Camping with an almost professional

I have only one memory of camping when I was a kid.  I was in junior high.  My dad borrowed someone’s RV for a week.  We parked it at the campground the first night.  It rained.  The roof leaked.  We checked in at the Holiday Inn the next night.  That is my history of camping as a kid in its entirety.  One night in an RV.

summer 08 068So when Kelly and I decided to try camping a couple of summers ago, we had no idea what to expect.  We found we liked it – for the most part.  Locking the keys in the car made things a bit interesting that first time, but it makes for a good story now. And we’re happy to say that we no longer consider ourselves novices – we’ve been camping four, yes, four times in the past three  summers.  It’s a been a ton of fun, and we’re getting better at it.  Almost professional.  In fact, we’ve even gone to Cabella’s to buy gear.

But I feel it would be wrong if I kept all of my wisdom to myself.  So…if you have ever thought of camping, here are the most important things we have learned:

  • Camping is like staying in a hotel without walls – which is ok if you are the friendly type.
  • If you are a clean freak, camping may not be for you.  (My wife, however,  managed to take 5 showers in 2 days.)
  • Bug spray.  Beware:  Deep Woods Off is strong enough to melt your plastic table cloth – but it is the only language that some mosquitos understand.
  • When choosing a campsite keep these words in mind:  grassy, level, shady – and close to the bathhouse
  • Electricity is your  friend.  Bring a LONG extension cord, then all the conveniences of home.  At the very least bring a fan.
  • Choose a campground based on its proximity to a Walmart.  Scenery is nice; being able to buy everything that you forgot?  Priceless.
  • Air mattresses are for the wise.  The ground is a lot harder now than it was back when you were a kid.
  • Tubs are good.  They keep things dry.  And the average raccoon has not yet figured out how to open them.  Raccoons are not your friends.
  • Pop-ups and trailers are for the weak.  Real campers know the joy of trying to remember how to set up the tent, and then the thrill of somehow getting it back into the tiny duffel bag it came in.
  • If you want to look like a pro, bring Christmas lights to string over your picnic table – but the old fashioned kind with the really big bulbs.  Icicle lights are not in style.

One other note – by the time you are done spending money on everything you need to camp (air mattress, electric pump, fan, lawn chairs, hot dog forks, firewood, ice, bug spray, tubs, totes for toiletry items, rug, Christmas lights, camp stove, extension cord, clothesline, park fees, coolers, plastic silverware and plates, food, flashlight batteries, tablecloths, etc. ) you’ll realize that it would have been cheaper to stay in the Holiday Inn. DSC03629

Dad was so wise.


Life in Dotville

We tend to see life as linear – one event following the next.  And we illustrate it with a timeline.  To the far left we make a dot to represent the day we are born, on the far right we place a dot that represents the day we’re going to die.  We’re not sure exactly where that dot goes, but we’re convinced that we have a lot of line to work with.   So we get busy creating dots that represent all of the achievements in life.  There’s a dot for the day we started walking, a dot for the day we started talking, another dot for the first day of kindergarten, a big dot for the day the really cute girl sat next to us on the bus, a dot for the day we climbed the rope in gym class, a dot for the day we won the science fair (or a dot for the day we no longer had to do science fairs!), a dot for the day we were elected class president, an exciting dot for the day we went on our first date, a dot (sigh) for the day we broke up, a dot for the day we made first string varsity, a dot for the day we finally graduated… that’s a lot of dots.

But those dots are important.  Dots tell us whether or not we are making progress in life.  They tell us how we’re doing in comparison to the next guy.  They let us know who’s ahead – which is good if it’s us, bad if it is someone else.  Lots of dots?  Life is good.  Not so many dots?  Time to get a move on.  After all, when you’re living in Dotville you’ve got to keep up with the neighbors.

But is Dotville really the best place to live? 

 What happens when you can’t put a dot on your line that you really want to put there?  In other words, you’re stalled.  I’ve been there.  Often.  And so many times when that happens there isn’t much to do but wait things out.  But it’s hard to live in Dotville then.  And what do you do when someone else is a better “dotter” than you are?  Do you feel frustrated?  Probably.  Do you wish you could be better at dots?  I’m thinking so.  I get that way. 

Maybe it’s time to get out of Dotville.  It’s not a good place to live.  Dotville has a problem.  It’s way too much about horizontal living.  Horizontal living measures what Ido.  Vertical living?  It’s more about who I am.  Horizontal living measures how far I’ve gone.  Vertical living measures how well I’m doing.  Horizontal living is about achieving a dream.  Vertical living is about becoming a person.   Maybe life isn’t so linear after all.  Maybe there are things more important than dots.

