot of activities, and I had begun to feel like I was wasting my time. I just didn’t see much “return on the investment” so to speak. I wasn’t sensing much impact from my efforts. Thus, I began to feel empty, useless, and weary.

I wish I could say that I handled that feeling perfectly. I wish I could say that I didn’t get too introspective; that I didn’t withdraw into a mini bout of depression. If I said it, it wouldn’t be true.

So, what did I do? Well, I took a long shower and poured my pain out in prayer while the water poured over my shoulders. I couldn’t really explain my feelings, so I just asked God to read my heart and make it clear what I needed to do, and where I really stood.

Then, I took a walk, and as I walked down the street, praying, thinking, moping, and pouting, I crossed a small creek. I glanced down its length through the brush and noticed that it had no water flowing. The creek was dry. It occurred to me that it was a good metaphor for how I was feeling. My creek was dry. My spirit had evaporated.

I asked myself some questions while walking. Am I not relying on God enough? Am I trying too hard? Should I just stop trying so hard, and let things flow the way that they will? Should I back out of my responsibilities and quit?

Other than the first question, I really didn’t have any answers. I definitely haven’t been relying on God enough…a personal weakness. But, remember, when I was in the shower, I asked God to show me where I stood and what I should do.

I think that’s what He did.

First, I went to a 1st birthday party for a son of some of our friends, and made a new friend of a young person with a mutual interest in writing. It lifted my spirits to sit and talk about something that I really enjoy doing with someone who is so obviously full of enthusiasm for the same craft (Thanks, Andrea).

When I got home, I had a message from a friend who had started his own blog. He told me that I had inspired him (Thanks, Scott).

Later, we had the Young Adults over from our church, and I sat until late at night talking with some of the guys. I had taken it as a personal project to get this group off the ground, and it has been slow to really get going. It was weighing on me that it wasn’t as successful as I had hoped. Some of my spiritual water had flowed into this program and seemingly had dried up. However, while talking with the guys, one of them told me that his spiritual life had changed 180 degrees from last spring, and he attributed it to the establishment and activities of the group (Thanks, Logan).

After they left, I went to bed. In one of my dreams, I was in a worship service at church and it was obviously a rousing, enthusiastic experience. I looked over, and there was a guy who is a regular attendee, but is not a member, and who is usually stoic in our meetings. He was standing, and worshipping with all his heart, and inspiring and encouraging everyone around him to give praise to God. Here’s the interesting thing about that…our worship is another area that I have been laboring in to try to spur more heartfelt and genuine, enthusiastic, overflowing praise. It has felt a fruitless endeavor. Was God telling me to keep going; that I was affecting people in good ways that I just could not see? I don’t know, but that’s how it felt.

Finally, I went to church this morning, and had two more reinforcements.

First, I was sharing with a friend who is a former elder that I had been feeling useless and that my efforts were wasted. I have a great deal of respect for this man, and I consider him a mentor. He just looked at me and said, “You know better than that. You’re doing a lot of good.” (Thank you, Keith.)

Secondly, I had a guy who has been helping me with the Sports Ministry, which I had established as a means of building fellowship and as an outreach tool, stop me to let me know that we “have a success story” from our ministry! He shared that one of the guys in our football league, who has some troubles, as many young guys often do, was showing some real interest in coming to our church. My spiritual co-worker was excited that we were making an impact. (Thank you, Greg)

Inside, without really forming the words in my mind, I think I finally turned my mind to God and said: "Okay! I get it! I’ll keep going!"

(Thank you, God!)

The Bible says to spur one another on toward love and good deeds. It says to encourage one another daily. Thank you to those of you who have encouraged me. I have needed it the last couple of days. I can’t say the water is rushing down my spiritual creek yet, but it is flowing again. I appreciate you all.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Where Did We Put Our Awe?


