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.

Why life can be so hard.

Life is hard. No denying that… but why?

livewellmagazine.org

Deep question… lots of ways to respond to that statement…but here are couple of thoughts to consider.

  1. Our own ‘Free-Will”. 

  2. There is a “Villain” in our story

  3. Other People’s “free-will’ 

Could it be that simple? I believe it really is…

Item #1 – “Our Own Free Will”.  We make choices. Everyday -it’s free-will that allows us to decide who to live with or run from,  when we will go to bed and what we’re going to eat or wear. All of these choices have a consequence. Each consequence is ours alone to bear. That’s hard. I make bad choices every day. We can’t ‘duck’ our part in the play – so to speak.

Item #2“There is a Villain in our story. Don’t forget you’re in a larger ‘story’ called the Gospel. In that context there is a good King and an evil prince. One is looking to protect and provide for you… the other is stealthy and deceptive, seeking to steal and destroy. For the Christian, our life is a constant heaven and hell skirmish. We’re fighting a two front battle all the time; (1) we’re pushing past the resistance of our own selfish ‘old’ self as well as the (2) demonic push back of Lucifer (the villain) who has lost everything in his rebellion from God. He is ruthless and persistent in the attack. Bad things are thrown at us all the time… without knowing who it is that’s out there, we could be fooled into thinking it’s us, our friends,… or worse, God to blame.

Item #3 – “Other people’s Free-Will; Yep… you know what this means. Other people in and around our story can make totally lame choices that will definitely affect us. From walking out of a marriage to stealing money from our company… each individual can and will fail us from time to time. Understanding that as they fail us… we’re likely to fail them too… we may choose to come to ‘peace’ with that reality or we’ll isolate. We’ll try to run and run and run… until we can’t run any longer. Simply avoiding the risk of being injured by others.

As Christians we must walk out our lives in the same context as everyone else… however, we have an optional fourth item to consider. The Christian’s helper / comforter is the Holy Spirit in us. It radically affects our perspective, infuses us with supernatural power, and warns of danger with discernment and wisdom.

With the presence of the Holy Spirit, we’re well equipped to respond to the world of free-will and the randomness of our lives, and we’re protected from the viciousness of our soul sworn enemy. The Holy Spirit along with God’s truth (scripture) gives us more than an edge in living our lives with victory.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another,

If you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you’re soul tired… you need some newness of life.

I recommend the prayer of the Holy Spirit to jump-start your day.

Start with a spiritual song… sing along to it (out-loud).

Engage your heart and mind in this effort… allow several minutes to pass. Linger in the presence of God, soak up the words you’re listening to and then quietly Pray for God to grant you the grace and strength for your day,  ask the Holy Spirit to ‘fill’ you afresh.

Read in scripture or listen to it on a podcast. Hear the truth. Let it remind you again of God’s plans and purposes for your life… let it’s warmth push out the lies and agreements that may have crept into your psyche. God’s word freeing us from bondage and false accusation, opening us up to restoration. Ask for God’s protection and power to live your day in a posture of optimism and hope. .

Wait. . .

if necessary, ask for forgiveness as any recent sins may come immediately to mind. Don’t avoid this. Then Repeat…

Wait. . .

when God’s’ peace and purity flood your heart… resume your day.

Repeat again tomorrow.

Watch you ‘hard life’ suddenly change. It will steadily keep changing as your days start to morph into a series of satisfying and beautiful ones. A profound change in attitude and posture will start to show in you, as God through his redemptive supernatural power changes you.

A changed “you”… will begin to choose differently. A changed ‘you’ will respond to attacks without fear. A changed ‘you’ will grow in patience for those who  live selfishly. Not because you had a profound breakthrough or read the right book, but simply by seeing your life as it truly is. 

This is the Christian “LIFE”.

Pastor B.

Reference Verse for this blog; Romans 15:4-5a ” 

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

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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.

Wooley

Fathers are a fact… good dads are rare. I had both. This is my tribute post. To the one who paved the way for me to become the man  I am today. Rest in peace dad… you did good. Proud to be your son.

