Epic Living… The Gabby Giffords Story

As parents we’re always looking for role models to show our kids.

We want to teach them of the lives of heroic leaders from our past… people like Washington, Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. or Madame Curie, legendary figures from history to inspire them to reach higher, to aspire to lead lives that matter.

Gabby Giffords - www.today.com

Gabby Giffords – http://www.today.com

We all want our little ones to grow into men and women of character and influence, children who would grow into adults to stand strong in the face of adversity and live with courage in the midst of tragic events.

Look no further mom and dad… in a rare headline of hope, Gabby has emerged as a legitimate modern-day heroine. Someone we can teach our kids to emulate, an example of Epic Living for us all.

Gabby's Jump - courtesy the Today Show - www.today.com

Gabby’s Jump – courtesy the Today Show – http://www.today.com

Gabby Giffords has done more than survive her tragic shooting three years ago…. she has overcome it.

I was so moved to see how she commemorated the third anniversary of her tragic attack in Phoenix AZ (by skydiving), that I’m blogging about it. I want to ask you to pause long enough to read more of her story and share it with your families. It’s unusual to find public leaders who live in such a way as to command all our respect…but I believe Gabby’s story does.

I’ve provided a great link here for you watch her story (from NBC – The Today Show) and see how her life has become a testament to incredible faith, gentle strength and un-believable endurance in the midst of great injustice and tragedy.

Gabby and her faithful husband (NASA astronaut Mark Gifford) are putting an exclamation point on commitment and inspired love for an entire generation.

Peace and Grace,

Pastor B #inspiredtoliveanepiclife

Single minded

As I age… I find myself chucking the un-necessary stuff in my life. The value of simplicity growing larger than my compulsions to “have” or acquire. My garage has less junk in it than ever, my attic has only the seasonal Christmas trinkets and my closet, only the clothes I still wear.

My heart is less cluttered too… I don’t hang onto all the emotional baggage like I used to. Past offenses, fears and hurts are still occasionally on the edges of my mind and soul, but they no longer claim me as a place of residence.

christophergiglio.blogspot.com -

christophergiglio.blogspot.com –

It’s more important to slow down, to really understand the reasons behind the reactions… both within myself and in the lives of others. When I make the effort, I find it’s a significant and effective place to parent or pastor from.

The hardest question I can ask myself centers around my relationship with Jesus. Not the cliché’ marketing slang of WWJD, but deeper than that… what does Jesus “say” for me personally to do about this facet of my life?  What is it He’s specifically urging me to consider about the situation I find myself struggling to understand, respond to or help with.

The moment I take the time to really ask and really listen to God… I find myself quickly decompressing and even relaxing. The pressure for “me” to handle this, to have a wise response or a Godly attitude suddenly evaporates as I realize I can’t be Jesus to anyone, I can only be Brad. BUT, I can let JESUS act through me, I can give permission for Him to speak with my mouth and use my hands and feet to accomplish what He would have done in the same situation.

The challenge is consciously moving beyond the circumstances of each life challenge. IF Jesus gets to call the shots in our lives, He ignores our plaintive, insistent objections that we believe in so strongly.

Like;

-our “right” to be offended,  or…

-our stubborn insistence to be “vindicated

– or our personal protestations of “injustice” when treated wrongly.

All of the above considerations, although well founded in our minds are singularly irrelevant to the heart of Jesus. He chooses to love and forgive every time, and so If we allow Him to be in charge… we are giving Him permission to do the same in and through us to others.

He moves past the particulars to the heart of each and every situation… my heart, their heart… and His heart. That is difficult to stomach when our powerful emotions and deepest feelings intrude on His divine direction. It means that I have to “trust” in his perspective more than my own.

wallpicts.com

wallpicts.com

But no matter how difficult the decision to “Trust” Him… I find that when I totally surrender my option to respond how I want to… and accept what He wants (before I know the answer) instead… I am completely at peace.

The singleness of mind that going to God first brings… is amazingly clarifying.

