The power of miscommunication

The power of miscommunication

I have a confession. I’m really good at miscommunication. It’s an art form actually, something I’ve practiced quite a bit over the years. No matter how clear I think I’ve made a message, I’m often reminded how easily it can get lost in translation somewhere along the line. Can you relate? Continue reading “The power of miscommunication”

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Charleston: How easily we forget

Charleston: How easily we forget

It was about two weeks ago that we were morning the horrific shooting’s at the AME Church in Charleston South Carolina. Today, for some reason, the memory seems like months ago. Within a week’s time, we saw so much happen in our country. Debates and arguments over the Confederate flag sparked up all over the place. Obamacare was upheld by the Supreme Court. And then, in another Supreme Court ruling, same-sex marriage was made the law of the land. Yes, a lot has happened since the tragedy in Charleston. But how easily we forget to value human life. Continue reading “Charleston: How easily we forget”

What to do when people let you down


What if I told you that someone important in your life is going to let you down? Probably not much of a surprise. But what if I told you that person would let you down time and again, and even sometimes when you needed them most? How would you handle it? Would your world crash in around you or would you be able to overcome the hurt?

At the time my divorce was going on, someone close to me let me down. It was someone that should’ve been by my side but chose not to be. It was someone who once held my trust and admiration but decided to shred it into tiny pieces. I was heartbroken, disappointed, and angry. The discovery of who I could and couldn’t depend on during the most difficult time of my life pushed me off the ledge. How could I ever forgive this person? Would I ever be able to be in the same room with them ever again? The blackhole of resentment and bitterness had me in its gravitational pull and I didn’t mind one bit. 

But darkness only feels good for so long. I came to realize how much I was hurting myself by harboring these feelings. Author Anne Lamott says “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” Her description of hanging on to hurt most definitely fit me. It was eating me alive and I needed some reconciliation. But at the time, complete reconciliation was not an option because the line of communication had been cut off by both of us. Despite the state of our relationship, I came to realize I had to let go of the hurt and forgive as much as I could on my own. So I did. I laid it down before God in prayer daily for quite a while. Sometimes I picked it back up and carried it. But the more I continued to lay it down, it gradually became easier to leave it there.

Have you had an experience where someone important to you broke your heart? Have you let it go and forgiven them? Or are you sipping on rat poison waiting for them to die? (figuratively speaking of course) I believe there are some crucial steps we must take anytime someone let’s us down. If we don’t, we run the risk of becoming so bitter and miserable we will not be able to enjoy relationships again.

Forgive and forgive again. Let it go, lay it down, and stop picking it back up. I had to come to a place where I forgave regardless of whether or not I ever heard the words “I’m sorry”. I had days where I needed to ask God to help me forgive this person. I realized I was incapable of forgiving on my own power. I needed someone to take the rat poison out of my hand and the only one I discovered capable to do so was God. Once I loosened my grip, He led me to a point of forgiveness in my heart so I could be free.

Keep in mind they may not have all of the facts. When reconciliation did finally come in the relationship months later, this person learned the whole story about what happened to me. Filling in the whole story made them realize they made a snap judgment which led them to judge me. We feel like others intuitively know what’s going on in our lives or should at least take the initiative to ask. But most of the time it doesn’t work that way. 

If at all possible, reconcile with them. For complete healing and forgiveness to happen, both sides have to come together. Many times, this idea of reconciliation is unrealistic because one side is unwilling to swallow their pride. But once you’ve forgiven them internally, it is crucial to pursue harmony and understanding. Audibly saying “I forgive you” to an offender can be freeing. 

My story didn’t end with unresolved tension. One day I received a letter in the mail acknowledging their misjudgment and asking me to forgive them. I remember laying the unopened envelope on my nightstand and leaving it there for a few days. I was torn as to whether I wanted to open it or not. Eventually I relented because I valued the relationship with this person more than my pride. As I read and re-read the letter, I could feel the hurt and pain caused by this person start to melt away. Weeks later, we were able to meet up face-to-face and talk it out. Saying “I forgive you” was like a wrecking ball blowing the wall between us to smithereens. And today, we are able to enjoy a great relationship with no awkwardness or tension.

What relationship in your life has unresolved conflict? Do you want to reconcile? If so, how can these three simple steps enable you to seek reconciliation? 

3 things I learned at a Kevin Hart concert

Earlier this week, I went to the Kevin Hart “What Now” tour stop here in Knoxville, TN. I left the Thompson-Bowling Arena with sore throat and sides from laughing so hard. While the whole purpose of going was to be entertained, I left with three things that made a strong impression on me.