Dads story begins on May 20th, 1938…. and ended March 1st, 2017

Remembering “Wooley”

My dad was a remarkable man- if you knew him you at least sensed there was more to his story than you could see…and… there really was.

Dad was known for his slowly articulated oral adventures 🙂  – he could talk at great length about the nature of the human body and the spiritual soul – or the rigors of climbing Longs peak in Colorado… he drove every kind of car or truck and came home with a different vehicle 2 or 3 times some years. He was motorcycle man who owned 2 BMW’s – a couple of Honda Gold Wings and full dress Harley Davidson before he retired from riding.

He loved sports and the outdoors, he was a man of great faith and great integrity – He kept his word. Period.

His work ethic was unmatched – he worked dawn to dusk and then came home & cleaned the house or garage or a car…  🙂

His greatest loves beyond his Faith &  “Mimi” (who he adored for over 60 years ) were;

His two boys –

Strong black Coffee

Chiropractic –

Cars & motorcycles

the Blue Ridge Parkway –

Working outside – having a project to start

Mountains and the men who explored them

His neighbors and his few but loyal life long friendships

A few quotes about my dad 

The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him.” Solomon

  • He was born with the bark on” (Sackett proverb 🙂

– “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” Theodore Hesburgh

You gotta grab a root and growl son!” – Denny Fredrick (Clyde – Sackett  / June)

Louis L’Amour quote describes him well…

This-this was what made life: a moment of quiet, the water falling in the fountain, the girl’s voice. . . a moment of captured beauty. Those who are truly wise will never permit such moments to escape.”

 “We were together. I forget the rest”. – Walt Whitman

He lived at least four lives that I know of…

1 – His early years, “Ferdinand” (the bull – a nickname given by his favorite uncle – Vernon Mathias) was a humble, honest, hometown boy – he became a 4 sport letterman and athletic star in Peru IN / a jock with a beautiful young woman he discovered in the Peru high school marching band that he started dating early in HS. Dad was the clean cut – “happy days” all-American kid – responsible and handsome – he worked to pay his way – no favors and no handouts – he chose a career in Chiropractic after struggling with shin splints in his sports endeavors – married and fearless he went to St Louis to find his fortune – Mimi in tow.

dad-1960s-with-kevin-and-mimi

Mimi – Kevin and Dr. G L Mathias – Circa 1965 – Tuscola IL

2 – Dr G L Mathias of Tuscola, IL  was an ambitious – successful businessman, family man and leader. Developing and mentoring doctors and/or  disciples wherever he could. A man of deep faith he dedicated his life to serving God and opened his home and heart to Gods people generously for over two decades. Raising his two boys along side Europeans, African missionaries and an Indian holy man. He brought in countless exiles to live with us – single men and women, even down on their luck families who were broken and battered by life – needing a home and safe place to recover. We always had 2 or 3 or 5 people living in our home – some for years at a time.

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Retired “Wooley” and his family in VA

3 – Retired Doc Mathias of Fancy Gap, VA. was a whole “nuther smoke” bringing his widowed father in to live with them  on the mountain, as he and Mimi retired to their beloved Blue Ridge Parkway. There he was a ‘more’ laid back – grandfather of six with extra time to golf and enjoy the views. But he couldn’t stop working entirely – helping with a local winery / managing a golf course and of course remodeling his home with infinite number of “projects”. He managed to continue treating dozens of patients for “free” in his basement and had the closest cut grass and bushes in the county. He made numerous medical mission trips to impoverished orphanages in Romania, his beloved Mimi by his side. Dad was always moving- always doing – retirement wasn’t a reality for him. This season of dad’s life is when we simply began to refer to him as ‘Wooley’ – christened so by his first grandson… David ‘wooley buggar’ Mathias.

