Thursday, December 30, 2010

TOS: Happy Birthday to Jesus

The Ongoing Story (From a monthly contact sent to Bethany Birches Camp supporters)

Earlier this year I wrote about format.  Specifically, I noted that format was central to what we're allowed to do.  For example, if you live in a house instead of a gym, you can't play volleyball very well at home.  But, you probably can decorate more easily.  Or, a more realistic illustration; If you're married with kids, you aren't going to go on as many ski trips with the buddies (or beach vacations with the girls).  Your family (the format of community you live in) determines that you will most likely go skiing or to the beach with them.

While format dictates, for the most part, what we are able to do in a broad sense, it doesn't tell us what to do within it.  I've been thinking a lot about that lately.  What got me thinking about this was our recent Teen Connect which is part of ourwinter camp program.  Amber was reviewing the schedule for me and it sounded a lot like all of our other teen programs.  Fear struck me (don't you love when fear strikes?).  What if this a boring weekend?  What if no one comes?  What if the kids come like they always do and get tired of it because it's always the same thing?

As we talked, I realized that the people she'd lined up were excellent.  The beds were nearly full, our speaker, Scott Hackman, would surely connect with them and what could be better than friends who love to be together, getting together?!  It was fine.  Good even.  The weekend went so well that I kept feeling a bit ashamed of my earlier fears and doubts.

So clearly, our format (that hasn't changed in a number of years) was fine.  So what went right?  Why did no one think the same format was boring?  Content!  We all enjoyed the weekend because of the content - what was done within the given format (which brings me to an important lesson I learned when I was dancing down an isle in a play in 5th grade and fell down then got back up - life is almost always what we make it. We can stay down or we can get back up).  There were two key components to the content of our weekend:
  1. Effort (that we put in)
  2. Spirit (of God that moved)
This seems consistent with what I know of Jesus and his call for us to follow him.  We must put forth effort - think Jesus staying up all night to pray.  Think Jesus inviting us to give up everything to follow him.  Think disciples making ongoing errors in thinking and behavior and flat-out disobedience yet their willingness to keep following a man who appeared to most to be crazy.  All these things took effort.

Now, think miracles.  Think belief inspiring events.  Think teacher, who though he is part of a different realm, agrees to work within the format of this realm (human body, normal methods of teaching which included having a handful of students that followed him around and learned from him and whom he mentored).  Think the unbelievable (for most people) story of the Christ.  All this is Spirit of God stuff.

And that's how the weekend was.  There was effort.  There was spirit of God.  What a great combo.  And to think that Creator of Heaven and Earth would allow us the opportunity to put forth effort to shape our future (this would be a boring place if what we couldn't impact happenings).  And how equally great that this creator would give us authority to invite Spirit  and sometimes send Spirit even when we don't extend the invite, simply because we need it or because Creator wanted to (how boring a place this would be if the creator of it didn't make anything happen... just left us alone).

What's the point?  I'm not completely sure.  I know we have choices about our format (though we can't easily create a different place than earth to live on, we can choose  to live in a house, shed, boat or street).  And, within the formats we choose, we can choose a whole bunch more things.  We can choose to put forth effort and invite God's spirit to join us.  We can choose to love our family or hate them. We can choose to seek our hearts desires or someone else's desire for us.  We can choose to be brave or cowardly.  While there are prices to be paid for all of our choices, we have the choice!  I suppose for me, the point, or question I keep asking is, how will I make the best choices?  

The answer I've come to is around this person and living spirit of Jesus.  I believe that he will show me a way forward, through the formats and content of my life.  I believe that though I may pay a high cost to join him, it's a price worth paying.  I believe he will lead me to the peace I want.  To the love I seek.  To the acceptance I long for.  

Join me in taking the opportunity of Christmas to offer thanks and gratitude for Jesus' leadership in life and in the Kingdom.  Join me in looking for a way to create content on the 25th or the 26th or any time really, that is the content of Good News.  Like God, we are creators.

I pray you will glimpse this awkward man, Jesus and especially the continuation of his Spirit. Merry Christmas and happy creating!


Saturday, October 9, 2010

If you want to walk on water...

Just because Peter failed, doesn't mean humans will fail always...

More on the topic:


Update on 10/11/10:
Too good to be true, apparently:

Friday, September 10, 2010

It's been a while!

Well, it's been quite some time since either Cheeks or myself wrote here.  And, I'm not going to write today.  I'm simply going to post some pictures. 

Bergey Family Vacay Bests

Mom, let me know if there is anything else I can do with this, for you.


Sunday, May 9, 2010


It's been snowing around here!

Take this picture for example... April 21, 2010, we woke up to a few inches of snow.

Then, this morning, May 9, we woke up to a tiny bit of snow.  And I'm seeing occasional flurries.  


Living in the mountains is fun.  I just can't understand why people without modern methods of heat would have chose the mountains!


