Page 1

faith ▪ family ▪ life ®



Journey of Ten Thousand Miles

God brings freedom to a Ugandan boy through an American lawyer


years in the making

An adoption becomes national news

Sugar, Sugar


What’s a parent to do? OCTOBER 2016

U.S.A. $4.00




® September 2016


“The List”

A True Story


Mature Hope LIVING


Page 8

Resting in Page 12

APRIL 2013

Columbine’s Rachel Joy Scott Deadly Sins


I’m ofNot AGING Ashamed page 8

Page 22

A Life Lesson Our Hometown from


Page 46

page 14

Will I Be Forgotten WHEN I’M GONE A Biblical Perspective


MISSIONS PROJECT That Could page 52



page 26 SEPTEMBER 2016 • U.S.A. $4.00

APRIL 2013 • U.S.A. $3.95

by CHRIS FABRY Page 34

How to Face LEGACY Life’s Changes of Leadership,

God’s Way Stewardship, Page 46 & Discipleship


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October 2016

contents V O LU M E 7 1 , N U M B E R 1


faith 12


Renaissance Woman Whether she’s cooking, gardening, traveling, singing, writing, teaching the Bible, or enjoying her nieces and nephews, Kelly Minter loves being a part of the community of God. by Elizabeth Hyndman

family 28 Near Miss

This adoption almost didn’t have a happy ending. by Andrea Lucado

36 Telling It on the Mountain

As the National Park Service turns 100 years old, one couple serves Christ at the gateway of Yellowstone. by Sarah Davis

42 God the Creator & Clothing Maker

God has revealed Himself to us through His story. by Eric Geiger



52 Ten Thousand Miles

God brings an African boy and an American lawyer together to do what seemed impossible. by Mark Kelly

68 Go Forth and Die

Jesus shows us that the values in His kingdom are the opposite of the values in this world. by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck


Sugar, Sugar That which we call by any name would taste as sweet. by Linda Ross Shoaf

On the Cover


12 Renaissance Woman by Elizabeth Hyndman 28 Near Miss by Andrea Lucado 52 Ten Thousand Miles by Mark Kelly 70 Sugar, Sugar by Linda Ross Shoaf Cover Photo: Dean Dixon Photography



contents▶Departments faith 10




48 50

in the arts by Phyllis Rose Serious Art. Serious Faith. The practical meaning of God as Creator is a palette for the imagination.


forward progress by Michael Kelley Parent’s Progress


among friends by Kristen Strong Getting Through It

for such a time by Trillia Newbell Not Enough Time

family 32

love that lasts by Jackie Bledsoe Good Things Happen Five ways being broken and homeless changed my family.


family coaches by Gary & Barb Rosberg Joy in Trials God will carry you through it.



blended by Gina & Michael Spehn You Can Stand on His Word God does some of His best work through a family brought together by brokenness.


parenting on purpose by Gary J. Oliver More than a Fairytale Cultivate relational growth in your marriage.



a funny thing happened by Rhonda Rhea Good Choreography Follow God’s rhythm of grace and stay in step with Jesus.


purse strings by Scott & Bethany Palmer College Bound Take time now to have three must-have conversations with your child.


It’s been over half a century since the Jim Crow laws were abolished, but change is slow.


abundant living by Holley Gerth Nothing Wasted There are no scraps in the hands of the One who works all things together for our good.

Take some time and shed some tears over the changes that impact your life.


family time by Stacy Edwards Don’t Be Afraid God can handle our fears.

The gospel shapes everything about us, including the way we relate to our kids.


power of the home by Rhett Wilson Making Things Happen Help your kids grow into leaders who honor God through serving others.

grounded by Michael Easley People of the Clock In your crazy, busy schedule, don’t just make time for God; take time to be with Him daily.



new life by Jennifer McCaman It’s Not Fair Praise God that His justice and mercy never fail.


October 2016

from your kitchen Author, Bible Teacher, Songwriter... and Cook Kelly Minter shares a few of her favorite recipes.


school zone by Jon Eckert Teachable Tapestry A mosaic of students makes an exceptional classroom.


living well by Dr. Christy Ott The Itch that Rashes Treat your child’s eczema in four easy steps.


living light by Matt Tullos Whac-a-Mole Days Jesus is with you every day, all the time.

in every issue

34 57 74

captured by God family-friendly media abide

online ~ this month at

▶ OCTOBER FAMILY TIME CALENDAR featuring daily Bible readings and talking points to help you disciple your family (see page 48) ▶ PRINTABLE SCRIPTURE ART (see pages 11, 27, and 51)

VOLUME 71, NUMBER 1 October 2016 MANAGEMENT PERSONNEL ERIC GEIGER Vice President, LifeWay Resources FAITH WHATLEY Director, Adult Ministry AMY LOWE Manager, Adult Ministry Publishing PRODUCTION & MINISTRY TEAM ANGELA THOMAS-PHARR Executive Editor DAVID BENNETT Managing Editor DAWN WYSE Art Director EMILY ELLIS Publishing Team Leader SEND QUESTIONS/COMMENTS TO: Editor, HomeLife One LifeWay Plaza Nashville, TN 37234-0175 Or email us at

Printed in the United States of America HomeLife (ISSN 0018-4071, Item 005075226) is published monthly by LifeWay Press® , One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234, Thom S. Rainer, President. © 2016 LifeWay Press®.

coming ~ in November ▶“Home for the holidays” means different things to different families. ▶ Read an excerpt from Beth Moore’s new Bible study Entrusted. ▶ Live each day in gratitude to God for all He has done — and will do.



For inquiries visit, or write LifeWay Church Resources Customer Service, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234-0113. For subscriptions or subscription address changes, visit, fax 615.251.5818, or write to the above address. For orders with three or more issues shipped to one address, mailed monthly, at the ministry rate, visit, fax 615.251.5933, or write to the above address. Annual individual or gift subscription rate, $29.95. Save 60% off the cover price by choosing the ministry rate to place your order (three or more issues shipped to one address, mailed monthly), $1.95 each per month, plus shipping. Please allow six to eight weeks for arrival of first issue. This magazine includes paid advertisements for some products and services not affiliated with LifeWay. The inclusion of the paid advertisements does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by LifeWay Christian Resources of the products or services, and LifeWay accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any statement, representation, or warranty made in such advertisements or for the soundness or quality of any such products or services so advertised. Purchase or use of such products or services is at the user’s own risk. We believe that the Bible has God for its author; salvation for its end; and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter and that all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. The 2000 statement of The Baptist Faith and Message is our doctrinal guideline. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. HomeLife does not accept unsolicited manuscripts or queries and cannot accept responsibility for their return.

Because . . . . . . there’s much to explore in the biblical world A L B I B L I C

number 4 volume 42

summe r 2016




The Message and Purpose of 1 Samuel Banking in the First Century



iking boots. Canteen. Compass. Passport. You may believe these are what you need for exploring Bible lands, but that’s not the case. From the comfort of your sofa, you can visit Abraham’s homeland, explore the Egypt Joseph knew, and see where Jonah lived. See battle scenes and birthplaces, mountainsides and memorials. Each quarter, Biblical Illustrator examines lands, customs, cultures, history, and archaeological sites of Scripture. There IS so much to explore; let Biblical Illustrator take you there. Order your subscription, today.


To order, call 800-458-2772 or go online to


welcome home

Hard Things My son, William, is a math and physics

major at University of North Carolina. The last time I helped him with homework was in the sixth grade with spelling words. Yesterday, he called to talk about next semester and three minutes in, I was lost and looking for my computer. He’d say, “Thermodynamics,” and I’d Google “discrete math,” then more Googling. On and on we went, with William talking and me typing like crazy, trying to speed-learn enough to hang on. Even when his words are unfamiliar to me, I never want to stop learning how to talk to the one I love. For most people, it’s just hard to talk about hard things. Sometimes it’s quantum-mechanics kind of hard. Other times, it’s anything outside-my-comfort-zone kind of hard. We check out or mindlessly nod our heads. We judge before they speak. We think we get it, but we don’t. We falsely assume, misspeak, and misunderstand. And when it feels like no one cares enough to try, the silence between us becomes a canyon filled with hurt, anger, and pain. The followers of Jesus can’t tune out the hard things or turn away. What if we try to stumble and fumble with our words until the good in our hearts finds its way to theirs? What if we learn to say more things like: “I don’t understand, but I want to.” “I can’t imagine how that feels; will you tell me?” “I want to support you; will you teach me how?” With humility, by God’s grace, may we courageously begin to learn about the hard things we don’t understand, so we might love as Christ called us to love, and live as He called us to live. For His name,

Angela Thomas-Pharr

Connect With Us:




Elizabeth Hyndman

Renaissance Woman (page 12) Elizabeth is an editor and social media strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources. When she’s not inserting Oxford commas and answering questions about Bible studies, she likes to drink chai lattes, write, and explore her home city of Nashville, Tennessee. She blogs at and tweets @edhyndman.

