When we run and hide…

Met with a dear friend and fellow pastor the other day. We talked and caught up… he shared of his summer and the struggle he’s had with isolation and the allure of pulling back from his church community.  Of his battle with feeling alone and wanting to avoid others… it was a familiar story.

He eventually recognized this internal struggle was more than just an emotional pull or some sort of ministry fatigue. It was spiritual warfare. His church was growing, having just walked through a very difficult season of transition things were finally gaining momentum… the Kingdom of God was pressing forward into their local community and suddenly there was just a sense of unexplainable spiritual fatigue. 

The result… he pulled back from meeting with others in his community of faith for coffee or prayer. He took a ‘break’ from reading his bible. He re-arranged his personal life to allow him to ‘miss’ regular church events and generally pulled away from all things “Christian’ in order to get some ‘space’.

In time it affected his marriage, his kids and of course… his relationship with God. He was sharing with me in the ‘past-tense’ and I noted that he was embarrassed and upset with himself for letting it happen. Wryly he acknowledged he could see these same issues in others easily enough, but seemed so blind about himself…he was sharing out of accountability and support. Bringing it out into the open and letting me know he didn’t want to stay in this place of isolation any longer.

picture credit - www.doctormit.ro

picture credit – http://www.doctormit.ro

That took courage. It mean he had conviction and determination to follow Christ no matter what he was ‘feeling’ or not feeling on any particular day. It also meant, he was walking in humility and purpose. Recognizing he was fighting more than a personal battle, but experiencing spiritual resistance to the work that God was doing in and around him at his local church.

In his family.

In his marriage.

In him.

We all have felt this way in our lives. Many times I’ve wanted to run away and hide from ministry. To just get in my car and drive until I didn’t know where I was. To isolate and hibernate away from people… from problems. From the concerns of others and the petty annoyances of life.

Yet… somewhere deep within we know that’s not the better path. We sense that God is working in these empty moments of life. Developing something ‘more‘ within our heart of hearts. Growing us deeper roots for finding that ‘everlasting’ water and preparing us to serve in new ways. It’s in these moments of isolation that we have to choose to open the bible once more and read. Drinking deep of it’s wisdom and experiencing the grace of God afresh.

picture credit - thelaneblog.wordpress.com

picture credit – thelaneblog.wordpress.com

Faith is tested every day. Sometimes it’s the in-between of our lives that we are most vulnerable. The subtle shift in our attitude… the bitter taste of resentment or past injustice nudging us to pull back. To avoid.

Dear friends… we are desperately in need of each other. The battle for our hearts and minds begins with isolation and division. The enemy of our souls will seek to compromise us anyway he can. It’s easiest when we’re away from the strength and support of our spiritual family.

Stay close to your encourager’s. Don’t run. Don’t hide. Whatever your feeling…whatever you’ve done… God is already making it work for your good and His glory.

Hang in there. Stay close. Be where God has placed you.

Pastor B.

 

 

 

The Digital Umbilical…

Just off my latest Road Trip adventure… over 8200 miles in 22 days. We visited 14 states and two Canadian Provinces. Six people crammed into a Ford Expedition, it was tight… and it was tough.  shock and awe banner art

The Shock and Awe tour (The Rubyz, Alexis Slifer)  with the Tween Gospel Alliance (TGA) was what brought the six (later seven) of us together along with a world-class Illusionist (Tom Coverly), Christian pop group (1GN), a film star (Abigail Duhon – Gods not Dead) and even an emerging Christian hip-hop artist. (TJ Prodigy of Baltimore.)

Quite the crew.

Over the past summer we logged 12K plus miles, performing at each of the Creation Festivals for 2016.  On stage and in front of thousands of fans, we did our best to share the truth of Christ to a new generation. The shows were plagued by a variety of technical challenges, weather, and last-minute scheduling issues. Relationships were strained and tempers flared, but we persevered.

In between the 3 day festivals we drove and captured new video for our new Shock and Awe curriculum. (due in early 17′) The moments in-between were the most intense of any tour I’ve ever participated with.

Several major issues needed to be addressed on our little adventure. Relationships, attitudes, respect, honesty, and personal faith. All were put to the test. But one overshadowing concern captured my parental attention…

malaysianpsychology.wordpress

malaysianpsychology.wordpress

The pull of Social Media!

My charges (mostly girls) were consumed by an addiction to social media beyond any scale or scope I had imagined. Having raised three children of my own (college age now) and President of the largest Tween focused Media Group in the Christian marketplace, I thought I knew what was up…

I was wrong.

The current media studies & stats are wrong…the study #’s are way lower than what I witnessed firsthand. Our kids are being CONSUMED by a NEED to be on and respond to their social media. Like some unholy umbilical, our tweens are literally attaching their personal identities and self-worth to the success or failures of their social media feeds.

It’s disturbing how intense their need to be on Social Media is and it should gain our fullest attention as parents, pastors, and role models.

