Tuesday, June 30, 2015

New Thing

My message from God this morning as I looked out my office window:

Hey Craig! Look at this new thing I'm doing here. I've given you a fresh start to your day and I'm reminding you of the cleansing power I offer daily. Pay attention and don't let your troubles overwhelm you. Stop for a moment to enjoy what I'm showing you. It's only in me that you'll find what you're looking for. Be at peace my son. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Good Fuel

There are certain Scriptures I have memorized (not as many as I would like) and I use them when I need to refocus myself. I will find myself speaking them out loud as I drive down the road or when I find my thoughts wandering to unhealthy places. It's a way of recalibrating my mind and spirit while reminding me of what is really important. There is great comfort in these words of power and they have proven to be an anchor for me when circumstances are not always steady.

I certainly don't always respond in the best way, but I believe increased Scripture intake will lead to a healthier (and holier) output. We need to determine what we fuel ourselves with because we will see the offspring of it when we are tested.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Just In Time

A minute earlier or later and I wouldn't have seen the sun peeking over the trees this morning. Once that opportunity had passed, I would have missed out on this view (which isn't captured nearly as beautifully as it appeared in person.) 

How many times each day are we right on time for an opportunity because we are paying attention? How many times each day do we miss out on an event simply because we weren't paying attention? There is value in each moment of our day. Try walking through it with your head up and eyes open and you might catch of a glimpse of something worthwhile.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Defining Yourself

What defines me? What do I allow to determine my identity? Far too often I fall into the trap of letting my profession describe who I am. I don't believe I am the only one who thinks this way. It's a natural reaction based on how our society defines success. We've forgotten that what we do is part of who we are, but it isn't the single greatest characteristic. If we follow our passions and use our God-given abilities this can be a significant portion of our identity, but on its own cannot be complete.

This incomplete practice misses important pieces of who I am and the roles I am called to fill (husband, father, son, brother, and friend.) Only labeling myself by what I do ignores my personality, life history, and quiet passions. My business card is a single-dimension representation of a multi-dimensional person and there is no way it can accurately represent all of who I am.

I am more than my career even when I am the one who sometimes forgets it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Settling for Good

Frequent readers of my blog know I am an avid New York Mets fan. I've followed them for years and continue to do so even when they aren't playing great baseball. Earlier this year they had an 11 game winning streak which brought them front page publicity for their accomplishment. I blogged about their streak while also recognizing it may not last forever. Since that run of victories ended my beloved Mets have the second worst record in baseball. There are many excuses to be made (injuries, misfortune, youth) but it doesn't change their overall record.

I thought about the team this morning and the attitude they might be dealing with right now. I'm sure they are working hard to get better and win games, but the truth is that hard work might not make the difference they hoped. At some point we might realize that this just isn't a very good team. No amount of extra work and hustle will transform them into the best in the league if the talent they have isn't good enough to begin with. I'm not discounting the opportunity to make the most of your abilities, but there is a ceiling for all of us=-which will prevent some levels of excellence from being reached.

That's a hard lesson to learn for anyone--sometimes your best isn't enough to deliver what you hoped for. It's why the team concept is so important. We've got to surround ourselves with people whose strengths compensate for our weaknesses.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Good Day

My wife and I have some time alone this week as our three girls are at a conference with their youth group. I have had a busy schedule, but took today off to spend entirely with her without distractions. I planned for us to visit a small town here in Georgia which we have never been to. The drive there and back, walking around a new place, and eating good food was enough to call the day a success. It was a simple plan which we both thoroughly enjoyed. Part of our enjoyment was in the newness of the experience, but the most important piece was the company. When you are deeply in love with the one you spend time with, everywhere you go is a good day.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Something for Nothing

We have witnessed far too many scams to believe you can receive great benefits without a catch. We've either seen people who have been ripped off or have experienced it on a personal level. The old expression has proven correct, "If sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

I think this is why we struggle with the idea of grace. God's willingness to give us a gift we do not deserve leaves us doubtful of His motives. Even as a Christ follower, I think there is a struggle to continue attempting to earn what God is giving away. We are programmed to believe nothing of value is given away for free and keep waiting for the fine print to catch up to us at some point. That's why God's grace has been described as scandalous and wasteful. It defies all our worldly systems to think about a magnificent gift given abundantly to anyone who asks for it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

(Don't) Forget It!

