Roadtrip Reality-Check

Looking back at the past few years, it seems each summer has become a bit of a blur.
I find myself extensively travelling. Usually gone five or six weeks out of eight each summer. This year is no exception. As I get older… the thrill wears a bit thinner, and the risks and struggles seem to grow. I miss my familiar comfy bed and family more and sooner than ever before…I miss my parish and the lives of those I serve with. I find myself longing for the green hills of TN and the smiles and hugs of my comrades at Four Winds. Travel is awesome… for a week… and then it get’s old.
I know, I’m supposed to be the ultimate RoadTrip enthusiast, but I have my limits. This summer I’m finding myself feeling more and more weary… and so with the steepest hill still ahead, I’m asking for your help. Call it the Road Trip reality check if you will…
The process of Road Tripping is awesome for sure… the discovery of new sites and experiences, the joy of travel and adventure… the thrill of being with a group. But it is also incredibly chaotic, stressful, and always includes the unexpected developments of life on the road.
As a pastor, parent, and media exec… it’s a stretch to keep everything in balance during my absence. By God’s grace… so far so good. But I don’t want to assume anything this year. With the crazy events of the past few weeks and months, I am asking for your help, for your prayers… for protection and spiritual support as we go.

 

Summer 16' S&AShow CastCrewpic - Copy (2)

Summer 16′ Shock and Awe Show Cast and Crew!

Grateful to my wife, my church family, and my co-workers for their patience and support and for carrying the extra load in my absence. (not something I ever want to take for granted, the heroic service of folks like; Kevin Herrick, Shane Tucker, Anne Whitehouse Ciccoline, Mimi, and the entire 4W congregation), all of these amazing friends and family chip in to make a summer like this possible. I am incredibly thankful and dependent on them. They always step up faithfully, making huge sacrifices of time and energy to ensure our church family at Four Winds is well cared for. Without this community of faith… I would be lost.

This year will feature our longest trip yet. 20 days across the Northern USA, Pacific Northwest and Western Canada, and back to Nashville.
Please consider making the extra effort to cover our little band in prayer. We will be traveling with a dedicated, but small group of high-school/college age artists, crew, and staff as we criss-cross the Creation Festival circuit. 7-10 people all crammed into a rental SUV for thousands of miles. Facing an infinite number of potential risks, we need prayers for safety, unity, good weather, health, border crossings, functional gear and for stamina as we put in over 7,500 miles together… in very tight quarters. (it might surprise you to know… after 12 hours in a car…people can get a bit cranky, and crazy  :crazy pose - yellowstone '15 roadtrip
We’ll be repeatedly; loading, unloading, setting up & tearing down, and then rehearsing, sound-checking, and then presenting our six hour, 3 day… “Shock and Awe Show”. Living out of suitcases and sleeping in random hotels… each time we perform, mentally pushing aside our fears, fatigue, frustrations, and every-day life distractions…straining to give the best possible effort and all of it is done live.
We’ll be doing radio and TV interviews, sight-seeing, and recording our own video at some of the most beautiful places in the world. All of it in response to a desire to change the world one tween at a time. We’ll be capturing new video for the Shock and Awe pre-teen curriculum and gathering artist footage for season six of the iShine KNECT TV series.
Whenever we go out like this we always feel the increased spiritual oppression that comes with the territory. Your prayers are GREATLY appreciated. I promise to take lots of pics and to post them whenever possible.
Pray… for us by name, for the Rubyz girls (Tanner, Jessica, and Addy), for Alexis Slifer… for Tyler Hardin, for Caleb Mathias, and their parents.Pray for Tom Coverly (illusionist and host of our show) for our partners, artist’s and friends;  Abigail Duhon1GN and TJ Prodigy, for their families… for the staff of iShine (Mimi and Robert Beeson) for the Creation Fest teams at SonShine and North West festivals… for the gospel seeds of Christ to find open hearts and fertile ground to grow.
We are trusting God to work in and through us, and believing that His strength will be made perfect in our weakness. We are asking for hearts to be changed, for lives to be saved and for the future of our nation to be re-directed by a new generation of faith filled tweens and teens. We’re also expecting to see God reveal Himself to and in each of us in totally unique and unprecedented ways.
So please make the commitment to pray for us… and Lord willing, we’ll see you on the other side, with testimonies of God’s faithfulness and lifelong memories to share.
Thank you.
Pastor Brad…
#CreationFest16
#iShineontheRoad
#theRubyz
#iShinelive
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Fall Funk

Each year about this time… I get a bit of the funk. Cold and cough, snotty nose… sinus headaches. I blame it on the long grey days of fall, when it rains all week-long and then the leaves are gone. Life seems to go blah, kinda gross. Nothing really fun happening yet. Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is on the horizon and the day-to-day becomes a grind.

