“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
When you read this scripture, do you happen to sing it to yourself? This, along with many other prophetic verses from Isaiah are beautifully sung to music written by Handel each Christmas season to celebrate the birth, life, atonement, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This music along with so many others capture the reverence, joy and love that stirs within us as we reflect on the life of Jesus Christ.
It’s a magical time of year that inspires kindness, service, gratitude and love. It’s also a time of year that can cause stress, anxiety and loneliness when we focus too much on the secular traditions of the season. The solution to this is to remember the “reason of the season” – the birth of Jesus Christ and what that event meant for mankind.
To help keep our priorities, focus, and intentions aligned with the real meaning of Christmas, let me suggest three ideas to integrate within your celebrations this year:
- Turn to Scripture – Take the time to read the account of Jesus’ birth in the gospel of Luke as well as his life and ministry in the other gospels. Remind yourself of these accounts and discuss them with your family. Many enjoy reenacting the nativity with their friends and families to make the events of that evening more realistic to little ones. Talk about why His life was important, the principles He taught, and the miracles He performed.
- Reflect on Your Relationship with Jesus – When we contemplate our blessings and our personal relationship with Christ, it will automatically make the holiday more meaningful as we make it about our gratitude for Him and not solely about the gifts under the Christmas tree. One way my wife, Denise, and I helped our children remember who to be focused on is by reminding them that it is Jesus’ birthday that we celebrate, with a birthday cake and all. It helped them remember what Christmas was all about and to celebrate Him with as much enthusiasm as crafting a wish list for Santa.
- Do It Unto the Least of These – In Matthew we are taught the importance and significance of service toward one another. In Matthew 25:40, Christ teaches, “Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” When we take the time to serve and love one another, we are, in essence, serving and loving God. Take the opportunity to serve – even in small ways; you will discover God’s love for you and for those you serve.
Let us approach this Christmas season with purpose and joy. Let us truly exclaim “Joy to the World!” and “Hark! The herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King!” as we sing beloved Christmas hymns and songs throughout the holiday. Let us be inspired to apply His gospel in our lives each and every day!
We are now reflecting on this past life-changing summer with kids of all ages throughout our SpringHill camp programs! Many people wonder what makes SpringHill so special, so effective. There are several reasons I could share to answer that question, but undoubtedly one universal explanation amongst all our campers is the sense of adventure that they experience during their time at SpringHill. Ultimately, these moments connect them to God in a different and significant way.
Some of the biggest spiritual lessons happen while engaged in some of our high-adventure activities. One of the stories that comes to mind is of a middle-school girl describing her experience at SpringHill. She had been a regular for years, and I just sort of casually asked her one day what it was that kept her coming back to SpringHill.
Very seriously, she said, “Every time I come to SpringHill, I encounter God. I have an experience with God and my faith grows.”
And so I pressed her: “What exactly is it that happens every time?”
“You know,” she said, “it just happens when we’re doing camp stuff.”
I smiled as she elaborated. “Like this last summer, I was on our zipline and I had been struggling … should I really trust Jesus? I mean, really trust Him with my life? And then we go on the zipline and the leaders talk about how, for us to go down the zipline, we have to trust the cable that goes across the lake, trust the harness that we’re in. We have to trust the pulleys that will go down the cable. We have to put our trust in them. If we don’t do that and we don’t take the step off the platform, we’ll never get to the end. We’ll never get across the lake. But it requires this trust.”
“So what happened?” I asked.
“The leaders said…it’s the same with Jesus. We need to trust Him. We need to be able to step out with Him and know that He has us, holding onto us so that we won’t fall. So I stepped off the platform, went down, and got to the end of the zipline, and I realized, yeah, this is what I need to do with Jesus. I need to trust Him just like I trusted the cable and the harness and everything else that comes down the zipline.”
That’s SpringHill, in that young girl, in that moment. This experience describes how kids find God more intimately when they stretch themselves, have fun, and find a sense of adventure. Those are experiences that aren’t readily available throughout the rest of the year. As a result, these experiences and memories create something altogether new and exciting, activities that transform into an extremely impactful, spiritual moment.
Learn more about the SpringHill experience by visiting www.springhillexperience.com
Last week, the week we celebrated Independence Day, I experience part of today’s America I normally don’t see. It’s a part of America torn apart by poverty, broken families, prejudice, violence, and community breakdown. But more significantly I saw a glimpse into tomorrow’s America, with all its hope, its possibility of something better, of lives transformed, of families strengthened, and of communities revitalized. Yet this America is sitting on the precipice, either to continue today’s pattern of sliding towards the abyss or moving up to a better tomorrow.
In the places I visited last week it’s tempting to write off tomorrow’s America because of what today’s America looks like, believing there’s nothing that can be done to change its course. But after last week, I’m more convinced than ever that tomorrow’s America can be significantly different, better, more like the America we want and, more importantly, one that more closely reflects the values of God’s Kingdom.
