My AIM weekend

I had a terrific time. Here are some highlights:

I was on a great MPT, and it was a wonderful weekend, a time of spiritual renewal and a great time with old and new friends. But it was long, and tiring, and I’ve spent part of today over at my parents’ house with my sister and her kids — also a wonderful time. I’m pooped, and glad I don’t have to go in to work tomorrow. But I do have a lot to accomplish in the next couple of days: work on my sermon for Sunday, work on my lay speaking lesson for Wednesday, get ready for a radio interview I’m doing on Wednesday morning, and try to clean up the pigsty that is my apartment right now. Some vacation!

First day

Emotionally, I felt at times like I wasn’t contributing enough at the job site today — but I sure am tired this evening.

We were working on a very small trailer, and at times there just wasn’t enough room for everyone to be inside and busy. Early in the morning I took it upon myself to cut the linoleum for the bathroom, and I spent several hours after that worried that it would be wrong — and we know Mountain T.O.P. is trying to make the best use of materials this time of year, and another job site was waiting on the other half of our sheet of linoleum. Happily, it all worked out. I was very pleased.

Unfortunately, not everything in the bathroom was as successful. We had trouble re-connecting the3 sinks, and with a bad leak right at the time we had to leave we had no choice but to leave the water off at the job site. The woman for whom we were working was fine with that, but her son, not so much.

We had to rush back to camp, and I was scheduled to host a table for dinner tonight. I didn’t have time to shower before dinner– I just changed T-shirts and hoped I didn’t offend my guests too much.

Gail Drake and Frank Schroer were visitors at dinner tonight, and it was nice catching up with them. I sat next to Frank at dinner.

A quick note

I’m here at Camp Cumberland Pines in Altamont for my Mountain T.O.P. weekend. It’s a good group. I wound up on a team with Andy Borders from my church — normally, we try to keep too many from the same church from serving on a team together, but in this case it worked out. I think it’s a great team, and we have a lot on our plate for Friday and Saturday, including drywall and linoleum.

My learning disability

Mountain T.O.P.

Mountain T.O.P.

For the past few weeks, I’ve thought several times about Mountain T.O.P. Although it’s been less than a year since I rotated off the board, it’s been several years since I’ve been able to attend one of the summer Adults In Ministry camp weeks. They wind up falling right around the same time of the summer as my foreign mission trips. But I really miss Mountain T.O.P. and want to go back at some point.

Meanwhile, I had to cancel my plans to travel to North Carolina next weekend, but I held on to the vacation days. It will be good to have a few days off, but I didn’t want to just lay around the apartment for six days straight.

It plays out like a sitcom scene. I was just too stupid to put two and two together until yesterday, when it occurred to me that Mountain T.O.P. Adults In Ministry is having some of its fall weekend events this month. In fact, one of them will take place … next weekend.

Duh!

I’ve made last-minute arrangements to attend. Unfortunately, the fall weekend events are home repair-only; I won’t have the option of working with kids or teenagers from the Cumberland Mountains the way I do when I go during the summer. And you don’t get exactly the same experience from the long weekend that you do at one of our week-long camps. But it will be great to be back up on the mountain, in the unique Christian community that characterizes a Mountain T.O.P. event.

The AIM weekend will run from Thursday night through Sunday morning. So I’ll still have a few excess vacation days (most of Thursday and Sunday, all of Monday and Tuesday) in which to relax and perhaps to clean up my pathologically-filthy apartment.

There’s still time and room for any of you reading this to join us, if you’d like. More information is available at the web site.

End of an era?

I have served three separate four-year terms on the Mountain T.O.P. board, with one-year breaks in between: 1994-97, 1999-2002, and 2003-07. I’ve been secretary of the board much of that time. Tonight was the last board meeting of my current term.

It’s time for a break, and I wanted one. This has been an unusually difficult and stressful term; several years ago, the board was forced to make some gut-wrenching decisions that upended the ministry. During this term, the ministry relocated its offices from Nashville to Altamont, went through a near-complete changeover in staff, and reinvented itself in ways that have both taken it into the future and restored it to its roots.

Under the leadership of our new executive director, the Rev. Ed Simmons (and, boy, am I proud to have served on that search committee), the ministry has stabilized and is on the upswing. We are ending the year in the best financial shape I’ve ever seen as a board member.

