Month: April 2015

I Dare You to Go Camping! 5 Indisputable Reasons There is Nothing Like It.

If your idea of camping is booking a night at a nice hotel, then I’m after you.  Here are 5 reasons that you absolutely cannot let this summer go by without at least giving real, outdoor camping a try.

Incomparable Memories- No night in a hotel getaway will ever compare to the wonder a child will feel sleeping under the stars in a tent with family or friends. We take getaways to relax yes, but smart parents know it’s all about memory making. If you want your kids to remember your time away, make sure it involved a campfire with marshmallows, sticks, knives, and the wild outdoors. In their little hearts it will even trump the Trump.

Unplug, really unplug-  In a hotel, you are surrounded by devices and more devices and theaters and action. That’s all good, and I love a few nights in the city with my family. But when you’re camping, you have each other, a couple of books, and maybe that old board game and a few cards (yes I bring the iPad for the car ride but it stays in the car and off when we get there). I spend more time talking with the people I camp with and creatively having fun together than on any other outing. It’s freeing.

Adventure-  Yeah yeah yeah, the comforts of a hotel are nice. But get a little adventure mixed into our madness. Get outside. Take a hike. Maybe the sniffing around your tent in the middle of the night is a bear (yep, happened) or just someone’s dog. Who knows?! Camping will always bring more adventure than a hotel. I promise.

Problems- This is reverse psychology. It might rain in the middle of the night when you are tired. Or rain when you are out on a hike and you forget to leave the rain fly over the mesh walled tent (yep, happened) and you come back to floating sleeping bags. You’re tent stake might break. You probably will forget to bring the ketchup. Memories, remember. These turn into fun, adventure, memories of figuring things out and making the best of it. Try to teach that to your kids when room service forgets to bring napkins.

Beauty that will fill and quiet your heart- No cement palace will ever fill your soul like a tree lined peak or an open meadow, or a quiet lake. You will find more refreshment from the places camping will take you than anywhere you can Priceline.

So go ahead, I double dare you hotel fanatics to book just ONE night camping over the coming summer, find some of your hippie friends and see if they can show you the ropes and take you along on their next adventure too. You with me?

Campers out there, what are some of your indisputable reasons?

New Post: Clean Eating (this is not what you think!)

This isn’t the 17 ways kale and lemon water should be part of every hour of your life or the 5 foods that will transform you into a superhuman. In fact this really isn’t about food, let me explain.

I am not an extraordinarily disciplined guy, especially when it comes to food, but I have started eating with more intention and focus. I’m using a food diary, picking restaurants and meals with much more care then ever before.

Why? Well it’s not to lose weight. Don’t hate me; I’m one of those guys with gifted metabolism. Sort of like those kids who never really had to do their homework but still did great on the test. I can get away with eating what I want and you wouldn’t see it on me.

But here’s where you’d see it; my energy, garbage in garbage out they say. When I eat with no intention, I can hardly make it through a day or a week without feeling sluggish and sleepy. I don’t have what I need. I feel weak and then I get cranky and it starts sliding down from there.

Let me pose a comparison. Because I’ve been so focused on the food I’m putting into my body, I’ve been reflecting again on what we put in our heads.

What if we kept a mind diary, tracked our daily intake? A day’s inclusions might be:

“Watched the news, horrific stories, doomsday prophets, negative backbiting, slander of the other political party. Scrolled through Twitter and Facebook, saw how everyone is better than me in some way. Raced to work, listened to talk radio, sarcasm, innuendos, and a few good beats. Worked all day. Got home. Took care of everything and everyone. Collapsed on the couch and watched stupid shows, bloodlust shows, and more innuendo.”

Add up the days and we will feel spiritually sluggish, often on empty. If we want more of God, more spiritual energy, more sense of His presence and joy in our lives, we have to take an inventory of what we are constantly putting in our heads.

I am not going old school legalistic here. I promise. It’s just when I pulled up to the taco bell drive through yesterday for my son (that’s a whole different story) I asked myself, “will getting 3 double decker tacos really help me feel the way I want to feel in an hour, give me the physical energy I need?”

I think we can ask ourselves the same questions about our mental intake. Will watching this show, or scrolling further through the facebook feed, or listening to this on the radio really give me what I need to experience more of God and have the spiritual energy I need to get through a day and become the person I want to be.

