On April 4, 2005, I started on an eight-month journey as Director of Timberline Ranch that has lasted fifteen years, to date. How the years have gone by!
I was young and inexperienced in camp directing. Although I had been in numerous leadership positions and had spent many years in camp ministries, this role was very new to me, and I had little idea what I was about to face. Yet I believed in camp ministry and wanted to make a difference that truly mattered.
My wife Leanne and I had been married for nine years, and our kids, Ben and Lorelle, were six and four. We initially said "no" to the position, as it made no sense to move our family to Maple Ridge for eight months, and I had little experience with horses. But as we prayed, we believed that to be obedient we needed to go.
Little did we understand that we were moving into a battleground, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. In the months prior to our arrival, there had been some firings and some resignations, and the staff was rather divided. Some were very welcoming, while others seemed to resent our coming. That first year, especially, was one of the hardest of my life.
I would be lying to say that these past fifteen years have been easy. Then again, worthwhile ministry is never easy. Until you are responsible for a large organization like Timberline, I don’t think you can comprehend the daily challenges that arise, seemingly out of nowhere. There never seemed to be an important decision I made that wasn’t scrutinized, and my "true" motivations for my actions were often called into question. At one point, it was even rumoured that I was planning to sell all the horses!
If people only knew the sleepless nights and dreaded days I spent agonizing, praying, and working on their behalf and for the betterment of Timberline, perhaps they would have been gentler. It is so easy to stand back and throw stones instead of becoming part of the solution. Yet looking back, I realize that, by far, most people were very supportive and encouraging. They were serving here for the right reasons, and I am so thankful for them. Unfortunately, the hurts seem to stick deeper in our memories. My physical health limitations and chronic illness (Crohn’s disease) were additional challenges.
Perhaps the worst part of being a leader is the constant self-doubts we face. So many times, in the face of criticism, I believed that I was inadequate for the job, that I had failed, that I had said or done something wrong. In leadership, our flaws always come to the forefront, and I know my own faults far better than anyone. I spent my first few years afraid that I simply wasn’t good enough, that sooner or later I would be found out for the “fraud” I was, pretending I could handle this position.
There were always things that came up that we didn’t expect. Some were funny (then or later), and some are still not so funny! I think back on canoeing over fields and roads during major flooding, close encounters with bears, three robberies in a row, a fire in the Lodge, unexpected visits from police, health inspectors, and the SPCA, dramatic rescues by the fire department, a shooting on property, raccoons in the Lodge, an onsite ex-staffer who refused to leave for two months, horses getting loose and running down the road, a squirrel in our fireplace (just last week), a guest group leader who refused to pay, horses stuck in the ditch, being yelled at by parents, medical emergencies, and even now, laying off most of our staff due to a deadly virus. I used to wonder, "What next?" Now I don't want to know until it happens!
God is in control. He is building this ministry! I also received great solace from 1 Corinthians 15:58.
"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,
because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."
So, Leanne and I gave ourselves fully to the work of the Lord – she mostly with the kids, and me mostly with the day to day work of directing a camp. Because of God’s faithfulness and goodness, our labours have seen much fruit. Thousands of children come every summer and throughout the year, and so many have their lives transformed by the gospel and by the love and acceptance they find with our outstanding staff. But even beyond these campers, what excites me the most is the staff members, many just volunteers, who come through our programs, and I have the privilege to be part of the significant growth and development they experience.
Fifteen years is like a lifetime in ministry. These years have been so very rich, probably because they have been so very hard. I have seen my own children grow up, involved in ministry first-hand. Now in Bible College, they have no illusions that ministry is easy or just for fun, and I hope they will see clearly why Leanne and I have given our lives to this work and the impact we have been able to have over these years.
Most of the struggle and pains of ministry do fade with time. As I take a little time to reminisce, what comes to my mind is all the faces. Some names have faded from my memory, but I see the faces of those who have stood with us, side by side, on this battleground, year after year. Some were here for a short time but have made their mark. Others have persevered for so much longer. But I will remember and love these people forever, and more importantly, their work at Timberline has not been in vain! Their service to the Lord will last throughout eternity.
Being a wise father, full of great ideas and advice, I suggested, hey, why not just come early and devote that time to prayer and meditation on God’s Word?
Well, I’m proud of my kids. They weathered the storm, avoided the temptation of skipping out, and came with us at the wee hour of 8:05 a.m. Then they went to Tim Horton’s while we set up for the service. Great problem solving wins the day.
But it all made me think – what do we do when there’s a cost involved in worshiping God?
The cynical part of me says, well, David, you’re the king and very rich, so did it really cost you anything? But the point is, he could have taken the gift, the easy way out and his right as king, but instead he understood that doing so would have been anything but worshipful.