As we discussed during tonight’s meeting, the very fact that our programming has been simplified and stabilized, coupled with the need to keep the ministry financially healthy, means that we need a board which is less active in programming and more active in fund-raising. And since fund-raising is my great weakness as a board member, maybe this is a good time for me to step aside, at least for now.

But I’m still a little melancholy about rotating off. I don’t plan to disappear; I am sure that the staff will still call on me for things like press releases, and I certainly plan to encourage them to do so. Because of my foreign mission trips, I’ve only been to Mountain T.O.P. as a camper once in the past three years, and I need to change that.

I’ll hopefully be going to the year-end party on Jan. 5, and they’ll probably say something about the departing board members at that time.

Our board meeting tonight was unusually festive — board member Sally Chambers invited us to have a dinner meeting at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Franklin, where she is youth minister. It was a great meal and a great way to celebrate the ending of a successful year.

And maybe, for me, the end of an era.

Hay hay on the hayride

My old Mountain T.O.P. friends Marijo and Allen Bond have a hayride and bonfire every year at their beautiful farm in Williamson County. I missed it last year, so I really wanted to go tonight.

Some years, Marijo and Allen are the only people I know, but this year there were several other folks whom I knew through Mountain T.O.P. One of them was a former board member whose day job is with a management company in Nashville. We were catching up and she asked me what I do when I’m not working at the paper. I eagerly started telling her about my NaNoWriMo novel, and we started talking about whether I intended to try to go back and rewrite and edit it after November. We discussed publish-on-demand solutions, in case maybe I just want to try to offer the novel to my friends and family or others in Shelbyville who are familiar with me through my mission trip stories for the newspaper.

At the end of the conversation, she told me that her company — which I associated with Christian music, and one well-known artist in particular — moved into the literary world a few years back. Perhaps she thinks I already knew that and was trying to pitch to her — I didn’t, and I wasn’t. She’s an old Mountain T.O.P. friend, and I was just glad to see her.

NaNoWriMo requires that you not really worry too much whether your novel turns out well or not while you’re writing, and the vast majority of people who think it would be fun to be a published author don’t have enough literary talent to write their way out of a paper bag. I am, no doubt, one of those people — although I’d hardly be human if I didn’t fantasize about it from time to time.

Foxes guarding the henhouse

My friend and fellow ORU alumnus Peter Smith has a terrific blog post pointing out that some of the university’s regents who will be investigating allegations against Richard Roberts are, themselves, sometimes accused of the same materialistic behavior.

Peter notes how many of the figures involved are not members of the Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability. One of my proudest moments as a Mountain T.O.P. board member was being a part of the board during the time when Mountain T.O.P. joined ECFA. ECFA’s rules are tough, and sometimes difficult to comply with, but at the end of the day you can look your donors in the eye and tell them what you are doing is above board and show them audits and documentation to prove it.

The World’s Largest Phone Booth



The World’s Largest Phone Booth

Originally uploaded by jicarney.

I had no way to upload my photos from camp, but this was the inspiration for my little poem earlier. It used to house a pay phone; now there’s a regular phone (I suppose for people to use with calling cards or collect calls). I got to Cumberland Pines early and some of the people I had hoped might be on the mountain weren’t, so I had a lot of time to kill this afternoon. It was a pleasant place to kill time, of course. I was sitting in the little shelter which houses the canteen, looking over at the “phone booth,” when I wrote the poem on a lark. (You can tell I’m not really a poet.)

Ode to the world’s largest phone booth

The roof is a little skewed
but so is everything else.
It doesn’t matter, really;
just a shelter for a phone
for teens on a mission.
They call home, excitedly
ablaze with God and new friends
in the overwrought drama of youth.
But smoldering beneath the flame
are embers
whose heat will remain
long after the flickering dance.
God watches over this wooden box
and all the lands around it
and He smiles at the calluses.

Closing celebration

After a quick stop by my parents’ home to feed the cat, I’m headed to Cumberland Pines for Mountain T.O.P.’s annual closing celebration. This event honors the college-age kids who have worked for us all summer (they leave for home tomorrow) and features a great slide show of all of the summer camps and activity. The programming isn’t until this evening, but they’ve encouraged everyone to come up early and spend the day in the county.