Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Small Groups

I haven't had much time to write lately...oh the life in grad school. Much of the rest of my life has been taken up by the couple of small groups that I am part of. These groups meet weekly and deeply bless my life through relationships, study, and prayer. I want to take a few posts to look at these areas as difficult and as big of blessing as they maybe.

Then end goal for a small group should always be to help and encourage each member to continually be transformed into the image of Christ. This process of discipleship is ongoing, unending, and has both a personal and communal aspect. We must encourage and challenge each other along the way in order to become disciples of our Lord and not just those who carry the name of Christ. I don't want to be called a Christian if I don't look like Christ. I need the help of those around me that I might have a fighting chance.

How often do you meet with other Christians?  How do you spend your time? Is it primarily for "fellowship"? Sometimes we feed our bodies more than our souls... Is your small group more for knowledge or information transfer? Sometimes we feed our minds more than we might take action with what we already know... Is your group more for prayer? Sometimes we spend more time praying for others around us than we do revealing the real hurt and hindrances that are keeping us from the fullness of Christ and requesting our fellow strugglers to go before God on our behalf. 

Who are you sharing life with? Are they challenging you to be more in your devotion to the Lord? Do you look more like Christ now than you did a year ago?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Great Blog post from a friend: Fitness as a Spiritual Discipline

I would like to share a post with you all. Sean is a youth ministry friend from way back that has been on his own journey the last few years. He has a great perspective on the spiritual/physical link.

Check out his great blog post:

Have you seen links to your spiritual and physical life? Share your thoughts!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fun Run? Fun with God?

A year and a half ago if you had said that Megan and I would go for an evening run together and considered it fun...I might have laughed at you. But the reality is, we have changed our lives and exercise a lot over the last 18 months. This change allows us to go and enjoy this kind of exercise together. And man is it a change for the better! 

Before you start thinking, "you all already were in good shape," we were not as good as we may have appeared. I had never run over a 5k without stopping and Megan had never run 2 miles without stopping.  To go from that to running a half-marathon last March in less than a year is incredible when I sit back and think about it.

Now we enjoy the run. We even crave to go for a run.

I wonder if that's how it is with our spiritual lives. We all go through ups and downs spiritually. Sometimes it seems like I can't get enough of scripture for example. Other times I look at how weak my prayer life is day by day. But as we begin to put priority on our spiritual walk, God shows up. It becomes fun and exciting. You begin to crave it.

Do you crave to spend time with God? Do you desire to read His Word? Is it hard to wait to spend time focusing in prayer? God desires time with us- I dare say it's fun for Him. We should desire to spend time with Him. Do you?

Hebrews 5:11-14

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Story

Our church is about to embark on an exciting journey. Over the next 31 plus weeks we will read through "The Story" together, hear about it in sermons, study it in Bible classes and talk about it in small groups. Why am I excited? Because for most people it will be the closest thing to reading through the Bible cover to cover they may ever do. 

We have a great Bible illiteracy in Christianity. Most people couldn't tell you the last time they spent a significant amount of time in scripture. They can however tell you about the latest TV show, movie, or app they have seen or used. Not that reading scripture is the end all to spirituality, but if you don't know the scripture it is hard to know the God of the scripture.

The Bible is a beautiful love letter written to us from God through human hands, to draw us into relationship with him. Love letters are still a valuable and cherished item in society today. I still have many notes, cards and letters that Megan has written me over the years. These remind me of her heart. They remind me of how our relationship began and where the "spark" came from. Would we still have a great relationship without them, sure, but they are a great reminder.

On top of that Megan is a great poet. If you really want to get to know her heart and what she has been through, you can read it in her poetry. Looking back at her work in high school you can see the pain and anguish of the divorce her parents went through. As you look to our early years of marriage you can see her still trying to discover her place in life & ministry. In the poems that have come from her over the last couple of years, you see the maturing relationship she has with her heavenly Father. Her words and poetry tell a wonderful story of her life and heart.

