RoadTrip Europe… an Epic Adventure and Epiphany

We long to leave our ‘mark’ on our kids. To transfer some of the essential threads of wisdom and knowledge acquired from our travels… a communication of our heart to theirs.

For my wife Paige and I… this was the trip to do it.

The sobriety of seeing our lives racing into middle age and the growing, stark, shadows of mortality… led us to take the plunge as parents. To invest in one last-epic-roadtrip, an adventure to share as a family before everyone scattered.We could see our lives forever changing with marriages and in-laws, grandbabies and graduations. All of what has been would end… and what will be was about to begin.

A rite of passage from following our lead… to blazing their own path. A time to expand their lives from what they knew to what ‘could – be’. As the saying goes, “it was time to make old ceilings into new floors!” 

After a careful scrutiny of our schedules… it was quickly determined we only had one week to make a European roadtrip a reality. Christmas day to New Year’s day. Seven days to hit the road and rails, to fly over the big pond and back. Literally, we had only one week out of a year when all five of us could travel freely and still satisfy our work, education, and ministry commitments.

So… Christmas being our ‘favorite’ time of year… we determined to surprise them by planning the entire trip without telling them where or when we would be… just letting them know they would need a passport, 1 backpack for clothes and a pair of good walking shoes.

Three days into the planning we were exhausted. Coordinating flights, train schedules, hotels in foreign countries and sightseeing tours was intensely complicated and very difficult to sort out the ‘good’ from the ‘hype’.

As an experienced domestic and Canadian traveller, I used Southwest Airlines, my mobile Marriot app and the popular Trip Advisor website for 90% of my own booking. For a European trip… this was a whole different ball-game.

Try booking rail tickets 2 months in advance for five from Zurich to Rome and see how complicated things get with Google? 

Long story short… we discovered a very simple, and very helpful social media site known as “Thumbtack“. A professional services finder, this app / site is an amazing and simple way to get Travel agencies to bid on your trip. You can give them a basic budget, dates, preferred countries to visit and personal preferences for hotels and travel and zing-zap, they get you up to five bids from different agencies to compare. It saved us thousands of dollars and took the hassle out of planning such a major trip. Highly recommended.

In a few days we had chosen our agency, locked in a budget, purchased airfare, rail tickets, hotels, sightseeing tours and had an itinerary to follow from day one to seven. A wonderful experience for us, the agency we settled on was out of San Francisco, and did a tremendous and economical job of getting us the best hotel locations, train seats, and tours we could afford. Their familiarity with the european world and specific cities we wanted to visit was so helpful and so much better than trying to figure it all out piece by piece from various websites, reviews, and articles. (Terra Travel Group link)

So how did this ‘Epic” trip go?

Tune in later to find out… let’s just say it didn’t disappoint. ( this is one of 3 blog posts to detail out our European adventure)

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St. Peter’s Square – Dec ’16

Our next seven days would become a reference point from which all of our family history could be considered. The passion and excitement of new discoveries would be forever shared between us… an epic treasure of sight and sound, flavors and feelings… an awesome and unforgettable gift for the senses and spirit to touch and absorb.

An “Epiphany” of sorts…

It reminded me of the “fullness” of God’s love for us… His desire in wanting us to experience His world with all of it’s richness and beauty, to explore and expand on our knowledge of what is good, and true, and right in life.

St. Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus says it like this… “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every familyin heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV) Biblegateway source. 

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)

 

 

Christian Tradition… ADVENT

Advent is an ancient Christian tradition of intentionally ‘waiting‘ and ‘looking’ for God’s coming. As early as the 4th century, Christian converts were preparing for Christ’s return. Over a period of four weeks, starting in late November they would fast and pray in an earnest attempt to renew their hearts and minds for Christ’s coming.

This has evolved into a modern day tradition of lighting four candles (Hope / Love / Joy / Peace)  over four weeks, each candle representing a specific theme and truth about Christ. We anticipate the arrival of Christmas and by parallel the birth of Christ… or “Advent”. But we also should consider the original intent of our ancient Church fathers who sincerely believed that Christ was about to return to earth.

Advent Candles

Advent Candles

So as millions of Christian families light their advent candles or hang their Advent wreaths this Christmas season… consider the possibility that we are anticipating more than a baby’s birth, but a King’s return to earth!

For families looking to re-emphasize the deeper meaning of Christ-Mass, ADVENT is a wonderful way to keep the reason for the season fresh and real for our kids. Simple and easy to do… Advent candles allow for families of faith to ponder the virtues of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace… a time to reflect on our amazing heritage.

