Do for the one… A lesson from Baltimore

Crazy stuff… kids looting, rioting, and out of control in a major US City.

Baltimore burning.

Rage and Frustration literally igniting a city as millions watched and took sides.

As a pastor a thousand miles away…my heart ached. 

Such fear and confusion, politics and posturing. Agenda’s seen and unseen pushing from behind the scenes to move us in calculated ways. It’s so messed up, it makes me want to throw my ‘hands up’ in a completely different way.

But way down deep in my heart is the sadness of knowing, this explosion of emotion is based on more than a rage at the machine or the ‘man’ in charge… it’s deeper than any political movement or social injustice. This is a symptom of darker and simpler things. 

channelnewsasia.com - Baltimore MD Riots

channelnewsasia.com – Baltimore MD Riots

The foundations are falling and the family is the first to go.

Baltimore is burning, lead by its dis-enfranchised youth. Where are the fathers and mothers to lead their family’s home ?

Are they absent for the decades of unresolved social injustices in their city, is it generational poverty, education erosion, violent gangs, drugs, a culture of open promiscuity… or is it the overall lack of faith or hope in the future that’s fueling this growing lack of respect for authority?

Take your pick. 

In the end, it’s about the home… or the absence of home for our youth.

America, it’s time “we” (Christians /you and I) do something about this, and stop allowing the media to push us into one camp or the other. We must see the outrage of our heavenly “Father” at the widows and orphans of our land. To ignore this is to be asleep or worse… apathetic to our selfish bones.

The words of a great sermon still echo through my heart’s halls... “Do for ‘one” what you wish you could do for all” (Andy Stanley) 

Ask God to show you ‘who’ and where and when, but it’s time we move from the sidelines to the front-lines of this modern american tragedy. It’s past time for God’s people to make a tangible difference. To risk being uncomfortable.

It’s as simple as looking for a life to invest in.

Find a young man or woman who isn’t in a healthy home or family. Adopt them. Take them in. Love them, teach them… learn from them. Grow. Become the hands and feet we sing about on Sundays.

Newsweek.com - Baltimore Riots April 27, 2015

Newsweek.com – Baltimore Riots April 27, 2015

Do for the one… and change the world. 

Pastor B

Tassel Time and Transition

Graduation ! Tassel Time and Transition has come again. It’s that time of the year when we parents scramble to find our boys that one lost pair of dress shoes (that you know must be in the laundry room), or some khaki’s that are still wearable as we check to see if the one button down shirt he has to still have from Christmas, might be in a pile under his bed… and for those of us with daughters we fathers endure as they preen about if the dress they picked out for graduation works for them? Their anxiety growing until the very last second as they consider over and over with whoever will listen to them… if it’s o.k. to wear or if it’s TOO dressy or NOT enough for the occasion. Arrgh! If your a parent of a soon to be graduate, this is your blog for today.

Digital camera’s at the ready, hundreds of mom’s, dad’s, grandparents and siblings will be rushing off to sweat in a gym while wondering if their backs can really hold them erect on wooden bleachers long enough to capture the moment on the platform. It can be a crazy time, marked by mad dashes and minivan races to get everyone there on time to share.

Life comes at us FAST, it feels like its moving at an ever-increasing pace and if we’re not careful it may blow right by without us having the time to mark this cherished moment forever and ever… I mean how often do they graduate from pre-school, RIGHT ?

EASY, JUST KIDDING..!

My youngest child finished up eighth grade yesterday, my oldest is a junior…sorry, now Senior in High School. I’ve attended probably nearly a dozen graduation events over the last seventeen years with my three children and my twin nieces,nephew etc.. sat uncomfortably as they all navigated their educational courses of life to the elevated platform of paper and pride (Diploma). Along the way I’ve watched as they matured and learned and gained valuable and sometimes painful lessons from both their teachers and their peers. Graduations it seems are mostly uncomfortable, hot-humid affairs in the mid-south, with bustling and tussling and excited nervous masses of “not-going- to-miss- this- moment” mom’s rushing at you from every corner with a camera and a set smile. They will be crowded, loud and an agonizing mix of excitement and boredom followed by too much food. So Enjoy !

Confession, this year we skipped a junior high graduation in our family for the first time. Gasp! I know. I thought my wife would get really upset, but last night with my son we did, and the world didn’t stop. His older sisters were excited for him so they made a fun ceremony of it  in our basement. They put on their own graduation party for their little brother (who is actually taller than both of them now) complete with balloons, streamers and his favorite take out chinese food, cards, gifts and mountain dew!

