Tuesday, April 26, 2016

#Copycat is Coming

The plan is to post the new video "Copycat" online this Friday!  Looking forward to sharing our family's fun with you all, and considering a familiar lesson in parenting.  I will post just a simple cut of the video first, to be followed later on this weekend by an extended edition with a few minutes of discussion from me detailing the thought behind the video.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


I got some BIG NEWS!  Well, maybe its not that big for you, but the Tilden family is excited about it.  In our unique way to have fun and share a message that's been burning on our hearts, I am releasing a new music video IN 2 WEEKS!

The song is called "Copycat", and while its humor-filled as always, it also packs a serious message.  I'm excited about it, because I completely wrote this song, from the lyrics to the music itself.  I don't have fancy recording equipment, so it will still have its amateur flair.  However, we had fun in making this!

I wanted to take a second to share the inspiration behind the song and video.  God has recently shown me something that has completely escaped my brain as a parent.  I've always had a good understanding that I am supposed to set the example for my children, teach them about God, and lead them to the cross.

However, my approach to doing this has been way off!  I've focused so much on NOT doing things that I feel like I'm NOT supposed to do in front of my kids so that they will have a good example to follow.  In doing this, I have not focused much on doing GOOD things in front of my kids, Godly habits that they can watch and pick up on.

You cannot deny the power of your actions impressing things upon your children's hearts and minds.  You can teach them things all day long, such as how to follow God and the difference between right and wrong, but they will 99% of the time do what you say by your actions....NOT YOUR WORDS.

I have been convicted lately that my children do not see my good, well-intentioned actions enough! 
The side they see of me the most is the tired, worked all day, worn out, and lazier Dad.

They don't see me getting up at 5 am everyday to pray and read my bible intently.  They don't see me praying with a Soldier who is hurting and sharing the gospel with him.  They don't see me pouring into my sermon study.  And those are just a few examples!

The truth is....THEY NEED TO SEE IT!

It's not that we should do spiritual things in front of our kids just to appear spiritual.  We shouldn't do things just to appear spiritual in any context.  The bible warns against this.  We need to do them in front of our kids to teach them how to do the same.  We need to let our kids see the importance of God in our lives and not hide it from them.

My kids mimic a lot of what I do.  In fact, they've learned my routine.  They've learned it so much so that they will sometimes prep the location on the couch on which I usually sit.  They will prop up the foot rest and hand me a Coke Zero.  It's awesome!  I know!  I have amazing kiddoes!  I love them!!
However, by doing so, I realized I'm teaching them what is important to me.  But I'm not teaching them everything....especially the good stuff.

My kids love superhero movies, because I enjoy them.  I got them into Star Wars, just by taking them to Star Wars and talking about it.  Silas loves the Redsox, just because I talk about the Redsox and wear the hats.  Karis loves music, partly because of all the music I have exposed her too and because its important to me.  They both want iPhones, because Stephanie and I have iPhones.  They will even do pushups with me when I work out at the house. They love the same things I do!

They also mimic the not so good stuff.  I realized recently that I accidentally taught them the 5 second rule.  This was kinda cute, until Silas tried to do this off the Walmart floor.  I will sometimes burp and laugh at the house.  Little did I realize that my kids would start doing the same thing, and not only at the house...but in public too!  The list could go on and on, but I'll let the song spell that out in more detail (hint, hint)

The reality is, my kids have adopted so much of what me and my wife do.  We both drink coffee in the morning.  Now, Karis can't start a morning without her hot chocolate in a similar drinking mug.  Its crazy, but its reality!  They are extremely impressionable.  That is why its so important that they see our Godly deeds.  They need to see me reading the word.  They need to see me ministering for the sake of the Gospel.  They need to hear us talk about our giving.  In doing so, they'll fall in love and adopt the same things.

Obviously, the older they get, the more independent they become...and that's a good thing!  They need to own their own faith!  However, while they're young, impressionable, and playing copycat of mom and dad, I want to leave an impression that shows them how important Christ is in my life!

The song will be out soon!  Stay tuned.  I will be releasing the video, as well as an extended edition that includes me talking about the inspiration of it.

What are some of the crazy things your kids have copycatted from you?

"Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity."

Titus 2:7

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Is an Army Marriage a Joke?

Either someone is naïve, or marriages are seen as nothing short of a joke if you publish and/or believe the recent findings of a "study" that was the subject of a recent article published by the Military Times.  The article is titled "Families experience generally few long-term effects from deployment".

