How to make a cereal wallet

This is a cereal wallet. 

Actually, that is a trio of cereal wallets, which are in fact cereal box wallets – or even more precisely, pieces-of-cereal-boxes wallets, but who’s got time for such a sloggy name? “Cereal wallet” is perfectly concise and zingy. 

This is how to make a cereal wallet:

1. Cut two pieces from a cereal box that are this size (a litter bigger than a credit card, driver’s license, hotel room key, school ID, or Starbucks card) –

 2. Clip out a triangle from one of the cereal box pieces like this –

Don’t fret about perfection. Just snip-snip.

3. On a sewing machine, zig-zag around the edges like this –

 You know all those ridiculous colors you’ve accumulated over the years from altering bridesmaid dresses and patching baby clothes? This is your chance to use them all up. Finally. Forever. 

Be sure to do that forward-backward-forward thing (that probably has an official name) when you start and stop sewing, like this – 

4. Put something precious in the wallet, like a photo or a Starbucks card or a handwritten note or a dollar, like this –

Cereal wallets are the perfect kitschy and inexpensive token of you-are-awesome-ness. 

Important: cereal wallets are suitable for framing, public display, holding a dollar, and carrying in your pocket – but don’t swim with them. They will disintegrate. 

The end. 

You’re welcome. 


Clearwater Cove Day 0

CWC yl hands

In less than 24 hours, several hundred middle school students and leaders will descend on a sacred place in the Ozarks for the very first week of summer camp at Young Life’s Clearwater Cove.

Most of the world knows absolutely nothing about this.

But a very small sliver of the world – and all of God himself – knows very well what is about to happen here: fun, love, Jesus, grace, hope, and real life.

While much of society is bemoaning the current trends and behaviors of teenagers, twenty high school students have given up a month of their summer to willingly, enthusiastically, and joyfully serve middle school students at this sacred place nestled atop a mountain of rock. No joke. These people right here are people you should know. They are going to change the world – while they are still in HS – because they are serving the very God who made the world.

CWC work crew

In the midst of depressing headlines, deadly conflicts, and desperate situations, these twenty high schoolers (and 36 college students, and so many others) are choosing hope, life, love, joy, forgiveness, and transformation.

God does that. He gets hold of a person’s heart, flips it upside down and inside out, remakes it into something  alive, and sends it out into the wide world to be light and love, salt and sweet aromas, in order to draw others into his infinitely welcoming arms.

I don’t know what you’re doing this summer. But these folks here, and countless others like them across the US and the world, are doing something big and bold and beautiful: they are being obedient, they are being humble, they are serving, they are giving, they are considering others as more important than themselves – and because of that, God is going to do mighty things. I have no doubt.

Clearwater Cove, tucked away in a corner of God’s overwhelmingly breathtaking creation, is ready to fling wide open its doors and welcome teenagers to a week they will never forget. Gracious sakes – the work of celebration and the celebration of work have just begun, and for many people, life will never be the same again.

Self-sanctification (in which I consider the folly of pre-folded life laundry)

[More musings from the world of summer camp.]

Laundry day. (Again.We are washing things clean. We are making all things new. All these things…

Laundry bags (Photo: CKirgiss)
Laundry bags (Photo: CKirgiss)

…things appropriately stuffed into bags – whites mixed with brights mixed with darks, socks mixed with jeans mixed with tees, sweat mixed with muck mixed with food. Laundry is a beautiful jumbled mess of dirt just waiting to be washed and worn again, no matter how dingy and stained it may be (dinginess and stains being the entire point of laundry in the first place).

There is only one requirement here: turn the clothes right side out, please. It cuts the folding time in half. For the most part, this small request is honored.

And then, behold, someone goes one step further and there is this:

Pre-folded laundry (Photo: CKirgiss)
Pre-folded laundry (Photo: CKirgiss)

Pre-folded grime. Neatly piled and packaged dirt. Laundry that looks to be already washed and ready to wear.

The fact that a teenager takes the time to neatly fold and politely package his laundry is endearingly delightful.

But I fear that far too often this is just what I do with myself. I gather the grimy stained pieces of my life that accumulate throughout any given day, turn them right side out, fold them, stack them, and package them neatly before handing them over – either grudgingly (“Really, they’re not that dirty. I could live in them for at least another day or week or month”) or flippantly (“Laundry. Whatever.”) or shamefacedly (“Oh. Hmm. Well, yes, okay. But, um, no need to look closely before washing them, and please keep in mind that most of those stains are beyond my control”) or angrily (“If you’d just limit the dirt around me – which you could do if you wanted…”).

