The Stuff we see is the stuff we want!

Christmas is cool…but very EXPENSIVE!

Budgets are great in theory… but when you hit the local mall, your consumer DNA kicks in hard. The stuff you SEE is the stuff we WANT! But is it the stuff we can AFFORD?

From the siren call of the credit card to the demands of travel and last-minute meals, the average family feels the pinch of our finances every Christmas. It’s how you respond that makes the difference.

If you’re like me… you can get very frustrated! After all we mean well, doing our best to save money throughout the year. Unfortunately, life intervenes all to often. Braces, Car repairs, broken washers… surprise school expenses… all conspire to suck up our cash before we even get to Black Friday.

We (fathers) have the added struggle of giving our gang the best possible Christmas! We get hammered with hundreds of big budget commercials showing well-groomed men of substance buying new cars and diamonds for their wives and offering massive piles of presents for their kids! sad-christmas-man_si

Mom’s feeling the heat too, she’s hustling to prepare her home for a Southern Living photo shoot, every towel and trinket in its place, the lights and candles all lined up like they saw it on Pinterest. The pressure’s on to perform, provide the ‘perfect’ Christmas with the perfect meal in the perfect setting… after all, the in-laws are coming!

But what about the payoff in January and February? What happens when those bills come back to haunt us…. Conflict, guilt, anger… we hide stuff from our spouses and hope we can pay it off in the year ahead.

Somewhere in all the pressure to get… we lose sight of ‘giving.

The Christian parent feels all the secular stresses AND is supposed to move past the pressures of this season to make it a Holy thing. Some days it simply feels impossible. Somehow – somewhere we must rein in all this distraction and focus our kids and our hearts on the amazing GIFT behind the cyber frenzy of e-commerce. As parents… we must push the distractions away – and battle to focus ourselves on the truth and the triumph of Christmas. folkmassor-i-shoppinggalleria-på-jul-48343163

Parents! Have a plan – budget your expenses – stick with it. Don’t go to the mall unprepared 😊 Arm yourself with a good Christian attitude and some Charles Dickens or Little Drummer Boy lyrics in your mind – push back – don’t let our culture force it’s selfishness and materialism on you or your family.

Protect the sanctity of “contentment” in your home. Don’t allow the season to be about ‘stuff’.

No matter your age or stage as a parent, there is always the temptation to over-spend. To indulge and over-imbibe on the latest gadgets and gifts for those we love. But… at what a price?

Couple of things to remember when you’re in the ‘fever’ or caught up in a sudden shopping spree.

  1. Gifts are supposed to be special – attached to the intended recipient in a unique and personal way.
  2. Financial budgets are meant to help and protect your family. The boundaries you’re setting with your spouse – are not to be dismissed lightly.
  3. More is not always better. Take care to keep a healthy balance between getting and giving. What are you doing as a family to share and care for those less fortunate?
  4. Engage the spiritual with spiritual. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your gifting efforts. Recognize when you’re Peace is gone… it’s a signal that you may be out of balance in the moment. Lay whatever it is down. Restrain or discipline yourself. The Peace of Christ will return.
  5. Be vigilant as a parent help your kids and yourself to develop a ‘critical’ thinking filter. If shopping – ask the hard question… is this actually going to help someone or hinder them in living a wholesome life?
  6. Grab the popcorn and DVR; Watch the classic movies and do the Christmas stuff, but be prepared to point out the fantasy vs. the reality. Christmas isn’t supposed to be perfect, it supposed to be sincere! Help prepare your kids for adulthood – ask them how they view God for themselves? (Is he a “Santa Claus” figure to your kids?) Discuss – and enjoy!

Christmas can be hard, a moment in time when we as parents want to “get it perfect”! I can assure you no matter how hard you try, people in your family are going to struggle with some part of the Christmas season, and that’s ok. Let God have some space to work! The season can knock you off-balance if you’re not careful.

Christ is still in Christmas… but it may mean some difficult decisions as a parent to keep Him there. It may mean your marriage and family could benefit from some healthier boundaries to get the balance right.

