Overcoming fear by reading and speaking words of life

By / Dec 8

I’ve dealt with fear my whole life as a mom. 

I was so excited about the process, but fear spoke to me constantly, telling me lies about my capability, my circumstances, and God’s faithfulness. Listening to fear caused a loss of joy as I believed these lies. I read lots of parenting books in an effort to overcome my negative thoughts and be a good mom, but the thing that really made an impact was literature.

I read The Hiding Place while we lived through the pandemic and knew that the God who kept Corrie ten Boom alive through the holocaust could keep us safe. I also read Endurance, about a feat of survival in Antarctica, and I knew that I could survive and thrive in my own circumstances. By fighting fear with literature and letting the truth of Scripture hammer it home, I recaptured the magic of motherhood. 

In Mothering by the Book, I share the lessons I learned from these books but one of the key steps that helped me overcome was simply speaking life.

My second child had problems focusing, forgot information easily, had seizures, and was a delayed talker. All of these issues opened the door to fear as I tried to figure out how to help her. In the long search for answers, when I was comparing my child to the “normal” children around her, I felt afraid and worried.

This fear led to believing and speaking the worst. My tone would convey my frustration and fear. Busyness in itself can lead to fear as we push ourselves to exhaustion, but sometimes in our lives as mothers, we are up against a wall. Babies are crying, toddlers need help finding their shoes, and school-aged kids have to finish their homework. We are pushed to the edge of our endurance.

The read-aloud that helped me overcome fear was about a runty little pig who wanted to live. In the book Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Wilbur comes to the terrifying awareness that he is destined for the Christmas dinner table. Fear grips him, but Charlotte, a mere spider, intervenes in a most unusual way. She decides to endow Wilbur with greatness through her words. She blesses Wilbur with words like “radiant,” “humble,” and “some pig,” and she convinces the world around him that he is indeed special. When Mr. Zuckerman, the owner of the farm, first encounters Charlotte’s words in the web he says, “There can be no mistake about it. A miracle has happened and a sign has occurred here on earth, right on our farm, and we have no ordinary pig.”1White, E. B. 1899-1985,, and Garth Williams. Charlotte’s Web. First edition. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1952.p.80

Wilbur tries to live up to her expectations. When Charlotte’s web said SOME PIG, Wilbur had tried hard to look like some pig. When Charlotte’s web said TERRIFIC, Wilbur tried to be terrific. As I read Charlotte’s Web, I realized that I was letting fear speak to me instead of words of life. Charlotte could have agreed with the barnyard animals that Wilbur was just a piece of meat, but rather, she changed his identity and his destiny through her words. The words of literature helped me encounter the truths of Scripture in real life situations.

Research confirms this power of words. In the book, Words Can Change Your Brain, Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman say, “And as our research has shown, the longer you concentrate on positive words, the more you begin to affect other areas of the brain…. A positive view of yourself will (then) bias you toward seeing the good in others.”2Newberg, Andrew, M.D. and Waldman, Mark Robert, Words Can Change Your Brain, Avery/Penguin Random House, New York, 2012, p.34

As Wilbur received the words spoken to him by Charlotte and believed those words, his life began to change. He felt radiant and terrific, and he started behaving like a radiant and terrific pig. People around him began to believe he was special as well, and it changed the course of his life.

Similarly, as I read, I realized that fear had caused me to speak fearful words over myself and my child. I whispered worst-case scenarios, “Maybe she will never learn to read,” “What if I can’t help her?”, “I can’t do this,” and these whispered words began to steal my confidence and lead me to criticize my daughter.

Perhaps you have been letting fear speak to you, letting fear shape your perspective? Perhaps in an effort to be honest, you’ve cursed yourself and your children, predicting future doom based on current behavior. Some of you might even have been under the impression that to speak blessings, to speak life over yourself and your children is new age mumbo jumbo. 

But is this truly what we learn from the Bible? Is speaking life over ourselves and our children somehow ungodly and uttering curses over ourselves and our children the holy thing to do? I make no claims of being a Bible scholar, but it’s imperative to understand that speaking words of life is biblical. 

Our children pick up on our attitudes and perceptions about them, and if we let fear cripple us and cause us to curse ourselves and our children, we are perpetuating pain into the next generation. In Romans 12:14, we are told to, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them,” so even when we feel persecuted by our children, we still need to speak life over them. Even when we hate ourselves and feel like we are our own worst enemies, we still need to speak life over ourselves.

When I realized this, I started speaking life in a new way over my family. I prayed the word of God over my children, and I was careful not to speak unkind or disrespectful words to them. If I needed to correct them, I would use words that separated the behavior from the child. “Your attitude isn’t very kind. I love you; you can do better.” Instead of saying, “You are a whiny brat!” Better to say “Please clean your room,” than “ You are such a little pig!”

Early in the book Charlotte’s Web, when Wilbur arrives at the farm and has to be away from his first friend Fern, Charlotte notices him and chooses him, “I’ll be a friend to you. I’ve watched you all day and I like you.”3White, E. B. 1899-1985,, and Garth Williams. Charlotte’s Web. First edition. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1952, p31 Right from the beginning, her words convey blessing, identity, and life. 

I believe that God is saying the same thing to us, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17, ESV) God loves us, celebrates us, calls us his own, and when we agree with God and start speaking life over ourselves and our children, fear has nowhere to land.

  • 1
    White, E. B. 1899-1985,, and Garth Williams. Charlotte’s Web. First edition. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1952.p.80
  • 2
    Newberg, Andrew, M.D. and Waldman, Mark Robert, Words Can Change Your Brain, Avery/Penguin Random House, New York, 2012, p.34
  • 3
    White, E. B. 1899-1985,, and Garth Williams. Charlotte’s Web. First edition. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1952, p31

How to pray for your in-law relationships during the holidays

By / Nov 25

For many, love, family, and favorite foods stir up happy dreams of coming home for the holidays. For others, gathering with family is more like a nightmare. Dashed hopes, unmet expectations, and disappointments lead to family fissures and intentional distancing. While this applies to any family relationship, this can be particularly difficult with in-laws. But, in the midst of what seems impossible, the good news is that God can bring hope into the most hopeless and hard relationships.

Everyone has a dream

The mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship can be especially complex. Each woman comes to the newly-created family with a dream. A mother-in-law may dream of carrying on with her traditions. Or, she may look at the relationship as a way to start over and make right what she did wrong in the past. Likewise, a daughter-in-law may dream of starting traditions of her own. And while she knows confidence in her new role will take time, she expects respect for her desire and effort. 

