Standing Still

For me… the idea of movement and progress is equated to purpose, value, and success.  I’m learning to reconsider that premise.  

It’s no secret I am active and busy 18 hours a day / 7 days a week / 365 days a year. I’ve made a lifelong habit of getting up early and working before the day even dawns and then pushing through until I drop at the end of my day. I’ve worked two jobs most of my life, each stressful and exhausting in their own right.

I’ve even taken pride in my work ethic, inwardly satisfied with my extra effort and confident in my ability to push through difficult moments when others would just quit. 

This is a reflection of the American ideal, a shadow of the family heritage I inherited of hard work, dedication, and extra effort to do things with ‘excellence’.  It was a trait my dad carried to his grave, and his dad before him… and his great “Pop” before him… many of us can identify.  

Here’s the rub. It’s not healthy or even seen by God as a spiritual strength, but rather as a hindrance, even a deception.

The culture we live in has long celebrated the achievements of the independent and hard-working, noting that success doesn’t happen by accident… “that luck is merely a matter of preparation meeting opportunity”. (Oprah)  

It’s all true. We can work harder, go further, and do more with extreme effort and tenacity. But it’s NOT a spiritual principle that Jesus taught or the bible supports.

The first chapters of the bible illustrate the need for rest…  with the conception of a seventh day.

The power of God is repeatedly revealed to the nation of Israel when they would stop, and stand still. THEN… they would see the salvation of the Lord. 

The stepping back and going away habit of Jesus is repeated in every gospel book in the bible. He is constantly hiding from the crowds, and his disciples to sneak off to a mountain where he can find relief from the hurry up. 

The power or strength of God is released in our weakness according to Paul.

The question gets very specific when we look directly at these ideas and images… how often do we ‘rest’. How frequently do we allow ourselves to stop working, stop tinkering with stuff, and just be ‘still’?

There will always be something of God absent in us until we do. 

“Be STILL”

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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)

 

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.

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.

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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.”