I Am Not a Parent

Thursday, April 17th, 2014


I am not a parent, but I like to think of myself as a parenting expert. I’m 28 years old, married, and totally equipped to raise a child. I have the whole thing figured out and feel confident I can navigate most of the problems parents face.

Okay, I’m just kidding. I work in the family ministries division of a church and have been around the block enough times to know that parenting is a continual journey, full of unexpected adventures. Over the years, I’ve made a point to refrain from uttering the phrase I would never let my child act that way. Chances are someday my child will act that way.

I have no way of knowing the crazy things my kid will do and how I will respond. But then again, I don’t intend to reinvent the wheel either. One of the benefits of volunteering* and being on staff in Family Ministries over the past several years is that I have picked up quite a few tips and tricks from the people I work alongside.

If you are a parent or planning to be a parent in the future, you need to have next-step ahead mentors. You will have problems that will make you hit your head against a wall that they have already solved. They will celebrate milestones in their kids’ lives that you will want to celebrate in your family. They will have practical advice for the simple day to day routine.

My friend Karis is an amazing mom. She is super creative and it spills over into her parenting. I’ll never forget helping her family move into their new home when they moved from Michigan. We were unpacking dishes and I asked Kar which of the upper cupboards she would like me to stack them in. Her response was, “Oh no, if you put them in an upper cupboard, Kohen (who was 5 years old at the time) can’t help set the table when it is his turn. Go ahead and put them in this cupboard below the counter.” She had taken a problem (Kohen was too short to take part in a regular family activity) and found a solution (store the dishes in a lower cupboard).

My friend Danny’s daughter kept getting out of bed far too early in the morning. She was too young to learn time, but old enough to understand and follow instructions. So he and his wife installed a timed night light in her room that would glow in the morning when it was okay for her to get up. If she woke up early, she knew to wait for the light to turn on before she went and pounced on her parents.

My friend Darren has a daughter who is now in college. When she was in high school, Darren noticed that Brynn was chattiest when she came home at night after hanging out with friends. So he would plant himself in the basement around the time of her curfew, and pretend he was there for the purpose of watching tv or reading. When Brynn would come home, he’d ask a few key questions that would make her come alive about what she was thinking and processing. He has a similar trick for his son, but I’d hate to share it and spoil his fun.

Like I said, I really can’t forecast all the things I will or will not do as a parent. But I’d be crazy to start from scratch. To wait and see. During this time in life when I am not a parent, I am going to watch carefully and keep track of the wisdom I observe. When I am a parent, I am going to unashamedly beg, borrow, and steal from the mentors I respect. After all, parenting is hard work and requires a ton of thinking on your feet. Why expend extra energy trying to solve things that someone else already figured out.

Steph_Whitacre_BWSteph is the Family Ministries Coordinator and Family Map Champion at a growing church in Northeast Pennsylvania. She lives with her brilliant husband Tim and their dog Amelie. She loves to read, travel, hike, absorb music, drink (and occasionally try to quit) coffee, and laugh with friends. She is not known for an ability to sit still for long periods of time. You can see more of her blog here.

“Who Me, a Special Needs Parent? I’m the Wrong Person for This Kid!”

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014


By Diane Dokko Kim

My mother often laments how I am such a LOUD girl. When we’re on the phone, she typically asks me to turn down my volume.  Or better yet, speak about a foot away from the mouthpiece. She’s perplexed how such a small person (I stand 4 feet 11 and 3/4 inches) could emit such a big, booming sound. Especially for an Asian daughter, it’s considered unbecoming and uncouth.

Despite my mother’s admonishment, I find myself having to use this Loud Voice often. I’m often shouting across a playground, a mall, sometimes an entire city block. I do so to halt my eloping child from bolting towards the street, completely unaware of oncoming traffic.  He has a tendency to walk far enough ahead of us–oblivious that the rest of us are far behind—to afford a child abductor a gloriously uncontested opportunity.  At other times, it’s as innocuous as stopping him from swiping french fries off another diner’s plate.