You see my wife Denise and I visited SpringHill Day Camp teams working in three locations in the Detroit metro area. Each team, along with our ministry allies, served children living in some of the harshest and most challenging situations found in America. These children included Iraqi refugees as well as children born in the some of the poorest inner city communities in our country. Yet in each location, with each child and ministry partner we interacted with, we sensed a hope that can only come through the Gospel of Christ.
Now I’m convinced that each of the 300 or so children and their families we served can, with the help of God’s people, have a future reality that is different from their current one. And if their future reality is different, then our country will have one as well. I believe this to be true because I believe, in the core of my being, that our children are the hope of our country, the hope of the world, the hope of the Church.
This is why SpringHill, and so ministries like it, have as its mission to see the lives of kids transformed. And it’s also why I’ve committed my vocational work to this same cause, the cause of Christ and of all kids.43.928283-85.286682
My good friend, Terry Prisk, recommended (or more accurately he insisted) I read Mark Batterson’s book The Circle Maker. If you’re not familiar with it, The Circle Maker is a practical and inspirational book about prayer.
Now I’ll admit I wasn’t sure the world (nor I) needed another book on prayer. I wondered to myself “what could someone possibly say about prayer that hasn’t already been said before?” But both because Terry insisted and because I set a personal goal to spend more time this year in prayer I picked up a copy of The Circle Maker and moved it to the top of my reading list.
And now that I’ve finished it, let me just say that I’m deeply thankful for Terry’s insistence and for Batterson’s insight. The Circle Maker shows the powerful connection between our dreams and goals and the spiritual discipline of prayer. As a goal driven person, this was the fresh perspective I needed and, more importantly, the inspiration my prayer life required.
Now, before you jump to the conclusion that The Circle Maker is a book that teaches a form of “name it claim” theology, let me assure you it’s not. Batterson doesn’t take us there. Instead he insists that “Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He’s offended by anything less.” Yet he also is crystal clear that “God is not a genie in a bottle, your wish is not His command.” Then he goes on to say “His command better be your wish. If not you won’t be drawing prayer circles; you’ll end up walking in circles.”
So let me be a little like my friend Terry and ask you to consider skipping you traditional summer paperback and instead pick of a copy of The Circle Maker, it may be just the inspiration you need to take your prayer life to a new place.43.928283-85.286682
Or that the average young person during any given week will:
- Plays 833 minutes or about 14 hours of video games?
- Spends another 623 minutes (over 10 hours) on a computer?
- Or send over 700 texts
That’s a total of more than 59 hours a week inside sitting in front of a screen.
In contrast research tells us that the average young person will spend an average of:
- 30 minutes a week playing outside
- 3.5 minutes a week in meaningful conversation with their parents
- And less than an hour in a church, youth group or youth ministry gathering
59 hours compared to 1.25 hours.
Think for a moment about the long-term implications of this on our kids, on our future.
Kids need much more than screen time to grow physically, emotionally and spiritually:
- Kids need to interact with God’s creation by being outside
- They need to be nurtured within their family – God created the family for just this purpose.
- Finally kids need to be a part of a faith community such as a local church or other ministry
Yet these vital interactions are being squeezed out by technology. Not by war, famine or economic collapse but by a little screen.
- 60 hours outside per week doing incredibly fun, exciting and growing activities
- 300 minutes in a meaningful conversation with a staff person (that’s nearly two years’ worth of meaningful conversation with a parent)
- 10 to 12 hours a week in individual Bible study and small and large group settings learning about God and His plan for their lives.
Now more than ever our Kids Need Camp.
Now that you’re convinced Kids Need Camp, over my next few posts I’ll help you ask the right questions and know the right answers to look for when selecting a summer camp for the kids you love.
- Plays 833 minutes or about 14 hours of video games?
Last week I spent a couple of hours with Glenn Abbett, SpringHill camper parent and farmer in northern Indiana. We toured his farm where I learned more about his and his family’s formula for success. And successful they’ve been. Over the past 15 plus years Abbett Farms has grown 5 times over.
When I asked Glenn what he attributed their success to he answered by sharing three commitments they lived out:
- Integrity: Abbett Farms always does what they said they’re going to do. This has built confidence and loyalty with their major customers, assuring ongoing business even in difficult economic times.
- Innovation: They’ve made significant investments in innovative equipment and processes to assure they will deliver on what they say they’re going to do. For example, they’ve designed, built and now operate the largest tomato planting machine in the world, assuring they always deliver on their tomato commitments.
- Advocacy: Finally, Glenn has personally invested time lobbying on behalf of other farmers and others who work closely with agriculture. This personal investment on behalf of his entire industry has led to further loyalty among his customers as well as assistance from his peers.
As I drove away from our time together I realized that these three commitments are worthy for any person to pursue and are foundational for any organization if it desires to be successful, whether a farm, business, church or Christian camp.43.928283-85.286682
And what is that New Year’s resolution? To read the entire Bible – every book, chapter, and verse.
Now before you dismiss my suggestion, think about this for a moment, if the Bible is God’s Word, His actual words, the true message of the God who created the entire universe, created our earth, and created you and me, doesn’t it make sense that we should want to read His words and make them a part of our life?