Here’s the lesson I’ve learned about changing my food habit recently. It doesn’t necessarily help to start by cutting things out. The best place to start is by adding in the good stuff (like my wife’s barley and lentil soup, which is surprisingly amazing!).

What is some good stuff that you and I can add to our mental plates today, instead of filling up on the taco bell drive through of the soul that our world pushes on us everywhere we turn? A good book to help you grow? Music that reminds you of who God is? A silent few moments to quiet the racing thoughts? Time in Scripture? Let’s eat the good stuff.

Our Kids Need This More Than We Think

I’ve started to see that my children are at-risk youth. Now, we don’t live in a neighborhood plagued by gang violence. Their school provides a great education and attentive teachers. They have both parents fully engaged in their lives and modeling what love looks like. They have ample food, drawers full of warm clothes, decent health care, and even a growing college savings fund.

What’s the risk?

They are learning that they are entitled to these things. They are sheltered in the Truman bubble of American suburbia. Sickness is contained. Hunger is invisible. Opportunity is plush. Need is hidden.

Jesus came for the sick not the healthy. Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost. Blessed are the meek, on and on. Our children are at-risk from being raised without growing a grateful heart of one who serves. I try, small attempts here and there. Again and again to get my kids to see how grateful they should be for what they have.

“Be grateful for that beef stew even if you don’t like it, some kids never get to eat meat!”

“Be grateful for your clean water even though its not triple berry cooler punch. Some kids have to walk five miles for their clean water!”

Those should/shaming messages haven’t worked entirely well!

But I’ve found a new way. It’s sort of an old way actually. Gratitude and service is best caught not taught.

I live in the same bubble they live in. So I can try to shame message them and thrust them into activities to shape their little at-risk hearts. Or I can show them what gratitude and service looks like in the bubble, lived out by me. And take them out of the bubble WITH me as often as possible.

We’ve had some beautiful moments like this together as I am responding to God to serve others, to step into worlds where need is more visible, or to break out in grateful prayer for the simple things, making sure my kids share in that with me. I can tell it is a lesson they are willing to listen to because they are watching me grow too.

What ideas do you have to help our kids learn gratitude and service from us?

ONE Leadership Requirement

Cast vision, listen well, set the example, build a fantastic team, define reality, strategize for the future, solve problems, make tough calls, encourage, celebrate, empower, persevere, continually get better; all are essential components of leadership. But there is one quality that stands far and above all others. It’s a leadership requirement for Christian leaders; and it’s a little hidden detail in the life of Joshua. In fact, we learn about it not in the biography of Joshua’s life but rather Moses’, Joshua’s predecessor.

Joshua was a commander in the army of Israel, but really, nothing special in the era of Moses and the Ten Commandments. He was an aide. Look at this little detail though:

Exodus 24:13 Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God.

On Mt. Sinai, Moses AND Joshua were covered in the cloud of God’s presence and experienced the “glory of God as a consuming fire,” as the text later points out. None of the other elders and commanders of Israel were there.

Joshua, decades later was handed the baton of leadership for God’s covenant nation. Sure, Joshua was chosen by God, and certainly Joshua had been shaped through decades of training. But, what if the fact that truly set his leadership potential apart from all the others, was that he alone had gone to the mountain of God and experienced the presence of God?

In our leadership (family, church, business, whatever) let’s not forget this leadership requirement: for leadership to display the power of God, we must prioritize the presence of God. Prioritize the presence of God today.

What Are You Waiting For?!

What Are You Waiting For?!-2

The Israelites stood on the edge of freedom; only a threatening sea swayed before them and a vicious army hunted them from behind. They paused. They panicked. Moses, their leader, did nothing.

Exodus 14:15-16 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.

I don’t know about you, but that statement by God caught me off guard! “Why are you crying out to me?!” Are you serious, God?

After reflecting, I realize it is like a dad turning to a son, “Why are you asking me to do your homework for you? You know how to solve this. I’ve taught you the basics, you’re a smart kid, now use what you’ve been given to get the job done.”

Moses had already been given the call of God to lead these people to freedom. Moses had already been given the power of God to act on their behalf. What else was God to do other than say, “Moses, what are you waiting for?!”