When the dust cleared my son and I went up to our bonus room and played a shooter game on the Playstation 3 for two hours (Yes, fellow dads…he waxed me every time) and we had a blast. As we enjoyed our laid back graduation evening, I WAS AWARE. I noticed that my boy was becoming a man, and I saw the changes in him already gained and the ones yet to come. I marked that moment in my mind as significant and IT DID NOT PASS ME BY. I spent an evening focused on him.

Last night was really about grabbing that moment in whatever way would connect with my son, in a way that he would appreciate and remember. Of taking the time to note that he had completed well what he had begun four years earlier and that he had survived the trauma of junior high intact. His leaving the equivalent of an adolescent hades and preparing to enter high school was a moment of triumph in a far different way than academics. He had learned to endure and grow and contend for things that were new, difficult or uncomfortable, but he had and he had done so with courage and strength.

It was for that accomplishment I sensed the need to celebrate. To congratulate my son for being the guy God created him to be, for not caving in to his peers and surrendering his identity for popularity like so many do in junior high. My son is not a fan of parties, he hates large gatherings and public ceremonies, He loves Coldplay and his keyboard, and take out food. He avoids crowds and loves to stay close to home. Our celebration of HIM needed to reflect that. Not my or his mother’s idea of how it should be. Not like we did the previous two eighth grade graduations in our house ahead of him…but in a way that says we cherish him for being him. My son is awesome, and despite his honors studies and amazing intellect, he is not keen on graduations, at least not yet. (authors note; your High school graduation will be a much different situation Caleb …if your reading this🙂

To wrap this up… We all know that a graduation is a season of transition that is full of bittersweet memories and future hopes and fears. It’s a moment of reflection for all of us who have a child finishing up one period of their lives only to begin again. My encouragement,  mark the season well, engage fully during these milestone moments with your kids and dis-engage from your work, your distractions and your urgency to be somewhere. Live intentionally. Skip the sermons, avoid life lesson talks in the moment, just enjoy your childs graduation transition and celebrate them and remember it well.

If this is happening now in your world, get the card, get the flowers, buy the watch…but PLEASE DON’T MISS THE MOMENT.

God, help us as parents to slow down and see our kids this graduation season. Help us to be aware and sensitive to who they are, and where they are emotionally and spiritually and to sense what they still need to learn about real life. God, give us the courage to speak into their lives with words of hope, and healing and comfort and encouragement. Help us to lead in the moments they are following and enable us to communicate the painful truths of our lives to them in a way that will not burden them with our own regrets. Lord, reveal your ways and your heart to our kids through us as we seek to keep them on the road and in between the lines of life! Amen.”

Peace out.

brad.

Fear and Anger, a parents worst nightmare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brad.

Can you REALLY Hear God? part 2

It was time to step out in faith, and trust that the God who has always had my back… wouldn’t change or fail me now. He didn’t, and he won’t fail you. But to find out how He actually showed up for my daughter and for me…

I remember thinking of the pain in my daughters eyes, pain and frustration. She had been taught since a little girl of a God who would answer His children’s prayers, all you had to do was ask. She had asked, but nothing had happened and when she kept asking and asking… with nothing to show for it. All that she had believed about God started to come into doubt.

It was late at night and I was tired, and I wanted to just share the “pat” answer “that God is always at work, whether we can see it or not”, or “God’s timing is not our timing… ” but something inside me warned to NOT go Sunday School on my 14-year-old. It was time for her to hear God for herself.

So, I grabbed my bible and quickly looked up the day in my dailyaudiobible journal to see what verses were pre-set for the days reading and found the Psalm for that specific day. I read it quickly and it came alive to me. It specifically reflected the angst of King David in one of his many hours of desperation and loneliness and frustration with God himself. The Psalm was exactly describing what my daughter was experiencing

I sat down with daughter and read her the Psalm and as I did so, I asked her if that was how she felt ? She nodded her head with tears in her eyes… and then I shared with her that I believe God WAS answering her prayers. He had been all along, but she just had not yet learned how to hear Him.

When I told her the verses I read were for the day’s exact calendar date and were written over four three thousand years earlier by King David, it suddenly connected with her. God was speaking to her through His sacred word, not in the darkest corner of our church sanctuary with a deep baritone voice, but in her room, straight from the verses of the Bible.

Bethany connected the dots that night…God was speaking to her, she  just hadn’t known how to listen for His voice.

I then asked her if she would be willing to trust God one more time and pray with me for a friend ? She cried, and she sobbed, but in the end she spoke the words of pure faith and desperate hope that God would hear her cry. I agreed with her in prayer and promised to pray for her request with her for 30 days, and she promised to read her daily Psalm for thirty days and off we went.

Within two weeks of that evening, my daughter connected for life with her best friend Lilly Ann Gee. They are inseparable, joined at the hip. Good for each other, strong in their faith and in their bond that is like a sister and of course…supernaturally blessed. God answered Bethany’s prayer and mine, He showed up and exceeded all of our expectations.

