Rome…more than a Cliche’

After a breathless 24 hours in Switzerland we crossed into Milan and Lake Como… on our way to the eternal city.

Lake Como is the freaking bomb. Simply put… if you’re in the area, you MUST GO.

It exceeds the hype unlike most everything else in life. We managed a four-hour regional train excursion from Milan to Varenna, arriving before dawn. It was worth every bleary eyed moment of lost sleep to see the rose-colored sky as it hit the snow-capped peaks of the epic Italian Alps. varenna_topslider_11

Imagine a picturesque Italian village nestled in a surreal mountain landscape, add the most beautiful lake possible and then sprinkle some pixie dust. ūüôā That’s Lake Como.

After a two stage breakfast of homemade fruit croissants and local cheese, bread, and cappuccino we hit the rails back to Milan for our ultimate destination. The views of paradise firmly etched in our hearts for a lifetime.

Roma didn’t disappoint. At the risk of living a touristy clich√©’, we had chosen to take our kids to see the eternal city and the quintessential history of Rome and Vatican City. We stayed at a great little hotel near the Colosseum for three nights and made the most of every moment.¬†

We bought the sightseeing bus (hop on off)  passes and they were surprisingly helpful to have! Distances and weather often kept us from easily walking from downtown shopping in Rome to the Vatican or Forum areas without a ride and the narrated audio headphone option gave us a greater appreciation for the architecture and significant history hidden all around us.

In Rome… EVERYTHING is beautiful and old and historical. You cannot see or grasp it all… so you have to pick what and where you will go and commit.

We did exactly that. We bought tickets to tour the Vatican Museums / Sistine Chapel and Colosseum along with the Roman Forum. (a full 3 days for anyone to tackle!)

We walked the cobblestone streets around Trevi Fountain, toured the Iconic Pantheon, and we ate a lot… drank wine, water with bubbles and pounds of bread. We soaked up a golden sunset on the Spanish Steps (view below) and shopped the unique boutiques of the old city.¬†rome-on-a-budget

I would highly recommend each site or area mentioned as ‘must see’s for any who visit Rome. It’s a clich√©’ for sure, but they are all breathtakingly beautiful and somehow an essential experience for gaining a better understanding of the world and it’s abundant cultural diversities.

In Rome you will hear dozens of languages, see every kind of style as tourist from Asia to Africa, Russia to Brazil and nearly ¬†every culture in-between. There are so many diverse groups, families from every corner of the globe and all of us are in ‘awe’ of the wonder that surrounds. No one pretends it’s not affecting them… we all openly stop to stare and gawk. Inspired and overwhelmed by the power of this eternal city… as the history and beauty cast’s a profound spell over any who take the time to see.

I cannot speak of Rome without mentioning the food. It’s everything you hoped it would be and more… our favorite was a little tiny landmark restaurant, La Carbonara.¬†(English is not a guarantee here, but struggle on and order the house specialty, you will not regret it.)

The various eateries and coffee shops that dot every block are all little treasures in themselves. Food is freshly prepared or baked on the premises… it takes time, forces you to slow down and savor the moments. Another wonder of Rome… the pace of your life shifts and suddenly you’re not in a hurry, not anxious to be somewhere… like time is standing still.

That moment of slowed pulse and renewed joy is the pure beauty that is Rome.

 

 

 

 

 

Joy in waiting… Christmas on pause

Waiting is so odd to us.

We’re instant society folks… living in a push button culture. We find what we want in minutes, not hours. Days of delay, a totally foreign concept.¬†We linger little. Time is tight.

Schedules are crammed full, social Holiday parties, church Christmas specials, school choir events, rushed shopping, shipping, spending… the pace of life pushing… squeezing.

USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Couple with Christmas shopping

Waiting is not even an option anymore. We have to sprint to stay ahead of the freight train that is our life…endlessly bearing down on us. Exhausted and numb, we scratch at the shimmering screens that surround us. Looking, hoping to find the spark of our old life to ignite some Christmas spirit.

Tired of too many things… we need something more.¬†

We’re longing to find the reason for rushing, the purpose behind the presents. Christmas shouldn’t be so thin and harsh. Whatever happened to the Joy of it all?

Where did the thrill of the anticipation, the waiting to discover… the wonder each gift reveals.

Slow the show mom and dad. 

Sit down.

Bake.

Watch TV with your kids.

