Finish strong

Being a family is like running a very long – long – long way… think a long-distance marathon… not a sprint.

source – podiatry.com

For those who didn’t run track… Parenting is more like getting a Ph.D. A long – very expensive – time-consuming – exhausting and overwhelmingly difficult pursuit. ¬†Add marriage to that mix and you’re effectively getting a double Ph.D at the same time. ūüôā

It’s a really big deal to get married and start a family.

I think we often underestimate the extraordinary accomplishment it is to live the traditional family life. Lots and lots of us get married. Lots and lots of us have kids… but less and less of us are staying married and even fewer have been able to maintain a healthy adult relationship with our kids. (source article)¬†

Why is that…?

Not trying to be trite here. Not trying to look at this from an elevated perch of maturity and wisdom. Truly examining this question as I reflect on my own life. Why is family such a huge challenge?

First observation; Family is more than a life milestone to shoot for. It’s a calling from God to fulfill. If we approach it as another ‘to-do’ on our bucket list of life, we may dramatically ¬†mistake the obvious. If this is a ‘blueprint’ for living – as handed down by ¬†God himself to the children of Adam / Eve… then it’s going to be challenged and resisted.

Second: Family requires healthy relationships to work. Healthy relationships require respect, patience, selflessness, and humility. Not character traits that can just be easily downloaded like a new phone app. These lessons are life-long ¬†and are continually being refined, tested, and improved by the circumstances we share. Living for someone else is not easily ¬†sustained. We can do it for short bursts of time, but with extended pressure we’re forced to admit how far short we fall. Grace may be most important missing ingredient in most long-term relationships.

Third: Family is all about finishing strong! It’s not how well we get started, It’s not about how few mistakes we make or how organized our homes appear to be… it’s about the determination to get back up when we fall. The resolve to never – ever – stop trying to ‘be’ a family. Our lives are full of dead-end opportunities, broken promises, and people who disappoint, it’s up to us to push past our offenses and pain. Like a long distance race, we have to set a pace to finish. We have to ask God to give us strength when we have nothing left in the tank.

source – muzmatch.com

I’ve done most of my marriage & parenting ¬†‘completely wrong’. I did great at the starting line, crashed and burned at year 9 and by God’s redemptive grace year 11 was a fresh start. It’s now year 26, and by the power Christ within, my faith, marriage and family are stronger than ever. (See my book;¬†Roadtrip to Redemption )

It’s not that we’re blessed to live ‘safe’ lives, quite the opposite in fact. We’ve seen one crisis after another hit our family, but we’ve also seen God faithfully meet us in each desperate hour. It’s the strength of a shared faith and mutual determination to live out of a spirit of love and not fear…those factors made a huge¬†difference in our family.

My prayer for you. No matter how bad you feel you’re doing…”Don’t give up!”¬†

Don’t give into the guilt and shame, don’t surrender your family to frustration and fear. God is present. ALL THE TIME. It may be time to shut out the other voices and just listen to His. After all… He invented Family and Marriage, He might just have some helpful advice to share ūüôā

Peace out, Pastor B.

 

When our Faith isn’t strong enough anymore…

Debt.

The mountain of bills that spiked when you had your first kid, then when your AC went out you had to reach for a credit card to fix it. Then your tires all needed replaced and the dentist wasn’t fully covered by your work insurance. Christmas, that emergency trip to see your parents last year and a badly needed weekend retreat with you spouse all piled on top.

couple-joint-bank-account_1

yourtango.com – image source

In an effort to get your debt down and reduce the financial stresses on your family… you take a second job. Working after working so to speak. An effort to get ahead, to reset and simplify.

The IRS sends you a certified letter. Seems a return four years ago is in question. They want ten thousand dollars in back taxes for claimed expenses. The debt pile becomes a mountain.

Your life seems to be moving from bad to worse. But… this isn’t how it’s supposed to work.

Somewhere deep inside of us we always believed if we worked hard, acted with integrity… and trusted God, we would be protected. Provided for.

Where was God now?

The injustice of your situation starts to rub at your soul. Raw and open wounds spewing their pain and poison into the rest of your life. Angry all the time. Stressed, life feels stretched further than it can flex… about to break.¬†

Feeling the shame of failure¬†creeping¬†inside, we start to back away from relationships. Isolating ourselves we push others away and avoid any mention of God or Faith. The subjects are too painful to consider anymore. We only have the growing numbness. The shock of realizing that maybe we’ve been duped by the church. By the pastor… by our parents. Foolishly and blindly putting our faith into something that’s not really there… in a God who would actually care about us. About our suffering. About our…. debt.

