Brilliantly Brave Parenting

I heard the phrase ‘brilliantly brave‘ last night during a prayer at my parish in Columbia TN. (props to Tanya Grabbe)

It struck a note with me… you know that tingling sensation… resonating with something deeper inside your heart. A connecting point between a vague idea you had and a specific phrase that captures the essence of your thought.

“Brilliantly Brave’ was exactly what I had been searching for. It described how I saw moms and dads and parents across the globe trying to raise up decent kids in an insane and out of control world.

“Brilliantly Brave’.

I Love the feelings those two words evoke, the sense of raw courage and strength they lend to any phrase. And of course… they also work perfectly for a new podcast I’m developing with iShine and the Tween Gospel Alliance (TGA), a series designed specifically for parents who are struggling and feeling a lot less than ‘brilliant or brave!

GONE WILD VIA GETTY IMAGES

GONE WILD VIA GETTY IMAGES

In Our culture it’s common to google an answer to almost any issue we face. Wanna know how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey to perfection? Google it.

Wanna discover how to fix a drywall mistake on your living room wall? Google it.

Wanna fix your 12 year old’s attitude…? Google it…?

 We’re trained to ask “Siri’ or “Alexa’ to scour the internet for answers. To locate the smartest and best way to fix our problem. Very little discernment required for most of life’s little problems. 

Raising kids of course is way more complicated than a new recipe or DIY project. So who do you turn to for parenting advice? Where do you go to get answers for relational challenges like growing, hormonal, teens/tweens?

Very few of us would turn to the mirror in our search. Even less of us would ever consider our advice or insights as “brilliant’. I hope I can change that misperception.

My suggestion isn’t to chuck every other idea or advice out there, but to encourage you to cautiously peruse whatever it is “Siri’ suggests. Friends and family are always ready to give advice, and of course you’re local pastor or priest is a great place to go for some sage counsel… but what about you?

What if you put you’re own name on the door and listened to what God was saying directly to you about you’re problem? What if you seriously spent some time with the bible, you’re spouse, and in prayer?

Would God answer?

Would God actually give you insight and wisdom as to how to respond and parent? Maybe even show you the specific keys to your kids heart?

Yes… He would.

If you share my Christian worldview even a little… you recognize that in God’s Kingdom, there are no coincidences. The child you have has been hand-picked for you and you for them. No way someone else has a deeper insight than you into the inner workings of your kids heart. Aided by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the strength of faith you can go where no expert can, right to the very center mass of the issue surrounding your problem.

That means you are the most “Brilliant” parent possible for ‘your child.

Now… if only we were “Brave‘ enough.

🙂

Pastor B.

 

 

 

Parenting like an “expert”

Parenting is ridiculously hard. From newborn to young adult, we as parents are confronted with EVERY kind of crazy. We think we’re prepared… 🙂 but then it hits and we’re scrambling to find someone…. ANYONE who has the experience, the wisdom… the freaking sanity to walk us through the chaos that is our kid! 47146

From issues with breastfeeding infants to the scourge of pre-adolescent personality disorders, we’re walking the tightrope of parenting life.

Occasionally during those transitions we find moments where we’re comfortable and somewhat confident that we know what we’re about, but so many times we panic inside! Desperately wondering what to do and how to do it!

Parenting experts are all over the web…. from best-selling books to podcasts, there are ‘expert’s everywhere on everything, sharing freely and confidently how to fix the things in your family that are out of ‘whack’.

Each of these experts will have a certain focus or perspective that they believe will carry the day for you. Each expert will have the aura of invincibility that only comes from successfully parenting their kids from diaper to college degree! (Some are excellent resources, others not so much. Kevin Leman is great)

Sometimes… watching, reading, or listening to the ‘experts’ not only doesn’t help us… it makes us feel worse. Guilt, regret, and a sense of inadequacy start to pile up… weighing us down and pushing our parenting shame through the roof.

IF…. that has happened… IF… that IS happening… take HOPE! All is not lost. There is another expert to consider…

The reality is, no one on the planet knows your kids better than YOU. No educated expert can come close to grasping the nuance’s of your child’s personality, character, spirit, and gifting better than you.

Ask yourself… would God appoint you to be a parent of a specific child randomly? Like some kind of cosmic soul lotto, whipping ping-pong balls around heaven to match parents with babies like a crazy game of chance. I don’t think so.

The precision of God’s creation is so intricate and intentional we can KNOW for certain that He has plans and purposes in everything He touches. No detail is too small, no coincidences allowed.

