Grab the Defib Unit


It’s nuts to think that in a short three months, I’ll be returning to one of the best places in existence. Calvin College where the Central District Youth Conference is hosted. People like to call it CDYC for short, but we like to call it FUN. What’s even more crazy is that registration is due in fifteen days, which means that it’s crunch time. It’s time to push people out of their comfort zones as we leave our own and its time to get every students phone numbers and send out spam as to why they need to come and what there is to expect. Granted, I’ve only been going for four years now, but each time I lovingly pressure somebody into going, I always inform them that there’s no way they’re going to come back upset.

I’ve said that the last few years and that statement holds true. So here’s the deal and the sole reason why I am writing about this issue. Students, Parents, friends of a Jr. High or Sr. High student: I want to share with you how you can completely change and save your loved one’s (student that is) life in less than a week. You might have heard murmurs about CDYC or gotten a letter in the mail, but I want to tell you the impact it can have on a person. As a living testimony, I want to give you the details on what CDYC is in my own eyes.

Okay, so I know I’m an adult leader and I know that the main purpose of CDYC is to get kids closer to God and to each other, but it’s so much more than that. If you aren’t familiar with what CDYC is, then here’s the rundown. Basically, CDYC is church camp. Listed below are the dates and costs for each group.

Jr. High

  • When: June 20-23
  • Price: $225

Sr. High

  • When: June 24-28
  • Price: $250

Now if this is all new and last minute to you, I know what you’re thinking. “Are you crazy, Clayton? That’s a lot of money for just some silly camp.” Two things. Number 1, we promo the crap out of fundraisers. We usually hold three a year for CDYC and it’s more than enough to raise the funds. One of the fundraisers is selling laundry detergent and when I participated in that one for a Missions trip to Guatemala, I raised half of the money for that just from detergent sales. That trip cost four digits as well. Point B, I can promise you that the time your child is going to have while they are at this camp can’t have a dollar price put on it. Being a part of this experience is priceless and the impact that it will have on their lives is priceless. You have my word on that. Additionally, if money is an issue and it is preventing a student from coming, we do scholarship students. We request that you try to pay at least some amount to make sure you are committed. $25 is better than nothing, but if you can pay more than that, great! The last thing we want as leaders is for someone to miss out on all of this due to stupid money. Yes, I legit think money is stupid, but that’s another blog…

I know some parents aren’t into the whole church thing and they may not be a Christian, but that’s fine! If you aren’t, some of this may not make a lot of sense to you but if you have a kid who wants to go, then think of it as a type of sporting or one of their favorite hobbies. Like sports, band, or other activities, your kid wants to have a fun time and get closer to the people around them. They also want to get better at the activity, which in this case is their faith. Again, this may seem like a weird concept, but seriously…this is the perfect place for them. Not to say, they will be under the guidance of a pretty awesome group of adults. (By the way, we all have background checks and go through training just to clarify that your kids are in safe hands. If you don’t believe me, feel free to call the church, me, or any of the other adult sponsors. We’d love to talk to you more in person and clear things up. We aren’t random strangers on the street. We legit!)

So I’ve talked about the logistics, but what exactly is it that we do? Well to start off, we meet up at RSM and pack up our bags. All of the information needed for what to bring and what not to bring will be on a separate form and discussed in person at a later date. We will be holding a meeting for parents to give them a little more information on he whole trip. This should clear some stuff up and let the parents see who will be watching their kids for a few days. (See, told ya we’re legit) The meeting will be held on June 17th at 8:30 P.M. This is a few days before we take off for CDYC. When we meet up in the morning, we pack up and head out to Calvin College via bus. We normally stop for dinner on the way there; however, our first meal may be at the school depending on which grade your student is in. Either way, you’re kid will be fed pretty stinkin’ well while there. The food is amazing.

