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 ” 

Guilty pleasures…

We run hard.

All the time.

Life pushes and stretches every free moment of our day. Work demands, school, sports, friendships, church, errands, bills, laundry, homework, cleaning the bathroom, the trash, the dishes, email, social media… the details of our everyday pile up and up as our free time evaporates. We never seem to catch up or slow down.

But when we actually do find a few precious hours of unscheduled, un-demanded free time… we may be confused. 

We can feel guilty. 

Uncomfortable with the unfamiliar freedom. 

It’s at times like this that I often find myself looking for something else to do. I feel so out of balance when life slows down that instead of enjoying the moment and resting,.. I rev up and chase after some distant almost forgotten task or meaningless assignment. Just to avoid the ‘uncomfortable’ void of doing ‘nothing. It’s as if rest has become a ‘guilty pleasure’ that I don’t deserve.

Ever feel that way…?

The truth is very different, the truth is we need rest.

The truth of God says we are commanded to rest every seventh day. In the Old Testament, we were supposed to take every seventh year off and enjoy the fruits of our labor. But we don’t. In fact we can’t really even allow ourselves to enjoy the few brief moments of unscheduled life that come our way.

Sabbath-2

Let’s stop rushing and filling our lives with stuff. Let’s agree to trust that our creator knows what’s best and start planning to not plan every hour of every day.  🙂 

Peace can be found in letting go of the need to be in control and resting in the assurance that God’s promises are true.

Simple as that. 🙂

Pastor B.

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

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

The Mountains!

The Mountains!

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

We awoke to winter.

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

A sixty degree temperature swing in 8 hours.

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

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

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

Tough Day

Tough Day

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

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

I was the only one smiling. 

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

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

Day 5 tomorrow; a BRAND NEW DAY.

Christian Parenting in a Post-Christian world

Families of faith are being backed into a proverbial corner.

Daily… we feel forced by our media driven culture to represent or dismiss our Christian beliefs. No choice given for us but to hard-line our position with the black / white of a hostile, faith posture or the watered-down, relativistic shades of gray to preserve a semblance of a moral status quo.

What’s a parent to do…? So many voices in the mix.

As parents we maintain the highest statistical influence on our children’s formative values and beliefs. Barna Research points to families as having more impact on pre-teens (13 and under) and tweens than any other voice in their lives.

So as parents what we do, how we respond and what we say really, truly, deeply, matters!

The issues of our time have entered our living rooms and roam the halls of our homes. Same Sex attraction, redefining marriage, trans-gender confusion, modern atheism, biblical skepticism, legalized pot, common core education, the welfare state… the issues that matter are growing daily for modern parents.

These are not trivialities… but HUGE and essential, in-your-face topics for kids to process!  

Today’s pressing social issues represent legitimate concerns paired with post-Christian philosophies in desperate need of biblically intelligent responses in our homes.

Let’s be sure to keep our parenting responses to these volatile issues as informed, compassionate, and consistent as possible. Insight and perspective that contains deep wisdom and truth, stuff that comes from time with our heavenly Father and a well read topical library of trusted authors. (See below)

Be aware of the temptation that our culture offers to us as Christians…to simply take one of two uber-polarized, preformed positions, ‘for’ or ‘against’ the latest social trends… before we seek out the truth on our knees. We can’t just ‘knee-jerk’ our responses out of fear and misplaced anger, these issues are essential for us all to understand and navigate well. 

Mom – Dad; some encouragement if I may…

Keep close to Christ. Lean on and listen to the voice of your shepherd, not the winds of popular opinion. There is truth in your world, its found in the scriptures. There is a foundation you can live from, teach and pass on. But the battle for truth isn’t a debate of words and logic… it’s a tug of war for the longings of our hearts.

Ultimately it’s about the essentials of our faith… Is Christ who He claimed to be? Is the bible a sacred text ? Can we live with clarity in midst of a out-of-focus world? 

Answering those questions on your knees will bring conviction to your faith and confidence to your answers. As Christians we’re not going to have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines of social change much longer. We’ll have to take a position. Will we stand for the core values we claim to believe, or in our passivity, just fade…?

Our kids are carefully watching… Lord, help us to show courage and compassion in the days ahead.

Pastor B.