God hand-picked YOU to parent the children in your home. No one else got the assignment or the privilege to raise your kids to adulthood, only YOU were chosen for that Holy duty. 

So… deep breath, and exhale. Now breath again with fresh confidence and hope.

God is in your parenting life. He is with you to counsel and affirm you. The presence of the Holy Spirit as our guide and support in the roughest moments of parenting is assured to all Christians. Your not all alone, isolated, and unprepared for this.

True, we all can use help with keeping perspective or seeing important things that are obvious to others… but when the-push-comes-to-shoveyou’re the EXPERT that knows what your kids need. Guided by the Holy Spirit and secured by a community of faith to help you ‘stick-with-it’, there is great hope for your situation.

May God give you the wisdom and grace to discern His will for your family and the strength and patience to hang in there until the fruit of those choices comes into sight.

Blessings from Pastor B.

Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family[c] in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (ESV) – BibleGateway.com 

 

New Year… same old you?

Each year goes faster… new names and faces, new places… same old you. Emphasis on “old”. 🙂

As life moves us along we adapt, streeeeeetching to fit. We keep up with social media, the latest in smartphones and attempt to be ‘current’ as parents. Adjusting our wardrobe to stay relevant, along with our hairstyles and house color schemes. We’re not compromising here, but simply staying involved with the ebb and flows of modern culture and social norms. We adjust our diets to match the trends and make sure our families are equipped to keep up as well. man in a field pic

And about this time each year…We get rid of the old and worn out, and watch for the appropriately ‘new’!Life never slows or stops, a relentless taskmaster we have to obey. It’s twists and turns push us to go further, faster, and farther than ever before. The changes in our world mirroring the faces of our kids. Everything changes… EVERYTHING CHANGES! 

Except it seems… us?

Ever notice the way that extra ten pounds always hangs out in the same old places and spaces of your body? Or the way we repeatedly worry for our kids and spouses. Anxious about the same ol’ things we were five years ago. The same exact things that we sweated out ten years ago or twenty? Or what about our checking accounts… that hasn’t changed has it? Still just enough to get the bills paid… and not much more.

Why is it EVERYTHING CHANGES but us? 

The truth is… we are changing. We do grow. We are moving on an inner journey. It’s just very difficult to see or feel in the process. It takes ‘others’ to help us recognize the growth. It takes a few un-interrupted moments of contemplation… of review.

This new year… take some time to reflect on you. The world is moving by… and it always will. But what about you? Are you maturing, expanding your capacity as a parent, a spouse… a friend?

We understand that our kids have to eat to grow… but it’s easy to forget that truth applies to us as well. 

2016 is here… time re-new our vows of transformation and honor those best-intentions! Not with a fast diet and a new gym membership… but with a simple and profound desire to read and pray. Read and expand your mind, broaden your horizons as you commit your ways to God afresh. The scripture provides a healthy and irreplaceable perspective on all the things that matter most. meditation

This is the time to reflect on how much we have to be grateful for in the past year… and then look with renewed Hope at the freshness of the calendar ahead.

God is waiting for you in 2016. His promises are already in place. His faithfulness ready to be uncovered as you journey into the unknown days ahead, for He is on this Pilgrim path with us and that means we’re NEVER going to walk alone.

For thus says the Lord:
“Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
    and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
    ‘O Lord, save your people,
    the remnant of Israel.’

Behold, I will bring them from the north country
    and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
    the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together;
    a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come,
    and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back,
I will make them walk by brooks of water,
    in a straight path in which they shall not stumble,
for I am a father to Israel,
    and Ephraim is my firstborn.

10 “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
    and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
    and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’
11 For the Lord has ransomed Jacob
    and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.

12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
    and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
    and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall be like a watered garden,
    and they shall languish no more.
13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
    and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy;
    I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
14 I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance,
    and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness,
declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:7-14) 

English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

Finding Joy… where is it?

Advent week three… light the JOY candle and let’s all be happy! 

Plastic smiles at the ready we can brave another day of rushing to get life done. Christmas is crazy! We loose our minds from time to time… recitals, parties, work, church, school… it’s exhausting and worse. Somewhere in there we have to shop, wrap gifts, decorate, trim a tree, and prepare for family. JOY

Sunday we sit for an hour and listen to the pastor tell us to put on “JOY” and we’re urged to remember the reason for the season in our hectic holiday. We smile and nod, seems like a good idea… but by Monday morning we’re so removed from that ideal we can’t even recall the passage it was preached from, let alone live with intent.

