Advent week 3 – How Pink are You?

Week three of advent is upon us… the first two were HOPE and LOVE, and now it’s time for JOY!  This third candle is pink in color and is known as the “Shepherd’s Candle”, symbolic of those who first heard of the Christ child’s birth.  After church yesterday, I was reminded that Christmas is supposed to be full of “JOY”… and according to traditional carols… “Good Cheer”, not stress and fatigue and pressure. It was so when I was a kid,  but it seems as an adult… things are a bit more complicated.

I’m sure we all can remember the JOY of our kids waking us at insanely early times to force us to get up. They couldn’t WAIT to see what was under the family tree, they’re “expectation, they’re barely restrained anticipation for the Christmas presents about to be claimed. My children went crazy waiting to discover what was wrapped up just for them. They were more than exuberant, more than just loud, they were relentlessly annoying & unstoppable in their giddy excitement until my wife and I would finally surrender and go discover with them the treasures yet to be. Sound familiar ?

Do you remember the current, the buzz in the air that is almost palpable each Christmas morning, homes full of nervously anxious energy streaming off of the kids, burning bright… ready to get started with the greatest day of their lives… It was as if Nothing could dampen their joy, their excitement that oozed from them in torrents of excited words and pajama clad dances, all accelerated in the early morning euphoria that only Christmas or a snow day could inspire.

Now imagine a sleepy, un-inspired, shivering shepherding group, alone at night, herding the dirty sheep. Outcast, isolated and alone, these were the lowest of the low in Hebrew society and the Roman’s considered them to be slightly above a slave. These shepherds were considered inconsequential by the educated, the wealthy and the middle class. They would have been careful to avoid confrontations or social interaction and would most certainly have avoided the religious class of their time out of fear and shame if nothing else.

Yet it was to these less influential one’s that the host of heaven’s armies came to announce the birth of MESSIAH. To celebrate the fulfilment of the greatest promise made by God to humanity. Redemption, restoration… salvation from our sin. The gift of gifts, His son Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for our failings as a race and as individuals falling and stumbling our way through life. I’m confident these shepherds were ignorant of the eternal significance of their visitation, but you can be sure they were aware that something special had just occurred and they were not able to restrain themselves. After all, these angelic representatives of God had visited “THEM”. Not the king, not the high priest… shepherds. That was indeed GOOD news. God was making Himself accessible to the humblest of man, not the most accomplished, best educated or prosperous. The same is true for us today.

The JOY of heaven became the shepherds own, it was infectious and it was shared. God had arrived, He had shared this special announcement with them! God was now with mankind… “EMMANUEL” (God with Us) It was worth a celebration then, and it still is now. So, let’s get a little pink this week as we remember and focus on Advent. The pink candle is our reminder to share the JOY of Christ with our world. To live our lives as if we’re actually excited to be here. To express the hope and love of Christ to those who may be struggling to feel anything, let alone JOY. To share the Good News of a God who chose to be with us. It’s time to put on the pink this advent week and share the LOVE.

Pink to you all,

Brad.

Faith Dare

Matthew 19:14 (ESV) but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”  

As any father will tell you… holding our kids in our arms when they are  little, creates a lifetime memory of that moment. It captures the strength of our love for them, of the pure joy and happiness without any guile that cannot be duplicated or replaced. I still remember holding each of my three children at different times in their lives, the look on their tiny faces of complete trust, love and contentment to just be held by their daddy. It warms me still to this day…even as I write this.

As parents, we would never just walk away from our little one’s, never allow them to come to harm from a stranger or misplace them, we are careful to cherish and hold and cuddle and coo and wrap them up as the precious and irreplaceable gifts of life they are.

As kids once ourselves we can remember the simple “joys of our innocence”. The days and years of not having to worry about our lives, our mortgages or the price of gas. We just took each day as it came, anxious to get up and explore and learn and live and grow with our families and friends and neighbors. “Those were the days”… we say.  

I believe when we choose to simply trust God at his word, we re-experience both the profound love and peace of being comforted by our “daddy” (Abba) father in Heaven, and the innocence of living life today, not concerned or worried for tomorrow.

It’s Jesus himself who reminds us to just  follow His father along with him, like we did as kids. Sort of like a toddler would, full of simple innocence and complete trust as to the motives and nature of our heavenly father.It’s really only when we allow ourselves to revert to such a childlike state of being, that we truly begin to experience the Kingdom of God for ourselves.

So, it’s no surprise that when we continue to try to live our lives as “adults” we live with such frustration and fear and exhaustion that we often just settle for trying to simply exist. We rise slightly nauseous each morning with the fears of the day immediately attacking our minds and robbing us of our happiness. We live off balance from the moment we awake until we drop back into our beds in a state of sheer exhaustion, hopeful “some day” things will change.

