Daniel’s last Sunday before leaving for Germany
The septic tank at the log cabin in New Mexico has limited capacity, so I told the boys last week at our CTRC Boy’s Retreat that they could only take short, 2-minute showers each day.
I told them they could have Rollover Shower minutes. Like with their cell phone that they so missed, they could build up shower Rollover minutes. 5 days would add up to a 10-minute shower with Rollover Shower Plan.
9-year-old Sydney told us in Sunday School this morning that she and her family stayed in a cabin in Colorado last week and “that there were no bars at the cabin and my mother had to walk a long way to find a bar.” I was stumped at first that Carla needed to find a bar so badly on vacation. Then Sydney said, “Mom had no bars on her cell phone.”
The term Rollover minutes greatly helped them in their withdrawal symptoms as they had no cell phone bars, no computer, no internet, no television, no video games.
I told them the first night that I was the cook and that the camp cook does not do dishes and that the four boys were on their own to figure out a dishwasher rotation. They settled it with a poker game. Will and Aubrey lost the poker game and had to do the dishes the first night. I pointed Will toward the sink full of dishes and he asked, in all seriousness, “Mr. Gary, where is the dishwasher?”
I told him, “Will, you ARE the dishwasher.”
It was boy’s week. No girls. Pam’s father declared on the first day, “No girls so leave the heads on the fish when you clean them.” Games filled the days between fishing moments. Monopoly, poker, gig-saw puzzles, discussions about life, religion, faith, beauty of creation. The lines were fuzzy between serious conversations and fun.
Rules at the cabin are simple. You can do what you want when you want without anyone pressuring you to do anything. If you want to sleep all day, you can. If you want to fish all day, you can. If you want to not fish, then you can. You are invited to join others in anything they do, but if you choose to not play or fish or hike you just do nothing.
Short showers with Rollover minutes. Cooks do not do dishes. .
Will caught a trout by hand, which is nearly impossible to do. He caught a trout, took the hook out of its mouth, decided to throw it back in the stream since it was so small, then changed his mind after he threw the trout back into the stream. It was stunned and caught in a whirlpool of water, spinning around. So Will jumped into the stream and swam after the spinning trout…and caught it. By hand. He did. Really.
I caught a trout on day three and it fell off the hook on the bank and flopped back into the edge of the stream. I was so upset over losing it and was yelling at myself. It was my first trout to catch this year. Within 30 minutes I landed another one and was still kicking myself for losing the first one. While putting the landed trout onto a stringer and into the water, I noticed a fish tail sticking out from a rock near my feet in the area of where my first fish flopped back into the water. Sure enough, the trout I lost was stuck between two rocks, stunned, and trying to dislodge itself from the rocks before I spotted it. I jumped into the water and grabbed for the trout. We fought and splashed. I got soaked but eventually got the trout out of the stream…with my bare hands.
Daniel believed Will caught his fish by hand. Daniel was there and saw Will jump into the stream. Daniel refused to believe I caught my trout by hand.
There is a history to this catching-trout-by-hand stuff.
12 years ago, when Daniel was five and adored and trusted his dad as a good son does, we were at the cabin. The trout fishing was bad that year and I got desperate. So I stalked a trout by hand. I caught it by hand in the stream. I was in the stream and with my quickness reached down and plucked a trout out of the stream by hand since they were not biting the bait we offered.
I got it all on video. One of Amity’s friends took the video. I showed it to everyone. Videos do not lie. The trout was flopping around and fighting for its life. I held the flopping trout up and it was all caught on video.
We had a VCR in our van at the cabin so I showed the video to everyone. Daniel and Pam’s dad were most impressed.
Daniel loved to proudly tell that story to his friends over the years. You know how boys brag about their father to other boys. He was always so proud of his dad. He would brag to other boys, “My dad caught a trout by hand in New Mexico.” No boy could top that bragging story. No dad matched up to Daniel’s dad. Daniel would tell his friends around the world of that feat and would add, “It is on video.”
Two years ago we were all gathered as family and Daniel was telling someone about his dad catching a trout by hand and that the feat was on video. Amity overheard that conversation and said, “Daniel, you don’t still believe that story, do you?” Daniel said, at age 16, “Amity, it is on video.”
Amity spilled the beans. She explained to Daniel that, just like with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, there is another side to the trout story. She told Daniel that the trout was dead and that I placed the trout into the stream against a rock and staged the entire scene…including shaking the dead trout and flinging water off of it to make it look like it was flopping and alive. The more I shook my hands the more the trout flopped and the more water flew off of the trout. The trout was dead but my imagination was not.
Daniel looked at me when she popped his bubble…and I looked away. I could not stop laughing. Pam’s dad told Daniel that Amity was telling the truth. Daniel asked Papa Dan if he knew all along the video was faked. Papa Dan said he believed the video for years until Amity came out with the truth.
So Daniel would not believe me this year when I told him I caught my first trout by hand in the stream by a rock after it flopped off of my line and back into the water.