So, what could go wrong with wanting to spend time together as a family? Us! Our broken world and our own broken hearts stain our best efforts. Sin twists our good desires into unreasonable expectations. Unmet expectations can lead us to manipulate or guilt trip those we love best, and we get full of anger and resentment. But our emotions shouldn’t control us. We can ask God to show us where our good desires went wrong and plead for the grace to change. 

One year I started to dream of a holiday celebration with those I love most. Like a playwright, I turned my precious dreams into a complete story. I planned to a fault. I wrote mental notes of every scene imaginable. No one had access to the script, but I expected everyone to play their part in my dream perfectly. It didn’t take long, though, to realize that each person in my family came with their own dreams. I was surprised and hurt by unmet expectations.  

I’ve recently written a book with my daughter-in-law Stacy titled, Making Room for Her: Biblical Wisdom for a Healthier Relationship with Your Mother-In-Law or Daughter-In-Law. Writing together has helped us have some good conversations. We’ve learned a lot about loving each other well. Frustrations are certain. But we need to remember that we love each other, and our expectations usually arise out of good intentions. 

A better dream

Though working through these relationships can be frustrating, the answer isn’t to throw our hands up in the air and give up. God created relationships to help us see what his real love looks like. Your relationship with your mother-in-law or daughter-in-law — and every family member — is no exception. Our relationships are designed to not only show us what God’s love for us looks like, but also so that we can embody that kind of love. If you give up now, you’ll miss out on a chance not only to know God better, but to become more like him. 

Maybe you think, “Holidays will always be tough. You don’t know my in-law. I can’t love her. I’ve tried and tried — nothing I do makes any difference.” Here’s the truth: When you received Christ’s salvation by faith, God forgave you, and he did not leave you to try and live the Christian life on your own. He filled you with his Spirit (Gal. 3:14), and will do in you what you cannot do for yourself (Gal. 5:13–15; 22–23). 

Love for your in-law is the fruit that grows in your life by the Spirit’s power working in you. Notice what this means: You cannot produce this love on your own. Let this truth encourage you. Love is a fruit of the Spirit. If you could naturally love your in-law, it would be a fruit of your personality or your emotional intelligence. True love never happens without God’s Spirit working in you. 

God’s bigger dreams 

How does love keep growing in your heart? The same way it began: by faith in God. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). And God’s Word assures us that he loves us and will give us all we need to produce the fruit of love. Even in the most difficult of in-law relationships, God fills us with his Spirit so we keep growing in his love by faith. Only he can do it, so let’s ask him. Here are a few ways you can pray for you in-law relationships this season. 

Ask God for love. Pray for more love for him, your husband, and your in-law. Commit to pray for your in-law. Let your life and words be filled with courtesy and grace. 

Ask God for contentment. Pray for rest in your in-law role (Phil. 4:10–13). Take stock of how God blesses you every day, no matter how your role changes. Add your in-law to your list of blessings. Embrace her as a companion to your entire family. Realize her presence brims with beautiful potential. Trust in the Lord and take delight in him (Psa. 37:3–6). Commit your way to him and he will give you more love, joy, and peace. Choose to view your in-law in the ways you hope she’d view you. Trust God to help you grow to cherish her presence in your life.

Ask God to help you recognize your blind spots. Pray he’s help you repent quickly of jealousy and pride. Stop comparisons. Don’t view your relationship as a competition. Your in-law does not have it all. She needs your support, not your insecurity. Just like you, your in-law has problems, trials, and weaknesses. Ask God to help you learn to celebrate your in-law’s joy and success. Seek to reconcile, not to win. 

Ask God to help you forgive. The natural barriers between mothers- and daughters-in-law can make unforgiveness grow. We all need constant reminders to forgive. Has she hurt you? Has she wounded you? Ask God for a heart to forgive any slights. Don’t wait until you feel like it or she apologizes. Talk to her when the time is appropriate, and be ready to forgive her. Committed love promises forgiveness. And do not allow self-pity to eat away at your relationship. As you repent and forgive, God will teach you to love your in-law for who she is, not for what she will give you (Eph. 4:31–32). 

Our dreams for the holidays and for our lives are so small. God’s dream is always greater than we can imagine (Eph. 3:20). Your relationship with your in-law is a building block toward God’s greater vision. Begin now to ask Christ to make your in-law relationship part of his strong foundation for many faithful generations of your family to come (Isa. 58:12) — and to make this a happier, enjoyable holiday. 

3 ways to help your kids through grief

By / Nov 18

When I was growing up my family had friends with two sons. Both boys had the same genetic disorder, and they were not expected to live a long life. They were constantly in and out of the hospital and back and forth to doctor’s appointments. The oldest, Billy, and I shared a birthday. He presented me with a birthday present every year. 

One particular summer when I was 7 or 8 years old, our family received news that Billy’s younger brother, Stevie, had died. Within the next couple of days we were sitting in pews, remembering my friend.  

I don’t remember having any long conversations with my parents about why Stevie had died or asking them what happens after death. Growing up in church, I was reminded on a weekly basis that we could die in a car accident or Jesus could come back within the hour. I knew that our souls were at stake if we hadn’t trusted Jesus. I was told Stevie was in heaven, and I believed it. 

As a child and young adult, I believed that grief could only be felt because of a physical death. I did not know that grief could also be experienced because of the death of a relationship, lack of expectations being fulfilled, the loss of a job, tragic health diagnosis, or something stripped away that one expected to keep for a long time. In my late 20’s as I experienced more of life’s suffering, I began to experience grief in various ways.

When grief visited our family 

My husband and I have six children. Three of our children have died and gone home to the Lord. Our second son was born prematurely and passed away the day after he was born. My oldest was 2, and he was too young to remember everything that happened. His memories are what we have told him and the pictures we have shown him. As our son has gotten older, he has wondered what it would have been like to have a younger brother closer in age with him, but grieving wasn’t tangible for him until six years ago. 

Six years ago, our youngest son, Boston, was taken home unexpectedly because of a car accident. Boston was 4 years old. He was the bookend to our crew — vibrant, fun, hysterical, and the sweetest 4-year-old on the planet. My older children at the time were 11, 10, and 8. 

The morning of the accident, we all woke up in good moods, ready to face the day. But by the end of the day, our family was beyond devastated, wondering how we would all wake up the next morning. We did wake up the next day, but we awoke to a heavy weight of grief that had replaced our joyful son. 

As the dust settled after Boston’s funeral, my husband and I knew our family was encountering something that none of us knew how to navigate. When our second son passed away, my husband and I were the two grievers in the house. Our two older children were simply too young at the time to recognize what was going on. But now, we had three remaining children who had just experienced a very traumatic event. They’d lost a dear sibling, and we had to figure out how to parent our children in the midst of our own individual grief. 