When you stop to think about this…for most of us…It’s truly a huge effort to even gather a smile for life, or to muster up sincere  affection for our loved ones or to take the time to genuinely compliment someone at work.  After all, we’ve spent everything we have just in the struggle to constantly push back the darkness and despair that comes at us from every side

Information is always interrupting us, forcing us to figure out how, when, why we might somehow cope with all of the terrible and miserable news of our world. I mean with the 24/7 / 365 news alerts about the onslaught of Economic collapse, Global warming, Natural disasters or the latest research about our kids spiraling Moral decline. It’s killing us. It’s strangling our hope, and our love and our joy and it’s relentless, insidious and oh so cerebral. It hints to us, that life is really all up to us to figure out and solve and fix… but we can’t.

What’s the solution then ?

Look to the little one’s… they hold the secret of living life well in their chubby little hands. Let go, and Let God. It’s that simple and it’s that profound. I dare you… I did. And it saved my life… Just like Jesus said it would.

Peace out,

brad.

Living from our Heart is Dangerous !

Living from our hearts is a dangerous option… its much safer to walk on the well-worn paths of life and to stay as far from “uncomfortable” as possible. Yet somewhere deep inside of us is an intangible yearning for something more. A whole lot more !  

More beauty, More passion and more Life. We seem to barely survive our days and weeks as life keep us off balance and exhausted. The enthusiasm we start out with fades as we accommodate to the stress of finances, extra-curricular commitments and ever-growing fear of the unknown. If we’re not careful, this reality we accept may become all we know to live for and all we’re ever going to be.

God NEVER intended for us to live as slaves to our safety. His design was for us to live from our hearts, from our deepest inner-desire and from our boundless creativity.

We’ve been ambushed by two powerful deceptions. First, that God is far away and aloof from our lives  and dis-interested as to our happiness. This lie says to know God we must live only on or own wits or as Holy “recluses” in poverty, passionless and without any satisfaction.

A second powerful deception is aimed at those who accept Christ as their Savior at some point in their life. We believe to follow Christ we must surrender our personal dreams believing that to become a “responsible” and mature Christian man or woman we should walk away from those longings…walk far away from the hopes and dreams of our redeemed hearts and “grow up” to embrace only the “practical” and realistic.

I fell victim to both of those lies as a young man,…many of us did, have…are. The result, we missed out on much of what we were intended to be and do. I personally inflicted such deep pain and heartache on myself and those I loved that it almost destroyed my life and theirs. It seems for most of us, the deception has gone all the way to our core beliefs about the very nature of God.

These deceptions I believe are intended to keep us away from God and to reduce us to live un-inspired safe and boring lives if we ever do get around to starting a relationship with God.

The sad thing…. we generally agree to accept this watered down version of faith and life and wonder why we can’t seem to ever grasp the “joy” and “power” of the Cross that’s described by others…

I mean, if we’re honest; our faith is often lived from a “fear-based guilt reflex”that we pass on to our kids as “Christianity” and wonder why they are so “non-motivated” to follow us into a lifetime of marginal living.

Its time we step back and really “re-set” our thinking as adults and as a parents. Our God is not safe. He is beyond passionate, He is intense at a level that cannot be comprehended. To know Him is not safe, but is the ultimate fulfilment of our lives. His desire is to be with us. He has relentlessly pursued us and has shown in every possible way he will do whatever it takes to win our hearts, to redeem our lives back into living color.

To know Him, we will need to risk it all. To get off the safe paths of life and out into the wilderness beauty of our purpose, we must throw back the pre-conceptions of who God is and how he has wired us to live.  I strongly recommend a regular diet of  consuming the word daily, and finding a group of “alive” believers who have a “common-unity” in Christ. From those two simple actions I am confident you will begin to see the early tendrils of beauty and excitement when it comes to your faith.

GO, drive, hike, walk, climb, paint, photograph, create. Wherever you live, look for the signs of life in your world. From the indescribable beauty of a sunset over the desert to the shimmering glory of a snow-capped peak, the evidences of God’s creativity are all around us.

Point these monuments of Gods love out to your kids. Embrace their beauty and encourage your family to experience God outside of our “safe” and comfortable lives. Risk something, go away from the common and ordinary for the irreplaceable experience of knowing God. In the summer of 2010, I took my family to see the “heart of God” just north of Lake Louise Alberta. (See photo in blog) We hiked the Bow Glacier Falls trail for about seven miles and it changed my family forever. It was literally for us a process of walking out of the common into the world of the extraordinary.  

For more on this subject of living from your “heart”, or to explore this concept of a  “passionate” life from a Christian perspective, check out one of my favorites groups and authors … at  http://www.ransomedheart.com

Could go on forever on this topic, but for now signing off. Helping to keep it real and to encourage you to “keep your family in between the lines and on the road of life

Peace out,

brad.