Is it a wonderful life…?

As the title implies… a thought or two from my favorite Christmas movie…

Jimmy Stewart’s classic performance as “George Bailey” (from the iconic 1946 film “It’s a wonderful life”), always sets the tone for my annual exuberant gush of seasonal joy.

Yet… it begs the question…“IS it a WONDERFUL life?”

So many rushing by, so much of life hidden behind the busy… it takes a profound event to slow us down enough to consider the deeper things. For George Bailey… he faces the moment of his despair with desperation… while all of us watch and hope all over again that he’ll see beyond his profound grief into the true wealth that is his amazing life.

But when it’s no longer a story, and the grief is real… things shift and we’re left wondering. “Is it a wonderful life?” 

It's a wonderful life, 1946

It’s a wonderful life, 1946

Recently my family has experienced some very dark news, a loss of hope and the inexorable pull of mortality come too early. It’s a bitter moment that brings sadness and despair, but also clarity and renewed appreciation.

As we hurry through our days… let’s slow down enough to consider the ‘why’. I can’t answer the question for you… and neither can George Bailey, but it’s important to think about. It’s important to remember what truly matters in your life… for me, it’s all about relationships. 

The weight of our life is contained in our relationships, they are ‘the’ most precious gifts of all. The gift of being loved and loving,  the precious privilege of a genuine friendship, the gift of giving and receiving comfort… of shared grief… these are the truest things we can ever achieve.

It’s not in our IRA fund or the number of mortgages on our house… it’s not in our kids GPA’s or a starting spot on the team. It’s in the relationships we forge along the way that we define our lives.

This Christmas let’s all remember George Bailey and act accordingly…

Pastor B.

PS – as a pastor, I would be derelict if I didn’t point out the ultimate relationship being offered to us… and to George Bailey. It was and is with our creator. His interest in our well-being and desire to be a part of every detail of our life is well demonstrated in the Christmas story – as well as in my favorite movie.

The Flaws of Family…

Every year we gather as families. 

Turkey and Football, Black Friday and Tryptophan Thursday… the family together… In one place… for an extended period of time.

That will create some drama. 

Sometimes it’s good drama (hugs, love, affection, and cheek pinching) and sometimes it’s bad. (arguments, old grudges renewed, hostility and offense) family-thanksgiving-drama-modern-family

The question for each of us, how will we respond?

Of course families have emotional baggage. Of course we struggle to ‘like’ the one’s we love. That’s life. That’s family. Expect it.

Don’t revel in how bad it (family) really is now that you’re back in the thick of the fray. Don’t marvel at how much the past mirrors our present, or how the old habits of your family are like Kryptonite to your Christian testimony of today.

My encouragement, my exhortation… enter the Turkey gates this year with renewed humility and hope.

  1. Humility – accepting your own flaws. Acknowledge and accept that you need as much forgiveness and grace as anyone before arriving…  If you do, you’ll be in a much better position to extend some grace to your annoying whoever…🙂
  2. Hope – trust that as God is actively at work in changing you… He is also working with those around you. That means… your family can change!

Remember… it’s the mix of good and bad that make it all so interesting. One thing we know for sure as followers of Christ, He expects us to learn to love each other as He loves us. That means to forgive and to be reconciled (*means to make things right) with our families.

Oh… and for those of you who are parents….your kids are watching. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor B.

 

 

 

Waiting for the other shoe to drop…

Ever find yourself worrying about why things are going so well?

Seems silly…

That fearful anticipation of what will inevitably go wrong in the very near future, waiting for the ‘other – shoe – to – drop’. A  day-to-day fear for some, a distant hovering apprehension for others.

However you describe the anxiety of the unknown, It’s real for all of us. I find myself guilty of pondering the ‘what if’s‘. Over thinking and watching for whatever’s out there and looming in the dark. Listening for an unknown danger just out of my sight, or something hidden over the next life horizon … a circumstance about to catch me off guard.

Why do we do that?

Are we just conditioned to expect the worst… or is it something deeper. Are we cynical and afraid because we distrust ourselves, not convinced God truly cares about us? About me… ?

Today I’m sharing some personal insights related to the uncertainties that torment so many of us. Here are three powerful truths to combat the unknowns of our lives. header_faith

  1. God isn’t trying to punish us. He’s come to save us. To redeem our lives, not stomp us in the dirt. Anything else is a lie. A deception designed to make us distrust. 

  2. Good and Bad things are relative to our perception in the moment. What may seem like a tragedy on day one can transform into a blessing within a few weeks. Faith is trusting God can and will use anything in our life for good. 

  3. Trusting means letting go of control. Anxiety is wrapped around our need to know. Being a Christ follower, means we’re surrendering our independence for His will, not our own. 

These 3 reminders are anchors for me on days when I can’t quite relax. When my heart is racing and I don’t know why… I can pause and pray, and remember the truth.

image - thelosthighwayhotel.com

image – thelosthighwayhotel.com

Parents, our world is full of crazy. Listening to the news can wipe away a week of rest in a moment. The mailbox might have a letter we don’t want to see from the doctor… or our kids might bring a note home that turns our stomach to lead. Whatever your fear…take it to God, remember these 3 truths and watch as it fades.