Sometimes, my husband (who at six feet is also a booming presence) is doing The Loud Voice. Nevertheless, I often have to chime in. His baritone merely gets absorbed into the mass of people, muffled and unnoticed, as if he’s yelling into a pillow. But my soprano-shriek is much more effective at piercing through a crowd and turning stunned heads. Luckily, my face is as thick as my voice is shrill. My Loud Voice could slice through ocean to let me run through it. All in hot pursuit of my son.

“Who me?  A special Needs parent?!

“I’m not the right person for this. I’m not patient enough. I’m not organized enough. I don’t even like kids. I don’t know anything about disability. I can’t do this! God, pick someone else…!”

After many years gutted by insecurity and inadequacy, wracked by the sinking sense of, ”I’m not the right parent for this kid.  He’s doomed, paired with me…” I finally realized the God-given purpose for this Loud Voice. He gave me this gift for a pre-ordained reason. He knew I was going to need it to call my beloved, oblivious son back to me. To alert him of danger, to jolt his attention to a light that’s gone red, or corral him back when we’ve turned left to his right.

In Chariots of Fire, Olympic runner Eric Liddell says,

Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire. 

“I know God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run I feel His pleasure.”

It took me a while to get okay with this special needs parenting gig. But I, too, know God made me for a purpose.  And when I am booming at my beloved son to call him home, I feel His pleasure.

The same Creator who custom-made my child, also custom-fit me for him, Loud Voice peculiarities and all. WE are His workmanship.  We are both wonderfully and fearfully made. A heavenly ordained pairing, we’ve been knit unto each other,

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 139:13-15

How about you?  

In what unique, “peculiar” ways has God hard-wired you that bless and serve your child well? Come on. Deep down, you know you’ve got something.  It’s not there by accident, so let yourself dance there a little.  I dare you. For He delights over you with singing



Diane leads the special needs ministry at New Beginnings Community Church in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Her book “Faith Rehab:  Spiritual Recovery for the Special Needs Parent” releases this fall.  For more of her writing, follow her blog at


Why Your Kids Need Someone Else to Talk To

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

By Carey Nieuwhof

I remember the day I turned thirteen. I was thinking of my red three speed bike with the banana seat, sissy bar and raised handlebars. I loved it, but I knew it was a kids’ bike and soon I’d have to ride a ten speed like every other teenager. I wish I could say I was excited about becoming a teenager, but the emotions were really mixed.

For one thing, ‘teenager’ wasn’t a great word back in the late seventies. At least from the perspective of a thirteen-year old, most adults seemed to either fear them or loathe them.

Secondly, I was the oldest child in my family of four kids and the only son. So I didn’t really have anyone to look up to in my family who could show me what being a teenager was like. I knew some teens for sure, but I knew they were into things that I probably didn’t want to get into. In the moment, going back a year to being twelve or even eleven seemed like a better option than turning thirteen.

I don’t remember having anyone to talk to about any of this. I could talk to my dad, for sure, but how do you have a conversation like that? I wasn’t even sure what I was feeling, let alone did I know how to articulate it. And while there were lots of adults around me, I didn’t really understand that I might be able to talk to them about life.

Ever been there as a kid?

Fast forward a few decades. I’m a father now with two sons who are four and seven years past their thirteenth birthdays.  I remember when they turned thirteen, I tried to initiate a conversation with them, just in case they felt like I did. Let’s just say the conversation was super friendly and super short. They either didn’t struggle with it, or, maybe, they didn’t feel like talking to their dad about it.

All of which reminds me of the importance of a wider circle.

I’m so thankful my kids are growing up realizing that there are other adults they can talk to that actually want to invest in them. They each have a small circle of a half dozen or so adults or young adults they have meaningful relationships with. Some have been mentors to them, others have been small group leaders or church staff.  Others are family members, friends and neighbors. They don’t need to be alone, and they’re not alone. I know they’ve had many conversations with their wider circles–some of which I’ll never know about. And for that, I’m incredibly grateful.

Do your kids have a wider circle of influence? Maybe it’s a small group leader at church, or a teacher who’s taken a special interest in them, or an uncle or an aunt they feel comfortable with. Whoever it is, it’s just important that someone is there. And as an adult, you can help foster those relationships.

Oh, and by the way, I still ride a bike.  And while it’s not red, it’s a ten speed road bike that I like even a little more than my beloved banana seat bike. Growing up wasn’t so bad after all.

