Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Back Home

"Back home, I spend my summers; Back home, I spend myself...

In my late teens and early 20's Quaker Lake was not just a place I worked in the summer; it was a place of sanctuary for me and my friends.  When life was stressful and we needed to "get away" we would call Neal and ask if we could come down and spend a night or two.  When the forecasters called for a big snow, we would drive the 25 miles to QLC hoping to get snowed in there.  There were times when I would drive down and just walk around by myself, exploring the woods and visiting the Campfire Circle.  In many ways, Quaker Lake was home.

So when all of the politics and turmoil (see yesterday's posting) that was North Carolina Yearly Meeting of Friends in 1982 came to Quaker Lake the week after Christmas for the annual Winter Camp, I was nervous.  And I was not alone.  There was great debate at New Garden Friends Meeting as to whether or not we should even take our youth.  But we did.  And while the program and speakers were very different than what we were used to, it was not awful- until the last night.  The speakers/musicians they brought in spent an hour telling us all we would burn in hell if we didn't respond to their invitation to give our hearts to Jesus.  Many of us came from backgrounds that taught us that following Jesus was a life long spiritual journey, not a pressured, spur of the moment decision.  We were not even given any time to sit in silence and pray about our choice.  So we didn't raise our hands.  And the leaders became angry.  They again reminded us that if we didn't act at that moment, hell awaited.  I was distraught; the 14-17 year old students from a similar background were horrified.  I wrote a song late that night that tells the story; few have ever heard it, but I share it with you now. The opening tag is at the top of this posting, the rest is below.  It's called Back Home.

As evening fell one winter night, I sensed that something was not right
with the people and the place that I had come to know so well
I looked for faces that I knew as shadows crept across the room
I looked up and it seemed as if no one I knew was there
and I bowed my head in prayer

The question they shared in the end asked if Jesus was my friend
but the answer didn't matter, 'cause I would not raise my hand
I felt that eyes were now on me, and what I feared had come to be
Outcasts in the place we loved, in the place we called our home
and we felt so all alone

Chorus:  But we know, yes we know, that our friends aren't far away
And we know, yes we know, that no matter what these people say
the LORD will find His way...

I sat still in deep despair of all that they were saying there
trying to get my courage up and say "that's just not true"
As I reached out for the Light, I knew could guide me through this night
it seems I finally understood what it really means to pray
for the LORD to show the way


A dim fire gave me just the light to see if what I feared was right
to see if all was really lost, and we had to leave our home...
But instead we reached out on that day and without a sound began to pray
and with that bond of unity we would not be denied
you see the LORD was by our side!     -C. Jones  (1982)

That moment- when the crowd was breaking up and many of the youth gathered around me, could have been a time to complain or give up.  But in that moment, God moved in us, and I knew just what we needed.  As we held hands and prayed silently, our emotion was every bit as intense as the evangelical fervor of the speakers.  Our leaders could see that, and they left us alone to pray.  There were only 6 0r 7 times over the years when I felt like Jesus just stepped in and took over, joining groups in a tangible way.  This was the first of those times- He was in the circle, holding our hands- and spiritually, I was never the same again. The struggles over theology and style would continue, and New Garden sent a strongly worded letter to NCYM asking for more balance in programming.  But for those of us who had been in that circle, we knew we had encountered the living Christ amidst the struggle, and it would not seem so scary anymore.  Once again, Quaker Lake had become a sanctuary to me...and it was still home.

Because of Jesus,

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