I didn’t intend to make this blog all about spiritual things. In concept, I was going to speak my mind on all sorts of controversial subjects; religion, politics, societal change, and any other topic that crossed my path. But, I guess faith seems to have become the dominant source of my inspiration because here comes another one.

Last Wednesday night, I was teaching a class at church…about church…when I came across a line in scripture that resonated with me. Acts 2:43a It says: “Everyone was filled with awe,…”

AWE

Interesting word. I imagine standing with my mouth open; speechless. I imagine feeling small and insignificant. I imagine being overwhelmed by marvel and wonder; sort of how you might feel when standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

In the context of the verse, we have a brand new thing. It had just come into existence. It was a new brand of faith that did not yet have a name. There were no Catholics or Baptists; no Methodists or Churches of Christ, and no Lutherans, Episcopalians, or Greek Orthodox. It was just a saving Lord and a group of His followers. No creeds. No divisions. Just people gathered around a new hope. On this particular day, the group had suddenly surged from 120 members to an astounding 3120…all at once…and, they were in awe.

So, here’s my question for you: Where have we put our awe?

On Sunday…in church…our congregation sang the song “I Stand Amazed*.”

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

Chorus:

O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior's love for me!

I sometimes wonder just how much we think about the words of the songs we sing. Do I really stand amazed? Do I really feel like I’m in the presence of Jesus? Do I feel the wonder? Do I marvel at the Savior’s love for me?

Maybe I’m just suffering from a touch of negativity, but it seems that we Christians have lost our awe. If we have it, why does it not overflow into our voices as we sing? We should be struggling to contain our zeal! If we are marveling at the wonders of God, why do we struggle to share it with others? How can we NOT talk about Him?

Do you believe that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth? Do you believe that He parted the Red Sea? Do you believe that He brought Daniel out of the lion’s den? How about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Did He stand in the fiery furnace with them? And, even more importantly, did God recognize our hopeless, merciless existence and orchestrate all of history to bring us back into a relationship with Him? Do you believe it? Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God…that He died on the cross…that He was buried in a tomb for three days…and ultimately…astoundingly…He ROSE FROM THE DEAD? Do you believe it?


If you do, you must be filled with awe! You must stand amazed!



Where did you and I put our awe?



*I Stand Amazed was written by Charles H. Gabriel

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Father's Legacy

Tomorrow would have been my dad's 98th birthday.  I've been thinking of him quite a bit this week, and I've been anticipating a post in his honor.  It's odd how we so often want to honor our loved ones AFTER they've passed away, and it makes me wish I'd spent more time honoring him while he was with me. 
Ralph R. DeCamp was born on October 30th, 1912 in rural Ohio near the city of Lima.  He was in the middle of a family of ten children.  His father disappeared from the family when he was about ten years old, and subsequently, he and his brothers assumed a great deal of the responsibility of supporting their mother and the other kids.

In the 1930's, during the Great Depression and while in his twenties, he and his closest brother, Earl traveled out west working on farms and ranches, doing odd jobs, and panning for gold.  He made at least two trips; one by car, and the other by train.  No, he didn't buy a ticket and ride coach.  He hopped on rail cars and rode for free!  What an adventure!  I could never imagine doing that!


In the 1940's, during WWII, he joined the Army Air Corps and became a crewman one of the big bomber gunships.  I learned after he died that he flew over 70 missions with his crew and with other crews, filling in for the crewmen on other planes when they were sick or found reasons not to fly.  He wasn't a pilot; rather he was a crewman and manned the guns...dodging flak and praying to survive.  He entered as a simple private and was discharged honorably with six bronze stars along with other medals.  If you want to get an idea of what it was like to fly on one of those planes, watch the episode of Band of Brothers where they are dropping the 101st Airbourne over Normandy.  Wow!  And, he did that kind of thing over 70 times and lived to tell about it...or rather, like so many of his generation, NOT talk about it.  As I said, I learned all this after his death.




