Nicholas R. Wimmer

My first meeting

Before there was anything here at camp, we built a Yurt (yert). It’s a round, tent-like structure that was for all intensive purposes- Camp Headquarters… and it was the place where I first encountered Jerry. I say encountered, not met, because if you know Jerry, every meeting is an encounter.

Jerry is in his 60’s and before he was a camp director like myself he worked with his hands- plumbing, electrical, carpentry, etc. He still does some construction work but most of the work he’s done with me has been “re”-construction. Our first meeting was in the yurt with our contractor at the time- Dave and the matriarch to Canaan- Aana Lisa; it was 2008.

The introduction and quick tour of the soon to be camp was simple and harmless. Then we all piled in the yurt around a table and that’s when everything changed. Jerry began to speak. Now he had asked a few questions along the tour. He praised God for the beauty of the island, the vision and the children that would soon be served here, etc. But it wasn’t until he started sharing with us about the high calling of Christian camping and the impact that camp has on human hearts that I knew things were different with him.

Jerry would not like the fact that I’m spending so much time hemming and hawing about him- “Get to the point- get to the crux of it all,” he would say. “It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s all about Him- every single bit of it.” His words echoed off the plywood floor that day and ricochet into my heart. Up until that point, I had become accustomed to “bear all things” for the cause of Christ- especially Camp Canaan- the fruit of many years of labor.

I didn’t think it was about me. To the contrary, the very reason Tiffany and I and Aana Lisa were here, why we’d passed on job opportunities, accrued debt, taken risks and moved to Rock Hill was all in pursuit of this dream that “could be”. It wasn’t about us or for us- we were doing it in response to his calling. To be a part of something so much bigger than ourselves. Something that would be a resource and a blessing to many for years to come. It wasn’t about me… was it?

Later Jerry taught me something profound that I can reference now- actually two things: what we do and how we do them are two totally different things- action and motive. The 2nd principle he taught me since that first meeting is that you never know how to interpret what your doing when your in it but you can see clearly when you look back and “remember” and God gives you insight (hindsight is 20/20 as my Dad says).

I can remember many moments in that first encounter with Jerry, but the one that jolted me was that “it’s not about me”. Those words can do two things to a person- fortify a defense or soften a heart. They did the later for me and changed the course of my ministry and life forever. What proceeded from that encounter I hope to capture in a series of dialogues that Jerry and I have exchanged through e-mail, phone calls and trips to Starbucks. Most of the entries will be directly from Jerry (limited editing) with my response and reflections following.

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Surprise!

I’ve come to think that life holds few surprises. It’s not a sitcom. There aren’t new twists every 10 minutes (with commercial breaks). But it’s also not an encyclopedia of dates, facts and achievements. It’s passionately moderate. It’s sustained unpredictability.

I have been surprised a few times- really surprised. I find that it is vital to human existence. To our story. May you be surprised and find hope in what you see.

Dearest Nannie

Every person plants seeds. Some are very intentional and others are merely by accident. Nannie planted many seeds in her lifetime. Seeds of hope, seeds of change, seeds of humor and wit and wisdom.
She planted many seeds in me that I will be forever grateful for:
My love for writing, for travel, the theater, jazz music and the Appalachian mountains. But greater than all of these, she helped plant a small kernel of truth in me at a very young age. Some of the earliest memories I have are of living with her and Paw Paw on Bayshore Dr. in Windermere, FL. Bowls of Musilex at breakfast, trips to Goodings supermarket, foggy mornings on Little Lake Down and the evening walk-abouts down the street or around the house- Nannie leading with hot pink 3 lb. weights- Jessie and I shadowing her every move.
A seed of truth- the gospel that changed her life and would surly change mine.
When I was in 4th grade, I broke my arm trying to impress a neighborhood girl by swinging through the branches of our neighbor’s tree. My Mom and Dad were at work. So Paw Paw took me upstairs to get it looked at by Nannie who lovingly told me something like “Yep, it’s broken. But that happens sometimes” Those pointed words somehow planted a sense of rigor, strength and gumption in me- like only she had- “Toughen up kid, you’ll be fine and we’re all are here to see to it.” Paw Paw would echo with “It will feel better when it stops hurting.”
As many of you know she wrote a book later in her life- her book- her story- Through a Glass Darkly- The Sillouette. I once asked her why she wanted to write a story of her life- everything up to the point that she met Jesus and became a Christian. Why not do a “Part II”- “I Saw Dimly but Now I See Face to Face-“. Her response was: I wrote this side of the story to show people the grace of God in my life, before I ever knew him and how He saved me from so many meetings with death.
The hope of Christ is the seed that she helped plant in the fertile ground of my heart.

