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.

The Family Business

For thousands of years families have handed down more than a name to their children. Business and commerce, skills, and trades have all been passed from one generation to the next… one family at a time…for millennia.

For Christians, we look to pass our heritage of faith down to our kids like our ancestors did their livelihoods.  As a part of each family’s identity, these ‘family businesses’ were associated with entire regions of a country or state; blacksmith, jeweler, bakers, scholars, tailor, sailor, farmer, and mayors.

Source – Bloomberg News

The idea of families being engaged in the same enterprise of life has been the ‘normal’ for most of our history. Jesus as a carpenter… passed on by his earthly father to him is probably the most notable example, but also the idea of the disciples as fisherman etc… the cycle of living and existing continued with the skills and expertise of a lifetime of learning shared to the next generation with care and dedication.

Today we still see son’s and daughters’ stepping into their parents shoes, professionally and personally. Our kids will eventually adopt what we live (believe)  for their own.  (Proverbs 22:6)

My reminder today is to encourage you to take the time to consider carefully what you plan to pass on to your kids? Not just money and a car for college, but what will you actually transfer to them for a lifetime?

We get so busy. We are so busy. We run all day and then collapse… it’s easy to surrender to the overwhelming sense of being out of touch and ineffective as a parent. But the fact that you are a family is a huge – big – ginormous – deal!

God is for you. He is prepared to send whatever help you need to share your faith and your biblical beliefs with your kids.  That means no matter how weak or weary you may be, God’s strength is there to pick you up,! He promises to provide you with just the right ‘thing’ to say or do with your obstinate tween or teen, able to soothe your frustrations in the heat of any emotional moment and calm your fears for the future!

In short, God is our anchor to life and wisdom. His perspectives are  “the’ perspective, when we can ‘see’ our kids through ‘His” eyes, we’re on track as parents.

The family business is a faith business. We’re all training our kids to grow in their faith. No matter what your professional or career path is, we all share the father’s love and as Jesus said.. “I Must be about my Father’s business” – (Luke 2:49)

And so should we!

Blessings, 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

 

 

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.

Walking with Grief…

When you walk with grief… it’s hard to ‘feel‘ much.

God is there.

People are around.

But not much shows its color.

Flavors fade.

It’s slower inside your head. Kinda numb all over, things that might have grabbed your attention… don’t. That includes your faith. It affects your friendships… your family. It dulls your heart and mind, makes us feel empty inside. Like the dentist numbed more than just our tooth.

I’ve talked with lots of folks walking with grief. The death of a loved one… father, mother, friend, lover, wife, son, or daughter… they say the same basic things. It hurts more than you might have expected... takes time to come ‘back’ from it…

 And it does. 

So… when that grief grows to include your family at large, it wears down your parenting heart and steals some of our hope.  We think, we should be providing the role of comforter – that we should be ‘encouraging’ our kids…we should be strong for them. But we’re not.

We feel our vitality fade as we can’t help but linger on the pain of knowing… we won’t see that person again. We won’t be able to share a coffee or meal or a story some ‘other’ time.  Painfully… their absence becomes clearer, we won’t be doing those things again… they are gone.

At least for now.

The truth is…Eternity is a mystery all it’s own. Unknowable and infinite, we ‘trust’ that God is real and true. That heaven is up and out there and that the cross of Christ is everything it claims to be. That’s what makes us ‘Christian’.

 

 

But that’s in the future… living in today, we walk with GRIEF.

We struggle with Faith.

All of us.

If you are struggling right now… take comfort in these illuminating words from one of my favorite authors.

Has God abandoned us? Did we not pray enough? Is this just something we accept as “part of life,” suck it up, even though it breaks our hearts? After a while, the accumulation of event after event that we do not like and do not understand erodes our confidence that we are part of something grand and good, and reduces us to a survivalist mind-set.

I know, I know—we’ve been told that we matter to God. And part of us partly believes it. But life has a way of chipping away at that conviction, undermining our settled belief that he means us well. I mean, if that’s true, then why didn’t he _______? Fill in the blank. Heal your mom. Save your marriage. Get you married. Help you out more.

Either (a) we’re blowing it, or (b) God is holding out on us. Or some combination of both, which is where most people land. Think about it. Isn’t this where you land, with all the things that haven’t gone the way you’d hoped and wanted?” 

Quote source; from “Waking the Dead” by John Eldredge.

Psalm 42 is written by ‘the’ awesome and epic Hebrew King David, (covenant making dynasty) a friend with God and in the royal line of Christ himself… but after reading his words in the Psalms’ it  strongly suggests he was familiar with and often battled grief.

