The Light of Laughter!

My grandson has the best laugh… like his mother, he can cackle from deep in his belly and light up a room in a heartbeat.

His laugh is contagious and full of genuine joy, it warms the coldest heart and breaks through the chill of any dour day. It’s magical and supernatural and wonderful to hear, and God designed it exactly so. 

Life can be so challenging, so stressful. We live day in and day out with clenched fists and anxious minds, ducking and weaving our way from one crisis point to the next. Laughing is the last thing on our mind, work, finances, strained relationships, health  issues… those are the things that get our attention.

pixabay.com

This Thanksgiving, my grandson (14 months) arrived with all the jovial chatter of a plump  little cherub, cackling and hooting his way around our Tennessee house. He was mesmerized by the lights and sounds, nuzzling our soft furniture and pillows, blankets, toys and trinkets. Stuff we took for granted.

His blue eyes sparkling with excitement, he rumbled from room to room. He was simply thrilled to see and touch, to try and catch our little dog or strut out some new steps on the fireplace sill. He roamed and rolled in hidden places and spaces, experimenting with everything he could. Awash in new tastes and touches, life was thoroughly exuberant, fascinating and full of hooting joy with all that could be discovered. He was a glowing spot of hope and happiness, a wonder to behold.

Sometimes we get so serious we forget to laugh. To enjoy our life. It’s really that simple.

We adults get so grown up we forget to savor the tastes of our wonderful existence. Grandkids can break that fallow space up for us, allowing new light and flavors to renew our heart and refresh the mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank God for our little grandson!

If you don’t have your own grandkids, godson, toddler, or nephew… go borrow one! (with permission of course) Freshen up your day with some toddler living and a cereal box full of tender laughing, the contagious joy you unleash won’t wear off for a long -long time. (I’ve been told, granddaughters are just as good as grandsons 🙂

No one can spread joy and happiness faster or further than a toddler… it’s no wonder God used children to exemplify HIS KINGDOM in the gospels*.

Given the gospel illustrations* that Jesus used with his disciples… there must be something truly special, something amazing and hilariously joyful about redemption. I mean let’s truly stop and think about how much laughter must be going on up there, full joy and hilarity, nonstop  celebration in Heaven that we can’t really comprehend yet. Makes you wonder, shouldn’t we start seriously practicing down here?

Merry Christmas and may you have a very HAPPY New Year!

Pastor Brad.

Scripture Passage: *Mark 10:13-15 (BibleGateway.com)

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Snow in the Mountains… Joy in my heart!

Day four and the end of my brief RoadTrip Revival.

I woke up in Alamosa Colorado… on the road at five am for a 2:30 pm out of Denver International.  Dark and cold, 13F and still as stone. Alamosa sits in a high arid mountain valley southwest of Great Sand Dunes NP.  Driving in the dark pre-sunrise was a cold and lonely moment for me. Saying goodbye is always hard. I prayed as I drove, afraid the ‘special’ moments I’d shared with God would dissipate as soon as I left the mountains and returned to ‘real life’.

As I drove North… I was praying and sipping hot coffee, occasionally snacking on wheat thins and dodging a few mule deer on the highway. Gradually as I rode silently in the darkness… I noticed the warm glow growing on my right horizon (east)

Sunrise over the Sangre de Cristo’s

It was framed by the Sangre De Cristos (Southern Extension of the Rockies) and the peaks formed a beautiful silhouette of stone and sky.  I slowed the car. This was worth seeing… another moment to savor. It took about 30 minutes to expand from a glow to bright light and sunrise. Spectacular!

I was grateful for the clear and cool skies, as the stars winked out overhead, the horizon grew into a display of golden orange. I could sense the symbolism in front of me… dawn was coming. The dark cold of night was fading… life and light were coming to illuminate the world again. 

The Promise of a New Day.

