Day 4… Road Trip Revival. #iShineontheroad “Attitude at Altitude!”

Rolled into Dubois WY… snagging the last 2 rooms at the local Super 8. Dusty, dry and breezy. Temps in July were pushing 100F as we drove the 2 lane ribbon across the hazy, flat, high plains of eastern Wyoming. The sun lingered slow and low in the horizon… seven, eight… almost nine pm before we saw it start to slip over the distant ridge.

The Mountains!

The Mountains!

Sweaty, tired and butt numb we felt the miles. Wall SD to Dubois WY is only about 600 miles with a short detour to Mt.Rushmore NP, but it’s a good long 12 hours of travel. We crashed early and didn’t really notice the clear cool night emerging outside our windows.

We awoke to winter.

42F at 6:30am. My breath fogging the inside of our SUV. My naked legs one giant goose-bump of frigid skin.I had to dig out one of my light fleece pull-over’s to give my body some chance at finding warmth. The shock was complete. We had gone from the blazing heat of high summer sun to COLD.

A sixty degree temperature swing in 8 hours.

We were in the mountains and I couldn’t be happier. The cool / cold morning was such a relief. Felt like a peppermint patty embrace to my summer sweat soaked brain. No humidity, No sweating, No bugs. AWESOME !

As I look around to find someone else to share my jubilant happiness with… I only saw heaps of blankets and fetal postured freezing teens huddled in the back. Chattering teeth and groans quickly deflated me.

I confidently proclaimed the cold wouldn’t last! In fact, for sure by noon it would be bright and warm again, at least 80F with gorgeous mountain summer light. We were heading up the Wind River Valley to clip the edge of Grand Teton NP and push into Yellowstone! The grandest of them all. I had no idea it would turn out to be one of the coldest days possible for July. Snow flurries and sleet would be settled in by noon and would never allow temps to rise higher than 55F.

Tough Day

Tough Day

This led to some complaint and grumbling… but no one could deny the beauty of the mountain scenes before us and we toured the iconic spaces and places (Old Faithful, Yellowstone Falls, Buffalo on the plains etc…)of our oldest and grandest NP (in lower 48) with layers of shirts and jackets wrapping our unprepared limbs. As our altitude rose over 10,000 feet, our attitudes grew a bit short and over the long day of driving and stopping, shooting selfies, and dodging the hordes of tourists… some of us got very crabby 🙂

When we drove up and over the highest pass back to our cozy Super 8 rooms…. it began to snow big time. 3-4 Inches would pile up overnight. I shivered in my hiking shorts as we drove on. Smiling at the irony of it all.

I was the only one smiling. 

Tomorrow our days adventures would change the girls forever. But before the hope of dawn… we had to get through a very dark night.

By God’s grace…. we made it. But it was a tough road to ride.

Day 5 tomorrow; a BRAND NEW DAY.

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Mt. Rushmore Here we Come… RoadTrip Revival #2

Too much fun to share with just words…. so here is what it all looked and sounded like this summer!

Stay tuned for more 🙂

Pausing for Peace

As a father and a husband I’m reminded of my responsibility to cultivate peace in my home. Peace not as the world gives…but Peace that flows from the proper relationship of myself with God and each of us with one another. Easy to understand, much harder to do. I call this, the Pause for Peace, an essential in every Christian home.  

 My kids are most likely just like yours, anxious, over-whelmed, impulsive and emotional to the extreme. Given to their own devices, they will in nano-seconds drift away from the real to the imaginary.

Their world of instant entertainment, technology and psuedo-relationships (via texting) will quickly overwhelm any peace or contentment with an agitated state of growing un-ease. Subtly they begin to notice all of the things they DON’T have. All of the things other prettier, and more talented people have. Their perspective becomes in-ward, selfish and small. They fail to realize the images and sounds that they are observing are not real. Its breaks down their concern for others, the truth that the world in fact does not rotate around them and the fun begins…

Often that’s when we arrive home, and although we can’t exactly figure out whats wrong at home, we can sense something is. The peace of our homes has evaporated while we went to work and our kids appear to have morphed into nasty little gremlins and the fights,insults and irritations explode. Those are the times we get to choose, either step into the situation with grace to uncover its cause or close our bedroom doors and have them microwave their own meal.

