Finish strong

Being a family is like running a very long – long – long way… think a long-distance marathon… not a sprint.

source – podiatry.com

For those who didn’t run track… Parenting is more like getting a Ph.D. A long – very expensive – time-consuming – exhausting and overwhelmingly difficult pursuit. ¬†Add marriage to that mix and you’re effectively getting a double Ph.D at the same time. ūüôā

It’s a really big deal to get married and start a family.

I think we often underestimate the extraordinary accomplishment it is to live the traditional family life. Lots and lots of us get married. Lots and lots of us have kids… but less and less of us are staying married and even fewer have been able to maintain a healthy adult relationship with our kids. (source article)¬†

Why is that…?

Not trying to be trite here. Not trying to look at this from an elevated perch of maturity and wisdom. Truly examining this question as I reflect on my own life. Why is family such a huge challenge?

First observation; Family is more than a life milestone to shoot for. It’s a calling from God to fulfill. If we approach it as another ‘to-do’ on our bucket list of life, we may dramatically ¬†mistake the obvious. If this is a ‘blueprint’ for living – as handed down by ¬†God himself to the children of Adam / Eve… then it’s going to be challenged and resisted.

Second: Family requires healthy relationships to work. Healthy relationships require respect, patience, selflessness, and humility. Not character traits that can just be easily downloaded like a new phone app. These lessons are life-long ¬†and are continually being refined, tested, and improved by the circumstances we share. Living for someone else is not easily ¬†sustained. We can do it for short bursts of time, but with extended pressure we’re forced to admit how far short we fall. Grace may be most important missing ingredient in most long-term relationships.

Third: Family is all about finishing strong! It’s not how well we get started, It’s not about how few mistakes we make or how organized our homes appear to be… it’s about the determination to get back up when we fall. The resolve to never – ever – stop trying to ‘be’ a family. Our lives are full of dead-end opportunities, broken promises, and people who disappoint, it’s up to us to push past our offenses and pain. Like a long distance race, we have to set a pace to finish. We have to ask God to give us strength when we have nothing left in the tank.

source – muzmatch.com

I’ve done most of my marriage & parenting ¬†‘completely wrong’. I did great at the starting line, crashed and burned at year 9 and by God’s redemptive grace year 11 was a fresh start. It’s now year 26, and by the power Christ within, my faith, marriage and family are stronger than ever. (See my book;¬†Roadtrip to Redemption )

It’s not that we’re blessed to live ‘safe’ lives, quite the opposite in fact. We’ve seen one crisis after another hit our family, but we’ve also seen God faithfully meet us in each desperate hour. It’s the strength of a shared faith and mutual determination to live out of a spirit of love and not fear…those factors made a huge¬†difference in our family.

My prayer for you. No matter how bad you feel you’re doing…”Don’t give up!”¬†

Don’t give into the guilt and shame, don’t surrender your family to frustration and fear. God is present. ALL THE TIME. It may be time to shut out the other voices and just listen to His. After all… He invented Family and Marriage, He might just have some helpful advice to share ūüôā

Peace out, Pastor B.

 

Is it a wonderful life…?

As the title implies… a thought or two from my favorite Christmas movie…

Jimmy Stewart’s classic performance as “George Bailey” (from the iconic 1946 film “It’s a wonderful life”), always sets the tone for my annual exuberant gush of seasonal joy.

Yet… it begs the question…“IS it a WONDERFUL life?”

So many rushing by, so much of life hidden behind the busy… it takes a profound event to slow us down enough to consider the deeper things. For George Bailey… he faces the moment of his despair with desperation… while all of us watch and hope all over again that he’ll see beyond his profound grief into the true wealth that is his amazing life.

But when it’s no longer a story, and the grief is real… things shift and we’re left wondering. “Is it a wonderful life?”¬†

It's a wonderful life, 1946

It’s a wonderful life, 1946

Recently my family has experienced some very dark news, a loss of hope and the inexorable pull of mortality come too early. It’s a bitter moment that brings sadness and despair, but also clarity and renewed appreciation.

As we hurry through our days… let’s slow down enough to consider the ‘why’.¬†I can’t answer the question for you… and neither can George Bailey, but it’s important to think about. It’s important to remember what truly matters in your life…¬†for me, it’s all about relationships.¬†

The weight of our life is contained in our relationships, they are ‘the’ most precious gifts of all. The gift of being loved and loving, ¬†the precious privilege¬†of a genuine friendship, the gift of giving and receiving comfort… of shared¬†grief… these are the truest things we can ever achieve.

