Sometimes it hurts to care…

Life is easier on our own.

Alone is a simpler and less dramatic way to go. People are fine from a distance… but up close, things will get messy.

Parents have an amazing capacity to love their kids. I watched on the news this week as a mother was interviewed after her adult son had walked into a Nashville Waffle House and killed four random strangers. She still loved her son. She wasn’t condoning his actions, didn’t make any excuse for his behavior… but in her voice you could hear the suffering of a ‘mother’ and obvious heartbreak.

Spouses have an amazing capacity to love too. They can be lied to and cheated on, mislead, manipulated, and abused… but still the heart reaches out. The battered wife syndrome is a real ‘thing’. Women who are physically hurt by the one they love find it incredibly hard to walk away. They still ‘feel’ compassion and yes even love for their spouse despite the scars.  man in chair

Friends can love with great endurance as well. Suffering through the turbulence of being near the other. The passionate highs and lows of personal life can be abrasive and unexpected for a friendship to last. The ups and downs require patience and a long-suffering spirit, and thick skin.

Or not.

As a pastor, father, husband, and friend… I’ve seen all of the above from a distance and up close. From the parish I pastor to the kids I’ve raised, in my own marriage and with those I’ve walked through the fire with, there is no way we can avoid the pain of caring. People we care for and about are going to wound us.

The deeper hurt for me comes from those who misunderstand, from those who think the worst.

It’s awful when one who we once trusted decides its better for them to walk away.  The sorrow and injustice of such shame burns like fire, resurfacing like a glowing ember as we live it over and over, a fragmented memory smoldering in the heart and the soul.

We suffer when the bond of a life together is broken, the joy of sharing erased. We remember the snap of our hearts as they break…that moment when the full weight of rejection hits. Pain sharp as glass ripping our soul, an excruciating moment that lasts and lasts and lasts.

For some of us, we decide it simply hurts too bad to risk it again. For others… it’s an ongoing and unresolved debate. 

We can choose to run from relationships. We can walk away and close ourselves off, vowing to never ‘feel’ again. We can pretend and make our way numbly through what’s left of our life, avoiding the people and conversations that dig deeper. I admit… it’s tempting.

Or we/I can stop and face the pain. Invite others ‘in’. We/I can choose to let God touch us, let Him heal our wound. 

The Christian life is supposed to offer hope. The faith of Christ is supposed to be filled with grace. The Christian heart is supposed to be capable of supernatural love and forgiveness, but in my experience it’s very rare. The community of faith is supposed to be a ‘safe’ and honest place, a sanctuary in the storms of life. But is it?

The entire his-story of all human life is groaning for things to be set right. For our world and our lives to be restored. Somehow and in some unknown way God brings our dead hearts back to life. It’s the truth of the Christian Gospel and the promise of our own personal resurrection that has inspired men and women for millenia to get back up and take the risk of being hurt all over again. 

 

I whisper as the disciples must have whispered, with shaky and uncertain faith, sincere in my moment of doubt and pain, “Lord I believe… help my unbelief.” 

B.

 

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Living in the “NOW”

After my breakthrough moment with God in Colorado… I carried a deep and lingering sense of calm. A peaceful and contented acceptance.  A better way to say it…  I had insight, an ‘understanding’ of what God was really like.

As my “papa” he was tangible to me. I could reach out and ‘touch’ that presence anytime I allowed myself to be quiet and still. 

This truth became a ‘doorway’ to a deeper chamber of my heart. IF God was my ‘papa’… then I could rest. I could let down my defenses and pretenses. I could let go of the constant need to review and project, my mind scanning constantly for danger in my past or the future, never allowing myself to enjoy the present.

The idea of relaxing was as foreign as ‘rest’ to my mind and heart. I couldn’t relax… not really. I had to be vigilant, had to assess and project the probabilities of success or failure. The inherent dangers along the way or the review of past mistakes to gain insight . I wasn’t able to relax because I had no one to rely on but myself. I didn’t really trust anyone. Not completely.

The Shack (summit entertainment)

If God was ‘papa’. He is trustworthy. Safe. Present.

No father betrays his kids. No heavenly father would be negligent in caring for my life. I could let that long – held – breath  out… and begin to slow it all down, steady heart. Mind resting enough to notice the details around me. I saw the beauty of Santa Fe, an old – old – old place. Full of adobe and tile, leather and stone. Beautiful and serene, it’s age a testament to longevity and purpose. Built by the Spanish monks over four hundred years ago, their places of worship still stand. Pointing not to their ingenuity – but to the one who inspired them to risk it all and go to a foreign place and dangerous time to spread their faith.

