*Disclaimer to all my PC friends, (politically correct): It’s okay. Really. My kids know I love them. I make a point of driving them crazy reminding them way too often.
Cast of Characters
Tom Sawyer—My 14 year old son
Lanky—Tom Sawyer’s friend
Frizz Head—My 17 year old daughter
Hippy Princess—Frizz Head’s friend
Einstein—21 year old friend of all
Me, Myself and I—Chauffeur, Commander in Chief, Referee, Chef, “Moomm!” and Scribe
Wednesday August 3rd, 2016
I’d hoped to leave on Tuesday for SoulFest, the annual Christian music festival held at Gunstock Mountain in New Hampshire. But that didn’t happen. So, I planned to leave by 8 AM on Wednesday morning. I shoved tents to sleep five kids and myself, a ton of books, my iPhone 4 as my journal and lots of unnecessary supplies into the limited space of our 2002 Toyota mini van, managing to slam the doors before anything fell out. Finally, we escaped at 10 AM, pulling onto the highway with the dashboard blinking like a Christmas tree, a missing hubcap and a screaming belt. Oh, did I mention the duct tape holding the back handle on? Or the hole my husband and son-in-law drilled and looped string through so we could open the trunk? It looks like a small tail swishing above the license plate. Not exactly traveling in style. Well, that’s one way to keep me humble—or make me cringe. But, it was all good! We were on our way to SoulFest 2016! Gotta keep my priorities straight.
The merciless 3 O’clock sun greeted us at our site. Good thing friends a few sites down came by to watch the show as we set up camp. Teen boys know everything about things they have never done before, but somehow, the same useless words spoken by “Moomm!” the know nothing nag, are received as great tips when coming from a male.
Mission accomplished, Lanky and Tom Sawyer ran up the face of the mountain, something I wouldn’t have attempted at half my age and weight—Which could explain why I’ve lived to be my age and why I’m not half my weight. Lanky took pictures of their testosterone driven, death defying antics at the summit and texted them to his mother. I’m not sure she will entrust him to my care again.
Thursday August 4th, 2016
“Brush your teeth.” I said. “Did you brush your teeth? Brush them! Or I will brush them for you!” There! That worked.
I made it to the Revival Stage in time for Jim Trick’s performance. Jim plays a mean guitar and with a voice like a lullaby, I could listen to him all day. “Jesus wants you to love yourself…” he said. “He wants you to love yourself just as you are…and it’s only then you will be able start to love others…”
What? I know the Bible says to deny myself and pick up my cross. But love myself? With all my flaws, struggles and sin? Okay; let me think about this.
“And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”” Mark 12:30-31 NKJV
As Christians, we ought to love what God loves and hate what God hates. When we hate what God loves, that’s a problem. If we hate ourselves, we are contradicting God. But we can’t love ourselves until we receive and grasp God’s love for us.
So, what does Biblical love for others and oneself look like? Love is an action, not an emotion. Love tends to the well-being of its object, has its best interest at heart. I believe it means accepting others and ourselves as we are, but don’t confuse this with frivolous indulgence or enabling sin. Jesus laid down his life out of His love for you and me. He calls us to Himself just as we are. Yes, He hates our sin and we should too. So, instead of making excuses for, or denying our sin and struggles, or self loathing because of them, we can give our lives to Him. He wants us to fall on His grace and let Him empower us. In Christ we are free to be loved, to love Him and love ourselves as Jesus works on us from the inside out. Loving myself means I must be jealous for my soul. Reading His Word and talking daily and honestly with Christ cultivates and nourishes our relationship.Who I allow to influence me, the music I listen to, what I read, is either drawing me toward or away from Jesus.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
I tried to hide my tears as God spoke to my heart. Maybe I would have a little more grace and not take it so personally if I remembered the reason people mistreat others is because of what’s broken in them. If I focus on their need for healing, the injustices I receive will be so much easier to bear. Pray, speak the truth in love, love them just as they are and let Jesus work on changing us .
It’s simple, really. Let his passions be my passions: righteousness, truth, the hearts and souls of mankind.
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV
“I love your poetry,” he said. I smiled. It blesses me to have the words God gave me in the True Love Pledge tent again. I just want God to use them to touch others for Him. Thanks, Pastor Decker. Praise God. And thanks for breaking and mending my heart with your words and for the hug I didn’t know I needed.
“Do you need prayer for anything?” she said. We stood in the shadow of the towering wooden cross that served as an altar, a call to Christ, in the middle of it all. I left some things I couldn’t change in the hands of The One who can.
Friday August 6th, 2016
Dan, we stood a few feet from each other by the stage as Matt Maher played. We looked at each other. I stood by the entrance to the Justice Center listening to you speak too. I was the one with the crazy curls and the Tattoo it on Your heart t-shirt. I’m part of your Street Team. People think I’m bold, but I’m actually shy. I have to put my brave on, but sometimes it takes me too long. I wanted to say hi, to thank you for all you do to make SoulFest happen.
Matthew West, you made my day when you preached and pulled an altar call. I took some heat a little while ago for saying that hosting Christian events and not having altar calls, creating a forum and providing an opportunity for salvation, is like having the cure for a dying man and telling him about it, but not offering it to him. I loved the testimony of Building 429’s band member, Jason Roy too.
I returned to our campsite to find Tom Sawyer brandishing bamboo skewers like sparklers as embers floated across the night sky toward our neighbors tent. But I’m the crazy one. And what part of, “Don’t bring food in the tent unless you want to room with a skunk or bear,” don’t they get?
