The Light of Laughter!

My grandson has the best laugh… like his mother, he can cackle from deep in his belly and light up a room in a heartbeat.

His laugh is contagious and full of genuine joy, it warms the coldest heart and breaks through the chill of any dour day. It’s magical and supernatural and wonderful to hear, and God designed it exactly so. 

Life can be so challenging, so stressful. We live day in and day out with clenched fists and anxious minds, ducking and weaving our way from one crisis point to the next. Laughing is the last thing on our mind, work, finances, strained relationships, health  issues… those are the things that get our attention.

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This Thanksgiving, my grandson (14 months) arrived with all the jovial chatter of a plump  little cherub, cackling and hooting his way around our Tennessee house. He was mesmerized by the lights and sounds, nuzzling our soft furniture and pillows, blankets, toys and trinkets. Stuff we took for granted.

His blue eyes sparkling with excitement, he rumbled from room to room. He was simply thrilled to see and touch, to try and catch our little dog or strut out some new steps on the fireplace sill. He roamed and rolled in hidden places and spaces, experimenting with everything he could. Awash in new tastes and touches, life was thoroughly exuberant, fascinating and full of hooting joy with all that could be discovered. He was a glowing spot of hope and happiness, a wonder to behold.

Sometimes we get so serious we forget to laugh. To enjoy our life. It’s really that simple.

We adults get so grown up we forget to savor the tastes of our wonderful existence. Grandkids can break that fallow space up for us, allowing new light and flavors to renew our heart and refresh the mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank God for our little grandson!

If you don’t have your own grandkids, godson, toddler, or nephew… go borrow one! (with permission of course) Freshen up your day with some toddler living and a cereal box full of tender laughing, the contagious joy you unleash won’t wear off for a long -long time. (I’ve been told, granddaughters are just as good as grandsons 🙂

No one can spread joy and happiness faster or further than a toddler… it’s no wonder God used children to exemplify HIS KINGDOM in the gospels*.

Given the gospel illustrations* that Jesus used with his disciples… there must be something truly special, something amazing and hilariously joyful about redemption. I mean let’s truly stop and think about how much laughter must be going on up there, full joy and hilarity, nonstop  celebration in Heaven that we can’t really comprehend yet. Makes you wonder, shouldn’t we start seriously practicing down here?

Merry Christmas and may you have a very HAPPY New Year!

Pastor Brad.

Scripture Passage: *Mark 10:13-15 (BibleGateway.com)

1 Critical Thing to know as parents…

Parenting pre-teens and teens is beyond exhausting… all consuming at times. It’s a maze of challenging and chaotic days, sprinkled with those rare moments of peace and tranquility. In the day to day… we run and run to keep up.

It’s in the center of that storm that we can get distracted and derailed as a parent. We start to over-focus on maintaining the structure of our lives, the need for order in our homes and subtly drift from watching carefully for the condition of our kids hearts. sad-teenage-girl-behavioral-consulting-675x278

How do you know if your drifting a bit from the important stuff? Take a second and answer these 3 thought provoking questions… 

1 – Do you find yourself ‘looking’ for problems or issues to correct/discipline in your kids ? 

2- Do you find less and less time for family conversation over a meal? (is your smartphone with you at dinner?) 

3- Are you skipping time alone with God for a chance to get one more item off ‘the to-do” list ? 

These aren’t meant to create shame or guilt but they do give a quick reflection of where your focus is as a parent. The drift is normal, we all have this struggle. What we do when we see the problem will define us a a parent.

My strong encouragement; reconnect with God. Carve out time as a family that is sacred and inviolate in your weekly schedule and protect your kids hearts from an overly critical spirit.

The 1 thing I forget over and over, is the 1 thing that’s most critical to my kids. It’s a detail that can easily get lost in the hustle and shuffle of surviving and it’s vital for us as parents to stay alert, aware, and compassionately sensitive to our pre-teen/teens! Here it is…

“Despair looks and feels just like Defiance”

Cruising through life at redline speed, we can miss this nuance. My caution is to slow down and stay alert to the shifting nature of your kids hearts. The no-nonsense parenting push is commendable and important to maintain order and structure in the home, but it leaves large gaps in its approach. Giving-My-Grief-to-God-FI-700x250

Be careful here… as I look back on my parenting experiences, this is where I messed up the worst.