It’s not in our IRA fund or the number of mortgages on our house… it’s not in our kids GPA’s or a starting spot on the team. It’s in the relationships we forge along the way that we define our lives.

This Christmas let’s all remember George Bailey and act accordingly…

Pastor B.

PS – as a pastor, I would be derelict if I didn’t point out the ultimate relationship being offered to us… and to George Bailey. It was and is with our creator. His interest in our well-being and desire to be a part of every detail of our life is well demonstrated in the Christmas story – as well as in my favorite movie.

The Digital Umbilical…

Just off my latest Road Trip adventure… over 8200 miles in 22 days. We visited 14 states and two Canadian Provinces. Six people crammed into a Ford Expedition, it was tight… and it was tough. ¬†shock and awe banner art

The Shock and Awe tour (The Rubyz, Alexis Slifer)  with the Tween Gospel Alliance (TGA) was what brought the six (later seven) of us together along with a world-class Illusionist (Tom Coverly), Christian pop group (1GN), a film star (Abigail Duhon РGods not Dead) and even an emerging Christian hip-hop artist. (TJ Prodigy of Baltimore.)

Quite the crew.

Over the past summer we logged 12K plus miles, performing at each of the Creation Festivals for 2016.  On stage and in front of thousands of fans, we did our best to share the truth of Christ to a new generation. The shows were plagued by a variety of technical challenges, weather, and last-minute scheduling issues. Relationships were strained and tempers flared, but we persevered.

In between the 3 day festivals we drove and captured new video for our new Shock and Awe curriculum. (due in early 17′) The moments in-between¬†were the most intense of any tour I’ve ever participated with.

Several major issues needed to be addressed on our little adventure. Relationships, attitudes, respect, honesty, and personal faith. All were put to the test. But one overshadowing concern captured my parental attention…

malaysianpsychology.wordpress

malaysianpsychology.wordpress

The pull of Social Media!

My charges (mostly girls) were consumed by an addiction to social media beyond any scale or scope I had imagined. Having raised three children of my own (college age now) and President of the largest Tween focused Media Group in the Christian marketplace, I thought I knew what was up…

I was wrong.

The current media studies & stats are wrong…the study #’s are way lower than what I witnessed firsthand. Our kids are being CONSUMED by a NEED to be on and respond to their social media. Like some unholy umbilical, our tweens are literally attaching their personal identities and self-worth to the¬†success¬†or failures of their social media feeds.

It’s disturbing how intense their need to be on Social Media is and it should gain our fullest attention as parents, pastors, and role models.

In the six or seven years between my kids adolescence and this tour… it’s clear the digital revolution has not slowed or lost momentum. It’s in fuller force than ever and it’s affecting our kids emotional, physical, and spiritual development.

Without going into details, I can say from what I observed , the level of connectivity for tweens to social media is directly forming their self-esteem, attitudes, and opinions about EVERYTHING else in their lives. They plan and arrange their entire day ‘around’ their access to Social Media. (a true sign of any unhealthy addiction or co-dependency)

Social Media has¬†gained¬†‘1st place” in their priorities. Ahead of school work, pleasing their parents, friendship, sports, even their faith.

Don’t believe me? Try taking your kids smart phone away from them for an hour or two ūüôā

After close-quarter living with our tour tweens I came away with new concerns and fresh observations for parents and pastors.

Social Media and it’s first-place presence in our kids lives is going to impact them in major ways if not slowed or reduced. (I’m sure in more ways than we can know)¬†girls on social media

1- Anxiety and Depression; It’s clear in the next decade society will face significant challenges with maintaining healthy relationship boundaries and self-worth due in part to the huge influence of Social Media. It’s propensity for abuse and criticism can’t help but increase the frequency and severity of emotional turmoil… anxiety, depression, and self-image issues.

2- Communication: Unchecked use of social media robs us of our social development! Our kids dependence on Social Media instead of actual personal interaction is likely to show up later as a basic lapse in social skills and reduced ability to function within a group or ‘team’.

3 Adolescence likely won’t ¬†end at high school (something already noted by psychologists) … instead an entire generation may enter the world unprepared for adulthood. Our social media influenced teens may soon be thrust into society with an entirely different perspective on life and their role as being at the center of it all.

