When the path isn’t clear…

Life comes with it’s own set of crazy choices. Options galore.

For Americans it’s worse than almost any other nation or people group… we have mega stores and megamarts with an enormous diversity of choices and and options to consider.  

I’ve spent ten minutes wrestling with my choices in the grocery storey… which wheat is best for bread? Whole milk, organic cheese, greek yogurt or bulk cereal?  So many products to consider. Literally hundreds of brands and labels to read, look for and price out.

The point is… the more options we have available… the less obvious will be the ‘best’ choice.

Can we identify God’s ‘choice’ in the mix of life? How do we know if God’s choice is the same or different than my own? What if that voice in my head is really the ‘devil’ and the advice I don’t like is from the Holy Spirit…? How can we truly know? 

These are truly frustrating moments for the father or mother whose tween or teen is acting… well, like a teen or tween. Rebellious. Angry. Disrespectful. Moody and mean. Do we ground them, take away their smartphone and change the wi-fi password… or do we send them off to a counselor… camp… or crazy aunt? All of these options are decent in their own way… but which of them is “God’s’ will?

How can a parent know?

Couple of thoughts for you today;

A. We ‘CAN’ know the will of God. We can hear His voice. But only if we listen. Only if we discard our personal preferences for His plan. 

B. We ‘CAN’ rely on the provision of God’s wisdom to guide our thoughts and inspire our ideas. Especially if we include others in the process. 

C. We ‘CAN’ trust the Holy Spirit to send us clear markers along the way of life. People, pastors, sermons that confirm or affirm the path we’re taking is ‘good’ or…. we can experience slammed doors and the unrelenting unease of uncertainty in the moments that matter. 

Over the process of prayer, counsel (with Godly mature leaders in our life) and patient consideration... there will emerge a clear consensus among your team. (Wife and Husband, Pastor and Leadership, Board and CEO etc…) That clarity will come with a sense of context as well. Timing… location, people, purpose, duration, intensity etc…

Road to Nowhere

But sometimes… a vague response will emerge from everyone on your team. Things  will be uncertain… foggy. Unclear. The path ahead dark and foreboding. What then?

If and when everyone on your team says something like this… God isn’t speaking clearly to me on this matter. I don’t hear a “Yes” and I don’t hear a “No”. The proper response should be to ‘wait’ for things to become clearer. Don’t rush ahead… don’t seize the opportunity…

NEVER ACT IN THE MOMENT OF ANXIOUS – URGENT – CONFUSION.

Sometimes, God is intentionally slowing us down to protect us… or to direct us in a new area that isn’t quite ready to be initiated. Sometimes, he’s simply eliminating our options so the choices are much simpler and straightforward. 

Either way, it’s essential that we trust our father to speak when it’s time for us to know. Until then, my advice is to “carry-on” in the same manner and direction that you started from. (Provided it was inspired and confirmed to be of God)

These are some of the hardest and yet richest moments of our lives. A time of uncertainty grows our faith, sharpens our hearing, and strengthen our resolve. We learn to expand our self-control (Saying ‘no’ to our emotions and impulses) and we gain patience and wisdom in the waiting.

It is hard to pray and hear ‘nothing’… but it’s meant to be a blessing, so keep asking, keep praying. God’s going to bring clarity. He will answer, and when He does it will make so much more sense than it does right now!

This blog was inspired by the following text: James 1:2-8 ESV. 

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Love you all, Pastor Brad.

The Flaws of Family…

Every year we gather as families. 

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

That will create some drama. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor B.

 

 

 

Passion and Purpose… Connecting the dots

What makes your heart sing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet…

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

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

If this liberty is available, what does it mean?

Couple of thoughts and encouragements;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Brad.

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

Wrestling with God…

The struggle is real.

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

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

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

What now?

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

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

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

This is wrestling with God.

jacob-wrestling-with-god2

Jacob Wrestling 

 

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

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

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

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

Wrestling changes everything.

It must.

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

Pastor B.

When you can’t love anymore… Love Fatigue

“Love Fatigue”.  

A term of my own creation. Love Fatigue – “Refers to ‘a chronic or enduring feeling of being unable to love anymore.”

Spouses, Parents, Teachers, Friends, and Pastors are all affected by the presence of this often un-diagnosed condition… a subtle but devastating condition known as ‘Love Fatigue’.

What are the symptoms? 

Lack of affection for others. Lack of interest in sharing life. Lack of emotion, especially an absence of compassion or empathy. Reduced awareness of the needs of those around you. Lack of concern for most anything or anyone. Self absorption and brutal self criticism. Lack of patience for others, especially those we live with or work around.

What causes it? 

Emotional fatigue. Chronic stress of an unrelenting nature. Spiritual isolation and independence. Pride. Unresolved anger. Unforgiveness. Feelings of relational despair and hopelessness. Stupid (annoying) people.  