 

1. Kevin Hart is really funny. Ok, this is a bit of a cop out because everyone knows he is really funny. But I saw last night how much of a master he is of funny. He brilliantly combines words, voice control, and body movements to bring on uncontrollable laughter. My eyes were burning because I was crying so much from laughing! But he also leveraged technology to add to the laughs. My favorite part of the evening was Kevin sitting on a stool in front of a huge picture of a bathroom stall. From one angle it looked like he was actually sitting on a ginormous toilet! Making people laugh is a gift because it just feels good. There are plenty of medical studies on the benefits of laughter, especially the belly laughing like I did last night.

2. The art of storytelling is king. I think what makes Kevin Hart so good at his job is his ability to tell stories that suck the audience into whatever wild ride he has planned. The opening acts told jokes by picking on different aspects of life, often times socially charged issues that at times isolated pockets of the crowd. They definitely got laughs, but not to the level that Kevin did. He gave the audience a glimpse of his life, filling fact with exaggerated fiction that almost anyone can relate to. A few times he hit the same socially charged issues, but he did it in a way that wasn’t offensive because of his ability to approach to bring the listener alongside of him through story. He gained more than just the attention of the audience, but also their loyalty. One of the opening acts lost a majority of the audience because he focused too much on tense issues and vulgar topics and he did it in a way that was like a bull in a china shop. Kevin Hart demonstrated the importance of approaching topics that might sting in a way that was disarming and inviting. There were many lessons to be learned for anyone trying to communicate a message to an audience. Tell a story that engages and disarms people and you will win their loyalty and their attention.

3. Racial tension desperately needs reconciliation.The crowd was very diverse, from blacks and whites to Latino and Asians. It was actually really cool to see such a beautiful display. But the tension was thick a few times as some of the comics hit the divide between whites and blacks with a sledge hammer. I’m all for poking fun at the quirkiness that different groups characteristically have. I believe that an important role comedians can fill is to bring our attention to the silly things in our lives that need to be addressed. So on that point, last night made me realize we still have so far to go toward racial reconciliation. Reconciliation doesn’t mean that everyone sings kum-bah-yah and holds hands. But it does mean that we seek friendly relationships between people of different races. It means that we resolve conflict instead of running away from it or making it worse by fighting. I see positive signs in my kids’ generation as I watch each of my four kids have friends that Latino, black, and white. I’m encouraged that they do not judge someone based on the color of their skin or where they were born. However, as a Christ follower, I long to see deep reconciliation happen because I believe we are better working together than separate. It’s often said that Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week. I’ve often wondered how we can change that. There are churches that are managing to do that, but that isn’t common, especially in the south. Maybe the first step is having people brave enough to start meaningful dialogue about how we can move forward in reconciliation so that hearts are changed. After all, that is the essence of the gospel…that heart transformation would occur. I believe that is the only way true reconciliation will come so that the prejudices we harbor can be uprooted from our hearts.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Kevin Hart live. He was everything I thought he would be, but I definitely didn’t expect to walk away with the observations I that I did. The laughter makes me feel renewed. The storytelling makes me feel inspired. And the reminder of how tense racial relations remain both troubles me and drives me to want to be a part of the process to see reconciliation take hold in our society.

A proud dad

My kids were with me this weekend for Easter and we had such an amazing time together. I cherish the weekends I get them because they makeup the majority of my time with the kids. The pressure to get the most out of the time from Friday afternoon until Sunday evening is immense some times. But weekends like this one remind me how lucky and blessed I am as a dad.

The weekend started with my 12 year old Stephen sharing with me that he won the essay contest at his school and is one of five sixth graders to be selected to attend a banquet. His essay will also be entered for the county wide essay contest. I remember reading through his submittal and thinking to myself what a natural writer he is. It was really good (and you can read it for yourself here).

On Friday, our church had a special Night of Worship and Prayer for Good Friday. It was a powerful night! I get a unique vantage point as a worship leader because I get to see how others are connecting with God through song or prayer. After communion, we started playing the song How He Loves by John Mark McMillan, a powerful tune that our people have always loved. During one of the choruses, I look over on the front row where my 8 year old daughter Ella is standing and I see her singing her heart out with her eyes closed and hand raised in the air. I couldn’t stop smiling! Later that evening, I broke down what happened with her, talking about why she raised her hand and what it means. She said she is usually shy at church and she felt God telling her not to be shy! I can’t begin to describe how that made me feel.

On Saturday morning, my 10 year old Zane had a soccer game. I enjoyed watching him hustle around the field, making great defensive stops and even scoring the game winning goal! He is the type of kid that could excel at any sport he wants to because he has the mentality, the physical ability, and size to succeed. But the coolest thing ever is his attitude. He’s humble, kind-hearted, and wants to have fun WITH his teammates. It isn’t about him, it’s about the team. One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen was when our goalie missed the ball as the other team scored. Zane’s coach had the whole team go and pat him on the back and congratulate him for his hard work. That’s a good coach!

Then on Sunday, as I’m leading worship again, I noticed my oldest son, Austin, who is 15, singing along with every song. Now, he isn’t much for expressing how he feels. But I could just tell that he meant everything he was singing. In that moment, I realized that all of the Instagram posts he puts out there to share his faith are 100% legit. Not that I ever doubted it before, but it was confirmation that he really does love Jesus.

