No Touring Here

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This is my first summer not touring in 13 years.

We’ve kindly declined every conference and event request for speaking or leading worship, and it seems our fields in Europe are resting.

As a result, we’re enjoying one another’s company as a family, and the seafaring life onboard our steadfast sailing ship “AireFire 1″ in the 1000 Islands.

For whatever helps you recharge, make time for the people near you and the things that force you to slow down for the season.

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Floating Lanterns and Tall Ships

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Events like this remind me why we love living in Clayton, NY and feel so blessed that God picked this community for us to settle amongst. Nestled in the 1000 Islands, a 200 year old ship in the background, and the people we love standing close, nothing could have made this Friday night more picturesque. Seemed so fitting for Luik to close out his graduation from Kindergarten today with this amazing memory.

A huge thanks to Michael Folsom who’s heart and vision for this region made all this possible. Check out his blog for the best source of news, ship movement, and seaway conditions. Follow him on Twitter.

If you’re in central or northern NY, get here. You won’t regret it.

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Video of two of Luik’s lantern launches.

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Luik waiting for his lantern to get some lift.

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Michael Folsom, the man behind the curtain.

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Grandma Jo-Jo and Luik.

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Pop-op and Luik on lantern #2.

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Me and my buddy with the Lynx in the background.

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Determined to Finish

There’s something to be said for determination.

This story of a husband an wife sailing team who were stymied in their first attempt at circumnavigating the globe by a run in with Somali pirates (resulting in their imprisonment for 388 days), only to fix their boat up upon their release and give their around-the-world trip a second attempt is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

So what’s the reward for such people? Is it a deeper sense of satisfaction? Is it better headlines?

Or is it simply that they succeeded? Having finished.

But in a world where drama rules, and the excessive is lauded, is merely succeeding worth all the effort?

I remember having a great deal of “success” in high school. I did well academically, I was respected by my teachers and by my class-mates, and I was afforded a bright future. But to me, I don’t recall doing anything out-of-the-ordinary. For all intents and purposes, I was astonishingly normal. I just did what I needed to do.

And sometimes, that’s all that needs to be done to stand out.

In a world that’s increasingly sadistic, negative and pessimistic, sometimes all that’s needed to be “successful” is simply to finish. Certainly it could be argued that there are degrees of finishing (ie, finishing well, finishing poorly, etc), but semantics aside, there is a great deal of pride to be found in completing a task or achieving a goal at all, no matter what condition we arrive in. For it’s in crossing the finish line that we find so much separation between those who finish, and those who don’t (or never even attempted at all).

More and more I find the pleasure of God on my life simply for attempting things. He’s my Father, and I don’t attempt thing to try and gain his favor, I attempt things because he made me able to do so. It’s my great adventure to be like him. And scripture backs it up. It’s faith that pleases God. It’s that “I don’t see the other side, but I’m going to jump and give this a go because I trust you” kind of faith.

Often times I think one of the only reasons the secular world owns so much, and the Christians own seemingly less, is because the world just works harder than Christians do. In fact, I also believe the secular world understands the Biblical principles of reaping and sowing better than some Christians do. They invest vast amounts of time and money only to net vast rewards; they also give away vast amounts of their treasure, only to see their treasure multiplied. Meanwhile, some God-fearing “Bible believing” Christians wonder whether or not tithing and giving offerings to their local storehouse (a superior form of parting with funds than whatever the secular world knows, but does not preempt business investing) is good for them or not.

We Christians also tend to suffer from the rip chord mentality (RCM). As soon as something gets hard, doesn’t go our way, or downright fails, we pull the rip chord and get out. I’ve never seen God change his mind so many times about things he apparently said to a Christians as he does when the Christian encounters an obstacle. I don’t mind a Christian saying they made a mistake, or hedged their bet in the wrong basket, but when we cite “God said” terminology to it, we enter into a dangerous realm. May we tread carefully when it comes to tarnishing his reputation; the world is watching, looking for truth.

Determination? Means a dang-lot.

If you’re going through hell, keep going. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up. -Sir Winston Churchill

Very often I’m asked how I do so much. Sure, I believe God gave me a sizable creative capacity. We all have a capacity. But there’s a much, much simpler answer.