Love Fatigue is all too common for men and women in long-term relationships. (Friendship, Family, Marriage, Church body) Usually the condition grows more invasive over time, starting from a simple mis-understanding or mis-communication into a distorted and perceived pattern of injustice or abusive behavior. Untreated, it forms deep roots in the cardiac and cerebral tissues as repeated opportunities for intimacy are rejected or avoided and a general frustration with other people grows uncontrollable.

boldomatic.com

boldomatic.com

 

Can it be treated or cured? 

Yes. Love fatigue is treatable with the regular (minimum of once a week) application of a spiritual soaking procedure; including exposure to the presence of God, the sacred word, and the Holy Spirit. This treatment has been proven  to help those afflicted to reduce the conditions crippling symptoms.

Research has shown,  only the removal of the ‘justification gene’, can cure the Love Fatigue condition permanently. This genetic & inherited sin-factor chromosome has been linked directly to behavior markers identified as ‘pride’ and “presumption‘.

Unfortunately the genetic factors responsible for “Love Fatigue” must be replaced with new DNA from a unique and rare donor type…Specifically an individual who has never been infected or affected by the condition. (See the your local pastor or Christian friend for more information on Jesus Christ – his history and claims of divinity).

In addition to finding an appropriate donor, the ‘tainted’ genetic mutations must be aggressively treated to prevent re-infection. Fortunately, once the donor procedure is completed… the remnants of the Love Fatigue virus can be easily flushed from the patient.

A simple, self-application of an oral and bitter tasting medicine known as Humility’ has been used and proven effective in long term studies. The treatment can be quite painful and only works when combined with a complimentary pain-reducing ingredient, “Grace.  When used together, an effective tonic is made and Love Fatigue can be completely cured.

Love Fatigue can be easily misdiagnosed, and is fatal to relationships if left untreatedSpecifically at risk are those who misinterpret their symptoms as external or environmental in nature, and simply seek to avoid exposure or aggravation. For successful treatment, a daily self-examination is required to see if any residual presence of the “Love Fatigue” gene remains. (Source – Dr. St. Paul – Epistle to the Romans, circa AD 55)

I had fun writing this…but only partly. It’s obviously an illustration far too close to the literal truth to be denied. Feeling some ‘love fatigue’ in our long-term relationships is normal and human. Just don’t let it grow deeper and consume you. Scripture clearly provides us with the best advice possible…”clothe yourself with humility and grace” and watch your love grow strong again.

Pastor B.

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

Day 4… Road Trip Revival. #iShineontheroad “Attitude at Altitude!”

Rolled into Dubois WY… snagging the last 2 rooms at the local Super 8. Dusty, dry and breezy. Temps in July were pushing 100F as we drove the 2 lane ribbon across the hazy, flat, high plains of eastern Wyoming. The sun lingered slow and low in the horizon… seven, eight… almost nine pm before we saw it start to slip over the distant ridge.

The Mountains!

The Mountains!

Sweaty, tired and butt numb we felt the miles. Wall SD to Dubois WY is only about 600 miles with a short detour to Mt.Rushmore NP, but it’s a good long 12 hours of travel. We crashed early and didn’t really notice the clear cool night emerging outside our windows.

We awoke to winter.

42F at 6:30am. My breath fogging the inside of our SUV. My naked legs one giant goose-bump of frigid skin.I had to dig out one of my light fleece pull-over’s to give my body some chance at finding warmth. The shock was complete. We had gone from the blazing heat of high summer sun to COLD.

A sixty degree temperature swing in 8 hours.

We were in the mountains and I couldn’t be happier. The cool / cold morning was such a relief. Felt like a peppermint patty embrace to my summer sweat soaked brain. No humidity, No sweating, No bugs. AWESOME !

As I look around to find someone else to share my jubilant happiness with… I only saw heaps of blankets and fetal postured freezing teens huddled in the back. Chattering teeth and groans quickly deflated me.

I confidently proclaimed the cold wouldn’t last! In fact, for sure by noon it would be bright and warm again, at least 80F with gorgeous mountain summer light. We were heading up the Wind River Valley to clip the edge of Grand Teton NP and push into Yellowstone! The grandest of them all. I had no idea it would turn out to be one of the coldest days possible for July. Snow flurries and sleet would be settled in by noon and would never allow temps to rise higher than 55F.

Tough Day

Tough Day

This led to some complaint and grumbling… but no one could deny the beauty of the mountain scenes before us and we toured the iconic spaces and places (Old Faithful, Yellowstone Falls, Buffalo on the plains etc…)of our oldest and grandest NP (in lower 48) with layers of shirts and jackets wrapping our unprepared limbs. As our altitude rose over 10,000 feet, our attitudes grew a bit short and over the long day of driving and stopping, shooting selfies, and dodging the hordes of tourists… some of us got very crabby 🙂

When we drove up and over the highest pass back to our cozy Super 8 rooms…. it began to snow big time. 3-4 Inches would pile up overnight. I shivered in my hiking shorts as we drove on. Smiling at the irony of it all.

I was the only one smiling. 

Tomorrow our days adventures would change the girls forever. But before the hope of dawn… we had to get through a very dark night.

By God’s grace…. we made it. But it was a tough road to ride.

Day 5 tomorrow; a BRAND NEW DAY.