Conquering the Comparison Curse

Struggling with the feelings of inadequacy, shame, guilt… weakness, all a normal part of the human condition. When you’re a parent, it amps up. The incalculable burden of our kids success is added to the already tenuous personal struggle of affirmation and healthy self confidence. 

If your awake, you know there’s an ongoing struggle around social media and the constant bombardment of filtered images showing ‘perfect‘ mom’s and dad’s on perfect vacations with perfect kids. We can’t allow the highlight reel of other people’s lives to eclipse the reality and importance of our life. My parenting identity has to be built on way more than popularity and sweet photos of us all ‘winning’.

Our kids need so much more than another sports medal or scholastic scholarship to post about on Facebook. Mom and dad’s influence can’t be reduced to how close we are to our ideal weight, having perfect hair,  or raising our children in postcard perfect homes and fashion forward wardrobes.  Please!

Parents, let’s stop this nonsense. We have to fight through the counterfeit lives we see on social media  and break the curse of comparison living. 

Couple of ideas to consider if this all sounds way to familiar.

  1. Pull back from the Social Media outlets take a break. Sign off and stay off for 30 days. The temptation to troll through twitter and Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest will fade and your contentment will grow!
  2. Remember who you are, and ‘whose’ you are. God made you to be the mom or dad of your kids. Nothing by accident. No random assignments as parents. We were ‘picked’ by God as the ‘best’ parent possible for our specific children.
  3. Celebrate the “ordinary” moments of your life – and make them ‘extraordinary”. I was interviewing a wonderful lady on our podcast and she made this statement on living with Joy and inspired a portion of this blog today. (Carol McLeod) – Her comment stuck with me and I’m sharing it with you.

In summary – we’re all facing the frustrations of life not going ‘quite’ the way we planned. The struggles of feeling like we’ve failed our children or dropped the ball on our perfect plans for the next birthday celebration or school event. We need to back up a bit and remember we’re not going to ‘ever’ get it perfect.

God save us from those who think they do. 🙂

We have to live by ‘grace’ and in doing so we have to share it with each other and ourselves. The fake world of social media presents a compelling story for sure, but it’s not real. We know what we see from Hollywood and the weekly rags is a sham, we know that movie stars have teams of hair and makeup specialists, wardrobe consultants, and fashion designers to make their lives look amazing.  But, it’s easy to forget that our friends on Facebook have clicked off 34 pictures and deleted them all before posting the ‘one’ we get to see. That’s not real life either. It’s staged.

Let’s quit comparing our lives… we’re not supposed to live any other life but our own. Trust me, we’re all struggling out here, no one has this parenting thing all wrapped up. So, let’s agree to stop ‘posing’ for the parenting camera, and let’s truly ‘live’ as we are, and I think that’s pretty darn spectacular!

Blessings, Pastor B.

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Looking for Intimacy…?

Valentine’s Day is upon us…

Flowers and food, fresh moods and sweet surprises, our Valentine celebration is a once a year explosion of red hearts and glitter cards… a reminder of everything cliché’ about ‘Love”.

From grade schoolers trading Star Wars valentines to the serious date dinners with chocolates and diamonds, our annual tributes to the ideal of love is as diverse and different as we are.

theantiquemarket.com

But what about “Intimacy”? Isn’t that the longing of every heart… the deep down desire of every soul on earth. It must be… just look at the millions of books sold by Nicholas Sparks or the powerful pull of the romantic comedies on our pocketbooks. We’re searching to find that ‘something’ still missing in our relationships.

We can’t seem to find the “it”. We search it out at home or online… in friendships and spouses, kids and co-workers, we look and look desperation growing. Eventually we give up… seeking it out vicariously through the lives of the fictitious.

Don’t read me wrong, I’m in there with you. I too struggle with “Intimacy”. It’s not my wifes fault or some personality conflict that bars the way for our long-last connection as a husband and wife. Alas… no.

The scriptures and the Holy Spirit help us uncover the secret to discovering “Intimacy”! It’s simpler and harder than you think… recently I’ve been reminded (through my own marriage) of the truth about Intimacy. You see, true Intimacy is only found in our willingness to be ‘vulnerable‘ with someone else.

weheartit.com

Our lives cannot grow interdependent and intimate if we’re playing it safe. Proximity isn’t the same as intimacy! 

We aren’t able to discover and dig deep into the world of the Intimate soulmate without risking the rejection and pain of discovery.

Trusting and believing in each other is all platitude until you risk exposure of your deepest self. When we take the plunge to open up and share our inner fears and frustrations, our biggest dreams and desires… we’re exposing our heart to someone who can receive it and cherish it or simply discard it.