I LOL'd when I read the title.  I just knew this had to be another Duffleblog article or something from The Onion.  Its gotta be a joke, right? There's no way this is for real.

I don't always do this, but as an Army Chaplain, I feel overly compelled that I must share my thoughts.  I honestly see no difference in this recent article than anything you'd read in the National Enquirer.  In my opinion, the study and the journalism here are completely irresponsible.  However, it did get a rise out of a lot of people, and maybe that's ultimately what editors wanted.  If so, it worked. 

I'm not going to post the article on this blog or link to it, but use Google, you'll find it if you're interested.  I'm not going to begin to say that I've done a comprehensive study of marriages and the effects of deployment.  I haven't.  However, I've lived it.  I work in the midst of it every single day.  All I can say, from my experience, is that the finding of the study and what I see every single day clashes more than Donald Trump and the ACLU.

I'll give the researchers and article some small credit.  There was recognition that the study, which wasn't started until 2012, began to look at the correlations too late in the war.  There is hinting that the findings would be much different if it was started at the peak of the war around 2007-2008.
However, with that said, there is no doubt in my mind that deployments are leaving military families torn, wrecked, and devastated.

I do believe that individual responsibility is a consideration.  I'm not trying to blame the military, government, or the deployments themselves.  Also, give me some credit in this regard....if I really want to look good, I'd give the article and study all the credibility in the world.  Because if marriages are doing great, then it means that the programs, including Chaplain-led programs, are helping to almost completely combat the long-term effects from deployment on marriages.  But, I'm being an honest realist.  WE CAN'T DO ENOUGH!  Marriages are taking a beating!

Let me juxtapose some flaws with what I consider to be real life and the findings mentioned in the article.....

First of all, in a study, you can only sample a small cross-section of people.  In any small cross-section, there is the possibility of multiple anomalies.  Sure, you can chalk it up to coincidence or luck, but ultimately, small cross-section surveys are faulty.  I'm sure a study can be done out there that samples 100 smokers.  In this particular group of 100 smokers, there are not many long-term residual effects being seen from their smoking.  This doesn't mean that smoking is suddenly healthy!  Go anywhere else and you'll find that smoking is a major cause of health issues in people.

Secondly, I must ask this question.....How long after deployment were the questions asked?  Just like in a marriage, the first few weeks and sometimes months are the "honeymoon" phase.  Of course things are good then!  How can you study the long-term effects if you only look at it for a brief period of time?

Also, if you read the article, you find that the study revealed that teenagers and kids had different things to say than the parents.  The research admits this!  Knowing Army Soldiers and Families like I do, I have no doubt that many who participated in the survey might have likely been untruthful.  Reason being, is that many Soldiers and Families live in a culture in which it is advantageous to them and their careers to hide issues and problems.  Its an automatic defense mechanism for many in the military.  The more their issues are brought to light, the more they fear intervention by their leadership.  Most other professions don't "interfere" the way the military does.  The military looks out for their personnel.  It is highly likely that children were truthful and told the real story!

I can mostly appeal to my own experience.  I know all experiences are different, but as a Chaplain I am involved in the experiences of many others from all different walks of life.  In the last two years, over 60% of my 200+ counselings have dealt with marriage and family.  Note that in those two years, I've been with a unit who deployed for 9 months and is gearing up to deploy again.  Now, not every marriage counseling pointed directly back to deployment as being a root cause for issues.  However, I saw how deployments and time away greatly enhanced issues like finances, communication, trust/infidelity, stress/anger, family issues, and suicidal ideations.  So the deployment might not be to blame for the root cause.  However, its like deployment pumped steroids into the issues and made them a lot bigger.

Yes, I know the article deals with long-term effects.  And I would say that the long-term effects are present.  Many of these cases I dealt with were multiple deployers.  I can't even count the amount of times I heard, "we've never had problems before, but I think all the deployments are catching up to us."  Sure, we can say using the "deployment card" is a cop-out.  I'll be the first to say that in many cases, its not a good excuse for broken behavior.  Ultimately, as a Christian, its not a good excuse ever for broken behavior.  I believe God is bigger than all of it! 

However, I cannot lie and say that deployments aren't having a massive impact on marriage issues.  I dealt with this first hand.  When I deployed, I had been married almost 14 years.  I never experienced any big problems in my marriage.  I felt that me and my wife were marriage "rock stars".  The deployment couldn't touch us....or so I thought.  When I got back, it was tough.  Regaining intimacy and learning to live with someone again is a challenge, no matter how long you've been married.  I believe that a part of our marriage was chiseled off during my time away.  To say it didn't have a long-term impact is a bold face lie!

