As the seasons change, so do we. And it seemed like the right time to change my blog from Kindling, the old blog title, to, so it would be easier to find. The blog will still focus a lot on Christian camping, and it will also include lessons I’m learning on this journey. I hope you’ll enjoy it, and I really hope you’ll share your thoughts regularly. We’ll all benefit from hearing more than just my voice here.

Thanks for following Kindling; and thanks for moving over to the new blog with me. I look forward to the conversation.


The Power of Camp Part I: Friendship

The Power of Camp, Friendship

Some may wonder why camp uniquely impacts young people. We believe that just one aspect of The Power of Camp (albeit a very important one) is friendship.

Psychologists have long believed that friendships help build confidence and self-esteem in kids. Camp provides a unique opportunity for students to build friendships that last a lifetime. Away from the labels that have been handed to them back at school, campers are free to be themselves and to experience new adventures with a new group of peers. In this setting, young people have the freedom to ask important questions about issues such as faith and their future, and to get honest answers from caring adults. They also get to share that journey with others who are on the same path in their lives.

Counselors and other campers help a student understand God’s unconditional love and acceptance as they shed the burden of trying to “measure up” back home. I recently saw a post from a woman in her 50s saying she loved camp, and was still best friends with a girl she met at camp when she was in elementary school.

Camp friendships are forged in an atmosphere of adventure and safety — respect and trust – and, at CCCA member camps, in the context of God’s design for each child.

Join us weekly as we reveal the 4 driving forces behind The Power of Camp!

The Art of Asking the Right Questions

I recently received an article from Sue Nigh, CCCA board member and executive director of Heartland Retreat Conference Center (Ohio). Sue captured so well my own belief in the power of the question that I asked her if I could share her thoughts with you in Kindling, and she graciously agreed. Enjoy!


For over three decades I have had the pleasure (did I really say “pleasure”?) to take part in many meetings—from board meetings to committee meetings to team meetings and everything in between. In these meetings I noticed that a lot of propagating, agenda promoting, and pontificating takes place. More recently, though, I have had the opportunity to serve alongside some very wise men and women who avoid the three “p’s” mentioned above. These leaders have learned the art of asking the right questions. They remind me of Jesus, who was the Master Question Asker! The four Gospels share nearly three hundred questions asked by Jesus! For example:

“Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5)

“Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?” (Luke 5:22)

“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28)

“Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25)

“Who do the crowds say I am … Who do you say I am?” (Luke 9:18, 20)

“What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26)

“What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36)

“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

“John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!” (Mark 11:30)

“Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs?” (Luke 22:52)

“Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” (John 21:15)

Jesus didn’t just teach or preach (or propagate, promote or pontificate). He engaged his listeners, asking questions that revealed, challenged, guided and caused thoughtful introspection.

The temptation for all of us is to try “talking” people into our way of thinking. We do this by sharing the opinions we hold, sometimes speaking loudly in an attempt to ensure we are heard. In reading the Gospels and observing the wisdom and actions of other leaders, I am learning that the art of asking the right questions is one I hope to master—and if I am successful in doing so, I am confident that I will be much more effective as a leader, board or committee member, etc. Would you join me in asking the Spirit to train us and provide us with the right questions?

by Sue Nigh


I’m grateful for Sue’s insightful words. Together we created the following list of questions as replacements for statements that could cause harm or offense.

 Instead of saying this…  Ask this…
 We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work.  Is anyone aware if this has been tried before and, if so, the outcome?
 Let me share this illustration with you.  Has anyone seen the illustration given by…?
 That doesn’t fit in with our mission.  What do we think? Does this fit in with our mission?
 I hate that idea. It makes no sense.  Can you tell me more about how you came to that conclusion?
 You really blew it. Bad move.  What was your desired outcome for that email/comment?
 I have a better idea…  Can I share with you an idea that may also work in this situation?
 Let me tell you what I think…  Are you willing to consider an alternative?
 C’mon; you’re being unreasonable.  Can you think of any way we can make this work?

