Is it a wonderful life…?

As the title implies… a thought or two from my favorite Christmas movie…

Jimmy Stewart’s classic performance as “George Bailey” (from the iconic 1946 film “It’s a wonderful life”), always sets the tone for my annual exuberant gush of seasonal joy.

Yet… it begs the question…“IS it a WONDERFUL life?”

So many rushing by, so much of life hidden behind the busy… it takes a profound event to slow us down enough to consider the deeper things. For George Bailey… he faces the moment of his despair with desperation… while all of us watch and hope all over again that he’ll see beyond his profound grief into the true wealth that is his amazing life.

But when it’s no longer a story, and the grief is real… things shift and we’re left wondering. “Is it a wonderful life?” 

It's a wonderful life, 1946

It’s a wonderful life, 1946

Recently my family has experienced some very dark news, a loss of hope and the inexorable pull of mortality come too early. It’s a bitter moment that brings sadness and despair, but also clarity and renewed appreciation.

As we hurry through our days… let’s slow down enough to consider the ‘why’. I can’t answer the question for you… and neither can George Bailey, but it’s important to think about. It’s important to remember what truly matters in your life… for me, it’s all about relationships. 

The weight of our life is contained in our relationships, they are ‘the’ most precious gifts of all. The gift of being loved and loving,  the precious privilege of a genuine friendship, the gift of giving and receiving comfort… of shared grief… these are the truest things we can ever achieve.

It’s not in our IRA fund or the number of mortgages on our house… it’s not in our kids GPA’s or a starting spot on the team. It’s in the relationships we forge along the way that we define our lives.

This Christmas let’s all remember George Bailey and act accordingly…

Pastor B.

PS – as a pastor, I would be derelict if I didn’t point out the ultimate relationship being offered to us… and to George Bailey. It was and is with our creator. His interest in our well-being and desire to be a part of every detail of our life is well demonstrated in the Christmas story – as well as in my favorite movie.

When you can’t love anymore… Love Fatigue

“Love Fatigue”.  

A term of my own creation. Love Fatigue – “Refers to ‘a chronic or enduring feeling of being unable to love anymore.”

Spouses, Parents, Teachers, Friends, and Pastors are all affected by the presence of this often un-diagnosed condition… a subtle but devastating condition known as ‘Love Fatigue’.

What are the symptoms? 

Lack of affection for others. Lack of interest in sharing life. Lack of emotion, especially an absence of compassion or empathy. Reduced awareness of the needs of those around you. Lack of concern for most anything or anyone. Self absorption and brutal self criticism. Lack of patience for others, especially those we live with or work around.

What causes it? 

Emotional fatigue. Chronic stress of an unrelenting nature. Spiritual isolation and independence. Pride. Unresolved anger. Unforgiveness. Feelings of relational despair and hopelessness. Stupid (annoying) people.  

Love Fatigue is all too common for men and women in long-term relationships. (Friendship, Family, Marriage, Church body) Usually the condition grows more invasive over time, starting from a simple mis-understanding or mis-communication into a distorted and perceived pattern of injustice or abusive behavior. Untreated, it forms deep roots in the cardiac and cerebral tissues as repeated opportunities for intimacy are rejected or avoided and a general frustration with other people grows uncontrollable.

boldomatic.com

boldomatic.com

 

Can it be treated or cured? 

Yes. Love fatigue is treatable with the regular (minimum of once a week) application of a spiritual soaking procedure; including exposure to the presence of God, the sacred word, and the Holy Spirit. This treatment has been proven  to help those afflicted to reduce the conditions crippling symptoms.

Research has shown,  only the removal of the ‘justification gene’, can cure the Love Fatigue condition permanently. This genetic & inherited sin-factor chromosome has been linked directly to behavior markers identified as ‘pride’ and “presumption‘.

Unfortunately the genetic factors responsible for “Love Fatigue” must be replaced with new DNA from a unique and rare donor type…Specifically an individual who has never been infected or affected by the condition. (See the your local pastor or Christian friend for more information on Jesus Christ – his history and claims of divinity).

In addition to finding an appropriate donor, the ‘tainted’ genetic mutations must be aggressively treated to prevent re-infection. Fortunately, once the donor procedure is completed… the remnants of the Love Fatigue virus can be easily flushed from the patient.

A simple, self-application of an oral and bitter tasting medicine known as Humility’ has been used and proven effective in long term studies. The treatment can be quite painful and only works when combined with a complimentary pain-reducing ingredient, “Grace.  When used together, an effective tonic is made and Love Fatigue can be completely cured.