The schedule consists of main worship sessions where we go to their auditorium/theater. We listen to some awesome bands and come together in worship, and then we hear a speaker give an important lesson dealing with some of the common struggles and problems teens go through. There’s also some games during the sessions here and there. The best parts about the sessions are how openly loving people are during the entire experience and during worship. Between the sessions, we meet up in small groups where we talk about the sermons that were given. Each student who comes to CDYC is also included in a sport, whether it’s basketball, volleyball, or something else. We play in teams and there’s a tournament, but since we’re from RSM, we focus on having a good time. I mean last year we made our own cheering section and played volleyball in choir robes as our friends sang cheers in choir robes. It was ridiculous but quite memorable. There’s also a color run, rock climbing, outdoor activities, and a lot of free time to get closer to one another and make some great, long-lasting friendships. I could go on and on about what we do there because it’s so event filled and great. Trust me, students won’t be bored while they are there. Again, if you have any more questions about what CDYC is or what your kid’s going to be doing, pick up a phone and call one of us! We’d be more than happy to talk.

Alright, so I’ve addressed the common information concerning parents, now let’s get into the bulk of this post (sorry I write so much), why you HAVE to come. Students, if you haven’t been before, trust me with all your heart when I say there is no way possible you will regret coming. If you do, let me know personally and I would be convinced to let you punch me in the face for giving you false information. I’m almost serious about that one. But I’m also serious about how crucial it is for you to come. Each year I go, I come back refreshed and my life is changed. In fact, the first year I went I was really hesitant to come. This was before I started getting more involved with RSM and I was really uncomfortable with talking to people. I know that seems odd as a leader and odd if you know me now, but there was an extended time in my life where I was a hermit and was too scared to talk to anybody. Coming to CDYC helped break me out of that shell. When I came for the first time, I felt uncomfortable at first, but it got better as the days went on. At first, I would stand in worship, not sing, and not move at all. I thought all of the stuff was weird and I wasn’t familiar with the junior high students, so I felt really out of place. But then I started seeing God, really seeing Him for the first time. Something suddenly came over me in one of the worship sessions and I suddenly got it. I looked around me and I saw a giant group of Jr. High students, a group of students who could be home playing video games or doing nothing on their summer break; a group of kids who could be out doing drugs and making poor decisions; a group of kids who are constantly under the influence and peer pressure of their friends; a group of students who willingly chose to embrace Jesus instead of all of those other bad things pouring their hearts out into the worship songs. And then the scales fell off of my eyes. I distinctly remember standing there in worship, seeing peoples’ hands raised in the air singing “How He Loves” at the top of their lungs. As I looked up to the stage and through the fog machines and green lights, I suddenly joined in on the song and felt my heart explode as the lady singing changed the lyrics from “How He Loves Us” to “How He Loves Me” This was my life changing moment. This was the moment where I kicked it up a notch in my faith and made the commitment to follow Jesus instead of being his fan.

You see, each year I go, I come back refreshed. Each year I go, I see students get saved and have their lives changed completely. The most broken, lost students go and come back home as superheroes. The people who I push so hard to get there who are on the safe side of the fence debating if they should come or not show up and literally weep because of the joy they experience. There are no words that can adequately describe how life-changing CDYC can be, it just depends on if you are willing to jump out of your comfort zone and how willing you are to really put the effort in to have your life changed. You get out what you put into it.

Like I said, this is an event targeted towards students, but I can vouch for any adult who goes that they look just as forward going to this for themselves as they do seeing students go. We want everyone to go! I can’t stress enough how amazing it is. Not to mention, there’s tons of stories and inside jokes that will have you talking until the following year when you return.

So this is my final plea to any student or parent reading this. Please consider coming. Let me put it into a different perspective for you. Since grades 6-12 attend, let’s say the average student is in the middle, so freshman. That means they are 14 years old. The average life expectancy for a human in the U.S.A. is 78.8 (We’re low on the scale thanks to processed foods!) That means if they live to the average age, they still have approximately 65 years left to live. This is equal to 23725 days. CDYC is at most 5 days long. If you compare this to the total days remaining, this comes out to 0.02% of your remaining life span. This leaves you with 23720 days left to do what you want if you don’t like it. What is there to lose??!!? At the very most, you lose some money and five days of your life. Big whoop, that’s a few less Big Macs and a few less seasons of time wasted spent watching Pretty Little Liars or something else that corrupts our minds. (Yeah, I’m pretty pro at wasting time too. It’s all good, but you get my point) Sure you might lose 5 days, but it only takes one second and the right experience to change your life forever. Those remaining 23720 days could turn into the best 23720 days you’ve ever lived if something big happens!

