Sharing IS caring, especially at Christmas

Living life in isolation as a Christian is a legitimate option. I dare say that EVERYONE has been wounded by a fellow believer or by a particular Church in their lifetime. That pain un-checked can drive us away from community, from allowing ourselves to get close… it pushes us back from admitting we might need others in our lives. According to a 2008 Zondervan/Knowledge Networks study, 24% of Christian’s only practice their faith “privately”, outside of the church, they are called “christers”. (Christmas and Easter atttenders)

Isolation denies the opportunity for us to develop trust, it robs us of the richness of a true friendship or the intimacy of an earned comrade by your side. When we withdraw from the uncomfortable, from the risk of relying on someone else… we do limit our ability to be hurt further, but we also remove ourselves from the strength and companionship of a community of faith. Many of us slide into depression or worse… numbness.

Courtesy - "Broken Believers"

Ever wonder why so many of us get angry or bitter towards the Church? Ever consider why there is so much cynicism and angst with the way a particular pastor or leader teaches or a specific church handles its ministries and events? When we add kids and marriage into the mix… this whole issue becomes simply overwhelming at times. Families are tempted more than ever to just isolate themselves from others. I believe as in most complex circumstances… the simplest answer might serve us the best.

Could it be that we are just afraid?

No shame in admitting to that. No doubt many if not all of us from time to time avoid the risk’s of being too close to our fellow believers. Choosing instead to skip services, or ministry events or even social time with those we attend sunday services with. We all can identify with the struggle between trusting someone with our true feelings vs. giving the expected and safe responses to the standard social greetings we exchange each sunday.

But what if we decided to we wanted more?

What would happen if an entire generation of Christians chose to risk relationship? Risk rejection, risk condemnation and risk betrayal? What if we took the step of faith to come out of our safe and secure isolation and embrace the messy and often painful scrum of real community with real people?  It might change us, and it might change them.

Real Christians…with real life in them, living in real community. That could begin to re-establish love and trust and hope of living in even the most jaded believer. It might create a genuine – sacrificial – faith in us that not only met our needs, but the needs of all who joined with us. That kind of living would be sort of like leaving one kingdom or world and stepping into another.

Leaving a world full of doubts and fears and regrets and entering into one full of redemption and forgiveness and second chances. A new kingdom with a new king that would allow for us to be messy and inconsistent in our faith, and who would only demand we give up our right to be in control. In exchange, that King would grant us a life of peace and renewed strength and healing for us to have new life, new perspectives and new depths of love and patience for others. A king that would be full of justice and mercy and compassion to all who entered his realm. Where peace overshadowed war and hope displaced despair…

Sounds like a fantasy right?

courtesy of Tevin Wax

Not any more. Jesus actually did all of those things for us. He left His isolated  and comfortable place in Heaven to become a weak and vulnerable man. He took the risk to live in community with people who were messy and foolish and unfaithful. He was willing to let go of His “rights” and suffer the rejection and pain of betrayal. In exchange He gained 11 disciples who would follow Him no matter what it cost. Those first disciples were the beginning of something new. Something different. A Kingdom without the constraints of geography or age or time. A kingdom that’s been offered from then until now… to everyone.

A baby boy in Bethlehem was the beginning of this historical and epic true-life-fairytale that invites all who will… to play a part. A specific role that requires us to risk everything to be a piece of the bigger whole. This Christmas, would you consider stepping out of the comfortable places in your life and into the “dangerous” world of community that Christ has prepared? It will require us to share what we have and help and be helped by people who may or may not understand, appreciate or reciprocate our sacrifices. But I believe it’s the ONLY way we can step completely into Christmas.

I pray that as families you will consider doing more than just donating a financial gift to your local church this year. Maybe it’s time to take the risk of stepping out in faith to the offer of genuine community. My Christmas wish for us all is the gift of… Reconciliation, with man, with God and with our families. Take the risk to live and SHARE your life this year! We need you… badly.

peace out,

brad.

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Halloween… are your kids trick or treating ?

