Fathers…Open mouth…insert foot here

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

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

It may well be…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

brad.

Learning to let go… Again !

Funny how our personal life lessons take a while to translate to our children.

God has NEVER dropped me. NEVER let me down, there are times and days when I was unsure, scared and full of doubts…but in the end, He always showed up and in the most unusual ways met my greatest needs. I’ve been a follower of Jesus now for almost a decade, and in that time I have filled five journals with memoirs of the faithfulness of God in my life.

Faithful to me in times of abandonment, faithful in times of near bankruptcy, faithful in times of deep depression, anger, resentment, betrayal, personal failing, lost hope, health, etc. No matter what circumstance I found myself in…God was with me. His promise to never leave or forsake me were trustworthy. Reliable. Accurate.

But when my kids became teens… it was like a whole new chapter in Faith had to be re-written.

Ever feel that way ?

Be encouraged, God is as faithful to meet our families needs as our own. What is harder for us parents, is to resist the temptation to reach into their hormonal lives and shake their little- not fully matured -brains until they understand us. To manipulate their lives and schedules and activities to our comfort level and to re-arrange their priorities to match our own.

Why do we do that ?

Or more importantly why should we be tempted to do that? I think the answer is as simple as “Fear”. We have learned and are learning to trust God for our own lives, but letting go of our young adult children is a totally different deal. Let me encourage you to. Not literally let them “go” do whatever they want, but a letting go at the “HEART” level. It’s time to let God be God.

Definitely keep your behavior boundaries, keep your word and be consistent in your home to enforce the rules, guard your respect and promote your beliefs, but in the end… they have to discover the same truths and foundation values that you and I did. Some of that discovering is very difficult to watch unfold.

Resist the need to “Fix” everything in their lives, let them stumble, and bumble their way forward as you encourage, correct and protect them on the way. Stay in the word of God to guide your own path, rely on the same faithful God to win the hearts and minds of your kids as he did your own.

In the end, if we let God take over…we’re really only accepting the reality of things as they have always been. Psalm 37 is one of my anchor to the soul – passages in the bible. I’m sharing it with anyone who needs it now. My hope is you will find the truth of its words to allow you to once again, to find rest in remembering God’s faithfulness to all of us in every generation. Trust Him to reach your children when you can’t.

Psalm 37 (ESV)

He Will Not Forsake His Saints
Of David.

1 Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
2For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.

3 Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.

7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!

8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.

10In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.

12The wicked plots against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him,
13but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming.

14The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

16 Better is the little that the righteous has
than the abundance of many wicked.
17For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the Lord upholds  the righteous.

18The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will remain forever;
19they are not put to shame in evil times;
in the days of famine they have abundance.

20But the wicked will perish;
the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—likesmoke they vanish away.

21The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
but the righteous is generous and gives;
22for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by him shall be cut off.

23The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the LORD upholds his hand.

25I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging for bread.
26He is ever lending generously,
and his children become a blessing.

27 Turn away from evil and do good;
so shall you dwell forever.
28For the LORD loves justice;
he will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29The righteous shall inherit the land
and dwell upon it forever.

30The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip.

32The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33The LORD will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34 Wait for the LORD and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
though I sought him, he could not be found.

37Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace.
38But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the future of the wicked shall be cut off.

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.

(courtesy of Biblegateway.com)

Peace out my dear parenting comrades, and remember… we know how the story is going to end…God Wins.

brad

Finding strength in our weakness

As a parent we can often find ourselves exhausted, overwhelmed and discouraged, and then to add to our misery we condemn ourselves for feeling so exhausted, overwhelmed and discouraged. We struggle to carry the load of personal guilt for being ‘bad parents” as if somehow we have failed our families for being weak….? That voice of condemnation we hear is dark, divisive, dangerous and for sure not from God.

Let me encourage you with a simple reminder that comes directly from God’s word…

Bible gateway.com  9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me”

If in your day-to-day struggles of leading your family, you find yourself in a position of weakness… don’t panic. It’s O.K.

Remember that God has a wired us to need Him, not just for our first time sinners prayer experience… but for our entire life. We are not meant to be able to handle life all on our own, it’s our own pride that insists we should. A religious pride that can sneak into our minds and rob us of our peace and joy and comfort in Christ. It whispers to us that WE should be able to handle things easier, better or stronger that others. It would never dare to challenge our basis for salvation, but indirectly it nibbles away at our foundation of grace until we eventually forget that we never ever had the power to change our lives on our own.