I noticed all of that in a nano-second. Like a Matrix moment in slow-motion… I could see and smell, hear, and perceive details all around me. Thousands of colors and shades had been missing in my life. I was black and white, sharp-edged and fast. Moving through the days like a school project, missing the ‘life’ around me. 

As I began to slow my existence in the wake of knowing ‘papa… I could live in the ‘NOW” for the first time in a long – long – time. I hadn’t felt this  in so long it was a bit foreign to me… not since I was a pre-adolescent kid in the summer – riding my bike with Scott McCumber or Mike Middleton – catching Crawdads – playing army – I remember each day was a decade of fun – but that had faded with adulthood. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, I was ‘present’. Santa Fe was beautiful… each shop and restaurant a new treasure to discover, fear gone… I was able to relax.

Today, I was able to enjoy just being there. No distracting anxieties no restlessness.  I drove from Santa Fe to Taos, using the ‘high road’ it was gorgeous. The sun was clear and bright, blue skies and breezes all day. I drove and explored and relaxed in the sheer delight of it. No guilt, no regrets… I was living without the weight of all that pressure to keep moving. I could finally ‘stop’ inside.

Thank you GOD!

Next… my last two days on this Roadtrip Revival. Each was another beautiful surprise… rain in the desert and snow in the mountains. Special moments to share, truths to help me along.

Pastor B.

Is LESS really MORE?

In our modern American society… we’re taught to be an overachiever. Our success model is based on doing more, working harder… outperforming our competition. Winning is everything.

Career Resume Consulting

Our culture respects the independent and dedicated worker, parent, or athlete. We get extra rewards with extra effort. That in turn pays off with greater levels of success and money becomes the main tool to measure our progress.

 

Some call this… the “American” dream.

But what does the Bible say? Specifically what does the bible teach about work and rewards, sacrifice and success… it may surprise you.

The bible describes our lives differently than we do. Instead of measuring our financial achievements, the bible measures our hearts and character. It measures our relationships and personal development. Not our bank accounts or balance sheets. 

In that light… we may see more clearly what God is up to in our life.

For instance, if we measure our success like the culture does, we’re probably going to feel pretty miserable. The vast majority of us are not climbing an esteemed corporate ladder to fortune 500 status. We’re not retiring in our thirties or buying a summer home in the mountains, we’re scrambling to cover the cost of new tires on our family SUV and hoping we can squirrel away enough cash to take a vacation this year.

Life is more than what we accumulate in our 401K. 

Jesus talked a lot about money, but not in the way we do. He used it as a reference point for us to see what we trust in, strive for, and how we steward it. His perspective is unique and helpful for us who are wondering if we’re getting life wrong somehow because we’re not ‘successful’. He said something odd – “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…Matthew 6.

Scripture Art

This concept or idea of investing is opposite of our culture. It points to giving things away as we receive extra, of sharing and investing in those around us who are lacking. It points to spending our energy in the lives of others, rather than building up our own nest until we can own a castle. It redirects our ambition to another place… outward rather than inward.

The goal of God is to make us all like His son. Not to help us retire early and avoid the struggles of month to month living. Sure, stewardship is a critical part of a healthy and balanced life, but in the end our provider is God. Of course we should still save money and plan for retirement, but it’s not something to put your ‘faith’ in.

The idea of less being more is key to understanding what God may be up to in your life. If you’re struggling with finances, you’re not being judged or dissed by God. He in fact is working in your something deeper and more profound than you can imagine… something eternal in fact. 

When we start to ‘get’ the idea of trusting God for our ultimate provision, we can begin to truly embrace the idea of “Sabbath”. We can authentically begin to explore what it means to ‘rest’. To enter into the offer of true peace and contentment that Christ refers to in the gospels and Paul highlights in Hebrews.

This is truly a countercultural idea. To slow down and to pause every week. To regain our physical, emotional, and spiritual balance with a day of rest and reflection. To trust that our ‘extra’ push to get things accomplished isn’t nearly as important as our confidence in God’s ability to get us what we need, when we need it.

Peace out, Pastor Brad.

PS (This is not laziness or taking a free-ride  through our life,  we can’t live on our couch and petition the state for money. I believe we’re called to be thrifty, industrious, hardworking  people, but in the end, we’re not driven by a thirst to accumulate wealth,  we’re focused on investing in lives not our mutual fund)

 

Fear of the Unknown & Unknowable

Life comes at us full throttle. Events, experiences, relationships… each of them can be overwhelming and exhausting. We do our best to anticipate and prepare, but ultimately we’re going to run out of solutions.

For the Christian, we have the option to turn our impossible’s over to the God of the impossible. 

