The Camp Out…

My 9 year old wanted to have a “camp out” in the back yard, but considering we live in East Dallas, there is not much back yard in which to camp out. She kept on asking and pressing and asking and pressing…you get the point…so I agreed to let her have a camp out in the back yard. The only catch; she wanted to do it alone. She had captured this idea in her head to go on a new adventure. After some thought on how we could make this happen, we decided to let her go on this new adventure. Her only camping companion was gonna be Harley, our protective Boxer dog. That means that good ol’ dad will be sleeping on the hardwood floors next to the back door…I could already feel the crick in my neck developing hours before I went to sleep.

Well, the time came for her to go outside. She slipped on her warm pj’s, her flannel robe and headed toward the tent with Harley eagerly tagging along. There was just a small bit of nervous anticipation as she embarked on her new journey. I zipped her and the dog into the tent and went back inside to sleep by the door with the back windows open. Several times throughout the night I went outside to check on her and she was sleeping like a baby.

The next morning as I slowly sipped my coffee, my daughter proudly walked into the house as fresh and perky as ever. She was feeling very fulfilled with the accomplishment of her task. She excitedly told me, her father, how quickly she fell asleep, how the dog woke her up when he wanted to be petted and how she went right back to sleep.

As I thought about what she had done, it reminded me a bit of what the Lord does for us. God plants new ideas and fresh desires into our lives. He begins to sow seeds for the future and gives us fresh vision for what He has for us to do.  Then, He allows us to step out to put that vision into action. Sometimes the vision that God gives us for our lives can seem a little scary – but if it doesn’t cause you to be a little nervous then it probably isn’t big enough. One good thing is that God doesn’t send us alone, He sends the Holy Spirit with us to be our strength and comfort in the process.

Then, as we step out in faith and are able to see some of those things accomplished God wants us to come and tell Him everything. It’s not like He doesn’t already know, He just wants us to have a time of fellowship with Him…what father doesn’t want to hear from his children?

The vision, if from God,  will stir us and move us to action. Andy Stanley says it this way, “Vision evokes emotion. There is no such thing as emotionless vision”. That thing (desire, dream, idea) that God put in your heart compels us to action. I like the words of T.E. Lawrence when he said: “All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to the day to find it was all vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for the many act out their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible…”

God has good plans for our life. In fact, we were created with a divine purpose. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Discover what new adventure God has in store for you and then “go camping”.

What is God speaking to your life? Are you willing to take the risk of obedience?

Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

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Recently a friend was talking to me about an article that they had read. The article was about the people who had the job of coming to the site of a plane crash and doing an analysis of what had taken place. The analysts wanted to find out what had taken place, why it has taken place, and what can be learned from the crash. The article talked about several different scenarios…

First, there was the “worst case scenario” where no one survived the impact because of the speed of the plane, the degree impact and the amount of damage that the plane incurred. Secondly, the article talked about those particular cases where the passengers had the opportunity to get out. Surprisingly, even though there was the opportunity to make it out of the plane, many times the passengers did not make it to safety…but why?

The passengers all got adequate instructions from flight attendant when they first got settled on the plane…though most don’t listen to those instructions. The article stated that when a plane is in an emergency situation, the flight attendants will come back and they will give a second set of instructions…unlike the first set, the second set of instructions is usually given full attention from the passengers. The instructions are clear and the passengers are told how to position themselves to be able to have the greatest possibility of surviving the crash, where the appropriate exit is located and how to use the oxygen masks that drop. Then, they also give this bit of instruction that is critically important that you know: you cannot take anything with you. Do not grab your purse, laptop, carry-on or anything else. Simply make it to the exit and get out of the plane.

The article went on and it told stories of when the analyst team would come and investigate a plane crash where people could have survived. The most horrific discovery for the team was to see that the exit is blocked by the luggage of people who could not leave without taking something with them. The passengers would finally get to the door only to realize that they cannot get the luggage out of the door. The passengers begin to drop it, and pretty soon enough luggage has been dropped that the people behind them stumble and begin to fall. They could not make it through to the exit, and as a result, end up dying…all because they could not leave their luggage behind them.

I think that this has huge spiritual implications for us. These questions come to mind:

-Am I carrying “baggage” that will ultimately cause me harm?

-Am I carrying “baggage” that will limit me from becoming all that God has designed for me to be?

-Is my past, really my past?

In our lives we can hold onto excess baggage like bitterness or unforgiveness. We desire forgiveness when it benefits us, but we often struggle with giving forgiveness. When we carry those “bags” it can cause us to be unhealthy in many ways…physically, emotionally, relationally and even spiritually.

Why do we struggle with forgiveness? There is a good chance that we have a misunderstanding of forgiveness. Forgiveness is NOT:

-Letting them off the hook for what they did.

-Condoning their actions that hurt you.

Forgiveness is simply releasing the other person; totally releasing them. You release them from having to say, “I’m sorry” and release them from any possibility of revenge. Release the other person so that you don’t have anything that limits you from moving forward with God’s purposes for your life. Forgiveness is not only for the other person, it benefits the giver of forgiveness even more.

Two Scriptures:

Matthew 6:14-15If you forgive those who sin against you, your Heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive our sins.”

Ephesians 4:32Be kind and loving to each other and forgive others just as God forgave you in Christ.”

Take this with you today: There is tremendous freedom in forgiveness.

Twitter: @MichaelD_Norman

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Here we go…

Welcome to the official blog of Michael D. Norman, Lead Pastor of Gracehill Community in Historic East Dallas. In the coming days, check back for posts about God, sports, Gracehill, leadership, and and the adventures of fathering 3 amazing daughters.

Follow me on Twitter @MichaelD_Norman and check out the Gracehill Community website @


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