Guilty pleasures…

We run hard.

All the time.

Life pushes and stretches every free moment of our day. Work demands, school, sports, friendships, church, errands, bills, laundry, homework, cleaning the bathroom, the trash, the dishes, email, social media… the details of our everyday pile up and up as our free time evaporates. We never seem to catch up or slow down.

But when we actually do find a few precious hours of unscheduled, un-demanded free time… we may be confused. 

We can feel guilty. 

Uncomfortable with the unfamiliar freedom. 

It’s at times like this that I often find myself looking for something else to do. I feel so out of balance when life slows down that instead of enjoying the moment and resting,.. I rev up and chase after some distant almost forgotten task or meaningless assignment. Just to avoid the ‘uncomfortable’ void of doing ‘nothing. It’s as if rest has become a ‘guilty pleasure’ that I don’t deserve.

Ever feel that way…?

The truth is very different, the truth is we need rest.

The truth of God says we are commanded to rest every seventh day. In the Old Testament, we were supposed to take every seventh year off and enjoy the fruits of our labor. But we don’t. In fact we can’t really even allow ourselves to enjoy the few brief moments of unscheduled life that come our way.

Sabbath-2

Let’s stop rushing and filling our lives with stuff. Let’s agree to trust that our creator knows what’s best and start planning to not plan every hour of every day.  🙂 

Peace can be found in letting go of the need to be in control and resting in the assurance that God’s promises are true.

Simple as that. 🙂

Pastor B.

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Why Your “Margin” Matters as a Parent…

Our lives are too busy. 

We live beyond our means financially and in every other way. Too many personal commitments. Too stretched to perform well. Too far behind on goals. Too deep in debt. Too late to be on time. We live too fast and on the ‘margin’ of insanity.

Some call it the ‘rat’ race.

Some say we’re supposed to ‘burn brightly” before we go.

mivajeonline.blogspot.com

 

Some are too emotionally anxious to slow down and deal with whatever chases behind.

In time we adjust our expectations to include near exhaustion as our ‘normal’. Burning, pushing, forcing ourselves to do ‘one-more’ thing. We extend ourselves beyond the breaking point and ask for God to give us strength. When we collapse at night we’re too tired to talk, pray, or listen.

Please understand… we were not created to live like this.

The idea of “Sabbath” is a sacred concept that has been slowing leaking out of modern life. 

We place our families in harm’s way when we violate the concept of ‘rest’ for ‘getting-ahead’. We cram more into our lives on the weekends, rather than less. We push harder when we’re supposed to stop.

So, let’s just STOP!

Carve Sunday out each week for you and your family to stop running. A sacred space to reconnect and simply rest. 

It’s a divine commandment that began at creation and remains today. We would be wise to heed the counsel of God and determine to move towards restoring a healthy ‘margin’ for our lives.

The space we need to recharge, to gather and worship with our communities of Faith has been slowly eroding inside the church and out, and we all suffer for it. Let’s stop filling our weekends and simplify our lives enough to truly slow down.

It’s hard to do, but totally worth it. Start by praying for wisdom and insight from God as to what things in your life are ‘unhealthy’ obligations. 

As parents… as families of Faith, nothing else really matters.

Pastor B.

Hitting the Wall…

Sometimes we just run out of gas.

Sometimes we’re doing so much for everyone else we forget to stop, and take care of ourselves.

As parents, Sometimes is always. 

livewellmagazine.org

livewellmagazine.org

Let me encourage you and myself to get off of the merry-go-round for 24 hours every now and again. We’re not meant to run at full speed all the time, we’re supposed to rest every seventh day.

We need to trust the world will survive our absence, to allow ourselves to slow down, and to refresh ourselves  as we disconnect for a few essential and irreplaceable hours each week.

If we don’t we’ll hit the wall. 

People become quite ugly when we ignore the wall.

Speaking openly here, when we refuse to slow down and rest, when we keep going on and on…. we’re risking our sanity.

Exhausted parents can create more problems than we solve when we valiantly soldier on without time to ourselves.

