Hearing Clearly

“My Wilderness Maine – A 90 Day Journey of Faith”

Prologue:

Our 90-day journey into the Maine Wilderness began with a crisis. As most of the dramatic moves of God in our lives, He worked his mysteries in the darkest spaces and places to bring us light and inspiration.

August of 2018 was a whirlwind of raw emotions; confusion, doubt, and despair. Life as it often does had thrown us an unexpected curve-ball, and we were completely unprepared. We needed to withdraw and reassess our lives and so we did. A sabbatical ensued and without a compass or plan my wife and I rented a cabin by a quiet lake in Maine.

We needed to retreat from the chaos of our life and reconnect ourselves to our Father and each other. As parents and pastors, we had been running hard for a very long time. 10 years without a break from ministry is not heroic, it’s foolish. We needed a place to rest. We needed to recharge and reorient ourselves around Gods word and attune ourselves again to the Holy Spirits voice. The still and small was hard to hear where we were, and we desperately needed to hear.

The voice was clear when it came. We both heard it and understood.

Although we didn’t know the details or any of the particulars of this new plan, we were convinced it was from God. After a short season (12 weeks) of discernment and prayer, God confirmed His redirection of our lives and opened door after door to allow us a rapid release from the commitments and concerns of our previous life.

We would gradually grow to understand that Gods leading us into the remoteness of Northern Maine was not random, but a prescribed path to a Consecrated Heart and Mind. The relocation and isolation of Gods plan for us forced a deeper contemplation of where we were individually and as a couple.

The pressures of our transition allowed circumstances to reveal the condition of our hearts as they truly were.

A period of instability and uncertainty that gave us the opportunity to take a prolonged gaze at our motivations and beliefs that lay dormant behind all our assumed disguises.

This process was difficult, and I guess must be so. As change by its very nature is unsettling, disconcerting, and painful to our egos. It erases the vestiges of our false self, and demolishes our carefully constructed denials.

Not only was our new journey away from the past divinely prescribed, but precisely so.

And we are not an isolated example, God has been active in rearranging the trajectory of His disciples lives for millennia. The process and principles are essentially the same for all of us, but the specific details and circumstances He uses are as diverse as our DNA.

We like you, are walking out our Salvation with fear and trembling, the journey towards our creator serves as the defining work of every believer’s life. Some of us are struggling to just start the divine pilgrimage and others are seasoned and weary from decades of effort and self-examination. No matter where you may find yourself on this spectrum of Sanctification, the wilderness experience is a “given” for each of us. This barren place of personal testing and self-denial is also a place of deep intimacy and amazing growth & breakthrough.

The struggle to draw near to our Creator is real… but I believe the journey to contentment and fulfillment is worth whatever it costs. 

This small story of “Our Wilderness Maine” is our part of a much bigger plan, it assumes we are in something epic and awe-inspiring, a thread of life cast in “THE” story.

What we’ve learned and are learning follows… more details of our journey are coming in future posts. Blessings my friend.

Pastor Brad.

Essentials for Parents #3 – A Heritage of Faith

Essentials of Parenting #3.Living out a Heritage of Faith

God calls us as parents to do amazing things with our lives! We can’t follow God and keep Him in a safe and well-defined box, He will call us to follow Him and into strange and often unfamiliar places. Yes, being a parent is often strange and unfamiliar enough, but God may be calling each of us to step further out and do more outside of the comfort of our home.  Our inspiration for this post is Patti Garibay, founder of American Heritage Girls, and her story is so encouraging for parents to hear!

As Patti shares of her story it becomes very clear, God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts… so the path God leads us to follow is often overwhelmingly big and seemingly impossible. God has a long, long, history of calling ordinary men and women to do extraordinary things.

Our talents and education, preparation and confidence have nothing to do with God’s ability to use us for His plans. As parents we may feel like we’re totally out of it, barely surviving our responsibilities and feeling very much like a failure, but God has a habit of using people like us to do impossible things. 

We can be used by God despite our shortcomings and fears and irregardless of our failures and frustrations. God works with those who will simply take the time to listen and trust it enough to follow.

