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.

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.

The Suddenness of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will you do with your ‘gift’? 

Pastor B.

PS – from poet R.L. Sharpe:

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

 

The Flaws of Family…

Every year we gather as families. 

Turkey and Football, Black Friday and Tryptophan Thursday… the family together… In one place… for an extended period of time.

That will create some drama. 

Sometimes it’s good drama (hugs, love, affection, and cheek pinching) and sometimes it’s bad. (arguments, old grudges renewed, hostility and offense) family-thanksgiving-drama-modern-family

The question for each of us, how will we respond?

Of course families have emotional baggage. Of course we struggle to ‘like’ the one’s we love. That’s life. That’s family. Expect it.

Don’t revel in how bad it (family) really is now that you’re back in the thick of the fray. Don’t marvel at how much the past mirrors our present, or how the old habits of your family are like Kryptonite to your Christian testimony of today.

My encouragement, my exhortation… enter the Turkey gates this year with renewed humility and hope.

  1. Humility – accepting your own flaws. Acknowledge and accept that you need as much forgiveness and grace as anyone before arriving…  If you do, you’ll be in a much better position to extend some grace to your annoying whoever… 🙂
  2. Hope – trust that as God is actively at work in changing you… He is also working with those around you. That means… your family can change!

Remember… it’s the mix of good and bad that make it all so interesting. One thing we know for sure as followers of Christ, He expects us to learn to love each other as He loves us. That means to forgive and to be reconciled (*means to make things right) with our families.

Oh… and for those of you who are parents….your kids are watching. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor B.

 

 

 

Waiting for the other shoe to drop…

Ever find yourself worrying about why things are going so well?

Seems silly…

That fearful anticipation of what will inevitably go wrong in the very near future, waiting for the ‘other – shoe – to – drop’. A  day-to-day fear for some, a distant hovering apprehension for others.

However you describe the anxiety of the unknown, It’s real for all of us. I find myself guilty of pondering the ‘what if’s‘. Over thinking and watching for whatever’s out there and looming in the dark. Listening for an unknown danger just out of my sight, or something hidden over the next life horizon … a circumstance about to catch me off guard.

Why do we do that?

Are we just conditioned to expect the worst… or is it something deeper. Are we cynical and afraid because we distrust ourselves, not convinced God truly cares about us? About me… ?

Today I’m sharing some personal insights related to the uncertainties that torment so many of us. Here are three powerful truths to combat the unknowns of our lives. header_faith

  1. God isn’t trying to punish us. He’s come to save us. To redeem our lives, not stomp us in the dirt. Anything else is a lie. A deception designed to make us distrust. 

  2. Good and Bad things are relative to our perception in the moment. What may seem like a tragedy on day one can transform into a blessing within a few weeks. Faith is trusting God can and will use anything in our life for good. 

  3. Trusting means letting go of control. Anxiety is wrapped around our need to know. Being a Christ follower, means we’re surrendering our independence for His will, not our own. 

These 3 reminders are anchors for me on days when I can’t quite relax. When my heart is racing and I don’t know why… I can pause and pray, and remember the truth.

image - thelosthighwayhotel.com

image – thelosthighwayhotel.com

Parents, our world is full of crazy. Listening to the news can wipe away a week of rest in a moment. The mailbox might have a letter we don’t want to see from the doctor… or our kids might bring a note home that turns our stomach to lead. Whatever your fear…take it to God, remember these 3 truths and watch as it fades.

You’re not in this alone. To prove my point, I’m starting a brand new PodCast/Blog (Brilliantly Brave Parenting) with some friends at iShine and the TGA (Tween Gospel Alliance) to illustrate how everyday parents are living extraordinary lives.

Pastor B.

PS – Read and pray this passage of scripture anytime you need relief. Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV) – Source Biblegateway.com  6  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Passion and Purpose… Connecting the dots

What makes your heart sing?

What makes you light up and glow from deep inside, illuminated by a beautiful, infectious, enthusiastic excitement for life?

Do you remember? Think Peter Pan and the lost boys and you’re on the right track. Something long-buried in us longs to be released. An idea. A pursuit. A passion.

It’s not just the drive of every biological clock, for family, for work, for happiness… this is deeper and more personal. 

Somewhere hidden way far away from our crazy, cluttered, days… is a dream. A longing unmet. Probably something ‘crazy’ and unrealistic. A fantasy that could never ‘work’ in our adult world of responsibility and obligation. But if you slow yourself down long enough… you might begin to remember. To feel it stir again. calling-purpose-passion-amyjalapeno

For Christians and families of faith the yearning for our deepest desire lies dormant far more than it should. We push back our desires for discipline and hide our hearts cry from ever interrupting our day.

