Tired of Waiting…the AcheDeepInsideOurSoul

The greatest single threat to a family’s health… is divorce.

As a pastor and a parent, I get it.  We all understand the temptation that promises to bring excitement and passion when we feel ‘nothing’. The allure of being free again….to leave what we have for something… ‘better’.

NBC – source

But sometimes we get tired of trying.

We just wear out inside. No more desire. No more determination to stay… we just surrender to the dull and relentless… and seriously consider its time to simply ‘give-up’.

 

We feel only a little…  and it all adds up to just an empty AcheDeepInsideourSoul.

St. Augustine tells it like it is in his classic, “the Confessions” … “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” (source link)

For those who are grieving… those who lost a spouse… a parent, or a child. The grief that consumes is identical in its impact to our psyche as when a marriage runs off the rails… For those reading who are openly contemplating divorce… the truth is, you’re already grieving.  In your sorrow, you can lose all sense of time or purpose. You can lose your colors and taste, no flavor… personality dried up. We simply ‘exist’.

The need to ‘feel’ again is overwhelming. It scares us. 

In those moments of panic and desperation we turn to everykindofcrazy option. Cutting, drugs, sex, alcohol, work, ministry, friends ,cars, boats, exercise, gardening, books, movies, music, porn, you name… if you hurt badly enough…  we give it a whirl.

The solution to the “AcheDeepInsideOurSoul” isn’t obvious or easy. It’s not ‘more’… but ‘less’. 

We can’t fill up our empty spaces with stuff, or pleasure, or pain… we can’t get back to being whole again by doing more or owning nicer things.

source – Readers Digest

Our pain is only resolved by living with less. Less of us. Less of me… more of God. 

We start a terrible and dangerous spiral down when we keep insisting on getting what we always wanted. We look at the stuff we don’t have and then we start a checklist of all the things that will be better without someone else holding us back… or weighing us down.

If we were free to do and be and go…  would we be happier…. ? Or would we be more MISERABLE?

Here’s what I’ve learned….To fill the empty ache, you need to shift your focus. When we give up our rights, and our petty little wrongs…we gain life. Real life. Jesus said that. He meant it. 

Take whatever it is in your life your so weary of.  That thing you’re so tired of waiting for… Maybe it’s the option to walk away from an empty marriage or a dead-end job that you know you’re supposed to keep. Are you willing to consider another option?

Would you take another day… another week and sincerely ask (Pray) for God’s help?

Do something radical… don’t run away… trust God and stay. What if you chose to sacrifice your ‘wants for someone else’s needs? What would God do with such an act of faith?

(Disclaimer – It takes 2 to make a relationship work, and if you are the only one who wants to try, you’re going to have to pray for a change of heart in your spouse – and there are definite times to walk away from marriage – abuse – infidelity – addictions etc… God knows your specific circumstance – ask Him – listen – wait – He’ll show you what to do)

You won’t regret it and neither will your family…

Peace out, Pastor Brad.

Need some extra encouragement and practical support? … Check out a “Weekend to Remember” with Family Life.

 

 

 

 

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Walking with Grief…

When you walk with grief… it’s hard to ‘feel‘ much.

God is there.

People are around.

But not much shows its color.

Flavors fade.

It’s slower inside your head. Kinda numb all over, things that might have grabbed your attention… don’t. That includes your faith. It affects your friendships… your family. It dulls your heart and mind, makes us feel empty inside. Like the dentist numbed more than just our tooth.

I’ve talked with lots of folks walking with grief. The death of a loved one… father, mother, friend, lover, wife, son, or daughter… they say the same basic things. It hurts more than you might have expected... takes time to come ‘back’ from it…

 And it does. 

So… when that grief grows to include your family at large, it wears down your parenting heart and steals some of our hope.  We think, we should be providing the role of comforter – that we should be ‘encouraging’ our kids…we should be strong for them. But we’re not.

We feel our vitality fade as we can’t help but linger on the pain of knowing… we won’t see that person again. We won’t be able to share a coffee or meal or a story some ‘other’ time.  Painfully… their absence becomes clearer, we won’t be doing those things again… they are gone.