As parents its our lifetime of learning and trusting God that creates the foundation of a genuine “Heritage of Faith’.  It’s not our ‘mistake’ free lives or career successes that will win our kids hearts, instead it’s the grace we receive and share that paves the way for God to work.

Patti Garibay heard God’s cry as a stay at home mother and obeyed in faith. The result, the formation of “American Heritage Girls” and twenty-five years later, hundreds of thousands of girls have been influenced and shaped by a heritage of faith, passed down from a stay at home mom’s obedience to God.

Source AHG

Some points of advice from her Season 1 interview:

  • We need to “listen’ and be aware of the subtle requests that God nudges us to do. It is NOT our life, we are on loan to God, and we can’t forget that God has plans for us that are bigger than our own. The same is true for our children.
  • Our lives as parents’ matter, we’re not in control but we are able to influence and shape our kids while we’re given the opportunity. What we do as spouses and parents will impact our kids for generations and passing along a heritage of faith requires parents who will consistently chose to put God’s will and plans above their own, both for themselves and for their kids.
  • Our experiences as parents and families will be less than perfect or ideal, we must trust that God can use us and our kids regardless of our ‘performance’. We can trust God to walk us into the opportunities and paths that we are meant to follow.
  • Our kids and our plans can’t be driven by our ambition or pride, it’s not about us. EGO is Edging God Out, and we can’t do that as Christians.
  • God will empower us to see beyond our own lives, to see the needs of those around us and to give us the strength and courage to act boldly!
  • Change is NOT a bad thing. The Lord has a plan for us, and change may be what is exactly necessary for us and our spiritual life. We don’t need to be afraid to follow the leading of God, we need to step out of the boat and walk on water.

About Patti Garibay: Patti Garibay is founder and Executive Director of the national character development organization, the American Heritage Girls. Educated at the Ohio State University with a major in secondary education and French, Patti shares a love of history and youth. Patti and her husband Pat, of thirty-nine years, are blessed with four grown children, three girls and a boy, five grandsons and two granddaughters.

Related Links; 

Podcast Interview:

American Heritage Girls 

iShine Ministries / Tween Gospel Alliance 

Essential #2 for Parents

  1. Self-Care Essentials: When was the last time you invested in yourself as a parent ? (This Blog post is 2 of 5 in a series developed from the podcast series, Brilliantly Brave Parenting with special guest Paige Clingenpeel – season 5)

Parenting is exhausting, the idea that we can just persevere through it is a bit simplistic, in time we all run ‘dry’.

We need to rest. We need to recharge and refocus.

As parents we can’t give what we don’t have, our modeling and ability to teach our kids will be profoundly impacted by the energy we have to give them.

Listening is a huge part of parenting, “listening is the key to starting communication” both with our kids and our spouses. It conveys the reality of love and respect unlike any other behavior. We can’t listen without some energy, it’s exhausting to be ‘in the moment’ with our kids. We often lack the ‘bandwidth’ to be with our kids after a hard day of work.

Source – Pexels.com

Listening and being available for our kids is one of the hardest things we can ever attempt to do on a regular basis. Our lives are so full and busy, we need to practice ‘self-care’ if we ever hope to be fresh and focused for our parenting responsibilities.

Self-Care requires healthy habits, resting well at night, making space in our schedules to spend time with our families, watching our diet and exercise, and of course saying ‘no’ to other things to be sure we’re involved with our kids. We can’t offer what we don’t have.

Jesus modeled this idea when he would retreat from the crowds and the disciples to go apart and pray. He would withdraw to the mountains as often as he could, knowing the essential nature of rest and refreshment spiritually, physically, emotionally. We are no different.

Podcast Link: https://soundcloud.com/brilliantlybrave/reality-with-teens-ep44-paige-clingenpeel

YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/TBaUkmOy2QA

Notes and Quotes from our Podcast Interview with Paige:

  • Topic: “Self-Care” and Parenting-Self-care seems selfish, but it’s actually essential for parents to make time to recharge.
  • Modeling behaviors like ‘respect’ and love’ are vital for parents to show their kids
  • Listening is the ‘key’ to starting communication.
  • Parents need to not only take time for themselves, but they need to cultivate a trustworthy group of friends and mentors to gain perspective and encouragement from.
  • Surround yourself with truth-seekers and truth-speakers.
  • Self-care is creating space for God

About Paige Clingenpeel; LMHC 

A mental health therapist with extensive experience in working with families, Paige has a passion for those in the middle of parenting pre-teens and teens, Paige offers an encouraging perspective for parents who are feeling worn out. Her insights and speaking engagements are welcomed nationally at youth retreats and ministry events. Mother of four kids herself, Paige’s advice is formed from her own practical life experiences.

