grabbing whatcha got

Parenting sometimes overwhelms me. So much stuff is changing, life evolving within and without all the time…kids become pre-teens, teens start to drive… teens who drive start to date… It’s enough to wig you out if you’re not careful. It’s enough to cause you to feel so inadequate you might be tempted to throw your hands up and just let life happen… “what will be…will be”!

But, after a good nights sleep and refreshment in the scriptures, a bit of commuter-time prayer and suddenly the clouds part and I can start to see blue sky peeking through. I’m reminded of the truth in all of this turbulence, the facts as they were…. such as the reassuring reminder that God isn’t taunting us.

 He’s not placing us specifically in the role of parent, protector, mentor and friend to our kids, only to absently walk away and from a safe distance, sheepishly grin to Himself as we drive everyone in our family right off a proverbial life cliff, frantically swerving and braking all the way to avoid the oncoming life issues directly in lane ahead….

One of my temptations is to look only at what I don’t have… to focus exclusively on the things in my life that are not going well, that are not progressing as I would like them to. As a parent, I do the same dang exact thing with my kids… I look for their weaknesses, their flaws…their inconsistencies. Initially I don’t feel I’m being harsh or negative, just “pragmatic”, focusing on the things that we all could strive to “improve on”. Sound familiar?

Still not sure what I’m talking about… here’s a quick check to see if this is you. Are most of the real talks you have with your kids a sermon-like narrative of another very important  – “Life Lesson”?  If your kids and spouse say yes… then it’s time to CHILL. (you’re vote doesn’t count)

 It boils down to this soul-searching questionAre we searching more for what we have missed with our kids than what can be found. Obsessing over the lingering doubts of there being something unknown in our kids lives, something we missed. A threat, that’s dormant and undiscovered, aggravating & undefinable…a possibility that life MIGHT go wrong for them? Some nebulous problem we’re determined to prevent, even if it exhausts us or in the end…never actually existed at all?

I’m done running harder and sleeping less. It’s time to shift my gears and start looking at what is right in front of me, today. I’m ignoring the stuff in the past, and I’m not fixating on some fantasy dream of what the future should be. NOPE, I’m stopping to smell the roses right now, slowing it down to remember how precious it all is in the here and now.

The bible says it this way…  

(The Message- Bible Gateway.com) Matthew 11: 28-30Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Maybe some of us have long ago learned and applied this truth…maybe some of you have a great story or testimony of how God helped you overcome the feelings of being inadequate as a parent, of learning to rest in your best and trust in God’s grace? Or maybe it’s like many life truths… it comes around in waves and cycles with ever-deepening intensity and understanding as we navigate each season of living it out.

How do you as a parent; focus on the what you have and let go of the what you have not’s in life?

Love you guys, Peace out – RTP !

brad.

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Life in the “now”

Its seems so easy to just sort of wander off in our minds into the fantasy land of “what if’s?” and “tomorrow’s” when today kinda stinks…

It really may look better over there, the grass may seem greener and the sky much clearer. Our pockets have more money in them and our kids are more relaxed, more mature. Our churches are more organized, and our friends more consistent. Our spouses have shed a few extra pounds and grown back some hair. Our jobs are more meaningful and satisfying and our lives have a spring like freshness to them…its just better than what we have today. It’s our little fantasy for a easier future…

If we could just get over – to “there!” Over to the land of tomorrow,…it seems only a few steps to round the very next corner of our life, the day just beyond our next promised pay raise or the day we make a new and amazing friendship… with a new someone who really, truly, would finally understand and complete us.

 Be careful going into this land of tomorrows. It’s awesome until you realize you could spend your lifetime in pursuit of something that’s not real. And that would be a tragedy…

It’s time to take a deep breath and back away from the window you just opened in your mind. God is here today. He is with us, in the here and now. It takes an effort of perspective to pull back from the ever longing gaze of a hope for a different life. But its an effort that must be made, it’s a critical truth that our lives are made up of choices and attitudes and beliefs about how we live in the present.

When we ignore the current for the future, we miss so many of the intended blessings and the passion of purpose in lives. We flounder through our days with deep and dramatic melancholy and barely repressed frustrations that spew out all over our spouses, co-workers and finally our kids. We pick at the little details and we take huge bites at the big ones. We trash ourselves in a controlled fury of resentment and despair. We feel trapped, alone and isolated.

