The Benefits Of Solitude

Why Getting Away For A Time Can Be Crucial To Spiritual Growth

I’m getting antsy. I’m ready for a break from the routine, ready to get away for a few days.

The Benefits Of Solitude

Each year, I take a week around the first of October and head out for a spiritual retreat. For the past several years, I have utilized a program called Wilderness, run by Christ In Youth. And it has always been an incredible time of spiritual growth and reflection for me.

I try to take a short break every few weeks, a day away where I seek solitude and spend the day in prayer and reading God’s Word. But once a year, I take a bigger chunk of time to really revitalize my soul, and Wilderness has been a key factor in making that a priority for my life.

Solitude is a spiritual discipline that most of us are probably not comfortable with. In our busy society, and a very noisy society, getting away by ourselves and being quiet is very intimidating. But it is very necessary.

At Wilderness, one of the elements I love so much is the opportunity to find a place where I can be alone to listen to God for several hours a day, each day, throughout the week. Wilderness is held at Bear Trap Ranch, outside of Colorado Springs, and each morning, I find a spot in the mountains where I can see peaks all around me, and the golden aspens moving in the breeze. It is incredible peaceful, and I relish this time by myself each day.

Solitude is something I have come to appreciate. It’s something that Jesus modeled for us, because he spent a lot of time off on his own, seeking the Father through prayer. Sometimes it was in the early mornings (Mark 1:35), other times it was in the evening (Luke 6:12). Many times it was before a major event in his life and ministry, like the transfiguration, his arrest, or the choosing of his disciples. But regardless of when or where, it is essential to note that he did this regularly and frequently. So should we.

One Word 365 – 2017 Edition

Forget The New Year’s Resolutions - Just Choose One Word

For the past six years, I have selected one single word to focus my life on for the duration of the coming twelve months, instead of making a bunch of New Year’s resolutions that I probably won’t keep. This one word is the word I will strive to live by for the coming year.

Identifying a word to live by for the year helps me to keep my focus on a specific area of growth, and helps me become more of the person God has created me to be.

One Word 365

I’ve set my focus on several different words over the last few years. For example, in 2011, I chose to focus on the word passion. This word underlined all I did throughout the year. It defined the year. Everything I did, I did with enthusiasm, and passion was pretty visible in most areas of my life.

In 2012, I chose the word commit. One of my biggest struggles in life has been to stick to many of the things I decide to do. Focusing on this word helped me to address that deficiency.

In 2013, I chose the word intentional. We have a large family, and as a result, we have a lot going on. I realized that I needed to be intentional, especially in my relationships with family and friends, and in my ministry.

In both 2014 and 2015, I chose the word wait. I tend to be very impatient at times, and focusing on waiting helped me see the bigger picture. And, rather than take matters into my own hands, it allowed my faith to grow by waiting on the Lord.

In 2016, my word was prudence. It simply means to use wisdom and discretion in all that I do. It’s actually very similar to the word wait, and God has continued to teach me to be patient and wait on him.

Each year, I choose to identify and implement a single word as a part of my Life Plan. I add this word to the beginning of my plan, and try to use it as a piece of the foundation for every portion of my plan. Some areas are more successful than others.

The Truth About Words

One of the things that I hold most deeply is the authority of Scripture. The Word of God is infallible and inerrant. God’s Word, and his words, are truth.

The Truth About Words

Not too long ago, I was reading a book recommended to me by a friend, New Evangelicalism, by Paul Smith. It was a very interesting and eye-opening book, and gave me a lot to think about.

But in reading it, I came across this passage that just blew my mind: Smith is speaking here about the solid theological beginnings of Princeton Seminary, and identifying some of the fundamental issues that served as the foundation for the college as it started. He states:

Truth was a stable entity best expressed in written language that conveyed one message relevant for all times and in every place. At Princeton, as well as in many nineteenth-century Protestant American churches, the idea was held that persons of simple common sense could rightly understand Scripture. They also held the view that a genuine religious experience grew out of right ideas, and right ideas could only be expressed in written words.

That simple statement, stuck in the middle of a section that propounded upon the inerrancy of Scripture, has bounced around in my mind for weeks.

I see two striking truths in that paragraph.

First of all, words are sacred. Over and over, the Bible tells us that the things that we speak are weighty (See James 1:19; 3:1-12; Colossians 4:6; Ephesians 5:4 for a start). But most of those passages deal with the spoken word, our conversations. Because I was curious, I did a quick search for the words “write,” “written” and “wrote” in the Bible. Did you know that these word appear in English almost 400 times? And that doesn’t include any other variations of the words, or even look at the original languages and compare all the different forms from their roots.