Recommended Reading List: 

For issues of Sexuality and Faith – Joe Dallas 

For Culture, Os Guinness 

For Essentials of our Faith, Hank Hanegraaff 

For Modern Atheism, Graham Veale 

For Same Sex Marriage issues, Sean McDowell 

Do you know what you believe?

Seems silly to ask…

But an important question for each of us to answer.

Do you/we know what we actually believe about the essentials ? You know, the important stuff like… “what or who is God”, “what role does Faith play in our lives”… “what is Christianity”… “where do I land on the moral and social justice issues of our time”, “does absolute truth exist”?

Nicene Creed

Nicene Creed

We often carry what we ‘know’ without much consideration. With no urgency to explore the reasons why we ‘believe’ stuff… we sort of move through life untroubled by doubt until someone else crosses our path and disagrees stridently with us. Suddenly we’re confronted with all sorts of irritated thoughts and questions, strong emotional reactions pouring out of us in a rush to defend our beliefs, it’s often in those moments we start to realize we truly can’t explain why.

Personal convictions of truth must go deeper than a vague concept of what’s right or wrong or a long ago memorized creed. Today, we need to go beyond what we were ‘taught’ or learned ourselves from pop culture, childhood Sunday school lessons, or the simple acceptance of what our parents said was true. What do WE believe?

Complex and life altering influences are all around us. From the latest polls to the block-buster movies we’re catching at the local cinema, we may be absorbing more of our cultures beliefs than we realize, reduced to a faith based-carbon copy of our secular counterparts. Emotion driving us to form our values and personal beliefs, from recycling to a woman’s freedom of choice.

With a moment or two of consideration, we may find we’re far less formed in faith beliefs and convictions than we first ‘thought we were’. 

What do we believe… ?Chesterton-Quote

My challenge dear reader.., take the time to find out! Invest a little time in some personal research. Educate yourself by reading up and praying through your life. Ask God to show and confirm to you the “truth”.

Learn about some of the defining issues of our time and consider for yourself what is ‘right’ and ‘true’. Our kids will take their ‘que’ from us. IF they see us asking the important questions… they will too.

In this millennial generation, maybe more so than any in a long time…beliefs are going to be tested. Simply ‘assuming’ our kids agree with us because they compliantly follow along right now, isn’t going to cut it. WE / THEY need to ask the hard questions, wrestle through the options and find the truth for themselves.

Honestly, there just isn’t any other way. And, I believe it’s all as intended by the great designer Himself.

Every blessing to you as parent your families forward to life…. and check out some great resources from Reasonable Theology; start your ‘belief’ journey here !

Peace and Grace,

Pastor B.

PS – the sacred “Creeds’ of the Christian Faith are a fantastic way to review the essentials. Teaching those to your kids is a great way to start the process of learning. But simply memorizing the words isn’t the same as understanding and believing.

Breaking the Turkey Day rut!

Thanksgiving is upon us. Officially.

So rushed and pushed we are, scrambling to fit everyone, everything in. Family, friends… spouses, in-laws and outlaws. Life is crammed to the brim, a day of celebration and gratitude can quickly shrink into a drag.

Dreading the stressful stretch of uncomfortable almost-family moments, some of us are simply yawning our way through, hopeful it will all end in time to get back to what we ‘really’ want to do. For many, this Holiday forces unwarranted obligations to do and be something other than who we really are. Cure girl at the dinner table during Thanksgiving day.

This year let’s be straight up. You/We can’t do everything… be everywhere and appreciate everyone in 2 days. But we can decide who we should be with, where we should spend our Holiday’s and how we can truly look for ways to love and affirm and rejoice with each other! Making space to consider all of God’s goodness.

Thanksgiving can slip into an ‘almost memorable moment‘ status in the shadow of its dark cousin, ‘Black Friday‘ if we’re not careful. Take a moment now to plan ahead for your holiday schedule.

Be practical, be pragmatic and be honest. Make sure your children have a chance to be and do things that bring life to them. Monitor your heart, when you feel the burden of hosting or sharing growing so heavy your chest tightens and your teeth grind… it’s time for an audible. family at fall pic - HRes

GO to a great movie, leave for ice-cream or the zoo or a hike. Break out of the proper and traditional, and stagnate, for something that breathes, lives, and inspires.