Eric Geiger

God the Creator & Clothing Maker (page 42) Eric serves as one of the Vice Presidents at LifeWay Christian Resources, leading the Resources Division. Eric has authored or coauthored several books including Creature of the Word and the bestselling church leadership book, Simple Church. He also serves as the senior pastor of ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin, Tennessee. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie.

Kelly Minter

From Your Kitchen (page 60) Kelly is an author, speaker, songwriter, and singer. She is passionate about women discovering Jesus Christ through the pages of Scripture. She loves to share about the healing and strength of Christ through the Bible’s truth. Kelly writes extensively and speaks and leads worship at women’s conferences, retreats, and events.

HomeLife often includes websites that may be helpful to our readers. We verify the appropriateness of each site prior to publication. However, content changes frequently. We encourage you to use caution before visiting any website.

We love to hear from you! Write to us at:

faith new life


It’s Not Fair

Praise God that His justice and mercy never fail.


round age two, my kids develop a kind of sixth sense I call “the fairness antenna.” They’re freakishly attune to injustice — and by injustice I mean their sibling getting 8.5 seconds longer on the good swing at the playground. They can’t see a giant mess of toys, but they can instantly differentiate whose slice of cake is one crumb bigger. They demand fairness. Fairness is getting what you deserve, receiving what you’ve earned, and claiming what is rightfully yours. This longing for fairness extends past childhood and into our adult lives. We know when we’ve been treated unfairly by a boss, the government, a spouse, or a friend, and it grates on our last nerve. The problem comes when we project our idea of fairness onto God. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Even the most spiritual person you know was born an enemy of God. We have all fallen short of His standard of righteousness. For God to be fair, we would all be separated forever from Him. Spiritual fairness is us getting what we deserve: eternal punishment for sin. We deserve hell. We deserve the brokenness we were born into. God is infinitely holy and we’re infinitely sinful. He’s fair and justified to cut us off forever. But He isn’t the least bit fair as we understand fairness. John 3:16 says, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” God is the opposite of fair; He is merciful. He sent His own Son to satisfy His demand

for perfection. Jesus died in our place and took on Himself the wrath of God. Even when we didn’t love God, He loved us. His love is more powerful than our sin. Only through Christ do we have forgiveness of sins and a relationship with our Creator. Maybe you’ve had a distorted view of fairness when it comes to your relationship with God. Maybe you’re still trying to earn salvation through working hard or doing good things so that God will owe you heaven in return. That’s not how it works or no one would ever be saved. Accept the free gift of salvation and trust in the work of Christ on the cross. If you choose to believe Jesus died for your sins and to receive a new life through Him, pray a prayer similar to this one: Dear God, I know I’m a sinner. I believe Jesus died to forgive me of my sins. I now accept Your offer of eternal life. Thank You for forgiving me. From this day forward, I will choose to follow You only. If you’d like to speak with someone about how to have a new life in Christ, call toll free (888) 537-8720. If you prayed this prayer for the first time, please seek out a local church. You were never designed to live for Christ on your own. You were made for community with other believers. Just like you, the church isn’t perfect, but full of other believers seeking to live for God. Take a risk and find community in a church near you. □




Jennifer McCaman

has gotten pretty good at walking the fairness tightrope between her children, especially when it comes to cookies, toys, and kisses.


Emily Burger / / Proverbs 27:7 ES V


Download this printable art at




Renaissance ~Woman~ Whether she’s cooking, gardening, traveling, singing, writing, teaching the Bible, or enjoying her nieces and nephews, Kelly Minter loves being a part of the community of God.

by Elizabeth Hyndman



Growing up in the church wasn’t always easy. Kelly struggled for a while with trying to live up to a standard she considered the Christian pinnacle. In junior high, she began to realize she couldn’t live up to that impossible standard. She still writes to that girl — “You’ll see in a lot of my writing and a lot of my work, I’m always trying to push people to holiness, but not in an avenue that’s through legalism.” Now, she says, her entire family tends to be more grace-focused. Kelly also wrestled with depression and anxiety, starting when she was young. Her parents didn’t always know how to help, so it was something she fought on her own. Through those battles, though, she was driven to Scripture. She says it was that struggle that helped give her a love for the Word because she didn’t have any other fallbacks.

Serving: Missions and Music

Through it all, Kelly is thankful for her church-filled upbringing. She says, “Now at this age, I’m so passionate about the church because when I look back, I realize I’m so glad that wasn’t optional for me. And [it seems] it’s [become] so optional now.” Awana groups, youth lock-ins, and retreats all

De an Dixon Photogr aphy


ELLY MINTER is a Bible teacher. She also writes, gardens, cooks, sings, travels, and plays guitar. She’s a modern-day Renaissance woman who’s passionate about the local church, community, home, and Scripture. Kelly was born in northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. months after her parents decided to start Reston Bible Church. Her dad went from working at a golf club to being a pastor after starting a Bible study that grew into a church. Kelly likes to say she was “literally born into the church,” since she came along just a few months later. The oldest of four, Kelly was a serious child, driven and curious. She attended Bible studies with her dad, played sports, and picked up a guitar every now and then. Always thinking and questioning, when asked if she wanted to make a declaration to follow Christ, Kelly said, “Not until I understand the whole Bible.” She can look back now and see that even at a young age, she believed. She was and is being sanctified.




Justice & Mercy International (JMI) Kelly serves on the board of directors of Justice & Mercy International, a Christ-centered organization that cares for the poor and forgotten in the Amazon and Moldova. “One of the greatest adventures of my life has been partnering with JMI. I’ll never forget the first time I ventured down the Amazon River and met its beautiful people. Ministering to jungle pastors and their wives who serve these communities is a profound privilege (and catching piranha and searching for caiman keep things exciting). “I didn’t realize there was room in my heart for more than the Amazon — it’s a pretty big river. But when I touched down on Moldova’s soil with JMI, the poorest country in Eastern Europe, I met orphans and vulnerable children whose lives are being nothing short of radically transformed through JMI’s programs. Turns out … there was more room in my heart. “I would love to personally invite you to find out more about JMI at” — Kelly

gave her a foundation and a love for the Lord that has grown throughout the years. The early start in church has also made the local church very important to Kelly. She’s been a part of the local church for 12 years in Nashville and loves being grounded in a group of believers who meet every week to worship and learn together. Another thing Kelly carried from her upbringing in church was a passion for missions. The church she was a part of while growing up gave 40 percent of everything to foreign missions, so Kelly and her siblings were exposed early on to God’s work around the world. This exposure gained ground when she became part of Justice & Mercy International as an adult. She goes to both Moldova and the Amazon jungle each year, supporting JMI’s mission to help both tangible and spiritual needs. It’s this dual purpose in mission work that drew Kelly in from the start. Jesus says, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me” (John 4:34). Kelly continues, “Mission work is our food. It’s our sustenance. I’m always so filled after these trips with JMI.” She loves the eternal work of pointing people to the One who can fulfill all their needs. Kelly travels around the world from Nashville, Tennessee, her home and ministry base. She moved to Nashville for



music, as so many do. She signed a few record deals in her first few years in Music City. Music has always been a part of Kelly’s life. She has sung and played guitar from a young age. She was drawn to it, she says, because “it was a way to express myself that was different even than writing words. Playing music is just moving.” Now Kelly gets to lead worship and play music at all of her events, alongside Bethany Bordeaux, a violinist and friend. She still writes songs, but turns often back to the old hymns, keeping their melodies, but making them her own. Music is a part of her life. She loves seeing women connect through music as she leads worship, disappearing into the background of others’ moments with God.

Writing: A Favorite Part of Ministry

Kelly also connects to women through her words. She has always loved writing, but began writing professionally over a decade ago. She’s written four Bible studies with LifeWay Christian Resources and last year published her book about the Amazon, Wherever the River Runs. She prefers writing for communication because it often feels like “the most thoughtful and controlled and purposeful way to express something.” When she’s challenging and encouraging people of faith in their walk with Christ and exploration of theology, she likes to craft her sentences. Through writing, she communicates and connects with people’s hearts and experiences. She says, “When I can put a piece of myself down and I know that someone’s going to pick that up and internalize that, that to me is the greatest occupation.” Kelly often says writing is her favorite part of ministry. However, her ministry as an aunt definitely takes top place. Kelly has three nieces and two nephews, and two

De an Dixon Photogr aphy






The Living Room Series

All Things New: A Study on 2 Corinthians by Kelly Minter

In All Things New: A Study on 2 Corinthians, Kelly Minter explores timeless truths to remind us that Jesus Christ came to make all things new. During eight sessions of group study and seven weeks of personal study, rediscover sufficient grace, comfort, humility, and gentleness experienced in a personal relationship with Jesus and community with other believers. A version of the study for teen girls is also available. Both release November 1 and can be found at

of them live right down the street from Aunt Kelly’s house. She loves playing the aunt role. “You really do have a special place that’s unique.” She takes her role seriously and looks for ways to nurture her nieces and nephews in the faith, but also knows that being an aunt means she gets to be the fun one and hopes her house is always seen as a safe, fun place for them to go. In addition to her nieces and nephews, Kelly looks for ways to invest in the younger generation. She encourages others to play the aunt role, even for kids who aren’t flesh-and-blood. “We can have really special relationships with people who are going to grow up, and we can be a part of their lives forever.”