That he truly felt the powerful drag of depression and despair… if your are too…read this. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/…

Be encouraged. No matter what you can or cannot ‘feel’ today.  No matter what grief is pulling you down… your God is good, you are created and unique. That means you’re day and life are and will be significant! It also means whomever you’re grieving  was also unique and significant and worthy of your love, and grief.

…My dad died on Ash Wednesday, March 1st 2017.

Pastor B.

BGraham quote BB Podcast

—————————

Grief part 2….

My brother’s wife is fading. My precious and only sister in law… mother of three;  Judy Mathias is nearing her end… a battle with brain cancer lost.

She has days to live.

Her family comes to care and provide for her. To lend help to my brother, to hug their three beautiful kids and to say good-bye to Judy.

It’s tragic, and all of us must walk through it… but here’s the twist… in the middle of it all, a daughter’s wedding day. 

Crazy.

Our grandfather/ dad dies… and my daughter is married less than a week later. Now my brothers wife is about to pass and he has a daughters wedding set for days from now.

For both of us … we’re reeling in some kind of emotional shock-wave. Uncharted water so to speak…. We’ve got no way to sort it all out emotionally. No way to make sense of the surges of our joy and grief and frustration. 

The death of my father heavy on my mind, I try to comfort my brother and his family in the midst of their suffering… The truth of these circumstances remind me painfully, each season of life is completely out of my control –

In that ‘helplessness’ of loosing control we can go spastic or relax. We can trust in our God or curse His face… we can still choose to cling to “hope”. To believe that there must be a purpose for it all. To ask for Gods comfort and Redemptive touch in the very messy moment. 


psalm 89


I’m learning… suffering (or grief) brings profound clarity to our lives… a wrestling away of our personal agenda’s and petty ‘little’ wrongs. It reveals the ways we try to ‘use’ God when we need him… a way to fix our problems…

Suffering illuminates a path much more intimate and true and way less manipulative.

A quieter path of knowing our Father and of allowing ourselves to be known by Him… and that hidden knowledge… it changes us.

Tozer says it like this… ““O, God, we don’t want anything You have, we want You.” That’s the cry of a soul on its way up.

From his book, Success and the Christian, 29.

 
Walk through the grief dear one. Look for the unseen but clearly felt ‘hand’ of God as it gently but firmly lifts your hand into His.
It’s not an answer… but it is profoundly reassuring and brings with it the protection of unmistakable peace.
In this peaceful mystery… you will sense the true nature of your savior...  A man of sorrow’s who is acquainted with all our griefs”. 
And that is enough.
 
Sorry for the long (2 part) blog today… this one’s been building for awhile.
Pastor B.

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.

 

 

 

Waiting for the other shoe to drop…

Ever find yourself worrying about why things are going so well?

Seems silly…

That fearful anticipation of what will inevitably go wrong in the very near future, waiting for the ‘other – shoe – to – drop’. A  day-to-day fear for some, a distant hovering apprehension for others.

However you describe the anxiety of the unknown, It’s real for all of us. I find myself guilty of pondering the ‘what if’s‘. Over thinking and watching for whatever’s out there and looming in the dark. Listening for an unknown danger just out of my sight, or something hidden over the next life horizon … a circumstance about to catch me off guard.

Why do we do that?

Are we just conditioned to expect the worst… or is it something deeper. Are we cynical and afraid because we distrust ourselves, not convinced God truly cares about us? About me… ?

Today I’m sharing some personal insights related to the uncertainties that torment so many of us. Here are three powerful truths to combat the unknowns of our lives. header_faith

  1. God isn’t trying to punish us. He’s come to save us. To redeem our lives, not stomp us in the dirt. Anything else is a lie. A deception designed to make us distrust. 

  2. Good and Bad things are relative to our perception in the moment. What may seem like a tragedy on day one can transform into a blessing within a few weeks. Faith is trusting God can and will use anything in our life for good. 

  3. Trusting means letting go of control. Anxiety is wrapped around our need to know. Being a Christ follower, means we’re surrendering our independence for His will, not our own. 

These 3 reminders are anchors for me on days when I can’t quite relax. When my heart is racing and I don’t know why… I can pause and pray, and remember the truth.

image - thelosthighwayhotel.com

image – thelosthighwayhotel.com

Parents, our world is full of crazy. Listening to the news can wipe away a week of rest in a moment. The mailbox might have a letter we don’t want to see from the doctor… or our kids might bring a note home that turns our stomach to lead. Whatever your fear…take it to God, remember these 3 truths and watch as it fades.

You’re not in this alone. To prove my point, I’m starting a brand new PodCast/Blog (Brilliantly Brave Parenting) with some friends at iShine and the TGA (Tween Gospel Alliance) to illustrate how everyday parents are living extraordinary lives.

Pastor B.

PS – Read and pray this passage of scripture anytime you need relief. Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV) – Source Biblegateway.com  6  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”