74211.com - source

74211.com – source

Parenting… pastoring, living… gets dull. People seem to want their space. It’s just easier to go back to bed… to skip the next church event or party invite. We’re tired. Coffee and Tea and the ol comfy couch are where we want to start and stop each day. 

Kids grind down too. School gets serious about now, homework and tests amping up for the quarter and teachers load on the extra assignments. Short days become long nights and everyone get’s tired of everyone else’s attitude. Family time is squeezed out and we’re all fending for ourselves in the fridge.

Consider this… God is most active in the ordinary. Not the grand and glorious moments of our lives.

He works in and among us when we feel the weakest. The most “blah”. In fact, He works amazing things in and among our least and lowest moments. When we think we’re hopelessly useless… He will show up. Giving us opportunities to do real ministry to our kids and those around us.

This fall… don’t give in to the funk. 

God has plans that only you can carry out. Custom prepared for your unique blend of gifts and gaffs. Don’t isolate and avoid the next opportunity to mingle and mix it up with friends and family. Step out in faith… irregardless of how you ‘feel’. I promise you… the mystery of God’s ways will fill you with renewed wonder and grace for yourself and those around you.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (ESV) Biblegateway Source.

Living in the fall funk is only a moment of time… but without hope, it can stretch darkly far out in front of us. Get up, get out there… change the world. You’ll be surprised how much we need you and how much you need us!

Pastor B.

Road Trip Revival – First stage… LAUNCH!

So… packing up for six, rounding up maps and distance projections, budgets for food and gas, lodging, and other stuff… it’s a chore to think a road-trip like this all the way through. Going almost seven thousand miles round trip is a journey, more pilgrimage than impulse… so it’s especially important to plan ahead.

Summer travel means tourists.

Tourists and the American west are synonymous.

This makes booking rooms in hotels along your route most strategic 🙂

We learned quickly that we would have to look ahead, plan our destination each morning and call ahead to confirm rooms as soon as we could each morning for us to have a chance at a decent (clean, non-bed bug infested, WI-FI enabled etc..) room that evening.

After confirming the vitals… we could focus on specific road routes, plan excursions and other touristy stuff after we knew for ‘sure’ where we would be sleeping. For parents and families, room arrangements are not as ‘critical’, modesty and privacy are much less important considerations… but for us, it was! Four girls, two boys and we would have to be careful to get two rooms with sleeping space for each of us.

Road Trip Revival

Road Trip Revival

That said… if you plan your travel and confirm the essentials, everyone can relax and enjoy the journey without the added stress of ‘finding’ hotel rooms at midnight… especially in the American North West as towns and options become very limited and VERY far apart! By saying ‘very’ I mean hundreds of miles sometimes in-between 🙂

A note on long haul vehicles … recommend highly a large SUV or Van. We rented an eight passenger, extended length Ford Expedition that worked fantastic! Unlimited mileage, brand new and state of the art features were wonderful, and all for about $700/week! It was a good option for us. (Courtesy of AVIS). If you already have such a grand ride, then use it for sure! Space is at a premium for a large group, so we limited luggage to 2 suitcases and it worked great. Everyone brought an additional personal backpack along with a pillow/blanket combo for travel comfort and entertainment.

Clothing... knowing we would be travelling from one extreme to another, we asked our road-trippers to bring a couple of layers of clothes, including a light jacket and sweatshirt/hoodie. Leaving in late July we had 100+F temps and high humidity, but heading for the mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington… we knew things would get dry and cool before we got back. (Little did we know “how cool” it would get, but that’s for a later post 🙂

Food… okay, food is always a bit dicey. EVERYONE has their favorite, and EVERYONE has their most -unliked. My solution was to give each tween-teen a travel stipend for buying their own snacks along the way. That way we could all have what we liked and the pressure to find the ‘perfect’ snacks evaporated like dew in the desert 🙂 Woo-HOO! Problem solved and suddenly… we were just about ready to roll!

The gang... day one! Road Trip Revival

The gang… day one! Road Trip Revival

One more thing… as you prepare to launch any Epic Road Trip, be aware that God is in the mix. Prepare your road-trippers to experience God as you go. Simply put… give them a chance to ‘hear’ and ‘see’ God in the sights and sounds ahead. The way I did that ? I got everyone a simple notepad / journal to write down and or collect their thoughts. Even if no one takes the time to write stuff down… you’re creating the ‘context’ for each one to expect to hear from God.

That expectation is a crucial part of any road-trip. It allows the Holy Spirit to move and breathe, to instruct and encourage, to change our kids hearts from the extraordinary experiences they are sure to have.

So… NOW we’re ready to LAUNCH!