Step back today, remember the GRACE of God to change our hearts from old to new. From failed men and women to redeemed and remind yourselves of the power that is only found in our savior Jesus Christ. When we hit empty and drop to our proverbial knees in failure… His power and His strength are revealed.

So this week, as you labor to lead your families and kids, don’t surrender your faith in overcoming the multitude of challenges in your life, just surrender the need to believe you have to solve everything on your own.

When we convince ourselves that its up to us alone to be good parents, we live under the pressue of having to have an answer for everything. We have to be able to find a resolution to every dilemma or summon enough patience for every frustration or conflict we encounter. When we assume the responsibility alone… we are actively stepping back into a world of self and stress… a world that carries a ton of weariness and guilt and it’s impact will rob us of much of what we have been freely given in Christ. Sometimes we forget that everything we have, and are and are going to be is accomplished not by us, but by the grace of God in our lives. REMEMBER;

Your kids are going to be saved by GRACE.

Your marriage will be kept by GRACE.

Your home will be at peace by GRACE.

Your job will be effective by GRACE.

Your ministry will change lives by GRACE.

Your day will begin and end in peace if you choose to live by GRACE.

So if you dare… stop thrashing your way through your day… Re-start your day by “waiting” for God. Wait to hear His voice before making decisions. Wait to feel His strength before engaging with your latest struggles. Wait to feel His peace before confronting the latest emotional explosion in your home. Wait and be renewed in the power of your weakness. Waiting is as simple as “listening” to God after you ask in prayer for help. It may mean shutting off your radio, television or iPod, it may mean stepping back into your bedroom before going out into the day. For some, pulling off the road or taking a walk at work, do what you have to do to get quiet enough to hear the still small voice of God for you.

Isaiah 40:31 /  (ESV)

31but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
   they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
   they shall walk and not faint.

Be encouraged faithful onesGod is with you, He is beside you and He will empower you in the very darkest of your days. No matter how empty, weak or discouraged you “FEEL”… God is waiting for us to surrender again.

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

Brad.

Parenting with Jesus…

So let’s go ahead and skip the Sunday school lesson, today we’re
talking about more than simply name dropping at expected times and places, this
is serious. For Christians, seeking to live as parents requires a supernatural
and un-exhaustible source of love, wisdom and grace. We all recognize our
inability to understand and solve every problem our kids experience, and to try
to do so on our own would put us in mental lock down for weeks.

Over the weekend, we hosted our youth group for some hang time to
start off the summer break. We listened and talked and shared what God had put
on our heart for the year, but mostly we asked questions and listened to the
responses. It was telling. Kids are sensing all of the challenges of life much
earlier than we had to, they are aware for the most part about the need to
“Hear from God” for themselves and for the shallowness of petty
theological turf wars in the church. They acknowledge their frustration with
the inconsistencies of youth leaders, and pastors and teachers and parents, but
most of all they realized they didn’t know exactly who or what to do with Jesus?

Every one of these kids had prayed the prayer, they had done a
youth camp or missions trip, they knew the bible well enough to speak the
language of a Christian and to even spend time with God on a regular
basis…but they struggled to define their relationship with Him. Jesus was a
mish-mash of traditional concept and stereotypes, mixed in with a bit of
current pop culture, and Jesus emerges in our kids’ lives as an icon of the
past with little personal interaction or tangible reality.

Sound familiar?

When it’s all said and done, it’s possible the single greatest
contribution any of us can give to our kids is a solid understanding of who
Jesus Christ is, and what He offers for us to experience with Him over the
course of our lifetime. The other stuff is great, it’s important and it will
serve our kids well to learn to balance their checkbooks, act with integrity,
love with wisdom etc… but if they grow up with a scattered and undefined
grasp of who our savior is. We may be missing the parenting point all together.

Ask your kids… “Who is Jesus?” This simple
question is upon a bit of reflection actually quite profound, inexhaustible really.

Without Jesus in our parenting, we’re kinda of asking our kids to
follow Christianity, burdened upon our own weak and vulnerable examples of
faith. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to do that.

Ask them.

It may be the single greatest parenting choice you can ever make.
Be prepared to struggle a bit yourself as you seek to define the relationship
you have with Jesus. Who is He? What did he actually do for you, for our kids,
for mankind? What has He asked of us? Where is He now? Why didn’t He fix
everything… or did He? Why can’t we see or hear Him… or can we? How can so
many people claim to know Him and yet act as if He never existed?

