Advent Week One – Hope for families

ad·vent [ ád vènt ]
  1. arrival: the arrival of something important or awaited (Encarta World English Dictionary)

Advent - Hope

Week one of Advent involves remembering the “Hope” that’s promised in Jesus. Remembering our “Hope” can be tough for parents who are struggling to get a “grip” in the hectic and expensive season of Christmas. Advent is more than a candle lighting tradition for a few sunday’s each December, it’s one of the foundational tiers of our faith.

I’ve just finished my first book manuscript for Tyndale publishers and I’ve included an excerpt from one of the chapters to illustrate the idea of “Hope”. In it, I remind myself and the reader to remember how God promised to “come for his people”, to restore their lost hopes and dreams to renew their lives… what they didn’t understand in the exile of Babylon was the unique way He would answer that promise… The birth of a baby in sleepy Bethlehem was a big surprise. But a welcome one.  I  “Hope” you like it 🙂

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God promises to breathe new life into each new era of believers regardless of the current popular culture, economic state or educational environment they may find themselves struggling to survive in. GOOD NEWS INDEED!

 “Then he said to me, Prophesy over these bones and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones; Behold I will cause breath to enter you and you shall live”

Ezekiel 37: 4-5 (ESV)

My hope is for you as parents to see that God can handle these unbelievable generational changes. They didn’t catch Him off guard. He is more than able to help us grow and endure and overcome the parenting stresses and complications so common to us all. He promises again and again in the bible, He will show up, He is not going to leave us unprepared and unable to lead and guide our kids into the path of life. It just probably won’t be in the same ways as our parents did it. We definitely will need to guard the same principles and beliefs, but in the end we will need to rely on the specific and precise instructions of God to each of us.”

The gifts of the Master are these: freedom, life, hope, new direction, transformation, and intimacy with God. If the cross was the end of the story, we would have no hope. But the cross isn’t the end. Jesus didn’t escape from death; he conquered it and opened the way to heaven for all who will dare to believe. The truth of this moment, if we let it sweep over us, is stunning. It means Jesus really is who he claimed to be, we are really as lost as he said we are, and he really is the only way for us to intimately and spiritually connect with God again.”
Steven James, Story

(C) RoadTrip Parenting, Carol Stream IL, Tyndale)

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Just as God came through on His promise to Ezekiel a thousand years later in Bethlehem, He will for you. He’s coming for each of us. Our Hope is in that fact. God’s promises have come true, are coming true and will never fail in the future.

Advent. What are you waiting for God to deliver to you that He hasn’t already ? A new job, a peaceful home, restored health… I’m confident that this Advent season you can look on those with renewed “Hope”. I can’t guarantee God will answer your requests or prayers the way you would have preferred or expected, but answer them He will. To remember that, all you have to do is consider Christmas.

Peace Out fellow RTP !

brad

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Using Duct Tape to save Thanksgiving !

Sorry for the awkward title… no this isn’t a new crazy recipe or menu suggestion.

This Thanksgiving I’m choosing personally to be content. That means I’ve put some mental duct tape (my metaphorical censor) on my mind and mouth for the duration. Words that have been banned are… “Should have”, “I wish”, “Too bad” and anything sarcastic. Thoughts no longer allowed include…”any ideas that associate or dwell on guilt”, “anything that pauses to regret” and anything with “a random comparative criticism of anyone or anything”.

Con·tent·ment
(noun ) 1.the state of being contented; satisfaction; ease of mind.

