RoadTrip Europe… an Epic Adventure and Epiphany

We long to leave our ‘mark’ on our kids. To transfer some of the essential threads of wisdom and knowledge acquired from our travels… a communication of our heart to theirs.

For my wife Paige and I… this was the trip to do it.

The sobriety of seeing our lives racing into middle age and the growing, stark, shadows of mortality… led us to take the plunge as parents. To invest in one last-epic-roadtrip, an adventure to share as a family before everyone scattered.We could see our lives forever changing with marriages and in-laws, grandbabies and graduations. All of what has been would end… and what will be was about to begin.

A rite of passage from following our lead… to blazing their own path. A time to expand their lives from what they knew to what ‘could – be’. As the saying goes, “it was time to make old ceilings into new floors!” 

After a careful scrutiny of our schedules… it was quickly determined we only had one week to make a European roadtrip a reality. Christmas day to New Year’s day. Seven days to hit the road and rails, to fly over the big pond and back. Literally, we had only one week out of a year when all five of us could travel freely and still satisfy our work, education, and ministry commitments.

So… Christmas being our ‘favorite’ time of year… we determined to surprise them by planning the entire trip without telling them where or when we would be… just letting them know they would need a passport, 1 backpack for clothes and a pair of good walking shoes.

Three days into the planning we were exhausted. Coordinating flights, train schedules, hotels in foreign countries and sightseeing tours was intensely complicated and very difficult to sort out the ‘good’ from the ‘hype’.

As an experienced domestic and Canadian traveller, I used Southwest Airlines, my mobile Marriot app and the popular Trip Advisor website for 90% of my own booking. For a European trip… this was a whole different ball-game.

Try booking rail tickets 2 months in advance for five from Zurich to Rome and see how complicated things get with Google? 

Long story short… we discovered a very simple, and very helpful social media site known as “Thumbtack“. A professional services finder, this app / site is an amazing and simple way to get Travel agencies to bid on your trip. You can give them a basic budget, dates, preferred countries to visit and personal preferences for hotels and travel and zing-zap, they get you up to five bids from different agencies to compare. It saved us thousands of dollars and took the hassle out of planning such a major trip. Highly recommended.

In a few days we had chosen our agency, locked in a budget, purchased airfare, rail tickets, hotels, sightseeing tours and had an itinerary to follow from day one to seven. A wonderful experience for us, the agency we settled on was out of San Francisco, and did a tremendous and economical job of getting us the best hotel locations, train seats, and tours we could afford. Their familiarity with the european world and specific cities we wanted to visit was so helpful and so much better than trying to figure it all out piece by piece from various websites, reviews, and articles. (Terra Travel Group link)

So how did this ‘Epic” trip go?

Tune in later to find out… let’s just say it didn’t disappoint. ( this is one of 3 blog posts to detail out our European adventure)

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St. Peter’s Square – Dec ’16

Our next seven days would become a reference point from which all of our family history could be considered. The passion and excitement of new discoveries would be forever shared between us… an epic treasure of sight and sound, flavors and feelings… an awesome and unforgettable gift for the senses and spirit to touch and absorb.

An “Epiphany” of sorts…

It reminded me of the “fullness” of God’s love for us… His desire in wanting us to experience His world with all of it’s richness and beauty, to explore and expand on our knowledge of what is good, and true, and right in life.

St. Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus says it like this… “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every familyin heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV) Biblegateway source. 

The Suddenness of Life

Parents… it’s a strange world as you get older… after two decades of ridiculously busy… it get’s quiet.

My wife and I said it over and over this past week… it was all so ‘sudden’…. Dictionary; “refers to the quickness of an occurrence, although the event may have been expected” : (ie. a sudden change in the weather.) 

Graduations… engagements, marriages, births, deaths, dementia, and everything in-between. Life is moving forward, with or without us.  jessica-graduation-2

We knew these transitions, these major life moments were coming… watching others for years go through it before it came to us. We get the big idea…there is a cycle to life and there are specific seasons…moments for beginning and ending. A time for dying, birthing and aging…but no one can express to you how it ‘feels‘.  

The years and weeks of anticipation… drag so slow in the moments and then life will sneak by us in a heartbeat. Everything once so familiar, now absent. A life built around our kids, or a spouse… now vacant. We wonder at the empty spaces of our days and pause… tempted to linger in the past, we risk missing the present.

Christ said it like this… 34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matthew 6:35 MSG) 

We can mourn the passing of what was…AND enjoy and love what is. We should be prepared to celebrate and treasure life, past – present – future. It’s all in the perspective we choose. Life isn’t to only be savored and slowly poured… it’s also a huge rush of living and loving, bringing life and dying. It’s all about the stuff in-between. The sharing of hope and suffering, of pain and passions… nothing in living is ever passive. 

Only a fool would consider the future with casual disregard, ignoring the suddenness of our lives and the moments we’ve been granted. Wouldn’t it be wiser to treasure the gift hidden within our journey.