With that said, I'm thankful that Stephanie and I have a deep relationship with God.  Due to this fact, what was chiseled away was replaced with something strong....getting us back to being a strong and healthy couple who love each other very much!  All glory and credit goes to God!

But many times, this isn't the case with marriages.  I mentioned that deployments are like a steroid.  They make problems bigger.  I've seen and witnessed financial issues explode.  I've seen trust and infidelity run rampant during deployment.  I've seen communication completely lost.  And we haven't even touched the impact of substance use and abuse that develops stronger out of a deployment and it's impact on marriages and families.

I'm not sharing all of this as an expert.  I'm still learning.  I'm still trying to be a part of the solution.  With that said, I don't believe we've got it solved.  We may never have it solved.  But that's exactly why we keep trying!  I simply desire for a realistic picture to be put out there.  I want people to know what they are signing up for.  I want couples to know that there is a lot of work to be done to save their marriage.  I want Soldiers and spouses to know that there have to be massive safeguards put up in order to guard what you have.  I want civilians and the public to know what is being sacrificed and that help is needed!  I want the church to know how to love on, desperately pray for, and care for our Soldiers and Families.

This article does not help.  The researchers themselves said they were surprised at the findings.  They need to understand that didn't discover something new and revolutionary.  What they found was faulty.  It'd be naïve to think differently.  All this communicates to me is that someone needs to go back to the drawing board.

Please don't believe everything you read online....including what I just wrote.  Find out the truth for yourself.  Ask your military friends and family how their marriages are doing and how deployment has impacted them.  Sure, they may not tell you or may not want to talk openly about it.  They also might have a completely false picture of how things really are in their lives.  However, it could also open up the door for you to learn the truth and how you can be a shoulder for them to lean on and help keep their marriage strong.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Church Janitor Accidentally Mows Over Hedge of Protection

In what is being described as "one of the biggest church landscaping faux pas of the 21st century", a small Baptist church and community are stunned and picking up the pieces after their hedge of protection has been breached.

The congregation of Holy Rivers Baptist Church in Bucksnort, Tennessee had been praying for the hedge of protection for years.  "Its how all our deacons ended their prayers," said Pastor Tim Willis.  "Now we are all left with questions."

Larry Givens, who has been the church's director of custodial arts for the last 31 years, was the individual responsible for the shorned bushes.  "I'm not sure what happened," Givens said.  "One minute, I'm listening to Carman's Shakin' the House Live album on my Walkman.  The next minute, I'm passed out in the bushes, the riding mower is upside down,  the hedge is destroyed, and my shirt is nowhere to be found."

Larry would later go on to say that he found his shirt in the church foyer.  "I have no idea how it happened, but this wasn't the first time."  Givens also recalled an incident 2 months ago when he regained consciousness after eating through 11 packs of communion wafers.

The entire incident is being investigated by a special task force voted on by the church's Landscape and Grounds Committee.  "We've held a meeting every night this week.  Sometimes we go as long as four hours," said Gomer Skinkle, the chairman of the committee.  "We will meet until the truth is found out, or until the church's supply of Folger's Premium Roast runs out."

Givens has not been fired, but he has been put on administrative probation by the church.  He is still required to show up to work.  However, he has been stripped of his Walkman, is now required to wear overalls, and must pay 15% for his tithe the next 3 months.

If the contents of this story haven't caused you to believe that this is a simple joke on this 1st of April, then maybe you're a bigger fool than Larry Givens.  Nonetheless, hope you enjoyed a laugh!  Praise God for the gift of humor!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Day I Punched the Easter Bunny

This week in New Jersey a man dressed as the Easter Bunny got into a fistfight with a mall patron.  Don't believe me? Go google it later.  

As I'm sure hundreds of kids and parents watched in brief bewilderment and horror, the real tragedy is that we celebrate the 4th inning hotdog over the World Series victory we saw our favorite team clinch before our very eyes.

What am I talking about? 

Imagine going to game 7 of the World Series.  Your favorite baseball team is playing and you have box seats.  Your team wins.  There is a big celebration! However, when you go to tell others of what you have witnessed, you skip the part where they won the championship, the stadium went crazy, and it was the greatest baseball game ever played.  Instead, you highlight an average stadium hotdog that you consumed early on during the game.

Who cares?