To close the weekend, we went to some of my girlfriend Julie’s family’s house for dinner and games last night. All of us were outside either playing a fun new game called roller ball or swinging or whatever. I had to step back and just savor the moment. Here I was with people I love and care about just having a blast together on a gorgeous Easter evening. I can’t help but say thanks God for putting an amazing godly woman in my life with six kids that I’m so proud of. I’m a blessed man to be able to be apart of all of their lives.

Good Friday

Hour of Darkness 1

So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

The Crucifixion

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

The Death of Jesus

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Jesus’ Side Is Pierced

Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

Jesus Is Buried

After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

(John 19:16-42 ESV)

Uncle Dad

14If you’re a divorced dad that does not have custody of your kids, you will know what I mean by the term “Uncle Dad”. For those of you that have no clue what I’m talking about, let me share some tidbits from an article I discovered at DivorceRecovery101.com:

The one great thing that came out of this marriage, the kids, and now they are for all practical purposes, gone. When a couple divorces, it is because the relationship of the couple has essentially died. She has to deal with the emotional trauma of splitting with a spouse, but he, in contrast, has to deal with the loss of a long term relationship with his spouse and he also has to deal with loss of the normal relationship with his children, which may have been closer and far more intense then the spousal relationship ever was.

Seeing his children again for a short time is a reunion, followed shortly by an emotional painful parting. This emotional tearing can be so heavy and painful for some men that they will subconsciously find excuses sometimes not to see their children as scheduled. Often the more they care about their children, and the resulting more pain, makes it more likely they are to find an excuse when they are not up to going thru these emotional partings. It does not necessarily need be all bad for the children, but it is often the most devastating for the father who had the children essentially removed from what was a big part of his life. What happens here is the father, who had daily close contact with his children, was energized by this daily interaction with his children now finds he is essentially out of the loop. He has become transferred from being a father who had close contact and a say in how his children were disciplined, educated, and what church they attended etc.

Divorced from his father role, he is now transformed to becoming a distant “uncle” who sends money but rarely sees the children and has no real say or control of what happens with raising these children. This bitter pill about what happens with his relationship with his children and the emotional hassle and turmoil often involved is one of the reasons you will find men have a higher homicide and suicide rate as a result of divorce then women have.

I edited out a lot of parts that I thankfully don’t have to deal with. My ex-wife is not vindictive and she has proven that she is willing to work with me as much as possible so that I can have extra time with my kids. What I tried to present from the article is what I can relate to. I have often said that sometimes I feel like a favorite uncle that sees the kids a few times a month and has fun with them. It’s hard to be a parent 20% of the time because there is so much you want to cram into that time! You want it to be fun so you can create memories together. You want to instill values and character and faith into your kids. You even want to be a part of disciplining them so that they become good men and women that will be a good contribution to society. But how can you with such little time?

I have no desire to throw my ex-wife under the bus. I couldn’t ask for a better situation considering the circumstances. The setup we have, where the kids live with her and I have them every other weekend, was agreed upon because neither one of us wanted the kids to feel like they didn’t have a home. And I do not regret that decision. I want my kids to have a home, and going back and forth between mom’s house and dad’s house every week will not, in my opinion, make them feel at home anywhere. Every week they will be packing up to “move”. That’s not a stable lifestyle for anyone, not to mention kids.

But it still sucks. I’m typically out of the loop on what’s going on in their lives. And when I do talk to them, it’s like pulling teeth to get any information out of them because they are kids. I hate feeling like a nuisance or burden. So it’s easy not to call sometimes. I completely understand why some guys decide to just disappear. I’m not talking about the worthless baby-daddy’s out there. I’m talking about the poorly labeled “dead beat dad” that just can’t handle the pain anymore. It’s hard not tucking your kids in every night. It’s hard not being there to help them with homework. It’s hard not seeing them misbehave or mess up so you can come alongside and correct or discipline them. It cuts deeply to hear your child refer to “my dad and my other dad” and immediately assume you’re the “other dad”.

I am writing this simply to let other guys in my situation know they aren’t alone. I don’t have any answers. It’s almost been six years since I lived in the same house with my kids and sometimes I think it gets harder. I know the pain you feel and the trials you endure. And to the dad that loves your kids but finds yourself on the brink of divorce to fight for your marriage. The grass is brown on the other side of the fence. It has weeds and insects that you can’t see right now. Trust me, I know. Love your kids by loving your wife better every day. If you don’t know how to do that, ask for help! It will take a lot of work and pride swallowing. But the best way to love your kids is to love your wife to the best of your ability so that you can save the marriage. Then you’ll be involved daily in the lives of your kids.

If you relate to this post in any way and need someone to talk to, you can contact me on twitter @kevinpbradford or on Facebook.