What will you do with your ‘gift’? 

Pastor B.

PS – from poet R.L. Sharpe:

Isn’t it strange how princes and kings,
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
And common people like you and me
Are builders for eternity?
 
To each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass and a book of rules.
And each will build, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.

 

Is it a wonderful life…?

As the title implies… a thought or two from my favorite Christmas movie…

Jimmy Stewart’s classic performance as “George Bailey” (from the iconic 1946 film “It’s a wonderful life”), always sets the tone for my annual exuberant gush of seasonal joy.

Yet… it begs the question…“IS it a WONDERFUL life?”

So many rushing by, so much of life hidden behind the busy… it takes a profound event to slow us down enough to consider the deeper things. For George Bailey… he faces the moment of his despair with desperation… while all of us watch and hope all over again that he’ll see beyond his profound grief into the true wealth that is his amazing life.

But when it’s no longer a story, and the grief is real… things shift and we’re left wondering. “Is it a wonderful life?” 

It's a wonderful life, 1946

It’s a wonderful life, 1946

Recently my family has experienced some very dark news, a loss of hope and the inexorable pull of mortality come too early. It’s a bitter moment that brings sadness and despair, but also clarity and renewed appreciation.

As we hurry through our days… let’s slow down enough to consider the ‘why’. I can’t answer the question for you… and neither can George Bailey, but it’s important to think about. It’s important to remember what truly matters in your life… for me, it’s all about relationships. 

The weight of our life is contained in our relationships, they are ‘the’ most precious gifts of all. The gift of being loved and loving,  the precious privilege of a genuine friendship, the gift of giving and receiving comfort… of shared grief… these are the truest things we can ever achieve.

It’s not in our IRA fund or the number of mortgages on our house… it’s not in our kids GPA’s or a starting spot on the team. It’s in the relationships we forge along the way that we define our lives.

This Christmas let’s all remember George Bailey and act accordingly…

Pastor B.

PS – as a pastor, I would be derelict if I didn’t point out the ultimate relationship being offered to us… and to George Bailey. It was and is with our creator. His interest in our well-being and desire to be a part of every detail of our life is well demonstrated in the Christmas story – as well as in my favorite movie.

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.”

Brilliantly Brave Parenting

I heard the phrase ‘brilliantly brave‘ last night during a prayer at my parish in Columbia TN. (props to Tanya Grabbe)

It struck a note with me… you know that tingling sensation… resonating with something deeper inside your heart. A connecting point between a vague idea you had and a specific phrase that captures the essence of your thought.

“Brilliantly Brave’ was exactly what I had been searching for. It described how I saw moms and dads and parents across the globe trying to raise up decent kids in an insane and out of control world.

“Brilliantly Brave’.

I Love the feelings those two words evoke, the sense of raw courage and strength they lend to any phrase. And of course… they also work perfectly for a new podcast I’m developing with iShine and the Tween Gospel Alliance (TGA), a series designed specifically for parents who are struggling and feeling a lot less than ‘brilliant or brave!

GONE WILD VIA GETTY IMAGES

GONE WILD VIA GETTY IMAGES

In Our culture it’s common to google an answer to almost any issue we face. Wanna know how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey to perfection? Google it.

Wanna discover how to fix a drywall mistake on your living room wall? Google it.

Wanna fix your 12 year old’s attitude…? Google it…?

 We’re trained to ask “Siri’ or “Alexa’ to scour the internet for answers. To locate the smartest and best way to fix our problem. Very little discernment required for most of life’s little problems. 

Raising kids of course is way more complicated than a new recipe or DIY project. So who do you turn to for parenting advice? Where do you go to get answers for relational challenges like growing, hormonal, teens/tweens?

Very few of us would turn to the mirror in our search. Even less of us would ever consider our advice or insights as “brilliant’. I hope I can change that misperception.

My suggestion isn’t to chuck every other idea or advice out there, but to encourage you to cautiously peruse whatever it is “Siri’ suggests. Friends and family are always ready to give advice, and of course you’re local pastor or priest is a great place to go for some sage counsel… but what about you?

What if you put you’re own name on the door and listened to what God was saying directly to you about you’re problem? What if you seriously spent some time with the bible, you’re spouse, and in prayer?

Would God answer?

Would God actually give you insight and wisdom as to how to respond and parent? Maybe even show you the specific keys to your kids heart?

Yes… He would.

If you share my Christian worldview even a little… you recognize that in God’s Kingdom, there are no coincidences. The child you have has been hand-picked for you and you for them. No way someone else has a deeper insight than you into the inner workings of your kids heart. Aided by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the strength of faith you can go where no expert can, right to the very center mass of the issue surrounding your problem.

That means you are the most “Brilliant” parent possible for ‘your child.

Now… if only we were “Brave‘ enough.

🙂

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.