Jesus calls to us from that dark place and invites us to join with Him today. To walk back into the light of His truth and the power of His purposes for us in the here and now. It just takes a moment, a second or two of reflection really. A moment to recall His goodness, His grace, His mercy and His ability to redeem every terrible choice we’ve ever made. I mean look at your story from the perspective of the NOW… it’s amazing! Its inspiring. It’s beautiful…

… Life is today!

Yes. Take a few seconds and remind yourself of the amazing life you do have. Of the unbelievable goodness of God to meet every need, and exceed every expectation in your life. Maybe not all at once, as in some fantasy induced lottery  moment. Not a life free from stress, or challenge or needs. But a much better offer, a chance to experience the deep release of fear and doubt and unease about the path your life seems to be on.

Gods word is the foundation of faith, the flashlight to our darkest paths and the beacon of hope to the worn out flat exhausted among us. Don’t allow yourslef to escape into a daydream of temporary relief. Rest instead in the profound and inexhaustible goodness of Jesus. He is calling for you to follow after Him today. He promises you real life. Not a cotton candy superficial life, but real – full – satisfying life, not someday… but right now.

Read about it for yourself.  You have an incredible role to play in your life, one no one else can do as well as you. Your gifts, your insights, your experiences have all been honed and redeemed by God to be the very things you and everyone around you will need today.

Play the role you were cast for… we’re all counting on you!

Peace out my friends,

brad.

Back to School… now what ?

So its back to school time for most of us… now what?

Summer is waning, and fall is calling…the kids are up and out and on their way and parents have a whole new set of concerns and problems to consider each day. It takes about six weeks psychologists say to develop a “habit”, and summer break is usually about eight weeks long, so most of our homes have developed some habits that must change.

As we re-convene the grind of schooling and grades – homework- lunches, and supplies, lab fees and immunizations records – proof of residency requirements and booster fees. Deciding what clubs the kids will join and what teams they want to try out for this year...and then the rush begins, getting them to school, arranging for them to come home after, missing the bus, homework, drama with friends, drama with teachers, drama with parents… suddenly the entire family is running full speed again and can’t seem to catch our breath…life at Mach 3 and our lovely summer pace of life has quickly evaporated into the fall frenzy of yet another school year.

Want to try to live differently this school year…? Here are few RoadTrip Parenting suggestions to try.

STOP YOURSELF…

You can, you really can. Before you sign up your kids for everything possible this fall, before you start comparing your kids clothes and backpacks and GPA’s and home room teachers, make a commitment to slow it all down and simplify before it gets out of hand like last year.

CAREFULLY CONSIDER…

What is it that will be best for your family? What would be healthy for my child and our home for this year ? What are the priorities of our life going to be this school year? Don’t react, don’t respond out of guilt or fear or insecurity… plan to be balanced this year. In your own choices for time and your kids. They don’t have to do everything. Really.

SLOW DOWN…

Remember to budget your time like you do your groceries. Plan for rest, plan to be quiet and plan to spend time with your kids and your spouse on a regular (weekly) basis. Don’t fill up every single space in your calendars. Not even for ministry or the church or your favorite hobby. Save some time for yourself and your kids and your marriage.

REMEMBER AS YOU GO…

This time is not forever, your year with your family and your kids is precious. It’s not going to come again. Remember to enjoy the journey as you go… it will be messy, it will be stressful and it will be unpredictable, but it will be awesome. Take your time as you go and enjoy the view along the way. Treasure the moments and choose to not be stressed by changes in their lives. The kids are growing up, they are going to endure injustices, and pain and frustrations along with the triumphs and joys of their school season. Don’t let minor daily details become weekly drama’s.

PRAY…

Commit your kids to the Lord each and every day. Remember He is working in the midst of the chaos and confusion of life to refine and renew their hearts and minds. He has a plan to prepare them for their lives as He does for you. Part of the process for the parent of school children is the learning of how we can support our kids without intervening in their lives. The faith to let God move and act in His way and in His time.

EXPECT…

Trust that God is working in you and your kids for His good pleasure. Expect to see them grow and change and mature this year, trust that Gods ways although not our ways, are much better than any we could plan or prepare. Look forward to each day and week with more than a desire to avoid catastrophe’s, but with a expectation to see blessings and hope and joy in the day-to-day of living.