First of all… skip the guilt and shame. No one is here to bash you. We’re all parents, living in the same nutty world. It’s a struggle to balance life in the best of times… let alone at Christmas. No other holiday compresses so many facets of our lives into one three or four-week period. Personal, private, family, church, professional, etc… everyone area of living gets a dose of Christmas obligation and in the end we’re left on the short side of it all. 

So… couple of encouragements.

1 – Happiness is NOT the same as “JOY”.  The Christian ideal for Advent isn’t fake happy. It is a cool reminder that God is really the one in control. Gives us permission to relax. In letting go we can rest in the work we’re doing and in letting go we find Peace.

2- Perfection doesn’t exist. So you can stop killing yourself to have the perfect party, dinner, Christmas… etc. Smile at the gaps in your life, instead of critiquing yourself and everyone else for falling ‘short’. After all it’s those imperfections that give us ‘character’… and who doesn’t love “character’?

3 – Enjoy the season at a pace that you can reasonably tolerate. Say “NO” when you must. No Guilt. You cannot do everything for everyone. Include times to rest and recharge yourself in the weekly commitments.

4- Stay off social media for a bit. It can be overwhelming and a huge distraction. The pictures and posts are all awesome and enjoyable, but for parents in overload…. it’ maybe a hill too far. The contentment factor is a personal issues for some… if it affects your JOY… ditch it for a while.

5- Sleep. It’s way underrated. Seven to Eight hours a night. Stop what you’re doing in time to go to bed. Whatever it is… you can do it better with a clear mind, and rested body. The last thing you need is a cold or cough to add to your woes.

Merry Christmas Parents! Your awesome and so is your family! It-s-A-Wonderful-Life-christmas-movies-2394010-1024-768

Philippians 4: 4 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Joy in waiting… Christmas on pause

Waiting is so odd to us.

We’re instant society folks… living in a push button culture. We find what we want in minutes, not hours. Days of delay, a totally foreign concept. We linger little. Time is tight.

Schedules are crammed full, social Holiday parties, church Christmas specials, school choir events, rushed shopping, shipping, spending… the pace of life pushing… squeezing.

USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Couple with Christmas shopping

Waiting is not even an option anymore. We have to sprint to stay ahead of the freight train that is our life…endlessly bearing down on us. Exhausted and numb, we scratch at the shimmering screens that surround us. Looking, hoping to find the spark of our old life to ignite some Christmas spirit.

Tired of too many things… we need something more. 

We’re longing to find the reason for rushing, the purpose behind the presents. Christmas shouldn’t be so thin and harsh. Whatever happened to the Joy of it all?

Where did the thrill of the anticipation, the waiting to discover… the wonder each gift reveals.

Slow the show mom and dad. 

Sit down.

Bake.

Watch TV with your kids.

Drive the neighborhoods for Christmas lights.

Go make something crafty for Aunt Bev 🙂

This season comes once each year. It’s not like the other weeks and days we ram through. This is important. Priceless. Take a deep breath… say “NO” to something. Maybe four or five ‘somethings’,  loose a few ‘ extra’ obligations this Christmas. 

Jesus-Mary-Joseph-1Lets remember the big picture? Christ came… Christ is coming… Christ will come again. Faith flickers in our fatigue… now could be a good time to rest and refresh our hearts. Christmas break is coming. An opportunity to slow down enough to enjoy the beautiful and fleeting moments. Resist the temptation to fill every moment of your holiday. Leave large spaces of unscheduled time available for family… oh and mute your smartphones.

The rewards of unplugging are enormous… including the ultimate Christmas gift for a family… your being ‘present’. 

Merry Christmas from RTP and Pastor B.

 

Christian Tradition… ADVENT

Advent is an ancient Christian tradition of intentionally ‘waiting‘ and ‘looking’ for God’s coming. As early as the 4th century, Christian converts were preparing for Christ’s return. Over a period of four weeks, starting in late November they would fast and pray in an earnest attempt to renew their hearts and minds for Christ’s coming.

This has evolved into a modern day tradition of lighting four candles (Hope / Love / Joy / Peace)  over four weeks, each candle representing a specific theme and truth about Christ. We anticipate the arrival of Christmas and by parallel the birth of Christ… or “Advent”. But we also should consider the original intent of our ancient Church fathers who sincerely believed that Christ was about to return to earth.