Wow… so it IS true. Content is the “state” of being contented. It’s a state of mind, a place we determine to go to, not a destination we arrive at. I’ve watched and seen so many times as I’ve visited and participated over the years with various family and friends holiday events… their beautiful and precious family moments often de-evolved from the happy and joyful occasions they were designed to be…into frustrated and irritating debacles.
Why ?
Is it possible we’re looking and living too much in past memories or distracted by our future hopes? So often in doing so we miss the actual life we are supposed to be living in the present ? It’s kind of tragic… life is so short, so precious.
If you’re doing what we do… somewhere in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving or Christmas, you’ll be reading the latest Southern Living edition and planning to host the perfect meal or holiday party with Paula Deen or Martha Stewart’s most innovative and elegant advice. We always seem to start out with the greatest intention of preparing everything just as we saw in the pictures…only to fall short somewhere between the pile of laundry in the living room and the dirty guest bathroom toilet bowl.
Let’s step back a second BEFORE we get to Thursday’s special family day and give ourselves permission to fall a little short. To cut ourselves and those we love some serious slack for not being more mature, or considerate or helpful. Let’s be prepared to live in the now, the present and let’s agree to welcome the reality of today with all of its flaws. To position ourselves to enjoy what we have and not long for what we don’t.
Costco and Kroger ( i have discovered 🙂  have amazing options for last-minute thanksgiving dinner bailouts ! After all, when you slow down and think about it, our homes are meant to be safe places, lived in and loved, not pristine and beautiful testaments to our domestic prowess. Remember, we are allowed to actually Enjoy the food we prepare. We are allowed from time to time to eat too much, sleep too much, watch tv too much and simply be grateful, happy, relaxed with life as it is… A STATE OF CONTENTMENT.
Thanksgiving is about remembering what we have… not fretting about the things that always seem to elude us. We have each other, we have our life and homes and families, flawed and broken though they are. They are with us now. Don’t let them slip through your fingers in the time we’ve been given to embrace and enjoy and love those in our immediate and extended family.
Paul said it this way in Phillipians 4:11-12 (the Message) “Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am”
I’m asking you to join me in the self-censorship of the negative and instead make a determination to be hopeful. Families, this year let’s strive to seek to be “available” to those we love, to be “accessible” to those we care about and “attentive’ to the needs of more than those outside our homes. It’s easy for us to volunteer to help out with the distant downtown homeless and the occasional downtrodden stranger… but isn’t it time we do the same with our own families this Thanksgiving?
Peace out my RTP friends… HAPPY TURKEY DAY !
LOVE to you… Brad.

Learning to let go… Again !

Funny how our personal life lessons take a while to translate to our children.

God has NEVER dropped me. NEVER let me down, there are times and days when I was unsure, scared and full of doubts…but in the end, He always showed up and in the most unusual ways met my greatest needs. I’ve been a follower of Jesus now for almost a decade, and in that time I have filled five journals with memoirs of the faithfulness of God in my life.

Faithful to me in times of abandonment, faithful in times of near bankruptcy, faithful in times of deep depression, anger, resentment, betrayal, personal failing, lost hope, health, etc. No matter what circumstance I found myself in…God was with me. His promise to never leave or forsake me were trustworthy. Reliable. Accurate.

But when my kids became teens… it was like a whole new chapter in Faith had to be re-written.

Ever feel that way ?

Be encouraged, God is as faithful to meet our families needs as our own. What is harder for us parents, is to resist the temptation to reach into their hormonal lives and shake their little- not fully matured -brains until they understand us. To manipulate their lives and schedules and activities to our comfort level and to re-arrange their priorities to match our own.

Why do we do that ?

Or more importantly why should we be tempted to do that? I think the answer is as simple as “Fear”. We have learned and are learning to trust God for our own lives, but letting go of our young adult children is a totally different deal. Let me encourage you to. Not literally let them “go” do whatever they want, but a letting go at the “HEART” level. It’s time to let God be God.

Definitely keep your behavior boundaries, keep your word and be consistent in your home to enforce the rules, guard your respect and promote your beliefs, but in the end… they have to discover the same truths and foundation values that you and I did. Some of that discovering is very difficult to watch unfold.

Resist the need to “Fix” everything in their lives, let them stumble, and bumble their way forward as you encourage, correct and protect them on the way. Stay in the word of God to guide your own path, rely on the same faithful God to win the hearts and minds of your kids as he did your own.

In the end, if we let God take over…we’re really only accepting the reality of things as they have always been. Psalm 37 is one of my anchor to the soul – passages in the bible. I’m sharing it with anyone who needs it now. My hope is you will find the truth of its words to allow you to once again, to find rest in remembering God’s faithfulness to all of us in every generation. Trust Him to reach your children when you can’t.

Psalm 37 (ESV)

He Will Not Forsake His Saints
Of David.

1 Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
2For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.

3 Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.

7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!

8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.

10In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.

12The wicked plots against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him,
13but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming.

14The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

16 Better is the little that the righteous has
than the abundance of many wicked.
17For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the Lord upholds  the righteous.

