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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

Solo and Silent… waiting and delay.

I recently had a chance to take a southwest road-trip. Unlike the other times…no co-pilot or navigator would be sitting across from me. I wasn’t meeting anyone at the end of this trip, no large business meetings or special visits were planned. I was solo on this run.

design by Jacob Abshire

design by Jacob Abshire

Landed in Albuquerque around midnight… rolled into Santa Fe in time for breakfast. I was feeling strange... like something sacred was happening, not my normal exuberant road-tripping self. This was going to be different.

I scrolled through my memories, trying to remember a time when I went more than a day or two all alone. Nothing registered. This was new territory, unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

I knew it was lent. I know Lent is a very sacred time to personally reflect on a deeper level about my faith… my life and the trajectory of my journey. But this little excursion was feeling a lot like a personal invitation by God to come away. To be still and to wait.

I accepted the invite…but with some hesitation. 

Solo and silent was not my preferred circumstance. I like to be stimulated. Music, books, movies, conversation, radio, talk shows, the news cycle… it all fed my ADD like crack cocaine to an addict.

This being solo would require me to expose myself to the silence.

It would mean I was intentionally clearing my mind and schedule to be alone with God. Not something easily accomplished for more than a few hours. The disciples weren’t any better than we are at it. They couldn’t stay up for even one night to pray with Christ in the garden. The battle for solitude and silence is probably more intense for our generation than any who have come before.

New Mexico - Feb 16'

New Mexico – Feb 16′

So, I had some ‘stuff’ on my mind. Things that were scratching and gnawing at my heart and unsettling to my fragile peace. Unresolved questions. Frustrations and hurts, disappointments, and delays that I couldn’t explain or understand. The normal wear and tear of life along with the extra debris that comes with any form of pastoral ministry.

It was important for me to unload and get free of the ‘stuff’  before it poisoned me. I knew this solo ride was prescribed by a loving physician and He was going to pick the places and things we needed to visit, do, and see in the days ahead.

I simply had to decide… who would be in charge ? Me or Him… 

I chose to submit.

I chose to quiet my mind… still my heart and listen for His gentle voice. I was prepared to let go of control… to wait as long as necessary to hear what He had to say. I didn’t realize He would test my resolve until the very end… and I didn’t realize how significant this waiting would be…

———————

Part 2 of this blog post will be tomorrow. (March 8, 2016) If this sounds familiar, if your feeling like I did… let me encourage you to read on. If not, you may know someone who is feeling this way… share it.

Blessings.

Pastor B.

Any one else out there…?

Feeling alone?

Do you wonder in the silent moments if anyone will slow down enough to notice you today.

Someone to feel the pain your stumbling through life with. Someone to see beyond the surface calm and notice that subtle sadness in your eyes…the only hint to the sorrow and weariness within. All of your pain carefully held in check… we suffer in silence. A self-imposed exile. desert

If so, read on.

Life does conspire against us. It forces us to trust or run. To step into or flee away from. For those of us who still believe… we face the constant pressure to decide. Will we trust or doubt or land somewhere in-between.

Will we pick our faith back up from the curb and smooth it back in place somewhere stuck between our brain and beating heart? Or will we leave it behind… a useless token of youth lost…hopelessly broken ? 

This is where we often live. Right in the moment of in-between and if you’re a Christian that means feeling and being ‘alone’ in ways more profound than we know. The wilderness of faith where doubt and distractions rule the days and nights.

It’s here (wilderness) we have to choose.

It’s here where we grow.Where we change and become… something more than we were… and less.

For Moses and the nation of Israel fleeing Egypt… this took forty years to complete. For Jesus forty days. For you and I… well it remains to be seen. But it’s a part of our journey of faith. Not something we can avoid or skip. It’s a process of transformation that must be done in isolation.

It’s here in this lonely place where we move from a vicarious conviction of faith to a personal and intimate dependence on God’s word to live. 

For many of us… Isolation and loneliness are things we avoid… for others it’s a place we go to hide. But for every believer it’s a gateway to becoming… to expanding our faith from a shared experience to a personal conviction of the truth and purpose in Christ.

When we choose to believe God’s word vs. our feelings… we gain strength. When we delay, avoid, or deny… we don’t.

It takes a supernatural touch to move our hearts to trust again. To believe when we can’t see or feel a thing. To care when we’re numb. Yet it’s only here in the isolation that we learn what we must to go on.

So… take heart. God isn’t abandoning you. He’s closer than ever before. 

Blessings…

Pastor B.

Luke 4:1-14 (reference for blog)

Mt. Rushmore Here we Come… RoadTrip Revival #2

Too much fun to share with just words…. so here is what it all looked and sounded like this summer!

Stay tuned for more 🙂

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…

Roadtripping Revival – A Summer to remember

The stats are EPIC. 

12,400 miles… five weekends, in six national parks…stretched out over 30 states with over a dozen people in tow. Americana on display as we worked our way across 2 lane, country road and interstate highway. Merrily bumping along in a 12 passenger van, 14 bunk Prevo bus, and luxe Ford Expedition from one weekend to another. Performing in the bible-belt, eastern seaboard, across New England and into the upper Midwest…finally ending the wandering in Washington state. Then…  we jumped back in and drove all the way back to Nashville 🙂

EPIC! 

The sights and sounds were thousands of pictures long… and the experiences as diverse as the landscapes we crossed, but all of them were strategic and superb! It’s always amazing to see how much we change when we make the space for personal reflection and deeper relationship, it’s like a part of us is suddenly re-discovered.

When we invite God into that roadtrip mix… it’s sure to exceed all expectations

Over the next few days and weeks, I’m going to share some glimpses (behind the scenes, beautiful, funny- awkward moments) of how this summer changed me and those I traveled with.

If you’re seeking a bit of encouragement or just want to live vicariously through us… your are most welcome to join in the journey and come along. It’s gonna be fun… a roadtrip revival! #ishineontheroad

Summer Tour 2015

Summer Tour 2015

Peace out,

Pastor B.