Ralph DeCamp is the first guy on the left

After the war, it seems that his adventures came to an end.  He settled in Muncie, Indiana, and got a job at the local Chevrolet plant.  He kept that job until he retired in the mid-1970s.  After coming to Muncie, he met a woman with three small children, and he soon gave his heart to them and married my mother.  I came along a number of years later.  He never traveled out west again, but I suspect he longed to because he often spoke about places like Salmon, Idaho, and I sometimes found real estate books for Colorado sitting on coffee tables in our living room.

But, you know, the the thing that my dad did for me that means the most is that he instilled in me a basic faith in God.  He wasn't a "Bible Thumper."  He didn't even go to church.  In fact, he had an experience as a young person that completely soured him on organized churches.  Even after I grew up and began to focus my own life on spiritual things, he would never visit church with me.  (Perhaps, I'll share the root of that sourness in a future post.)  However, he did believe in God; he loved God.  I often saw him reading his Bible.  He never had an issue with God.  It was people that messed things up for him.

Anyway, back to the story of how he instilled that faith in me.  I was probably only about three years old, and he had me lying on his chest in bed one night.  I can still vividly remember it to this day.  While we were laying there, he said something to me that has ended up being the primary driving influence in my life.

He said:  "Mike, the most important thing that you can ever do in your life is to love God."

That was it.  A simple sentence.  He didn't embed biblical doctrine into my mind.  He didn't make me memorize huge passages of scripture.  All he did was give me a core principal; the most important core principal.  Jesus said that the most important commandment in scripture was to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your mind, all of your soul, and all of your strength.  That was all my dad told me to do, and that has been the thing that has guided my course all these years.  It has kept me on track.  It has pulled me back on track when I've wandered off course.

I have done my best to instill that same core principal in the hearts of my own children.

If you glean anything from this post, let it be this....if you can get your kids to love God, everything else will flow so much easier.  It will guide their decisions.  It will give them a direction.  It will be a beacon calling them home. 

It will change your family.

I don't know for sure what my dad's ultimate destination is any more than any man can truly know another man's fate.  He wasn't an overtly righteous man as folks might define it.  As I said, he didn't go to church.  He smoked.  He cussed.  He had his human weaknesses.  But, what I do know gives me hope.  He loved God, and he cared about his fellow man.  Two things I know about God is that He works for the good of those that love Him, and His first motivation is to save.  He devises ways to bring the estranged back to Him.  I know that my dad loved Him.  I know that my dad shared that love with me.

I wrote the following to be shared at his funeral in February of 2000:

My Dad



How do you describe someone who has molded so much of your life?
Words cannot convey what the heart holds.

How do you honor someone whom you hold in such high esteem?
Live a life that someone else may honor one day.


How do you show respect for someone who does so deeply deserve it?
Imitate him in those aspects that command it.


How do you love someone who displayed his love in so many diverse ways?
Display and magnify this love in your love for others.


How do you replace someone who has meant so much to those whom he has touched?
You cannot.


Goodbye, dear father, my dad.
Your direction, example, and love will live on in those whose lives you have touched.




Written by: Mike DeCamp, February 9, 2000


In honor of: Ralph DeCamp, born 10/30/1912, died 2/6/2000

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mario's Pledge

This morning, as I often do, I watched the first fifteen or twenty minutes of Good Morning America. I guess I have to get my fix of the previous day’s political news, and anything of note that has happened in the wider world before I get going with my own little piece of it. Today, I was touched by the story of Mario Sepulveda, one of the Chilean miners who were rescued just last week after 69 days trapped underground.




Mario is one of 33 men who have a whole new perspective on life today. They were very lucky. Lucky that they survived the mine collapse. Lucky that they were able to be found so far underground. Lucky that they live in a day and time when technology can enable such a difficult rescue. However, I think they are lucky in a whole different sense. They are lucky because they have been given the opportunity to see what the world looks like after you have passed through the curtain of total despair, and have arrived on the other side. My guess is that what was important to each of them today is quite different from what was important to them on the day they arrived for work before the accident.



