springhillI spent a week at 5th and 6th grade camp.  I think I’ve done that almost every year since I WAS a 5th and 6th grader.

As I walked down the hill from my cabin last night, I could hear sponsors trying to call the kids to order; trying to herd those cats into their respective cages. And just like that, I was transported back to Spring Bluff.  The ringing of the bell meant it was time to head to the next thing.  And the flashlight of Brother Bill signaled how much trouble we were in for being out of our cabins!

Brother Bill – a true saint departed – roamed those grounds all night with his flashlight…sometimes masquerading as the pitching mound on the baseball field as the moon reflected from his rotund, white T-shirt clad midsection.  He roamed because he loved us.

Mitch and Cindy – our ‘parents’ in almost every sense of the word – allowed us each a small glimpse of a healthy happy family, whether we needed it or not.  They laughed with us.  They cried with us.  And now that I’m a youth pastor, I know how much they prayed for us.  They prayed because they loved us.

Larry, Julian, Burt, David, and 100 other partners in crime – my youth group ‘posse’ – tolerated, tortured, and sometimes teased….more than any of us ever should have.  And we listened to each other.  We listened because we loved.

And that small, round older lady – our ninja grandma whose name I cannot recall but whose face I still see clearly – made us clean our own tables, do the dishes again if we did a bad job, threatened us with a wooden spoon when we needed it, and treated every condition we ever had with water, band-aids, patience and a fierce kindness.  She bossed because she loved.

I don’t remember a single camp theme.  I no longer have any of the awards I got (not even Mr. Underpants…or whatever it was.)  I can’t even remember how many times I went to church camp as a kid.  What I do remember?  Those people loved me.  THEY changed my life forever.  Because they loved me.  And when you spend a week at camp, you become a lover who changes lives.  Never forget the role you play…it can rewrite legacies.

emptypool2So I got some smack talk today for letting my blog sit silent for too long.  Maybe some of you haven’t been hipped to the latest developments in the Sutton Saga.

We moved!  In May, I accepted a ministry opportunity with Cornerstone Church in Chandler, AZ (near Phoenix.)  We watched our oldest son graduate from high school in Texas, my wife quit her job, my kids had multiple ‘good-bye parties’, my senior went to prom, we packed our entire house, left about 1/3 of it on our front porch for scavengers when it wouldn’t fit in the moving truck, and moved to Phoenix in the summer…where our air conditioner didn’t work, none of the hardware for our furniture made the trip, and me and my three sons left for high school camp 14 hours away after two days of not living in our non-air-conditioned house.

And that’s only the half of it.

 

Here’s the truth.  Transitions are hard – it doesn’t matter how smooth or heinous they are.

 

You have students that are about to LEAP into transition head first, possibly with little to no water in the pool.  You can’t stop it – they’re already off the springboard.  Maybe they’re headed off to college.  Possibly their folks are separating.  Or someone has died.  They’re sprinting into rehab, but dragging their feet the whole way.  Perhaps they’re just moving into your high school ministry from junior high.

It doesn’t matter which diving board they’ve leapt from – they’re in the air and concrete awaits their re-acquaintance with gravity.  What do you do?

First, recognize that a crash is imminent.  You can’t handle that disaster alone.  Call in reinforcements.  Find caring adults who will join you in loving and caring for kids in crisis –or transition – you say tomato….

Next, have some first aid readily available.  Take a few of those kids out for a coke.  Have some verses at the ready and write them down on this thing we call a notecard.  Send them some encouragement in a non-traditional, unexpected way.

Finally, remind them that seasons of transition don’t last forever.  Pools get refilled with water and they become fun again.  Just like those weird glasses that turn into sunglasses that go back to being real glasses…adjustment comes.  Light filters back in. Everyone sees more clearly.

Don’t run the risk of thinking ‘well now that they’ve hit the bottom of the pool, it’s over.’  No – it’s not.  Transition takes time.  It’s painful.  It can be revisited.  And, if ignored, it can be deadly.  You’re the life guard.