My Daughter Went Away to Camp and Changed

Posted by Phil

How do I catch up?


When I look at my phone, I see my daughter leaving for camp on my home screen. She stands at the bottom of an airport escalator, an orange backpack over her shoulder. She’d cut her long, strawberry blond hair the day before, so the person smiling from under the carrot top doesn’t look familiar. But the image of a kid who just needs a backpack and a ticket is one I recognize. Some parents may have to nudge their children to camp. For the last two summers, our daughter has run out the door. “Yukon ho!” she yelled when leaving this year, an expression she learned from Calvin and Hobbes‘ main character Calvin, whom she now resembles.

I hadn’t been at the National Airport departure gate for her first trip as an Unaccompanied Minor. I was in the stands at my son’s baseball tournament. For pickup my wife and I flipped the load-sharing. She did baseball duty, and I flew to Minnesota, driving almost four hours to a packed-dirt road lined with birch trees that ended at the shores of Lake Pokegama: Camp Mishawaka. Thirty-six years earlier, I had been the 9-year-old flying alone from Washington to this place with a new haircut.

When I was at camp, my parents didn’t know what was happening to me. We weren’t allowed to use the telephone, so even on my birthday I just received word that they’d called to wish me a happy one. All they got on their end was a handful of sentences written in loopy script with scattershot spelling. Technology makes hovering easier now. For the last few weeks, my wife and I ended our days poking around on the camp website, scanning photographs for the flash of red hair among the campers playing capture the flag and canoeing. Now, as I stood on the soft grass at the edge of the compound, I was doing the same scan, watching my daughter fling herself around along with the other campers, passing time before the organizing ring of the dinner bell.

Keep Reading…


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Conversation Starters: Our Calling to His Purpose

Posted by Teeny

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

How can you keep this conversation going at home?  Try bouncing some of these questions around at the dinner table, as you’re driving your kids to school or an activity, or even while you’re shopping together:

For Preschoolers
What do you want to be when you grow up?

How can you show people you love God in that job?

For Children
In addition to the above questions, ask, How do you think you can tell if this is something God wants you to do with your life?

For Students
When you work on a group project, hod do you decide which idea to go with?

Is it sometimes hard to admit someone else might have a better idea than you?  What do you do about it?

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Conversation Starters: Obedience to Him

Posted by Teeny

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 7:21

Conversation Starters
How can you keep this conversation going at home?  Try bouncing some of these questions around at the dinner table, as you’re driving your kids to school or an activity, or even while you’re shopping together:

For Preschoolers
What are some rules that keep you safe?
Why do we have rules like this?
What are some of God’s rules?  Did God give us rules to keep us from having fun, or because He loves us?

For Children
What are some rules you know we should follow?
Why should we obey these rules?
Is there more to being a Christian than just following rules?  What else?

For Students
Why are relationships important?
How do rules protect relationships?
Honestly, how would you feel about a parent who had no rules or expectations for his children?

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Conversation Starter: Free

Posted by Phil

Living Beyond Yourself
John 16:5-15

Holy Spirit points us to our need for Christ and how we can receive Him

Conversation Starters

How can you keep this conversation going at home? Try bouncing some of these questions around at the dinner table, as you’re driving your kids to school or an activity, or even while you’re shopping together:

For Preschoolers
This week, spend some time talking with your preschooler about what makes God special. Emphasize things like “God loves you,” “God gives us what we need,” “God protects us,” and so forth.

For Children
What kinds of freedoms do we enjoy in our country? What sacrifices did people have to make so we could have those freedoms? How are these freedoms similar or different from the freedom God provided when Jesus died on the cross?

For Students
Why do we spend so much time trying to be free? When have really felt like you were really free?

If you had to describe the Holy Spirit to a friend, what would you say?
What is the hardest thing for you to understand about the Trinity?

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The best ways to pray with children

Posted by Phil

Recently in the prayer class I lead at our church in Oklahoma City, I was explaining to the new children why we take one Sunday a month from their regular lessons to focus on prayer. “We want you to know God, not just know about Him, and hear God, not just hear about Him,” I explained.

Eight-year-old Andrew, who has been in prayer class for several years, piped up to help get the idea across: “It’s like me and President Bush. I’ve seen him on TV lots of times, especially since 9-11, and read about him in the newspaper, and heard my parents talking about him. But I have never had a conversation with President Bush, so I don’t really know him, do I?”