4 – Wooley and Mimi decided to relocate after some health scares and they showed up in Spring Hill TN about 11 years ago. Leaving their idyllic mountain home in VA, they moved to Tennessee to live with me and my family of five 🙂 Driven closer by health concerns and a renewed desire to be involved with Christian ministry & a faith community – “woooley” and “Mimi” became a “thing” much bigger than they knew. Despite his age and fading health – Woolley was constantly working around the garage or the neighbors, a friend to every family in our Benevento cul-de-sac –

wooley-and-his-buddies

Wooley and 2 of his adopted grand-kids in Spring Hill

If you did’t know him… Dad loved everyone – bought gifts for the city sanitation guys and local landscape migrant workers every year – he noticed the guys in the background and cared for the sick and hurting for free until the last year or two. He was a father to “many” and a mentor to more! His home was open to any who needed to talk or pray – and he greeted every visitor at church with a warm smile and hug. He was a gentle soul with love to share for so many. Just look around you… we gathered here are but a small fraction of the lives he and Mimi touched – each in a very unique and special way.

So, depending on when you met my dad – how you knew him… you could have entirely different ideas of who he was… how he lived, what he stood for. It is true that he finished his life a better man – a kinder & gentler man than when he began. He understood pain and suffering – sorrow and sadness more than most. He knew of humility and loss, recognizing the world was broken – and he was ready to go to a place where life was as it should be…  yet he chose to believe the best about people and gave to anyone who had a need. He treasured loyalty and faithfulness above all else.

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In his last months he fought through the cloud of dementia and mental confusion – always searching for a way to escape – his faithful “Gracie Anne” by his side – He never forgot the faces of his family and friends – and loved with a “fierce” and “stubborn” love that is all but extinct today.

family-2015

The Wooley Mathias Family – 2015 

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Through it all, my dad was loyal & strong. He could be quite stubborn – intensely focused – thick headed (which means always right)- could be mite controlling and often was overly demanding of himself and others – but he was always gracious and gentle when given time to reflect – dad had a genuine heart and wanted to serve in the simple and unseen ways. Setting up chairs, sweeping the floors… holding the door.

He loved to eat out with Mimi on their frequent date nights – loved to see his grand-kids and have a glass of wine with the neighbors – he loved wood fires at night – enjoyed listening to Rich Mullins & James Taylor. He owned every James Bond, loved John Wayne, and adored the days and ways of Andy Griffith. He loved reading his bible, praying for other people – and listening to the DAB with father Brian. He made it to Israel, Italy, Switzerland, France, Romania, Canada and Alaska – journeys all of the heart and then took our entire family on an epic Road-trip to Canada in 2010 to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. His love of travel and beauty was passed on to every member of our family… from the oldest to the youngest. That legacy lives on here at Road Trip parenting.

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Wooley and Mimi Family Road Trip! Circa 2010

Dad was the genuine deal… the authentic article, nothing fake or artificial about him. He lived with a different code. He took commitment seriously. He was chivalrous and bold, courageous and firm at a time when men were supposed to be quiet and reserved – he cherished our mom as the queen of our home and his life. He set the marriage bar very high… showing us boys how to faithfully love and endure through the good and the bad.

mimi-and-wooley-dancing-2012

Wooley with his “Mimi”

He loved his native Indiana and always thought of himself as a Hoosier – a simple man of plain tastes he preferred jeans jackets and work boots to a coat and tie. He longed for the crisp mountain air of Estes Park to the warm breezes off of Mt Pisgah’s heights – dad was a lover of American history & the natural beauty of Gods exquisite creation.

His favorite passages of scripture were in the Psalms – 23 and 139. He read and re-read the scriptures – meditating on their words and meanings – praying for hours some days for the trials of others.

He asked for his grave marker to simply say… “he walked with God” , not a mere boast… it was the truth and any who knew Him would same it’s so.

Dad was a character – but he was also a man of character – and that more than any other quality inspires me to live my life with renewed courage and deep integrity every day. His life left a deep impact on thousands and my brother and I were blessed to know and be fathered by him. Dad was old school – and wonderfully unique.

dads-last-days-feb-17

February 2017 – A moment of repose captured by his grand-daughter Colleen

My Dads life is over… his course has been run. I believe he was greeted by Christ himself… with a thunderous whisper… “well done

I know I have a lot of shoe yet to fill…and by God’s grace and my father’s authentic example, I shall endeavor to do just that.

