Faithful is He who called you.

“Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” (KJV) 

Parenting is one of the most significant ‘calling’s we will ever be honored to embrace. In the stress and struggle of crazy Holiday schedules and family…it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s normal to wonder if you’re ‘fit’ for the duty of being a parent at all.

Let me humbly seek to encourage you and remind you of the bedrock strong promises of God that back us up. We’re not in this all by ourselves, God has not left us alone and unsupported. He promises to work on our behalf, to finish what we started despite our ability to keep it all going on our own.

What a relief! God didn’t just call us into this parenting adventure, He is the one who guarantees the outcome. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 is an anchor to the soul of every parent floundering in the treacherous waters of self-condemnation and doubt. 

Parents! We’re not going to get it right every time. We’re going to fail and flop along the way.

It’s true, none of us are ‘perfect’ parents, and we’re not going to raise ‘perfect‘ kids. Our expectations and pride need to be just a wee bit lower and our reliance on God a whole lot higher! 

We’re all faced with the reality of our ‘human’ shortcomings, the emotional outbursts, anger, anxiety attacks, and frustrations…but in the end we’re backed up by something much bigger and better than ‘us’. It’s time to cut ourselves and our kids some ‘slack’ and enjoy the moments and individuals we have in front us.

Don’t miss your family time today! We can easily be robbed with distractions and discontent. We can get stuck longing for the good old days long past or in planning ferociously to make sure we have a better ‘tomorrow’.  We all need to do our best to live contented, to live with awareness and try to be ‘present’ in the preciousness of today. 

So… for parents handling the strain and stress of the Holidays, relax. Your kids and family have been personally ordained by God as perfect for you, and you for them. There are no mistakes in God’s order of life, He hand picks and places us in the exact situations and circumstances that will best serve our growth and development. He’s all about the end result, and in the messy – in-between we can rely on His ability to finish what He started in us and through us.

This post is meant to be an encouraging and timely reminder to rest in the promises of God for your kids and home.

This Thanksgiving and Christmas, lets renew our commitment to enjoy the moments we have together, maybe it’s time to put our phones down and focus intensely on those directly around us… God after all has only placed them in our path for a season.

Blessings,

Pastor Brad.

Scripture Source – BibleHub.com

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Whose Am I ?

I’ve been on a pastoral sabbatical.

A rare 3 months to rest and unwind my mind and body from the rigors of bi-vocational service. I still have my ‘day’ job to keep up with, but I’ve been allowed to step back for twelve weeks to catch my spiritual breath. A first for me.

Sounds great! A chance to let go of some of the extra  commitments and obligations that come with pastoring a small church… but it’s actually been ridiculously hard. My free time has stretched me in ways I’ve never felt before and revealed areas of my life that needed to be attended to.

When I slow down, I fidget. I get uncomfortable and anxious without something to do, somewhere to be. When I stop, I have time to think… and when I stop moving I feel less important, less necessary…less needed.

Specifically… I lose my sense of value and purpose without running 100 mph every day. After decades of racing through life.. .this sabbatical has raised the proverbial hood of my souls engine and forced me to see what’s ticking underneath the drive to do and be more.

God is gently pushing me to re-examine my life, to take a survey of my identity. Where do I draw my value from? How do I see myself as a person as a man? Stuff I’ve not had to wrestle with for a very long time, issues that I never anticipated have become very much a part of my daily dialogue with God. He’s asking the hard stuff in my ‘down’ time. Just like Jesus did with His disciples, the questions reveal the areas of our life that need to be restored and renewed.

How about you? Have you had to wrestle with where you draw your identity from? As parents it’s appropriate to consider yourself as a mom or dad first. To take comfort in the role you’ve been appointed by God as a sacred trust. Caretaker, teacher, friend, and mentor to your kids. Those duties and obligations often push other commitments and pursuits away, and fill our lives with the daily work of family. 

For dads, we may find ourselves focused on our role as provider and defender. Taking our identity from our ability to work and earn a living. We draw our strength and value from the paycheck and security we provide our homes, and as we gain financial stability our self-esteem begins to keep pace. It feels good enough to our fragile egos  to seduce us into working ‘all the time’.

For pastors, lay-leaders and church ministry volunteers: the role we fill as teachers and shepherds can overshadow who we are. Our commitments to serve the body of Christ are noble and self-sacrificing, dutiful and sacred in their own right. We can gain self-importance and significance in our leadership roles and over time those strengths can become a part of our ‘false‘ self. A propping up of our self-worth and self-esteem with the external affirmation and encouragement of those we lead, a temporary fix that won’t work long-term. It’s the same core heart issue as the workaholic dad, but dressed up as ‘ministry’.