Great discussion by Bebo Norman on Halloween that I’m sharing for RTP readers in their ongoing Christian dilemma’s of celebrating or “NOT” celebrating with their kids this ancient holiday each October 31st. I hope its helpful for parents. bebo.norman

“So, yesterday morning (2011) as I was waiting for a flight from Ft. Worth back to Nashville, I made a quick post on Facebook that basically said this: “early morning flight home to go trick-or-treating with my kids, then back to Texas tomorrow.”  I never would have imagined the firestorm it would set off on Facebook.  Much controversy over Halloween, it’s origins, what role Christian’s should play in the “celebration” or “non-celebration” of the holiday.  A (very) few individuals were extremely critical of me and my faith and a whole host of people came to my defense.  But by today, most of the critical post were deleted from Facebook somehow.  The truth is, I’m sort of frustrated that all the harsh posts were taken down, because even though so many of them were attacking and distasteful, it showed what a beautiful contrast there is between all that can be so negative and condemning about Christendom and the true fruits of the Spirit that were so eloquently represented in so many of the responding comments.

I guess the first thing that I would say in response to the criticism is this:  if my decision to take my kids trick-or-treating is reason enough for someone to “un-friend” me, dislike me, or worse, condemn me as a heretic or a member of the occult, I can, without hesitation, give you a thousand FAR better reasons to do so.  Whether it’s flaws in my character or my judgment, the bottom line is that I am indeed a terribly flawed and imperfect man who loves, believes deeply in, and relies daily on the completely sufficient grace and goodness of a completely perfect God.  If you’ve ever listened to my music or had the chance to know my heart at all, I have staked my life and all eternity on the fact that I am an inconsistent creature who has been saved by the COMPLETED, and completely consistent, work of Christ.  Nothing less.  Nothing more.

And please let me say right up front that I may be ENTIRELY wrong about my decisions with regard to Halloween, but I can say that, at the very least, they are thought out and intentional decisions, not off-the-cuff or blind cultural appeasement.  So, for what it’s worth, here’s my take on things.

What man intends for evil, God intends for good.  I absolutely LOVE that with the freedom of Christ we can take a holiday that was once intended by man for so much evil, and we can turn it on its ear.  Imagine the idea that we get to take what was once (and perhaps, for some, still is) a pagan, ritualistic attempt to appease evil spirits, and turn it into a chance for children to dream and imagine and dress up in costumes (my boys were both their own versions of “Super Heroes” by the way), to spend precious time with their families and friends, to go out and actually see their neighbors face-to-face, and, at least in our neighborhood, watch entire communities literally come together and talk and laugh and eat way too much candy.  I seriously LOVE that idea.  And again, I may be absolutely wrong, but I am entirely convinced that that’s exactly what happened yesterday…at least at our house and on our street and in our neighborhood.

I certainly don’t want to hyper-spiritualize it, but it’s almost as if we’re making a declaration, in a way, that old traditions that were once intended for evil, or that EVIL ITSELF, has no power over us anymore – declaring that that power was and is broken by the Gospel.  We almost get to make a mockery of evil (one of the few “mockeries” we’re entitled to as Believers) when we take evil’s shining “moment in the sun” and turn it into a CHILDREN’S holiday.  We take what was once intended for evil and we turn it into a celebration of youth and imagination and the lightness of childhood.  And yes, we may tell a few spooky stories along the way and put scary spider webs on our front porches.

The truth is, there is great merit to the more popularly accepted “Christian versions” of the holiday, so some may call it “All Saints Day” and go ”TRUNK-or-treating” in a church parking lot but some may take a less overtly spiritual approach, call it Halloween and go trick-or-treating in their neighborhoods.  The bottom line is, best I can figure, is that I think it can be as simple as a fun day for neighbors to actually be neighbors – to actually engage with each other and build community and childhood memories at the same time…to be relational and build bridges.  Halloween, for me, is not a celebration of an old, antiquated evil tradition; it’s a celebration of my children.  It’s a celebration of my family, my neighborhood, and my community.  And maybe a chance to look evil in the face and not be afraid.  Not to mention, a good excuse to eat a whole lot of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.” Blog Link

 

—— (The Fact’s on Halloween from History Channel Article below)—-

HALLOWEEN – A HISTORY OF: 

(RTP blog commentary at the end)

Google Images

Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating. In a number of countries around the world, as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, people continue to usher in the winter season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.