I could rant forever about how great this trip is and rewarding it is. I’m sure you’re tired reading all of this so far though, so I’ll wrap it up. If you are on the edge about coming and you aren’t sure, I strongly advise you to consider it. If you don’t know anybody who is coming, I’d be willing to stand by your side until you comfortably make friends to hang around, which won’t take long. If you can’t make it or don’t want to, I understand and that’s fine, but I really do hope you can! You’ll thank me later.

I’m obviously biased about CDYC, but that’s because it changed my life and continues to do so each and every year. The best part is it lets you get away from all the stresses and crap that comes with life and be at peace for a few days around the people you love and adore. We like to call CDYC “FUN” but that doesn’t even put a dent into what CDYC really stands for.

Take a random leap of faith. If you’re a student, show up and bring a friend to make it more comfortable and enjoy the peace away from home. If you’re an adult, get your kids out of the house a few days and enjoy the peace and quiet. It’s a win/win. Who knows, you could even save a life just by showing up.

Love ya!

– Clayton


Sloppy Wet Kisses


**Disclaimer: This post may unintentionally step on some toes. My goal isn’t to stir up waters are cause any conflicts, but instead to tell how for the last seven years my life has never been the same after a life changing and life saving decision.**

I’m a Christian. I say that with pride. Now before you hit the back button or close the page, I encourage you to give me a second chance if this isn’t the same life style you support. If you wish to not continue, that’s totally fine! I’ll still love you the same and think of you the same. In fact, if you feel so uncomfortable about it, I’d rather you leave this page and not be forced into reading this because that’s how my own story started. For everyone else who wants to read this, I’ll let you in on how I started following this life style and what it’s done for me today. This is how God entered my life and forever changed me.

My first exposure to church was in sixth grade. My dad and step-mom had our family go to this foreign place known as church. Evan (my brother) and I were resilient to going because it was the weekend and we would rather sleep in, play video games, or watch cartoons. Yes, cartoons. I still watch them, so don’t judge! Anyways, we went for a while and honestly the only thing I remember about church is going to their youth group and playing a couple games. I do remember fragments of the story of David and Goliath, but the dominant memory that stands out to me is how my brother and I stirred up a little bit of chaos when we were there. We set mouse traps and threw them at each other. Pretty God honoring right? Give us a break, we were stupid little kids then, haha. Anyways, we went for a few weekends and eventually we just stopped. I’m not sure if it was my parents having to work or what, but it just stopped. This was fine for the both of us because that meant more sleep.

Fast forward a few years to my senior year of high school. Now before I get into my next church exposure, I’ll let you know that I don’t have some hardcore story of how I was in a lot of bad things and got saved and it was all better, or at least hardcore in my eyes. In fact, my rock bottom didn’t even occur until I started going to church regularly. All in all, we were fortunately pretty good kids. I was super quiet in school and I stayed out of trouble. Sadly, I can thank my friend group and video games for that blessing. I was too much of a socially awkward and scared little boy to do anything too extreme. I was a nerd to the max, drugs and past experiences to family members who used them disgusted me, and I still though girls had cooties. Well, that last part isn’t true…I was just to afraid to talk to them at the time.