I missed the signs and cues of despair in my children’s responses. Mistaking their avoidance, clipped answers, and isolation as a ‘rejection’ of me, instead of the subtle symptoms of depression, self-hate, and shame. It’s essential that we listen and look each day. Taking the time to ‘see’ our kids as they really are, and avoid the mistake of ‘assuming’ that today will be just like yesterday.

Grace to you and may God’s spirit of Wisdom and Revelation provide you with all you need to parent your family safely through these turbulent times.

Pastor B.

For more info on how to reach your tween or teen’s heart, click here!

How to ID a counterfeit

I’ve been to several large cities… New York, Chicago…LA,… on the street you have to be careful, vendors are everywhere selling “genuine” Rolex, Gucci or Prada luxury items for 80% off retail… those items are a hundred percent counterfeit. A waste of money. Natural-Weight-loss-pills

What’s not so obvious are the false promises that crowd into our homes and subtly re-orient our lives away from truth. Busy to the point of near emotional and mental exhaustion, it’s easy for a mom or dad to miss the details in our kids lives as we rush to get dinner or make it on time to our next destination.

Our children are being told they must have perfect hair, perfect figures and perfect skin to be loved, or worse… perfection is essential to be “worth” loving…. Girls are constantly hit with images of rail thin, photo-shopped models of impossible perfection wearing the latest trends and makeup. Guys are overshadowed by well muscled – fashionable men who can comfortably woo women, sing in tune and score the winning touchdown on their way to an academic scholarship at a premier college.

The counterfeit or lie that’s being relentless told to our kids is this…”You’re not enough as you are” True Happiness in life requires something “more” – something “other”

Like most counterfeits, there is just enough truth and validity to make it an effective lie. The half-truths aimed at our kids cause problems with us as parents too. The truth is, we really aren’t all that happy on our own. We DO NEED something “other”, it’s just that other isn’t a new french miracle skin cream, larger biceps or a size 4 jean.

John 10: 9-11(ESV) “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

1ms.net/s/desktopnexus.com/

1ms.net/s/desktopnexus.com/

 

If we want to find this better, truer life, to experience genuine Happiness. We will need to connect with the good shepherd, who promises to give us “rest” or “peace” in this life. Nothing else out there is going to satisfy us like the one who made us, who knows the “real” us.

A timely reminder for parents who struggle with finding a way to live a balanced life, so often we find ourselves tempted to squeeze more and more of God out and inserting more and more of the “other” in.

I’ve listed some of the more common “fakes” we all fight… may God in His Mercy grant us the strength and honesty to admit, repent and remove these “others” from our lives. “In our weakness, His strength is perfected”… May it be more so now Lord.

Common Counterfeits to fight; 

 1.      Addictions are designed to counterfeit the real or intended pleasures of life & deceive us from placing our hope in the authentic. 

2.      Cult of the dynamic personality – counterfeits the “genuine ” & intimate faith relationship that was intended for us with Jesus alone and replace it with a often dynamic & tangible person we can touch / feel / see, we transfer our trust and hope and faith to someone fallible and risk confusing God with man.

3.      Counterfeit opportunities for recognition –gain or advancement  – when we ignore what we know of service, humility and hard work for the leap of logic to take advantage of a “can’t miss” opportunity, no matter the cost to our principles. 

4.      Counterfeit relationships – when we ignore the “process” God prescribes for a healthy intimacy during dating  – we allow ourselves to be deceived with a artificial intimacy or a powerful counterfeit emotional rush that fools us and we can become trapped by getting the very thing we “thought” we wanted.

Seasons are changing, spring is marching into summer. Graduation and Marriage and Moving are all on the horizon… let’s be sure we keep to the “Truth” in all things and especially in our own homes.

Peace out, pastor B.

Motherhood in 3G

Happy Mothers day everyone!

I need to make a small disclaimer, I still live with my mom. YEP, I’m 43 and still live at home. This is not a “failure to launch” kind of scene, with a rowdy Terry Bradshaw pushing me to go and find a life… not exactly. Failure_to_Launch

My mom lives with my family and has a rather comfortable space she shares with an old man, (which she says she found at the police station) and together they live in our lower level basement. We have a unique home, full of people. My wife and I have 4 kids and the previously mentioned two old people who live downstairs. If your counting that’s eight (8) people and one slightly terrified dog, all under one roof. Fortunately we have been blessed with a large home, six bedrooms,  five baths and two full kitchens with lots of space to roam and a limitless supply of dark chocolate and Chardonnay.

