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.

 

 

 

Baby Steps…

Watching babies is one my favorite things…. those first tentative steps, the swaying and swinging limbs… arms windmilling to stay up a few seconds more… the inevitable soft “thump” of their diapered butt hitting the ground.

Baby Steps” A milestone for every parent. That beautiful moment when a toddler is born and the baby is left behind, suddenly mobile and full of explosive energy. Wobbly and eager to explore every crack and dusty corner of your home, our baby’s get that first ‘step’ of freedom. toddler and mom

Over time those memories can fade as our kids get older and the milestone’s bigger. Big potty, school, the tooth fairy… bike riding, dates, driving… graduation. Whew…. it goes FAST. That’s why we take pictures. 🙂

In the end, we’re there to encourage, comfort, and guide them on their way. We can’t actually ‘walk’ for them, but we try our best to keep them safe as they bang and crash their way across the road of life, determined to be adults before we’re ready.

If your kids are in high school… you’re already wondering where the years went.

But this blog is about you and I…Our “Baby Steps”. 

Faith is described as a ‘new’ birth, or ‘second’ birth (as in ‘born-again) in scripture. Words like infant and mature are used by St. Paul to describe the status of Christian believers in the first century. Ideas like baby and adult are used to help us understand the faith ‘walk’.

Our growth is based on trust. On obedience and choices… not words or good intentions. Like a toddler weaving their way across a dangerous highway, we may find ourselves venturing out into a hostile world without a clue. We receive the gift of Christ’s life for our’s, of the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist and then we move on. We’re “Christian’ now.

jojocooperphotography.co.uk

jojocooperphotography.co.uk

But isn’t there more to consider. More to grow into… MORE to EXPERIENCE?

Christian’s and Evangelicals in particular use the term… “walk with God” as a phrase to describe how our ‘faith’ is. But its a good description, if we appreciate its symbolism.

How IS your ‘walk’ of Faith?

Are you still waving your hands and arms like crazy to just stay upright? Are you struggling in life, feeling constantly off-balance and wobbly… landing frequently on your tush only to slowly crawl and pull yourself back up? Don’t you want to be more stable? Walking forward with a purposeful gait, balanced, sure-footed and agile enough to avoid the dangers and obstacles ahead.

In Hebrews we’re encouraged torun with endurance the race set before us’... that’s a whole lot more than just simple ‘baby steps‘.

christfitnorth.wordpress.com

christfitnorth.wordpress.com

If your faith walk is feeling more like a toddler than an adult… its time to make some personal changes in your faith life. After all… it’s a big, beautiful, and exciting world out there! Time to put your big boy pants on and live the life Christ died for you to have! 

“God, give us the courage and stamina to follow after you with a whole heart. To take bigger risks for you, to trust more, to grow into the spiritual adults you always intended us to be! Amen.”

Pastor B.

PS – and yes, Christ did say “unless you have the ‘Faith’ of a little child, you can’t enter the Kingdom of God” But that’s for another day and a separate metaphor 🙂 Suffice it to say, that’ ‘running‘ in your faith is trusting God with the certainty and simplicity of a child!

Japanese Gardens, Voodoo Donuts, Lebanese lunch and 7000 Rose’s… KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD!

Friday June 15: Our last full roadtrip day…kinda sad, kinda happy… but it was here.

Jessica loves cities…so we headed to Portland to check it out! Online she had found the eclectic Voodoo donuts and Blue Plate fountain ( both legendary eateries in the region) hidden in the bustling metropolis that represented well over half of the population of Oregon…and wanted to eat at authentic – off the beaten path places while we were here!

The Sign says it all…

 The Voodoo donuts experience was a wild one, a line had formed around the corner and Jessica snapped pics of the crazy sign and downtown Portland vibe. When it was our turn we found the choices too many to decide… So we bought a Voodoo dozen ( let the staff pick our 12) and had a bite of each in our famous pink box.

Voodoo Sugar Coma

 Our favorites were the bubble gum and captain crunch creations as well as a blueberry with raspberry sprinkles! NICE.