Pastor B.

Rome…more than a Cliche’

After a breathless 24 hours in Switzerland we crossed into Milan and Lake Como… on our way to the eternal city.

Lake Como is the freaking bomb. Simply put… if you’re in the area, you MUST GO.

It exceeds the hype unlike most everything else in life. We managed a four-hour regional train excursion from Milan to Varenna, arriving before dawn. It was worth every bleary eyed moment of lost sleep to see the rose-colored sky as it hit the snow-capped peaks of the epic Italian Alps. varenna_topslider_11

Imagine a picturesque Italian village nestled in a surreal mountain landscape, add the most beautiful lake possible and then sprinkle some pixie dust. 🙂 That’s Lake Como.

After a two stage breakfast of homemade fruit croissants and local cheese, bread, and cappuccino we hit the rails back to Milan for our ultimate destination. The views of paradise firmly etched in our hearts for a lifetime.

Roma didn’t disappoint. At the risk of living a touristy cliché’, we had chosen to take our kids to see the eternal city and the quintessential history of Rome and Vatican City. We stayed at a great little hotel near the Colosseum for three nights and made the most of every moment. 

We bought the sightseeing bus (hop on off)  passes and they were surprisingly helpful to have! Distances and weather often kept us from easily walking from downtown shopping in Rome to the Vatican or Forum areas without a ride and the narrated audio headphone option gave us a greater appreciation for the architecture and significant history hidden all around us.

In Rome… EVERYTHING is beautiful and old and historical. You cannot see or grasp it all… so you have to pick what and where you will go and commit.

We did exactly that. We bought tickets to tour the Vatican Museums / Sistine Chapel and Colosseum along with the Roman Forum. (a full 3 days for anyone to tackle!)

We walked the cobblestone streets around Trevi Fountain, toured the Iconic Pantheon, and we ate a lot… drank wine, water with bubbles and pounds of bread. We soaked up a golden sunset on the Spanish Steps (view below) and shopped the unique boutiques of the old city. rome-on-a-budget

I would highly recommend each site or area mentioned as ‘must see’s for any who visit Rome. It’s a cliché’ for sure, but they are all breathtakingly beautiful and somehow an essential experience for gaining a better understanding of the world and it’s abundant cultural diversities.

In Rome you will hear dozens of languages, see every kind of style as tourist from Asia to Africa, Russia to Brazil and nearly  every culture in-between. There are so many diverse groups, families from every corner of the globe and all of us are in ‘awe’ of the wonder that surrounds. No one pretends it’s not affecting them… we all openly stop to stare and gawk. Inspired and overwhelmed by the power of this eternal city… as the history and beauty cast’s a profound spell over any who take the time to see.

I cannot speak of Rome without mentioning the food. It’s everything you hoped it would be and more… our favorite was a little tiny landmark restaurant, La Carbonara. (English is not a guarantee here, but struggle on and order the house specialty, you will not regret it.)

The various eateries and coffee shops that dot every block are all little treasures in themselves. Food is freshly prepared or baked on the premises… it takes time, forces you to slow down and savor the moments. Another wonder of Rome… the pace of your life shifts and suddenly you’re not in a hurry, not anxious to be somewhere… like time is standing still.

That moment of slowed pulse and renewed joy is the pure beauty that is Rome.

 

 

 

 

 

European Roadtrip- Switzerland

Zurich from O’hare via Swiss Air.

Non-stop, cramped…and great food. 9 hours in the air and Christmas day ’16 was in our rear-view. The transition from the dreary – dirty – deafeningly loud Chicago to landing in pristine Zurich International was profound.

Such contrast sets the stage for your introduction to Swiss culture.

zurich

Zurich

Punctual.

Planned.

Precise.

Perfectly ordered.

You will need to know some phrases in German, and sometimes French. But in general, english speakers will get along just fine with the well marked railroads and city streets.

This is Switzerland.