Our truest self rotates intently around the genuine relationship we have (or don’t have) with Jesus. When that issue stays before me and above any other, I live and work and play and love with clarity and freedom and happiness. When I allow other things to distract or cloud that… I lose my simplicity and get complicated very fast.

Nothing Jesus did or taught or lived was ever complicated. It may have been eternally profound and un-fathomable…but not complicated. When we find life getting very complicated, it’s a clue that somewhere we’ve drifted a bit from our center and need to re-align ourselves spiritually before we can un-clutter ourselves emotionally – physically or materially.

Peace out family… Pastor B.

Heart of a Father…

Fathers day is upon us. Time to reflect, time to consider.. its clear that for most of us fathers and grandfathers are a big deal. But for some of us, a father is a very difficult person to identify anything positive with.

I love my dad, he’s an American classic. A real life success story, from humble beginnings and decades of hard work he managed to earn a professional degree and find success and influence as a well-respected Chiropractic Physician for over four decades. But there’s more to that story, He also lived his life with un-impeachable integrity, keeping his word when it hurt and making sure he finished what he started. As a man of faith, he remains tenaciously committed to my mother (for over 57 years now) and in following Christ. His example of character and attitude provided a strong home environment for my brother and I to learn and live from, we were fortunate.

Mom and Dad - circa 1969

Mom and Dad – circa 1969

Many of us didn’t have a stable or consistent father figure in our lives. Some of us experienced life as a kid with only a stressed out mom and an absentee dad or learned to fear their abusive fathers instead of love and admire them.

My heart aches for those who struggle to even conceive of a dad who would be a role model, someone who would cherish, accept  and love them. The bible provides us with a powerful illustration of the heart of a father and gives us some idea of how our heavenly father looks at his children.

(Luke 15 – The Message) source – Biblegateway.com

20-21 “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’

22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.

The point is this… don’t let your painful memories or past experiences prevent you from experiencing the heart of your heavenly father, He is waiting for you to take the chance to trust Him to be the dad you never had. He wants to protect and provide and affirm you in ways you’ve been longing for and couldn’t even articulate. His heart towards us is GOOD, His love for us cannot be shaken no matter what we’ve done or failed at or given up on in the past.

dadsanddaughters.blogspot.com

dadsanddaughters.blogspot.coms

Dads, no matter how good or bad your personal parenting heritage may be, it’s my hope that you will make the leap and begin to trust that your heavenly father can and will fill in all the uneven, broken and empty spaces in our spiritual and emotional hearts… Let Him begin to restore what was lost and renew in you what has yet to be formed…. so we can become what we need to be, for our kids.

I admire and love my dad and he has faithfully kept our family intact, but in the end its my relationship with my heavenly father that provides me with the strength and stability I need to be the man God has called me to be and to love my kids and wife well.

If we as dads, find that we may be leaving most of  the parenting and faith “stuff” to our wives, I think we are dropping the ball at a time when we really need to be in the game….

Peace out, Pastor B.

 

Real Change… an Excerpt from “Road Trip to Redemption”

Behavior Modification vs. Transformation

“It was this issue that Jesus addressed over the course of his entire gospel ministry–the problem each generation has with seeking behavior modification instead of transformation. The brutal truth is this: without God winning the battle in our hearts, we cannot be changed or transformed. The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees fought tenaciously with Jesus over the rules and politics of his time; they engaged in intellectual dogfights over their theological beliefs and opinions. They were proud and educated men who knew every phrase of the Scriptures by memory but resisted the message of the heart that Jesus kept preaching to them in one parable after another. In the end, they so resented what he was implying that they killed him.

The battle between the mind and the heart rages on. The mind wants to “understand” God, to grasp the nature of our salvation, to comprehend the significance of grace and of new life. It’s far too busy trying to understand the love of God to actually experience it. The mind wants to control the environment it’s in, to subdue all possible threats and or undesired outcomes before they occur, to avoid risk and anything uncomfortable, to be entertained and engaged and flattered and loved and pleasured. When we put the mind first, we seek to find significance in ourselves, to use God and faith as excuses for pursuing our own ambition and preferences. We discipline ourselves so we can enjoy the pride of personal accomplishment and the adoration of those who can’t do what we can. This is the mindset of our human nature, and as parents we will always drift this way if we are left to our own devices.

