Living as a Settled Soul

I need to share honestly… and I know I’m not alone or unusual. My last five years have been full of struggle and discouragements, tragic loss, and setbacks. I’ve felt the harshness of life and the ridiculously hard path of what I thought was a  simple existence.

It seemed that everything and everyone was resisting me constantly, and the weariness from the exhaustion that comes from trying again and again to get back up…is impossible to describe without going through it yourself.

The accumulated years of seemingly pointless sacrifices take their toll on our hearts. Sometimes they get so grim they choke out much of our optimism and left us more empty and numb than alive inside.  

As we ponder our lives, we have to wrestle with the point to our endless parade of difficulties and stress. We wonder, am I doing something wrong? Is God angry with me? Why doesn’t my life seem to be ‘working’?

If you’re finding yourself in a similar diminished state, weary of the struggles that never seem to be conquered… read on! I get it. I understand as much as any other human can.

Here are some hard won truths from my own private journal. Some are from podcasts I’ve listened to, some from daily devotionals, but most are from hours alone with God and His word.

Reminder #1: All difficult circumstances are not ‘God’s’ making. He doesn’t create and force disaster upon us, but when it comes… He is offering to be ‘in it’ with us.  He will redeem whatever we’re facing, irregardless of whether we deserve it or not.

Reminder #2: The places we go for comfort in our difficult days are only temporary substitutes for the true solace we long for.  Sex, Drugs, Alcohol, and Ambition can only numb us to the pain we feel inside. The deeper pain never goes away with external medications.

Reminder #3: The struggle allowed or endured is used by the Holy Spirit to remove the gunk in us and free up fresh real-estate in our soul for God’s presence to settle in and restore. Our hearts need made whole and that’s a inner work that takes time.

Reminder #4: God is good. His ways are odd to us, the solutions He prescribes seem to take the long way to our desired outcomes, but they are always the best possible route and a specific answer to each and every prayer we voice.

Reminder #5: The inner work of stillness is the mature work of a settled soul. God longs for us to shrug off our external distractions and focus on just being satisfied in Him. The bible calls this ‘abiding’ in Christ. It is the deep and permanent work of the Holy Spirit to settle a soul.

These are truths we must recall in the dark night of the soul. Those days and weeks, months and even years that we feel abandoned by God and alone in our struggle. We are not alone, it’s a lie, and the truth can be so hard to remember when our world seems to never change.

Be strong dear one, God is working… and whatever new and awesome assignment that’s right around the corner,  you can bet it requires us to go through whatever we’re currently wrestling with. God never wastes our pain or suffering, He uses it to prepare us for the greater influence and responsibility sure to come our way.

The temptation is to simply find ‘the’ solution to our angst, but in the end I’ve found the discipline of ‘stillness’ is the surest course to find Peace and a settled soul.

Pastor B.

When your about to give up and give in to despair… DON’T!

We all know the struggle is real as a parent. The struggle to keep hope alive. To choose to ‘believe’ that God is up there and watching, engaged in our lives and actively seeking our good.

But there are days when that belief is strained to the breaking point.

There are dozens and dozens of days that I look back on and wonder how I made it through. How did I not just chuck it all and bail? How in the world did I stick it out and not give up?

Simple answer… GOD’S GRACE.

It’s always a temptation to give up – throw our proverbial hands in the air and just surrender to despair and doubt and walk away. For parents you can do everything right and still seem like you’ve failed.

Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

For parents who are raising teens, this can be a daily or weekly event. Those promises of God you scribbled down on sticky notes and taped to your desk or fridge, don’t forget them. The word of God highlighted in your bible until the pages tear… it’s real.  The faith we’ve so carefully nursed along through missed mortgage payments, cancer,  and marital strife, it’s true and tested no matter how we feel.

Yet…it can seem so fragile.

But hang on a sec. Our lives and circumstances are usually crazy. The forces that push us around can seem overwhelming and dark, but that’s only if we forget whose we are. Our strength was never based on how well we performed, never built on a foundation of self reliance and personal will power. If we’re a Christ-follower, a believer in the savior and Messiah – Jesus, then we’re supposed to rely on HIS strength.

That means we’re NOT the key ingredient in our lives or our faith. HE IS. Our eternal destinies and that of our kids are NOT dependent on us. It is the irresistible pull of God to align us and our families into perfect sync with His Kingdom. In His time, and in His way. 