When was the last time you slept in ? If you just snorted, its past time to change things. 🙂

Inventory your life and it’s pace, find new places to say “NO” to today, and I encourage you to begin to say “YES” to yourself. I know it feels weird to put your own needs above others, but you’re not being selfish in this, your being wise.

Love you,

Pastor B.

Matthew 11:29 (ESV) – Biblegateway ;Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

The Low “T” factor in Families

Low “T” is the latest trend in over-the-counter direct sales for men battling with the side effects of low Testosterone. At 44 I’m listening for sure… but the truth is I am actually more concerned about the low “T” factor for families, the rapidly evaporating time we have available each day/week/month to be with our kids.

image source- share.com

image source- share.com

On average our Families of faith are consuming 65-80 hours a week of media (sources – Barna Research – Orange Group 2011) with an astounding 1.5 -2.0 hours a week at church or in church activities. The massive accessibility of the digital age has made every smart phone, tablet and laptop an instant portal to universe of ideas, images and values that need filters and context for our families to process and understand. That means – parents being nearby and alert enough to help them sort out the good / bad and the in-between.

 

I believe the battle for the soul of the modern family of faith begins and ends with our schedule.

Parents… PLEASE consider saying “NO” to some things in your life, starting with your kids. Say “NO” to the next fundraiser or team sport, say “NO” to the urge to over-commit at school, at work… at Church! Our families don’t need more things to do, or more significance from achievements or activities… I believe families need more un-scheduled space and time to just “be together”.

The idea of a Sabbath rest… well it’s sort of antiquated and worn thin in the fury of our modern-day lives. But it’s not irrelevant, in fact I believe it’s needed now more than ever. God in essence is commanding us to “Slow Down” to “Rest”, and to allow ourselves to catch up. It’s our world that keeps revving us up to go faster and further… our loving father is wisely pulling us back to re-set and revive ourselves each week before we launch into another frenzied sprint to the Friday finish line.

image source - richlymiddleclass.com

image source – richlymiddleclass.com

“Lord – help us to lighten our schedules and rest, show us where we can simplify and cut back. Help us to re-connect with our kids and teach them how to play and rest and enjoy time as a family, unstructured and less hurried.”

Peace out, Pastor B.

 

Recommended Online Resource  – Family Media Diet

 

The Struggle to Juggle

I just finished a 8500 mile, three-week, twelve state road trip to visit with over 35 different churches and it feels really weird to not be moving today… I’m tired, and numb from the relentless schedule, but finding it hard to slow down…

Rushing from one commitment to another, holding hard to the responsibilities that we/I  have been entrusted. Father, Husband, Pastor, Leader, Friend. The balls seem to ALL be in the air at the same time and the number of hands available to catch them, has not increased! Yikes…. starting to sound familiar?

Today’s family lifestyles are CRAMMED with really good activities, commitments and personal responsibilities that crowd out our margins and engulf our days from crack of the eyelids in the am to the breathless collapse on our beds at night. Life is moving…. FAST!

Kids, work, marriage and relationships, ministry and after school sports all find a place on our calendars…but personal time and devotions get shoved way down the list in our weekly race, usually near the bottom of the pile of laundry we know HAS to get done.

The seemingly endless list of “to – do’s” maintains a steady & aggravating rhythm in our aching heads as we struggle to juggle the life we realize we’re already inside of. How do we get out without dropping it all?

Couple of practical thoughts from a fellow juggler… 🙂

1– Slow Down – Way Down. (Simplify – cut out a few things, pull back from the hustle a bit and make some space for doing “nothing”) Rest in the evening over a bath and a book, plan to eat with the family… go on a date, read an uplifting book or spend time in the word reviewing the daily reading of scripture… go to bed at 10pm)

2- Ask for Perspective from God and Man. ( Pray. Yep, just ask God to show you what is a non-essential in your life. Ask your spouse, best friend and pastor to consider with you… help find the items that are “extra” and just need to go. You cannot do everything and do it well. Life is more than a checklist of accomplishments.)