18The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will remain forever;
19they are not put to shame in evil times;
in the days of famine they have abundance.

20But the wicked will perish;
the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—likesmoke they vanish away.

21The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
but the righteous is generous and gives;
22for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by him shall be cut off.

23The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the LORD upholds his hand.

25I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging for bread.
26He is ever lending generously,
and his children become a blessing.

27 Turn away from evil and do good;
so shall you dwell forever.
28For the LORD loves justice;
he will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29The righteous shall inherit the land
and dwell upon it forever.

30The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip.

32The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33The LORD will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34 Wait for the LORD and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
though I sought him, he could not be found.

37Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace.
38But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the future of the wicked shall be cut off.

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.

(courtesy of Biblegateway.com)

Peace out my dear parenting comrades, and remember… we know how the story is going to end…God Wins.

brad

I pledge allegiance…to NBC and to the atheist worldview…

So…I’m watching the US Open sunday on father’s day and enjoying some couch time when they start running this tribute video in lush production values, honoring the US as a nation, our heritage, our soldiers and our legacy of hope and freedom…and it’s being voiced over with the Pledge of Allegiance and I’m sorta saying it along in my mind…when I notice they totally skip the “One Nation Under God” part. Twice.

Not an accident. Not even close.

So many people decided it was outrageous their twitter feeds blew up with complaints and they came on-air during the US Open coverage to apologize for their decision to edit portions of their commercial spot. Seriously ?

Fellow parents, it’s becoming the “norm” for our media outlets to edit out any references of faith, God or Religion from its broadcasts…unless it’s to show how tolerant they are being of Muslim beliefs etc… It’s becoming clearer to me that our media world is intentionally seeking to reduce our American generational treasure of faith and hope and God into just the whispered shame of our past ignorant and unenlightened founders.

I’m asking you to not allow this to happen on your watch.

We are the only generation standing between the past heritage of faith and the future world of self-awareness and a growing moral vacuum for society to fill with its own personal opinions on life, truth and value. If we continue to let NBC define our american heritage as Godless, then we will be the one’s future generations will look to for some answers as to why we just stood by and let it happen without a fight.

I’m not a big boycott, sit-in, stand up kind of political animal… but this one torques me off a bit. I’m skipping my NBC viewing and support and seriously consider if a write in-campaign might be useful for something. Ideas or suggestions, links, forums are all welcome to leave their info for us to consider ways to respond to this obvious disrespect of our American history and dependence on our God and Faith as the cornerstone of this nations earliest ideals. 

So as you take the time to enjoy our Nations birthday this summer… remind yourself and your

families of the amazing history of faith that formed the very foundations of America and the

essential nature of our character, laws and integrity being bound up in those ideals of our courageous and amazing founding fathers. Something to celebrate… not edit.

Peace out,  as you seek to keep your families on the road and in between the lines of life and God’s grace to you as your children grow rapidly into tomorrow’s adults!

brad.

The Reaganomics of Fatherhood

So, its fathers day weekend ahead. For you dads out there, CONGRATULATIONS for being the MAN!  I hope you enjoy yourselves immensely and have that extra helping or two of dinner on sunday and no one gets to touch your TV remote on such a sacred date ! And while you’re basking in the warmth of your families love and admiration…I’m asking you to take a sec to consider the Ronald Reagan model of fatherhood for your family in the year ahead.

I know, what the heck,.. Reaganomics in my home…whaddya talking about ?

I’m not talking about cash, but I am talking about the “Trickle down” Economics of influence for your families. Whatever is “off” or out of balance in your home…is directly related to the influence or lack of influence you have with your family as their spiritual and moral leader. Invest “HEAVILY” in their formation by being careful to watch your own time and focus and faith.

Skip the couch, hit the kids rooms when you get home from work. Kiss your wife like you mean it, as if you might not ever get the chance to again. Don’t blow off your teen or tween’s anger or frustration with work, or school or a friend. LISTEN, HEAR and RESPOND with more than the mono-tone of passivity in your heart.

Our families will respond to a fathers leadership. If we as fathers choose to put God first in our lives… it will trickle down to our kids and our wives. As we take the time to get on our knees faithfully, daily, earnestly with God… they will recognize our actions as being authentic and respond to our faith with genuine respect and interest.