The choice is ours to make. But if you’re hitting the ‘wall’ in your marriage, it might be time to consider stopping the merry-go-round of life and pause long enough to have a heart to heart. Really and truly share with your ‘other’ what you feel and long for… and then listen back…

It could be we need some alone time to reflect on the offer Christ makes to us all… the offer to accept as ‘we are‘. To really and truly be intimate with the one who created us and all those unmet longings within. That my friend is one sure way to build a lasting foundation for others to love and be loved.

Happy Valentines Day from RTP!

Pastor B.

 

From empty to ‘overflowing’

Preached recently on 2 Kings 4:1-7… a passage about a widow with two children, facing the most extreme of poverty and desperation. In those days, debt was paid off by slave labor, not with a payment plan. Her only available option was to seek out the man of God in her time. 

Entering the scene is the prophet “Elisha”. His answer to an impossible situation was unexpected… Let’s listen in…

2 “And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few.” 

When I’m in crisis, when my life is falling apart, when things get crazy bad… I’m praying for a miracle for sure, just like this single mom… but I often ask for God tobring something into this situation. Some tangible supernatural solution, like a ‘winning lottery ticket’ or an anonymous donation in the mail box for ‘just the right amount‘ of money.

Here we see a glimpse into the way God works in our crisis moments. Instead of looking at all the things ‘we don’t have‘… God asks us to inventory what we ‘do have’. A significant shift in perspective occurs when we do that. God is going to do a miracle for this single mother of two, but He’s not going to do it the way we ‘logically’ think. Nope.

Instead God is asking for us to give up the ‘one’ thing we have left. Let Him have it and then trust that in our obedience to His direction, He will bless and anoint the little we have to make it grow exponentially. Not just to multiple it… but supernaturally expand it -( 2 + 2 = 20,000) 

Here’s how the story ends…  4 “Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.” So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”

The point of the story?

  1. If you find yourself facing an impossible situation…. look for what you ‘do have’. Don’t obsesses about what you lack.
  2. Let God have the one thing you have to work with. It may be as simple as cooking or heating oil, but in God’s hands its divine fuel for a miracle.
  3. Watch as God takes your little and makes it grow into something of great significance and value.
  4. Expect God’s solution to be bigger than your need. Prepare your vessels to receive His extravagant provision, and trust that not only will you’re need be met, but so much more!

All of us face moments in our lives when we can’t figure a way out. A dead-end job. A broken relationship or marriage, a failed ministry. Each of these can consume us and erode our faith and hope. 

Let’s remember the single mom story of 2 Kings 4. She received an “Overflow” of God’s blessing for her obedience and faith. Jesus repeats this same idea when He feeds the 5000 with a few fish and pieces of bread.

Our God has ‘style’. He’s way beyond the obvious, instead He uses the common to do something uncommon, working miracles with the ordinary and average things of our lives to show He truly is a faithful provider.

Peace out, Pastor B.

 

Breaking up the Fallow ground

Growing up in Illinois I saw a lot of cornfields.

My horizon was filled with tracts of  vast farmland as flat as any pancake, and those fields were planted every spring with corn, soybeans, and wheat. Each October the John Deere’s showed up to harvest the crops and take it all to the silos. After years of regular crop cycles, a farmer would often choose to leave a field dormant. The land would be left to its own devices, no tilling, no seed planting and no fall harvest. Just a year to rest and recharge its nutrients and ensure its productivity for the years to come. (In scripture we would call that a “sabbath” type rest or a year of ‘jubilee”)

midwest cornfield

If that land remained unused for several seasons,  the weeds would take over along with some odd, old, sprouts of past plantings. All of these would compete for some purchase in the hard soil. Corn and bean shoots growing side by side in a mish-mash of unproductive weeds, each uneven and erratic. The only crop would be a useless mess of seedlings from a bygone era.  Among the chaos the soil would become dry and hard on the surface, a crust would form and then crack with lack of use. Land like this was considered unproductive and the term used by farmers for millennia has been “fallow”.

This agricultural term is the idea or image used in the scripture to describe the condition of our hearts when we’re drifting away from our faith.  “Fallow ground“.

What an amazingly accurate description of our hearts and emotions. You know… the areas of life where we’re not planting things any more… we’re tired and done. Hopes and dreams, relationships, kids, and marriages. Those things we had such optimism for when we began, but slowly we surrendered those pieces of our heart to despair and doubt. 