We fear our desire. We fear this deep and unrelenting dream. It’s selfish we say. It’s impossible now… too many choices made, too many bridges of life crossed. It’s impractical and irresponsible. 

Yet…

The heart is complicated. It can twist us. It often deceives and confuses us. It contradicts logic and overrides self-control, and without the aid of the Holy Spirit it can be tragic. BUT… in the context of Christ it is our source of true life.

Jesus came to set us free. To release the captive from bondage, and proclaim the liberty that comes only from forgiveness and redemption. (Isaiah 61)

If this liberty is available, what does it mean?

Couple of thoughts and encouragements;

  1. Freedom in Christ is more than a cliché’ – it’s a truth primarily accessed through the heart. Not our mind. An issue of desire, not understanding. 

  2. Our hearts communicate with God in images, music, art, expressions of creativity and imagination. These images convey the deepest passions of who we are and without them, we are less than fully alive. 

  3. The passionate part of our deepest self is alive with the hope of yet to be realized dreams. This passion is a powerful clue to our purpose. It’s a seed and indeed a thread of our spiritual DNA and it connects us to our creator’s original intention for our life. 

  4. As we grow in faith, in understanding God’s ways… the passionate parts of our hearts begin to stir and gain clarity. A healthy and expected side effect of our spirit being ‘freed’ from the shackles of sin, fear, and condemnation. Can we trust our hearts? 

  5. What is your passion? How can you determine the role you’re destined to play in the divine story? What would you risk if it meant you could find and fulfill your purpose? 

  6. Jesus is offering to connect our passions with His purpose… to any who would seek Him first.  At first glance a contradiction, on closer inspection it’s a realignment of our hearts with His.  

This is the life God offers. It’s full of struggle and suffering, but in the end it’s about purpose and passion. A re-discovering of our heart and the intimate journey of desire.eldredge-quote

It’s a risk to upset the safe and predictable for the unknown… a risk well worth taking.

Pastor Brad.

PS: Noted author and therapist John Eldredge and his ministry (Ransomed Heart) is where I recommend you start. Connect the dots. Find your purpose by affirming your passion.

Wrestling with God…

The struggle is real.

Life and Faith wrestle within us, battling our doubt, cynicism, and pain. We wonder how a God could exist, why He would allow such suffering… such tragedy. We wonder…why is He not intervening on our behalf…?

Our lives get interrupted by the repugnant touch of cancer, dementia, and loss. We have always ‘believed‘. Always trusted that there was a God. Hoped we were following the right path down life’s highway…but are we just holding onto our faith like a warm blanket, tugging its comfort up and over our proverbial chins on a cold and wintry night. Safe and secure in the assumed knowledge that God will be with us, that we weren’t alone.

If bad things can actually touch us, then maybe God isn’t so near as we thought?

What now?

What if the faith that always comforted us before wasn’t true after all? Is that heresy? Are we abandoning the faith to question God?

What happens to our innermost hopes and dreams… if our faith falters, will we lose our hearts desire?

If we’ve set aside our desires for ‘His’, and in the end we’re simply left standing alone and isolated in our devotion to someone who isn’t even there…? What shame, what regret we would have. 

This is wrestling with God.

jacob-wrestling-with-god2

Jacob Wrestling 

 

It’s part of every Christian journey. From the ancient patriarch Jacob until now… we must wrestle it out. We have to struggle with our faith to find out if it’s all real. There is no other way!

My strongest encouragement,despite how it seems…He is near. God won’t disappoint. But our conceptions of God and His ways are radically different from the assumed. The touch of God is subtle in the tragic circumstances of life. We have to ‘look’ for His whisper and wait for His approach if we are to cling to the faith that we once took for granted.

My hope is that like Jacob in the Genesis narrative…you will cling to Him, finding God is everything you ever hoped for, and more. That the still-small-voice of His presence will guide you in every choice yet to be made and His comfort will touch every moment you regret.

God isn’t abandoning you, it us who have lost our way in the dark of night and He patiently waits. He wants to wrestle it out with us… but will we cling to Him? Hanging tight to our Faith until the dawn breaks and our hearts are freed from the struggle of doubt. 

Wrestling changes everything.

It must.

Stay the course dear one, I believe, not because I know more… but from my own wrestling with the angel, and like Jacob…I too walk with a limp.

Pastor B.