Parenting Essentials #5 – Fighting Single Parent Stigma!

Single Parent Stigma and the Church!

1/3 of all households are led by a single parent. (34%) Today’s single parents are struggling to engage with the church and with their faith. Being ‘alone’ and unsupported by the Christian culture is something solo parents often ‘feel’, no matter what a local community of faith might project.

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The battle for single parents is real. It’s hard enough to raise our children to be responsible and well-balanced citizens, to provide for their well-being, and keep up with the all the myriad of demands that life throws at us. The challenge to do that without a spouse is nearly impossible. Single parents are overwhelmed by it all in the best of circumstances, and they need our help.

The role of church in coming along side of single parents has largely been a question. Many single parents feel abandoned or judged by the church and lack the confidence to enter the doors of a church to ask for help.

As parents, the demands of doing both a father and mother’s job with their kids is intimidating and discouraging. We as Christ-followers are challenged to help the “widows and orphans” as a manifestation of our ‘true religion”. (James 1:27)

What role should the church play in supporting a single parent? Why?

The growing needs and complex issues surrounding single parent families are not going away, and as our culture continues to shift… the role of family will obviously continue to grow and stretch. The church will need to stretch and grow with those changes and reach to meet the needs of parents in crisis.  A big part of that change within the church will be the priority of creating ministries specifically focused on the needs of the single parent family.

Our interview today explores some of the ‘stigma’s associated with Single parent living, and how to engage with your local church in a way that will help and not hurt you! We invite you to listen in as Nikki tells her story of redemption and renewal!

 About Nikki Leonti Edgar:

Nikki Leonti started her music career as a successful teen gospel singer. She went on to lend her vocals as a backing singer for artists such as Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, CeeLo Green, Demi Lovato & Amy Grant to name a few. As a sought-after vocalist in Los Angeles she contributes her talent to Fox’s hit show “Glee” as well as “American Idol”, “The Voice”, CW’s “Oh Sit” and many others!

Author of “All things Beautiful” 31 Devotionals for single moms!

Interview Links:

Podcast Interview Link:  https://soundcloud.com/brilliantlybrave/ep59-nikki-leonti-edgar

YouTube Link of interview:  https://youtu.be/5CgGxmHJLMk

Solo Parent Society Link: https://soloparentsociety.com/

Brilliantly Brave Parenting Website Link: https://brilliantlybraveparenting.com

“All things beautiful” Devotional Link: https://www.amazon.com/All-Things-Beautiful-Devotions-Single/dp/1424556287

Notable Quotes:

Fact: 34% of parents are single parent families.

“In the middle of struggling… that’s where the GOOD stuff happens” – Nikki Leonti Edgar

“Single parents struggle with feeling like a ‘failure’ when dealing with the issues single parents face in raising a family.”

“It’s difficult for Single Parents (SP) to know how to ask for help when you feel isolated and alone”

“SP’s need lifelines. Take the time to throw a lifeline to a single parent you know.”

“Ways to help SP’s in your life or church. – Babysitting – handyman services – errands – meals at home!”

Essentials for Parents #3 – A Heritage of Faith

Essentials of Parenting #3.Living out a Heritage of Faith

God calls us as parents to do amazing things with our lives! We can’t follow God and keep Him in a safe and well-defined box, He will call us to follow Him and into strange and often unfamiliar places. Yes, being a parent is often strange and unfamiliar enough, but God may be calling each of us to step further out and do more outside of the comfort of our home.  Our inspiration for this post is Patti Garibay, founder of American Heritage Girls, and her story is so encouraging for parents to hear!

As Patti shares of her story it becomes very clear, God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts… so the path God leads us to follow is often overwhelmingly big and seemingly impossible. God has a long, long, history of calling ordinary men and women to do extraordinary things.

Our talents and education, preparation and confidence have nothing to do with God’s ability to use us for His plans. As parents we may feel like we’re totally out of it, barely surviving our responsibilities and feeling very much like a failure, but God has a habit of using people like us to do impossible things. 

We can be used by God despite our shortcomings and fears and irregardless of our failures and frustrations. God works with those who will simply take the time to listen and trust it enough to follow.

As parents its our lifetime of learning and trusting God that creates the foundation of a genuine “Heritage of Faith’.  It’s not our ‘mistake’ free lives or career successes that will win our kids hearts, instead it’s the grace we receive and share that paves the way for God to work.

Patti Garibay heard God’s cry as a stay at home mother and obeyed in faith. The result, the formation of “American Heritage Girls” and twenty-five years later, hundreds of thousands of girls have been influenced and shaped by a heritage of faith, passed down from a stay at home mom’s obedience to God.