SHARE…

Remember to look out for those who are struggling with life, the single parents and the weary ones. Look for ways to encourage and help those in your world. Share your story, share your hope for good and your confidence in God. It will amaze you how much it can impact the very ones you feel have it “all together”.

RoadTrip parents...I Can’t wait to hear how God shows up for you this year and how He will guide your path as you lean on Him to parent your precious ones from the path of childhood to the highways of life. I’m confident that you will have a blast and your kids will too if you remember to try a few of these simple suggestions this year.

Peace out,

brad.

Are there more kids than parents ?

You don’t have to go to the subcontinent of Africa to find an epidemic of orphaned children anymore….

Seems every week I discover another tragic tale from a teen or tween whose parents have decided to separate or divorce. A Christian teen or tween.

Todays blog is not just about our own kids. It’s not just about understanding the unbelievable privilege we have to raise children to adulthood, or the joy of watching our kids embrace their dreams and hopes…its about seeing with new eyes and greater awareness in our own world. Seeing with Jesus eyes. Parenting with a Jesus heart, and with a Jesus faith.

What I’m talking about is the painful reality that there are way more kids than parents these days.  Oh sure, there are lots of biological fathers and mothers and statistically there should be a consistent 2:1 ratio for conception etc… but there is a significant lack of “Parents” around. Have you noticed ?

Please understand, let me be SUPER CLEAR. I am not in any way judging, condemning or thrashing on single parents. Completely the opposite, I’m asking for those who are able to reach out and go intentionally to help single parents. I don’t believe there is a greater mission field in the US for the church to reach than single parent families.

If you read the bible you are going to encounter repeated scriptural references in both the old and new testaments about the urgent and passionate love that God has for widows and orphans. Regardless of the cause of the single parent tragedy, in Gods eyes it’s an orphaned child and widowed parent. Men and women who are left vulnerable and often unjustly abandoned, desperate for someone, anyone to help.  

Consider if it’s time for you to expand your parenting eye beyond your own mini-van and over to the driveway next door. Could it be, that God is calling you, me, us… to step into the lives of those who are seriously struggling to just make it through another day. YES. Let me speak presumptuously here… YES. Definitely its a YES. I have no doubt in my mind that if Jesus were walking the earth, He would be ardently engaged on behalf of the single family. And… since we are commanded to be Jesus to our world, I can speak with conviction in saying this is a significant and undeniable call to comfortable Christianity for us to stop being “Fan’s” and become “Followers” of Jesus.

So, look more, listen more.. and pray more for your friends, co-workers and neighbors who are struggling emotionally, physically, financially with the incredible pressure of being a single parent. Don’t wait, engage them… they are counting on you to notice, to care and to support them.

Take the time, slow yourself down… consider this. Act upon it. Make a difference in the life of a single father or mother and love without condition, with a whole and sincere heart and watch and see what God will do through you.

If you are one of over 20 million single parents, I want you to know… YOU ARE NOT ALONE. God is not going to “drop” you, He can’t. His nature is love, His heart is to be your solace and hope and healer. He will send you help, in every way and everyday. Look for His hands and feet in your life and hold on to Jesus. (great support links below)

So, thanks for your time… todays blog is more statistical than provocative… I hope those figures speak louder than I ever could. Peace out…

US Census – Statistics for Single Parents

by Single Mothers (and Fathers) on Sunday, January 16, 2011 at 7:29am
So what’s the “average” single parent really like? According to the U.S. Census Bureau…

She is a Mother:

  • Approximately 84% of custodial parents are mothers, and
  • 16% of custodial parents are fathers

She is Divorced or Separated:

Of the mothers who are custodial parents:

  • 45% are currently divorced or separated
  • 34.2% have never been married
  • 19% are married (In most cases, these numbers represent women who have remarried.)
  • 1.7% were widowed

Of the fathers who are custodial parents:

  • 57.8% are divorced or separated
  • 20.9% have never married
  • 20% are currently married (In most cases, these numbers represent men who have remarried.)
  • Fewer than 1% were widowed

She is Employed:

  • 79.5% of custodial single mothers are gainfully employed

49.8% work full time, year round

29.7% work part-time or part-year

  • 90% of custodial single fathers are gainfully employed

71.7% work full time, year round

18.4% work part-time or part-year

She and Her Children Do Not Live in Poverty:

  • 27% of custodial single mothers and their children live in poverty
  • 12.9% of custodial single fathers and their children live in poverty

She Does Not Receive Public Assistance:

Among custodial single mothers:

  • 22% receive Medicaid
  • 23.5% receive food stamps
  • 12% receive some form of public housing or rent subsidy
  • 5% receive receive TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)

She is 40 Years Old or Older:

  • 39.1% of custodial single mothers are 40 years old or older

She is Raising One Child:

  • 54% of custodial mothers are raising one child from the absent parent
  • 46% have two or more children living with them

References:

United States. Census Department. Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2007. By Timothy S. Grall. Census, 2009. 26 Feb. 2010 [http://www.census.gov/prod/2009pubs/p60-237.pdf].

Single moms – http://www.momlifetoday.com/2011/06/single-parenting-an-adventure-in-exhaustion/

Single fathers – http://robertbeeson.com/

Single parent issues – http://factoidz.com/life-as-a-single-parent-convert-minuses-into-pluses/

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.

Belly Button Parenting…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What then…?

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

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

Peace Out, Brad.

Is Christian Music dead ?

A good question… especially for those of us in the Nashville music scene. IS Christian Music Dead?… Parents and fans alike often ask us… has Christian music become just a secularized shadow of its previous self ?

Not even close. Christian Music is alive and well and maybe stronger than it has been in three decades…. read on to find out why or IF, it even matters !

For parents, understanding that media is “THE” language of our youth is critical. Our kids, eat, drink, sleep and play with ear buds glued to their ears. On average, kids are consuming over 60 hours a week of media in our homes. It is their primary form of relating to the world around them. Not books, not conversation, not sunday school…music.

If we miss the media reality, we may miss entirely the ability to connect with our kids as parents and ultimately as generational Christians.

Living and working in Christian media now for almost two decades, I can tell you the radical shift in technology and economics has emptied hundreds of office buildings and studio’s in Nashville. It’s been hard, incredibly difficult to predict, prepare or survive the financial realities of the past decade if you’re an independent or niche’ label group, media company or studio. There just isn’t much business around and what there is, can only work on a severely reduced budget.

But is that all bad ?

I don’t think so… It seems a major change has slowly occurred in the industry from the inside out. Labels and Media Groups who have made the sacrifices to survive are not here any longer for the cash, or the fame or the influence of success. They are by in large not working with artists bent on making a name for themselves or launching into mainstream fame from a Christian music stepping stone. They are around because they feel called to be here and they genuinely care.

They care about the mission and vision that God gave them to perform. They care about the next generation of kids and Christians and they are willing to do whatever it takes to reach them with a message of hope, and faith and creativity. It’s as if God allowed the storms of our business environment to weed out many of the secular influences of the past which reduced the quantity but not the quality of the music and media now being recorded and produced. What a great reminder. God always is redeeming, always restoring and always has a plan…no matter what it looks or feels like.

It reminds me of a guy in the bible named Gideon. Who started out with reluctant passion and faith, and an army. When God finished preparing him for greatness… he had 300 men left. Feels like what I’m seeing in Nashville and Colorado Springs and Dallas Texas. Small but fervent bands of like-minded and servant hearted musicians, label executives and producers all focused on the “message’ and the ministry behind the performances.

Reading the histories of the very first Christian musicians from California in the sixties, I am reminded of their simple and heart-felt desire to spread the hope of Jesus with their un-polished music. They drove in VW Buses and beat up cars all over the United States with trunk loads of vinyl and eight tracks / Cassette’s and new testament bibles. They were relentless, and inspired and pure and powerful. They were “Jesus People” and they changed the world and launched the industry we know now as Christian Contemporary Music (CCM).

Seems God is helping us return to our roots… to re-connect with our creator and His plans for our music and media and creativity. And I for one am grateful and excited to see how it all turns out. But know for certain, the pulse of authentic Christian music and media is beating strong and true today, more so than in thirty years.

Peace out, and may God richly bless you as you ” seek to keep your kids on the road and in-between the lines of life! ”

brad.