If we as dad’s, covenant to love our wives like ourselves… our marriages and our homes will regain a vibrancy and peace that will calm even the most irritated of hormonal offspring ! Our investment of time, and attention and genuine love will never come back empty. It trickles down by revealing to our kids how to love someone, how to respect and how to cherish a spouse for a lifetime.

How valuable is that lesson of life and love to a generation of kids who see 52% of marriages end in divorce?

I can go on and on and on… the reality is, as fathers we set the tone and we set the bar for our kids to follow. Not with rigid instructions and black and white religiousness, but with love and consistency and faithfulness in our own personal life. Turn off the tv when it’s pushing the moral boundaries of love and sexuality, profanity or moral relativism. Take the lead, show initiative. Don’t go passive – don’t go contented and drowsy like 90% of men today.

LEAD THEM, and in doing so… you will LOVE them as Jesus did.

Nothing can equal your influence on their lives. No one can replace your role as father. But if we’re not careful, everyone can replace your role as influencers. It’s top down – inside out time. Reagan style.

Peace out and my profound thanks to those fathers who have made the sacrifice to stick it out with their families. And for those who had no choice, may God richly bless you with the wisdom and peace of mind to lead your families “solo” as required. Faithful is He who called us who also will perform it…” Rest in the knowledge that your father in heaven has your back as you desperately seek to provide your own with a role model they can be proud to follow.

Keeping it in between the lines and on the road of life this summer…

brad.

Living like there is NO tomorrow…

It is crazy to think that someone believed the world would end last saturday at a precise time and date, and we laughed at the comic absurdity of it all. But after the belly laughs subside, I’m left with the sobering reality that if  I really take the time to consider… there are now in fact a series of un-explainable and destructive events happening across the world.

From the apocalyptic earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear melt down in Japan to the epic tornadoes in the south and midwest to some of the worst flooding in a hundred years or more, it seems something is happening to our world. If your children have not asked you about it…they will. I can guarantee you they are thinking about it, the images on television and MSN are frightening, and the truth is with all of our technology and education and advancements, we’re defenseless against the power of nature.

We could spend a tremendous amount of time and energy speculating what exactly it all means or when we might expect to see it all end, but that’s not really very helpful. Its exhausting and it raises the blood pressures and Valium prescriptions for parents and puts our kids into a tailspin. This is an endless and un-knowable question, and I believe the wrong one to try to answer.

Instead of trying to figure it all out.. what if we simply chose to live like there would be NO tomorrow?

A biblical perspective allows us to skip the speculation and focus on the facts.  Jesus told us things would get scary in the last age, that “mens hearts would fail them for fear” and that in the signs of the times there would be birth pains or tribulation on earth in response to the surge of evil and the waning of good. Jesus told us to live as if today were our last and for us all to look for His return, in the same discussion He warned that “No man knows the hour” and there would be fakes, imposters and false prophets everyone claiming to be Messiah, or special or enlightened.

It’s good to be aware, its good to have a sober understanding of the days in which we live…but to obsess about it leads to strange saturday predictions and outright odd behavior. To prepare for the unknowable is impossible and overwhelming. We are only asked to remember that we  have today to live, not simply survive, but to LIVE.

Jesus taught us to live in the moment of each day, focused on the events and needs and wants of that day, not tomorrow. James tells us in his epistle to not even try to plan ahead without acknowledging the reality of God. He instructs us to plan only with the understanding …”If God wills”, as a way of reminding the early church we can’t assume that we have tomorrow. Given the risks of simply driving to work. dare we presume to assume that our lives will continue beyond today?

As a Christian father…I want to be prepared to talk with my kids in a way that defuse’s their fears and inspires their day. I want to redirect their question from If the world is going to end, to what is my opportunity to be alive today ? Having faith and a relationship with Jesus allows us to live each day free from the bondage of fear, anxiety and uncertainty. 

Our kids are desperate to understand how they can live in such times with peace and hope and happiness. As parents we should remind them to look at their lives like we do… with an eternal perspective on it all. It is crazy to think that someday all that we know and can see will pass away, but God’s love and His words will “never pass away”.

