Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Seeking Serenity

We have recently started a program called Celebrate Recovery which is a Christ-based recovery program aimed at helping people find healing from life's hurts, hang-ups, and habits. There are repeated elements of the weekly service which help as we all search for positive routines in our life. One of those practices involves reading the serenity prayer aloud collectively before dismissing to our groups. While the repetition can potentially lead to numb recitation it can also become more powerful as it embeds itself in our spirit. The words are powerful if we focus on the intent behind them and hopefully learn to make it a vital part of how we push forward in recovery each day.

God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,

Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Pick Up Your Head

One of the most useful tools developed in the last decade is the smart phone. I will admit I have a difficult time imagining how to get work done without one. It's also incredibly useful for my personal life and helps me keep track of important items and reminders. They have also become a handy distraction for when we have to wait. It only takes a minute or two waiting in a line before we pull our phones out and start scrolling through social media, texting someone, or playing a game. While this might seem to help pass the time, I think it can actually be a detriment to real relationships.

I think we've forgotten how to engage in conversations. I think we've neglected the art of being in a moment. Our first reaction when we are forced to wait is to escape to some other place. What if we stopped in those lengthy moments and noticed the people around us? What are we missing out on because our faces are pointed downwards towards our devices? I don't intend this to be a rant against technology because in truth, I am a big fan of technology and find it to be extremely useful. I can only speak from the personal conviction I feel to not jump to my phone when I have a moment of inaction.

Put down your phone and engage in the life around you.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Trying to Find It

When I left Daytona Beach to finish my college degree in Nashville, Tennessee, I was enrolled at Lipscomb University. It is a Christian school and I had certain expectations about the culture I was stepping into. As someone who had struggled to maintain a commitment to a Christian way of life, I expected it would be easier to stay focused on this campus. I mentioned this to a friend of mine (who had also attended Lipscomb) and he shared a thought with me I have never forgotten. He said, "Craig, you will find what you look for." He wasn't trying to discourage me, but wanted to give realistic counsel. Everything I might want to see is available depending on how diligently I'm willing to search.

That principle is still true today. Despite what our social media feeds and news headlines might tell us, there is still a lot of good in our world if we look for it. If we only want to focus on the negative and complain about what's wrong, there will be plenty of that available as well. It's up to us as individuals to decide what we want to search for and how we want to see things. The people and circumstances in our lives will be partially defined by how we view them. What we find depends on what we seek.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Surviving the Heat

The smoldering hot summer temperatures are here. Other parts of the country have been feeling them longer than we have here in Georgia and we are now in the middle of the oppressive heat. It's an overwhelming high temperature that tests the capacity of air conditioning systems and human tolerance. This obviously leads to complaints wherever you go about the summer time temps and how awful they are.

I can't do anything to change the triple digit heat, but I can try to do things to adapt. I've had to adjust my exercise routine and no longer run right after work. We're closing curtains to keep out direct sunlight and have added a window A/C unit in our bedroom. We've even adjusted our dinner habits on the hottest of days and don't cook anything that requires the oven to be on for long periods of time. Our best option is to make adaptations where we can for our best benefit.

There are many circumstances in our lives we can't directly alter. Complaining about the state of things often becomes the next natural step even though that only increases our frustration level. When we are faced with those seemingly unconquerable moments, we'll cope more effectively by shifting our perspective. We aren't always able to transform what we're going through, but we can revise the way we approach it.

If you can’t change your circumstances, you’ll need to change your attitude if you want to survive.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Moving Along

It's no secret that I've become addicted to running in the last year and half. If I go too many days without putting in miles, I start to twitch and become a little unruly. When I'm running I listen to music and also use a running app that alerts me to my running splits. I currently have it set to tell me what my last mile's pace was so I can make adjustments if necessary. There have been several times when I set out at what I thought was a moderate pace only to find out I was running much faster than I anticipated.

Once I realize how fast I'm moving, I have two choices. I can keep up that fast pace or slow down. The biggest factor in my decision is how far I intend to run as the distance is the key for the pace I set. It's no big secret that I can keep up a much faster pace if I am only out for shorter distances.

This is the same for other areas of my life too. I can maintain a fairly frenetic pace if I am only maintaining it for a short period of time. I can get by with less sleep and higher levels of stress if I know there is an end in sight. My energy levels, coping skills, and relationships tend to suffer if I try to keep moving too quickly over long periods of time. If I want to stay healthy, I've got to recognize how fast I'm moving and determine how long I can sustain it before I have to come to a stop.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Vision Training

Ted Williams was arguably one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He is the last man to hit .400 over an entire baseball season and is a measuring stick for all great hitters. Baseball legends report that his eyesight was so crisp he could see the seams on the baseball as it was thrown from the pitcher. Whether that was true or not, he still had extraordinary vision which is key for success in baseball.