Did You Know?

One quarter of all the candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween.

Ancient Origins of Halloween

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III (731–741) later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1. By the 9th century the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted the older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church would make November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It is widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. All Souls Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

Halloween Comes to America

Celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups as well as the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included “play parties,” public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland’s potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors.

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague Halloween celebrations in many communities during this time. By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats. A new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday.

Today’s Halloween Traditions

The American Halloween tradition of “trick-or-treating” probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.

Halloween Superstitions

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. For these friendly spirits, they set places at the dinner table, left treats on doorsteps and along the side of the road and lit candles to help loved ones find their way back to the spirit world. Today’s Halloween ghosts are often depicted as more fearsome and malevolent, and our customs and superstitions are scarier too. We avoid crossing paths with black cats, afraid that they might bring us bad luck. This idea has its roots in the Middle Ages, when many people believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into cats. We try not to walk under ladders for the same reason. This superstition may have come from the ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred; it also may have something to do with the fact that walking under a leaning ladder tends to be fairly unsafe. And around Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road or spilling salt.

But what about the Halloween traditions and beliefs that today’s trick-or-treaters have forgotten all about? Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead. In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday—with luck, by next Halloween—be married. In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it. In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl’s future husband. (In some versions of this legend, confusingly, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.) Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night she would dream about her future husband. Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water; and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands’ faces. Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry; at others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle.

—-(Article Source: Courtesy of History Channel  at http://www.history.com/topics/halloween )——————————————-

RoadTrip Parenting is providing the article above as a factual historical record for parents to read, consider and decide for themselves what the best path for their families should be this Halloween. I’ve had many discussions, friendly debates and concerns over the years as I’ve raised three kids through the Halloween season for almost 20 years.

The bottom line… within the faith community in America, Halloween has two polarizing factions, two distinct viewpoints on the issue of Christians celebrating this obviously pagan holiday for themselves…

1 – Halloween is a Holiday to be avoided due to its dark influences and pagan origins. No trick or treating.

2- Halloween is no different than Christmas or Easter in that they too have pagan origins in their history, but are observed by most Christians for the value and purpose intertwined within those holidays. Trick or treating is allowed and permissible.

I respect both positions on this and recognize that many families have chosen to avoid or skip Halloween out of concern for the position of point number one. I’m not providing this article to push one agenda over another, only to inform and educate everyone on the subject at hand. I’ve heard the arguments from significant leaders on both sides of this, those who push for the complete separation of the church and the secular society and I’ve heard of those who insist that God would want us to be engaged with and interactive in our communities in the festivities, giving every opportunity to share one’s faith in the process.

If you allow your six year old to dress up as peter pan and grab twix bars from the neighbors house while screaming gleefully to the next house to score some jelly bellies, i’m not nearly as concerned as for those of us who allow our families to watch and consume media that suggests the values of faith and family are ancient history. 

glutenfreesaver.com

glutenfreesaver.com

If celebrating Halloween creates the space in your life to interact with and enjoy one anothers company as a family... to draw closer together with each other and your neighbors… then I’m having a hard time finding reasons to “not” do that. For me, I believe if you start down this road of cultural avoidance…it ends badly for the Christian family in the end.

Personally, things like this often settle into a moderate position of recognizing and respecting both ends of the debate and landing somewhere firmly in the middle of it. I do think that somewhere in the history of Halloween, Dentist’s must have been involved…. 🙂

Be safe this year with your kids if you are out and about with the little ones, be aware of the issues and concerns of your conservative Christian counterparts and filter the messages of Halloween like you would any other secular observance or celebration… that includes the “Superbowl” halftime show !