So you can’t put the dot on your line at work that you’d like to – that’s horizontal.  But you can work hard and show integrity – that’s vertical.   And maybe there’s a relationship dot that you’re missing – again, horizontal.  But you can show kindness and concern and love in the relationships you do have – that’s vertical.

Maybe we should worry less about what we accomplish and worry more about who we become.

That’s why I’m trying to move out of Dotville.

The rest of the story

This story is a little long, but it is so good it has to be shared.  Some may be familiar with it already, but now there is more to the story.

Last summer, a friend of mine started on an adventure that would last for about six months.  Marianne took her government stimulus check and decided to invest it by going on a missions trip to Nicaragua.  While in the country she visited in the home of a family with a little six year old boy.  Having three rambunctious boys of her own, she thought it odd that this little boy hid behind his mom the entire time.  And then she found out why.  The boy, Hafid, was severely cross-eyed; to the point where he was basically blind because of his inability to focus on objects.  He could barely walk as a result.  Unsure and unsteady, he clung to his mother.

Marianne with Hafid.  Giselle is in the doorway.

Marianne with Hafid. Giselle is in the doorway.

Marianne returned home to her three healthy boys, but she couldn’t forget about  little Hafid.  But what could she do about him?  She didn’t know, but she knew that God wanted her to do something.  She decided she would try to help.  She started asking around and located an opthamologist that would perform surgery on the boy for free.  Then she located a medical facility where the surgery could be performed – for free.  Next she looked for an anesthesiologist – and found one who would offer his services for free.  Finally she set about to get Hafid to South Bend.  Working through both the U.S. government and the Nicaraguan government, the paper work got done and Hafid flew with his mom to South Bend. 

There was just one problem.  Hafid and his mother, Giselle, speak only Spanish.  Marianne – and everyone else in the story – speaks English, with the exception of a young man named Denis.  Denis is the son of a national pastor in Nicaragua who is bi-lingual, so he came along as well.

The group arrived in South Bend in late November, just in time for the winter snow – but they loved it.  Hafid even put some in the freezer so that he could take it back home with him.  The surgery was done shortly thereafter – but things did not go as well as hoped, so Hafid, Giselle and Denis were forced to stay for many more weeks.

Now for the rest of the story:

denis 2

Denis "enjoying" winter in Indiana.

Before coming, Denis had applied for a scholarship that is offered to one Central American student every year.  If he were to win it, he would be provided free tuition at a Christian college in the U.S.  An important part of the scholarship application process , though, involved an interview.  When Denis committed to traveling as an interpreter, he knew that he might miss the opportunity to interview.  He came anyhow.

Because the medical situation in South Bend dragged on, Denis missed his interview – and seemingly his chance at the scholarship.  But the foundation offered him a chance to interview in the states – if he could somehow get to Arkansas.  South Bend, Indiana is a long way from Arkansas, but Marianne’s dad offered to drive Denis there for his interview.  So off they went on a whirlwind trip to the South and back in a little over 24 hours.

In the meantime, Hafid had a second surgery which was completely successful.  He is now a healthy six year old with 20/20 vision, though he has to wear glasses.  And Hafid also is now attending a private school in Nicaragua due to the benevolence of people who met him and his mom while they were here.  He’ll also be bilingual someday.

And Denis?  He’ll be starting college at a Christian University in Arkansas.  He won that lone scholarship.  I love that because when he came he knew he might be forfeiting his dream, still he came anyhow.   And God took care of him.  And Hafid.

Marianne?  She’s just an everyday mom who listened to God, and as a result there’s a little boy in Nicaragua whose life has been changed.  Denis?  He’s just a typical teenager who listened to God, and as a result he’ll be living his dream this fall.

You?  Me?  Maybe there’s an exciting story out there for us, too – if we’ll just listen to God.

Red Sea Rules

Ever wish that God would deal with you in some nice, safe, non-threatening way?  Yeah, right.  That doesn’t seem to happen very often, does it?  Why is it that He prefers scaring me to death?  I often feel like an Israelite who has been marched up to the edge of the Red Sea – while the dust of the approaching Egyptian army is billowing over my shoulder.  There’s no possibility of  turning around, but there’s no way to move forward, either.  Maybe you’re standing on the same sand that I am.

Several months ago a friend gave me a copy of a pint-sized book by Robert Morgan called The Red Sea Rules.  Taken from Exodus 13&14, the book lists ten ideas of what to do when you don’t know what to do.  I’m on #5 again this morning.