I’m here to say… hang on. God isn’t absent. He’s here, right now.¬†

The struggle isn’t without purpose.¬†

The relationship you crave is real. 

God hasn’t, can’t abandon you. His character is faithfulness… forever.¬†

I don’t know fully why He allows such struggle in our lives… but I know Him.

losing-faith

lam-network.com

He gave us the Holy Spirit… the Paraclete. Not just for comfort and help, but to anchor us to Him when we can’t hold on any longer.

Read these words and remember the promise of God again.

Romans 8:¬†25¬†But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.¬†26¬†Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27¬†And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because¬†the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28¬†And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,¬†for those who are called according to his purpose.” (ESV) Source – BibleGateway.com¬†

Claim it’s truth no matter what it seem’s like in your life. These are the words of God, not man. They can’t be broken or lost… they last forever and their promise is assured.

He is FAITHFUL.

Pastor B.

PS – PRAY… with your spouse.

The Secret of Adventure…

From the very beginning I’ve had a deep longing to explore… to be challenged, tested, and to discover. God in His great wisdom granted my heart’s desire… and made me a parent.

The secret of Adventure is knowing your already living in one.

AA Milne knew that. His pooh stories saturated with the truth of Adventure and the need we have to be on one. So is the Bible… it reminds us of the fantastic story we’re a part of . The epic and the insignificant moments all threaded into one beautiful tapestry we call our life. For us children of the 80’s… the Adventure was in a galaxy far, far, away.

pic source - moviepilot.com

pic source – moviepilot.com

Like all great stories, there is a sacred quest and a villain with evil intent. A damsel in distress and a gallant hero complete the setting…

Soon our story expands, as priceless treasure is discovered, needing to be protected,…good, and evil locked in a battle for the prize. Drama and tragedy set among the glory and triumph, we watch with breathless anticipation to see how the scene plays out.

Life is an adventure… if you see it for what it really is.¬†

Can you see your life as more than survival, or a test? More than a painful series of ‘checklist’s to complete?

Can you see your marriage and your love for others as a sacred quest? The priceless treasure…your little ones. Heroically we stand guard against a corrupted and evil world, fighting to protect their hope and preserve innocence.

It’s heroic, even inspiring to watch as we parents learn to love and honor each other in the pursuit of parenthood. Sacrificing our rights and ‘precious little wrongs’¬†on the altar of true love and a growing commitment to serve someone greater than ourselves.

Ahhh… the heart of a epic story really is inside us all, just waiting to be discovered and celebrated!

Each family, each marriage can become a testament to the adventure God intended us to all share in. And like any great story… we know intuitively the ending. Good will triumph and the evil villain will get his just reward…

Unless you remember the story. Unless you understand what your life really is a part of… the adventure you’re in may only feel like one long moment of sheer terror and the epic hero seems absent. Don’t be confused, that isn’t just a battered and helpless carpenter nailed to a cross… it’s the Prince of Peace and the Lord of the Universe.

The truth is, your hero is with you. The battle has been fought and your are free to be as your father intended. Full of life and optimism, trusting the script has been written down to the smallest detail.. and you’re going to see the ending!¬†

Peace and Grace dear one… Pastor B.

the final Peace for your puzzle

Monday morning, 5:30 am. Alarm blares and first thoughts of the day hit like an icy fist in the gut…. Dread, Fear, Anxiety, knots of unease form as we grapple mentally with problems unresolved and coming up in our day. “We wonder …what is going on with my life? Things are piling up around and over me, heavier and deeper each year…everyone else is speeding up while I’m laying here stuck!

artsonline.monash.edu.au

artsonline.monash.edu.au

Gulping down breakfast and dropping the kid’s at school, Kroger, the gas station, and onto work… channel surfing the radio and looking for something to ‘grab’ for the day. An inspiring song, a great sermon sound-byte, promising news report on the economy….’anything¬†positive to give¬†us¬†just a smidge of comfort, some scrap of encouragement for a day that seems doomed before it begins.

Disgusted at the lack of hope in the world, ¬†you settle for a retro radio station and sip convenience store coffee until the demands of the day force back the dull ache that used to be your heart. We’re only dimly aware we might be surrendering our yearning for something ‘better’¬†to simply surviving.