Advent Candles

Advent Candles

So as millions of Christian families light their advent candles or hang their Advent wreaths this Christmas season… consider the possibility that we are anticipating more than a baby’s birth, but a King’s return to earth!

For families looking to re-emphasize the deeper meaning of Christ-Mass, ADVENT is a wonderful way to keep the reason for the season fresh and real for our kids. Simple and easy to do… Advent candles allow for families of faith to ponder the virtues of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace… a time to reflect on our amazing heritage.

Merry Christmas from Road Trip Parenting! 

PS – To find out more about the history of Advent or to start your own family tradition – check out Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts” or the free onlineAWANA Advent Devotional!

birds and bees…for tweens

newsweek image

blog.sfgate.com – source

I’ve been preparing for the fall youth retreat at our church…. our theme is “Does my faith fit me?” a series of talks about “emotions” and how they impact our lives. Of the four sessions planned, mine is the talk on sexuality and love. 🙂

Considering the massive impact sexuality has on society, it’s a major topic to cover in a few minutes. Add to that the awkward stage every tween lives in… and I’ve got my work cut out for me. So… “Talking “Turkey with your tween” is a moment of reflection that every parent will face eventually. What do you tell your tween about sex? How do you handle the struggle with hormones, faith, and sexual identity?

Below are thoughts from my talk notes… hope they help.

Pastor Brad.

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SEX ...

SEXUAL

SEXUALITY...

Three potentially awkward – embarrassing topics.

Each distinct but related, and representing 3 huge issues that all of us have to consider, respond to, and decide what they will mean to us as an individual and as families of faith.

1) SEX – the physical act. The joining of a man and woman in an intimate and sacred act of both pleasure and procreation. Designed and encouraged by God, SEX is the ultimate sharing of 2 separate lives as they become one. It’s where babies come from 🙂  Reserved for the covenant of marriage, SEX is a pure act intended to symbolize the union of heart and soul… with the body. A beautiful and divinely inspired celebration of love.

2) SEXUAL – part of our hormonal status quo – it reflects the human nature of each of us. We have surges in our bodies during the stage of adolescence. From 12-20 young men have incredible spikes in testosterone as they grow. Young women begin to feel the effects of hormones in other ways, experiencing the changes to their uterus and physical bodies that prepares them to have children.

Each of you (boy / girl ) are undergoing distinct changes in your bodies as a normal response to the flood of hormones inside you. These undeniable changes are responsible for raising your awareness to see each other as more than friends, but possibly as a future husband or wife. The sexual drive for men is physical (Eros)- the drive for women (Phileo – Storge) to be wanted – desired – protected, to belong and to be safe – comfortable. Surprisingly power feelings and emotions, new desires never before present, a confusing and exciting time of life for sure. But it’s all normal – healthy and designed by God! So much so that we create music, movies, videos and social media to try to capture all we feel… books are written, poems composed and careers decided all by these powerful ‘feeling’s.

The Greeks had four words to describe what we call love, Eros, (romantic love, physical lust), Phileo,(comfortable, fondness, friendship), Storge (family loyalty)and Agape (unconditional love).

Eros– love felt particularly within the body (trembling excitement, elation, joy), colored and underpinned by deep and beautiful procreative urges. C.S. Lewis distinguishes Eros from natural sexual urges and lusts, because Eros is a state of the heart and while it is intimately related to sex, sex can exist, and often does exist, without Eros enlivening it. It leads to children, family, joy and laughter. It is good and right, but it is usually not enough to sustain a relationship long-term. Eros is an exulted and beautifully idealistic love, usually between a man and woman, but can also be “platonic” and extend to deeply intimate friendship. While Eros can simply be an earthy thing, when Spirit infused and elevated to it’s true position, it speaks deeply of universal mysteries, keenly expressed within the most sacred of all relationships, that between husband and wife. The elevated buzz of Erotic love is said to naturally fade within a year of its beginning.

