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Introducing GreggHunterBlog.com

 

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 GreggHunterBlog.com, 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 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!

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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

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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.

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.

The Power of Camp in My Life

When I Imagewent to camp at 17, I was an angry, rebellious kid with a chip on his shoulder and a mean streak to go with it. I spent most of my energy trying to get attention or gain acceptance. I was living in the shadow of an older brother who was able to do something I apparently couldn’t do: earn my dad’s approval and admiration. I was intrigued by the opportunity to go to camp when an older friend showed me his camp pictures from the previous summer.

However, because my family couldn’t afford the fee, I thought there was no way I could go. But my youth leader wouldn’t give up so easily.  He asked a caring woman from my hometown if she would pay to send me to camp, and she agreed. All I had to do was work in her garden pulling weeds with my youth leader.

The trip to camp was an adventure in itself, taking about 16 hours to get there. But it was the most beautiful natural setting I had ever seen.  And just as the camp itself was remote and set apart from the rest of the world, the culture – the social environment – of camp was very different, too. I felt overwhelming love and acceptance at camp, and I felt freer to be myself, because all the baggage and expectations placed upon me by my peer group, my parents and even myself seemed irrelevant at camp. It was such a liberating atmosphere in which to learn about God’s love for me and consider my future.

A couple of nights before the end of camp, the speaker – who delivered a message about God every day – presented the most compelling story of love I had ever heard. He told of Jesus’s willingness to endure torture, being mocked,  spat upon, stripped and then crucified… all because He loved me– because He was willing to die in my place to pay for my sins. And He did that for me, an obnoxious kid who felt unloved and unlovable at that point in his life. The speaker, Jim, asked us to consider our response to that love.

ImageAnd so, I walked out of that meeting and found a solitary place next to a giant rock overlooking the inlet where the camp was situated. My mind was spinning at the thought that I was loved that much… that I was actually lovable, and that Jesus proved His love in the most amazing, remarkable way. I really only had one question to answer in those moments:  Did I want to continue on the lonely, unfulfilling path I was currently on, or did I want to walk a new path with Jesus, who promised to continue loving me and walking with me through the rest of my life. I chose Jesus at camp, telling Him, “If my life is worth that much to You, You can have the rest of it.” I remember feeling like I was offering Him a dirty sweat sock in exchange for His amazing love, and I was a bit confused as to why He would even want it. But I was drawn by that love, and it was like cool water to a parched throat in the desert.

I know the camp environment and separation from my normal routine had a lot to do with my experience. In temporary community at camp, I had the time and space to contemplate what I really wanted from life, to consider my future as a long-term proposition, not just who I was expected to be now. It also created an environment where God could break through and demonstrate that I was accepted by him and didn’t need to prove anything. It was a fresh start — one my youth leader would build upon when we returned home.

Long before my experience in 1981, the power of camp was providing these monumental crossroads for kids, teenagers and adults to ponder life beyond their daily circumstances. And long after my experience, camp continues to deliver life-changing moments in which to make the most important of decisions. At camp, God rescued me from my small life and exchanged it for a grand adventure. That’s the power of camp.

Peace – Even When There’s No Coffee

Last week I took my first “Focus Day” since joining CCCA more than two years ago. I had been advised to do this by a couple camp/conference leaders, and had been craving the time to get away by myself, spend time with God, dream with Him about the future, ask for His guidance on current challenges and evaluate some of the opportunities that lie ahead for CCCA.

The day, which I had scheduled months before, turned out to be one of those absolutely gorgeous Colorado winter days that make me think of heaven. I went to the Broadmoor Hotel, dropped off my briefcase in a comfortable lounge with a roaring fireplace and began my walking prayer time around the lake. The temperature was near 50 degrees at 8:30 in the morning, yet it seemed that I had the whole property to myself. In fact, as I rounded the lake, I only passed one other person.

I stopped at the first tee box on the Ross Golf Course, which is a stone’s throw from the lake. As I looked up at the mountains and sky, then around at the golf course, I prayed, “Lord, I am not even worthy to stand here in your presence. I am clearly the ugliest thing on the landscape right now.” And again I thought of heaven and why I will fall on my face in the glory of His presence one day.

I was so content to just stand there and drink in the sunshine and scenery. I didn’t care about the time, and I had no set schedule – I was simply there to enjoy God’s presence and His creation for those moments. Then the clock on the mountain above the lake began to chime. But rather than rushing me from my reverie, the sound called me to stay still and listen. I heard every note of those rich, strong bells, and only wished that they could continue to ring so I could stand and listen even longer.

Then God provided a contrast.

I went to the Broadmoor coffee shop. As I walked in, the staff member from the adjacent gift shop said, “I’m sorry. The barista had to step out to run a quick errand. I’m sure she’ll be back in just a minute.” I noticed another customer standing at the coffee counter, a stern look on her face. I walked to the magazine rack and picked up a magazine with Aaron Rodgers on the cover and began to read the predictions for who would win the Super Bowl this year. (The expert had chosen the final two AFC teams correctly, but had missed both teams in the NFC championship game.)

I overheard the customer say to the gift store staffer: “This is ridiculous. How could this happen?”

“I’m so sorry, ma’am. She ran out of here pretty quickly. I think it was rather an emergency.”

“Well, this is just wrong. And somebody needs to know about it.” Then the customer stormed out of the shop and headed toward the front desk.

Less than 30 seconds later, the barista returned, and asked the gift store staffer if everything was all right. “Well, this guest needs to be served,” she said, waving toward me and avoiding the story of the angry customer altogether.

As I stepped to the counter, I saw the angry woman walk briskly past the coffee shop and out the door, looking more perturbed than before.

I ordered a roll and a coffee, and when I attempted to pay, the barista said, “This one is courtesy of me, for making you wait.”

I thanked her and left.

As I returned to my secluded fireside lounge, I realized that the impatient woman had missed out on receiving whatever she would have ordered, for free, and instead opted to run to the front desk and vent. In the time it took to lodge the complaint, she could have left the building with a free coffee and cinnamon roll. (I love cinnamon rolls!)

I also thought of how many times I’ve been in that woman’s place. Thinking of what I want, incredulous that the people who were here to serve me had dropped the ball, cost me time, failed to meet my expectations. On this day, when taking my time was a good part of the agenda, I refused to get upset. And I was rewarded. The angry woman left empty handed and caffeine-free. I pitied the next person on her calendar.

I don’t want to be her. Ever again.

I want my life, my attitude, my countenance to reflect the peace that passes understanding. I want to demonstrate to my family and my colleagues a grace that refuses to give in to the irritation of the unmet expectation.

By the way, I caught a snippet of the barista’s comment to the gift shop employee, “It was my son. He had an accident in his car and didn’t know what to do…”

Seems like that was more important than an angry woman’s cup of coffee – and even my cinnamon roll.


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