Living in the “NOW”

After my breakthrough moment with God in Colorado… I carried a deep and lingering sense of calm. A peaceful and contented acceptance.  A better way to say it…  I had insight, an ‘understanding’ of what God was really like.

As my “papa” he was tangible to me. I could reach out and ‘touch’ that presence anytime I allowed myself to be quiet and still. 

This truth became a ‘doorway’ to a deeper chamber of my heart. IF God was my ‘papa’… then I could rest. I could let down my defenses and pretenses. I could let go of the constant need to review and project, my mind scanning constantly for danger in my past or the future, never allowing myself to enjoy the present.

The idea of relaxing was as foreign as ‘rest’ to my mind and heart. I couldn’t relax… not really. I had to be vigilant, had to assess and project the probabilities of success or failure. The inherent dangers along the way or the review of past mistakes to gain insight . I wasn’t able to relax because I had no one to rely on but myself. I didn’t really trust anyone. Not completely.

The Shack (summit entertainment)

If God was ‘papa’. He is trustworthy. Safe. Present.

No father betrays his kids. No heavenly father would be negligent in caring for my life. I could let that long – held – breath  out… and begin to slow it all down, steady heart. Mind resting enough to notice the details around me. I saw the beauty of Santa Fe, an old – old – old place. Full of adobe and tile, leather and stone. Beautiful and serene, it’s age a testament to longevity and purpose. Built by the Spanish monks over four hundred years ago, their places of worship still stand. Pointing not to their ingenuity – but to the one who inspired them to risk it all and go to a foreign place and dangerous time to spread their faith.

I noticed all of that in a nano-second. Like a Matrix moment in slow-motion… I could see and smell, hear, and perceive details all around me. Thousands of colors and shades had been missing in my life. I was black and white, sharp-edged and fast. Moving through the days like a school project, missing the ‘life’ around me. 

As I began to slow my existence in the wake of knowing ‘papa… I could live in the ‘NOW” for the first time in a long – long – time. I hadn’t felt this  in so long it was a bit foreign to me… not since I was a pre-adolescent kid in the summer – riding my bike with Scott McCumber or Mike Middleton – catching Crawdads – playing army – I remember each day was a decade of fun – but that had faded with adulthood. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, I was ‘present’. Santa Fe was beautiful… each shop and restaurant a new treasure to discover, fear gone… I was able to relax.

Today, I was able to enjoy just being there. No distracting anxieties no restlessness.  I drove from Santa Fe to Taos, using the ‘high road’ it was gorgeous. The sun was clear and bright, blue skies and breezes all day. I drove and explored and relaxed in the sheer delight of it. No guilt, no regrets… I was living without the weight of all that pressure to keep moving. I could finally ‘stop’ inside.

Thank you GOD!

Next… my last two days on this Roadtrip Revival. Each was another beautiful surprise… rain in the desert and snow in the mountains. Special moments to share, truths to help me along.

Pastor B.

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Finding “Papa”

Driving is my favorite. I am captivated by ‘exploring’. The next bend in the road… the rise of the horizon, what it might reveal. Glorious.

I feel like I’m not just a driver… but I’m driven. 

Driven to do better, to achieve. I feel the need to work harder, longer…to gain just one more yard, one more mile. It’s a deep and insistent restlessness. I wish I could make it turn ‘off’ when I’m trying to rest or slow down. I’ve never really been able to make it go away,… until this trip.

Day Two dawned grey and cold.

Leaving Montrose heading south on Hwy 550

Montrose sits on a high (Elevation 5807)  flat desert region, edging some of the highest peaks in the Western Rockies of Colorado. It gets warm in the daytime like the desert… and very cold overnight. I woke to 20F after a balmy 67F the afternoon before. The sun wasn’t going to come up for another hour, but I started off to the south, looking to catch the sunrise glowing off the breathtaking beauty of the snow capped peaks near Ouray, CO.

I was disappointed. Grey clouds obscured most of the sunrise that morning. Never breaking long enough to shine its pink hues on the grey granite angles below. Highway 550 is a ‘must’ see for any roadtrippers out there. Take it from Montrose to Durango and bring a camera. Unlike any other road in the lower 48 that I’ve travelled, this is a winding two lane strip of heaven. Three passes pushing 10,000 feet each are the reward of the three hours of second gear driving necessary to get there. Snow is almost always present – year around. You will need to stop and take pictures or you might make a one way descent over one of the hundreds of 15 mph cliff side turns.

I love mountain country. I don’t care what season or condition you find it in, you’ll suck in your breath… over and over… as you glimpse the grandeur of the alpine vistas.