Compared to the donuts and atmosphere of the Seattle “Top Pot” donutery – we liked the Seattle version of gourmet cakes better…  But the sheer audacity of the voodoo donuts design, color and names; was worth the visit for sure! Fun to eat them right out of their pink boxes and matching pink picnic tables as we nibbled ourselves into a serious sugar coma by 10am. 🙂

 From there we went exploring and found the World renown Portland … Japanese and Rose gardens in Washington park. Fabulous details found in the large Japanese garden were clearly world-class in beauty, size and scope. It took us over an hour of walking and reviewing the many micro gardens, water falls, koi ponds, tea houses and zen rock gardens to complete our tour! 

Portland Japanese Garden

The colors and care in the design and maintenance of this serene setting were indeed worth the price of admission. Jessica loved it! She took more pictures here than in Yosemite National park:) Good to know…

 The Rose garden across the street was free and intertwined in the Portland public park system and featured over 500 varieties in 7000 plantings, spread across 4.5 acres. Dating back to the early 1900’s this elevated garden provided a dazzling array of colors and scents as we walked through its expanse and enjoyed the cityscape views of Portland and Mt Hood across the valley below us. Beautiful!

Tried to find the Blue Plate place for lunch…but were unsuccessful. Instead we tried a new ethnic treat. Lebanese, at Karam downtown! After splitting a banquet of lamb and chicken, homemade humus and fresh-baked Pita bread we were stuffed and walked the downtown city blocks enjoying the sun and clear June skies in a truly unique and beautiful city! Jessica was loving it… I could tell it was a high-point for her to be here for sure!

One of the great parts of a father-daughter RoadTrip is the chance to reconnect, to re-orient our understanding of each other and the thousands of little details, nuance’s and shifts in personality, preference and discoveries that occur from the teen years into adulthood. Their new favorites. Colors, styles…taste buds and music all shifting dramatically from their freshman to senior years of high-school. It’s impossible to keep up, but RoadTrip’s give us parents a huge head start in staying really connected with our young adults.

I could see that my little girl was becoming a real lady. Complex, mysterious and hungry for new cultural experiences. Portland was a paradise for her. A new place to explore, to savor new styles and flavors and sights-sounds so different from Spring Hill TN. This was exactly the reason we were here. 

Signs all over the city!

To reconnect and then release her to adult life in college. To make sure she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt how special, unique and amazing she was… how proud we were of her AND to expose her to a bright – big new world of ideas, opportunities and challenges that she needed to know existed beyond the shelter of our suburban bible-belt life. She loved the crazy Portland signs painted or posted everywhere… KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD!..I was less excited, but knew she was already beyond needing to share my opinion. She was now HERSELF.

Mission accomplished!  

After lunch we Drove east to explore the famous Columbia river gorge and Multanomah Falls! A short 30 minute trip from downtown we climbed the popular 1/2 mile path to take pictures from the famous bridge and watch as thousands of gallons of water cascaded over the Columbia cliffs below. Directly off of interstate 84 this national scenic stop is easy for everyone to discover and provides a welcome car break for families with young and old alike. A full restaurant, visitors center and gift shop allow for a great experience on any and every budget!

 With a hotel reserved through Priceline for a 60% discount  in downtown Seattle we headed north on I-5 . On the way we enjoyed the views of the southern Washington mountains including the snow-capped peaks of Mt St Helen’s, the Olympics and iconic Mt Rainier! Each epic silhouette in the afternoon sky was beautiful to watch and remember. It was like they were guarding our east and western flanks as we motored North to our flight home…sentinels to our time together.

We arrived at a first class boutique hotel (Silver cloud inns and hotels) in the capital hill district of Seattle and crashed! The service, the food and the amenities were outstanding and provided a wonderful and a truly fitting way for us to wind down our week-long North-Pacific adventure.  The only down side… Today was my 21st wedding anniversary and I was not with my bride. 😦

Jessica fixed that for me… we had posed for a picture at the Rose Garden in Portland earlier in the day… she used it to post on my Facebook wall with Paige to show me presenting a bright red rose to her on our anniversary. 

Portland Rose for my Sweetheart!

And… I had purchased a great Owl statue from the Japanese Garden for my beautiful wife…gently tucked in paper for our return.