Grieving as an adult is rarely done well, and often a child experiencing the same grief can get lost. So, how do we care for kids when they are grieving? Here are three encouragements.

First, give them Jesus.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Grief is hard. There’s no easy answer to it. My response to grief has been different than my husband’s, and each of our remaining children have had their own unique responses as well. There are no rules when it comes to grief. Grief can rip all the rules away and laugh at them. 

But as believers, we have comfort in our grief — the One who knows it best. Jesus experienced grief when encountering the Father’s wrath on the cross. He experienced grief when his friend Lazarus died. “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3a). In other words, Jesus knows. 

Others know, too. And their experiences and stories — particularly their experiences of Jesus’ comfort — can be a catalyst in helping our children work through grief and suffering. Our kids are not alone. Someone has gone through a similar experience before them. Here is an example of a conversation that can be had between a mother and her daughter after a tragic experience.

. . . Steph looked at her mom and said, “You too? Do you have scary dreams too? You’re afraid of today?!”  Forcing a smile her mom replied, “Oh yes! After losing your brother I’ve constantly battled with being afraid. Everyday I have to remind myself of the truth. Sometimes every hour. One of your tasks at school is to memorize Psalm 23. As you were practicing verse 4, I took a few minutes to listen, then read the words on the page . . .” 

Steph’s mom continued and closed her eyes like she had to remember something before she quietly began to say, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. For you are with me.” Steph’s mom sat as the smile grew on her face. The words washed over her again as she was reminded of what they meant. Then, as she slowly opened her eyes, Steph’s mom looked at her and asked, “Who is the “you” in the passage?” Steph thought for a minute, “God? Jesus?” 

In the Bible, we find Jesus in every story — from the Fall to King David to Nehemiah being tasked to rebuild the wall and beyond. Jesus is a constant comforter to his people. I find peace in knowing that he is a consistent Comforter to us and to our children when we adults are a hot mess.

Second, we don’t have to have it all together.

My kids need to know that I struggle too. I struggle deeply and have a lot of hard days. In the midst of those days, I need to ask them to give me grace, but I also need to recognize my children’s pain and not blow it off. It is beneficial for our children to see us grieve, whether it’s the loss of a marriage, a job, a house, a friendship, or a parent or sibling diagnosed with COVID-19. It is okay for our children to see us cry, to see us struggle and to see us wrestle with God. It’s okay for them to see us wonder and ask why. 

Why is it okay for us to not have it all together? It’s okay because our transparency will, in turn, give them the freedom to be honest and wrestle without fearing judgement from parents. We must let our children ask the hard questions. We must be okay when we don’t have the answers, and we must trust that God’s sovereign hand is with them in and through both the joys and the griefs. Let’s think again about Steph and her mother: 

Steph’s mom smiled and said, “Yes. David is scared too. In this psalm, he’s writing to remind himself of who his God is. He’s remembering that his God takes care of him and loves him and comforts him when things are scary — when he’s terrified to go to bed or to wake up the next day. God is with David just as he is with us at night during bad dreams and during the day when we struggle with circumstances that trigger our grief, or with fear when Dad comes home late.”

“The words of this psalm tell us the truth of who God is even when we are struggling to believe. It tells us that he is there to save us. He will use his word to comfort us — you and me. Always. We have nothing to fear because he is with us, even when it is hard to remember that.” 

Steph sat and listened to her mom talk. She realized that her mom probably struggles just as much as she does but hasn’t let on. Her mother lost a son and she lost a brother. It was hard for both of them. They both struggle with fear, and they both need God’s Word to remind them that God protects and comforts them in their moments of fear and doubt.

Notice in the example that when Steph’s mom is honest about her grief, Steph begins to understand that her mother struggles just like she does. That brings us to the next point.

Third, we are in this together.

Our children need to understand that they are not in their grief alone. They need to know we are with them and that we are for them. But most of all, they need to know that Jesus is for them. We need to continually remind them — despite our own grief — that we are there for them when they need to work through their emotions. 

One evening I picked up my daughter from her small group and as she entered the car, I said, “How was it?” She sighed heavily and replied, “A couple of weeks ago, a friend told me that she was grateful that my brother died.” 

Ooof. Even as an adult, those are damaging words to hear. I caught my breath and let her continue without saying anything.

“That really hurt. I know she was trying to be encouraging, because she said something about Jesus working in our lives, but I didn’t really hear that part too well. It just hurt. Why would someone say that!”

I could tell that hot, angry tears were on their way, and I didn’t blame her. Hot tears were filling my eyes as well. Many people don’t know what to say to those who are suffering — just think about all of the missteps Job’s friends made. When it has been years since a death, divorce, or whatever considerable loss you’ve experienced, many folks believe the pain must be gone. However, to the person who has experienced the loss, the memory can be very fresh. A comment like the one my daughter heard can tear a scab off of an old wound and cause the grief to gush freely again. 

My daughter wanted to confront the girl. I told her, 

“Thank you for telling me. You could’ve kept that inside and you didn’t. I understand that you want to respond and tell her how she hurt you. Sometimes being honest with a friend can be a loving way to help them to better care for people who are hurting. But sometimes when we do that, folks don’t always understand where we are coming from. If we’re still feeling hurt and the other person has never experienced something similar, the situation can get worse before it gets better. There have been a lot of times since the accident that people have said really hurtful things to Dad and me. Do you know what we did? We came home and talked to each other, cried with one another, and fled to Jesus. We have to remind ourselves that people sometimes don’t know simply because they have not been in our difficult shoes. I am so glad that you told me this. Do you know why? Because . . .”

My daughter joined me, “We are in this together.” 

We need to remind our children and ourselves that despite what is going on in our lives and our world, Jesus is bigger than the circumstances. He promised us in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” Jesus told us that we would suffer with sickness, brokenness, and death. He died for this, and he is sovereign over it. 

As Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” Thankfully, this world is not all there is. Because we have a secure future, we are able to give the gift of hope to our children even as we grieve together. We can remind them (and ourselves) that we will one day see things fully. 

Right now things are fuzzy and out of focus, full of pain and just plain hard, but when we are physically with our Savior, the scales will come off of our eyes, and we will see him, know him, and be fully known. Because we have Jesus, hope remains even in our pain. Let’s believe that he is enough for us and our children as we walk the road of grief with them. 