Today was cold and cloudy, so I saw and admired the hard rawness of these granite monsters, marvelling at their strength and unpredictable nature. A snowstorm or a sleet squall was almost guaranteed, followed by five minutes of golden sunshine and glorious white curtains of snow. It’s more than I can describe here.

But, even in the midst of all this glory and magnificent creation, I was feeling my restless nature lurking still.  Somewhere below the adrenaline and excitement of seeing my old friends the Rocky mountains I was unsettled. 

I drove the curves, caught the fresh – cold – near zero chill of air and the scent of pines as we descended into Durango… broad wooded valleys with winding creeks and rivers stretching out below. It was so calming and pure. I can still see it in my mind’s eye…

Hwy 550 Colorado Peaks - March '18

Hwy 550 between Ouray and Silverton Colorado

I wanted to capture these moments and hold them forever… to wrap them up and tenderly hide them deep inside me. I could go back anytime I wanted and unwrap the beauty and let it warm me when I felt cold or stressed and tired. This was my unspoken desire. I dreamed of breaking the restlessness once and for all with the beauty surrounding me, to tap the peace and power of creations majesty when life started stressing me out. 

God answered my prayer. But like always… He has a sense of humor. 🙂

In my hotel room I drowsily flipped the channel to find a weather report. “The Shack” was playing… a book I had read and enjoyed years before, certainly not on my ‘must watch’ list, yet something compelled me.  I lingered for a minute, then ten… an hour. God works in mysterious ways.

That night I dreamed. I dreamed of ‘Papa’

God was speaking to me in new ways. He was sharing something vital to my scarred heart and soul. Something intensive and personal, an intimate salve for my deepest shame and sorrow. He wants me to call Him… “Papa”. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever done that… but I hadn’t. I know lots of people who feel like God is their ‘papa’ – artsy and emotional people talk like that. Not me. I didn’t have that kind of relationship with my earthly father, so being so familiar and vulnerable with my heavenly father was foreign. Uncomfortable.

But when I opened up inside, to let Him see how uncomfortable I was…it made me cry. Deep rivers of pain and sorrow tumbling out… prayers half formed bubbling up with my snot and shame. I cried. A lot.

I could feel God holding me. Like a dad holding his frightened and worn out boy. That moment of warmth and intimacy breaking through the cold and hidden parts of me in a heartbeat.

I felt Him. He ‘was‘ my “Papa”.

The sadness and the restless sickness fled. I only had comfort and peace. No great prayer or spiritual discipline unlocked this for me, no awesome sermon or quote… just some time and my silence and a willingness to let Him touch my heart where it hurt.

Tomorrow: Day 3… Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico.

 

The Battle to be still…

Day one started rough.

Battling through the remnants of food-poisoning I barely made the morning flight to Denver. Stomach roiling and exhausted, I was so worn out I seriously considered scrapping this trip before it began.

Southwest flights all seem sold out, so the idea of squishing into a seat with my Six foot Four frame wasn’t exactly appealing or ‘restful’ in my mind.  I was right. Almost three cramped hours later I arrived in Denver, greeted by spring warmth and sunshine. Despite my mashed legs and twisted up back, I was glad to be here… it was a nice change from the rain and wet of Middle TN.

Forbes Photo Credit

My Enterprise rental wasn’t ready, so they upgraded me to a Audi Q3 Quattro. 🙂 NICE.

This brand new luxury compact SUV was a beauty for a rental. Featuring a full panoramic sunroof and posh leather it was a fantastic surprise for me, combined with a sport tuned turbo 2.0 Liter engine and heated seats, and I was suddenly feeling much better!

Until I realized halfway to the mountains that the Bluetooth interface wasn’t working with my phone… which had all my music and podcasts, and Audible book library… etc. I tried for an hour on the side of the road to sync it up – finally accepted the Galaxy phone I had wasn’t going to play nice with the Audi system. On top of that the satellite radio wasn’t turned on – so I only had AM/FM radio and nothing else. To say I was bummed doesn’t begin to describe my state of mind. This trip was supposed to be a time to relax, refresh, and unwind for a few days from my insane schedule. Didn’t look like I could do one of my favorite things… listen to a great book or rocking tunes while driving through the mountains. (Radio – doesn’t work in the high country)

I seriously considered driving back to the Airport to swap vehicles…after all I carefully selected several books and podcasts / playlists just for this trip. I paused in my frustration as something soft inside (Holy Spirit)  whispered it was all ok… seems like it even suggested it was better for me if I kept going, to stick with the car I had been given. So… against my better judgement, I did.