It’s a pretty easy turn to look back at ourselves and realize, “Wait a minute, I’ve already been given the call of God to be His hands, His feet, and His mouthpiece in this world. I’ve already been asked to reconcile relationships, share His love and grace and truth with others, restore what is broken, serve widows and orphans and the outcasts, stand up for those who have no voice, be creative for His Kingdom, seek holiness, do justice, love mercy, be a part of bringing Heaven to earth, and on and on and on.

AND, I’ve already been given the power of God to act on His behalf. If I am in Christ, then the Spirit of Christ rests in me. The Spirit of God Himself, in me, right now! I’ve already been promised to accomplish greater things than Christ in His name! So what am I waiting for?!”

“Why are you crying out to me?” God says “You have my call, my power, my word, my presence. Go and do great things in my name. You are standing on the edge of freedom so stretch out your hand.”

2 Things to Never Ever Forget about God

Stuff will always tick us off. We will miss the yellow light, shatter a plate on the floor, get depressed, watch helplessly as a family member goes through a painful trial, and experience challenges we don’t know how to overcome ourselves.

Get angry with God. David did. Wonder if anything will ever change. Question yourself and your circumstances. Question the outcome. Fine. But if you want to have what you need to get through any trial; never ever forget these 2 things about God.

1. Always trust God’s intention

Remember the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years? That trip should have only taken days! That was some serious difficulty. Here’s why:

Exodus 13:17-18 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.

God knew their hearts, their past, their future. He really had in mind what was good for them. Why, because, God. Is. Good. If you find yourself questioning God’s intentions*, “is He really good, does He really care, does He really care about me?”

That is a slope you will slide down and slide down fast. You were created by a loving, GOOD God. He is FOR you. Even in the broken circumstances, God is Good. Hold onto that truth above any other.

2. Always know that God is present   

The Israelites put one foot after the other, down the long difficult road. It was going to be tougher than they could imagine. It was not what they would have chosen for themselves. Look at what happened:

Exodus 13:21-22 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

God promises His presence to His people; at all times. Jesus says He will never leave nor forsake His people. Against some popular teaching, God does not withhold His presence. If you are in Christ, He is present in you, right now.

We may not see or feel His presence. But in your difficulty, if you can trust that He is good, you can turn your attention to His presence. Answers about “why” or jabs at who God is or isn’t won’t help at all. His presence, like a cloud blocking the heat, and like a fire illuminating the path and warming the cold dark moments is what you and I need. Let yourself know that He is good, and experience His good presence.

*I do NOT believe that God causes all difficulties in our lives. Mostly our world (nature and human circumstance) is spinning out of alignment because of the wrongdoing of people now and throughout the ages. Sometimes God allows difficulties to remain over the natural course of time (though didn’t cause them), sometimes He causes them. God didn’t create robots, He created humans with free will, and with that free will comes consequences (I know cuz I parent a 7 and a 5 year old!)

How To Discover Peace Today

I’ve often noticed a twisted pattern emerge in my thoughts and prayers; they are all magnetically being sucked into the same direction. In these spiraling times, almost every free moment of space in my head will end up in this place. When I clear off the desk of my thoughts to find what’s underneath, it’s just all about me.

Ugh! It’s embarrassing to admit that. More so, it’s exhausting to experience; me thinking about my frustrations, my tasks, praying about my problems, or my hopes, or my needs, or my insecurities, or my inabilities.

God absolutely cares about all of those things. And yet, instead of true dependence building prayer, I can create an insane exercise of spinning my wheels round and round but never getting anywhere. Have you felt that emptying exhaustion too? There is only one way off that treadmill.

Psalm 123:1 I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven.

I found myself in that dizzying self-focused place recently and I heard a small whisper from the Spirit:

“Lift up your eyes, Craig. I hear your needs and desires and problems and wants. I genuinely care. But. Lift. Up. Your. Eyes.”

To Jesus, the One who has overcome the world, the One who is present now. I had an immediate exhale. The weight lifted. Finally it was no longer me whom I was dwelling on, but Him. Even if just for that moment.

You and I will never find the peace that transcends understanding if we focus inward. We must turn the eyes of our hearts upward and let Jesus, His goodness and His grace, be the thought and the prayer we return to over and over and over again.