One of the ways Kelly invests in the lives of those around her is through cooking. Cooking, for her, is community focused. She remembers growing up in a house where her mom made dinner every night for the family and whomever happened to be over that night. They sat down and talked about their days together while they ate. It didn’t have to be fancy. She says, “It’s just about putting something out on your table and inviting people into your home.” We’ve let this go in our busyness or sacrificed it for our desire for perfection and Pinterest-worthy tables. “Don’t put that pressure on yourself. Just have people over to your home and put something down on the table and welcome them in. It’s amazing how powerful that can be.” Kelly prefers to cook for her friends and family when they come over. She says, “I’m passionate about it because of what it does for the people around that table.” As she chops tomatoes or grates cheese, she thinks about how everything she is touching is going to physically nourish someone else. It’s spiritual to her. That’s why she also started a garden. There’s a process she gets to follow and God has set it up so that she is able to be a part of cultivating a plant from seed to table.



That’s why Kelly’s Bible studies have recipes in them. (See page 60 in this issue of HomeLife for three of her favorites.) The table is a community piece. We see Jesus sitting down with His disciples and unbelievers for a meal. The table is an important aspect of our lives together. Cooking is also an anchoring thing for Kelly. Because she has struggled with anxiety in the past, she has learned that there’s something about cooking and having people over that centers her. Her home does that, as well. She wants her home to be a warm, inviting, peaceful place. Kelly’s home is a special place, perhaps because she travels so much. She wants to keep it sacred. It isn’t perfect — fights happen, disagreements, sadness — but she is very deliberate about what comes into her home. She wants it to remain safe and accessible to those who need a warm, comfortable place. Whether she is cooking, gardening, traveling, playing with nieces and nephews, singing, or writing, Kelly loves being a part of the community of God. The Renaissance woman brings home with her, inviting others along as she falls more deeply in love with God and His Word. □

De an Dixon Photogr aphy

Setting: The Table


Elizabeth Hyndman

is an editor and social media strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources. When she’s not inserting Oxford commas and answering questions about Bible studies, she likes to drink chai lattes, write, and explore her home city of Nashville, Tenn. She blogs at and tweets @edhyndman.

Cultivate: A Women’s Gathering Around the Word


I have a deep love for Scripture. It’s saved and changed my life. So at a Cultivate event, Bible teaching is central. I also adore music, especially the hymns. And since I like to hear everyone’s voices — your singing voice — the Cultivate Worship Trio is elegantly made up of a piano, acoustic guitar, and violin. Simple. (If we get really big one day, I may add percussion.) If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re all poor and needy, so we take prayer seriously. At Cultivate, we’ll pray for and with one another through guided prayer times. And since we’re not meant to be filled without pouring out, local and international missions will be a thread throughout the weekend. We have a lot of stuff to do out there. We so hope to get to worship and learn together soon! —Kelly and the Cultivate Team For more information go to

Julee Duwe Roark

I culled from my years of experience and distilled what I love about any women’s gathering into four primary elements: Scripture, worship, prayer, and mission. All tied together by community, of course. After many months of prayer, a few conversations, and a ‘test event’ later, Cultivate was born. (The name is a nod to the way God cultivates our hearts, and my ridiculous enjoyment for watching things like spinach grow in my backyard.)

Scan this QR code to watch a sample of the Cultivate experience.



faith grounded


People of the Clock

We are people of the clock. It’s time to get up, time to

shower, time to get dressed, time to make breakfast, time to pack lunches, time to work out, time to drive the carpool, time to get to work, time to check email, time to return calls, time for a doctor’s appointment, time to pick up the kids, time for soccer practice, time to make dinner, time to wash dishes, time for a load of clothes, time to catch the news, time to get ready for bed, and before we know it, time to get up again. We can feel trapped as time marches on. We fret, “If I could only find the time.” Someone observed, “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” Dr. Seuss asks, “How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June.



My goodness how the time has flown. How did it get so late so soon?” Carl Sandburg said, “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” As part of a Bible study that my wife Cindy and I lead, we use a book and workbook, Living By the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible, by Dr. Howard Hendricks. The goal of the study is to get folks into the Word every day. To begin, we urge folks to carve out 30 minutes at least five out of seven days. And this is where it gets difficult. Many folks have a hard time “finding time.” Adding to this, some of us struggle with reading. Perhaps in part, technology has made it so quick and easy to find the


In your crazy, busy schedule, don’t just make time for God; take time to be with Him daily.

IF JESUS, THE VERY SON OF GOD, NEEDED TIME TO BE ALONE AND IN PRAYER WITH HIS FATHER, HOW INDEED CAN WE LIVE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE APART FROM SUCH TIME? answer, the unintended consequence is our loss of patience. Careful studying, meditating, and reflecting on something we read feels painful or boring. Rather, we simply click, click, and click our way to some answer. We have lost the benefit of deep reflection and time in His Word. In chapter one of the Gospel of Mark, we have an interesting glimpse into one day in Jesus’ life. On Sabbath, Jesus taught in the Capernaum synagogue. He then healed a man with an unclean spirit. Leaving the synagogue, He visited Simon and Andrew’s home along with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law is ill and Jesus healed her. When the sun sets, a long line of demon-possessed and sick people show up. The “whole town” presses in to see what this Jesus would do. Dr. Hendricks, or “The Prof,” as his students called him, often referred to the account of what may be considered as the busiest recorded day in Jesus’ life. Then we read in Mark 1:35: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place. And He was praying there.” Arguably, we could say, Jesus had every right to sleep in the day after all those events. He is, after all, fully God and fully man. The Gospel records that when Jesus was exhausted, He slept in a small boat on the stormy Sea of Galilee. But we can’t miss in Mark 1:35 how His need for fellowship with His Father was greater than His need for sleep. If Jesus, the very Son of God, needed time to be alone and in prayer with His Father, how indeed can we live the Christian life apart from such time? When I review the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, I’m chagrined that it’s so easy for us to make excuses. Certainly God isn’t mad with us because we don’t spend time in His Word, time with Him in prayer, or time with Him in worship. But what kind of relationship can we have with someone if we never spend time with them? So a sick child kept us up all night. We had to finish an email for work. We had a paper to write. Those chores don’t

get done by themselves, and they never end. And if that weren’t enough, we have no time for ourselves! On and on we can protest that we don’t have the time. But time is a constant. We all have the same amount. We can’t create more. But we can, in fact, control — and indeed choose — how we will use the time we have been given. We all know it: There are 24 hours in a day. The question is, can we spend oneforty-eighth of each day, quietly, without technology, with just a Bible, a notepad, and a pen? I’ve been trying to teach people to read and study their Bibles for years. At the end of all our excuses and reasons, it takes one simple commitment: scheduling a nonnegotiable time every day to be alone with our Father. Let me leave you with a further thought. For all our excuses of not liking to read, not having time, the Bible being complicated or boring… would 30 minutes every day actually prevent you from accomplishing something more important? My prayer for you is that you start a routine today. Schedule 30 minutes and be as stubborn as you have ever been. Read His Word. Reflect. Rest. Become a lifelong student of your Savior who loves you more than you can imagine. And I’ll predict, over time, that 30 minutes will not be enough. It will grow. And one day, you’ll find out you can’t wait to spend 30 minutes or even an hour every day with Him. It will be the highlight of your day. The more time you spend in His Word, the more you’ll fall in love with Him, and know for certain that it’s the best use of your time. □

Michael Easley is a fan of John Wayne movies

and declares The Searchers to be the best Western of all time — because it’s John Wayne. He is a teaching pastor at Fellowship Bible Church, author, former president of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, host of Michael Easley inContext (, speaker, and Mexican food connoisseur. Michael and his wife, Cindy, reside in Brentwood, Tenn.



faith in the arts


Serious Art. Serious Faith. For Christians at work in the visual arts, the practical meaning of God as Creator is a palette for the imagination.