Who have you got in your children’s life that can provide that wider circle of influence? What are you doing to encourage those relationships?

Celebrate Uniqueness

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
Photo by Reggie Joiner

Who I am is determined by a combination of things like:

My past experiences
My significant relationships
My personal interests
My spiritual beliefs
My personality traits
My physical characteristics
My natural talents

Each one of these things plays a role in shaping your child’s identity. Sure, there may be a host of people who have things in common with your child in each of these areas, but no one has the same combinations as your individual son or daughter. So, as parents, these issues become a way for us to think about the uniqueness of each of our children, and to help them begin a healthy journey toward understanding who they are. Here are a few suggestions to create an atmosphere in your home that celebrates the value of uniqueness.

Reinforce the Idea of Uniqueness Verbally
How often do you actually say something that encourages a sense of uniqueness in your children? It may seem strange but when my kids were younger, I would say things like, “Sarah, I just want you to know that you are my favorite second-born daughter.” She would reply with a sigh, “Dad, I’m your only second-born daughter!” I would smile and say, “Exactly.” There are a number of ways you can be intentional about saying things to your kids that add to their sense of uniqueness. Be specific. For example instead of saying, “You are a good writer,” you might say something like, “I can tell by your writing that you think in a very detailed way.”

Capture Significant Memories
Your past really does influence your understanding of who you are. Memory is a powerful force. There are significant moments that should be highlighted through photography, symbols, journals, etc. An author friend of mine recently talked about how he decided to collect things to decorate his home that actually reminded him of specific defining moments in his past. It makes sense when you remember that your past experiences are part of what makes your story unique.

Share Family Stories to give a Sense of their Unique Heritage
When my kids were younger, I heard a psychologist talk about how critical it was for children to hear stories about their parents and grandparents. He explained how it helped them contextualize their lives, and find a sense of connection and identity from the bigger story of their family. There are a number of ways to collect family stories. One way is to start a tradition on family holidays to have relatives tell stories about you and your parents from their perspective. It gives your children a unique view of you and themselves they would not otherwise have.

Expose them to Different Cultures and People Groups
If you live in the country, visit the city. If you live in the city, visit the country. Develop relationships with neighbors or associates who come from different ethnic backgrounds. Eat in a restaurant where the owners are from another culture and speak a different language. Ask them creative questions to find out something interesting about their culture. Watch documentaries together that broaden their understanding of how other people live. Teach them to respect the diversity around them.

Experiment with a Variety of Activities
Again, one of the most important things you can do as a parent is to continue to help your kids discover their strengths and passion. It’s okay for your kids to try out a number of things before they find the things they love to do and what that are naturally good at doing. When they are young, let them experience different kinds of camps, play different sports, experiment with art and music to discover their passions. I know parents who have let their older kids spend the day with different friends at work so they can get a better understanding of a variety of occupations. Remember, you are helping them narrow their focus to the few things that they will ultimately invest their life.

What other ideas do you have to teach kids about uniqueness?

The Humility of Connection

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

basketball hoop

by Tim Walker

Growing up, I had a hard time connecting with my dad.
As a kid, all I could see were the differences between us.
I liked to read comic books.
I loved to draw.
I would play with action figures for hours.
Or make spaceships out of boxes.
I loved TV, and I would anxiously await the arrival of the TV Guide every week in the mailbox.
When I played outside, it always involved some imagined scenario.
I was a detective chasing a criminal on my bicycle.
Or a superhero leaping over our chain-link fence to escape a super villain’s trap.
Or I would bring my hot wheels out and dig roads in the side of a hill, and build houses made of rocks.

My dad was a gifted athlete, who had a history of sports accomplishments.
Growing up, he played on the church softball team so our week usually included time at the ballpark.
He seemed so foreign to me.

Then something changed. When I was 12, my mother was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. She died a year later.

Suddenly, two foreigners had to learn how to relate.
We stumbled our way through it, but a trust and respect was built.
There’s something about survival that knits people together, and changes their relationship.
I didn’t become more athletic. He didn’t start reading comic books.
But we found more firm common ground than our interests. We found a way to enjoy each other without having to be like each other.
And in the process, we found some ways that we were surprisingly alike.