Recently our Life Group discussed the issues we face that are simply ‘overwhelming’. From old to young (65+ to 15 year olds) each of us described life circumstances that were stressing us out. For some it was their age and stage of life being ‘too old’ and their worry of future employment options, for others it was not knowing what to pursue, what to study or how to proceed past High School. Each person who shared noted their lack of control and fear of the future. Of not ‘feeling’ confident about their ability to manage their lives.

It’s pretty clear from this pastor’s chair that we ALL struggle with the fears of our future. The phrase that emerged from our discussion was this…Fear of the Unknown and the Unknowable.’ It doesn’t matter your age or stage of life, it’s a common thread that we share. It affects parents more than most… we’re facing the fear of our kids choices, the uncertainties of their future… a heavier weight than simply worrying about our own.

In one way or another, we all will face the ‘unknown and unknowable’ details of life.  Our futures may appear unclear, cloudy, and indistinct. Our past may seem wasted or irrelevant, but the truth is different than we ‘feel’. God is using it all.

For the Christian we can live with the confidence of God’s faithfulness to direct each of our steps into His perfect path. We’re flawed, broken, and inconsistent… but He is unchanging, good, and reliable. His plan for our life is moving forward, we can rest in His provision and purpose being realized at the precise moment we need it.

This ‘trusting’ God for the ‘unknown’ and ‘unknowable’ is commonly referred to as ‘Faith’. 🙂

We like to have a guarantee of the future, a clear understanding of how and why things are going to work out, but for the Christian that’s not an option. Instead we’re given a blank check by God to use whenever we need it… an endless supply of Faith that says… I don’t need to know, because He already does. 

Peace out, Pastor B.

For a reading reference, check out Matthew 6:25-34

Conquering the Comparison Curse

Struggling with the feelings of inadequacy, shame, guilt… weakness, all a normal part of the human condition. When you’re a parent, it amps up. The incalculable burden of our kids success is added to the already tenuous personal struggle of affirmation and healthy self confidence. 

If your awake, you know there’s an ongoing struggle around social media and the constant bombardment of filtered images showing ‘perfect‘ mom’s and dad’s on perfect vacations with perfect kids. We can’t allow the highlight reel of other people’s lives to eclipse the reality and importance of our life. My parenting identity has to be built on way more than popularity and sweet photos of us all ‘winning’.

Our kids need so much more than another sports medal or scholastic scholarship to post about on Facebook. Mom and dad’s influence can’t be reduced to how close we are to our ideal weight, having perfect hair,  or raising our children in postcard perfect homes and fashion forward wardrobes.  Please!

Parents, let’s stop this nonsense. We have to fight through the counterfeit lives we see on social media  and break the curse of comparison living. 

Couple of ideas to consider if this all sounds way to familiar.

  1. Pull back from the Social Media outlets take a break. Sign off and stay off for 30 days. The temptation to troll through twitter and Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest will fade and your contentment will grow!
  2. Remember who you are, and ‘whose’ you are. God made you to be the mom or dad of your kids. Nothing by accident. No random assignments as parents. We were ‘picked’ by God as the ‘best’ parent possible for our specific children.
  3. Celebrate the “ordinary” moments of your life – and make them ‘extraordinary”. I was interviewing a wonderful lady on our podcast and she made this statement on living with Joy and inspired a portion of this blog today. (Carol McLeod) – Her comment stuck with me and I’m sharing it with you.

In summary – we’re all facing the frustrations of life not going ‘quite’ the way we planned. The struggles of feeling like we’ve failed our children or dropped the ball on our perfect plans for the next birthday celebration or school event. We need to back up a bit and remember we’re not going to ‘ever’ get it perfect.

God save us from those who think they do. 🙂

We have to live by ‘grace’ and in doing so we have to share it with each other and ourselves. The fake world of social media presents a compelling story for sure, but it’s not real. We know what we see from Hollywood and the weekly rags is a sham, we know that movie stars have teams of hair and makeup specialists, wardrobe consultants, and fashion designers to make their lives look amazing.  But, it’s easy to forget that our friends on Facebook have clicked off 34 pictures and deleted them all before posting the ‘one’ we get to see. That’s not real life either. It’s staged.

Let’s quit comparing our lives… we’re not supposed to live any other life but our own. Trust me, we’re all struggling out here, no one has this parenting thing all wrapped up. So, let’s agree to stop ‘posing’ for the parenting camera, and let’s truly ‘live’ as we are, and I think that’s pretty darn spectacular!

Blessings, Pastor B.

From empty to ‘overflowing’

Preached recently on 2 Kings 4:1-7… a passage about a widow with two children, facing the most extreme of poverty and desperation. In those days, debt was paid off by slave labor, not with a payment plan. Her only available option was to seek out the man of God in her time. 

Entering the scene is the prophet “Elisha”. His answer to an impossible situation was unexpected… Let’s listen in…

2 “And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few.” 