AMERON ANDERSON IS A MAKER. A creator. A Christian. He is executive director of CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts), an organization founded in 1979 with the express purpose and ministry to further “serious art and serious faith” by engaging in culture. Makers, according to Anderson, include capabilities not limited to thinking, imagining, forming, shaping, starting, finishing, reforming, editing, estimating, plotting, scheming, and designing. Anderson is an artist, writer, academician, and an evangelical Christian. In his recent book, The Faithful Artist: A Vision for Evangelicalism and the Arts (Studies in Theology and the Arts), he explores the tension between Christianity and the arts. “To say we’re ‘Christians’ and ‘artists’ is bold in culture, and bold in the church. Culture largely sees Christians as censors of creative expression and freedom.” Anderson cautions, “In the more culturally elite institutions it isn’t imagined that those two can go together. “In the fine arts, the implication is even more severe. Self-identifying yourself as a Christian on a resume in a secular university may impact your ability to get the job.” But according to Anderson, this is not a one-way street. He recognizes the modern church has not always been hospitable to artists. “The church has often seen artists as difficult to deal with,” Anderson notes. In 1977, prior to CIVA’s formation Eugene Johnson, a ceramicist, professor, and preacher, served on the faculty, of Bethel College (now Bethel University) in St. Paul, Minnesota. Buoyed by the enthusiastic support of his faculty colleagues, he hosted a conference for Christian artists that drew some 170 participants from across North America. “These were the days before email and Facebook,” Anderson reminds. Two years later, a similar conference was held at Calvin College, and Christians in the Visual Arts became an official organization. The group has about one thousand members from individual artists, arts professionals, theologians, academicians, people in arts ministry, galleries,



collectors, churches, arts departments, and publishers. “It’s safe to say,” Anderson prefaces, “in the world of visual arts and among people who are Christians, it is the most robust network around. We are a big intersection of people for a broad range of Christians. “We have a lot of people doing innovative things,” Anderson says, referring to a staff member who has recently curated a traveling exhibit that will premiere in 2017. Ned Bustard is CIVA’s primary graphic designer and a printmaker. His vision for “Revealed: A Storybook Bible for GrownUps” was to focus on art that would cover the entire story of redemption, warts and all. Artwork in this exhibit illustrates the unvarnished truths of the Bible. “This probably isn’t a good ‘first time’ exhibit for a church,” Anderson admits. “Members need to cultivate an appetite for art, to look and understand it in relation to the stories from the Bible.” According to Anderson, a biblical art exhibit, such as the “Revealed” collection, or any of their half-dozen current exhibits,

“We’re noticing that a lot of churches are coming back to the visual arts.” ~ Cameron Anderson

Clockwise from Top Left: Sur la table by Helen Zajkowske, Can You Drink this Cup I am About to Drink? by John Kiefer, The Marriage at Cana by Laura James, Invitation by Susan Savage. Lower left: Cameron Anderson.

Courtes y CIVA .org

because we’re living in such a visual world,” Anderson muses. “The world of art and Christianity is coming together, in some places fairly dramatically.” CIVA makes exhibits available to churches for a reasonable fee. Look for more information at □ from “Come to the Table” to “Touch, Anoint, and Heal: God With Us,” is a different way to study the Bible. “What do we do when we study the Bible?” Anderson asks. “We study the context. We study who wrote it. We ask questions. Maybe the first time we read it, we don’t totally understand. Certainly 20 years later we can come back to the story and find things we’ve never understood before.” Anderson believes that cultivating an appetite for art and an understanding for art is similar. “We’re noticing that a lot of churches are coming back to the visual arts. There are a lot of grass-roots movements in churches right now to open galleries. There’s a degree of openness that we haven’t experienced before. Probably

“The world of art and Christianity is coming together, in some places fairly dramatically.” ~ Cameron Anderson Phyllis Rose is a freelance writer, graphic

designer, and multi-media producer living in Nashville, Tenn., with her husband of 37 years, Carl, and two dogs, Solo and Jake McGee. She has also written for Nashville Arts Magazine and loves art of all varieties.



faith forward progress


Parent’s Progress The gospel shapes everything about us, including the way we relate to our kids.

I’ve only been doing this for a little over a decade, and by God’s grace, I’ve got a lot more time to go. Almost daily, I will look at Jana and say some form of this question: “Do you think every parent constantly feels like they don’t know what they’re doing?” I hope the answer to that one is yes. But even in the midst of all the fumbling around we do as moms and dads, I can see the Lord’s faithfulness over seasons as He continues to press the gospel further into our lives. One of the areas that’s most evident is in the way we parent. See, once upon a time, I thought of the gospel as a moment-in-time decision that had eternal implications. And while that may be true, if that’s all you ever see the gospel as, then you’re falling radically short of approaching the fullness of its implications. Jesus likened believing the gospel to being born again. That is to say, belief in the gospel causes such a profound change in the life of an individual that you can only liken it to starting over, but this time with a new heart. New tastes. New desires. New priorities. And so on. That newness that comes as a result of new birth in Christ trickles down into every area of life, including our parenting. The gospel, then, shapes our parenting just as the gospel shapes everything else about who we are and what we do. How does that shaping happen? I’m sure in different ways for different people, but here are four ways I’m seeing right now that the gospel is shaping my parenting. IT COMPELS ME TO TAKE MY PARENTING SERIOUSLY. If the gospel is true — and it is — then all of us who once were enemies of God have been brought into His household and given a seat at the table. Former rebels and outsiders



have been adopted into His family, and now God is forevermore our Father. As a parent, then, we have the incredibly weighty responsibility of modeling the Fatherhood of God to our children. It’s sobering to consider that the primary picture my children will have of God as their Father will come through me. It makes me think deeply about the way I discipline them, the way I care about the things that matter to them, even the words I greet them with every afternoon. All these things matter because though they might seem like everyday,

I’m not an experienced parent.

run-of-the-mill decisions that are here one moment and gone the next, they accumulate into something much larger than that. They come together, by God’s grace, in such a way that a child will think, If my earthly father loves me like this, how much more must a perfect heavenly Father love me?


IT ALLOWS ME TO TAKE MYSELF NOT SO SERIOUSLY. While the gospel compels me to take my parenting seriously, it also allows me to take myself not so seriously at every turn. This is really an acknowledgment of reality because I, like you, am a ridiculous creature. I’m double-minded, fearful, confused, and even downright gross. I’m a laughable creature. That is particularly true in my role as a parent, in which I constantly feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. Instead of despairing at my lack of knowledge and experience, the gospel reminds me of my “creatureliness.” I’m allowed to laugh heartily at my own ridiculousness because God sees that ridiculousness even more deeply than I do and loves me still. As a parent, I’m free in the gospel to go all out, do the very best that I can, knowing that just as it took God to awaken me to see my cold, dead heart and my need of Him, so will it be with my children. Ultimately, it’s God’s work and not mine that will melt the hearts of my kids. IT ENABLES ME TO ALLOW MY KIDS TO PURSUE THEIR OWN INTERESTS. In other words, I don’t have to be “football dad.” And you don’t have to be “pageant mom.” I’m convinced that one of the ways we can fail our children most heartily is if we insist that our thing be their thing. So we push and push and push to make them the top student, the cheerleader, the athlete, the whatever because that is not only what we’re most comfortable with, but because it was either something we excelled at doing or something we wish we had. The gospel frees us from having to force our children to live out our latent desires for ourselves in them.

Because of the gospel, we don’t have anything left to prove because Jesus has proven everything in our place. We don’t have to justify ourselves, especially through our kids, because we’re already fully justified in Him. When our own insecurity and compulsion toward that self-justification is taken out of the equation, we can joyfully embrace the individual makeup of our children who might or might not share our same affinity for a given activity.

IT FREES ME TO APOLOGIZE OFTEN. I have to do this. You probably do, too. That’s because no matter how hard we try, we will fail our children time and time again. The question isn’t whether we will do so; the question is what happens afterward. Will we be the people who justify ourselves before our babies, because we’re still trying to earn everyone’s approval, including our children’s? Or will we be able to simply acknowledge our failure without that self-justification, and offer a simple apology? In a very broad sense, the gospel allows us to own our own sin, whether it’s a sin against our neighbor down the street or one that lives within our home. We can truly and completely apologize, taking full responsibility and without explaining all the mitigating circumstances, not offering an “I’m sorry, but…” or an “I’m sorry, if…” but simply “I’m sorry.” And then move on to try again. The gospel shapes everything about us, including the way we relate to our kids. In this, too, God is working to complete His good work in us. And He is faithful to finish what He started. □

Michael Kelley lives in Nashville, Tenn., with

his wife, Jana, and three children: Joshua, Andi, and Christian. He serves as the Director of Groups Ministry for LifeWay Christian Resources. As a communicator, Michael speaks across the country at churches, conferences, and retreats, and is the author of Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God; Transformational Discipleship; and Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life.



faith among friends


Getting Through It As I sat in the waiting room

before an appointment, an older woman struck up a conversation with me. She asked me a few simple questions, and I gave her a few simple answers. I don’t remember exactly what the questions were, but they centered on a change going on in my life that she had known in her own. She listened to my basic answers with a genuine interest and kindness I found remarkable for someone who’d never met me before. I smiled back at her and then quickly turned to



look out the window as tears came up and over my tired eyes. I surprised myself at how a stranger’s kindness made me cry instantaneously. Thinking about it more, I believe her gentle words and demeanor fed something in me I didn’t know I was hungry for. I’ve been in such a tender spot lately, one where I cry easily and keep looking down at my hands in my lap. It seems that if you barely touch me, something in me shifts. I keep asking God afresh to be my strength and my song, but this

has been a season where the music is a tad harder to hear. Not because God isn’t faithfully wrapping me in His care as much as ever. Of course He is. There have been several distracting difficulties clanging like cymbals in my ears, and I haven’t been good at tuning them out. But you know what? I don’t think I want to tune them out, at least not all the way. However, I do want to turn down their volume. Like so many, I find myself in a season of transition right now, and I’ve been


Take some time and shed some tears over the changes that impact your life.

neglecting to give myself breathing room to acknowledge the difficult parts of that change to trusted folks. Sometimes, I slide into the belief that giving the hard parts of change room to breathe pushes hope away. But instead, this becomes the window hope enters in. That woman who asked and listened to what I said about my own difficult change? She cracked the window open, and the thin sliver of fresh air overwhelmed me with relief. Today, I give myself permission to sit with my own steely change and the vulnerability that comes with it. I give myself permission to cry. I give myself permission to not get over it but just get through it. We all need that sometimes.

