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Watching babies is one my favorite things…. those first tentative steps, the swaying and swinging limbs… arms windmilling to stay up a few seconds more… the inevitable soft “thump” of their diapered butt hitting the ground.

Baby Steps” A milestone for every parent. That beautiful moment when a toddler is born and the baby is left behind, suddenly mobile and full of explosive energy. Wobbly and eager to explore every crack and dusty corner of your home, our baby’s get that first ‘step’ of freedom. toddler and mom

Over time those memories can fade as our kids get older and the milestone’s bigger. Big potty, school, the tooth fairy… bike riding, dates, driving… graduation. Whew…. it goes FAST. That’s why we take pictures.:)

In the end, we’re there to encourage, comfort, and guide them on their way. We can’t actually ‘walk’ for them, but we try our best to keep them safe as they bang and crash their way across the road of life, determined to be adults before we’re ready.

If your kids are in high school… you’re already wondering where the years went.

But this blog is about you and I…Our “Baby Steps”. 

Faith is described as a ‘new’ birth, or ‘second’ birth (as in ‘born-again) in scripture. Words like infant and mature are used by St. Paul to describe the status of Christian believers in the first century. Ideas like baby and adult are used to help us understand the faith ‘walk’.

Our growth is based on trust. On obedience and choices… not words or good intentions. Like a toddler weaving their way across a dangerous highway, we may find ourselves venturing out into a hostile world without a clue. We receive the gift of Christ’s life for our’s, of the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist and then we move on. We’re “Christian’ now.

jojocooperphotography.co.uk

jojocooperphotography.co.uk

But isn’t there more to consider. More to grow into… MORE to EXPERIENCE?

Christian’s and Evangelicals in particular use the term… “walk with God” as a phrase to describe how our ‘faith’ is. But its a good description, if we appreciate its symbolism.

How IS your ‘walk’ of Faith?

Are you still waving your hands and arms like crazy to just stay upright? Are you struggling in life, feeling constantly off-balance and wobbly… landing frequently on your tush only to slowly crawl and pull yourself back up? Don’t you want to be more stable? Walking forward with a purposeful gait, balanced, sure-footed and agile enough to avoid the dangers and obstacles ahead.

In Hebrews we’re encouraged torun with endurance the race set before us’... that’s a whole lot more than just simple ‘baby steps‘.

christfitnorth.wordpress.com

christfitnorth.wordpress.com

If your faith walk is feeling more like a toddler than an adult… its time to make some personal changes in your faith life. After all… it’s a big, beautiful, and exciting world out there! Time to put your big boy pants on and live the life Christ died for you to have! 

“God, give us the courage and stamina to follow after you with a whole heart. To take bigger risks for you, to trust more, to grow into the spiritual adults you always intended us to be! Amen.”

Pastor B.

PS – and yes, Christ did say “unless you have the ‘Faith’ of a little child, you can’t enter the Kingdom of God” But that’s for another day and a separate metaphor:) Suffice it to say, that’ ‘running‘ in your faith is trusting God with the certainty and simplicity of a child!

Climbing a mountain will cost you...

If you use logic…it’s absurd really. To devote a perfectly good day to leave the comfort and safety of your home or hotel to risk your life and limb to walk with a heavy bag on your back. To willingly surrender 24-48 hours of your life for no other purpose but to exhaust yourself and waste a valuable chance to catch up on some real ‘work’ on your garage or lawn.

It’s not something you do casually. Takes time to train, plan, and prepare. There’s the weather to consider, supplies to purchase, gear to get. You need a partner to walk with and the freedom in your schedule to go find a mountain, acclimate your lungs and then actually do a 7 or 8 hour hike to the top.

Even if you do go to the trouble to prep for and arrive at a mountain trail… it will take a supreme effort of will to push yourself past the first three hours of freezing night-time (3 am departure) hiking. Often necessary to make the summit in time to beat the thunderstorm and lightening risk of a summer afternoon at high altitude. DSC_0307

If you manage to make it past sunrise and keep going up… the battle of will begins.