At least for now.

The truth is…Eternity is a mystery all it’s own. Unknowable and infinite, we ‘trust’ that God is real and true. That heaven is up and out there and that the cross of Christ is everything it claims to be. That’s what makes us ‘Christian’.

 

 

But that’s in the future… living in today, we walk with GRIEF.

We struggle with Faith.

All of us.

If you are struggling right now… take comfort in these illuminating words from one of my favorite authors.

Has God abandoned us? Did we not pray enough? Is this just something we accept as “part of life,” suck it up, even though it breaks our hearts? After a while, the accumulation of event after event that we do not like and do not understand erodes our confidence that we are part of something grand and good, and reduces us to a survivalist mind-set.

I know, I know—we’ve been told that we matter to God. And part of us partly believes it. But life has a way of chipping away at that conviction, undermining our settled belief that he means us well. I mean, if that’s true, then why didn’t he _______? Fill in the blank. Heal your mom. Save your marriage. Get you married. Help you out more.

Either (a) we’re blowing it, or (b) God is holding out on us. Or some combination of both, which is where most people land. Think about it. Isn’t this where you land, with all the things that haven’t gone the way you’d hoped and wanted?” 

Quote source; from “Waking the Dead” by John Eldredge.

Psalm 42 is written by ‘the’ awesome and epic Hebrew King David, (covenant making dynasty) a friend with God and in the royal line of Christ himself… but after reading his words in the Psalms’ it  strongly suggests he was familiar with and often battled grief.

That he truly felt the powerful drag of depression and despair… if your are too…read this. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/…

Be encouraged. No matter what you can or cannot ‘feel’ today.  No matter what grief is pulling you down… your God is good, you are created and unique. That means you’re day and life are and will be significant! It also means whomever you’re grieving  was also unique and significant and worthy of your love, and grief.

…My dad died on Ash Wednesday, March 1st 2017.

Pastor B.

BGraham quote BB Podcast

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Grief part 2….

My brother’s wife is fading. My precious and only sister in law… mother of three;  Judy Mathias is nearing her end… a battle with brain cancer lost.

She has days to live.

Her family comes to care and provide for her. To lend help to my brother, to hug their three beautiful kids and to say good-bye to Judy.

It’s tragic, and all of us must walk through it… but here’s the twist… in the middle of it all, a daughter’s wedding day. 

Crazy.

Our grandfather/ dad dies… and my daughter is married less than a week later. Now my brothers wife is about to pass and he has a daughters wedding set for days from now.

For both of us … we’re reeling in some kind of emotional shock-wave. Uncharted water so to speak…. We’ve got no way to sort it all out emotionally. No way to make sense of the surges of our joy and grief and frustration. 

The death of my father heavy on my mind, I try to comfort my brother and his family in the midst of their suffering… The truth of these circumstances remind me painfully, each season of life is completely out of my control –

In that ‘helplessness’ of loosing control we can go spastic or relax. We can trust in our God or curse His face… we can still choose to cling to “hope”. To believe that there must be a purpose for it all. To ask for Gods comfort and Redemptive touch in the very messy moment. 


psalm 89


I’m learning… suffering (or grief) brings profound clarity to our lives… a wrestling away of our personal agenda’s and petty ‘little’ wrongs. It reveals the ways we try to ‘use’ God when we need him… a way to fix our problems…

Suffering illuminates a path much more intimate and true and way less manipulative.

A quieter path of knowing our Father and of allowing ourselves to be known by Him… and that hidden knowledge… it changes us.

Tozer says it like this… ““O, God, we don’t want anything You have, we want You.” That’s the cry of a soul on its way up.

From his book, Success and the Christian, 29.

 
Walk through the grief dear one. Look for the unseen but clearly felt ‘hand’ of God as it gently but firmly lifts your hand into His.
It’s not an answer… but it is profoundly reassuring and brings with it the protection of unmistakable peace.
In this peaceful mystery… you will sense the true nature of your savior...  A man of sorrow’s who is acquainted with all our griefs”. 
And that is enough.
 
Sorry for the long (2 part) blog today… this one’s been building for awhile.
Pastor B.