As parents, its our job to intentionally seek to break that mood and help everyone re-set. If we avoid it or simply react to our kids frustrations, fears and self-doubt we essential amplify the ill effects. If I arrive from work too tired to recognize my daughters or son have had a really tough day and simply respond to their irrational behaviors… its further charges the negative environment of our home and we all have a bad evening. Why does that seem to happen so often to so many of us…? It’s not a fun way to live and it’s certainly not what we were promised in the scriptures.

I believe its simply an issue of our daily time in reading the scriptures, prayer and contemplation. If I  do that regularly, I essentially live my life with a renewed sense of purpose, strength and patience. When I take the time myself to see beyond the obvious circumstances of my world into the realm of  faith, I am tapping into the power and grace of  my savior. Without it, I’m rushing off to battle without any armor, and without a refreshed heart, I’m going into a world and a day unprepared with only my own meager reserves of peace and joy. A prescription for exhaustion and frustration.

In those daily times of renewal and encouragement, we can simply allow God to speak to us directly and personally.  His word and our humility prepare us supernaturally for the very issues we will soon face in our day. We engage our day with unexplainable understanding and patience for our kids, our spouse and our work. If we skip that time, we are trying to run a marathon on empty and have nothing left to give when we finish our days and come home.

In the end, If  I’m living out the day peacefully myself… then I have a much better chance of ensuring my family will to. Parenting and Faith should be inter-twined daily, hourly in our lives, not segregated from Sunday to Sunday. No new ideas here, just a reminder to myself that I’m sharing today with the genuine hope to see my family and yours “keep it between the lines and on the road of life”.

Peace Out,

brad.

Super Scheduled Sundays and Parenting

 

Sunday. Oh how we dread the day, with our push to get out the door and the guilt we feel if we don’t. So we rush through our Sunday mornings to get ready, one of the kids seem to be a bit cranky and slower than the rest. Makeup, hair, showers, breakfast, finding the one pair of my son’s dress shoes, reviewing the girls wardrobe before rushing out the door and considering if its “appropriate” for a service etc… by the time a mom and dad get to the mini-van and load everyone up, we’re about ten minutes late already. Upon arrival to the service, the kids scatter, mom and dad grab a seat and we do Church.

Sundays were designed by God to be days of rest and refreshment, of common-unity with other friends and family and a day of hearing from and talking to our God. What is it that sabotages us?

It seems obvious at first glance to most of us that our lives are out of control “crazy” busy. But does it really have to be that way ?…  Especially for those of us who have experienced the power of Grace and Forgiveness which we understand (at least conceptually)has abolished the need for us to work ourselves to death trying to get into heaven.

If your like me, we fail to remember our freedom and find ourselves caught in the tyranny of our over-scheduled day. Making the effort to belong to a community of faith is a huge sacrifice of time and energy and effort every sunday and for most of us, it means loosing out on a sunday morning snooze, enjoying a slow sunday morning -paper reading, coffee sipping moment and the pleasure of a few quiet hours of idle time.

I believe the greatest threat to modern-day parents and families is our relentless schedules. We book our days like they are going to be judged by how much we did and how fast we did them. Like a massive final exam that never ends. Its time to SLOW DOWN and REST. (I’m speaking to myself first here)

John Eldridge (the author of “Wild at Heart” and head of Ransomed heart ministries) has many great quotes, but one of favorites is perfect for this blog… ” Busyness is no substitute for significance”.

Our significance comes from our identity in Christ and from our acceptance of who we were created to be and the realization of our specific life purposes. Once we grasp our significance is not found in what we do, but who we are… we can be freed from the relentless need to “prove” ourselves and work at our religion like we do our jobs.

As parents, we have already established great purpose in our lives. Our Kids. We may say that God is our “savior” and that we long ago accepted Him as our “Lord” but if our daily schedules don’t reflect that truth, we’re in danger of undermining our testimony to our kids and of living out a psuedo-compartmentalized faith.  

So, the fact your willing to read this far is testament to your interest or concern on the subject.Peace, Health and Wholeness are promised by God to those who receive Him. Sabbath rest is a Commandment of God. When we ignore the commandment we miss out on fully experiencing the promise. So instead of trying to survive our days by living at the speed of light, lets remember to NOT schedule one day a week of our lives. Our families deserve the rest and so do we. Without this discipline, I believe we place enormous strain on our lives and our homes and our marriages that is completely unneccessary. 

Parents like me… let’s work hard to reduce our Super Scheduled lives into days we look forward too and lets invest that time into our families and homes and lives and remember it’s not about legislating that we rest, it’s about learning how to allow yourself to enjoy it.