Drive the neighborhoods for Christmas lights.

Go make something crafty for Aunt Bev ūüôā

This season comes once each year.¬†It’s not like the other weeks and days we ram through. This is important. Priceless.¬†Take a deep breath… say “NO” to something. Maybe four or five ‘somethings’,¬†¬†loose a few ‘ extra’ obligations this Christmas.¬†

Jesus-Mary-Joseph-1Lets remember the big picture? Christ came… Christ is coming… Christ will come again. Faith flickers in our fatigue… now could be a good time to rest and refresh our hearts. Christmas break is coming. An opportunity to slow down enough to enjoy the beautiful and fleeting moments. Resist¬†the temptation to fill every moment of your holiday. Leave large spaces of unscheduled time available for family… oh and mute your smartphones.

The rewards of unplugging are enormous…¬†including the ultimate Christmas gift for a family… your being ‘present’.¬†

Merry Christmas from RTP and Pastor B.

 

Seasons of Change… a parents perspective of Fall

I LOVE FALL…

Man, the air gets cold at night, the leaves pop with color and the humidity goes AWAY!

It’s like God suddenly loves¬†me again… after all of the heat and frustration of summer, outdoors¬†is suddenly somewhere I really want to be.¬† The transition is always so quick, one day its¬†sweltering hot and the next your reaching for a sweater and finding excuses to take a walk.

Fall.fall river and bridge pic

Ahhh… thank God. Cool days and breezes that refresh and remind us of the life seasons we live in and through and around. Summer is great for a few weeks, then we’re ready for some fall. Fall is great for a few weeks then we’re ready for Christmas and snow…¬†soon the gray of winter makes us weary, and just when we need it…Spring blooms to revive in us¬†the color of life. The cycle of change is relentless, it’s beautiful and at times so aggravating.

Nothing stays the same.

Life moves on, it cycles through with our without our approval or acceptance. It’ just does. Like a beautiful tapestry our lives become interwoven with our work, friends and family. We form relationships for life and then they change. We find love and then we loose it, we gain joy and hope and then we find fear and frustration and anguish. We have babies who grow into kids and then adults,¬† we catch ourselves for a fleeting glance in the mirror and realize we are now our “parents” age, life slides forward and onward, like the seasons…beautiful and fleeting.

Life will not wait, change is calling again. Seasons are moving forward and we have a chance to contribute our small fragment, our thread to the whole. Our kids are growing up, moving from one age to the next. My three are in distinct seasons with separate challenges, triumphs and tragedies.

Time to rediscover your kids, they are changing too. Take some time soon to walk in the leaves… to re-acquaint yourself with the cycle of life your kids find themselves¬† in. My youngest is a freshman in high school and my oldest is about to become a freshman in college. They are beautiful times, scary times, but wonderful and not to be missed. Once enjoyed, forever gone…but all the more precious for it. They need specific time, focus and attention… prayers for their safe transition from one age to the next. My son for his identity as a man to be secure… for my oldest to “hear God” for herself and for my middle daughter to grow into a life full of “Peace”.

So savor the moments you have with your family¬†this season…whichever that is for you and yours.¬†Resist the temptation to be distracted by¬†looking over your shoulder or too far ahead…. today is the day and the only¬†time we may have, and your family awaits.

Hit the road with your clan¬†and get out there, take your kids to find some pumpkins, a corn maze or some delicious homemade apple crusty sugar combo in the countryside. Doesn’t matter, take them. Live with them in… laugh with them, love them. Experience this season of your life with eyes and ears wide open… enjoy and embrace the process, the sacred parenting¬†journey we share.

For me, Fall is forever….

Peace out,

brad.

PS Рthese pics are from an earlier fall family escape to Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee.

The Parenting Pilgrimage… living in the journey.

I love to RoadTrip, It’s such an amazing adventure to seek out for a few days with no hard fast schedules or agenda’s to keep. No meetings to make, no deadlines and no pressure to perform. Just free time to explore and discover new things and places. Awesome !

Brad & Paige in Canada

If you’ve not tried it, please… I urge you to seriously consider it. I’ve included a free link on this blog (right side column) where you can go to find great drives full of scenic adventure near where you live.¬† As a man, I’m drawn to exploring new vista’s of beauty and rugged terrain, for me that’s always the mountains. For some it’s the beach, a high desert¬†or an isolated lake deep in the forest, wherever that is for you… GO and find it and soak some up on a regular basis.

