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.

Ruth’s story…

Some days our faith hangs by a thread so thin we wonder why we even claim to be a Christian. Despair is a the door, hope has left the building and we are all that remains. Our hearts merely empty shells… echoes fading of our past professions of God’s goodness and grace.

If those words resonate… you’re not alone. 

Studying the book of Ruth for a sermon series, I felt the powerful parallels between her story and mine. Her faith and story serving as a powerful source of hope and inspiration, especially for those caught in heartache, loneliness, and a season of profound injustice.

If that’s you… then STOP for a few minutes… read the book of Ruth. It’s only four chapters long. A novella of sorts, written 3,000 years ago from the perspective of a still young widow woman without a country, a family to call her own, or any semblance of a future. Destitute, facing starvation, and homeless… she resisted the temptation to run and chose to stick it out with God.

Her act of faith a heroic tale full of every emotion one can feel. Despair and hopelessness mixed with redemption and restoration. A true story of one woman’s selflessness and God’s intimate and tender touch. 

I can only introduce you to Ruth.

To know her, and possibly yourself… you must explore the passages on your own time. Reading under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit… trusting God to reveal to you the ancient details as they relate to your own tragic moments and empty faith. Watch in wonder and fascination as utter loss and shame becomes renewed hope and a sure future.

image source - sandyfreckletongagonartblog.wordpress.com

image source – sandyfreckletongagonartblog.wordpress.com

In the end Ruth is vindicated for trusting in her God. She is accepted, loved, adored, and exalted to the highest place of honor possible… the great-grandmother of the Messiah.

Her journey is our journey. Her determination to follow after God ‘no-matter-what” resonates with me on so many levels. 

God’s word is like that. Filled with story after story of men and women like us, feeling the same struggles of life and experiencing the personal attention of a loving Father who intervenes and validates each individual moment of suffering and loss as part of His perfect plan.

Ruth renews my trust in God. I hope it does the same for you today. 

To discover more about Ruth and her amazing story, read on at Biblegateway.com !

Pastor B.

When we run and hide…

Met with a dear friend and fellow pastor the other day. We talked and caught up… he shared of his summer and the struggle he’s had with isolation and the allure of pulling back from his church community.  Of his battle with feeling alone and wanting to avoid others… it was a familiar story.

He eventually recognized this internal struggle was more than just an emotional pull or some sort of ministry fatigue. It was spiritual warfare. His church was growing, having just walked through a very difficult season of transition things were finally gaining momentum… the Kingdom of God was pressing forward into their local community and suddenly there was just a sense of unexplainable spiritual fatigue. 

The result… he pulled back from meeting with others in his community of faith for coffee or prayer. He took a ‘break’ from reading his bible. He re-arranged his personal life to allow him to ‘miss’ regular church events and generally pulled away from all things “Christian’ in order to get some ‘space’.

In time it affected his marriage, his kids and of course… his relationship with God. He was sharing with me in the ‘past-tense’ and I noted that he was embarrassed and upset with himself for letting it happen. Wryly he acknowledged he could see these same issues in others easily enough, but seemed so blind about himself…he was sharing out of accountability and support. Bringing it out into the open and letting me know he didn’t want to stay in this place of isolation any longer.

picture credit - www.doctormit.ro

picture credit – http://www.doctormit.ro

That took courage. It mean he had conviction and determination to follow Christ no matter what he was ‘feeling’ or not feeling on any particular day. It also meant, he was walking in humility and purpose. Recognizing he was fighting more than a personal battle, but experiencing spiritual resistance to the work that God was doing in and around him at his local church.

In his family.

In his marriage.

In him.

We all have felt this way in our lives. Many times I’ve wanted to run away and hide from ministry. To just get in my car and drive until I didn’t know where I was. To isolate and hibernate away from people… from problems. From the concerns of others and the petty annoyances of life.

Yet… somewhere deep within we know that’s not the better path. We sense that God is working in these empty moments of life. Developing something ‘more‘ within our heart of hearts. Growing us deeper roots for finding that ‘everlasting’ water and preparing us to serve in new ways. It’s in these moments of isolation that we have to choose to open the bible once more and read. Drinking deep of it’s wisdom and experiencing the grace of God afresh.

picture credit - thelaneblog.wordpress.com

picture credit – thelaneblog.wordpress.com

Faith is tested every day. Sometimes it’s the in-between of our lives that we are most vulnerable. The subtle shift in our attitude… the bitter taste of resentment or past injustice nudging us to pull back. To avoid.

