Wednesday, August 24, 2011

That Where We Are, There He Also Is

A week ago yesterday I was partying and sharing my heart for orphans with my fellow campers at Camp Veritas 2011. Last year, I blogged rather extensively about how much Camp Veritas means to me- you can find those posts in the tab above titled "Camp Veritas."

Without doing a 7-part novel to talk about every story, fond memory, and fantastic person I got to meet, I can safely say it was another fantastic year at Veritas.

As I went through the week enjoying a place of sanctuary with people that passionately love the Lord and want to live for Him, John 14:1-4 ran through my mind.“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

It's hard to leave a place where you feel God so apparently. We pray hard, play hard, and love each other deeply. For the first 48 hours, it poured rain. It rarely if ever stopped. Most groups of teens would have been done then and there. And yet we were playing slip and slide in the puddles and remaining energetic during Mass and Praise and Worship. Then once the sun finally showed itself, we were all even more energetic! Nothing broke us. We never surrendered. And on top of it, we praised our God through it all.

I gave my talk on orphan care Wednesday. The days before, while hardly lost, flew by as I prayed my heart out for guidance and protection from God and the Holy Spirit. By the time my talk was done Wednesday night, the week was already half over. and the second half of the week flew by. Needless to say come Saturday Morning, we were all in tears at the thought of parting. Even Ryan Young, director and founder of the whole event, was a little misty-eyed. We were tight with each other, with our camp, with our God. None of us wanted to leave. 

In the days that followed our departure from camp, we all connected via Facebook and social networking, talking even more about our experience and how much it had changed us, and all of us still missed it. Withdrawal it was indeed. 

As the week had drawn to a close, all of our counselors, priests, and religious encouraged us to be God's light in our own worlds. To not forget the passion, happiness, and energy a week of being with our Lord so intimately had given us. And at the time, in our complete happiness, it had seemed easy.

But now that it was put into action, it wasn't so easy. Where was that feeling of completion, of deep communion with God? We all tried our best to be our best- but we all relied on each other for support. 

Then, as I thought about all we had been taught, what we had felt, another scripture came to mind- the one that ends ALL the Gospels. All four of them. In some wording, they all lead to the same message: "Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20) 

Sometimes I think we get so wrapped up in how what we're experiencing at the time affects our relationship with God. We can believe we need all the stops just to really know what it's like to be with Him, in full majesty, glory, and awesomeness. 

But Jesus didn't just promise we'd be able to go where He went. He promised He'd be where we go.

Camp Veritas 2011 Slideshow from Caleb Lococo on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Different Duty Calling

 Today was the first time in months that  I got a chance to play my family's Wii console. So when my turn came around, my first choice was one of my favorite games: Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest. It's a classic Lord of the Rings fare: Riding your trusty steed through the lands of Middle Earth, fending off the powers of darkness with your magical elven sword. Lots of fun, for sure. Heroic deeds battling the dark, evil foes, it's good stuff. But as I played through a few levels, the fun ,while it didn't diminish, took on a far more somber tone for me.

I've played many of the popular First-Person Shooters that dominate the charts these days: the Halo franchise, Call of Duty, etc. While I don't own them (nor will I ever) I admit that they're VERY realistic, well-crafted, addicting games. The designers who came up with them are clearly not wanting for money, seeing as their concepts have grossed millions of dollars and hit record-breaking sale rates.

But as I play through many video games, whether it be running across an alien world in Halo or riding through Middle Earth on Horseback, I can't help but wonder what message games like these are implanting in the minds of their players. In virtual worlds where killing is not only survival but achievement, and the finness with which you do it can give you extra points, it's no wonder that in many way's we're a culture that is constantly pushing the envelope with the level of violence and graphic material we expose ourselves to. Most of the best-seller games on the market today not only promote heavy violence, but graphic content in other areas as well.

I was watching a clip of Mark Hall, lead singer of Casting Crowns, talking about being a youth pastor at his church. He was saying how he often gets asked about different music, what's good and bad to listen to, etc. His response was that it doesn't really matter how "not bad" something is, because it really matters what messages you're putting into your head. And if we as Christians are trying to lead a life of sanctity and purity, we shouldn't be consuming media that's dragging us into the life we're leaving behind.

Only to compound this, I couldn't help but think of all of the brave men and women in our military forces, serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. For them, horrific battles aren't a recreational activity to play on their flat-screens. It's their job. And in stead of getting "achievement points" for the lives they might claim in battle, they're haunted by them, maybe for the rest of their lives. So while many in my generation would run onto a computer-generated battlefield fearlessly and pull the virtual trigger without a second thought, men and women only a few years older than we have to fight on a real battlefield across the sea and muster an almost super-human amount of courage to fight for their very lives.

As I look at the real-life applications these games are presenting, I feel called to a different duty than to fight for endless hours on a virtual battleground that is far more realistic than it needs to be. I feel the call to have a clean mind free of the images, language, and other raw materials that these games bombard you with. That, in my humble opinion, is a far more valiant duty to be called to.