Life, it’s crazy complicated. Family, marriage, career…they each demand all of us. Friends, bosses and children…all shouting for us to “keep up!” ¬†We run and hustle obediently to get things done, pushing forward. Numbly we find a way to fit ‘everything and everyone’ into our 24/7 schedules, only to find ourselves back in bed…¬†waking up with a fresh round of deeper anxiety and dread.

Whats happening to us ?

Couple of quick thoughts,

1 – We have to ‘remember’ our purpose. God created us, our kids… our friends, everyone and everything with purpose. We’re not random accidents of science and happenstance. Our lives have purpose,but finding the purpose in the day-to-day is hard. It takes effort and intentionality to rediscover your faith and focus for life. (that means time)! ¬†Sharing your heart (fears, frustrations and anxieties) with God, reading scripture¬†and hanging out on a regular basis with a community of faith¬†ūüôā

2 – We have to ‘trust’ that in our purpose, God has a plan. Our life circumstances are more than a series of tragic episodes. We’re in process, being changed and transformed from the in-side out. Faith means believing there will be ‘good’ that comes out of our suffering, in our difficulties God shows up. We learn to recognize His face, His voice and His path instead of the ‘other’ options we have.

3- Our hearts are redeemed. As a Christian, you’re living with a redeemed heart. God has touched you with His Holy Spirit, it hovers inside of your life, and inspires us to do great and beautiful things with our lives. It’s only barrier to full expression is fear. ¬†We live as wounded and wary people, avoiding risk and intimacy in an effort to avoid more pain. But the truth is we’re designed to grow only by sharing, only by sacrifice can we become whole. When we live ‘guarded’ lives, we’re only living with half of our hearts.

God is closer than we feel. He’s touched us before, and He’s ready every morning to touch us again. To take away our fear, and pain and sorrow and replace it with peace. It’s one of the most important pieces in our life puzzle. Once we sort that out, we can start to see the patterns and beauty of our lives unfold.

Love you, Pastor B.

 

 

 

Fierce

If your like most fathers… it seems we’re cast as the passive members in our family play. From sitcoms to stand-up comedy, men are dismissed as less than essential in the modern family home. Dads, If you’re not careful, you might start to believe its true.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Al-Bundy-picture

Men are called by God to lead. Cast in a divine role as the trailblazer of life for our families and kids to follow. Granted, each of us has our unique personality and leadership style, some more behind the scenes and others extroverted…but all of us are called to reject passivity for something more.

I believe that ‘something more’ is FIERCE!¬†

fierce /¬†adjective =¬†(of a feeling, emotion, or action) showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity.¬†– “he kissed her with a fierce, demanding passion”
Guys, how we respond to our wives, our children and our faith shouldn’t be passive, we can’t afford ‘laid-back”. It’s essential that we give our domestic responsibilities every bit of the attention, focus, and determination we show for our work, fantasy football leagues and ¬†golf game.
Living out our faith with emotion and heartfelt passion is a “MUST” for dads.¬†

Fierce !

Fierce !*

Doesn’t mean we rush around with unsustainable¬†fervor, but it does mean we lead in offering prayer at dinner, talking with our kids when they return from youth group, noting priorities in family calendars by choosing to put Christ first in our plans.
It also means we live with passionate desire for our wives. Showing our children how to revere and respect a lady, modeling healthy affection and appropriate intimacy with our spouses.
In following Christ’s example, we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church. That is FIERCE love. Love that won’t let go, won’t give up and believes in the future being brighter than the past. When we take the lead in living out life, we’re supporting and assisting our wives in raising up our kids. We’re active in our communities of faith and we’re intentional about sharing what God is teaching and revealing to us in our devotional times. We’re doing laundry, dishes, and cleaning toilets !
In essence, we’re called to set the pace in our homes, to walk the walk with deep devotion and oodles of gentleness. Providing more than spending money and the basic stuff everyone needs, we’re called to be nothing less than Christ to our wives and kids! ¬†Dads, that is truly FIERCE living.¬†
Peace out, Pastor B.
*image source, Pinterest 

Singing a New Song

My wife made me go and see “The Song”¬†

After fifteen minutes and a third of my buttered popcorn, I was hooked. Uniquely…. this film is based on the biblical writings of Solomon – mostly from Ecclesiastes and his more romantic prose, the Song of Solomon…. thus the title of this flick. Rated PG-13 and painfully and emotionally raw at times, it held all my attention for two hours.