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Creation - Creator - Dishes

I just posted a few thoughts from my time in New Hamburg at Hidden Acres while at a conference.  What is below went out to a lot of friends today from camp and I thought I'd post here too:

I've spent this week in New Hamburg, Ontario at Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp.  I've been having a blast!

I have also experienced two wondrous creations of God and humanity.  Two disciplined teachers.  One is named Bryan Moyer Suderman of 
Small Tall Music and the other is named Tom Yoder Neufeld(yes, it seems the Canadian Mennonites really like taking on their spouses name and then going by all three (first, middle, last). 
Both of these men have been speaking truth.  While truth is very interesting, I want to tell you about what I found at Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp this past week.

I found a community of humanity and adventure.  Have you ever gained a deeper vision for how to live simply by being together with a group of friends?  That's what I felt this past week.  Hidden Acres is utilizing some good practice in environmental stewardship.  For example, they recently built a new retreat center.  It cost them more than $1 Million to put up.  After having it, their electricity bill went from $16,000 to $18,000 - that's only $2,000 more/year!  Part of it is because they don't have a dishwasher in the whole facility & a lot of it is because of the extreme insulation and geothermal heat.

The lack of dishwasher adds to another one of their distinctives.  We were able to form a special community together over the week in part because we all took turns washing dishes after meals.  Work tends to bring people together.  Our community forming happened also through taking off our shoes!  They encourage people to take off their shoes when they enter a building and put on their slippers.  We all brought slippers because they told us to.  This keeps things clean, requiring less time and energy on the vacuum (and floor buffing and new floors later down the road).

You see, not only do these quirky, unique ideas help us build relationships and shared experiences, they represent an alternative way to live.  Let's think about the dish washing.  They have two, three-bay sinks.  So, there were six of us washing dishes (two drying and two wiping down tables and floors).  Those six bays were filled once or twice depending on how dirty the plates were (2-3 gallons/sink = 12-18 gallons).  I expect a dishwasher would use more water than this old-fashioned method and definitely more electricity for the 60 place settings we were washing each meal (especially when you consider that most of the heat for the hot water comes from the heat of the earth!).

So the alternative route in this case is saving us energy and water and giving us a reason to talk, an experience to share while cutting down on consumption of resources.  We don't think that way right now.  We tend to evaluate processes based on their efficiency of time (or resulting cash profit).  Which is good.  But, can we think about our use of resources in more ways than just how much time it saves? For example, we drive a car, alone from our house to work when there might be a bus or train.  And we'll say, sure, it might consume less resources to take the train that is already running but I have to get their early or, I don't want to be restricted by the schedule of the bus.  What if we could email on our laptop or read through that report etc. while we were on the train or bus?  What if you could catch up on your voicemails or podcasts while in transit.  It's very well used time then, no longer wasted.

Sometimes I have driven from my house to camp a few times in a day.  I've done this to "save time."  Then later in the day, I'll go home and work out like I try to do at least four times/week... go for a run, lift weights, something like that.  Interestingly, I could have walked 3 miles already if I had just walked from my house to the office rather than driving.  My exercise would already be done and I wouldn't have used an extra gallon of gas in the process of getting to and from work. 

Going back to the dishwasher - when it was my turn to wash the dishes, I had mixed emotions... in part because I wanted to still be sitting at the table sipping coffee, in part because I wanted to be reading my email.  Interestingly, when I was done washing the dishes (10 minutes later) I was energized from a conversation I had and the joy of working together with friends.  I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down and tore through a few emails and then went on to the evening session.  I'm not sure I would have been as efficient in my emailing or even got up from sipping my coffee had I not been put into this unique system of washing dishes. 

And here is what I suppose we will have to become comfortable with if we are to give ourselves over to something that seems as contrary as washing dishes at a retreat - the mystery of change.  If we could bring ourselves to engage in new ways of living that were more friendly to creation, would we find more energy and savings in other places (my energy to zip through emails)?  Would we find more connection to the creation and maybe even the Creator?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Truth (while having a blast with Mennonite Camping)

I've spent this week in New Hamburg, Ontario at Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp.  I've been having a blast!

I have also experienced two wonderous creations of God and humanity.  Two disciplined teachers.  One is named Bryan Moyer Suderman of Small Tall Music and the other is named Tom Yoder Neufeld (yes, it seems the Canadian Mennonites really like taking on their spouses name and then going by all three (first, middle, last). 

Both of these men have been speaking truth.  For more about truth...

I've been thinking about truth.  It feels like something that causes clarity and belonging.  Many times we are taught (or teach) doctrine & confuse it with truth.  Doctrine is the child of truth and tradition and only retains it's heritage as it allows it's parents to continue to inform it.  And, this morning, this wonderful parent, truth, got up to speak to us camping folks through Tom.