Load in 1pm. Missouri here we come…

It takes a church to keep us alive

Many times I’ve felt the pressures of being ‘overwhelmed’. That moment when one-too-many commitments hits our already full schedules. The frantic pulse and shallow breaths of an ‘almost’ panic-attack as our stomach roils with dread, crazy days when we realize we literally lack the time to stop & eat.

Stretched beyond what we thought we could do… we stumble and fumble our way through it, hoping that in the end we’ll somehow cover every base and detail. church

That’s OK when it’s a day or two out of each month…but when it piles up into weeks of crazy, we start to feel the pressure of a life out of control. A nearly panicked state of existence that pushes us to the limit… and then beyond. 

As believers we share a commitment to Christ, a common-bond that links us with each other in ways we don’t always realize or appreciate. It’s in these insanely busy and overwhelming moments that we find out… we’re not in this alone. We have help.

Of course we know ‘theoretically’ the ageless gospel truth… ‘Christ will never leave us or forsake us‘, but it’s a bewildering moment when we understand that “Christ’ in the gospel scenario is ‘you’ and ‘me’. The powerful truth of friendship, soaked in the Holy Spirit which provides the source of a Christians steadfast commitment to help whenever someone is in need.

Recently I’ve felt all of these emotions anew and experienced the powerlessness of running at red-line and realizing there was nothing I could do to slow life down. It was into this hyperactive mix that my fellow Christians and friends willingly dived right in.

studyinuk.universiablogs.net

studyinuk.universiablogs.net

I’m sure it’s wasn’t my winning personality 🙂 or saint-like life that inspired such sacrifice from others…but rather the connection of the Holy Spirit among our community of faith. The shared sensitivity of those who love and care for each other, bringing keen awareness to the needs we have, fueling a genuine desire to serve, to help.  And as of recently…that need has been mine.

The response of our church to the practical needs among us is truly inspiring. Not in the good Christians ‘duty’ kind of way, but in the heroic and sincere effort of giving freely when feeling empty, of not waiting to serve until their schedules cleared…but the extraordinary act of putting the needs of others above their own.

It’s in this moment, that I see Christ, active and alive in the sweat and tears of life, when we stop what we’re busy with to give sacrificially without any expectation of a return.

Parents and friends, I believe it takes a church (not the building, but the people in it) to keep us and our hope alive, for the self-contained and proud… this is a hard truth. For the broken and overwhelmed, it is a comfort that binds us together.

As you navigate your life, let me encourage you to become active in your local body of Christian believers. Trying to go it on your own is always an option for surviving… but it’s certainly not a good path to ‘living.

Truth to consider,

Pastor B.

Inspired by Ephesians 1 (NIV)

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,…22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (BibleGateway.com

Do for the one… A lesson from Baltimore

Crazy stuff… kids looting, rioting, and out of control in a major US City.

Baltimore burning.

Rage and Frustration literally igniting a city as millions watched and took sides.

As a pastor a thousand miles away…my heart ached. 

Such fear and confusion, politics and posturing. Agenda’s seen and unseen pushing from behind the scenes to move us in calculated ways. It’s so messed up, it makes me want to throw my ‘hands up’ in a completely different way.

But way down deep in my heart is the sadness of knowing, this explosion of emotion is based on more than a rage at the machine or the ‘man’ in charge… it’s deeper than any political movement or social injustice. This is a symptom of darker and simpler things. 

channelnewsasia.com - Baltimore MD Riots

channelnewsasia.com – Baltimore MD Riots

The foundations are falling and the family is the first to go.

Baltimore is burning, lead by its dis-enfranchised youth. Where are the fathers and mothers to lead their family’s home ?

Are they absent for the decades of unresolved social injustices in their city, is it generational poverty, education erosion, violent gangs, drugs, a culture of open promiscuity… or is it the overall lack of faith or hope in the future that’s fueling this growing lack of respect for authority?

Take your pick. 

In the end, it’s about the home… or the absence of home for our youth.

America, it’s time “we” (Christians /you and I) do something about this, and stop allowing the media to push us into one camp or the other. We must see the outrage of our heavenly “Father” at the widows and orphans of our land. To ignore this is to be asleep or worse… apathetic to our selfish bones.

The words of a great sermon still echo through my heart’s halls... “Do for ‘one” what you wish you could do for all” (Andy Stanley) 

Ask God to show you ‘who’ and where and when, but it’s time we move from the sidelines to the front-lines of this modern american tragedy. It’s past time for God’s people to make a tangible difference. To risk being uncomfortable.

It’s as simple as looking for a life to invest in.

Find a young man or woman who isn’t in a healthy home or family. Adopt them. Take them in. Love them, teach them… learn from them. Grow. Become the hands and feet we sing about on Sundays.