Merry Christmas from Road Trip Parenting! 

PS – To find out more about the history of Advent or to start your own family tradition – check out Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts” or the free onlineAWANA Advent Devotional!

Celebrating the “Heroes” in our Lives!

It’s easy to go through life stuck on survival mode, constantly looking for trouble, resolved to avoid any more unwanted entanglements and wary of those who would seek to deceive or mislead us. We stumble and we fall, often alone. Fearful of trusting, fearful of ever letting anyone else back into our hearts deep enough to matter, fearful of allowing them to have enough of our trust to make us vulnerable again.

We guard ourselves diligently from being too transparent, from being too honest with those we live around or with, we build a wall out of our fears and past betrayals. A wall that invisibly holds others at a safe distance and keeps us from ever being in danger of getting too close, becoming too weak, of having to rely on others for anything.

image courtesy of launchfish.com

What if we had the courage to get up off our proverbial cynical knees and stand on our own two feet again? What if we were willing but unsure of how to risk our hearts in friendship, in love and in trust? We would need a hero to show us the way, a Clark Kent in anonymous attire who becomes Superman at the last-minute when the world is about to collapse, and saves us all.

Heronoun, a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

The obvious parallel for Christians remains… Jesus the Christ is our ultimate hero. The God who became man to save us all, the humble and heroic mixed into one, a savior, a king and a carpenter. We can always look to Jesus as the “author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despised the shame...” (Hebrews 12:1-2) We can always look to Him as an inspiration of our ultimate faith in God’s character and in God’s strength to save man from himself. But what about everyday hero’s?

What about the lives of those God has redeemed, of the hearts that have been restored, and the families renewed because someone allowed God to be God in their lives. Because someone trusted one more time, believed one more time that maybe Jesus really was able to fix their mess, that maybe Jesus really could heal their wounded hearts and set them free from the chains of fear and anxiety and moral failures.

I have a friend like that…maybe you do too? Someone who has been wounded desperately inside their heart, so broken and battered by the past, so familiar with the chill of isolating pain, that no one would have faulted them for staying down. For not daring to stand back up. Someone who had every right to be bitter, defensive and cynical for the rest of their days, but decided to trust one more time in their faith and really truly trust that Jesus was able to be everything…again.

A person who would do that, might even be considered an everyday Hero. A Clark Kent kind of guy, someone we might find we work with and around everyday. I know a guy just like that…a man who as a busy dad has had no extra time for himself, but always makes the time for his wife and kids, yet never complains. A visionary who has risked his professional reputation to see an idea become a ministry and a concern become a movement for pre-teen kids to find purpose in their lives. A man who has failed as visibility as he succeeded, in work, in ministry and in marriage, yet he decided to get back up and continues to try again. (Proverbs 24:16)

He stays behind the scenes whenever possible, content to let others get the credit, happy to see the idea he planted become the catalyst for change in another’s name. A man who has learned to humble himself and wait on God for things, after learning first hand of the pain of pushing ahead. Open, honest and transparent, his life is a reflection of dramatic personal change, of transformation. A man who now walks with a “limp”, like a Jacob who wrestled with the angel… never to be the same again.

A man whose life is now a rich testament to the grace and power of God to change and renew and restore those of us who will dare to surrender. He’s a Hero. I’ve watched him from up close now for over three years, I’ve seen the good and the bad days come and go. I’ve watched the tragedies and the triumphs rise and fall, but inside the core of him… an extraordinary strength remains. Strength that comes from having Jesus as your anchor, from trusting in someone and something greater than yourself.

Robert Beeson - Everyday HERO !

Robert Beeson – Everyday HERO !

So, Happy birthday to my dear comrade, friend and amigo, Robert Beeson. If you didn’t know from the hints above, he’s the minor “Hero” of this story… A man of integrity, a faithful father, husband, and visionary heart of i-Shine  and above all… a genuine Man of God.

He’s the everyday Hero I choose to Celebrate today. How about you?

HBD Robert, we love you and hope your day is full of adventure and joy !

Brad.

PS – I chose not to display any personal pictures which might embarrass you 🙂 at least for this year…

Lung Leaving Day !

Wanted to get this blog post out for our readers. Better late than never.

February 2, 2015 was LUNG LEAVING DAY – find out more about an incredible story of courage and survival from Heather Von St. James !  We’re happy to share of her inspiring story as a mother and Mesothelioma survivor and encourage you to as well.

