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 ūüôā

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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Parenting with Jesus…

So let’s go ahead and skip the Sunday school lesson, today we’re
talking about more than simply name dropping at expected times and places, this
is serious. For Christians, seeking to live as parents requires a supernatural
and un-exhaustible source of love, wisdom and grace. We all recognize our
inability to understand and solve every problem our kids experience, and to try
to do so on our own would put us in mental lock down for weeks.

Over the weekend, we hosted our youth group for some hang time to
start off the summer break. We listened and talked and shared what God had put
on our heart for the year, but mostly we asked questions and listened to the
responses. It was telling. Kids are sensing all of the challenges of life much
earlier than we had to, they are aware for the most part about the need to
“Hear from God” for themselves and for the shallowness of petty
theological turf wars in the church. They acknowledge their frustration with
the inconsistencies of youth leaders, and pastors and teachers and parents, but
most of all they realized they didn’t know exactly who or what to do with Jesus?

Every one of these kids had prayed the prayer, they had done a
youth camp or missions trip, they knew the bible well enough to speak the
language of a Christian and to even spend time with God on a regular
basis…but they struggled to define their relationship with Him. Jesus was a
mish-mash of traditional concept and stereotypes, mixed in with a bit of
current pop culture, and Jesus emerges in our kids’ lives as an icon of the
past with little personal interaction or tangible reality.

Sound familiar?

When it‚Äôs all said and done, it’s possible the single greatest
contribution any of us can give to our kids is a solid understanding of who
Jesus Christ is, and what He offers for us to experience with Him over the
course of our lifetime. The other stuff is great, it’s important and it will
serve our kids well to learn to balance their checkbooks, act with integrity,
love with wisdom etc… but if they grow up with a scattered and undefined
grasp of who our savior is. We may be missing the parenting point all together.

Ask your kids… “Who is Jesus?‚ÄĚ This simple
question is upon a bit of reflection actually quite profound, inexhaustible really.

Without Jesus in our parenting, we’re kinda of asking our kids to
follow Christianity, burdened upon our own weak and vulnerable examples of
faith. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to do that.

Ask them.

It may be the single greatest parenting choice you can ever make.
Be prepared to struggle a bit yourself as you seek to define the relationship
you have with Jesus. Who is He? What did he actually do for you, for our kids,
for mankind? What has He asked of us? Where is He now? Why didn’t He fix
everything… or did He? Why can’t we see or hear Him… or can we? How can so
many people claim to know Him and yet act as if He never existed?

Taking the time will be a struggle, a valiant one, worthy of every parent’s
full attention and focus. At the heart of the bible, the very pulsing center of
all its teaching, its truth and its power lies one undeniable theme. Jesus
Christ. When our understanding of Christianity and faith and discipleship and
mentoring and life drift away from the central truth of our existence… what
do we really have to offer our kids?

“Lord, help us to grasp the essentials of our faith. Help us
to communicate the truth of our relationship with your only son and our savior
to our kids… strengthen us with your word and flood us with wisdom this day.
In Jesus name we pray, Amen”.

Peace out.

brad

Grace in its place for your home…

I’ve been aware for some time now, the contradiction that clouds many¬†homes when it comes to parenting and salvation. Raised in a very legalistic and¬†conservative Christian environment¬†as a kid, I was confused¬†and angered¬†by the¬†contradictions in our Christian beliefs as they related to faith and family. So confused and so angry in¬†fact I split the church at 19¬†and didn’t look back for another 12 years.

Something inside of me knew this couldn’t be “right”. I mean, if salvation was by grace then would my faith only become real by obedience and achievement or was there some room for me and my own shortcomings in the whole equation of life and death and salvation ? The bible seemed to say “Yes”, but the parents and adults I lived around and under seemed exhausted and insane in their determination to make their kids be obedient.

In the end,¬†the kids I grew up with…¬†all coped as only we could. We faked it. We learned the scripture verses and attended every bible study, worship service and evangelistic outreach that a “good” Christian should. Over time, we (my generation) learned to simply pretend our way through adolescence and reflect the images and actions that our parents seemed so desperate we should be.

As a child…I was developing an understanding of God and Faith that put all of the pressure on me. It was my duty to obey or be left behind, or fried or scorned for not being “faithful enough” to earn God’s favor. I was told one thing… “Grace”, and then instructed in the¬†practice of something else… the¬†“Law”. I couldn’t unravel all of the details, but I knew deep down… I sensed¬†if that was the way Christianity was supposed to¬†work, it¬†couldn’t be true.

It wasn’t until I listened into a Focus on the Family Broadcast¬†about parenting,¬†that¬†the past experiences I had as a kid…¬†sort of “clicked” into place for me. An author by the name of Dr. Tim Kimmel has written numerous books about Grace and Love and kids, check them out including… ‘Little House on the Freeway” and “Grace based Parenting” in which he centers in on the issues facing many of todays parents.