Too often I care more about appearing washed than being washed. (But even if dirt can be hidden, its stench cannot.)

Too often I care more about hiding stains than exposing stains. (Stains flipped inside out, though, are still stains.)

Too often I care more about being in a neatly folded pile than being fully alive. (Neat piles of clothes, however, are pointless unless eventually worn.)

Were that large mountain of right-side-out laundry my life, it would be better left inside out when handing it over for sanctification since  sanctification is a from-the-inside-out process, starting in the heart, soul, and mind. Besides, God does not need to cut down on his folding time.

Were that neatly folded small pile of laundry my life, it would be better left as a muddled mess since muddled messes are more likely to desire and appreciate being cleansed and changed. Besides, God is not impressed by my attempts at self-improvement.

That I can – and must – humbly fall as I am at the feet of Jesus each and every day is not easy in a world that encourages self-made (and remade, and remade again) identities. But I can make no such thing, let alone remake it. What joy it is, then, to know the Maker of all things and the reMaker of all who would be remade.

And so my prayer for today is simply this: “Here I am, Lord – inside out and unfolded. Have your way with me.”




“…(though, of course, the servants knew)…” (in which I consider water, wine, and wonderful floors)

"...though, of course, the servants knew..." (Photo: CKirgiss)
“…though, of course, the servants knew…” (Photo: CKirgiss)

[Part of a series in which I muse about life at camp.]

There she is – one of countless high-school students who are voluntarily serving at camp this summer – waging battle with an uncooperative and unmanageable sea creature. The giant vacuum. The massive yellow tubular monstrosity that does indeed have a mind of its own.

It’s enough to get anyone down.

But the dining room floor, you see, must be vacuumed after each meal. Each and every meal. Because, well, sometimes food drops on the floor, and if the food isn’t cleaned up after each and every meal, then the floor won’t be wonderful at the next meal.

And wonderful floors are important when you are trying to show middle school campers how much you really truly love them…even if they never notice the wonderful floors and even if they never know how the wonderful floors stay wonderful.

Some people might save the wonderful floors for the last big meal of camp. But at this camp (and so many others), the wonderful floors happen right from the get go. And never stop happening. No matter how tired or bored or discouraged the tamers of the sea monster may become.

“When the campers saw the wonderful floor, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the teenagers on work crew knew), they said to their leader, ‘My school food is okay, and the cafeteria is alright – but something about this place is different. Awesome. Wonderful. Every day is the best day ever.”  This miraculous sign at camp in the midwest was not the first time Jesus’ love had been displayed by teenagers. And those same teenagers believed in him even more deeply.” (John 2:9-10, paraphrased)

Let us taste His goodness. Let us drink His love. And let us do it in a banquet hall with wonderful floors.

The light shines in the darkness (in which I consider the importance of tiki torches and water balloons at middle school camp)

It is 11 pm on the first day of camp as I write this.

The beautifully explosive middle school descent (also known as Day One of Camp) was a smashing success. They are here – all of them, in all their glory. And because they are here – all of them, in all their glory – it seemed wondrously wise to celebrate. Late at night. In the dark. Long after dinner, games, gathering, and discussion.

Because what could be better than a late night celebration (aka obstacle course) in the dark? Look here and see what I mean:

Night games (Photo: CKirgiss)
Night games (Photo: CKirgiss)

Can you see it, the wildly energetic celebration of life (extended across one parking lot, two football fields, one patch of woods, a forest path, and a beachfront) right there in the very dark of very darkness? Those blue lights on the left are flashlights, guiding small groups of the larger raucous crowd across a hilly field. Those two lights on the right are tiki torches, also known as The Official Starting Line. There are lots and lots of people there, mingling in the darkness, so ready to take off running. Look.

Night games in detail (Photo: CKirgiss)
Night games in detail (Photo: CKirgiss)

There. Do you see them? Masses of middle schoolers, lined up politely and patiently (relatively speaking).

Truth: the world is full of people living in the very dark of very darkness. They run from one light to another, hoping to arrive safely, hoping to find friends along the way, hoping to find something worth living for. Mostly they are hoping to find a place where the light  is more than just a tiny spot of world-centric bobbing and weaving.

They are looking for the only light that satisfies, the only light that pierces the darkest of dark, the only light that is steady and constant and true, the only light that embraces wholly, the only light that breathes love.

They are looking for Jesus, even if they don’t know it yet. And we are desperately hoping to reflect his light in the very dark of very darkness – rather than reflecting ourselves, which is an ever-present danger in a world that celebrates self.

And though the very dark of very darkness can sometimes overwhelm and suffocate, it does not have the last word because
the Light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.

We are for Jesus. We are for light. And against all reason and rationale, Jesus is for us.

Sing! Shout!  Let the celebration begin!




Coming Home and Going Home (Post-Michindoh Post 1)

For the past month, a printed camp schedule has told me when and where to be, all day, each and every day.

That might sound dreadful. But in fact it was quite wonderful.

There was no need to decide whether to do laundry on day 3 (yes) or day 5 (no). The schedule dictates.

There was no need to wonder whether or not you really want to get sprayed off with a firetruck hose (yes) after playing in a mud pit (woot!) with 350 middle schoolers or 100 teen moms. The schedule dictates.

There was no need to debate the pros (lots) and cons (none that matter) of a late night dance party that required trekking to a building on the far side of the lake. The schedule dictates.

After being home for exactly 42 hours, I desperately miss the dictator.

I want a cabin bell to send me to bed at night. I need a staff meeting to wake me up in the morning.

Most of all, I want someone else to decide when and what I will eat three times each and every day.

Last night I spent 75 minutes in the grocery store during which I was essentially paralyzed by all the choices and responsibility.

I don’t want to plan and shop and cook for two. I want to eat my meals with thirty fellow work-staff friends. And I need a saner person than myself to set a weekly menu.

I’ve done the camp thing enough times to know that when it ends, I will deeply miss both the sense of purpose and the close-knit community.

But I’d forgotten how lost and aimless the first few days back home can be. Sure, it’s nice to be back in my own bed. But it would be even nicer if I could bring my own bed back to camp where I just spent a very sweet month indeed.

So here’s to Michindoh. Here’s to Wyldlife. Here’s to Young Lives. Here’s to community living and common purpose.

I quite miss them all because coming home, though lovely in its own way, doesn’t hold a candle to Going Home, which is what the last month was really all about.

“When the younger son finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.” So he returned home to his father. and while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” (from the 15th chapter of Luke’s gospel)


Now-and-not-yet (Michindoh Post 13)

[This post is thirteenth of a series in which I reflect on spending a month at camp for Wyldlife (middle schoolers) and YoungLives (teen moms). You can follow by subscribing to this blog below. All posts are categorized as ‘Michindoh 2013’.]

YoungLives camp is but two days away. 80+ childcare workers descend on Michindoh tomorrow. 98 teen moms, 98 teen moms’ babies, and 50+ YoungLives leaders arrive the following day.

There is So Very Much to do.

For today, we are living primarily in Wyldlife world, but our eyes can see YoungLives world on the very near horizon. Today is the now and the not-yet of camp in which both the Wyldlife now and the YoungLives not-yet each on their own beautifully embody the complete now-and-not-yet of God’s kingdom.

So on this day, middle schoolers ran crazy in a soccer-field sized mud pit, followed up by a firehose shower…

Mud pit sequel (Photo: CKirgiss)
Mud pit sequel (Photo: CKirgiss)

…while in the planning room, extra supplies continued arriving by mail…

Supplies (Photo: CKirgiss)
Supplies (Photo: CKirgiss)

…and in the wash room, the first round of Pack-N-Play sheets were washed and dried.

Clean sheets (Photo: CKirgiss)
Clean sheets (Photo: CKirgiss)

Mud pits. Fire hoses. Baby wipes. Baby sheets.

This now-and-not-yet is surely one-of-a-kind. And very sweet indeed.

O Lord, hear our prayer (Michindoh Post 12)

[This post is twelfth of a series in which I reflect on spending a month at camp for Wyldlife (middle schoolers) and YoungLives (teen moms). You can follow by subscribing to this blog below. All posts are categorized as ‘Michindoh 2013’.]
O Lord, hear our prayer (Photo: CKirgiss)
O Lord, hear our prayer (Photo: CKirgiss)

Since you asked: yes – a grown man on the right is wearing a Peeps cheerleading suit. And, um, too, a grown man opposite is wearing a chicken-ish outfit.

