It was a dark and rainy night…

It WAS a dark and rainy night after an evening church service. Rain is falling in that steady, rhythmic spatter of more than a sprinkle, not exactly a full on deluge. Just a soaking, steady rain and cold enough outside to see your breath, chill you to the bone. I’m schlepping load after load of folding chairs from the sanctuary to our storage shed. Not that far in dry weather, but tonight it was a good forty-fifty yards of walking slowly, shuffling with the weight of six chairs as I repeatedly trudged back and forth.

Courtesy of scrumcentral.blogspot.com

Alone.

O.K, I’m not trying to appear a martyr or asking you to plan a pity party… but it was gnarly out there. Cold, 39F and really wet and really dark. About 8:30pm the last sunday in November. Not a huge surprise, but there had been no extra volunteers available after evening service to help move the furniture and change the room back from the church set up to a coffee shop cafe for the week.  As I walked back and forth for the fourth or fifth time alone, soaked and dripping in my winter coat and beanie, I felt a really cold trickle of almost frozen water drip down my back from the soaked wool of my hat. It wasn’t as refreshing as you might think… nasty.

I whispered a prayer… “God, I’m not complaining, but it would be great to have some help so i can get this done and get home to my nice warm house and get some rest before the work week kicks in for real tomorrow morning.  It’s been a tough weekend and I’m tired, and a bit worn out.” I wasn’t expecting an answer, just venting a bit to God about the isolation of my evening predicament.

As I approached the door to return to the church space, I found a girl about eleven watching me as I came back inside. She quickly came up and asked me if I needed some help. In a room full of active adults, an eleven year old little girl was the answer to my prayer ?  Wow. Not only had God heard my little frustrated prayer, He chose to immediately respond with an answer. Not with a big burly guy or capable teen, but with a young lady who was available, willing and eager to “help”.

Humbled, I mumbled my thanks and tried to hide my surprise. Abbie Jones was my angel’s name, she shrugged into her winter coat and without a moment’s hesitation plunged into the rain and dark and cold, right by my side. For fifteen minutes she worked steadily with me in the less than comfortable conditions, carrying chairs and light furniture back and forth until we were done. No complaint, No concerns, No frustrations at all.

She just was happy to help out, she just offered herself to serve.

When we were done, she disappeared back into the church to play with her friends. She was sopping wet now, but just as  full of enthusiasm  as she had been when I saw her at the door after whispering my simple prayer.

As Abbie and I worked, some of the adults noticed us and joined in to help. As we carried chairs, I remembered another little girl, just a few years older than Abbie, who made herself available to serve God in an inconvenient time and way. She must have been a lot like this little angel God sent me sunday night.As I drove home I had a lot on my mind… God’s answers to our prayers are so different from what we think when we utter them. Abbie sure was an amazing young lady in the making, her parents must be so proud of her. I wondered if they knew how great their little girl really was?… I would have to tell them.

So I have.

Thanks Abbie for being my helper last night, you were an answer to prayer. My prayer. You reminded me of another  humble and self-sacrificing young woman we all read about this time of year. A girl who must have been surprised at how she was an answer to all of mankind’s prayers… and how she would become famous for all time. It’s not so ridiculous.  Helping God’s people by carrying chairs isn’t so different from being a part of God’s plan to save the world. Both require humility, genuine love and a servant’s heart. Qualities that God only sees clearly and greatly treasures. Qualities that Abbie shared with another….

A young lady named Mary.

source - /ivmp.wordpress.com

Peace out this Holiday Season dear parents. You never know what role God will honor your children with, but you can be sure He will honor you both for preparing them well to serve!

brad.

All we really have is our brokenness…

As parents of pre-teens or teens, there rarely is enough personal experience, wisdom or knowledge to arm ourselves, if your like most parents…your struggling with the confidence to raise them up “right”… in the process its common for some of us to loose whats left of our reserves of strength and we simply find ourselves at a dead end, out of options, answers or advice for our kids. It’s kinda scary.

Our kids after all are not living in the world we grew up in. They are walking directly into uncharted cultural territory… a value system that is sliding into a vast pit of moral relativism, global green movements, same-sex politics, right to choose, instant communication and entertainment addictions, over 5o% of kids live in a single parent family, confusing sexual and basic identity isssues and to top it all off a skeptical and atheistic educational model… it’s enough to make a Christian parents head explode.

Add to that the pressures of providing for our families, economic turbulence, evaporating 401K’s, 10%+ unemployment, record home foreclosures, shrinking budgets and a migraine of other problems are constantly showing up in our proverbial “in-boxes” every day.

Parents today are scrambling to find enough time just for themselves, let alone their kids or all the other really important people in their lives. Spouses are weary, so tired they have little or no time to invest with each other, not to mention help their kids eat, bathe and get their homework done and in bed at a decent hour. Life is piling up on us, little by little, one pound at a time until we find ourselves suddenly lost, “BURIED” by all of its relentless demands for our time, our energy and our attention. We feel like something inside is broken, and we can’t fix it.

Sound Familiar?

 Despite the lack of evidence some days, God is very much alive and active in our world. It’s all in how we perceive Him and ourselves in the story of our lives.  If we forget that God is the author of all life and the source of love and our ultimate hope, we will be tempted to believe that it’s all up to us. After all, isn’t that what it means to survive ?

We tell ourselves…since God hasn’t answered my prayer for relief, then I guess…If I’m going to make it through this divorce, this cancer, this job loss, this broken relationship… “I’ll have to just make it work on my own”. We grab ahold of the reins once again to steer our own path forward, and we keep a glimmer of faith alive inside, hopeful to someday see how God made it all “work out to our good”, but deep down we’re not buying it. We’re convinced we are truly and really ALL ALONE in this unjust and unfamiliar world we’re trying to raise our families in.

Stop. Seriously… STOP!

Remember what Jesus said to His disciples… “To find your life you must lose it“… “I came not to be served, but to serve and give my life as a ransom for many“… “take up your cross and follow me“… Paul said, “in my weakness, His strength is made perfect“.  Moses wasn’t the leader of God’s nation until he completed a forty-year PhD of insignificance in the wilderness school of life. Paul the Apostle was beaten over and over, half drowned, stoned, ridiculed, rejected and spit on more times than we can imagine, for even suggesting that Jesus could be the Messiah, that He might still actually be alive. Why would anyone endure such a life and ask others to do the same? I believe its due in part because they admitted they were broken, that they couldn’t figure it all out, so they gave up on their lives. They surrendered it all to God and let Him lead. Not out of guilt or desperation or fear, but out of Love and complete confidence that their faith was not misplaced, or foolish, but safe in the truth of Jesus.

My dear comrade Brian repeated something his Bishop shared in a leadership retreat… “Pastors, Remember all we really have going for us is our brokenness”.  I was at first puzzled by its meaning, but as this year has progressed…I’ve discovered some rich and encouraging purpose from that phrase. It’s really a beautiful thing to keep with you each day.

God, forgive us for thinking we are supposed to sort this all out, forgive us for our presumptions, assumptions and assertions that we know what to do with our homes, our marriages, our kids and our work. Help us to walk in a spirit of humility and confidence that you will never leave us or forsake us. Remind us of your love, your faith and your hope that’s available for us to live from and out of as followers of Jesus. We accept that we’re weak and empty apart from you, so please Lord fill us anew this DAY”.

When I stop and pray a prayer like this before my day gets out of control, in the shower, in the car on the way to work, on my way home to lead a weekly home group, or sunday mornings before preaching a sermon…and Especially when I need to give my teen daughters or son some wise advice or counsel…its AMAZING how much GOD shows up, and how things change around me…for the better.

Try it.

Admit your helplessness, admit your weakness, admit your brokenness and simply ask for God’s spirit to lead you in every aspect of your life. Turn off your brain for sec and let your heart hear the voice of God whispering to you which steps to take today. Trust me, it will change your life. Burdens do get lighter, loads do get easier to bear and hope starts to bloom around you. “ Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest“”… Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

“Be of good cheer”, “fear not”, “take courage”, “stand firm”, “watch and wait and see the salvation of the Lord”. These are famous phrases of repeated encouragements from dozens of men and women across the landscape of a hundred cultures and races and circumstances detailed in the sacred scriptures. Words of faith that span over two thousand years of mans history.

Its my firm conviction that if you take time to be in the word of God regularly, you will find it rebuilds strength and ignites renewed faith and offers wisdom to guide all of us and our families through a lifetime of struggles and triumphs.

Trust it.

Peace out… 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

Grace in its place for your home…

I’ve been aware for some time now, the contradiction that clouds many homes when it comes to parenting and salvation. Raised in a very legalistic and conservative Christian environment as a kid, I was confused and angered by the contradictions in our Christian beliefs as they related to faith and family. So confused and so angry in fact I split the church at 19 and didn’t look back for another 12 years.

Something inside of me knew this couldn’t be “right”. I mean, if salvation was by grace then would my faith only become real by obedience and achievement or was there some room for me and my own shortcomings in the whole equation of life and death and salvation ? The bible seemed to say “Yes”, but the parents and adults I lived around and under seemed exhausted and insane in their determination to make their kids be obedient.

In the end, the kids I grew up with… all coped as only we could. We faked it. We learned the scripture verses and attended every bible study, worship service and evangelistic outreach that a “good” Christian should. Over time, we (my generation) learned to simply pretend our way through adolescence and reflect the images and actions that our parents seemed so desperate we should be.

As a child…I was developing an understanding of God and Faith that put all of the pressure on me. It was my duty to obey or be left behind, or fried or scorned for not being “faithful enough” to earn God’s favor. I was told one thing… “Grace”, and then instructed in the practice of something else… the “Law”. I couldn’t unravel all of the details, but I knew deep down… I sensed if that was the way Christianity was supposed to work, it couldn’t be true.

It wasn’t until I listened into a Focus on the Family Broadcast about parenting, that the past experiences I had as a kid… sort of “clicked” into place for me. An author by the name of Dr. Tim Kimmel has written numerous books about Grace and Love and kids, check them out including… ‘Little House on the Freeway” and “Grace based Parenting” in which he centers in on the issues facing many of todays parents.

The book reveals the complex contradictions of Christian life as we allow our homes to gradually become controlled by our own insecurities, fears and iron discipline. Dr. Kimmel uncovers the causes and issues of our busyness, achievement oriented faith, grace vs. law, love vs. fear behaviors..etc… He clearly helps parents un-wind the knots in their own lives and then in their kids. It’s excellent and I hope you take the time to read and review and apply as needed to your own lives.

In the end, we want to show our kids Jesus by our lives. Not force them to obey in some empty attempt to please us. Our next generation of kids are struggling in ways we have never dreamed of. They are leaving the church in droves… 88-90% leave at age eighteen never to return. I believe one of key areas of failure as families of faith is related to this concept of Grace and relationship vs. Law and rules.

Don’t misunderstand, Grace is not a license to let them do whatever, whenever, but it is a lifestyle that parents need to embrace aggressively if they want to point their own to Jesus. After all, that’s how we found Him… isn’t it ? My challenge to you parents… please listen to this broadcast, check it out… see if this impacts you as much as it did me. I know many have strong opinions on these issues, but if you are not a second or third generation Christian, its hard to explain.

Peace out, as you like me… seek to keep your families in between the lines and on the road of life.

Brad.

Fear and Anger, a parents worst nightmare

How many of us know all to well the terrible twins… “Fear and Anger“?  As parents its such a temptation to let those loose on our kids only to regret it later. If you’re scratching you head about this, well then this blog is probably not for you. If your holding your head in your hands about now… don’t be discouraged, you’re in good company and there is hope for change.

I got a call late one night from a nineteen year old who was really and truly hurt and upset at her father and mother and felt she couldn’t “talk” with them. She and her now grown siblings were struggling with a dad who didn’t seem to listen, or care or have a sensitive bone in his body. He was rigid, demanding and final in his words with them. He made laws and expected them to be obeyed without question. He had made it clear to his family, once he had made up his mind… well you get the idea.

The problem is two-fold and it’s critical we understand it enough to change its devastating impact in our homes.

1 – As parents we often “over-react” emotionally and vigorously out of fear and guilt and utter frustration with our teenagers. We remember our past mistakes, or the horror stories of our peer parenting friends… we ponder the risks and dangers of our kids being allowed more and more freedom.

We fume inwardly at the risks of broken hearts from boyfriends and girlfriends, of faded dreams and hopes that lay shattered in our past. We project those historical memories into our current homes and it scares the “crud” out of us. When we see one of kids stepping right up to the line we crossed… we might “freak” a little and in doing so, FEAR and ANGER emerge.

Wouldn’t it be so much healthier if we just allowed ourselves a moment to not flare up, and instead be straight with our kids about the “why” behind the reactions of fear and anger. To explain to them the past mistakes and humiliations, and tragedies of our own adolescence and to show them our love and our desire to protect and provide and nurture them.

2 – When we make a habit of giving in to the terrible twins of “FEAR and ANGER” we develop a pattern of inter-action between us and our love ones. It slowly builds a wall between our lives and eventually it blocks all communication from coming back from our kids to us. In the aftermath of such unchecked emotional reactivity… we see the charred remnants of what used to be a loving and intimate trust between us and our teenagers now blackened by the lack of any sensitivity to their thoughts, opinions or ideas. We teach them that a parents role is to  “TELL” them what to do, and kids are just there to “OBEY”.

It’s a forgone conclusion that if we react in Fear and Anger enough, they will withdraw  and never even dare to respond any longer. We will lose their trust, their respect and ultimately all of our influence to their heart. They will in time repeat the same with their kids and the painful cycle will continue to one more generation. Someday they might get the courage up to actually confront us with their own frustrations and anger and pain at the way they have been trampled, but that is a whole different issue entirely.

So… The Apostle Paul taught a bit differently on this, He suggested that only three things will endure into eternity… “Hope, Faith and Love…and the greatest of these is Love“.  It also is said in the bible that “Perfect Love casts out all fear”.  If that is true, then we need to seriously step back from our knee jerk parenting reflex of “Fear and Anger” for something better. We should seriously and soberly ask God for wisdom in how to Love our kids better and react to them slower.

Spend some time on that idea today… and ask yourself, why do I react the way I do ? Is it out of fear, anger or pride ? For me it was pride, it was the concern for my own reputation as a parent, as a pastor and out of the belief that if I was the parent, then I had to have the right answer every time etc.. yada didah doo. I was SO Wrong.

When your kids are little they will sometimes need fear and anger… if they want to play with electricity or drink paint etc.. but as they start to grow into adults, its time to lower your guard a bit and let them in. Let them see your own personal doubts and fears about life for themselves, let them consider with you the realities of our world and its dangers. Let them see your LOVE and Compassion and Concern for them in the struggles of it all. That DOES NOT MEAN BE THEIR BEST FRIENDS.  Let me be clear, as teens they will seek to manipulate and twist you for their own way. That is not what I’m suggesting at all, but when they do (and they will) don’t over-react anymore.

In the end they may not like what you decide any better than before, but they will LOVE the fact that you considered carefully before you spoke and that they had your ear in the process. That leads to respect and respect will lead to trust and trust will lead them to follow what you have taught them.

So lets throw out the terrible twins of “Fear and Anger” and let them leave our homes. Instead lets invite Peace and Love to rule our lives and ask for Gods wisdom and discernment instead of our own. Blessings to you as you like me… “seek to keep your kids on the road and in between the lines of life

Brad.

Is Christian Music dead ?

A good question… especially for those of us in the Nashville music scene. IS Christian Music Dead?… Parents and fans alike often ask us… has Christian music become just a secularized shadow of its previous self ?

Not even close. Christian Music is alive and well and maybe stronger than it has been in three decades…. read on to find out why or IF, it even matters !

For parents, understanding that media is “THE” language of our youth is critical. Our kids, eat, drink, sleep and play with ear buds glued to their ears. On average, kids are consuming over 60 hours a week of media in our homes. It is their primary form of relating to the world around them. Not books, not conversation, not sunday school…music.

If we miss the media reality, we may miss entirely the ability to connect with our kids as parents and ultimately as generational Christians.

Living and working in Christian media now for almost two decades, I can tell you the radical shift in technology and economics has emptied hundreds of office buildings and studio’s in Nashville. It’s been hard, incredibly difficult to predict, prepare or survive the financial realities of the past decade if you’re an independent or niche’ label group, media company or studio. There just isn’t much business around and what there is, can only work on a severely reduced budget.

But is that all bad ?

I don’t think so… It seems a major change has slowly occurred in the industry from the inside out. Labels and Media Groups who have made the sacrifices to survive are not here any longer for the cash, or the fame or the influence of success. They are by in large not working with artists bent on making a name for themselves or launching into mainstream fame from a Christian music stepping stone. They are around because they feel called to be here and they genuinely care.

They care about the mission and vision that God gave them to perform. They care about the next generation of kids and Christians and they are willing to do whatever it takes to reach them with a message of hope, and faith and creativity. It’s as if God allowed the storms of our business environment to weed out many of the secular influences of the past which reduced the quantity but not the quality of the music and media now being recorded and produced. What a great reminder. God always is redeeming, always restoring and always has a plan…no matter what it looks or feels like.

It reminds me of a guy in the bible named Gideon. Who started out with reluctant passion and faith, and an army. When God finished preparing him for greatness… he had 300 men left. Feels like what I’m seeing in Nashville and Colorado Springs and Dallas Texas. Small but fervent bands of like-minded and servant hearted musicians, label executives and producers all focused on the “message’ and the ministry behind the performances.

Reading the histories of the very first Christian musicians from California in the sixties, I am reminded of their simple and heart-felt desire to spread the hope of Jesus with their un-polished music. They drove in VW Buses and beat up cars all over the United States with trunk loads of vinyl and eight tracks / Cassette’s and new testament bibles. They were relentless, and inspired and pure and powerful. They were “Jesus People” and they changed the world and launched the industry we know now as Christian Contemporary Music (CCM).

Seems God is helping us return to our roots… to re-connect with our creator and His plans for our music and media and creativity. And I for one am grateful and excited to see how it all turns out. But know for certain, the pulse of authentic Christian music and media is beating strong and true today, more so than in thirty years.

Peace out, and may God richly bless you as you ” seek to keep your kids on the road and in-between the lines of life! ”

brad.

Can you REALLY Hear God? part 2

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…

I remember thinking of the pain in my daughters eyes, pain and frustration. She had been taught since a little girl of a God who would answer His children’s prayers, all you had to do was ask. She had asked, but nothing had happened and when she kept asking and asking… with nothing to show for it. All that she had believed about God started to come into doubt.

It was late at night and I was tired, and I wanted to just share the “pat” answer “that God is always at work, whether we can see it or not”, or “God’s timing is not our timing… ” but something inside me warned to NOT go Sunday School on my 14-year-old. It was time for her to hear God for herself.

So, I grabbed my bible and quickly looked up the day in my dailyaudiobible journal to see what verses were pre-set for the days reading and found the Psalm for that specific day. I read it quickly and it came alive to me. It specifically reflected the angst of King David in one of his many hours of desperation and loneliness and frustration with God himself. The Psalm was exactly describing what my daughter was experiencing

I sat down with daughter and read her the Psalm and as I did so, I asked her if that was how she felt ? She nodded her head with tears in her eyes… and then I shared with her that I believe God WAS answering her prayers. He had been all along, but she just had not yet learned how to hear Him.

When I told her the verses I read were for the day’s exact calendar date and were written over four three thousand years earlier by King David, it suddenly connected with her. God was speaking to her through His sacred word, not in the darkest corner of our church sanctuary with a deep baritone voice, but in her room, straight from the verses of the Bible.

Bethany connected the dots that night…God was speaking to her, she  just hadn’t known how to listen for His voice.

I then asked her if she would be willing to trust God one more time and pray with me for a friend ? She cried, and she sobbed, but in the end she spoke the words of pure faith and desperate hope that God would hear her cry. I agreed with her in prayer and promised to pray for her request with her for 30 days, and she promised to read her daily Psalm for thirty days and off we went.

Within two weeks of that evening, my daughter connected for life with her best friend Lilly Ann Gee. They are inseparable, joined at the hip. Good for each other, strong in their faith and in their bond that is like a sister and of course…supernaturally blessed. God answered Bethany’s prayer and mine, He showed up and exceeded all of our expectations.

The best part of the story… Bethany still reads her Psalms and she can and does hear God’s voice on her own now. Her faith is like any teenagers, but growing and stronger because of the testing. I hate to think what might have happened if I had just brushed her concerns under the proverbial “rug” that night.

Don’t pass up the chances God gives us as parents to show them the real Jesus in their world.

May God richly bless you with wisdom and grace for the journey of parenting as you like me struggle to “keep our families in between the lines and on the road of life”.

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.

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.

Heritage of Hope… A Tribute to Scott Harsha – repost

Heritage is defined as;
  • practices that are handed down from the past by tradition; “a heritage of freedom”
  • inheritance: any attribute or immaterial possession that is inherited from ancestors;
  • inheritance: that which is inherited; a title or property or estate that passes by law to the heir on the death of the owner. – (reference: wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn)

Looking at the insane schedules we keep, the priorities we make of our time and the money we spend, it is easy to see  what we treasure and value the most. But a hard question emerges from the frenzy of our nine to five lives and the hundreds other daily details that we rush to complete. Do we  allow our circumstances to define and direct our lives or do we have a stronger purpose to live for?

Sometimes, life interrupts our plans and re-directs our focus from the daily slog of survival to something much more. Finding out you have cancer, loosing a loved one, getting laid off from your job.. all of these experiences help us to “re-set” and remember or maybe even start to discover what we really believe. I’m always amazed at the power of tragedy and loss to help us to become as alive as we can be. As this is a blog on parenting, its appropriate to take a moment to ask…

 What will our heritage be to our children ?

If I have learned anything in my forty-one years… my life is more than the sum of my bank account, or the model of car I drive. It’s much more than the clothes I wear, or the brand of bag my wife has on her shoulder. My life is not in the “things” I have or the status of my job.

My life can be measured in my family.

It’s really that simple. How well I steward and cherish my relationships with my wife, kids and my friends directly defines me and creates my Heritage. What I will leave behind when my time is up… that can be eternal.

Are we creating a Heritage of Hope for our kids? Do we share with our families and our friends about our faith, our beliefs and our values, about living for more than the here or now ? (this is not a suggestion for us to all get religious and start preaching and teaching to others 24/7), It is a reminder of our need to be intentional…to Live and Love every day of our lives, conscious of the precious gift of life!

Are we celebrating our lives ? Are we seeing life from the perspective of how much God has blessed us or are we focusing on the defeats and failures and losses of our lives? Choosing to LIVE and to LOVE is  the HERITAGE I want to leave my family.

An old high school acquaintance of mine is fighting cancer.. he’s fighting for his life. His family, his friends and his faith are all standing in the gap for him.

He is leaving his mark on this world with his determination to leave a “Heritage” for his children to follow and pass on to their kids. His life means something. Read his Facebook, look at his families pictures and see his resolve. His life is NOT defined by his circumstances and his faith is not dependant on how much money is in his savings account. He is ALIVE.

So I’m asking for you to say a prayer today for an old high school friend…Scott Harsha and his family. And if you feel led… find out more, maybe buy a bracelet at http://saveastrangerorg.blogspot.com/ for $5 to help his family out and pass this reminder on to other parents and family members you care for.

We all can be reminded of our need to celebrate the amazing joy of living and the profound  grace of God in the midst of all our pain.  Here’s to keeping it between the lines and on the road of life, with a commitment to leaving a “Heritage” of Hope…

I believe we all want to live without regret, and I want to make sure my family knows what a true Heritage of life is… That is most important and yet so difficult to remember.

Oh, and tonite… go ahead and take the extra five minutes to grab a milkshake at a Sonic with your kids, or pick up some flowers at the grocery store on the way home from work for your spouse….Why? Because, its a way to show that we are actively choosing to LIVE our lives, not simply survive them…  🙂

Peace out,

brad.

On 11-01-11 : – Scott Harsha…Passed into eternity after his battle with cancer … He DID LEAVE a heritage of hope for his family and a deep and enduring mark of faith on all who knew or encountered him. What will our legacy be when its our time? I hope I’m half the man Scott was. We’re going to miss you Scott. Peace to you and your family my friend.