Peace out, and take it easy on those “snack size” candy bars…

Brad.

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.

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.

Harry Potter… whats a Christian Parent to Do ?

Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me ….A story about a boy wizard.

by Andrew Peterson | re-posted from Christianity Today.
7/15/2011  – RoadTrip Parenting Note: This essay from Christian musician Andrew Peterson and is abridged from a blog post at The Rabbit Room.

I’m a fan of the Harry Potter books. There. I said it. Whenever I visit a bookstore I can’t resist a walk through the Young Readers section, where my heart flutters at cover illustrations of dragons and detectives and ghosts and kids dashing across fantastic landscapes. I’ve always loved those stories, and many times I take the books from the shelves and, with chills running up and down my arms, thumb through them. Sometimes I even smell them. (There. I said
that, too.)

Years ago, on one of my trips through the kids’ section I noticed a book called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
It looked cool, and the jacket indicated that it had won a few awards. A year or so later I saw the second book, this one on display. By the time I spotted Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on the shelves the buzz was loud enough that I decided to buy the first book. I read it, and although it had some great moments, I wasn’t hooked. But at the time I was
writing On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and was learning so much so quickly about writing, I already knew North!Or Be Eaten would be a better book. I desperately hoped my readers would stick with me through my first faltering attempt at fiction because I had a much bigger story to tell.

So I decided to give this “J.K. Rowling” person the benefit of the doubt, as I hoped my readers would do for me. I read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and liked it better than the first book. I began to get glimpses of the scope of this story, sensed a gigantic framework beneath its surface, and bought Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as soon as it released. That was the book that did it. Rowling was no longer messing around. She convinced me with that book that she could tell a story, that Harry, Ron, and Hermione were characters I cared about, and I realized that she had created a world I adored.

I’m as enchanted by Hogwarts as Rivendell. At the end of each book, when Harry found himself stuck again at the Dursleys, I grieved with him, because his time there was like my time waiting for the next story, waiting for
Hagrid to show up and sweep me away into a magical world again. Opening the first page of a new Harry Potter book was like boarding the Hogwarts Express. I’m being totally serious. Well, after reading book three, I was one of the
first in line to buy each new one.

Then one day about ten years ago, when I was on tour with a singer/songwriter named Fernando Ortega, I spent a few hours at a Barnes & Noble in Oregon (I think) and a guy in a bowtie was giving an author talk to a smattering of people. I slipped into the back row and listened as he lauded the virtues of the Harry Potter books, and even—gasp!—went so far as to argue that they were distinctly Christian in theme. I was fascinated, especially in light of the rumblings and grumblings I’d heard about the books from Christians. It helped me to understand why my spirit seemed to tingle when I
read the books.

That day I met JohnGranger, bought his book The Hidden Key to Harry Potter, and was even more hooked than I was before. He pointed out so many interesting themes, archetypes, alchemical nuances, and even direct quotes from Rowling herself about the Christian content in the books that I became more frustrated and mystified than ever by the outcry from Christians against the books. As weird as it sounds, I felt bad for Rowling. She was working hard, telling a great story, lighting up my imagination like few authors ever have (I’ll let you guess which), and she was being demonized by the church I love-the church of which she was supposedly a part. I kept wishing there was a way I could send her a message that said something like this:

Dear Ms. Rowling,

I think it’s remarkable what
you’ve done. I love your imagination. I love your characterization and your
sense of humor. I love that you’re telling a story about choosing the right
thing, even when it’s hard. I love that you’re telling a story that is full of
wisdom, a story that reminds me how evil Evil is. Most of all, I love that your
story reminds me that light is stronger than darkness, that the best way to love
is to lay your life down, and that Death will not have the final say. By the
way, I’m a follower of Christ, and I see him in your story. I don’t know if
that’s intentional or not, but you should know that he’s in there. In fact, it
wouldn’t be a huge stretch to say that reading your books has helped me to
praise him even more for his courage, his sacrifice, and his strength to conquer
the hosts of hell to save us.