When was the last time you sat down to read the Bible with the intent of knowing your heavenly Fathers heart? He longs to know you. In your heart of hearts you long to know Him too.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Community of Confession

Song and Lyrics by Derek Webb

i repent of my pursuit of America's dream
i repent of living like i deserve anything
my house, my fence, my kids, and my wife
in our suburb where we're safe and white
i am wrong and of these things i repent

i repent of parading my liberty
i repent of paying for what i get for free
the way i believe that i am living right
by trading sins for others that are easier to hide
i am wrong and of these things i repent

i repent judging by a law that even i can't keep
wearing righteousness like a disguise to see through
the planks in my own eyes

i repent of trading truth for false unity
i repent of confusing peace and idolatry
of caring more of what they think than what i know of what they need
and domesticating You until You look just like me
i am wrong and of these things i repent

These are tough lyrics, which if you've followed Derek's career after Caedmon's Call is no surprise.

I repent. I'm sorry. I confess. Statements like these are not quickly made in our culture. Unfortunately they are no more common place in our churches either. We all have difficulty admitting when we are wrong. That difficulty seems amplified when we are in a place where everyone seems so right, so put together. I'm referring to the church.

The people of Israel find themselves in need of a time of confession after hearing the Word of the Lord read to them. In Nehemiah 9:2, "Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors." The people confessed their sins, and then they confessed the sins of those who they knew, loved, and had gone before them.

When was the last time you confessed before God and man what was going on in your life? We all are in need of God's grace. When we do not confess our weakness, then we carry the assumption that we can do it on our own. But we can't do it on our own. I can't be good enough. I can't make it through the day fully devoted, on task and without sin. I need Him.

Confession changes us. When was the last time you confessed to a person or in a group. Chances are it was a powerful moment for you and for the person you shared your weakness with.

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. 1 John 3:9-10

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How Radical?

I read a great article discussing how radical we should or should not be as Christians. I'll share that down below, but here are just a couple of thoughts and questions to go with it.

1) What is our call as Christ followers?
2) What does it look like to live out that call on a day to day basis?
3) What are we giving up in order to follow Him each day?
4) Would other people describe us as Christian? Would they describe you as a "radical" Christian?
5) When was the last time you did something that was out of your comfort zone in order to follow the call of following Jesus? 

Here is the article: Why the Critics are Wrong: We're not Radical Enough

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sabbath: rest with God

Do you feel like you go non-stop week to week. Do you wake up tired? Are you drowsy or nodding off part way through the day?  Maybe you need to rest. Not just sleep. Maybe you need time off, not just from work.

God sets up the pattern in Genesis 2 of rest after work. Not that He needs the rest...
"Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done."

And in one of the most famous passages, He choose to include it in the 10 Commandments: Exodus 20
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." 

One of our elders pointed out to me that God made man on the 6th day. So God's last day of the week was a day of rest, and man-kinds first day was God's day of rest.  We were made to be in relationship with Him. To walk with Him and talk with Him. If you are so busy that you can't slow down for your relationship with him, if you feel stagnant, if you feel like you aren't growing in Him, slow down. Stop. Take a rest. Find your rest in Him and He will draw close to you as you draw near to Him. 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Two Ways of Living

Here are my notes from a recent sermon out of Romans chapter 8.  

Romans 8:1-4 "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."

1.  No longer under condemnation, but are justified, sanctified and will be glorified.

2.  That’s good news!

A. What Controls You?

1.  Romans 8:5-8
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

2.  Story/Example- I Love food...word picture of a steak grilling, the smells the anticipation, the sight...set my mind on it...nothing else will satisfy

3.  Controlled by Sinful Nature: Galatians 5:19-21,

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

- Life Controlled by Sinful Nature: Most of us don't go out with the intention of sinning...

B. Controlled by the Spirit? 

- However if we are not setting our affections on being in communion with or abiding in the Spirit then we find ourselves going toward sin because of our fleshly desires.
    1.  We must recognize Power in weakness: 2 Corinthians 12:9,10
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 NIV)

-Until we recognize that we can't do it on or own. That we can't face our sin and succeed. That we can't stand up as we want. That we can't earn our own way...

   2. Controlled by the Spirit: vs 5  Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 8:5 NIV)

-Paul says it this way in 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20; Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 NIV)

So what does this life look like? How do we live in the mind of Christ, allowing the our Bodies to be a Temple of the Holy Spirit? 

