Staying Focused

Wild Turkey Trail

Wild Turkey Trail – Henry Horton State Park, Chapel Hill , TN

“Strider started the trail with a purist mind-set, but soon joined with a group of hikers who are having a more social experience of the trail. He spent two weeks partying with them in Damascus. The group is ahead at Rockfish Gap, preparing to travel by canoe to Harpers Ferry, bypassing the trail through Shenandoah National Park. Strider is torn between going with them and hiking the entire trail. ‘I can still come back and hike the Shenandoah later,’ he says, echoing a common refrain.” -David Miller (AWOL)

My family and I moved to our hometown to plant a missional community (church). We’ve been here for three months and already I have received offers to be a youth leader and a worship leader. These are lucrative positions; pastors with great vision, established congregations, financial gain, immediate accomplishment, critical support and existing faith family. If I were like Strider in the previous story, I would be torn between my calling, “hiking my own hike,” or being led away from my calling for a good idea like Strider and “hike the Shenandoah later.”

I love the pastors who called me and felt the need to offer such positions to me. They are really good friends who I’ve done ministry with for years. However they felt they couldn’t go any further without at least marking me off as an option for their local church. I would have done the same. Call it a testing if you’d like.

Thankfully, I am focused on what God has called me to do. Maybe a little headstrong as well. But that’s what happens when you set out to fill your calling. Opportunities will rise to 1) test you, 2) tempt you, 3) see if you are focused, 4) confirm your calling. It will be too easy to be torn because you’ll see the good in both of those opportunities but if you stay focused, you’ll finish strong.

At my last church, we had a filter that we ran every opportunity through. We would ask, “Is it a good idea or a God idea.” Most time it was a good idea and the Good Idea Fairy has no other desire than to get you off track. It will flood your mind with what you could be doing rather than what you are called to be doing. Staying focused kills the Good Idea Fairy.

So if you know what God has called you to, then stay focused. Don’t find another “good idea” while hiking the trail. You started for what God called you to do. Finish strong knowing that you didn’t give into the good ideas.

References

Miller, David. AWOL on the Appalachian Trail. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. 94

The Ideal Trail

That ideal mountain trail is one that Jesus carved out before us and it still stands today. It’s the one we will all travel with the hope of one day spending eternity with Him. It’s a trail full of ups and downs, overlooks and outlooks. It’s a trail that will take us through the miry clay and brings us out on the Rock. It’s a trail that seems narrow but leads to wide green pastures. This trail I speak of will be one of eternity and  every day, I’m excited to be walking it. I will meet him who forged it first. I will worship Him who created every nook and alley. I will dine with him with new wine and sit by the glassy sea as we converse about times gone by and time to come. This trail is a heavenly trail and although many see it as one with boundaries, I see it as one of freedom. Some see it as a trail of misery, I see it as a trail of love. Some see it as a trail of hardship, I see it as one of delight. Some see it as problematic… I see it as IDEAL!

Ideal trail is one without end

Finding God In the Creative Process

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When I wrote Faith Debugged, a moving creative idea showed me the parallel of God’s armor and the safety equipment I used in pest control. I was taken back when I realized that some of the actions or tools I used could very well be paralleled with God and His word. In the same way, as I compile evidence of God in the world of backpacking and hiking, I can begin to see through the creative process where God has intertwined himself through every facet.

When one begins to learn the outdoor adventures of slapping a 30 pound pack on your back and grab a walking stick and begin to walk in the woods to experience all of creation, he/she needs to learn of the ten essentials in order to be successful at surviving such endeavors. They are:

1. Navigation

2. Sun protection

3. Insulation

4. Illumination

5. First-aid supplies

6. Fire

7. Repair kit and tools

8. Nutrition

9. Hydration

10. Emergency shelter

These Ten Essentials easily stand parallel to the Ten Commandments in God’s word. Also, when we consider the Ten Essentials, we narrow them down to the Three Fundamentals:

  1. Sleep System
  2. Cook Kit
  3. Shelter

Biblically we can narrow the Ten Commandments to Three Fundamentals:

  1. God
  2. Others
  3. You

When I learned that both backpacking and my faith had Ten Essentials and Three Fundamentals I was blown away. God is truly amazing when He reveals Himself to us… In EVERYTHING!

A Fire Begins With the Insignificant

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Over the past year I have learned a valuable skill; how to start a fire. One can start with some dryer lint, scrapings from a twig, fire-starter material, oil or wax soaked cotton balls, or any flammable liquid. However what you can’t do is start a fire with a big piece of wood or log. It doesn’t catch fire very well. As a matter of fact, the many times I have had a campfire, I’ve tried to put a large log on hoping it will keep the fire going for sometime but what I’ve realized is it usually dampens the fire and never really catches itself.

Fires are started by the insignificant and when I say the insignificant I mean that which is relative to their position in the grand scheme of things. In other words, their smallness. However their smallness is in fact exactly what makes them very significant for without their ability to catch fire quickly, each of us would have a very hard time trying to build momentum in our camp fires. It’s the small branches or the small items that begin the fire and creates much heat.

What I’m trying to say through this analogy is you may think you have insignificant abilities. I know I do. Let me be transparent. I have an amazing friend who I think is brilliant. He’s pursuing his doctorate degree. I’ve often said he’s like a sponge; he remembers everything and he’s very capable of seeing through facades and has the ability to discern even when someone is good at hiding.

I have in the past tried to live to his standard because I have felt very insignificant in the light of his wisdom. However I had I had to come to terms that I am not him. I wasn’t made to be him. I wasn’t created by God to live his life. I am not him so why am I trying to live up to his significance? This was a pit that I worked myself into. I was trying to find big logs for the fire that I don’t have. That is matching his wisdom, his discernment, his abilities, all the things I thought that made him great. I was trying to create bonfires. I was finding my significance in his qualities.

Instead of trying to find the great things about him and matching them I needed to find the things about myself that makes me great, my smallness that’s huge in significance and be about them. Instead of trying to be him, I need to be myself. I can be a fire starter too. It’s not the big things in a person’s life that starts the fire. It the small unique things that only we have in ourselves that can start a fire in us and in others.

I lead worship in my church. Other worship leaders would agree that being in leadership especially in a church can feel like a thankless job. People have the expectation that when they show up, they’ll be led in such a way that they leave unchanged  without thinking of the work it took in preparation to lead. I recently received a message via Facebook from one of our church members telling me how much he appreciated the work I did and how he feels when I lead him somewhere whether that be out of darkness he’s been feeling or just reassurance that where God has him is where he needs to be.

I can’t light that fire if I’m trying to show off the big logs in my life. That can only start with my insignificance of lessening myself and making God more available to lead in me. As John the Baptist so put it, “May I decrease so that He may increase.” In other words, the insignificant twigs that I bring to the fire ring is my ability to play and sing, listening to God lead in song choice and preparation, being sensitive to the Spirit’s leading during worship, daily bible reading that makes me familiar with God’s character, and simply learning to trust God’s leading. These things seem small and  insignificant twigs but that’s exactly what starts a raging fire. Not the big logs of speaking eloquently with $10 Christianese words or prayers in KJV. Not the ability to sing with precision. Not the ability to dress in style. Not the ability to lead ten instruments and 50 chorus members. Not the ability to think deep theologically but to have compassion and love for God’s purpose and glory.

My prayer is that we understand the insignificances of life so that through our weaknesses, our humbleness, our  meekness, and our service, God is made great and what seems to be insignificant becomes significant to us so that a fire begins, a roaring fire, one that can’t be stood next too because it brims with hotness, a rising flame that burns all of our pride and selfishness that we have no other purpose than to praise the one who started the fire, namely Jesus!

Paul told Timothy “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 NIV). Notice what Paul thought was very significant qualities to have in order to build a fire. I’m willing to bet most think these are insignificant or too small to do any good on today’s culture but that’s exactly what is needed to build a fire. I say don’t look down on yourself because you feel like you are insignificant because what seems insignificant is significant. It’s the small twigs that start the fire. Be a fire starter!

Walking Backwards

This morning I woke up with anticipation. I’m about to hike an overnight loop I’ve been wanting to do for some time. It’s cold outside and I’m sure to feel some discomfort in that but I’m still excited. As I began to waken, I just had this thought come across my mind of living life walking backwards, in a way of saying sometimes folks think a trail needs to be hiked one way but you miss so much when you do.

The more I thought of this unique way of looking at the trail, I was greeted by the Holy Spirit with some scripture that tells us the last shall be first and the first, last (Mat. 20:16 NIV) or that God uses the weak to confound the strong (1 Cor. 1:27). In each of these verses we look at the world in unique ways. Ways that the world seems to laugh. If you want to lead you must serve (Mark 10:45). That’s crazy but God’s ways are truly higher than ours so I bet there’s some sense to that.

On the trail, I’ve earned that a trail can be so beautiful but indeed if you don’t hike it occasionally the other way, you miss some things. We tend to think life looks a certain way but as soon as we hike it the opposite way, we can see there is so much beauty still to be seen. It actually becomes another hike instead.  I’m sure NOBOs (Northbounders) see a very beautiful trail hiking the Appalachian Trail but I would be willing to bet the SOBOs (Southbounders) see a very different trail, one that NOBOs can agree to an extent but there  eyes simply lay on things and see them differently.

In life, we can get caught up hiking like everyone else does and not ever see the beauty of life hiking it backwards. God says to be in the world but not of the world (Romans 12:1-2). He encourages us in order to live life, hike backwards. If we want to be strong, be strong in God and not “lord” our strength over others. If we want to be leaders, serve everyone. Lookout for others interests before our own (Philippians 2:4). If we want to be godly people, be humble and not proud.

I’m willing to lay my life on the line to see the trail in a new fresh way and hike life backwards, not the the way the world hikes. I bet God has hidden so much in the view and experience that walking backwards makes it well worth it.

Happy trails!

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