We loved the road… and tomorrow we were heading home. What a time! What a blessing we had been given… sharing 3000 miles and seven whole days alone. God was so generous to us and our time had not been wasted. From Seattle to Yosemite we had explored, tasted and adventured into hundreds of super cool little nooks and crannies, blasted ColdPlay, the Black Keys and Jessica’s iPod playlists for hours…singing along out of tune with the windows open! We had thrown snow balls and walked in the rain, we had sat on rockers and watched spring mist slide in over a gentle lakeside sunset. We had dived into the bustle of a sprawling urban landscape of people and tourists and commercial excess…and we had walked stone & driftwood filled beaches with beauty and isolation. We had trekked to abandoned mining towns in the desert and drove into snow filled passes with scenic vista’s for miles…all with an eagerness to see, to find to discover…to learn…to live! 

Her mother and I are so Proud !

Was our RoadTrip worthy of Jessica’s massive cultural wanderlust…? YEP, I think so!

Peace out RTP… God bless you this summer and if you can… plan your own RoadTrip moment. Get out there… the road is calling and our kids are not getting any younger, take the time before it’s gone!

The surprising struggle for maturity

Maturity takes time.

Watching as our kids grow up right in front of our eyes, is one of the most profoundly wonderful and painful experiences a parent can ever have. It’s especially true when your kids step from the dependence of their junior high years into the new and expanding world of High School.

In the early years… our kids still really need us. As pre-teens and young teens, they may be growing an attitude to match their body changes…but after all the bluster, they still can’t drive,  can’t really do stuff or buy things without our permission or the needed cash “donated” for their purchases or activities. In short, they are dependent on our regular interaction and support to pursue their own wants and desires.

As they grow and gain some normal young-adult confidence and experience, they transition rapidly once they get that driver’s license and a sudden expanded menu of social items to pick from… in which we (the parents) are no longer essential for their participation. Often they also get a part – time job and build their own nest eggs. With the accumulation of their own savings and initial financial resources, they further distance us from the equation. We slowly lose our immediate influence on their daily activities and choices as they gain greater independence. As it should be.

Herein lies the challenge

It’s so hard to find the balance between freedom and reasonable accountability for our maturing young-adults. The process it seems is an elusive and ever – shifting endeavor for any parent to endure. There is a surprising struggle that occurs from junior high up until the college years in which we watch our kids morph into adults and the resultant often awkward & painful struggle for maturity is a vital one. We want to really offer them the chance to “choose”, to discover some of the truth’s we’ve taught them for themselves, but we want to protect them in the process.

It’s a nerve rattling experience to watch your sixteen year old drive off for the first time alone to a home football game…all the while anxiously considering sneaking out to “tail” them, just to be sure they come back safe. (not saying I ever did that 🙂

But seriously…I’m learing one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids, is not only the earned trust  and respect of becoming a young adult, but a growing understanding of how they can actually learn from Jesus directly. To re-direct them from just following us or modeling our behaviors to seek out answers on their own. To grow independent spiritually like they are financially and socially and help them begin to value their own times of personal prayer and reading in the pursuit of answering life’s questions.

If we teach them how to lay a firm foundation to launch from on their own spiritual journey, we will have helped them immensely in finding their identity and purpose as being more than just our kids. Watching proudly as they learn to grow beyond just the goal of gaining our “approval” in their life choices…but of “pleasing” their heavenly father as well…then I believe we will have served them well. Of course we can expect to see them have a few life stumbles and even a  fall along the way. But in the end, I believe by the grace of God, they will get up and stay up and become exactly who God created them to be, maybe even despite of us… 🙂

“Maturity is a psychological term used to indicate how a person responds to the circumstances or environment in an appropriate manner. This response is generally learned rather than instinctive, and is not determined by one’s age. Maturity also encompasses being aware of the correct time and place to behave and knowing when to act appropriately, according to the situation and the culture of the society one lives in.

Adult development and maturity theories include the purpose in life concept, in which maturity emphasizes a clear comprehension of life’s purpose, directedness, and intentionality which, contributes to the feeling that life is meaningful.” (Source – Wikepedia)