C.  Live by/in the Spirit

1.  Romans 8:9-11
You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

2.  Food for the body example continued: Rocky Road vs Veg. & protein -Coming off the mountain on Trek all we wanted was a burger: meat because of our diet of trail food

      3. "blue elephant"- I can't tell you don't think about a blue elephant with out you thinking about a blue elephant. You have to replace the vision of a blue elephant with something else...otherwise all you think of or see is a blue elephant.  
  -Our must be Desire found in him. We can't just stop desiring what our flesh wants; we have to replace it with the desire for the Spirit and the things of the Spirit.

4. Abiding in Him: John 15:5-12 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:5-8, 10-12 NIV)

       - instead trying "not to do the wrong thing" or not thinking of a "blue elephant," one must remain in him and remain in his love. Then our heart and mind are set on Him.
        a. How do we know that one is abiding in Him? He says that you will have JOY & you will show LOVE. Simple right!

    b. Paul puts it a different way when speaking of the Fruit of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22-25 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25 NIV)
      -Do you wonder why you worry, or don't have peace. Do you ask where joy comes from? and wonder why some people never seem down?

    c. Small note on Discernment 1 Corinthians 2:14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV)

There is a cost to listening to the Spirit and allowing grace to be a gift.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer argues that a central part of understanding discipleship is distinguishing "cheap grace" from "costly grace." Cheap grace does not "cost" us anything personally, does not force us to change what we hold dear. To attain cheap grace, we merely make our faith accommodate whatever we want; we suffer no discomfort in the process. In contrast, costly grace means making a sacrifice for faith. It is "costly because it costs someone their life, and it is grace because it gives a person the only true life" (Bonhoeffer 1995, p. 45 Cost of Discipleship as quoted in Virtual Faith by Tom Beaudoin p. 119)

D. Close: Life in the Spirit is costly- Luke 9:23-24 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. (Luke 9:23, 24 NIV)

Are you choosing to be "controlled by the Spirit?" Or are you allowing yourself to be controlled by the flesh? Have you cheapened grace by accommodating your faith to your desires? Or are you allowing yourself to realize the great cost of grace and aligning your desires with His? 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Trek Adventure

My last trip with our youth up on a mountain was in the summer of '07. We had a rough trip that year, a long summit (Princeton isn't one of the easier mountains), multiple trips to the emergency room (yes they recognized us), and it was my first major trip away after Claire was born.

This would certainly be a different trip. We had a smaller group of youth with a large number of adults for a trip like this. We decided not to do white water rafting and instead went to the Great Sand Dunes NP. It was tremendous! Extreme heat and overall exhaustion kept us from spending a ton of time, but what a great experience.

Then we drove to the TEAM Ascend property. Sitting right at the base of Mt. Elbert the highest in Colorado, it is a beautiful setting to begin the week and get focused on who Christ is and why we are there to climb a mountain. 

Our focus this week was on the life of Peter. Two main scriptures stood out to me, and I have continued to ponder them over the last two weeks.

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24)

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Feed my sheep." (John 21:15-17)

Much time has been spent and will be spent explaining each of these verses.  You can think on them and pray about them for a very long time before you might begin to get it.  But I ask this question:

"What will you do about them?"

If you really love Him, there is action involved.  Here are the verbs involved: deny, take up, follow, lose, save, love, feed, take care. When we begin to see our faith in these terms we can't help but to act on them.  It seems like James had something to say about faith and works...

Anyway, it was an incredible trip with lots of great discussion, laughs and fun. Looking forward to more time with these incredible people.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Submitting to submission...Submitting to love

Submission is hard...and talking about it in a positive way may be even harder. It doesn't come naturally to us, we fight it with every fiber of our independent being. But we are called to submit, for our own good, to our God and to other people. What does that look like? What does that mean for us? What are we scared of?

Let's start with what may be one of the most often quoted scriptures, and certainly one of the most preached: The Greatest Commandments.

Matthew 22

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Pretty simple right? Just love the "Lord" with...everything & love your neighbor...as yourself...

