Beyond Normal

Beyond Malibu is an extraordinary place. It’s named after a Young Life camp called Malibu, situated about 100 miles north of Vancouver, British Columbia. It’s a beautiful club-type property on the corner of the Jervis and the world-renowned Princess Louisa Inlet. It used to be a retreat center back in the day for very wealthy patrons. Rumor has it that even JFK and his family visited there.

If you know Young Life camps, you would know that when they acquired the property, they eventually made it one of the top youth “play-houses” in the world. It’s full of cedar decks, built on multiple levels, with shops, a large game room, a gym, a pool, and a myriad of water sports/activities, all mixed with lots of energy from work crew and summer staff volunteers and blaring music, all while being surrounded by beautiful towering mountains that go from sea level to over 8,000 ft.

This place is beautiful as you can see in the photos below…

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And so it is, that at the corner of Jervis and Princess Louisa, there lies this beautiful gem of a property, but a couple miles back, deep in the Princess Louisa, tucked away behind a small island, nestled in the trees that crowd the shore line of this part of the world, is a base camp for the mountaineering/adventure camp called Beyond Malibu, named because you must go “beyond” Malibu, beyond all the comfort and provision of “normal” civilization, to find a new way of experiencing camp.

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At Beyond, there aren’t the same amenities that Malibu has… there’s no electricity except for the kitchen/barn area that is hydro powered from the water coming down from the glaciers. There are no flushing toilets, no snack bars, and no game rooms to fill your free time with. To sum up Beyond, it’s work, rest and people.

You work your tail-end off to prepare each week for mountaineering campers who will go up into the glaciers with guides for 6 days, for an experience with Jesus like no other. The work that it takes to get the base camp ready to send off trips is unbelievable, and the work often takes you past the point of exhaustion, so that when it’s time to close off the work day, rest comes very easily.

It’s also a great detox program for the consumer driven culture of the West that gets what it wants “now”. No electronics for kids, no numbing devices or activities are available to escape the reality of boredom at times, no snack bar to grab a quick snack between meals as hunger breaks into your life around 3pm, and comforts from home are far away as a new normal is slowly embraced.

Beyond Malibu is beyond normal.

What is experienced at Beyond is a way of life that confronts the type of cultures that most of us come from. It forces slowness. It demands patience. It creates wonderful community, especially after the forming, norming and storming process takes it’s course in relationships. It allows space for meaningful conversations as no one can travel in their metal boxes alone from one place to another. Beyond slowly works into each person a certain level of vulnerability that allows hearts to be exposed and known.

Isn’t that what we all really want… to be known? Maybe the first time you hear that phrase, you would say, “That is not what I really want!”, until you sit with the reality of not being known. We were created for this new normal, the Beyond-type-of-normal. A way of knowing that makes social-media-type-of-knowing look like child’s play. It’s a way of knowing that forces you to be honest with who you are and how you really feel in life. You can’t pretend in this environment.

The Beyond normal is a new normal that I believe we all need to some degree, as life can only hold us up for so long as we identify ourselves by “what we do.” We weren’t created to answer the question, “So what do you do?”. We were created to answer the question “Who are you and why do you do what you do?” The “what” is usually answered as you learn about the “who” and the “why” of a person.

Beyond gets past the “what you do” in life and gets straight to the “who are you” and “why it is you do what you do.” We need this new normal to invade our lives so we can truly know and truly be known. This is where meaningful relationships begin. This is a hot bed for the transformational change many of us have been longing for in our lives.

Thanks Beyond Malibu for offering a Beyond-type-of-normal experience!

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An Anniversary Reflection

It was the summer of 1996. I had just graduated high school in May and soon after I went off to a work crew assignment at a Young Life camp in British Colombia called Malibu, I know, rough stuff, but somebody had to fill the role.

That summer most of the friends I made were from Dallas, and at the end of the assignment in June I thought Dallas was the new place for me. I moved out there to make a new home for myself and lived in a house with a few  friends who were in Young Life. Everything I owned I packed into a 1985 Toyota Corolla and made trip to the Lone Star state. I had one cassette tape at the time and my car stereo had no antenna, so I wore out an old Plank Eye album. Packing everything you own and driving somewhere is an exhilarating experience. If you’re ever bale to do, I highly suggest it!

Fast forward to the first week of September now, that same year. I found myself unsettled, uneasy, and empty. Dallas was fun, but it wasn’t home, and I was fighting to make it feel that way. The fight ended that week and I realized there were things in Phoenix that I hated, but I was running from them instead of facing them. There were mountains I didn’t want to climb and thought if I ran far enough the other way, I would lost sight of it all. I found out that’s not true. I chose to face the mountain, even though I didn’t realize the cost or what that would mean until much later in life.

So I packed up my Corolla again with everything I owned and made the trip back home with Plank Eye. It just so happened that the weekend I arrived in Phoenix was the same weekend of Young Life’s leader weekend retreat in Prescott. So I passed right through Phoenix and headed up to Prescott… Young Life is a large part of what home is for me.

That weekend I was in the for the surprise of my life. You see, there was this really good looking girl in Young Life I used to hang out with before I graduated, but she was a tier or two above me on the marketability scale. I liked her, but never gave it much thought about making a move to put my ego on the line to ask her out or anything. But this weekend, the weekend I chose not to run away anymore, was going to change my life.

I found myself in the same small room with and a handful of others learning about something I don’t remember. My mind was fixated on her, but I wasn’t going to let my body or my eyes show it. Every now and then I would wander my eyes over to where she was sitting, being careful not to let her see me look at her. But about 5 minutes into our time there, I looked her way, and realized… she was looking my way!

Our eyes met and locked into one another, love music began playing in the background, and wind started blowing through her hair… No, not really, that was just what my mind was thinking of though. She had a calm happy smile and waved at me and I waved back with sweaty pits, a nervous smile, and sweat drops building up on the side of my nostrils as if I had just had some really hot salsa. I thought to myself, “She waved! What does that mean? Is she just being nice?” I was so excited and nervous at the same time.

Then a sort of game ensued. We kept making eye contact and full on flirting was in play. I couldn’t believe it. I came home to face my fears, but this was a different fear to face. “The best looking lady in Young Life, the most eligible bachelorette, was flirting with me!” I thought to myself. “How do I not mess this up?”

There’s not enough time to explain all that happened after that, but one thing’s for sure, I was hooked and couldn’t stop facing that fear of rejection. A few months later I was sitting at a Wendy’s just before Christmas, 1996, looking into the eyes of Amy Roth as we both told each other that that we both wanted to be a ‘thing’!

May 29th, 1999 we made our love official and covenantal. It would take a while before I would see the value of making a promise, but now that I see it, it means much more to me than I ever thought it would. She has loved me at times only because she promised to love me, not because I’ve been lovable or even worth loving. This has been life giving to me and I know my covenantal love for her has been life giving to her as well.

We labor to make our love fun and passionate, not just covenantal. But sometimes when it is not what it should be, the covenant keeps you in the game. In this season of life, I am the source of the lack of fun and passion most of the time, and am grateful for my wife of 16 years who has loved me in beautiful and hard ways and has lovingly spoken life and truth into me and our marriage.

Happy Anniversary Amy Skeens. I’m thankful you chose to commit to me and chose to do life together. May God give us grace for another fun, passionate, and covenantal 16 years.

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