I reluctantly stopped snapping pictures and drove on to the North. Passing under the shadow of the Collegiate Peaks and the tourist town of Buena Vista, onto the legendary hi-country of Leadville CO. Here there was snow… about four inches of fresh dry powder. The temps were hovering at 10F and the early morning air was as still as my heart.

Leadville is one of the highest (10, 150 Ft) towns in Colorado (and the United States) … a historic mining town reinvented into a year round outdoor mecca for the enthusiastic among us. Its old west downtown and rambling Victorian homes makes for an eclectic sight as I drove, fresh snow padding silently underneath.

Heading North on Hwy 91

 

I kept heading north taking Highway 91 to join up with the masses and US Interstate 70 at Copper Mountain.  I was winding down. The trip was almost done, and once I hit the Interstate it would effectively be over. The two lane isolation would be gone as the four to six lanes of eighteen wheelers and minivans would crowd the pavement all the way to Denver and my flight home.

I was certain the intimacy and solitude I felt would soon vanish in the rush of speed and sound that was ‘real life’. 

Meanwhile I had some snow to deal with. The four inches in Leadville was now six or seven inches, and the roads had been plowed, but were 100% ice and snow pack, with sharp turns and steep grades up and down. I wound my way… slowly… through the twisting forest and saw the pristine beauty open up before me. As I drove, we gained altitude… crossing over the noticeably thin air of 11,318 foot Fremont Pass.

Passing through Fremont Pass into Summit County CO.

The snow was well over a foot deep now, and the mountains and forests looked like a scene out of Narnia. A gorgeous blue sky framed the wisps of clouds as they floated so close over my sunroof. The day was as perfect as I could have ever wished for… like a grand farewell. 

I teared up as I drove… wondering if this was all just in my head. Was this surprise storm in the night just God’s way of saying ‘goodbye’? Was it simply a matter of me being in the right place at the right time… a straight up coincidence of schedule and opportunity. No way to know for sure. I chose to believe it was more than that. I took it as one more sign of God’s love and extravagant detail for my little roadtrip revival.

The scene got more and more beautiful as I descended into Summit County Colorado. Fresh snow lay as thick as a blanket over every surface. No grey, only pristine white contrasting with the ever-green of forest and the indescribable blue of high country sky. I could feel the presence of God hugging my heart as I drove down the valley into the glory of creation, a warm reminder of the special time I had just shared. The perfect send-off if there ever was one.

It had snowed in mountains and I had joy in my heart. That was the lasting imprint on my memory. I still see it today…

It’s been two weeks since I drove those roads. God’s intimate presence and the ‘stillness’ in my heart remains.

Pastor B.

PS – My  prayer for you… take your own roadtrip. Ask God for a revival in your heart. Dump your electronics and distractions for at least 2 days… be quiet. Learn to listen… don’t fill your day or your mind with ‘stuff’. Just explore… stay in a day long conversation with “Papa’. He’s been waiting.

 

 

Living in the “NOW”

After my breakthrough moment with God in Colorado… I carried a deep and lingering sense of calm. A peaceful and contented acceptance.  A better way to say it…  I had insight, an ‘understanding’ of what God was really like.

As my “papa” he was tangible to me. I could reach out and ‘touch’ that presence anytime I allowed myself to be quiet and still. 

This truth became a ‘doorway’ to a deeper chamber of my heart. IF God was my ‘papa’… then I could rest. I could let down my defenses and pretenses. I could let go of the constant need to review and project, my mind scanning constantly for danger in my past or the future, never allowing myself to enjoy the present.

The idea of relaxing was as foreign as ‘rest’ to my mind and heart. I couldn’t relax… not really. I had to be vigilant, had to assess and project the probabilities of success or failure. The inherent dangers along the way or the review of past mistakes to gain insight . I wasn’t able to relax because I had no one to rely on but myself. I didn’t really trust anyone. Not completely.

The Shack (summit entertainment)

If God was ‘papa’. He is trustworthy. Safe. Present.