According to scripture, we can ‘break up our fallow ground” and prepare the soil of our heart to receive new seed. We don’t have to live with pieces of our heart barren and dormant. God’s calling each of us to trust Him with these, after all He is  the ‘resurrection and the life”.

Practically speaking… we may need to ‘break up’ the patterns of our days and weeks. Take new risks with old relationships. Alter our habits at home, less media and more meals together, more conversations and less polite small talk. Breaking up those places we’ve been afraid to visit takes courage and conviction. God supplies us with both.

It’s not easy torisk in the areas of our life where we’ve been hurt. But it’s the only way to break up our fallow ground. The scripture warns us to do a thorough job of digging out the weeds and thorns of our hearts if we want to grow a healthy and fruitful life. So… to clean out the heart we have to dig out the deep-rooted weeds, removing the stubborn beliefs about ourselves and each other that threaten to choke out anything new and living in us. sprout1

We can’t move forward if we still linger on the past hurts and wounds of our life, and while we’re ‘fallow’ … things in the present miss the chance to take root and grow.

So, let’s “pull some weeds’ and break up the fallow parts of our life. God is just waiting for each of us to trust Him enough to replant truth and hope in our heart.

Pastor B.

 

 

Adolescent Sexuality

“Insights into Adolescent Sexuality’ (adapted from a recent interview with Dannah Gresh on Brilliantly Brave Parenting Podcast)

Sexual development, identity, and behaviors are forming in the pre-teen and teen years. It’s clear that the role of parents in this process is crucial and irreplaceable. Without an active and intentional effort by both mom and dad to help ‘shape’ a child’s beliefs, the culture will speak unchecked into their lives.

According to experts, the prefrontal cortex continues to develop into our early twenties, making early experimentation with sexual behaviors and or visual exposure to nudity, sexual acts, and behaviors ill advised. Our brains are literally unable to process and absorb the information it receives until much later than our society is exposing these ideas and attitudes to our kids.

The boundaries of monogamy in marriage and abstinence until monogamy are biblical and scientifically supported by modern research. As Dannah Gresh says… “Science eventually catches up with God’s word”. When it comes to sexuality we’re learning that you can’t experience sex without releasing significant doses of pleasurable and addictive hormones, neurotransmitters, and other factors that literally ‘bind’ us to our sexual partner. We experience a powerful stimulus from our own body chemistry that forms a “cocktail of chemicals” (oxytocin, vasopressin, dopamine among others; source – Medical Institute of Sexual Health) which form a kind of glue between one brain and the other, a powerful ‘bond’ between men and women who share the act and intimacy of sex. 

So… if  a pre-teen or teen is exposed to pornography or sexual behaviors before being old enough to understand and or process… they will begin to crave the feeling and the chemicals that get released during a sexual encounter, needing to do it over and over without understanding what or why.

They become ‘addicted’ to whatever it is that creates the feeling.

If the pleasure is found in the act of sex within a marriage it cements the relationship and creates a ongoing and wonderful desire to share intimacy and physical pleasure with your spouse.

If the pleasure is found with pornography or other ‘friends with benefits’ type relationships, we can become trapped into a series of frustrating relationships that never become what God intended. Sex becomes something destructive rather than life bringing.

Parents who neglect the responsibility of talking with their kids about sex are in danger of allowing the hottest celebrity or artist teach them instead. We must have and hold an ongoing relationship with our kids through their pre-teen and teen years. Have regular points of connecting, eat together, go to movies, date your kids – take them out for dad or mom dates. STAY CONNECTED. Be the voice they respect and respond to despite what the culture is feeding them.

 “Quality time parenting is a myth… it takes quantity to make a difference – Dannah Gresh.

As our kids grow, it’s important as parents to model what romantic love looks like in a healthy home. Showing affection for each other as spouses is essential, we must demonstrate what marriage can be for our kids. Taking care of each other as husband and wife is a big part of the parenting role for helping our kids develop a healthy sexuality and respect for the institution of marriage. If we’re not celebrating our marriages – our kids won’t either.

“We’ve really undersold the value of marriage to our kids and culture” – Dannah Gresh

We have to start with the affirmation of marriage early in our kids’ lives, instead of telling our kids ‘no – no – no – we can show them what ‘yes – yes – yes’ looks like. We can clearly demonstrate the benefits of a healthy sexual relationship without saying a word. 