4- Faith as a guiding principle may be lost in the sure to emerge, surge of adolescent narcissism and personal preferences. Faith will have to be customized to fit an individuals comfort level and not allowed to interfere with their personalized’ world view.

5- Relationships (martial & friendship)¬†will risk being serious¬†casualties of distracted social media junkies, wooed to the digital promise of fame and celebrity and under the pressure to be attractive all – the – time….Who can compete with the perfect social media post, a line of never-ending beautiful images… Who can withstand the instant regret of the real-time flashes of¬†digital¬†anger, jealousy, and shame? Relationships will be under intense pressure – unlike any generation before.

6- Reality will fade and digital fantasy will invade. Our kids believe what they read, see, and hear on Social Media. The ‘other’ voices in their lives are fading…. FAST. Their reality isn’t our reality anymore.

quotesgram.com

quotesgram.com

Parents, sorry for the ‘downer’ of a blog today… but this stuff is heavy on my heart. I’m sure your already¬†aware…. my encouragement to you is to seriously consider limiting our kids social media consumption.

It’s worth risking the rejection sure to come… be courageous and endure their anger, ire, resentment, and even hatred to slow this social media buzz and it’s hypnotizing affect on our kids.

I believe we as parents need to provide a buffer of screen-free space and time every day. A reprieve to allow our tweens to develop their own values, identity, and purpose in our families and communities of faith. 

I’m not an advocate of extreme or rigid Christian parenting at all, what I’m suggesting¬†today¬†isn’t a total boycott of social media. Not at all….

Instead I’m asking you to prayerfully consider what level of consumption is appropriate for your tween and young teen. Once you and your spouse have a sense of what’s healthy for your kids… set the¬†digital¬†boundaries in your home and determine to maintain them.

I believe no other single issue will affect your kids development, faith, and character more than cutting the social media umbilical in their tween years. 

Pastor B.

For tween ministry resources and help, check out the TGA website. (Tween Gospel Alliance)

 

 

The Politics of Parenting

Politics. (imagine a sneer and snort of disgust as I type these letters out…)

Not my favorite topic. I watch the flurry of Facebook and Twitter posts bang around the web as the most recent dirt of 24 hour news hits the proverbial public opinion fan.

As parents, what is an appropriate posture to take on current political events with our kids?

Tweens and Teens are very aware of the social issues of our time. Focused on the ideas of social justice, equality, and financial excess. They may however have no idea who or what Trump or Hillary represent in the way of tangible positions on real issues. Instead… they are digesting the basic stereotypes around those candidates, with social media as their exclusive source of information…¬†teens-social-media

Given these emerging adults will one day be voters… it’s probably a wise idea to discuss the real issues and realities behind all the political banter and smear campaigns.¬†

Many of us have strong (right vs. left) political leanings, based on family histories… labor environments, denominational backgrounds etc… I have many friends and fellow pastors (who I respect) who take polar opposite positions on major issues. ¬†The concept of ‘right vs. wrong’ can quickly break relationships in the world of personal politics and social media posting. (just check your FB threads today and see for yourself)

There is always someone with an axe to grind. An issue to elevate above the others and a ‘for us or against us’ attitude. This can be confused with being a good Christian or bad.¬†

Note the way Christ responds to the political pressures of his time in Jerusalem. He sidesteps the manipulations of the leaders and sticks with the core issues of the heart and soul. Not taking the bait to argue the points. ft-trump-clinton-1024x576

Not saying we can’t or shouldn’t have strong opinions… just reminding you to keep it all in perspective. God is sovereign. Period. We are products of divine grace and mercy, and as such our postures should reflect patience, perspective, and compassion on those we relate to and with on a regular basis. It’s our validation as a Spirit filled being.

Christ was active to speak to the issues of his time, and he chose to live in the moment without becoming a part of someone else’s agenda. In the end, his refusal to take sides made him very dangerous to the ruling classes, but it set the bar very high for us.¬†

So… as you ponder, meditate, and prayerfully consider who to vote for this November… do so with respect, gentleness, and kindness. The future of our nation is not going to be won or lost this election cycle. The future will be determined by our children and their faith or lack of it…

Peace out, Pastor B.

Why Your “Margin” Matters as a Parent…

Our lives are too busy. 

