So you love/hate/tollerate Halloween, eh?

When I was either 8 or 10, I remember being on Rue Des Cageux in Pierrefonds, Qc out getting candy on Oct 31st, when I rang a door to no answer. stubbornly, I rang the door again; I was NOT going home with a half empty bag. The door opened and a man said, “We don’t celebrate Halloween. We’re Christians.” He then closed the door and went back inside. I was perplexed. “Shouldn’t Christians WANT to give and be nice?” my young mind questioned as I walked to the next home.  I mean isn’t it better to give than to have a dark house and sit in your basement until 8 PM?

I bring this up because Each year on the last day of October, millions of kids get dressed up after school and either among their friends or with their parents, go to different doors in their neighbourhoods to collect candy. To most kids, it’s an excuse to be Iron Man, Captain Jack Sparrow, a Cupcake, a lion, a ghoul or a witch while (and I’m emphasizing here) getting free candy. The houses that give candy always have their outside light on, some steps are covered with pumpkins and decorations. And the houses that have their lights off either hate kids and visitors, have a religious stance against it or simply aren’t home.

Now for Christians and people of other religions, Halloween comes with its own, how-do-I-say struggles. On one hand, we want to be lights in a dark world no matter what. This is why we go to war-torn countries, get involved with pulling people out of sex trades and the like. So it’s funny that on the supposed darkest night of the year, many Christians house lights are off. And on the other hand, Halloween in its current form highlights the occult and many evil practices, and so churches do Halloween “alternatives” (candy, games, prizes with no costumes so church kids are away from the ‘world’) and protect themselves from the evil outside. These same Christians, I hope, want to reach their neighbors for God and have it in their hearts that their stance is a part of their witness.

Some Christians don’t do Halloween because it’s “Satan’s Birthday” (never proven). Some Christian do Halloween because they weren’t allowed when they were kids and this is their rebellion. Some Christians don’t do Halloween because to do it is to accept evil in the form of costumes. Some Christians do Halloween because they enjoy dressing up and acting (not in the hypocrite sense…I mean actual acting). Some Christians don’t do Halloween because it celebrates all that the Bible speaks against. Some Christians do Halloween because the same Bible compels them to go into evil without being of the evil world.

What about me? I’m a pastor at a church. I aim daily to shun evil and cling to the light. And for 3 years, I have skipped my church’s Missions Mania Halloween alternative night and taken my daughter trick or treating. And the event is a really good one that many people love and come back to year after year. So why am I a Halloween-er? (Click on next page to find out!!)

Netflix, TV and My Kid – A Parent’s Tale

“It’s not easy to juggle a pregnant wife and a troubled child, but somehow I managed to fit in eight hours of TV a day.” – Homer Simpson, B.A. and father of The Simpsons.

This, for many people, is their unspoken motto. A life filled with sitting in front of a flat screen/laptop watching hours of episodic television, 24 hour news TV or March Madness. That statement is much of my life’s story (minus the troubled Bart-like kid), for growing up I had 3 parents: Mom, Dad and TV. Much of my pop culture nerdish quotes and ideas come from hours as a kid, teen and at times, adult, watching and learning from TV. From Perfect Strangers to Community, Summer to Winter Olympics, from Lost to Fringe, from live to PVR/Netflix and online, TV had been a part of my framework and a part of how I see things.

Now I’m not writing this blog to tell someone to turn off their TV and get to running outside or fasting or something.  Nor am I writing to invite that for myself from a loving commentator. I think there’s someone much Bigger than I am who can do that. I’m writing because I have a daughter who like her father loves TV. And because she loves it and we let her watch it (with we hope, wisdom), it’d be good to talk through how we do it and hear from other how they walk their kids through it, if at all. So here’s how we’ve done TV with Ellie and what I’m learning in the process.

  1. Some cartoons aren’t good for her. At first we simply left a Canadian channel called Treehouse on all day while she played for background noise. And in all honesty, sometimes we did it for a break too (any “Oh man I’m not alone!” chants starting?)! And what we would hear would most often by fine but some shows, even for kids, would promote behaviors that we didn’t want her to see as approved. And this goes for me (and you) too. I talk about that on number 4.
  2. Know the limits. Winters are the worst for this. It’s not like you can go outside at minus whatever to ride a bike and Lord knows craft time, if you’re not a craft person, can be draining. So the easy decision is to simply turn on the TV and walk away. And for a time we would do that. Now we let her watch some educational stuff for a bit then turn the TV off and enforce play time. And that might be in her room with toys, might be coloring, but it is something away from the ‘tube.
  3. Talk with her about what she sees. I think good parents know when to simply say no and when to explain a no, even to a 3-year-old. The reason to explain isn’t to get them on your side or even the Lord’s side but instead to help them start to think critically over what they take in. This past summer Ellie was watching a kids show on my iPad through Netflix when a character said something I found inappropriate. My initial instinct was to take the iPad and walk away. Instead, we had a short talk about being nice and kind with our words. Did it stick? She’s three. But I do believe that the seeds are there.
  4. Set an example. Man this is hard. Am I on my phone in front of her all the time, checking emails (not tweets, if you remember)? My iPad? Even a book? Am I paying more attention even to writing this blog than to playing with her and her brother? It might not be a TV but if it’s something and it’s for a long time, it might at well be a TV. I have to take my own breaks, even when she’s sleeping. And I also have to constantly reevaluate what is appropriate and not. As I read today through Jon Acuff’s Quitter, “Discipline begets more discipline.” How I do things will affect her greatly, to make better calls, take better breaks and know when something shouldn’t be in her life.