Herbie Newell on National Adoption Month

By / Nov 15

This week, Chelsea Sobolik sits down with Herbie Newell of Lifeline Children’s Services to discuss National Adoption Month, how the church can care for vulnerable children, and how we can be preparing for a post-Roe world.

Guest Biography

Herbie Newell is the President/Executive Director of Lifeline Children’s Services and it’s ministry arms including (un)adopted, Crossings, and Lifeline Village. Herbie holds a Master’s degree in Accounting from Samford University. He joined the Lifeline staff in 2003 as Executive Director. From January 2004 to December 2008, he served as the president of the Alabama Adoption Coalition. Herbie was chosen as a Hague Intercountry Adoption evaluator and team leader by the Council of Accreditation and serves in that capacity currently. Under Herbie’s leadership, Lifeline has increased the international outreach to 23 countries, helped Lifeline attain membership in the ECFA (Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability), and led the creation of foster care ministry. Having witnessed the plight of older orphans on many trips overseas, Herbie’s burden for the fatherless was a catalyst for starting (un)adopted during 2009. He worked with WAKM Companies, LLC, a prominent accounting firm, for many years as an independent auditor before being led to Lifeline.  He and his wife, Ashley, live in Birmingham, Alabama, and are parents to son, Caleb, and daughters Adelynn and Emily.

Resources from the Conversation

How should I respond if my child sees pornography?

By / Nov 9

How should I respond if my child sees pornography? This is an important question I am asked often as a counselor. For the purpose of this article, however, I want to ask the question in a slightly different way that I feel is more helpful, or at least more accurate, to many parents’ experiences.

“How should I respond when my child sees pornography?”

Instead of if, let’s say when. It’s a slight change but most likely the reason you are reading this article. Reframing the question this way helps you as a parent be prepared for what will likely be your reality as you raise your children in this digital age.

Whether it is an accidental glimpse of an image, a classmate sharing something on their phone, or a curious search on their own phone, laptop, or tablet, your child will likely see porn. Pornography is readily available, and sadly, statistics tell us that the average age of the first exposure to porn is just 11 years old. In most cases, this happens in the child’s own home. As a parent, your response when this happens is very important. In light of that, allow me to offer one more reframe. 

When your child sees pornography, instead of considering the situation a crisis, see it is an opportunity to shepherd your child. It may be an opportunity you wish you could avoid and never had, but, like many moments in parenting, this situation can lead you to deeper dependence on the Lord for wisdom, discernment, and grace. Though you may experience many emotions — saddened that your child has been preyed upon by such a wicked industry, scared of how this experience may affect your child, and angry that this is your new reality — I urge you to prayerfully see the chance you have to turn for good what the world means for evil. As a parent, you can use this as a teaching opportunity, a gospel opportunity, and an opportunity for change

A teaching opportunity

When you find your son or daughter has viewed or was shown pornography, you have an opportunity to teach and guide them biblically about sexuality. Teach them about the sinfulness of our hearts and minds and the need to submit desires to God’s good plan (James 1:14; Psalm 25:4-5). 

It’s an opportunity for you to teach your child about their own sexuality and God’s good design for sex. Talking to kids about anything related to sex can be uncomfortable. Often, parents feel unsure of what to say or how much to explain. Sometimes they worry about sharing too much. Other times, they wonder if their kids know more than they realize. 

The best way to talk to your kids about sex is to talk early and often. Avoid making the conversation a one-time event. Instead, let these talks be short, intentional, and as often or regular as needed. One-time, event-like talks tend to create an environment where sex is talked about once and never again. 

Help them to understand that sex is God’s design, and having an interest or curiosity about the subject doesn’t mean they are bad. It means they are human. Avoid conversations that communicate that sexual interest is bad. Instead guide them in understanding that sex has a God-designed, proper place. Teach them God’s plan for sex within marriage between a husband and a wife; these two things always go together (Hebrews 13:4), and that God sets wise and loving parameters around sex for our good and the good of others.

Instruct them in what it means to honor God with their desires and their bodies — and what it means to honor others’ bodies (1 Cor. 6:20). Teach your child what are appropriate and inappropriate pictures; this includes pictures they see of others or have taken of themselves. It is an opportunity to teach them about the incredible value people have as image-bearers and how we should never use other people — or pictures of them — in ways that do not honor them or the God who made them (Gen. 1:27; Psa. 139:4; Rom. 12:10). 

A gospel opportunity

This is also a gospel opportunity. The hope and forgiveness of Christ meets us in our sin, and you have an amazing occasion to bring this gospel to your child when you find out they have viewed pornography. The fact that porn even exists shows just how far our hearts have strayed from the Lord and reminds us of how much we all need Jesus. 

Communicate to them that pornography is a sin, and like other sins, it points directly to our need for Jesus. Viewing pornography is not an unforgiveable sin, but it reveals a need for cleansing, and we are all offered that freely in Jesus. 

Whether your child saw pornography willingly or accidentally, it is an opportunity for you to remind them of the forgiveness we have in Jesus. People who make or engage in porn can have their sins totally forgiven. And children who curiously explored pornography can also find abundant grace from God when they confess and repent. Remind them of the promise of 1 John 1:9 that says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The kindness of God is available for all who turn to him.

An opportunity for change

Finally, when your child sees porn, it is also an opportunity for change. As Christian parents, we pray the first and most significant change is spiritual. If your child has not trusted Christ, then a new heart born of his Spirit is their first need. And, if your child is a believer, this is an opportunity for them to draw near to Jesus in places in their lives that may have been kept hidden until now. It opens the door to a new and deeper commitment to repentance and following God in their life. If your child’s relationship with the Lord has been indifferent or superficial, pray for heart change to come about as a result of the discovery or confession of pornography. The Lord uses discoveries like this to draw people out of darkness and into his marvelous, healing light (Psa. 32:3-5; 1 Pet. 2:9). 

Christian parents long for God to use situations like this to bring deep internal transformation in the heart of their child. While heart change is the most important goal, finding out your child has viewed porn is also an opportunity to make needed external change. 

Consider this as an opportunity to begin evaluating or implementing family parameters around screen use. Is your home internet service secured with protection and filtering against pornographic content? Consider installing software to help secure your network and devices (Some examples include Covenant Eyes or Circle.). 

Other needed changes may be where your child uses their Wi-Fi-enabled devices and how much time they are allowed to spend on them. Educate yourself on what are healthy limits, and start implementing them. There are websites and agencies designed to help parents navigate this. The Federal Communications Commission and other government agencies have valuable resources to help parents keep kids safe and guide them in setting reasonable limits. 