So… unclench your fists. Take deep – slow – breaths… God is still GOD. HE is still at the helm of our lives. His will is going to occur and His plans are going to succeed. We are not victims lost in the floods of life, we are protected and purposed by Him.

Go get your promises out and lay them before God in prayer, remind Him of your need for hope, for encouragement, for peace. Make it a regular habit to ask Him to show up in your despair, to believe He’s going to miraculously realign your life and circumstances according to His will.  As you ask for help remember to choose to praise Him for the answer. To look forward in anticipation for His perfect solution… even before you see it.

It is the ‘goodness’ of Gods character that we are being trained to trust in.  The outcome of our lives is not depending on our merit or hard work, just HIS GOODNESS.

For our mental perspective to shift all we have to do is recall to mind and more importantly our hearts, the faithfulness of God to meet ALL our needs. He was God over the impossible in the past and He will be God over the impossible today.

 

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Remember we are but dust, and when our faith is only an ember, it is HIS strength that will carry the day.  St. Paul said it this way… “His strength is made perfect in our weakness”.

So parents – what could be more reassuring than that?

Peace out!

Pastor B.

Suggested link: Here is a great interview with one of my spiritual fathers, Pastor Duane Sheriff. He and his wife Sue have a fantastic perspective on parenting when we feel like a failure. Available at Brilliantly Brave Parenting on Soundcloud, iTunes, and YouTube.

A promise in the wilderness

The Solitude and sanctity of Consecrated living

This internal work of the Holy Spirit is active in the wilderness season. It’s very presence and function an indication of our being prepared for a future work and service. Our spiritual senses are awakened as we begin to experience the presence of God, and the wilderness is where we are most keenly attuned to God’s whisper.

Our life begins to take on a sharper focus as we recognize the forces at work within and without us and we slowly accept and even embrace the intentional nature of our circumstances.

This awareness is the growing culmination of our decision to stay on the path, the expanding vista of our upward journey in faith.

The removal of the old and of our self makes space for the new and spiritual to grow. This consecration transformation is overseen by the Holy Spirit and is specific to the precise detail of our circumstance. The purposes of God are rarely revealed in their entirety to us, we are kept in the dark for many reasons, but not the least is the trust and the faith that the mystery of His work instills in us.

Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels

We cannot move deeper and closer to God without allowing this growing sensitivity of our need for consecration to take center stage within our consciousness. When we do,  we make different choices, we shy away from those old and deeply ingrained habits. Replacing those old patterns we find a surprising but  growing hunger for more time in His presence, for His plans more than our own. This inner transformation wipes away the decay of selfish pursuits and reorients us to a life spent for service.

This new motivation provides us a growing sense of inner calm and tangible assurance of who we are, where we’re going, and who we truly belong to; which is in essence the ultimate goal of our wilderness journey.

A growth in our personal discipline and dedication to Prayer is the natural byproduct of living in the presence of God, motivated by such a season of life as the wilderness we grow and grow. It (prayer) becomes the vital connection and intersection of our lives and Gods presence here on earth – it’s more than learning to take authority or a process of removing life obstacles – God is inviting us into deeper intimacy and longer conversations. We have to see prayer as time spent listening and talking. At stake is the will of God in our lives, and consequently here on earth. Our sensitivity to Gods will and way should become the most important part our day.

As Dr Tony Evans says, “we need to discover what God is up to each day – we need to listen and respond by asking Him what He wants to do and where we should be within His will, within His plans” (my paraphrase) “We are not meant to simply “visit” with God in prayer, but to learn to “abide”. We cannot fully enter into what God is doing here on earth without learning to listen and hear when we pray.”

 The bigger picture is this… as we learn to live in the wilderness, we will grow in our inner desire to follow after and become like Christ. This expanding thirst for holy living will draw us into a closer and deeper faith, a positive cycle of shedding the “old” and putting on the ‘new’. Our transformation starting within expressing itself without, not for appearance sake or the affirmation of others, but for the preservation and growth of our communion with God.

The circumstances of our life may wax and wane, but by leaving behind the old false and fake self we make space for the new and liberated self. This frees us from our fears and opens the door to a growing practice of living within a constant presence with God. This is what the saints have long called ‘walking with God’. It’s habitual practice in our lives means we can not only endure our wilderness season but learn, grow, and expand.