OK, maybe not so simple but why? We have this urge, this need to be in control. Or maybe that's just me. It's not that I don't want to relinquish my control, it just that I don't trust someone else to take it and do a good job at it. Really it comes down to trust. Do I trust that God has my best interest in mind? Yes. 

So when I give myself and my life to him with all of my passions, all of my thoughts, with my deepest parts of me, and with my physical body, it should be easy right? Wrong, again. It seems as soon as I get to the place, God reveals another piece of me that I haven't let go of, another corner of my heart to let the light expel the darkness. Then, as if that isn't hard enough, then you want us to love our neighbor in ways that I'm not sure most of us love our selves. 

And that is why it requires submission. As Christians, our lives are not our own. We are told to take up our cross daily, to lay down our lives, to consider others before ourselves. This can only happen in the context of a life laid down. Of wants, and desires placed at the foot of the cross. The cross was the greatest act of love and Jesus reminded us that we participate in this by laying our lives down for our friends in John 15:12-13:

"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."

I have a little something to share with you: you are not in control of this world. Wow, isn't that freeing. Here's another one: God is in control of this world and He knows what's best for you! There is great freedom in that acknowledgment. Are you willing to put Him as "Lord" over all in your life and world? Once you do, then you will know freedom. And that freedom comes from submission!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mt. Whitney Adventure Day 5: Down and Down More

Something that most people don't consider when doing an outdoor adventure, or in life for that matter, is a simple rule of physics: what goes up must come down.  When you are on the top of the lower 49 states, it is a long way down!

Once I finally reached the peak of Mt. Whitney and was greeted by the rest of the team, the two guides had a question for me: How do you feel on a scale of 1-10? I told them I was about a 9, slight altitude headache but otherwise I felt great.  They relied with an affirmative "great" and proceeded to tell me to eat a quick lunch and get some pictures because they were sending me down with Group 1 who had been on the peak for almost and hour and a half.  So after a little fun, some pictures and a quick lunch I was headed back down off the summit.

Going down always presents itself with a new set of problems. Stability is completely different and your quads and knees are already tired. They put me second on the line right behind Jon Dorn the editor for Backpacker magazine with Nick and Anthony right behind me, and our guide Thomas at the back as the anchor. Now I had no trouble keeping up with the scrambling or the rappelling, but then we made it to the snow gulley. The first decision here was not to put our crampons back on. No big deal I'm decent on snow and ice. But there was one minor complication: Jon is 6'6" or more & and I am not!

So with the snow melting it was common to "post-hole" or for your leg to go into the snow all the way up to your waist if you step wrong. With Jon's height he would take a step down hill and it would pull me forward. I certainly couldn't step where he was stepping- my legs just weren't long enough. I can't imagine how funny it must have looked to the three guys behind me as Jon and I did a herky-jerky dance down the 45% grade.

We waited down at camp for the other team to arrive and we all rejoiced together and sat around sharing snacks and talking about the climb. Dinner was made and another early night in the tents with everyone feeling exhausted and anxious about the hike down the next day.

Thursday we woke up, packed up and headed down hill. We were moving quickly enough that we met the next team still at low camp. We hung out for a bit and told some stories. Pete Athens was on this crew, he has summited Everest 8 times, two without the aide of oxygen. We took lots of pictures and then the packs were back on and we headed down the trail.

Finally back at the Whitney Portal we were excited to have our packs off and boots off. We collected some T-shirts and other items to remember our climb and headed to a great lunch at a local Lone Pine cafe.

I had a wonderful crew that week and made some great new friends.  It's amazing how much you can get to know some people over the course of just a couple of days.  But knowing that we raised money that will influence the lives of young people may be the greatest memory we take away.  Just as our lives were forever changed by sharing a week together hiking, I pray that the lives of young people all across the country will be similarly changed. It never ceases to amaze me, how much life perspective changes when we get outside of our norm and comfort zone.