God was beginning to talk to me already.

He was inviting me to join Him on this trip… i wasn’t inviting Him to join me. It’s a subtle but important distinction. I had been drawn into something ‘different’ than any of the dozens of road trips I’ve had before. This was unique and I could sense it right away. 

I was afraid. This felt uncomfortable. It felt odd to be on the road and not have any media or music, or phone, some conversation to listen to. Something, anything to distract my mind. I was about to do a four-day trip without any ‘entertainment’ or company. I was alone and “silent’ in the mountains. No plans, no schedule, no structure. That’s ‘frightening’ for some of us. 🙂

The gentle tug on my heart kept insisting that I would be ‘ok’. I felt a strange but comforting impulse to try this road trip without my normal distractions and noise. Maybe God was asking me to be quiet for a reason…. turns out he was! 

I was surprised by the warmth and sunshine and limited snowpack. For mid March, the snow wasn’t as deep as you would expect in the Rockies. It made for some beautiful driving conditions and I opened up the sunroof and began to let the beauty and warmth sweep over me… I was ready to unwind, to decompress. 

Something indistinct was happening, I was slowing down inside while I drove through the mountains at full speed, the only sound…the wind as it rushed over and around the windows. I could smell the fresh air and pines, the hint of woodsmoke and the distinct songs of birds, but nothing else intruded.

I was alone.

No one to talk with.

No music, no book, no podcast… just hours and hours of solo time.

It was weird at first, but under the oddness it felt good. God was there with me, I felt His presence subtle and strong at the same time. I sensed  I was being invited into something brand new. I had no idea what that would mean or be… but I wanted it.

Travel Recap: Day One:  SWest Flight from Nashville to Denver, drive up to Buena Vista CO and Gunnison, skirting the high desert plains to crash in Montrose. (Trip Link)  Stayed in Montrose CO – had a great meal at Ted Nelson’s Steakhouse.  (TripAdvisor)

Day two coming up next, Montrose CO to Santa Fe NM… stay tuned.

Pastor B.

PS – if you’re sensing you need to slow down and get still… it will be a battle. It means pushing through and past obstacles to your being alone and quiet. I almost didn’t go due to illness. I almost turned the rental back in due to tech issues… and I almost missed the blessing God was inviting me into. Be careful to trust the leading of God more than your comfort zone. He will most likely ask you to do something uncomfortable and not in your plan.

 

 

 

Silent and Still

Busy doesn’t even begin to describe our lives.

Does it feel like you cram a week worth of life into just 24 hours? Our pace of life can be cruel, exhausting, and increasingly stressful.

Stressing out is more common than you think. (See 2017 study of American Workers Stressed Out Most of the Time – CNBC) Consider these facts… see if you identify with them.

“Participants were asked to rank their stress on a scale of one to five. One in four, 25.7 percent to be precise, said their stress was at a level four. And, 4.9 percent said it was at a five out of five. Altogether, more than 70 percent of respondents ranked their stress at a level three or higher. Over 60 percent said that they felt stressed three or more workdays per week, on average. This means that, on any given day, more workers are feeling stressed than not. This state really is the norm.” (2017 Study

 We are over-committed, over-scheduled, over-whelmed by our world and its relentless pace of life. As technology advances we get more efficient, more productive, and way less rest. 

thejesuschick.com

When was the last time you felt like you could actually ‘rest’?

It seems for most of us, we’re not feeling like we can really ever catch up. Our stress is bullying us into working harder, faster, longer. Work isn’t all bad, in fact I believe it’s a great and wonderful part of our existence, President Roosevelt said it this way… ”

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Theodore Roosevelt

BUT, when our lives get overburdened and out of balance, we quickly burn ourselves out. If your like me at all, you live in the extremes of life. Seasons of life push us to do more than we thought humanly possible, followed by sudden lulls in the storm, and free time to binge watch Netflix and let our world fade into sheer entertainment and a lazy haze. Both extremes should cause concern. Finding balance is as much a discipline as jogging or daily prayer.

What I recently discovered on a four-day sabbatical to the mountains of New Mexico involved going a step further than speeding up or slowing down. It meant learning to ‘be still’. 

Have you ever done that? I had never actually gotten so quiet and detached from media, the world… work… kids… ministry that I could experience the utter calm and serenity of not moving, inside or out. So unhurried and undistracted within that I was able to live in the ‘moment’ without. I was unaffected by either my past or future, only ‘in’ the present. I was able to be ‘still’ inside my heart and my mind. Totally silent.

For four days.