All of this is normal and predictable. Mothers gain their strength from the health of their family, dads from the financial contributions they bring, and pastors from the size of the congregations they serve…but there will be a time in each of our lives when those externals will be challenged by events and circumstances outside of our control. 

For parents, our kids will eventually grow and move out. The empty nest is a test for the marriage and identity of both parents, especially moms.

For dads, the career sacrifices and endless struggle to contribute to the bottom line will dry up or go completely away. The stress of being in-between work or career is life changing and carves deeply into the confidence and value of a man’s self-esteem.

For pastors, the expansion or contraction of their church body will temp them to feel good or bad about their performance as a spiritual leader, and in doing so falsely inflate or deflate their self-esteem based on a limited understanding of God and His faithfulness in spite of us.

The struggle is real. Where do we draw our confidence from? Who defines us? Where can I go to discover the truth about ‘me’? 

When I prayed over this and studied the scriptures multiple truths emerged. One question I was asked in prayer was this… Whose am I”? 

Am I ‘God’s man… or man’s man?

Am I focused and intent to spend my energy in knowing Him, of being in His presence? Am I more concerned with His feelings about my life or other people?

Whose… Am I?

Am I my wifes man?  Am I my bosses man? Am I my kids man? Do the people I lead love me? Do I only consider my own desires, or do I surrender my plans for God’s? ?

What I think He’s asking us all is this. Am I God’s man? 

The question is more than rhetorical. My identity is going to be very strongly associated with where my energy is directed and my focus maintained. Where my ‘treasure’ is, there my heart will be also, and my sense of self-worth will flow from that fountain – good or bad.

I notice that when I keep my heart and mind open to God’s daily & hourly whispers… I am at peace and looking for His direction on which step to take next. When I allow God to fill my awareness, I shrink and He grows.

The truth of being an adopted son and joint heir with Christ begins to take root and grow. My need to be seen and heard is stifled and the fears and insecurities fade. The weight of my life is shifted from my shoulders to His hands.  I can rest and I can trust in something much bigger than me.

Taking time to ponder and pray is more than a luxury of a sabbatical, it’s an essential process we all need. The struggle to slow down and simplify although difficult at first, has become an essential lesson for me. It has allowed for the deeper issues of the heart to be noticed, considered, and addressed.

God is active in my sabbatical; He’s pruning me. Preparing me  for a future with bigger fruit and more abundant living. He’s also rewiring me from measuring those things with the models of success that our world so strongly endorses. 

He uses the cross of Christ and an invisible Kingdom as His measuring stick and the presence of Peace in our turbulent existence  as proof it’s all for real.

Pastor B.

PS (the use of ‘man’ in this blog is not meant as sexist, simply as a generic term for mankind)

Facing the past as parents; 1988 to Now

I think every generation of parents has fear. Each transition of faith from one age to the next feels like a critical pass of the baton, a sacred trust that must be kept.

This age and stage of our society may be unlike any before…unique in the modern era. Not being a legit historian, I would hazard a guess that not since the rise of the industrial revolution has the fabric of life been so rapidly affected as it is with today’s technological transformation. 

Think back 30 years. (1988) Consider the state of society and faith, the condition of the family and what we considered to be ‘normal’. The personal computer had just become a product for us to consider. The internet wasn’t yet a public concern. Cellular phones came in bags and families of faith were focused on the abortion debates, and prayer in the classroom. Marriage was defended by both democrats and republicans as between a man and woman. Pot was illegal. 

Oh, change was occurring in 1988; generational shifts were rapid between music styles, MTV videos and late night television stars opened up the door to cable TV programming, and something called “hip – hop’ was being heard from those ‘boom boxes’ in the streets. We were fascinated by Top Gun, Beetlejuice, Michael Jackson, and Miami Vice. Big hair and Nike shoes were the norm as our values were shifting to focus on wealth, raw materialism and success. The party scene was focused on  a brat pack in southern California and the valley of San Fernando was the talk of every town. Eddie Murphy was coming to America, the Young Guns were big at the box office and Ronald Reagan was rocking America into a major economic recovery. The incomparable U2 was on top of the music world,  “but we still couldn’t find what we were looking for”. 

Today, life is shifting again. Parents who were once teens, are now facing tremendous strain. We who were the self absorbed children of the 80’s are now seeking wisdom on how to help our teens navigate a digital world of relativity and limitless opinions. 

If your not aware, here are some recent (2018) stats about Generation Z (kids currently 13-19 years old) from the Barna Research Group.

