words to build a life on

this was a weird week. i never know what to expect when i head to youthfront for a week of camp, but this year was unusual. while i have had to leave camp a couple times, including once to deal with a busted phone, i have never left camp overnight during a week i was a cabin leader. but then, deaths in a family don’t often happen at a convenient time.

last friday night, rene’s grandpa passed away at the age of 95 years, 11 months. when he was born, the sinking of the titanic was still fresh news. he lived through both world wars, the great depression, the korean war, the vietnam war, the rise and fall of communism, assassinations and attempts on multiple presidents and public figures, a presidential resignation and an impeachment, and the nonsense of y2k. what impressed me the most about his 95+ years on this globe was that he was a committed follower of Jesus most of his life, and a member of the same country church for 75 years. (average attendance last sunday was 32 – up from 26 last year.) we left camp on tuesday night and drove out to brewster, 35 miles from the colorado border, by way of a quick stop in manhattan to see my sister before she heads to grad school in boston in a few weeks. we also borrowed my mom’s prius – that was pretty cool, especially driving in it past the wind farm west of salina.

you have never heard the gospel preached quite like it is in a church that seats 100 people.

i turned right back around to head back to camp after the service and rene stayed another day with her family, returning friday morning to camp. the six hour drive flew by, and i was gripped by what i had seen in the brief celebration of grandpa troy’s life. the pastor used the bible troy had read for all those years, reading passages that he had underlined or otherwise been drawn to. you have never heard the gospel preached quite like it is in a church that seats 100 people, and it was one of his wishes that it be so when we gathered to remember him. i could barely keep singing “victory in Jesus” at the close of the service; it was one of the first hymns i learned as a new believer.

when i pulled up to camp, stopping only to heed nature’s call and grab food to eat while driving, the kids were just coming out of their evening gathering and were headed to cabin discussion time. i shared with my group of 6th grade boys the impact the service had on me, and the amazing testimony of a life lived on the foundation of God’s word. in fact, one of the central themes of the week was building a solid foundation for life.

on tuesday, kids read the parable of the wise and foolish builders, then created actual concrete foundation pieces as a cabin (complete with decorations ranging from gravel and shiny stones to coins, plastic flatware, and even gummy bears). on that foundation, kids were also challenged to live out their faith by incarnating the love the good samaritan showed, meeting tangible needs using what you have been given á la “feeding of the five thousand,” and finally to “trade up” – giving up whatever you hold dear for God’s kingdom plan.

i had a great group of boys, and the week went really well, both with and without me. what does that say? i was thrilled that, for the first time in several years, i had no injuries more serious than a banged shin while trying to get to our campfire in the dark. that can partly be attributed, i think, to a much more sensible stance on issues like pranks, bullying, and roughhousing, both on my part and campwide. we also had some really cool discussions, including the notion of the “boy code” under which guys are supposed to act tough and maybe funny, but not vulnerable or compassionate. (i have guest articles forthcoming on a couple youth ministry sites about roughhousing as well as the boy code – i’ll link to them when they publish.)

i think the think that really captures the spirit of the week for me, though, is the return of a worship song i hadn’t sung for quite a few years. “words to build a life on” is some of the most brilliantly written lyrics i have ever heard. i quote a few lines below, but you should see troy hochstetler’s blog, where you can see the full lyrics, listen to the song, and buy it on itunes or get the cd itself.

these are words to build a life on
these are Your words how can they be mine
these are words to build a life on
these are Your words I want them to be mine

blessed are the poor
blessed are the weak
blessed are the ones
who can barely speak

blessed in your hurt
blessed in your pain
blessed when your teardrops
are falling down like rain

blessed when you’re heartbroke
blessed when you’re fired
blessed when you’re choked up
blessed when you’re tired

blessed when the plans
that you so carefully laid
end up in the junkyard
with all the trash you made

blessed when you’re put down
because of Me you’re dissed
because of Me you’re kicked out
they take you off their list

so bring out all the flavor
in the feast of this My world
and light up all the colors
let the banner be unfurled

shout it from the rooftops
let the trumpets ring
sing your freaking lungs out
Jesus Christ is King!

Jesus is my Savior
Jesus is divine
Jesus is my answer
Jesus is my life

yes, that actually is only part of the song. i love these lyrics, written by mike crawford at jacob’s well church in kansas city, because they address nearly any difficulty, disappointment, or heartbreak one could experience, and they draw you over and over to the truth that the words of God are the foundation for a life well lived. a life like grandpa troy’s.

i needed this week, and i wouldn’t trade it for anything. i needed to be with rene and her family in their moments of mourning and grief, i needed to see my family if only for a night, and i needed to be with the kids at camp. i have no idea what the rhythm of my life is going to look like for the foreseeable future. my new job will have a huge effect on how i spend my days (and nights). i hate the thought of having to miss meeting with the youth group, but given the bigger picture, i am trusting God’s good plans for me.

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About andrew burden

andrew blogs about being a volunteer youth leader, teacher, video editor, husband, friend, child of God
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