Mind shrieking at you to just slow down… rest. STOP! Legs and lungs stretched and wheezing to the limit. The goal of reaching the peak lost in the haze of fir and forest obscuring your view, roots and rocks have turned your ankles a dozen times and tripped your extra firm hiking boots even more often.

The lead that seems to be buried in your backpack has been gaining weight with each mile as the available O2 has evaporated somewhere…and you’re wondering if you really needed all that stuff you brought. With growing anxiety you start to notice the new sounds and smells on the air, listening for wild animals or bears…half hoping, half dreading you’re going to find them.

The ground starts to get steeper and your feet heavier as you push past breakfast to late morning. The rocks are now getting much bigger, huge slabs sheared off the cliff face nearby, interrupted by streams of runoff and fields of little round flat rocks, like tiles from a roof piled as deep as your waist on the side of the trail….remnants of last winter and the natural slides of snow and rock lay across your trail. Slick and unsteady, shale making for even slower progress as your lungs shrink in the upper atmosphere and your worn out legs go as soft & rubbery as hot plastic.

It’s about then that you seriously consider turning back. Mind games playing tricks on you… maybe the trails blocked ahead anyway. The weather looks bad. How much further could it be, have their been any recent bear attacks on this trail ?

It’s all you can do to just put one foot in front of another.… face down, shoulder’s chaffing from the straps biting into your back, your hot, sweaty, sticky and cold. Wind and sun making you feel every extreme of temperature and climate as you go. 

It’s crazy to climb a mountain. Crazy to dream you could do something like this…

The old calf muscle injury is screaming at you to slow down, your trick knee is flame. The shirt under your fleece pullover is soaking with your sweat and your face is burning from the sting of constant wind. Your breath is gone… talking, joking, laughing is a distant memory. All you can do is wheeze, step… Wheeze and step…. lean, forward… breathe. Hold… push that pack back one more time, lift your foot, bend that knee… one next step at a time… beautiful-landscape-with-rocky-mountains-at-sunset-in-canada-jakob-radlgruber

And then the sky opens up.... like a golden blue panorama of light and crystal glory. A vista of beauty as far as your watering eyes can squint and see. The trees fade to shrub and then to delicate tundra as you notice the awe-inspiring images of brilliant almost neon bright flowers springing from the stone cracks… the outline of an eagles silent glide, the shadow of ancient snow piled deep in the corners of hidden rock.

The wind becomes firmer in your face and the air as fresh as Eden itself. Life is literally exploding around you and suddenly you feel ready to ‘run ‘ up the final quarter of a mile. No more fatigue. No more struggle… only an exuberant joy and satisfaction at having come.

The fatigue of your journey forgotten, the pain no more. Only the warmth and gratitude of seeing something extraordinary with fresh eyes. The ‘epiphany’ of the mountain top burns fresh hope and happiness through the clouds of sorrow and discouragement that hovered so near for so long.

That’s why I climb mountains. 

I see beauty and it restores me.

I feel the nearness of my God.

I sense the grandeur of life and the intricate and intimate details of creation, knowing deep in my soul that I’m a part of this endless tapestry.

But it all hinges on taking ‘one-more-step’.

I don’t know if your running out of hope for your marriage, a career, your church, yourself, or your kid… but let me encourage you to go to the ‘mountain’ of God.

Read with Him there. Find your restored self again and don’t stop taking that ‘-one-more-step”! The view ahead is going to be spectacular! I promise.:)

Pastor B.

 

 

We all know the truth of our mortality…but we avoid thinking about it. Life and it’s demands allow us the luxury of throwing ourselves and our full consciousness into each day so completely that we delay having the discussion… with each other… with ourselves.

How long do we have left? 