But my journey wasn't over...Matthew, Jeremy, and I were headed to the Grand Canyon on the way home!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mt. Whitney Adventure Part 4: Preparation & The Summit

What most people, me included until a couple of years ago, don't realize there are multiple trails to the peak. The main trail know as the "Mt Whitney trail" is an 11 mile (each direction) strenuous but non-technical trail. There are other routes however and the Mountaineers Route was the one picked for our teams.  This trail unlike most of the other mountain trails or peaks that I have hiked, requires snow, crampon, ice axe, harnesses, ropes, and at certain times of the year an ascender along with some ice work.  This is actually one of the reasons I wanted on this trip, I knew I would gain some valuable skills and experience.

After we reached high camp on the second day and had some time to unwind a bit, we began our summit training.  This included work with the ice crampons, ice axes and harnesses.  We learned walking techniques and how to use the ice axe.  After some brief explanation we had to demonstrate and work on our "self-arrest" techniques.  It was fun to get in the snow a bit and have a little idea of what the next day's requirements would be.

We woke up early the next morning around 3 am. I was still getting my clothing layers on when I heard Tristan (one of the guide) ask what I wanted for a warm drink that morning. Feeling completely spoiled by someone else making my coffee, I packed up and prepared for the day ahead. Obviously they wanted to get an early start, knowing that a previous group had taken over 14 hours to complete their day.

Tammy woke up not feeling well and it was quickly determined that she needed to stay behind at high camp with Chad. Now 2 of the crew would not make the summit that day and we hadn't even left camp yet. We started off into the snow and hiked for around 20 minutes. I was feeling pretty good, no real sign of altitude sickness or anything. We made a stop and everyone put on their ice crampons and began to be attached to the rope and our group. My group was lead by Tristan and included Chris and Wes. Our first obstacle is known as "the wall" which we handled with no problem, and proceeded on to just above Iceberg Lake.

Next up was the snow and ice gully, which is about 1300 vertical feet at about 45 decrees. As we mad our way slowly up this grate, Chris began to get sicker and sicker.  Tristan yelled up to Forest, who was guiding the 2nd group, the one closest to us, to stop at the notch and wait for us.  We made it up about 2/3 of the way and Chris could go no further.  He had spent too much energy trying to overcome his sickness and if he continued it would be a difficult descent.

We got him situated and took off our crampons. Tristan lead Wes and I up to group 2 who were patently waiting for us at the notch.  We joined their line and turned to stare at the final approach, a class 3 section of rock just below the summit.  This was no doubt my favorite part, and I couldn't help but to joke and encourage a couple of the team who were scared of heights.

And then we we greeted at the top...and wow what a view.  This one obviously had a little more meaning than some of the rest but it really was a spectacular and beautiful view. We had made it. There were hugs, phone calls and lots of pictures.  I am so thankful for all who helped me to get there in so many ways.  But that isn't the end of the story...we still had to get down!

 The final ascent...that's me on the very bottom of the rope, last on the line.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mt. Whitney Adventure Part 3: The Hike

I always get a little nervous going to meet a new group of people. There is an uneasiness to it all, but there is also an excitement of the unexpected.  The Team 4 crew meet at a local cafe in Lone Pine, CA for breakfast. It's hard to know how much or how little to eat on a morning like this.  You don't want to start the trail hungry, but you don't want to feel stuffed either. Everyone was eating a hearty meal, except the girls who seemed content to eat mostly fruit.  As we finished up it was time for gear check across the street.

Everyone brought their gear and laid it out on a sidewalk for the guides (Forest & Thomas) to go through and see what we really need as opposed to what we thought we needed.  You begin to get a sense of peoples personalities through this process.  I tend to think I need more than I really do, so this was a tough process for me. I began to hand over pieces of equipment and clothes to Jeremy and Matthew to put back in the car.  Knowing we would carry everything we need for the next 4 days should make it easier to let go, but there is always this nagging feeling of "I might need that."

The was a little bit of group gear and food to distribute between all of us and I grabbed a large bag of vegetables and a canister of fuel. Then came the unenviable task of packing it all back up.  One of the guys Chris had a Jeep Unlimited and offered that I could catch a ride with him up to the trail head. I'll always choose the Jeep if given the choice. I threw my pack in and filled up my water bottles.  Then said goodbye to Jeremy & Matthew so they could begin their next phase of their journey (they had to suffer through seeing the great Sequoya trees, Yosemite NP, and Mammoth Lake).