You’re not in this alone. To prove my point, I’m starting a brand new PodCast/Blog (Brilliantly Brave Parenting) with some friends at iShine and the TGA (Tween Gospel Alliance) to illustrate how everyday parents are living extraordinary lives.

Pastor B.

PS – Read and pray this passage of scripture anytime you need relief. Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV) – Source Biblegateway.com  6  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Brilliantly Brave Parenting

I heard the phrase ‘brilliantly brave‘ last night during a prayer at my parish in Columbia TN. (props to Tanya Grabbe)

It struck a note with me… you know that tingling sensation… resonating with something deeper inside your heart. A connecting point between a vague idea you had and a specific phrase that captures the essence of your thought.

“Brilliantly Brave’ was exactly what I had been searching for. It described how I saw moms and dads and parents across the globe trying to raise up decent kids in an insane and out of control world.

“Brilliantly Brave’.

I Love the feelings those two words evoke, the sense of raw courage and strength they lend to any phrase. And of course… they also work perfectly for a new podcast I’m developing with iShine and the Tween Gospel Alliance (TGA), a series designed specifically for parents who are struggling and feeling a lot less than ‘brilliant or brave!

GONE WILD VIA GETTY IMAGES

GONE WILD VIA GETTY IMAGES

In Our culture it’s common to google an answer to almost any issue we face. Wanna know how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey to perfection? Google it.

Wanna discover how to fix a drywall mistake on your living room wall? Google it.

Wanna fix your 12 year old’s attitude…? Google it…?

 We’re trained to ask “Siri’ or “Alexa’ to scour the internet for answers. To locate the smartest and best way to fix our problem. Very little discernment required for most of life’s little problems. 

Raising kids of course is way more complicated than a new recipe or DIY project. So who do you turn to for parenting advice? Where do you go to get answers for relational challenges like growing, hormonal, teens/tweens?

Very few of us would turn to the mirror in our search. Even less of us would ever consider our advice or insights as “brilliant’. I hope I can change that misperception.

My suggestion isn’t to chuck every other idea or advice out there, but to encourage you to cautiously peruse whatever it is “Siri’ suggests. Friends and family are always ready to give advice, and of course you’re local pastor or priest is a great place to go for some sage counsel… but what about you?

What if you put you’re own name on the door and listened to what God was saying directly to you about you’re problem? What if you seriously spent some time with the bible, you’re spouse, and in prayer?

Would God answer?

Would God actually give you insight and wisdom as to how to respond and parent? Maybe even show you the specific keys to your kids heart?

Yes… He would.

If you share my Christian worldview even a little… you recognize that in God’s Kingdom, there are no coincidences. The child you have has been hand-picked for you and you for them. No way someone else has a deeper insight than you into the inner workings of your kids heart. Aided by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the strength of faith you can go where no expert can, right to the very center mass of the issue surrounding your problem.

That means you are the most “Brilliant” parent possible for ‘your child.

Now… if only we were “Brave‘ enough.

🙂

Pastor B.

 

 

 

Passion and Purpose… Connecting the dots

What makes your heart sing?

What makes you light up and glow from deep inside, illuminated by a beautiful, infectious, enthusiastic excitement for life?

Do you remember? Think Peter Pan and the lost boys and you’re on the right track. Something long-buried in us longs to be released. An idea. A pursuit. A passion.

It’s not just the drive of every biological clock, for family, for work, for happiness… this is deeper and more personal. 

Somewhere hidden way far away from our crazy, cluttered, days… is a dream. A longing unmet. Probably something ‘crazy’ and unrealistic. A fantasy that could never ‘work’ in our adult world of responsibility and obligation. But if you slow yourself down long enough… you might begin to remember. To feel it stir again. calling-purpose-passion-amyjalapeno

For Christians and families of faith the yearning for our deepest desire lies dormant far more than it should. We push back our desires for discipline and hide our hearts cry from ever interrupting our day.

We fear our desire. We fear this deep and unrelenting dream. It’s selfish we say. It’s impossible now… too many choices made, too many bridges of life crossed. It’s impractical and irresponsible. 

Yet…

The heart is complicated. It can twist us. It often deceives and confuses us. It contradicts logic and overrides self-control, and without the aid of the Holy Spirit it can be tragic. BUT… in the context of Christ it is our source of true life.

Jesus came to set us free. To release the captive from bondage, and proclaim the liberty that comes only from forgiveness and redemption. (Isaiah 61)

If this liberty is available, what does it mean?

Couple of thoughts and encouragements;

  1. Freedom in Christ is more than a cliché’ – it’s a truth primarily accessed through the heart. Not our mind. An issue of desire, not understanding. 

  2. Our hearts communicate with God in images, music, art, expressions of creativity and imagination. These images convey the deepest passions of who we are and without them, we are less than fully alive. 

  3. The passionate part of our deepest self is alive with the hope of yet to be realized dreams. This passion is a powerful clue to our purpose. It’s a seed and indeed a thread of our spiritual DNA and it connects us to our creator’s original intention for our life. 