Should worship cost us nothing? Somehow, we have gotten the idea in our collective church mind that worship needs to be convenient and easy. We bend over backwards to find times for services and programs that fit most people’s schedules. And if people are too busy or too lazy to get up for Sunday service (when the early church met in celebration of Christ’s resurrection), we’ll make sure there’s a Saturday evening service as well. It makes sense, and some people are required to work on Sunday.
Can’t live without coffee? No problem, we’ll provide it – and cup holders – in our comfy theatre seating. And since it’s unbearable to commit two or three hours on a Sunday morning, we’ll cancel the “Sunday school hour” and just make it part of the service. Sunday evening services? Not a chance. No one will come, so we’ll cancel those as well. Early morning prayer times? Not likely!
At the root of true worship is sacrifice, giving the best we have back to God. This includes our treasures and talents, yes, but also our time. If we want to be less busy and feel less busy, slowing down and making time for worship (and Sabbath) is perhaps the key. I think of those multitudes in other countries who must walk hours to attend a church service that lasts most of the day, or others who have to worship in hiding to avoid arrest. Hopefully they understand that their efforts to honour God in these ways are every bit as much “worship” – or more – than the songs they may sing when they finally get together.
If we only worship God when it’s convenient or enjoyable, we need to ask ourselves if we’re truly worshipping. As David implied, if it costs me nothing, it’s not worship. What is our worship today or this week? How am I seeking to honour the One who paid it all for me on the cross?
And maybe choosing to go to church an hour and a half early out of love for God – maybe that’s worship, too. I don’t know for sure, but I do think it’s time we get another car.
1. I need sleep. I work hard all week, and for the sake of my health, sanity, and effectiveness, I need a time to sleep in. If I’m going to be useful to God throughout the week, I need my rest.
2. It seems irrelevant. My pastor is nice and generally has great things to say, but I can usually hear better sermons online, in the comfort of my home.
3. I don’t like the music. I'm just not a big fan of "worship music," and sometimes the lyrics make me cringe. Sometimes I don’t feel like singing, and if I do, it’s usually not those songs.
4. I can’t stand small talk. Every time I go to church, I have to talk to people I don’t know (and may not even like), and I don’t know what to say after about four seconds.
7. The church is full of hypocrites. I want to spend my time with people who are genuine, not with people who expect me to dress and act a certain way.
8. The church needs to do more than just meet and talk. Bible study is good, but the church should be out in the community making a difference, not just providing a “holy huddle.”Many of us have had thoughts like these before, and there is an element of truth in each one. I admit I’ve personally struggled with my attitude toward attending church many times.
And yet . . . I still go. Pretty much every single week. Why? Let me give you eleven things I consider:
1. The above reasons are all about "me." When I think in those ways, my presupposition is that the church is there for me, as a consumer, to choose or not choose, depending on how I feel. Yet Jesus has clearly called me to live for Him and for others, not for myself.
4. I exist to serve, not to be served. I am called to use my spiritual gifts for the benefit of the body of Christ. The local church needs all the gifts to be exercised for the purpose of reaching people with the Good News and for helping believers to grow and be encouraged in their faith.
5. Nothing I own is mine. Financial giving is an essential part of my worship. Hopefully, my church will be good stewards of God’s resources, but regardless, by giving to a local church and supporting its ministry, I’m obeying God and demonstrating that it all belongs to Him.
6. A sermon does not have to amaze me or entertain me to feed me. My pastor is studying the Word of God and praying that God will use it in our hearts. If I submit to God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will apply those words to my life. And then I need to choose to obey them in the days to come. We learn and grow best in community.
7. The church is not a building, but the gathering of God’s people. It’s convenient to have a church building, but the church exists wherever God’s people gather together to worship, serve, disciple, and spread the Good News of Jesus. By myself, I can never be the church.
8. Jesus came to save hypocrites. Are there some hypocrites among us? There certainly are! And I’m one of them. But if I wait until I’m perfect before I take my place among other believers, I’m going to be waiting a very long time. Let’s gather together as redeemed, recovering hypocrites.
11. The local church needs me. The people there need my gifts, my encouragement, and my presence. When I choose to stay home, no one fulfills the role that God has given me. If any part of the body ceases to function, the whole body is disabled.So, here’s “the thing,” I’m not called to “go to church.” I’m called to “be the church,” which is a much higher calling.
Part of being the church is gathering together with other believers, giving my best to God as worship to Him. This often includes singing, but more importantly, it includes giving my “treasures” and my God-given abilities to help others.
As a follower of Jesus, a “Christian,” I am part of His Body, His Bride, and I need to give up my likes and dislikes, my preferences, my pride, and my laziness, and go be part of that Church He gave His life for.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Cherish her, and she will exalt you;
embrace her, and she will honor you.