This is not intended to be an Easter-bashing, don't hide eggs, don't get dressed up and take pictures, or a don't sit on the Easter Bunny's lap type of post.  We do enough of that in Christian circles.  Those things are bad and can be enjoyable to do as a family.  However, they're ashes in the midst of a diamond.

I got this weird thought while reading about the New Jersey bunny melee, and that thought was what if we instead of sitting on the Easter Bunny's lap, we sat on Jesus' lap?  No seriously, what if a dude dressed up as Jesus and we lined up at the mall to take pictures of our kids sitting on His lap? What if instead of Easter baskets, we put baskets out on Easter Eve so that Jesus would fill them with loaves and fish like a thief in the night?

Sounds ridiculous and blasphemous, right?

We don't take the story of Jesus lightly.  We may portray it in pageants and passion plays, but we don't turn it into a marketed cartoon.  Yes, we might see the occasional fat Jesus on the cross because Larry the accountant has the best singing voice in the choir but he also likes cheeseburgers.....a lot.  But, we take the story of Christ seriously......

Or do we?

I am convinced that if we truly understood the implications of what happened on the cross and what happened when the Marys found the tomb empty and the stone rolled away, that we would be so overwhelmed with that story that everything would get lost in the limelight.  And rightly so!  Jesus rising from the dead is a much better story than getting candy from an imaginary bunny.

We fight this fight and have these thoughts every year.  This isn't anything new! Yeah, yeah....we know better.

But do we live as if it is true?  Because if the events described in the gospels are true and the Christ we claim to follow did everything we say we believe He did, then Resurrection Sunday is the most explosive firework in a jam-packed year of celebratory living.  We can live in constant victory because of Jesus' amazing performance!

The Resurrection marks the greatest day in history.  You claim it! You say it! Do you believe it?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Set Apart

Our life isn't supposed to look like the rest of the world's, yet so often, that's what is in our sights.  In fact, it is increasingly more and more that our Christian culture is comfortably at ease with mirroring much of the world's average performance.

There is a song that we sing often on Sunday mornings called "Set Apart".  The lyrics include lines like, "Set apart for our God above.  Set apart for the One we love." and "Out of the ashes into the fire, You are refining our hearts in the flames of Your presence."  Beautifully written and such a great truth conveyed.

Scripture, in its entirety, shows God "setting apart" those who would follow Him and carry out His design.  In this calling, He blesses, protects, and provides superhuman abilities to those He calls out of the pattern of the world.

Through Jesus, this is the reality Christians have been saved to.  Grasp that for a minute! 

Why would we still care about closely appearing normal to the world?

I don't believe scripture calls us to be weirdos that lock themselves away from the rest of society.  I don't believe that God calls us to focus on a list of Don't-Dos so that we look radically different than the rest of the world.  I don't believe we're saved to obnoxiously offend the world.

However, I don't believe we're called the be the same either.

Many believers live in one extreme or the other. 

1. The LOOK DIFFERENT Extreme:  Let me do nothing that mirrors the world.  This means that I will not own a television.  I will never go to a PG-13 movie.  I will not walk into an establishment or store that serves alcohol.  I will not ever laugh at a joke.  My daughters will wear skirts that drag the floor.  I'm going to boycott this establishment because they believe in something that I don't.  Piercings and tattoos are of the devil.  Etc. Etc.

I could go on, but you catch my drift.

2. The LOOK SIMILAR Extreme:  I want people to know that I can still be cool and a Christian at the same time.  How dare someone tell me that I can't drink alcohol!  I can watch and view anything that I want...I'm spiritually mature.  Let's make church look more like a cool, casual hangout.  I can go party and still be a believer...I'm free in Christ.  Sex is normal.  Its okay for me to test the waters.

Again, I could go on and on.

Both of these thought processes are screwed up.  Obviously, the descriptions are to the extreme.  But if our motivation for living is about what we can or cannot get away with, we are missing the point of what God has called us to through Jesus Christ. 

Romans 12 is a great passage of reference for this idea.  Paul uses language like "do not be conformed to the pattern of the world", "be transformed by the renewing of your mind", "love must be genuine", and "abhor what is evil".

Take a minute to click the link and read the passage.

Being a missionary in the military culture, I face the idea of "I can be saved and be just like the world" more than I ever have before.  I frequently meet individuals who will violently cuss out their subordinates, brag about getting blitzed, and then talk in great detail about their walk with Christ.  First inclination is to dismiss these individuals as self-called Christians.  However, the more you talk to them, the more you realize that they know scripture well.  They are aware of their shortcomings.  They appear to have a part of their life committed to serving God.  And they are seemingly okay with all of these things co-existing.