We all need people who hear our struggles without assuming we’re blind to or ungrateful for the abundant good in our lives.

We need to acknowledge that the hard stuff gets to have a seat at the table, too, and the best way to give it a seat is to name it and talk about it first with Jesus and then with those safe people in our lives. Barbara Brown Taylor, in Learning to Walk in the Dark, shares: “After years of being taught that the way to deal with painful emotions is to get rid of them, it can take a lot of reschooling to learn to sit with them instead. … I learned that sadness does not sink a person; it is the energy a person spends trying to avoid sadness that does that.” Some of you may be feeling the way I am about a change in your life and hunger for your own safe place to process it. If that’s you, then I pray you find an available, inviting space to ponder it with Jesus and God’s Word today. I pray you have safe people in your life

who give you the gift of ready ears and kind, understanding words. And I’m also inviting you to consider my book, Girl Meets Change, as another safe place to mull over and process your own change and transition. If difficult change is on your life’s landscape right now, it’s my fervent hope and prayer this book is a place where God meets your sense of anxiety with His sense of purpose. We all need people who hear our struggles without assuming we’re blind to or ungrateful for the abundant good in our lives. We all need people who point us to Jesus’ “for us” love and faithfulness, and who turn down the noise of distracting difficulties so we can hear His music in our soul. As the body of Christ, we need to be a people who allow

those who sit neck-deep in their own difficult change to grieve honestly while offering the hope of Truth generously. Proverbs 23:18 says, “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off” (NIV). Dear one, I pray you feel the warm breeze of God’s care and attention today. Whether through His written Word or through the spoken words of others, may you know hope in personal ways as you don’t just get over but get through your own life change. □

Kristen Strong is a popular blogger at Chasing Blue Skies and DaySpring’s (in)courage. Her work has appeared in MOMSense and Family Fun magazines. She and her husband, David, have three children. Together this military family has zigzagged across the country (and one ocean) several times.

Hey there! We’re excited to bring to you a great word on friendship by Kristen Strong. She’s one of the writers that serves our global community of women who gather at the website, a place where you’ll always find yourself among friends. Hosted by myself and Crystal Stine, (in)courage is a place where we remind women that Jesus loves them, just the way they are — messy houses, ordinary lives, unfolded laundry, and all. We hope you’ll stop by! Especially on the days when you need a friend to pray for you. Because once you’re a member of our community, you’ll always have a place to ask for prayer and connect with other (in)courage readers. There’s nothing too big or too small to share and pray over together. If you have a prayer request burning in your heart today, we’d be honored to pray for you. Come and share it with us at Hoping to see you there!


Community Manager for (in)courage



faith for such a time


Not Enough Time It’s been over half a century since the Jim Crow laws were abolished, but change is slow.

In order for true change to occur, there must be heart change. We need God to enable this heart change.

across the country remain segregated. We’ll need to have these conversations until we see the functional segregation disappear.

a breath. Fifty years isn’t that long, and if you find yourself in your 50s, 60s, or 70s, you would likely remark about how quickly the time has gone. Yet, when it comes to the Civil Rights Movement, we can easily forget that it was only 50 or so years ago when the dreadful Jim Crow laws were overturned. We continue to see the need for change and growth, and in some areas, a continued change in regulations. Take for instance the town of Cleveland, Mississippi. As reported by Ryan Denison, the town remains segregated with its white residents living on one side of the railroad tracks that run down the middle of the town and its black residents living on the other side. This divide has not only affected who the residents consider neighbors; it has resulted in continued segregation in the public schools. Even after Brown v. the Board of Education (the 1954 landmark Supreme Court case in which the Court determined that state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional), it took an additional 50-year legal battle for the schools to desegregate. A federal court has ordered that the junior high and high schools merge, which will end the functional segregation. I’m often asked, “Why are we still talking about race?” I see stories like the Mississippi schools segregation situation, and I’m reminded yet again why we’re still talking about race. It’s actually been 62 years since Brown v. the Board of Education, and we continue to desegregate. Communities



Trillia Newbell is the author of United and Fear and Faith. She has also written for Desiring God, Christianity Today, Relevant Magazine, The Gospel Coalition, and more. She is the consultant on Women’s Initiatives for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention. Trillia is married to her best friend, Thern, and they reside with their two children near Nashville, Tenn.


The older I get, the more I realize that life is truly but

CHANGE IS SLOW Our country was built on segregation and inequality. Fifty or 60 years of changed laws can’t erase 200 years of history. Change takes time, and for us to think that because our laws have changed, society will automatically change isn’t realistic. Obviously, we have most definitely progressed a great deal from the time when blacks would swim in separate pools and dine at different restaurants than whites. I’m so thankful for the changes that we’ve seen. But, as we can see, there’s still much more work to be done. It’s easy to assume that because the laws have been changed, we’re now living in harmony with one another. We know that isn’t true. All one must do is turn on the television to see the divide that continues to curse our nation. The divide in our nation remains strong. So, why are we continuing to deal with divided communities, racism, inequality, and all those things we hoped would change along with the changed laws? In order for true change to occur, there must be heart change. We need God to enable this heart change. Acknowledging the need for continued change is a good first step as we think through the effects of our past racial history. Let’s remember that we haven’t arrived, so we might stay engaged on the topic and ready for action when and where possible. Perhaps two ways we can fight for unity in our communities is through gospel proclamation and missional living. We need to proclaim the Good News that unites all nations and breaks down the wall of hostility. We also need to remember that God’s mission, our mission, is diverse: We are to go and make disciples of all nations. Let’s bend our knees in prayer for continued change and for the opportunity to make a mark until we see lasting change for the glory of our Father. □



Emily Burger /


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b y A ndrea Lucado





This adoption — though it took 16 years — almost didn’t have a happy ending.




eff and Carol Tomlinson live in the Nashville, Tennessee, area. Jeff is a high school Spanish teacher. Carol is an editor at LifeWay Christian Resources. They have two kids: Hannah, who is 19, and James, who is 16. James is in high school and Hannah has just started college. In this sense, the Tomlinsons are a normal family. But the story of how this family came to be is anything but normal. After being married for several years and after a year of unsuccessful fertility treatments, Jeff and Carol decided to adopt. Adoption was something they already felt passionate about, so it made sense. “Instead of spending money on fertility treatments,” says Carol, “we would spend the money on the sure thing and adopt.” The Tomlinsons began the adoption process in 1997. Their daughter, Hannah, was born in Tijuana, Mexico, on August 28 that same year. Her adoption was finalized on September 28. September 28 of 2011. Her citizenship — the final step that allowed Hannah to remain in the country and with her family — was later granted in 2013. In total, Hannah’s adoption took sixteen years. Why so long? The answer is complex and can’t be attributed to one person or circumstance. It was a layering of events, people with bad motives, misinformation being shared, paperwork not being signed, court dates not being met, the innate difficulty that is the international adoption process — all of these held back the Tomlinsons, who were always promised a resolution could be met next month or the next month or the next, consistently put off by a legal system that seemed elusive most of the time, even to their lawyers. Through these 16 years of uncertainty and unknown, the Tomlinsons remained faithful. They knew God had a plan, and although they weren’t always certain of what that plan was, they trusted Him.

Jeff and Carol would learn from these reporters that Teresa was currently being investigated on child trafficking charges, and they had been flagged as possible partners in crime.