Peace and Grace

Pastor Brad Mathias

  • Article for Charisma –  Christmas ’17

Christmas Podcast/YouTube Video Link

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http://brilliantlybraveparenting.com/458-2/

(for more – check out the Christmas edition of our Brilliantly Brave Parenting – Podcast)

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Holiness and House Cleaning

As parents we’re often behind.

Late to school… late to work, to the dentist, church services, sports practice… We’re  overwhelmed more than we’re not. Gradually things start to slide… we’re exhausted, just trying to get through one… more… day. 

Dishes pile up… yet to be washed laundry grow heaps on the floor, bathrooms get gunky, and dining rooms dusty. We irritably notice each unfinished chore, knowing we’re already pushing our limit to cover the essentials of our day.

Families are rushing faster and faster… buried in the demands of the job, our kids… the home. We run low on strength and stamina, revving our little weary engine until it’s redlined and about to seize up. 

When we’re tired… doubt and despair start to gain traction. Our hearts start to slow and fade as our bodies and minds wind down. We lose our vitality. We start to get cynical, we feel sullen… and act irritable.

Our desire is less than it used to be. We love life a bit less each and every day. Our kids and spouses start to distance themselves to avoid the outbursts and interruptions of our barely contained frustration. 

What’s going on? Why – How did we get so cranky?

It might be time for some personal house cleaning. Yep… just like those annoying dishes and piles of dirty towels in the laundry room… our hearts can get cluttered with dust, dirt, and other unwashed items.

Fortunately there is a solution… a deep clean cycle for our hearts and lives. Step out of the crazy current and slow your mind and body down long enough to be ‘ still’.  Make the effort to reconnect with the word and with your faith.  Read the bible.  Pray. Wait on God’s Holy Spirit to refresh your weary heart with new life. 

Breathe in the ‘newness’ of creation. Replace your fatigue and doubts with clean air… direct from the throne of God above. Allow your myopic (near-sighted) vision to be refocused… moving our gaze from our own stuff to the bigger picture. As you do this… be ‘still’. Don’t just rush and gush a thousand wants and needs for your “sugar daddy in heaven” to give you … the Christian Life is way more than that!

Go deeper. Get quieter, ‘listen’ for His still – small – voice. It has what you really need. What your really want. Nothing else will resolve your deepest longings or banish your darkest fears. No one else can restore your broken heart, heal the wounds of life… or renew hope. 

 

This is “cleaning house“. It removes and rinses the grime and grease of our lives and restores us to a healthy view of the world and our part in it. It brings back our vitality and strength to full ‘power’! You’ll feel better than a great workout in the gym, or a huge shake from Sonic. Cleaning house is deeper and more meaningful than a binge night with Netflix  or the next career promotion…it’s a reconnection with life itself.

None of us can slow everything down, or control ‘all‘ the uncontrollable details of a day, but when we spend time regularly with our creator… we gain strength and balance for everything that’s sure to come.

Blessings. Pastor B.

Links to scripture. 

Rolling Stone Theology

Dylan… man, you gotta love the lyrics this genius of music creates! He’s an icon and rightly so… one of his most famous lines…

“How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
A complete unknown, like a rolling stone” *

We’re tempted to dis-engage with the church. Tempted to walk away and watch things from a safer distance. I get it. Community is a rough and weary commitment, but it’s also a huge strength and support in times of struggle and loss. Mostly… community is important because it’s God’s way of expressing Himself to our world and helping us grow.

Solo living seems easier. It feels safer. Our instincts tell us that we’re better off avoiding the entrapment of shared intimacy and the implied burdens we carry as a group. It would be cleaner and simpler to just have our own stuff to worry about and leave it that. church-e1506439459166.jpg

I believe that’s why Mega-Churches thrive. They provide a place for faith to exist without the intrusion of being noticed. A place to attend when we’re up for it,  church on neutral ground without the weight of accountability and personal responsibility. (please note – Certainly not meant to imply that everyone who attends a large church falls into this category)

But the bible keeps pushing for us to recognize the masters blue-print for our life. The architectural plans have been designed and drawn up, now it’s building time!