God speaks directly to our hearts. He is aware that if we seek to follow after him with just our heads, we will fail. We’ll end up reducing faith to a list of rules instead of a living, breathing relationship. We’ll know about God without really knowing him.” 

———————————————————

As parents… we share similar struggles and frustrations, the core of the process remains the “Heart”. My prayer for you as parents is to see your kids fall in love with the same Jesus you did.

Peace out RTP, Love you… Pastor B.

Book Excerpt from Chapter 4… pp 76-77. (C) 2013 by Brad Mathias, all rights reserved – Published by Tyndale Momentum Publishers, Carol Stream IL.

Finding a way through the tragic world we live in.

trag·e·dy  /ˈtrajidē/Noun (Wikipedia)

  1. An event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe.

Suffering, pain… loss. The shock of trying to comprehend sudden disaster, it’s like a crazy carnival ride that won’t stop and we’re feeling dizzy and sick and we want to get OFF, but we can’t. Finding a way to cope, to comprehend as we travel through a life tragedy is one of the hardest jobs a parent ever has to take on.

Moore OK - 5-20-13 - thedailybeast.com

Moore OK – 5-20-13 – thedailybeast.com

I’m not  a theologian or biblical scholar; I am a father and a husband, a pastor and a friend… it’s from those perspectives I write today. I have to believe in redemption, without redemption I can’t make sense of all the pain and suffering and the tragedies life throws at all of us.

I recognize that we live in a flawed world, one that’s out of balance and imperfect; but that only helps me understand the context for tragedy. When tragedy gets personal, the theories and intellectual discussions about the character of God and the nature of man quickly evaporate.

I have to turn to scripture to find a thread of sanity and hold tightly to my faith, wondering as I do…. does God really care, is He really near to us and our pain?  Can I trust in His hand to hold & guide me and my family….? Tragedy begs us to ask the questions.

In that search for Faith, I invariably return to I Corinthians 13. It clears my mind and resets my perspective from the eyes of my fear,anger and bewilderment to gaze up at an eternal God who made us and is desperate to redeem His creation. I remember His love, His concern and His compassion for me, for us… for Mankind.

I Corinthians 13:12-13  (Message) Biblegateway.com

12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:

Faith Hope Love

Faith Hope Love

 Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

I remember that God didn’t abandon me/us, instead He chose to take on the flesh we feel, to make himself man and live a vulnerable existence on earth. He chose to become a tragic tale of personal sacrifice, intense suffering and ultimate loss, all so we could have Hope, so we could Live. It helps me understand once again that God isn’t ignoring our pain and loss, He’s feeling it with us…

Parents, let’s be extra careful this week to hold fast to our Faith, Hope and Love. Protecting our hearts and our families from believing that God’s heart is anything but grieved by the losses brought on by these senseless tragedies. He’s not just sitting in the clouds of heaven, distracted and unconcerned with our lives, He’s deeply invested in them, now and forever.

Peace and Grace to those families who lost loved ones in Moore OK, our prayers and love go out to you.

pastor B.

– To LOVE extravagantly, please consider a donation to the Salvation Army rescue and relief efforts in Moore OK, please click here !

SVA Oklahoma graphic

Intensity or Intimacy ?

Oh the rush of a serious infatuation, sigh… the full-blown magnificent high that seems to only exist in the early days of another instant attraction ! That “one in a million” personal connection to someone else!  Remember how intense your emotional high was? How deeply it moved into your heart, re-wiring your mind and… well, maybe caused you to go crazy for a while?