A Rocky Start

The Tomlinsons knew they wanted to adopt from Latin America. Jeff is fluent in the language and had been on numerous mission trips to Mexico and Nicaragua. An adoption agency recommended they hire an attorney named Teresa who had an office in Tijuana and experience with adoption cases. Teresa soon located Hannah’s birth mother, Mercedes — a woman willing to give her daughter up for adoption. Jeff and Carol met Hannah when she was three weeks old. They traveled to Tijuana and waited in a hotel room for her to arrive with the lawyers and birth mother. “It was just amazing,” Carol recalls. “You know right then you love her. She couldn’t be more mine if I had had her.” Their joy quickly turned to angst when, the next day, a man claiming to be the birth father intervened. This man, who to this day has yet to be confirmed as the birth father, didn’t want the adoption to go through. Without his approval, the Tomlinsons couldn’t take Hannah home and were forced to leave her in foster care until the courts made a ruling. A little over a month later, a ruling still hadn’t been made, so immigration allowed Carol and Jeff to bring Hannah back to the United States on humanitarian parole. This didn’t mean the adoption was finalized or that Hannah could begin the process for citizenship, but it did give her a short-term visa. For the next several months, the Tomlinsons drove back and forth to immigration services in Memphis, to renew Hannah’s visa and wait for the Mexican court to officially acknowledge the adoption. However, any time they got close, they received word that the birth father had intervened again, claiming he didn’t want the adoption to go through. Right before Hannah’s first birthday, the Tomlinsons were told by their attorney, Teresa, that the adoption wasn’t going to happen, and they would have to return Hannah to Mexico. They flew to Arizona, where they were told to wait for the official word and be prepared to send their daughter back. Of the 16 years, that was the most anxious time for them, says Carol. “We had made peace with that. Abraham was going to give up Isaac, and he knew that God was going to take care of it. If she’s not with me, I know He loves her more than I do, and He will still take care of her.” God did take care of Hannah, and the Tomlinsons didn’t have to leave her that day in Arizona. Mercedes had failed to sign the proper paperwork in court, and the judge decided he would have to rule at a later time. Even though they were able to bring their daughter home, her status still wasn’t recognized. “We were in this limbo,”

“It was just amazing,” Carol recalls. “You know right then you love her. She couldn’t be more mine if I had had her.”



says Carol. Mercedes would be a no-show at court, and then someone would send something to the wrong address. “There was always something,” she says. “It would add another 90 days or six months that we would have to wait. Then in between, they would get new judges, and have to start all over.” “It was a valley,” says Jeff. “It wasn’t necessarily just a low spot. It was like a valley there for a little while. Is she going back? Is she not?” Jeff and Carol ended their contract with Teresa after the trip to Arizona and began thinking about what the legal system in Tennessee could do to help them. As things were going in Mexico, there was never going to be a resolution. “International adoptions aren’t American adoptions,” explains Jeff. “You have to realize that you’re in their ball court, and even though it may seem dumb to you, it’s the way they do it. It doesn’t make it wrong. It just makes it different.” Carol and Jeff soon learned they could expedite the process, namely through bribing the right people, but they chose not to. “You have to stay true to your values. We wanted to make sure that we did everything the way it was supposed to be done. And so we waited 16 years,” says Jeff. Not long after they cut ties with Teresa, they heard their doorbell ring. It was a San Diego Fox News affiliate. Armed with cameras and microphones, they asked the Tomlinsons how they felt about being “baby traffickers.” Jeff and Carol would learn from these reporters that Teresa was currently being investigated on child trafficking charges, and they had been flagged as possible partners in crime. Jeff and Carol laugh when they recall the event and the ensuing interview. At that point in their story, it seemed that literally anything could happen. Although it was clear that Jeff and Carol had nothing to do with Teresa’s trafficking charges, the accusations against Teresa complicated Hannah’s adoption. The judges in Mexico were reluctant to touch a case that was connected to someone who was connected to trafficking, so they passed it around and continued to put off a ruling. As the Tomlinsons began to explore legal options in Tennessee, they found out that if the adoption and Hannah’s citizenship didn’t go through by the time she was 16, Hannah would have to return to Mexico. So they did everything they could. They talked to several attorneys, studied up on legislation, even wrote letters to senators to see if they would help them. More often than not their efforts led to more hoops to jump through, dead ends, and extended deadlines.

Life in the Middle of the Story

In the midst of this ambiguity and uncertainty, life didn’t stop for their family. “You just have to go on with your day-to-day,” says Carol. “When it comes up in your mind and you start to panic … I had to remind myself, He’s working.” A couple of years after Hannah came home, Carol gave birth to their son James. “James is our hilarious one,” says Jeff. “He’s our comic relief,” adds Carol. A comic relief that came at a much-needed time. Focusing on raising their family was what kept them going. Hannah got involved with competitive gymnastics, and made friends at school and at church. They kept everything as normal as possible. It was only when the phone rang that they allowed their regular lives to be interrupted. “Every time the phone would ring, it was hold your breath and just hope,” says Carol. The calls, especially if they came late at night, were typically bad news from a lawyer about the adoption. “When the phone doesn’t ring, our focus is all on raising our kids, pouring into our kids. That’s the way we’ve done it,” says Jeff. Jeff and Carol relied heavily on family during this time. Their parents and siblings traveled with them to Mexico, watched their kids when they needed time to themselves, and were generally there for moral and emotional support. Instead of making a big deal of everything in front of James and Hannah, Jeff said they tried to set an example that showed them that “this is family. This is what we do. We circle the wagons.”


A Hopeful Ending

With the lack of the birth parents’ participation in the courts, Carol and Jeff were eventually able to prove that Hannah had been willfully abandoned. This allowed her to gain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status — what she needed in order to get a green card. And that green card was the green light for the adoption to be processed in the United States. On September 28, 2011, at age 14, Hannah walked into a Murfreesboro, Tennessee, courtroom as the daughter of Jeff and Carol Tomlinson. She walked out of the courtroom as an official, on-paper, government-recognized daughter of Jeff and Carol Tomlinson. “She’s always been mine,” Carol says, “but to have that [legalized] was a little bit of assurance … to know that now nobody could come and take her back.” “It was a celebration,” says Jeff about that September day. “It had been a long, arduous journey.” With the adoption finally finalized, Jeff and Carol felt a strange sense of what now?

In the end, not only was it all worth it, but the Tomlinsons know adoption was the plan for their family, and they encourage others who are considering it.

They still had to apply for Hannah’s citizenship, but the adoption was by far the biggest hurdle and they felt themselves still holding their breath and asking, “This is it? We’re done? What’s the next twist?” Sixteen years. One hundred thousand dollars in total expenses. Numerous trips to Mexico and San Diego. Multiple lawyers. Countless stacks of paperwork. In the end, not only was it all worth it, but the Tomlinsons know adoption was the plan for their family, and they encourage others who are considering it. As Carol says, “I still think adoption is a good thing. You need to be sure that you pray it through and remember that He does have a plan, and His plans are better than our plans.” Hannah only had one problem after the official adoption went through. She turned 15 in August 2012, but before she could get the much-coveted driver’s permit, she needed citizenship and a Social Security number. Her parents explained she would have to wait another several months for those to be in place and, therefore, another several months before she could drive. As Hannah expressed her concerns about this timeline, Carol, with 15 years of waiting and worry behind her, simply replied, “Honey, it’s really not that long.” □

Epilogue The Tomlinsons’ attorney, Teresa, was charged with child trafficking, but never served jail time. Last they heard, she had been prohibited from practicing law in Mexico and was selling mythical stones in California. Child trafficking continues to be a problem in Mexico, though some progress has been made. One ring in Guadalajara was finally busted in 2012 after successfully operating since the 1980s.

Andrea Lucado is a freelance writer and Texas native who now makes her home in Nashville, Tenn. Follow her on Twitter, @andrealucado, or on her blog at



family love that lasts BY JACKIE BLEDSOE

Good Things Happen Two summers ago, we took our first family road trip

vacation in years. My wife and kids, as well as my parents, packed up two cars full of stuff and headed west. We were going to spend time with my brother and his family in Missouri, but the trip almost didn’t happen. Shortly after the trip was planned, we found out that our daughter had a national track meet the same week. She had already missed the first two track meets of the year due to other commitments, so we weren’t planning on her missing a national meet. We opted out of the trip. Then it



happened. After our daughter experienced about two weeks of pain in her hip, we decided to schedule an appointment with her doctor. The diagnosis was a hairline fracture in her growth plate. She was broken. Track season was basically over before it really began. Ironically, my wife and kids were excited. They reminded me that we were now free to travel. Our family road trip was back on! That trip and the time spent with my brother and his family was “epic” as my kids say. Yet, it would not have happened


Five ways being broken and homeless changed my family.

had our daughter not broken her hip. It’s good to be broken. I speak from many broken experiences. You wouldn’t be reading this article if I hadn’t been broken. My writing career was birthed out of a broken situation. The loss of a job (brokenness) led to very challenging times for me and my family. That job loss forced me to look at other ways to support my family. So, I started an online business only to have it fail (brokenness) after gaining two customers. This led me to start a blog. While you may think the blog was the turnaround, it wasn’t — initially. Roughly seven months after starting the blog, our money ran out, and the blog wasn’t making anything. We couldn’t keep our home (brokenness), and we ended up homeless, sleeping on the basement floor of friends, staying in my mother-in-law’s extra room, and spending time in hotels paid for by a friend’s accumulated hotel points. I was at one of my lowest points. We were finally able to afford a very small apartment of our own. Our furniture, the kids’ toys, and everything we owned — except what fit in the car — was in storage. We made weekly trips to storage to search for stuff. Some weeks we made daily trips. Ironically, our kids were having a great time. We spent so much time together. Trips to the storage unit meant they could pull out their toys and play. It was like a treasure hunt for them. To my wife and me, it was depressingly hard and discouraging. It’s good to be broken. Great things come out of broken situations. Through our brokenness, our family life has been changed for the better. Yet, at the time, I didn’t realize it. I’ve now discovered five reasons why it’s good to be broken.


