The sound of the small rubber wheels racing down the cool asphalt penetrated my unconsciousness like thunder on a clear day. I turned over slowly without opening my eyes denying that morning had already arrived. When chatter filled the air just outside my bedroom window, I realized my internal alarm clock had failed me yet again. Throwing my sheets to the floor, I enthusiastically scrambled out of bed the way teenagers do only when on break from school.
In the blink of an eye I was outside lacing up my roller blades, regretting that I had missed nearly fifteen minutes of riveting neighborhood gossip. I rolled myself into the bunch and quickly joined in the twaddle. When the sun was high in the Hawaiian sky, we changed into swim suits and hit the beach. I spread my towel onto the hot sand and coconut oil onto my fair skin. I relished every second of my summer freedom.
As the sun disappeared behind the horizon, I headed home to find mom annoyed that I was late for dinner. A quick apology got me off the hook as I sat down to enjoy her famous beef stew.
“So, just one more week and it’s back to school,” said mom with inappropriate cheer.
“Yep,” I said as I thought about all the fun I would pack into my final days of summer.
“Well, I got a call from Aunty Geri today and she’s invited you to join your cousins at church camp this weekend…would you like to go?” she asked.
I stared blankly for a moment. Did she have any idea what she was asking me to give up? With my eyes fixed squarely on mom, I simply said “yes” because I knew the question was nothing more than rhetorical.
On Friday I packed my duffle bag and headed to Camp Timberline for a Christian summer camp for teens. Although I felt absolutely robbed of my last three days of summer bliss, I put on a game face and decided to make the best of it.
Camp Timberline offered rustic cabins, super cool youth leaders and teens that were surprisingly fun to hang out with it. On the first day, we swam in the pool and played dodge ball. Pastor Art conducted service shortly after dinner.
On the second day of camp, it started to get a bit uncomfortable. A church-going Catholic, I knew I loved God; however, at this camp we talked about having a daily relationship with Him, living our lives for Him and making a personal decision to accept Jesus Christ into our hearts.
Guilt pangs caught me by surprise as I comprehended the shallowness of my life. I knew that I didn’t think much about God between Sunday services, unless a teen crisis propelled me into an impromptu prayer request. My “good works” really didn’t extend beyond…well, myself.
By the end of day two, the fun-loving camp leaders by day turned into compelling preachers by night with probing questions that boggled my young mind:
Q: When was the last time you thanked God for the goodness in your life?
A: I think it was last Christmas.
Q: When was the last time you shared your love for Jesus with a friend?
A: That would be never.
Q: Did you know that you are a sinner by nature?
A: Now that explained a lot!
Q: If you died tomorrow, are you certain you would go to heaven?
A: What kind of question was that?
It was getting heavy, for sure.
On Sunday afternoon, Pastor Art appeared as a mere shadow against the backdrop of a glorious sunset during our final service. At the end of his message, he looked into the sea of teenage faces and asked, “Are ready to make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life? Are you ready to live His plan for your life?”
I stared blankly for a moment. Did he have any idea what he was asking me to give up? With my heart fixed squarely on Jesus, I simply said “yes” knowing that the question was anything but rhetorical.
I opened my heart to the Lord and invited Him to dwell inside of me. Since that day 35 years ago, I’ve relished every second of that eternal summer decision.
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