My hope today is that her desire would be fulfilled: that her life and death would bring glory to our Father and lead those who are from from Him into the loving arms of their Maker. Amen

Bartelbay and the Bubblegum Sword

In a tiny village not so far away, their lived a young knight named Bartelbay. He was the youngest of three much older brothers, his father was great and he had no mother. His oldest brother was a logger who had a great axe. His middle brother was a hunter and carried a bow a a quiver of arrows. And his father was a great knight who swung a broad sword.

But Bartelby was not like the others. He didn’t have a shiny axe or arrows or a sword like his father, he only had… a bublegum sword. Yes, a bubblegum sword- made from a bubblegum tree of course.

But everytime Bartelby would try and use his sword it just wouldn’t work. He would try and cut a piece of cheese. But it would roll off the table. He would try and slice watermelon, but he couldn’t even cut through. At Christmas, he even tried to cut down a tree likle his brother, but his bubblegum sword just wouldn’t work. Bartelby was sad. He would never be a great knight like his father or brothers if he only had a bubblegum sword.

One day as he and his brothers were working on the farm, they heard a giant thump. Then another thump and another. Something was moving in the trees- something big. They called for their father and friends from the town. Everyone came with their swords and axes and bows to see what was coming through the trees.

Then all of the sudden, the biggest foot came stomping through the ltrees. Followed by the most massive leg, then a hand and arm the size of a boat then chest and the neck and the ugliest head that they’d ever seen. It was a giant!

The townspeople ran as far as they could for hither and thither and right that they should. Cause the size of the giant was as tall as the sky and the scary thing was that he had but one eye. Only Bartelbay and his brothers and his father stood fast and went toe to toe with that giant alas.

Father went first with his broad sword a’swinging, but the giant brushed him away and left his bell ringin’ The oldest brother went next with his great axe in hand, but the giant just kicked him over to the next land. The middle brother came shooting a fleet full of arrows but the giant sent him flying into a nest full of sparrows.

With everyone gone Bartelbay was just left. The giant walked forward as he puffed out his chest. “What’s that you have- a bubblegum sword? Are trying to fight me or throw a party my lord.” The giant just laughed as Bartlebay coward. Then he had a quick thought, and felt quite empowered. He started to chew up every bit of sword from hilt to tip, all he could afford. To chew in his cheeks as the giant walked towards him. He chewed it all up then started to blow the biggest bubblegum bubble that he’d ever known. And just as the giant reached down to grab him the bubble burst and stuck all over the giants face.

He couldn’t see Bartelbay or anything. and he stumbled and funmbled and bubmbled and fumbled till his giant tow caught a root and sent him staright over. Crashing down on his head and the giant was dead.

The townspeople cheered and Bartelbay’s brothers came near as he stood on the back of the giant. His father walked over with his braod sword in hand and gave it to Batrtelbay as he jumped down off of the giant. “No thank you father,” Bartelbay said, I’d rather have a bubblegum sword if it’s okay with you.”

The End

My List of Nevers

The presents are all open, the cookie plates have been desimated, wrapping is piled up in the living room and the once illustrous tannenbaum is calling it quits and dropping its needles on the floor- Christmas day is over and… we survived.

It is still amazing that the event in history that brought about the grestest Peace the world will ever know is celebrated as the most chaotic time of the year. I’m doing better with this paradox than I have in years past (thanks be to God). With two young boys and a thrird on the way, I have redirected my efforts of trying to hijack Christmas to wanting to instill certain values in our boy’s young minds. Understanding the “true meaning” of Christmas, thinking of others and not ourselves and defining the how’s and why’s of many of the holiday traditions doesn’t seem to translate all that well to an almost 5 and 3 year old.

