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. 

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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)

Bob-Dylan-005

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.

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.

 

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.