In the interview with ABC’s John Quinones, Mario said two things that stood out to me. The first he uttered while kneeling on the beach with his son at his side: “I adore you God. I promise I will never leave you just like I promised when I was buried alive.” The other was said to ABC: “Life is short. In one minute, you can lose it. In one minute, it can all be gone. Don’t worry so much about money. Live your life. Live every second of your life.”



If only those of us who have never faced that kind of terror and survived could really grasp that message and hold on to it! Unfortunately, so many of us require some sort of life-shattering experience before we really reach out to God; before we really feel the preciousness of life.



I am a Christian. God has been an important and integral part of my life since I was a young boy. Even so, I am humbled by “Super” Mario’s simple prayer. It has made me consider whether I truly ADORE my God in the same way. What pressures, what temptations would move me to “leave Him” even for a little while? Am I totally devoted the way that I want and need to be? I don’t think so. Thank you Mario for reminding me of how vital the presence God is in my life!



I really see both of Mario’s statements as intertwined; adoring God and living every second of your life because life is short. The younger we are the more we tend to think that we have an unending amount of time ahead of us. As we age, the more it begins to dawn on us that our lives are truly finite. Even as we age, though, we still tend to think that we’ll always have tomorrow. I’m busy today, so I’ll do it tomorrow. I’m tired this morning, so I’ll go to church next week. I know I’m not really focused on spiritual things right now, so I’ll change that after college….or, after I’m married….or, after the kids are grown….or, after I get that promotion….or, after I retire. Ooops….life is gone.



Thirty three men were dragged out of the depths of darkness last week. What will it take to get us to drag ourselves out of the dark depths of spiritual blindness and the shadows of self-indulgence?

I wrote the following poem a few years ago, but today I am dedicating it to Mario Sepulveda. Remember your pledge to God, Mario. I will.



Open the Drapes
By Mike DeCamp


People are born, people die.
In between, they live a lie.

Once in awhile, someone escapes.
They open their lives as opening drapes.

With the future in sight, and without a mask,
They take on a purpose, a mission, a task.

Going through life, we all have a choice.
Live for ourselves, or God and rejoice.

People are reborn, never to die.
What are you waiting for? Give it a try.

To try is to do, when God leads the way.
It is a new life. It is a new day.

The highway is long, and on it we roll.
But remember the Rock, he paid the toll.

 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Mother's Doubts

I’ve been thinking about my mom and dad recently. I was talking to a friend this week and recounting the fact that my parents moved in with my family and I about eleven years ago; they both lived with us until they passed away. My dad lived a year in our home, and my mom lived with us for almost five years. It was a tough but rewarding period in my life; some of the most difficult of my days, and some of the most encouraging in other ways.



I’ll share more about my dad in coming days because his birthday is at the end of October, but today I want to write about something with my mom that I still find inspiring. I had shared with my friend this week about the difficult days that surrounded her last week here on earth with us, but my focus in this writing backtracks about three months or so.



When my mother passed away, she was 81 years old. She had never been a particularly religious person, and the only time she ever took me to church was for a few short weeks after my brother died when I was seven years old. She was a loyal person toward her family, and loved me deeply. However, she was often rather gruff, and she cussed a great deal in between puffs of cigarette smoke.



I was born when she was nearly 40 years old, and when I became a Christian as a teenager (thanks to a wonderful neighbor—Emma Ogletree—and a persistent youth minister—Mike Runcie), she was pleased but did not show any interest of her own in pursuing spiritual things. Of course, as I grew older I often encouraged her to look to God. Sometimes I was encouraging, and sometimes, as I look back now, I was just plain obnoxious. Thank goodness that wisdom often overtakes the ignorant zeal of youth!



Over the years, despite my encouragement and pleas, she always held back any apparent desire to develop her own relationship with God. She had reasons and excuses…and, she was stubborn.