Riding around yesterday with our oldest son Kaison (Kai), I listened as he rambled through a meticulous list of how he was NEVER allowed to play games, NEVER watched shows or movies, how he NEEDED a toy at the store so he wouldn’t be sad and how we NEVER gave him anything or let him have ANY fun. Hmmmm? I quietly waited for him to finish before a responded with my fatherly wisdom saying “NEVER is a very strong word Kai. You’re right, sometimes Mommy and I don’t want you to play games or watch TV, because there are other things you can do like go outside or play with Legos. Its good for you to detox (I explain what detox means).” Then I say, “It makes me sad to hear you say those things, especially after we just had Christmas and you got so many gifts and watched so much TV. It seems like you aren’t satisfied.”

Please read the last line there as purely instructive- not manipulative. I really was sad in that moment that my almost 5 year-old, two days after Christmas, had so many mis-givings about life. After trying to elaborate on how we detox from electronics and what being “thankful” means, we made it home and through the nightly bedtime routine (which is something like a domestic witch hunt and spanish inquistion with the occassional Disney moment curled up beside the fire- but usually ends in tears and spankings).

The truth of what happened had not really hit me until this morning when I read the psalms. In the 126th Psalm it says, “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tounges with shouts of joy.”

Then I went back and read the opening line of Psalm 121; “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” Enter conviction- at least it is for me in this moment. I realized that Kai and I are not much different in our attitudes. How often do I feel the loss of time, the desires of my heart not materializing, hope deffered. Instead of waiting with anticipation, thankful and disciplined to keep my eyes fixed on the Maker of heaven and earth, I complain about all that I don’t have and make my laundry list of NEVERS. I also fill the void with aimless futile junk, that only leads me futher away from the help and restoration of the fortune that God is.

I want to be in the practice of starving the flesh to make room for the soul. To remove the wanderings and distractions that momentarily create entertainment and be about the things that are true and substantial. Satisfaction is knowing deeply that everything we’ve been given or that which has been taken away has come from the hand of the Father. To be “like those who dream” is to realize that every good and perfect gift comes from the Lord and appropriate my life accordingly.

Unassuming, I think about my role as a father and how to respond to Kaison when he gives me his NEVER list. How does the Father respond to me? What does he think- is he saddened by my lack of recognition and appreciation as I am? Is my view and understanding of him and his word eclipsed by my dissappointment? When I lift up my eyes, where does my help come from? Can I see clearly to focus on the ridge of that hill or do I have I amassed so many things that they have blocked my view?

Bond(age)

Marriage, parenting, friendship and work- all these relationships represent something – a bond. Husband and wife, parents and children, bro to bro, boss to lackey. There is a tangible connectedness represented in these relationships that is designed to build trust, strength and ultimately be a foundation to build on. So why do we see so many broken bonds?

Let’s stir the pot a bit. In 1980 the divorce rate was 22.6 out of 1,000 marriages ended in divorce. It rose in the ’90’s by 16% but is now actually on the decline- somewhere around 17.7 of 1,000 marriages (according to a Rutger University’s study about The State of our Unions). Suprised? Don’t be mistaken- it’s still shocking to think that married couples are more likely to be seperated by divorce than by death these days, but the decline in divorce across America is due not to the improved human condition (true) but to co-habitation. What better way to dilute the data of broken bonds than to just not have one!

But, just because folks are not willing to make the leap in a “conventional” union of marriage, they are still living that way- someone is acting the part of husband and someone is most certainly wife. And to further the complexity of this non-union they’re having kids! Over 40% of co-habitating couples are bringing the kiddos into these shaky situations. And here’s the kicker- co-habitators are twice as likely to break it up and call it quits than married couples- less paperwork I guess.

Moving on- Identity theft is running rampant these days. Every 5 seconds someone’s identity or credit is being tampered with by some Siberian-hacker or foreign alien who lives in Den-of-Thieves, New Mexico or something. Nope. It’s most likely someone you know and trust- a co-worker, a friend or even a family member. The most common question asked when people get robbed by their Aunt Mable- “Why would they do such a thing?”.