So, thoughts? Ideas? Do you own a large TV but never use it because of different principles (side question: then why have the TV? But I digress…)? Was TV never a big deal for you? If not, what do you find is? How do you help your kids think while they do? If you don’t have kids, how to figure out what you watch and how much is too much?

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So You Call Yourself Pro-Life…?

Let me ask you a question.

When you hear the words “Pro-Life“, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

I’m guessing that the only thing that did was being anti-abortion. We tend to loop the two together all the time, don’t we? Whether believer or not (though most pro-lifers tend to be believers of some kind), pro-life tends to mean one who believes that life begins at conception and not at 3/4/7/8 months, that the life made between a man and woman is made in the image of a Creator and as a life made by said Creator, cannot be killed by man’s choice (hence the pro-choice stance, which is more about the carrier of said child than the child him/herself). In today’s overtly political climate, one question that riles the conservative/republican/right/Christian-type up (when it’s not about gay marriage) is the issue of abortion.

Now, don’t please mistake my intro to think that I am for abortion. I am not just a card carrying Christian. I am a father of two who watched my children grow in the belly of my wife their mother. Who felt their kicks, heard their heartbeats and cut their embelical cords when they came out. Not for second did I think “They’re not alive.” I knew they were miracles the moment I learn of their existence, that I and Wifey partnered with God in their creation. Their birth alone put me on the other side of the argument.

That being said…I don’t think most people who say they’re pro-life are actually pro-life. I think that instead they’re more simply…Anti-Abortion. The more I think about it, pro-life is so much deeper and fuller than simply being anti the abortion of the unborn. For we abort the older too all the time.

Let me explain in point form with actual canadian statistics found on stats canada:

#beardwatch update – 2 months

I never thought this would happen but I have something in common with women.

Ladies, you know that point where you wanna grow your hair out just a bit to have it at that style you want? But that in-between time is the worst? Cause your hair isn’t what you want it to be just yet? And so you ponytail it? Or wear weird beanie hats? Or get hair extensions?

Yup. I’m there. Except it’s not my hair, it’s my beard hair(?) and if I try to pony tail my beard it wouldn’t be pretty.

Yes, it’s been two months since my weird project of growing my beard out for the sake of growing my beard out. At home, it’s simply become a part of what we do so much that we don’t really mention it unless Liam grabs at it for fun. My sister came into town and when she saw me she said, “You look like James Harden“, which as you know is the inspiration for this project, and I simply smiled and said, “yup.” Don’t get me wrong, I still love it and can’t wait to see how it turns out, but the in-between time is…well, boring. At least it was, until I attended Catalyst in Atlanta, a Christian church leadership conference that houses 13,000+ people. Pretty cray.

Now why would Catalyst inspire my #beardwatch non-vanity project (cause a beard ain’t vain, y’all!), you ask? Simply put: there were SO MANY COOL BEARDS THERE!!! I mean it was amazing. It was so crazy, I started going up to random dudes and asking to take their picture so I could add it to this blog. My line would go like this:

“Hey, I love you beard! Can I get a picture with it? My wife thinks growing a beard is stupid and this will show her that it’s not!” 

And they would. And it was awesome. I had 15+ pics. My APC friends and I would, by the end of the day, look for people and judge their beards on whether they were blog worthy. I even met a guy who was growing his beard for missions (He’d cut it when he raised a certain amount of money for a worthy cause…made me rethink my efforts. More to come on that thought). It was so much fun. Until I lost my phone. With all the pictures.

Now it sucks for two reasons: 1) Now I look like a creeper who just wanted weird beard pics (I told them about my Flickr account AND my blog. Oops!) and 2)…no, I think the first one covers it all. But just seeing those beards on white and black men alike helped me in a great way. The in-between stage is the time between the valley and the mountain and its the journey that makes the story, not the destination.

And now, I can appreciate the journey. And the loads of grey hairs I’m finding in this thing. Crazy.