This type of vision doesn't come naturally for everyone. When I was in college, our baseball team went through vision training drills. We would set up a room in the offseason where each player would go through exercises specifically trained to increase peripheral vision and reaction time. These also included agility and balance drills while focusing on improving eyesight. The theory was that training a player's vision would improve their performance.

We had no real time data to determine if this made baseball players better, but the principle of vision training applies to other parts of our life. We function as parents because of what we have seen our parents do (or not do.) We lead others because of how we have seen other people lead. Our life experiences shape the way we view things. These are all a current part of our vision, but they don't have to be the permanent way we we look at things. I believe we have the choice to train ourselves to look at people, circumstances, and our environment differently. We have the power to decide the old way of looking at things is not satisfactory and to do something different. It may not be easy to retrain our vision, but it is possible if we decide it matters enough to us.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Being a Dad

I still remember when my wife told me she was pregnant with our first child. There aren't really adequate words to describe the overwhelming joy, excitement, and anxiety of realizing you are going to be a father. I had the opportunity to get used to that feeling as we ended up having three daughters in a little over three years. With three girls that young and close in age there were many times we were just trying to survive while keeping them alive as well. We didn't always know what we were doing (that never changes apparently), but did the best we could with love, laughter, and grace.

Being a father has been one of my most challenging and rewarding life roles. I have never felt qualified (are any of us?) to effectively lead my girls, but have strived to let them know they are loved. I know I've made a ton of mistakes, but I'm hoping they have heard my message of grace for myself and for them. I couldn't love them any more than I do and am excited (and slightly nervous) about this next season of life. I am truly honored to be their father and to love and lead them with their mother. I don't take this responsibility lightly and am grateful every day for the blessing of being their dad.

Saturday, June 18, 2016


Early in our married life my wife and I were terrible slobs (thankfully that is no longer the case.) We didn't really have the discipline to keep a tidy house and allowed our schedules (and laziness) to keep us from cleanliness. Eventually we would reach a mutual point of disgust (and lack of clean dishes) that would force us to stop pretending things were clean. We could no longer hide piles of newspapers under the couch or dirty clothes behind a closed laundry room door. Things had to be dealt with or the situation was never going to get any better.

I think we can do the same thing with the spiritual health of our life. We don't have the proper habits to keep things in order so they slide into disarray. While we might be uneasy about the state of things, we also realize we can hide it for a while if we're careful. Eventually, the mess will become more noticeable in our relationships, our attitude, and our overall health and we'll be forced to do something about it.

I don't want to pretend that spiritual health is supposed to be neat and orderly. In fact, I think it's the exact opposite. An authentic spiritual journey has rough edges, is far from perfect, and doesn't always flow smoothly according to everybody's expectations. The key to keeping things moving forward is to be free to call it for what it is as we keep working on it. Pretending that things are neat and clean because we are hiding the truth doesn't benefit anyone. Be willing to admit we are all messy while pursuing God's best in our lives. That's the quality of a genuine life headed in the right direction.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Work the System

Last week at middle school camp I had a plan for running before the campers got up. There were two fellow runners on our camp staff and we all agreed to meet at 5:30 am to run 5-6 miles together. As I was walking back to my cabin the night before we were supposed to run, I told my friend that I might not have committed to it without my running partners.

I was in the middle of stretching the next morning shortly after 5 am when the first text message came in letting me know one of our running group wasn't going to make it. I kept stretching after sending a quick response, but only had to wait a few minutes before my other partner bowed out. At this point I could have changed clothes and put the run off for another day, but I was already committed to the process of getting ready. Having already taken a few steps in the right direction gave me the impetus to follow through.

