Pruned by God is PAINFUL!

As parents, we’re always on the ‘look’ for teaching moments. As Christians… our first goal is for our personal lives to back up what we say we believe so the ‘teaching’ moments with our kids are respected.

I can say on the first point I have royally failed… Again.

This week is also “Epiphany week” in the Christian calendar. The ancient tradition of celebrating the ‘wise’ men who followed the star of Bethlehem.  A time for seeking out and intentionally asking God to reveal Himself to us in new ways.

Man oh man, did He ever ‘reveal’.

I got a fire-hydrant dose of self-realization-correction-humiliation– this week. My character flaws starkly “revealed’ in the pure revealing light of an  “Epiphany”, my individual inspection of the soul.

The bible describes ‘pruning’ as an unavoidable process God requires for spiritual growth. As believers, we get that concept mentally… but the painful truth is harder to accept. For us to grow straighter – deeper – stronger, God has to remove the old, dead and dangerous parts of us that can no longer be allowed to entangle our lives. 20130621-100328

My Epiphany for 2015… was like being hit with spiritual napalm. A powerful pruning moment that I had actually asked for. BUT didn’t really want. 

Not since my conversion experience in 2002 have I felt such a life-correcting intervention of the Holy Spirit.

Sounds great… but in reality, the power of an Epiphany can be a ‘bone breaking – soul stretching – painfully real and unavoidably ‘my’ issue to deal with‘… kind of experience! Not fun. Not easy.

It felt like soul surgery – as if an extremely sharp scalpel had cut out a hunk and left a painful scar in the ‘old’ me. Not pleasant, but according to John 15.. absolutely essential for my growth. 

A parenting / life-Epiphany can be an amazing and (in my case) overwhelming moment! It’s clarity so strong it can push us one way or the other inside. Once confronted with truth, we can either flare up in pride and self-righteousness or admit our error and move forward on our knees, in humility, broken. Living in-between one or the other response is not an option with God. We’re either willing to stay with Him or we flee.

For the parents who know they are blowing it. Folks like me… let’s decide in 2015 we’re going to learn how to ‘abide”. Learn how to cling close to our savior, transparent and real, honest to the painful truth’s revealed – unwilling to run away.

I’m learning to lead from a place of perpetual brokenness… aware of my ever and absolute dependence on God’s grace to be a part of this parenting adventure at all.

And… as God reveals and removes the gunk in our lives…let’s be sure we walk those things (issues) out with our families.

That means we determine to live different. It means were willing to be accountable, willing to break the painful patterns in our lives. 

As a father, as a disciple of Christ… my epiphany forces me to reassess if I’m going to remain willing to make adjustments in how I live.

Will I defend my place or ‘right’ to be ‘right or will I respond in humility, admitting my failure and choosing to ‘listen more’ and pontificate less.  Choosing to remain in the painful place, living self-aware… patient in the pain of God’s loving ‘pruning’ work.

Pastor B.

 

 

 

 

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Fierce

If your like most fathers… it seems we’re cast as the passive members in our family play. From sitcoms to stand-up comedy, men are dismissed as less than essential in the modern family home. Dads, If you’re not careful, you might start to believe its true.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Al-Bundy-picture

Men are called by God to lead. Cast in a divine role as the trailblazer of life for our families and kids to follow. Granted, each of us has our unique personality and leadership style, some more behind the scenes and others extroverted…but all of us are called to reject passivity for something more.

I believe that ‘something more’ is FIERCE! 

fierce / adjective = (of a feeling, emotion, or action) showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity. – “he kissed her with a fierce, demanding passion”
Guys, how we respond to our wives, our children and our faith shouldn’t be passive, we can’t afford ‘laid-back”. It’s essential that we give our domestic responsibilities every bit of the attention, focus, and determination we show for our work, fantasy football leagues and  golf game.
Living out our faith with emotion and heartfelt passion is a “MUST” for dads. 

Fierce !