She will give you a garland to grace your head
and present you with a glorious crown.”
~ Proverbs 4:7-9
We live in an age when information is highly valued. Even in social circles, being able to spout off trivial facts has often impressed the masses. Never before has information been so readily accessible.
I was in high school when computers finally became portable enough to purchase. In grade ten, I was rather impressed when our computer lab bought three new Apple 2+ computers, bringing the total up to four (!) for the whole school, and I was able to take a computer programming course that year (in BASIC, of course). In my second year of college (1987), I was able to purchase a Korean-made Apple 2e clone, and suddenly my life was transformed! Actually, my teachers’ lives were transformed, as they could finally read my papers, which until then had been hand-written.
This was, of course, before the internet was much of a thing, but it wasn’t long before you could purchase an entire Encarta encyclopedia on disk for your computer! Now, instead of hauling 30-40 volumes around, I could access all that information and more on just a few “floppy disks.” Even better, the information was updated yearly, so we didn’t have to rely on encyclopedias that had been written in the 1970s. This was the early 1990s, and we were so advanced!
Of course, with the internet, which I first enjoyed at the end of 1993 (before the World Wide Web was well established), everything has changed again. In fact, I am amazed today that I don’t even have to look most things up. “Hey, Siri, what’s the population of London?” “As of 2016, the population of London was 8,787,892.” Instant knowledge! Why would I memorize anything ever again?
Indeed, as a culture, we know so much, but is that necessarily good? Consider the knowledge of how to construct a nuclear bomb. That knowledge inevitably led to the destruction of two Japanese cities, the Cold War, and a world on the brink of destroying itself. Other knowledge has led to new weapons of mass destruction and ways of fighting wars never before considered. Yet research and information have also led to break-throughs in medicines, treatments, and procedures that can save lives and improve standards of living.
It has been said, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” which implies that if you have enough knowledge, you will “know” enough to do the right thing with the knowledge you have. Yet that has never proven true. Knowledge does not equal wisdom.
Therein lies the problem with knowledge. It has no capacity to tell us what is “right” or “good.” Knowledge is amoral, which means it, in itself, cannot provide the “right or wrong” aspect of a decision. You might “know” that your words may hurt someone, but that knowledge does not help you decide to hold your tongue in that moment. Wisdom wants to step in and say, “Stop!” You may know how babies are made and how to prevent conception with birth control, but that knowledge does not tell you whether or not you should become sexually active before you are married.
Those of us who drive are responsible to make decisions that do not endanger lives. Each one of us, prior to driving on our own, is trained to follow the laws and control our vehicle carefully and safely. Then why do we see so many people driving so dangerously, speeding, texting while driving, weaving in and out of traffic, and so on? I hear people talking about these issues on the radio, and there is usually a cry for “better driver education!” But dangerous drivers rarely lack knowledge of how to drive safely. They may in fact be very skilled drivers. However, they choose to endanger people through a lack of wisdom. They are making poor choices.
Education and knowledge do not solve our most basic problems. They don’t make people kind or considerate or obedient or helpful. How many times do I see a need, know how to meet it, but choose to do what I want for myself instead? To my shame, more often than I should.
To obtain wisdom and become wise, we need to be immersed in wisdom. This means regularly listening to wise people and spending time studying the Word of God. If we surround ourselves with fools, we will certainly become foolish. If we spend more time immersed in social media and television than in God’s Word, we will think the thoughts of the people writing what we read and watch. But if we are immersed in the wisdom of the One who created all things, we will learn to think His thoughts.
Finally, we see in Proverbs 4:8-9 that wisdom, when obtained, when embraced, will bring honor. Why honor? Because wisdom leads us in paths that control our behavior and help us choose to do what is right and good. In other words, we become people of good moral character.
There is nothing better to seek after than wisdom. Knowledge has its place, but don’t be a “smart fool.” Get wisdom and watch your life being transformed with the character that God wants for you.
Craig W. Douglas
I used to think writing a book was just for authors.
Since I clearly wasn’t an author, I obviously couldn’t write a book. Yet as I write this blog, there is a book with my name on it sitting on the desk next to me. It is somewhat baffling.
Writing a book has been an interesting journey. I went into it with no idea what it would take or if I could do it. Growing up, I read a lot, and I suppose from the time I first read an adventure story, I wondered if I could ever write a book. However, my older sister was "the writer," and I was more into sports and "mathy" kinds of things. She went on to become an excellent journalist, editor, and author, while I went on to become . . . a camp director.