The best part of the story… Bethany still reads her Psalms and she can and does hear God’s voice on her own now. Her faith is like any teenagers, but growing and stronger because of the testing. I hate to think what might have happened if I had just brushed her concerns under the proverbial “rug” that night.

Don’t pass up the chances God gives us as parents to show them the real Jesus in their world.

May God richly bless you with wisdom and grace for the journey of parenting as you like me struggle to “keep our families in between the lines and on the road of life”.

brad.

Can you REALLY Hear God…?

Can you REALLY hear God’s voice ? This significant question came up from one of my teenagers last year. My daughter was struggling with feeling friendless and alone in her freshman year of High School. She had been praying for God to provide her some guidance, to help her out, but felt He had abandoned her.

What began as a simple request from a fourteen year old had become a frustration that was rapidly evolving into bitter resentment that God didn’t hear or respond to our pleas for help. She felt that IF God was alive and interested…, why didn’t He choose to act ? When would He actually answer her prayers ? How would she know if He did ?

Those are tough questions, important questions! I mean we all kind of know…basically the general idea of what it means to “hear from God”. Don’t we ?

As parent’s we can’t afford to blow through the sincere fears and frustrations of our kids as “incidental”, or secondary issues that will resolve themselves in time. Doubtless my daughter would have made a new friend in time and doubtless this little concern would fade into the memory of a difficult adolescence, but the opportunity was rare to actually engage her with the faith her mother and I held so dear.

Recognizing the opportunity is one thing… providing good sound advice on how a person can Hear from God is quite another…

It was time to step out in faith, and trust that the God who has always had my back… wouldn’t change or fail me now. He didn’t, and he won’t fail you. But to find out how He actually showed up for my daughter and for me…well thats detailed in my next blog.

Part two… on Tuesday.

Peace Out Fellow Parents,

brad.

Control Freaks Anonymous

                                                       Anxious much ?

If you’re trying to navigate your life mostly with God, and just wee bit on your own… the end result is going to stress you out. No joke, not kidding.

I can speak to this issue intimately as a recovering control addict myself… BUT, If you are a parent reading this… be careful of going any further as it could hurt a bit.

When our “precious” ones are hatched, they need us for everything.. and as they grow into childhood you have to maintain the order and balance of your home. They NEED US, and we must protect and provide and nurture our kids minute by minute. At around thirteen the hormonal tsunami really kicks in and the role as parent shifts gears again. (We aren’t going to try to address that in this blog)

As they mature into teen adulthood, the parenting role shifts dramatically again and we begin to notice their need for our guidance and help starts to rapidly fade. (authors note: This seems to be sometime immediately after they get a driver’s license and or their first part-time job.) We notice at this stage of our lives… that we’ve really begun to lose our “influence” over them to a large degree. They are needing us less and less and its only then (now) that we find out if  they really learned anything over those sixteen years. For a control freak that is simply not acceptable.

Now here comes the hard part, we have to let them.

Of course we don’t let them run wild and stay out all night or get into seriously dangerous situations, but within the framework of our beliefs and values, with the kids and families we are in community with…we have to allow them the space to grow and test the truths of God.

The really painful “letting go” begins when they begin to orient their lives outside of the framework of our homes exclusively. It scare us. For some it becomes a huge anxiety. We are control freaks, trained from their moment of birth until this moment that they MUST have us around to survive, I mean they have until now… IF we are not with them for every danger, every moral dilemma… we believe deep down without us they will fail. We are such CONTROL FREAKS! (see picture above for exact emotional image)

As we grow in our understanding of God and His perfect redemptive nature, it should begin to filter down to our foggy brains that we really don’t know whats best anyway. He does. When we say the Lords prayer, it comprehensively address this need for control in a way that impossible to ignore. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…”

For control freaks that part of the prayer applies only to the 95% of our life that we have already surrendered to God, we don’t even consider the 5% we hold back and maintain strict life control of. For parents, that five percent is almost always our kids.

Look, if your thrashing yourself to sleep each nite in fear about your teenagers, and your unable to come to grips with the rapidly changing role you have in their life… its time to give God that 5% back. He can handle it. He insists that for everyone’s own good, we surrender it all.

It will look and feel different for every home, no rigid guidelines from me… BUT, when you let go, the anxiety will leave. Our kids have to experience free will just as we did, they may surprise you. Mine has.

Have a little faith.

Living out your life of faith as a parent is a powerful thing, your kids are smart… they know if your sincere or just faking. If you have lived a sincere and vulnerable life of faith out in front of them, they are going to respect and admire that no matter what they seem to say or act like.