We laugh so hard over that video story that we nearly cry. Daniel, Will, Aubrey, and Cameron…you will have enough tears in life over the years. Grab the slippery moments of joy in life and hang on. Life is a gift. Here this letter from Milena, a dear friend and the publisher (High Point Publishing Inc.) of the Letters from Boerdonk book. Her friend Carole was told two years ago that she just has 3-4 years to live with her lung cancer. A man loved her and married her two years ago in Colorado…knowing they would only have a few years together. Here is the letter: Hi Gary, Great sermon about floatin’ in the river! I sent it on to my friend Carole.
Carole is the woman that you communicated with once before regarding her
being baptized; she is also my best friend from my days as a prosecutor in
Ft. Lauderdale. She lives in Colorado and so I don’t know if she will get
baptized here, but I really hope she will consider it.
As you know, she has lung cancer. What you may not know is that she has been
given about 1 and ½ years to live. I was so happy that she married a
terrific guy two years ago. Ken and I went to the wedding in Colorado. I
was thrilled she had someone so great to take care of her in those last few
On July 2nd, they celebrated their 2 year wedding anniversary. The very next
day her husband Jim died suddenly from a heart attack. Some of the real
shocks in life, huh? As she said, “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way”. I
suggested that he perhaps knew that his heart could not take her suffering in her
last days. She knows she will see him soon.
She is a plucky lady though. She is planning on selling their place and
traveling by herself throughout the country in their RV. She will live in
her RV the rest of her life. Hopefully she will come by Texas and get
baptized (in the San Marcos River).
Please pray for her… and that she finds the strength to live out her life
with grace and God in her life. Milena Lord, hear our prayer for Carol.
By Day 6 of this cabin retreat, Will and Cameron so wanted a long shower that they went INTO the stream to shower. Frigid stream. Their screams filled the canyon.
The five of us crammed into the truck to return home for the 15-hour trek. I told them EVE (Everybody Loves Everybody). No arguing and fussing with each other. The last 4 hours was filled with Aubrey being initiated into the youth group as Cameron and Will and Daniel played Stump the Dummy by throwing riddles at Aubrey. Riddles that Aubrey could not solve. Cameron had me laughing so hard I could hardly drive. Cameron was merciless. Finally Cameron told Aubrey, “Well, you can not solve riddles but I can not throw a football like you.” Aubrey is now part of the youth group, having survived the brutal Stump the Dummy games. Will said he was initiated three years ago on a ski trip with the riddles…and that he was not given the answers for three days on the ski trip as the group allowed him to dangle like a caught fish and left pondering the riddles.
Laughter is a gift from God. Here is what Cameron wrote into the cabin journal:
July 24, 2008. Day 9 of my captivity. It has been a long and hard journey for me, and the cuts, scrapes, and bruises surely serve as evidence of my torture. My fellow captives were not too friendly at first, but they soon warmed up to me. Aubrey is a little shocked to be separated from his parents for the first time, but he turned out to be a pretty cool guy. We’ve made it through the daily lashings without too many tears and he and I became very close. Daniel took the worst beatings of the four of us. We have always been good friends and I am sad to see him leave for Germany.
Our captors are Reverend Gary Smith and Reverend Dan Franks. They provided adequate food for our subsistence in between whippings. It was a delight to hear Dan’s wise comments that are applicable to challenges in life. Gary’s incessant rants and biting insults surely set the tone for the week. Out of 22 fish that were caught by our people, I assisted in catching 2 of them, so I didn’t do too badly.
If anyone should find this please tell my parents on the outside that I once took 5 dollars from their wallet. I am sorry – I really wanted a cowboy hat. Please remember the 4 teens who were cornered, drugged, loaded into a truck, and put into a cabin in the Rocky Mountains. We have been held captive for 9 days and I have faith that it is almost over. But you can never be too sure.
Cameron Dennis, Age 17, 6 ‘ 1″, 145 pounds
Daniel, Life’s septic tank also has limited capacity…spend more time focused on God’s beauty in life than you do on septic tank capacity. Help the cook with the dishes. Embrace the Joy of Life. Enjoy friends…best gift there is from God. Remember this church is Home. Remember that some are good at riddles and some can throw a football. Remember that life is slippery like a trout and you need to grab it and wrestle it to shore if it will not take your bait. Laughter is a gift from God, as you have taught me. I tried my best to give you laughs in life in order to connect you with Joy and God’s love in life.
Go grab life like a slippery trout when it does not take your bait. Grab it. For God and for yourself. It is precious. And have fun. Now go. And come home. We will miss you. Go grab life. It will try to elude you like my trout did. But wade into the stream and grab it. Go. Don’t let it slip away. And take videos and photos. And write your mother from time to time. Go. Remember the cabin and this church. Go. Have fun and continue to make life fun for those around you. Amen.
By GARY L. SMITH
Reverend – Christ the Redeemer Church