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad from Pexels

The distractions and struggles of our lives are like the swirling wind for an eagle’s wings. We can fight the turbulence or learn to ride the currents trusting in the power of God to lead us. The other option…? We can stubbornly resist and insist on a vain attempt to maintain control of our trajectory until we reach the point of complete exhaustion and despair.

The struggle for each of us to draw near to the Creator is real. Our need to exert control is deeply ingrained, but Gods Holy Spirit is the patient and perfect tutor and will realign our hearts to His.

The process of consecration and preparation requires from us a voluntary surrender and release of our protective grip on those false confidences and comforts that counterfeit His provision and presence. This often means a season in the wilderness, a time of isolation, transition, and frustration in the short-term, but greater peace and deeper intimacy in the long run.

In the end, we must learn to rest while we find ourselves living in the wilderness. Not confident in our tenacity to stick with it, but in His patience to work within us, to perfect us in the midst of it all.

Pastor B.

PS – the last 5 posts have been an outline of a new project I’m working on for publication.  I trust they provide hope and encouragement to any who find themselves in a wilderness season of life.  Much of the biblical insights I am drawing upon can be found in the book of “Hebrews’. This epic summation of the New Covenant in Christ is the road-map for any who wish to find ‘rest’. Hebrews points directly to the completed majestic sacrifice of the long promised messiah… Jesus Christ.

Politics and Parenting

Seems every week I write on this blog we have a different ‘crisis’ in the news.  From the threat of Nuclear War in Asia, to Ukrainian incursions by Russia, to the threat of ISIS in the public square… media is selling us ‘fear’. I’m not suggesting their reports are only ‘fake’ news, but I am saying they emphasis the ‘fear’ more than hope. On purpose.

As parents we’ve got a choice to make. We can buy what their selling… or not.

I choose to ‘not’.

Here’s why.

Politics is a murky world of hidden agendas, manipulation, half truth, and outright deception. Our worlds issues  are complex. Most issues are way past making simple ‘right/wrong’ judgements within a few minutes. Broad determinations on a person’s character or the wisdom of an action probably need more than a soundbyte. Judgements made  from a 5 minute news flash are not a good way to inform ourselves or determine our ‘positions’ on the latest politics of our day.  

Stepping back even further it’s clear that your source of information affects the ‘tone’ and perspective dramatically. Fox News or CNN…? Flip back and forth one day… listen to identical events being portrayed in polar opposite ways. One dissects the actions of the day from a ‘conservative’ or ‘Republican ‘perspective, the other in a ‘progressive’ or Democratic posture. Both are stridently ‘right’. Reading the news or hearing the radio talking heads go further into the weeds doesn’t help… each side props up their positions with selected facts and opinions to bolster their audience’s already decided positions on the latest drama.

How are we as parents going to help our kids navigate the mess that is our modern political culture?

Couple of thoughts. 

  1. Prejudice is well understood in the context of racism… but what about political parties? Conservatives and Progressive thinkers… Republicans and Democrats. Are we being pushed into yes/no answers based simply on  past stereotypes?
  2. Is the media messing with us? Are we being ‘played’ by a savvy business model that intentionally creates panic and fear to sell airtime and news? Hmmmmmnnn… I think so.
  3. As a Families of Faith, we should be careful to assign blame or pre-judge people, events, or news items simply based on what news cast we caught says. What about searching the scriptures… or praying. Or even saying nothing about the latest political foofaw to our kids.
  4. How much of what we’re hearing today… is going to even matter in a month? What about next year….? Can you remember what was happening last year this week on the world stage of news? I didn’t think so. (Freddie Gray – Baltimore police controversy – US News & World Report – May ’16)

In my opinion, when we allow politics to push into the sanctity of our homes… we are risking more than high blood pressure. Is it worth allowing the hype and fear and anger invade our lives? Is it wise to let a media driven culture subtly steal our peace and unity as a family of faith.  

Good questions. Lots of folks like to debate, discuss, and dialogue about the latest events and news. Great. Awesome. Me too… but as parents we’re faced with the dilemma of creating a space that is safe for our kids. A place that we can focus on the most important issues of life. 

I love that some parents use politics as a way to engage their older teens with an education narrative to teach values and truth from the exaggerations and deceptive reporting, but in the whole… let’s avoid being manipulated by media. Let’s agree it wouldn’t be wise to take sides prematurely on issues that may never matter. I’m talking to everyone here… Republican, Democrat… Conservative, Liberal, Progressive, Independent, Constitutionalist… etc… let’s pull back from the hype machine we call media and re-focus ourselves on the truly important things!