Sincerely,
Andrew
Peterson

I don’t think the Harry Potter books are perfect. I don’t think
they’re the greatest books ever written. Whether or not they stand the test of
time like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings remains to be seen (though I suspect
they will). But I was swept into the story in a way that very few books
have ever done for me. When Ben Shive and I were touring in Sweden I actually
heard him crying in the next room as he finished Half-Blood
Prince. (Don’t tell him I told you that.) Some of you may have heard me
tell this story, but for the sake of those who haven’t: when I finished Deathly Hallows I was opening for Fernando again (this was years and years after the tour I mentioned earlier-creepy how this all revolves
around Fernando). I read the last, bittersweet pages of the book and was deeply moved. But it wasn’t until later that I broke. I finished my opening set that night and settled in to listen to Fernando. He was playing piano along with a string quartet, marching through a stirring arrangement of “Crown Him with Many
Crowns.” In the back of the dark, crowded room I sang,

Crown him the Lord of life,
who triumphed o’er the
grave,
and rose victorious in the strife
for those he came to save.
His
glories now we sing,
who died, and rose on high,
who died, eternal life to
bring,
and lives that death may die.

I couldn’t get Harry’s story out of my head. I doubled over in the back of the auditorium and sobbed with gratitude to Jesus for allowing his body to be ruined, for facing the enemy alone, for laying down his life for his friends-Jesus, my friend, brother, hero, and king-Jesus, the Lord of Life, who triumphed o’er the grave-who lives that death may die! Even now, writing those words, my heart catches in my throat. In that moment I was able, because of these books, to worship Christ in a way I never had.

Let me be clear: Harry Potter is NOT Jesus. This story isn’t inspired, at least not in the sense that Scripture is inspired; but because I believe that all truth is God’s truth, that the resurrection is at the heart of the Christian story, and the main character of the Christian story is Christ, because I believe in God the Father, almighty maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ his only begotten Son—and because I believe that he inhabits my heart and has adopted me as his son, into his family, his kingdom, his church—I
have the freedom to rejoice in the Harry Potter story, because even there, Christ is King.

Wherever we see beauty, light, truth, goodness, we see Christ. Do we think him so small that he couldn’t invade a series of books about a boy wizard? Do we think him cut off from a story like this, as if he were afraid, or weak, or worried? Remember when Santa Claus shows up (incongruously) in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? It’s a strange moment, but to my great surprise I’ve been moved by it. Lewis reminds me that even Father Christmas is subject to Jesus, just as in Prince Caspian the hosts of mythology are subject to him.

The Harry Potter story is subject to him, too, and Jesus can use it however he wants. In my case, Jesus used it to help me long for heaven, to remind me of the invisible world, to keep my imagination active and young, and he used it to show me his holy bravery in his triumph over the grave.

Andrew Peterson is an award-winning Christian musician, author,
and proprietor of The Rabbit Room, a blog for Christian artists. A longer version of this essay appeared there recently.

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Today’s – Harry Potter Blog is a repost of the ChristianityToday article noted in the opening paragraph with link. It does not necessarily represent the views, opinions or beliefs of RoadTrip Parenting. However, I believe like any media, book or movie…if a parent is involved in the process to help kids filter out the good from the bad and clarify fact from fiction… it can be a very good thing for a family. If you have not read the books, I would encourage you to do so. They are considered classics by most and may prove to be insightful reading for you to understand the world that your older kids will be living in with their peers. For younger kids, (under 12) I would avoid the Harry Potter world altogether.

Blessings… Brad.

Managing Tween Anger

MANAGING TWEEN ANGER (a repost)

Help your tween grow into a thoughtful, discriminating adult who rules his own emotions.

by  Shana Schutte for  (Focus on the Family)

When I was a teacher I could never understand what happened to the 2nd graders during summer vacation. When I walked out the school doors in May and returned three months later, they were noticeably more grounded and grown up. It was part of a dramatic shift from being a child to preparing to be an adolescent.