Fierce !*

Doesn’t mean we rush around with unsustainable fervor, but it does mean we lead in offering prayer at dinner, talking with our kids when they return from youth group, noting priorities in family calendars by choosing to put Christ first in our plans.
It also means we live with passionate desire for our wives. Showing our children how to revere and respect a lady, modeling healthy affection and appropriate intimacy with our spouses.
In following Christ’s example, we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church. That is FIERCE love. Love that won’t let go, won’t give up and believes in the future being brighter than the past. When we take the lead in living out life, we’re supporting and assisting our wives in raising up our kids. We’re active in our communities of faith and we’re intentional about sharing what God is teaching and revealing to us in our devotional times. We’re doing laundry, dishes, and cleaning toilets !
In essence, we’re called to set the pace in our homes, to walk the walk with deep devotion and oodles of gentleness. Providing more than spending money and the basic stuff everyone needs, we’re called to be nothing less than Christ to our wives and kids!  Dads, that is truly FIERCE living. 
Peace out, Pastor B.
*image source, Pinterest 

It’s all about the “tone” – confessions of a dumb dad

First up, my wife is a saint.

Second little detail… I’m a doofus.

Let me set the scene… family dinner of dad’s spaghetti surprise, everyone’s had a long day, sharing a meager late dinner. Bleary and fatigued, I heedlessly jump into a delicate and complicated relational issue with one of our kids.

youthservicesslc.com

youthservicesslc.com

Ever do that ?

Of course you have… we all have, “bad timing” would be the ‘only positive spin we could make on such a poor approach.

In my genuine concern, I jumped the gun and dove into a deep problem armed only with my logic and need to resolve the issue before bedtime. Completely missing my wife’s gentle warnings to ease up, I pressed in…. made my point and wounded everyone.

Nice.

The painful truth hovering an inch over the table and squeezing the life out of what I had hoped to be a ‘healing’ conversation, I slowly realized how soundly I had screwed this up. My wife raising her voice deliberately in check (holding back her right to kick my shin in half under the table) as her eyes burned twin holes through my chest.

So it turns out… I needed to be reminded, you can say the right things the wrong way and be completely in the wrong.

After an extra thirty minutes of damage control from my wife, the issue was soothed and smoothed over.

An hour afterwards, I came back to my wife and my kid to apologize. Not just the “I’m sorry’ I said things the wrong way apology…but the I was wrong for speaking to you that way, I am truly sorry for being insensitive and harsh when you needed me to be gentle, patient and kind apology.

Grace was extended, grace was received and in the mess, somewhere and somehow… God’s Kingdom came to my home. 

apaperlesslife.com

apaperlesslife.com

Parents, we’re not going to get it “right’ , but we can ‘make it right’.

Let’s focus on living our faith in ‘front’ of our families and be careful to allow God’s Holy Spirit to guide our every conversation… and guys, please say an extra prayer of thanks for our gracious spouses who offset us knuckleheads!

Pastor B.

Fatherhood Resource for dad’s to check out – by John and Sam Eldridge,

Killing Lions – from Thomas Nelson publishers.

A fathers heart

So much of what we read, hear & watch brings us down.

Life can “feel’ dark and dire, empty of hope. But every once in a while you run across something fresh and new and full of life. Last weekend’s Abba’s Way (Father’s Heart Weekend) for Dads and Son’s was a spark of renewal for me, and for about sixty other fathers and their boys.

I came as a pastor-author-speaker, they as dads with their 6-12 year old sons.

Abbasway.com

Abbasway.com

It was a beautiful time to be a part of, an honor and a privilege to watch as grown men took the time to focus 100% on their boys, from fishing and archery to capture the flag, boat rides, ropes courses, climbing, ice cream and everything in between, the ministry of Abba’s Way is making an impact that can be felt.

How many of us wish our fathers had taken the time to really explain and affirm us as young men and women ? How many 40 something adults are still walking around each day with only a part of their heart intact, waiting for dad to tell them how special they are, how cherished, how valuable and rare? 

Millions of us are still wondering if we’ve got what it takes to be a “good” father. Lacking the example in our own homes as kids, we’ve slowly bounced through life, fearful of hurting the kids we love. Frozen from our own ignorance and inability to articulate what we feel, we’re a bit unsure of what we should ‘say. So for many dads, we simply choose to be quiet.

