Sunday, June 19, 2005

Camp 'n Puke

Last Friday was a big day around here. First of all, it was my wife's birthday and second of all, it was our wedding anniversary -- but all that was put on hold. Not only did we have a Little League game to attend that night, but that morning I had to make the trek to church camp to pick up my 11 year old after a week on the spiritual mountaintop. Well, I'm not sure it was a spiritual mountaintop, but it's one week he looks forward to during the other 51. I'm just assuming a little spiritual content based on my own observations.

The trip to camp is a little over 90 minutes one way if you don't stop. However we always stop, much to my chargrin. Usually it's an ice cream diversion on the way back and a slowly-served and slowly-eaten fast food meal on the way there. Considering I'm usually hauling a couple of extra kids, this can get a bit expensive. On Friday I had precious few funds and the campers had just eaten so I decided to forego the traditional stop to save both time and money.

I had some extra passengers for this trip. My older son, who also is looking forward to a week at camp, wanted to tag along. Then my wife decided that I should also take the 3 year old, giving her time to get some work done at home with no kids to bother her. (Those of you who have kids understand this.) So I had three seats filled on the way down and picked up three campers -- one was my kid, the other two boys needed a ride home. The 11 year olds coming down from a camp high, a reserved 13 year old, a tired 3 year old and the driver, all ready for the trip to be done.

I made it past the usual ice cream and fast food stops without a lot of complaining. The toddler was asleep again -- unusual for her on one of these trips -- and the campers were busy recounting all the fun things they did over the past week. We were more than halfway home when I began to get a little worried about the little girl. The sleeping thing wasn't weighing heavy on my mind, but the lack of a "potty break" for her on this trip was haunting me. The only time I have to worry about "accidents" are when she sleeps for a long time, and she had been sleeping... well, a long time.

So my 13 year old woke her up and tried to encourage her to want a potty stop as I drove into a rest area. She refused the opportunity, claiming she didn't have to go, so I hit the highway again. About 7 miles later my oldest wanted the potty stop, so I decided we could take a quick break and I'd make sure everything and everyone was going to stay dry the rest of the way home.

After I pulled into the gas station parking area the boys all filed out, headed for the facilities. Meanwhile I got the girl unbuckled from her seat belt and picked up her half-sleeping body. She clung tightly to me as I whispered in her ear to wake up for a trip to the bathroom. As we stepped inside the door of the gas station, my darling three year old daughter looked at me through bleary eyes and said, "I'm sick."

I figured she was still to sleepy to know what she was saying. I was wrong.

I asked her if she felt like she had to throw up. She started to answer me. She got out one or two syllables before everything else got out. All over my shoulder. And my arm. And my shoes. And quite possibly a few other places. Still in shock but knowing this probably wasn't the last of it, I raced outside only to get another dose on my neck and back before I got her down to the sidewalk.

All the vomiting made my daughter feel better, of course. I cleaned her up pretty well as most of the mess was dripping from my shirt and not her new jeans. So, reeking of regurgitated apple juice, I loaded up the van and got everyone back home so that I could dash to the shower and cleanse myself of the previous hour. When I had finished, I was clean. The memory remains however; not unlike the memories which Satan keeping bringing to our attention of times in our past when we smelled of our sin. Thank God that His cleansing is effective and that we don't need to continue our regrets for long-forgiven sin.

Anyway, my son was home from camp with many stories to tell and a few that he's been a little shy about. But since it's not our first camp experience, I have a pretty good idea of most of what went on. I know he enjoyed it because he tells me he's ready to head back in about 51 more weeks.

Over at Wesley Blog a week or two ago, Shane had this great post about whether church should be more like church camp. Spiritual fire always seems stongest in a camp-type setting. As Shane posts, many find "church" dry and boring, especially after a mountaintop experience like camp (or Promise Keepers or a spiritual retreat or conference). But I don't think it's simply a matter of making Sunday worship more like camp. We can't climb to the top of the mountain consistently week after week and still have the same feeling afterward. We as Christians must grow from the mountaintop experiences and from the everyday, humdrum Christian walk on level ground. The trick is finding the excitement when camp is still 51 weeks away.

Lord, keep me growing on a long, familiar journey.

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