When life doesn’t turn out the way we thought…

At fifty I have to admit that I’m well into my mid-life crisis. Three kids, all grown, two beautiful grandchildren, one wife. All in all it’s been quite the mid-century moment to pause and reflect on. I’ve been blessed beyond measure and I’ve suffered along the way, just like you.

Life is sometimes spectacularly good and sometimes it is spectacularly hard. Both our gains and losses add up, they point us to something in-between satisfaction and shame. Family, career, and friends, all enter the equation and for most of us, things haven’t turned out quite the way we thought.

I bet you have a similar story. Different name, place, and circumstances, but a familiar pattern of highs and lows. It’s the great tapestry of our choices,  the sum of our moments captured for our faulty memories to retain.

Why does it so often feel like ‘failure’? Why do we add it all up and find ourselves wondering what happened? What about our hopes and dreams? Where did the future go and how did we get so far from our objectives? Life isn’t turning out the way I thought. 

For the Christian, it’s a struggle to resist the defeated sense of being ‘less than’ we should be. For the unbeliever it’s someone else’s fault, ever the victim of the ‘other’ person, thing, or group pitted against us.

Both feelings I believe to be correct. We are less than we should be and there is a strategic foe plotting our demise.

Where does our faith enter this equation? Are we just flawed in our understanding of it all? Are we missing the big picture of God’s providential plan… or is there just no plan for us? 

Lots of hard questions that need answers. I’ve had a year to reflect on some of this stuff, twelve months to slow my mind and rest my heart. I can’t explain all I feel but here’s a start.

  1. God is in the smallest of details. He is there. Very close in fact. He is gentle, patient, and full of love. We look for the ‘big’ moments for Him to show up, to reveal His awesome majesty to us… a Moses on the mountain moment. Not for me, instead He’s with me on my daily commute, He sits in the living room when I look through the choices for the evening’s entertainment. He whispers to me when I fall asleep and lingers in my dreams when I wake. Yet we can grow ever frustrated when He doesn’t give us the quick fixes. He may not cure our cancer, fix our spouses flaws or win the lottery for us. But He’s there. I’m learning to pay closer attention.
  2. Faith is flawed on our side of eternity. Our desire to ‘get it right’ isn’t enough. We can only go so far before we fall down and we can only rise so high before we loose sight of the ground. In both extremes our pride finds a way to express itself when we least expect. We are flawed and so is our faith, we only have the strength to get back up and follow the one whose faith never failed. I had to learn to stop watching my own spiritual mirror, instead I have to look at the cross, that’s the real source of strength.  I’m learning to quit bumming about my shortcomings and start humming about His perfection, that’s the only way out and the only way forward.
  3. Peace is possible if we choose to let go of our control. God never guaranteed a ‘better’ life than our neighbor, friend, or foe. What He does promise is His presence and peace. No matter what, He won’t leave or forget you. His proximity makes all the difference, knowing you’re following the only one with the answers, the only one with a plan, that brings strength when nothing makes sense. My strongest advice, let Him have control.

These nuggets of wisdom I’ve gleaned from the past twelve months in the great Northwoods of Maine. There are more details than I can share here, but these three reveal much about my journey, my process.

Photo by Roberto Shumski from Pexels

What about you? Have you allowed yourself to reflect and consider where you’ve been, where you’re at… where you’re headed? It takes courage and humility to face your own life.

Life can begin to feel pretty depressing if you lose you’re way. Life can feel more and more like failure if you forget where you’re going. If you forget that you don’t really belong here, its not our final destination. It’s essential for us to regain and retain our spiritual compass as we journey on, if we don’t, we’ll start to go in circles, lost, frustrated, angry, and ashamed. 

God in His mercy provides the moments we need to recapture our first love. He knows what we need to recover our spiritual breath (ruach). He knows the air gets thinner the higher we go and He knows we need to remember the goal. We’re not meant to stay here, we’re not meant to make sense of the senseless things in life, He knows we were meant for more.

Dear Christian, don’t you dare stop climbing now. I’ve heard the view ahead is simply too spectacular to miss.

Peace out,

Father Brad.

bam567@msn.com

 

Life in The Wilderness

 

  1. A classic setting – The Wilderness
  • God moves us away from our fleshly support and natural strengths = isolation
    • This process of removal from all things “familiar” is an essential part of deconstructing our old identities and allows for the reconstruction of the new and true identity we’ve never fully realized from our own effort and ambition.

Source – Pexels.com

* He allows us to be left out of the normal flow and function of our world = leaves us feeling discarded or in a ‘time out’, but we’re not.

