Life Teen Camp
Week 2 | June 9th - 14th
Host: Brennen Cull
Brennen Cull is blessed to be married to his best friend, his bride Amber, as well as dad to his three little babies Emily, Ethan, and Sophia. Brennen is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at Holy Trinity Parish in El Dorado Hills, California. Brennen also serves as the Life Teen Area Contact for Northern California. Brennen feels truly humbled to have the opportunity to help lead teens closer to Christ through the movement of Life Teen.
What is Covcrest?
Camp Covecrest is a Catholic summer camp set in the mountains of North Georgia. It’s a place where parish youth groups from all over the country come together to experience summer camp at its best. Teens are given the opportunity to dive deeply into their Catholic faith and strengthen their relationship with Christ while having unforgettable experiences.
Great stories often begin with, “Once Upon a Time…” Those four simple words conjure up thoughts and emotions from our childhood—thoughts full of adventure, knights, and battles or maybe just Green Eggs and Ham. But not all great stories begin with “Once Upon a Time;” some begin with “In the Beginning…”
God’s story, and therefore our story, began in just that way. Our story began in a chaotic, dark abyss. To the chaos, God brought order. He began with light and darkness, earth and sky, land and ocean, and then all the animals. But He saved His greatest creation for last—you and I. The word “inspiration” literally means, “to breathe life into.” God breathed life into us and called us His sons and daughters.
This week is all about discovering the rest of the story and helping us reflect on our role in that story. Once we realize that God has created us for a specific reason, we can begin to better live our lives with that goal, getting to Heaven, in mind. In order to help us unpack our Father’s plans for us, we must first let go! Let go of any and all expectations you may have, because it is only when we let go of our plans, that we can fully allow God to enter into our lives.
One of my favorite quotes attributed to Blessed Mother Teresa is, “I am simply the pencil in the hand of the Author, as He writes His love letter to the world.” May we challenge ourselves this week to allow God to interrupt our lives and help us set our eyes and hearts on our story’s happy ending, Heaven!
Today's Top Shots:
Every great story has a conflict. Imagine a love story without the loveable loser trying to get the beautiful girl of his dreams. Imagine an action movie without the hero taking down the infamous villain. Imagine Star Wars without Darth Vader. We are excited by the need to overcome difficulties; conflict spurs us on. Conflict has been a part of God’s story, almost as far back as the very beginning. At the dawn of creation, Adam and Eve lived peacefully in the Garden of Eden. God provided them with everything they needed to fully live out their lives. Yet a conflict arose because they failed to trust God. You see God had given them everything they needed, but when questioned by the serpent, they thought God was holding out on them and they stopped trusting.
If we think back to our Children’s Bible version of this story, we can picture Eve standing under the tree (already dawning her fig leaves, which is biblically inaccurate, but we will ignore that for now) and this cute little snake is tempting her to eat the “forbidden fruit,” which we all know MUST have been an apple. In our Children’s Bible, Eve eats the apple, invites Adam to do the same, and thus changed the world forever. When we were children, we thought like children, and that story was sufficient. But now that we are grown, we need to take a closer look at the actual story. In the beginning, Adam and Eve were living fully in line with God’s plan. The serpent, which was more of a dragon than a snake, tempted Eve with the promise that if she ate from the tree of knowledge (and thus disobeyed God), she would be like God. The other key detail to pick up on is that Eve was not acting without Adam’s knowledge, but rather Adam stood by and allowed this sin to take place.
It is important that we have a more mature understanding of this passage, because it truly does reveal the pattern of sin that we still fall into in our lives today. When we choose to sin, we are telling God that we do not trust in His plan for us. We are telling God that we believe that sin will ultimately fulfill us more than living according to His will. In other words, it is the creation (us) telling the Creator (God) what is best. It is so important to examine Adam’s role in this passage. Not only did Adam buy into the devil’s lies, but he also sat by and allowed Eve to fall into sin. How often do we see our friends and family making decisions that separate them from God, yet we sit by (like Adam) without saying a word? We must learn to truly be our brother’s keepers and not be content with only avoiding our own personal sin but also to encourage others to avoid sin as well.
Since the fall of Adam and Eve, sin remains the central conflict in our own personal stories. But our God loves us too much to leave us wallowing in the muck of our sin. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God takes all of our shortcomings, our doubts, and our lack of trust and carries them for us—thus reuniting us with Himself and by His grace repairing and strengthening our roles in His story.
May we recognize our need for God’s mercy and forgiveness and seek Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation more regularly.
