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.

 

 

 

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.

Any one else out there…?

Feeling alone?

Do you wonder in the silent moments if anyone will slow down enough to notice you today.

Someone to feel the pain your stumbling through life with. Someone to see beyond the surface calm and notice that subtle sadness in your eyes…the only hint to the sorrow and weariness within. All of your pain carefully held in check… we suffer in silence. A self-imposed exile. desert

If so, read on.

Life does conspire against us. It forces us to trust or run. To step into or flee away from. For those of us who still believe… we face the constant pressure to decide. Will we trust or doubt or land somewhere in-between.

Will we pick our faith back up from the curb and smooth it back in place somewhere stuck between our brain and beating heart? Or will we leave it behind… a useless token of youth lost…hopelessly broken ? 

This is where we often live. Right in the moment of in-between and if you’re a Christian that means feeling and being ‘alone’ in ways more profound than we know. The wilderness of faith where doubt and distractions rule the days and nights.

It’s here (wilderness) we have to choose.

It’s here where we grow.Where we change and become… something more than we were… and less.

For Moses and the nation of Israel fleeing Egypt… this took forty years to complete. For Jesus forty days. For you and I… well it remains to be seen. But it’s a part of our journey of faith. Not something we can avoid or skip. It’s a process of transformation that must be done in isolation.

It’s here in this lonely place where we move from a vicarious conviction of faith to a personal and intimate dependence on God’s word to live. 

For many of us… Isolation and loneliness are things we avoid… for others it’s a place we go to hide. But for every believer it’s a gateway to becoming… to expanding our faith from a shared experience to a personal conviction of the truth and purpose in Christ.

When we choose to believe God’s word vs. our feelings… we gain strength. When we delay, avoid, or deny… we don’t.

It takes a supernatural touch to move our hearts to trust again. To believe when we can’t see or feel a thing. To care when we’re numb. Yet it’s only here in the isolation that we learn what we must to go on.

So… take heart. God isn’t abandoning you. He’s closer than ever before. 

Blessings…

Pastor B.

Luke 4:1-14 (reference for blog)

Fall Funk

Each year about this time… I get a bit of the funk. Cold and cough, snotty nose… sinus headaches. I blame it on the long grey days of fall, when it rains all week-long and then the leaves are gone. Life seems to go blah, kinda gross. Nothing really fun happening yet. Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is on the horizon and the day-to-day becomes a grind.

74211.com - source

74211.com – source

Parenting… pastoring, living… gets dull. People seem to want their space. It’s just easier to go back to bed… to skip the next church event or party invite. We’re tired. Coffee and Tea and the ol comfy couch are where we want to start and stop each day. 

Kids grind down too. School gets serious about now, homework and tests amping up for the quarter and teachers load on the extra assignments. Short days become long nights and everyone get’s tired of everyone else’s attitude. Family time is squeezed out and we’re all fending for ourselves in the fridge.

Consider this… God is most active in the ordinary. Not the grand and glorious moments of our lives.

He works in and among us when we feel the weakest. The most “blah”. In fact, He works amazing things in and among our least and lowest moments. When we think we’re hopelessly useless… He will show up. Giving us opportunities to do real ministry to our kids and those around us.

This fall… don’t give in to the funk. 

God has plans that only you can carry out. Custom prepared for your unique blend of gifts and gaffs. Don’t isolate and avoid the next opportunity to mingle and mix it up with friends and family. Step out in faith… irregardless of how you ‘feel’. I promise you… the mystery of God’s ways will fill you with renewed wonder and grace for yourself and those around you.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “9 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.” (ESV) Biblegateway Source.

Living in the fall funk is only a moment of time… but without hope, it can stretch darkly far out in front of us. Get up, get out there… change the world. You’ll be surprised how much we need you and how much you need us!

Pastor B.

The Agony of Alone…

Parents, there are times when we must walk alone.

Our kids, our spouses and our friends get uber-busy, totally distracted and generally overwhelmed by the drama of life. When they do, we can start to drift a bit further away…simply to protect ourselves from their personal stresses draining us of what little reserves we still have left.

The reality is sometimes we are the only one able to keep moving forward, and it’s our turn to lead.

To risk walking into the wild alone, to knowingly endure the isolation. To stand firm, feeling like you’re the sole representation of strength and sanity in a world of exhausted, exasperated and crazy. It’s a heavy burden to carry. Depression - bw lady

But just when we start to wear out, God sends refreshment or forces us to take a time out for our self. Raising up stronger – rested folks to cover our weakness just when we’re about to fade completely out or pushing us into an adult version of “time-out”.

Whatever your situation, it’s likely your reading this blog in part because your feeling “alone”, isolated and empty. My encouragement is to trust that your creator knows you better than you.

His path can seem twisted and often leading in the “opposite” direction we want to go, but in the end… our faith draws us closer and it chooses for us, to believe when nothing around inspires. It’s that deep-down faith that insists it’s worth the effort to stick with the divine map drawn for our lives, no matter how empty or alone we feel.