* He allows our circumstances to be uncomfortable and difficult = suffering

  • He prevents us from seeing beyond our day, no vision for tomorrow, no clarity of our path forward = dependence
  • Our activities are mundane and seemingly irrelevant, we feel insignificant and ineffective at best = reveals motives
  • Our hearts feel alone and unsupported, our minds are anxious and we sense only ourselves and no one else. = Faith vs. feeling
  • In our despair we are forced to choose, we can turn to our past or trust God for our future. Our flesh aches to find meaning, value, purpose in our old ways and habits. The spirit urges us onto deeper intimacy with God. = spiritual growth
  • The longer and deeper the struggle lasts, the more profound and enduring the lessons and transformation we experience.

This isolation and instability is awful. It removes all manner of old affirmation and familiar encouragements, this is exactly as intended by God to lead us deeper and further into our intended purpose.

Psalm 27 is / has been a significant strength to me.

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;

whom shall I fear?

  The Lord is the stronghold of my life;

of whom shall I be afraid?

 4  One thing have I asked of the Lord,

that will I seek after:

  that I may dwell in the house of the Lord

all the days of my life,

  to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord

and to inquire in his temple.

 5  For he will hide me in his shelter

in the day of trouble;

  he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;

he will lift me high upon a rock.

 7  Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;

be gracious to me and answer me!

 8  You have said, “Seek my face.”

  My heart says to you,

“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”

 9  Hide not your face from me.

  Turn not your servant away in anger,

O you who have been my help.

  Cast me not off; forsake me not,

O God of my salvation!

 10  For my father and my mother have forsaken me,

but the Lord will take me in.

 11  Teach me your way, O Lord,

and lead me on a level path

because of my enemies.

 12  Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;

for false witnesses have risen against me,

and they breathe out violence.

 13  I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living!

 14  Wait for the Lord;

be strong, and let your heart take courage;

wait for the Lord! (ESV)

Life in the Wilderness – Biblical Examples:

* Abraham in the promise land – experiencing famine and leaving the promise land to go down to Egypt. (Foreshadowing)

  • Abraham and Sarah – living in the land of promise without the promise and creating Ishmael in an effort to force the promise of God
  • Jacob and his servitude to his father in law
  • Joseph and His imprisonments
  • Moses and his 40 years in the desert wilderness
  • The nation of Israel and their wandering generation of 40 years in the wilderness
  • David as the future anointed King and his 15 years of running and hiding in a wilderness exile and under threat of persecution by King Saul
  • Jesus in the desert for 40 days and nights before his ministry begins
  • Saul / Paul in his desert time in Arabia – 14 years

These ‘examples’ should bring us comfort and perspective. Each of us will enter multiple seasons of wilderness life, each will need to move from anger and doubt to acceptance and trust. The wilderness in scripture represents a time of testing and teaching. God was not punishing, He was preparing.

So it is with us.

Gates of Hades

Recently did some sermon prep on a famous passage in Matthew 16…

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[b] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[c] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[d] in heaven.” (ESV – Source – BibleGateway.com) 

A few details about this passage worth investigating further;

  1. Jesus went 30 miles out of his way to visit Caesarea Philippi, why? I believe it was because this place was deeply symbolic and very specific to his mission. 
  2. Peter and the disciples had already discovered or discerned Christ’s identity on the sea of Galilee a few chapters earlier.  (Matthew 14:33)
  3. The Gates of Hades was not a metaphor, but a literal place known for generations as a place of evil and pagan worship of Molech, Ashtaroth, Baal and Pan. It was in this particular place ( a cave with a deep pit) that Christ spoke his famous words of Matthew 16.
  4. The gates of Hades (or the dead) was also a ‘metaphor’ for those who were in bondage to living a life without ‘life’. Dead in their sins… captured and held by ‘gate’s that would not open. Life without Christ or his redemptive spiritual gift, left men and women without hope and full of despair. Caught by sin and self in a world that was chaotic and full of pointless pain.
  5. The ‘church’ that Christ references as ‘prevailing’ is known as “ekklesia” or the “called out ones”.
  6. In the context of this passage (Mt 16) the ‘called out’ would imply strongly those who had been rescued from ‘hades’ – not in the future, but the present. The power of Christ on earth – released through the ‘church’ to lead the ongoing ‘rescue’ of men and women trapped behind the proverbial gates’ of hades.
  7. The authority of God himself would be re-established to the ‘ekklesia’ to bind and loose the constraints of death and hades in the lives of men and women who were trapped in the hopeless patterns and self-destructive habits of a sinful nature and it’s consequences.