I always try and finish what I start. Because finishing is its own reward.

So get back to writing that book, parenting those kids, splashing color on that painting, drafting that homework assignment, formatting that spreadsheet, or being faithful to your final 3 months at a post. It means more than you’ll ever know. Until you get there.

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Changing Types

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Eva is my Type A.

She was arranging her own schedule when she was three.

She even invented a way of measuring time leading up to major events by referring to sleep as “light naps” (afternoon naps), and “dark naps” (going to bed at night).

Q: “How many naps until we go to JoJo’s house?” (That’s Grandma Nesbitt).

A: “Three dark naps, two light naps.”

Eva has to know everything that’s going on, when it’s going to happen, who’s involved and where it’s going to take place. She’ll order the boys around, try and figure out the ride situation as well as seating, and even try to negotiate a change-of-course to include a stop for ice cream.

I celebrate my daughter. She’s incredible, and Jenny and I have always known that she’s going to shake the world up for the Kingdom.

But as a parent, working with her constant need-to-know can often be, well, fatiguing. And tedious.

At some point I have to ask her, “Do you trust me?”

Like yesterday when we were preparing to go out on the boat. A lot of questions were asked about details. Finally I leaned over the back seat and said, “Eva, just enjoy the ride.”

As her father, I’ve noticed that Eva enjoys the experiences of her life far more when she leaves the surprises up to me.

As I walked down the dock toward our boat I heard something in my own spirit.

“Christopher, enjoy the ride,” said my Heavenly Father.

It’s a phrase I picked up in Hawaii at my favorite surf shop. Jenny’s been reminding me of it. God’s been reminding me of it. And now I’m reminding me of it as I teach it to this little Type A that’s the female version of me.

It’s amazing how much like Eva we all are. Sure, there’s a healthy, natural curiosity to all of us. But then there’s the “if I don’t know how everything’s going to work out, I’m not sure I want in” angle.

And that comes down to trust.

As I was meditating on just how much I care for Eva and have her best interests in mind, I was reminded just how much our Father think of us fondly. Constantly. Perfectly.

He’s aware of every detail and nothing surprises him. Nothing’s going to catch him off guard concerning us, nothing has escaped his scope of view.

Funny how this parenting thing works.

We enjoy the experiences of our lives far more when we leave the surprises up to the Father.

My little Type A is slowly teaching me to become a Type E. Enjoy the ride.

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Diving For Lost Treasures

I lost my anchor yesterday.

One minute I had cleated off the line as I have a hundred times before.

The next minute I’m noticing we’re drifting far from where we’ve anchored.

I step lively to the bow and…

…nothing.

The anchor, chain and 200-feet of line are completely missing.

Such is sailing with four kids on board: they get all your attention and your ship doesn’t.

Being the adventurous pair that we are, my father and I decided to take his boat, Contessa, in search of the missing anchor this morning. We set anchor in the approximate locale of my missing Danforth, and then went to work, zig-zagging over the know area and diving on anything that remotely resembled a white line. We even used his underwater camera. (That’s me in the view-finder above).

While I found an old vase, there was no sign of my missing anchor.

After over an hour and a half of diving in the shallow 15-feet of water, I was about to give up, seriously thinking we were never going to find it. I went a little wider on my last pass, and crossed back toward Contessa, just north of a route I’d run twice earlier.

There was a clear white line, stretching north-to-south about 10-feet below me. My dad and I hooted and hollered, celebrating in Dutch-Seafaring, pirate fashion.

Had I known how much fun I was going to have with my dad, I would’ve had a better attitude about losing my anchor the day before. (Granted, the very fact that I have a boat places my in the top 1% wealthiest people on the planet. Perspective is everything). But sometimes we encounter frustrating circumstances simply so that providence has the room to move.

Jesus’ disciples asked him in John 9 why a certain man was ill, wondering if the sickness was due to the sin of the man’s parents.

Jesus replied:

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”

The Lord never wishes anything to get lost. But he sure has a lot of fun finding us.