It was a common thing for Christ to withdraw from the crowds when He was on earth, to refresh Himself on a mountain top and be alone with His heavenly father, it’s no surprise then that we might require the exact same “medicine” to refresh ourselves.

It’s also true that Christ himself had to go through the “agony of alone“. He thrashed in isolation at the garden of Gethsemane, endured the injustice of the courtroom alone and approached the shame of a criminals death by himself.

The suffering we feel as “alone” cannot be fully felt or shared with anyone else but the son of God. As parents, BFF”s and spouses… we believe in relying on each other, but in the end we will find those rare moments when all others we’ve counted on are gone or otherwise “occupied” and we have to move forward with just our faith in Christ to comfort and encourage us.

It’s in those times we grow. 

Our roots go deeper and our courage grows stronger, not because of any personal triumph we achieve, but from the reality of our faith becoming “tangible” and “real” in the midst of impossible odds and un-reasonable demands. Problems that overwhelm us, stuff so big, we have no-hope of ever meeting or completing.HandsSoilPlant

It’s time to “let go” and trust God to make up for our shortcomings. 

It’s time to “trust” that He has things under control. 

It’s time to “listen” instead of demanding things change. 

It’s time to “rest” in the middle of our storms. 

God is pursuing each one of us, and like the disciples… He has a unique and creative plan for our life, one that we can only live out if we choose to surrender it to Him.

It will be the same for our kids as it is for us.

Don’t fake it, don’t smooth the rough patches of life over… let your pre-teens/teens see the struggle and hear the tears. Real life is coming to each one of us and learning to turn to our heavenly father with our pain is the best “life-lesson’ we could ever hope to share.

Pastor B.

———————————Scripture for today’s blog:

Hebrews 13:5 (Amplified Bible – courtesy of Biblegateway.com)

Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God]Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]

 

 

January RoadTrip…Flying Father Brian, Makes his Canadian Debut!

So it’s days four and five and we’ve made it all the way to Canada, sweet Eh? The sky’s are holding clear and the weather is beautiful but cold, -24-27F at times. We’ve visited all of our favorite summer places and all of the places we missed seeing the year before, including Bow Lake, Athabasca Glacier… Jasper and Lake Louise. All “MUST SEE” Canadian stops at anytime of the year!

Lake Louise - Jan 13'

Lake Louise – Jan 13′

But the crazy stuff has yet to happen. On day Four we enter Jasper (Alberta Canada) ready to look for the rugged beauty and wildlife the area is so famous for. It’s in Jasper that the real heart of the untamed wild remains for us and we love to see where and what God will lead us into every time we get to visit. Brian asks about Maligne Lake and suggests we give it a go and try to drive the lonely winding road from Jasper back to the lake, knowing it’s probably not plowed or open to the public in the winter months.

We find the road and sure enough it’s coated in a good five to six-inch layer of fresh snow, but appears to be passable in our SUV. So we drive on, winding our way in the infrequent tracks of other outdoor enthusiast’s vehicles that have come before us. Within thirty minutes we run out of tracks to follow and have to start creating our own in the fresh snow, we have yet to see a soul and it’s clear we are not going to.

Road Outside of Jasper - Jan 13'

Road Outside of Jasper – Jan 13′

We are alone. Isolated and removed from the bustle of tourists and trinkets and happy to serve you Canadian restaurant’s, we are off the beaten path for sure and well into the not to be traveled for another four-five months road. Along the way we discover the awesome impact that total and complete silence can have on the soul and spirit. Nothing is stirring, no one is moving and no animal is even attempting to approach. The wind is still, the snow is completely covering all that we can see and the ambient sounds of nature are all dormant in mid-January. We have the place completely to ourselves and as we wade out in the thigh-high snow to stand at the base of the famous Maligne Lake we are awed by its majestic beauty and wondrous silence.

Brian takes some super cool – 360 view pictures with his new iPhone5 and we stand quietly, soaking up the view and the beauty and the presence of such God breathed glory…all alone and undisturbed in this winter paradise. We are about 40 miles from Jasper and civilization and the sky is a clear but greyish color, hinting of snow to come…but it’s beautiful and open and reveals to us the many glacier tipped peaks that surround this gorgeous place and allows us to remember the ancientness of this sacred site. Knowing that what we are gazing upon what generations of Native Americans have seen for thousands of years before we ever arrived, just as it has always been…undisturbed and perfect!

Flying Father Brian!

Flying Father Brian!

On the way back we are enjoying ourselves, relieved we could find the place and overjoyed that we had ducked the crowds for the solitude of Maligne Lake in January. Brian loves the view we have as we drive the winding snow blanketed road and decides to get on the roof of our SUV with his HD camera and try to film it!