A City on A Hill production, it’s a legit Christian film project that doesn’t “feel” like a Christian movie. Instead it “FEELS” like real life. With solid acting, excellent screen writing and fantastic cinematography, the Song has all the classic elements of a main stream Hollywood release without the gratuitous nudity and R rated language so familiar.

It’s safe to take your tweens and teens to see, the storyline is predictable and all too familiar for some of us, but it still grabs your heart as it captures the subtle struggles of romantic love and motherhood, marriage and fidelity in an uncomfortably authentic light.

The show is a hit for me, I give it four stars out five and recommend it !

The Song

The Song

A perfect date film for couples and a wonderful coming of age movie to take your sons and daughters to see. It speaks out loud and clear on the principles of love, modesty, faith and family without ever forcing us to endure the self-righteous-sermon-scene so common to Christian movies.

I hope you support this movie for lots of reasons! For it’s true to life message, it’s connection between an ancient text ¬†and modern life, and for it’s realistic portrayal of romance! (not to mention so they can make more movies like this)

The Song gives painfully accurate illustrations of how ambition, success and motherhood can conspire to erode a couple’s intimacy and trust, a risk all marriages face.

Fortunately, this movie is more than just a dirge of relational regrets, the Song contains a wonderful reminder of the hope and redemption that grows from its underlying biblical roots! 

I plan to have our youth at church catch this one when it comes out, and encourage couples who are considering marriage or struggling through one; to view and discuss the movie with their own pastors. The Song raises great romantic and relationship questions for us all to consider and illustrates evocatively the words of Solomon.

I believe the Song is a well told story that can shape culture with its honesty, timeless themes and artistic beauty…¬†it’s Good stuff, Go see it !

Pastor B.

The Magic of Marriage is in the “mix”

One of the most valuable gifts we can give our kids… is the gift of a healthy marriage and stable home.

Making every effort then to strengthen our relationships as spouses becomes a key to raising our children well. As husbands and wives we encounter repeated clashes of wills, as personal opinions polarize our individual perspectives on life issues, politics and finances. So much so, if we’re not careful we can settle into a semi-hostile relationship living in guarded marriages and tension filled homes.

For men and women of faith, marriage can be a tiresome struggle of opposites learning to co-exist and ‘love’ each other despite our wide personal differences.

For those without the anchor of their faith in Christ, it’s ‘logical’ to simply bail on a relationship that’s just too hard to figure out, to move on in search of someone better who will be more ‘compatible”. Unfortunately this scenario usually ends tragically with our kids the innocent victims of our marital frustration.

So what’s a struggling Christian couple to do ? How do we move from living as sullen room mates to the passionate and supportive union our God calls us to be as husband and wife?

I’m not a marriage therapist, but I have been married now for over 23 years and I’m a pastor… so I’ve experienced a good bit of life struggles and a near marriage disaster. Couple of thoughts to consider if your despairing of hope for your union.

1 – God redeems everything we allow Him to touch. Give Him your marriage, your heart and your ‘right’ to be ‘right.

2- God draws us into relationship with those who are ‘complimentary to us. Our spouses can drive us crazy or they can be what completes the big picture for us. It’s all in the perspective. Ask God to help you ‘see’ the good in your spouses eccentric ways.

3- Compromise is a strength, not a weakness. When we allow ourselves to consider the ‘other ‘ viewpoint on an issue, we are respecting our spouses perspective and growing in compassion and consideration. When we insist on others accommodating only to our way, we’re walling off and shutting down those who need to be in the intimate ‘mix” of our life.

In the end, marriage is all about the ‘blend’ of personal strengths and weaknesses we are when we are unified and ‘together”. When I allow for my spouse to speak into my life, helping to shape my values,beliefs and behaviors… I am MUCH better than when I just forge on alone, doing life as “I See It”.

Our kids are aware of ALL of this, and watching how we navigate the bumps and troubles of our relationships and forming their own beliefs about marriage and commitment. Let’s be diligent to push through the difficult days and recommit ourselves to finding the healthy blend of each other as we learn how to live as “ONE”.

Peace out, Pastor B.

Couple of resources to consider;Intimate Allies” – by Dan Allender or “Love and Respect; The Love She desires, the respect he desperately needs” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs