1 Critical Thing to know as parents…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Despair looks and feels just like Defiance”

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

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

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

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

Pastor B.

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

Rush to judgement

As a pastor I deal with lots of diverse personalities, backgrounds and perspectives on Christian life. I hear various and widely polarized views of God, politics and the role of the church in our modern culture. I’ve seen painful issues blow up from minor misunderstandings to a church split, based on a single personal offense.

It’s tragic when we allow ourselves to be manipulated, nudged into fueling turmoil and rumors without all the facts.

We forget of our mortal enemy and his mastery of getting us to think the worst of the other. Subtle demonic encouragement that urges us to assume ill intent from a fellow brother or sister.

We can easily get caught in a ‘knee-jerk’ rush to judgement and say things that we regret.

Let’s be careful to recognize the unrestrained flood of emotion that can ‘mysteriously’ show up in our days.

It clouds minds and hearts and overshadows all the good and true things of our Christian communities. In those dark moments, very few of us have all of our facts sorted out and lined up before we throw down on our fellow Christian. Let’s pull back to Christ before we give in to the temptation to spew whatever we’re feeling all over every one else.

Let’s be careful to not presume the worst, but to have the courage to ask for the facts.

Let’s choose to trust the Christ in each other and not to use each other to simply “affirm” our views. Let’s give up on the option we can hold in reserve, the plan B to simply walk away if our views are ever rejected. We have to deny the lies that whisper….”we’re not wanted” and re- focus on the redemption of God in our hearts,  trusting He does the same in others. We can’t keep simply leaving communities of faith when we get hurt, grinding our teeth and nursing grudges, simmering with bitter resentment that can slow boil for decades.

The problem is… what we ‘feel’ isn’t usually true and if other people are involved in our lives…. we will get hurt eventually. An unavoidable reality of a fallen world. 

The truth is we are all already wounded, scared and angry. We cautiously visit churches, convinced we’ll be rejected before we ever enter the doors… self-sabotaging and primed for defensive measures. Please understand….I get it. I’ve done it. I know how to live frustrated and wary, cynical in my mental isolation.

We need to learn to take a moment to slow things down and really-truly ask our God to show us where HE wants us to belong. Where are we called to plug- into a community of faith? Not where we feel the most ‘fed’ or  the most ‘comfortable’ or  where people all agree with me.

Ask Him to reveal the things in your life that are uniquely ‘yours’ to resolve. Ask Jesus to come. Invite Him to touch your heart and heal the broken spaces, the old issues and fears, frustrations and pains that need to be brought to His healing cross.

christwithin.com

christwithin.com

Wouldn’t it be great if we moved from a Co-Dependent faith that seeks to find only those who agree with us… to a genuine relationship with God in a community of faith that’s bound by covenant of love and shared mission ?

Saints, parents and friends, we must push forward through the turbulence of community life, we have to choose to forgive and grow up together  into Christ, mature and stable, able to discern between good and evil.

Paul says it so much better…

Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV (Biblegateway)

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Love you all, Pastor B.

Teaching, Learning & Letting Go. Parenthood in a nutshell

After publishing my book this summer…I’ve been on camera and at the microphone for several months, taking live questions and reviewing teen-tween parenting and family issues with a variety of TV networks, radio stations and ministries.

I always get the same question… “Dr. Mathias, what advice would you give a struggling parent?”

The answer to that is difficult to impossible to get right, as the context for each families circumstances are always changing. Struggling could be defined as the fading faith of a parent, weary to see the changes they are longing for in their kids. Struggling could be the frustration and anger they feel at the repeated failures to curb a destructive behavior or struggling can be simply feeling unsure of what to do next?

Parenting for me in a nutshell rolls up like this… “Teaching, Learning and Letting Go”.

At different stages of parenthood and development, we need to be prepared to embrace and apply the wisdom of all three ideas . It’s important to know which stage your child’s at and what level of parenting is necessary. We all understand the need to “teach” – from shoe-tying to laundry, kids need to be instructed in life skills. For tweens and teens, we teach them most by what we as parents do.

Learning” is a vital part of any parent’s life, the ability to recognize our mistakes and then take full responsibility for them with our kids is a powerful way to grow individually and to foster new trust and respect from our loved ones. Learning is the fast path to humility and allows us as parents to stay far away from the cold insecurity of “always being right”.

mentalfloss.com

mentalfloss.com

The last one is for me the hardest… “Letting Go” is that moment in a parents life, when we realize our kids are needing to own their faith personally. The time when they decide to “try it on” before buying it. Letting go is critical for their own values and beliefs to firm up inside of them, the time when all we’ve taught and learned with them can be tested.

Letting Go is hard when we know the probability of our kids failing, but it’s in that very act of failing that our lessons are finally learned.

Parents, hang in there and trust to the power of our Fathers love to capture the hearts of our kids regardless of their failings and frustrations along the way. It’s our job to teach and learn and let go. May the grace and mercy of God’s Holy Spirit lead you as you determine which stage of life and learning they are in.

empoweredteensandparents.com

empoweredteensandparents.com

I can tell you this… God is faithful. He won’t fail to come for your child’s heart or for yours. Christmas and Advent are the time of year to remember how committed God was – is and will be to “breaking into” our lives with Hope and Peace and Joy.

So my advice is this; prayerfully continue on dear parent..be courageous .knowing that in the different seasons of our lives, God will provide us with unique and powerful strategies for parenting our children well…all we have to do is stay close enough to our heavenly Father to hear.

Merry Christmas.

Pastor B.

10 Reasons YOU need to Roadtrip with your Family!

 

Brad Mathias, author of the parenting-themed book “Road Trip to Redemption” (Tyndale Momentum), has created a list of ten reasons why a road trip can not only improve your summer, but your family.

It’s no secret that families today are struggling. Pulled in a dozen different directions daily by jobs, schooling and extra-curricular activities, parents and kids often feel disconnected from each other, and the distance can produce devastating effects.

So here are Ten Great Reasons to RoadTrip with your family !

 1) It’s time to disconnect!

Leave the office behind. Power down your computer and that smart phone. Give this time to your spouse and kids, and allow old-fashioned conversations to occur.

Courtesy of Beliefnet

Courtesy of Beliefnet

2) Go somewhere you’ve never been!

We live in the greatest country in the world. Go explore and don’t be afraid to pull off the road on a whim. It’s time for an adventure.

3) Face your fears and try a new activity together!

New experiences can change past ones, and build trust and respect. Go horseback riding, river rafting, rock climbing, zip lining, etc.

4) Discover new cultures and savor new flavors!

Try regional foods and sample local culture. You might just find something new to enjoy.

5) Go outside!Introduce your kids – and possibly yourself – to outdoor life. Go fishing, hiking and camp out under the stars. The stars might look a little different than they do in the city!

6) No schedules allowed!       

This is a vacation! It’s time to leave calendars and deadlines behind. Don’t be afraid to venture off course and enjoy some freedom. Show your kids how to be spontaneous!

Courtesy of Beliefnet

Courtesy of Beliefnet

7) Let your kids make decisions!

This is their vacation too! Let them make some choices along the way. That horrible dining experience or weird roadside attraction just might give you an opportunity to laugh together.

8) Change your perspective!

Walk above the clouds on a mountain top, or swim under a waterfall. Reconnect with your family while sharing incredible experiences.

Courtesy Beliefnet

Courtesy Beliefnet

 

9) Fall in love with your spouse all over again!

Book a separate hotel room from your kids for at least one night. Allow yourself some time to reconnect as a couple.

10) Life is short!

Your kids won’t be kids forever. Use this time to create memories that will last a lifetime.

Brad Mathias, author of the new book, Road Trip to Redemption (Tyndale Publishing), thought everything in his family was fine, until they discovered a devastating secret. So the family piled into the car and embarked on a wild, crazy, seven-thousand-mile, what-are-we-thinking trip across the country. As they drove, they realized how far apart they’d drifted, found unexpected blessings along the way – and journeyed together from pain and loss to recovery and redemption.

Road Trip to Redemption” is available now wherever books are sold. For more information, visit http://tyndalemomentum.com/products/?isbn=9781414363943.

How well do we celebrate being a family?

Listening to a recent CD called “Campfire” by the  Rend Collective experiment, I was struck by a simple truth they point out in their opening track… Isn’t it time that we learn to “Celebrate” and begin to enjoy our lives…?   Isn’t it time as families and pastors and “serious” adults, to remember the hope and fun and Joy that our Faith truly affords us ? To actually attract people to want be involved with us, to honestly be allowed to explore our faith and engage with the authentic communities we share as Christians.

Rend Collective CD

Rend Collective CD

The CD’s metaphor of choice is the “Campfire” itself… a place of light and warmth and comfort in a dark world, the campfire is meant to reflect the truest nature of the church as God intended – a place of honesty, intimacy and safety for all who come to gather in it’s flickering illumination.

Get this CD/MP3 if you don’t have it.

I highly recommend these guys as legitimate ministers of inspired music and it’s clear they are full of God’s Holy Spirit. They as a group are FUN, REVERENT and IRISH all in ONE SUPERCOOL Musical Celebration moment!

I LOVE THAT!

The Rend Collective project reminded my dad’s heart to be more intentional about celebrating my family. To make the extra effort to carve out time for us to go and have fun, to be silly and break our routines with something unique, unexpected and memorable.

skyline-canada-toronto-night-scenery-1080x19201

Toronto Skyline – Canada.org source

So… our family is going to Niagara Falls this Fourth of July ! We’re going on a Roadtrip. Piling into the now iconic Honda Pilot (The same we took to Canada in 2010) and driving up to New York and into Ontario Canada to spend 3 days exploring the shore of Lake Ontario, Niagara and Toronto. I have a TV interview / appearance outside of Toronto for the book (Road Trip to Redemption) on the national Christian TV series 100 Huntley Street ( a major Canadian TV talk show)

Parents… let’s be sure we relax our grip a bit this Summer! We can let down our guard and slow down enough to enjoy our kids, our spouses and our lives as God intended.

This summer…  be intentional about chilling out… GO HAVE FUN, let down you hair and eat fatty – sugary – un-healthy things with your families… relax your rules for a few moments and watch as your kids respond with surprise and then open joy at the opportunity to live with you in the moment. A priceless and incredibly important area of our lives that many of us need to grow in.

Peace and Grace RTP!

Pastor B.

Heart of a Father…

Fathers day is upon us. Time to reflect, time to consider.. its clear that for most of us fathers and grandfathers are a big deal. But for some of us, a father is a very difficult person to identify anything positive with.

I love my dad, he’s an American classic. A real life success story, from humble beginnings and decades of hard work he managed to earn a professional degree and find success and influence as a well-respected Chiropractic Physician for over four decades. But there’s more to that story, He also lived his life with un-impeachable integrity, keeping his word when it hurt and making sure he finished what he started. As a man of faith, he remains tenaciously committed to my mother (for over 57 years now) and in following Christ. His example of character and attitude provided a strong home environment for my brother and I to learn and live from, we were fortunate.

Mom and Dad - circa 1969

Mom and Dad – circa 1969

Many of us didn’t have a stable or consistent father figure in our lives. Some of us experienced life as a kid with only a stressed out mom and an absentee dad or learned to fear their abusive fathers instead of love and admire them.

My heart aches for those who struggle to even conceive of a dad who would be a role model, someone who would cherish, accept  and love them. The bible provides us with a powerful illustration of the heart of a father and gives us some idea of how our heavenly father looks at his children.

(Luke 15 – The Message) source – Biblegateway.com

20-21 “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’

22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.

The point is this… don’t let your painful memories or past experiences prevent you from experiencing the heart of your heavenly father, He is waiting for you to take the chance to trust Him to be the dad you never had. He wants to protect and provide and affirm you in ways you’ve been longing for and couldn’t even articulate. His heart towards us is GOOD, His love for us cannot be shaken no matter what we’ve done or failed at or given up on in the past.

dadsanddaughters.blogspot.com

dadsanddaughters.blogspot.coms

Dads, no matter how good or bad your personal parenting heritage may be, it’s my hope that you will make the leap and begin to trust that your heavenly father can and will fill in all the uneven, broken and empty spaces in our spiritual and emotional hearts… Let Him begin to restore what was lost and renew in you what has yet to be formed…. so we can become what we need to be, for our kids.

I admire and love my dad and he has faithfully kept our family intact, but in the end its my relationship with my heavenly father that provides me with the strength and stability I need to be the man God has called me to be and to love my kids and wife well.

If we as dads, find that we may be leaving most of  the parenting and faith “stuff” to our wives, I think we are dropping the ball at a time when we really need to be in the game….

Peace out, Pastor B.

 

Bethany’s Moose… a free excerpt from Road Trip to Redemption

Road Trip to Redemption -by Brad Mathias – published with  Tyndale/Momentum – Carol Stream, IL (C) All rights reserved. Blog today is a follow up to an Interview topic discussed Live on Chris Fabry Live – via Moody Radio

Road Trip to Redemption is Available on Amazon.com and Kindle as well as anywhere Christian Books are sold…

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pages 200-203 “Bethany’s Moose” from Chapter 11 

“- The fog was intense, and the twenty miles up from Granby to the west entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park were a bit underwhelming. Fog blocked the amazing views of the pristine lakes to our right, as well as the peaks of the twelve-thousand-foot snowcapped Arapahoe national forest mountains that bumped up to RMN. It blocked the cute lake villages and old cabins; it blocked the views of the valley and the retro-cool tourist town of Grand Lake. It blocked the view of the forest and the trees, and it blocked my view of the road beyond the fifteen feet of pavement my headlights could illuminate. It was cold, wet, and damp. Forty degrees, with misty clouds of almost frozen condensation on our windshield, and I was looking for a moose. 

RoadTrip Parenting Family - Canada 2010

RoadTrip Parenting Family – Canada 2010

We crossed the visitor’s entrance and the fog was relentless—maybe even thicker than when we’d started out in Granby forty-five minutes before. I was starting to get really concerned. I was worried that all that talk and spirituality had been the Mongolian Beef and I was about to crash and burn in an epic way. Meanwhile, Paige was just quietly riding in the passenger seat. I knew she was hopeful, but she wasn’t talking about it. Though she wasn’t given to hearing these kinds of messages from God, she knew from past experiences that God sometimes spoke to me this way, and she was willing to trust me and what I thought would happen. 

I drove the first ten miles as slow as humanly possible. I admit I was stalling. If the sun could get high enough and strong enough, it would burn through the fog and we would be able to see the valley to our right. The valley where there might be a moose. I could tell that Bethany was anxious, hopeful for the first time in a while that maybe she would have a chance at capturing a moose on her camera–and, more importantly, hopeful for a touch from God reminding her that she was special, that he did care, that her needs and wants were vital to him. That she wasn’t alone, that God would provide, that God would meet all her desires, and that her dad wasn’t entirely insane…

After eight miles and thirty minutes of creeping through the valley, after pausing at three road turnoffs to peer into the fog-shrouded valley across from the scenic pullouts, I was done. No moose today. I was wrong.

I didn’t say anything out loud, but I was thinking it: Dude, you’re crazy. You want so desperately for your daughter to see a moose and embrace your faith and heal from something awful that occurred nine months ago that you cooked up this entire road-trip idea on your own dime. You convinced yourself and your family that God would position a moose on a specific day at a specific time just to show Bethany that he cares, that he exists.

I drove on. The fog persisted, but I knew that as we went into the elevated areas of the park, the cooler air would clear the fog completely and the view would improve at least for the rest of the drive. I also knew no moose would be that high in the park. Our only chance had been in the valley below. I resigned myself to being at least partially nuts and went on, smiling and chatting up Bethany and the kids as if nothing was amiss.

I felt the nudge. Again?

I almost heard the words in my head: Pull over, now! They were commanding, insistent, and firm, so I did it. I obeyed the voice and drove the Honda off to the left shoulder of the road. I was stopped a few feet off the asphalt and looking right into the oncoming lane of traffic, stuck now next to a thick stand of trees. I rolled down my window and listened intently to hear something, anything. Not a sound.

I got out of the Pilot; the fog was as thick as ever. “Bethany,” I whispered, ”get your camera. I’ve got a feeling.” We all jumped out and quietly walked to our left, toward a stand of trees and a bluff overlooking the valley below. I knew that because I had been around this general area before, but you couldn’t see it all today due to the summer tree coverage and the unrelenting dense fog. As we approached what I believed to be the edge of the tree line, I saw the fog start to part like a curtain. There, about twenty-five feet from us, was a huge mother moose drinking and grazing by the edge of valley–directly across from Bethany’s position.

I almost threw up.

It was amazing. It was miraculous. It was God. I felt the impossible touch of the divine as it reached into my daughter’s heart and grabbed her! God was shouting at her, “I love you, I love you, I love you, Bethany Rose! I want to be near you, I want to touch your hurts and heal all your pain!” It couldn’t be ignored; it couldn’t be fabricated, faked, or arranged. It had to be God!

I felt weak in my knees, weary and worn from the burden of it all. I realized I had been trying so hard to be the perfect dad, husband, and pastor. I had hoped and dreamed and tried to be all that I could be to Bethany so she would believe, so she would trust in God by my example. But in the end, I wasn’t enough. It took God to show up to win her heart. Bethany and her moose

Bethany was taking pictures as fast her fingers could press the button. She was enthralled, as if a small child had taken over her body and mind and heart. She was smiling, laughing, and full of genuine and unrestrained joy. I hadn’t seen that in her face for a year or more. She was happy, and all traces of cynicism and sarcasm were gone from her face. She was free, released from whatever lies the darkness in her mind had told her about the nature of God.

I could tell the lie was exposed, broken. The truth of God was setting her free. God did care, God was involved, God would meet and exceed her every expectation. This moose in the valley was so specific, so unique, so exactly what she had prayed for that it couldn’t be ignored, brushed away, or contrived as coincidence. It was God. Issue settled. Life changed. Hope renewed, Bethany had her moose, and … I wasn’t an idiot. ” 🙂

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Be encouraged RTP families, Just like God showed up for me and my family He will for yours. I don’t care how bad it feels, seems or looks like… God is aware, He is able and He will fix our messes – all we have to do is let him! Peace out Pastor B.