Our world is in a desperate rush to drive us faster and faster through our lives. The pressure is intense to get things DONE. To check off one more life accomplishment from our internal list, to finish up one more project for our work or complete one more year of school with our kids. But we rarely step back from it far enough to recognize the process as being beautiful and exciting and amazing. Instead we literally get lost in the journey from here to there, and often distracted, depressed and overwhelmed by the pace and panic building within our hearts.

Slow down.

Step back.

Rest.

Enjoy the journey your on as a parent, as a family. Stop the hamster wheel you call life and push some less important things back in your schedules. Take the time to appreciate the amazing world you live in, and take your family with you. Help them learn this principle early, so they can apply it often to their own families as they grow. It’s an incredible gift to share with them, the gift of retreating from the world of anxious living into the oasis of life a road trip can provide.

Life is not a test to be taken and a grade to earned. It’s a process of beautiful changes, great heroism, and lost dreams. Of redemption and of hope, of love and exhilaration and fear. Life is the greatest epic we can ever hope to participate in on earth. It’s amazing how much we miss in our urgency, the passing sunrise on a commute. The stars in night sky after we take the trash out for its weekly pickup. The excitement in our childs eyes as they tell us of something really “cool” that happened at school that day.

But it’s more than that… God is calling to us to come and retreat with Him for a while. His son Jesus often took His escape from the crowds, from the attention and pressures of public life, to just be alone with His father. It was often on a mountain, or by a lake… and often it was alone. We can learn from that pattern. We can apply that truth to our lives, to our homes to our marriages, and we must.

My hope for your family… step back from the insanity of keeping up for a few days each season and retreat together to spend some alone time with each other, with God and with the beauty of His creation. It will restore your perspective, it will rest your mind and renew your heart. It will re-ignite the flames of love in your marriage and the communication and intimacy with your kids.

In the final day of our lives we will doubtless wish we had spent more time enjoying the Pilgrimage of our life, rather than responding to the pressures of our culture to achieve and succeed in the things that really don’t matter.

Dear RTP reader… pull back from your desk, leave the endless pile of laundry and go roam a bit. It’s time to remember the pleasure of living… to catch the Smell of the leaves this fall, the fresh crisp coolness of a morning hike in the woods, or Feel the¬†delicious tingle¬†of red in your cheeks from the early snowfall as you climb up the mountain you’ve decided has your name on it. Watch¬†as a¬†beautiful dance¬†unfolds in the¬†wispy¬†clouds floating gently across the sky above as you’re lying perfectly still in a quiet meadow. Listen to the roar of the breakers¬†in the sandy alcove of your favorite stretch of beachfront. Life is calling to you… God is calling to you.

Will you take a moment to consider your reply?

Peace out,

brad.

PS:¬†¬†Lest¬†I¬†become a total hypocrite, ¬†I’m off to the woods myself this weekend. Working¬†to write a few more chapters in my Tyndale¬†book project in some solitude and rest. Where will you go ?

Resting or Re-arranging? A Sunday dilemma…

For some of us, Sundays are not a day of real rest. They are just the one day a week we have to catch up, clean, do laundry and re-arrange our homes, garages and briefcases for the onslaught of the coming weeks work. Of course we make it to church each morning, but our day is really crammed full before it even begins, and our minds and thoughts are often torn between worshiping God and checking off our “to-do” lists for the day in an anxious exercise of keeping track of all the un-trackable’s in our lives. Sunday has for many of us become a day to review, re-arrange and revisit the things we really can’t control anyway.

Before I go a word further… I am as guilty or more so than any.

God is stirring in me a desire to learn what it really means to “REST” in Him. To cease from striving, from solving, from working out a situation in my mind until it’s desired outcome is assured. To stop my relentless need to asses, analyze and understand my life and my problems and then to resolve them quickly and logically on my own. It’s only when I fail to find a solution, or see a potential relief from the pressure of the crisis I’m in, that I stop and ask for help.

Why ?

Simply put, I still am guilty of compartmentalized faith and my relationship with Jesus gets crammed¬†into a box that fits pretty well¬†on Sunday mornings, and I can pull that box out for use on those days of extra heavy stress or fatigue… But the rest of the week, my go to guy is still “ME”. My internal understanding of how completely God wants to release me of my pressures, my planning and my control is still quite undeveloped.