A land of the clean and orderly life. Modern and and wealthy it exudes efficiency and cleanliness. Most of the buildings are crisp and new, well maintained and sharply styled. If they are vintage or old buildings, they are restored and in nearly new shape… nothing is left to rot here. Restrained in style, cities leans towards minimalist modern and it’s inhabitants indulge in all things european and luxurious… Audi, Prada, Mercedes… BMW and Gucci to name a few.

Middle class in Switzerland is upperclass everywhere else.

The country is a superb demonstration to thousands of years of financial success and political restraint. It’s natives are friendly, competent, and prepared. No slackers here… no street bums or slums visible. It’s a huge shift in culture from the obvious decline of Chicago’s aged infrastructure to one of the most modern and influential cities in the world.

It’s a shock to step out of the Swissair flight into this near utopia. A powerful testament to the Swiss people and their ability to not only survive, but thrive in the center of so much chaos and cultural confusion that is and has been past / present / and future Europe. 

Yet buried in the all of the efficient and modern facade lies a simple and honest soul.

The Swiss past intrudes in a balanced way…with Railway lines and old train stations linking past and present. Gorgeous, iconic swiss villages still exist here, hiding a  charming and gentle world of disneyesque valleys, lakes, and peaks. Worthy of Cinderella herself, the Swiss countryside is painted with green hills and white capped Alpine scenes. Each postcard view peeking through, just enough to remind you of the old country. Of the past and patient Swiss ways.

They hint of their passionate pursuit of skiing and climbing, hardy athletic lifestyles…of cheese and fresh food. From the simplicity of a summer marketplace to the heritage of the ‘old’ city hidden behind modern glass and steel business parks.

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Old Town – Zurich

The shopkeepers, farmers, and people less complicated are still living, working, and operating like their forefathers did five hundred years before. Behind the excellent freeways… are small, tight, cobblestone streets.

Contrasting the reflective glass of a highrise are small, leaded, windows with stone buildings and slate roofs. Swiss treasures on display in their modest spaces… cheeses, custom made watches, suits, and garish clocks all dotted in-between by the finest in chocolate and fruit pastries. These clusters of old houses, shops, and churches define for visitors…the best of their distinctive past.

Life is good in Switzerland. Very good. 

Their economy as stable as any in the history of the world. Bankers, businessman, and brilliantly careful… this small nation is less in size than the state of Tennessee and has about the same population. Yet it’s political and financial strength are legendary and world ranging. Unequaled banking service and fierce neutrality mark it’s national identity. But along with all that fiscal stature are more earthy natural charms. Alpine lakes, towering peaks, and remarkably beautiful villages make for world class scenery and dream-like horizons.  In my opinion… Switzerland is a ‘must-visit’ for any Yankee looking to grasp a piece of the European puzzle.

For our family… Switzerland represents more than beauty and poise, it’s our heritage. Four generations ago my paternal and maternal great-great-great grandparents migrated from Switzerland to the US. Their DNA leaving its mark on our mountain loving, cheese eating… watch collecting… Mathias clan. 

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Alpine Village

Some things are beyond cliche’ and I wanted my kids to see and know where they come from and why we’re like we are. From our family’s annual Christmas cheese fondue to our OCD desire to stay ordered and efficient… we are Swiss from the inside out. It’s cool to see your homeland and begin to understand the pull of hundreds of years of previous generations and grasp the origins of habits deeply held in our family… all perfectly at ease with the ways of another place and time.

This was to be our first and last stop in Europe (we flew in and out of Zurich). It formed the context for our past and future…however, Italy was next, and it’s unique differences would represent the ‘passionate present’ of life. 

Blog 3 of 3 is coming next…. and we have a train to catch and some serious ancient history to discover.

PS  – If in Zurich.. and it’s New Year’s eve… make the trip down to the lakefront and stand on the bridge at the stroke of midnight. Have some local gluhwein (a very warm mixture of  mulled or spiced wine) and enjoy the spectacle of 100K +Swiss natives ushering in the new year with fireworks and furs. Huddle up when you do… it’s cold out there!

 

 

 

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.