Faithful is He who called you.

“Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” (KJV) 

Parenting is one of the most significant ‘calling’s we will ever be honored to embrace. In the stress and struggle of crazy Holiday schedules and family…it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s normal to wonder if you’re ‘fit’ for the duty of being a parent at all.

Let me humbly seek to encourage you and remind you of the bedrock strong promises of God that back us up. We’re not in this all by ourselves, God has not left us alone and unsupported. He promises to work on our behalf, to finish what we started despite our ability to keep it all going on our own.

What a relief! God didn’t just call us into this parenting adventure, He is the one who guarantees the outcome. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 is an anchor to the soul of every parent floundering in the treacherous waters of self-condemnation and doubt. 

Parents! We’re not going to get it right every time. We’re going to fail and flop along the way.

It’s true, none of us are ‘perfect’ parents, and we’re not going to raise ‘perfect‘ kids. Our expectations and pride need to be just a wee bit lower and our reliance on God a whole lot higher! 

We’re all faced with the reality of our ‘human’ shortcomings, the emotional outbursts, anger, anxiety attacks, and frustrations…but in the end we’re backed up by something much bigger and better than ‘us’. It’s time to cut ourselves and our kids some ‘slack’ and enjoy the moments and individuals we have in front us.

Don’t miss your family time today! We can easily be robbed with distractions and discontent. We can get stuck longing for the good old days long past or in planning ferociously to make sure we have a better ‘tomorrow’.  We all need to do our best to live contented, to live with awareness and try to be ‘present’ in the preciousness of today. 

So… for parents handling the strain and stress of the Holidays, relax. Your kids and family have been personally ordained by God as perfect for you, and you for them. There are no mistakes in God’s order of life, He hand picks and places us in the exact situations and circumstances that will best serve our growth and development. He’s all about the end result, and in the messy – in-between we can rely on His ability to finish what He started in us and through us.

This post is meant to be an encouraging and timely reminder to rest in the promises of God for your kids and home.

This Thanksgiving and Christmas, lets renew our commitment to enjoy the moments we have together, maybe it’s time to put our phones down and focus intensely on those directly around us… God after all has only placed them in our path for a season.

Blessings,

Pastor Brad.

Scripture Source – BibleHub.com

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Seasons Change

It’s been quite a run.

Middle Tennessee has been home for over fifteen years. We’ve raised three kids here and helped plant a new Anglican church. We helped care for and bury my dad and dear sister-in-law. We’ve had the honor to stand side by the side with those who grieved and those with reason to celebrate. We’ve been blessed to be included in the lives of hundreds of amazing men and women, kids, and students since moving here in 2003. A huge part of our lives was invested in the formation of iShine, the Tween Gospel Alliance, and Bema Media.

Mathias Family Circa 2017

The call to the Priesthood and pastoral ministry with NewSong Christian Fellowship, Four Winds Mission and the AMIA all were birthed here. The blood, sweat, and tears we shed for the unique and beautiful family that is the church at Four Winds Anglican Mission, was a constant part of our past nine years.

To leave these things is to leave a part of our own identity behind and unthinkable. Yet the voice keeps coming… and the images of Maine are never far from our minds. When I prayed… I felt it, when I slept… I saw it, and when I began to investigate… God revealed it.

It started a few months ago when we  (Paige and I) visited the state of Maine, and had an unexpected sense of displacement, a familiar connection to something we shouldn’t have, in an area we’ve never been before. (Ellsworth / Acadia)

An old and faintly familiar nudge began coming into our thoughts from somewhere outside of us. A kind of gentle whisper that wouldn’t go away, coupled to a ridiculous implication that didn’t make any rational sense. The idea inside those thoughts was just too crazy to seriously consider.

“We both felt we were supposed to live in Maine”

We knew being empty nesters meant some major life changes, but this was a bit much. After all, we have a grandson two hours away, our kids, friends, and church family were in middle TN. Our life had been built around and for this beautiful and warm place we called home. To leave now, just didn’t’ make sense.

The insanity of the idea was clear to any rational mind. To willingly decide to leave the familiar and comforting parts of our life and go to a place we know nothing  and no one… just didn’t make sense. 

In the end it was proven true, and confirmed by everyone in our life. After four weeks of intense and persistent prayer for confirmation, it came. First from our Bishop and then from our immediate family, we talked with our bosses, friends, and fellow pastors. They all sensed the truth of this and affirmed our decision to leave.

Acadia National Park

The crazy call of God to go to Maine wasn’t just some bout of indigestion or a momentary impulse. It was a genuine ‘calling’ to go and serve in a far away place. To be His servant in a strange land, to minister and laborer for His Kingdom and not our own. It felt scary and exciting… like a sneeze and a hiccup in one deep breath.

