When We Were On Fire

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My Last Jumonville Summer

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My Last Jumonville Summer

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Trust and Obedience Landed Me in Hell

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Trust and Obedience Landed Me in Hell

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This morning Ree left the office with a headache. She left me a list of things to buy at Lowe’s. So I asked Andrew to come with me, and we took a maintenance truck down to Lowe’s. It was a very manly truck. It was very dirty, filled with random tools (which were also dirty) and the radio was set to an 80s rock station. Also, the speedometer didn’t work. We felt very manly indeed.

We arrived at Lowe’s, that awesome place where men go shopping. We walked in like we owned the place and headed over to the lumber section. We had to get a special big blue cart to carry our lumber. I found the 2x4s and 4x4s and 4x6s and the sheets of plywood. Andrew pushed the cart by himself. He said it made him feel manly. We got a lot of wood.

We checked out and I pulled the truck around, and we loaded it up. The bed was just the right size to load up with 4×8 sheets of plywood. It was almost as though it was designed for manly men like us to load our manly truck with wood. We attached a red flag to the back of the truck, and I told Andrew that I needed to blog about this experience and how manly it was. Continue reading

Kristen & Dave, Chapter 1 – An Intro

I love telling stories. I especially love telling true stories about love and such… but I’m not sure how to begin this one. I’m not sure how much backstory my readers will tolerate… but I’ll try to keep it entertaining. Some people say their fiction is personal; all stories are personal. Some say their stories are “based on a true story.” Every story is, at least the good ones. This one is true. And personal.

Jumonville, Summer 2010
Training had started. Life was breathless. I’d moved out of my apartment in Greensburg and taken the long exciting ride down south to Uniontown and driven up Jumonville road for the third time in my life and moved into Ree Enlow’s house about a week earlier. I’d shared a room with James Moran, one of my closest friends from before I had ever once visited Jumonville. Ree loved on us like we were the last people in the world she could love. For the second time in my life, I felt like I was breathing fresh mountain air after breathing deisel exhaust all my life. (The first time was Alaska with my Uncle John and Aunt Linda.) The lies about my value were fighting with everything they had, and for the first time since the breakup, the lies were facing violent opposition.

I eventually grew to love everyone on staff that summer… but this story is about something different then brotherly and sisterly love. In fact, the first time I told Kristen “I love you” was probably less than a few weeks after I met her. (I said the words “I love you” to everyone at Jumonville often.) Kristen asked me not to because those were words she only wanted to hear from her husband. I worried about that, prayed about it… and opted to explain that way I meant it wasn’t a romantic way and keep saying it.

I think the first time I knew there was something special about her was when I was facilitating the zip line multi-level. She didn’t seem scared; she just said “I love You, Jesus!” and slid off the platform. It made me pause and wonder. I knew then that her relationship with God was real. Her Jesus was a friend, not someone she believed in like some kids believe in Santa Claus.

One time, too, after we went prayer-walking, she came back especially crushed. (The whole story is here.) There was a woman Nate had seen in the spirit who had been raped, and Kristen had prayed for her. In that moment and in many others, I saw grace in her. I could tell that she got grace.

And then there were the Bible studies. I went along to them and was a brat. I mean, I tried to honestly answer the questions people asked, but there were legitimately times when I just hijacked the conversation and took it down a rabbit trail for no good reason. It was a biblical rabbit-trail, but a rabbit-trail nonetheless. But as the summer progressed, our conversations got deeper. We ended up talking about God for as much as an hour after everyone else left. I spoke passionately about how God loves us all the time no matter what, and when we don’t feel His love it’s because we’ve put up defenses against Him. I preached. And I left that night with a smile on my face because I had spent an hour alone with a girl and (1) there was nothing romantic going on, and (2) no one would suspect that there was! We were brother-and-sister.

I spent the whole summer telling myself lies like that. Continue reading

Creation Groans

I woke up this morning from a dream about being at Jumonville. Summer Staff 2011. And I realized that, come summer 2011, most of the people that I knew and loved from Summer 2009 won’t be there. The Beattys, Ree, Craig, Ashley Crago, and maybe David Orr will still be there… but Kristen will be gone (sort of)… Nate, Tyler, Brittany, Sara, Rob, Mike Nuss, Will, Carrie, James, Caitlin (both of the Caitlins)… and it stung. I could feel their absence at Jumonville already. I could see its emptiness without them there, and hear their voices and laughter in its silence. Even some of the friends I made during summer 2010 will be gone come next year. I think Nate’s gonna hurt the most, though, because he was more than a supervisor. He was the big brother I never had. I’m gonna miss him, especially while I’m making schedules and figuring out how to fix stuff… this time I’m going to be the improviser. We worked together all the time. …At least I’ll have another adventure staff I already know and love: Margo. And that’s a relief.

Then I remembered how it felt this year. I didn’t feel people’s absence as much because I was around other people I loved. And I don’t feel their absence so much now that I’m around still other people I love, here at school. And I realized that loving the people you’re with is really the only way around the holes left in your heart by the people you love who are now in the rear-view mirror. “New people” can never fill the holes created by those in the rear-view. They just create new holes. But in their presence, you forget the holes left by those in the rear-view. To love someone else is deeply is the only way to feel less hurt from the holes left by those who are gone. But it’s hard. Cynicism takes you hostage and lies to you.