The book reveals the complex contradictions of Christian life as we allow our homes to gradually become controlled by our¬†own insecurities, fears and¬†iron discipline. Dr. Kimmel uncovers the causes and issues of our busyness, achievement oriented faith, grace vs. law, love vs. fear behaviors..etc… He clearly helps parents un-wind the knots in their own lives and then in their kids. It’s excellent and I hope you take the time to read and review and apply as needed to your own lives.

In the end, we want to show our kids Jesus by our lives. Not force them to obey in some empty attempt to please us. Our next generation of kids are struggling in ways we have never dreamed of. They are leaving the church in droves… 88-90% leave at age eighteen never to return. I believe one of key areas of failure as families of faith is related to this concept of Grace and relationship vs. Law and rules.

Don’t misunderstand, Grace is not a license to let them do whatever, whenever, but it is a lifestyle that parents need to embrace aggressively if they want to point their own to Jesus. After all, that’s how we found Him… isn’t it ? My challenge to you parents… please listen to this broadcast, check it out… see if this¬†impacts you as much as it did me. I know many have strong opinions on these issues, but if you are not a second or third generation Christian, its hard to explain.

Peace out, as you like me… seek to keep your families in between the lines and on the road of life.

Brad.

The Grandparent factor

What role do your parents play in raising your kids ?

What role do you want them to have ?

My situation is very unique, my parents are both healthy, active and very alive and involved in our family. My mom and dad, now in their seventies live in our lower level and play a vital role in our home. We are blessed to have them so close and so engaged with our three teenagers. Todays blog is meant to remind us all of the significant role our parents can play in raising our children, if we let them.

My in-laws live in Memphis TN and visit often, and we make the effort to bring our family to them several times each year. In the summer, we try to make sure one or more of our kids can spend a week with them for a little “Nona and papa” time.

Why?

My wife and I feel that our kids need to know their grandparents, to see the¬†love¬†in¬†their lives and to learn from them about the values and beliefs of a generation before. We are fortunate that both sets of grandparents in family share our faith and actively seek to model their lives for our kids. It’s a blessing for us all. Regardless of the relationship you may or may not have with your parents, maybe its time to make a visit. For everyone’s sake.

This summer, we all have the option to fill our schedules with trips and vacations and summer camps, and we should. But in the midst of the excitement of planning, please seriously consider time with your own parents as a vital part of their development and education. Our parents have such valuable and wise insight into our lives, they provide a huge piece of the family puzzle and can provide an essential “anchor” for our kids to base their identities and values and beliefs in.

So much of our lives are spent in planning ahead that we can easily miss the value and strength of remembering our past. Intentionally planning to spend time with our extended families is a great way to inspire and encourage and involve your family completely in the amazing joy of raising your kids.

I know, I know… if we actually take that step, we risk the frustration and guilt of ignoring¬†our parents¬†un-solicited advice, or the embarrassment of your own kids acting out or being dis-respectful, but the honoring of those before us is a life-style we need to cherish and model and pass on. After all… it won’t be long, until it’s you and I we’re talking about… right ? ūüôā

So, please take a minute and seriously consider if its time for you and your kids to re-connect with the grandparents this summer, and help keep your families on the road and in between the lines, old school style.

Peace out,

brad.

Fear and Anger, a parents worst nightmare

How many of us know all to well the terrible twins… “Fear and Anger“?¬† As parents its such a temptation to let those loose on our kids only to regret it later. If you’re scratching you head about this, well then this blog is probably not for you. If your holding your head in your hands about now… don’t be discouraged, you’re in good company and there is hope for change.

I got a call late one night from a nineteen year old who was really and truly hurt and upset at her father and mother and felt she couldn’t “talk” with them. She and her now grown siblings were struggling with a dad who didn’t seem to listen, or care or have a sensitive bone in his body. He was rigid, demanding and final in his words with them. He made laws and expected them to be obeyed without question. He had made it clear to his family, once he had made up his mind… well you get the idea.

The problem is two-fold and it’s critical we understand it enough to change its devastating impact in our homes.

1 – As parents we often “over-react” emotionally and vigorously out of fear and guilt and utter frustration with our teenagers. We remember our past mistakes, or the horror stories of our peer parenting friends… we ponder the risks and dangers of our kids being allowed more and more freedom.

We fume inwardly at the risks of broken hearts from boyfriends and girlfriends, of faded dreams and hopes that lay shattered in our past. We project those historical memories into our current homes and it scares the “crud” out of us. When we see one of kids stepping right up to the line we crossed… we might “freak” a little and in doing so, FEAR and ANGER emerge.