For several years, I’ve believed that I probably had two or three books in me, waiting patiently to find their way out. But as a camp director, living onsite, and raising a couple of children, there was never the time nor the energy to start. As I neared fifty years of age, something in my biological clock hit a strange chord, and I realized that if I was ever going to write a book, it had better be soon. Was this the start of my mid-life crisis? Of course not!
Graciously, in 2016, my board agreed to give me a three-month Sabbatical, and I spent the first seven weeks gallivanting across Europe with my wife, son, and daughter, clearing out the cobwebs of my mind, and gaining new perspectives and revitalization. The last five weeks I spent mostly away from my family at my mother’s place in Victoria, walking, praying, listening to sermons, and . . . writing.
I decided my first attempt at writing a book should probably be about something of which I had considerable knowledge, so I chose to write about Christian camp leadership. Realizing that there were other fine books on the subject, and having taught leadership training to young people for many years, I decided to take a different approach than was popular. I chose to tell a story about camp leaders, interjecting learning points along the way.
I think it was both a good and a bad idea to write it half as a novel. The good of it is that it makes it more readable and accessible to my target audience. The bad of it is that it increased the difficulty considerably, which was perhaps a little ambitious for my first book. Writing fiction is much harder than non-fiction, and tying it in with leadership training proved to be a huge undertaking. I felt a little like a figure skater adding quad jumps to my program before I was consistently able to land a triple. The ice is every bit as hard as one would expect, and some of my spills have been spectacular.
However, I thoroughly enjoyed those days of writing, and by the end of my Sabbatical, I had written over 20,000 words, or about a third of the book, and I had a strong outline for the rest. It was a productive time, as I had also managed to write a couple of songs, walk a couple of hundred kilometers, reacquaint with old friends, and generally get my spiritual, physical, and emotional health back to a good place.
Things were immediately busy when I got back home and to work, of course, and I had to mostly leave the book untouched for the next month and a half, which was somewhat discouraging. Also on the discouraging side was a chance meeting with an old friend who was an author. I mentioned to him that I was writing a book and told him how far I had progressed, but he seemed uninterested and informed me that I was about 5% of the way. What I heard from his body language (probably not what he meant) was that I really hadn’t accomplished anything yet. I think he was trying to help my face the realities of the job ahead of me, but it wasn’t necessarily what I needed or wanted to hear at that moment.
Technically, regarding the time it takes to produce a book (especially a first book), he probably wasn’t far from the mark. I would say that the actual writing of the first draft of a book is the easiest and most enjoyable part of the project. The endless editing and revising, the formatting, the waiting to hear back from first readers – all these things would prove to be consuming in terms of time and energy. However, like any project, getting started can be a big struggle, so I had in fact accomplished something significant.
I think the hardest thing for most would-be authors (I’ve been in contact with many) is the discouragement that easily sets in. Many have likened it to the long process of having a baby: the months of hope and the intense pains of labor that seem to never end. I suppose it is like anything one creates. There is this constant fear that others won’t love your work, that it isn’t good enough, that all your efforts have been wasted. There is a fear of rejection that is hard to get past.
I have gone through a rollercoaster of feelings on this project. Sending my early draft out for people to read was truly terrifying. Some genuinely loved it, and I felt so rewarded to hear their comments, while others had no use for it whatsoever. Some of the criticisms from people I respect were hard to take, yet I constantly tried to swallow my pride, listen, and learn from what they were saying. My final manuscript has reflected this, but it was hard. It has also been difficult and time-consuming to send it off to people who just never got around to reading it. I realize that their lives are busy, but a number of people somewhat close to me said they would read it and never did. Worse was my suspicion that maybe they did read it, hated it, and did not get back to me because they wanted to spare my feelings!
The book is done and ready to be marketed. This is probably the worst part for me. On the one hand, I believe that it will be very useful for camp workers, so I want to get it into their hands. But on the other hand, I fear the bad reviews and nasty comments that will come from others. There is also the whole part of having to put myself “out there” as an author. I don’t seek accolades; I simply want to help young people become the best leaders they can be. Yet everything I read talks about what I need to do as an author, such as a website, presence in social media, blogs, book-launch parties, and so on. Honestly, I sincerely don’t want it to be about me. If the book is any good at all, I want the praise to go to my heavenly Father who enabled me to do this.
Indeed, writing books is only for authors, yet by the act of writing, I have somehow become an author. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m a good author, but I am learning lots, and I hope to continue to improve. I am so thankful for everyone who has helped me get as far as I have, especially my lovely wife, Leanne, who has helped considerably with the editing and formatting. It has been a long journey, but it has been worthwhile. If you are an author, if you want to become an author, or if you enjoyed reading about my journey into writing, feel free to comment below. If I can somehow help or encourage you in your journey, feel free to contact me at any time. God bless.
Craig W. Douglas