Check out Paige’s podcast interview and find out ‘whats going on in your kids head!”

Find out more: Paigeclingenpeel.com / TrendsandTeens.com / iMom.com

Brilliantly Brave Parenting Podcast

This is blog post 2 of 5, in our “Essentials of Parenting” series.

Futureshock

5 Essentials Every Parent Needs to Know ! (from the Brilliantly Brave Parenting Podcasts) 

  1. Do you know what Futureshock is and how it directly impacts every family and the modern church? (the following quotes are from Bishop Dan Scott Ph.D. – A Season 5 podcast guest)

“This generation of parents in the church are struggling with more than a simple ‘generation gap’. They … ‘we’ are struggling with ‘Futureshock “. A displacement of reality in which life is only focused on the present, and constantly being redefined by the moment. This lack of stability and constancy creates a state of constant flux for parents.”

A long-range result of the age of ‘enlightenment is the demystification of time, we are trapped in meaninglessness.”

“To offset these cultural instabilities, we must locate ourselves in the space where something exists outside of the time in which we are. This will anchor you to something tangible and true.”

“What we are aiming for as Christian parents is timelessness, not relevance.”

Interview and Blog Links:

https://brilliantlybraveparenting.com/rev-dan-scott-ph-d/ – Website Episode

https://soundcloud.com/brilliantlybrave/ep57-bishop-dan-scott – Podcast

BBP Commentary:

Clearly as parents in a shifting moral landscape we are going to need to anchor ourselves and our kids to something ‘greater’ than ourselves.

The traditions of the church and our Christian faith provide a powerful resource for parents and pastors to utilize. These long-established Disciplines of devotion (Scripture reading, prayer, bible study, worship, following the yearly church calendar, Eucharist)  offer a way for us to be reminded of the truth of our biblical heritage. The constant remembrance of how BIG GOD is, and how the values of our world do not match with the values of scripture.

Attending church regularly isn’t just a religious thing to do, it’s a biblical thing to do. It shows our kids we value the church, we seek out the fellowship of other believers, and we make every effort to worship the creator, not the creation. These weekly habits will allow for the truth to sink deeply into the hearts of every child, and it will anchor them to something and someone greater than themselves.

The idea that our world is only able to process the moment, that ‘today’ is all that really matters… is a huge insight into the forces that are urging us along. We need to pull ourselves and then our families and congregations out of this flow of the immediate and anchor ourselves to the truth of our Christian heritage and faith.

What we believe is real and tangible, it transcends the immediate and ties us to something ancient and enduring, something that can stabilize us in the rough and tumble moments of modern life.

Co – Host of the Brilliantly Brave Parenting Podcast, Pastor Brad Mathias.

Find out about the 4 other essentials every parent should know… weekly at BrilliantlyBraveParenting.com

Seriously though…

What’s so important about all this Christianity stuff, does it really matter? I mean, people have the freedom to choose whatever they want to believe.

Evidently this is the case as almost half—47 percent—of practicing Christian millennial’s believe “it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hope that they will one day share the same faith.” (Barna defines as “practicing Christian” those who identify as Christian, agree strongly that faith is very important in their lives, and have attended church in the past month. – Source: Barna research group)

Today our society is all about tolerance. We’re being trained by our culture to be a ‘kinder, gentler, and more tolerant”, generation of Christians. Don’t get me wrong, we should be gentle and kind, and this is not advocating a license to be a jerk, or to act without respect… but the middle road (Via Media) is where I’m heading here.

It would be so nice to avoid the uncomfortable discussions, to remain aloof from the world and it’s controversies. It would be so much easier to just coast along life watching and observing the flow of pop culture as it diverges from the traditional values of two millennia of Christian orthodoxy. But I believe we’re called to be more than ‘critics’ of our culture, we’re called to be an influence within it.

