Sorting Yourself Out.

There are moments we dread.

Long pauses after telling someone we ‘love’ them…opening a certified letter from the IRS… or getting ‘the’ follow up call from our doctor. Each of these moments slows our life down to mere milliseconds of movement. Our breathing stops, the sweat beads up and we want to wretch. It’s awful.

Fear grips us, gut deep and gnawing as we realize our life is out of our control. 

These ‘moment’s sort us out pretty fast. 

It’s in these moments we discover what we’re really trusting in, who we really are and who we are not, and what we actually believe about God.

Pexel.com

I’ve recently been through another season of personal upheaval. Deep changes in my work,  home life, and ministry. I find myself in Northern Maine, serving God. I’ve been removed to a distant and lonely place, isolated from my friends and family. Here on the back side of nowhere…I’ve had to change my perspective as I’ve been given some ‘extra’ time to consider and process.

Each change hit me hard. (Think like a two-by-four) Rapid blows that deformed my safe and predictable life, knocking the air out of my plans, my expectations,  my path forward.

On reflection… God it seems was calling me into something deeper and in doing so, He was ‘sorting me out’.

I believe the bible shows evidence this ‘sorting out’ is a ‘normal’ and healthy process to experience for the Christian, however when it happens to you for the first time, it gets ALL your attention.

So what’s the deal? Why all the drama and unanswered questions? Is God having a game with us or is there something deeper going on? 

I’m not for sure yet… but it seems to circle around this fact; I can’t get a grip on the essence of grace and the nature of our heavenly ‘father’ until I am desperately ‘aware’ of how much I need Him. And every so often… I forget. 

I think for many of us (myself included) we first experience God through a third person perspective. Faith is ours, but only as seen through eyes of our pastor or parents. Unfortunately it’s usually not until we personally have a few ‘moments’ in our life that we get ‘earnest’ about our own personal spiritual life.

Pexel.com

 

It seems we either turn towards God and seriously start to examine our faith or we discard it and Him.

I’ve been through this a couple of times in my life. Each time I’ve had certain supports in my life to help me through. Regular encouragement from a parent or spouse, the comfort of a ‘position’ in my career, or the structure of a scheduled life. Each of these external constructs were very helpful to keep me stable and moving forward, irregardless of the turmoil within.

But not now.

Now I’m in a new moment of life. God has engineered a space of life where I have to function and exist without any props to hold me up. No external supports or affirmations… just Him.

The empty space and silence of my life right now is maddening. I would rather run and yell and fight. But to just be silent is ridiculously hard and so lonely. 

Yet… I sense this ‘sorting out’ is an essential part of growing up, and an unavoidable part of maturing beyond myself.

What about you?

If you’re like me, you may be tempted to fill in the blanks. Move faster, get busier, schedule more stuff – anything to push back the silence and awkward pauses of our life.

Don’t do it.

Let both agree to let this new pace realign our heart and mind to be more sensitive to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit. From Abraham to King David, and Saul to St. Peter, each of the men and women of the scriptures learned to become ‘less’ and let God become “more’.

Peace out, Pastor B.

PS – No, for those who do know me personally… I’m not having a moral crisis or marital implosion, God is pushing into new territory within my heart and it’s uncomfortable. Pray for me, and I’ll pray for you.

 

 

 

“Saying YES to the dress”

Recently while serving as the parish Priest / Pastor of St. Margaret’s in Conway NH, I discussed the words of St. Paul in Colossians 3 regarding how to experience a ‘spiritual makeover’.

My wife and family loved watching the popular series “Say Yes to the Dress” (TLC cable) and despite my boredom with the topic and idea in general, I often watched along with the rest as drama after drama was displayed on the screen. Tears, fears, and frustrations were all put on vivid display as family after family struggled to agree on the best dress for each new bride to be. 

The process of trying on and shrugging off each new possible dress was agonizingly slow for me to watch, but the reactions from everyone involved was remarkably riveting. The expectations were so high for each new bride to find her ‘perfect’ fit and form, for her special – once in a lifetime – day.

So to the Kingdom of God and His bride the church. We are being asked to find our best fitting attire for our special day! Paul writes to the church at Colosse in chapter three to say these words….