We know how to ‘do things, so we opt to work harder at work in an effort to provide for more things for them, something that  “demonstrates” our feelings, but we don’t’ understand how important affirming words and private time spent alone with our kids is. Dads… you need to know, taking the time out of your hectic schedule to speak a blessing over your kids, of risking the attempt to communicate your heart  with theirs… has a far greater impact than laboring to earn an upper-middle class lifestyle.

Father's Heart Weekend - Aug '14 - Camp Widjiwagan

Father’s Heart Weekend – Aug ’14 – Camp Widjiwagan

The guys behind Abba’s Way are making the heroic effort to reverse this imbalance and in doing so are providing Churches with a valuable new vehicle to use. A weekend retreat just for fathers to express their hearts to their sons and daughters.

A ministry that genuinely affirms the men in our world to lead and champions the pivotal  role dads  play in forming a tweens character, identity and spiritual beliefs.

I’m always blogging about the growing cultural dis-connect between fathers and their kids, about the ever diminishing impact of Christians in culture and the moral decline of America,…  it’s important to offer solutions and share promising new ways Christians are responding to the negatives in our world.

The truth is… our Father in heaven has done everything possible to reach his lost sons and daughter’s, but we as parents can get so swept up in the current of life despair that we forget how much we are loved. How profoundly precious we are.

If we don’t step back just a little to “remember” that truth we can get pretty empty, and even become lost in the how or when we should be sharing with our own children. Abba’s Way provides an answer for any dad who feels inadequate or unprepared for fatherhood.

Not an issue just for dads and sons, the need for daughters and fathers to connect is huge as well, and Abba’s Way is responding with their “Father’s Delight” programs for girls.fh-featuredarea-2014c

SO BE ENCOURAGED, and remember our Father’s Heart is for you, and for your children.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Read more: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/bible-verses-for-encouragement-20-great-scripture-quotes/#ixzz3A5hxVdQv

Peace out, Pastor B.

 

Heart of a Father…

Fathers day is upon us. Time to reflect, time to consider.. its clear that for most of us fathers and grandfathers are a big deal. But for some of us, a father is a very difficult person to identify anything positive with.

I love my dad, he’s an American classic. A real life success story, from humble beginnings and decades of hard work he managed to earn a professional degree and find success and influence as a well-respected Chiropractic Physician for over four decades. But there’s more to that story, He also lived his life with un-impeachable integrity, keeping his word when it hurt and making sure he finished what he started. As a man of faith, he remains tenaciously committed to my mother (for over 57 years now) and in following Christ. His example of character and attitude provided a strong home environment for my brother and I to learn and live from, we were fortunate.

Mom and Dad - circa 1969

Mom and Dad – circa 1969

Many of us didn’t have a stable or consistent father figure in our lives. Some of us experienced life as a kid with only a stressed out mom and an absentee dad or learned to fear their abusive fathers instead of love and admire them.

My heart aches for those who struggle to even conceive of a dad who would be a role model, someone who would cherish, accept  and love them. The bible provides us with a powerful illustration of the heart of a father and gives us some idea of how our heavenly father looks at his children.

(Luke 15 – The Message) source – Biblegateway.com

20-21 “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’

22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.

The point is this… don’t let your painful memories or past experiences prevent you from experiencing the heart of your heavenly father, He is waiting for you to take the chance to trust Him to be the dad you never had. He wants to protect and provide and affirm you in ways you’ve been longing for and couldn’t even articulate. His heart towards us is GOOD, His love for us cannot be shaken no matter what we’ve done or failed at or given up on in the past.

dadsanddaughters.blogspot.com

dadsanddaughters.blogspot.coms

Dads, no matter how good or bad your personal parenting heritage may be, it’s my hope that you will make the leap and begin to trust that your heavenly father can and will fill in all the uneven, broken and empty spaces in our spiritual and emotional hearts… Let Him begin to restore what was lost and renew in you what has yet to be formed…. so we can become what we need to be, for our kids.

I admire and love my dad and he has faithfully kept our family intact, but in the end its my relationship with my heavenly father that provides me with the strength and stability I need to be the man God has called me to be and to love my kids and wife well.

If we as dads, find that we may be leaving most of  the parenting and faith “stuff” to our wives, I think we are dropping the ball at a time when we really need to be in the game….

Peace out, Pastor B.