You will know when truth is present because, among other things, it empowers you to know something.  And sometimes, that something will be called heretical by others.  Maybe because it's threatening to our doctrine.  Maybe because if we allow this truth to influence us, it means change.  For example: this morning, I was reminded that God changes his methods and ways to allow us to become one with him.  We know this is true because he first adopted a group called the Israelites.  They thought they were the only group that God was interested in.  Eventually, God adopted a new group of children that were referred to as Gentiles.  And then on top of it, what was known as the "law" (set of rules and ways to please God) got added to and changed... instead of one set of behaviors, it became a new set of behaviors (sort of like moving from a suggested speed limit to cars governing their own speed).

So, you can imagine that it was hard for the Jews, an only child, to accept another sibling into the family.  And it might have been even harder to accept this new law, this more internal law.  It seems that it is equally as hard for Christians to accept God's love for his non-Christian children.  I wonder if we would live differently if we understood God's love for all his children.  I wonder if we would be able to join in this strange, scandelous acceptance if we allowed the truth that God loves everyone.  Can we become the new creation Christ is inviting us to become?  

Some of you might be thinking that if God loves everyone, everyone will go to heaven.  First, that isn't our focus (whether this one or that one are in or out - we already know which ones are in or out - the ones who feed the hungry and cloth the naked or don't - Matt: 25:32-45).  As long as we are bound to caring about the final destination, we miss out on the current destination (that's a whole other issue - why we want to care about the present and the present destination).  Secondly, I don't believe that.  God loving everyone doesn't mean everyone will respond to that love and seek God.  So again, we see the importance of truth and the role it plays in our transformation and capacity to love.

OK, switching abruptly back to this other creation named Bryan (I have to switch abruptly because in re-reading the above, I realized that what I wrote doesn't connect well and, I don't have time to add more thoughts and re-write - I'm at work and I've got to get a move on!)... you've heard of Community Sustained Agriculture (CSM)?  He has a CSM as well.  And his music is absolutely delightful.  If you get a chance, give it a listen.  

P.S. - I understand now why people curl.  It's fun!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Prosperity Gospel

A friend of mine recently wrote and said "We should talk about this. this is seriously messed up stuff."

I responded with this:

Dude, it's funny you find this article.  I read this a month ago or so.  Isn't it really rediculous?  I mean, I just don't understand what Bible people are reading.  I think about Solomon - God told him he could have anything he wanted.  Solomon asked for wisdom so that he could govern well the people he was made King over. God said that he would also give him riches and good stuff because his heart was set on truth and the benefit of others.  Jesus didn't have a house - "...The son of Man has no place to lay his head."  The Israelites, God's chosen people, were originally slaves, then were forced to walk through the desert for 40 years with nothing but a pilar of fire and a cloud and a crazy man leading them.  They got bread to eat almost the entire time... not much else.  When a rich man asked Jesus what he had to do to follow him, Jesus told him that he should sell his stuff, give the money to the poor then follow him.

God has made many promised of prosperity and well-being to those who follow him - namely life to the full.  But, rarely has God promised material wealth and most of the time, God has rejected it.  So, I just don't really get this prosperity gospel... it certainly isn't in the Christian Bible... I have read it on every page of the American Bible though.

What do you think?



Monday, March 1, 2010

Bethany Birches Camp's Winter Family Fun Day

A friend of camp recently posted some info on his blog about his time at Winter Family Fun Day including some video he took.

Check it out - Bethany Birches Family Fun Day

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sightings of the Kingdomof Heaven

This past week, I traveled to EMU, Goshen and USI.  Cheeks joined me at Goshen and USI.  We made this trip to catch up with a bunch of our past staff and to find some new folks to join the BBC Family.  It was a great trip.  Though it involved a lot of traveling, it also included some Kingdom sightings.

Kingdom sightings are times, moments, experiences when one has felt or seen the Kingdom of God.  If you don't know what the Kingdom of God is, read through Matthew 13.  You could also listen to this podcast to get a better idea.


p.s. if you don't do the podcasting thing (see the right hand side of screen for instructions) you can just download the audio by right clicking here

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A good read on world wealth distribution

Cheeks and I often talk about resources and how we use them. I've always been fascinated by the way that resources are split up among people across the globe. This study is enlightening regarding global wealth distribution:

And if you are discouraged after reading that, check this out:


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bobcat Snow Camp at Bethany Birches Camp 2010

What fun it is to get together with a bunch of kids in the name of Jesus and have a blast!

Mt. Washington no longer host of fastest wind speed

A friend of mine recently clued me in to the fact that the famous Mt. Washington (famous because it's the highest peak in the North Eastern US, famous for it's Tuckerman Ravine, famous for it's great skiing and ice climbing, famous for it's views and hiking and especially famous for being home of the world's worst weather) no longer boasts the world's fastest recorded wind speed.  Bummer.

Well, the mountain of our first president still has lots of great features!


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Are those Amish people?

This morning I came across this website - - pretty cool site.  I was reading this article when I came across this video of Mennonites singing in a NYC subway station.  Classic 20th century Menno evangelism....


Sunday, January 10, 2010


Click here for all sorts of pictures from parts of our lives