Dear friends… we are desperately in need of each other. The battle for our hearts and minds begins with isolation and division. The enemy of our souls will seek to compromise us anyway he can. It’s easiest when we’re away from the strength and support of our spiritual family.

Stay close to your encourager’s. Don’t run. Don’t hide. Whatever your feeling…whatever you’ve done… God is already making it work for your good and His glory.

Hang in there. Stay close. Be where God has placed you.

Pastor B.

 

 

 

Just one more step…

Climbing a mountain will cost you...

If you use logic…it’s absurd really. To devote a perfectly good day to leave the comfort and safety of your home or hotel to risk your life and limb to walk with a heavy bag on your back. To willingly surrender 24-48 hours of your life for no other purpose but to exhaust yourself and waste a valuable chance to catch up on some real ‘work’ on your garage or lawn.

It’s not something you do casually. Takes time to train, plan, and prepare. There’s the weather to consider, supplies to purchase, gear to get. You need a partner to walk with and the freedom in your schedule to go find a mountain, acclimate your lungs and then actually do a 7 or 8 hour hike to the top.

Even if you do go to the trouble to prep for and arrive at a mountain trail… it will take a supreme effort of will to push yourself past the first three hours of freezing night-time (3 am departure) hiking. Often necessary to make the summit in time to beat the thunderstorm and lightening risk of a summer afternoon at high altitude. DSC_0307

If you manage to make it past sunrise and keep going up… the battle of will begins.

Mind shrieking at you to just slow down… rest. STOP! Legs and lungs stretched and wheezing to the limit. The goal of reaching the peak lost in the haze of fir and forest obscuring your view, roots and rocks have turned your ankles a dozen times and tripped your extra firm hiking boots even more often.

The lead that seems to be buried in your backpack has been gaining weight with each mile as the available O2 has evaporated somewhere…and you’re wondering if you really needed all that stuff you brought. With growing anxiety you start to notice the new sounds and smells on the air, listening for wild animals or bears…half hoping, half dreading you’re going to find them.

The ground starts to get steeper and your feet heavier as you push past breakfast to late morning. The rocks are now getting much bigger, huge slabs sheared off the cliff face nearby, interrupted by streams of runoff and fields of little round flat rocks, like tiles from a roof piled as deep as your waist on the side of the trail….remnants of last winter and the natural slides of snow and rock lay across your trail. Slick and unsteady, shale making for even slower progress as your lungs shrink in the upper atmosphere and your worn out legs go as soft & rubbery as hot plastic.

It’s about then that you seriously consider turning back. Mind games playing tricks on you… maybe the trails blocked ahead anyway. The weather looks bad. How much further could it be, have their been any recent bear attacks on this trail ?

It’s all you can do to just put one foot in front of another.… face down, shoulder’s chaffing from the straps biting into your back, your hot, sweaty, sticky and cold. Wind and sun making you feel every extreme of temperature and climate as you go. 

It’s crazy to climb a mountain. Crazy to dream you could do something like this…

The old calf muscle injury is screaming at you to slow down, your trick knee is flame. The shirt under your fleece pullover is soaking with your sweat and your face is burning from the sting of constant wind. Your breath is gone… talking, joking, laughing is a distant memory. All you can do is wheeze, step… Wheeze and step…. lean, forward… breathe. Hold… push that pack back one more time, lift your foot, bend that knee… one next step at a time… beautiful-landscape-with-rocky-mountains-at-sunset-in-canada-jakob-radlgruber

And then the sky opens up.... like a golden blue panorama of light and crystal glory. A vista of beauty as far as your watering eyes can squint and see. The trees fade to shrub and then to delicate tundra as you notice the awe-inspiring images of brilliant almost neon bright flowers springing from the stone cracks… the outline of an eagles silent glide, the shadow of ancient snow piled deep in the corners of hidden rock.

The wind becomes firmer in your face and the air as fresh as Eden itself. Life is literally exploding around you and suddenly you feel ready to ‘run ‘ up the final quarter of a mile. No more fatigue. No more struggle… only an exuberant joy and satisfaction at having come.

