A Year of Change and Thankfulness

As I sit here looking out the window of my home office across a tree-filled front yard reflecting over the past year, my heart is full of thankfulness.

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When the end of the year arrives, I begin a time of reflection. Thinking back through the past year helps me to remember reasons to give thanks. When I forgo this important ritual, I tend to get caught up in the weeds of each day which often only serves as a way to blind me of the many reasons for thankfulness.

Year of Change

This time last year I was recovering from major ankle surgery hoping it would heal enough so I could chase my young son around.

Soon after my surgery we bought and moved into a new home (new to us) that sits on 5 acres. This brought lots of change. Especially for our son. Not only did he move from the only home he remembered, but he also began Kindergarten at a school where he knew no one.  As you know, change can be very challenging for a young child, especially one with a trauma background.

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Why Is the Church Afraid of Upsetting the Status Quo?

In his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin talks about the difference between a thermostat and a thermometer.

Organizations are filled with human thermometers. They can criticize or point out or just whine…The thermostat, on the other hand, manages to change the environment in sync with the outside world.Seth Godin

What does the average person think of the people who week in and week out file into a church building to meet for a few hours then go home only to do the same thing the following week?

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Both Ends Burning – Stuck Trailer

In my sample chapter, The Call of a Father’s Heart, I write about our responsibility to respond to the needs of orphans. It is clear that the cries of the orphans reach the ear of God. He notices and wants us to notice. Many statistics show that over the past 10 years international adoptions into the U.S. have dropped dramatically. Both Ends Burning website states, “the current international adoption trends show an almost 60% decline in the number of children adopted since 2004.”

Many families wait 2-5 years to adopt “their” child that have remained stuck in orphanages due to bureaucracy and corruption. These are children that could be in a family now.

This video below is a trailer for the documentary Stuck. Visit Both Ends Burning to find out about showings in a city near you.

Am I Safe with God?

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by Danielle Camp

I recently spoke with a friend who is planting a church in the Midwest. In the conversation, I asked him to describe his personality. One way he described himself was, “guarded until I feel safe in the relationship.” He then observed – “If I am truly safe with God, then why am I guarded in my other relationships?”

I thought out loud how that was such a true and profound question. I realized that I often responded to relationships in the same way. I began to wonder how common that is with other people.

What does it mean to feel safe with God? I know that for most people, their perception of God is all over the map. That is if they even believe He exists.

It is hard to grasp that any of us can have a relationship with any being, mortal or deity, in which we are completely safe. A relationship in which we are ourselves completely unhinged, good and bad.

Can we relate to God like this? I believe so. At least intellectually I do. The challenge is believing it in a practical way that translates into how I relate to others.

We all know people who seem to live life unguarded. Usually it is because they do not care what others think about them. But I do care. Yet, do I care so much to the point that I reserve my real self for only myself and maybe a choice few? If so, what are others missing out on?

This conversation with my friend is challenging me to press into my relationship with God so that I feel completely safe with Him. I believe this kind of relationship with my heavenly Father will allow me to relate to others with my whole being, not just a guarded part of it.

Why should this matter to me?

  1. It matters because I want others to know Him. What a concept. Others knowing Him because they know me.
  2. It matters because I can live freely and with joy knowing that I have a strong foundation in my relationship with God. I have lived life too long with regrets, in fear of what others think, and with hesitation.
  3. It matters because I can live a sacrificial life, giving away instead of holding back. I am thankful for God who held nothing back. He gave away His life instead of holding onto His position. If He had not done this, none of us would know Him.

Question for you: How are you guarded in your relationships? Do you feel safe with God?

 

How to Have a Spiritual Retreat with Your Spouse

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A spiritual retreat with just your spouse may seem strange or maybe even totally disastrous to you.  But, just maybe, this peaks someone’s interest.  Most married couples probably admit that they do not spend enough time together seeking God .  For most of us, our lives simply drift along the river of life.  We feel blessed if we do not hit any snags or go over any unexpected waterfalls along the way.

The beginning of 2011 was a challenging time for us.  I had left my job as a mission pastor, but I was unsure of what was next.  My wife and I really thought that we were going back overseas as missionaries.  But, God had redirected our path, at least temporarily.  We had just received our certification to foster and adopt in the state of Texas.  If we were not going back overseas, I needed to know what I was going to do with my time.

