“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!
Wow, what a summer we had this year. With fall in full swing and new extracurriculars having inevitably taken over, each of us is feeling the pull of competing obligations and priorities. Have we already forgotten what happened at SpringHill?
I hope not – I sure haven’t. From the middle of May, until the final SpringHill Experience is finished in the middle of August, I feel as though I’m shouldering a great weight: the responsibility for the lives of all these people. But at the same time, I’ve also just lived four months off the inspiration and energy that comes from working with such an amazing, embracing, talented, committed, and diverse SpringHill community: professional staff who worked hard the prior eight months to have us ready for summer and then served tirelessly almost every day, all day, for four straight months.
Last year, when our summer ended, we said goodbye to nearly 27,000 children and teens and 950 young adult leaders in over 130 SpringHill locations throughout nine states. Yes, at SpringHill, we pack 80 percent of our direct missional work into four months.
Like anything that is hard work and requires much of us, it’s both fulfilling and difficult to have it come to an end…temporarily. As happens when finishing a long race, or accomplishing a significant goal, or coming off an adrenaline high, finishing a SpringHill summer means coming off the mountain. It means adapting to a new season of planning and steady work, looking ahead to what’s next.
So, what is next? Where do we all – campers, leaders, etc. – go from here?
As we tell kids at SpringHill, you can’t stay on the mountain forever; you have to go back home. For us too, SpringHill summers don’t last forever. We have to go back home (or to the office) and begin hosting retreats and getting ready for another summer. There’s new work to be done, places to go, people to meet.
My hope is that we will all reflect on the life-changing experiences that occurred this past summer – those that happened to us personally and those that we witnessed. I hope that we can reflect on two separate groups of questions that have been asked of SpringHill as an organization, but could be asked of ourselves as individuals having had the SpringHill experience:
- Why do we exist? What purpose do we fulfill, what difference do we make in the world? If we ceased to exist, what hole would be left? The answer to these questions is, typically, expressed in a purpose or mission statement. At SpringHill, we answer this question with our mission: “To glorify God by creating life-impacting experiences where young people can come to know Jesus Christ and grow in their relationship with Him.”
- What’s most important to us? What are we most deeply passionate about and willing to sacrifice and suffer for? At SpringHill, we answer this question with an acronym we have for our core values: ARCH, which stands for adventurous faith, relationally focused, contagious joy, and holy discontent. These core values define the kind of organization we are, as well as how we work with each other and all our stakeholder groups: kids, families, allies, donors, and staff.
Now that it’s Fall, I hope we can each reflect on why we exist and what is most important to us with new perspectives and inspiration. I hope those quiet – and not so quiet – moments of personal faith-building help answer those questions with clarity that carry all of us through the rest of this year and onto another amazing SpringHill summer.
If you’re interested in creating similar experiences for your youth group or faith group, check out one of my workshops.
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
Have you ever had the opportunity to talk with someone who has just experienced a true life saving miracle?
Denise and I did this past Sunday when we met with Heather and Jeff Perry in a Starbucks in Carmel, IN. In October Heather was in a coma lying in a hospital ICU as medical staff worked to figure out why her body was shutting down.
The Perry’s literally stood toe to toe with death but God rescued Heather through miracle upon miracle (I won’t share Heather’s story, it’ll be her privilege to do so one day). As Jeff and Heather shared their story and their incredible faith in Christ as well as the faith of family, friends and acquaintances, for a moment, that table in Starbucks became holy ground.
As we talked we began to discuss two questions which I’m continuing to wrestle with.
The first question’s simply “how do people come toe to toe with death, staring it right in the face, without believing in or having a relationship with God?” Maybe I’m just weak but I can’t fathom it. Not because I’m particularly afraid of death but because without God neither death or life has any meaning. As Francis Schaeffer once said, “without God we’re just time + chance + matter.”
The follow-up question is “how does a person come toe to toe with death and then walk away doing so without believing in God?” Trying to answer the existential and metaphysical questions that would naturally arise from having a near death experience would drive me crazy without the foundational knowledge of God.
Yet the overriding feelings Denise and I had as we left the Perry’s was simply a deep gratitude for God’s graciousness and awe of His mighty power in Heather and Jeff’s life. We accepted it as an early and beautiful Christmas gift.43.928283-85.286682