That’s not what this blog is about. It’s fun, but not the point. The point is… My mom lives with us and it’s Mothers Day weekend and it’s time to focus on her and all she puts up with, or maybe we need to focus on my wife, who is a mom and she has to deal with me, my parents, four kids and a dog. Either way, we need to focus !

Motherhood. We’re supposed to be celebrating Motherhood in 3G, that’s my cutesy reminder that moms and their work are never complete. In fact their amazing influence seems to spread outward to each generation it touches. From their own direct children to grandchildren to the children of friends to the neighbors and even to the kids of the friends of the neighbors. Etc. You get the idea… a mom is always being a mom, no matter what. A mothers love draws family, friends and strangers alike.

My mom’s smile and love is  like a warm soothing hug and a perfectly timed pep-talk on a really bad day. She’s mothered more people than I can count, hundreds…thousands of people have been “loved” by my Mom. Seriously, she is never – ever afraid to share her love with anyone who needs it. She’s that kind of mom. beaver-and-mom-in-the-kitchen-385x270

My family is deeply dependent on mom. She hosts a weekly dinner every Sunday at 6pm sharp. We all gather around her old people table in the basement and she cooks and cleans and serves us as a family. We share about our upcoming week together and laugh and cry and enjoy life together! It’s magical and it’s wonderful and it’s all because my mom is being exactly what God created her to be. So THANK YOU MOM! We can take that amazing and most precious stuff of life for granted if we’re not careful.

For those of you 24/7/365 moms with youngsters crawling around, who can’t change another diaper or blow your 3 day dirty hair out of your eyes one more time without threatening to run through your living room window and straight to a mental ward… HANG ON! Help is coming 🙂

Remember the strength, influence and wonderful grace you have been given in Christ and when that doesn’t work, gently hand your kids over to a mostly responsible individual (preferably a husband) that loves you…and bail from your world for a day! It’s officially time to hit the spa. Remember while you’re soaking in the suds and having a Mani-pedi, sipping on a deliciously refreshing fruity thingee… you are so irreplaceable!

kootation.com

kootation.com

AND IF YOUR REALLY NICE.. when you get as old as my mom, and treat your kids with some kindness maybe your kid will allow you to move in and he will take care of you as compassionately as I do her.  🙂 

Just kidding mom… I Love you ! HAPPY AMAZING SPECTACULAR IRREPLACEABLE MOTHERS DAY TO YOU!

Pastor 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.

Latest Tween Fad… Bisexuality is Hip

So I’m watching spongebob on Nickelodeon last week with my 13 year old son and I see a commercial promo spot for “Degrassi” as I see two girls professing their deep desire and love for each other in breathless, very grown up ways… followed by a super slow camera shot of a  romantic kiss of sizzling intensity and I must say…magnificient cinematography.

And in shock, I’m thinking to myself… surely that wasn’t what I thought it was ?… Not an openly lesbian lead storyline in one of the biggest pre-teen television shows on TV ?

Ten minutes later I see it again… and again the promo runs of a romantic lesbian scene with the latest cool music packaged as pretty as can be… no accident, no mistake now. Teen Nick has moved from their role of  empty entertainers to sexual education. No longer are they just focused on making shareholders more money, or launching the lucrative careers of  its tween and teen  heart-throbs. 

Teen Nick has moved well beyond  just producing mindless candy pop kids shows that define the “popular’ and “beautiful”. Their shows have long been the rabid fare of pre-teens, desperate to grow up sooner and careful to emulate the perfect hair styles, whitest teeth and latest fad fashions of their stars… now it seems they are actively promoting bi-sexuality as  being  a better way of experiencing teen love and “coming of age” life lessons for today’s kid.  

Fellow parents out there, you need to know… the scene I saw is just a sampling of the “adult” media that has now moved into the mainstream teen television world. Its clear they are becoming incredibly good at glamorizing bi-sexuality as the newest wave of pop culture to our most vulnerable age group tweens. (kids between the age of 7-13)

This newest episode of “Degrassi” should serve as a  warning for all of us who are seeking to preserve any semblance of a biblical world view for our families of faith.  We can no longer “assume” the stuff on mainstream pre-teen  TV is “safe”. The shows my kids used to watch on Nick or Teen Nick at  the very least respected the balance of being a moral “neutral” value for consumption… those days are gone. We cannot assume any longer that the stuff on Nick or Teen Nick can be watched un-supervised or at all.