Here’s to helping families like mine to “keep it on the road and in between the lines“….

Resources for Busy Parents… www.ishineministries.com

PEACE out.

brad.

Tweens And Faith

Tweens and Faith, a battle we cannot afford to lose…

“In matters related to style, swim with the current, in matters of principle, stand like a rock” Thomas Jefferson –

Why Tweens and Why Now?

Current Christian and social research has confirmed that 90% of American kids will form their lifelong values and beliefs before the end of their thirteenth year. That means if you’re pre-teen or tween (ages 7-13) has not made a faith commitment to Christ before the end of their eighth grade year… there is a 1 in 10 chance they ever will. Multiple recent Christian and Secular social studies have shown the devastating impact of this reality… 88-90% of college bound students leave the Church never to return.

From Fox News, USA Today, CNN and the New York Times, experts are noting the tremendous changes occurring in our current tween populations. Identity crisis common in adolescents is raging into grades 4,5 and 6 much earlier than previous generations. Secular companies (Viacom, GE, Toyota, Apple, Disney, Revlon etc..) are targeting tweens as “decision makers” in their homes. Mainstream marketing has directly focused on pre-teens for marketing campaigns designed to make “consumers for life”. Mainstream corporate America has responded much faster than the church as a whole.

They have a much stronger conviction to reach this age group with their truth, than most Christians do. The principles of belief formation are clearly believed by secular companies as they regularly invests billions in their ad campaigns used to engage and convince tweens their products will change their lives for the better.

It’s clear the body of Christ is in need of a “wake up” call. Parents, pastors and teachers are all beginning to notice the lower attendance rates of their younger members. College age ministries are dropping off due to lack of interest and children’s ministries are still focusing on VBS and basic bible stories while the mainstream media is engaging our kids with “Hannah Montana”, “Wizards of Waverly Place” and” i-Carly”. Online Facebook and U-Tube are visited by 90% of pre-teens daily. Current media studies show an average of 48 hours per week for tween kids to consumer media in one form or another. On average, the families of faith based kids spend an hour a week engaged in faith based activities like church or youth group.

When kids do get to church, the pre-teen ministries of most denominations are limited to volunteers who try to entertain or feed the kids into compliance. For serious leaders who are trying to engage this age, finding effective pre-teen middle school Christian teaching resources is hard as very few options are available at all.

Parents are privately struggling with the chaos of the early adolescent in their homes, something we’re seeing in almost every social or economic group today. Children are being bombarded with a variety of media and instant communication technologies that by in large are accelerating the life values and beliefs decision making process before their emotional & physical maturation occurs fully. Kids are simply being “aged” earlier than ever before in our history. Texting is now considered a clinically “addictive” condition, with the average thirteen year old texting 3,000 times a month. Many admit to texting 300 or more times a day!

We believe the time is now to adjust our focus and philosophy for tomorrow. To make a dent in these trends we must intentionally and strategically reach this pre-teen generation with the truth of the Word of God.

Media and entertainment have replaced families, faith and the voice of the Church with false promises of fulfillment and moral relativism… together we can and must make an immediate impact on our pre-teen and teen cultures with a dynamic and relevant message of Hope and Faith in Jesus Christ.

Reference Resources for Concerned Parents and Pastors… http://www.barna.org/teens-next-gen-articles/403-how-teenagers-faith-practices-are-changing and www.ishineministries.com both sites have great practical links to other faith based parenting blogs and websites ! (Check them out)

Road Trip Parenting… Practical Life Action Steps:

1) Educate yourself on the situation;

– Lifeway Christian Resources has done an extensive study on the beliefs and trends of today’s teen and college students.

– Barna Research Group has repeatedly studied this growing trend of pre-teen and tween faith

– National news groups have run hundreds of articles in the recent ten months reviewing and documenting the media and pre-teen / teen cultural changes in our society.

– Google it – you’ll be surprised by how much is out there.

2) consider your own statistics;

-What has you’re experience been in recent youth and children’s ministry impact?

-Are you seeing the same basic trends as others for loss of active members after 18 yoa?

-Have you noted the changes in tween activities and overall interest in faith based services and events?

-How are you’re families, parents doing with this sudden increase in technology at home?

3) Embrace the problem, rather than isolate;

– Many faith based families will “over-react” to the modern changes of technology – “Don’t”

– Learn to use technology with your events and activities, visual learning is KEY to tweens.