Taking the time will be a struggle, a valiant one, worthy of every parent’s
full attention and focus. At the heart of the bible, the very pulsing center of
all its teaching, its truth and its power lies one undeniable theme. Jesus
Christ. When our understanding of Christianity and faith and discipleship and
mentoring and life drift away from the central truth of our existence… what
do we really have to offer our kids?

“Lord, help us to grasp the essentials of our faith. Help us
to communicate the truth of our relationship with your only son and our savior
to our kids… strengthen us with your word and flood us with wisdom this day.
In Jesus name we pray, Amen”.

Peace out.

brad

A Critique of Rob Bell’s book…”Love Wins”

 I just finished reading Rob Bell’s controversial book, “Love Wins“. I came away with mixed emotions, but strangely stirred to consider carefully the suggestions his book asserts about what I “think I know”, rather than what the bible actually says.

As a parent, this book engages me to review my way of raising kids biblically and to apply the portions of the book that I believe have real merit for us and to discard the portions that I believe are a pure opinion. As a pastor I feel strongly that Rob has raised a very real and serious concern about how we as Christian’s present the “gospel” of Jesus Christ to our world.

For a fair and balance review of Rob’s book, I would refer you to a post from Christian Today. I believe theologian Derek Tidball has captured my own observations, considerations and concerns almost verbatim.

For real life faith and family issues, read on….

Parents, Rob Bell’s book raises some key elements about our understanding of our Lord and Savior Jesus. He uses in particular the parable of the prodigal son as a powerful metaphor for understanding the viewpoint that God Himself has on both those who fail and repent and those who appear to be faithful and reliable servants. His observation that God see’s both sons as separated by their individual sins is a great parenting truth.

So often one of our children are easily identified as the “black sheep” of our families, always pushing boundaries, always the first to get in trouble and the first to talk back… and in converse there will be one sibling who is extra-ordinarily compliant. It’s easy to pre-determine the actions and reactions of each to our instructions and to pre-judge their actions as “good” and “bad” respectively.

Not so fast.

What about the conditions of the hearts of our children? I mean, are we carefully looking into their hearts before we draw our conclusions about their actions ? If so, we need to step back a bit and reconsider.

God judges from the heart, man from the outward appearance. If we are training our kids to simply model our faith, in time they will learn to simply “pretend” their way through childhood and adolescence. By adulthood, they will have mastered the art of deception and risk the tragedy of living out their lives in public as respectable and self-disciplined fakes. It strikes me that many of our churches are full of such individuals.

If we take the time to actually look a bit under the surface of their behavior, we may find that our compliant kids are actually more at risk for connecting with their faith in a genuine way than our “black sheep” are.  The honesty of rebellion is something that we need to actually cherish as we work with them to consider that mom and dad might know what they are talking about, and that the bible could actually be important to their own lives… 🙂

Tomorrow’s blog will consider the issues of this book and its impact on the church from the perspective of a pastor.

Until then, God bless you as you like me… “seek to keep your family in between the lines and on the road of life”!

Peace out,

brad.

Can you REALLY Hear God…?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part two… on Tuesday.

Peace Out Fellow Parents,

brad.

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.

Sweet Sixteen…Really ?

My youngest daughter just turned sixteen…we’re going to get her driver’s license tonight after school. I’m nervous. She is about to become mobile…not in the “technological” sense, or the “I’m no longer crawling but walking” sense… but in the “I’m going to be able to drive my car at any speed she can conceive” sense.

Sweet sixteen… Really ?

Who coined that phrase “sweet sixteen”…, what knucklehead made that little pronouncement for all of teen-ager-dom ?

Someone crazy, or someone who doesn’t pay an Allstate drivers insurance rate for high school girls. Someone who has no idea how insane it is for a “yet to be eligible voter” to be given the legal right to operate a $30,000 vehicle without adult supervision.

I mean seriously, what is wrong with just raising the drivers age a wee bit…? Maybe to like 21 or something just more adultish than being a sophomore in High School ?

I’ve heard other freaked out parents cope with this issue my whole life, but I was silly enough to think that when a parent of a sixteen year old said … “Oh…it’s not a big deal, really so convenient to have someone who can do errands for you or drive themselves to the school club events…” they actually believed it.