Now I consider my dad one of my closest friends.

But in a great twist of irony, I am now raising three very athletic boys.
And while I see glimpses of my personality in them, it’s wrapped up in three very different packages.
Two of them love basketball.
One loves lacrosse.

And while I have a basic understanding of both games, the intricacies of each are beyond my comprehension. My brain refuses to get concerned with stats or fouls or penalties, and simply focuses on games won or lost.

My boys know I’m an athletic idiot, so I don’t try to use words I don’t understand.
I say things like, “that was smart how you passed the ball to that other guy,” or “way to score that goal.”

But I try to find ways to get involved in their world.
I could never keep stats, or coach, but I can help set up the gym for a game, send out emails about the weekly schedule, update the team website, or serve my allotted time in the concession stand.

And while I don’t like to watch sports on TV, I love watching my boys play.
I marvel at them. They do things I simply can’t do.
They’re good. But they’re not just good athletes, they are good people on the court or field.
They play well with others.

And while they are not involved in band, or art classes, or drama productions, I’m okay with that.
It’s humbling to be the geek dad in the stands. The one who knows more about comic mythology than lacrosse plays, but I think I am able to discover some of the same things my dad did.

Connection takes humility.
Connection takes work.
And connection takes time, cultivated in many invisible acts.

While it took a catastrophic event in our lives to break down the walls between my dad and me, my hope is that these small efforts on my part will lead to strong ties with my kids.

Even if they don’t realize it right now.


Tim Walker 1Tim Walker works at Orange and is a husband, father of three boys, editor, writer—well, you get the idea. More of Tim’s words can be found at

“A” List Prayers

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Photo by Reggie Joiner


By Sarah Anderson

A couple of months ago, I attended a beautiful ceremony to celebrate a friend who decided to commit her future to missions. At a certain point in the celebration, my friend’s mom made her way over to where I was sitting. We small-talked for a bit, and then I asked her a loaded question,“How are you doing?” In other words, “Your mid-thirties single daughter is about to pack up her whole world and move to a different continent for the unforeseeable future. Are you okay with that???”

This mom, looked me in the eyes and said confidently, assuredly, beautifully, “Sarah, as a parent, there is nothing you pray for more than for your child to find their passion. Kelly found her passion. I could not be more happy.”

I am a novice at parenting. But when it comes to things I pray for my children, finding their passion and discovering God’s purpose, doesn’t always top my list. I know it’s supposed to, but praying my youngest doesn’t split his head open on our fireplace feels more pressing.

My prayers usually involve … Safety. Health. Protection. I allow those to trump purpose and passion on too regular a basis.

Beth Moore says we pray with a priority list in mind. We ask God all kinds of things on our kid’s behalf. Not bad things, but we pray them as a Priority A list, when God sees them as Priority B. It’s a happy marriage, healthy life, secure job. Great things. But, to God, they are B list items. Priority A consists of something along the lines of what this mom of a friend prayed for her own daughter.

That God get glory in and through the lives our children lead.
That God show Himself clearly and beautifully in the decisions they make.
That God gifts them with a passion and talent they willingly leverage to further His kingdom.

That is priority A. Sometimes, you’re fortunate enough to get both the items on lists A and B met. Other times, God’s A list is met at the expense of the B list.

Sometimes God getting glory in your child and your child fulfilling their purpose means they maneuver out of the imaginary net of safety you have cast around them. It means they move far away, they pursue dreams you didn’t have for them. It means they may not. . .

get married on your timeline,
invest in a 401k,
or be able to drink the water from the tap in the country they choose to live in.

I wasn’t planning on getting emotional at this commissioning service—it was a beautiful celebration of a friend’s long planted hopes being realized by taking up residence in an El Salvadorian girl’s home. What’s not to celebrate?

But then I saw her mom. And I realized as a mom, I wouldn’t be nearly as composed or enthusiastic as this mom was.

I would be terrified.
I would be paralyzed.
I would be selfishly wishing for something different.
And in doing that, I would be missing out on God doing something big.

What this beautiful mother did was embrace what is true for all of us—but which most of us spend a lifetime naively ignoring or fighting against.