For me… the passage came ‘alive’ 🙂 (No pun intended – but appreciated here) It opened up a profound insight that the ministry we do as parents, pastors, as the Church – as people who have been rescued… (Ekklesia – Called out ones) is offensive, and not defensive. We are called to ‘break through the gates,’ to invade hell to populate heaven! 

Translated… the power and authority and promise of God in Matthew 16 is strong and reassuring. I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

liveforchristresources.com

Guys – we’re on the winning side here. No matter the hopelessness of your current situation, the weakness you may feel… or the doubts you carry… God is available to you. We just need to ask…  He is ready to stand by your side as we live out of our re-born hearts. Sharing ‘his’ hope and encouragement to a world empty of both.

It’s a reminder that our God has won, is winning… and will reign. He’s completing the recovery of all that’s been lost, broken, or defeated in us, our kids, and our world.

This passage contains an honest and pragmatic truth – the reminder that we are the church “Ekklesia” and as ‘called out ones‘ we too were once trapped in cynicism, and despair, broken by this world’s pain… as messed up and weak as anyone.  But with Christ as our savior… with Jesus as ‘Lord”, we’re assured of new life and hope that will not disappoint.

We are able to truly ‘live’ as we were intended to… now that is something powerful and brilliantly full of light. A promise of goodness in a very dark place, and it’s enough to prevail against the very gates of hell itself.

Thank you Jesus!

Pastor B.

 

The Suddenness of Life

Parents… it’s a strange world as you get older… after two decades of ridiculously busy… it get’s quiet.

My wife and I said it over and over this past week… it was all so ‘sudden’…. Dictionary; “refers to the quickness of an occurrence, although the event may have been expected” : (ie. a sudden change in the weather.) 

Graduations… engagements, marriages, births, deaths, dementia, and everything in-between. Life is moving forward, with or without us.  jessica-graduation-2

We knew these transitions, these major life moments were coming… watching others for years go through it before it came to us. We get the big idea…there is a cycle to life and there are specific seasons…moments for beginning and ending. A time for dying, birthing and aging…but no one can express to you how it ‘feels‘.  

The years and weeks of anticipation… drag so slow in the moments and then life will sneak by us in a heartbeat. Everything once so familiar, now absent. A life built around our kids, or a spouse… now vacant. We wonder at the empty spaces of our days and pause… tempted to linger in the past, we risk missing the present.

Christ said it like this… 34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matthew 6:35 MSG) 

We can mourn the passing of what was…AND enjoy and love what is. We should be prepared to celebrate and treasure life, past – present – future. It’s all in the perspective we choose. Life isn’t to only be savored and slowly poured… it’s also a huge rush of living and loving, bringing life and dying. It’s all about the stuff in-between. The sharing of hope and suffering, of pain and passions… nothing in living is ever passive. 

Only a fool would consider the future with casual disregard, ignoring the suddenness of our lives and the moments we’ve been granted. Wouldn’t it be wiser to treasure the gift hidden within our journey.

What will you do with your ‘gift’? 

Pastor B.

PS – from poet R.L. Sharpe:

Isn’t it strange how princes and kings,
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
And common people like you and me
Are builders for eternity?
 
To each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass and a book of rules.
And each will build, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.

 

Passing on our Passion for Life! RoadTrip Parenting

RoadTrip passion runs deep in my heart of hearts.

moraine lake brad 08 DSC_0242[1] (2)

Pastor B at Moraine Lake, Canadian Rockies

The allure of finding the next scenic wonder, the twist of a two lane highway as it snakes past ancient pine and scarred rock, the scent of the hunt has me now…

I long for the sight of it, a glimpse of the far far away, the glory of hidden creation… ancient beauty.

I catch a hint of it in the rugged strength of a towering sequoia, in the roar of a spring time stream straining to break out of its channel, foaming -ripping its way to somewhere ‘below.

I sense the artist heart of God in the crisp bite of pre-dawn at high altitude, the clarity of a mountain vista surround by pink hues of sunrise, a valley hidden by the sea of clouds below. The sacred romance of beauty and wonder tug deeply in my heart. Whispering. THESE are the things of LIFE. The glory of God’s creation… filtered by thousands of years and a millennium of mankind’s industrial advance, it still echoes of perfection!

Exposing our kids to this much pure beauty changes everything! 

It reveals the nature of our creator’s heart, stirring us deeply as ‘awe’ dawns in the mind’s eye and we can’t help but gaze intently into the splendor of life as it was always intended to be…

RoadTrips do so much more than simply connect us to each other, they connect our heart to the possibilities of a life with our creator.