I now know that is sooo not true. It’s a coping mechanism that they repeat as often as possible to as many other parents they can find to help them believe it for themselves, and they are simply deceiving us all that it’s really totally o.k. that their child is behind the wheel. Because any sane adult parent would absolutely freak out thinking that their hormonal almost adult child is out there, trying to keep up with their instant messages, texting, and updating their Twitter, Facebook status and shuffling through their iPods and listening to the radio while they check out all of the “hot” guys they can find in other vehicles as they drive from their local Sonic to Taco Bell to McDonalds and on to Starbucks and occasionally, sometimes…they even watch the road

Ohhhhh my. I am rambling... So as you have no doubt discerned by now. My middle child, Bethany Rose Mathias my little “munchkinaroo” is now a 16-year-old barbie doll, dude magnet with wheels. OH MAN, OH MAN, OH MAN !!!

So, while I’m digging frantically through the medicine cabinet this morning for some Valium… it dawns on me. My parents had to deal with this, as all parents must and God has to deal with our immaturity each and every day.

Freewill is the deal. God gave us the terrible gift of being able to “choose” our way through life. He watches us as we hop in our life-cars and motor our way through one near miss after another and waits patiently for us to finally understand and trust and believe enough in Him, for us to scoot over and let someone else take the wheel.

I love my daughter, I’m very proud of her and I know in all seriousness that she will be a great driver and someday she will teach her kids to drive and the cycle of sweet sixteen will continue. My prayer today is for my daughter to grow enough as a young woman to see it’s really not soooo important to have the license to drive…, its much much more important to see clearly enough to know you don’t need to.

Peace out and God bless… as you “keep your families in between the lines and on the road of life”… literally this time 🙂

brad.

Tweens and Tragedy, A tale of technology at work for good

How does a tween process tragedy ? How should they ? Do they even notice the world around them beyond their Wii or Facebook or iPod’s ? As adults, we are horrified and in awe of the magnitude of it all… as we watch helplessly as  the cable news world broadcasts 24/7 revealing image after image of near cataclysmic destruction.  

As a parent I’m very concerned about the people of Japan… a tragic  world event that has rocked us all by the power and ferocity of its impact as we see the effects sheer devastation from friday’s earthquake and resulting epic tsunami as it hurtled over the countryside. Shocking, mind-numbing videos of walls of water and towns simply wiped off the map.

It’s impossible to process with our adult minds, yet alone a growing preteen’s who is functioning only from a very sheltered and limited concept of the tragedy and brevity of life.

So in the midst of this terrible event… is there really a way technology can help them reach through the self-absorbed haze of adolescence and see the real world beyond the virtual ?

Yes, I believe there might be…

Surprisingly, the answer may be found to some degree in the technology we are so cautious to let them access. Facebook, Twitter and social media are always working to expand our kids minds and awareness beyond their bedrooms and pre-teen drama. It’s just usually in a “bad” way.

When I talked with my own kids about this tragedy, my son was very sober. He has a very close school friend who recently had to move to Tokyo, and the recent tragedy combined with my sons growing awareness of the reality of such tragedies (2010 Nashville floods) had begun to move him from the passive typical pre-teen to an alert and appropriately concerned young man. He is really connected to and anxious for his friends well – being. Not just his friend, but he’s aware that this tragic event really happened. That those people were really displaced or killed and it is not just a movie or a tv reality show that’s playing right now on the television…its life beyond U-Tube.

The power of connectivity through technologyallows all of us to be “personally” invested in the welfare of others. Regardless of how we connect, Facebook, Twitter or email…they all allow us to stay connected to our friends and family in ways we could have never anticipated and ( I believe) in doing so, technology has shown us Parents a potential “silver” lining to the online revolution of this generation.

My son is actually engaged, he is active in seeking out news on this tragedy. His friend is in the center of this catastrophic loss and he is very aware of how dangerous and serious this event is for the people and nation of Japan and beyond. His world view has been expanded and his compassion and awareness of the needs of others is at an all time high. That is a good thing. His world is expanding beyond his own cares and concerns and I am grateful for that.

So much so, that he commented to me last night… “Dad, some of the kids at school are complete idiots…they have no idea whats going on in Japan, and whats worse… they couldn’t care less because it doesn’t affect them in any way.” I have no doubt that’s true for some, but not all. I believe we have a golden opportunity in this disaster to gently re-direct our kids attention from themselves to others and to begin to consider what “they” might be able to do to help.