Green: The color of creativity

When my family and I lived in the Washington, D.C., area I worked at a very stressful job in a high-tech PR firm. Often, on Sunday afternoons I would suggest we take a drive in the country because it was such a great way for me to decompress. We’d jump in the car and I would take turn after turn on back roads, trying to get lost and soaking in the beautiful countryside, which included horse pastures, woods and rivers. My family got so used to a frequent comment of mine that now my 14-year-old son beats me to the punch when we’re in settings like that: “This ministers to my soul,” one of us will say.

I’ve spent hours in the woods while hunting or fishing or hiking, Green Forestand I receive the same sense of relief and peace when I’m out in nature, surrounded by the sights and sounds of God’s creation. And it turns out that maybe we’re wired that way; that God may have created us in such a way that we receive benefit from being in nature, particularly when the color green is part of the experience.

According to Harvard Business Review:

“Research participants who got a two-second glimpse of a green rectangle completed a subsequent task of imagining various ways to use a tin can with about 20% more creativity than those who had seen a white rectangle, says a team led by Stephanie Lichtenfeld of the University of Munich in Germany. It’s unclear why green, as opposed to red, blue, or gray, would stimulate creativity, though the researchers point out that green has strong associations with growth in many cultures.”

I used to work with a gentleman who was color blind. One day I stood at the window in his office looking out at a beautiful view full of trees and grass and mountains. “Isn’t the color green amazing?” I said. “Don’t you love this view?”

“I’m color blind,” he answered. “So I can’t see shades of green.”

“What does this scene look like to you? What color do you see?”

“It looks like muddy river water,” he said. “It’s all the same color.”

I didn’t know what to say, except, “I’m so sorry. I love those colors so much.” And my gratefulness grew.

Maybe one of the reasons camp and conference people are so creative is because they are surrounded by green all the time. But just as a reminder, next time you need a new idea or creative approach, go grab a quick look at an evergreen tree outside your office. You may find either the breakthrough you’re looking for… or a fantastic icebreaker involving tin cans.

After God’s Own Heart

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do. (Acts 13:22)

Aren’t we fascinated with this concept – to be found a person after God’s own heart? Naturally, if we love God, we want to know He loves us back. And if there was something special about the way David loved God, I kind of want to know what it was, so maybe, just maybe, I can find – and live – that special relationship.

Most often when I hear this verse quoted, someone also makes the comment, “See, David was a man after God’s heart, and we all know the mistakes he made. He was a murderer and an adulterer, and yet God says David was after his own heart.”

What’s that about? Is it our need to acknowledge that we can be worthy of special love and relationship even though we fail and are flawed? I guess that gives me some comfort, but it still leaves me wanting to know more.

Then today I read the verse above again, and the end of it jumped out at me. As Paul preaches in the synagogue on the Sabbath, he refers back to Israel’s history before God established kings and appointed Saul, to give context to his remarks about the coming of Jesus. In the midst of his history lesson, he tells about how David was “found” by God, and labeled, “a man after my own heart.”

But why? The answer is right there; we just choose to stop reading too early:  “he will do everything I want him to do.”

ImageI started thinking about my childhood and my desire to win my dad’s heart, and the feeling that I never quite made it. Then I thought of myself as a father, and wanting my sons to know that I love them unconditionally. But what touches a parent’s heart is when your child exhibits so much trust, faith, respect and love that they show, through words or actions, “Sure, Dad. I’ll do whatever you want.”

And in David’s case, the word at the heart of the phrase is “everything.” As in, “he will do everything I want him to do.”

OK. Now it makes sense.

How do I respond to, or “feel” about, a child, a staff member, even a friend, who gives me the impression that they’ll do everything I want them to do? Well, the child is a joy, the staff member is a star, and the friend is someone I enjoy, trust and want to spend a lot more time with. (Of course, for the sake of this discussion we have to exclude the egocentric or narcissistic tendencies that would cause us to abuse those relationships. This is about us as the child, the staffer, the friend.)