Sadness Sucks!

Sadness… sorrow. Life – struggle – despair. Stuff we as parent’s not only have to deal with… but have to help our kids with.

How do we keep parenting when we’re in the midst of personal grief and or tragedy? sadness sucks

Couple of thoughts….

1 – Sadness is not a sin. Sorrow is a part of the journey we call life. In perspective, sadness is where we can find our truest measure. A time in which God will allow us to suffer or endure difficulty. Not to punish, but to prune.

The struggles force us to draw near or flee from God’s presence. If we choose to demand explanations, we’ll miss the opportunity to get to ‘know’ Him. We’ll be distracted by the injustice of our situation and loose the intimacy of just having Him near us as we go through it.

John 15 (ESV) “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit… 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy (not happiness) may be full.

2- Sorrow and Sadness allow us to ‘see’ the world differently. As if with new eyes. Eyes of Faith. Kingdom lens, whichever Christian metaphor your like… For most of us… we cannot see our world as it really is without being forced to look again… with God’s perspective.

Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” 

3 – Struggle builds muscle… Sadness can be a training tool of God to build up our faith and endurance for the journey ahead. Like any soldier, we must prepare our minds and muscles for the rigors of battle and train ourselves in the use and tactics of our weaponry.

Our weakness is God’s strength… our battle is not as it seems. There is much more to our melancholy and sadness than just our circumstances! We have an enemy of our heart and he is aggressively pushing us to retreat, pull back, abandon our current course…. As parents, or pastors… this gets amplified in times of strategic advance – and with the increased hostility, we should be able to recognize the significance of our work and ministries! We must also arm ourselves with Kingdom truth… abandoning the lies of our world. A few verses to help you reset!

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV) 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. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong

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

Ephesians 6:10-13 (ESV) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that (you)may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm

Christian Parenting isn’t living in denial…it’s not forcing yourself to smile no matter what!

It’s an unfiltered view of the struggle, a illustration to our kids of what a genuine Christian in the real world lives like. It’s a unique opportunity we have as parents to model an authentic faith to our kids as we work to understand the truth of God, His comfort, and His presence in the chaos and tragedy of life.

Sadness does suck… but it has purpose for the Christian!

Pastor B.

Recommended Resource: “Choose Joy, because happiness isn’t enough” Kay Warren

Are you a happy parent?

“Are you happy ?”

If you’re struggling on this one… just to be sure… ask your family.

If the answer is “NO”, then it may be time to seriously & honestly reflect. It may be time to make some changes in your life…. Work Less, Play More / or Work More and Play Less…?

Sometimes it’s more subtle than that.

Sometimes its internal change we really need. A shift in our understanding of life and the role we’re actually playing in it. We can feel adrift…lost and out of control, or we can choose to trust there is a guiding hand along the way. That’s a change in our attitude and it can make a HUGE difference in our Happiness.

Choices need to be made. Decisions arrived at and courage called upon to make those changes. Otherwise, you and I will be exactly the same next year as we are right now. Guaranteed.

grmays.com

grmays.com

Be careful though…. happiness can’t simply be created by swapping out for a new spouse, better job or thicker bank account. Happiness comes from within… never from without. Don’t buy into the ageless lie… “if only _________, then I would be happy”.

Remember that we alone have the power to be happy or not.

Our kids are watching… waiting, hoping to find some happiness in their parents. If they can’t find it in our homes or in us, where the heck do you think they’re going to go in search of it?

Something to think about.

Something to act on.

Something to leave behind.

Happiness and Hope. They give our lives richness… and beautiful context for faith to flourish. Without it, we’re dry bones.

Jesus as described in scripture; wasn’t always happy.

He was always purposeful, filled with hope and confident in His father’s plan for his life. He’s offering ALL of that to ANYONE who sincerely places their trust in Him. That’s supposed to be us… cropped-castle-mountain.jpg

Don’t over-think your faith.

Don’t under-estimate your role in the grand master plan of life.

Live on parents… Live on!

Pastor B.