This radical idea had gone from a general concept to startling reality in a few short weeks. The truth of our calling was hard to apprehend, yet the implications obvious. The idea of getting our house ready to sell, of unplugging our lives and moving a thousand miles should be terrifying… but it wasn’t. A strange but peaceful atmosphere  was settling over our home and lives. God was miraculously forming a path out of the fog, a new road for us to follow, a journey for Paige and I into a new season of our life.

What had been a seemingly random idea was morphing into something quite solid, touchable, and true. A miracle that was taking shape right in front of our eyes. The reality of relocating our lives had hit ‘home’, and it felt ‘right’. (The transitions of our life may be sudden, but in God’s hands, we can remain peaceful.)

So here we are today, moving forward in faith. Our house is for sale, and we’re looking in Maine to find our next residence. We’re living proof that God continues to use broken people to serve Him in unusual ways and in unexpected places.

Paige and I are about to embark on a grand adventure, to explore a new and much ‘colder’ place with new challenges and experiences sure to be ahead. The path forward has been revealed, but the details are still foggy. We don’t know when exactly, we don’t know what exactly, but we do know where.

It turns out…St Thomas Anglican in Ellsworth Maine is in need of a Priest, and we believe it is to become our next stop. This obscure and distant place is strategic to both the Kingdom of God, and to our lives.

We’ve learned since hearing from God, that New England and the specifically the state of Maine are suffering greatly from a famine of churches*(see sources) and pastors to serve them. We know that Maine has few churches to meet the needs of God’s people and that around fifty percent of pastors are giving up their pulpits within three years of serving a church. This remote state and region matter to God, and the need for pastoral care is clearly reaching a critical stage. We didn’t know all that before we said yes… but we do now. Things are beginning to make sense.

St Thomas Anglican

God is constantly leading people all over the world to do seemingly radical things for Him. Just like the unknown fishermen He found on the shores of Galilee… He’s asking people to ‘Come and Follow Him,” and He will make us into  ‘fishers of men’.

I wouldn’t dare presume to know for you, but for some… you’ve been hearing the whisper of God already, but were afraid to respond. I get it. To trust God so completely is scary, but it’s also an honor and a privilege to be asked. For Paige and I, it’s time to hit the pavement and start on a brand new and totally EPIC Roadtrip to the great state of Maine. 🙂

We’ll see you there.

Pastor B.

PS – This blog and my work at Bema Media/ iShine will continue, the podcast (Brilliantly Brave Parenting) and work of Four Winds Anglican are not ending. God has provided a way for each of those to continue on and to thrive. Some of it will include us directly and some will not, but each effort is secure in the shadow of God’s divine providence and sustaining power.

*Sources:

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/jared-c-wilson/why-new-england-is-the-new-american-missional-frontier/

http://philwaldrep.org/retreat/

https://factsandtrends.net/2017/08/25/survive-pastors-graveyard-new-england/

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/05/18/religion/got-faith-maine-the-least-religious-state-in-the-nation/

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/02/29/how-religious-is-your-state/?state=alabama

https://news.gallup.com/poll/232223/religious-regions.aspx

The Hidden Dangers of Disappointment

Heard a very thought-provoking sermon on the radio today. A series on the life of Joseph from well known Pastor & Author; Alistair Begg of “Truth for Life”. 

He spoke about the presence of God in our lives when we’re trapped in circumstances beyond our control. He described the presence and power of God to provide and protect us in the middle of difficult and discouraging moments, something I’m sure we can all appreciate. Joseph was trapped in a foreign land after being betrayed and abandoned by his own brothers, alone and isolated, a slave.

He had every right to give into the emotions of self-pity, resentment, bitterness. He had every right to hold a grudge, to nurse his anger and disappointment with his fellow-man and shake his fists at God in despair and righteous indignation. But he didn’t. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instead Joseph chose to make the ‘best’ of his situation. To look for the good in the middle of his impossible circumstances and God’s presence remained.  Joseph must have sensed there was some purpose to his injustices, some method to the madness of his incarceration and false imprisonments. Joseph’s faith looked for a hidden agenda by God, a strategy to direct his steps through the ridiculously bad luck of his life; of being sold as a slave, falsely accused of rape, and then discarded in prison by the one guy he helped to survive Pharaohs wrath.

It seemed that Joseph just couldn’t get a break. 

His disappointments could have derailed his faith. Stopped him from trusting or talking with God. His pain and suffering could have easily burned away the belief and anticipation of looking for God  to keep his promises, of daring to trust that someday and somehow God would show up and fulfill his adolescent dreams and visions.

What about us?