The clip above is from an infomercial that aired several years ago. The product was intended to make cooking easier as you seasoned your food and then "set it and forget it!"

While this might have worked for rotisserie chicken, it isn't a very good model for achieving your target. Unfortunately, far too many people (myself included sometimes) believe writing a good list is enough to move forward. An ambitious growth plan without consistent action is useless for achieving change. If we're going to do the work of setting goals, we need reminders to keep moving or we'll never get any better.

What works for tasty chicken doesn't work for maturing people.

Monday, June 22, 2015


You don't have to live very long to discover that life doesn't always move according to your plan. No matter how well we might script things out or the contingencies we try to anticipate there will be missteps along the way. There is no denying the frustration caused by these unexpected twists even with thorough preparation. It's actually perfectly acceptable to be somewhat befuddled by these circumstances. If we want to overcome them however, we've got to learn to be flexibly adaptable. Our potential to move forward in these continually unpredictable scenarios is measured in our ability to bounce back. Developing the skill of thinking on our feet and standing firm when the ground shifts around us will help us be more resilient in uncertainty.

We will run into hard, unexpected obstacles which knock us down occasionally. Learning to bounce back in the right direction helps us overcome them.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Being a Dad

Being a father to our three teenage daughters is the most challenging and also the most rewarding role in my life. I often struggle to say and do the right thing and spend far too much time thinking about my missed opportunities and mistakes. I wonder if I am leading them in the best direction and providing them with what they need to become well-balanced, mature young women who follow Christ. It's not as if they issued an owner's manual with each girl that told us how to handle every situation. Instead we grow together, learn as we all make mistakes, offer forgiveness, and freely share grace along this journey. 

I am far from perfect (aren't we all?). I simply strive to do my best and trust God to fill in the gaps where I fall short. Thankfully my girls don't expect me to be flawless, but are content to know I love them deeply and will try my best to lead them the right way. I pray my imperfections steer them to the perfect God who honored me with the responsibility of being their dad. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Up Close

I read an old African proverb recently which simply said:

When I saw him from afar, I thought he was a monster.
When he got closer, I thought he was just an animal.
When he got closer, I recognized that he was a human.
When we were face to face, I realized that he was my brother.

We aren't actively compassionate when we're standing so far apart from people in need. Are we willing to be the first ones to step forward and form a bridge of peace? Will we close the gap with our minimalized, threatened, oppressed, and misunderstood brothers and sisters so we can be part of the solution moving forward in unity? The first step in the right direction is often the most difficult one to take. 

We've got to close the distance between people to realize we are in this together. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Unified in Sorrow

The tragic events in Charleston have left me speechless. I have no powerful words of wisdom or insightful words of encouragement to make this better. I am simply heartbroken for families who have experienced painful loss and deeply wounded for the far-reaching implications of this selfish act for the rest of us. While I don't know what to say or do right now, I recognize that silence is not an option. I can choose to stand tall with my brothers and sisters in unity and will do so as we seek peace and healing together.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Your Perception Matters

In yesterday's blog, I wrote about other people's perceptions and how that shapes their view of reality. However, I don't think it's fair to only focus on others without giving some attention to our own (mis)perceptions. Often it may be easier to point out (even respectfully) where people around us are incorrect in their viewpoints without addressing our own inaccuracies.

Are we aware of how we see things? Do we pay attention to what is influencing our understanding of people and events? If we want to become more mature, we've got to take a step back and carefully evaluate the way we view things. It's a practice of self-evaluation which is necessary to determine what is healthy and where our vision may be somewhat skewed.

This personal level of analysis is fueled by the same trait for helping others: humility. We've got to be humble enough to realize we may not be seeing things correctly and then work to realign ourselves to what is right and best. This isn't always an easy practice, but it's necessary if we want to have a healthy attitude and stronger relationships.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

That Must Be Real

Perception is reality. 

I've often used this phrase to describe the concept of what we see becoming what we believe to be true. Our personal view of current circumstances will shape how we engage with people around us. While it's important to recognize this truth to foster better relationships, it can also present a problem when someone's perception is incorrect. This leads to a false idea of reality that may be completely skewed from what is actually taking place.