Peace…

Pastor B.

PS – I know there will be lots of opinions against my blog today. That’s cool… no problem. My views come from a “Via Media” approach to life. (The Middle Way – in Latin) Scripture reference for this blog… Psalm 2

 

 

When we run and hide…

Met with a dear friend and fellow pastor the other day. We talked and caught up… he shared of his summer and the struggle he’s had with isolation and the allure of pulling back from his church community.  Of his battle with feeling alone and wanting to avoid others… it was a familiar story.

He eventually recognized this internal struggle was more than just an emotional pull or some sort of ministry fatigue. It was spiritual warfare. His church was growing, having just walked through a very difficult season of transition things were finally gaining momentum… the Kingdom of God was pressing forward into their local community and suddenly there was just a sense of unexplainable spiritual fatigue. 

The result… he pulled back from meeting with others in his community of faith for coffee or prayer. He took a ‘break’ from reading his bible. He re-arranged his personal life to allow him to ‘miss’ regular church events and generally pulled away from all things “Christian’ in order to get some ‘space’.

In time it affected his marriage, his kids and of course… his relationship with God. He was sharing with me in the ‘past-tense’ and I noted that he was embarrassed and upset with himself for letting it happen. Wryly he acknowledged he could see these same issues in others easily enough, but seemed so blind about himself…he was sharing out of accountability and support. Bringing it out into the open and letting me know he didn’t want to stay in this place of isolation any longer.

picture credit - www.doctormit.ro

picture credit – http://www.doctormit.ro

That took courage. It mean he had conviction and determination to follow Christ no matter what he was ‘feeling’ or not feeling on any particular day. It also meant, he was walking in humility and purpose. Recognizing he was fighting more than a personal battle, but experiencing spiritual resistance to the work that God was doing in and around him at his local church.

In his family.

In his marriage.

In him.

We all have felt this way in our lives. Many times I’ve wanted to run away and hide from ministry. To just get in my car and drive until I didn’t know where I was. To isolate and hibernate away from people… from problems. From the concerns of others and the petty annoyances of life.

Yet… somewhere deep within we know that’s not the better path. We sense that God is working in these empty moments of life. Developing something ‘more‘ within our heart of hearts. Growing us deeper roots for finding that ‘everlasting’ water and preparing us to serve in new ways. It’s in these moments of isolation that we have to choose to open the bible once more and read. Drinking deep of it’s wisdom and experiencing the grace of God afresh.

picture credit - thelaneblog.wordpress.com

picture credit – thelaneblog.wordpress.com

Faith is tested every day. Sometimes it’s the in-between of our lives that we are most vulnerable. The subtle shift in our attitude… the bitter taste of resentment or past injustice nudging us to pull back. To avoid.

Dear friends… we are desperately in need of each other. The battle for our hearts and minds begins with isolation and division. The enemy of our souls will seek to compromise us anyway he can. It’s easiest when we’re away from the strength and support of our spiritual family.

Stay close to your encourager’s. Don’t run. Don’t hide. Whatever your feeling…whatever you’ve done… God is already making it work for your good and His glory.

Hang in there. Stay close. Be where God has placed you.

Pastor B.

 

 

 

The Politics of Parenting

Politics. (imagine a sneer and snort of disgust as I type these letters out…)

Not my favorite topic. I watch the flurry of Facebook and Twitter posts bang around the web as the most recent dirt of 24 hour news hits the proverbial public opinion fan.

As parents, what is an appropriate posture to take on current political events with our kids?

Tweens and Teens are very aware of the social issues of our time. Focused on the ideas of social justice, equality, and financial excess. They may however have no idea who or what Trump or Hillary represent in the way of tangible positions on real issues. Instead… they are digesting the basic stereotypes around those candidates, with social media as their exclusive source of information… teens-social-media

Given these emerging adults will one day be voters… it’s probably a wise idea to discuss the real issues and realities behind all the political banter and smear campaigns. 

