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The glare of fluorescent lights was only to be outdone by the radiance of expectant faces. Two rows of pure eagerness, flanked by shiny new leather briefcases. He leaned back against a table and surveyed the latest group of recruits. His stance was relaxed, yet always alert, as if ready to spring into action if duty called. His designer suit was completed with a signature power tie, red with blue and white stripes. He exuded confidence and authority as he leaned forward, paused, and began to speak. “Welcome to the bank. I’ve come here today to teach you the most important lesson you’ll learn in your year of training. It will direct your choices, your actions, your effectiveness. It all starts with one word. Culture.”
Read more of Julie Silander’s story at Art House America.
Make Your Spouse Smile with Love Notes from The Icebreak
by Marcus Goodyear
My wife and I were high school sweethearts. We dated in my first car—a 1967 Mustang that wouldn’t go in reverse. We were in high school plays together—she played Jezebel, I played Ahab. She came to my marching band competition. I went to her speech tournaments.
And on Sunday, we scribbled notes to each other on the visitor response cards in the back of the pew.
Somewhere in the last 17 years, we stopped writing as many notes. But I miss the notes.
Then I discovered The Icebreak. This beta site invited me to answer an “icebreaker” question about my relationship with my partner, and promised to deliver my answer to her via email. The questions are whimsical, sexy, insightful, spiritual, and practical. Curious, I entered my email, answered one question, entered her email, and voila. I wasn’t sure what had happened.
Apparently, she received an email love note from me, delivered to her phone via The Icebreak. She read the email on her phone, followed the link to Download the iPhone App, and sent her own note back. The site is deliciously addictive. (For example, I answered eight icebreakers while writing this article since I needed to do more “research.”)
Lately, my wife and I are using The Icebreak almost every day. It works on iPhone or within a browser, and I’ve gathered that they are developing an Android app. The Icebreak prompts you with a new question, but only allows you 500 characters, slightly longer than a tweet, for your answer.
None of your answers are shared on the site unless you want them to be. Even then, your answers would be anonymous, with just enough demographic information to give people a sense of where you are in the relationship.
My wife and I have chosen to list our responses anonymously to encourage others. This means I show up as “Male, 36-40 years, Married, US.” We will often provide additional context in our answers like “After 17 years of marriage…”
If you choose, you can include personal information in your profile like your pant size or shirt size. My wife and I thought this was intrusive at first, until she bought me some pants that were the wrong size. My private profile now includes some information about my sizes that is only available to her and the developers of the site.
The private anonymous nature of The Icebreak makes it a perfect tool for thinking about your spouse and sending a quick note, but it also provides an interesting stream of responses from people who are working hard to be in a good relationship with their significant other. In a sense, the public stream of anonymous answers provides a glimpse into how our culture views relationships, with some answers sticking out as particularly wise and helpful to others.
If you are interested, answer one of the questions below and email a love note to your spouse.
- If you could whisk your partner away to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
- Is it healthy to keep secrets from your partner?
- What is “our song” with your partner?
- What are you most grateful for in life?
- Can a romantic evening be complete without having sex?
- When you and your partner eat together, is the TV on?
I spent every summer of my childhood at LLYC but have spent the last 20 years in the Chicago area. This was the first opportunity I had to bring my entire family down to the camp, and experiencing a week-long family camp at Echo Valley was an amazing experience for us. Each one of our four kids had an incredible time there, doing the activities, meeting new people, and connecting with their cousins, who were also able to join us. My oldest (13-year-old) said that she appreciated how she was able to do things as a family, but also do things with other kids her age. There were also many firsts for all of them, which included shooting a rifle, attending a rodeo, and doing a zip line. Each of them learned something new about their relationship with God as well. On the drive back to Chicago, they each indicated how much they were looking forward to returning again soon. Thank you for helping to make it possible for us to experience that.
Cost: It’s up to you!
Who: Your spouse
Call up a friend or couple who knows you (and your spouse) pretty well, and ask them to be your personal date planner. You can return the favor next week. Provide a budget and a timeframe, but let your friend plan the rest. Once they’ve planned the date, they give you a dress code and a stack of envelopes. Each one should be labeled with a specific time to open it, and the details inside will explain the next part of your date. Have fun on a new adventure!
- Start with a piece of wood about 12”x12”. I like to visit our local Re-Store, run by Habitat for Humanity, for scrap wood pieces. I have access to a saw that easily cuts wood into the desired size. Lowe’s will cut wood to size if you don’t have access to a saw.
- Once your board is cut, stain, paint or leave natural. Sand lightly with medium grit sandpaper.
- Choose a font that you want to use as a pattern. Print the letter to the size you want to use.
- Cut out the Letter.
- Trace the letter on to your board.
- Using finish nails, hammer nails around the letter about one to one and ½ inches apart.
- Leave about 2 inches of nail showing, hammering the nails in about ½ inch.
- When you have completed the letter, wind yarn around each nail.
- Tie off the end.
- Attach a hanger to the back of the project.
We anticipated going to Family Camp with our two boys for months in advance. We talked about all the activities – especially the cool river and the zip lines – to help get our boys, 11 and 7 years old, excited about the week. More quietly, my wife and I anticipated building friendships and providing a spiritual retreat for the family. From the day I signed up, I sensed Camp would be special, but it became special in an unforeseen way. On night three of our week, our younger adopted son, came running over holding his zig-zagging right arm. With lots of comfort and support, the Camp doctor splinted the brake and sent us to the hospital. Though his older brother was fearful for his brother, we felt it was best that he stay at camp and go to the rodeo night. An hour after we got to the ER, we received a call from camp; our older son had broken his left arm stepping over a chain in the dark. That night, two broken arms became the opportunity for our boys to begin overcoming tensions that had kept them from becoming “brothers.”
For the next two days, both boys wanted to leave. It was hard for them to see the activities and not be able to participate. However, they soon found that they could still have fun with calmer activities. As the camp continued, my wife and I found ourselves a little distanced from the mainstream of camp life as we focused on helping our kids. In spite of our pre-occupation, the “Couples Night Out” and the “Talent Show” were lots of fun. Perhaps we missed some of the relaxation we had anticipated, but we saw God’s beauty, were supported by caring people, and made some wonderful friendships.
Through all the dynamics of Camp, God helped our family grow closer together. Centrally, our older son, who had always been resentful at his brother’s “intrusion” into our family, found himself sharing the ordeal of a broken arm with his adopted little brother. This softened him. For the past month, everywhere the boys have gone, people asked how they both broke their arms. They look at each other, smile, and retell the story. Sharing pain and discomfort has brought them together as nothing ever has. Now they can even play the Wii together!
Camp was a huge blessing to us. Thank you so much to everyone who helped make it possible. We cannot promise that every family will get to come home with two broken arms, but we do believe that God anticipates meeting the deepest needs of each family that attends the Laity Lodge Family Camp!
by Jennifer Dukes Lee
We step off the plane from Haiti, and the TV headline blares at us, with the “burning question” of our day: Did Beyonce lip-sync or did she not?
I can only stare at the screen and blink. This? This is what consumes us in America?
And somewhere in Haiti, a woman dries mud pies in the sun. She will try to mask the pain of her family’s hunger with dirt, but it will never really fill.
And what does it really mean to be the least of these? Because I’m pretty sure I met some of the richest people on the planet this week , right there in abject-poor Haiti — rich in love and mercy and hospitality and gratitude. Rich in worship, these souls who bring worn Bibles to worship, who cry out their adoration of the Savior, who lift their hands high and higher still, singing with the angels. It was a dance-party in the pews, with Bibles and palms and tear-stained faces rising heavenward. The Good Book says that God is enthroned on the praises of His people, and I would NOT be surprised if three-quarters of our Lord’s throne were marked with these three words: “Made in Haiti.”
This is what it means to praise Him, not merely lip-syncing the words like mouthed abstractions of theology, but a deep adoration that takes your soul face-first onto the floor of the throne room. [Read the rest at Getting Down with Jesus...]
Cost: minimal, depending on where you print the pictures
Who: whomever you decide! Your spouse, your child or even the whole family
Plan a walking route through your neighborhood. Take around 10-12 pictures of distinguishing features (not necessarily the entire house or strucure) of houses, buildings or other landmarks. Print the images, and then give them to your date, along with a map of the route. Let him or her (or the whole family!) Identify the different houses and buildings based upon the pictures you have taken.
How long have you been working for Family Camp?
Well, I actually work for both Family Camp and Youth Camp. I’ve been doing that for, oh, about 100 years.
You couldn’t possibly be that old! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with Family Camp.
I have a degree in recreation and have my teaching credentials. I work behind the scenes, pulling together the welcome bags for each family, coming up with the ideas for and assembling the arts and crafts, setting up snacks, and creating all of our table decorations. I like to make stuff look good. In fact, I can’t believe this is my job!
What is your favorite part of Family Camp?
I love watching the families play together. When I drive into camp on a Sunday morning and see a Dad and so having the time to simply toss a frisbee back and forth – it’s such a gift. You don’t have all the distractions. You’re allowed to be present and reconnect. I love being a part of that, making people feel loved and special and cared for. At Camp, we call that outrageous hospitality.
Outrageous hospitality, I love that. Tell me more.
It’s not just about putting others’ needs first, but even anticipating those needs and meeting them before it even becomes a need. It’s making people feel welcomed and loved and comfortable. Different groups are on different paths, so their needs are different wherever they are. Our mantra is to meet our guests wherever they are. When you are able to meet those basic needs, and create an environment where people feel cared for, it allows them to go on to the next level.
Thanks so much for taking the time with us, Mary. Anything else you’d like to add?
I’ll be here on the blog from time to time, sharing activities and crafts. Keep an eye out for those, as well as some recipes from Tammy Soth. And I frequently pin new ideas on Pinterest, so I’d love for folks to find me there as well.
In case you missed it, here are some of the great resources we shared with you on Facebook and Twitter this month.
Amanda Hill – Sometimes we all need the reminder to laugh a little more. High Calling network member Amanda Hill shares with us about the one bumper sticker she’s placed on her car.
Homeword – Our friends at Homeword share some thoughts on communicating Christ to your kids.
Ellen Stevens – High Calling network member Ellen Stevens shares a powerful story about the healing that comes in letting go.
Books and Videos
The Dads & Daughters Togetherness Guide: 54 Fun Activities to Help Build a Great Relationship – Dads, here’s a great resource as you think about planning a special Valentine’s Day with your little ladies!
William Tell Overture – You might have seen this one, but it’s worth watching again for a good laugh (since most of us can relate!)
Behavior Charts – Working on Behaviors? Check out these free, printable charts.