It’s a brisk 5-7F out and he’s bundling up with most of what we have in the car – scarfs, gloves, hats,  hoodie, down coat etc… he gingerly climbs up on our Chevy and balances himself and his gear in the best way to capture the most view without exposing any more skin than is absolutely necessary…. He thumps the roof (he’s ready) and off I go, driving slowly through the Narnia-esqe scene before us. After 10 minutes and about 2.5 miles we stop at the shores of Medicine Lake and Brian unwraps himself from the roof and re-enters the heated atmosphere of our vehicle. Stoked at the adventure, He loved it!

From that moment on… I dubbed him “Flying Father Brian Hardin and it’s clear that his Canadian debut was a success! Can’t wait to see his HD film of it all and promise I will share it with you on RTP.

The truth is this… When we go out of our way to seek out the silence and solitude of being alone, of experiencing God on His terms…we open ourselves up for something beautiful and significant to occur in our lives. RoadTrips are an excellent way to step back from the crazy and chaotic and re-set, re-center ourselves around the beautiful and substantive things that make our lives worth living!

Oh Canada, How I love thee !

Oh Canada, How I love thee !

Tomorrow… our return drive through Idaho and the Land of the Mormons.

Sharing IS caring, especially at Christmas

Living life in isolation as a Christian is a legitimate option. I dare say that EVERYONE has been wounded by a fellow believer or by a particular Church in their lifetime. That pain un-checked can drive us away from community, from allowing ourselves to get close… it pushes us back from admitting we might need others in our lives. According to a 2008 Zondervan/Knowledge Networks study, 24% of Christian’s only practice their faith “privately”, outside of the church, they are called “christers”. (Christmas and Easter atttenders)

Isolation denies the opportunity for us to develop trust, it robs us of the richness of a true friendship or the intimacy of an earned comrade by your side. When we withdraw from the uncomfortable, from the risk of relying on someone else… we do limit our ability to be hurt further, but we also remove ourselves from the strength and companionship of a community of faith. Many of us slide into depression or worse… numbness.

Courtesy - "Broken Believers"

Ever wonder why so many of us get angry or bitter towards the Church? Ever consider why there is so much cynicism and angst with the way a particular pastor or leader teaches or a specific church handles its ministries and events? When we add kids and marriage into the mix… this whole issue becomes simply overwhelming at times. Families are tempted more than ever to just isolate themselves from others. I believe as in most complex circumstances… the simplest answer might serve us the best.

Could it be that we are just afraid?

No shame in admitting to that. No doubt many if not all of us from time to time avoid the risk’s of being too close to our fellow believers. Choosing instead to skip services, or ministry events or even social time with those we attend sunday services with. We all can identify with the struggle between trusting someone with our true feelings vs. giving the expected and safe responses to the standard social greetings we exchange each sunday.

But what if we decided to we wanted more?

What would happen if an entire generation of Christians chose to risk relationship? Risk rejection, risk condemnation and risk betrayal? What if we took the step of faith to come out of our safe and secure isolation and embrace the messy and often painful scrum of real community with real people?  It might change us, and it might change them.

Real Christians…with real life in them, living in real community. That could begin to re-establish love and trust and hope of living in even the most jaded believer. It might create a genuine – sacrificial – faith in us that not only met our needs, but the needs of all who joined with us. That kind of living would be sort of like leaving one kingdom or world and stepping into another.

Leaving a world full of doubts and fears and regrets and entering into one full of redemption and forgiveness and second chances. A new kingdom with a new king that would allow for us to be messy and inconsistent in our faith, and who would only demand we give up our right to be in control. In exchange, that King would grant us a life of peace and renewed strength and healing for us to have new life, new perspectives and new depths of love and patience for others. A king that would be full of justice and mercy and compassion to all who entered his realm. Where peace overshadowed war and hope displaced despair…

Sounds like a fantasy right?

courtesy of Tevin Wax

Not any more. Jesus actually did all of those things for us. He left His isolated  and comfortable place in Heaven to become a weak and vulnerable man. He took the risk to live in community with people who were messy and foolish and unfaithful. He was willing to let go of His “rights” and suffer the rejection and pain of betrayal. In exchange He gained 11 disciples who would follow Him no matter what it cost. Those first disciples were the beginning of something new. Something different. A Kingdom without the constraints of geography or age or time. A kingdom that’s been offered from then until now… to everyone.

A baby boy in Bethlehem was the beginning of this historical and epic true-life-fairytale that invites all who will… to play a part. A specific role that requires us to risk everything to be a piece of the bigger whole. This Christmas, would you consider stepping out of the comfortable places in your life and into the “dangerous” world of community that Christ has prepared? It will require us to share what we have and help and be helped by people who may or may not understand, appreciate or reciprocate our sacrifices. But I believe it’s the ONLY way we can step completely into Christmas.

I pray that as families you will consider doing more than just donating a financial gift to your local church this year. Maybe it’s time to take the risk of stepping out in faith to the offer of genuine community. My Christmas wish for us all is the gift of… Reconciliation, with man, with God and with our families. Take the risk to live and SHARE your life this year! We need you… badly.

peace out,

brad.