1.  Realize that God meant for you to be where you are.
2.  Be more concerned for God’s glory than for your relief.
3.  Acknowledge your enemy, but keep your eyes on the Lord.
4.  Pray!
5.  Stay calm and confident, and give God time to work.
6.  When unsure, just take the next logical step by faith.
7.  Envision God’s enveloping presense.
8.  Trust God to deliver in His own unique way.
9.  View your current crisis as a faith builder for the future.
10.  Don’t forget to praise Him.

A love story

Seventeen years ago today I married Kelly.  She is my best friend and the love of my life.  We’ve been blessed with a great marriage.  I couldn’t imagine my life without her.Kelly and me 2

Happy Anniversary!  I love you, Kelly.

The art of aftership

A neologism ( from Greek neo ‘new’ + logos ‘word’) is a newly coined word that may be in the process of entering common use, but has not yet been accepted into mainstream language. The term neologism was coined in 1803,and thus, is arguably a neologism itself. [1]

The following is a list of neologisms that you might want to pick up on and add to your vocabulary:

  • aquadexterous – possessing the ability to turn the bathtub faucet on and off with your toes
  • Beelzebug – Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets in your bedroom at 3 a.m. and cannot be cast out
  • bozone – the substance surrounding certain people that keeps bright ideas from penetrating
  • caffidget –  to break up a Styrofoam cup into several hundred pieces after consuming its contents
  • doork – a person who pushes on a door marked “pull” (or vice versa)
  • exasperin – any bottle of pain reliever with an impossible-to-remove cotton wad at the top
  • Gapiana – the unclaimed strip of land between the “you are leaving” and “welcome to” signs when crossing state lines
  • idiot box – the part of an envelope that tells a person where to place the stamp in case he can’t figure it out for himself
  • intaxication – euphoria at getting a tax refund which lasts until you realize it was your money in the first place [2]

I’ve got one more word to offer, and this one comes from the Bible – aftership.  It’s what Jesus was talking about when He said, “If anyone wants to be my disciple, he needs to come after me.” 

Leadership is one of the buzzwords of today; and it is important – but maybe aftership is just as important.  True, we need leaders to lead families and small groups and churches, but only if those leaders have mastered the art of aftership.  When Jesus went recruiting, He seemed to be more concerned with finding people who could follow than with finding people who could lead.  I think the point is that a person who follows Him as He should will become a leader, and will have the influence on others that God intends.  Isn’t that the real issue of leadership, anyhow?

Paul got the idea.  He said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”  The reason to follow Paul was not because he was a great leader, but because he was a great follower – someone who had mastered the art of aftership.

We tend to measure a person on the basis of his personality, his gifts, his passion, his drive, his people skills, etc.  And if he measures up in all of these categories we assume that he will be a great leader.  But leadership is not the final issue – otherwise we would revere Hitler today.  Sure there are gifts of leadership, and we can certainly hone our leadership skills – but is this the best place to start?

The real issue for a Christ-follower (did you catch that term?) is aftership – becasuse anybody can follow after Christ.  You don’t need to have stunning looks, awesome personality, inspiring charisma, and the like.  Those things are nice, but often they tend to replace the more important issues of humility and gentleness and integrity and love.   And these are accessible to everyone. 

When we see these qualities  in a person – then we know that we have found someone we can trust enough to follow.  It’s not so much about his leadership skills, but his aftership habits. 

  • aftership – following hard after Jesus and letting Him use you to influence others

[1] wikipedia

And who is this girl?

linz soccer aCould it be that #12 out there on the field used to be that little four year old soccer player who just stood in the middle of the field, hands clasped in front of her, with a terrified look on her face?  I remember on game days going onto the field, holding Lindsay’s hand, and dragging her to the ball so she could kick it.  Our goal each Saturday was 10 kicks – didn’t matter which direction – just 10 kicks.  And that was in a 3v3 game.

Saturday was Lindsay’s last game this year.  She’s come a long way.  This was a tough season for her.  She was assigned to a team where she was the youngest player, where she didn’t have any friends on the team to start with, and where the coach was very difficult to understand.  (I know they speak English in Scotland, but they disguise it well.)  She struggled, but she hung in there.  And it turned out to be a good season.  Her team went 8-1 and won the season-ending tournament.

Linz is my tenacious one.  When she gets an idea in her head she goes after it.  Never mind the obstacles.  I love that about her.  I hope she never loses that tenacity in life – and in following Jesus.  Go after Him with everything that you’ve got, kid.

I’m proud of Lindsay.  The fact that she loves to play soccer and basketball – that’s just a bonus to her dad.  And just for the record, he can still beat her at both games (I think), but not at foot races.

She turns 13 in two weeks.  Wow, two teenage girls in the house.  Life is good.

(Lindsay:  if I could pick anyone I’d pick you, because I like you best)

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