That’s a scary thing when you stop to think about how well Nick Jr. and Nickelodeon have educated and entertained this same generation of kids for years, starting out with the innocence of such shows as “Dora the Explorer” and “Spongebob Squarepants” and then as our kids grow older, they begin to insert the super cool teen show “Degrassi” with all of its moral rot.

 It seems on the latest episode of “Degrassi” the producers decided the best storyline possible for our pre-teens and teens would be to highlight the newest “in thing” for our kids, the excitement of experiencing a same-sex relationship with tweens and teens. After watching the episode online I felt the core message of this show seems to say…”for you to be as cool as the kids on Degrassi, it’s time to admit you want to be openly gay with your girl friend.” They don’t skimp on the guys being into guys on this show either, but for now… this is enough. I’ve copied the storyline summary from the episode in question for any parents who care to read it. It’s not even subtle… it’s sick.

Degrassi: In Too Deep Recap: Season 10, Episode 42 “Chasing Pavements, Part Two” (04/09/2011)
More Degrassi: Recaps | News and Cast Interviews | All TV Recaps http://www.teennick.com/shows/degrassi/

Fiona comes out. Fiona has successfully completed rehab, but up next on her plate is facing the vicious Bobby, her physically abusive ex-boyfriend. But Bobby offers the family $100,000 to not go to trial. Fiona is completely against taking the settlement, but her mom is worried about how the trial might emotionally affect her, and thinks she should take the money. But with Holly J’s support, Fiona convinces her mom to let her push forward. Fiona surprisingly holds her own on trial, but can’t take back the fact that she embellished the bruise in the photo she took of her scar, and after Bobby’s testimony, she begins to doubt her decision, and considers turning to alcohol, until her coping techniques come in great handy. But when another girlfriend of Bobby’s comes forward and confesses that Bobby has abused her as well, Fiona’s case is made. She wins $250,000! In her happiness, she kisses Holly J on the lips!

Fiona has a romantic dream about Holly J and realizes her feelings for her best friend. Holly J and Fiona plan a sleepover together, while Fiona reconciles with Adam about their past and sets up a movie date with him. She confesses that he wasn’t a problem in her life, and she still likes him. But while they’re hooking up, Fiona tries to compliment him for being “the best of both worlds”, and Adam storms out, telling Fiona that she just wants a girl. The next day, she confesses to Holly J that she doesn’t like Adam anymore. In turn, on their sleepover, Holly J realizes she loves Declan in a way that she doesn’t feel for Sav. When her mom comes home, Fiona confesses to her that she’s gay, and she’s in love with Holly J. Her mom fully supports her, and tells her that it won’t be easy, but she can get through it. She comes clean to Holly J that she’s gay, who also isn’t the least bit bothered by it.

Seriously if you have taken the time to read this far… you are realizing what I did, the culture our kids are living in and around has been teaching them to abandon the traditional views of faith and family and sexuality for something much “cooler”… bi-sexuality is the way to go if you’re as hip as they are.

How many millions of teen and tweens living in the chaos of their own confusing and un-glamorous lives are being swept into this deception ?  I mean this show is openly suggesting that if you care for a friend, and they are the same-sex… it very well could be that your attracted to them because your gay or bi-sexual. And not only is that “o.k”, but it’s actually very cool to do.

Parents, I’m begging you… WE ALL NEED TO WAKE UP

Our world is changing the rules and it’s happening on our watch. Our kids are being fed a growing diet of sexual storylines, images and role modeling that is influencing an entire generation of kids with a different gospel and a different truth than the one they hear from us.

Please take the time to talk with your kids, block the teen nick channel if you dare on your home cable or satellite tv’s and clarify your beliefs and values with your kids TODAY. tomorrow may well be too late.

Sorry for the long and ominous blog today, but it scared the crap out of me when I began to research this a bit. When I asked my high-school daughters about this stuff, they casually noted… “Oh yeah dad, that’s been popular for  a while now at our High School…popular girls know, if they want to get a hot guy, they just need to openly engage in a lesbian fling and show they are bi-sexual for the guys to get interested…” It’s been that way for a while…

God, help us lead this generation back into the truth and hope of our faith as Christians. “Here’s to families who are determined to keeping their families on the road and in between the lines of life…” I’m encouraging you to find out more, review what your kids are watching from the PC, to the iPod to the televisions in your home. Take an ACTIVE ROLE and ASSUME nothing. It’s a scary time to be a parent, but I believe God has a strategy and a plan for those of us who take the time and listen for it.

Take the time today.

Peace out…

brad.