No father betrays his kids. No heavenly father would be negligent in caring for my life. I could let that long – held – breath  out… and begin to slow it all down, steady heart. Mind resting enough to notice the details around me. I saw the beauty of Santa Fe, an old – old – old place. Full of adobe and tile, leather and stone. Beautiful and serene, it’s age a testament to longevity and purpose. Built by the Spanish monks over four hundred years ago, their places of worship still stand. Pointing not to their ingenuity – but to the one who inspired them to risk it all and go to a foreign place and dangerous time to spread their faith.

I noticed all of that in a nano-second. Like a Matrix moment in slow-motion… I could see and smell, hear, and perceive details all around me. Thousands of colors and shades had been missing in my life. I was black and white, sharp-edged and fast. Moving through the days like a school project, missing the ‘life’ around me. 

As I began to slow my existence in the wake of knowing ‘papa… I could live in the ‘NOW” for the first time in a long – long – time. I hadn’t felt this  in so long it was a bit foreign to me… not since I was a pre-adolescent kid in the summer – riding my bike with Scott McCumber or Mike Middleton – catching Crawdads – playing army – I remember each day was a decade of fun – but that had faded with adulthood. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, I was ‘present’. Santa Fe was beautiful… each shop and restaurant a new treasure to discover, fear gone… I was able to relax.

Today, I was able to enjoy just being there. No distracting anxieties no restlessness.  I drove from Santa Fe to Taos, using the ‘high road’ it was gorgeous. The sun was clear and bright, blue skies and breezes all day. I drove and explored and relaxed in the sheer delight of it. No guilt, no regrets… I was living without the weight of all that pressure to keep moving. I could finally ‘stop’ inside.

Thank you GOD!

Next… my last two days on this Roadtrip Revival. Each was another beautiful surprise… rain in the desert and snow in the mountains. Special moments to share, truths to help me along.

Pastor B.

Joy in waiting… Christmas on pause

Waiting is so odd to us.

We’re instant society folks… living in a push button culture. We find what we want in minutes, not hours. Days of delay, a totally foreign concept. We linger little. Time is tight.

Schedules are crammed full, social Holiday parties, church Christmas specials, school choir events, rushed shopping, shipping, spending… the pace of life pushing… squeezing.

USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Couple with Christmas shopping

Waiting is not even an option anymore. We have to sprint to stay ahead of the freight train that is our life…endlessly bearing down on us. Exhausted and numb, we scratch at the shimmering screens that surround us. Looking, hoping to find the spark of our old life to ignite some Christmas spirit.

Tired of too many things… we need something more. 

We’re longing to find the reason for rushing, the purpose behind the presents. Christmas shouldn’t be so thin and harsh. Whatever happened to the Joy of it all?

Where did the thrill of the anticipation, the waiting to discover… the wonder each gift reveals.

Slow the show mom and dad. 

Sit down.

Bake.

Watch TV with your kids.

Drive the neighborhoods for Christmas lights.

Go make something crafty for Aunt Bev 🙂

This season comes once each year. It’s not like the other weeks and days we ram through. This is important. Priceless. Take a deep breath… say “NO” to something. Maybe four or five ‘somethings’,  loose a few ‘ extra’ obligations this Christmas. 

Jesus-Mary-Joseph-1Lets remember the big picture? Christ came… Christ is coming… Christ will come again. Faith flickers in our fatigue… now could be a good time to rest and refresh our hearts. Christmas break is coming. An opportunity to slow down enough to enjoy the beautiful and fleeting moments. Resist the temptation to fill every moment of your holiday. Leave large spaces of unscheduled time available for family… oh and mute your smartphones.

The rewards of unplugging are enormous… including the ultimate Christmas gift for a family… your being ‘present’. 

Merry Christmas from RTP and Pastor B.

 

Long Hard Winter

Ft. Wayne - Winter '14

Ft. Wayne – Winter ’14

It’s been a long… hard…. winter.

Somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a polar shift occurred moving the center of frozenness from the Arctic to Ft. Wayne IN. Said polar vortex hovered for four months as snow-storm after snow-storm pounded the upper mid-west. Record breaking snow-falls hammered Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit… and Ft. Wayne as the cold drained countless car batteries and many people of their sanity.

I watched from my relative comfort of Nashville as forecast after forecast was posted on FB about the “next” cold blast that would dump 6-8 inches at a time, sometimes 2-3 a week! My cousin/slash/sister, Heather kept me informed of the never-ending parade of ice and snow as more frozen despair settled down over the city that was Ft. Wayne.

I made seven trips to Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne / Chicago this winter, five of them were legit adventures in winter survival as 8-12 inches of snow would land sometime during each visit. The cold was arctic – “freeze your face off” – kind of cold and the snow was morphing from powdery white to ash colored concrete as each push of the plows turned the salt and dirt into a hellish frozen slushee.

The clouds were gray, hanging just over the tree-tops and cold wind kept your “un-cool” winter hat firmly on your head. Sunshine became a myth. Only weak patches of dim light ever glimmered through the winter haze, and the locals became at first despairing, then angry and sullen…until finally desperate, they started to wonder if they were trapped in a perverse version of a “ground-hog day” movie set.

snobbymoviereviews.com

snobbymoviereviews.com

It was a difficult season for me personally as I had dark challenges at home that weighed heavily on my mind and heart. As I would drive up from Nashville to Indiana, I would listen to books on tape and drink Red Bull, checking out what the latest on pop radio had to offer. But it was the big-ticket payoff in Ft. Wayne that brought the true light back into my otherwise darkening world.

My six month old cousin/nephew/Godson – “Andreas” was waiting at the end of each 8 hour drive. His presence was like a glowing warm blanket on a bitter cold day, hearing him laugh was amazing! His toothless smile brightened any bad-day, fresh and full of life…just holding him lifted all our spirits.

Giggles and a sing-song, drooling baby voice woke me up every morning, laughing to himself contentedly in his crib across the hall. I found myself laughing along, crying quiet tears of gratitude at his simple innocence and love for life. Bouncing curls of red and blond kept his little baby face framed with the beauty that only a baby has. His dimpled cheeks and glowing skin reminded me of the freshness of new life, and I realized the heart-beat of this child, was gently restoring new hope to this “old” soul of mine.

A baby was all it took for God to change my dark winter of despair into a beautiful, life-giving sacred retreat for the few hours I had to share.

After each and every trip to Ft. Wayne, I would leave with a  skip in my step, renewed vitality in my soul, eager to live again. It seemed that in the middle of despair,  hope was re-born. Literally and figuratively, as my God-son jump-started my heart again.

Bundle of Joy !

Bundle of Joy !

I was reminded of how God is so faithful to send us the “perfect” encouragement… a light into our darkness. He brings spring breezes blowing into our dark winters and He will bring hope back into our exhausted lives.

I know I’m not the only one who had a long, hard winter… and you may feel ‘stuck” and that life is only dank & gray, but it’s not true. God is always at work, moving- shaping and remaking things all around and within us. He’s just about to surprise you with new-life, you watch and see ! Hang on dear one!

Spring is coming….

Pastor B.

 

How well do we celebrate being a family?

Listening to a recent CD called “Campfire” by the  Rend Collective experiment, I was struck by a simple truth they point out in their opening track… Isn’t it time that we learn to “Celebrate” and begin to enjoy our lives…?   Isn’t it time as families and pastors and “serious” adults, to remember the hope and fun and Joy that our Faith truly affords us ? To actually attract people to want be involved with us, to honestly be allowed to explore our faith and engage with the authentic communities we share as Christians.

Rend Collective CD

Rend Collective CD

The CD’s metaphor of choice is the “Campfire” itself… a place of light and warmth and comfort in a dark world, the campfire is meant to reflect the truest nature of the church as God intended – a place of honesty, intimacy and safety for all who come to gather in it’s flickering illumination.