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry…. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. “(ESV – Biblegateway.com) 

The language here is reminiscent of the idea of taking off “old” clothing and putting on “new” garments. The removal of the past and the putting on of the future, a metaphor for the Christian experience of ‘New Life’ in Christ.

Paul’s writing to the local church (ecclesia) to actively remove the old, and actively put on the new postures and traits of Christ. It’s more than an act of our wills though. God has given us the ‘capacity’ to act differently in the presence of the Holy Spirit. We are no longer stuck in our past habits and passions, instead we’ve been given a newness of life from the inside out.

The Christian has the ability to say ‘no’ to the old ways of our flesh, and say ‘yes’ to the new and Holy ways of Christ. It’s more than a change of attitude, it’s a change in our altitude. 

God’s life within us, begins to transform us from the innermost part of our hearts to our minds and will. The more time we spend in the presence of God and His people, the stronger the seed will grow, the less time we spend… the more dormant it will become.

When we look at the overall changes in our lives, and the significant movements from who we were… it’s encouraging. If we only focus on the tedious struggles of the here and now, we can get discouraged into believing we’re not really any different now than when we started this Christian journey of faith.

NOT SO.

God will finish the work He started in us. He will not fail us, and we can take renewed comfort in the fact that our salvation and renewal is not based on our best efforts or accomplishments along the way.

Instead we’re captured by the power of Grace and Redemption. It’s these truths that unlock our most stubborn hearts and renews our warped minds into something entirely new and fresh!

Parents and Grandparents, don’t be discouraged if you’re not seeing any apparent transformation in your offspring. God is still active and engaged in the process – deep under the surface. The seeds of faith and authenticity you’ve planted with your life will grow, and in time God’s promises will be seen and displayed. Be confident of the truth of God to grow in the most surprising of times.

SO… take the time to spend in reading a devotional and or scripture today. Invest in your own spiritual makeover, it may be time to let go of some old stuff and start putting on the new … it’s time to say “Yes” to the dress.

Peace out, Pastor B.

Sources and Links: 

Daily Lectio.net 

Daily Audio Bible 

 

Rain in the Desert

Some seasons of life are full of rocks, weeds, and dust. The ‘dry’ season can line up one after another until you’re living in the ‘desert’. A lonely time of life, usually with a prolonged cycle of frustration, unproductive labor, and unrelieved weariness.

From Abraham to Jesus Christ we see a regular pattern in the bible of the literal and metaphorical idea of ‘desert’ and famine, of isolation and wilderness. Each man or woman of God being inducted into the desert school of Holiness. 

For me, the desert was a place of beauty and suffering. A place of great extremes, searing heat without shade in the day, followed by plunging shadows and near freezing cold in the night. 

The danger of the desert is the absence of water. Exposure to heat and cold, searing sun and shivering nights leave you worn out, desperate for moisture and some safe place to hide… only there isn’t any. For travelers in the old west of America, learning the water holes and hidden reservoirs were the only way settlers could cross the vast stretches of dust and rock and survive. Spiritually we face a similar challenge as those early settlers. We have to learn to find water to survive.

My life… your life, each are composed of seasons. Some of our journey is full of abundant and fertile, filled with freshness and new life. Other seasons are stormy with turbulent changes and tragic transitions, wild and unpredictable like the spring… you get the idea. 

The season of life I had been walking through in the past seven or eight years had been quite dry. Hard labor with little tangible result. Day after week, week after month, month after year, serving without reward or visible change in my circumstances or life. Discouragement becomes frustration, frustration becomes bitterness, … and then resignation sets in.

This is the Desert.

Our souls are so thirsty. We long for more… we crave affirmation, we want to see some life growing, a hint of green in a sea of brown. 

San Luis, CO

My recent (March ’18) road trip revival was taking me through the literal desert to show me a metaphorical truth. Circumstances and conditions have been very dry in my life, no matter what I did or how hard I worked, nothing ‘seemed‘ to change. But God wasn’t absent, I was simply learning in a special school of faith. Common to every believer who has ever chosen to be a Pilgrim… committed to stay on the path of faith.