Some of us may have pushed caution to the side and  rushed headlong into that sensational blast of instant attraction many times in our past, or possibly right now! We are tempted to jump with abandon off the cliffs of reason to chase wildly after a whirlwind courtship that ended or will end soon after, leaving us dazed and disoriented from a hangover of confused emotions, broken promises and dashed dreams.

Remember?

It hurts, it embarrasses us…even pains us to think of our relational mistakes, our horror stories of lost love and rejection… we chew our lips nervously, wondering how it was that we could have acted so foolishly, rejecting basic reason and the wise advice of those who love us… in exchange for the instant rush of immediate and intense pleasure, revving us up like some kind of emotional crack.

pic – courtesy of awarenessoftheheart.com

Why do some of us still battle this pattern of life, condemned to run in a cycle of hope, euphoria and despair? I’m not a licensed psychologist, so my thoughts are purely personal, but they reflect the experiences of pastoring, parenting and 20 years of marriage and by God’s grace, could be helpful.

I believe the battle for intimacy is rooted in our Identities. Yes, our basic understanding of who we are, why we are here…

1) If we believe we are simply survivors on the battlefield of life, we look desperately for the next foxhole to jump into and take cover. We move desperately from one relationship to the next… hoping it will last longer than the one you just got out of. This by its very nature is intense living, intimacy is a long lost dream that can never be found here.

2) If we believe we are basically bad… then we’re criminally guilty and condemned to live out a life of penance. We may wander in a series of pre-determined, expected and monotonous life moments to preserve our cultural Christian identities… we stick our marriages out, but never grow in our relationships. We’re stuck,  trapped in our decision to marry. Eventually we become so desperate to find an “escape” , a place to run to and leave our empty world behind that we relentlessly crave the greener grass somewhere else and feel guilty and excited at the same time. This drives the world of infidelity… creating pressure and frustration so deep it eventually decieves us into thinking someone or something else would satisfy…would put color back into our lives. This must have intensity to exist… intimacy cannot.

3) If we believe that God has created us to be unique and vital expressions of life, then we will move in directions that reflect our true self, our purpose will direct our actions… slowing the need to escape or survive long enough to actually navigate our lives with intentionality, with direction… with confidence. This creates a foundation for intimacy to grow from, even better… it doesn’t require intensity to exist, it’s stronger than that!

It’s this third option of identification that I believe will save the day for those of us who find a growing addiction to intensity.  The intense relationships, the intense hobbies, the intense goals we crave, give us a brief sense of purpose, a false sense of identity and a  momentary sense of excitement that can only exist for short bursts… it’s like a narcotic, euphoric and beautiful for a short period, but quickly fades to black in time. To continue to “FEEL”  we chase it more and more, over and over until we can’t stop the urge to take another hit, another rush… except it leaves its scars within our hearts, not our kidneys, liver or  brain.

Our world feeds this need into us, demanding that we do more, experience more, buy more, sell more, eat more, smell more, have sex more, travel more, get more stuff… it hounds us to run with the wild and happy ones, sucking the marrow out of life until we are no more. If that’s all we truly have, if our basic identities are only stuck on option one or two above…this may become a tempting offer.

My encouragement to us all is this… PULL BACK, move back, further away from the edge of the INTENSE and consider the path of  true Intimacy… yes it’s a slower, calmer way. It lacks the rush of new and exciting emotions and pleasures, but it offers something much deeper, something much truer than simple momentary ecstasy. It promises… stability, strength and peace…and ironically, delivers to us a much more expansive pleasure and purpose than any “intense” momentary excitement could conceive of.

We need to stop… pause and remember the reality of true intimacy… in our marriages, in our homes and in our world. It takes TIME to grow into intimacy, not something that can be rushed… it’s a slow burn, but once it’s lit… it won’t easily go out. As still water runs deep, so our lives will reflect the maturity of our identity and as we mature so will our capacity for being real, for trusting completely…for being intimate.

pic – courtesy of – ocawonder.com

We would do well to consider the truth of our faith and family, of the promise of God to meet all of our hearts desires, to satisfy our longing souls with goodness. Our creator is the ONLY one who knows us the way we crave for others to appreciate…. quit looking for perfection, for eternity  in any one other than the creator of your soul. They simply don’t exist… not like Hollywood portrays them…instead, look for a faithful authentic helpmate who has discovered their source of love and purpose and peace outside of the intense and has a real capacity to be intimate with their faith and savior… Wait patiently for God to direct your path forward, into someone who is prepared and ready to share and be shared. That’s the stuff of real life.