So… I strive. I wrestle and I creatively problem solve my way through my days, and Sunday afternoons when God has commanded me to stop, and rest and release my burdens, my need for closure to Him. It’s not a suggestion, it’s a commandment. Not to the extent of making the sabbath another legalistic ritual without meaning or purpose, but to the extent that I can leave my guilt behind me when I simply stop working and enjoy my family and friendships for a day.

To actually intentionally slow down long enough to really reflect on the goodness and provision of my God who has safely carried me, us, this far in life, without fail. To enjoy and expect the promise of divine protection and provision and renewed perspective for yet another week as it stretches out ahead.

That’s what Sundays were meant to be… if only I could slow myself down¬†long enough to remember that ? Oops, no…what I mean was, when I slow myself down long enough.

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

brad.

Walking and Waiting for Weary Parents

One of the greatest battles a family can fight in todays instant –¬†adrenaline charged¬†techno-wired¬†lifestyle of¬†overcommitment¬†is stagnation… kind of Ironic isn’t it ?

Isaiah 40:31

(biblegateway.com) English Standard Version (ESV)

31but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint

stag·nant

‚Äďadjective

1. not flowing or running, as water, air, etc.
2. stale or foul from standing, as a pool of water.
3.characterized by lack of development, advancement, or progressive movement: a stagnant economy.

If your¬†family is anything¬†like my family… We are all¬†running so hard, connecting with so many, for so long with little or no time set aside for ourselves that we run our emotional tanks¬†completely dry. We over exert ourselves until our emotional and¬†physical and¬†spiritual strength is completely¬†gone.¬†Zip, Nada, Zero. We run so far we forget exactly where we’re supposed to be going…and then we find ourselves needing to remember, to redirect to refresh.

It was another crazy whirlwind of a week¬†with¬†our oldest friends and family coming¬†to¬†our home, ministry outreach at our local coffee shop¬†on friday, evening church set up on saturday and sunday morning¬†services all requiring our full attention…in the end, it was five days of living crammed into three. Not all that unusual for us, with three teenagers, two-part time jobs, a family of seven and our ministry commitments to our local church, full-time vocations, it’s hard to find a way to slow things down. So¬†for the mere sake of keeping up,¬†we try to ¬†just keep moving so we don’t drop.

Exhausting.

By Sunday afternoon, I was thrilled to see the rain settle in to keep us from being tempted to do even more. I crashed in the bonus room with my family and watched “True Grit” and sipped sweet tea. It was nice.

It had been too long since we had simply stopped.

I’m going to crawl out a bit on the proverbial limb and assume… most likely these issues are¬†as true for you. We’ve ¬†run until we’re whipped, worn and empty, and then we have nothing left to share, to say, to feel for each other. We’re stagnate. Our emotional lives are simply overwhelmed and we sense something critical inside of us¬†is missing, or gone. We feel it¬†in our homes and it bothers us. If we stop and think about it…we find the awareness of unease¬†is elusive, hidden from clear sight…but we can smell that something rotten is in the well.

I believe stagnation is a common condition that causes great illness in today’s homes and families, including my own. We rush so valiantly out to serve others, to help minister to everyone but our own. Not cool.

So…let’s agree to pull back, review, revise and simplify our lives wherever God leads¬†us to. If we don’t, we risk our own kids at the altars of ministry¬†martyrdom. And that’s NOT a good thing. When we fail to invest our best into our own homes our marriages and our relationships will suffer. Fathers… we must lead here for our wives and kids. They most likely will not “feel” like doing much of anything when they are on empty. (your kids will try to slip away to their iPods, most wives will¬†retreat into their bubble baths and¬†a book and¬†we will be tempted to¬†seriously consider the merits of watching some championship golf or how badly our car needs cleaned). Fight the temptation to go passive and simply check out and isolate. Look for ways to re-connect yourself with your wives and families and your kids with each other. ¬†It will take an effort, but in the end it gets things moving again and breaks the stagnation of your home.

What’s that look like for you… not sure. But look and listen and obey. God will show you exactly how to touch and revive each member of your home. For us, it was an hour of “whoonu” ¬†– a mindless, super easy, any age kind of game that every family should have. We laughed, we joked, we teased and we argued, it was perfect. In that little moment we as a family did something vital, we focused on each other. No iPods, no cell phones, no tv, no technology interrupting us. We simply ate our popcorn and nacho’s and enjoyed being together.