I wasn’t alone, millions of others have walked the pilgrimage of faith. Millions have faced this desert of the soul, and millions had been brought through the desert to see the life on the other side! The Exodus of the Israelites is a prime example.

But today I sensed something new and exciting for my life… Rain was coming. My life wasn’t dried up and my work wasn’t done. God had things to do in and through me. He set me on a path to San Luis, CO. Which is nowhere. It is the ‘oldest’ existing town in Colorado, 645 people and the county seat. On the edge of nothing, it has a unique Catholic mission on a high mesa overlooking the small town. There is a rocky path that winds up the side of the mesa, leading to a white adobe church, and along its trail are the Stations of the Cross. Cut in bronze sculpture, these stations are at approx 8,000 feet in elevation and the experience of walking the winding path will catch your breath in every way.

As I drove to San Luis… I remembered something I heard from God when first visiting here years before… He had put me on a pilgrimage“…. my life in Him and the ministry of being a pastor/priest wasn’t going to be a quick trip, but a long and difficult journey. Here I was coming back to the same exact spot, nine years later and decades wiser… it had all become true. Ministry and life had proven the point. But now I needed some water for my soul. I was tired and dry inside.

And as I drove, I saw something I’ve never seen before out here… “Rain”. It was raining in the desert! A large rainstorm was sweeping across the barren landscape and it was beautiful to behold! 

Driving rain washed over my car and the road, consuming the dust and dirt…covering the arid landscape in a haze of grey moisture and as it cascaded down, it was releasing the most amazing smells of sage and juniper, pinon and pine… it was amazing! A sweet and inspiring fragrance was covering the entire region and it felt like the countryside was celebrating with God for the long-awaited promise of water.  The dry was gone.

Was all of this a Foreshadowing for me….? I choose to believe so. 

When you roadtrip with God, nothing is an accident. No detail is a coincidence. He’s talking all the time, it’s the listening and observing that extends the conversation.

Rain in the Desert

For many, the desert of life has been our most recent address, the idea of rain is a long distant hope we’ve forgotten. My encouragement to you dear reader…, the rain is coming. God isn’t leaving you to wither up and die, He’s coming with new life. Hang in there. The desert isn’t forever, the seasons do change, God is active and involved in your life no matter how little you see or sense.

Remember that intimacy is gained and power is released as we wander through the desert seasons of our life.

God’s word shows us the pattern of preparation that each suffering servant endures, the school of the desert is for our growth not our punishment. It’s in the desert that we learn to dig a deeper well… it’s in the desert that we learn to be still. It’s in the desert that we unload the junk of our lives… leaving the unnecessary weight behind. It’s in the desert that we are transformed!

Think I’m crazy… check out the Prophet Isaiah… he wrote about 3000 years ago. 🙂

Snow in the mountains is tomorrow, my last day on sabbatical.

Pastor B.

 

Baby Steps…

Watching babies is one my favorite things…. those first tentative steps, the swaying and swinging limbs… arms windmilling to stay up a few seconds more… the inevitable soft “thump” of their diapered butt hitting the ground.

Baby Steps” A milestone for every parent. That beautiful moment when a toddler is born and the baby is left behind, suddenly mobile and full of explosive energy. Wobbly and eager to explore every crack and dusty corner of your home, our baby’s get that first ‘step’ of freedom. toddler and mom

Over time those memories can fade as our kids get older and the milestone’s bigger. Big potty, school, the tooth fairy… bike riding, dates, driving… graduation. Whew…. it goes FAST. That’s why we take pictures. 🙂

In the end, we’re there to encourage, comfort, and guide them on their way. We can’t actually ‘walk’ for them, but we try our best to keep them safe as they bang and crash their way across the road of life, determined to be adults before we’re ready.

If your kids are in high school… you’re already wondering where the years went.

But this blog is about you and I…Our “Baby Steps”. 

Faith is described as a ‘new’ birth, or ‘second’ birth (as in ‘born-again) in scripture. Words like infant and mature are used by St. Paul to describe the status of Christian believers in the first century. Ideas like baby and adult are used to help us understand the faith ‘walk’.

