Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Place to Renew Your Spirit

   This weekend I attended a retreat organized by my church at our region’s camp and conference center, Loch Leven. I have been to Loch Leven as a camper many times throughout my childhood and youth, and last year I was able to be a counselor at Mini Camp for our youngest group of kids (2nd and 3rd grade). It has always been a special place for me, as well as for many other people.

This place is so special to me that I wanted to post pictures and a little (okay, BIG) advertisement on its behalf, in hopes that you might discover it and see for yourself how Loch Leven can help to renew your spirit.


Loch Leven is inside the San Bernardino National Forest, about 90 minutes away from Orange County (sometimes more than 2 hours when traffic is misbehaving). It’s not too far up the mountain, but far enough away from “normal life” that it is easy to forget how close “civilization” really is.


The first thing you’re likely to see is the main lodge, surrounded by breath-taking nature. At Loch Leven you get a little bit of everything: mountains, trees, grass, lots of dirt, a creek, trails, critters, wild animals and best of all – Peace. Though the highway is just down the road from Loch Leven, you don’t hear the traffic and noise. Just the soothing sounds of God’s creation.

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Below the main lodge is the meadow, where in the summer afternoons of church camp you’ll hear the squeal of children greeting each other and playing games. There are benches in the shade and a gazebo where small groups can get together for discussion or individuals can go for meditation or talks with God.

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The main lodge has an attached dining room, equipped with a fantastic staff who provides wholesome meals for retreats and camps. The dining room overlooks the meadow and mountains, providing a fabulous view of the sunset each night.


The gathering room, or lounge, in the main lodge is a great space for whole-group discussions, worship and fellowship.
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And of course, there are cabins and lodging for overnight, weekend and week-long retreats, all in close vicinity to the creek; no need to bring your white noise machine!
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And speaking of things you don’t need to bring: cell phones and alarm clocks! There’s hardly any cell coverage, which will help you to detach from the “real world,” and Loch Leven’s got you covered when it comes to waking you up or getting your attention:
This bell can be heard from all over the Loch Leven property and is used to wake you up in the morning, call you to meals, alert you to emergencies if any and can also be used to bring groups together for their gathering times. Little kids consider it a privilege to be allowed to ring the bell and are often given the chance as a reward for helpful behavior.

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There are many hiking opportunities at Loch Leven. Dirt trails that lead to benches and gazebos, bridges that lead to more lodging, meeting areas and the creek, and swinging bridges that just beckon you to cross to the more “woodsy” areas of the campground.

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Two favorite hiking destinations are Inspiration Point and Sam’s Peak. Both give you access to beautiful sunrises and amazing views, as well as time for personal reflection. Inspiration Point is accessible to any who enjoy a leisurely hike with minimal effort. Sam’s Peak is for those more adventurous and in good health. With the help of friends, I was able to climb up to Sam’s Peak in high school, despite having bad knees. I doubt I’ll be able to make the trek again. But it is a wonderful feeling, knowing that I was able to share that experience with my fellow campers. Being up on Inspiration Point and Sam’s Peak gives you a great view of the mountains and also reminds you of how far away (or close, depending on your perspective) you are from your normal life.
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For outdoor activities, there is a basketball court, a grass field and, of course, a pool! You’ve got to have something to help you cool off during those hot days of summer!
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My two favorite parts of Loch Leven are the nature and the fellowship.

Camp just isn’t “camp” without the laughter, tears, learning, sharing, growing and changing that happens in a group of people. The people you meet at summer and church camp can end up being your best friends. You may only see them once or twice a year, but when you do meet up again, it’s like you were never gone. They become your secret-keepers, your brothers and sisters, your teachers.
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And of course, the nature is just abundant and beautiful. Words can hardly describe, as is the same for pictures. I can hardly accomplish what a personal trip to Loch Leven will:
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I highly recommend you check out this beautiful oasis. It is a great place for company team-building retreats, church retreats, outdoor education programs, and much more. Renew your spirit. You can thank me later.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Conversation with a Kindergartener

I've already posted this on Facebook, but I had put it here.