In the six or seven years between my kids adolescence and this tour… it’s clear the digital revolution has not slowed or lost momentum. It’s in fuller force than ever and it’s affecting our kids emotional, physical, and spiritual development.

Without going into details, I can say from what I observed , the level of connectivity for tweens to social media is directly forming their self-esteem, attitudes, and opinions about EVERYTHING else in their lives. They plan and arrange their entire day ‘around’ their access to Social Media. (a true sign of any unhealthy addiction or co-dependency)

Social Media has gained ‘1st place” in their priorities. Ahead of school work, pleasing their parents, friendship, sports, even their faith.

Don’t believe me? Try taking your kids smart phone away from them for an hour or two🙂

After close-quarter living with our tour tweens I came away with new concerns and fresh observations for parents and pastors.

Social Media and it’s first-place presence in our kids lives is going to impact them in major ways if not slowed or reduced. (I’m sure in more ways than we can know) girls on social media

1- Anxiety and Depression; It’s clear in the next decade society will face significant challenges with maintaining healthy relationship boundaries and self-worth due in part to the huge influence of Social Media. It’s propensity for abuse and criticism can’t help but increase the frequency and severity of emotional turmoil… anxiety, depression, and self-image issues.

2- Communication: Unchecked use of social media robs us of our social development! Our kids dependence on Social Media instead of actual personal interaction is likely to show up later as a basic lapse in social skills and reduced ability to function within a group or ‘team’.

3 Adolescence likely won’t  end at high school (something already noted by psychologists) … instead an entire generation may enter the world unprepared for adulthood. Our social media influenced teens may soon be thrust into society with an entirely different perspective on life and their role as being at the center of it all.

4- Faith as a guiding principle may be lost in the sure to emerge, surge of adolescent narcissism and personal preferences. Faith will have to be customized to fit an individuals comfort level and not allowed to interfere with their personalized’ world view.

5- Relationships (martial & friendship) will risk being serious casualties of distracted social media junkies, wooed to the digital promise of fame and celebrity and under the pressure to be attractive all – the – time….Who can compete with the perfect social media post, a line of never-ending beautiful images… Who can withstand the instant regret of the real-time flashes of digital anger, jealousy, and shame? Relationships will be under intense pressure – unlike any generation before.

6- Reality will fade and digital fantasy will invade. Our kids believe what they read, see, and hear on Social Media. The ‘other’ voices in their lives are fading…. FAST. Their reality isn’t our reality anymore.

quotesgram.com

quotesgram.com

Parents, sorry for the ‘downer’ of a blog today… but this stuff is heavy on my heart. I’m sure your already aware…. my encouragement to you is to seriously consider limiting our kids social media consumption.

It’s worth risking the rejection sure to come… be courageous and endure their anger, ire, resentment, and even hatred to slow this social media buzz and it’s hypnotizing affect on our kids.

I believe we as parents need to provide a buffer of screen-free space and time every day. A reprieve to allow our tweens to develop their own values, identity, and purpose in our families and communities of faith. 

I’m not an advocate of extreme or rigid Christian parenting at all, what I’m suggesting today isn’t a total boycott of social media. Not at all….

Instead I’m asking you to prayerfully consider what level of consumption is appropriate for your tween and young teen. Once you and your spouse have a sense of what’s healthy for your kids… set the digital boundaries in your home and determine to maintain them.

I believe no other single issue will affect your kids development, faith, and character more than cutting the social media umbilical in their tween years. 

Pastor B.

For tween ministry resources and help, check out the TGA website. (Tween Gospel Alliance)

 

 

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

The Politics of Parenting

Politics. (imagine a sneer and snort of disgust as I type these letters out…)

Not my favorite topic. I watch the flurry of Facebook and Twitter posts bang around the web as the most recent dirt of 24 hour news hits the proverbial public opinion fan.

As parents, what is an appropriate posture to take on current political events with our kids?

Tweens and Teens are very aware of the social issues of our time. Focused on the ideas of social justice, equality, and financial excess. They may however have no idea who or what Trump or Hillary represent in the way of tangible positions on real issues. Instead… they are digesting the basic stereotypes around those candidates, with social media as their exclusive source of information… teens-social-media

Given these emerging adults will one day be voters… it’s probably a wise idea to discuss the real issues and realities behind all the political banter and smear campaigns. 

Many of us have strong (right vs. left) political leanings, based on family histories… labor environments, denominational backgrounds etc… I have many friends and fellow pastors (who I respect) who take polar opposite positions on major issues.  The concept of ‘right vs. wrong’ can quickly break relationships in the world of personal politics and social media posting. (just check your FB threads today and see for yourself)

There is always someone with an axe to grind. An issue to elevate above the others and a ‘for us or against us’ attitude. This can be confused with being a good Christian or bad. 