So, parents…before we completely remove all social media and technology from our pre-teens lives… let’s be careful to consider and “LOOK FOR” the potential positive benefits of its presence in our homes. As with all things… in moderation and with consideration for the content and priorities of real life in mind.

I’m not a huge advocate of technology as I’ve seen it negatively impact families and homes in very dangerous ways when out of balance, but I am cautiously optimistic on this particular facet of its existence. It could be a huge catalyst for growing our pre-teens awareness of the world beyond our borders and the need for increased compassion and sensitivity to those less fortunate.

Here’s to keeping on the road and in between the lines… and when you read this, please consider taking a moment to stop what your about and pray for the welfare and safety of those families and lives affected by the recent earthquake in Japan. If you’re a parent… go ahead and ask your kids to join with you when you do. It will show them your faith in action when facing tragedy and loss, a priceless lesson of hope and trust when life gets beyond anyone’s control.

Peace out,

b

Faith or Fame for your tween? Beware the Disney parable…

Watching Miley Cyrus saturday host SNL sobered me a bit as I realized how much she really has changed. In just over six years she had gone from a fun and energetic, wholesome child star to a jaded and worn young woman. From the grocery store checkout rag’s to the primetime interviews… Miley’s family has been the focus of countless millions as they have been literally torn apart by her quote “successes”.

What happened ? It appears that somewhere in all of the success and stardom her values shifted dramatically. Her youthful innocence was replaced with something much different. Something darker and more destructive has touched her family, ironic as it seems… this destruction of family is one of the common denominators with most if not all child tv pop stars.

Why did it happen ? Somewhere along the way… her parents lost their ability to influence her more than the environment she was allowed to live in. Miley’s parents were affected by her success as much or more than she was… and it destroyed their home. The roots of their values, beliefs and faith were not deep enough to withstand the tsunami of her exploding popularity, wealth, influence and stardom.

What can we do to prevent similar loss in our families ? Stay close to God’s word, and to each other. Simple, but profound. By staying close to God’s word, we stay close to “reality” and in doing so, maintain perspective on who we are and how much life is not about us. When we skip that step, we start to immediately drift into another reality. One dominated by the influence of media, popular culture and the despair of a self-absorbed life. When we stay close to God, our roots of faith grow deep and wide… preparing us and our families for whatever may come.

Where do we go from here as a generation? As parents of faith, our first duty is to be intentional about our faith and guard our own hearts and mind. Time with God is irreplaceable and powerful. It restores our hearts and minds and prevents us from the presumption and deception of living  lives without the influence of the Holy Spirit. When we model our faith in our homes, we’re leading our kids to find a source of life and purpose much deeper than ourselves.

Our kids, our pre-teens need us to maintain our connection with our faith and our values. When we falter, we open them up to being influenced by someone else, for purposes that will ultimately destroy our lives. I Peter 5 describes the Devil as a ravenous lion, its true. He has plans to steal, kill and destroy us and our kids. The first line of defense comes on our knees and in the word of God.

I grieve for Miley, her family has been swallowed up by the very thing they so desperately wanted. Fame. As parents, we need to exercise some caution in our life choices… no matter how awesome the opportunity.  When we pause and pray before acting… we include God in our choices and in doing so we avoid the devastation of our very lives. I’m confident the opportunity to star as Hannah Montana seemed perfectly harmless on the front side, but in the end it led to a path full of pain and loss.

For all of us its the same…, we are in need of a savior, and in accepting His help, we must learn to accept His will. When we choose to let God pick… we’re protecting our families in ways we will never truly appreciate until eternity.

As a media executive in the pre-teen and teen world of music and television, I’ve seen this mediacentric scenario many times before. But it’s not exclusive to media…many parents want to live out their hopes and dreams through our kids and we never hesitate to encourage them to pursue their desires to the fullest.

From the performance pressures of little league to dance class to those pushing for academic scholarships… we as parents are risking the same outcome as the Cyrus family when we don’t offer a healthy life perspective, one full of faith, balanced in activities and content with whatever God provides.

God protect us from getting our own way ! Here’s to encourage us all to carefully steer our kids through their tween years knowing that we must model our faith and hope in something more than ourselves… Keeping it on the road and in-between the lines of life.

Peace out,

brad.