Love Fatigue can be easily misdiagnosed, and is fatal to relationships if left untreatedSpecifically at risk are those who misinterpret their symptoms as external or environmental in nature, and simply seek to avoid exposure or aggravation. For successful treatment, a daily self-examination is required to see if any residual presence of the “Love Fatigue” gene remains. (Source – Dr. St. Paul – Epistle to the Romans, circa AD 55)

I had fun writing this…but only partly. It’s obviously an illustration far too close to the literal truth to be denied. Feeling some ‘love fatigue’ in our long-term relationships is normal and human. Just don’t let it grow deeper and consume you. Scripture clearly provides us with the best advice possible…”clothe yourself with humility and grace” and watch your love grow strong again.

Pastor B.

Imagining the worst…

Ever watch a friendship or marriage dis-integrate right before your eyes ? Maybe you’re in the middle of a relational crisis, or maybe it’s your tween or teen whose pulling so far away ?

It’s brutal to see up close.

Disrespect and broken trust erode what once was inseparable. Like emotional acid, the burn never seems to stop. Perceptions shift as mountains of past hurts, regret, and shame, dissolve through what remained of our commitment.

Intimacy turns inside out and ugly in a moment. Lost and emotionally afraid, we can start to hate the silence.

Conversations change. Sour stirrings of bitterness creep into our words as our wounded hearts seek to hide the truth and carry on without ever resolving the pain.

In time…our emotional reserves run out. Cold, flat, facts replace the warmth once felt, as we drift and float further apart. Apathy is all it takes to lose our relationship. Love and respect replaced by our deep and wary suspicion of ill intent.

HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN ?

Subtly we can lose our grip on reality, as the voices of  twisted truths win the war of trust in our heart. We start to entertain the darkest possible scenarios in our mind, in short…we imagine the worst, believing internal ‘whispers of warning‘ about events that have never even occurred yet.

Over time we can become so ‘convinced’ that we’re in the right to doubt others, we forget to even ask ourselves if they actually did anything to hurt us. Sometimes we can imagine offense by projecting past offenses or hurts into our present. Internal ‘perceptions become reality and our cynical imagination builds an elaborate dungeon of distrust. Once we surrender to those thoughts and fears, we can lose sight of what once was compassion and optimistic hope for one another.

Over time we can even start to predict that all kinds of people will eventually hurt or betray us, and in a paranoid attempt to protect ourselves, we withdraw from relationships before any of that happens. anxiety

The community of faith that Christ calls us to live in can’t survive long with our imaginations working on overdrive. We have to push back our fears and anxiety as we learn to ‘trust’ the hearts of others are actually ‘good. 

The bible describes these internal fear thoughts and ‘imaginations’ as legitimate spiritual ‘warfare’ ! A real life reality for the believer to accept and anticipate if we are going to make our relationships work.

We need to consciously prepare to defend our friendships,marriages and sanity, by choosing to remember God’s truth in those moments when we ‘feel’ the darkness of doubt, fear, and suspicion begin creeping into our thoughts.

If we don’t regularly choose to believe the best in our relationships, we can easily be deceived into thinking our friends, family, and spouses are the ‘enemy’.

(for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

The Apostle Paul 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (AKJV)

Parents, believe for the best.

Spouses, trust that nothing is ever impossible with Christ.

Peace out, Pastor B 🙂

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

It starts with me…

Tired of what your seeing on the news and hearing in the halls at work ? Frustrated with the polarized passion of our culture pushing us into taking a certain side… “for or against” is the only real option we’re given on the issues that matter.

The crisis in Syria, war or restraint ? For or Against ?

Same sex marriage laws ? For or Against ?

Minority rights and prejudiced cops – the Ferguson fiasco ? For or Against ?

Democratic or Republican ? For or Against ?

Common Core education in the public schools ? For or Against ?

Abortion and Mothers right to choose ? For or Against?

Handgun laws and restricted gun laws ? For or Against?

It’s a constant barrage of artificially induced agitation from our media, fueled by special interest groups and political agendas designed to manipulate us into taking a side, to pick and choose who and what we’re going to support from one extreme position or the other. All of it done in a 90 second sound-byte without time to reflect if the truth could very well land us in the middle of a debate.

How can a Christian parent or family biblically navigate these troubled waters and what do we as believers need to be aware of when setting the example for our kids and those who look up to us?

Couple of quick thoughts.

1 – Reconciliation is the heart of God.  First between our heavenly Father and his created children, and then between each other. For the Christian, reconciliation should be in our heartbeat of every day life. A decision we make each and every time to ‘choose’ to forgive, to determination to keep short accounts with God and each other. Reconciliation defuses our isolation and division between brothers and sisters and removes the temptation to prejudge people, circumstances and events from an ‘offended’ life view.

blindgossip.com

blindgossip.com

2- The body of Christ will not successfully impact culture by claiming moral superiority and reasoned debate. It will be our actions as individuals that makes the difference. Our willingness to ‘listen’ and not preach. Our respect of other viewpoints and persuasions is essential for building relationships and not simply proselytizing for new members.