PS – and a Road trip is a great way to break a slump. Fresh air, fragrant beauty and awe-inspiring views can revive even the driest soul. Trust me… I KNOW 🙂

Sad Days Happen

Do you find yourself bumping along your days, caught up in a parade of semi-tragic life circumstances, followed by a regular series of dull and disappointing developments at your work and in your personal life ?

Do you wake up each morning feeling that your about to start a slow-motion repeat of the lonely and lifeless schedule that ran you into the ground yesterday? The one that keeps filling up with dozens of domestic obligations that seem to have no real purpose? 

Are you realizing that deep beneath your half smiles and faded pleasantness….inside of you is a sense of profound and deep sadness,  dangerously close to the surface –  repeatedly being hidden/pushed  underneath. Realizing that honestly…we’re only trying to protect us, to help maintain some status quo for our weary soul?

caringvoice.org

caringvoice.org

Do you feel trapped’ by commitments made long ago and mis-understood, of a faint desperate echo in your heart that never seems to get answered… a fading question….God, where are YOU ?

I have.

What do you do with those days… those weeks… those periods of life when all is sadness and sorrow and silent suffering?

I go find my friend King David and his painfully familiar poems and songs, written over 3000 years ago, I read – and re-read his words over and over letting their truths soak deep. PSALM 40 (ESV – Biblegateway)

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.

And suddenly the darkness fades and a little ray of hope, of encouragement grows in my weary heart and God’s word revives me – restores me for one more day. One more push forward in faith, trusting that somewhere in my life, God does hear, God does answer and that He will never fail me.

Peace out my friends,

Pastor B.

Living without joy…

Given the incredible amount of sadness and loss over the past few days, and the ongoing personal issues so many of us experience at this time of year with issues of health, personal relationships and finances…it seemed appropriate to share this daily thought from the legendary theologian and author, A W Tozer; as provided by Biblegateway.com. tears_of_sadness

My hope is for you to be encouraged and strengthened by his message of hope and bittersweet truth about our faith and the ways in which God works within us to build something beautiful. Merry Christmas in this difficult year. RTP.

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For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning“.—Psalm 30:5

“But there is a limit to man’s ability to live without joy. Even Christ could endure the cross only because of the joy set before Him. The strongest steel breaks if kept too long under unrelieved tension. God knows exactly how much pressure each one of us can take. He knows how long we can endure the night, so He gives the soul relief, first by welcome glimpses of the morning star and then by the fuller light that harbingers the morning.

Slowly you will discover God’s love in your suffering. Your heart will begin to approve the whole thing. You will learn from yourself what all the schools in the world could not teach you-the healing action of faith without supporting pleasure. You will feel and understand the ministry of the night; its power to purify, to detach, to humble, to destroy the fear of death and, what is more important to you at the moment, the fear of life. And you will learn that sometimes pain can do what even joy cannot, such as exposing the vanity of earth’s trifles and filling your heart with longing for the peace of heaven.” That Incredible Christian, pp. 122-124

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The Above excerpts were from an original Article entitled; “Trials and Pain: The Ministry of the Night”. Adapted in part from Biblegateway.com – and their daily e-devotional;”Tozer on Christian Leadership”. RTP encourages you to consider subscribing to this or one of the many helpful daily resources made available for free at Biblegateway.com.

Reprinted frTozer on Christian Leadershipom Tozer on Christian Leadership by A.W. Tozer, copyright © 2001 by Zur Ltd. Used by permission of WingSpread Publishers, a division of Zur Ltd.

Tozer on Christian Leadership was compiled by Ron Eggert. Bible Gateway, 5300 Patterson Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49530 USA. .

Hope deferred…

Parents… don’t you hate it when we allow ourselves to get our hopes up and then what we truly believed in, what we desired the most…un-explicably disappears… ARRGGHHH !!! And as much as we hate that when it happens to us, we hate it a thousand times more when it happens to one of our kids. Maybe a zillion times more, more than anything else it eats us up inside, relentlessly taunting us for ever daring to hope in something beyond us, for being so foolish as to allow ourselves or our kids to believe that a dream they have nurtured for months or years might actually come true, no matter how slim the odds…

Proverbs 13:12 (a) NIV "Hope deferred makes the heart sick,.."

