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) 

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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.

 

Forgiveness…the Evidence of Love

For the Christian… the life and death of Jesus is the ultimate demonstration of love.

The ultimate ‘take-away’ truth of Christ’s life as lived out in front of his disciples… ‘Forgiveness’ 

For most, we would readily agree. Without forgiveness we have no possible way to pray or spend time with our Creator. No option to pursue greater intimacy with the lover of our souls… it takes the foundational truth of being forgiven to start this Christian pilgrimage.

We surround it with words like….Grace, Mercy, Long-suffering, Patience, Humility… but in the end it’s all about ‘forgiving’ sin. From the ‘Lord’s Prayer” to almost every gospel and epistle in the New Testament, we are constantly reminded and commanded to forgive one another.

Forgiveness is the practical and often painful part of redemption. 

Our pop culture senses the power of forgiveness… it stands in wonder at its strength and courage…

Don Henley (of the Iconic band the Eagles) says it like this…

“I’ve been trying to get down
To the heart of the matter
But everything changes
And my friends seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness
Forgiveness” (The Heart of the Matter – Released1989) 

We are ‘redeemed‘ is the liturgical response for many… it means we are the forgiven and restored ones. True. Yes and thank God!  But Christ’s work on Calvary is more than a theological event for all mankind… it’s also our personal moment of salvation.

This reality crowds out the ‘other‘ offenses in our life. When we remember our conversion to Christ… we instantly return to the realization of our own broken state.

It only takes a sobering second of our time to recall  just how messed up we were/are when we were ‘forgiven’.  We remember in vivid detail… the intense and painful brokenness we felt. The anguish at seeing the devastating effect of our sin. The shame at our wilfulness in disobeying our loving father. The despair of  how selfish we were in thinking only of ourselves.

That is the moment of our transformation, when our despair and darkness was pushed aside by the blazing glory of Christ and His offer of forgiveness. An offer of freedom. 

Yet it’s this reality that often eludes us when we encounter the brokenness of others in our lives. Our spouses, kids, bosses, and mothers… all fail. All of them leave us torn up and wounded by their sin and shortcomings. Yet… we struggle to forgive. 

It’s only when we ‘forget’ the sorrow and grief of our own sin… that we delay offering the grace and gift of forgiveness to others.

source – Money Matters

St. Paul said it like this in his letter to the Colossians (chapter 3).1Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Fighting back from despair, a pastors confession of faith.

Fear… Depression… Doubt. Seems all I hear about anymore. From the news cycle to my weekly church meetings. People are so focused on the negative…what’s going ‘wrong’ in the world.

Their discontent… hovers over and around like a bad case of B.O. – (body odor) – The smell an overwhelming distraction in having any real conversation.

Sometimes our attitude or posture of life… just stinks. Our resentment and cynicism…grows and reeks like a ripe case of B.O., our lives full of frustrations and negativity. 

When I’m not careful…It slowly seeps into my own life… after prolonged exposure to the funk, I’m joining in right there with everyone else… and I’m starting to wonder, maybe life does suck?

Pastors are supposed to keep their ‘crap’ together. No “B.O.” for us . We’re supposed to live ‘clean’ and well laundered lives. No bad attitudes, no depression… no sulking. We’re the ones who go around cleaning up everyone else’s stink. We soothe and encourage, offer some kindness and consideration, even a heartfelt prayer, but it’s like a paramedic in a battlefront surgery center…. band-aids for blown apart body parts.

People are suffering. REALLY SUFFERING.Their pain is deep and dark, it sucks the  life out of them like a cancerous black hole. It’s rotten stench corrupting everything it touches or gets near. 

It’s in these fetid and helpless moments of ministry that Christ arrives. He always shows up right on time. Usually when I’m too tired, too overwhelmed to respond.  When my tank is empty and I’ve got nothing ‘nifty’ and ‘wise’ left to inspire the broken hearted parishioner laying in pieces before me.

That’s when God comes to my aid… the Holy Spirit prompting me to reach out and up…but not just in a desperate prayer for the right words to help… but, in an instant of worship.

Supernaturally… I find myself thanking God for the privilege to serve Him and his people as a priest. That’s when things change!

When life is hitting the proverbial poo pile fan – God shows up, but His presence is found in our worship. 

When I surrender my right to be pathetic and mis-understood… He’s right there. Usually it’s strongest when I’m in church – during the time of music and worship.

I feel like he just gently comes and sits right next to me… so close and comforting. His reassuring presence worth any sacrifice or suffering I’ve been whining about just a moment before. My “B.O.’  gone!

RED leaders network – source of image

I feel Him whisper those famous words ( like He did to St. Peter….”if you love me… feed my sheep”… ) it’s like salve to my soul.

I stir somewhere way down deep inside… love and contentment pushing out all my despair – the darkness in my mind  gone.  All that tedious wrestling is over in a instant. Truth crowding out the lies....”My ‘savior’ is alive. He’s here… and he needs me!” WOOOHO!