It’s quiet in the bathhouse at midnight, a good time to shower. A canopy of stars lit the path through the rows of tents. In the stillness the earnest whisper of a young man explaining the Gospel to another floated on the cool night air. 🙂
Saturday August 5th, 2016
I stepped out of my tent as Hippy Princess, sitting cross legged on the ground beside the fire ring, reached for the bottle of lighter fluid and the matches. I seized them. My phone rang. “It’s going great!” I said. “Jesus is alive! I’m really saved—I haven’t sworn at anyone!”
Zealand worship played as I lay on the mountainside.
I let Your presence wash over me, Lord
I love you God.
I love to close my eyes and hear Your Name echo all around me
Like a balm
Solace for my soul.
The heat was a good advertisement for avoiding Hell. The angels in disguise worked at the iced tea stand. I found shelter in the Justice Center during Andrew Schwab’s talk on The War of Art. He confirmed everything God showed me and I had learned over the last several months as part of the Jerry Jenkin’s Writer’s Guild. Writing isn’t something I do; it’s in me. It’s who I am, what I’m called to. The war to push through doubt, procrastination, distraction and the spiritual battle is worth it, because when I do what God made me to do, I am honoring Him. When there is blessing and joy I will praise Him. And when there is pain I won’t waste that either; I let God use it purify me and bring His testimony to others. As I reach out to touch other’s lives through my writing, He heals me too. I pray and write myself through the joys, trials and pain.
Jesus promises us beauty for ashes; His strength is made perfect in our weakness. But first we have to let Him uncover our weaknesses and give Him the ashes.
We were told to take cover as a thunder storm bore down on us, but our bags were unattended mountainside on the other end of the venue from where I stood. Cue Chariots of Fire music, as I ran in the opposite direction as the crowd and heroically saved my daughter’s phone from its demise. Soaking wet, standing in the rain, I joined the crowd huddled by the True Love Tent and the cross. Someone started singing, and then we were all singing, “It is well. It is well, it is well with my soul.” It is well with my soul, even in the storm, as long as I keep the cross before me. You were right, Suzanne; I’m writing about it. This was one of my favorite moments at SoulFest.
The darkened mountainside came aglow as we each used our candle to light our neighbor’s. Rabbi Peter Oliveira singing the Aaronic Blessing, the hauntingly beautiful sound of the Shofar, “Shalom, shalom, shalom,” settled over us, as POD jammed out from the nearby ISO stage. We closed the night with the real Piano Man, Michael W Smith, leading us in worship songs.
My swollen feet ached and my chest was tight, but I didn’t take the shuttle. It is worth the walk, to walk with a friend whose words are full of wisdom and grace. She is a Proverbs 31 woman. She encourages my soul.
Sunday August 6th, 2016
As I headed back to my site to rouse the children and pack, I gave Ruby a card for my website. “Can I pray for you?” she said. Wow. What a prayer warrior. Good thing. I need it for the task ahead. I hope she’s still praying. Thank you Ruby.
We were one of the first to start breaking down camp. Tom Sawyer poked Frizz Head with the tent stakes until she finally punched him. Hard. Hippy Princess remained seated surveying the scene, sunglasses on, palms turned outward gently pressing the air away from her whenever asked to help. “Shh,” she said. Einstein finally awoke and sprang into action, straddling our minivan while securing two chairs, 4 duffel bags, two tents, a rug, and sleeping bags to the roof. We ignored the younger boys wrestling across the field, until we noticed Tom Sawyer using his phone as a weapon to get Lanky to release him from a headlock.
“I don’t care where the shadows or sun, or north and south are, Einstein! Just tell me whether to take a right or a left!” I said, as we pulled out of camp. We were one of the last to leave. It was a quiet ride, as Lanky and Tom Sawyer weren’t speaking to each other despite my mini sermon on forgiveness and Hell.
My husband and I pulled into the church parking lot simultaneously, him fresh from his Sunday afternoon nap, me returning from the 3 ½ hour trip that took 5 ½. The doors flung open, and kids and stuff spilled and scattered. I slowly hauled my body from our van to face my husband.
“Hello,” I said. “I hate your children.”
“Oh! I was wondering if you hated me for giving you children! What did they do to you?”
“You have no idea,” I said, bursting into uncontrollable laughter.
“She’s overtired. I think she needs to rest.” Frizz Head whispered nervously to Hippie Princess as they skittered away.
Wish I’d known hysterical laughter would get attention and concern from the motley crew; I would have employed the technique days earlier.
“Vacations are hard work,” my husband said. “That’s why I try to avoid them.”
I gave him a hard look as I yanked at an article of clothing, trying to extricate it from the luggage now melded into an immovable mass in the trunk.
“So, how’d it go? What happened?” he said.
“It’s like labor.” a friend said, laughing at my disheveled demeanor. “You’ll forget all about the hassles and go to SoulFest again next year!”
Because sometimes, I just need to see Jesus in someone else’s eyes who isn’t a part of my usual crowd. Because my son is happy running up mountainsides and hanging with the Word of Life crew for five days, with no electronic games. Because my daughter could be anywhere doing anything, but she loves singing worship songs by the bonfire into the wee hours of the morning. Because I want to put five nails in the cross. One for each of my children, and one for my husband and I because the two shall become one, and sometimes that’s hard. Sometimes we need to nail all that we are, all that we aren’t and should be, our hopes, our dreams, ourselves to the cross again. I’ll meet you at the cross, Pastor Deker. It’s good for our thirsty, world worn souls to be saturated with the Gospel served up a hundred different ways. And because I love to hear Jesus’ name echoing all around me.
See you next year SoulFest! I love you.
Packing List- SoulFest 2017, (Lord willing)
Case of Starbucks iced coffee
Drinkable Greek yogurt
iPhone as my journal
tattooitonyourheart.com © 2016 Rachael M Colby