It can lead us to really get angry, bitter…resentful. Angry at ourselves, at the circumstances we find ourselves in and at God. After all isn’t it God who “allowed” it to happen? Isn’t He supposed to be ALL powerful, ALL knowing and ALL everything in our life? In our kids lives…? That’s what we all say on Sunday at church and Wednesday night’s when we make it to the weekly bible study, or is it just a hope too?

Careful here.

There is someone right behind you… subtly pushing your buttons. Whispering in your ear and calling to your heart and it’s not God, or a friend or a confidant to listen to… it’s much darker and he’s a master at manipulating every emotion, every fear and frustration we have into a fever pitch of doubt and anger and faithless regret. Don’t surrender to his lies, don’t give up on God and don’t give up on your dreams. No way, No how.

The truth is we often make it so easy for him to manipulate us, we run after things and then ask God to bless it. Only to find it fails in the end because we lacked the courage to be totally honest with ourselves and God. Knowing deep down we pushed ahead of His will for our own and then in desperation we blame Him for our personal and selfish choices.

But what about the things you truly, completely and totally surrender to God… only to have Him seemingly give it back to us, perfect and beautiful and pure, we eagerly grab it and run to enjoy it…only to sense He’s asking for us to give it back to Him for just a bit longer.

The heartache, the suffering, the agony we feel when our hope is taken… is enormous, unbearable and crushing in its intensity. It threatens to consume us if we don’t pull back, distancing ourselves from the situation just long enough and far enough to get some spiritual air in our lungs and remember the truth about God, about His promises… to reflect accurately about our often premature assumptions on life, and our hope and personal dreams.

What is the truth?

No matter what it feels like, regardless of our ability to understand or comprehend what’s happening to us… the truth remains steady and sure… God loves us, deeper and more sacrificial than we can comprehend, the closest thing we have to grasp the depth of His love, is the story of Jesus and the cross, or Abraham and Isaac; who after a lifetime of waiting for a son, an heir… is asked to give his child up to God as a sacrifice, without explanation, without preparation, without any warning whatsoever… and he does it!

HOW COULD HE DO THAT ? Seriously, how could Abraham actually surrender willingly his only child to God, physically let him be taken to his own death and be o.k. with it? I mean we kind of get that Jesus being God and Man has the spiritual DNA to overcome, but how does a flesh and blood ancient ancestor of ours ever get to that level of hope in God?

It has to be Abraham’s overall Faith in the character of God’s goodness. Faith that comes from the reality of a lifetime of watching a personal God keep every promise, every detail, every dream, every hope and every desire for Abraham intact regardless of the circumstance or situation. It was a summation of Abraham’s life to simply say…  he trusted God. In the big, the little and all the countless in-between issues of life. Including and most certainly as it related to his kid.

Prov 13:12 (b) " but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life" - courtesy of http://greatguys.org/stories

Time for us to wrap this up… I’ve struggled recently with one my kids being hurt by a bitter bit of hope deferred… and I’m helplessly watching from the sidelines as it’s making her heart-sick. But I know the God behind the promise to her, the truth of His character and the resolute strength of His power to make it all work out exactly as it was supposed to… but man as I wait in the in-between time of faith become reality… it’s hard. Really difficult to watch and trust that God can and will make something beautiful out of all this pain…

Hebrews 6: 13-18 “When God made his promise to Abraham, he backed it to the hilt, putting his own reputation on the line. He said, “I promise that I’ll bless you with everything I have—bless and bless and bless!” Abraham stuck it out and got everything that had been promised to him. When people make promises, they guarantee them by appeal to some authority above them so that if there is any question that they’ll make good on the promise, the authority will back them up. When God wanted to guarantee his promises, he gave his word, a rock-solid guarantee—God can’t break his word. And because his word cannot change, the promise is likewise unchangeable. ” (The Message)

But I choose to trust and believe that Hebrews 6 (above) is real and tangible for my life and my kids…and to keep trusting and believing that God’s words are true, and that satan is just a liar.

How about you…?

 brad.