3- Reset your priorities and guard your time. ( Take the things you heard from God and your friends/spouse etc.. and do some shaving of your commitments and responsibilities. Don’t feel like you’re the “only” one who can do something. God is God, you are not. He can handle it, others will step up to fill in. I promise. Once you cut…don’t refill that space in your day or week, guard the margins of your life well and make sure you place a priority on your own health and exercise )

4- Recognize the patterns of life and don’t FREAK out! (Seriously so helpful. There are times of our lives when things get way crazier than usual, it’s ok. Roll with it for a period of time, but realize the need to get off that ride when the opportunity arises. Understand that life will cycle a bit… there will be a need to repeat this process every so often. Maybe twice a year if your anything at all like me.)

If you can accept that life will naturally continue to speed back up to a frenzy all on its own, the practice of pulling back now and again to re-set and refresh should provide you/us with the space in life to keep us all from going over a cliff… from generally loosing it… you know, totally Freaking Out!  shepherd

The environment facing a modern-day parent and or spouse is radically different than what we grew up with. The constantly changing landscape of technology and media, values and pop culture are significant and stressful, we can’t alter that, but we can make sure it doesn’t change us or our families.

The struggle to juggle it all,  can in itself become a relentless stress that can pound us into an early grave if we’re not careful and intentional about defusing it. Jesus spoke to juggling life in Matthew chapter 11…

28-30 Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  (Matthew 11:28-30 – Message) Biblegateway.com

God has designed us to be dynamic and interactive individuals, not exhausted and overwhelmed refugees of our lives.

Thank goodness for that….

Peace out RTP!

Pastor B

Faithful is He

Ever feel deflated by the weight we’re carrying to be good and faithful parents? Of the pressure we feel to overcome our own strongholds of fear and past failures for the preservation of our families future. Take hope, the entire story doesn’t land on us or end in the rubble of Jericho’s walls. It won’t vanish in the joke of an un-attainable ideal of perfect faith found exclusively on sacred paper.

The path forward for the nation of Israel included generations of “battles” and conflicts to fight for the promise of “Shalom” for real Peace and true Rest. Ultimately they never actually were able to “rest” for more than a generation. The Apex of that promise in the Old Testament could be seen with King David and his son Solomon (and that was with serious flaws), but in general, their ability to “maintain” the vision and the promise of peace and rest, was short-lived, and when it was present…usually only felt for a single generation.

Reading the Old Testament without the new is a sobering process. It’s like trying to be a “good” parent all on our own…It focuses us repeatedly on the themes of repentance, restoration, redemption and relapse, over and over with God warning, encouraging, reminding and eventually judging His people over and over from one generation to the next until their stories and circumstances become simply a part of the tapestry of the nature of man and God, in a wild and provocative pattern of human tragedy and divine intervention.

It’s a powerful teaching aid, designed by God to direct our attention to the “fulfilment” of the elusive promise as found in Messiah.

Our best efforts, our purest of intentions will not completely carry the day, not as a nation, a church or a family. Our strongest convictions to “do better” cannot overcome the tide of the human condition. We have thousands of years of Old Testament history to make the case of our inability to be “faithful” on our own. We have amazing men and women of faith and courage and conviction who at the end of their days were unable to successfully transfer their wisdom, their faith to their kids…

But Jesus was...

Ultimately expressed in His son, God’s love and relentless desire to redeem us shines through all of the darknessof our failures, despair and frustration. The point of the Jericho story, the point of the Old Testament scriptures, the point of all we’ve been through is to drive us straight to our savior. To admit our inability to get it “right” and fall on our knees before the cross of Calvary with a heart of eternal gratitude not just for the salvation of our souls, but for gift of the promise fulfilled.

Courtesy of usatoday.com

Finally a permanent solution to all our Angst!

As we parent today, this week…this year; let’s agree to REST in the Promise of God’s FAITHFULNESS…From this place, we can parent with genuine power and love and peace. From this place we can walk past the rubble of Jericho and all of battles yet to be fought, confident in the grace and ability of God to reach into our mess and make it beautiful. No matter what.

God is faithful, let’s put our ultimate trust in Him to authentically transfer our faith…not in our flawless execution of the conservative Christian parenting plan 🙂

Hebrews 10:23

“23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (ESV) Biblegateway.com

Peace out RTP! 🙂

brad.

