Ignite your Relationship!

A buddy and I once had a regrettably awesome idea: “Let’s have the most unforgettable Fourth of July fireworks display EVER!”

We pooled our resources and headed across the river to smuggle boxes of explosives back into West Virginia.  Rockets.  Missiles.  Screamers.  Repeaters.  Roman Candles.  Dozens of exploding mortars (those are the big, professional ones, kids).

As family and friends filled our yard, we anxiously awaited the cover of darkness so we could light up the night sky.  It was going to be … glorious!

Unfortunately, communication along the front line suffered a setback, resulting in a “slight weapons malfunction.”  To cut to the chase, a random spark ignited some misplaced mortars and … well, to be honest, all hell broke loose.

caddyshack

That didn’t go as planned (photo from Caddyshack)

Within 60 seconds, nearly $500 worth of fireworks came roaring to life and attacked in all directions.  The rockets’ red glare.  The bombs burst in the air … and on my house … and next to screaming people running for cover.  At one point I saw my wife’s cousin, just home from Iraq and still in uniform, running through the yard, tossing children over his shoulder and extracting them from the battlefield.  People were diving in the pool as my wife screamed, “Get under the water!  Stay down!”

You know that final scene from Caddyshack when Carl blows up the entire golf course?  That was child’s play compared to our epic disaster.

Continue reading

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Slow. No Wake.

slow-no-wake

Feeling worn out and frustrated from daily struggles, I recently hauled my kayak to the lake for some fishing. Fishermen know, the exhilaration of a bass on the end of your line is life-giving in more ways than one. However, on this day it was not to be.

After several hours of paddling and nothing to show for it, I found myself complaining. “Really, God? Not even one fish? How is this good for my heart? This just feels like the rest of my life–lonely, pointless striving and empty frustration!”

With His impeccable timing and oft-misunderstood sense of humor, the reply came in the form of a buoy.

SLOW – NO WAKE

“I didn’t bring you here to fish,” He was saying. “I brought you here to slow down and spend some time with me.”

I’m so thankful I didn’t catch anything that morning. God knew what I needed, and it wasn’t one more thing to handle (even a fish).

Friends, look for the buoys: SLOW – NO WAKE. They are gifts to be treasured.

The Rule of Five (…or Why we left church)

(This piece has been featured on DrAndyRoark.com and associated social media networks.)

FBGcoverLeading a group of men through a study based on the book Fathered by God (John Eldredge), we’ve been prayerfully considering what God intends us to become as men.  As we wrestle with current struggles, we’ve journeyed back through our personal stories, asking God to reveal where, why, and how our masculine spirits have been assaulted, seduced, and surrendered.  For the men who are willing to engage in such an expedition, they discover a gut-wrenching sort of liberation through the process.  It’s been the same for me, and over the years I’ve done this sort of thing many times.  It just seems God’s not done with me, yet.  (I only mention this because I want you to understand why I’m going where I’m going in this piece.)

Having poured out my soul about my marriage (I was blown away by your numerous emails and private messages–Thank you for sharing your hearts, dear ones!), you’re aware that Laura and I struggle like everyone else.  However, I’m compelled to reveal something deeper about my wife and our relationship.  To do that, I must first tell you how I’ve failed as a man.

Here’s my confession:  Continue reading

Well, that escalated quickly.

As I get older, I’m discovering a crippling dilemma endured by most of the souls I encounter:  the desire to be known chained to the horror of being noticed.

It’s like sharing a kennel with a self-destructive pair of Siamese twins hell-bent on fratricide/sororicide/suicide.

Whatever.

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Meanwhile, the tired, near-geriatric golden retriever doses next to his brother in the early morning sunlight, thumping his joyous tail, dreaming of simpler times of chasing that stupid ball through the weeds.

Finding it.

Retrieving it.

And being celebrated for simply doing what he was designed to do.

Lucky dog.

Whose years multiply at a crippling pace.

Poor fellow.

Envy and pity hang out together sometimes, too.

Breaking Rules with Jesus

(Excerpt from a larger work)

[…] Do you see the slippery slope of rule-keeping?  I know a lot of people who are poster-child Christians (when the congregation is watching), but they are among the biggest sinners I know; sinners because they deny the free heart of a living God within them.  Rest assured, they know the stories, the history, and the liturgy, but they are gloomy cynics with painted on smiles, secretly filled with disdain, regret, and reproach.  They are trapped in a miserable existence living under the tyrannical supernatural master who they say loves them infinitely, but yet, they are drowning in a sad life of judgmental rule-following.  And that, friends, is sin at its very best—and worst.  I know, because I grew up in church and I’ve been this person for too many years.

To simplify, allow me to list some things that are definite sins:  Continue reading

Starting Over. Again.

Change is scary.  I’ve certainly avoided it many times in my life.  But it’s often for the better.

I once read a book (Creating Magic, I believe) by a former Disney executive who said that most leaders fail because they are afraid of change.  They’re terrified of making the wrong decision, so they linger, making no decision at all.  Eventually, they fall behind and fade away.  Disney, on the other hand, has a different policy.  They start with a simple question:  “Is this decision reversible?”  In other words, if it doesn’t work out, can we go back?  If the answer is yes, then they go for it.  You risk some disruption and annoyance, but the reward … oh, the reward!

That’s not a bad policy to follow.  In business or life.

As we are revamping our website (Empty Stone Ministry) and our blogs, it’s become necessary to just start over in some areas.  We’ll be dismantling our old blog site and building new, personal sites to give these writings a more personal flavor and less formal style.

Thanks for stopping by.  I hope you find what you’re looking for, my friends.

-Bert