 

A challenge to Fathers…Fighting “faith apathy”

Most Parents are concerned about how well their “doing” with raising their kids. We worry about the future, and hope that with consistent and careful effort on our part, they will end up well-rounded, balanced and stable despite the mistakes of our past. As fathers we carry the extra concern of protecting and providing for our homes and their physical well-being, and that is as it should be.

But somewhere down the list of priorities for many dad’s is the role of leading spiritually. Many Christian homes suffer from a significant gap in the father – spiritual leader role for the family.  The burden of teaching spiritual stuff is left to the wife, a nearby grandma or the dynamic and engaging new youth leader at church. Men are not proud to admit that in the whole, we’re just not naturally so good at such things.  It’s obvious to us, other individuals seem so much more enthusiastic and better at it. It’s easier to slightly hang back a bit, just to see if those other adults in our kids lives will step up and do some ad-hoc basic spiritual instruction instead of us.

It’s not that men are generally lazy or un-interested, we just feel unprepared and ill-equipped to talk about our faith, our relationship with God to anyone, let alone our kids. When they become teenagers, forget about it. I’m sure there are many psychological and cultural reasons for this, the natural personality and temperament of a man is more reserved, less verbal. We males tend to be less emotionally sensitive than our female counterparts, we like to fix things, not listen. Our attention spans are reduced by the need to retreat from our work pressures and catch up on our favorite sports team or golfing buddies.

We’ve been trained by our culture that moms are better at disciplining and actually raising our kids anyway and we have little to offer. We only step in when we are asked to, or if we see some very significant rebellion in the home that might require a more forceful response than just a good “time-out”.

Father’s roles in the local Church setting seem to be similar, often it’s the ladies who step up first to volunteer and get things done. They make dinners for shut-in’s, pick up other people’s kids when in a bind, share announcements and lead worship on Sundays, mom’s lead the charge to volunteer to help with kids church and education for sunday school. It’s a rare thing to see a  man step past his comfort zone and be vulnerable spiritually at church or the home.

Why is that ?

I mean why would a man act like an insane verbally exuberant idiot on a Sunday afternoon live or in the local neighborhood man cave, watching his favorite teams football game on a HD flat screen, but go passive as if in a “neutered”  and silent state on the same Sunday morning, mere hours before at church? It’s not as if we “can’t” get emotional, or passionate… it’s just not something very many of us “choose” to do or be when it comes to faith and family. It’s a rampant form of “faith apathy” plain and simple, and it’s killing our families spiritually.

That bothers me, and it bothers mom’s a whole lot more.

Guys, it’s time we take a hard look at the role’s we’re playing in our families lives. I speak with frustrated and angry wives and mothers regularly who are desperate to see their husbands engage with their families emotionally and spiritually on a consistent basis. At least as much and as passionately as we do with our favorite sports teams or cars. Some wives are struggling to maintain their respect and admiration of us as men over this “little” concern. They are watching us passively ignore one of the greatest responsibilities we have in the world.

I believe being a faithful father involves being vulnerable with our families. Of having the courage to admit to our failures, our mistakes, and our passivity in leading them into a greater understanding of our faith and beliefs about God and life. When we step back and choose to let others do our job, we are in a biblical sense abandoning our God-given responsibility. It’s a unique form of mostly male selfishness and it’s destructive.

Dads, if your reading this… please hear me clearly and humbly on this subject. I’m not perfect, don’t have this fathering leadership role all sorted out and well-balanced in my own life yet. But I’m engaged in it and I’m trying. I challenge you to be the same. Take the risk of speaking with your pre-teens and teens about your own faith, about how you have learned and are learning to trust God for the mortgage, for your job, for your health, whatever your story is with God. Step up at Church or home group and be willing to get involved, lead.

You don’t have to create some theological sermon or deep truth/life principle to share with them, you don’t have to do a devotion or read a popular Christian living book. Instead, it’s super effective leadership, when you just let your kids know about you. Warts and all. Their understanding of God and His grace will be formed in part by your willingness to share openly and honestly of your triumphs and tragedies, of your faith and your failings. Of love and sadness, of success and failures in your past and present and of the role God plays in your decisions.

All essential and undeniably unique to you.