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV) 

The plans of God include you and I… not as ‘single’ pieces in a puzzle, but us as ‘the” puzzle together! The picture of God’s Kingdom includes the coming together of multiple people – places – and passions. We’re meant to share in the struggle, to walk through the pilgrimage of faith as a tribe. Not simply as solo artists and individual rocks.

We’re not called to be ‘Rolling stones’… we’re called to be part of the wall that makes up a living temple, a testament to God’s majesty and humanity. (i.e. the Local Church)

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Bob Dylan – Live For Live Music

I shudder to think of what I would be like today if I had just bailed on the concept of being a part of the church after a few ‘dust-ups of misunderstanding and offense.

Parents, we are all tempted to isolate and avoid. But we know the examples we’re setting will impact our kids for a lifetime. If we regularly come home from church venting our frustrations and offenses from our local spiritual family in front of them…and then expect our kids to be enthusiastic about services… we’re sending some mixed signals.

But consider the truth of God’s word… the reality of life without a spiritual anchor or community of faith is uncertain. Your family needs you as a parent to plug-in. Parenting is one of the heaviest burdens we will ever carry, there will be moments when you would give up or walk away… moments that will need encouragement and perspective to stay the course. Others will need your experiences to make it through their struggles… we can’t always figure things out alone. We’re not meant to.

So… my strong encouragement is this; Fight for the relationships God has gifted you with. Don’t walk away… don’t deny the friendships and faithfulness of your brothers and sisters in Christ. People will let us down… they will offend and ignore us, but push through the pain and trust God to bring you through. There is a profound strength that comes from reconciliation and renewal, friendships that have been tested and tried are stronger still.

Don’t do a Dylan… instead let’s strive to be a “Paul” (**see below).

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[c] and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. ( Apostle Paul – Letter to the church at Ephesus – Chapter 4: 11-16 ESV) 

** Extra Favorite Scripture reference on the subject of community is this… Colossians 1:15-20: “We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body. He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.” (MSG)

*(Lyric Source for this blog – Songwriter: Bob Dylan – Like a Rolling Stone lyrics © Bob Dylan Music Co.)

Grieving and Growing

Some of us have had an extra long and difficult year… full of sweeping emotional highs and dark, empty, lows. Engagements and weddings, divorce, death, and new birth. Life in its fullest cycle of the old and new. Some tragic, and some natural to the order of things… but ALL of it was exhausting. Left me feeling emotionally out of gas, living on empty.

As I look over the past nine months… it seems my mind is numb and weary from absorbing the epic transitions of an entire life crammed into just a few months. All of us will encounter life’s tragedies … and sometimes they stack up. Multiple tragedies in a short period of time… leaving many of us feeling destroyed by those losses, emotions so raw and deep that they linger long after the moment has moved by.

We can’t quite put our finger on what’s wrong inside of us. We feel “off”… but can’t express exactly why. We know it must be a part of the residue of our loss, but it’s fuzzy inside, shades of gritty grey instead of sharp and colorful like before.

DockYard – image source

We all get to choose how to move forward. We can decide to grieve and grow, or we can stay where we’re at. Stuck and in the doldrums of life. (Doldrums – a nautical term for a boat caught at sea without any trade winds to fill its sails. Stuck in a dismal malaise of floating in circles, no power to move forward or back.) 

It may be we need some extra ‘help’ with these things. More than just a gallon of our favorite ice-cream and a Netflix binge weekend, we might need a lot more in fact. It maybe that we need to grieve and grow from the injuries we’ve lived through.

My encouragement to you… don’t deny the emotions or lack of emotions you’re feeling. Look at the hints you might be suffering a silent tragedy of your own. Are you withdrawing from activities that used to attract you? Are you losing sleep or sleeping way too much? Are you struggling to finish things you started… lacking in energy or excitement for life? How’s your appetite? Are you finding yourself doing self-destructive activities… drinking too much, cutting, or starving your body of vital nutrition. Maybe you’re acting out sexually, obsessively eating or drinking more than you should, fixated, driven to stay busy with activities and unable to rest or be quiet.

These are all potential symptoms… or signs of unresolved issues with grief and mourning.  Natural in their own way, but destructive if left unchecked and unresolved. 