Note the way Christ responds to the political pressures of his time in Jerusalem. He sidesteps the manipulations of the leaders and sticks with the core issues of the heart and soul. Not taking the bait to argue the points. ft-trump-clinton-1024x576

Not saying we can’t or shouldn’t have strong opinions… just reminding you to keep it all in perspective. God is sovereign. Period. We are products of divine grace and mercy, and as such our postures should reflect patience, perspective, and compassion on those we relate to and with on a regular basis. It’s our validation as a Spirit filled being.

Christ was active to speak to the issues of his time, and he chose to live in the moment without becoming a part of someone else’s agenda. In the end, his refusal to take sides made him very dangerous to the ruling classes, but it set the bar very high for us. 

So… as you ponder, meditate, and prayerfully consider who to vote for this November… do so with respect, gentleness, and kindness. The future of our nation is not going to be won or lost this election cycle. The future will be determined by our children and their faith or lack of it…

Peace out, Pastor B.

When our Faith isn’t strong enough anymore…

Debt.

The mountain of bills that spiked when you had your first kid, then when your AC went out you had to reach for a credit card to fix it. Then your tires all needed replaced and the dentist wasn’t fully covered by your work insurance. Christmas, that emergency trip to see your parents last year and a badly needed weekend retreat with you spouse all piled on top.

couple-joint-bank-account_1

yourtango.com – image source

In an effort to get your debt down and reduce the financial stresses on your family… you take a second job. Working after working so to speak. An effort to get ahead, to reset and simplify.

The IRS sends you a certified letter. Seems a return four years ago is in question. They want ten thousand dollars in back taxes for claimed expenses. The debt pile becomes a mountain.

Your life seems to be moving from bad to worse. But… this isn’t how it’s supposed to work.

Somewhere deep inside of us we always believed if we worked hard, acted with integrity… and trusted God, we would be protected. Provided for.

Where was God now?

The injustice of your situation starts to rub at your soul. Raw and open wounds spewing their pain and poison into the rest of your life. Angry all the time. Stressed, life feels stretched further than it can flex… about to break. 

Feeling the shame of failure creeping inside, we start to back away from relationships. Isolating ourselves we push others away and avoid any mention of God or Faith. The subjects are too painful to consider anymore. We only have the growing numbness. The shock of realizing that maybe we’ve been duped by the church. By the pastor… by our parents. Foolishly and blindly putting our faith into something that’s not really there… in a God who would actually care about us. About our suffering. About our…. debt.

I’m here to say… hang on. God isn’t absent. He’s here, right now. 

The struggle isn’t without purpose. 

The relationship you crave is real. 

God hasn’t, can’t abandon you. His character is faithfulness… forever. 

I don’t know fully why He allows such struggle in our lives… but I know Him.

losing-faith

lam-network.com

He gave us the Holy Spirit… the Paraclete. Not just for comfort and help, but to anchor us to Him when we can’t hold on any longer.

Read these words and remember the promise of God again.

Romans 8: 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (ESV) Source – BibleGateway.com 

Claim it’s truth no matter what it seem’s like in your life. These are the words of God, not man. They can’t be broken or lost… they last forever and their promise is assured.

He is FAITHFUL.

Pastor B.

PS – PRAY… with your spouse.

Why Your “Margin” Matters as a Parent…

Our lives are too busy. 

We live beyond our means financially and in every other way. Too many personal commitments. Too stretched to perform well. Too far behind on goals. Too deep in debt. Too late to be on time. We live too fast and on the ‘margin’ of insanity.

Some call it the ‘rat’ race.

Some say we’re supposed to ‘burn brightly” before we go.

mivajeonline.blogspot.com

 

Some are too emotionally anxious to slow down and deal with whatever chases behind.

In time we adjust our expectations to include near exhaustion as our ‘normal’. Burning, pushing, forcing ourselves to do ‘one-more’ thing. We extend ourselves beyond the breaking point and ask for God to give us strength. When we collapse at night we’re too tired to talk, pray, or listen.

Please understand… we were not created to live like this.

The idea of “Sabbath” is a sacred concept that has been slowing leaking out of modern life. 

We place our families in harm’s way when we violate the concept of ‘rest’ for ‘getting-ahead’. We cram more into our lives on the weekends, rather than less. We push harder when we’re supposed to stop.

So, let’s just STOP!

Carve Sunday out each week for you and your family to stop running. A sacred space to reconnect and simply rest. 

It’s a divine commandment that began at creation and remains today. We would be wise to heed the counsel of God and determine to move towards restoring a healthy ‘margin’ for our lives.

The space we need to recharge, to gather and worship with our communities of Faith has been slowly eroding inside the church and out, and we all suffer for it. Let’s stop filling our weekends and simplify our lives enough to truly slow down.

It’s hard to do, but totally worth it. Start by praying for wisdom and insight from God as to what things in your life are ‘unhealthy’ obligations. 

As parents… as families of Faith, nothing else really matters.

Pastor B.