Finish strong

Being a family is like running a very long – long – long way… think a long-distance marathon… not a sprint.

source – podiatry.com

For those who didn’t run track… Parenting is more like getting a Ph.D. A long – very expensive – time-consuming – exhausting and overwhelmingly difficult pursuit. ¬†Add marriage to that mix and you’re effectively getting a double Ph.D at the same time. ūüôā

It’s a really big deal to get married and start a family.

I think we often underestimate the extraordinary accomplishment it is to live the traditional family life. Lots and lots of us get married. Lots and lots of us have kids… but less and less of us are staying married and even fewer have been able to maintain a healthy adult relationship with our kids. (source article)¬†

Why is that…?

Not trying to be trite here. Not trying to look at this from an elevated perch of maturity and wisdom. Truly examining this question as I reflect on my own life. Why is family such a huge challenge?

First observation; Family is more than a life milestone to shoot for. It’s a calling from God to fulfill. If we approach it as another ‘to-do’ on our bucket list of life, we may dramatically ¬†mistake the obvious. If this is a ‘blueprint’ for living – as handed down by ¬†God himself to the children of Adam / Eve… then it’s going to be challenged and resisted.

Second: Family requires healthy relationships to work. Healthy relationships require respect, patience, selflessness, and humility. Not character traits that can just be easily downloaded like a new phone app. These lessons are life-long ¬†and are continually being refined, tested, and improved by the circumstances we share. Living for someone else is not easily ¬†sustained. We can do it for short bursts of time, but with extended pressure we’re forced to admit how far short we fall. Grace may be most important missing ingredient in most long-term relationships.

Third: Family is all about finishing strong! It’s not how well we get started, It’s not about how few mistakes we make or how organized our homes appear to be… it’s about the determination to get back up when we fall. The resolve to never – ever – stop trying to ‘be’ a family. Our lives are full of dead-end opportunities, broken promises, and people who disappoint, it’s up to us to push past our offenses and pain. Like a long distance race, we have to set a pace to finish. We have to ask God to give us strength when we have nothing left in the tank.

source – muzmatch.com

I’ve done most of my marriage & parenting ¬†‘completely wrong’. I did great at the starting line, crashed and burned at year 9 and by God’s redemptive grace year 11 was a fresh start. It’s now year 26, and by the power Christ within, my faith, marriage and family are stronger than ever. (See my book;¬†Roadtrip to Redemption )

It’s not that we’re blessed to live ‘safe’ lives, quite the opposite in fact. We’ve seen one crisis after another hit our family, but we’ve also seen God faithfully meet us in each desperate hour. It’s the strength of a shared faith and mutual determination to live out of a spirit of love and not fear…those factors made a huge¬†difference in our family.

My prayer for you. No matter how bad you feel you’re doing…”Don’t give up!”¬†

Don’t give into the guilt and shame, don’t surrender your family to frustration and fear. God is present. ALL THE TIME. It may be time to shut out the other voices and just listen to His. After all… He invented Family and Marriage, He might just have some helpful advice to share ūüôā

Peace out, Pastor B.

 

Anchor Down

Drifting is a problem for me….¬†

I get distracted sometimes, lost in the variables of life. Lost in the memories of past regrets and immediate consequence. What if… maybe I could have… and should have…thoughts combine to paralyze my present.

Added to regrets, may be the reality that life has not have turned out how we planned it… and a mild drift can quickly turn into ‘lost’. ¬†(Sorry for the nautical)¬†Corey_Arnold_Gulf_Crossing_2008_1178_97

The truth is we’re easily distracted, discouraged, and can get derailed from our life course. The rigors of circumstance and disappointment can sap our strength and siphon off our resolve. What was healthy and whole can become fractured and weak. Not from an overt sin or moral failure… but from the slow accumulation of setbacks and suffering.

Faith is like a muscle. It must be exercised to stay strong and flexible. Without use it will atrophy and shrink. 

The storms of life are sudden and violent, they threaten and bluster at us with all the vehemence and force of a hurricane before suddenly slowing and settling down. Anyone can maintain their sense of direction during clear weather, but it takes an ‘Anchor’ to hold us when the waves get high.

What are you anchored to? 

Our faith must be secured to something or someone greater than yourself, stronger than our emotions and deeper than our experiences. stone cross

For me it’s all about what I consider in my moments of freedom. When life is suddenly quiet and calm… where does my mind drift to? If I find myself over-indulging in the gratification of my senses, it won’t be long until I find myself discontented and critical.

When I deny my own gratification and take the opportunity to invest in my spiritual development… I grow. I gain perspective and I receive deeper insights into God’s character, His plan and purposes for life and the role He’s asked me to play.

Knowing a thing doesn’t mean I always choose wisely… ūüôā However, I am learning to discipline myself, to devote my time to prayer and reading of scriptures, to anchor myself before the storms of life hit.

To grow my faith in the moments of rest and not simply retreat from life when the opportunity presents. God is wooing me to spend time with Him for only the sake of ‘knowing’ Him more. Not in a crisis driven frenzy of faith, but in a simple and honest desire to be ‘with’ Him more than to feed my flesh.

Pastor B.

Key Scripture Reference: Ephesians 4:14-15 (ESV) Biblegateway Source:

14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

Link to Daily Reading and Devotional resources;

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,3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 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. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Love you all, Pastor Brad.

Walking with Grief…

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

God is there.

People are around.

But not much shows its color.

Flavors fade.

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

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

 And it does. 

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

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

At least for now.

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

 

 

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

We struggle with Faith.

All of us.

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

Has God abandoned us? Did we not pray enough? Is this just something we accept as ‚Äúpart of life,‚ÄĚ 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‚ÄĒwe‚Äôve 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‚Äôs true, then why didn‚Äôt he _______? Fill in the blank. Heal your mom. Save your marriage. Get you married. Help you out more.

Either (a) we‚Äôre 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‚Äôt this where you land, with all the things that haven‚Äôt gone the way you‚Äôd 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/‚Ķ

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

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

Pastor B.

BGraham quote BB Podcast

—————————

Grief part 2….

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

She has days to live.

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

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

Crazy.

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

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

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

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


psalm 89


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

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

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

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

From his book, Success and the Christian, 29.

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

The 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¬†‚ÄúGive your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don‚Äôt 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.

 

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… ūüôā
  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. 7¬†And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”