The Battle to be still…

Day one started rough.

Battling through the remnants of food-poisoning I barely made the morning flight to Denver. Stomach roiling and exhausted, I was so worn out I seriously considered scrapping this trip before it began.

Southwest flights all seem sold out, so the idea of squishing into a seat with my Six foot Four frame wasn’t exactly appealing or ‘restful’ in my mind.  I was right. Almost three cramped hours later I arrived in Denver, greeted by spring warmth and sunshine. Despite my mashed legs and twisted up back, I was glad to be here… it was a nice change from the rain and wet of Middle TN.

Forbes Photo Credit

My Enterprise rental wasn’t ready, so they upgraded me to a Audi Q3 Quattro. 🙂 NICE.

This brand new luxury compact SUV was a beauty for a rental. Featuring a full panoramic sunroof and posh leather it was a fantastic surprise for me, combined with a sport tuned turbo 2.0 Liter engine and heated seats, and I was suddenly feeling much better!

Until I realized halfway to the mountains that the Bluetooth interface wasn’t working with my phone… which had all my music and podcasts, and Audible book library… etc. I tried for an hour on the side of the road to sync it up – finally accepted the Galaxy phone I had wasn’t going to play nice with the Audi system. On top of that the satellite radio wasn’t turned on – so I only had AM/FM radio and nothing else. To say I was bummed doesn’t begin to describe my state of mind. This trip was supposed to be a time to relax, refresh, and unwind for a few days from my insane schedule. Didn’t look like I could do one of my favorite things… listen to a great book or rocking tunes while driving through the mountains. (Radio – doesn’t work in the high country)

I seriously considered driving back to the Airport to swap vehicles…after all I carefully selected several books and podcasts / playlists just for this trip. I paused in my frustration as something soft inside (Holy Spirit)  whispered it was all ok… seems like it even suggested it was better for me if I kept going, to stick with the car I had been given. So… against my better judgement, I did.

God was beginning to talk to me already.

He was inviting me to join Him on this trip… i wasn’t inviting Him to join me. It’s a subtle but important distinction. I had been drawn into something ‘different’ than any of the dozens of road trips I’ve had before. This was unique and I could sense it right away. 

I was afraid. This felt uncomfortable. It felt odd to be on the road and not have any media or music, or phone, some conversation to listen to. Something, anything to distract my mind. I was about to do a four-day trip without any ‘entertainment’ or company. I was alone and “silent’ in the mountains. No plans, no schedule, no structure. That’s ‘frightening’ for some of us. 🙂

The gentle tug on my heart kept insisting that I would be ‘ok’. I felt a strange but comforting impulse to try this road trip without my normal distractions and noise. Maybe God was asking me to be quiet for a reason…. turns out he was! 

I was surprised by the warmth and sunshine and limited snowpack. For mid March, the snow wasn’t as deep as you would expect in the Rockies. It made for some beautiful driving conditions and I opened up the sunroof and began to let the beauty and warmth sweep over me… I was ready to unwind, to decompress. 

Something indistinct was happening, I was slowing down inside while I drove through the mountains at full speed, the only sound…the wind as it rushed over and around the windows. I could smell the fresh air and pines, the hint of woodsmoke and the distinct songs of birds, but nothing else intruded.

I was alone.

No one to talk with.

No music, no book, no podcast… just hours and hours of solo time.

It was weird at first, but under the oddness it felt good. God was there with me, I felt His presence subtle and strong at the same time. I sensed  I was being invited into something brand new. I had no idea what that would mean or be… but I wanted it.

Travel Recap: Day One:  SWest Flight from Nashville to Denver, drive up to Buena Vista CO and Gunnison, skirting the high desert plains to crash in Montrose. (Trip Link)  Stayed in Montrose CO – had a great meal at Ted Nelson’s Steakhouse.  (TripAdvisor)

Day two coming up next, Montrose CO to Santa Fe NM… stay tuned.

Pastor B.

PS – if you’re sensing you need to slow down and get still… it will be a battle. It means pushing through and past obstacles to your being alone and quiet. I almost didn’t go due to illness. I almost turned the rental back in due to tech issues… and I almost missed the blessing God was inviting me into. Be careful to trust the leading of God more than your comfort zone. He will most likely ask you to do something uncomfortable and not in your plan.

 

 

 

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Silent and Still

Busy doesn’t even begin to describe our lives.

Does it feel like you cram a week worth of life into just 24 hours? Our pace of life can be cruel, exhausting, and increasingly stressful.

Stressing out is more common than you think. (See 2017 study of American Workers Stressed Out Most of the Time – CNBC) Consider these facts… see if you identify with them.