In that moment… I feel ‘whole’.  As I should be. I’m a priest after all. Serving others, pouring out my life… that’s the call for every pastor. 

The admission of my need and His willingness to intercede does something remarkable. I praise Him – spirit – soul – body! No religious exercise – but a genuine display of gratitude and joy – without thinking… my hands raise – the words I’m singing off key… echo to heaven somehow.

In those moments of renewal…He reaches across the distance of time and space –  touching my wounded heart. He lifts the bone weary fatigue and replaces it with sparkling fresh faith and desire to serve again.

I don’t know exactly how it all happens…  but He does. It’s a mystery.

This is the power of worship. Of ‘thanking’ God – no matter what. 

The greatest weapon we have in our darkest moments of despair is this.  Worship  with God, Worship with His people. Experience His presence. It’s worth every obstacle and effort to do this.

Be amazed. Be restored. Be made new again…

It happened for me… just yesterday.  No one around me even noticed… but the Holy Spirit did. My soul did… those refreshing winds came and ‘breathed’ again on my dry bones. 

What about you?

Pastor Brad.

PS – you certainly don’t have to be a pastor to feel all of this. Parent, Spouse, or social worker… teacher, non-profit volunteer, or policeman. Those who face despair every day risk bringing it home. Let’s fight back with some ‘hope’ of our own.

Restlessness

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

St. Augustine

The restless nature of our soul is a direct result of the duality of our emerging identity in Christ.

As we leave our “old’ self behind… the new and redemptive heart leaps forward to embrace all that should be. We start to sense all that can be, and soaring ever upward with the new-found power of a Holy Spirit, we taste the ‘good’ and long for the pure and true things of God. These delightful and treasured moments leave a lingering ‘afterglow’… a residue of God in our battered minds and hearts.

We crave the presence of God now… looking for more, longing to repeat the experience. It’s this deep transformational compulsion that begins to war against our oldest instincts. The old – and new – locked in an ancient yet intimate conflict of wills. Good and Evil ripping up the old establishment that was our comfy space.

This is the state of our souls in between. In – between the converted and the completed.

For Christians, this dichotomy of life and thinking, and living is our journey of becoming. Our battlefield of the mind and heart and the context for St. Paul’s writings in Romans.

If this feels familiar, you’re in good … even grand company.

Romans 7 and 8 focus our attention on the forces at work within and around our lives. It’s helpful to have context for the daily effort it takes to follow Christ all over again.

Let’s not grow weary in doing good…

Peace out; Pastor B.

Extra Reading resources. (Ligonier Ministries)

A uniquely complicated, but very intended individual. 

Disclaimer for this post:  There is/was no anger or fresh personal experience that stimulated this blog post. Instead… I wrote this blog after noticing a series of deep relational issues that kept coming up in my pastoral marital ministry. Couples who were coming to me for counseling exhibiting issues and patterns of verbal / emotional conflict that had specific behaviors in common. It was from these experiences that I began to research the ‘root’ causes of some of this… this blog post was a response to what I felt impressed into my heart and mind. It rang true to me and my prayer would be for this post to help you understand yourself and others better. Marriage is all about seeing ‘past’ the shortcomings of others.

I detest fake people.

You know ones I’m talking about… folks who always have a plastered smile on their faces…, never dropping their guard or relaxing their emotional control.  Always having a “fantastic‘ day or ‘gushing’ about how amazing their career is going, how accomplished their kids are… nothing negative, only awesome all the time!

Pinterest

Or… the maybe even worse…the fake people who rush to breathlessly confide in you. Whispering excitedly about the shortcomings of another in a somber tone of false concern, only to do the exact same bus-throw to you after you leave the room. Flitting from one conversation to another, always pointing out the problems of others, never offering to be a part of the solution, critical and duplicitous.

This is the wounded heart floundering through life. The insecure and insignificant soul reaching desperately to find purchase on the slippery edge of their existence, the ‘fake’ behaviors only symptoms of something much deeper. 

Let’s be honest here, we all struggle with both sides of this. Sometimes we’re the victim… sometimes the offender, all of us affected daily by relationships with people who are struggling to find their purpose.  People secretly afraid to admit their problems are real… hiding their shame in plain sight.

We’re all flawed, broken, and desperate for purpose and identity. We are longing to find the answers to the deepest issues of our existence, the reason we’re alive, the reason we matter.

The world is full of options and offers to pursue… knowledge, pleasure, possessions… honor. All of these can be valid to some degree, but what ties it to us? Where does our deepest identity spring from? Are we athletic, intelligent… beautiful, or spiritual? Do we allow ourselves to fail… or are we pushed to perfection in a wordless cry for value and significance?