Though our humanity protests, though our emotions resist, what we must know, is that though our children are forever bound to us; they are never really ours.

Though the early years find them tethered to us in ways not entirely endearing, the rest of their lives is spent in motion moving away from us. The challenge—and necessity—is to allow them to leave gracefully. To allow God the control that was His all along. To begin acknowledging that truly, we couldn’t ask for anything better for our children than for God to have His way, and to hope we may have the chance to not simply accept it, but to celebrate it when we start to watch it all unfold in a breath-taking masterpiece.

That is an A list prayer worth praying.


Sarah_Anderson_BW_144Sarah Anderson writes for the XP3 student curriculum at Orange. She is married to Rodney Anderson and is mom to two beautiful bouncy boys, Asher and Pace.

Parenting Isn’t For Wimps

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

wimp real


by Brooklyn Lindsey

Parenting Isn’t For Wimps

We’ve heard people say “parenting isn’t for wimps”.

So, if you happen to be a parent, it’d make sense to believe that you are anything but wimpy.


Then why do we feel like wimps occasionally? As a parent of two little girls, I question the validity of this thought —or maybe more, the fitness of my parenting.

I looked up the word “wimp” and found that it has about 105 synonyms. Not cool—especially when I can identify with 104 of them.

I also noticed that the word “wimp” only has about 15 antonyms. In my mind, that’s just wrong, and somebody just has to fix that.

Has our culture leaned that far into negativity?


But our parenting shouldn’t.

Your Position As A Parent

I want to reach out to you and remind you that you are the most precious person in your kids’ lives. You are in a position to love them and lead them like no one else can.

And even though you may feel like the wimp who is winning at losing (softy, pushover, fragile, killjoy, powerless, inadequate, waverer), you are actually in the lead when it comes to being able to pass on the good stuff to your kids, mainly because you are—well, not a wimp.

Not A Wimp

As you fight for the hearts of your children and lead them to other adults who will do the same, you defy wimp nature. When you are creative and personal and loving and fun, you kill the negativity that wants you to feel powerless.

The way you parent over time becomes the legacy you leave in the future. And I don’t know a single wimp who can handle that sort of calling.

You Are More Than You Think You are.

You are the antithesis of wimp, because at the end of the day (even at the end of your worst day), you are friendly, fun, and a behemoth in influence.

Your love over time will be the mega-hit of your messy and beautiful home. Be who you are. Don’t back down in your response to the most important people in your life.  It’s okay to be gregarious and present and open to change. You are an ambassador of creativity,  compassion, grace and forgiveness. . .

In my opinion, these things (and many more) makes you the most non-wimpy person in the universe.

Take the day back.

One of my goals this year was to make room for self-care, so I’d be healthy and able to be the non-wimp that I know I am. Procrastination is my enemy and being non-productive makes me feel less awesome than I want to be.

So, I’ve been trying something new called the Storyline Productivity Schedule. It’s free and super simple.

I write one page to take back my day.

My favorite part is listing what I would do if I could live today over again (before the day even starts). Incredible.

Most of us can predict when we will surrender in the wimp war and yield all sanity and sense to it’s lies. So this is a pretty sweet thing to do first thing.

Here’s one of my lists:

I would. . .

  • take a true non-working lunch to recharge and recover (self care)
  • before going home, take ten minutes to write a list of the days’ worries and leave them with the One I know who cares for me.
  • run-jump-hug my husband when I see him.
  • enter my kids worlds and imaginations, read books, and not worry so much about food on the floor after dinner (or about the fact that we don’t have a dog to eat the food on the floor, and how I wish we had a dog that we didn’t have to take care of but would take care of us)

The Dare

Think of a non-wimpy word for yourself and fly it like a banner over your life today (superheroes: comment with your word, because I want to add it to my death-to-wimpy-words-list).

Then ask yourself how you’re going to take back your day, one non-wimpy move at a time.


BrooklynBrooklyn has been a youth pastor since 2001. She has authored numerous books and projects, and is a youth pastor at Highland Park Church of the Nazarene, her first priority. Second she is a speaker who loves teaching from the Bible, and leading people to live in response to God’s love. Brooklyn, while named after a city in New York, lives in the sunshine state with her husband, Coy, and their sweet girls, Kirra and Mya.