Some friends of ours offered the use of their lake house.  It was a perfect setting for us to get away from our routine so that we could listen to God and each other.  I mention this retreat briefly in my book, Adopting the Father’s Heart.

Please hear me, we had never done this before.  And, we need to do it again.  In fact, now would be a great time for us to spend some time like this again.

Here is some of what we did on our spiritual retreat:

  • Spent three days alone away from home.
  • Chose to fast for most of the three days.  We fasted from all media, except some worship music.  We only ate raw food – vegetables, fruit, and nuts.  We did not want to spend our time on preparing food.  We broke our fast with a late lunch at a restaurant on our last day.
  • We put together a schedule for the three days.  We included alone time, worship time together, discussion time, and recreation.
  • We gave ourselves assignments for our alone time.  Reflection of current state, dreams of what could be next, review our finances and relationship.
  • The idea was to spend some time preparing our hearts first.  Then, dream about what God had next for us.  Finally, address difficult areas.

Sound like fun yet?  I thought I would expound on one thing we did – Dream about what was next for us.  That was the main reason for us to spend this time together.

When we worked on this separately, the instruction was to keep all options open.  Nothing was too silly or outrageous.  At least we could write everything down and voice it.

Later that day we shared our ideas and wrote them on one piece of paper.  Here are a few things we wrote down:

  • Sell everything and travel around the world working with different mission organizations.
  • Move to the beach.
  • Go back to school.
  • Start a bakery.
  • Become an author.

Now you know why I began writing!  It still took me some time after that retreat to settle on writing, but I eventually arrived.

Question for you:  Have you and your spouse ever had a retreat like this?  Would your relationship/future benefit from a spiritual retreat?

 

Change of Plans

No, I am not changing my mind about writing books.  Yes, I am still working on my book – Adopting the Heart of a Father.  In fact, I only have a few pages left to work on from Danielle’s, my wife, review.  Then, I will decide on an editor, designer and publisher.

 

 

At least once a week for the next few, I will blog about a section in my book.  In case you are not aware, you can read an unedited sample of the first two chapters.  You can find them by going to the home page.

Early in the book, I share some of our history to give you some context.  It helps a little to understand why we decided to be more involved in orphan care at this stage of our lives.  One sub-chapter I entitled “Change of Plans”.

February 2007, Danielle and I led a small mission team to Thailand for a 10 day trip.  Danielle and I had gone once before, but this was my first time to lead a team.  What a learning experience!  Short story is that after we arrived home, Danielle and I decided that we needed to go for a longer time.

We talked to the project leader in Thailand about us volunteering for 6-12 months.  That turned out to be an answer to his prayers.  They needed some help.  Immediately.  Within 2 months, Danielle and I quit our jobs, set up care for our home and vehicles, and were on a plane back to Thailand.

We volunteered with several mission organizations during the 6 months in Thailand.  It was painful to leave and transition back to living in the U.S.  I really thought that we would quickly be back overseas.  But we have not gone back long-term.

Over the next three years, I served as the mission pastor at our church.  In 2010, while I was still on staff, we felt that we were ready to return to the mission field.  We began making plans, including setting up several meetings with mission organizations in Thailand.  We went to Thailand for 3 weeks in March, 2010.

However, God had other plans for us.

Before we left for Thailand, Danielle and I attended a Verge conference in our city.  Our focus was on learning more about being international missionaries.  God refocused us.  Not that our desire has changed about international missions.  We still want to go.

At the conference, Aaron Ivey’s worship team shared about God’s heart for the orphan.  Many on the worship team had adopted children.  They emphasized the need for foster care and adoption in our own city.  As, I sat their listening to their stories and challenge, I knew the Holy Spirit was speaking to my heart.

As Danielle and I walked across the parking lot to our car after that session, we both knew that we were about to change our plans.  We still went to Thailand the next month to serve with a youth team from our church.  Then, we served with a team from Tamar Center in a village.  The next week we met with several other mission leaders in the country.

By the time we returned home, even though it did not make sense to me, I knew that we were going to pursue foster care and possibly adoption before we returned overseas.

The change of plans caught me completely by surprise.  But, it is not the first time that God has done that in my life.  And, I have no regrets at all.

I try to live my life with a loose hold on things so that God can change my plans when He chooses.  I look forward to whatever is next.  What an adventure!

Question – Has God ever radically changed your plans?  How did you respond?