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)

 

 

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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!

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.

drip drip drip… the power of persistence

Parents, are you tempted to throw in the towel with your tween?

I know… it’s overwhelmingly difficult sometimes to parent a hormone-soaked-storm like the typical teen or tween. They know how to push each exasperation button we have… and somehow avoid being responsible for “ANYTHING” from their school grades to the family shared, mobile, data-plan last month 🙂

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They disdain our “ancient” wisdom of 40 something as outright stupidity and live comfortable in the smug knowledge they are in fact… the geniuses. Cerebral giants who can barely tolerate our presence in their ‘homes’.  We call these crazies our kids and if you’re not careful… they can wear you down to the nub…

Or even worse, they might make you so exhausted… you give up! 

DO NOT GIVE UP ON THEM !

DO NOT STOP PARENTING

DO NOT STOP CAREFULLY KEEPING THE BOUNDARIES OF LIFE, LOVE, AND YOUR FAMILY INTACT !

Don’t stop praying, don’t stop sharing, don’t stop daring to believe in their hearts catching fire for Christ ! We underestimate our value, our power as parents ! Our kids get over 70 hours week of mainstream media ingested into their noggin and less than 3 hours of parent & pastor combined…

Poll after poll tells us that tweens (kids 7-13) and teens admit the opinions and ideas of their parents are THE SINGLE MOST INFLUENTIAL VOICE IN THEIR LIVES ! 

Be persistent !Untitled-111-980x613

It’s not up to us to convince… only God can change a heart or an attitude. But we as parents can be intentional about never – ever giving up on our kids. Of living out our faith values with honesty and persistence, day-in and day-out… like water on rock, over time… the water wins !

Pastor B.

How to ID a counterfeit

I’ve been to several large cities… New York, Chicago…LA,… on the street you have to be careful, vendors are everywhere selling “genuine” Rolex, Gucci or Prada luxury items for 80% off retail… those items are a hundred percent counterfeit. A waste of money. Natural-Weight-loss-pills

What’s not so obvious are the false promises that crowd into our homes and subtly re-orient our lives away from truth. Busy to the point of near emotional and mental exhaustion, it’s easy for a mom or dad to miss the details in our kids lives as we rush to get dinner or make it on time to our next destination.

Our children are being told they must have perfect hair, perfect figures and perfect skin to be loved, or worse… perfection is essential to be “worth” loving…. Girls are constantly hit with images of rail thin, photo-shopped models of impossible perfection wearing the latest trends and makeup. Guys are overshadowed by well muscled – fashionable men who can comfortably woo women, sing in tune and score the winning touchdown on their way to an academic scholarship at a premier college.

The counterfeit or lie that’s being relentless told to our kids is this…”You’re not enough as you are” True Happiness in life requires something “more” – something “other”

Like most counterfeits, there is just enough truth and validity to make it an effective lie. The half-truths aimed at our kids cause problems with us as parents too. The truth is, we really aren’t all that happy on our own. We DO NEED something “other”, it’s just that other isn’t a new french miracle skin cream, larger biceps or a size 4 jean.

John 10: 9-11(ESV) “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

1ms.net/s/desktopnexus.com/

1ms.net/s/desktopnexus.com/

 

If we want to find this better, truer life, to experience genuine Happiness. We will need to connect with the good shepherd, who promises to give us “rest” or “peace” in this life. Nothing else out there is going to satisfy us like the one who made us, who knows the “real” us.

A timely reminder for parents who struggle with finding a way to live a balanced life, so often we find ourselves tempted to squeeze more and more of God out and inserting more and more of the “other” in.

I’ve listed some of the more common “fakes” we all fight… may God in His Mercy grant us the strength and honesty to admit, repent and remove these “others” from our lives. “In our weakness, His strength is perfected”… May it be more so now Lord.

Common Counterfeits to fight; 

 1.      Addictions are designed to counterfeit the real or intended pleasures of life & deceive us from placing our hope in the authentic. 

2.      Cult of the dynamic personality – counterfeits the “genuine ” & intimate faith relationship that was intended for us with Jesus alone and replace it with a often dynamic & tangible person we can touch / feel / see, we transfer our trust and hope and faith to someone fallible and risk confusing God with man.

3.      Counterfeit opportunities for recognition –gain or advancement  – when we ignore what we know of service, humility and hard work for the leap of logic to take advantage of a “can’t miss” opportunity, no matter the cost to our principles. 