Making Good Friends

One of the most important aspects of life is developing great friendships. We need friends. No one can do life alone. God designed us to be in relationships with one another.

Making Good Friends

But making, and being, a good friend can be difficult sometimes. And especially so if you are the least bit introverted at all. Luckily, there are several things that you and I can do to help develop quality friendships that will last a lifetime.

When you look through the Bible, you see multiple examples of great friendships. For example, King David, before he became king, and Jonathan had an amazing friendship. Their relationship went to great depths, inspiring David to say that it was deeper than any other in 2 Samuel 1:26.

Their relationship went beyond casual acquaintance, deeper than social buddies, and achieved the level that few people ever reach.

A friendship such as this is needed, and it will help you develop into the man or woman that God has created you to be. And when we develop that kind of friendship, it’s because we have learned to be that kind of friend.

There are a few things that you and I can do to build such friendships. Some of them are more difficult than others, but all of these traits will help you be the kind of friend that you want to have.

When Siblings Connect

Being Thankful For Small Things

You may know that I have seven kids. My oldest is a senior, and my youngest is about a year and a half right now. And I am continually amazed at the closeness that exists between my kids, almost all of the time.

When Siblings Connect

A few weeks ago, my seven year old son made a statement that hasn’t left my mind ever since. Speaking to his oldest sister, who is beginning her senior year, he said, “Are you sure you want to go to college next year, instead of staying here and living with us?”

My daughter is a year away from college, but he is already beginning to panic. He knows that this is a crucial event, and that it will shake up his whole world. He is really bothered by this.

This week, our church attended a Springfield Cardinals game, and several of my kids signed up to go. As it turned out, I had an eye appointment that same day. With my latest episode of cancer being so near my eye, it seemed prudent to have it checked, just to make sure nothing was spreading that direction. (And it is all clear. That was a huge relief.)

Two of my kids stayed home, to ride with the church group later in the day, but my seven year old and my oldest daughter came with me. That was a perfect opportunity!

Slow Down And Listen

Wisdom From An Apache Elder

Very often, I receive a stunning blow of wisdom from a completely unexpected source. That happened to me last month on our mission trip to the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona.

Slow Down And Listen

We worked hard all week, demolishing some walls on a community youth center so that it could be repaired. Things were not going as well as we would have liked. The walls were pretty stout, and we not coming down like we wanted them to. And when you add the fact that we were working with limited tools and resources, it was going pretty slow.

We were also holding a Vacation Bible School in the afternoons for the kids of the community. Again, we were pretty frazzled, trying to run the bus through the community in a timely fashion, and do all the things we had planned for that portion of our days. We were working pretty hard, no matter where we were. And that was a good thing; we are called to work with all of our might, especially as we work for the Lord.

On our final day in this community, when the kids had all been loaded on the bus for the return route through the community, dropping them off at their homes, I stayed behind, waiting at the community center. We were having a special dinner that night, and one of the local Apache ladies was providing some freshly made fry bread for us. So I lingered, waiting on her to arrive, and the rest of the group to return.

As I was sitting there on the porch, and elderly Apache slowly made his way over from his home across the street. He sat beside me for a while, without even speaking. He just joined me in sitting and enjoying the breeze. I soon found out his name was John Longfeather.

Pay Attention! God Does Some Amazing Things That May Just Wreck You!

God, Knives, and Cancer

Sometimes, God steps in and does things that are completely unexpected. And if we don’t pay attention, we may miss out on something grand, and overwhelming, and it might even just wreck you!

Pay Attention!

You may know about my brush with skin cancer last October. Since then, I have had another recurrence, on my left temple, just outside of my eye socket. It stinks, but it there, and so it must be dealt with. Fortunately, I have a good dermatologist who knows his stuff, knows me, and between the two of us, we keep a pretty close eye on my skin’s condition.

My dad had the same thing. It metastasized into his brain, and he passed away in 2011. So this isn’t some simple little health issue. This has the potential to be vastly devastating, for me, for my wife, for my kids, and a lot of others who are close to me. So we keep a close eye on it.

Unexpectedly, this time around, we discovered that it would be better for us to pay out of our own pockets for this, instead of submitting it to the ministry share program we are members of, Samaritan Ministries. The bills were not enough to warrant sending them in, and Samaritan Ministries has been overwhelmed recently with needs, so it likely wouldn’t be fully covered anyway. So we decided to try to pay this one off on our own.

I collect pocket knives. Mostly traditional slipjoints, but I enjoy an occasional Swiss Army or other modern folder too. I have several in my collection, so I decided that I could part with a few of these to help cover the bills. And, I’m in a couple of knife groups on Facebook, so I figured it would be an easy thing to liquidate a couple of them.

What happened next caught me completely by surprise.