Source AHG

Some points of advice from her Season 1 interview:

  • We need to “listen’ and be aware of the subtle requests that God nudges us to do. It is NOT our life, we are on loan to God, and we can’t forget that God has plans for us that are bigger than our own. The same is true for our children.
  • Our lives as parents’ matter, we’re not in control but we are able to influence and shape our kids while we’re given the opportunity. What we do as spouses and parents will impact our kids for generations and passing along a heritage of faith requires parents who will consistently chose to put God’s will and plans above their own, both for themselves and for their kids.
  • Our experiences as parents and families will be less than perfect or ideal, we must trust that God can use us and our kids regardless of our ‘performance’. We can trust God to walk us into the opportunities and paths that we are meant to follow.
  • Our kids and our plans can’t be driven by our ambition or pride, it’s not about us. EGO is Edging God Out, and we can’t do that as Christians.
  • God will empower us to see beyond our own lives, to see the needs of those around us and to give us the strength and courage to act boldly!
  • Change is NOT a bad thing. The Lord has a plan for us, and change may be what is exactly necessary for us and our spiritual life. We don’t need to be afraid to follow the leading of God, we need to step out of the boat and walk on water.

About Patti Garibay: Patti Garibay is founder and Executive Director of the national character development organization, the American Heritage Girls. Educated at the Ohio State University with a major in secondary education and French, Patti shares a love of history and youth. Patti and her husband Pat, of thirty-nine years, are blessed with four grown children, three girls and a boy, five grandsons and two granddaughters.

Related Links; 

Podcast Interview:

American Heritage Girls 

iShine Ministries / Tween Gospel Alliance 

Remember the truth… Dig out the lies

“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (ESV) 

The passage above is out of the New Testament Gospels in the bible. The Physician and Apostle Luke wrote this account of arguably ‘the’ most complete parable ever shared by Jesus about His coming Kingdom.  (Luke 8:11-15)

Here’s the 30,000 foot view… we have to ‘own’ and take  good care of the promises and truths we receive from God. If we don’t, we risk losing the truth and wandering further and further from what we were meant to be and do.

The word of God is the seed in the parable, it comes from being in the presence of God. (Prayer, Worship, Scripture, Sermons, Dreams, Visions)  When we hear the word of God speaking to us about our life, about who we are, and what He has called us to be… we must ‘receive’ it and keep a firm hold on it. We can’t let it fly by and decide to come back to it later. (Think of the “manna’ in the old testament – good for only one day)

Image Source – Pexel.com

We ‘hear’ with our hearts, not our ears. Yes, our senses work off of vibration and interpretation of the audible sensory organs, but this parable is focused on the ‘ears’ of our hearts. The passions and pursuits of our life come from the desires of our heart. The struggles and destructive habits we wrestle with also come from our hearts. What we believe about ourselves is all important, and what God speaks to us is powerful and unstoppable truth if it’s received and believed. In this parable, when we believe the words of God, the seed of our life is implanted into the soil of our heart.

Here the battle begins – God’s Word is contested at the “heart” level and before it can become implanted deep enough to affect our behaviors and beliefs  we must “receive” it guard it as our own.

We have an enemy, the deceiver and accuser of the brethren and he is strategic and aggressive in his desire to steal our identities and purpose in Christ… he wants to;

  • Steal our faith
  • Dash our hope
  • Distract our attention
  • Prevent us from receiving the Word as ours
  • De-legitimize the word as inaccurate & unreliable
  • To convince us we are unworthy – God’s will and blessing is unattainable for us.

In the parable Jesus differentiates between long-term growth and short-term, in doing so He reveals that to grow and mature we have to not only “receive” the word and claim it as our own (Implant the Seed), but we have to clean up our hearts by throwing out the rocks and tending to the weeds.

Without removing the rocks and tending to our soil we won’t grow deep enough roots to endure and mature. We need our life to grow, for our hearts to expand deeper until we have established a regular access to tap the living water of God’s truth.  (Psalm 1)

source – Pexel.com

Rocks are the hardened spaces and places in our lives where we cannot compromise or forgive – areas of disbelief and hurt, chronic wounds that form emotional walls and barriers between us and God. Those struggles we have given up on ever overcoming, those lies we accept… they block us from receiving the living water. Rocks keep us from growing beyond our wounds into stronger and mature disciples. Men and women who become stronger, more stable, and more consistent in their Christian life.

Weeding our garden = simplifying our lives. Once we grow roots, we gain stability and experience more and more sustained spiritual growth, our faith gains substance and sustainability – we elevate our perspective and see our lives differently.

Take away truths;

1. “Am I tending to the garden of my heart?

2. Have I received and believed what God has told me about Himself, about myself… about others? If not, I may need to remember the truth and dig out the lies.

Peace out, Pastor B.

Am I running the right race?

