Friday, September 4, 2009

The Arkansas Guarantee

When you work at Quaker Lake Camp, different areas of the campus come to mean different things to you. For instance, the pool was the pulse of the camp, the place where you get a feel for the excitement level. The lodge was the nerve center (and the stomach!) where you find out what is going on. The Vespers Hill and the Campfire Circle were definitely the soul and spirit, the places where we took time to notice God's presence. The softball field was where the action was, and where many a camp ended in hugs and tears. (In a side note, the softball field, as every Quaker Laker knows, is where you go if anything at camp catches on fire. This led to the weekly question, no matter the age of the campers, that drove Neal crazy- "Where do we go if the softball field is on fire?" You know, I still don't know...) But for me, in my years at QLC, the heart of the place was the Craft Hut. Every day, no matter the weather, no matter the age group, class after class of campers came to the crafts hut to make ceramics (beautiful and hideous!) and various other crafts. And day after day you could find me at the same place- the Leather Tables. The Leather Tables were a few old picnic tables just outside the Craft Hut. There we would sit and help campers use stamps to pound their names and designs into leather bracelets, key chains, sun visors and more. We would stain them in different shades of brown, green, blue and our favorite, antique oxblood! We would polish them with Carnuba (sp?) Cream, which we were delighted to discover contained whale sperm as one of its ingredients! And we would put them together, pounding cheap little rivets together with a wooden hammer, or, once you became a master (lol), with THE hammer. Most days at the Leather Tables were relaxed and lazy. We talked about life, told jokes, and listened to the great music coming from the stereo in the Craft Hut. We would put off actually assembling the leather pieces until the end of each week. And at the end of the class we would offer the campers The Arkansas Guarantee. (Why Arkansas? Just seemed like a place where a lot of things would break...) To the best of my memory, the guarantee was first offered by Alan Brown and Bill Terrell when I was still a volunteer. But it was after I started working with Alan at the tables in 1978 that it became a regular event. The Arkansas Guarantee was a sure thing in an unsure world. It simply stated that "in the event that your Quaker Lake leather work falls apart or otherwise breaks, you get to keep all the pieces!" It was a helpful promise, because almost every item ever assembled at the Leather Tables did indeed break. Knowing that this was going to happen, and that it was still OK, was somehow very comforting to the campers and staff who had toiled on these leather goods.

My life has not been much different than those leather wrist bands I used to hammer together. I know I am going to break things, because I always do. I know even the simple things can get complicated. But fortunately, life comes with its own Arkansas Guarantee. His name is Jesus. When life falls apart, when things break down, we can turn to Him, and he helps us keep all the pieces...and even better, put them back together! In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." I know Jesus was a carpenter by trade, but somehow I can see him hanging out at the Leather Tables, under the shade tree, offering the guarantee to any camper who needed it. And we all need it.

So next time you feel "broken," go to the One who was broken for you. There you will find rest for your weary soul...there you will be made whole. But if you find the softball field on fire, I guess you are on your own...

Because of Jesus,

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