From March 24-26, the Outreach Ministry and the Conflict Transformation Ministries of the North Carolina Conference invited Chaplain David Smith of the Soul Care Initiative to lead a retreat at Camp Rockfish for active and retired military plus their families. The theme of the retreat was “Refresh Your Soul”. I wrote this reflection after the retreat, and it was posted in the Soul Care E-newsletter.
I had planned to post the reflection in this season of Easter on this blog. Ironically, recent rains have again caused damage to homes, businesses, roads, and property in central and eastern North Carolina. This post is dedicated to those who find themselves having lost their moorings in the wake of yet another flood.
Rockfish used to have a lake in the center of camp. Camp Rockfish now has a river in the center of camp. What happened to the lake, you ask? Several months ago the private owner of the dam downstream decided that he no longer wanted to maintain the dam. He offered the ownership of the dam to the homeowner’s association that benefited from the large lake created by the dam.
When the homeowner’s association voted not to purchase the dam, the owner opened up the dam and drained the lake. All of the homeowners who had lakefront property had their docks and boats marooned. Camp Rockfish lost its lake.
Then came Hurricane Matthew. Camp Rockfish was square in the path of the hurricane. The storm dumped three to four months’ worth of rain in a twelve-hour period. What was a river running below bluffs of 20 feet or more in some places in camp became a lake once again. Then the lake overflowed its shoreline, creeping closer and closer to the cabins and the dining hall. Twenty feet past its banks the river crept. And then it stopped.
Slowly, the water began to recede. The dam was still open. Had the owner of the dam not opened it and drained the lake prior to Hurricane Matthew, Camp Rockfish would have been completely flooded, losing all of its cabins, its dining hall, and many other facilities to the floodwaters. The action of one man, meant for spite, became the unwitting salvation of Camp Rockfish.
We missed seeing the lake while we were at camp, however, the river was beautiful. White sands glistened along the banks and bluffs as we walked at the river’s edge, poking sticks in the sand, climbing over and around massive exposed tree roots, looking for beavers and fish. The swift current of the river caught and carried a football accidentally thrown beyond catching hands over the bluff into the water. A dad heroically braved early spring water temperature, wading in to retrieve the football before it was lost to the currents.
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall! Matthew 7:24 – 29
We closed our weekend at Camp Rockfish reflecting upon the text from the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus exhorts his listeners to follow all of the teachings he has set forth in what we call the “Sermon on the Mount.” I chose the Matthew text because we had seen at the river what would happen to a house built on sand. We sought to build our houses on the rock of Christ.
Ironically, what is sand other than pulverized rock? Sand is simply rock that has been reduced to minute particles by centuries, maybe even millennia, of wind and water. We may sometimes feel like the winds and waters of life beat against that which we thought was rock. The ground beneath our feet feels unstable, unsteady, easily changeable. Instead of standing on solid rock, we feel like we are standing on sinking sand.
If we dig far enough, if we persist through frustration and fatigue—taking time to rest, relying on God’s grace, we will eventually hit bedrock. While we were resting and relaxing at Camp Rockfish, a camp crew was hard at work rebuilding the walkway across the lake that had been destroyed by Hurricane Matthew. The rushing floodwaters and falling trees tore up piers and crashed through decking, leaving nothing salvageable. To rebuild the walkway and add two new covered pavilions, the work crew had sunk beams deep in to the sand, seeking the rock beneath the river bed. Soon enough, a sturdy new walkway will create a safe path over the water.
Before we left our time on retreat, we sang
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
May we all continue to build our lives on the rock of Christ.