Newsweek.com - Baltimore Riots April 27, 2015

Newsweek.com – Baltimore Riots April 27, 2015

Do for the one… and change the world. 

Pastor B

Do you know what you believe?

Seems silly to ask…

But an important question for each of us to answer.

Do you/we know what we actually believe about the essentials ? You know, the important stuff like… “what or who is God”, “what role does Faith play in our lives”… “what is Christianity”… “where do I land on the moral and social justice issues of our time”, “does absolute truth exist”?

Nicene Creed

Nicene Creed

We often carry what we ‘know’ without much consideration. With no urgency to explore the reasons why we ‘believe’ stuff… we sort of move through life untroubled by doubt until someone else crosses our path and disagrees stridently with us. Suddenly we’re confronted with all sorts of irritated thoughts and questions, strong emotional reactions pouring out of us in a rush to defend our beliefs, it’s often in those moments we start to realize we truly can’t explain why.

Personal convictions of truth must go deeper than a vague concept of what’s right or wrong or a long ago memorized creed. Today, we need to go beyond what we were ‘taught’ or learned ourselves from pop culture, childhood Sunday school lessons, or the simple acceptance of what our parents said was true. What do WE believe?

Complex and life altering influences are all around us. From the latest polls to the block-buster movies we’re catching at the local cinema, we may be absorbing more of our cultures beliefs than we realize, reduced to a faith based-carbon copy of our secular counterparts. Emotion driving us to form our values and personal beliefs, from recycling to a woman’s freedom of choice.

With a moment or two of consideration, we may find we’re far less formed in faith beliefs and convictions than we first ‘thought we were’. 

What do we believe… ?Chesterton-Quote

My challenge dear reader.., take the time to find out! Invest a little time in some personal research. Educate yourself by reading up and praying through your life. Ask God to show and confirm to you the “truth”.

Learn about some of the defining issues of our time and consider for yourself what is ‘right’ and ‘true’. Our kids will take their ‘que’ from us. IF they see us asking the important questions… they will too.

In this millennial generation, maybe more so than any in a long time…beliefs are going to be tested. Simply ‘assuming’ our kids agree with us because they compliantly follow along right now, isn’t going to cut it. WE / THEY need to ask the hard questions, wrestle through the options and find the truth for themselves.

Honestly, there just isn’t any other way. And, I believe it’s all as intended by the great designer Himself.

Every blessing to you as parent your families forward to life…. and check out some great resources from Reasonable Theology; start your ‘belief’ journey here !

Peace and Grace,

Pastor B.

PS – the sacred “Creeds’ of the Christian Faith are a fantastic way to review the essentials. Teaching those to your kids is a great way to start the process of learning. But simply memorizing the words isn’t the same as understanding and believing.

Thanksgiving “Thursdays”

It’s on the calendar horizon. Thanksgiving is coming, that great and glorious day of family, food, and football!

It’s such a wonderful place for my memories to return to… warm and drowsy moments gathered by the fire, half asleep with my intentional tryptophan poisoning, totally safe and content to do ‘nothing’ but rest and enjoy being with my family. pooh_piglet_thansgiving

An iconic day, steeped in the historical foundation of our nations first breath. A time for mankind to pause… reflect… and remember the blessings we share. It’s a time for us to re-focus on the family, to ponder how remarkable the gift of life really is and to celebrate it with one another.

I can’t help but think of how millions of families make an annual pilgrimage, often for hundreds if not thousands of miles… to simply be ‘together’ for a day or two. THAT’S ACTUALLY PRETTY AWESOME! 

This year, I’m asking myself to really put some extra time into recognizing the beautiful and marvelous in my life. To pay more attention to those God has surrounded us with. Looking with eyes of gratitude and not critique at their unique and irreplaceable personalities, gifts and contributions to my life… to the community of faith I help pastor, to my own children.

HOW WONDERFUL it is to notice all of the good things in our lives, to let the joy crowd out the cynical and sad!

Thanksgiving once each year is not enough… I want to encourage us to keep our ‘posture’ of gratitude alive all year long. SO my idea is to make each “Thursday”  a “Thanksgiving Thursday for us to remember to keep looking for all the ways God is reaching out to bless, and love, and restore.

What can you see in your life to be Thankful for…. ? (no cheating here parents, saying your kids or spouse isn’t going deep enough :)) Dig a bit, look under the emotional surface of your life, what can you sense or see in your present circumstances that are really good (not necessarily easy) and true, things that you know God has allowed to shape or bless you.

Ask your kids, friends and co-workers to join with you… “Thanksgiving Thursdays“could become your families meal discussion topic once a week, a fun way to teach our kids and remind ourselves to live with a heart full of gratitude. A habit that can help us all move past the pessimistic and find new ways to celebrate the ‘goodness of God’ in our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone !

Pastor B.