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The Cotter Ring: seemingly mundane, apparently important

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I didn’t waste any time putting my boat back in the water for the 2012 season. Even though I haven’t actually sailed her in the last month, getting her ship-shape is often just as therapeutic.

Among this year’s upgrades were replacing the halyards and sheets (we call them lines, never ropes), and purchasing a mint condition main sail from 1978.

As I was getting the rigging squared away over the weekend, I took extra care with one of tiniest items on my boat.

The Cotter Rings.

These little buggers are nothing more than an overlapping circle of stainless steel wire. They’re essentially weightless in your hand, which means they’re easy to drop, and once in the water – bye bye. They’re fairly inexpensive, and probably the last item anyone thinks of when generically thinking of sailing hardware.

And yet, they’re indispensable.

What so fascinates me is that my boat weighs as much as both of my vehicles put together. Her super structure endures thousands of pounds of pressure, harnessing potential energy within vacuums created through the Bernoulli principle, into kinetic energy that’s translated to a lead encased steel keel buried deep in the water producing directional momentum.

In the face of overwhelming natural forces that could literally break a person in two, enter the Cotter Ring.

They’re all over my boat.

They bear almost no critical weight, go almost completely unnoticed, and once I set them for the year, I never touch them again.

Yet without them, I can’t sail.

They hold the Cotter Pins in position at the fixture points of my main sheet blocks, without which I’d have an utterly functionless sail system.

They hold the Cotter Pins in place that anchor the massive aircraft-steel cables to the deck; those cables are called stays and they keep the 29′ aluminum mast aloft.

As I began to look around, I realized that these little rings – as mundane, inexpensive and unnoticed as they are – are just as essential to my sailing season as the glorious sails that get all the attention.

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As people it’s easy to compare ourselves to others, those that are seemingly more impressive, more impressionable. We look at what they have and then at what we have; we look at what they can do, and then at what we can do. But in my discovery of the Cotter Ring’s significance, I realized how endearing this little piece of metal was to me, the Captain of the ship.

The game was never for the sails to impress the mast, or the hull to impress the lines. The game has always been to serve the Captain. The Captain finds just as much pleasure with the seemingly mundane as he does with the apparently important. And keeping his perspective in mind is the key to not loosing our perspective.

To the Cotter Ring, the main sail is for more impressive; but to the Captain, both are equal in their value of accomplishing what He first set out to do: enjoy life.

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With Sailing Comes Perspective

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Prepping my small ship, AireFire I, for the upcoming sailing season is always a happy time for me.

I get land-side view of any hull problems, rigging issues, or mechanical failures. I get to purchase new trinkets and dust off gadgets. I clean, wax, polish, scrub, paint, epoxy, and spit shine.

And while I’m busy at work, I’m thinking of the season ahead.

Of the memories I’ll make with my family on this ship.

Of the swimming, the cook outs, the sleepovers, the motoring through the 1000 Islands at dusk on a warm summer evening.

All at once my troubles fade away. Because I live like a king when compared to 7 billion other human beings.

While this winter season has been extremely difficult for me with regard to managing the various endeavors I have responsibilities in, it has produced a gratefulness I’ve needed.

I’m thanking God for little things more.

The clean tile in my bathtub.

The hot water on my skin. And that it’s drinkable.

My health. My wife and children’s health.

And my 1978 sailboat.

What was I complaining about again?

Perspective. Get some.

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Sail Free, Ditch the Weight

Working hard today? I sure hope not. But everyone’s bound to pull up a little seaweed with their anchor, even while relaxing.

Labor Day was first formed in 1882 to celebrate the economic and social contributions of the American worker.

The key word being contributions.

I am anything but a union supporter, and my politics would just as soon tell you why we should repeal Davis & Bacon, and utterly reject the notion that the Federal Government should tell businesses where they can operate and what labor-sanctioned-products they must endorse.

Talk about being too big for our britches.

But past all the cookouts and fish fries, politicking and debating, the future of our great nation rests not in large government’s ability to mandate and regulate, but in the hands of her people, those willing to “work it.”

To contribute.

And that’s the majority of the people I meet.

It is a sad and frustrating day when the leaders of our nation are mostly attorneys, and have never had to meet a payroll, work a register, stock a shelf, or – as we’re all very aware of – balance a budget.