Wouldn’t it be so much healthier if we just allowed ourselves a moment to not flare up, and instead be straight with our kids about the “why” behind the reactions of fear and anger. To explain to them the past mistakes and humiliations, and tragedies of our own adolescence and to show them our love and our desire to protect and provide and nurture them.

2 – When we make a habit of giving in to the terrible twins of “FEAR and ANGER” we develop a pattern of inter-action between us and our love ones. It slowly builds a wall between our lives and eventually it blocks all communication from coming back from our kids to us. In the aftermath of such unchecked emotional reactivity… we see the charred remnants of what used to be a loving and intimate trust between us and our teenagers now blackened by the lack of any sensitivity to their thoughts, opinions or ideas. We teach them that a¬†parents role is to ¬†“TELL” them what to do, and kids are just there to “OBEY”.

It’s a forgone conclusion that if we react in Fear and Anger enough, they will¬†withdraw¬†¬†and never even dare to respond any longer. We will lose their trust, their respect and ultimately all of our influence to their heart. They will in time repeat the same with their kids and the painful cycle will continue to one more generation. Someday they might get the courage up to actually confront¬†us with their own frustrations and anger and pain at the way they have been trampled, but that is a whole different issue entirely.

So…¬†The Apostle Paul taught a bit differently on this, He suggested that only three things will endure into eternity… “Hope, Faith and Love…and the greatest of these is Love“.¬† It also is said in the bible that “Perfect Love casts out all fear”.¬† If that is true, then we need to seriously step back from our knee jerk parenting reflex of “Fear and Anger” for something better. We should seriously and soberly ask God for wisdom in how to Love our kids better and react to them slower.

Spend some time on that idea today… and ask yourself, why do I react the way I do ? Is it out of fear, anger or pride ? For me it was pride, it was the concern for my own reputation as a parent, as¬†a pastor and out of the belief that¬†if I¬†was the parent, then¬†I had to have the right answer every time¬†etc.. yada didah doo. I was SO Wrong.

When your kids are little they will sometimes need fear and anger… if they want to play with electricity or drink paint etc.. but as they¬†start to grow into adults, its time to lower your guard a bit and let them in. Let them see your own personal doubts and fears about life for themselves, let them consider with you the realities of our world and its dangers. Let them see your LOVE and Compassion and Concern for them in the struggles of it all. That DOES NOT MEAN BE THEIR BEST FRIENDS.¬† Let me be clear, as teens they will seek to manipulate and twist you for their own way. That is not what I’m suggesting at all, but when they do (and they will) don’t over-react anymore.

In the end they may not like what you decide any better than before, but they will LOVE the fact that you considered carefully before you spoke and that they had your ear in the process. That leads to respect and respect will lead to trust and trust will lead them to follow what you have taught them.

So lets throw out the terrible twins of “Fear and Anger” and let them leave our homes. Instead lets invite Peace and Love to rule our lives and ask for Gods wisdom and discernment instead of our own. Blessings to you as you like me… “seek to keep your kids on the road and in between the lines of life

Brad.

Rob Bell…heretic or hero ?

Rob Bell, the charismatic¬†founder of the Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI. Known as an¬†innovative speaker, pastor,¬†teacher, lecturer and author. Deemed by some to be a¬†hero, and to others a heretic.¬†Pastor Bell’s book, “Love Wins” is in the middle of all out debate online, in print,¬†on¬†tv and among¬†Christian theologians on the nature of Hell…he is¬†as controversial as radioactive baby food. Is he a Heretic ? Or is he a Hero?

The Question I believe is actually deeper than that… instead of focusing on the media fire storm around the book, what about the actual discussion on the¬†ideas in the book? For me, one detail has emerged far and above the rest, and that¬†does¬†not¬†involve a discussion on¬†Hell, but what about our understanding of “Heaven”?

Is it possible that we have been over-simplifying and under-emphasising the Hope of the gospel ?

After reading the book… (which to discuss intelligently is a MUST) I believe you will find yourself agreeing with and dis-agreeing with Mr. Bell on several issues. His avoidance of the significant issue of what Judgement is, or could be or will be for souls after death is notable in the book. So for now, the¬†confidence¬†to label the man a¬†HERETIC is off the table for me.

As far as calling him a HERO… I’m not willing to go that far…yet. Jury is still out. For now, I’ll say no. (See Francis Chan’s¬†Video Commentary¬†on this… His comments are precisely what I felt but couldn’t articulate after reading Rob’s book… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnrJVTSYLr8 )

But what about Heaven ?

That is the most¬†fascinating¬†question, the critical “take away”¬†reminder that Rob Bell brings to us from his book. As Christians in a culture of media and marketing and canned infomercial styled faith, we may be guilty of missing the point.¬† What if the gospel wasn’t just a “get out of jail” card for¬†our soul¬†after death, but a solution for life, practical and available in the “here and now” ? What if Eternal life, was describing what life was meant to be like, and is now possible for those who embrace Jesus as the savior he claimed to be?