A few days ago I caught the last five minutes of the Dr. Phil show… he put a huge paper measuring stick on the floor of his studio stage and invited members of the audience to come up and stand on their number. Placed by age on a mega-ruler with measurements of each decade noted, it was sobering how little was left on the stick for some. The numbers went from 0 to 85 and the simple reality check of seeing where you were in the journey of life was illuminating for me. dr phil

At 46… I would be standing slightly past half way through the measuring stick. Meaning, I had fewer years ahead of me than behind. My life timeline was / is running down. (Assuming I would live to an average age of 78-80) It gave me a renewed perspective on my time and energy, where I invest my focus and fullest efforts.

Parenting can become all about the here and now of life. So focused on establishing proper boundaries and maintaining consistent discipline, that we forget the bigger picture. 

Don’t we all ultimately want to help our kids to develop a life-long hunger and persistent pursuit of Christ ? To share with them about the irreplaceable wisdom that comes from depending on God’s word for life decisions, of the strength a local Christian community of faith offers in the storms of life. We want them to go farther and higher than we did… secure in the knowledge their life has a divine purpose far beyond their own wants and desires.

YES of course. 

Parenting is about the transfer of our hope. The guarding of a good deposit. St. Paul although unmarried had a son of the faith (Timothy) and this is the advice he shared with his son in his very last days of life…

2 Timothy 1:  “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (ESV) Source – Biblegateway.com 

As we age… as we grow in our perspective of life and the briefness of its gift to us, may we all use the time we have wisely. Investing in our most important relationships as if nothing else mattered…

agingface

source – lovethatface.com

May Gods strength and wisdom fill you and guide you on this sacred task.

Fr. Brad

 

 

 

 

Sadness Sucks!

Sadness… sorrow. Life – struggle – despair. Stuff we as parent’s not only have to deal with… but have to help our kids with.

How do we keep parenting when we’re in the midst of personal grief and or tragedy? sadness sucks

Couple of thoughts….

1 – Sadness is not a sin. Sorrow is a part of the journey we call life. In perspective, sadness is where we can find our truest measure. A time in which God will allow us to suffer or endure difficulty. Not to punish, but to prune.

The struggles force us to draw near or flee from God’s presence. If we choose to demand explanations, we’ll miss the opportunity to get to ‘know’ Him. We’ll be distracted by the injustice of our situation and loose the intimacy of just having Him near us as we go through it.

John 15 (ESV) “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit… 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy (not happiness) may be full.

2- Sorrow and Sadness allow us to ‘see’ the world differently. As if with new eyes. Eyes of Faith. Kingdom lens, whichever Christian metaphor your like… For most of us… we cannot see our world as it really is without being forced to look again… with God’s perspective.

Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” 

3 – Struggle builds muscle… Sadness can be a training tool of God to build up our faith and endurance for the journey ahead. Like any soldier, we must prepare our minds and muscles for the rigors of battle and train ourselves in the use and tactics of our weaponry.

Our weakness is God’s strength… our battle is not as it seems. There is much more to our melancholy and sadness than just our circumstances! We have an enemy of our heart and he is aggressively pushing us to retreat, pull back, abandon our current course…. As parents, or pastors… this gets amplified in times of strategic advance – and with the increased hostility, we should be able to recognize the significance of our work and ministries! We must also arm ourselves with Kingdom truth… abandoning the lies of our world. A few verses to help you reset!

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV) But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (ESV) “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

Ephesians 6:10-13 (ESV) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that (you)may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm

Christian Parenting isn’t living in denial…it’s not forcing yourself to smile no matter what!

It’s an unfiltered view of the struggle, a illustration to our kids of what a genuine Christian in the real world lives like. It’s a unique opportunity we have as parents to model an authentic faith to our kids as we work to understand the truth of God, His comfort, and His presence in the chaos and tragedy of life.

Sadness does suck… but it has purpose for the Christian!

Pastor B.

Recommended Resource: “Choose Joy, because happiness isn’t enough” Kay Warren

From the very beginning I’ve had a deep longing to explore… to be challenged, tested, and to discover. God in His great wisdom granted my heart’s desire… and made me a parent.

The secret of Adventure is knowing your already living in one.