For more resources or information check out Dannah’s many books and resources that deal directly with sexuality and purity for our kids and homes. Here’s a quick recap of our time with Dannah on BB Parenting;

Key Points from Dannah’s Interview on BB Parenting: 

  • Learning to play, to creatively engage helps our frontal lobe to develop and in doing so, increases self-control
  • 65% of high school kids are sexually active
  • 80%+ of College students are sexually active
  • We live in a ‘friends with benefits” culture today – a “hook up” society – where sex is a itch to scratch – with a friend, rather than a life-long commitment that’s sacred.
  • Adult men have an average of 9 sexual partners in their lifetime and adult women have an average of 7.
  • Steps parents can take to help their adolescent kids with sexual development.
  1. Have Dinner 3 – 5 x each week as a family
  2. Regular time with each child – dinner or breakfast dates – consistently
  3. Role model romance as a parent – dads and moms honoring and loving each other in front of their kids.

Pastor Brad Mathias / Brilliantly Brave Parenting

Links:

Dannah Gresh and “Pure Freedom”  http://purefreedom.org/

Podcast Interview http://brilliantlybraveparenting.com/dannah-gresh/

Medical Institute for Sexual Health https://www.medinstitute.org/

The Stuff we see is the stuff we want!

Christmas is cool…but very EXPENSIVE!

Budgets are great in theory… but when you hit the local mall, your consumer DNA kicks in hard. The stuff you SEE is the stuff we WANT! But is it the stuff we can AFFORD?

From the siren call of the credit card to the demands of travel and last-minute meals, the average family feels the pinch of our finances every Christmas. It’s how you respond that makes the difference.

If you’re like me… you can get very frustrated! After all we mean well, doing our best to save money throughout the year. Unfortunately, life intervenes all to often. Braces, Car repairs, broken washers… surprise school expenses… all conspire to suck up our cash before we even get to Black Friday.

We (fathers) have the added struggle of giving our gang the best possible Christmas! We get hammered with hundreds of big budget commercials showing well-groomed men of substance buying new cars and diamonds for their wives and offering massive piles of presents for their kids! sad-christmas-man_si

Mom’s feeling the heat too, she’s hustling to prepare her home for a Southern Living photo shoot, every towel and trinket in its place, the lights and candles all lined up like they saw it on Pinterest. The pressure’s on to perform, provide the ‘perfect’ Christmas with the perfect meal in the perfect setting… after all, the in-laws are coming!

But what about the payoff in January and February? What happens when those bills come back to haunt us…. Conflict, guilt, anger… we hide stuff from our spouses and hope we can pay it off in the year ahead.

Somewhere in all the pressure to get… we lose sight of ‘giving.

The Christian parent feels all the secular stresses AND is supposed to move past the pressures of this season to make it a Holy thing. Some days it simply feels impossible. Somehow – somewhere we must rein in all this distraction and focus our kids and our hearts on the amazing GIFT behind the cyber frenzy of e-commerce. As parents… we must push the distractions away – and battle to focus ourselves on the truth and the triumph of Christmas. folkmassor-i-shoppinggalleria-på-jul-48343163

Parents! Have a plan – budget your expenses – stick with it. Don’t go to the mall unprepared 😊 Arm yourself with a good Christian attitude and some Charles Dickens or Little Drummer Boy lyrics in your mind – push back – don’t let our culture force it’s selfishness and materialism on you or your family.

Protect the sanctity of “contentment” in your home. Don’t allow the season to be about ‘stuff’.

No matter your age or stage as a parent, there is always the temptation to over-spend. To indulge and over-imbibe on the latest gadgets and gifts for those we love. But… at what a price?

Couple of things to remember when you’re in the ‘fever’ or caught up in a sudden shopping spree.

  1. Gifts are supposed to be special – attached to the intended recipient in a unique and personal way.
  2. Financial budgets are meant to help and protect your family. The boundaries you’re setting with your spouse – are not to be dismissed lightly.
  3. More is not always better. Take care to keep a healthy balance between getting and giving. What are you doing as a family to share and care for those less fortunate?
  4. Engage the spiritual with spiritual. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your gifting efforts. Recognize when you’re Peace is gone… it’s a signal that you may be out of balance in the moment. Lay whatever it is down. Restrain or discipline yourself. The Peace of Christ will return.
  5. Be vigilant as a parent help your kids and yourself to develop a ‘critical’ thinking filter. If shopping – ask the hard question… is this actually going to help someone or hinder them in living a wholesome life?
  6. Grab the popcorn and DVR; Watch the classic movies and do the Christmas stuff, but be prepared to point out the fantasy vs. the reality. Christmas isn’t supposed to be perfect, it supposed to be sincere! Help prepare your kids for adulthood – ask them how they view God for themselves? (Is he a “Santa Claus” figure to your kids?) Discuss – and enjoy!