I got this in an e-mail from my mom, who takes care of my daughter after school:

Em: Eddie taught me a new word that I didn’t know today.
Gma: (dreading answer) What word was that?
Em: Diarrhea
Gma: Do you know what that is?
Em: Loose poop.
Gma: Yup. How’d that come up in conversation?
Em: It’s “D” week!

Go letters of the week! Teaching kids the important stuff!

P.S. I love you, Em!

A Dream is a Wish

I've always wanted to believe that dreams were either your heart's desire being shown to you or true communication with God. But I find that my most vivid dreams come from eating a weird combination of foods or just dealing with stress. But wouldn't it be nice if the really good dreams were to come true?

I've had a few recurring dreams that are just so weird, they stick with me forever. I've had a few dreams "come true" in the sense that when I had a déjà vu moment, it was reminiscent of a dream I'd had before. I've had a recurring dream that I've interpreted as a psychological fear of being silenced or not being allowed to speak.

But I had a dream yesterday that was nice, fun and made me feel content. But upon reflection, I am horrified that I a) had the dream and b) enjoyed it. It is a dream that reflects a want on my part that, unless a major tragedy struck, would never come to be. And yet, I still want to go back to that dream, because it's easier to live in that fantasy than to admit to myself that it'll likely never become a reality. And there is nothing I can do to make that dream come true. It's out of my hands.

A wish is a prayer without a specific diety to whom you are directing the request. And when we wish for something, whether it's on a star, while pulling on a wishbone from a chicken, or when the clasp of a necklace has snuck to the front, it's usually something silly. Like a 5-year-old wishing for a pony even though she has nowhere to put it. But when we pray, more often than not, it's for something serious, like the strength to deal with an uncomfortable working/living situation, for healing, for comfort. Sometimes we pray just to remind ourself that God is always there for us. And I find it hard to pray for something that I know God is unlikely to give me. Because it's not God's way to give me what I want, but what God wants for me.

I do believe that God answers prayers, though we may not always hear the answer or the answer may not always reveal itself to us right away. And I believe that God does not answer every prayer in the way that we want. We will get an answer, just not always the answer we want. But when I focus on the answer that I want instead of the answer I'm likely to get, I don't hear an answer at all. And then I just keep praying for the same thing over and over again, refusing to accept the answer I'm getting. I might want 1+2 to equal 4, and I can keep insisting over and over again that 4 is the right answer, but God will always insist that 3 is the true answer, even if I'm being stubborn and choose to ignore God. The answer will always be 3.

It's easy to recite the Lord's Prayer: "Thy will be done..." but it's not always easy to truly believe that. When something isn't going the way we want it to, then it's not truly God's will we are seeking, but our own.

I wish that I could have as vivid a dream as Joseph had when God told him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt. I wish it because I don't think that it's a serious request on my part. Upon reflection, what I'm praying for seems to be more of a wish, something not serious enough to be worthy of a prayer to God. Even though it weighs heavily on my heart, I can't bring myself to pray to God about it. Because I know what the answer will be, and I know I won't like it.

So I think I'll just go back to dreaming. For dreams are wishes, not prayers.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Silent Night/The Sound of Silence

This morning around 3:20 my kidney woke me up (had to use the restroom). When I got back in bed, I realized that it was completely quiet. My daughter was sound asleep, my parents weren't snoring, the dogs were asleep, and my cat was waiting for me to lie back down so she could get comfortable. No trains going by, no helicopters flying overhead, no noises from the scrap metal plant across the river, the heater wasn't running. Just pure silence.

I actually stayed awake for a few minutes just enjoying the silence. It's rare that we get a repreive from all the sounds that fill our world. And even my brain was quiet; no thoughts of the next day or the weekend filled my head. Just silence. It was an amazing feeling, just embracing the stillness. Even when I try to pray or meditate, there's something in the background trying to break my concentration. But not this morning.

This morning was just a perfect moment of peace. If I didn't have to disturb myself with an alarm to force myself awake at the time again tomorrow, I'd try it. Perhaps it was meant to be a once-in-a-blue-moon experience, something I'm supposed to savor.

The moment didn't last too long; I fell asleep again just a few minutes later. But it was wonderful, refreshing, calming, clarifying. I highly recommend it.

My fearless child, friends and I on Tower of Terror at DCA

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