When she moved in with us in January of 1999, I had become a little numb to the idea that she might really begin to seek God on her own, but still there was a lingering hope. This hope was realized in 2003, after a number of serious health issues, and after she had been surrounded by our family and our friends for several years. She finally began to open up and share her heart…and her doubts.



What became known is that she really did want to know God, but she had doubts. She doubted her own ability to maintain her faith in Him, and she had doubts about God Himself. Lots of “WHYs” and “WHY NOTs.” By this time, she was studying the Bible with an good friend (Jean Keim), but she just couldn’t seem to get past her doubts.



But, then…..I think God did a number on her doubts.



Nope, it wasn’t a miracle. He just sent someone to deliver a message who didn’t know he was being used that day.



Mom was in the hospital, and another one of our friends, Dan Lafever stopped in to visit her. For whatever reason, he and my mother got to talking about her faith and her studies. In essence, she told him that she wanted to believe, but she just had lingering doubts. Dan responded by sharing a passage of scripture that came to his mind. It is found in Mark 9. In the story, a man has a child in need of the help of Jesus. The man said something to the effect of “If you can, please help him.” Jesus responded by saying that to him who believes everything is possible. That is where the key message to my mother is found, because the man responds by saying: “I believe, help me overcome my unbelief.”



There it was; a situation where someone expressed their faith, but confessed their doubts and asked for help. Jesus responded by healing the man’s son.



My mom found her doorway to faith. She found that she could admit her doubts, respond to God, and then move forward in the faith that she had. She was baptized a few days later. That was August. She passed on to spend time with her savior in early December.



I often find that situation and that passage very inspiring because we all have doubts. It seems that our society is plagued by people whose mission in life it is to try to create doubt in the minds of believers. However, it isn’t the doubts themselves that are the problem, so much as the fact that Christians often find themselves crippled by the guilt that accompanies them. There are doubts in the back of the mind, so the disciple of Jesus feels inadequate or unworthy to allow his or her faith to become known to others and useful to God.



Let me just say that I’ve learned from my mom that the thing to do is to quote the father from the story. “God, I believe. Help my unbelief!” Do that and move on with the faith you have. Like the story of the talents…those who use what they have will be given more with which to build. Your faith will grow. God reaches out to those who reach out to Him.



Below is a poem I wrote about my mom after she had passed:



Visions of Mom
By Mike DeCamp
2004


Visions of Mom flow through my mind

Memories of home, all mixed and combined



If I entered her kitchen by the open back door,

I’d often be fed and come back for more



Big bubbling pots of potato soup

Big wacky cakes with an ice cream scoop



Then, out in back we’d go for a rest

Sippin’ tea in the shade with mom at her best



We’d laugh, we’d joke, we’d argue and fuss

In the end, we’d smile, ‘cause that’s just us



Now, she’s moved on, and these memories I love

I can take comfort from knowing she’s happy above

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Beach and the Ocean (4/27/2001)

I'm under reasonably strict instructions to not discuss my wife in my blog, but I still thought I'd share this poem I wrote for her a few years ago.  I hope you enjoy it.  I still feel the same today as I did then.


The Beach and the Ocean
Mike DeCamp


Through the rise and fall

Of the tides of my life,

You are the beach,

Catching my strife.



When the tide comes in

And my spirit does fly,

You are beneath me,

Holding me high.



When the tide ebbs away

And my heart is slack,

You are my horizon,

Calling me back.



As the waves crash in

And then slip away,

You remain constant,

There every day.



As the beach and the ocean

Are always together,

Our love remains true,

Regardless the weather.



Through the rise and fall

Of the tides of my life,

I thank God forever

That you are my wife.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Taxes: Thoughts on "The Shakedown"

In my previous posting, I wrote an allegorical piece of fiction that I suppose was not all that subtle with regards to the subject of taxation in the United States. As a follow up, I thought maybe I’d just come right out and tell you what I think about it.