3- Standing firm on principle, but approachable and gentle in spirit. Christian values may offend others, but let the offense be in Christ and not in us. We’re far too often the personality driven tools that force others to choose “For or Against” biblical beliefs, guilty of the very same approach that our secular counterparts use to polarize and divide the masses.

My prayer and hope; that we as individual Christians will decide to cross the gaps in our personal lives. To choose to engage in relationships with those we don’t easily understand or agree with on the surface. To be discontent with our current polarized way of living, to risk being uncomfortable and to drop our defenses long enough to discover the heart of each other.

Blessings,

Pastor B.

Quote from AW Tozer;

“No church is any better or worse than the individual Christians who compose it….

One consequence of our failure to see clearly the true nature of revival is that we wait for years for some supernatural manifestation that never comes, overlooking completely our own individual place in the desired awakening. Whatever God may do for a church must be done in the single unit, the one certain man or woman. Some things can happen only to the isolated, single person; they cannot be experienced en masse…

Three thousand persons were converted at Pentecost, but each one met his sin and his Savior alone. The spiritual birth, like the natural one, is for each one a unique, separate experience shared in by no one. And so with that uprush of resurgent life we call revival. It can come to the individual only.”

From his book, The Size of the Soul, 14-15.

The Dating Dilemma

Especially for parents with daughters… a blog on dating.

There are always the extremes in Christian parenting on this subject, ranging from uber conservative and restrictive to the barely aware and unconcerned. I’m not a fan of taking either polarized approach, believing each to be difficult to navigate safely.

Some parents advocate a careful isolation from boys, doing their best to build a barrier from the impending dangers of dating; warning and restricting their daughters from their budding sexuality and the powerful pull of amped teen hormones.

Other parents approach the whole situation with a laid-back…’kids will be kids posture, maintaining only the mildest of restrictions for after hours and unsupervised free time with the opposite sex.

Having raised two daughters I can only tell you that each child is as unique as a winters snowflake and there is danger in making sweeping generalities and dating rules as a parent without some reflection and prayer.

The larger issue at stake is the consideration of your daughter’s heart.

The standards of conduct and rules for dating are only secondary considerations for protecting and teaching our daughters about relationships, what’s primary here is the condition of the heart.

As a dad, I’m only too aware of the dangers of dating boys. I have made SOOOOO many mistakes in how I approached my girls and their potential suitors, acting out of fear and not love. My raw emotion posturing into  dire warnings and threats against any testosterone fueled mini-man who dared to even consider asking one of my girls out on a date! I didn’t handle that so well and in venting my fear I isolated and excluded my daughters from the equation. Not one of my better moves.

Dating is and always will be a huge deal in a family, and sitting down with your spouse before hand is essential in laying out the boundaries you need to have respected by your teen children. Unity in parenting is paramount in effectively guiding your kids into how to explore their emotions and their need for love and acceptance from a future husband or wife.

Fathers who take the time to ‘date’ their daughters and model how a gentleman should conduct himself in the presence of a lady is a BIG DEAL. Wives who seek to support and respect their husbands in front of their teen daughters (even when they disagree) is a BIG DEAL. As parents we are modeling to our kids how a healthy – loving  relationship is intended to work in God’s blue-print for a lifelong marriage.

Dating is more than a social experiment that we as parents oversee. It’s a preparation for a covenant vow between two as they begin the journey of becoming one.

The issues of the heart reflect the source of the love  to be cultivated and shared within the sacred sphere of marriage and family. If that heart is unsure, desperate for affirmation and identity, it will do reckless things to get it. If a teens heart has a solid grasp of their value and purpose in Christ, they are going to make much healthier choices when we’re not around to ‘protect’ them.

secretkeepergirl.com

secretkeepergirl.com

Laying out your family rules on dating is essential, but making sure your child’s heart has been given a healthy dose of self-respect and consistent affirmation is MOST essential.

There are great ministries and advice out there to help parents with Dating issues, and no matter your approach… you’re going to need some help. 🙂

 

Here are some great resources to consider;

Secret Keeper Girls (Ministry for pre-teen girls and their moms)

About.com  (6 common rules for Christian dating)

Focus on the Family  (Biblical Dating – and how it’s different)

Billy Graham Association (The Dirt on Dating)

iShine – (Video series – Advice from Teen Christian girls on Dating )

Growing Up Duggar ( A book by the 4 oldest daughters from their TV reality show)

4 Lies the Church Taught us about sex (Relevant Magazine – Sept/Oct  ’14 by Lily Dunn)