Today's Top Shots:
Every great story has a climax. The climax is the moment in the story that we are able to celebrate the victory of good over evil. The more angst and trouble that have led up to that moment, the sweeter the victory is. From the time of the fall of man until the time that Christ entered into the picture, the world was in a bad way. The Old Testament is full of bloody battles, false gods, slavery, and corruption. The only thing that got people through these times was the promise of a savior, a new king. But this king did not come marching in with a blaze of glory, but rather entered into this world through the quiet “yes” of a woman named Mary.
As Jesus entered into His public ministry at the age of 30, His apostles began to witness the healing power and love of the Messiah. These men lived with Jesus, laughed with Jesus, broke bread with Jesus, and were taught by Him. All that He taught them and the gifts He gave them, together with their relationship with Him, led these men to go out into the world and build our Church.
Often when I talk to teens (or even looking within my own heart) I hear, “Well if I had experienced all those things, I would be able to serve Him like the apostles too!” The problem with that argument is that we do experience those things every single week and some of us every single day. We are able to fully experience God’s story in the Holy Mass. Just think about it: God’s word is alive in the first reading (from the Old Testament), the second reading (from the New Testament) and the ministry of Jesus is recounted in the Gospel. Then, as if that weren’t enough, Jesus enters into our lives, literally, in the Eucharist- body, blood, soul and divinity. In other words, God gives us the exact same experience that His apostles had in the greatest climax of all, the Mass. And yet, how many times do we see the Mass as an obligatory hour that we struggle to get through. If we want to experience the climax of God’s great story, we must begin to truly enter into the Mass.
Pray for us, that we may begin to better understand our roles as His disciples, and enter into the most Holy Mass in a new way.
Today's Top Shots:
Throughout this week at camp, Jesus has boldly entered into the lives of our teens. Encountering Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Sacred Scripture, the Mass, and in Eucharistic Adoration, the teens have experienced a God who loves them, and who calls them sons and daughters. But the question in our hearts now becomes, “What next?” The thought of leaving camp, leaving a retreat, leaving a community where it’s safe to live out your faith, can be very scary. It is easy to find yourself filled with an overwhelming sense of joy, only to have that joy sucked out of you the minute you return home to the “real world.”
We have to remember that the reason we’ve been experiencing a sense of peace this week is that we have been living like the children of God He created us to be. The joy we have been feeling is something that He intended for us to feel all along. It is only when we fall away from Him that we listen to the world and try to fill ourselves with other things, which leads us to unrest and steals our joy. Many times, I have bought the lie that the sinful, angry, restless version of myself is the “real” me and the joyful, happy, peaceful version of myself that comes out on retreat is the “fake” me. This is an absolute lie. We are meant to carry our joy out into the world, to be God’s hands and feet.
At the end of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus commissions His disciples to go out and baptize and make disciples of all nations. He had given them everything they needed and sent them the gift of the Holy Spirit as their guide. Jesus’ commissioning of the disciples wasn’t only for those twelve men; it is for us too. We cannot do it on our own; we must turn to the Holy Spirit to help us in times of weakness, adversity and doubt. With the Holy Spirit’s presence, God is always with us, and with Him, we can go out and change the world.
Pray for us, that we may be more aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives and that we may be the hands and feet of God by bringing His love and light to the world.
Today's Top Shots:
“Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29). Jesus asks His apostles this question after asking them how others answer the same question. Once again, Jesus isn’t only asking the apostles this question; He’s asking us too. While the world is saying what it thinks about God, the church, and what is right and wrong, who do we say Jesus is? As we prepare ourselves to leave camp this week, who do we proclaim Jesus to be? And how do we proclaim it? Who do we say Jesus is, in our words? We need to be a people who are unashamed to speak about our Lord and our heavenly Father. When we find ourselves in a situation in which Jesus is being persecuted, we need to have the courage to defend our Lord who loves us so much. When we witness a lost brother or sister, we need to be brave enough to introduce Jesus into their brokenness.
Who do we say Jesus is with our actions? Actions, quite often, speak louder than words. Do we boldly proclaim Jesus with our lips, while denying Him with our sinful behavior? It is important that we understand how to defend our faith, how to intellectually bring Jesus to the hearts of our brothers and sisters. But, oftentimes, we say more with the lives we lead than with the words we speak. We must be steadfast and ensure that our actions, the lives we lead, glorify God, because we never know who is watching. Someone may never give you the opportunity to speak Christ into his or her life, but the joyful and pure way in which you live may be the thing that leads him or her closer to Heaven.
St. Peter tells us to, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15). Pray for us, that we may be ready to give testimony to Jesus through our words and our actions.