And one more thought to consider before dismissing my suggestion – if we believe that God loves us, cares about us and wants to have a relationship with us, then it’s not surprising that He has something to say to us about this love.
So if you’re now convinced that making this resolution is something you want to do, below are a few things I’m making available to help you make your resolution a reality.
- Down load to your e-reader, free, my Reading the Bible Through in a Year devotionals by clicking here.
- Subscribe to my Read the Bible in a Year blog by clicking here. Each day of 2013 you’ll receive an email of the daily reading schedule and thoughts to help you get the most out of that reading.
- Follow me on Twitter (by clicking here) and receive a “tweet” with a link to each of my Bible reading posts.
- Simply go to my Read the Bible in a Year blog.
Now may 2013 be a year of great positive transformation in your life through the power of His Word.43.928283-85.286682
Sometimes it seems things happen with the intended purpose of reminding us that we have less control over life than we want to believe. Sometimes these things make their point with irony and humor as it did today for my family and a couple of our friends.
You see, early Thursday morning a huge snow storm moved into northern Michigan and, over the next 36 hours, dumped tons of wet snow onto our world.
By early Thursday afternoon we were without power. Even though, with each passing hour, the temperature of our house dropped, our family went to bed optimistic we’d have power before we awoke.
But when Denise and I got up on Friday morning there was still no power and the house was now at 57 degrees and still dropping. And the word from the power company was that we may not have electricity for a “few days”.
So what to do? I texted Joel Hamilton, SpringHill Michigan’s Site Director, looking for any news or helpful insight he may have. He informed me that Eric Woods, our Retreats Director had a generator he wasn’t using.
Within 30 minutes Joel and Eric arrived at our house with Eric’s 15-year-old generator. Within another 20 minutes we had the generator started, properly hooked up to the house, and, most importantly, our furnace was running.
As we stood congratulating ourselves on a job well done Joel received a phone call, “Hollywood’s power is back on.” Now you need to know Hollywood is our neighbor, which meant that if he now had power we must have it too.
So we disconnected the generator, turned on the main breaker and, lo and behold, we had power.
In the time it took us to turn off the main breaker and hook up the generator the power had come back on. Which led us to have a good laugh at the mockery the power company made of our good work.c
It also led to our daughter Christina declaring, after 24 hours of no heat, it’s “The Miracle on 100th Avenue”.43.928283-85.286682
If you’ve ever had someone invest in your life by helping you grow spiritually, assisting you in navigating the treacherous places where the eternal intersects with the temporal then you know the absolute necessity of having these kinds of people apart of your life.
As I look back on my life I’ve had a number of people who’ve invested in me spiritually, people with names like Neil, Wayne, Mark, Jack, Terry, and Steve. They’re all people who’ve cared for me and wanted to see me grow in the most important ways.
So as one who received such investment, I’m motivated to do the same for others. It’s one of the reasons I’ve chosen to work for an organization like SpringHill, because SpringHill creates experiences that facilitate this kind of investment by adults in the lives of children. It’s also why one of the personal qualities and professional competencies a person needs to possess to make an enduring impact on the lives of others through their work at SpringHill is what we call “Spiritual Leadership.”
“Spiritual Leadership” is the ability to mentor others, to help them grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ, and ultimately guide them to a life that honors God and expands His Kingdom. Spiritual leadership takes on many forms and can be expressed in many ways, from the ability to lead small groups, to one on one counseling, or teaching before large audiences. Even though the context of “Spiritual Leadership” may differ, the outcome is the same, helping others better live out their faith in Christ.
This is why SpringHill needs people who demonstrate “Spiritual Leadership”, because it’s through spiritual leadership that our mission’s fulfilled and young lives transformed for eternity.
This is part 8 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.43.928283-85.286682
Everyone centers their life on something. Whether it’s on a pursuit, purpose or goal, our lives become energized by our “center”. Some people center their life simply on surviving day by day, while others, on the opposite extreme, center their lives on consuming material goods, experiencing pleasure or living for excitement and highs. Yet others center their lives on an idea or a cause. But regardless of what it is, everyone’s life’s centered on something, something that drives them and gets them out of bed every day.
At SpringHill we expect our staff to be centered on a person – the person of Jesus Christ. Of all the personal qualities and professional competencies a person needs to have to make an ongoing, positive impact at SpringHill, this is the most important one, because it’s who we are and what we do. We call this quality “God Immersed”, which simply means that a person is Christ centered and thus living their lives in a Christ like way and from a Biblical perspective.
When you consider our mission and our core values this only makes sense. If our mission is to create life changing experiences where young people can know and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ than our staff has to being growing in their own relationships with Christ. And if one of our organization’s highest values is “Jesus Christ and His message of grace”, than it needs to be a living value of our staff as well.
So what do we expect to see in a person’s life to know they’re “God Immersed”? It’s simply participating in such spiritual practices as prayer, Bible reading and study, as well as attendance and involvement in a local church. All of which leads to a Christ centered life that reflects Biblical and Kingdom values, and, in the end, multiplies the fruitfulness of our work.
This is part 5 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.