This summer Christ has given me and my family the great privilege of being engaged in something that we really enjoy and still feel a great passion for: spending time and sharing the gospel with kids. Earlier this year, Justin Woodall and I were asked to go to Elevate, our annual high school retreat that is held at Covenant College in Chattanooga, TN. I jumped at the opportunity. Even though I have been out of youth ministry for eight years now, I still very much love students and I have a passion for sharing the gospel with them. When the week arrived, we had almost 40 students who were signed up for the conference. Wow! During the week I was overjoyed to see Christ at work in the lives of so many students and leaders as they responded to the gospel in powerful ways. It was amazing! A week after we returned from Elevate, my wife Martha Jo was privileged to go as a counselor to Kulaqua (pronounced: “Kuh-lah-kwah”), our annual middle school retreat in Florida. From all reports, that was also an incredible retreat where the Spirit of Christ moved powerfully in the lives of middle school students. Martha Jo was so encouraged! Charlie and DJ Phillips, our Youth Director and his wife, along with our youth leaders, did a remarkable job preparing the students, parents, and our church for these two very special weeks. Continue reading
I don’t do a lot of hiking. In fact, I have only gone a few times, but I like it a lot. This week I’m going hiking with my dad. We are in Asheville, North Carolina at a Young Life camp called Windy Gap. It is a beautiful place, nestled in a valley up in the Smoky Mountains. It is one of the first times in years that my family is on vacation with no worries and no distractions. I have my family all to myself. My Dad has been saying that we are all going to hike up to a place called Pioneer Plunge. It’s a very long hike, moving uphill the entire way. My Mom and sister are not enthusiastic. The day of the hike arrives and my Dad decides that he is going to go alone if none of us want to go with him. I hastily volunteer to tag along. He has been teaching me the whole week to use my gifts of tenacity and determination, and so I decide that this is the perfect opportunity to put those gifts to work.
We start along the trail. Early on I think to myself that this will be easy. I have no idea that it is a 5-mile hike and the path is steeper than I thought it would be. About halfway through, I am feeling the burn. I can tell my dad is too. I keep telling myself to put one foot in front of the other. I can’t start complaining; I don’t want to be a wimp. We both push ourselves and eventually we make it. Pioneer Plunge is an actual rustic settlement. It has four cabins and everything is built from natural resources. My Dad is showing me all the old architecture, the bathhouse, the way they keep their food cold, and the way the mountain stream feeds into the pond. I can’t really focus on anything but that pond. I am so thirsty and my Dad tells me that the water is safe to drink.
He lays down in a hammock to rest. My thirst is getting the better of me. I run as fast as my weak legs can take me and start gulping down the fresh water in the lake. Finally refreshed I turn to see my dad sidling towards me.
“I dare you to jump in there naked,” He says. I chuckle and he starts to smile.
“I will if you will.” I reply.
“Okay,” he said.
“Yeah, why not?”
We both start roaring with laughter. My dad will never cease to surprise me.
Dressed in nothing more than what we were born with, we quickly realize that the water is colder than we thought.