Approaching these situations humbly is key to helping people see what is actually taking place without demeaning their viewpoint. We need to show respect for other's perceptions while working to gently correct a wrong path. This can't be done from a position of superiority or an intrinsic desire to be right. It has to be focused on reconciliation and mutual submission to the real truth not just the truth as we choose to see it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Better Get Ready

The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.

I came across this quote today while doing research for an upcoming message at the end of our "Warrior" series here at Northridge. While it is certainly applicable for people engaging in physical combat, I believe there are many levels to its meaning. It describes the level of preparation necessary for us to succeed in all areas of life. This quote also gives credence to the difficulty of the paths that lie in front of us. If we do not push ourselves to the limits (and beyond) of our capabilities, we will not be able to endure when the real moment of trial comes upon us. 

From experience, I can attest to the fact that this positive return is very rarely found without some personal investment. Most people who are recognized as "overnight success stories" have actually been working for years to be prepared for this moment of opportunity. If we want to be people who engage in life and find victory, we've got to work hard in the stages leading up to battle or we won't be tested enough to endure. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Taking a Difficult Walk

We have two delightfully playful dogs our family loves deeply. While we enjoy having them as part of our lives, it can sometimes be a challenge to walk them. This seems as if it should be a simple task, but it often becomes much more difficult. 

As hard as it may seem to believe, the dogs don't always cooperate and go where we want to lead them. They often pull against us making the walk less than pleasant especially when resistance is constant. If something big (or small) distracts them they will yank even harder on the leash in an effort to chase it. Then they get frantic when we won't let them pursue the object of their attention. Most of the time we end up going back inside with both of us being frustrated.

While all characteristics of dogs don't apply to humans (although a great many of them could certainly fit) this idea of "pulling against the leash" is applicable. We don't always like to be led in a different direction and can be difficult to be around when it happens. Our focus is often divided when a distraction comes across our pathway. If we are unable to maintain a disciplined vision, we'll end up frustrated instead of being fulfilled. Perhaps we could gain some insight from the advice we give our dogs and just relax. It doesn't mean we have to ignore everything around us. We only need to recognize when it's time to leap after it and when it's time to enjoy the walk.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Like a Mule

I have a shocking, public confession to make: I can be stubborn. This probably isn't a new revelation for anyone close to me, but it's something I need to admit. It's not even new information for me as I've known this about myself for most of my life. While it can sometimes be a positive trait as I push forward through adversity, it can also have a negative impact.

I hurt my knee running in a 5K just over three weeks ago. My hamstring had been tight during the week leading up the race, but I felt I could power through it and then take some time off. I was really insistent on placing in the top three in my age group and felt I could make it happen. While I did get the medal I was looking for, I paid the price with a still-lingering injury. My stubborn nature (which pushed me to run when I probably shouldn't have) caused longer lasting effects than I anticipated.

How often is stubbornness an issue in other areas of life for all of us? We can see it in our unwise financial choices, the need to be right to the detriment of our relationships, having to get the last word in and causing irreparable damage, striving to be the funniest person in the room and belittling others, or simply running down unwise paths in pursuit of self-gratification. Sadly, we'll discover our stubborn nature has longer lasting effects than we intended and doesn't only inflict personal damage, but hurts those around us as well.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Pouring Out

A week of camp is as exhausting as it is rewarding. There are many satisfactory moments from this expenditure of energy yet it does deplete your personal reserves. The week obviously demands a great deal of physical activity, but also pulls from your emotional, mental, and spiritual stores as well. It is an investment worth making as we have seen the results of our efforts and trust in the ongoing development which will take place after our week is but a memory. Pouring yourself out for the benefit of others (especially this younger generation) is worth the exhaustion at the end of the experience. Our willingness to do this will hopefully set an example for future generations to follow.

Friday, June 12, 2015

They Came to Serve

Our week of camp has finally come to an end and we have all returned safely to our own homes. It was a powerful week of adventure, spiritual experiences, and tremendous laughter. This just wrapped up my 12th year of leading camp and I believe I have a few more in me. I am always learning new things as we lead, but one thing remains the same. Our week of camp is only as strong as our volunteer leaders. I have been tremendously blessed each year by the volunteers who sacrifice their time, money, energy, sleep, and sometimes sanity to make a difference in the lives of middle schoolers. This isn't an easy task they have been called to and yet they continue to rise up and pour themselves out for the sake of this generation. This year was no exception.