Tonight… Listen, share and have some family time around the table… ask you kids about this stuff. See what happens. To answer their questions, crack open the bible and read the words of Jesus, watch as it soothes their hearts and minds with His truth and hope and love. They need to know that their parents are living with hope and certainty in the midst of so much upheaval and that in the midst of a world going crazy, the bible is the anchor of our soul. If all we do as parents is teach our kids to turn to the word of God in times of crisis or uncertainty… we will have done our jobs well. (www.dailyaudiobible.com – check it out today for free daily MP3 and streaming readings in the word)

Peace out and you like me… “seek to keep your families in between the lines and on the road of life”!

Brad.

Belly Button Parenting…

It’s a weird concept I grant you, but “Belly Button Parenting” is a dangerous trap that I and many others have fallen into. What is “Belly Button Parenting”?  Simply this… raising kids from our own perspective and opinions.  When you think about it, our individual opinions are so varied and so common they are like Belly Buttons…EVERYONE HAS ONE.

Is that really a healthy way to raise kids ? No of course not, none of us would consciously seek to raise our families from just our own viewpoints would we ? Shouldn’t we read parenting books and seek the counsel of those older and wiser, parents and pastors and friends for advice ? Wouldn’t it make sense to gather as much information and research and reviews as possible before we take the next step in helping our little ones become adults ?

I know you moms are saying already… I DO THAT. ALL THE TIME, and I READ SO MUCH about this it confuses me to no end. There are SOOO MANY books and SOOO MANY opinions from SOOO MANY experts it’s truly exhausting. So what’s a parent to do ? If you tried to do what every good idea or opinion suggested, you would end up tied in so many knots you literally wouldn’t be able to do a single thing.

In my seventeen years of parenthood, I’ve read many books by some very wise and Godly men and women and from those I’ve gleaned some great nuggets of truth, those tidbits combined with my own history and my families past mistakes have helped me to form my own philosophy of parenting. But that philosophy is very much an extension of my own preferences and opinions and as such is only as helpful as the truth behind it.

What can we truly turn to for sound advice and Godly counsel that is distinctly helpful and unbiased ?

The Word of God. (get it for free on your ipod,phone or email at Daily Audio Bible.com ) I’m sure you already guessed where I was heading with this one, but it’s so simple and yet so profound. Reading in the word on a regular basis is the only sure way to gain the wisdom and discernment so essential to a healthy home and faithful parenting. Go ahead, read and research each issue, but in the end, I believe  it must line up with the Scriptures if we are going to have any chance of seeing our little ones follow Jesus with their whole heart.

I have counseled many families, couples and single parents over the years and the one repeated danger I find repeated in almost every case, is the tendency to over-emphasize the opinions of the well-intentioned and under state the timeless and priceless principles of the word of God.

In today’s world of multi-media saturation and myopic ministries, families can become torn apart by the temptation to figure it out on the fly…to “cross that bridge” when we get there, or to simply read the latest best seller when life circumstances get out of control…Please don’t.

Consider instead, investing in a regular time every day in the word and in prayer. Consider asking openly and unashamed for help from our creator and our perfect “Heavenly Father’. I believe that the Word of God combined with the very active and gentle Holy Spirit will guide us into perfect peace and wisdom for each and every child we care for, with specific and unique insights that are essential to winning their hearts and minds.

Cookie Cutter templates of discipline and devotions are o.k., but in the end, I believe if we are not seeking out God’s perfect plan for our kids we risk creating little monsters who learn to avoid our wrath and fake their responses to get what they want. In doing so, they avoid the real issues of their life and faith and living altogether.So many parents find themselves at a loss for what to do when their little ones grow into teens and face the absolute horror and confusion of finding out that their child has suddenly become disconnected emotionally from their home, their families and their faith.

What then…?

Don’t PANIC, seek out wise counsel, pray with your comrades and spouses for direction and wisdom. Get in the word and find His perfect solution, it’s in there… I guarantee it! God will not leave us alone and lost and confused. But in your anxiety, don’t revert to someone’s opinion for something so critical to your life.

Blessings to you all, as you like me… want to “keep your families in between the lines and on the road of life ! ” And as a reminder, it’s never too early to get your kids interested in God’s word, check out the new i-Shine tween biblesfrom Tyndale House Publishers. They have an unique interactive online and smart phone function that engages kids with the gospel on their wavelength. Super cool.

Peace Out, Brad.