Paul said, to Timothy his spiritual son in the faith… 2 Timothy one, verses 12-14 But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”

At the end of the discussion…I’m convinced intellectually that this is true. Yet to lay it down every morning… to let go of the wheel is to really believe that we can “trust” our young adults to our heavenly Fathers safe keeping, but for me… it’s a daily thing to do 🙂

Here’s to keeping it between the lines and on the road of life.

Peace Out,

brad.

Parenting teen daughters and the boys they attract !

So, my daughters turned out just like my wife. Beautiful. Somewhere in the last six minutes they grew up from little “cute” girls, to beautiful and oh so appealing young women. Whats a dad to do ?

PANIC… then PRAY. I resisted the urge to actually buy a shotgun to keep the wolves at bay, however I did gratefully receive a large broadsword from my dear friend Brian. It’s almost five feet long and is conspicuously obvious in the bonus room where all the kids seem to migrate to… and I have on occasion jokingly referred to its presence when young men seem to be around and have hinted as to its potential use as an implement of pain and how it might be reserved for any young men who might intrude on one of my daughters honor etc… well I made it seem like a joke. 🙂

Seriously, dating is a big deal. Girls seem to be born pre-programmed for planning tea parties, and pretty dresses which quickly and naturally moves to romantic movies and dreams of their own wedding. Having no sisters when I grew up, this was all fascinating and freaky for me to find out as a father. Daughters (as is well-known) can take a full-grown man and reduce him to a piece of play-doh in seconds. Dad’s are in a serious bind when their daughters are approaching the age of dating, protect and provide is our natural instinct and so when young hormonal men start showing up at the door its difficult for us to shift gears and allow them to enter our homes without inflicting some harm on them. (just kidding)

So, as a father who has two beautiful teen daughters (17 and 15) in high school here are some observations and encouragements to my fellow dads in crisis. I am not a big fan or critic of dating, my wife and I are much more of  the idea of “courting”for our girls.

There does seem to be a subtle shift in the emphasis the concept of courtship provides for teens to move from the emotional – physical rush of a crush, to the reminder that a potential relationship with a future husband or wife should be sacred and approached from the very beginning with some serious consideration and awe.

That particular approach is an issue for you and your wife to decide together.I’ve read books by Ph.D Christian psychologists that advocate opposite approaches between the “good and bad” of dating or courtship and the jury appears to still be “out” on the ‘best” option. I do believe that no matter what you choose as a family, if you honor God in your processing of it, He will grant you the wisdom to guide your daughters through this very vulnerable season of their life.

No matter what approach you take as parents on the dating vs. courtship concept, its been my personal and observed experience that the following essential truths will do you no harm and much good !

1) Don’t allow a stranger to be your daughters first date. Its our job to do that. Start dating them early… like age five or six, take them out for Chucky Cheese or Dairy Queen or to the latest version of Disney on Ice. Revere them, honor them by opening the door, teaching them to pause at the door for a man to open it for them, listen to their dreams and hopes, pay attention. Find out their favorite colors, television shows, i-Pod play lists, the names of their stuffed animals, best friends etc… you get the idea.  Little girls who learn of faith and family and truth and can trust their dad will be there for every birthday, fever and bruised knee will grow up with confidence and stability. Dads, we must convince our girls at a young age that they are loved, adored and indescribably special and watch as they grow up into young women of faith and honor and inner beauty and strength for their own families.

2) Date their mother. No example is stronger or more profound to a young lady then to see her parents continuing their own love and courtship. When we take the time to open doors for our wives, genuinely complement their beauty, and flirt with them in the kitchen… it re-assures and reminds them of the reality that a marriage and a home can be happy, peaceful and fulfilling no matter what the latest People magazine reports.

3) Prayerfully protect them every day. Guys, we have the spiritual ability to prayerfully cover our kids with Gods blessing and peace as the heads of our home. The biblical model is clear, men are charged with the well-being of their homes, including our children. Spend time in Gods word regularly for our own instruction and encouragement and it will spill out into our families in a very healthy way. ( I recommend the www.dailyaudiobible.com as a fantastic daily resource for the word)

4) Rest in Grace. We will never be able to filter every bad particle out of our kids lives, not in our schools, with their media intake or with all of their relationships. But we can provide them essential truths and the wisdom of healthy boundaries and we MUST. But in the end, its Grace that will triumph and overcome all of our and their mistakes. Trust in it.

In the end,… no matter what we say or do, it’s a scary age to be a parent. I’m not smart enough, wise enough or strong enough to do it on my own. Thankfully I’m a part of healthy Christian fellowship in my home town and in that community of faith I have support, encouragement and the extra “eye-balls” of fellow parents to help us keep our son and daughters “on the road and in in-between the lines”. 

PS- beware to all the young men reading this… I still keep my sword in the corner of our bonus room… 🙂 

PEACE OUT

brad.