4.      Counterfeit relationships – when we ignore the “process” God prescribes for a healthy intimacy during dating  – we allow ourselves to be deceived with a artificial intimacy or a powerful counterfeit emotional rush that fools us and we can become trapped by getting the very thing we “thought” we wanted.

Seasons are changing, spring is marching into summer. Graduation and Marriage and Moving are all on the horizon… let’s be sure we keep to the “Truth” in all things and especially in our own homes.

Peace out, pastor B.

Storms in Spring

Every year we get hit.

Every three months we seem to get surprised by life… usually a major shift in the weather or the world around us that serves as a reminder of how fast things can and do change.

Each shock-wave life throws at us,  provides a chance to renew our perspective on life and living.  For those in middle America, the change from Winter into Spring is most turbulent. Moist warm air from the Gulf collides with the remnants of an Arctic air mass and WHOOMPH! We get tornado’s and straight-line winds strong enough to blow eighteen wheelers off the roads and house trailers off their foundations. Lightning over small town

Spring is beautiful and warm and full of new life, but it’s also often violent, traumatic and painful, without a safe place to go in the sure to come storm, you could be at risk for a tragic event.

I’ve watched each night this week as one tragic news flash after another has scrolled across the TV screen or interrupted my radio station… ‘Breaking News, Bombing in “…. “Breaking News, explosion…, terrorist attack, hundreds injured…” etc… the relentless pace of the tragedies we face… have many of us on edge.

It feels like our world is starting to unwind itself a bit, fraying at the edges of sanity and bending back upon itself like an out of control episode of “24” with the secret agent hero not quite getting to the bomb in time and tragedy strikes the innocent. The hero doesn’t win the day and it’s just all twisted up and wrong…

When surprises turn nasty… life feels like the story we hoped to live in has been changed on us, instead of the “good” guys winning the evil and twisted villain seems to be in charge! 

nationalgeographic.com

national geographic.com

As families of faith, we must remember that is NOT true. God is still in control, He is the author and finisher of all things and His will cannot be stopped regardless of how crazy our world becomes.

Our comfort is in something and someone greater than the US Government or a positive report from Fox or CNN News… we have a source of strength that comes from more than our emotional resilience, it has roots in the most powerful hope that mankind has ever witnessed.  Our faith has a rich history of God making good things out of bad and redeeming our past failures into future triumph. It’s the power of love un-restrained and its hopeful heartbeat is found in us, in those who follow and take the name of Christ for their own.

Spring is a turbulent season every year, but for those who know where their strength comes from… in the midst of tragedy can be found peace  no matter what’s going on outside our door. Our hearts are broken for the innocent lost and the senseless violence in our world, but in the end… as a Christian we have a way to find purpose and strength in the pain. Perspective that comes from knowing the King of Kings and faith in His ability to provide justice and meaning in all of the chaos around us.

Living our lives despite the dangers shows our kids… we are safe, secure, and together as a family. Our homes a reminder that we are all being held together in the midst of any storm, by a faithful God who cares for each of us deeply.

Psalm 107:28-31 (ESV) – source Biblegateway.com

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
    and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters[c] were quiet,
    and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!

pastor B.

Surviving the “frightening 14’s”

Raising a fourteen year old  can be a “Frightening” experience to say the least…  researchers, psychologists, physicians and educators will all tell you, the transition from 13-14  is often one of the most turbulent periods of any kids life. But, I’m happy to say…you don’t have to buy a tazer or equip their rooms with  padded walls & a matching straightjacket to survive it 🙂

I’m not going to delve into the piles of research and social studies that point to the powerful and often negative influences impacting our kids today in this blog, but feel free to google it for yourself. Fascinating stuff for sure. If you’re a Family of faith and have a desire to not only survive this milestone age, but embrace it… I can only share of my own personal parenting experience and encourage you to stay the course your on. It’s well worth the cost of a few sleepless nights and frequent adrenaline surges your sure to enjoy along the way. 🙂

I promise.