Barna Research Group (2018) Study Findings: Barna’s most comprehensive research study investigating the perceptions, experiences and motivations of 13- to 18-year-olds in Generation Z, reports the following:

  • 59% of students in this age group Identify as Christian or Catholic (down from 75% ).
  • 21% say they are atheist or agnostic (up from 11% )
  • 4% say they have no religious affiliation (up from 9% )
  • Students in this age group offer the following “barriers to faith”:
    • a. “I have a hard time believing that a good God would allow so much evil or suffering in the world” (29%)
    • b. “Christians are hypocrites” (23%)
      c. “I believe science refutes too much of the Bible” (20%)
      d. “I don’t believe in fairy tales (19%)
      e. “There are many injustices in the history of Christianity” (15%)
      f. “I used to go to church but it’s not important anymore” (12%)
      g. “I had a bad experience at church with a Christian” (6%)
  • Students in this age group struggle to reconcile science with the Bible.
  • 24% side with science (up from 16% ).
  • 31% believe science and the Bible refer to different aspects of reality (up from 25% ).
  • 28% believe science and the Bible can be used to support each other (down from 45% ).
  • 17% consider themselves on the side of the Bible (up from 13% down from 19% for “Millennials”)
  • Students in this age group hold negative perceptions of the church in the following areas:
  • The church seems to reject much of what science tells us  (49%)
    b. The church is overprotective of teenagers (38%)
    c. The people at church are hypocritical (36%)
    d. The church is not a safe place to express doubts (27%)
    e. The faith and teaching I encounter at church seem rather shallow (24%)
    f. The church seems too much like an exclusive club (17%)
  • When students in this age group were asked why they didn’t think church was important, they gave the following reasons:
  • “The church is not relevant to me” (59%)
    b. “I find God elsewhere” (48%)
    c. “I can teach myself what I need to know” (28%)
    d. “I think church is out of date” (20%)
    e. “I don’t like the people who are in church” (15%)
    f. “The rituals of church are empty” (12%)

So… reading those stats can sober a parent up.  At first glance it looks grim, things are clearly different than when we were teens. Reasons for this are debatable, but anyway you slice it, our kids are changing their values to reflect today’s pop culture, just as we did in the 80’s. I went a bit crazy in my early twenties, after college and the restrictions of my parents, I promptly set out to chase after money and success, reflecting the values and beliefs of my generation. I left my faith and family for a BMW and a swollen Edward Jones portfolio, but by my mid-30’s Christ had graciously derailed my selfish path and reconnected me to His perfect plan.

Why?

My parents. They prayed for me every day.

My wife stayed true to her faith when I wandered from mine. In the end, God won the battle for my heart and mind. It was the authentic beliefs and behavior of my family that eventually forced me to consider the Christian faith as ‘real’. Not a fantastic sermon or study, not a fascinating truth revealed in a engaging ministry event, it was the consistency and faithfulness of my family living out their faith when no one was watching that won my respect and ultimately my trust. God wasn’t in a hurry, He had things under control and He was unfazed by my wandering ways.

The truth…God wasn’t distraught over my prodigal diversions. He wasn’t ‘thrown’ by my generations pagan pursuits, He firmly and gently reclaimed what was lost and started the divine story of redemption all over again. I believe He can and will do that for this generation. I believe parents must live their messy faith in authentic ways to earn the respect of our teens, and sometimes we as parents must watch and wait for God to show up in our kids lives. 

Pastor B.

Source Link – Barna Research – Generation Z 

Parents! What do you believe?

We are working with the TGA (Tween Gospel Alliance) on a new book / resource project and need your anonymous input.

If you are a socially aware parent, and have an active and ongoing interest in our shifting Faith culture and parenting, we would LOVE and APPRECIATE your help with this ten question survey!

Take our 90 second survey – make a difference!

TAKE OUR SURVEY HERE – You could win some cool stuff from Chik-Fil-A !

Survey is fast! It only takes 90 seconds to complete the ten multiple choice questions and it’s going to help thousands of parents and kids! 

God Bless you and please share with your friends or family!

Pastor Brad / Road Trip Parenting – TGA team

In your opinion….

We all have opinions. We all have experiences… and we need your help!

Would you be so kind as to take time to share yours. I’m posting a TGA (Tween Gospel Alliance) survey today for parents. We need about 90 seconds?

Colour of Life Photography

For your trouble… we want to reward you! Two lucky folks will win $50 from Chik-Fil-A / or Hobby Lobby.

This blog is affiliated with the TGA, and we value your opinions and ideas, this information will be used to help create new resources for ministry and parenting. Your helping us…. help you 🙂

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JZQYYFG

Thank YOU!

Blessings,

Pastor B.

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.

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.