– Music is a critical component of their culture, using modern Christian music is helpful and engaging to tweens who may not be aware such an option even exists.

– Use age appropriate “Sampling” of popular movies, television and u-tube videos to make a values statement in your ministry times.

– Talk about the common “myths” of popular television and film as they relate to tween culture and identity issues.

4) Sponsor a live event or concert to engage the parents and kids with an alternative for their entertainment and your weekly youth ministry.

Several Options exist:

– J12 ministries does a weekend event for the whole church (Jesus at 12)

– CiY – (Christ in Youth) does a national tour in the spring for churches

– Deliberate Kids works with 8 yoa and younger audiences

– Go Fish – work with 3-8 yoa kids with basic bible truths

-iShine Live – engages tweens and teens ages 7-14 with a Disney style concert and ministry event.

5) create content if you can’t find it.

– Instead of ignoring the problem, find interesting information and create simple studies from media content you have personally reviewed –

– Engage your kids with facebook, u-tube and Myspace by adding your children’s ministry or youth group to the social online world. BLOG!

– Go missional – active participation in faith building activities is a “key” component to transfer of faith from one generation to another. Living it vs. studying it!

This is a lengthy post, first given as a lecture presentation in Washington DC in January 2011 to the Salvation Army Youth Leadership forum. Its meant to only serve as a “starting off” point for youth leaders, pastors and concerned parents who need ideas and information to engage this generation for Christ. Blessings to you in your own sphere of influence. For more information or support, contact www.ishinelive.com

RoadTrip Parenting 101

At 41, I’m just now jumping into the world of blogging… so, please be patient as I’m  learning on the fly. As the current President of Bema Media and “i-Shine Live” in Nashville TN, I work every day with pre-teens & teens and the parents and pastors who care for them. I have a deep love for and profound respect of those kids and I am learning every day. I convinced the evidences continues to show how rapidly they are being forced to grow up. 

This generation unlike any before it, is being forced to decide at a young age (avg 13) what they are going to believe for life about God, values, faith, religion and morality in general. Combine those pressures with our recent gigantic technological shift and its clear this generation is facing a “truth war” far greater than anything my generation had to deal with.

I’m also personally the father of three teenagers, (two girls and a son), married now for over nineteen years I am at least in a position to share openly from my professional and personal viewpoints of past parenting failures and successes.

 As a second generation Christian, who waited until after the age of 30 to embrace Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior… I am also keenly aware of the pressures parents face to get their kids to “the finish line” and the danger of “not” passing the torch to the next generation. We as parents and pastors, will need to prayerfully and humbly seek the Scriptures and the combined wisdom of our peers and those who have gone before us to navigate the dangerous roads ahead.

I’m currently working on my first book, “Asleep at the Wheel” in which I share in great detail of the painful journey my family took from near tragedy to triumph all through the power of grace,forgiveness and the adventures of an epic summer family road trip. From that experience of road tripping with the family, an idea of  blogging was formed…I want to encourage other parents, families and grandparents to engage their children where they live and with intentionality.

I chose to share of my love of wilderness travel and roadtripping adventure with my family and it paid off big time! What is your passion ? How can you include your kids to join with you in that activity? Find a way to connect the dots, find a way to engage your family with your faith and your life before they move along and are gone. 

When we took our road trip, it was a sizeable commitment of time, money and resources..but well worth it. There was no “devotional study” or formal discussions, only genuine conversation and lots of red bull. Somewhere along the way it was simple and natural for me to connect with my kids, my wife and my God and somewhere a thousand miles away…our family was transformed. If you get this… then please jump in with ideas, comments and encouragement as we would love to hear from all of you about your own success stories of faith, family and the open road !

I know it’s becoming normal for kids to plug-in and check out in our homes, cars and churches… but for me, observing the rapid evolution of technology and the ever-increasing presence of personal entertainment options…is new and crazy  and often scary. Technology is confusing to parents, and we all struggle to various degrees in absorbing and understanding the impact of iPod’s, Netflix, red box and 4G on our families and homes.

However dynamic the age we live in… we all must  navigate successfully the generational responsibility of safely overseeing our children’s journey’s from adolescence to adulthood. This blog is meant to help and encourage you to “stay the course”… it’s worth all of the frustration, pain and rejection to win our kids hearts.

For more information on i-Shine, Bema Media and the Ministries that brad and his family are actively engaged with; check out www.ishinelive.com

Peace Out.