When I’m in crisis, when my life is falling apart, when things get crazy bad… I’m praying for a miracle for sure, just like this single mom… but I often ask for God tobring something into this situation. Some tangible supernatural solution, like a ‘winning lottery ticket’ or an anonymous donation in the mail box for ‘just the right amount‘ of money.

Here we see a glimpse into the way God works in our crisis moments. Instead of looking at all the things ‘we don’t have‘… God asks us to inventory what we ‘do have’. A significant shift in perspective occurs when we do that. God is going to do a miracle for this single mother of two, but He’s not going to do it the way we ‘logically’ think. Nope.

Instead God is asking for us to give up the ‘one’ thing we have left. Let Him have it and then trust that in our obedience to His direction, He will bless and anoint the little we have to make it grow exponentially. Not just to multiple it… but supernaturally expand it -( 2 + 2 = 20,000) 

Here’s how the story ends…  4 “Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.” So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”

The point of the story?

  1. If you find yourself facing an impossible situation…. look for what you ‘do have’. Don’t obsesses about what you lack.
  2. Let God have the one thing you have to work with. It may be as simple as cooking or heating oil, but in God’s hands its divine fuel for a miracle.
  3. Watch as God takes your little and makes it grow into something of great significance and value.
  4. Expect God’s solution to be bigger than your need. Prepare your vessels to receive His extravagant provision, and trust that not only will you’re need be met, but so much more!

All of us face moments in our lives when we can’t figure a way out. A dead-end job. A broken relationship or marriage, a failed ministry. Each of these can consume us and erode our faith and hope. 

Let’s remember the single mom story of 2 Kings 4. She received an “Overflow” of God’s blessing for her obedience and faith. Jesus repeats this same idea when He feeds the 5000 with a few fish and pieces of bread.

Our God has ‘style’. He’s way beyond the obvious, instead He uses the common to do something uncommon, working miracles with the ordinary and average things of our lives to show He truly is a faithful provider.

Peace out, Pastor B.

 

Breaking up the Fallow ground

Growing up in Illinois I saw a lot of cornfields.

My horizon was filled with tracts of  vast farmland as flat as any pancake, and those fields were planted every spring with corn, soybeans, and wheat. Each October the John Deere’s showed up to harvest the crops and take it all to the silos. After years of regular crop cycles, a farmer would often choose to leave a field dormant. The land would be left to its own devices, no tilling, no seed planting and no fall harvest. Just a year to rest and recharge its nutrients and ensure its productivity for the years to come. (In scripture we would call that a “sabbath” type rest or a year of ‘jubilee”)

midwest cornfield

If that land remained unused for several seasons,  the weeds would take over along with some odd, old, sprouts of past plantings. All of these would compete for some purchase in the hard soil. Corn and bean shoots growing side by side in a mish-mash of unproductive weeds, each uneven and erratic. The only crop would be a useless mess of seedlings from a bygone era.  Among the chaos the soil would become dry and hard on the surface, a crust would form and then crack with lack of use. Land like this was considered unproductive and the term used by farmers for millennia has been “fallow”.

This agricultural term is the idea or image used in the scripture to describe the condition of our hearts when we’re drifting away from our faith.  “Fallow ground“.

What an amazingly accurate description of our hearts and emotions. You know… the areas of life where we’re not planting things any more… we’re tired and done. Hopes and dreams, relationships, kids, and marriages. Those things we had such optimism for when we began, but slowly we surrendered those pieces of our heart to despair and doubt. 

According to scripture, we can ‘break up our fallow ground” and prepare the soil of our heart to receive new seed. We don’t have to live with pieces of our heart barren and dormant. God’s calling each of us to trust Him with these, after all He is  the ‘resurrection and the life”.

Practically speaking… we may need to ‘break up’ the patterns of our days and weeks. Take new risks with old relationships. Alter our habits at home, less media and more meals together, more conversations and less polite small talk. Breaking up those places we’ve been afraid to visit takes courage and conviction. God supplies us with both.

It’s not easy torisk in the areas of our life where we’ve been hurt. But it’s the only way to break up our fallow ground. The scripture warns us to do a thorough job of digging out the weeds and thorns of our hearts if we want to grow a healthy and fruitful life. So… to clean out the heart we have to dig out the deep-rooted weeds, removing the stubborn beliefs about ourselves and each other that threaten to choke out anything new and living in us. sprout1

We can’t move forward if we still linger on the past hurts and wounds of our life, and while we’re ‘fallow’ … things in the present miss the chance to take root and grow.

So, let’s “pull some weeds’ and break up the fallow parts of our life. God is just waiting for each of us to trust Him enough to replant truth and hope in our heart.

Pastor B.