This week, we consider the metaphor of “Athletics” as our entrance into this passionate principle of Christian living.

Paul’s describing the (his) call to ministry as similar to running a race, an illustration that his audience would recognize and appreciate. Athletic heroes and achievements were as huge in Paul’s time as it is in ours. The influence of the Greek culture included the Olympic ideals of athletic excellence and the cult fame of being a champion.

Let’s consider something similar in our time… the cult of athletics is alive and well – fan worship is enormous. Just consider the recent success of the New England Patriot football team and the accomplishments of QB Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick. Their unprecedented record and longevity of winning has established  them as legends in the annals of the NFL.

Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The effort and sacrifice required to earn such a reputation and record on the field is enormous and widely regarded as obsessive. Such dedication and personal commitment is remarkable and requires a year around dedication to train, diet, and avoid unhealthy habits or behaviors to ensure their bodies and minds are free of any containment’s or conditions that might reduce their athletic strength or skill.

This extreme level of athletic effort and prolonged discipline of will is the exact context that Paul uses to describe his focus and attention to ministry and personal spiritual living.

Assuming then that our lives are full of options – of different paths to choose from, we have lots of possibilities to race after, from prosperous careers to  acclaim and celebrity – we have our pick of races to run in – The question becomes… what race are you and I running? 

“I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. “

Paul’s life had changed dramatically from that of a scholar to that of an evangelist. His focus and attention were completely captured by the truth of the Gospel. His experience with God had redirected his energies to serving the needs of others more than himself.

Many of us get caught running the wrong race…not that ‘other’ races in life are bad or wrong – but they are “less” than the pursuit of God’s Kingdom. Remember the words of Jesus…in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 7

 “31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Paul was not focused on “earthly” achievements – he was focused on one primary goal, to finish the work that God had given him to do. Paul’s work assignment of planting churches across the Roman empire was specific to him, but we all share the bigger picture – God has entrusted each of us with a series of unique and specific assignments to oversee in our lifetime.

Body Tithe University

 

We are all called to be a part of the Christ mission on earth. Each of us are prompted by the Holy Spirit to function as an ambassador and agent of our Heavenly Father. Like Jesus at the temple – Paul in His Roman jail – we all have a specific place – time – and specific responsibilities customized for our specific gifts and personalities.

For the Christ-believer, we must be in pursuit of the presence of God. It drives us to go and do and risk everything – to follow is to obey. For the Christian there is always a Christ-commission that is meant become the prime directive of their life. Everything else is meant to be measured by that – all other considerations are meant to be reduced under the divine commission.

If you’re not sure what that is…it maybe time to ask until you get an answer. When we ask specific questions , God will clarify specifically.

Romans 12: 1-2 “ I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” 

 Paul is making the point to the church at Corinth, don’t just rush around without a specific purpose or clear assignment.  Don’t rush into ministries you’re not called or equipped to perform – those will only exhaust you and wear you out. It’s important to engage with your specific God breathed task or assignment.

Many times we want to be just “like” a leader or mentor we admire – we model our lives and actions to match theirs and assume God would want us to follow in their footsteps… rarely is that so. We can waste years of our lives in frustration and confusion trying understand why our hard work and dedication isn’t showing any fruit. Paul reminds us to be clear on what we’ve been called to be and do.

  1. Do we know we are in a “race” – or are we standing on the sideline?
  2. Are we running with a light enough pack – or is it too heavy to win the race?
  3. Are we clear on what our purpose is – or are we living confused and frustrated?

Life is full of “races” to run – but only one race is truly essential. We have to be careful to focus ourselves in winning the right race.

Father Brad Mathias – First shared at St. Margarets Anglican Church in Conway NH

Parenting through an eating disorder

*Statistics say that 3 out of 4 women struggle with an unhealthy relationship with food.

Ever ask yourself if that might be you? Or your daughter… wife, best friend?

Might be time to consider expanding your circle of trust and risk sharing that struggle. What about taking the step to engage with someone or something that has helped thousands get free? It takes courage and humility to admit our need for help, and it takes the support of someone who walked before us.

Let me introduce a friend and expert on the subject, Constance Rhodes – she’s the founder and CEO of “Finding Balance” and she can help.  Her help saved my daughter’s life six years ago and it might do the same  for you or someone you know. Someone who’s fighting in despair and feels all alone and about to give up.

Eating disorders and poor self-esteem related to body image are arguably the most common and painful struggle any parent with teens will ever face. 

I’ve done it. It’s rough. Seriously dark stuff to wrestle with by yourself.  No one wants to over-react, to provoke things further, but if you’re noticing a pattern… a trend, then its very likely real.

You may wonder if this important enough to risk the anger and resentment? It is.

First step... admit there might be a problem. 

Second… ask for help. 