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Granted over the years the church has waxed and waned in its role as Gods ambassadors to the world, but on the whole the message of the Gospel has emerged as direct and brilliantly clear as when it was first shared with us.

Sin. Grace. Forgiveness. New Life. Purpose. Hope and a coming Kingdom. 

God’s rescue plan was daring, out of the box, and completely successful. No detail was overlooked and no generation left out, He thought of everything and everyone as He saved the world and all creation.

But saved us from what? I mean what was the big deal, the alarm that seemed to cause such a cosmic fuss? According to the bible, it was eternal death.

Not just physical death and decay, but something so awful and destructive it stretches across time and space to confront all mankind with the despair of losing our entire existence. Not just this life, but all the intended pleasure and purpose of the divine eternity.

Pexel.com

The whole construct of the Christian faith centers around the ‘salvation’ of the soul and the Resurrection of the dead. Nothing else matters! 

We need to seriously consider that as we navigate our lives, we need to really and truly wonder at the seriousness of the situation we find ourselves in. If the gospels are accurate about this spiritual death that threatens us all, it should affect us.

We are entrusted with more than blending in. Our lives are meant to be risked, our popularity and acceptance is irrelevant. People are dying. Lives are being lost for eternity. Hell and separation from God are a real possibility. Stuff that’s uncomfortable to talk about, stuff we try to deny and avoid at all costs, but if there is anything more important to sort out… I don’t what it would be.

What about our soul? What about our faith and relationship with the only person who actually matters? Jesus. 

Lent is this week. A time of introspection and mediation. What am I here for? What’s the point of my existence and what is it God has offered me? Ideas that are worthy of our consideration and self-examination.

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Source – Pexels.com

Let’s not waste our chances…

Pastor B.

Links:

Tim Keller on why Evangelism is so hard. (Relevant Magazine Source)

Ash Wednesday (Free)

Lenten Devotional (Free)

 

Remember the truth… Dig out the lies

“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (ESV) 

The passage above is out of the New Testament Gospels in the bible. The Physician and Apostle Luke wrote this account of arguably ‘the’ most complete parable ever shared by Jesus about His coming Kingdom.  (Luke 8:11-15)

Here’s the 30,000 foot view… we have to ‘own’ and take  good care of the promises and truths we receive from God. If we don’t, we risk losing the truth and wandering further and further from what we were meant to be and do.

The word of God is the seed in the parable, it comes from being in the presence of God. (Prayer, Worship, Scripture, Sermons, Dreams, Visions)  When we hear the word of God speaking to us about our life, about who we are, and what He has called us to be… we must ‘receive’ it and keep a firm hold on it. We can’t let it fly by and decide to come back to it later. (Think of the “manna’ in the old testament – good for only one day)

Image Source – Pexel.com

We ‘hear’ with our hearts, not our ears. Yes, our senses work off of vibration and interpretation of the audible sensory organs, but this parable is focused on the ‘ears’ of our hearts. The passions and pursuits of our life come from the desires of our heart. The struggles and destructive habits we wrestle with also come from our hearts. What we believe about ourselves is all important, and what God speaks to us is powerful and unstoppable truth if it’s received and believed. In this parable, when we believe the words of God, the seed of our life is implanted into the soil of our heart.

Here the battle begins – God’s Word is contested at the “heart” level and before it can become implanted deep enough to affect our behaviors and beliefs  we must “receive” it guard it as our own.

We have an enemy, the deceiver and accuser of the brethren and he is strategic and aggressive in his desire to steal our identities and purpose in Christ… he wants to;

  • Steal our faith
  • Dash our hope
  • Distract our attention
  • Prevent us from receiving the Word as ours
  • De-legitimize the word as inaccurate & unreliable
  • To convince us we are unworthy – God’s will and blessing is unattainable for us.

In the parable Jesus differentiates between long-term growth and short-term, in doing so He reveals that to grow and mature we have to not only “receive” the word and claim it as our own (Implant the Seed), but we have to clean up our hearts by throwing out the rocks and tending to the weeds.