  4. As we grow in faith, in understanding God’s ways… the passionate parts of our hearts begin to stir and gain clarity. A healthy and expected side effect of our spirit being ‘freed’ from the shackles of sin, fear, and condemnation. Can we trust our hearts? 

  5. What is your passion? How can you determine the role you’re destined to play in the divine story? What would you risk if it meant you could find and fulfill your purpose? 

  6. Jesus is offering to connect our passions with His purpose… to any who would seek Him first.  At first glance a contradiction, on closer inspection it’s a realignment of our hearts with His.  

This is the life God offers. It’s full of struggle and suffering, but in the end it’s about purpose and passion. A re-discovering of our heart and the intimate journey of desire.eldredge-quote

It’s a risk to upset the safe and predictable for the unknown… a risk well worth taking.

Pastor Brad.

PS: Noted author and therapist John Eldredge and his ministry (Ransomed Heart) is where I recommend you start. Connect the dots. Find your purpose by affirming your passion.

Wrestling with God…

The struggle is real.

Life and Faith wrestle within us, battling our doubt, cynicism, and pain. We wonder how a God could exist, why He would allow such suffering… such tragedy. We wonder…why is He not intervening on our behalf…?

Our lives get interrupted by the repugnant touch of cancer, dementia, and loss. We have always ‘believed‘. Always trusted that there was a God. Hoped we were following the right path down life’s highway…but are we just holding onto our faith like a warm blanket, tugging its comfort up and over our proverbial chins on a cold and wintry night. Safe and secure in the assumed knowledge that God will be with us, that we weren’t alone.

If bad things can actually touch us, then maybe God isn’t so near as we thought?

What now?

What if the faith that always comforted us before wasn’t true after all? Is that heresy? Are we abandoning the faith to question God?

What happens to our innermost hopes and dreams… if our faith falters, will we lose our hearts desire?

If we’ve set aside our desires for ‘His’, and in the end we’re simply left standing alone and isolated in our devotion to someone who isn’t even there…? What shame, what regret we would have. 

This is wrestling with God.

jacob-wrestling-with-god2

Jacob Wrestling 

 

It’s part of every Christian journey. From the ancient patriarch Jacob until now… we must wrestle it out. We have to struggle with our faith to find out if it’s all real. There is no other way!

My strongest encouragement,despite how it seems…He is near. God won’t disappoint. But our conceptions of God and His ways are radically different from the assumed. The touch of God is subtle in the tragic circumstances of life. We have to ‘look’ for His whisper and wait for His approach if we are to cling to the faith that we once took for granted.

My hope is that like Jacob in the Genesis narrative…you will cling to Him, finding God is everything you ever hoped for, and more. That the still-small-voice of His presence will guide you in every choice yet to be made and His comfort will touch every moment you regret.

God isn’t abandoning you, it us who have lost our way in the dark of night and He patiently waits. He wants to wrestle it out with us… but will we cling to Him? Hanging tight to our Faith until the dawn breaks and our hearts are freed from the struggle of doubt. 

Wrestling changes everything.

It must.

Stay the course dear one, I believe, not because I know more… but from my own wrestling with the angel, and like Jacob…I too walk with a limp.

Pastor B.

Ruth’s story…

Some days our faith hangs by a thread so thin we wonder why we even claim to be a Christian. Despair is a the door, hope has left the building and we are all that remains. Our hearts merely empty shells… echoes fading of our past professions of God’s goodness and grace.

If those words resonate… you’re not alone. 

Studying the book of Ruth for a sermon series, I felt the powerful parallels between her story and mine. Her faith and story serving as a powerful source of hope and inspiration, especially for those caught in heartache, loneliness, and a season of profound injustice.

If that’s you… then STOP for a few minutes… read the book of Ruth. It’s only four chapters long. A novella of sorts, written 3,000 years ago from the perspective of a still young widow woman without a country, a family to call her own, or any semblance of a future. Destitute, facing starvation, and homeless… she resisted the temptation to run and chose to stick it out with God.

Her act of faith a heroic tale full of every emotion one can feel. Despair and hopelessness mixed with redemption and restoration. A true story of one woman’s selflessness and God’s intimate and tender touch. 

I can only introduce you to Ruth.

To know her, and possibly yourself… you must explore the passages on your own time. Reading under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit… trusting God to reveal to you the ancient details as they relate to your own tragic moments and empty faith. Watch in wonder and fascination as utter loss and shame becomes renewed hope and a sure future.

image source - sandyfreckletongagonartblog.wordpress.com

image source – sandyfreckletongagonartblog.wordpress.com

In the end Ruth is vindicated for trusting in her God. She is accepted, loved, adored, and exalted to the highest place of honor possible… the great-grandmother of the Messiah.

Her journey is our journey. Her determination to follow after God ‘no-matter-what” resonates with me on so many levels. 

God’s word is like that. Filled with story after story of men and women like us, feeling the same struggles of life and experiencing the personal attention of a loving Father who intervenes and validates each individual moment of suffering and loss as part of His perfect plan.

Ruth renews my trust in God. I hope it does the same for you today. 

To discover more about Ruth and her amazing story, read on at Biblegateway.com !

Pastor B.