Why Family Vacations Need to be a Non-Negotiable

Thursday, March 20th, 2014


It’s funny what your kids remember.

I was doing some reminiscing with my 18 and 22 year old sons recently. We were talking about the good times we had when they were younger.

I was remembering the. . .

dinner conversations
house full of friends
water fights
movie nights
bike rides and driveway hockey after school
. . .and so much more.

You know what both of them identified as some of their fondest memories growing up?

None of the above.

Both of them said of all the things we did as a family, our family vacations meant the most to them.

Family vacations were a part of our family rhythm even before we had kids. And they were a part of the rhythm whether we had money or not.

When our kids were small, we had very little extra money and we certainly couldn’t afford to fly anywhere.

But that never stopped us.

A couple times we drove for 8 hours and stayed with friends in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

We went camping many times. (Which, after it rained all night and poured into our tent, is where I came to believe God gave us technology and housing as a gift.)

We did a house swap with a pastor 12 hours away. (We won. His house was 30 minutes from the ocean and the beach.)

We drove all the way to Florida. . .twice. (It’s a Canadian tradition).

We found a really cool, inexpensive place an hour from home and spent a week there for about 18 summers in a row.

As the kids got older, we did some more adventurous things. I took each of my sons individually on a trip to the West Coast (we live near Toronto). Jordan and I drove through the California, Nevada and Arizona desert together and realized there really are places with no gas stations, no restaurants and no Starbucks for hundreds of miles. Sam and I downhill biked in the Rocky Mountains (my quads have never been so sore—I could barely walk for days).

In the endless car rides, nights under the stars, favorite-song-on-repeat forever, audio books on CD (Pecos Bill narrated by Robin Williams???—oh my goodness), arguments about which restaurants to go to and what time we were allowed to get up because we squeezed all of us into a hotel room. . .something magical happened.

Now I realize there will be some of you who say, “We can’t possibly afford the time or money for a vacation this year. ” We were that family more than a few times.

What did we do about the lack of time and money for a vacation? We went anyway.

It wasn’t part of some big plan. I know that at the time, given the craziness of life, we simply felt we needed a break.

We just had no idea that all this time together would have such a cumulative impact.

But looking back, I now see the value of spending time together over time. And strangely, at 18 and 22, so do my kids.

So this year, why don’t you take a little vacation?

Don’t worry about. . .

how simple it is
that it’s not exotic
that you can’t really find the money to fly anywhere

Borrow someone’s house and give them yours for the week. Go camping nearby. Go to the lake for the weekend. It really doesn’t matter.

But when you get away, something powerful happens in families. You’ll build a bond that’s deeper than you realize.

This summer, we’re going on another family vacation.

And you know what? I can’t wait. Surprisingly, neither can my kids.

What have been your favorite family vacations?

Forgiveness Rocks

Monday, March 17th, 2014


By Mike Clear

As a child, growing up, I liked rocks. I liked to collect rocks. Not sure why, maybe it was a result of watching too much of  The Flintstones as a child. I had this habit of gathering rocks everywhere I went, which included the school playground, along the unpaved roads near our house, at the ball fields, and near the ocean. One of the games I liked to play was to see how many rocks I could stack on top of each other before they would tumble over. As a child I guess I aspired to be an engineer like Fred Flintstone.

I also enjoyed throwing rocks—not at people mind you. Though there was the one time on the school playground, but I assure you it was in self-defense and no one was hurt; it was more of a warning shot. I especially liked throwing rocks into the ocean. I was actually pretty good at skipping rocks across the waves.

For me, rocks were a great way to pass the time and let my imagination run wild. I would put the rocks I collected in my pockets and carry them around with me wherever I would go. Here’s the thing I discovered though when it came to carrying around all of those rocks in my pockets. Rocks are heavy. All of those rocks in my pockets caused my pants to sag. I guess you could say I was sagging before it became trendy amongst teenagers.

As a child growing up, I also dealt with pain in my life. Some of it was trivial. I had two sisters and I was the middle child. Getting picked on by my sisters was some sort of right of passage that I wasn’t made unaware of.