First, I’m not so radical so as to say that we need to completely do away with any and all taxes. I, after all, do quite enjoy driving on paved roads. I like having policemen around to take care of people bent on doing wrong things, and firemen around to put out fires. It is fantastic to have safe schools staffed with well-trained and devoted teachers. It is wonderful to live in a place in the world where we have unparalleled security provided by the best military available. My issue really isn’t with the idea of the government pulling funds from the citizens in order to pay for services that are provided to all. My issue is really that there seems to be no end to the insatiable hunger for more that has gripped our governments; both national and local.

Most taxpayers lament the big two: Federal Income Taxes, and State Income Taxes. However, have you ever taken the time to consider just how many different taxes you actually pay on a regular basis? Let me list just the ones I can think of right now off of the top of my head:

Federal Income Taxes
Social Security Taxes
State Income Taxes
Local Income Taxes
State Sales Taxes
Excise Taxes
Property Taxes (A tax that pulls from you a percentage of the value of your property every year whether it has provided you any income or not.)
Gasoline Taxes
Cigarette Taxes (Being a non-smoker that kind of hates the smoke, I don’t really mind this one all that much, but the principle is still the issue.)
Inheritance Taxes
Capital Gains Taxes
Corporate Taxes
Special taxes on: Hotel Rooms, Restaurants, Rental Cars, and Airline Tickets
Road Tolls
Speeding Tickets, Parking Tickets, etc (I heard someone say recently that a tax is a fine on legal activities and a fine is a tax on illegal ones.)
Parking Meters
Entrance Fees to State and National Parks
The list goes on….
I’m sure that I’ve missed some. Maybe you can add to my list.

Plus, have you ever considered the taxes hidden in things like your cell phone bill, your electric bill, your gas utility bill, etc? I discovered a couple of weeks ago that I pay over $100 per year in taxes just so my family can have cell phones!

I will also say that our tax system as it is currently designed is patently unfair. The Federal Income Tax rates range from zero to 35% depending on your income range. That concept is unfair at its core. Now, our national leaders in the Democratic Party wish to increase the top range from 35% to 40%! Let’s put that in real terms. For every ten dollars that one in the top bracket would earn, they would have to give four of them to the government….and then, also pay the full list of taxes that I’ve noted above. It is easy to see that someone in that tax bracket could easily pay well over 50% of their income in taxes once it is all said and done. How is that right? So what if they have a larger income, it still doesn’t make it RIGHT to simply take THEIR money because they have more of it!

Let me just say, I am not in that tax bracket. Even so, I still don’t think it is fair. I think it is legal robbery. And, those of us in the lower brackets are accessories to the theft if we don’t stand up and say “no more” to those who would continue to propagate the crime. If you saw burglars backing a panel van up to your neighbor’s house, would you just let them steal at will because you know the neighbor can afford it? Or, would you call 911 and stop the theft? What kind of neighbor are you?

We can do what we need to do as a country with a reasonable and fair tax system. We can take care of the truly poor. We can provide for the national defense. We can provide the police, fire, and educational resources. We can. But, we must overhaul the system, cut the excesses, and create a genuinely fair method of taxation.

We need to think outside the current system…outside the box. We need to create a nationally represented body of independent representatives that can recreate our system without being unduly influenced by special interests and political ties; a special panel represented by every corner of the nation. Who cares if they are Republican or Democrat? This body could act without thought to personal gain or prestige; they could instead act in a way that is in the best interests of the country.

Oh, wait! We already have a body that is supposed to be like that! It’s called congress!

In 1773, there was a protest held in Boston, Massachusetts called the “Boston Tea Party” that was brought on because the taxation system from England had become unfair. The cry at the time was “No taxation without representation!” Now, we have an unfair system of taxation within a system of representation.

Folks, we have a good system. It is time to change the representation.