What if the whole perspective on our lives was meant to be lived with the reality that everything old was made new, and that everything broken was to be¬†made whole and that every loss redeemed? That the power of the cross was sufficient to re-birth our lives as they were meant to be lived. A fresh start, a radical transformation. Then, the punishment for those who reject that gospel of new life would have to¬†be… old life. Dying… Hopelessness, brokeness, despair… Hell.

That’s fascinating, even likely. But not the point.

Does¬†our understanding of the bible and Jesus then rule out the existence of Hell ? I do not belive so. Rob seems to imply he might go there… ?Not my concern, its¬†debatable, unknowable¬†and brilliant faithful Christian minds for over a thousand years have raised the same question with similar results.

In the end, for me its to some degree irrelevant, my concern is living my life now. I believe that Rob is right in this portion of his reasoning… God has provided us all¬†with the option to “Choose” to live from a “New” source of¬†life that is available only in¬†a re-united relationship with God (Jesus). To choose not to do that is our freedom… and our responsibility. To reject that life leads to Hell.

To accept that leads to salvation… Such a “New”¬†saved life should explode with vibrant and relentless love, hope and peace. That life would influence everyone around it, and that witness would provide to the poor, the dying and the oppressed of¬†the tangible¬†evidence that there is a savior. It would reek of Jesus and it would be impossible to deny that a life in Christ was literally like living¬†as though we were¬†in heaven now.

What I see instead for most of us professing Christians… is something closer to simple survival.

Rob Bell in his controversy, I believe¬†is providing us all with¬†a very powerful platform for further study… forget the issue of whether Hell is a literal or figurative concept. What about “Heaven”? Have you actually considered that the life Jesus promised for us all, is more than a harp and some blue sky… it might be right in front of you now, waiting for you to discover, today ?

In the end, you need to read the book and you need to read it with an open bible. Search the scriptures, find out if what you think you believe is what it really says. You might be surprised at what you find… I was.

Bit of departure from our usual parenting fare today, but I thought it was worth the time, and curious as to your own observations on this controversial subject.

Peace out,

brad.

A Critique of Rob Bell’s book…”Love Wins”

¬†I just finished reading Rob Bell’s controversial book, “Love Wins“. I came away with mixed emotions, but strangely stirred to consider carefully the suggestions his book asserts about what I “think I know”, rather than what the bible actually says.

As a parent, this book engages me to review my way of raising kids biblically and to apply the portions of the book that I believe have real merit for us and to discard the portions that I believe are a pure opinion. As a pastor I feel strongly that Rob has raised a very real and¬†serious concern about how we as Christian’s¬†present the “gospel” of Jesus Christ to our world.

For a fair and balance review of Rob’s book, I would refer you to¬†a post from Christian Today. I believe¬†theologian¬†Derek Tidball¬†has captured my own observations, considerations¬†and concerns almost verbatim.

For real life faith and family issues, read on….

Parents, Rob Bell’s book raises some key elements about our understanding of our Lord and Savior Jesus. He uses in particular the parable of the prodigal son as a powerful metaphor for understanding the viewpoint that God Himself has on both those who fail and repent and those who appear to be faithful and reliable servants. His observation that God see’s both sons as separated by¬†their individual¬†sins is a great parenting truth.

So often one of our children are easily identified as the “black sheep” of our families, always pushing boundaries, always the first to get in trouble and the first to talk back… and in converse there will be one sibling who is extra-ordinarily compliant. It’s easy to pre-determine the actions and reactions of each to our instructions and to pre-judge their actions as “good” and “bad” respectively.

Not so fast.

What about the conditions of the hearts of our children? I mean, are we carefully looking into their hearts before we draw our conclusions about their actions ? If so, we need to step back a bit and reconsider.

God judges from the heart, man from the outward appearance. If we are training our kids to simply model our faith, in time they will learn to simply “pretend” their way through childhood and adolescence. By adulthood, they will have mastered the art of deception and risk the tragedy of living out their lives in public as respectable and self-disciplined fakes. It strikes me that many of our churches are full of such individuals.

If we take the time to actually look a bit under the surface of their behavior, we may find that our compliant kids are actually more at risk for connecting with their faith in a genuine way than our “black sheep” are.¬† The honesty of rebellion is something that we need to actually cherish as we work with them to consider that mom and dad might know what they are talking about, and that the bible could actually be important to their own lives… ūüôā

Tomorrow’s blog will consider the issues of this book and its impact on the¬†church from the perspective of a pastor.

Until then, God bless you as you like me… “seek to keep your family in between the lines and on the road of life”!

Peace out,

brad.