You can also pick up a copy of two small books I have written for parents on the topics of sex and screens. Raising Teens in a Hyper-Sexualized World helps parents of elementary, preteens, and teens have conversations about the messages of sex that bombard kids today. Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World provides helpful tips for bringing wise and managable balance to screen use.  

But finally, when you find yourself asking the questions, “What should I do when my child sees porn,” remember: it is an opportunity for you to lean more desperately on the Lord as you parent. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, even when your heart is discouraged, afraid, or confused. Don’t lean on your own understanding, but prayerfully seek him for guidance, and he will direct your path (Prov. 3:5-6). 

God can redeem even the most heartbreaking situations and use them for good. Look to him, and prayerfully depend on him as you use this situation as a teaching opportunity, a gospel opportunity, and an opportunity for change.

How Christian nonprofits are leading international orphan care

By / Nov 1

Of those most tragically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 1.5 million children who lost parents or grandparents worldwide may be the most heartbreaking. In the wake of such loss, international child welfare advocates have bolstered efforts to care for these newly orphaned children. 

Many of those advocates are Christian nonprofit organizations like Faith to Action Initiative (FAI) and Lifeline Children’s Services. Both groups exist to resource churches and communities with what they need to help orphans and vulnerable children in the name of Jesus. 

“COVID has had an incredibly horrific impact on families and children around the world,” Herbie Newell, president of Lifeline Children’s Services. “It’s multiplied poverty, it’s multiplied helplessness and hopelessness.” 

A collaborative movement to care for children

Thankfully, there is a collaborative movement afoot to provide the best care possible. Recently, UNICEF held an annual event in recognition of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. More than 30 years ago, world leaders committed to an international agreement granting children the same human rights as adults. It wasn’t until 2019, however, that the group signed and adopted a resolution that committed to prioritizing family-based care over institutionalized care for children. 

At the event, FAI presented a letter urging governments to acknowledge the significant role Christian nonprofits play in caring for orphans and to include them in care reform efforts. A report from the Better Care Network found that one of the largest groups supporting orphanages abroad are evangelical, Protestant churches. 

Despite that reality, said FAI’s Executive Director Elli Oswald, at times it can feel as if UN reforms are more like mandates than collaborative solutions. “We think it’s important for Christians to share their experiences,” said Oswald. “They [can then] build their ownership over changes that need to happen.” 

In the letter, FAI proposed that countries be required to regulate the funding investment from Christian nonprofits, to ensure their contributions go exclusively toward their family-based care goals. 

A move toward family-based care

The 2019 resolution and move to recognize Christian leadership in orphan care is even more important today, as the unanticipated outcome of a worldwide pandemic left so many without nuclear families. A move toward family-based care on an international level -— through economic support, kinship care, foster care, and adoption — will help create better results for children, who fare better in such environments. 

In the United States, the orphanage is a thing of the past since the 1950s and 60s transition to almost exclusively government-funded foster care as the accepted model of care. But these institutions are still prevalent in many countries around the world. To be clear, orphanages are often the best care available — and are certainly important for children without other options — but institutional care isn’t optimal. 

FAI and other groups ultimately hope to create family-based care options everywhere. In 2019, all member states in the UN committed to moving toward this goal, but the process isn’t quick or easy. While governments have been amenable to working with faith-based organizations, FAI and its coalitions, including World Vision, Bethany Christian Services, and Catholic Relief Services, would like to see Christians get a more prominent seat at the table. In doing so, they could shift reforms to more gospel-centered priorities rooted in the family model God created from day 1. 

Part of this shift, said Oswald, would include reforms to economically and strategically equip vulnerable families before orphancare is needed. Many so-called orphaned children in third-world countries actually have at least one living parent. But because social systems don’t offer them the economic stability they need to continue parenting through struggle, kids often end up institutionalized. Part of orphancare reform would include putting money toward in-tact families who just need a little help to survive hard times. 

Centralizing Christian organizations in conversations about orphancare matters greatly. It puts the gospel front and center and amplifies the voices of those most committed to caring for children with their pocket books and their lives. The Bible calls all Christians to “look after orphans” (James 1:27) — and it’s clear from the Creation story that the family unit is God’s intent for the flourishing of all people (Genesis 1). 

“It’s vitally important that the Church work together to ensure that institutions are a last resort for vulnerable children who don’t have a family,” said Newell. “Adoption is still a great way to live out the gospel, and we’re grateful to work with so many loving Christian families to facilitate that.” 

With so many divisive issues on the line across the world, there’s one that nearly everyone can agree on: keeping children around the world safe, housed, fed, and loved. There is no perfect way to ensure this for every child, but Christian organizations like FAI, Lifeline, and others are doing all they can to make it so for as many children as possible. 

How a children’s ministry can partner with Christian parents

By / Oct 28

We desire a strong and robust partnership between children’s ministry and parents. Some Christian parents view the church as the place where their children merely “get saved.” These parents neglect to teach the Word at home, which puts more pressure on the church to produce Christian children. They send their kids to church, Christian schools, and camps, expecting that full-time Christian ministry folks will teach, instruct, and model faith for their kids. (One ornery parent once said, “After all, that’s why we tithe, right? We pay you so you can do this work for us.”) 

There is no formula to produce Christian children. No way for us to say or do the right things so that out pops a born-again kid. God must redeem our children. We know only God saves (Jonah 2:9). Yet, in his magnificent plan, he uses means to accomplish his sovereign purposes in salvation (Romans 10:14–15). God uses parents to point children to the truth and the gospel community around them to underscore the message of the gospel. 

Children’s ministry (and the church as a whole) is another means that God uses to declare his truth to the coming generations. Children come weekly to sit in Bible classes, listen to the prayers from the adults, and sit under the preaching of God’s Word in the main worship service. God uses adults in church to point children to the truth. 

Children’s ministry should never replace Christian instruction in the home. We teach, model, and disciple children while they are at church a few hours a week. But we also (as a church) build up parents so they can fulfill what God asks them to do — teach the next generation about who he is and about his wondrous deeds (Psalm 78:4–5). 

How does the church come alongside Christian parents to equip them in this task? 

1. Spiritual maturity is always our first goal 

This is what we expect of parents (and any member of our church): 

  • They attend the weekly worship services to join with others in prayer, sing, and sit under the preaching of God’s Word. 
  • At least once a month, they partake of the Lord’s Supper with the rest of the congregation. 
  • A parent meets for one-on-one Bible study and prayer with an older, faithful Christian from the same congregation. They are mentored and poured into. 
  • Parents engage in regular fellowship with other believers. 
  • They daily spend personal time in prayer and God’s Word. 

These are not optional add-ons for the Christian life. God uses these spiritual disciplines to grow parents in faith, hope, and love. 