Do we believe God is working in our ridiculously bad circumstances? Are we surrendering to the wave of despair that comes over us, wallowing in the feelings of self-pity, resentment, and bitterness?  I do it. Lots of times I’ve found myself muttering as I drive, wondering where God is in my latest crisis. Arguing with Him that He’s not fair!

I suffer badly. I hate stress and disappointments.  I want my life to go the best possible way, to be fulfilling and without prolonged struggle. I want what I do to be successful. I want to work hard and see results, to find meaning and value in what I labor over. But far too often it’s nothing like that. 

Suffering in Silence

So… I have a choice to make. Like Joseph my life has had some major disappointments and moments of despair. I’ve found myself in circumstances beyond my control and feeling the dangerous current of self-pity, resentment, and bitterness gnawing their way up my gut.

Will I surrender to the darkness or push it back with one more act of hope and desperate faith? Will I look to God and reaffirm my belief that although it makes NO SENSE to me, He must be involved. That in my disappointments… He is still God. He is still using my momentary suffering as a tool of infinite beauty for my character and growth. (Romans 8:28 / Psalm 34 )

Those are the moments to cling to our faith. We can choose how we will react to the pain of life.  Lots of options here… from covering up our pain with pleasure to losing ourselves in work. But what if we chose to read and pray?

What would happen if we turned to God no matter how hard it is? Discovering the promises of God in the darkness and sorrow of a sleepless night  has salvaged my faith many many – times. It can realign our heart and reshape our suffering into an intimate act of faith.

When we come to Him in our pain… we reaffirm the truth we so desperately need to remember about our savior. He loves us. He understands us. He gets our pain and suffering as no other can… we remember in our surrendered heart that our God is good. He is working in our circumstances, using the disappointments of life for a higher purpose. He has a plan, and we’re in it.

Let’s agree to follow in Joseph’s example.

Let’s look to see how God’s going to show up in our disappointed lives. Let’s drop the weight of our painful baggage. We don’t need to carry the self-pity, resentment, and bitterness we’re holding anymore.

Blessings, Pastor B.

 

Suffering that leads us to Surrender

Reading through the scriptures you can’t help but notice a pattern… the histories and testimonies of the patriarchs, prophets, priests, and kings all point to a common thread they share.

Suffering.

Sounds ominous, but it seems to be ‘the’ process God allows or uses to accomplish His will, His purposes in our lives.

The struggle of our will against God’s plan seems to work as the catalyst for our transformation. (think Jacob with the Angel) 

We desire and direct our lives to a specific point, we include God and prayerfully ask for His blessing to our efforts, but often we find our way in decline and the struggle to proceed becomes harder and harder to sustain. It’s in this pain that we suffer and wait for answers, confused by the lack of progress or success and we wonder if God is against us.

Rembrandt – Jacob wrestling with the angel. Google art project

He’s not against us. NEVER ever accept that lie. All of History reminds us of His passionate pursuit of our hearts! The great struggle of our faith is to cling steadfastly to this truth.

I’m learning a lot about these struggles and suffering moments right now, finding that it’s in these ‘storms’ of life that I am redirected from pursuing God as a means to ‘my’ progress. He’s more than a part of my plan, He’s bigger than all my plans and ambitions, He’s the entire point of it all. We have to reorient our lives around HIM.

We grow when we surrender our need to ‘know’ and accept His goodness for today and trust it will continue into tomorrow. I believe things radically changed in my life when I admitted my divided heart. That I was only partially in love with God and partially trying to manipulate Him into giving me what I thought I needed… but definitely wanted. I believe in the end He wants to be the focus and center of all my desire. He’s passionate to give us His best, and He wants to become number one, the focus of our attention and love. 

The suffering of our lives puts those inconsistencies of our motives into the floodlights of God’s divine illumination – these personal epiphanies are the mile markers in our journey of faith. They become the moments of clear understanding and  lead us to repentance, but often only come when we are exhausted and overwhelmed. It’s in those depths of despair that we finally surrender to God and in doing so they become the keys to our spiritual growth and maturity.

Brennan Manning in his book ‘Ruthless Trust” notes that we desire to have ‘clarity’ in our lives, often praying for it… but he points out that God wants us to have ‘trust’ in His goodness and His plan for our lives. There is a difference. (my paraphrase)

Clarity is knowledge of what’s coming. Trust is belief that God is in control of the future and that His plans are better than ours. Surrendering control is the door to us finding His peace and freedom from fear… easy to type, hard to act on.

Lord Help us ‘trust’ you in our suffering, help us to continue to believe in your goodness and give up our need to know and simply accept your leading us to a better place, that your plans can replace our own.

Blessings to you – Pastor B.

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

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…