Lots and lots of questions…

The Christian faith offers a simple consideration that can bring clarity and conviction to any life. An honest and enduring truth to build your entire existence around and on. 

Jesus Christ is in fact both man and God. His life an ultimate illustration of what life can be for each of us. What life should be for each of us.

The loss of purpose and value, the soul robbing power of fear and uncertainty gone in an instant. If Christ is who he claimed to be… (the one and only path to God) then what he did and why should matter.

It means we’re valuable. 

It means we matter. 

It means we can stop being fake. 

It means that who we are, the way we are… the unique and weak parts of us are all on purpose. They serve a function that’s essential and vital to our purpose as created ones. The things we hate about ourselves… our personalities, feelings, fears, and frustrations… our insecurities and stubbornness are all a mix of us… a uniquely complicated, but very intended individual.

The twist here… in our weakness, God reveals his strength.  That means… ultimately we’re not going to measure up on our own. That means… we’re going to get it (marriage/parenting/relationships) wrong. We’re going to fail each other and flounder around and foolishly fall on our faces.

So what! We are only HUMAN! Not GOD! Cut yourself some slack… cut others some too.

Here’s the punchline… there is only space for one “God” in our life…. and it’s not us. Once that reality sinks in… we’re off the hook. No more ‘pretending’ to be something we’re really not. No more posers trying to convince ourselves and everyone else we’ve got things in our life under control. 

What a relief that could be…

Peace out, Pastor B.

 

Politics and Parenting

Seems every week I write on this blog we have a different ‘crisis’ in the news.  From the threat of Nuclear War in Asia, to Ukrainian incursions by Russia, to the threat of ISIS in the public square… media is selling us ‘fear’. I’m not suggesting their reports are only ‘fake’ news, but I am saying they emphasis the ‘fear’ more than hope. On purpose.

As parents we’ve got a choice to make. We can buy what their selling… or not.

I choose to ‘not’.

Here’s why.

Politics is a murky world of hidden agendas, manipulation, half truth, and outright deception. Our worlds issues  are complex. Most issues are way past making simple ‘right/wrong’ judgements within a few minutes. Broad determinations on a person’s character or the wisdom of an action probably need more than a soundbyte. Judgements made  from a 5 minute news flash are not a good way to inform ourselves or determine our ‘positions’ on the latest politics of our day.  

Stepping back even further it’s clear that your source of information affects the ‘tone’ and perspective dramatically. Fox News or CNN…? Flip back and forth one day… listen to identical events being portrayed in polar opposite ways. One dissects the actions of the day from a ‘conservative’ or ‘Republican ‘perspective, the other in a ‘progressive’ or Democratic posture. Both are stridently ‘right’. Reading the news or hearing the radio talking heads go further into the weeds doesn’t help… each side props up their positions with selected facts and opinions to bolster their audience’s already decided positions on the latest drama.

How are we as parents going to help our kids navigate the mess that is our modern political culture?

Couple of thoughts. 

  1. Prejudice is well understood in the context of racism… but what about political parties? Conservatives and Progressive thinkers… Republicans and Democrats. Are we being pushed into yes/no answers based simply on  past stereotypes?
  2. Is the media messing with us? Are we being ‘played’ by a savvy business model that intentionally creates panic and fear to sell airtime and news? Hmmmmmnnn… I think so.
  3. As a Families of Faith, we should be careful to assign blame or pre-judge people, events, or news items simply based on what news cast we caught says. What about searching the scriptures… or praying. Or even saying nothing about the latest political foofaw to our kids.
  4. How much of what we’re hearing today… is going to even matter in a month? What about next year….? Can you remember what was happening last year this week on the world stage of news? I didn’t think so. (Freddie Gray – Baltimore police controversy – US News & World Report – May ’16)

In my opinion, when we allow politics to push into the sanctity of our homes… we are risking more than high blood pressure. Is it worth allowing the hype and fear and anger invade our lives? Is it wise to let a media driven culture subtly steal our peace and unity as a family of faith.  

Good questions. Lots of folks like to debate, discuss, and dialogue about the latest events and news. Great. Awesome. Me too… but as parents we’re faced with the dilemma of creating a space that is safe for our kids. A place that we can focus on the most important issues of life. 

I love that some parents use politics as a way to engage their older teens with an education narrative to teach values and truth from the exaggerations and deceptive reporting, but in the whole… let’s avoid being manipulated by media. Let’s agree it wouldn’t be wise to take sides prematurely on issues that may never matter. I’m talking to everyone here… Republican, Democrat… Conservative, Liberal, Progressive, Independent, Constitutionalist… etc… let’s pull back from the hype machine we call media and re-focus ourselves on the truly important things!

Peace…

Pastor B.

PS – I know there will be lots of opinions against my blog today. That’s cool… no problem. My views come from a “Via Media” approach to life. (The Middle Way – in Latin) Scripture reference for this blog… Psalm 2