Aloha Friday Message – May 25, 2007

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Welcome home

In 1956 when I was ten years old, I went to a summer Bible camp called Camp IdRaHaJe – which was an abbreviation of “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” Every year at the camp the closing session was around a campfire. We sang a lot of hymns and Gospel choruses, did a Bible study and had a short message about it, and usually had some time for testimonies – statements from the kids and/or counselors about what the week at camp had done for – or to – them.

That particular year, the closing session was about Fulltime Christian Service. We were invited to make a commitment to Christ as our personal Saviour as well as to commit to giving our lives to Him permanently to serve Him in any capacity He made known to us.

As part of that process we were told to spend the afternoon before the campfire reflecting on our lives and what we could do to make ourselves ready to serve Him without reserve. What could I let go of in my life that got in the way of my serving Him completely forever? Pretty heavy stuff for a ten-year-old, but then we were a church known for Bible study like Baptists (fundamentalist and evangelical), singing like Presbyterians (every verse and loud enough to shake the rafters) and good Five-Point Calvinists. So with a background like that, meditating on our mission and testimony for Christ was not out of reach.

As we spent time alone there on the mountain top at IdRaHaJe thinking about Jesus, the goal was to have a “Mountain top Experience.” And as we thought of things that we could do away with to help us conform our lives to Him, we were supposed to gather a little stick for each thing we thought of. The sticks would be bound together in a bundle and dropped into the bonfire at the end of the evening. There was also a slip of paper and – as I remember it – a small wooden “Treasure Chest.” We could write our name on the paper and put it in that box if we decided that Fulltime Christian Service was our “calling.”

I gathered my sticks, and felt they accurately represented me as I knew myself. I really don’t remember what the sticks represented, but that was the point. They were going to be gone as in “Down in the Depths of the Deepest Sea.” I was taking this whole thing pretty seriously. I felt His presence. I felt His touch. I felt Him looking at me, or rather into me, into my heart as we sang the Gospel chorus “Into My Heart.” I heard His calling in my heart – not audibly, but definitely a change of heart.

Some of the other kids sort of had the giggles or were horsing around, but for me, I knew this was a Holy moment, a real Mountain Top Experience. Jesus did not laugh. He waited to see what I would do. I know I was blushing when I dropped my sticks in the fire. I also foolishly dropped my slip of paper. He still didn’t laugh, nor did He scold. I just went forward and put my hand inside the box and symbolically put my heart where the paper should have gone. Then I went and sat down just outside the campfire circle.

My pulse was racing, my ears pounding, my breathing was rapid. As a severe asthmatic, I knew what was coming next; or at least I though I knew. To my surprise, I did not have an asthma attack that night, but I did wrestle with guilt for “faking” my commitment. Rev. Lutz, our Pastor, would know when he did not find my name in the box. He’d know I had lied. He’d know something was fishy.

And then, WHAM! I suddenly felt calm. I felt, or heard, or just somehow knew Jesus knew what had happened, and it was OK with Him. It has been OK ever since, and I have often struggled with my vocation to serve Him, but never abandoned it. I’ve had my desert experiences when my faith was dry and my outlook dark and yet I knew He would never release me from that commitment made on that night. But I have had many more Mountain Top Experiences even in the worst hours of my life. What a GOOD GOD we have!

This then is a poem I wrote about that night and why I burned myself for Christ’s sake. From the moment I was created, it was His plan for me to be His servant. Even before I really knew who He is, even before I really understood what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus, he knew me. He touched me and said, “Come on. Home is this way. Follow me.” And we went off that night together with Him here in my heart. I’m on my way home; it’s still a long way off, but we’re taking the road together. I am still not a worthy servant, or even a mediocre servant. I am however a joyful servant because I can gather sticks and cast them into the fire any time I want to. And the fire? It’s the same one that came to us at Pentecost – it is The Spirit who makes all things new.

Welcome home

I thought I felt you touch me.
It may have been my mistake,
or my desire, one.

No. I am sure now.
You did touch me,
but only with a glance.

It was outside
the campfire circle
a long time ago.

I burned myself that night
and you didn’t laugh.
You were the only one.

For Christ’s sake. Why?

I didn’t even know you then.
Only your name and
where you lived.

And now you want to live here
just because you touched me?
All right then. Welcome home.

We planned all this
way back when, but still,
that was a long time ago.

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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