Right now, today, I want to be a man after God’s own heart, and I want to live that out by discovering, then doing, everything He wants me to do.

Good task, wrong time

King David, finally settled in as king of Israel after years of being hunted by his predecessor, sits in his new cedar palace, at peace with his neighbors, and says, “Hey, how can I enjoy this cool new house, when the ark of God is still sheltered in a tent? That doesn’t seem right. I’ll build God a house to dwell in, too, now that I’ve got some time on my hands.”(My paraphrase.)

But God spoke to David through Nathan the prophet: “Nope. Don’t do it. I have other plans for you, David. I don’t need a house to dwell in… at least not now, and not built by you. Remember, I took you from the pasture where you shepherded stinky sheep, and made you ruler over my chosen people. I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for Israel…”

Through this dialogue, God sets the record straight. He makes it clear to David that He is the one who will do the building (of Israel), at least for the present time. And then He lets David catch a glimpse of the future. He tells David that it’s his son (later revealed as Solomon) who will build a temple for God.

I came away from reading this passage recognizing two things:

  1. God doesn’t “need” me to do anything, like building a house for Him to dwell in, because he can raise up rocks (but more likely, other people) to accomplish His purposes if I won’t do what He wants me to. But He hands me a precious gift by inviting me to participate in His plans. I don’t want to miss what He has for me to accomplish, in His time.
  2. Not everything that comes to mind for me to do is the right project at the right time. God had already planned for the building of the temple; He just didn’t want David to do it. He had other things for David to concentrate on, to dedicate his energy to. And at the time of this interaction in 2 Samuel 7, David is enjoying some rest—a time of peace and comfort, it would appear. I may have many ideas about how CCCA can serve members and the Christian camping movement, but I need to be careful about the ones to which I dedicate my time and energy.

God promised David that his name would be among the names of the greatest men on earth. And it happened.  And after hearing from God, here’s how David responded:

“Who am I … that you have brought me this far? How great you are, Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you… Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.”

I don’t want to miss good things by focusing on good tasks at the wrong time.

Standing the Test of Time

I returned last week from the Christian Camping International -Worldwide Summit in Spain with wonderful people who are leading Christian camping associations in 19 other countries. It was a rich time of sharing challenges, successes, ideas and needs with one another. I am encouraged by the growth of the Christian camping movement around the world, and by the passion of the people God has brought to the work, and I am honored to be a member of their global team.

During the summit I was struck by the durability of our cause, that some Christian camps have celebrated over 100 years of ministry, even while new CCI associations are just getting started in countries like Albania. But a field trip to Segovia, Spain, gave me a new perspective and a sense of awe.

Aqueduct of SegoviaThe first landmark we saw as we exited the bus was the Aqueduct of Segovia, a working aqueduct that the Romans built in the first and second centuries. An impressive structure that was constructed with some 25,000 huge granite blocks and no mortar, it stands nearly 100 feet tall at its highest point. (Side note: I’m building a small retaining wall in my yard using cinder blocks and no mortar, and I’m not sure how long it will stand.) But looking up at the lower-level arches, which stand about four stories high, I was blown away by the engineering that has enabled these un-mortarted stones to stay in place for so long. The entire visible length of the aqueduct gives the feeling of permanence and stability.

Standing beneath the structure taking pictures, I made the connection between this great stone landmark and the faith represented by those of us engaged in Christian camping. And in the context of this worldwide gathering of Christian leaders, I was reminded of the strength, stability and permanence of our message, our purpose.

Some of us have been involved in Christian camping for just a few years, while others have spent decades on camp properties. But regardless of your years of service, I hope you’ll be encouraged as I was by the reminder that God’s message of Good News through His son Jesus stands firm, is not shaken by the passing of time, and is carrying hope to a new generation of people all around the world.


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