Play games together, watch old family videos, walk your neighborhood, sneak a Sonic run, but please make it a priority to focus on your family. Slow life down and mark a few previous commitments off your calendars.

Refresh yourself in the word of God, in quiet. In contemplation. Remind yourself that God has a sabbath for a reason, and it’s a commandment for us to STOP and REST. Renew your strength, quit moving, quit solving problems, quit trying to be god. He can handle it.

I’m talking to myself right now ūüôā

I could quote pages of scripture that would prove¬†this idea to the point of absurdity,¬†as being more than just my opinion…¬†but sincerely my hope is for you to refresh your own soul and protect your families from overactivity. The irony is… when we allow ourselves to run too fast and too far without rest, we tend to become stagnate and we loose our¬†way.

Grace to you and your homes as you prayerfully and intentionally seek to “keep your families in between the lines and on the road of life“. Let’s commit to slowing down our pace and enjoying the view this summer…together.

Peace out,

brad.

Radical Investing for Kids…

Some of us fathers get sweaty and nauseated just thinking about how we are EVER going to afford for our kids college,¬†a daughter’s wedding or our own “some day” retirement. With $4.00 a gallon gas, and¬†noticeable inflation at¬†Kroger,¬†its common sense¬†for families to be cutting back on spending, saving and doing.¬† My family is no exception. But I want to encourage parents to consider¬†an unconventional “Radical Investment” for their¬†families.

How about a vacation, How about a Road Trip ?

Yes, a serious and amazing vacation with your family that would cost some money and time and energy for sure… but the payoff could be epic. It’s a radical investment in their well-being and yours. I know you have little if any extra money right now… but consider this; HOW MUCH LONGER WILL YOUR KIDS BE WITH YOU ?

Sobering thought… is it four more¬†years ? (for clarification, that means they would be finishing up eighth grade this spring) Is it five or two or ten ?¬†No matter what the answer is… it’s not long enough. How can the time you have left as family be wisely invested ?

If your like me, you can fritter it away doing nightly duties of dishes, trash, homework, emails and whatever isn’t too vile on prime time television. Occasionally a family movie night or dinner out at Logan’s or an Asian bistro ?¬†We talk about school, friends, church, local events or current fave’s on their iPod’s. But in the end it’s all very superficial and very safe. It’s Normal. Which in our society can be a huge accomplishment for sure.

But I want more.

I want EPIC. I want to “suck the marrow out of life” (Quote from the movie “Dead Poet’s Society”) and as Jesus says… “Life more abundant and free”. I want to live with my kids, not survive. I want to teach them to reach for the beauty that is ours for the sharing. I want to introduce them to our American History and endless western plains, to show them the indescribable beauty of sunrise at 10,000 feet and snow in July in the Rockies. I want to explore the undiscovered and forgotten places of our land and share the thrill of finding a diner that makes perfect pancakes.

I want to make a RADICAL INVESTMENT in my kids before they are surrounded by life, overwhelmed by the obligations of adulthood and the saturation of their hearts with worry and fear and frustration. I want to show them the “relief valve” that God showed me.

I want to model for them the amazing power of creation to restore our hearts and renew our minds. I want to show them how to sacrifice their time for their some-day kids and families. To emphasize the importance of being together in a sweaty mini-van and of sharing the last can of Red Bull of the need for each other and of non-electrical communication with other human beings. I want to prove to them they are more important to me than my work, my ministry or my own sleep. I want to show them the incredible gift of Life that God has for us and what it feels like to be ALIVE.

So if you feel like I do… prayerfully consider what you can do this summer to make some “Radical Investments” in your kids. Maybe its as simple as a un-expected trip to the beach, or a weekend in the mountains. Maybe it’s as complex as driving West for ten days or East for five with no reservations and no plans. Just¬† grab some clean undies, junk food¬†and flip-flops, a map and some carefully saved cash. Just go… and go looking for real adventure and new¬†life and shared discovery. GO. Time is a wasting.

Whatever it is… DO IT.

I promise, your family will never forget it and your kids will cherish the time YOU TAKE to INVEST IN THEM.

Blessings… as you like me… seek to help your families “keep it on the road and in-between the lines of life“. Oh and I have to confess… I LOVE ROADTRIPPING… ūüôā

Brad.