While praying.

Which we do a lot at camp.

In thanksgiving. In supplication. In adoration. In meditation. In reflection.

With humility and trust and hope.

Because on our own, we can do nothing. Less than nothing if that were possible.

Before each meal: thank you, God, for this food.

Before each event: cover us, Lord, with your guidance and your power and your protection.

Before each club: fill us, Lord, with your love and your Spirit and your wisdom.

Before and during and after and among and around and through every moment of every day:

without your love Lord, we are lost;
without your healing, Lord, we are broken;
without your wisdom, Lord, we are helpless;
without your grace, Lord, we are drowning;
without your mercy, Lord, we are adrift;
without your Spirit, Lord, we are empty;
without your guidance, Lord, we are blind;
without your joy, Lord, our lives are withered.

Without You, Lord, we are not.

Be our I Am. Always. Ever. Fully. Truly.

O Lord, hear our prayer.

The other kids (Michindoh Post 11)

[This post is eleventh of a series in which I reflect on spending a month at camp for Wyldlife (middle schoolers) and YoungLives (teen moms). You can follow by subscribing to this blog below. All posts are categorized as ‘Michindoh 2013’.]

Week 3’s campers and leaders have been here for just over 24 hours.

We are already in love. It takes only that long to care about each face, each life, each soul.

We are here because of the hundreds of middle schoolers we will meet and serve this month.

But they are not the only kids we love. There are another 8 kids here for the month, ranging from almost-two (the “almost” is very important) to nine. Their parents serve in a variety of roles – head leader, program team, speaker.

They – as much as anyone on the work staff or the assigned team – reflect the image of God and the love of Jesus to every middle-schooler who spends a week here.

Because God is wondrous and loving and miraculous and caring, our 8 staff kids have gelled into a unified mass of enthusiasm and energy that is beyond delightful. Their personalities and quirks and smiles and jokes and joys (plus eating habits and sleeping schedules) all add up to one big bundle of fabulous awesomeness.

It has the potential to be so many other things. Tiring. Trying. Challenging. Dreadful, even. Throw together 8 young children for a month, living in close quarters, away from all that is familiar, and pretty much anything can happen.

Because of God’s great grace, what has happened here is beautiful and lovely and sweet. If saying goodbye to campers is difficult (and it truly is) then saying goodbye to 8 children that have become collectively “ours” is going to break many a heart.

We are all about the middle-schoolers, to be sure. But like Jesus, we are oh so very glad that the staff children are here, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

Michindoh staff kids (Photo: CKirgiss)
Michindoh staff kids, youngest 6 of 8 (Photo: CKirgiss)


They’re Back (Michindoh Post 10)

[This post is tenth of a series in which I reflect on spending a month at camp for Wyldlife (middle schoolers) and YoungLives (teen moms). You can follow by subscribing to this blog below. All posts are categorized as ‘Michindoh 2013’.]

It’s a good day. After bidding farewell to Week 2 campers last night, we welcomed Week 3 campers to (what we will do our very best to make) one of the best weeks of their lives.

During the final approach to camp, “best week” may not be writ large on the horizon. Coming from any of the four directions, this is what kids will see in the final few miles:

Heading to camp (Photo: CKirgiss)
From the north (Photo: CKirgiss)
From the south (Photo: CKirgiss)
From the south (Photo: CKirgiss)
From the east (Photo: CKirgiss)
From the east (Photo: CKirgiss)
From the west (Photo: CKirgiss)
From the west (Photo: CKirgiss)

Though each of these views embodies a certain amount of lovely nostalgia and roadside Americana, none of them scream WOOT! WOOT! in middle-school vernacular.

Nor do they radiate AWESOMENESS! in middle-school style.

But the final view before deboarding the bus makes up for whatever might be lacking in the final few miles.

Work Crew welcome (Photo: CKirgiss)
Work Crew welcome (Photo: CKirgiss)


We’re so glad you’re here.

We’ve been waiting for you all day.

We are going to do everything we can to make this the best week of your life.

We are going to do this because someone did the same for us. Because we want to. Because it fills our hearts.

(But mostly because we love Jesus.)

Welcome to camp, everyone. It’s going to be great.