The fatigue of your journey forgotten, the pain no more. Only the warmth and gratitude of seeing something extraordinary with fresh eyes. The ‘epiphany’ of the mountain top burns fresh hope and happiness through the clouds of sorrow and discouragement that hovered so near for so long.

That’s why I climb mountains. 

I see beauty and it restores me.

I feel the nearness of my God.

I sense the grandeur of life and the intricate and intimate details of creation, knowing deep in my soul that I’m a part of this endless tapestry.

But it all hinges on taking ‘one-more-step’.

I don’t know if your running out of hope for your marriage, a career, your church, yourself, or your kid… but let me encourage you to go to the ‘mountain’ of God.

Read with Him there. Find your restored self again and don’t stop taking that ‘-one-more-step”! The view ahead is going to be spectacular! I promise. 🙂

Pastor B.

 

 

Sadness Sucks!

Sadness… sorrow. Life – struggle – despair. Stuff we as parent’s not only have to deal with… but have to help our kids with.

How do we keep parenting when we’re in the midst of personal grief and or tragedy? sadness sucks

Couple of thoughts….

1 – Sadness is not a sin. Sorrow is a part of the journey we call life. In perspective, sadness is where we can find our truest measure. A time in which God will allow us to suffer or endure difficulty. Not to punish, but to prune.

The struggles force us to draw near or flee from God’s presence. If we choose to demand explanations, we’ll miss the opportunity to get to ‘know’ Him. We’ll be distracted by the injustice of our situation and loose the intimacy of just having Him near us as we go through it.

John 15 (ESV) “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit… 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy (not happiness) may be full.

2- Sorrow and Sadness allow us to ‘see’ the world differently. As if with new eyes. Eyes of Faith. Kingdom lens, whichever Christian metaphor your like… For most of us… we cannot see our world as it really is without being forced to look again… with God’s perspective.

Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” 

3 – Struggle builds muscle… Sadness can be a training tool of God to build up our faith and endurance for the journey ahead. Like any soldier, we must prepare our minds and muscles for the rigors of battle and train ourselves in the use and tactics of our weaponry.

Our weakness is God’s strength… our battle is not as it seems. There is much more to our melancholy and sadness than just our circumstances! We have an enemy of our heart and he is aggressively pushing us to retreat, pull back, abandon our current course…. As parents, or pastors… this gets amplified in times of strategic advance – and with the increased hostility, we should be able to recognize the significance of our work and ministries! We must also arm ourselves with Kingdom truth… abandoning the lies of our world. A few verses to help you reset!

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV) But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (ESV) “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

Ephesians 6:10-13 (ESV) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that (you)may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm

Christian Parenting isn’t living in denial…it’s not forcing yourself to smile no matter what!

It’s an unfiltered view of the struggle, a illustration to our kids of what a genuine Christian in the real world lives like. It’s a unique opportunity we have as parents to model an authentic faith to our kids as we work to understand the truth of God, His comfort, and His presence in the chaos and tragedy of life.

Sadness does suck… but it has purpose for the Christian!

Pastor B.

Recommended Resource: “Choose Joy, because happiness isn’t enough” Kay Warren

The Secret of Adventure…

From the very beginning I’ve had a deep longing to explore… to be challenged, tested, and to discover. God in His great wisdom granted my heart’s desire… and made me a parent.

The secret of Adventure is knowing your already living in one.

AA Milne knew that. His pooh stories saturated with the truth of Adventure and the need we have to be on one. So is the Bible… it reminds us of the fantastic story we’re a part of . The epic and the insignificant moments all threaded into one beautiful tapestry we call our life. For us children of the 80’s… the Adventure was in a galaxy far, far, away.

pic source - moviepilot.com

pic source – moviepilot.com

Like all great stories, there is a sacred quest and a villain with evil intent. A damsel in distress and a gallant hero complete the setting…

Soon our story expands, as priceless treasure is discovered, needing to be protected,…good, and evil locked in a battle for the prize. Drama and tragedy set among the glory and triumph, we watch with breathless anticipation to see how the scene plays out.

Life is an adventure… if you see it for what it really is. 

Can you see your life as more than survival, or a test? More than a painful series of ‘checklist’s to complete?

Can you see your marriage and your love for others as a sacred quest? The priceless treasure…your little ones. Heroically we stand guard against a corrupted and evil world, fighting to protect their hope and preserve innocence.