AA Milne knew that. His pooh stories saturated with the truth of Adventure and the need we have to be on one. So is the Bible… it reminds us of the fantastic story we’re a part of . The epic and the insignificant moments all threaded into one beautiful tapestry we call our life. For us children of the 80’s… the Adventure was in a galaxy far, far, away.

pic source - moviepilot.com

pic source – moviepilot.com

Like all great stories, there is a sacred quest and a villain with evil intent. A damsel in distress and a gallant hero complete the setting…

Soon our story expands, as priceless treasure is discovered, needing to be protected,…good, and evil locked in a battle for the prize. Drama and tragedy set among the glory and triumph, we watch with breathless anticipation to see how the scene plays out.

Life is an adventure… if you see it for what it really is. 

Can you see your life as more than survival, or a test? More than a painful series of ‘checklist’s to complete?

Can you see your marriage and your love for others as a sacred quest? The priceless treasure…your little ones. Heroically we stand guard against a corrupted and evil world, fighting to protect their hope and preserve innocence.

It’s heroic, even inspiring to watch as we parents learn to love and honor each other in the pursuit of parenthood. Sacrificing our rights and ‘precious little wrongs’ on the altar of true love and a growing commitment to serve someone greater than ourselves.

Ahhh… the heart of a epic story really is inside us all, just waiting to be discovered and celebrated!

Each family, each marriage can become a testament to the adventure God intended us to all share in. And like any great story… we know intuitively the ending. Good will triumph and the evil villain will get his just reward…

Unless you remember the story. Unless you understand what your life really is a part of… the adventure you’re in may only feel like one long moment of sheer terror and the epic hero seems absent. Don’t be confused, that isn’t just a battered and helpless carpenter nailed to a cross… it’s the Prince of Peace and the Lord of the Universe.

The truth is, your hero is with you. The battle has been fought and your are free to be as your father intended. Full of life and optimism, trusting the script has been written down to the smallest detail.. and you’re going to see the ending! 

Peace and Grace dear one… Pastor B.

Parenting is ridiculously hard. From newborn to young adult, we as parents are confronted with EVERY kind of crazy. We think we’re prepared…:) but then it hits and we’re scrambling to find someone…. ANYONE who has the experience, the wisdom… the freaking sanity to walk us through the chaos that is our kid! 47146

From issues with breastfeeding infants to the scourge of pre-adolescent personality disorders, we’re walking the tightrope of parenting life.

Occasionally during those transitions we find moments where we’re comfortable and somewhat confident that we know what we’re about, but so many times we panic inside! Desperately wondering what to do and how to do it!

Parenting experts are all over the web…. from best-selling books to podcasts, there are ‘expert’s everywhere on everything, sharing freely and confidently how to fix the things in your family that are out of ‘whack’.

Each of these experts will have a certain focus or perspective that they believe will carry the day for you. Each expert will have the aura of invincibility that only comes from successfully parenting their kids from diaper to college degree! (Some are excellent resources, others not so much. Kevin Leman is great)

Sometimes… watching, reading, or listening to the ‘experts’ not only doesn’t help us… it makes us feel worse. Guilt, regret, and a sense of inadequacy start to pile up… weighing us down and pushing our parenting shame through the roof.

IF…. that has happened… IF… that IS happening… take HOPE! All is not lost. There is another expert to consider…

The reality is, no one on the planet knows your kids better than YOU. No educated expert can come close to grasping the nuance’s of your child’s personality, character, spirit, and gifting better than you.

Ask yourself… would God appoint you to be a parent of a specific child randomly? Like some kind of cosmic soul lotto, whipping ping-pong balls around heaven to match parents with babies like a crazy game of chance. I don’t think so.

The precision of God’s creation is so intricate and intentional we can KNOW for certain that He has plans and purposes in everything He touches. No detail is too small, no coincidences allowed.

God hand-picked YOU to parent the children in your home. No one else got the assignment or the privilege to raise your kids to adulthood, only YOU were chosen for that Holy duty. 

So… deep breath, and exhale. Now breath again with fresh confidence and hope.