Third… listen to the Brilliantly Brave Parenting podcast and reach out to Finding Balance and get some honest and tested advice. 

With all my heart…

Pastor Brad.

*FindingBalance interview – BBP Podcast.

Suffering that leads us to Surrender

Reading through the scriptures you can’t help but notice a pattern… the histories and testimonies of the patriarchs, prophets, priests, and kings all point to a common thread they share.

Suffering.

Sounds ominous, but it seems to be ‘the’ process God allows or uses to accomplish His will, His purposes in our lives.

The struggle of our will against God’s plan seems to work as the catalyst for our transformation. (think Jacob with the Angel) 

We desire and direct our lives to a specific point, we include God and prayerfully ask for His blessing to our efforts, but often we find our way in decline and the struggle to proceed becomes harder and harder to sustain. It’s in this pain that we suffer and wait for answers, confused by the lack of progress or success and we wonder if God is against us.

Rembrandt – Jacob wrestling with the angel. Google art project

He’s not against us. NEVER ever accept that lie. All of History reminds us of His passionate pursuit of our hearts! The great struggle of our faith is to cling steadfastly to this truth.

I’m learning a lot about these struggles and suffering moments right now, finding that it’s in these ‘storms’ of life that I am redirected from pursuing God as a means to ‘my’ progress. He’s more than a part of my plan, He’s bigger than all my plans and ambitions, He’s the entire point of it all. We have to reorient our lives around HIM.

We grow when we surrender our need to ‘know’ and accept His goodness for today and trust it will continue into tomorrow. I believe things radically changed in my life when I admitted my divided heart. That I was only partially in love with God and partially trying to manipulate Him into giving me what I thought I needed… but definitely wanted. I believe in the end He wants to be the focus and center of all my desire. He’s passionate to give us His best, and He wants to become number one, the focus of our attention and love. 

The suffering of our lives puts those inconsistencies of our motives into the floodlights of God’s divine illumination – these personal epiphanies are the mile markers in our journey of faith. They become the moments of clear understanding and  lead us to repentance, but often only come when we are exhausted and overwhelmed. It’s in those depths of despair that we finally surrender to God and in doing so they become the keys to our spiritual growth and maturity.

Brennan Manning in his book ‘Ruthless Trust” notes that we desire to have ‘clarity’ in our lives, often praying for it… but he points out that God wants us to have ‘trust’ in His goodness and His plan for our lives. There is a difference. (my paraphrase)

Clarity is knowledge of what’s coming. Trust is belief that God is in control of the future and that His plans are better than ours. Surrendering control is the door to us finding His peace and freedom from fear… easy to type, hard to act on.

Lord Help us ‘trust’ you in our suffering, help us to continue to believe in your goodness and give up our need to know and simply accept your leading us to a better place, that your plans can replace our own.

Blessings to you – Pastor B.

Standing Still

For me… the idea of movement and progress is equated to purpose, value, and success.  I’m learning to reconsider that premise.  

It’s no secret I am active and busy 18 hours a day / 7 days a week / 365 days a year. I’ve made a lifelong habit of getting up early and working before the day even dawns and then pushing through until I drop at the end of my day. I’ve worked two jobs most of my life, each stressful and exhausting in their own right.

I’ve even taken pride in my work ethic, inwardly satisfied with my extra effort and confident in my ability to push through difficult moments when others would just quit. 

This is a reflection of the American ideal, a shadow of the family heritage I inherited of hard work, dedication, and extra effort to do things with ‘excellence’.  It was a trait my dad carried to his grave, and his dad before him… and his great “Pop” before him… many of us can identify.  

Here’s the rub. It’s not healthy or even seen by God as a spiritual strength, but rather as a hindrance, even a deception.

The culture we live in has long celebrated the achievements of the independent and hard-working, noting that success doesn’t happen by accident… “that luck is merely a matter of preparation meeting opportunity”. (Oprah)  

It’s all true. We can work harder, go further, and do more with extreme effort and tenacity. But it’s NOT a spiritual principle that Jesus taught or the bible supports.

The first chapters of the bible illustrate the need for rest…  with the conception of a seventh day.

The power of God is repeatedly revealed to the nation of Israel when they would stop, and stand still. THEN… they would see the salvation of the Lord. 

The stepping back and going away habit of Jesus is repeated in every gospel book in the bible. He is constantly hiding from the crowds, and his disciples to sneak off to a mountain where he can find relief from the hurry up. 

The power or strength of God is released in our weakness according to Paul.

The question gets very specific when we look directly at these ideas and images… how often do we ‘rest’. How frequently do we allow ourselves to stop working, stop tinkering with stuff, and just be ‘still’?

There will always be something of God absent in us until we do. 

“Be STILL”