Your values change. When you have no home, no money, and you’re sleeping on an air mattress with your wife and kids, you begin to reassess what is really important. Family, health, clothes, and food become very valuable.

2 LightStock

You become passionate. I’ve always had compassion for the person holding the NEED HELP — HOMELESS sign, but my passion has grown. As soon as we were able, our family packed “manna bags” of non-perishable foods and gave to people in need.


You develop grit. I had no job, so I had time on my hands. I used that time to write. At one point I was writing 50 to 70 blog posts and articles each month for seven different websites. The habit developed a skill, got me noticed, and played a huge part in launching my professional writing career.



You embrace humility. The biggest blessing to being broken was the humility it brought. I realized that I could do nothing of real significance alone. I’m not capable. Not skilled enough, not strong enough, not wise enough, not connected enough. My help comes from my relationship with Jesus Christ. I had to connect with Him and rely on Him in every aspect of my life.


You live boldly without fear. For years I’ve been afraid to share our story. I was afraid of being looked at differently, and being viewed as a failure, but now I realize my brokenness was a good thing. And not just for me. Since sharing my story, people have been encouraged and lives have been impacted. I’ve faced some of my biggest fears. Now, I’m boldly living life without fear. If you’ve been broken, be encouraged. It’s good to be broken. I’m living proof. □ A version of this article first appeared on

Jackie Bledsoe is a professional blogger, author,

and speaker, but first and foremost a husband and father, who encourages men to better lead and love their families through his blog, He’s the author of the The 7 Rings of Marriage, and with his wife, co-hosts The 7 Rings of Marriage Web Show, where they share practical marriage lessons.



family captured by God

O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Be Thou our guard while life shall last, And our eternal home. — I S A AC WAT T S





Telling It on the

~Mountain~ As the National Park Service turns 100 years old, one couple serves Christ at the gateway of Yellowstone.

by Sarah Davis




SHut terstock

here beauty is championed in rocketing geysers and roaming grizzlies, missionaries John and Joy Monroe have unearthed an opportunity to share the even greater beauty of the gospel. Intentionally planted at the gates of Yellowstone in Cody, Wyoming, Palisades Resort Ministry welcomes the national park’s four million yearly visitors with a simple invitation to worship. Every Sunday, the Monroes pack up and drive south from their home in Red Lodge, Montana, to Cody, Wyoming’s, Ponderosa campground. They set up at a picnic area and welcome visitors who have stumbled upon a brochure, received an invitation, or learned about the service by word of mouth. Joy leads a few hymns and praise songs on her keyboard to start the service, and John closes with the gospel message. After a quick time of fellowship, the couple packs up and drives 10 minutes away to lead another service at the Cody Kamp of America (KOA) campground. The Monroes recently started a service closer to home as well, serving burgers and leading worship on Saturday nights at the Red Lodge KOA campground. “We’re basically starting a new church at every service,” Joy said. “But Yellowstone’s beauty is new to visitors every time, so we’re always able to start conversations about creation and the Creator.” SMALL BUT MIGHTY While the ministry is small and the congregations remain inconsistent, the Monroes see the Lord’s work in mighty ways. Yellowstone is the world’s first national park and attracts visitors of every nationality and religion. “We meet a lot of people from Europe,” Joy said. “There are so many opportunities because foreigners will happen upon our ministry, just curious about America and wanting to learn about our work.” A man from Chile visited Red Lodge seven years ago and attended the ministry’s events, despite his inability to speak fluent English. At the end of his visit, he gave Joy a Spanish New Testament Bible, with his name and a date written in the back. He had accepted Christ during his time there, and recorded his date of salvation in the Bible as a way of telling Joy that he was saved. “I was so overjoyed when I read that,” Joy said. “He now teaches English in Germany and we still talk to him.” While it might be easier to stop after evangelism, the Monroes care deeply for discipleship. Unable to disciple every believer that comes out of their ministry, the Monroes use Facebook to maintain relationships with people all over the world. A large part of their work is finding churches for new believers and connecting them to mentors in their area. The Monroes’ passion for church connection was fostered at an early age. Joy made a commitment to full-time ministry with her church at the age of 18. Little did she know, her future husband walked the church aisle and committed to ministry at the exact same moment. Joy and John met

soon after and were married in 1986. They moved around frequently, working with various church plants and organizations, and in 1988 were blessed with their first of four children. GOD AT WORK In 1999, the Monroe family traveled to Montana for a mission trip. While there, the pastor of a local church asked John if he would consider moving his family again. John was invited to finish out the pastor’s interim position and in the meantime, look for a church to pastor permanently. He agreed. “When we started looking for pastoral positions in Montana, John kept turning down churches,” Joy said. “I thought he was crazy at first, but his heart really is in resort ministry.” In 2001, Palisades Resort Ministry launched in Red Lodge, Montana. In addition to their campground ministries, the Monroes expanded their work in Red Lodge with various events and year-round service. They offer a winter ministry to skiers at the resort, as well as setting up children’s activity booths at rodeos and participating in local parades. John works as a counselor during the week, and Joy recently graduated with a degree in mental health counseling, along with a faculty scholarship to continue her Ph.D. work. Serving in Red Lodge, Joy soon realized her inability to help the people in their – Joy Monroe ministry without further education. Most of the needs they encounter involve suicide prevention and addiction. “People move through resort towns quickly, so there is a lot of instability,” Joy said. “People suffer from depression, coming here expecting life to be so exciting. But life isn’t like a vacation all the time.” While the Monroes’ ministry demands much of their minds and hearts, they continue to find rest and joy in the gospel truth. On August 25, the National Park Service turned 100 years old. As the parks enter a second century of service, the Monroes simply expect to witness more of the Lord’s faithfulness. “God’s hand is at work here,” Joy said. “People come from all over to marvel at the mountains and clap for the Old Faithful geyser. We want to show them Who they’re clapping for.” □

“People come from all over to marvel at the mountains and clap for the Old Faithful geyser. We want to show them Who they’re clapping for.”

Sarah Davis was an Adult Publishing intern at LifeWay Christian

Resources. Her summer in Nashville was a dream, but she is now back where her heart is — Taylor University, in tiny Upland, Ind., where she studies journalism and creative writing. She is thankful for grace, and slowly learning how to fill her words and conversations with it.



family family coaches


Joy in Trials The Holy Spirit allows us to know that God has this one, and He will carry us through.

Trials from the past year are causing pressure in our marriage and I know we are at risk. What steps can we take to get through these hard times when we’re getting hit on all sides?

Strategy ▼

A few years back, Barb and I were leading the newlyweds in our church through a pilot program we called “The Great Newlywed Marriage Experience.” As we unpacked our book, The 6 Secrets to a Lasting Love, one of our couples commented, “I can’t wait for the first trial so we can apply all we learned.” To this day — ten years of marriage, two kids, and several trials later — we still smile when we see each other and recall her comment. Yet, she and her husband were prepared because they were teachable and learned on the front end how to deal with the trials every marriage entails by understanding “persevering love.”



We have found that being teachable is the first place to start because it isn’t if, it’s when trials will occur. Some couples think something is wrong with their marriage when they first encounter trials. It’s only our response to the trials that we can control. Secondly, stick to each other like superglue. Hudson Taylor wrote, “At the timberline where the storms strike with the most fury, the sturdiest trees are found.” The union of your marriage can be solidified when you encounter and go through stress, clinging to Christ and each other. Also, remind one another that this stress will not last forever. We often coach that there is a beginning, mid-

Dr. Gary & Barb Rosberg have been

coaching and encouraging couples to experience a great marriage for more than 25 years. Together, they have almost one million total copies in print worldwide. Visit to learn more.


Challenge ▶

dle, and an end to trials. When going through a difficult season ourselves, I recall asking Barb, “Are we going to get through this season of suffering?” Her response: “We are indeed one day closer.” Great wisdom from my soulmate and bride of 41 years. And then also be reminded of Paul’s instruction: “We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). It sounds counterintuitive to rejoice in our sufferings, yet the power of the Holy Spirit allows us to know that God has this one, and He will carry us through. Just that reminder alone can allow us to find joy in the midst of our trials. God’s got this trial you’re encountering, friend. Hang on to each other and to Him. □

marriage fyi

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Corrie ten Boom



m 1. Doubt. A feeling of uncertainty. m 2. Suspicion. Unresolved doubt grows

to suspicion over time.