Her website and story serve as a starting place for families struggling with this terrible disease or believe they have been exposed to Asbestos. Her blog/web-site provides a simple way for you to begin to educate yourself about the disease, the options, and support groups available.

http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/#.VNOgzCuooW8

Heather Von St. James and Family

DisclaimerLung Leaving Day and related web pages appear to have been sponsored by a legal firm who have represented Mesothelioma patients. Neither Road Trip Parenting or Pastor Brad Mathias are affiliated or compensated in any way for this blog post.  

Best,

Pastor B.

For those feeling left behind this Christmas!

OBSCURE + INSIGNIFICANT

Read Luke 2:1–7.

In a world where pop culture demands fame for significance, Luke’s narrative of the Christ child seems out of place. Each Christmas, I feel a little odd as I think about this classic Advent passage in Chapter 2. How strange to our modern sensibilities it is. I can’t help but remember the royal baby watch in England. A worldwide media sensation with billions of obsessed fans watched as Prince William and Kate prepared for their son to be born. Every network, newspaper, and radio station around the globe waited desperately for news of his arrival.

flowers-kid.com

flowers-kid.com

Why not with Jesus?

How different God’s ways really are from our own. We naturally attach great significance to those born to nobility and wealth, admiring the popular and the famous while ignoring the everyday and common among us. If we had planned things, Jesus would have been born with front-page news coverage and exclusive birth pictures on the cover of People magazine. God’s plan was much less “noticeable.”

His purposes are not tied to outward fame or success and our eternal significance isn’t dependent on the number of social media followers we have. Instead, Luke 2 helps us all slow down and reevaluate our perspectives on what makes for true significance. The very obscurity of this story challenges us to weigh carefully how we measure the importance of others and how we see ourselves.

The backwater town of Bethlehem with its lowly manger scene urges me to marvel once again at the power of God at work in the lives of the seemingly ordinary and insignificant. In all the rush that is the Christmas holiday, I can feel lost, obscure, and insignificant next to the sensational world rushing by.

Mary and Joseph seemed to be apparently ordinary people in the midst of an ordinary and obscure place. Shunned and ignored, they welcomed the birth of THE royal Son without the world even noticing. To not dismiss the ordinary in our world as insignificant is a beautiful reminder each Christmas.

APPLICATION

Reading this passage can be a timely encouragement to remember how God really sees us. Sometimes we can feel overlooked, alone, and insignificant in our “ordinary” lives, questioning if God really knows who we are or what we’re doing as His servants. Like Mary and Joseph, God can seem distant and unconcerned with our lives, but the spiritual reality is much different than we can see or feel in the moment. Write down or journal a life situation that has you feeling “forgotten” by God, then ask Him for renewed understanding of how different His ways are than our own in that specific circumstance.

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For RTP readers, this post was originally written for the 2014 Awana Advent Devotional – and has several distinct age specific applications available for families and couples to enjoy this Christmas.

Merry Christmas – Pastor B.

Finding HOPE again in Advent

Advent is upon us. That ancient Christian tradition of looking for the “coming” Kings arrival is a significant cornerstone to understanding and renewing the Christian context for Christ-Mass in your life.

Week One focuses our hearts and minds on the “HOPE” of Christ’s coming.

Not in a one-dimensional consideration of a Christ child-birth two thousand years ago…but in a multi-dimensional reminder of how Christ has come, is coming now, and will some day physically return to set everything ‘right’. It’s this uniquely Christian truth and its immense implications that can restore our HOPE.

Christmas is more than a single moment of time each year, it’s bigger than that.

Christmas is more than a date to cherish and celebrate and enjoy as family, it’s deeper than that.

Christmas is the truth of God’s love in action. The exclamation point on mankind’s salvation and the intervention of a loving Father to restore His lost sons and daughters.

simplyorthodox.tumblr.com

simplyorthodox.tumblr.com

When we pause long enough to shut out the commercial excess and ever-growing media frenzy of our American cultural obsession with ‘stuff,  we make room for something ‘other to enter our world.

An opportunity to ignore the marketing half-truths that make us uneasy and dis-satisfied with our lives, a chance to remember the truth and restore our HOPE that Christ is still the ultimate cornerstone of  our Christ-Mass.

Parents, friends and families of faith… you know this all already, just a seasonal reminder to not give in to the hype and hysteria of ONLY gathering gifts this year… lets focus anew on the truest expression of HOPE we could ever ask for.

Jesus…. The Christ.

Pastor B.