So the second church exposure I had was, like I said, my senior year of high school. One Sunday morning, my dad wakes me up at what felt like 3 a.m. and tells me I’m going to church. Him telling me this was slightly different than when he had done so six years ago. With my advanced age (I was 17. I was pretty much an adult) and my hormonal imbalance, being told to do something I didn’t want to do instead of sleeping didn’t settle well. In fact, I was pretty ticked off and didn’t want to go at all. I even remember being stubborn and ignoring everybody that morning which resulted in my step-mom yelling at me for ignoring my sister. Yeah, I was acting like a jerk. But what teen wouldn’t? (By the way, if you are reading this Dad and Shawna, I really didn’t want to go at all but there are for sure no bitter feelings. If I wouldn’t have went then, then I wouldn’t be where I was now so I’m much more thankful than you could imagine. Honest.)

Anyways, I go to church and to spite my dad I sat with a friend and away from them. To any parent who has a moody teenager that is constantly dramatic, I want to apologize because I now understand how silly, irritating, and impossible it can be to deal with this, and I’m not all that bad. As the weekends go on, he keeps making me go back and I keep not liking it. Eventually we stop going and the whole time we went I didn’t really get anything out of it. The major reason I didn’t get anything out of it and I was so resistant to actually listening to the messages is because I wasn’t putting in any effort and I had been upset over the whole thing. I was forced into this idea of Christianity and I didn’t like it.

As a side note, for all you reading and all you non-believers who may have made it this far and not closed the page, I am sorry if anybody has every tried to force you into religion or scare you into it. I’m sorry if Christians have treated you poorly and have tried to act better than you because they believe in a different life than you. I’m sorry if you’ve been given a bad taste based on human actions. It’s not always like that, I promise. I can say that when I was personally forced into it, I hated it. Yes, you read that right. I hated it. It was against everything I wanted and as hard as somebody might have tried to get me to see life in a different way, I wasn’t going to do it. Forcing somebody to do something and shoving it down their throat is wrong. If there’s one piece of useful information I’ve learned after becoming a Christian, it’s to keep an open mind about others opinions even if you may not accept them yourself. Just because you may not practice them doesn’t mean you need to shun somebody else for their thoughts and beliefs. Jesus came to this earth with an open mind and loved everyone and told us to do the same. I mean, the dude hung out with the super sinners of the world and treated them like his best friend. It’s our duty to do the same.

Fast forward a few months to the time where the fecal matter of life was forcefully propelled into the turbine blades of my soul. This rough season is another blog post, but to sum it all up stuff got bad. Bad for my family and bad for me. At this point, we had stopped going to church and music was my only crutch in life. Crazy right? Looking back on all of this, I still wonder to this day how I managed to get through nearly all of high school without Jesus. It’s apparent that God had bigger plans for me since I made it out in one piece. There’s no denying that Jr/Sr High is hard. Growing up is hard. Sometimes parents forget how hard it is to be a kid  but if you think about it adults are just kids who live in bigger bodies and have more responsibilities. Think twice before you roll your eyes at your teens so called minute problems.

So stuff gets real and I go back to church. I didn’t know what compelled me to do so, but I start going back without my family. Maybe it was a handful of friends who invited me, or maybe it was just God silently speaking to me, but I went back and I started getting involved in RSM (Rock Student Ministries. The best thing in this world. If you’re a teen reading this, you should get involved. If you’re an adult, we always need more leaders! I promise it will change you for the better) As I started to go more, I started feeling better about life and I started to call myself a Christian. I even answered the call to salvation and at least started living a Christian life on Sundays. It wasn’t full time, but it was better than none at all. Random thought, but I’ll still never forget when Brian came in as the new youth pastor and he was riding on Adam’s shoulders. I remember wondering who in the world he was because I had never seen him in my life.

There’s a whole lot more to my story and my faith and how all of this came together, but again, those are other stories that will eventually be unraveled in time. The major idea though is that I was lost before that time and I am now found. It took me nearly three years of going to church on my own to realize I was just going through the motions and not living my life for Christ. I was a fan of Jesus, and not a follower. It wasn’t until I was in a room full of teenagers worshiping God that I suddenly realized that I not only needed Jesus in my life, but I wanted Him in my life. I had made the decision to follow God on my own and I wasn’t being forced into it. It felt completely right to me.

My transition always reminds me of a quote from the book “Blue Like Jazz.” The quote is:

Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.