Our kids need to know their parents are more mature than they are… our kids need to see that we are wise and confident in our identities, growing and gaining in intimacy, fearlessly living out lives… Remember the truth of the bible, read it, trust it… watch it grow in your life. Like this amazing passage in Proverbs chapter 3: 1-8English Standard Version (ESV) – Source:  Biblegateway.com

3 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
2 for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.

3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man.

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.

You will NEVER Regret trusting God with your heart, You will NEVER regret taking your time to grow into intimacy and choosing to walk away from the instant and intense in favor of the real and the lasting… NEVER!

Peace out dear RTP’s…

brad.

PS…and “no” I’m not referring to any one particular person or experience in this blog… just felt God place this on my heart several weeks ago to share, and finally got the free time to do it… 🙂 But i do LOVE you all, for those who are hurting, lost or despairing… just stay vertical…the horizontal will follow ! (Sorry so long)

Advent Week 2 – “Love”

ADVENT…  For Week one we discussed the “Prophecy” Candle representing “Hope” for believers. For Week Two we’re lighting the “Bethlehem” candle representing “Love”. For Christians, the season of Advent serves as a reminder both of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting of Christians for Christ’s return.

Courtesy of freechristmasdesktopwallpapers.blogspot.com

The theme of readings and teachings during Advent is often to prepare for the Second Coming while commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas. With the view of directing the thoughts of Christians to the first coming of Jesus Christ as savior and to his second coming as judge, special readings are prescribed for each of the four Sundays in Advent. (Wikipedia)

That ADVENT candle burning in front of us, is to remind you that God is FOR YOU. He is ON YOUR SIDE. It burns to remind us all that not only did He have a plan – but a purpose for His people and His son, and the only motivation for His coming was LOVE.

Remember in the all the rush of the season,  God can handle every hardship, discouragement, delay, depression, frustration, failure, regression, collapse, concern, anxiety, fear, presumption, economic need, relationship imbalance, marital strife, physical ailment, etc…It has not caught Him off guard. He is more than able to help and He promises again and again in the bible, He will show up, He is not going to leave us unprepared and unable to lead and guide us into the path of life. Christmas is PROOF that He keeps His promises

It’s easy to Forget that! It’s easy to wear out and get foggy on the facts from time to time. Just remember this truth about ADVENT:

1- God had a Plan, God has a plan, God is planning now  = Our HOPE .

2- God came for us, God came for you, God is coming for us all and His only motivation is and was LOVE. Eternal love, AGAPE love. Unfailing – unstoppable LOVE.

As we remember those two weeks or “Truths” of Advent. My prayer is for those bright and burning flames to help remind us all of the heritage of faith that we belong to. For centuries fellow believers have been celebrating ADVENT. It will revive your weary heart, it will soothe the hurting souls and broken hearts.

If we do, I believe it will Change everything for you this Christmas.The truth will energize and recharge you from surviving to thriving! When we remember who Jesus is, what Jesus came for, who He came for… when our eyes pause on the manager this Christmas,  it’s message can revitalize your Hope, Your Love, Your Life… surround yourself with the reminders of GOD’s truth as much as you can, including lighting candles in December 🙂

This ADVENT, let’s not allow ourselves to get so busy we forget to remember the reason of our Holiday season. The purpose behind all the fuss… the real truth of Christmas is we are meant to remember and repeat the message and meaning of Christ in everyone we know and love. The real ADVENT (or coming of Christ) is in our being a personal ambassador of HOPE and LOVE to our world.

Peace out RTP!

brad.