This diverse group of people (many who had never met each other before--some I had never met before either) took on the daunting challenge of leading 132 middle school youth for an entire week. They played basketball, fit people into harnesses for high ropes, led discussion groups, sang loudly, danced, rode bikes, stood in the sun, walked people to the nurse (and back again and sometimes again and again), laughed at stupid videos and hilarious campers, prayed with and for people, answered questions, and functioned as pseudo mothers, father, big brothers, and sisters. There was no pay except camp food, a t-shirt, limited sleep, and the trust that God was working through them in incredible ways they may not even realize. These adults ranging wide in age and camp experience stood in the gap for a group of campers this week and pointed them in the direction of Christ. It is their selfless sacrifice that makes a week successful. I am grateful for them and their commitment to a difficult and yet rewarding quest of influence.

Thank you, my faithful friends (both old & new) for what you allowed God to do through you this week. Your Kingdom influence is greater than you know.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Camp Memories

The actual experience of camp only lasts for a week, but we hope the long term impact lasts a lifetime. It isn't easy to maintain our commitment to life change or to remember everything that deeply affected us. Hopefully our campers (and staff) will be able to tuck away some small token which helps to cement those important events. It may be a shared word of encouragement, a picture of a unique event, or a small object lesson to enhance a learned truth. My prayer is that some portion will stick with us all and become a small piece of the foundation of who we become in the future.

It's part of the appeal of camp--this idea of a week spent with 160 other people leaving a permanent imprint on your life.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Surrendered Identity

When we surrender to God we discover who we are supposed to be. This willingness to release our tight grip on our lives and grab onto God isn't necessarily a natural reaction, but it's essential. Any other way of living is a stubborn refusal to acknowledge God's sovereignty. It might appear this surrender is a sign of defeat when in reality it's aligning ourselves on a path guaranteed to bring us victory.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Fulfillment is an interesting concept. We often look for it in places we are unlikely to find it and then act surprised when we are left feeling empty. It can actually create a self-perpetuating cycle wherein we seek affirmation in areas that don't deliver and then we increase our efforts in the same area hoping more energy will bring what we want. It's a trap that has us searching for validation in other people, our reputation, career, family achievements, and even financial stability. While none of these things are necessarily awful on their own merit they won't provide the contentment we desire. It only becomes a series of mile markers along a journey where we never reach the destination we hope for.

The task in front of us isn't necessarily easy. We need to take the desires of our heart--the things we chase after--and surrender them to God. Our willingness to seek Him through all of these other areas will fulfill us in the ways we've been hoping for through our other pursuits.

Monday, June 8, 2015

True Value

So often we pretend to be something we aren't while hoping it will cause others to like us. I wish I could say this is only a middle school or teenage problem, but it certainly affects adults as well. We make alterations to our speech, attitudes, and behavioral patterns in an attempt to appear to be something different than who we are. At the root of it all is a fear that we won't be accepted for who we are. Our life history (what we have done and what has been done to us) has shaped this negative mentality. Unless we recognize this paralyzing cycle and the lie that fuels it we won't understand our true worth. In all of our imperfection, we have value because God loves us for who we are.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Who Are You?

We kicked off our week of middle school camp tonight with a full crew of camper and staff. Our theme is #DeathToSelfie--an emphasis on refusing to seek the approval of other people, but discovering who we are in Christ. I'm praying for a revealing of truth and a refusal to settle for anything less than a full understanding of who we are in Christ. It's not as much a desire to stop people from taking selfies as it is a desire to let go of the selfie mentality. We don't need to take pictures and then crop, edit, and filter them just so people will give us their approval. We need to be confident in how God sees us and move forward in that knowledge. It's a lesson adults struggle to grasp and I pray our middle schoolers can see the truth in it now. Recognizing this truth at their age will only help them be more confident as they continue to grow.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Just a Hint

I left with a small, but faithful crew to head to our summer camp and set up for the arrival of the crew tomorrow. The picture above is a hint from our stage set which we don't want to reveal until all of our campers and staff are here together. There are certain things we want to keep a secret as we head into an exciting week.