When people stopped dragging me to church and trying to make me live a lifestyle I didn’t support, I opened my eyes and saw how people lived their lives around me. I saw certain friends change for the better and I noticed that my church friends had far less stress than I did. They seemed a lot happier than me and I wanted that for myself. I saw the change in others and I wanted that.

If any non Christians are still reading this, then I want to thank you so much for making it this far. I appreciate that you are willing to continue on and read something you may not fully support. If you don’t support any of this, then that’s fine. I just ask that you don’t’ try to use all of this as ammo to start an argument. I’m not forcing you to read this and in fact I’d rather you turn away if you don’t agree. I know that all of this may seem like bologna to you, and that’s okay! I used to think the same thing about the whole God thing and religion. I went to a college for scientists and I’m the type of person who has to have the answer to something. Christianity doesn’t guarantee all the answers. In fact, I still ask a lot of questions and it can be pretty darn frustrating and confusing at times. Sure the concept of a God or higher being might seem bogus, but I’d rather spend my whole life believing in a God who doesn’t exist, than dying and ending up facing Him like, “Ohhhh, I didn’t know you were actually there. Oops.”

What I do know is that I was once a lost, lonely, and angry person who was in a very depressing place. I didn’t have anybody to turn to until I found God and found new friends who supported this lifestyle. I can also tell you that even after becoming a Christian, I’ve stood by the side of old friends and supported their ways of life without trying to force them into this lifestyle because I know how it feels to be on the receiving end. It’s not all that fun. Today, I’m not that same person. I’ve been changed through Jesus. I’ve reached the happiest point in life that I’ve experienced so far and I’m blessed beyond numbers to be involved in a youth group that gives me the opportunity to provide kids with the help I never had growing up. I know I don’t share my faith enough since I had been so scared myself with it being forced on me, but I’m working on that.

Being a Christian doesn’t make you perfect or make you better than anyone else. I’m in my twenties, I have a Ph.D. at screwing life up and I’m looking forward to making multiple mistakes in the future. You can’t grow without them! The Bible wasn’t made to be used as a weapon, but instead was made as an instruction guide for us idiot humans who don’t know how to live our lives. As one of my students told me once, Bibles stands for “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” Being a Christian gives you a support system for making life a little more easier. Maybe not exactly easier, but more bearable. I’m not everyone, but I know for sure it’s made me happier.

I’m a Christian. I am not better than you. I am not forcing you to live this lifestyle. I strongly encourage it, but I’m not going to tell you that you have to. I may not support your lifestyle or values, but I’ll still love you no matter what!!! You might think eating metals shavings boosts your iron content, but I’m not obligated to eat them. I might think JIF is the only brand of peanut butter to buy, but you don’t have to buy it. We can still live in this world together and love each other without all the fuss.

As a final though on all of this, one thing that compelled me to open up about this was the whole RFRA junk going around. I was hesitant to post anything about my faith all of this because I didn’t want it to turn sour, but I know that my life is built on my beliefs so much that I need to be obedient and give God credit for what He’s done in my life. Regarding the RFRA deal, I’ve yet to do more than skim over it and see what everybody is saying. I’ve seen all the negative, hateful, and opposing comments on social media and makes me sad.

To conclude this novella, I have one final thought to leave you with regarding all the RFRA nonsense that’s going around. It’s my honest, heartfelt opinion on the matter and it’s a lifestyle I live to this day. I’ve yet to read anything about the whole law because I support this idea:

It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, Atheist, Agnostic, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Gay, Straight, Bi, Transgender, Black, White, Asian, Blue, Green, Purple, Weird, Normal, Tall, Short, Fat, Ripped, Mean, Nice, Broken, or Perfect. If you suddenly treat somebody differently or have a different opinion of them due to a silly law being passed, then maybe you aren’t treating people the way they really deserve to be treated? If this law has your panties in a bunch towards a different party, then maybe it’s time to fix some stuff in your own life first.

Love ya!

– Clayton