I would have never believed it. I would have never chosen it. But God through the subtle touch of His Holy Spirit, led me to a place and time where I could be quiet enough and still enough to experience Him in a brand new way. 

Interested?

I’ll blog about the trip I took, where I went, what I saw, and how God showed up in totally different ways than ever before. Time to open a new door on our pilgrimage of Faith.

Pastor B.

 

Is LESS really MORE?

In our modern American society… we’re taught to be an overachiever. Our success model is based on doing more, working harder… outperforming our competition. Winning is everything.

Career Resume Consulting

Our culture respects the independent and dedicated worker, parent, or athlete. We get extra rewards with extra effort. That in turn pays off with greater levels of success and money becomes the main tool to measure our progress.

 

Some call this… the “American” dream.

But what does the Bible say? Specifically what does the bible teach about work and rewards, sacrifice and success… it may surprise you.

The bible describes our lives differently than we do. Instead of measuring our financial achievements, the bible measures our hearts and character. It measures our relationships and personal development. Not our bank accounts or balance sheets. 

In that light… we may see more clearly what God is up to in our life.

For instance, if we measure our success like the culture does, we’re probably going to feel pretty miserable. The vast majority of us are not climbing an esteemed corporate ladder to fortune 500 status. We’re not retiring in our thirties or buying a summer home in the mountains, we’re scrambling to cover the cost of new tires on our family SUV and hoping we can squirrel away enough cash to take a vacation this year.

Life is more than what we accumulate in our 401K. 

Jesus talked a lot about money, but not in the way we do. He used it as a reference point for us to see what we trust in, strive for, and how we steward it. His perspective is unique and helpful for us who are wondering if we’re getting life wrong somehow because we’re not ‘successful’. He said something odd – “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…Matthew 6.

Scripture Art

This concept or idea of investing is opposite of our culture. It points to giving things away as we receive extra, of sharing and investing in those around us who are lacking. It points to spending our energy in the lives of others, rather than building up our own nest until we can own a castle. It redirects our ambition to another place… outward rather than inward.

The goal of God is to make us all like His son. Not to help us retire early and avoid the struggles of month to month living. Sure, stewardship is a critical part of a healthy and balanced life, but in the end our provider is God. Of course we should still save money and plan for retirement, but it’s not something to put your ‘faith’ in.

The idea of less being more is key to understanding what God may be up to in your life. If you’re struggling with finances, you’re not being judged or dissed by God. He in fact is working in your something deeper and more profound than you can imagine… something eternal in fact. 

When we start to ‘get’ the idea of trusting God for our ultimate provision, we can begin to truly embrace the idea of “Sabbath”. We can authentically begin to explore what it means to ‘rest’. To enter into the offer of true peace and contentment that Christ refers to in the gospels and Paul highlights in Hebrews.

This is truly a countercultural idea. To slow down and to pause every week. To regain our physical, emotional, and spiritual balance with a day of rest and reflection. To trust that our ‘extra’ push to get things accomplished isn’t nearly as important as our confidence in God’s ability to get us what we need, when we need it.

Peace out, Pastor Brad.

PS (This is not laziness or taking a free-ride  through our life,  we can’t live on our couch and petition the state for money. I believe we’re called to be thrifty, industrious, hardworking  people, but in the end, we’re not driven by a thirst to accumulate wealth,  we’re focused on investing in lives not our mutual fund)

 

A uniquely complicated, but very intended individual. 

Disclaimer for this post:  There is/was no anger or fresh personal experience that stimulated this blog post. Instead… I wrote this blog after noticing a series of deep relational issues that kept coming up in my pastoral marital ministry. Couples who were coming to me for counseling exhibiting issues and patterns of verbal / emotional conflict that had specific behaviors in common. It was from these experiences that I began to research the ‘root’ causes of some of this… this blog post was a response to what I felt impressed into my heart and mind. It rang true to me and my prayer would be for this post to help you understand yourself and others better. Marriage is all about seeing ‘past’ the shortcomings of others.

I detest fake people.

You know ones I’m talking about… folks who always have a plastered smile on their faces…, never dropping their guard or relaxing their emotional control.  Always having a “fantastic‘ day or ‘gushing’ about how amazing their career is going, how accomplished their kids are… nothing negative, only awesome all the time!

Pinterest

Or… the maybe even worse…the fake people who rush to breathlessly confide in you. Whispering excitedly about the shortcomings of another in a somber tone of false concern, only to do the exact same bus-throw to you after you leave the room. Flitting from one conversation to another, always pointing out the problems of others, never offering to be a part of the solution, critical and duplicitous.