I just got a picture text from my friend who recently had his first baby boy- Holding the butter-ball and grinning ear to ear. Our fridge has started filling up with “Save the Date” and “Request for our Presence” invitations for weddings this summer. A collage of pearl white teeth, ring finger close-ups and Dockers walking on beaches stare back a promising future. The start of something is most always it’s finest moment. It’s over time that things become dull, mundane and they lose their splendor.

In Deuteronomy, Moses implores the Hebrews not to forget where they came from and where they’re going. Recount the faithful acts of our God to your children and your children’s children- don’t let too much time pass because you will forget, you’ll lose focus and you will be disconnected from who you are. Bonds wear thin over time if not properly maintained.

But time is not the real enemy. As a matter of fact time can often be the leading factor to producing the sweetest most valued element of something (see wine and long marriages). No the villian in this play is us- the selfish, conceited, relativistic, lack of moral fiber, me-monster that growls, “I’M ENTITLED!!!!” Feeding on the mirage of personal liberties aquired by cheating others, lying to ourselves and bailing on anything and anyone that presents a challenge. We break bonds only to be enslaved by others.

So, what do we do? We starve the monster to death. We bind ourself to the only master worthy of serfdom. And we celebrate the beauty of the advent and the endured.

Moths <3

 

17 year-old Jack Colleran is Irish, electro-hip and brilliant. With his most recent track <3, he brings a stunning drone-ful melody to the wires and let’s us have it all for free. Look out for more from this talented Irishman.

High School Choir

High School is 90% social integration and 10% education. If you’re real lucky you can manage to get an education without completely losing face with your hot-blooded peers- but no one can know of course. What was even more difficult keeping a secret than learning something in high school was to have a long-standing love affair with choir or playing the clarinet in the marching band (sorry Brian).

Now with the advent of Glee and American Idol, singing is suddenly cool again (again meaning like when it was cool to be a Hellenic virgin and sing in flowing gowns around a bronze basin filled with goats blood or being a a player in one of Shakespeare’s plays while performing for the Queen of England—cool).

No, in the early 90’s, high school choir was not cool. I can remember hiding sheet music in my backpack at soccer practice, fearing that one of my teamates might find it and expose me saying something like, “Hey look, Wimmer’s in ballet class and singing little church songs”. To which I would try and defend with something like, “No, actually that is a contemporary piece and 5/8 time is really hard to keep”. And they would grin through Copenhagen stained teeth.

I watched a high school choir tonight at the Showcase of the Arts here in Rock Hill and I was captivated by a piece they did from Bach. I’m reminded how important learning music is. How it evokes emotion and imagination. Watching the students and the director push through notes and elevate the sound was warm and familiar. It reminded me of Mrs. Wagster and Mr. Scholtz; trips to All-State and All-County competitions, concerts and solos. It made me proud to be a choral nerd and to say I learned something in high school. Hope those students feel the same way in 20 years.

Writing Bios

To sum up your life in a four paragraph narrative for someone to read as an introduction or to attach to a resume seems like the greatest contradiction to actually living a life worth mentioning. Here, let me recap my life by recounting major benchmarks that I think are worthy enough for you to pay attention to and will ultimatley impress you. Therefore building an expectation before I speak to you (or interview with you) that I have achieved more than you have and am much more intelligent, creative, valuable, etc, etc.

OR….

Maybe it’s just a touch. A brief but informative impression that you get from someone like starring at a piece of art in a gallery. You read the title of the piece, the card tells you “it was done in a Greco-Roman style, brushed with horse-hair and boisenberry root and the canvas was made of blowfish intestines and brine or something like that”; and you can’t pronounce or remember the artists name but maybe, just maybe you have some connection with the art. People, of course are more complex than what they create. But their expression, whether written or painted or photographed contains an element of them.

So, a biography- both short and long can at least or at most be a simple touch with a complete stranger in the uncertain hope that the elemnts contained within the words are felt.

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