Many of us have strong (right vs. left) political leanings, based on family histories… labor environments, denominational backgrounds etc… I have many friends and fellow pastors (who I respect) who take polar opposite positions on major issues.  The concept of ‘right vs. wrong’ can quickly break relationships in the world of personal politics and social media posting. (just check your FB threads today and see for yourself)

There is always someone with an axe to grind. An issue to elevate above the others and a ‘for us or against us’ attitude. This can be confused with being a good Christian or bad. 

Note the way Christ responds to the political pressures of his time in Jerusalem. He sidesteps the manipulations of the leaders and sticks with the core issues of the heart and soul. Not taking the bait to argue the points. ft-trump-clinton-1024x576

Not saying we can’t or shouldn’t have strong opinions… just reminding you to keep it all in perspective. God is sovereign. Period. We are products of divine grace and mercy, and as such our postures should reflect patience, perspective, and compassion on those we relate to and with on a regular basis. It’s our validation as a Spirit filled being.

Christ was active to speak to the issues of his time, and he chose to live in the moment without becoming a part of someone else’s agenda. In the end, his refusal to take sides made him very dangerous to the ruling classes, but it set the bar very high for us. 

So… as you ponder, meditate, and prayerfully consider who to vote for this November… do so with respect, gentleness, and kindness. The future of our nation is not going to be won or lost this election cycle. The future will be determined by our children and their faith or lack of it…

Peace out, Pastor B.

Trust and Obey. Ordination in Perspective

Today I’m being ordained as a Priest in the Anglican church. It’s been a LONG journey… and the path has contained many twists and turns along the way. But our God is relentless, intensely committed to fulfilling in us what He’s called us to be and do with our lives.

edensedge.blogspot.com

edensedge.blogspot.com

I’m not overtly excited, euphoric or enthusiastic emotionally or spiritually. I am resolved. Committed to finish well. But not gushing with warmth and butterflies.

It felt like maybe something was “wrong” with me, or was it missing? If God had called me and I wasn’t feeling super spiritually charged in the process…maybe I wasn’t the right guy for all of this? These and other questions often intruded on my mind as I walked out my calling in faith.  I know many of us struggle in feeling inadequate…but one day I was reading one of my daily emails from Biblegateway and was reminded by Tozer to stay the course. In fact, he somehow was able to perfectly describe my emotions and sense exactly as it is for me.

The true minister is one not by his own choice but by the sovereign commission of God. From a study of the Scriptures one might conclude that the man God calls seldom or never surrenders to the call without considerable reluctance. The young man who rushes too eagerly into the pulpit at first glance seems to be unusually spiritual, but he may in fact only be revealing his lack of understanding of the sacred nature of the ministry….Christian biography shows that many who later became great Christian leaders at first tried earnestly to avoid the burden of the ministry; but I cannot offhand recall one single instance of a prophet’s having applied for the job.”

The journey has been difficult, with many dark nights and grey days. I’ve endured much, suffered much and learned more. I’ve been encouraged, disciplined, humbled and corrected for eight years and today I feel weak as ever. But I’ve learned to not trust what I feel. In fact, I’ve learned that God is so much bigger than my emotions or confidence that they really are insignificant.

Ordination with my wife Paige and Bishop TJ of AMIA

Ordination with my wife Paige and Bishop TJ of AMIA

My encouragement to you is this. God has a place for you to be. A role to play. A vital role in fact. Do you know what it is? Easy question to ask, but may take some time of serious reflection and prayer to discover. For sure, your heart will provide the clues as you pursue knowing.

I’ve been called to pastoral care. Some of you have been called to begin a business, launch a new ministry, start a family or stay in a marriage. Some of you have the embers of a book, a song or a website brewing in your heart and it needs to become reality.

The truth is… God is calling us all.

Don’t run when you sense His approach…, at least listen to what He has to say. Don’t let your past failings, current struggles or fatigue keep you from believing that God can and will do the work inside of us to prepare our character for His commission.

Start with step one… and then let Him dictate the pace and plan as you go. Don’t figure it all out before you begin, don’t add up all the numbers and put them into a budget or spreadsheet or plan. Just take one step of faith and then another.

It’s a long journey and it’s worth every step.

Mine comes not to a stop tonight…but only slows at a dramatic roadside overlook, complete with a horizon full of beautiful vista’s, highlighted by amazing grace and powerful illustrations of God’s redemptive skill. But tomorrow morning…, I’ll be starting a new journey with a new role to play. One that He will have to help me complete or I won’t even attempt to begin.

Love to you all…

Pastor Brad.