Over and Beard,

Chase

PS. The conference itself was amazing. I tried to do a full on recap blog but my brain is still trying to work through all the info. Here’s what I know: God is good, a lot of people want to serve him and share him with others, Tripp and Tyler are one funny comedy duo, I have a new found love for Kid President and Michael W. Smith, I liked the labs more than the arena conference (and the Arena part was amazing…at full one hunned, son, so that is saying A LOT!) AND Americans REALLY love doing the Cupid Shuffle.

And now so do I…and my daughter.

PPS. I did email Becca ONE picture while I was away at Catalyst to show you what dudes were carrying. His was a year old. A year.

Parent Real Talk: Feeling Sucky

If you’re a parent, you’ll understand this feeling: inadequacy.

This isn’t what we’d project on Facebook with our fun family pics or on Twitter with our happy 140 character notes, but more often than not, behind the front door of our homes, we sometimes feel this way. Especially when it comes to how we raise our kids.

The other night, Ellie was taken by SOMETHING. She was kicking her brother, crumpling her face while crossing her arms, cry screaming (which is a mixture of both crying and screaming) and just not listening to us at all. The night ended up with her in bed crying at 7:00 with no snack, me standing outside her room angry that I yelled at her (there is a difference between being stern for her sake and simply yelling because I lost my cool) and Liam picking his nose.

That night I felt like…I wasn’t a good dad. I know I am but there are days where I just feel…inadequate.

Question for Parents: Ever known that feeling? What seems to trigger that for you?

It’s worse when you’re out somewhere and you kids seems to…dare I say “embarrass” you. You know those times when they are the only kid who throws themselves into a foam-at-the-mouth, roll-in-the-dew (#seewhatIdidthere, Cobourg Camp peeps?), punch-kick-claw-yell-cry state while other parents look on with that face? You know the face…that smug look that says, “If that was my kid that would NEVER happen!” And it is so embarrassing, isn’t it? I know it is for me.

The real talk truth is that every kid has moments like that, whether we want people around us to know it or not. If a kid doesn’t:

– Sleep long enough or sleep too little
– Eat enough or sleep too little
– Play enough or play too little
– Feel the sun or to the moon
– Find out there is no Santa or some fictional character
– Suffer from first world problems like “Sorry no McDonald’s, kiddo” or “No Ellie, we’re not getting Starbucks banana bread (told you…first world yuppie problems)”

…They will freak out. And the younger they are, the harder it is to explain to them why they can’t have what they want and why they shouldn’t respond they way they do. So there are only a few things I can do.

1. Pray a lot. Becca and I picked up a cool booklet by Mark Batterson called “Praying Circles Around Your Children“, based on his book “The Circle Maker.” Without giving away too much of the book, the main gist is to help give parents direction on HOW to pray for their kids on a regular basis. The other night, I made a list of things I will speak over my children. For Ellie, kindness and honesty (among other things). For Liam, humility and love.

2. Apologize. I lose my cool sometimes. If you’re a parent, you know what that’s like. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having to say sorry to a three-year-old who would rather play than listen at the time but if I live a life of apology, maybe when they are older, they’ll learn that being wrong and admitting it is okay.

3. Say “I love you” a lot. Today Ellie asked me, “Daddy, do you still love me when I do bad acts?” I told her that I could never NOT love her no matter what she did. Out of that, on her own, my three-year-old said, “Daddy, I’m sorry for hitting and yelling…”. She apologized for something she did the last week. Love brought out honesty from her, not my yelling.

4. Still discipline. Sometimes my kids are going to need to be disciplined and as a good dad I have to do that. But I have to talk afterwards.

5. Not compare myself to other parents. Hey other parents: I know you have sucky days when you get mad at someone else because you had a bad day at work or something. Because I know that, that face don’t mean nuthin! People without kids, know this: Your kid will mess up. Your kid will do dumb things. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It just means you’re like every other parent, whether they say so or not:)

6. Remember that kids remember. Today I saw a tweet from Mark Driscoll that made me pause (Thanks Taigan Bombay for retweeting him). It said, “Men, we need to be the kind of men we want our sons to become and our daughters to marry…because they will.” I think that goes for all parents. Our kids will be like us no matter what, so let’s all aim to be the best we can be.

…Tonight when I got home, Becca and I had to have a long talk with Ellie about her recent behavior. It was crazy to see Ellie embarrassed and saddened by her actions. She even tried to hide, reminiscent to two people who tried to hide from their own discipline so many years ago. Yet when all was done, we had a dance party.

Thankfully when things are done right, the ending is always sweet and filled with awkward attempts at dance moves meant for teenagers and NOT 30 year olds.

Parents: Please pass this along to other parents to hear their thoughts! How have you dealt with your own feelings of inadequacy?

If you have a similar story, I’d love to have some dialogue with you on it. Leave a comment OR email me at cchase101@gmail.com. We’ve all got a story, so let’s share them. Also, feel free to subscribe to this blog by clicking the “subscribe me” button. Thanks – Chase