Everyone one loaded up and we took off to the Mt. Whitney Portal.  There was a scale there at the trail head and mine weighed in at only 45lbs. I say only because I have had 55lb packs on previous mountain trips, but we didn't have the weight of tents or stoves, which were already on the mountain.

There is something beautiful about getting on the trail, feeling the burn of the thighs, getting a feel for everyone's hiking speed, and realizing that for the next 3 and a half days this would be the norm.  Team 4 was a great group of people with some real characters among us.  Many were quiet on the trail and I naturally assumed my regular semi-chatty mode, trying to learn a little more about everyone along the way.

That evening we had a great time as the guide made dinner and we all felt a little spoiled. We hung out on the rock overlooking Lower Boy Scout Lake (around 10,300 ft), with Mt. Whitney towering overhead. Everyone turned in early to get some good rest before day 2. Many of us woke before the guides did and I filled my time with a little "quiet time" on a huge rock next to my tent.  We ate breakfast and prepared for our next day of hiking.

Day 2 brought a new set of challenges and excitement. We had to traverse some snow and the trail was obviously becoming more steep. We met up with Team three and they were coming down from high camp. It was fun hearing the adventures and stories of their summit climb, which would be the next day for us.  Jon Dorn (editor of Backpacker magazine) and our third guide (Tristan) joined us at this point as well. We made the hike up to high camp (around 12,200 ft) at reasonable hour and waited for our training and dinner.

The team was coming together.  One of the guys had been struggling these first two days. He was recovering from strep throat the week before, and the determination was made that he would not attempt the summit.  We were down to 9 of us plus Jon and the guides.  We enjoyed the afternoon sun, wondering what was in store for us over the next 24hrs.

Monday, May 20, 2013


My soul often longs for solitude, to be away, to be still, to know that He is God.  "Settle yourself in solitude and you will com upon Him in yourself." -Teresa of Avila

We live in a crazy society that knows little of solitude. We are so connected to everyone all the time, even feeling something is wrong if we don't have our phone or other device on us. Ironically we may have one of the loneliest and most depressed generations ever.  So what gives? How can we be so "connected" to everyone and yet feel so alone?  Could it be that our internet, facebook, tv, online video games and all of the other connectedness that we have actually has a reverse effect on our life in community?  Yes!  So what does this have to do with solitude? 

In all of our "connectedness" to our world we have forgotten that we have to get "alone" with God regularly in order to feel close to Him.  Jesus regularly went away in order that he might spend time in prayer with the Father.  A couple of scriptures:

"One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God." Luke 6:12

"After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them." Mark 9:2 

"For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.  I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say." John 12:49-50 

Jesus spent time alone, away from the crowds and the bustling world around him.  He took this time out so that He might clearly know the Father's will for him.  He wanted it to be clear that his authority was because of the one who sent him.  Everything he said and did was because he was connected to the Father.  

One of the greatest ways to connect back to the Father is to spend time alone. Although you are never really alone! God is always there with you and for you. And if you are a follower the Spirit of the living God is within you. He longs to bring peace and comfort when nothing else and no one else can.  

Have you allowed yourself time to get "alone" with the Father?  Solitude with the Lord is not a lonely place, in fact it is quite the opposite, it is full of life! 

How or when do you spend time alone with the Father?


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mt. Whitney Adventure Part 2: Lows & Highs

After telling our gracious Flagstaff host Crystal, thank you for the great time at Fossil creek, we headed west. And then we went west some more.  Although this is not the most interesting drive there are a few great places along the way. We had the time so we decided to stop, look, take some pictures and have a little fun.

First we came to the spectacular Hoover Dam.  My first memories of this place are from way back in Jr. High, but more recently I was there in 2008 when my band was on its way to Spirit West Coast to play some shows. They have since rerouted the interstate so that you are not "forced" to go over the dam, but instead now you have to take a side route down to it.  It really is a great engineering feet, so large that you can't really wrap your brain around it. Just as unbelievable is the water table line way above where the water currently sits in Lake Mead.  We parked, walked around and took some pictures.  Satisfied with the time spent we moved on down the road.