Some of the pain I dealt with though was much more hurtful. My mother and I were frequently on the receiving end of my fathers’ emotional anger outburst. My mother finally having had enough of the hurt, divorced my father when I was 10 years old. For the next couple of years, I found myself right in the middle of a long and ugly custody battle in which I had to testify against my father. To say I had anger, bitterness, hurt and resentment during this time would have been an understatement.

Fast forward a few decades later and I’m nearing my 40th birthday. I have an amazing wife along with two beautiful kids. I now find myself in the position, as a parent, of trying to teach my kids about the idea and importance of forgiveness. Truth be told, I would do anything to help my kids avoid any semblance of hurt and pain in their lives; however, I know that’s just not possible. My kids will experience pain both inside and outside of my control. For me, the focus instead is on what my kids will do with those hurts when they do happen. To help illustrate forgiveness for them, I decided to reach back into my childhood and pull out my old trusted friends— Rocks.

I want my kids to know that when they’ve been hurt by other people’s words or actions, they have a choice to make. They can hold on to that hurt inside and chose not to forgive the person who has hurt them. However, holding onto that hurt is much like carrying around a big rock with them everywhere they go. The more hurt and anger they hold onto, the bigger the rock they carry around which can really weigh them down and consume their life.

Instead, I try to encourage our kids to let go of their hurt and anger by choosing to forgive. When someone has wronged them, I give them a rock and encourage them to throw it, not at the one who hurt them, but rather as far as they can into the creek behind our house. When they throw their rock, I explain to them that it represents the idea of  letting their anger go and deciding that the person who has wronged them doesn’t have to pay. It’s not always easy for them, or for me for that matter, but it’s a teachable moment and a great reminder for our family of what forgiveness looks like.

My hope for my family and yours is that together we will discover what God can do when we choose to forgive.

In our house, forgiveness rocks!


4839_224421730397_5496668_nMike serves as the Director of Children’s Strategy at The reThink Group. Mike lives in Cumming, Georgia, with his amazing wife Crystal, who thanks to him has the coolest name ever – Crystal Clear! Together they have two amazing children: Nash and Kennedy.


Tuesday, March 11th, 2014


By Gina McClain

“Do you understand what you just read?”

Over Christmas break I was enjoying my favorite past time. . .reading. At one point as I read, my daughter sat down next to me and was quickly engrossed in my book. We read the historical fiction in tandem, turning the pages only when the other was ready. But at one point we came across a complicated moment between two of the characters.

Though the situation was innocent, at 11 years old, her young mind had not encountered the scenario that unfolded in this story. It was a little too ‘mature’ for her age. You could say they were discussing a topic best had behind closed doors. And in the story. . .they were behind closed doors.


My daughter is an avid reader. And at this point in her life, I’m not able to preview every book she reads. And it’s clear that even in my presence, she will be exposed to situations that shape how she views things like love, marriage and intimacy.

As her exposure to the cultural norms increases, it’s my job to shift from being her filter to helping her create her own.

And honesty is my best tool.

When we read that passage in the story, I asked her, “Do you understand what you just read?”
She simply replied, “Not really.”

What held every opportunity for awkwardness became a moment ripe with connection. Knowing that honesty keeps a relationship authentic, I’d decided a long time ago that I would foster an honest relationship with my kids. I’d resolved to lean into conversations, no matter how awkward, and be a source of clarity rather than ambiguity.

Now don’t get me wrong. Every conversation must be tempered and appropriate to the age or stage of your child. Some details are better left unsaid. But as parents, we can create an environment in our home that fosters honesty by being willing to step into the uncomfortable moments and bring clarity.

It’s my hope that my daughter knows she can come to me for safe inquiry… honest explanation… loving guidance. Have you ever considered how your approach to uncomfortable conversations sets the stage for the next?  How your honest response today increases your chances for sincere inquiry later?


Gina_McClain_BW_160Gina McClain is the Children’s Ministry Director at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Gina is driven by the idea of equipping parents for the journey of teaching their kids how to follow Christ. Based upon her experience as a mom, she identifies with the everyday challenges parents wade through. Gina and her husband, Kyle, have three kids, Keegan, Josie and Connor.