The best Christian parenting comes from a mom and dad firmly grounded in Christ. Maturity in Christ is the goal, not just for parenting, but for all of life. The apostle Paul declares, 

To them, God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ (Colossians 1:27–28, emphasis added). 

If parents are missing church services often (for whatever reason), if they are not plugged into a small group, if a mom or dad doesn’t meet up with an older Christian to study the Bible, if they never spend any time in the Word or prayer on their own, then we’re not moving toward this most important of goals. 

2. We equip parents to know what Christian parenting looks like in the trenches of real life 

You can’t presume that parents will just “get it.” If you didn’t grow up in a Christian home, then you don’t know what Christian parenting looks like. You don’t know what it means (though you can try to make up for that with Christian videos and books). You experientially don’t know what it’s like and how biblical truths shape and define a home. 

There is far too often a gospel deficit in our parenting. How many parents would be embarrassed if someone played a videotape of their parenting? What would we see? Ugly comments, screaming, impatience, and constant fighting? Parents can sometimes act like the Bible is irrelevant for what happens between Monday and Saturday. You may think the work of a children’s ministry is limited to teaching the children. But the children are connected to families, and the family context is where they most grow and mature in their faith. So, helping families is often the key to real growth in these children’s lives. 

The pastor can share parenting principles from the pulpit whenever it’s appropriate to the text of the sermon. Staff can also instruct in parenting classes, offered for all age groups. An older father or mother in the faith can come alongside and mentor younger parents. There is an abundance of ways we can pass on truth and wisdom to younger parents. 

Terrance sat in the car with Scott, his discipler, as Scott drove his son, Jacob, to soccer practice. In recounting the story to us, Scott couldn’t remember what prompted Jacob’s tantrum, but his 4-year-old son had an all-out-scream-your-head-off fit. All the parenting books in the world can’t teach Terrance what he witnessed over the next few moments — a father frustrated at first (that’s Scott’s sin), then calming down his son with gentle words, and patiently helping little Jacob to work through his tantrum. It’s parenting in 3D — live, in person, real, and raw. Terrance, as a young believer, observed something that he never got growing up in a non-Christian home — a Christian parent whose gentleness (Proverbs 15:1), care, and patience (Ephesians 4:1–3; 6:4a) gives off the aroma of Christ. 

3. We encourage parents to start with the Bible 

We want to build into parents a desire and confidence to read the Bible and instruct their children. If the Bible is functionally irrelevant to what’s going on in the home and parents have no personal engagement with Scripture in their lives, it won’t show up in their interactions with the kids. If parents don’t treasure God’s Word as the very words of God himself, then the Bible will be absent from the home. However, if parents think, This book contains the very words of eternal life, they will do whatever it takes to make Scripture relevant to everything they do with their children. 

Here are a few practical suggestions about a parent reading the Bible to his children. Picture Jimmy, a dad, teaching his three kids — Benny, Betty and Peter. 

He reads the entire Bible. When the kids are younger, he starts with the Old Testament and Gospel stories, sometimes taking time to retell stories in his own words. As they get older, he adds and explains more abstract portions of Scripture, like the Pauline epistles. 

He reads thoughtfully. If Jimmy reads with a monotone voice, his kids quickly get bored. Instead, he reads in a way that makes the words comes to life. Sometimes he even uses different voices for different characters, or more inflection and more pronounced pronunciation of key words or ideas. 

He points to Jesus. Jesus is the new Adam; where Adam failed, Christ succeeded. Jimmy helps his kids make connections between the different parts of the Bible and Jesus. Moses, Joshua, and David all point forward to Christ. 

He dialogues with his kids. Rather than turning it into a monologue, he asks questions to help his children engage with the stories and learn from them. “Why did God bring a flood?” (Genesis 6:11–13). “Why didn’t the rich young ruler give up his wealth?” (Matthew 19:21–22). “Why did Jesus weep when he saw Mary and the crowds after Lazarus died?” (John 11:33–35). 

They pray, sing, and memorize Scripture together. Jimmy models prayer. Don’t be surprised if his kids start praying just like him, because they’ve heard him do it often. Jimmy and his kids sing truth and memorize it as another way to know Christ. 

What can we do as a church to help these parents? We equip parents to understand how to read their Bible properly and how to share with their children. The kind of teaching Jimmy submits himself to in his local church will dictate how he teaches his children. If his pastor carefully explains the Bible text and applies it every time he opens the Bible, Jimmy learns from him how to read the Scriptures correctly. If an older man in the faith in one-on-one discipling works through books of the Bible with Jimmy, he learns how to read and ask questions of the text and how to apply it. And as parents learn these things, Jimmy grows more confident in his ability to do this with his children. 

It’s far too easy for parents to presume that much of the Bible will be beyond their children’s comprehension. But that’s just not true. We challenge parents to teach the rich and deep truths of Scripture in a developmentally appropriate way but to not water it down. 

4. We equip parents with gospel tools 

Books or curriculum should never replace a family’s Bible reading, but there is an abundance of books, catechisms, curricula, and music that might help supplement our teaching. Because most Christian books or curricula are not available at your local public library, Christian parents and the church staff are a Christian resource library. Parents can highlight good books for other parents and pass them around. Church staff can also draw attention to resources and give them out on Sundays. 

Parents can expand a child’s knowledge of faithful Christian living. He or she could read a biography about a Reformation character or a missionary. By reading biographies, parents offer living examples of the gospel to their children. 

Parents could spend time at dinner reading about different countries in the world. It’s good to expand the children’s knowledge of God beyond the boundaries of their own neighborhood, to see how big and mighty the Lord truly is. 

5. We help parents to endure in faith 

Jimmy and his daughter Betty have a fight, and Jimmy spends the next hour feeling like a failure and wanting to give up. He piles self-condemnation onto the situation, mumbling to himself afterward, “You’re an idiot of a parent,” or, “You’re no better than your dysfunctional parents.” 

In parenting, you want to play the long game. You help parents remember that one nasty fight or lousy day doesn’t have to set the tone for their home. Out of fear and a lack of faith, parents let hard days define them far too much, but it doesn’t have to be so. The painful reality is that parents are going to sin and make mistakes. 

There are two ways we set an example of faith in Christ for our kids. The first is obvious; children learn by watching their parents obey and follow Jesus. Parents show with their day-to-day choices what it looks like to trust Christ with all of their life. But what about the times when we sin? Second, parents set a good example by demonstrating humble repentance. When parents ask God for forgiveness, turn from their sin, and lean on Christ for strength, their kids have a front-row seat. God’s grace teaches parents to live godly lives and steers us back to the cross when we fail. That is grace upon grace! These parents desperately need a heavy dose of God’s grace. 