This is the wounded heart floundering through life. The insecure and insignificant soul reaching desperately to find purchase on the slippery edge of their existence, the ‘fake’ behaviors only symptoms of something much deeper. 

Let’s be honest here, we all struggle with both sides of this. Sometimes we’re the victim… sometimes the offender, all of us affected daily by relationships with people who are struggling to find their purpose.  People secretly afraid to admit their problems are real… hiding their shame in plain sight.

We’re all flawed, broken, and desperate for purpose and identity. We are longing to find the answers to the deepest issues of our existence, the reason we’re alive, the reason we matter.

The world is full of options and offers to pursue… knowledge, pleasure, possessions… honor. All of these can be valid to some degree, but what ties it to us? Where does our deepest identity spring from? Are we athletic, intelligent… beautiful, or spiritual? Do we allow ourselves to fail… or are we pushed to perfection in a wordless cry for value and significance?

Lots and lots of questions…

The Christian faith offers a simple consideration that can bring clarity and conviction to any life. An honest and enduring truth to build your entire existence around and on. 

Jesus Christ is in fact both man and God. His life an ultimate illustration of what life can be for each of us. What life should be for each of us.

The loss of purpose and value, the soul robbing power of fear and uncertainty gone in an instant. If Christ is who he claimed to be… (the one and only path to God) then what he did and why should matter.

It means we’re valuable. 

It means we matter. 

It means we can stop being fake. 

It means that who we are, the way we are… the unique and weak parts of us are all on purpose. They serve a function that’s essential and vital to our purpose as created ones. The things we hate about ourselves… our personalities, feelings, fears, and frustrations… our insecurities and stubbornness are all a mix of us… a uniquely complicated, but very intended individual.

The twist here… in our weakness, God reveals his strength.  That means… ultimately we’re not going to measure up on our own. That means… we’re going to get it (marriage/parenting/relationships) wrong. We’re going to fail each other and flounder around and foolishly fall on our faces.

So what! We are only HUMAN! Not GOD! Cut yourself some slack… cut others some too.

Here’s the punchline… there is only space for one “God” in our life…. and it’s not us. Once that reality sinks in… we’re off the hook. No more ‘pretending’ to be something we’re really not. No more posers trying to convince ourselves and everyone else we’ve got things in our life under control. 

What a relief that could be…

Peace out, Pastor B.

 

Waiting for the other shoe to drop…

Ever find yourself worrying about why things are going so well?

Seems silly…

That fearful anticipation of what will inevitably go wrong in the very near future, waiting for the ‘other – shoe – to – drop’. A  day-to-day fear for some, a distant hovering apprehension for others.

However you describe the anxiety of the unknown, It’s real for all of us. I find myself guilty of pondering the ‘what if’s‘. Over thinking and watching for whatever’s out there and looming in the dark. Listening for an unknown danger just out of my sight, or something hidden over the next life horizon … a circumstance about to catch me off guard.

Why do we do that?

Are we just conditioned to expect the worst… or is it something deeper. Are we cynical and afraid because we distrust ourselves, not convinced God truly cares about us? About me… ?

Today I’m sharing some personal insights related to the uncertainties that torment so many of us. Here are three powerful truths to combat the unknowns of our lives. header_faith

  1. God isn’t trying to punish us. He’s come to save us. To redeem our lives, not stomp us in the dirt. Anything else is a lie. A deception designed to make us distrust. 

  2. Good and Bad things are relative to our perception in the moment. What may seem like a tragedy on day one can transform into a blessing within a few weeks. Faith is trusting God can and will use anything in our life for good. 

  3. Trusting means letting go of control. Anxiety is wrapped around our need to know. Being a Christ follower, means we’re surrendering our independence for His will, not our own. 

These 3 reminders are anchors for me on days when I can’t quite relax. When my heart is racing and I don’t know why… I can pause and pray, and remember the truth.

image - thelosthighwayhotel.com

image – thelosthighwayhotel.com

Parents, our world is full of crazy. Listening to the news can wipe away a week of rest in a moment. The mailbox might have a letter we don’t want to see from the doctor… or our kids might bring a note home that turns our stomach to lead. Whatever your fear…take it to God, remember these 3 truths and watch as it fades.

You’re not in this alone. To prove my point, I’m starting a brand new PodCast/Blog (Brilliantly Brave Parenting) with some friends at iShine and the TGA (Tween Gospel Alliance) to illustrate how everyday parents are living extraordinary lives.

Pastor B.

PS – Read and pray this passage of scripture anytime you need relief. Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV) – Source Biblegateway.com  6  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”