Adventures Ahead

Following the Holy Spirit’s leading is a risk.

For the believer in Christ Jesus, the road ahead is often obscured, no clear visibility or confidence in our path. Yet we sense the pull of something beyond us, something stronger and deeper than our mere ambition or desire.

God draws us to come closer, and often in His courtship of our souls He woos us with the gentle power and subtle attraction of the Holy Spirit. 

Let me be clear, I’m no expert on following God… but I am learning. Couple of quick observations about my own path.

  1. God often leads us to follow His plans and not our own. (usually a ‘curve’ ball – something completely unexpected and different from we had in mind.
  2. God through the Holy Spirit will surprise us with Joy in the midst of transition and turmoil. Despite our awkward and uncomfortable agitation in the circumstances we’re in, God will comfort us and gently encourage us to stay with it.
  3. God’s leading will push us into places and spaces we’re not familiar or confident in. Life experiences will not equip us for the next step, instead the past will give us context for God’s faithfulness to meet us in any situation at any time. Our confidence will grow in Him and wane in us.
  4. God’s direction will bring a deep sense of personal satisfaction and contentment despite the lack of any external success or personal affirmation.

The direction the Holy Spirit leads will not be a rogue and independent push away from God’s people or spiritual oversight. Instead it will be affirmed and supported by those we live with and walk out our faith along side of. (i.e. – Pastor, Friends, Family, Spouse will all affirm the direction we sense is God)

God will ask you to trust Him. That means we’ll have to take risks to obey His leading. There is nothing safe about following the Holy Spirit’s voice, it may seem radical and unbalanced on the surface, but as we discern and respond by faith the process will bring clarity and conviction that God is indeed behind it all. 

I recently was asked to personally put these ideas to the test, I am writing this from my new home off the coast of Maine. God redirected my life and ministry from the safety and comfort of middle Tennessee to the wild and unpredictable world of northern New England.

The question is… where is He calling you to follow Him? I don’t know the timing, details, or specifics for you…but I do know that whatever He asks of you, it will exceed your expectations and instead of dread… you can look forward to “Adventures Ahead!”

In closing, I leave you with possibly the most  the famous CS Lewis quote out there, from his classic book “The Lion the Witch, and the Wardrobe“,  

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

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Holiday Cheer in the New Year

Christmas… glorious CHRISTMAS!

I Love the entire season of Christmas and New Years! The joy is contagious, presents, food, family, and lots of fun! The triumphant day comes and goes, the food is abundant and full of carbs, the days are long and we spend hours watching movies, eating peppermint chocolates, sipping cocoa and generally having a blast with those we love the most!

New Years brings a fresh start, like it or not… we’re going forward, time stops for no one and the world is new once again.

After the New Year…’real-life’ returns, and we slowly lose our lightness of being. We start to feel the ‘weight’ of our normal world push back in and over us. The daily grind of school, work, and our lives quickly shrink back into perspective.

We may start to feel the slow burn of regret cloud in as we begin to anxiously wait for the bills to arrive. We may feel sad, depressed, and full of fatigue. The Holiday ‘high has come and gone, and we’re left with a profound ‘low’.

This Christmas was unusual for our family. We found ourselves in a moment of ‘transition’, waiting to move into a brand new home over 1500 miles away from our life in Tennessee. We were set to journey to an unfamiliar world, a new and uncertain home and place in Maine.  The result, we were not only feeling emotionally and relationally displaced, but we were literally and physically (albeit temporarily) living through the holidays without a home to call our own.

As a result, the struggle to gather was greater this year.  We ended up renting a small house in the woods through VRBO.  A small 3 bedroom 1.5 bath renovated home in the rural countryside of Primm Springs, TN. It was marvelous, and it was close. All eight of us squeezed into a 1200 sq. foot home and made the best of our Christmas week. Three nights we had together, eight adults and a 15 month old grandson.

Our family had come together in this magical moment of Christmas time, our daughters and son-in-laws, our son, and grandson… all very much together again. It was marvelous and wonderful to see the whole gang at once. A rare treat now that our oldest and her husband were living in Oregon, we all sensed how precious the time was and no one took a moment for granted.

In those special moments we shared some time watching classic Christmas movies and sharing our favorite snacks as we lounged on the couch and wrapped ourselves in warm blankets and snuggled our way through once iconic scene after another. 

On Christmas day we watched the “The Nativity Story (2006)“. No one had seen it before, and it became an instant ‘favorite’ of our family. Ignoring the negative reviews we watched this amazing story of Mary and Joseph as they wrestled with the enormity of the life God invited them into. That’s all amazing and epic stuff, but I never truly considered the cost of them accepting such a calling.