I'm not trying to point fingers and pretend like I don't struggle with sin.  I do, but I'm not proud of it or okay with it.  My call is to walk according to what Christ saved me to.  Christ saved me from the crap of the world.  Christ has made me a new creation.  Christ transformed my life!  My commitment to God is not part-time, its all the time.

Love is my fuel and motivation.  Evil is what I abhor.  The question we could debate forever is "what is evil?"  We love to argue based on our presuppositions and what we're comfortable with or not comfortable with.  The challenge is to throw all that out the window.  How much of God's word are you pouring into your life?  Paul writes a description of what the Christian life looks like in Romans 12.  These are the things that mark our life.  Notice that he didn't include anything about appearing to be relevant or cool to the world.

I'm addressing the extreme of "looking similar" because I see a generation rising up that is more and more prone to lean this direction.  Whereas the generations before might have leaned more heavily in the other direction, the revolution against that thought process has turned many of our so-called, young, American believers into worldly copycats that also say they love Jesus.

Don't sell yourself or God short!  If you've been saved, live set apart!  Live transformed! 

I'll close with this illustration.  As an Army Chaplain, I deal with the challenge of being a pastor and being a Soldier at the same time.  The Army is all about conformity.  Everyone has the same uniform, haircut, boots, etc.  Everyone walks and talks the same.  We run together.  We form up together.  If I'm not careful, I can get too caught up in doing the same things as all the other Soldiers to advance my career and appear polished to my leadership.  A colleague once reminded me to "remember what I bring to the fight".  He pointed at the cross sewn onto my uniform. 

While I may naturally look similar to other Soldiers, what I bring to the fight is unique, different, and life changing.  Its not worth compromising or hiding from the rest of the world.  Its what I live for.  Its what I've been called to.  It offers hope in darkness.  It offers life over death.  It offers eternal joy and peace.  Its too good to leave behind.  Its too good not to put at the forefront of everything I do.

You may wear a similar shirt as the guy next to you.  You may drive a similar truck.  You may root for the same football team.  You may choose to eat dinner at a similar restaurant.  But don't forget what you bring to the fight.  If you're saved, you have Jesus.  Why hide Him away?  Why choose to tiptoe around what is evil to appear cool to the world?  Is it worth it?

If Jesus has really changed your life, then live like it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Is Your Life Running Dry?

I'm coming back home after spending a month out in the desert.  Let me tell you something about the desert......

If you are not used to seeing the desert, at first glimpse it is captivating.  The mountains are majestic. The wide open space and landscapes are mesmerizing.  It seems attractive, interesting, new, and peaks a certain curiosity that may make you want to explore it more deeply.

However, after spending some considerable time in the desert it doesn't take long to lose that luster.  Suddenly, you look around and see that plants are struggling to survive. Everything is dry, cracked, dirty, brown, and ugly.  There are just minimal signs of animals and wildlife.  In conclusion, there isn't much LIFE!

I wonder how often we deceive ourselves into pursuing the seemingly attractive deserts of life?  After all, we all know people that parallel this very well.  On first impression they seem interesting, good, and worth placing our trust in.  Later, when we truly see them for who they are, we realize that there is no life in them.  Everything is rotten and dead.

Aren't we this way sometimes?  We try so hard to put on a cosmetic front, appear pleasant, as if our life is 100% together, but deep down inside our well is running dry.  There is no life!

I never want to be satisfied with being a desert. I want there to be more!  I want there to be life, and I want to surround myself with people that have life.

Jesus gives us LIFE! He is the living water.  He can take a dry desert with no life and fill it with life, turn it into a luscious garden more magnificent than the world has ever seen.  The more I fill myself with Him, the more life is in me.

This also reminds me of the account in Ezekiel 37.  God shows the prophet a valley of dry bones.  God then tells him that He can take the old dry bones and put meat on them and bring them back to life.  Sure enough, God does and Ezekiel describes a live army before him. God used this illustration to remind the Israelites that their excuses about being dry and lifeless holds no water.  God is the solution!  He can bring their lifeless bones to a rich new LIFE!

How about you?  Do you need life back in your dry desert?  Are you tired of the façade? 

In the words of the Christian Hip Hop group Grits, in their song "Open Bar".....

Get your cups
Get your drinks
It's living water, baby.
Get your mind in order, baby!

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