Phileo If Eros is the love of the body, Phileo is the love of the soul. It is easy love and affection, it is bent towards our natural tastes and preferences (familiar and comfortable). It embodies culture and beliefs. It’s about the friendship you feel towards people like you, with the same interests, social graces, and style. God is said to have this kind of love for us and Jesus. Jesus felt this kind of love for his disciples, parents felt it about their children and children to their parents. It is not a shallow love, but rich in emotion and feeling. However it is also described as natural and exclusive and conditional. Also known as “brotherly” love as in “Philadelphia” – City of Brotherly Love. (Phileo derivative)

Agape-Is more of a parental, mature, sacrificial kind of love. Greek references describe it like this… “to take pleasure in the thing, prize it above all other things, be unwilling to abandon it or do without it.” In a way it is as idealistic as Eros, in that it is a crazy love that will not let go. Agape loves, usually at cost to the bearer. Agape puts the beloved first and sacrifices pride, self-interest and possessions for the sake of that beloved. This is the love that God has for us which inspired him to sacrifice His son and for His son to obey and sacrifice himself. It is a love of supreme greatness. It is supernatural and divine – the glue that holds all other loves together!

Storge– This is the love of community and family. Often dutiful, sometimes unfeeling, but very strong none the less. It is a natural, carnal love, but powerful and committed. It is a love that may pull you towards family commitments, or keep you from wandering far from home as you get older!

All of these ‘feeling’s are distinct and powerful, capable of driving us to do goofy and silly things. From planning our ultimate fantasy wedding down to the smallest detail to thinking about how much we can’t live without another. The pull of sex and love is one of the strongest challenges to being a Tween.

The bible give us so much to consider about love and suggests that what we feel is not as important as how we choose to behave. God sets healthy boundaries to our sexual feelings that include abstaining from sex and restricting ourselves from exploring our sexual urges outside the commitment of marriage. A difficult task given the all pervasive images and opportunity for porn and seductive media that floods the digital age.

Only with the power of the Holy Spirit and healthy boundaries can we navigate the roller coaster of emotions that lift and lower us in adolescence.

My advice to the Christian tween-teen… seek out good friendships, avoid the bad ones. Hang with peers who respect their faith and God’s ways. Live in the open… don’t hide your struggles and have the courage to go and seek help from a pastor or parent if you find yourself in temptation.

3) SEXUALITY: the natural distinction between male / female. It is not as simple as masculine and feminine – however it can be for the vast majority. Over 90% of us when asked would identify with either man / woman in our identities, sexual orientation and attraction towards the opposite. Sexuality is fiercely debated today. The 5-8% who claim to be attracted to same-sex relationships or have gender identity confusion are often struggling with instability in their families, homes and or parental role models.

There is a very small percentage who don’t know who they are (male /female) and are desperately seeking to discover which role would fit-them ‘best’. These lost and lonely are searching for a societal niche to belong to. The need to escape what they perceive to be traditional family exile, they often choose alternative relationships where acceptance is offered without any judgement or condemnation.

It’s no wonder that more and more Tweens – teens are seeking answers outside of the traditional Christian view of sexuality.

It is easy to see the appeal alternative sexual orientation offers to the awkward and uncertain among us. For the Christian family, we should respond with compassion and gentleness – recognizing the need we all have to be a part of something / someone who will “love” us for who we are. It’s one of the reasons I believe Christ provides our culture with an answer to every dilemma we could face, including sexuality. Christ is ultimately the ONLY one who can meet the longing of every human soul. Another_World_Desktop (1)

Encouraging our kids to find their identities and orientation from an intimate relationship with the one who created them is a far better approach than forcing our kids to accept our beliefs without question…we’re teaching them to bury their feelings….and that creates ‘secrecy’ and shame. It allows for other secular voices to speak to our kids hearts when we’re not around. Not a good thing.

From the biblical perspective… in the end, Sexuality is the divine distinction.

It’s a sacred gift and a powerful illustration of what God intends for creation. Our culture has drifted far from the original intent of a loving father for his children. Our standing firm on the biblical mandate is only part of the parenting equation. The other part is to create a healthy and open environment for our kids to discuss and process their personal feelings and beliefs. If we think it through, it’s clear… we can only lead our kids to the savior, we can’t offset the combined impact of mass media, pop culture and trending styles with our dogmatic logical debates. It’s about the heart… and the longing of  our souls.

Authors closing note: To be clear… I’m not pushing these sexuality issues aside as irrelevant to Christians or acceptable to God. Choices matter. Actions define us. As a pastor and a parent, I am very firm on the need for us to respect scripture as authority in these matters. However, it’s not enough to declare the facts.. we’ve got to let complicated lives get untangled in the purity and power of God’s presence. We’re responsible to share the truth in love… to be patient as God does His mysterious work in the souls of those who genuinely seek to know Him. Let’s be sure to cultivate the respect and space our tweens will need to mature, process, and become all that God intended. We’re in a post-Christian world now… and we’re going to have trust God’s truth will outshine the lies.