Jericho…moving beyond our “past”

Jericho represents in many ways the “past” we’ve all tried to leave behind. It’s towering walls and super-fortified military presence in the region of Palestine could even be described as a “strong-hold“. Jericho was definitely a substantial and intimidating structure Israel was confronted with immediately after crossing into the promised land of peace and rest. It would have been a massive barrier to their progress and a seemingly insurmountable goal to overcome, a frustrating symbol of all that they had yet to accomplish…

Stronghold (courtesy of Shane Parker Photography)

  strong·hold (noun) /ˈstrôNGˌhōld/ 
strongholds, plural

  • A place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack
  • A place where a particular cause or belief is strongly defended or upheld (definition courtesy of Google Search)

Reading through Joshua we find some basic descriptions of the city of Jericho, but only after taking some time to research the historical Jericho will you find substantial symbolic and significant parallels to the nation of Israel then, and for us today.

For instance…

Did you know that Jericho is the “oldest” and “lowest” city by elevation in the world? (link to article here) – Presumed to be symbolic that the beliefs and behaviors common to Jericho/Canaan were as old as sin itself, and it’s location at 900 feet below sea level shows the decline of human nature and morality in a very visible manner…

Did you know that Jericho was the largest and strongest of the city states in the region when the nation of Israel first approached from the Egyptian desert? (link to bible history article) – Powerful, wealthy, entrenched, influential and pleasing. Jericho was also known by names such as a “sweet fragrance” or city of Palms, the Moon city.

Did you know that Jericho had a complex and highly prosperous financial empire, based in part on its strategic resources of water and palm trees due to a large oasis it protected? – It’s presence was a reassuring reminder of where one could turn to for financial well-being, for health and for comfort.

Did you know that the king of Jericho was a self-proclaimed religious and political divine ruler, who was a part of a series of divine rulers common to the area of Canaan known as a “son of el” or “ba-al” later associated with Baal and Ashtoreth? (historical reference article)  – It’s leadership and spiritual culture allowed for a “substitute” faith and religion that would not “restrict” its followers from pursuing what they desired. Sexuality and indulgence were not only tolerated, but celebrated in this culture of Jericho and the entire region.

Sorry for all the details… these are just a few highlights, key points, characteristics of our struggles, symbolic issues that haunt us in our pursuit of peace. My connection point for us today is this… for Israel (Old Testament – children of Abraham by blood) and for Christians (New Testament – children of Abraham by faith) the path out of our bondage, out of our old ways, out of the wilderness is through – past and beyond the physical and symbolic barrier of the city of Jericho, and ALL that it’s existence represented to them and to us.

We talk about Christ’s power to overcome all things, we attest to the miraculous strength of Jesus to raise the dead, heal the sick and turn water into wine without much hesitation, but it’s a much more complex issue for us to consider Him actually changing me…. We see and feel all the weight of our chronic and scarred unhealthy lives that make up our collective and broken modern-day manifestation of the church. We quote famous passages of scripture that focus on God’s ability and desire to “heal the broken-hearted, and set captives free”, but we struggle with the reality of what that might mean for today, for “US”.

II Cor 10:3- 5 (ESV) ” 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ

Could it be that simple?

Could it be that God has made a way for us via Jesus, to cross the desert wasteland of our past, of our broken and bitter histories and re-enter the promise of true rest and contentment? Is there really a way for US to overcome the flesh and our past and our unchanging flaws? One that  that doesn’t rely on our own strength of will or personal character or above average intelligence? A way that simply rests gently on our willingness to “obey” His specific instructions on how and when and where to go and be?

Today, would you take a moment and consider the things in your past that seem to constantly ‘re-appear” in your life? Things that could be described as “strong-holds” or patterns of failure in your life that never seem to go away… behaviors that resist your most ardent efforts to overcome.

Write them down!  The issues, the attitudes, the emotions that seem to always interfere with your forward faith progress. Consider carefully if they in fact, may be the modern equivalent of the city of Jericho….and that God has a plan, a strategy for dealing with it that will be just as unusual for you as it was for the nation of Israel three thousand years ago….one that holds great promise for us today.

The last post of this three part blog on Jericho… “Going Crazy to Stay Sane” is coming out  on friday.

Peace out RTP.

b