The church holds out this grace to parents and reminds them again and again that their life is rooted in God’s grace. Parents can endure and take hope as they stay grounded in the gospel. 

Self-Examination: A gospel partnership 

How is your church building up and supporting parents? What are you currently doing? What can you change, expand, or add to your current offerings? 

Excerpted from Build on Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide to Gospel-Based Children’s Ministry ©2021 by Deepak Reju and Marty Machowski. Used by permission of New Growth Press. May not be reproduced without prior written permission. 

How do you respond when the worst-case scenario is real?

By / Oct 12

Over the last couple of years, many of a pastor’s worst fears have shown up on the front porch of our churches — conducting funerals for multiple church members who have lost their lives because of a terrible disease and losing other church members due to a convictional stand or a difficult policy decision. Many pastors who believed their positions were secure now worry about losing their jobs. 

Depending on your countenance, you may be more or less prone to fear the worst-case scenario. If you’re a mental prepper — you know, the kind of person for whom giving into anxiety and fear is more of a temptation — you’ve probably played out the situations in your mind. But if you’re less prone to or acquainted with fear, your body, mind, and soul may not understand how to respond. 

My wife, Kaitlyn, fits the first category. She plays out the scenarios in her mind, down to the smallest details. I tend to shrug things off as unlikely, and I’ve tended to view fear as an enemy of the human experience. 

It’s all fine until the situation is real 

In the midst of all of the other pressures of pastoral ministry, Kaitlyn and I have been longing for more children. And expanding our family hasn’t been a quick and easy journey. 

When we find out we are pregnant, the joy is uncontrollable. After praying month after month, we feel like God has finally answered our prayers. Given my wiring, I can live with daily joy and excitement without even the slightest reservations about having a child. Kaitlyn’s joy comes mixed with hesitation. She can’t help but think about the worst possibilities. 

The worst-possible scenario for us was a doctor telling us that our child — the child we’d begged God for — had miscarried. Then it happened. The hardest day imaginable was harder than anything fear could have prepared us for. 

What do you do when your worst possible fear comes true? How do you respond? 

We grieved, and we grieved hard. Friends and family loved us well. People in our lives taught us how to lament and cry out to the Lord in our pain. But days after that doctor’s visit, when Kaitlyn and I were processing what had happened, she spoke what has been a life-altering statement for me. She said, “You know, this is the worst possible scenario I could have imagined, but I’m here, and we are okay.” 

Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Even in experiencing hell on earth, God gave us his sustaining presence. Kaitlyn’s heart and emotions said, “Yes, I always fear the worst. Now I’m here, and it hurts. But God is here, too.” God’s unique wiring in my wife, which I can be tempted to be adverse toward, was the gift I needed to endure in this season. Her ability to see the brokenness of the world before the shards of pain got to us was the Lord’s providence in our life to give us hope. 

We’re embracing hope in the Lord, but that doesn’t mean our circumstances aren’t still hard. It’s incredibly hard. Our story has not been wrapped up with a neat little bow. Since that doctor’s visit, there have been more doctor’s visits and procedures. We continue to trust the Lord about our family, but losing our child has honestly stirred up more fears. 

Yet Christ has used suffering to produce hope in us amidst the fear. Sure, we know that more fear will come. Before this life is through, more worst-case scenarios will show up on our front porch. We will suffer loss. We will experience hurt. The hope we have is not wishful thinking nor blind optimism. Our hope instead is rooted in Christ’s sustaining presence. I’m grateful he has used this particular suffering to produce hope in us now and, I pray, again when future difficulties arise.

What about you? 

You may have lost someone to an illness, or you might have lost a job. Like us, you may have endured a miscarriage — unable to bring the child you longed for home. There are no simple answers to grief. Everyone grieves differently, because everyone’s story — everyone’s griefs — are different. But know that in your grief, God is with you. 

Maybe you are prone to fear, play out all of the worst-case scenarios, and try your best to avoid them. Or maybe you’re feeling paralyzed due to the weight of difficult circumstances that you never foresaw. Wherever you are, there’s hope in Jesus. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. Call upon him in the midst of your fears, amid your difficult circumstances. Let the hope you have in the Lord and his sustaining grace carry you through.

How to approach parenting with wisdom, grit, and gospel focus

By / Sep 23

“Parenting isn’t for wimps.” That’s how Jimmy and Kristin Scroggins open their book, Full Circle Parenting: A Guide for Crucial Conversations. In the chapters that follow, they show you why. But more importantly, they show you how to approach parenting with wisdom, grit, and gospel focus.

They do so with the recognition that “Christian parents have to have rock-ribbed convictions, nerves of steel, tender hearts, and open arms—all accompanied by a fantastic poker face” (3). This sort of honesty is refreshing, because when it comes to books on parenting, all too often we’re met with content that is laughably formulaic. A three-step strategy that offers a fast track to turning your child into a Christian, an honor-role student, and homecoming king is sure to sell copies. The only downside: it’s never that simple.

Not only that, but in the publishing world it’s mystifyingly easy to find marriage books written by near-newlyweds, or parenting books from authors who are looking forward to their child’s upcoming graduation — from kindergarten. Instead, the best sorts of books in this vein are from those who are further along and offering wisdom that only comes from experience and tempering. Jimmy and Kristin Scroggins offer precisely this sort of wisdom, and, frankly, are precisely the kind of parents I would want to emulate myself.

Over the course of the book, the authors work through a series of topics that will be of use to any parent: sexuality, technology, peer pressure, realities of substance abuse, bullying, and how to have challenging conversations. Throughout these topics, several things in particular stand out.

Full-Circle Parenting is realistic

Jimmy and Kristin Scroggins provide a remarkably clear-eyed view of the challenges that come with parenting, particularly in chapter two, which lays out a Christian vision for parenting, and chapter three, which outlines how children themselves are complex. Throughout, the authors explain how sin warps both parents and children. Children, for example, are going to act in stupefyingly inconsistent ways — even “good” kids. Like the pediatrician reassuring the anxious young parents, “Oh, that cough you heard is completely normal and you needn’t worry,” Jimmy and Kristin Scroggins remind us what we should expect when we approach parenting.