Bottom line is this, an average 14-year-old is in a temporary life crisis. They have just survived their junior high years and it’s accompanying early insecurities and hormonal eruptions… they move quickly into the deeply cynical and insane social pressures of a modern High School social structure. Those forces are relentlessly demanding and our kids become desperate to assume and protect some kind of  an acceptable identity for themselves or face the risk of being consumed alive. Add to that the pressures and fears that many Christian parents start to exert over these same 14 year olds and you can begin to appreciate the Chernobyl like pressures building inside of their hearts and minds. No wonder they are looking to just hide, escape…withdraw. The wisest man who ever lived (Solomon) had trouble with 14, he said it like this…

Proverbs 30: 18-19 (Msg) “Three things amaze me,
no, four things I’ll never understand—
how an eagle flies so high in the sky,
how a snake glides over a rock,
how a ship navigates the ocean,
why adolescents act the way they do

So don’t panic if they quit making sense… they very well may pull back from wanting anything to do with Church, avoid life-long friendships, ignore favorite hobbies, fade or jump radically in their interest in sports or social activities, isolate from family and for sure criticize the values and principles that you and I so deeply cherish… like Respect, Trust and Honesty. Sound familiar?

image – courtesy of armadamusic.com

Parenting during this stage of frightening 14 can be very intense and even dangerous if not monitored well. Occasionally it can involve significant depression, cutting or rapid changes in eating habits… (if so, get professional help) but overall it’s un-avoidable! Our kids are going through the emotional and spiritual growth pains internally that their bodies are so obviously exhibiting externally. No surprise that they can be moody, irritable, un-predictable and insecure. Often alternating between hyper-activity and almost comatose like living, shifting their emotional gears as fast as their text messages are sent and received. Their behaviors can move from erratic to extreme and back to apathy in an hour.

You may engage a 14-year-old in a conversation at 9am that seems completely ‘grown up” and responsible, with the illusion that your teen is finally “getting it” and acting like a proper and well-adjusted young man or woman should. Mere hours later it’s not uncommon to experience the full tempest of their instantaneous toddler’s temper tantrum when they arrive home from school and you casually decline their request to meet some friends at the movies…  it’s enough to make you scratch you head and wonder which of you might need to be committed?

14 year olds are cycling through their past-present and future personalities, opinions, ideas, values, beliefs and identities as quickly as most of us flip the channels on our satellite dishes. If we allow ourselves to live from a place of fear and “reaction” to their often ridiculous behaviors and forget to maintain the perspectives of an adult in the moment… we can find ourselves in deep deep water very fast.

Here are six principles that I’ve found to be helpful with parenting a 14 year old…

1- This too shall pass (but it may require you to be un-popular for a time)

2- Maintain the healthy atmosphere of your home. The course (rules, beliefs and values) you’ve charted for your home doesn’t need to be re-directed just because it’s being challenged by the mind-bending logic that only a 14-year-old can contrive or understand.

3- Hold them accountable…Stay consistent, NO MATTER WHAT. If you believe in grounding, or removing “distracting” electronic items or privileges from their inventory of life stuff, then stick with it. Be consistent above all else.

4- Don’t loose your cool. If you do, own it… apologize and then re-establish the rules regardless of their taunts or efforts to undermine your authority to enforce it.

5- Don’t do this alone. Engage your community of faith, friends, family and focus your full spiritual activities as needed, into understanding the issues deep in the heart of your child’s behaviors… Dont’ assume you can project from your own past teen experiences as a an accurate “insight” into their current situation. Pray and ask God to reveal the underlying stuff so it can be resolved.  

6- Don’t let them date. It’s too early 🙂

In the end… I believe 14 year olds just really, desperately want and need to know that you truly LOVE them. They want to be reined in, held to the rules, given safe boundaries and generally protected from themselves. They just don’t know it yet !

In my experience…by the time they hit sixteen, they will begin to reflect back and understand better the significant level of commitment and love you’ve shown to them as parents. By holding to your principles as pre-teens and 14 year olds… your efforts very well may have won the cultural battle for their hearts.

courtesy of mixedplateblog.com

They may not agree with all you believe yet, but their level of respect and trust will be established deep enough for them to grow from and the future family dynamic will hold more peace and reconciliation than pain and separation.  Of course there are exceptions to these principles, and some kids with abusive backgrounds, clinical depression and destructive behaviors may well need to see a counselor or physician to navigate this stage safely. If you have a serious concern, see your local pastor, priest or family doctor to sort those details out further.

Peace out to my dear fellow courageous travellers on the roadway of teen family life… it’s so totally worth it!

Brad.