Christmas can be hard, a moment in time when we as parents want to “get it perfect”! I can assure you no matter how hard you try, people in your family are going to struggle with some part of the Christmas season, and that’s ok. Let God have some space to work! The season can knock you off-balance if you’re not careful.

Christ is still in Christmas… but it may mean some difficult decisions as a parent to keep Him there. It may mean your marriage and family could benefit from some healthier boundaries to get the balance right.

Peace and Grace

Pastor Brad Mathias

  • Article for Charisma –  Christmas ’17

Christmas Podcast/YouTube Video Link

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http://brilliantlybraveparenting.com/458-2/

(for more – check out the Christmas edition of our Brilliantly Brave Parenting – Podcast)

Why Thirteen?

Kids do eventually become young adults, they grow and change… and ‘mature’ over time.

The most significant transition of life occurs during adolescence. An individual’s personal identity (or view of ‘self’) forms between 10-14 years of age,  a critical factor in forming a personal belief and value system. 

For the church and families of faith, this stage of life lies smack – dab-  ‘in-between’ childhood and youth ministry programing. (thus the term… ‘tween’)

Parents are stuck with kids who are either too old for ‘kids’ church… or not quite grown up enough for ‘youth’ group. This non-critical issue may lay distantly in a parent’s mind, but fades to the background as ‘other’ more pressing concerns take center stage, like sports, scholastic pressure, or dating!

The challenge for the church is this, if over 80% of our youth are actually walking away from the Christian faith community in their late teen years, what has changed?                                  (Barna Research) 

The mass migration of young adults ‘out’ of the faith must have some ’cause’ and ‘effect’ to it. What is different? Why are so many of our college age kids discarding their Christian beliefs? Studies suggest that our kids made their decision before the age of…

Thirteen.

The age of Thirteen is the approximate year most form their core beliefs, values, and identities. The stage of adolescence when we try out our growing ideas and opinions beyond the safety of  home or church.

image – courtesy of armadamusic.com

It’s real life experience a growing mind needs… peer stuff begins to crowd out the voices of authority figures. Parents, pastors… teachers all lose their influence while friends, social media, and pop culture gain ground.

Adolescents are growing into independent adults, in the process they evolve and adapt to their environments, forming initial beliefs that haven’t been tested or fully embraced as an adult. This process of ‘discovery’ is natural and normal, and helps them establish an ‘identity’.

It’s somewhere between fifth and seventh grade that social pressure starts to sway kids more than they ‘fear’ their parents wishes. It’s a part of the normal maturing process of kids to pass through various ‘crisis’ points in the development of identity – as they literally ‘try on’ new ideas and beliefs like we would a new hairstyle or clothes outfit. They just want to ‘see’ if things ‘fit’… if a parent knows this is ‘normal’ and expects it, the process can be stressful but not a ‘crisis’.

If parents are already stressed out, distracted, and overwhelmed by life… this adolescent ‘stuff’ can drive them over the proverbial ‘edge’. It’s here that faith and culture collide.

Thirteen.

What our kids decide is ‘real’ and of value, what they perceive to be ‘true’ of themselves and the world begins to slowly solidify. 

Their identities are being shaped in this ‘in-between’ time of the late grade school and early junior high years. We all learned this in biology or sex ed when we were teenagers, but as parents and pastors this presents new dangers and opportunities.

 The formation of identity is effectively reinforced by the stability of their social environment (according to studies) and the actions of parents in the home. What we say, and more importantly what we ‘do’… impacts our kids as much or more than anything else… before the age of ‘Thirteen’.

We have a short time with our children. a fixed period during which we can teach, prepare, and then ‘model’ our faith. They are going to struggle with the truth, they will make erratic and unpredictable choices…but in the end,  studies and experience (and the promise of God) predict their identities and beliefs are seriously affected by the health of their home life and the respect kids have for a parents faith. 

Not a spiritual perspective, this entire blog post is based on secular educational studies (see references below). The need for ministry to pre-teens and tweens has never been greater as media and access to digital platforms is now a normal part of childhood. Our kids need to know and ‘see’ the faith of their family and church. They need to know that we’re serious about Jesus Christ being the ‘center’ of our lives… they don’t need us to be perfect or polished, but they do need to know we’re sincere and dedicated to following the principles of the bible.

B413 the ‘No-Filter’ tour is all about equipping families of faith with the inspiration and biblical truth they need to help navigate this critical stage of parenting and life!

Let’s make EVERY effort!

Pastor Brad.

Links to references: http://www.rcgates.com/psyc/c16_pv.html  http://www3.uakron.edu/witt/adol/selfidentity.htm