Hiking the Teton's

Hiking the Teton’s

Next week I’m taking my 18-year-old on a hiking – driving – roadtrip to the Canadian Rockies, Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP…(for his second time) of what I’m sure will be ‘many’ adventures he will have in the wilderness world.

By God’s grace I can see my faith and passion for living being passed to the next generation, one roadtrip at a time.

Peace Out!

Pastor B.

PS – for more info on my roadtrips and the mountain west, check out my book, Road Trip to Redemption.

For an idea of what I’m talking about… check this out 

Zest for Life… a tribute to my mom on her birthday!

Motherhood is oft celebrated, bemoaned and otherwise dramatically described, an essential part of any life… the very beginning of every story.

For some… it’s the journey in between that becomes so remarkable, the memories of life and family that creates an “EPIC” tapestry for all to see. Those of us who do take a moment to slow down and consider… to stop and look a bit deeper, you will note the amazing tapestry of a mothers life! You will see the remarkable thread design…a marvel of intricate detail, the sweeping beauty contained in it’s lines and a grace in which such a life is displayed.

Mimi and her family! Circa 2010

Mimi and her family! Circa 2010

For those few fortunate enough to know and be raised by such a great lady, the larger tale becomes interwoven with our own.

A blessing that cannot be counted…as the threads of a mothers life blend and wind their way through our own, reaching out to spark us with life and warm love and in my case… signature Chardonnay. 🙂

The significance though is this… as most lives wind down at the end of their story, my mom’s has been ramping up! Instead of slowing down and getting stiff and sore at the entire miserable world of modern technology and accelerated living, my mom ‘jumps-right-in’ smiling as she fires off another text or Facebook post to one of her seven grand-kids!

Mimi and Colleen - Canada 2010

Mimi !

 

The joy her life radiates is supernatural. Seriously. 

My mom never met a stranger, loves any and all who wander by or through her life and is always doing ‘something’ to help someone! The witness of her life is staggering… I’ve tried to just figure up all of the men, women and children (that I know of ) she has invested a piece of herself into and it’s beyond my calculation. Thousands of people are significantly ‘better’ for having known “Mimi”!

She has demonstrated to me… and countless others what it means to love Jesus and live for Christ, and I do mean LIVE !

This isn’t a church lady in a pew. My mom wears leather pants and African animal print blouses, colors her hair blonde, loves bling and has an iPhone 6. She goes out with the girls and serves in church, takes care of her husband and family and then serves a home cooked meal to a shut-in. She loves Monday Night Football, Peyton Manning and Brie. Mom shares fashion tips with her granddaughters and cherishes the life-long memories made with her husband of over fifty years, she is a true lady, a loyal friend and a confidant to be trusted!

She seems to be getting younger every year…. how could that be ? It’s a remarkable thing to observe… The book of Isaiah in the bible ( chapter 40)  tells us the secret to her youthful vigor.

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.” (ESV) 

If you ever met my mom you would know this is only a small fraction of the truth of her life, but it’s my simple tribute to celebrate how amazing she really is !

Happy Birthday Mimi, I LOVE you and all you are becoming – you’re a legitimate legend in your own time and an amazing lady 🙂

If you readers get a chance, take a minute to wish her a special happy birthday – !

Peace out,

“Buford Earl”  aka Pastor B.

 

Musings on Moods

Life is sudden and slow, abrupt and deliberate.

Moments of extreme happiness…followed by long dull marches through grey days.

It’s impossible to live and remain unaffected.

Emotions will rise and fall according to the chemistry and circumstances of our lives at any given moment. If we surrender ourselves to simply what we ‘feel’ like doing or being, we’re risking more than stability… but our very sanity. mood swing

Faith binds us to something ‘more’. It’s the antidote for the erratic shifts in our emotions and the anchor of our soul. Belief in truth that exceeds our senses, is a glue that will bind our behaviors to our beliefs. 

 

“The promise, made when I am in love and because I am in love, to be true to the beloved as long as I live, commits me to being true even if I cease to be in love. A promise must be about things that I can do, about actions: no one can promise to go on feeling in a certain way. He might as well promise to never have a headache or always to feel hungry.” CS Lewis -‘Mere Christianity

Let’s take a deep breath. Take a moment to consider what we’re feeling vs. who we are by faith in Christ. Let’s re-attach to our savior before going any further into this day… banishing the mood monster from controlling our lives.

Peace,

Pastor B.