Full-Circle Parenting is gospel-focused

Additionally, Full-Circle Parenting moves beyond a vision of what’s to be expected, to how we may address each of these topics in the context of the gospel. Each of the subjects the authors cover are placed in the context of the 3 Circles tool — which traces God’s design for our lives, the sin which leads to brokenness in our lives, and the remedy of repentance and belief in the gospel that allows us to recover and pursue God’s original design. This tool, originally conceived as a tool for evangelism and gospel presentation, is endlessly helpful when applied to issues of parenting and the Christian life as well. These aren’t “Jesus bits” tacked on at the end of a chapter but rather than main thread that weaves together everything the authors say on a given topic. Grounding each one in the context of God’s design, sin, repentance, and flourishing is not only helpful and practical but exactly what a Christian book should be.

Full-Circle Parenting is timeless

Thankfully, this book does not provide granular advice on how to block harmful websites or how to utilize particular apps to track location or whatever the case may be. As necessary as this sort of information is, these technologies move far faster than the publishing industry does. Instead, Full-Circle Parenting writes from a decidedly 21st-century context, but one that speaks to issues in ways that will be still be relevant 10 and 20 years from now. Instead of, for example, providing a specific age and kind of phone to provide to one’s children, the authors talk about the principles dictating how they use phones, who is responsible for them, how we should think about technology, and how we can model what we prioritize in our own lives. This kind of counsel does not suffer from an expiration date.

Full-Circle Parenting is practical

Perhaps the most noteworthy element of Full-Circle Parenting is just how endlessly practical it is. Throughout the book, there are sample conversations of how to address situations with one’s children and scripts to give to children to help them navigate difficult conversations. There are innovative ideas, like “sibling time” in chapter seven, which details specific ways Jimmy and Kristin have sought to create a culture of togetherness and friendship within their family. There are candid admissions about how they counsel their children to deal with peer pressure and bullies. Most importantly, there are gospel principles throughout which will continually remind readers of the foundational issue (and solution) behind every problem.

In all, Full-Circle Parenting succeeds most notably in providing an honest and compelling vision of what it takes to parent faithfully: both gospel and grit. It focuses on the importance of creating an environment where families can thrive, modeling a life that children can emulate, and providing a tool that parents in all life stages can use to think clearly and biblically about how to shepherd their children faithfully and point them to the gospel. Parents should read it; pastors should stock their shelves with it; and churches should give it away regularly.

One of things on social media I regularly enjoy is when Jimmy Scroggins posts video clips of athletic coaches talking about discipline, strategy, effectiveness, skill development, and growth, or any number of issues. When he does, he often adds a single line of commentary above: “Pastors should learn from coaches.” In their new book, however, Jimmy and Kristin Scroggins are themselves the coaches — outstanding ones we should all learn from.

3 ways parents can talk to their kids about Afghanistan

By / Aug 23

The news about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan is nearly unavoidable, and rightly so. We are watching a horrific human rights atrocity happen before our very eyes. Our children are likely seeing the images but are not as tuned in to this historic event, and that’s OK. But as Christian parents, it’s important that we teach our children to mourn with those who mourn. Here are three things my husband and I did with our children to help them understand what is happening right now and how Christians should respond.

Find a good news source

I’ve found that listening to news for children can be an effective way to introduce them to complex world topics. While we will often show them video footage of current news at times, some events feel too weighty for children to watch. So, we chose to listen to this podcast from the BBC while we ate supper. A podcast allows us all to listen while doing something else (like eating a meal) which makes it seem more natural and less forced. 

We listened to the first 10 minutes or so of the episode and paused when needed. This segment included a few fascinating interviews with those being directing affected by these events, including a female activist who refuses to leave Afghanistan out of a commitment to the women and girls that she has mentored and led over the years; and a journalist in neighboring Pakistan. The news felt even more real and pressing to them because of the ability to hear from people halfway around the world. 

Allow plenty of time for questions

Our children are 13, 11, and 9, and they had a lot of questions. Who are the Taliban? Are they like Al Qaeda? Why are the U.S. troops leaving the country? Why are we in Afghanistan? My husband and I had read a few articles that day and watched several clips online about the horror happening, so we tried our best to explain what we were seeing. But most of the questions they asked were not cut and dry. We had to answer “I don’t know” several times and explain to them that some things are more complicated than we’d like them to be. 

Ultimately, we made every effort to point our children back to the fact that we need to pray for the Afghan people because God is the only one who can fully understand and deliver them. We also tried to humanize things for them so that they could better understand how to pray for the Afghans. We told them that some people were so desperate to leave the country that they held onto the tires of evacuation planes in hopes that they would be able to survive, only to fall to their deaths. We wanted them to think about what it would be like to feel that desperate. We’ve found that it’s always good to help children cultivate empathy for others, especially in a crisis like this.

Pray together

The final thing we did as a family was to pray. My husband read Micah 6:8 and talked to our children about the injustice that is happening in Afghanistan and why it’s right that we pray for justice. I then picked five things we could pray for and let each member of the family pick their topic. Since we have five people in our family, it made sense to identify that number of topics. This makes praying a bit easier and helps us avoid generalities. 

These are the things each one of us prayed:

  • The U.S. government, military, and President Biden: Our 11-year-old son prayed that God would give President Biden and the generals involved in the military wisdom to do what is best and to help the people of Afghanistan. 
  • The Taliban: Our 9-year-old son prayed that these people would stop doing wicked things and that God would soften their hearts toward the Christians living in Afghanistan. 
  • Women and children: Our 13-year-old daughter prayed for women and children to be protected and that their value would be seen by those who seek their harm. 
  • The church in Afghanistan: I prayed for our brothers and sisters in Christ that live in Afghanistan and asked for the Lord’s protection, while also asking God to give them courage to endure and face possible persecution and execution. 
  • The country of Afghanistan: Jesse prayed for the Afghan government, for justice, and for God to bring structure to the chaos. He closed our time in prayer with some reiterations of what we all had said, thanking God for his sovereignty in this moment and always.

You can also find another ERLC prayer guide here

If you are a parent, especially a parent of elementary age children and older, I encourage you to talk to your children about big world news like this. If you’re like me, you will probably feel inadequate. But, we can trust that God is working on our children’s hearts through our imperfect efforts. 

Our time together didn’t go as I’d planned, though. While listening to the podcast, we still had to deal with real family issues. We had to stop a few times to deal with relational conflicts that occur at any family dinner table. And in between listening to the podcast and our prayer time, we had to deal with a child that was mad about someone eating their food. This is real-life parenting.The kids were not perfectly enraptured with the podcast or our answers. Sometimes I could tell their minds had wandered off. But we were faithful in the moment to model empathy for another people group, and to take those concerns to the Lord. That is all we can do as parents. I encourage you to trust God with your inadequacies as you walk your kids through important moments in our culture.