God is in your parenting life. He is with you to counsel and affirm you. The presence of the Holy Spirit as our guide and support in the roughest moments of parenting is assured to all Christians. Your not all alone, isolated, and unprepared for this.

True, we all can use help with keeping perspective or seeing important things that are obvious to others… but when the-push-comes-to-shoveyou’re the EXPERT that knows what your kids need. Guided by the Holy Spirit and secured by a community of faith to help you ‘stick-with-it’, there is great hope for your situation.

May God give you the wisdom and grace to discern His will for your family and the strength and patience to hang in there until the fruit of those choices comes into sight.

Blessings from Pastor B.

Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family[c] in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (ESV) – BibleGateway.com 

 

Driving in the desert is unlike any other place. Long – vast – uninterrupted horizon – skies that stretch beyond the edges of the earth. Barren and beautiful, it opens up in front of you with subtle detail. Sage and cactus, old washes with sandstone sides, brutal pitches of solid rock and flat-topped mesa’s the size of a small city. It looks and feels like the end of the world, the furthest reach of life. All of it clinging like a thread to survive. Cold and Hot, dry and dusty, it howls with the windswept cry of its isolation and fatigue.desert

Quite a metaphor for life.

How often do we find ourselves driving through a ‘desert’ of existence? How far do we travel on the two lane ribbon of asphalt, wondering if we’re going to make it?

God is in the desert places of our lives. It is in these vast unbroken stretches of existence that He longs to have us come near. To shut off the noise of our existence and simply ‘be’ with Him.

I found myself in such a place and in such a state. Driving for hundreds of miles… Solo and Silent. Waiting for a word from God. A whisper of divine affirmation, a word of encouragement or even correction. Anything to block the nearly silent sadness of my heart.

In these moments I let go. Somewhere between Grand Canyon and Phoenix I decided to stop figuring it all out. To stop calculating and striving, to rest and release my worry and my pain. Somewhere in the desert God touched my heart and made it new again.

Truth began to bubble up in me. Words of insight and understanding. Helpful and encouraging it captured my struggle and restored my hope. Perspective gained in a lonely vigil.

Here are a few of His thoughts that shaped me in the desert;

“The transformation is slow and steady as we move from hopeful to grateful to desperate in our pursuit of Gods voice and presence. It realigns our lives from the inconsistent and extreme to the steady and serene. The obstacles, crisis and tragedies encountered along the way become the building blocks of a divine nature that’s expanding and changing who we are from the inside out. No longer dependent on external conditions for our hope and happiness we find ourselves able to go further in faith than ever before. Not because of our strength or wisdom… But because we have abandoned the familiar safety of a life we can control, for the will of God.” 

“Personal Purity & Holiness are not irrelevant in the shadow of Christ’s grace. The maturing believer moves deeper with their personal intimacy and conviction to live for Christ alone. This movement inspired by the Holy Spirit pulls us away from the past / flesh towards the newness of life in Christ and fuels a growing desire to be more like Him than we want to remain as the old us!” 

“There is a significant difference between the superficial – external – vicarious – circumstantially based faith and the hidden – deep – internal – transformational faith that comes only at the cross of Christ. For the persistent follower of Jesus, the crucible of life becomes the forge of a white-hot faith developed in the ordinary – simple and unremarkable moments of daily living. It is in the choosing that we believe. It is in the believing that we grow and mature and expand.” 

“This process of “becoming” like Christ is not a complicated or convoluted path, it is rather a painfully simple series of determinations to trust God more than what we can see or feel. Designed by God to remove the dross of our inner man – it also nurtures the creation of a new heart that quietly begins to grow and glow in the darkness of our isolated existence.”  cropped-road-pic-roadtrip-instagram.jpg

I believe it was in the “waiting and delay” of my journey that I was able to hear and respond to God. I believe it was in the silence and isolation that I was able to face the issues and patterns of my old self that needed to be slayed. It is in these moments of alone that we grow.

Dear ones… trust where God leads . He knows what we need.

Pastor B.

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