74211.com – source

It may be time to go and talk with someone about your situation. A counselor or therapist – (grief counselors are great!) – a pastor or priest,  a close and trusted friend. Someone who can listen carefully, and respect your feelings. Someone who can help you process through the pain and emptiness inside.

It’s so easy to get stuck here. So easy to do nothing… restless in your ‘doldrums’ , in danger of becoming like the bitter and cynical water you’re floating in.

Don’t give in to the pride and shame stuff, instead take the plunge to trust someone else with your grief, someone who is equipped to help you. It’s time to confide and release this pain. Include prayer and scripture reading in your plan for recovery. Jesus was known as the “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief“. He can sympathize, comfort, and encourage you in ways no man or woman can.

The 5 stages of grief and loss are: 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5.Acceptance.

People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.

The stages of grief and mourning are universal and are experienced by people from all walks of life, across many cultures. Mourning occurs in response to an individual’s own terminal illness, the loss of a close relationship, or to the death of a valued being, human or animal. There are five stages of grief that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying.

In our bereavement, we spend different lengths of time working through each step and express each stage with different levels of intensity. The five stages of loss do not necessarily occur in any specific order. We often move between stages before achieving a more peaceful acceptance of death. Many of us are not afforded the luxury of time required to achieve this final stage of grief. 

All, keep in mind — all people grieve differently. Some people will wear their emotions on their sleeve and be outwardly emotional. Others will experience their grief more internally, and may not cry. You should try to not judge how a person experiences their grief, as each person will experience it differently.

Source – https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/

Struggling with grief is natural and normal, but it is also the place of choosing. It’s  where life begins again or drags us down. Moving forward takes courage and faith, but it causes us to grow in both. Something we all can take hope from!

As parents, we’re not only working through things for ourselves…but we’re doing so with an audience. Our kids are always watching us… learning and growing too.

Pastor B.

Everythings going to be different now… ‘Again’!

Last week… my wife and I became ‘grandparents’.

Yes… sigh. I’m “that” old. 🙂

Micah was born last week to my youngest daughter and son-in-law. A healthy – pink – wrinkled – handsome little man of eight pounds. My wife never left our daughter’s side,  I was exiled to the waiting room with the other “grandpa”. 

After 12 hours of anxious pacing, little Micah arrived and in an instant…everything changed. 

Suddenly the world was new and different from before. Not sure exactly how or what that means, but I knew it in my bones. As we Anglicans like to say… “the old has passed, and the new has come“… 

Time had a new designation. A new point of reference… life was now simply… “before Micah or ‘after’ Micah.”

The shift was noticeable in the words we chose, in our thoughts and even in our discussion with others. Life had injected something brand new into our slowing orbit. Like families who have lived through a hurricane or devastating event… time was referenced by the name of the one (IRMA or HARVEY) who had changed their life.

For us it was a profound moment… a beautiful and spectacular joy to welcome this newborn into our world. We wept silent tears of happiness at his touch. Full of wonder and awe at the beauty of life and the sacredness of a yet to be discovered destiny.

Grandma and Micah

I cannot imagine what it would have been like to see the Christ child, to touch the baby that was Jesus of Nazareth.

I don’t know if those who held him as an infant had any true idea of how special and unique his life would be… but I can imagine it all so much better now. 

Thanks to Micah, I’m refreshed and renewed in my hope for man. Encouraged by what ‘could be’ and joyful to see him next.

To hold him and feel his warmth on my wrinkled hands and furrowed brow. His newness and innocence enveloping all my pain and sadness like a sponge of goodness and love. 

This is the truth of the gospel.

The birth of hope and newness in our otherwise old and hopeless world. My grandson will be a miracle for our family. A true ‘godsend’ for us to enjoy and be inspired by… but the Christ child was and is the hope of all mankind. 

Time that we can only reference… one miracle at a time.

Pastor B.

 

 

Living like you mean it!

2017 has been a tough one for our family.

I know for many of you…it’s also been a time of struggle and loss, a year of milestone moments… some of deep joy, others of bitterest grief. 

