A Week at the Creek
Dena Johnson MartinDena Johnson is a former single mom to three amazing kids: Blake, Cole, and Cassie and wife to her high school friend, Roy. She strives to follow Christ each day and to lead her children to do the same. She delights in taking the every day experiences of life and turning them into biblical lessons for her children. Dena's daily prayer is simple: Lord, my life is yours. Live through me. Love through me. Parent through me. Let me decrease that you might increase. Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people find beauty through the brokenness of this life. Her heart's desire is to use her own pain to point others to the power of God who redeems every hurt, every pain. You can contact Dena at Dena@denajohnson.com. You can also find her blog at Dena Johnson Ministries.
- 2018 Jul 05
If you are not from Oklahoma, you might not be impacted by those two words. But, for us Okies, the term Falls Creek is filled with meaning.
For those of us who grew up in Oklahoma, Falls Creek brings memories of an outdoor tabernacle, huge fans, sweat pants pulled up to our knees, the gum tree, and trips to the Devil’s Bathtub.
My children have heard the stories of thousands of youth gathered every summer in the sweltering heat, sitting and worshipping in the open-air tabernacle. They’ve heard the stories of how we etched our name on the old wooden benches night after night. They’ve listened as we’ve talked about meeting kids from other churches and going on Icee dates. We’ve told them about the rules where shorts were not allowed so we toughed it out in our sweat pants.
While much has changed at one of the largest youth encampments in the world, much has remained the same. Today, my kids are allowed to wear modest shorts. They gather in a 7,000-seat auditorium complete with air conditioning and media and comfortable seats. Instead of hiking to the Devil’s Bathtub, they choose to call it God’s Jacuzzi, a fresh-water spring pool that feeds the Falls Creek. They still walk by the gum tree, a place where 100 years of gum is collected from the thousands of youth who have spent their summers in the campground.
One thing that has not changed is the atmosphere. There’s something special in this place, a place where the Holy Spirit’s presence is so strong. To see literally 5,000-7,000 teenagers gathered in one place, lifting their voices to God in worship, is still overwhelming, something you must experience to understand it. Every summer, for eight weeks, thousands of young people gather together at Falls Creek away from the distractions of this life, completely immersed in the Word of God, changing lives as they commit themselves to Christ.
This year, Roy and my kids went to Falls Creek. My heart rejoices that they had the opportunity to be on the mountaintop, to enjoy a week of soaking in the Holy Spirit’s presence. They returned filled with stories of laughter and fun and heart-warming moments. Roy even had the privilege of baptizing two of Cassie’s friends in the Creek! What more could he ask for?
Today, my daughter was asked to speak briefly about her experience at Falls Creek, to summarize her week at the Creek. As she spoke, my heart overflowed with joy and pride. My 14-year-old took us to church! And today, I’d like to share a few thoughts spurred by my daughter’s experience.
You can choose to let your trials spur you to spiritual growth. Cassie has been through many trials in her short life, and she chooses to let them make her stronger, better, more like Christ. She has a mindset of growth, a mindset that says God gives His hardest battles to His strongest soldiers. She has chosen to pray repeatedly that God would do a mighty work in her so He can do a mighty work through her.
As Cassie said Sunday, trials make us stronger if we choose to let God work through them in our lives. What choice are you making today?
Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4
You can choose to immerse yourself in His Word. Cassie spoke about how she had been in darkness for a while in her life, how she had allowed the struggles of this life to drag her down. She chose to focus her heart and mind on the Word of God. It was the beginning of her breakthrough. She also chooses to listen to Christian music all the time, and she listens to the words, letting them minister to her. It’s in the Word of God and the praise music that she hears God’s sweet voice drawing her close.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8
You can choose to step out of the darkness and into His light. Our enemy wants to keep us in the dark, out of the beauty of God’s light. In Cassie’s words, just open the curtains and let the light in. Staple those curtains to the wall to keep from letting them close again. Do not allow the enemy to keep you trapped in the darkness where fear rules; instead, let your faith be stronger than your fear.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2
You can choose to keep your eyes focused on Him. Distractions are everywhere. Whether it’s technology or work or life in general, it is hard to keep our mind focused on Him. But it’s also a choice. As Cassie said, we need to run like racehorses with blinders on our eyes to remain focused on what is ahead, blocking out all of the distractions around us. It’s then that His perfect peace overwhelms us and helps us through the trials we face each and every day.
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3
You can choose the Truth over the lies of Satan. Fear is a liar. Satan is a liar. We must choose Truth. How do we know what the Truth is? Truth is a person, our Savior, the One who gave His life for us. You see, Jesus said He is the truth. We must choose to become so familiar with our Heavenly Father that our minds immediately know the Truth. We must choose to let truth win.
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. John 14:6
As I listened to my girl preach Sunday morning, I was overwhelmed with how God has answered my prayers. You see, I can’t take credit for who this amazing young lady has become (and I don’t want to forget my amazing young men, either). Years ago on this single mom journey, I gave up. I told God I quit. I quit parenting, and I asked Him to parent my kids through me. I’ve been far from perfect on this journey, but I am forever grateful that my perfect Heavenly Father has stepped in in my weakness. He is the One who has molded my kids and made them into the people they are today. So, for all of you parents—single or not—do not fear. Simply surrender. Ask the Father to take over. It’s a prayer He always honors.