It’s heroic, even inspiring to watch as we parents learn to love and honor each other in the pursuit of parenthood. Sacrificing our rights and ‘precious little wrongs’ on the altar of true love and a growing commitment to serve someone greater than ourselves.

Ahhh… the heart of a epic story really is inside us all, just waiting to be discovered and celebrated!

Each family, each marriage can become a testament to the adventure God intended us to all share in. And like any great story… we know intuitively the ending. Good will triumph and the evil villain will get his just reward…

Unless you remember the story. Unless you understand what your life really is a part of… the adventure you’re in may only feel like one long moment of sheer terror and the epic hero seems absent. Don’t be confused, that isn’t just a battered and helpless carpenter nailed to a cross… it’s the Prince of Peace and the Lord of the Universe.

The truth is, your hero is with you. The battle has been fought and your are free to be as your father intended. Full of life and optimism, trusting the script has been written down to the smallest detail.. and you’re going to see the ending! 

Peace and Grace dear one… Pastor B.

Solo and Silent… Waiting and Delay, part 2

Driving in the desert is unlike any other place. Long – vast – uninterrupted horizon – skies that stretch beyond the edges of the earth. Barren and beautiful, it opens up in front of you with subtle detail. Sage and cactus, old washes with sandstone sides, brutal pitches of solid rock and flat-topped mesa’s the size of a small city. It looks and feels like the end of the world, the furthest reach of life. All of it clinging like a thread to survive. Cold and Hot, dry and dusty, it howls with the windswept cry of its isolation and fatigue.desert

Quite a metaphor for life.

How often do we find ourselves driving through a ‘desert’ of existence? How far do we travel on the two lane ribbon of asphalt, wondering if we’re going to make it?

God is in the desert places of our lives. It is in these vast unbroken stretches of existence that He longs to have us come near. To shut off the noise of our existence and simply ‘be’ with Him.

I found myself in such a place and in such a state. Driving for hundreds of miles… Solo and Silent. Waiting for a word from God. A whisper of divine affirmation, a word of encouragement or even correction. Anything to block the nearly silent sadness of my heart.

In these moments I let go. Somewhere between Grand Canyon and Phoenix I decided to stop figuring it all out. To stop calculating and striving, to rest and release my worry and my pain. Somewhere in the desert God touched my heart and made it new again.

Truth began to bubble up in me. Words of insight and understanding. Helpful and encouraging it captured my struggle and restored my hope. Perspective gained in a lonely vigil.

Here are a few of His thoughts that shaped me in the desert;

“The transformation is slow and steady as we move from hopeful to grateful to desperate in our pursuit of Gods voice and presence. It realigns our lives from the inconsistent and extreme to the steady and serene. The obstacles, crisis and tragedies encountered along the way become the building blocks of a divine nature that’s expanding and changing who we are from the inside out. No longer dependent on external conditions for our hope and happiness we find ourselves able to go further in faith than ever before. Not because of our strength or wisdom… But because we have abandoned the familiar safety of a life we can control, for the will of God.” 

“Personal Purity & Holiness are not irrelevant in the shadow of Christ’s grace. The maturing believer moves deeper with their personal intimacy and conviction to live for Christ alone. This movement inspired by the Holy Spirit pulls us away from the past / flesh towards the newness of life in Christ and fuels a growing desire to be more like Him than we want to remain as the old us!” 

“There is a significant difference between the superficial – external – vicarious – circumstantially based faith and the hidden – deep – internal – transformational faith that comes only at the cross of Christ. For the persistent follower of Jesus, the crucible of life becomes the forge of a white-hot faith developed in the ordinary – simple and unremarkable moments of daily living. It is in the choosing that we believe. It is in the believing that we grow and mature and expand.” 

“This process of “becoming” like Christ is not a complicated or convoluted path, it is rather a painfully simple series of determinations to trust God more than what we can see or feel. Designed by God to remove the dross of our inner man – it also nurtures the creation of a new heart that quietly begins to grow and glow in the darkness of our isolated existence.”  cropped-road-pic-roadtrip-instagram.jpg

I believe it was in the “waiting and delay” of my journey that I was able to hear and respond to God. I believe it was in the silence and isolation that I was able to face the issues and patterns of my old self that needed to be slayed. It is in these moments of alone that we grow.

Dear ones… trust where God leads . He knows what we need.

Pastor B.