Andrew was exactly right. If we want our children to know God and not just know about Him, we need to teach them to pray and pray with them. Children could do all kinds of worksheets about God and hear stories about Him, but it is when they talk and listen to God that they begin to know His heart.

Children need to know early in their lives that they can talk to God just like they talk to Mommy, Daddy, or a best friend. They need to understand that God is there and attentive to what they have to say. Instead of putting them on hold or playing a recorded message, God is always willing to listen – whether they are on the playground, at a friend’s house, in the car, or at church.

You can pray …

Heart to heart – Share with your child a time that you prayed and received the answer in a surprising or dramatic way.

On the spot – The next time your child comes to you with a problem or worry, instead of saying, “I will pray for you,” do it right then. Even if it is a short prayer, you will be demonstrating the important principle that God wants us to cast the care of all our concerns on Him and pray about everything.

Through the newspaper – Pass out sections of the newspaper and ask each child to come up with one concern to pray about.

Modeling: How to learn prayer

One of the first ways children learn the importance of prayer is hearing their moms and dads pray. Since Josh was born, his dad would pray for him each night at bedtime, asking for God’s protection and love to fill his heart. When Josh turned 2 years old, his parents added a short nightly reading from his Bible. Shortly after age 2, Josh began to join in by looking around his room and naming everything he could see to thank God for – blankets, puppy, Mommy, Daddy, new shoes, toys, the nightlight, eyes, ears, nose. He thanked God for the most interesting items! But it was not only Josh that was growing spiritually. Hearing her son’s simple prayers, Josh’s mom, Sandy, could not remember the last time she thanked God for her sight, hearing, shoes, clothes, and all the other blessings in her life.

Get out of the ruts of prayer

One way to banish the “nothing to pray for” or “prayer is boring” complaint is to get out of the ruts of prayer by using prayer targets and making prayer active. Use a game I call “Musical Prayers.” Place a chair for each participant in a circle. Tape a prayer target to each chair. Begin playing music and have everyone walk around the chairs. When the music stops, each person finds the nearest chair and prays for that need.

Use an inflatable world globe and pass it from person to person. When the music stops, the person holding the globe can choose a country and pray for the children in that country to know about Jesus.

Take your children on a prayer walk. Children are terrific prayer walkers because they enjoy movement and being “on site” makes the prayers more meaningful and concrete. To begin, walk around your neighborhood and ask God’s blessing and salvation on each family. Pray for the children in each home.

Give children the freedom to talk to God in different postures: sitting, standing, kneeling, marching, or bowing. When you have family prayer time, allow each person to choose a different posture in which to pray.

Pray a blessing

Praying a prayer of blessing on your child’s life each night at bedtime (or other times of the day) can bring comfort, reassurance, and hope to your child’s heart. Pray for God’s favor, protection, and peace. Thank the Lord for something specific – a gift, talent, or quality in your child. You can use a Bible blessing such as Psalm 5:12 or Numbers 6:25 or speak from your heart. When you pray scriptural blessings, you are speaking words that match God’s desire for your child.


An essential part of prayer is simply saying, “Thank You, God.”

Blessing basket – Fill a small basket with little slips of paper. Encourage family members to write or draw pictures of things for which they are thankful.

Best part of the day – Ask each child to say a sentence prayer, thanking God for the best part of her day.

Family journal – Keep a notebook full of things for which the family is thankful.

As you try different ways of connecting with God, children will learn that prayer is one of the greatest adventures in life – to call on the God of the universe and then to hear from Him. As Jeremiah 33:3 says: “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and wondrous things you do not know.”

by Cheri Fuller on Tuesday, September 27, 2005

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A Parent’s Primer on Internet Pornography

Posted by Phil


You may think that you already have a good grip on this somewhat uncomfortable topic. As a youth development professional, I strongly encourage you to take a few short minutes to check out this simple article with plenty of optional additional resources. We want you to be equipped…

“The Internet, mobile devices, and other digital technologies combine to create a world in which children and teens no longer have to look for and find pornography. Now, pornography is in the mainstream and it finds them.

As parents called by God to nurture our children through childhood and into a spiritually healthy adulthood, we have the responsibility to be keenly aware of pornography’s presence, its compelling draw, and the impact it has on our kids. When it comes to pornography, what they see and experience now will not only shape them in the present, but will continue to influence them and their relationships for the rest of their lives. Consequently, we must be diligent in preparing our children to understand, process, and respond to this horribly fallen expression of God’s good gift of sexuality in ways that bring honor and glory to God.”