The word “adolescent” might scare you because you’re anything but ready for your third grader to grow up. However, because your eight-year-old is more emotionally aware and and intellectually advanced, you can help him understand more about himself — including how he handles his anger. In fact, these anger strategies apply to kids in the Tween years between the ages of 8 to 12.

When your child is angry, let him exercise more authority

My mother always says that sometimes you have to pick your battles and some aren’t worth fighting. This couldn’t be more true as your child progresses from being a child to an adolescent.

As your child grows intellectually and emotionally between the ages of eight and twelve, you will naturally want to grant him more responsibility so that he can grow into a responsible adult. This means that when he gets mad or rants and raves because he wants to buy a cheap toy with his hard-earned lawn mowing money, and you know it’s a bad idea, you can give up your ground and let the consequences of his choice speak for themselves. This way, you can spare yourself a battle and he can grow into a calm, thoughtful and discriminating adult who doesn’t allow his emotions to rule him.

Dr. Kevin Leman calls this “reality discipline” because reality serves up the discipline, not you. For some kids, especially those who are strong-willed and often demand that they get their way, it’s a great way to go. Of course, you can’t say yes to everything, but you can make it a practice not to say no just for the sake of saying it — and you can try to say yes often.

Don’t only speak to your child about his anger when he’s angry

With life pressures, it can be difficult to squeeze in teachable moments with your child. However, it’s imperative that if you want your child to learn how to handle his anger in a constructive way, you’ll need to speak with him when he’s not angry.

Think back to the last time when you were really angry. Could anyone reason with you? Did your breathing accelerate? Were you talking in circles? Did you forgot what the other person said (if you were locked in battle)? Obviously, it’s tough to reason with someone who is out of control with anger. That’s why you’ll need to speak with your child to make a constructive plan to handle anger when he’s not angry.

As a part of helping your child, let him know that since he’s getting older, he can take more responsibility in helping himself, since you won’t always be there for him. Express sympathy by letting him know that it’s normal to get angry sometimes. But also tell him that how he reacts to his anger is his choice and how he chooses will either make him more miserable or help him.

During one of your non-anger teachable moments, you can use a technique I used as a teacher. It’s important that you use this technique shortly after the event because he may not remember what happened later. Ask him how he felt (in his emotions and his body), what happened that made him angry, how he responded, what the outcome was and how he could respond next time. Over time, he may begin to see the connection between his actions and the result.

In the beginning, it’s reasonable to assume that he may not see how he contributed to the argument or blow-up with his siblings. However, I’ve seen this technique work with kids over a period of time. It gives them the opportunity to reflect inwardly and process the situation without you telling him how he should act. In short, it helps him see that his response is his responsibility.

Help your child create his own discipline plan

Once your child begins to see that his anger can be a problem, and that it’s making his life difficult, you can calmly consult with him about the consequences if he responds inappropriately. First, you’ll need to determine what “inappropriate” means. By discussing with him, ask him if it involves hitting someone, calling them names or spitting. Let him decide. I’ve found that most kids are amazingly honest about what is right and wrong when they’re not threatened.

After you have created a list of what is not an acceptable response to anger, you can create another list of what he will do when he acts inappropriately. For example, will he put himself in time-out? Spend the afternoon in his room? Or give a prized toy to a friend?

You can also offer healthy alternatives to express his anger, such as scream outside until he feels better, punch a soft toy in the privacy of his room, or draw a picture about his feelings when he’s angry.

Once your plan is complete and you’ve both agreed, both of you can sign it and post it somewhere obvious for future reference. This way, he can’t say he was never part of the decision-making process, and it puts him in charge of his response.

Above all, whenever your Tween is angry, remain calm. This will let him know that you are on his side and working with him to help him master anger.

Copyright © 2008 Shana Schutte. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
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This Blog is a repost from Focus on the Family.com – a great resource for faith and family concerns. Roadtripparenting is a strong
supporter of the FOTF website and its many resources for families of pre-teens and teens.
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/