The massive and rare full solar eclipse this August (in Middle TN) followed immediately by two major hurricanes in as many weeks, and you start to think. Maybe things are a bit odd, even turbulent. From the recent astronomical event and intense weather pattern to the divisive trends of our culture, life is spinning faster and faster. It seems like the world is running parallel to my own life.

2017 isn’t going to be soon forgotten by our family, or the millions affected by the catastrophic hurricanes of Harvey and Irma.  These moments of tragedy and triumph help us ‘clarify’ what’s important. We can see what really matters in the breadth and depth of our lives.

It has helped me to drop the petty crap and leave behind the little offenses of humanity, and focus instead on the ‘good’ stuff. Things like….taking extra time to enjoy a sunset, lingering for a moment to snuggle in bed… the prompt decision to get a new bed instead of enduring another awful night of so-so sleeping on our 11 year old mattress. Don’t put off those things you’re ‘planning to get around to’.

It’s the proximity of loss that brings our senses to fullest alert. We start to really “live” when we see the danger of dying and loss so close by. 

As parents, it may be time to reconsider. Maybe it’s not as important to overachieve at work while letting your home life suffer.

Maybe… we shouldn’t continue to risk the relationships with our spouse… or deny our kids our fullest attention any longer. Maybe the goal of providing for a better ‘future’ needs to slide back on the priority scale…?

Instead, why not flip those things. Maybe it’s time to make some sacrifices with our career to stay connected and healthy at home. Maybe it’s more important to spend time with our family than anywhere else…?

Maybe…It’s not about how much money we save, or how deep our 401K grows.

Maybe…we need to stop running so hard for the ‘what if’ of tomorrow and start living the life in front of us…TODAY!

Colour of Life Photography

Our spouses.

Our kids.

Our nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles.

Our friends and those we love… these are the greatest treasures we can ever know. It’s not the stuff of life that matters. It’s how much life we can ‘stuff’ into our days that truly counts.

DON’T LIVE LIKE YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE TOMORROW. LIVE LIKE YOU ONLY HAVE TODAY.

#NoRegretsLiving

Pastor B.

Scripture Reference: Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NIV) 

Take it Back!

Words spoken in anger…

We get frustrated. We say stuff we regret. Harsh words spoken with painful spite, the net effect… a wounded heart. 

Pain from the accusation. Pain from the separation of friends and lovers. Pain from the truth and its bitter sting… pain from a well placed lie and the venom of being misunderstood.

Such little things… words.

Add a mix of social media and instant technology, and the toxic can become catastrophic for relationships.

The Coaching Room

As parents and pastors the field of life is strewn with the corpses of past friends, fellow soldiers for the King and old comrades in arms now fallen.  We see the gross and festering wounds of bitter disappointment and resentment seeping across the hearts of those we minister to… and with.

The culture is sucking us dry. We’re being trained to cut loose our baggage… to move on when things get messy. No relationship is worth our sacrifice and struggle, we exhaust and offend easily, fragile in our self-absorption and pride. 

The gospel of Christ forces us to look beyond self-interest. It re-aligns our hearts to something greater than affirmation and glory. The gospel received awakens something super-natural in us… and true love awakes.

We crave to serve and sacrifice, an unexpected contentment and growing satisfaction in our heart. Our relationships begin to bring us strength, fulfilment, and peace, not the old familiar creep of bitterness and jealous resentent.

Brings to mind an inspired poem that sparked a revival of sorts; “…Whatever it takes they will give: Breaking the rules. Shaking mediocrity from its cosy little hide. Laying down their rights and their precious little wrongs,…” (The Vision Poem

Guys… we must lay down the offenses, forgive the offenders, and take back our words. There’s no other way to reconcile.

Andrea Lystrup Therapy

If you’re struggling with a relationship. If you find yourself distant and isolated, nursing a grudge… it’s time to take it back. Yep… those words of anger and hurt need to be recalled.

Pick up your mobile phone… arrange for some coffee talk and take a risk. Share your regrets and your pain… swallow your pride and fight on dear one. The relationships of life are our only true treasures to keep. 

Peace out- Pastor B.