The truth is we don't know everything that is going to happen either. We have been preparing and planning for months and we still only have a hint of how the week will actually unfold. It's part of the excitement of camp to have a sense of anticipation and a touch of the unknown. This leaves plenty of room for God to work through our good (and even not so good) preparation. I only have a hint of what's going to happen and I am at peace with it.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Work It

The NBA Finals started last night (non-sports fan readers-don't tune out just yet!) and the Warriors came back to win the Game 1 after being down by double digits. When asked about the comeback in a post game interview, their leading player pointed to their commitment to their system. He said they believed in what they had done all year to get here and didn't panic. They were able to maintain focus on the important things through adversity and do what had proven to be successful.

I would like to keep the same focus in my personal life. There are many good practices which have led me to this phase of life. These are physical, spiritual, relational, mental, and emotional habits which are part of my life system. While I need to be ready to adapt and make modifications as I grow, I can't neglect the important steps that have led me to this point. When I feel as if I am losing, I need to stay focused on healthy habits and keep doing what is right.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Things I Like

It's important to know what we like. This way we can focus on repeating these things as often as possible. I like (in no particular order);

  • Talking with my wife; no one knows me or understands me like she does. 
  • Laughing with my children; they have an incredible sense of humor and I love their smiles
  • Good coffee; the comforting strong aroma & hot java are a social connection and opens doors to conversation
  • Reading: I enjoy losing myself in a good fiction book and growing through nonfiction 
  • Running: this is a new found addition which continues to stimulate and excite me
  • Preaching: it's what I am gifted to do and I feel spiritually in tune when I am fortunate enough to do it
  • My dog: coming home to the completely enthusiastic, unconditional love of a good dog can't be beat
  • New experiences: I like to eat new foods, meet new people, and see things in different ways
  • Sports: they provide a common ground of conversation while increasing my appreciation for athletic feats
  • Simple things: sitting on my porch in the early morning, taking my girls out for a cup of coffee, a well-timed "thank you" from a friend, a good hug, and sleep

Do you know what you like and have you figured out ways to make them part of your regular life patterns? If we don't work to include these, we'll miss out on what brings us joy. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Better Days

I like it when things are peaceful. There is something to be said for a sense of calm, quiet moments, and a tranquil spirit. The problem is when we tie this concept of peace into the steadiness of our circumstances. 

While I place great value on the smoothness of life details, there aren't many times when everything flows fluidly together. When I seek peace it is more deeply connected to my state of mind than anything else. I believe it's what Jesus meant when He told His followers He offered peace, but not as the world offered it. He was trying to communicate how important it is for us to find contentment and quiet in the middle of the stormy details of life. 

Our prayer focus shifts from asking God to make things better to being better regardless of the events around us.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Off We Go

My wife and I watched the first Hobbit movie again the other night (our whole family loves Tolkien's series.) As the characters set off on their quest, I thought to myself, "they have no idea how long this journey will actually take or how different they will be when they return." Obviously, I am aware these are fictional characters, but the theme still rings true for us. 

We are all embarking on journeys throughout our different phases of life. The beginning of each one holds great promise, excitement, and even some fear. Even though we may have some idea where we are headed, there are unexpected turns and events which change the shape of our travel. The length of our journey and the personal adaptations we go through are not always easily anticipated. If we head down this path with a flexible mindset and the willingness to explore, there's a good chance we'll be positively improved at the conclusion of our trip.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Enjoy the Ride

I see pictures online of people on vacation and start to think about our family vacation at the end of the summer. We always head down to the beach and spend a week being hermits. I'm already looking forward to it and have to remind myself not to dwell on it too much since it is still a few months away.

We leave for the beach early on the day of departure so we can be there by lunchtime and have the afternoon to spend relaxing. Honestly, my main objective on the day of travel is to get there as quickly as possible so our adventure can begin. I don't think too much about the journey except to move it along as quickly as possible (within legal limits of course.)

While it might make sense to think this way about a vacation, I wonder how often I make the mistake of rushing my journey in the rest of my life. I tend to think ahead and look forward to new things and while that is valuable for a vision-focused person, it can lead to me neglecting the value of the process of getting there. There should be joy and a peaceful appreciation for the steps of the journey and not just a focus on my destination. Our life pilgrimage will be much sweeter when we soak up all of the moments along the way. Our life is not just based on where we end up, but how we live out each step along the way. My experiences would be even more fulfilling if I would fully engage in all parts of the journey and not just focus on the arrival.