Your kids, your wife and this generation is counting on us fathers to just be the MEN we are. Nothing less and nothing more. It’s God’s pattern for us to lead and we’ve been convinced for far too long, that it’s just not a role we’re equipped to play.

Time to change that.

—————————————————————————————————————————

Peace out and Grace to you all as we seek to keep our families in between the lines and on the road of life.

brad.

Fathers…Open mouth…insert foot here

Okay, I know that men are widely criticized as being verbally challenged when compared with our female counterparts. We’re constantly being reminded by women, that females speak like a zillion words a day and we use five hundred to make our point. That ladies are more capable of communicating with people in general and that men are emotionally unable to express their feelings and all that…

It’s all fun and games until one day you start to realize… maybe those are not just stereotypes against the masculine gender, what if what they say about us is actually true? 🙂

It may well be…

You would think I might know better, I work in the Christian ministry and media world every day. I have four women in my life. My wife, my mom and two high-school daughters all contributing to my emotional growth and well being every day 🙂

Like most dad’s, I live in a world with women around me everywhere, all feeling their extra powerful life emotions and sharing them freely with me. Emotions on overdrive, like anger, frustration, irritation, despair, bad hair, etc… you would think I might have grown a bit more sensitive to their plight and upped my game a bit. You know, try a bit harder to expand my vocabulary, slow down my “solve every problem” reflex that seems so logical to me. Doesn’t seem I’m gaining much on that to date and it’s clear i’m still a work in progress when it comes to understanding and appreciating the complex emotions and issues the women in my life have. 🙂

Solution, listen a bit more, solve problems in my mind a bit less, and speak with my mouth not at all. I know that’s not exactly expanding my vocabulary, but it does reduce my frequency of inserting my foot in my mouth when talking.  It’s crazy how much we can be misunderstood ( we = men/dads/husbands) by those we are so close to. Seriously, give us a chance to re-formulate our thoughts a bit before you judge us as being simpletons, or “Dolts”.

Example #1 … daughter is sharing something important with me this am before school, I am half-listening, but tired from church event the night before, I respond with my typical blunt – simple reaction to how we can’t help everyone, etc… when I realize with my dented frontal lobe, that she’s talking about her friend, and how it’s a genuine concern and I’m eight steps behind her and a mile off base. So my comment/solution is now an offense rather than a simple verbal comment. See, we are verbally challenged. I rushed after her to explain how sorry I am for being stupid. Not sure she even heard me. So it goes, as I take my verbal foot and I slowly inch it up and into my proverbial mouth. 🙂

Example #2 … my other daughter is not feeling well, she asks me to pray for her, I respond by encouraging her to eat more during her day at school, knowing she gets low blood sugar. Reminding her that when she’s anxious she often won’t eat, and reinforcing to her how important it is to have a good high protein diet. Arrrgh. She just wanted me to pray for her and I’m dispensing advice, and solutions, even putting additional pressure on her already over-pressurized day. So, once again I’ve inserted my Foot – into mouth and repeat.

Conclusion; Although men don’t talk enough, or tune in emotionally with any consistency, we have a larger issue to solve. That of learning to Listen well.

Ladies, if no one has told you yet… As dudes, we are flawed, slow-moving sloth like emotionally backwards creatures, but we love you. Please be patient. We’re doing our darndest to figure it out. As we move with the sensitivity of a sledge-hammer through our days, remember we have no real idea of what we’re doing wrong. Daughters, forgive me/us dads as we stumble along through life desperate to get it right and not fail you. I can’t seem to find the parent manual my parents hid from me when I got married… if you find it, please send to my email in-box ASAP! 🙂

Wives, Daughters and Moms, Please help us men pull our feet back out of our mouths and give us the grace to have a sec to unravel the last mentally obtuse comment we just inadvertently made to you. Chances are high, we just got our words jumbled in the process of trying to tell you we LOVE YOU. Men, we will have to take the humility road here if we want to gain the trust, love and respect of our daughters, wives and moms. When your wrong, your wrong. Take it like a man and own it. It will be O.K. I Promise.

Peace out as one frustrated father to another… Guys, hang in there. The spirit of God promises to make intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered… Thank God.

brad.