The movie illustrates with remarkable clarity the rigors of life in the time of the Roman occupation of Israel, the shame of an unexplainable pregnancy and the overwhelming weight of being rejected by the religious elite. The Nativity story, makes you wrestle with the multitude of impossible challenges Mary and Joseph had to overcome to survive as a couple, not even fully married, but nevertheless they were branded by their ‘illegitimate’ child, an inescapable scandal that marked them for the rest of their lives.

Talk about lives in transition! Mary and Joseph were thrown from all that was familiar and safe and tipped top over teakettle into the dangerous currents of God’s Holy Spirit. An ocean of uncertainties filled their horizon, they faced rejection by family, by faith, by friends, the danger of a paranoid and violent Roman King who ruled their world,  life was at risk at any time, finances were non-existent and their future was grim. Yet, they were obeying God. Trusted by the Holy Spirit to carry out the most important human assignment in history.

Such honor! Such shame.

The movie made the case very clear… these saints were far from living an idyllic existence; their lives were marred by every kind of stress, anxiety, and pain. They endured months of pressure, struggle, and acute suffering. As the iconic vessels of salvation, favored by our God Most High, I’ve always glossed over this part of the Christmas story.  I sort of filled in the blanks of the gospels with my own version of how things went. I wasn’t being very honest with myself or with the narrative of the bible. Life wasn’t magically lifted up and amazing simply because they obeyed God’s call… in fact, it got harder and more tenuous.

That sounds a lot like my life. 

My take away from this movie was significant and timely. God’s will is going to be accomplished, and He’s inviting us to be a part of His story. No we’re not being cast as the heroic lead, we’re not starring in a spectacular – hollywood scripted show, but we’re asked to follow Christ in our everyday, flawed, and anxious lives! Our world doesn’t magically shift from daily struggle to the ease of a superman when we obey God’s call.

It’s becoming more and more evident, despite being chosen by God to carry out His will here on earth, we’re still going to hit the same obstacles and issues as everyone else. No free pass, no eternal Holiday bliss of Christmas, but the difference is… we’re going to see God do amazing things. He is going to show up in the fine details of our existence. He’s not our magic genie in a bottle, prepared to grant our every wish, but He is the God of our fathers, and He won’t let us fail or fall.

Happy New Year from  Pastor B.

 

 

Facing the past as parents; 1988 to Now

I think every generation of parents has fear. Each transition of faith from one age to the next feels like a critical pass of the baton, a sacred trust that must be kept.

This age and stage of our society may be unlike any before…unique in the modern era. Not being a legit historian, I would hazard a guess that not since the rise of the industrial revolution has the fabric of life been so rapidly affected as it is with today’s technological transformation. 

Think back 30 years. (1988) Consider the state of society and faith, the condition of the family and what we considered to be ‘normal’. The personal computer had just become a product for us to consider. The internet wasn’t yet a public concern. Cellular phones came in bags and families of faith were focused on the abortion debates, and prayer in the classroom. Marriage was defended by both democrats and republicans as between a man and woman. Pot was illegal. 

Oh, change was occurring in 1988; generational shifts were rapid between music styles, MTV videos and late night television stars opened up the door to cable TV programming, and something called “hip – hop’ was being heard from those ‘boom boxes’ in the streets. We were fascinated by Top Gun, Beetlejuice, Michael Jackson, and Miami Vice. Big hair and Nike shoes were the norm as our values were shifting to focus on wealth, raw materialism and success. The party scene was focused on  a brat pack in southern California and the valley of San Fernando was the talk of every town. Eddie Murphy was coming to America, the Young Guns were big at the box office and Ronald Reagan was rocking America into a major economic recovery. The incomparable U2 was on top of the music world,  “but we still couldn’t find what we were looking for”. 

Today, life is shifting again. Parents who were once teens, are now facing tremendous strain. We who were the self absorbed children of the 80’s are now seeking wisdom on how to help our teens navigate a digital world of relativity and limitless opinions. 

If your not aware, here are some recent (2018) stats about Generation Z (kids currently 13-19 years old) from the Barna Research Group.

Barna Research Group (2018) Study Findings: Barna’s most comprehensive research study investigating the perceptions, experiences and motivations of 13- to 18-year-olds in Generation Z, reports the following:

  • 59% of students in this age group Identify as Christian or Catholic (down from 75% ).
  • 21% say they are atheist or agnostic (up from 11% )
  • 4% say they have no religious affiliation (up from 9% )
  • Students in this age group offer the following “barriers to faith”:
    • a. “I have a hard time believing that a good God would allow so much evil or suffering in the world” (29%)
    • b. “Christians are hypocrites” (23%)
      c. “I believe science refutes too much of the Bible” (20%)
      d. “I don’t believe in fairy tales (19%)
      e. “There are many injustices in the history of Christianity” (15%)
      f. “I used to go to church but it’s not important anymore” (12%)
      g. “I had a bad experience at church with a Christian” (6%)
  • Students in this age group struggle to reconcile science with the Bible.
  • 24% side with science (up from 16% ).
  • 31% believe science and the Bible refer to different aspects of reality (up from 25% ).
  • 28% believe science and the Bible can be used to support each other (down from 45% ).
  • 17% consider themselves on the side of the Bible (up from 13% down from 19% for “Millennials”)
  • Students in this age group hold negative perceptions of the church in the following areas:
  • The church seems to reject much of what science tells us  (49%)
    b. The church is overprotective of teenagers (38%)
    c. The people at church are hypocritical (36%)
    d. The church is not a safe place to express doubts (27%)
    e. The faith and teaching I encounter at church seem rather shallow (24%)
    f. The church seems too much like an exclusive club (17%)
  • When students in this age group were asked why they didn’t think church was important, they gave the following reasons:
  • “The church is not relevant to me” (59%)
    b. “I find God elsewhere” (48%)
    c. “I can teach myself what I need to know” (28%)
    d. “I think church is out of date” (20%)
    e. “I don’t like the people who are in church” (15%)
    f. “The rituals of church are empty” (12%)

So… reading those stats can sober a parent up.  At first glance it looks grim, things are clearly different than when we were teens. Reasons for this are debatable, but anyway you slice it, our kids are changing their values to reflect today’s pop culture, just as we did in the 80’s. I went a bit crazy in my early twenties, after college and the restrictions of my parents, I promptly set out to chase after money and success, reflecting the values and beliefs of my generation. I left my faith and family for a BMW and a swollen Edward Jones portfolio, but by my mid-30’s Christ had graciously derailed my selfish path and reconnected me to His perfect plan.

Why?

My parents. They prayed for me every day.

My wife stayed true to her faith when I wandered from mine. In the end, God won the battle for my heart and mind. It was the authentic beliefs and behavior of my family that eventually forced me to consider the Christian faith as ‘real’. Not a fantastic sermon or study, not a fascinating truth revealed in a engaging ministry event, it was the consistency and faithfulness of my family living out their faith when no one was watching that won my respect and ultimately my trust. God wasn’t in a hurry, He had things under control and He was unfazed by my wandering ways.

The truth…God wasn’t distraught over my prodigal diversions. He wasn’t ‘thrown’ by my generations pagan pursuits, He firmly and gently reclaimed what was lost and started the divine story of redemption all over again. I believe He can and will do that for this generation. I believe parents must live their messy faith in authentic ways to earn the respect of our teens, and sometimes we as parents must watch and wait for God to show up in our kids lives. 

Pastor B.

Source Link – Barna Research – Generation Z 

Parents! What do you believe?

We are working with the TGA (Tween Gospel Alliance) on a new book / resource project and need your anonymous input.

If you are a socially aware parent, and have an active and ongoing interest in our shifting Faith culture and parenting, we would LOVE and APPRECIATE your help with this ten question survey!

Take our 90 second survey – make a difference!

TAKE OUR SURVEY HERE – You could win some cool stuff from Chik-Fil-A !

Survey is fast! It only takes 90 seconds to complete the ten multiple choice questions and it’s going to help thousands of parents and kids! 

God Bless you and please share with your friends or family!

Pastor Brad / Road Trip Parenting – TGA team

Looking for Intimacy…?

Valentine’s Day is upon us…

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

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

theantiquemarket.com

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

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

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

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

weheartit.com

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Valentines Day from RTP!

Pastor B.

 

Breaking up the Fallow ground

Growing up in Illinois I saw a lot of cornfields.

My horizon was filled with tracts of  vast farmland as flat as any pancake, and those fields were planted every spring with corn, soybeans, and wheat. Each October the John Deere’s showed up to harvest the crops and take it all to the silos. After years of regular crop cycles, a farmer would often choose to leave a field dormant. The land would be left to its own devices, no tilling, no seed planting and no fall harvest. Just a year to rest and recharge its nutrients and ensure its productivity for the years to come. (In scripture we would call that a “sabbath” type rest or a year of ‘jubilee”)

midwest cornfield

If that land remained unused for several seasons,  the weeds would take over along with some odd, old, sprouts of past plantings. All of these would compete for some purchase in the hard soil. Corn and bean shoots growing side by side in a mish-mash of unproductive weeds, each uneven and erratic. The only crop would be a useless mess of seedlings from a bygone era.  Among the chaos the soil would become dry and hard on the surface, a crust would form and then crack with lack of use. Land like this was considered unproductive and the term used by farmers for millennia has been “fallow”.

This agricultural term is the idea or image used in the scripture to describe the condition of our hearts when we’re drifting away from our faith.  “Fallow ground“.