We live beyond our means financially and in every other way. Too many personal commitments. Too stretched to perform well. Too far behind on goals. Too deep in debt. Too late to be on time. We live too fast and on the ‘margin’ of insanity.

Some call it the ‘rat’ race.

Some say we’re supposed to ‘burn brightly” before we go.

mivajeonline.blogspot.com

 

Some are too emotionally anxious to slow down and deal with whatever chases behind.

In time we adjust our expectations to include near exhaustion as our ‘normal’. Burning, pushing, forcing ourselves to do ‘one-more’ thing. We extend ourselves beyond the breaking point and ask for God to give us strength. When we collapse at night we’re too tired to talk, pray, or listen.

Please understand… we were not created to live like this.

The idea of “Sabbath” is a sacred concept that has been slowing leaking out of modern life.¬†

We place our families in harm’s way when we violate the concept of ‘rest’ for ‘getting-ahead’. We cram more into our lives on the weekends, rather than less. We push harder when we’re supposed to stop.

So, let’s just¬†STOP!

Carve Sunday out each week for you and your family to stop running. A sacred space to reconnect and simply rest. 

It’s a divine commandment that began at creation and remains today. We would be wise to heed the counsel of God and determine to move towards restoring a healthy ‘margin’ for our lives.

The space we need to recharge, to gather and worship with our communities of Faith has been¬†slowly¬†eroding inside the church and out, and we all suffer for it. Let’s stop filling our weekends and simplify our lives enough to truly slow down.

It’s hard to do, but totally worth it. Start by praying for wisdom and insight from God as to what things in your life are ‘unhealthy’ obligations.¬†

As parents… as families of Faith, nothing else really matters.

Pastor B.

Every Proud Mom Cries

Ever sit near a mom during a wedding? What about a graduation ceremony…or even just a good Hollywood movie about a wedding or graduation? ūüôā

Tears fall. 

Sometimes it’s just a few silent, solitary drops of pure pride and tender joy. Other times it’s the wet flood of an emotional storm, released without restraint. Either way, Mom cries. ¬†View More: http://traciarneyphotography.pass.us/kelliejarrett

It’s as natural as the spring time, healthy, and in some way… ‘proper.¬†

I watched the birth of all three of my children. I clapped and whooped as each of them clutched their diploma’s and proudly smiled for the camera….walking by in their black graduation robes. It’s a heart warming, milestone moment… a truly joyful time. Pride pulses through every parents heart, excitement and satisfaction mixed with a bit of growing dread…

Thus the tears.

For mothers the transition of a graduation ceremony or a wedding day symbolizes the end of an era. The shifting of seasons, it represents a diminishment of their influence and ultimately… ‘control‘. That’s intense, anxiety inducing, panic-attack provoking kind of fear for a mother… a huge hill to climb. (Dad’s too, but not in the same way)

For the parent, a graduation or wedding¬†is like a ‘final exam’.¬†

Did we teach them all they needed to know?

How will they handle the pressure of independent life?

Will they abandon the faith we tried to model…?

Do they know how much we love them?

Will they choose to stay close to us… or have they gone for good?

Just asking yourself these questions can cause your heart to skip beats. There’s far more going on under the surface here…more than tears expressed in a moment of celebration, this is the tip of a proverbial iceberg. A glacier full of fear buried deep in the heart of every mother in every home. For some mom’s this is a devastating time. A deep and dark season where fears can overshadow all else… if that’s you, keep reading.

Couple of thoughts. 

1 – God is Faithful. Pray.

Never forget the covenant love of our God, He is long-suffering, patient and His love endures forever!

2- Take the LONG view.

Give them a chance to grow up and discover the truth’s you taught them were real.

3- Don’t burn the bridge back home.

Express your concerns without ultimatums. It’s their turn to choose how to live. If your right about their foolishness… they are going to need help later to sort things out. If the bridge back home is out… where will they have left to go for advice? Probably somewhere or to someone ‘not’ good.

Inmate Steven Clark gets a hug from his girl friend Tomi Doyle after Clark received his associate degree from the University of Maine in Augusta on Monday at the Maine State Prison.

God bless all you “mothers’ out there. Let the tears flow... but rest well tonight knowing your in good company. Be at¬†peace knowing God hasn’t, isn’t, can’t… abandoned you or your newly independent ‘babies’ ūüôā

The adventure is just really beginning…

Pastor Brad.