To all those dads working overtime, moms taking the second job, and teens out interviewing for your first job, today is for you. And I salute you. You’re the ones truly leading the country.

Every other sorry bum that doesn’t have a legit excuse for why they can’t at least click a mouse and learn data-entry on Excel, or handout sales flyers at Sam’s Club, stop squatting on our holiday.

Carrying seaweed is exhausting. ch:

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The Tension of Tomorrow

[Photo by jenniferhopperphoto.com | @jenniferhopper]

Even a cursory reading of the Bible will surface a series of opposing statements; unfortunately, many people choose the shallow assumption that the scriptures are inconsistent, with such contradictory statements as proof.

But to the astute mind, under guidance of the Holy Spirit, perseverance and maturity will find the hidden truths that connect such diametric forces, and in fact tie them together in dynamic tension.

Proverbs 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”

All sailors are taught to read the water for wind. They look for “headers,” “lifters,” “puffs,” and anything to help account for changes in the ship’s course and trimming.

They’re also taught to read weather patterns, including time, speed, and placement of fronts.

Being able to forecast wind and weather by eye and feel can be the difference between winning and losing, and sometimes not even finishing.

As summer draws to a close (and I have a hard time even writing that), I’m looking ahead into some interesting waters, the combined elements of which make them appear rather turbulent, though in and of themselves each is quite exciting: A new baby, Eva starting 1st grade, launching my 16th year as youth pastor, grand opening of a new restaurant, self-publishing a trilogy, and preparations for international traveling this fall.

And that’s just September.

How does one even wrap their head around the future and all it will bring? After all Jesus himself said we should plan for what’s to come:

Luke 14:28 “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”

Yet planning for every facet of a forecast like the one I listed is enough to drive a person mad with anxiety!

The cure for anxiety, however, is as equally forceful as the charge to plan ahead; Jesus speaks to it in the Gospel of Matthew:

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

So we’re supposed to plan ahead, and we’re not supposed to care about tomorrow?

These are the types of questions I want young Believers to be asking, as it proves they’re reading and trying to digest the Word. Anyone who says the Bible makes perfect sense in their defense of it hasn’t read enough of it; my questions of it only grow.

But so does my confidence in the one who inspired it.

And that’s why I trust his hand on the helm more than I trust my own. If Col. Robert L. Scott could say, “God is my Copilot,” then I can say, “God is my First Mate.”

The tension of tomorrow – as is nearly every other tension proposed in scripture – is tied together, not in a formula or quantitative solution, but in a person.

Yes, wisdom adamantly suggests that I make sound plans in caring for a new infant or launching a new business; and any shrink worth their weight in lima beans would say, “Slow down, enjoy the present, and try not to think ahead too much.” But it’s only the Holy Spirit himself who can order our footsteps in a way that speaks both to the present and the future.

Apart from him, our future-planning can never kiss our present-living.

If you’re a chronic future-planner, when was the last time you took the sails down and set anchor somewhere? And did nothing but sit beside your First Mate?

And if you’re a present-liver only, when was the last time you hoisted the mainsail and started making plans with God, knowing your own ideas are imperfect?

The truth of God-relationship is the only sure cure for knowing when and where to drop anchor, as well as what sail to rig and what course to take. It is God-relationship that ties the tensions of tomorrow together.

The only thing I care knowing more about than the future, and enjoying more than the present, is Jesus. Because without him, both my present and my future are shipwrecked anyway.

It may be my boat, but he owns the waters. ch:

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Friends Are Like Blocks

In sailing, a captain and crew rely heavily on the use of blocks, known to landlubbers as pulleys. The mechanical advantage generated by a block allows an exponentially greater amount of work to be done, especially when sheeting-in (or pulling in) massive sails which can harness enough wind power to pull a multi-ton boat through the water at speed.

Without blocks, a sailor would be holding the full weight of a wind-laden sail in his hands. It would rip his arms off if he didn’t fly off the deck first.

It’s no wonder we were never meant to go through life alone, nor were we designed to work alone. Chose your friends carefully; they’re the best blocks you’ll ever have. ch:

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