What an amazingly accurate description of our hearts and emotions. You know… the areas of life where we’re not planting things any more… we’re tired and done. Hopes and dreams, relationships, kids, and marriages. Those things we had such optimism for when we began, but slowly we surrendered those pieces of our heart to despair and doubt. 

According to scripture, we can ‘break up our fallow ground” and prepare the soil of our heart to receive new seed. We don’t have to live with pieces of our heart barren and dormant. God’s calling each of us to trust Him with these, after all He is  the ‘resurrection and the life”.

Practically speaking… we may need to ‘break up’ the patterns of our days and weeks. Take new risks with old relationships. Alter our habits at home, less media and more meals together, more conversations and less polite small talk. Breaking up those places we’ve been afraid to visit takes courage and conviction. God supplies us with both.

It’s not easy torisk in the areas of our life where we’ve been hurt. But it’s the only way to break up our fallow ground. The scripture warns us to do a thorough job of digging out the weeds and thorns of our hearts if we want to grow a healthy and fruitful life. So… to clean out the heart we have to dig out the deep-rooted weeds, removing the stubborn beliefs about ourselves and each other that threaten to choke out anything new and living in us. sprout1

We can’t move forward if we still linger on the past hurts and wounds of our life, and while we’re ‘fallow’ … things in the present miss the chance to take root and grow.

So, let’s “pull some weeds’ and break up the fallow parts of our life. God is just waiting for each of us to trust Him enough to replant truth and hope in our heart.

Pastor B.

 

 

Rolling Stone Theology

Dylan… man, you gotta love the lyrics this genius of music creates! He’s an icon and rightly so… one of his most famous lines…

“How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
A complete unknown, like a rolling stone” *

We’re tempted to dis-engage with the church. Tempted to walk away and watch things from a safer distance. I get it. Community is a rough and weary commitment, but it’s also a huge strength and support in times of struggle and loss. Mostly… community is important because it’s God’s way of expressing Himself to our world and helping us grow.

Solo living seems easier. It feels safer. Our instincts tell us that we’re better off avoiding the entrapment of shared intimacy and the implied burdens we carry as a group. It would be cleaner and simpler to just have our own stuff to worry about and leave it that. church-e1506439459166.jpg

I believe that’s why Mega-Churches thrive. They provide a place for faith to exist without the intrusion of being noticed. A place to attend when we’re up for it,  church on neutral ground without the weight of accountability and personal responsibility. (please note – Certainly not meant to imply that everyone who attends a large church falls into this category)

But the bible keeps pushing for us to recognize the masters blue-print for our life. The architectural plans have been designed and drawn up, now it’s building time!

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV) 

The plans of God include you and I… not as ‘single’ pieces in a puzzle, but us as ‘the” puzzle together! The picture of God’s Kingdom includes the coming together of multiple people – places – and passions. We’re meant to share in the struggle, to walk through the pilgrimage of faith as a tribe. Not simply as solo artists and individual rocks.

We’re not called to be ‘Rolling stones’… we’re called to be part of the wall that makes up a living temple, a testament to God’s majesty and humanity. (i.e. the Local Church)

Bob-Dylan-005

Bob Dylan – Live For Live Music

I shudder to think of what I would be like today if I had just bailed on the concept of being a part of the church after a few ‘dust-ups of misunderstanding and offense.

Parents, we are all tempted to isolate and avoid. But we know the examples we’re setting will impact our kids for a lifetime. If we regularly come home from church venting our frustrations and offenses from our local spiritual family in front of them…and then expect our kids to be enthusiastic about services… we’re sending some mixed signals.

But consider the truth of God’s word… the reality of life without a spiritual anchor or community of faith is uncertain. Your family needs you as a parent to plug-in. Parenting is one of the heaviest burdens we will ever carry, there will be moments when you would give up or walk away… moments that will need encouragement and perspective to stay the course. Others will need your experiences to make it through their struggles… we can’t always figure things out alone. We’re not meant to.

So… my strong encouragement is this; Fight for the relationships God has gifted you with. Don’t walk away… don’t deny the friendships and faithfulness of your brothers and sisters in Christ. People will let us down… they will offend and ignore us, but push through the pain and trust God to bring you through. There is a profound strength that comes from reconciliation and renewal, friendships that have been tested and tried are stronger still.

Don’t do a Dylan… instead let’s strive to be a “Paul” (**see below).

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[c] and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 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,16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. ( Apostle Paul – Letter to the church at Ephesus – Chapter 4: 11-16 ESV) 

** Extra Favorite Scripture reference on the subject of community is this… Colossians 1:15-20: “We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body. He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.” (MSG)

*(Lyric Source for this blog – Songwriter: Bob Dylan – Like a Rolling Stone lyrics © Bob Dylan Music Co.)