Next stop was Las Vegas.  Slightly out of our way, but always an interesting place to stop.  From that trip in '08 there is a little tradition of eating at the Hard Rock Cafe.  Nothing exciting, other than trying not to buy a shirt or a hat while there. We enjoyed our lunch and kept moving.

Between Las Vegas and Mt. Whitney is Death Valley National Park.  Here you plunge into the desert and along with it the heat.  We saw temperatures over 100 decrees that afternoon. It really is hard to believe that you go more than 200 foot below sea level there.  The landscape is like no other place I have ever been.  I'm not sure I would want to spend large amounts of time there, but it is always interesting to go through it. Maybe more significant to be at the lowest point in the US knowing that in just a couple of days I would be at the highest point in the continental US, a 14,700 ft difference.

From there we drove toward Lone Pine, California, nestled at the feet of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Lone Pine is a quaint little town with a long history in Hollywood most notably in the Western genre.  We checked into our hotel and drove down the main drag in search of food. I love eating at local restaurants. They always have a quality that can't be achieved at a chain. We ate really well, and with our bellies full returned to the hotel. 

I knew I needed to repack a few items to prepare for the next day. I'm sure part of it was nerves, but it took me about 2 hours to sort through it all and determine what I actually wanted and needed on the trail with me the next day. The anxiety of meeting new people, hiking an unknown mountain, and thoughts about the rest of the week made for a restless night of sleep. 

In the morning we awoke, packed up and headed to breakfast to meet up with my crew. Mt. Whitney was looming in the background, inviting us upon it, challenging us to climb.

Isaiah 52:7
"How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of those who bring good news"

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mt. Whitney Adventure Part 1: Fossil Creek

We started our journey to California on Friday at 3 in the afternoon.  One of the advantages of 3 guys
traveling is that we could drive all through the night. OK that could be a disadvantage to some of you, but it is efficient & you don't pay for a hotel that way. So, nineteen hours later we arrived south of Flagstaff Arizona to meet up with one of Matthew's friends and some of her friends to go to a favorite spot for the day.

Apparently Fossil Creek is known only to the locals.  You have to travel about 13 miles down a fairly treacherous gravel road to get there. After struggling to keep up with the local driver on the road and rescuing a young driver who forgot to lock in his hubs for the 4X4 we finally arrived at the "creek."

Now when I say "creek" it reminds me of the little trickle stream behind my house growing up. This was a beautiful emerald green 5 to 10 foot deep creek with rushing water, rock formations, and cliffs from which to jump. And jump we did!

A couple of the guys had kayaks for the white water sections.  They were really exciting to watch and made me wish I had the time to pick up another hobby. We had a great relaxing day at Fossil Creek that was a much needed refreshment.

After a long journey, with many miles behind us, a dark cold night, no shower, no bed, the creek was just what was needed.  Spiritually we often find ourselves in a similar place. The need to slow down, take in the scenery, get some refreshment, and take time away from the regular grind of life is something that we all need.  It's amazing what happens when we get away and into God's creation. He created life and His desire is that we have it to the "full" or "more abundantly." Life in Him is so much more than just going through the motions of everyday life.

If you find yourself tired, cold, lonely, a little smelly; place your life back in His hands.  Redirect your life in line with His.  I won't promise you that it will remove you from your circumstances. But His promise is to bring you peace through His Spirit.

John 14:26-27
"But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Simplicity: Not So Simple

I'm preparing for my Bible class on Sunday. This week's topic is the Spiritual Discipline of Simplicity. Rather than get preachy or talk about why we need to live more simply, which I'm pretty sure from my life and those around me is obvious, let me share the 10 principles Foster describes in his book "Celebration of Discipline."

Ten controlling principles for the outward expression of simplicity:
1) Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.

2) Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.

3) Develop a habit of giving things away.

4) Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.

5) Learn to enjoy things without owning them.

6) Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation.

7) Look with a healthy skepticism at all "by now, pay later" schemes 

8) Obey Jesus' instructions about plain, honest speech.

9) Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.

10) Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God. 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

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