“Participants were asked to rank their stress on a scale of one to five. One in four, 25.7 percent to be precise, said their stress was at a level four. And, 4.9 percent said it was at a five out of five. Altogether, more than 70 percent of respondents ranked their stress at a level three or higher. Over 60 percent said that they felt stressed three or more workdays per week, on average. This means that, on any given day, more workers are feeling stressed than not. This state really is the norm.” (2017 Study

 We are over-committed, over-scheduled, over-whelmed by our world and its relentless pace of life. As technology advances we get more efficient, more productive, and way less rest. 

thejesuschick.com

When was the last time you felt like you could actually ‘rest’?

It seems for most of us, we’re not feeling like we can really ever catch up. Our stress is bullying us into working harder, faster, longer. Work isn’t all bad, in fact I believe it’s a great and wonderful part of our existence, President Roosevelt said it this way… ”

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Theodore Roosevelt

BUT, when our lives get overburdened and out of balance, we quickly burn ourselves out. If your like me at all, you live in the extremes of life. Seasons of life push us to do more than we thought humanly possible, followed by sudden lulls in the storm, and free time to binge watch Netflix and let our world fade into sheer entertainment and a lazy haze. Both extremes should cause concern. Finding balance is as much a discipline as jogging or daily prayer.

What I recently discovered on a four-day sabbatical to the mountains of New Mexico involved going a step further than speeding up or slowing down. It meant learning to ‘be still’. 

Have you ever done that? I had never actually gotten so quiet and detached from media, the world… work… kids… ministry that I could experience the utter calm and serenity of not moving, inside or out. So unhurried and undistracted within that I was able to live in the ‘moment’ without. I was unaffected by either my past or future, only ‘in’ the present. I was able to be ‘still’ inside my heart and my mind. Totally silent.

For four days.

I would have never believed it. I would have never chosen it. But God through the subtle touch of His Holy Spirit, led me to a place and time where I could be quiet enough and still enough to experience Him in a brand new way. 

Interested?

I’ll blog about the trip I took, where I went, what I saw, and how God showed up in totally different ways than ever before. Time to open a new door on our pilgrimage of Faith.

Pastor B.

 

Is LESS really MORE?

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

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

 

Some call this… the “American” dream.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scripture Art

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

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

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

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

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

Peace out, Pastor Brad.

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

 

Fear of the Unknown & Unknowable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace out, Pastor B.

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

Conquering the Comparison Curse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God save us from those who think they do. 🙂

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

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

Blessings, Pastor B.

Looking for Intimacy…?

Valentine’s Day is upon us…

Flowers and food, fresh moods and sweet surprises, our Valentine celebration is a once a year explosion of red hearts and glitter cards… a reminder of everything cliché’ about ‘Love”.

From grade schoolers trading Star Wars valentines to the serious date dinners with chocolates and diamonds, our annual tributes to the ideal of love is as diverse and different as we are.

theantiquemarket.com

But what about “Intimacy”? Isn’t that the longing of every heart… the deep down desire of every soul on earth. It must be… just look at the millions of books sold by Nicholas Sparks or the powerful pull of the romantic comedies on our pocketbooks. We’re searching to find that ‘something’ still missing in our relationships.

We can’t seem to find the “it”. We search it out at home or online… in friendships and spouses, kids and co-workers, we look and look desperation growing. Eventually we give up… seeking it out vicariously through the lives of the fictitious.

Don’t read me wrong, I’m in there with you. I too struggle with “Intimacy”. It’s not my wifes fault or some personality conflict that bars the way for our long-last connection as a husband and wife. Alas… no.

The scriptures and the Holy Spirit help us uncover the secret to discovering “Intimacy”! It’s simpler and harder than you think… recently I’ve been reminded (through my own marriage) of the truth about Intimacy. You see, true Intimacy is only found in our willingness to be ‘vulnerable‘ with someone else.

weheartit.com

Our lives cannot grow interdependent and intimate if we’re playing it safe. Proximity isn’t the same as intimacy! 

We aren’t able to discover and dig deep into the world of the Intimate soulmate without risking the rejection and pain of discovery.

Trusting and believing in each other is all platitude until you risk exposure of your deepest self. When we take the plunge to open up and share our inner fears and frustrations, our biggest dreams and desires… we’re exposing our heart to someone who can receive it and cherish it or simply discard it.

The choice is ours to make. But if you’re hitting the ‘wall’ in your marriage, it might be time to consider stopping the merry-go-round of life and pause long enough to have a heart to heart. Really and truly share with your ‘other’ what you feel and long for… and then listen back…

It could be we need some alone time to reflect on the offer Christ makes to us all… the offer to accept as ‘we are‘. To really and truly be intimate with the one who created us and all those unmet longings within. That my friend is one sure way to build a lasting foundation for others to love and be loved.

Happy Valentines Day from RTP!

Pastor B.

 

From empty to ‘overflowing’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The point of the story?

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

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

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

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

Peace out, Pastor B.