It was the summer of 2008 and I was one of the adult leaders at our yearly Jr. High summer camp. Camp was nestled in the majestic redwoods of Northern California just off Bohemian Highway. The location isn’t important but I like the word Bohemian and as the word implies, camp was a bit unconventional that year. In the least, it wasn’t what I had expected or experienced in the past. Perhaps, the only expectation I should have had was that God would be present, which He was, in more ways than one.
Things were going well. I enjoyed hanging out with the girls from my cabin. We enjoyed archery, zip-lining, the forest tree walk, well, they enjoyed that I watched and sharing our meals together. Then came Wednesday afternoon and that’s when things got a bit dicey.
All the Youth Pastors and camp counselors were in the afternoon briefing, preparing for the evening session of speakers and worship music. Wednesday night at camp was always my favorite. It was an evening filled with energy and the tangible, free flowing presence of Holy Spirit. It was also the time when the students would be asked if they were feeling led to ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. I was anticipating all this, when the keynote speaker became a bit stumped to the logistics of how this would play out. Normally, anyone who felt led to proclaim Jesus is invited up to the front for prayer, hugs, and high fives (pre-pandemic), but this year we were at max capacity and it was hard to move around.
From the front, yes the front, guess who raised her hand and asked what I thought was an ingenious question? “Why don’t we just let Holy Spirit move?” I couldn’t have anticipated what happened next. The keynote speaker, a Pastor to Youth Pastors, looked at me and said, most disparagingly, “Just let the Holy Spirit move?,” as if I had just asked the most offensive and scandalous question he had ever heard. One could hear the proverbial pin drop.
Holding back my emotions, I made it through the rest of the meeting, and quickly made my way to the exit, ran to my cabin, grabbed my Bible and headed to the quiet stillness of a small stream. I sat by the stream, opened my Bible and began to read, letting the truth of God’s word flow over me, around me and through me. As the tears came I asked God why this had happened, why did this man who professed to believe in Jesus mock what I said about Holy Spirit. Very gently, I heard God speak to my heart, he wasn’t mocking you, he was mocking Me. Huh? How could that be? How could someone who claims to loves Jesus mock Him?
As Holy Spirit soothed and comforted me I felt steady enough to join everyone in the dining hall for dinner. As it turned out, logistics didn’t matter that night, Holy Spirit did what Holy Spirit does, He moved freely and powerfully that Wednesday night. I don’t remember how many students made their way up front but the picture of a multitude of them is forever seared in my mind.
Friday was the last day of camp, after lunch we would pack up and board the buses waiting to bring us home. The closing message was before lunch and the keynote speaker was delivering. During the message I felt God, again speak to me heart. He asked me to go up to the speaker and let him know I enjoyed sitting under his teaching. Lord, did I just hear you correctly? Silence. Okay Lord, if that is what you want please create the opportunity. He did and I obeyed.
I may never know why this Pastor reacted the way he did. Maybe it was his theology, maybe it was pride, or, maybe his heart and soul needed to let go of wounds from his childhood. Only God knows. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter, I forgave him a long time ago. As I read today’s verses, I was transported back to this memory. As I reflect back I realize God allowed me to feel reviled so I could also be a blessing.
It is never easy to bless, endure and speak kindly when we are being persecuted, yet, that is exactly what we are called to do. Why? To share the love of Jesus, who was reviled, persecuted and slandered. Love sent Him to the cross so you and I can endure through Him.
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