Share your spontaneity with your closest friends and visiting family. Leave the leather couch behind, avoid the mania at the mall… go and do something truly spectacular with your Holiday.

Get out, go see the world with fresh and simplified eyes… these wonderful moments are more than picture-perfect -pressure -cookers, they are opportunities to savor.

Happy Thanksgiving !

Pastor B.

 

Parenting with Presumption…

Sometimes I presume too much, I think I know what’s going on when I don’t have a clue.

Ever have a moment of clarity when you realize you just totally and completely blew it with your kid ? 

I recently returned from a long weekend trip with my wife to find the house and in particular the kitchen a mess. (The dishes were stacked higher than the countertop and we could see random pieces of food floating in the murky water stagnating in the sink hole)

My wife and I were exhausted from a particularly draining weekend on the road and found ourselves blasting into our sixteen year old for failing to do the dishes when we got back. Pent up anger and inner frustration spewing out onto the closest scapegoat around.

warosu.org

warosu.org

We jumped to some presumptive conclusions about what we assumed to be his lack of responsibility and concern for our family, believing he ignored the needs of our home so that he could enjoy himself freely during our absence. Explained in passionate detail and multiple angles for crystal clarity for a solid fifteen minutes of parental interrogation. (You know what I mean 🙂

With the evidence so clearly observed in the sink….We accused him of being lazy and self-centered, immature and apathetic… etc. His response…silence. He closed himself up emotionally, took his verbal lumps and went angrily to bed, not saying a word.

Later as I felt something about our parental tirade wasn’t totally “right” and asked God about the issue with the dishes the night before… my spirit was uneasy. Could we have missed some vital detail? I decided to ask our son about it the next day.

He refused to talk about it. So I began to push a little bit for him to tell me what he was “feeling” about all the drama we had experienced the other night and if we (his mother and me) might have over-reacted or missed something in our discussion with him… ?

After a prolonged silence…his faced clouded up and his eyes filled with tears…I watched as his shoulders slumped and his body began to shake, knowing my son, I realized with certainty…we had misjudged him… and badly.

As we listened and he quietly talked, it was very clear, we – his parents;  were totally wrong about what we thought had happened!  In our frustration and haste to correct, we had wounded our son’s heart and unjustly accused and presumed to know of his intent and character. It was worse than being an idiot, we were now officially parenting jerks! With each of his slow, quiet tear drops, I felt the shame of regret flood my own face.

After asking for his forgiveness, (which took some time) he shared with us how much stress he really was struggling to live under. The pressure of high school academics combined with a deep desire to please us (his parents) was squeezing him.  He had stayed in his room for an entire weekend to study for the upcoming college entrance exams. On deeper inspection, we could see hadn’t been watching TV and slacking off… he had been working.

baggagereclaim.co.uk

baggagereclaim.co.uk

His one highlight he had hoped to share on our return..,  a special effects photo project he had carefully arranged, ready for us to see when we got home… yep you guessed it, he had set it carefully out for us to see in our KITCHEN!

SNAP ! CRAP !!!

Oh man, I realized suddenly… not only did we NOT see his hard work and effort on-display in the kitchen, we had only focused on the dish mess and what we perceived he did wrong, instead of celebrating what was so obviously done so right!

SNAP ! DOUBLE CRAP !!!

We missed more than that though… we didn’t see or feel a fraction of the immense stress he had been carrying around our home – hidden behind his teen mask of alternating moods and hormone melancholy. We mis-judged his motives, faulted his personal integrity and questioned his maturity ! All done in the space of a heart-beat and all of it dead wrong.

How many families out there know what that feels like ? How many of us have lived out a similar experience of pain and rejection between parents and kids, some lasting for a lifetime, all because of a moment of presumption?

We went critical instead of supportive in our parenting perspective! We didn’t honor and encourage him, building his confidence as the young man he was and needs to become. Instead, in our haste and pride we smashed him and his wounded heart to pieces all over our kitchen floor…and if God wasn’t so merciful, we wouldn’t have even known our error.

source -totstoteensmagazine.com

source -totstoteensmagazine.com

Sometimes we  just need to “own” our messes as parents, asking forgiveness of our kids. No excuses, no explanations…no justifications allowed, just humbly accepting and admitting our mistake and trusting our heavenly Father to make up for all the mis-steps we make as parents.

Pastor B.