Our growth is based on trust. On obedience and choices… not words or good intentions. Like a toddler weaving their way across a dangerous highway, we may find ourselves venturing out into a hostile world without a clue. We receive the gift of Christ’s life for our’s, of the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist and then we move on. We’re “Christian’ now.

jojocooperphotography.co.uk

jojocooperphotography.co.uk

But isn’t there more to consider. More to grow into… MORE to EXPERIENCE?

Christian’s and Evangelicals in particular use the term… “walk with God” as a phrase to describe how our ‘faith’ is. But its a good description, if we appreciate its symbolism.

How IS your ‘walk’ of Faith?

Are you still waving your hands and arms like crazy to just stay upright? Are you struggling in life, feeling constantly off-balance and wobbly… landing frequently on your tush only to slowly crawl and pull yourself back up? Don’t you want to be more stable? Walking forward with a purposeful gait, balanced, sure-footed and agile enough to avoid the dangers and obstacles ahead.

In Hebrews we’re encouraged torun with endurance the race set before us’... that’s a whole lot more than just simple ‘baby steps‘.

christfitnorth.wordpress.com

christfitnorth.wordpress.com

If your faith walk is feeling more like a toddler than an adult… its time to make some personal changes in your faith life. After all… it’s a big, beautiful, and exciting world out there! Time to put your big boy pants on and live the life Christ died for you to have! 

“God, give us the courage and stamina to follow after you with a whole heart. To take bigger risks for you, to trust more, to grow into the spiritual adults you always intended us to be! Amen.”

Pastor B.

PS – and yes, Christ did say “unless you have the ‘Faith’ of a little child, you can’t enter the Kingdom of God” But that’s for another day and a separate metaphor 🙂 Suffice it to say, that’ ‘running‘ in your faith is trusting God with the certainty and simplicity of a child!

Solutions to new years resolutions…

Gotta loose 20 pounds. No more ordering French fries, No more Diet Cokes, No cigars – No cigarettes, No sugar, No nachos, No shopping, No new cars, No new credit cards, No more non-essential commitments. These are ALL past New Years resolutions I’ve made and some I’ve kept.

What about you?

So many things to improve on this year, so many habits to change and behaviors to modify… so many in fact that it can seem overwhelming to just pick “ONE”. I’m tired of that old guilt game… it’s probably more important to take this natural – “first of the year” moment of personal introspection to a different level.

How about my spiritual development, my personal growth as a man or woman of faith?

Do I consider what needs to shift or change in that part of my life? Not immediately, in fact not really until I’m faced with a trial or serious situation beyond my ability to reason out. Then I need God and then I react by starting to “bargain” with Him for some favor in the circumstance. Wouldn’t it better to have His help along the way, to walk with Him and not find myself in a panic every few weeks, rushing around to find my bible and beg Him to make a miraculous appearance…when my life gets out of control ?

This year I’m going to focus on my Faith resolutions, and trust that when my personal spiritual growth occurs…the solution to my other resolutions will suddenly be revealed.

So… 2013 is here and these are my new resolutions;

1- To spend more time with my wife in prayer.

2- To begin and end my day with scripture

3- To focus on “Love” and not “Fear” in my family and life choices.

That’s it. My big 3. If by December, I’ve successfully improved on all three of these…I’m almost sure that the other resolutions will all be past history for me. Something tells me that if I’m all about being centered in the word of God and intentional to stay in unity with my wife, then most of my own personal stuff will soon follow.

rawrebecca.wordpress.com

rawrebecca.wordpress.com

The bible says it this way… I Timothy 4:6-10 (Message – from Biblegateway.com)

6-10 You’ve been raised on the Message of the faith and have followed sound teaching. Now pass on this counsel to the followers of Jesus there, and you’ll be a good servant of Jesus. Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion. Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart. This is why we’ve thrown ourselves into this venture so totally. We’re banking on the living God, Savior of all men and women, especially believers.

So, before you buy “another” gym membership or $200.00 exercise outfit… maybe consider investing in a one – year bible or subscribing to a online aid like “The Daily Audio Bible” for free!  This would be something your whole family might appreciate in the long run… and provide us all with some peaceful and profound changes in our lives in the weeks and months ahead.

Happy New Year RTP!

Pastor Brad.