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 ). 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?

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.


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.


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.