Cynicism is one of the ugliest perversions of Imago Dei. We are made to love and be loved, but we grow instead to despise those made, like us, in His image and likeness, thinking that the ones we meet now aren’t as good as those we knew then. But everything changes. And in change, there is both the bad of sin’s corruption and the good holiness with which the world was made. Imago Dei and “very good” mesh together with fall and curse and sin. And the body and blood of Jesus is kneaded into the whole mix, generating hope – hope for a day when our glorious King will return in power and majesty and finally set all things right. But until that day comes, all creation groans with longing. The heavens and earth declare God’s glory, and at the same time the earth cries out for the return of the King.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Saints & Poets

“…I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed… Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every,every minute?”

“No. …The saints and poets, maybe they do some.”

-Our Town, Thornton Wilder, 1937

Right now, I’m sitting in the A/V office at Jumonville, surrounded by computer screens and enough video tapes to make a public library jealous. They’re all videos of camps, or most of them, but that’s beside the point. Alex’s iPod is plugged into the speakers and playing on low volume. It’d be louder, but it’s being drowned out by the two air conditioning units. My arch-nemesis, the Lacie 5Big network storage device, is turned off. And that’s how it will stay until I get around to calling tech support. Yeah, I’ve given up. Their stupid web site instructions for resetting the **** thing are useless. But let’s drop that.

Alex is sitting across from me staring in a very bored way at a screen. It’s Friday, at the end of a week with a lot of maintenance for adventure staff like me. My little sister came to camp, but she got sick Thursday morning and had to go home Thursday night.

I open the door to go downstairs. It’s 8:30 at night, but outside the A/V room, it’s still gotta be 90 degrees. Then I head into the main office. Ashley is sitting at the desk watching the office listening to “Lead Me To The Cross,” the new version that annoys the crap out of me, on K-Love over the internet. It keeps buffering. The song annoys me because of the line “rid me of myself, I belong to You.” I’m pretty sure God wants to HAVE us, not have us be rid of us. The song is spiritual-sounding, but theologically (not to mention logically) incorrect. I change that line when I sing it. …Strike K-Love. It She was playing it from myspace. But I digress. The reason I mentioned that was because, well, our internet here is pretty slow. But what do you expect on a mountaintop in the middle of the woods? We’re blessed to have T1 at all!

The longer I live, the more proofs I find of this fact: there is little inspiration to be found indoors. I go outside. It’s not as hot out here as just outside the A/V room.

It’s that awkward time between day and night. Peaceful. Probably my favorite time of day. You can see fine without the street lights still, but they’ve come on just the same. I sit down on the porch steps outside of Captain Webb and listen to the cicadas. They’re singing like there’s no tomorrow. Continue reading


The cabin’s name is Pine. I’m sitting on the porch, feet on the steps, feeling the cooling evening air and listening to the rumble of the occasional cars and motorcycles driving up and down Jumonville Road, the sounds of children’s voices in the distance, and the crickets and birds chirping in the woods. The air is fresh and clean-smelling, and moving slowly with the smallest bit of a chill in it. To my left, the sky is a rich shade of blue, and to my right, I can see for miles off of the mountain. The horizon line is all but obscured by the thick humidity, but where the earth embraces the sky through the green trees, almost black in the dusk, near where the sun is setting, I can see the large hills in the miles of Southwestern Pennsylvanian landscape. The ground is a dark shade of blue, and the sky above is a color I can’t describe that’s a gorgeous mix of blue and gray and reddish at the top. Almost purple-gray, but a very dark purple. Above that, the whispy clouds reflect purple and orange, and glow pink and white, giving way to a blue that is nearly white that fades to another blue above my head that is darker.

The street lights are coming on, one by one. I hear David Orr inside of Pine, playing a soft and breezy song on his guitar, a song I don’t recognize, but like. Now David’s singing mixes with the children’s voices, the crickets’ and birds’ song, the glorious but unassuming sunset that has now changed to a shade of orange-pink, and all join together in a sweet and mellow song of praise to their creator. And I am happy. Not excited-happy, but happy in a deeper way. Contented, perhaps, would be a better word.

The scent of a wood fire drifts across my nose as my fingers tap the keyboard of my netbook. A loud siren announces a fire somewhere in Uniontown. Inside, Mike Nuss is wondering where I’m at.

“Out here,” I yell.

“He’s outside,” Craig tells him. Mike stands beside me on the small concrete porch and admires the sunset.

“Yeah. I’ve been trying to capture it with words,” I say. Mike looks for a little longer, then goes back inside. I hear Craig suggest that our Taco Bell run should happen soon because the dining room there closes at ten. The back screen door of Pine bangs itself shut. I think Mike went out. And David Orr starts playing “How Great is Our God.”

The sunset’s shades are slipping. It’s now blue, dark pink, light pink, and white-blue. Craig comes out and comments on it. “I like the sky. Cool layers of… white and blue.” Then he goes back inside.

The door opens and closes again, and I feel an elbow on my head. David Orr says that as God’s beautiful, unrepeatable miracle, I also make a great elbow rest, then asks when my free minutes start. “Seven,” I tell him, and pull out my phone. Craig comes back out and sits on the pavement in front of me, staring down the hill and crunching on a lollipop, while David starts talking on the phone.

Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight… The first star just appeared over the treeline, and the lights of Uniontown are starting to twinkle off to the right. Mike joins us outside. “Finish your story, Dave Schell,” Mike says. I hit the save button and we head off to Taco Bell.