Read more from Walt Mueller’s article.

Phil Berry
Assistant Director, Camp Ridgecrest for Boys

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True Love Waits – living with teens

Posted by Phil

Something to talk about:

by Rachel Lovingood

Alarming statistics remind us that, as parents, we need to work hard to keep our tweenagers from making mistakes that can affect them for the rest of their lives. This is especially true regarding sexual issues. Tweens are developing socially, and that inevitably means interest in the opposite sex. We must equip our tweens to make godly choices, and thereby to resist the influences they constantly receive from the world around them.

Pay attention

The culture of middle schoolers is very sexual – from their music, to the television shows they watch, to their hallway conversations. If you’ve resisted talking with your tweens about sex and dating, then you’re already behind. It’s vital that you keep communication lines open so you recognize when issues need to be addressed. If you’re reluctant to speak openly with your tweens about sex, the world is more than willing to speak on your behalf, and you may not like its message.

If you aren’t sure what messages your middle schoolers have received, watch the television shows that capture their attention, read lyrics to their favorite songs, and check out the websites they surf. You may be stunned.

Read More…

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Balance for Dads

Posted by Phil

I feel like I have been working through Work – Life Balance every day of my marriage. And of course it gets more complicated with every child. And for me, the summer months are interesting, as I work all day/evening for 77 days straight (with 4 days off.) The crazy thing is, it works! Notice I didn’t say it’s easy.

My wife Amy and I were given some strong advice from some leaders in our life when we got married. We were warned about the challenges of balancing our relationship with Jesus, our marriage, our kids, our ministry, and our careers, and our social lives. This doesn’t include how we get involved in our community. How does a young, newly married couple manage?

Well, the more couples I talk with, the more I realize that we barely manage. Most of us fail at this balance, at least for a while. But then there are moments of fresh, clean air, untainted by the difficulties in life. Man, these good times… when everything is going well… those are awesome!

Here are a few wise words of advice that have worked for us! Dads, since I’m one of you, this will probably resonate the most with you. Listen up! There are only 5. (And I’m pretty sure I stole all of these from different folks throughout the years. I can’t take credit.)

1) Leave work at work. As hard as it was to start. This has been Huge for me! We work in a laptop/ipad/blackberry world. But it will change your life if you have the discipline to pick up and leave your office, and leave everything there (obviously not your blackberry). At first I was told it was impossible. Then I tried it….and have been doing it ever since. Try it for a week… see what happens with your time with your family when you don’t work at home.

2) Family First, always. A simple principle to try to live by. We watched an older couple live adventurously with this motto, and it was inspiring. We would say this simple phrase often as we tried to prioritize our schedules. Man, it helped us make tough decisions…

3) Meet your kids where they are. Intentionally move into their lives at some point every day. This means actually getting down on your hands and knees (without your blackberry) and play with your kids. The best time to do this is right when you walk in the door. Put your stuff down, greet your wife, and get down and play with your kiddos! Maybe you can only do this for 5 minutes each one day. That’s still awesome! They will notice it and remember.

4)Go on dates. With each person in your family. Individually. I try to go on a date with Amy, Piper and Lily each month. A fun way to go about it is to shoot for birthday DAYS. For example, Piper was born on the 11th. So, on the 11th of April, we took a date to “old McDonalds.” That’s right, the golden arches! Simple, affordable, but special every month. Just for her. We call them “daddy dates”, and my girls love them.

5) Say “No” to 3 seemingly important things a week. Believe it or not, one of my former bosses told me this one. If you feel like you are getting pulled in too many different directions, then you probably are. Say no to people. And remember to put your family first. By the way, it might help if you keep track of the 3 things you say no to each week. Try texting them to your wife, she’ll like to hear about them. And remember, these things will seem (and may be) important. Say no.

Like a Rubber Band. Like all practices, you can’t do them all 100% of the time, so just relax. Treat all this like a rubber band: be flexible, stretch it out when you need to. But remember, a rubber band always returns to it’s original shape. (Or if you are really with it… like a Silly Band.)

I hope these practical things help bring Balance to your life. When I am doing things like this, I find that I have more time with Jesus and can listen to what he wants me to be doing. And that is something I don’t want to loose sight of…

Phil Berry
Husband to Amy, Dad of Piper and Lily
Ridgecrest Summer Camps

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