I like to go with the flow of things, but sometimes having a process of steps also helps to keep me focused. Having some idea of what I should be doing and the order I should do it in can give me the motivation to keep moving forward when I might falter. Sticking with some routines of preparation and planning create an opportunity to develop discipline and to keep doing the right things.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Camp Memories

We wrapped up another week of middle school camp this past Friday with 132 campers and 27 staff members. While this was one of my most stressful years leading into camp, it ended up delivering many things I am grateful for:

  • Quality time setting up for camp with a guy I've been able to invest in over several years
  • Running pre-dawn miles that gave me time to meditate and focus
  • Watching a team of volunteers come together around a common purpose
  • Seeing the positive transformation in a group of middle schoolers over four days from being disengaged in worship to active participation
  • Being goofy enough to make a fool of yourself to get campers & staff to laugh
  • Witnessing two college teams (8 people) make an incredible impact on campers with their willingness to engage in activities, dance & sing, and have serious conversations when needed
  • Having tough talks with a few campers and watching them make better decisions as a result
  • A heartfelt, tearful hug and a "thank you" from a 7th grade boy after a message on grace
  • Getting to see eight baptisms take place in the camp pool--one girl being baptized by her father who was also baptized at camp
  • A goodbye hug and thanks from a sweet hearing-impaired camper who was a complete joy all week long
  • A week that already has me looking forward to next year

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Not This Way

When I was in college a group of us decided to take a late night road trip to Jacksonville just to get out of town. We ended up at a Denny's for a post-midnight breakfast before heading home. When I left the restaurant in our car I quickly discovered that Jacksonville is a circuit of one-way streets. Unfortunately, I had started out in the wrong direction before realizing it and ended up driving the wrong way. There was some momentary panic as I saw other cars advancing on me and realized that I was the one driving in the wrong direction. Fortunately, we were able to get turned around before anyone got hurt and figured out how to get moving in the right direction.

It's also easy to get turned around in our life decisions and head in the wrong direction. If we aren't paying attention to the warning signs, we can stay on that track longer than we should and end up hurting ourselves and others. Knowing which direction we want to move, setting up boundaries to keep us from going off course, and enlisting reliable people to help us can help prevent long-term movement down the wrong path.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Not Alone

Waiting for an answer to prayer that never seems to arrive can be frustrating. It leads to feelings of isolation and even beginning to question where God is in our struggles. We might think no one understands exactly what we are dealing with and that we are left to our own strength to make it through. When we falsely believe no one is there for us, it becomes increasingly harder to stand strong in adversity.

I think we might be able to persevere if we could be confident that we are not alone. Knowing we don't have to bear the burden of life's consequences by ourselves can be the small ray of light we need to keep moving forward. This can be found in genuine human relationships, but most importantly in the promises of Christ to always be present for us in good and tough times. There is tremendous power and comfort in believing three simple words, "I Am Here."

Friday, June 3, 2016

Enjoying the Comfort

We have owned this couch for several years now. It isn't one we purchased, but was a hand-me-down gift from friends as they were moving. My wife recovered it and we bought new pillows for it, but it's definitely an old couch. I suppose we could buy a new one, but this one is still comfortable and it doesn't cost me anything to keep. If we were to buy a new couch we would have to shop around for a good bargain, find something we could agree on, and decide if it fits in our house. It's just easier to keep the old one since I already know what I've got and there is no risk involved.

What might seem like solid logic for furniture isn't necessarily the best guide for other decisions in my life. Always staying with something comfortable and familiar doesn't open up new opportunities and pathways of influence. Even though there is very little risk in sticking with old patterns and methods, there also isn't a great opportunity for growth. The truth is we won't discover if something fits us until we give it a shot. We might find the newness is more comfortable than we thought possible once we risk the opportunity in front of us.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Tough Audience

I’ve spoken to a wide variety of audiences in the past twenty plus years. The size of the group has varied from just a few to over a thousand and the setting has been just as different. In recent years it has been mostly adults, but there have been a large number of youth as well. There have been classroom settings, church congregations, youth groups, middle school camps, wedding and funeral attendees, conferences, and devotional thoughts. While I was always invited to speak (in one way or another) that doesn’t mean I was always well received. Some were eagerly open to what I had to say, some maintained tolerance (with a dash of indifference), and others were openly hostile, although that was rare. The receptivity of the crowd and the circumstances surrounding our communication would determine how tough the audience was.

If I was asked to identify the toughest audience I ever had to speak to, it wouldn’t be a difficult question to answer. It wouldn’t be a youth group or a disgruntled group of adults resistant to a message of change. The truth is that the toughest audience I’ve ever had to speak to is me. I know me far too well, think too cynically at times, and don’t always believe the positive things I tell myself. Even when I know what I have to say is good for me, I don’t always take it as well as I should.

A good speaker finds a way to connect with their listeners even through their resistance. You change your approach, use humor to loosen them up, and feel the tone of the room to discover if you’re making an impact. It’s interesting how changing things up is the best way for me to learn to listen to my own voice of reason.