Without removing the rocks and tending to our soil we won’t grow deep enough roots to endure and mature. We need our life to grow, for our hearts to expand deeper until we have established a regular access to tap the living water of God’s truth.  (Psalm 1)

source – Pexel.com

Rocks are the hardened spaces and places in our lives where we cannot compromise or forgive – areas of disbelief and hurt, chronic wounds that form emotional walls and barriers between us and God. Those struggles we have given up on ever overcoming, those lies we accept… they block us from receiving the living water. Rocks keep us from growing beyond our wounds into stronger and mature disciples. Men and women who become stronger, more stable, and more consistent in their Christian life.

Weeding our garden = simplifying our lives. Once we grow roots, we gain stability and experience more and more sustained spiritual growth, our faith gains substance and sustainability – we elevate our perspective and see our lives differently.

Take away truths;

1. “Am I tending to the garden of my heart?

2. Have I received and believed what God has told me about Himself, about myself… about others? If not, I may need to remember the truth and dig out the lies.

Peace out, Pastor B.

Sorting Yourself Out.

There are moments we dread.

Long pauses after telling someone we ‘love’ them…opening a certified letter from the IRS… or getting ‘the’ follow up call from our doctor. Each of these moments slows our life down to mere milliseconds of movement. Our breathing stops, the sweat beads up and we want to wretch. It’s awful.

Fear grips us, gut deep and gnawing as we realize our life is out of our control. 

These ‘moment’s sort us out pretty fast. 

It’s in these moments we discover what we’re really trusting in, who we really are and who we are not, and what we actually believe about God.

Pexel.com

I’ve recently been through another season of personal upheaval. Deep changes in my work,  home life, and ministry. I find myself in Northern Maine, serving God. I’ve been removed to a distant and lonely place, isolated from my friends and family. Here on the back side of nowhere…I’ve had to change my perspective as I’ve been given some ‘extra’ time to consider and process.

Each change hit me hard. (Think like a two-by-four) Rapid blows that deformed my safe and predictable life, knocking the air out of my plans, my expectations,  my path forward.

On reflection… God it seems was calling me into something deeper and in doing so, He was ‘sorting me out’.

I believe the bible shows evidence this ‘sorting out’ is a ‘normal’ and healthy process to experience for the Christian, however when it happens to you for the first time, it gets ALL your attention.

So what’s the deal? Why all the drama and unanswered questions? Is God having a game with us or is there something deeper going on? 

I’m not for sure yet… but it seems to circle around this fact; I can’t get a grip on the essence of grace and the nature of our heavenly ‘father’ until I am desperately ‘aware’ of how much I need Him. And every so often… I forget. 

I think for many of us (myself included) we first experience God through a third person perspective. Faith is ours, but only as seen through eyes of our pastor or parents. Unfortunately it’s usually not until we personally have a few ‘moments’ in our life that we get ‘earnest’ about our own personal spiritual life.

Pexel.com

 

It seems we either turn towards God and seriously start to examine our faith or we discard it and Him.

I’ve been through this a couple of times in my life. Each time I’ve had certain supports in my life to help me through. Regular encouragement from a parent or spouse, the comfort of a ‘position’ in my career, or the structure of a scheduled life. Each of these external constructs were very helpful to keep me stable and moving forward, irregardless of the turmoil within.

But not now.

Now I’m in a new moment of life. God has engineered a space of life where I have to function and exist without any props to hold me up. No external supports or affirmations… just Him.

The empty space and silence of my life right now is maddening. I would rather run and yell and fight. But to just be silent is ridiculously hard and so lonely. 

Yet… I sense this ‘sorting out’ is an essential part of growing up, and an unavoidable part of maturing beyond myself.

What about you?

If you’re like me, you may be tempted to fill in the blanks. Move faster, get busier, schedule more stuff – anything to push back the silence and awkward pauses of our life.

Don’t do it.

Let both agree to let this new pace realign our heart and mind to be more sensitive to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit. From Abraham to King David, and Saul to St. Peter, each of the men and women of the scriptures learned to become ‘less’ and let God become “more’.

Peace out, Pastor B.

PS – No, for those who do know me personally… I’m not having a moral crisis or marital implosion, God is pushing into new territory within my heart and it’s uncomfortable. Pray for me, and I’ll pray for you.