Get this CD/MP3 if you don’t have it.

I highly recommend these guys as legitimate ministers of inspired music and it’s clear they are full of God’s Holy Spirit. They as a group are FUN, REVERENT and IRISH all in ONE SUPERCOOL Musical Celebration moment!

I LOVE THAT!

The Rend Collective project reminded my dad’s heart to be more intentional about celebrating my family. To make the extra effort to carve out time for us to go and have fun, to be silly and break our routines with something unique, unexpected and memorable.

skyline-canada-toronto-night-scenery-1080x19201

Toronto Skyline – Canada.org source

So… our family is going to Niagara Falls this Fourth of July ! We’re going on a Roadtrip. Piling into the now iconic Honda Pilot (The same we took to Canada in 2010) and driving up to New York and into Ontario Canada to spend 3 days exploring the shore of Lake Ontario, Niagara and Toronto. I have a TV interview / appearance outside of Toronto for the book (Road Trip to Redemption) on the national Christian TV series 100 Huntley Street ( a major Canadian TV talk show)

Parents… let’s be sure we relax our grip a bit this Summer! We can let down our guard and slow down enough to enjoy our kids, our spouses and our lives as God intended.

This summer…  be intentional about chilling out… GO HAVE FUN, let down you hair and eat fatty – sugary – un-healthy things with your families… relax your rules for a few moments and watch as your kids respond with surprise and then open joy at the opportunity to live with you in the moment. A priceless and incredibly important area of our lives that many of us need to grow in.

Peace and Grace RTP!

Pastor B.

Remembering to “unwrap” All the presents

Like most fathers, I can remember waiting anxiously each Christmas as my kids excitedly worked their way through the boxes of wrapped presents scattered like confetti all over our bonus room floor. Screams of excitement and peals of laughter as they joyfully embraced one loving family member after another for their “AWESOME” gifts. I was anxious to see if they had found the “special” gift yet. Knowing that there would be one super amazing and perfectly chosen present that would be their “favorite” of all time, yet to be discovered.

I was anxious to see if they would be half as excited as I was for their new prize, and I was anxious to not “miss the moment” with my camera, to capture their pure joy for all time. Usually they were every bit as satisfied as I had hoped and in those seconds of unprotected happiness , my Christmas present was delivered.

Joy, Gratitude, Fulfillment.

When I could see the absolutely amazing looks of shock and awe as they tore open the ” I didn’t think anyone would ever get me” present! It was my super-thrill moment of the year as a stand-in for Santa Claus. I know you understand what I mean.

I would be careful to make sure the “special” gift was hidden in the deeper part of the present pile under or even behind the tree, and  sometimes I wrapped it in an odd sized box or padded it with something soft to hide it’s shape. Knowing the kiddos would be making repeated investigations before dawn on Christmas day, sneaking to shake all their presents each night for hints as to what lay hidden inside.

Funny how as parents, we get to see a side of God that our kids can’t yet. The side of His amazing delight at our finding His “special” gift. Of our surprise at the odd and surprising way He wraps it up for us to finally discover.

Matthew 7:7-11 (ESV) – source Biblegateway.com

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Christmas is a story within a story, one that never stops being “unwrapped”. We celebrate those we love, and the Joy of Life and Family together. We remember the “first special” gift that came from above and we learn over a lifetime of how amazing and incomparable that gift of TRUE LIFE, really was…is and will be for us.

Virgin and baby Jesus by Andrea Mantegna

Virgin and baby Jesus by Andrea Mantegna

Let’s remember to “unwrap” our “Special gift” this year and to help our kids do the same. It’s the gift of Joy and Peace and true satisfaction. The gift that comes in so many various odd sizes and in an infinite number of hidden ways, just like the baby born to a poor, unwed mother in a barn near Bethlehem two thousand years ago.

Merry Christmas RTP!

Pastor Brad.