▼ Be a Happy Couple ▼ Promise Keepers New Zealand surveyed 50,000 couples.

not satisfied with the communication between themselves and their partner.



of happy couples work as a team to make decisions. 41 percent of unhappy couples make most decisions independently of the other.


of happy couples: moodiness is not an issue. 88 percent of unhappy couples: moodiness is an issue.

of happy couples are not concerned about their spouse feeling depressed. 82 percent of unhappy couples are often concerned about their spouse being depressed.

m 3. Anxiety. Often manifested phys-

ically (nervousness, rapid heartbeat, anger, knotted stomach, or even disgust).

m 4. Fear. Afraid to show vulnerability. m 5. Self-protection. Cements the state

of distrust in a relationship.



of happy couples: jealousy is not an issue. 56 percent of unhappy couples: affected by jealousy.



of happy couples are satisfied with how they and their partner talk with each other. 55 percent of unhappy couples are Source:



family blended


As with anything new, there was a period of adjustment for our new family. The transition from talking about becoming a family to actually blending and living together under one roof wasn’t always seamless. For the first 18 months, our immune systems went haywire. At least one person per week was sick, as if on a rotation. Merging two homes into one also meant doubling up on everything from toasters and Christmas decorations, to in-laws and decisions about which side of whose family to visit on Easter. We had to adjust to sharing bathrooms, bedrooms, televisions, and our favorite foods. Our fresh, new beginning lost its luster fast.

God does some of His best work through a family brought together by brokenness. I didn’t plan to fall in love a second time. I hadn’t planned for

my firstborn son to become the middle child of five. I also didn’t plan to sell my newly renovated home, and combine two households into one. I didn’t plan to move my boys out of their adorably decorated individual bedrooms into one bedroom with four boys and two sets of bunk beds. And I didn’t have a clue how to make everyone happy when feeding seven people, let alone where to



begin planning a grocery budget for a small army. As a young newlywed, barely 23 years old, I never imagined that one day I would be widowed with two young boys, and that I would remarry and instantly become “Mom” to three new children, ages 11 and under. I leaned into Bible study during this season of my life, and I can remember wanting to run home and tell my family what I had learned. Everything was alive and relevant.

NEW CREATIONS IN CHRIST The Author of new beginnings tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Exciting as this sounds on the surface, this verse can be easily misunderstood, especially by children who might think that trusting Christ in the midst of becoming a blended family could mean abandoning what they know and love (family, home, parents, friends, school, bedroom) for new people and places. You can see how this might cause a few lasting ripples. I can remember my son asking me about my new engagement ring and wanting to know if it meant my first marriage no longer mattered. “Does


You Can Stand on His Word

I never imagined that being the mom of a blended family would be the most critical role in defining my relationship with Christ.

that mean you don’t love dad anymore?” he asked with wide eyes. This caught me by surprise because we weren’t the product of divorce, yet my son thought I was abandoning the past. This was an open-door moment to teach what it means to honor the past and trust God with the future. Over time, the conversation grew deeper and we could talk about what it truly means to be a “new creation” in Christ, to grow spiritually through the painful seasons of our lives. FOUNDATION OF HOPE Christ’s suffering and resurrection are the foundation of hope for every family, blended or not, regardless of the circumstances that brought them together. No one starts out planning to become a blended family, but once that path is set, we have an opportunity and an obligation to live and teach the heart

of Christ to our children. Our Father intends for us to learn, grow, and thrive as we move toward a new life. Our children can have a firm foundation of faith if we actively demonstrate a humble spirit before them, and reflect the image of God through our relationships and life transitions. Michael and I take great pride in parenting our blended family, but there was a time when I felt sorry for “those” families. I referred to them as “broken homes.” I never imagined that being the mom of a blended family would be the most critical role in defining my relationship with Christ, but I’m living proof that God does some of His best work molding and refining His children through the unexpected dynamics of a family brought together by brokenness. Being the mom of five kids has exceeded my expectations of mother-

Digging Deeper


As the least crafty woman on the planet, I’m not what you would call a Pinterest mom, but I came across a board called “Worthy of Discussion with Teens” and thought it was worth a look. There were several other fascinating topics: “Confronting the Lie: ‘God won’t give you more than you can handle,’” “Courtship vs. Dating,” and “When Sin Looks Delicious.” But as I was preparing my article, the “Emergency Bible Numbers” jumped out. Here are just a few Scripture verses to go to for encouragement: Unhappy? Read Colossians 3:12-17.

Lonely? Read Psalm 23. Need courage? Read Joshua 1. Upset? Read John 14. Worried? Read Matthew 8:19-31. Struggling with loss? Read Luke 15. This is a great starting point for opening God’s Word together and digging deeper to understand the full context of each verse. My guess is that one verse will lead to many other verses and swing the door of family devotion time wide open.

hood and has been the catalyst for a faith awakening that cracked my heart wide open for Christ. I’m passionate about understanding God’s Word and being able to apply it to our lives. I’m passionate about teaching our children to dig deeper, to understand the meaning, and not just read the “headline” or a single verse out of context and assume its meaning. THE PLANS HE HAS FOR YOU We adopted Jeremiah 29:11 as our family verse. For a while, every time I read the words, “I know the plans I have for you,” I couldn’t help but think God’s plans for me were pretty intense and twisted: Father, You are the Author of our lives, but Your plans are throwing me for a loop! As I dug in deeper, I learned that His plans are big-picture plans and not necessarily specific to my every need. Now, that makes sense! I needed time to study, understand, and ultimately trust this verse because my overturned life seemed anything but carefully planned. As I took a step back, it became clear that our children felt similarly about the decisions we make as their parents. Our big-picture ideas have a way of thrusting them into new circumstances. Although they can’t necessarily articulate it clearly, some of their reactions and behaviors might indicate that they probably think we, too, are fairly intense and twisted. It’s okay to question and doubt God’s plans for us, but pursuing answers and clarity rely on our willingness to dive deeper into His Word and surrender to His authority, regardless of circumstances. Teaching our kids the context and deeper meaning of commonly used Scripture verses can open their hearts and soften the rough edges caused by the transition of blending families. □

Gina and Michael Spehn are

coauthors of The Color of Rain (Zondervan), a New York Times Bestselling memoir, adapted for the screen by Hallmark. Joined together by the loss of their spouses, Michael and Gina co-founded the New Day Foundation for Families, which provides financial and emotional resources for families who have been affected by cancer. Michael and Gina live in Michigan with their five children.



God the

Creator & Clothing Maker In His great love, God has revealed Himself to us through His story, the Bible.

By Eric Geiger





HETHER IN A JOB INTERVIEW, at a dinner party, or on a first date, you have likely heard the phrase, “Tell me about yourself.” When we are encouraged to share who we are, the person is looking for more than just a random recollection of facts. So you likely don’t respond with your Social Security number, date of birth, height, and mother’s maiden name. Instead of giving stats, we tell a story of who we are and where we came from and what we are doing now. As a relationship deepens and we let down our guard, we reveal more and more of our story. God wants to be known. Because He wants to be known by you, He has self-disclosed who He is. In His great love, God has revealed Himself to us through His story, the Bible.



The first few chapters in the Bible tell us a lot about who God is, who we are, and what we did with His great blessings.

Introducing God

Because the story of the Bible is about God, the story begins with God: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). “These are the records of the heavens and the earth, concerning their creation at the time that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens” (Genesis 2:4). God is the Creator. The first scene in your story is your birth, meaning you were created. You came into the world being measured in inches and ounces. The first scene in God’s story is very different; He is the Creator so He created. He wasn’t born, but caused everything that is to come into existence. God is self-sufficient. In Genesis 2:4, we’re introduced to the proper name of God, the name Yahweh, the name God uses of Himself. In your Bible, which has been translated from the original languages, Yahweh is likely translated LORD in all caps to emphasize the weight of His name. LORD carries the connotation of being “the self-existing One.” Unlike us, He isn’t in need of anything or anyone. He has never needed someone to feed Him, never needed a job, never needed to plug an address into a phone, and never needed advice. God is gracious and loving. Because God didn’t need us, He created us simply because He’s gracious and loving. He created us so He could share His creation with us and invite us to enjoy Him. God is powerful and wise. The order of creation speaks to His wisdom and providence. It wasn’t haphazard. For example, on the second day God created the waters and the sky, and on the fifth day, He created the fish and the birds. He created the environments before He created the inhabitants for those environments. When you look at the stars at night, relax on a lake, swim in an ocean, or climb a mountain — you can see the power and wisdom of God. Not only is creation beautiful, but it also works together.

Introducing Us

The loving, wise, and powerful God who is and has always been has also created humanity. We’ve been wonderfully made. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image. He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female” (Genesis 1:26-27). We were created to reflect His image. Only humanity is made in the image of God, thus humanity is distinct from and above the rest of God’s creation. Both male and female are image-bearers of God. Your neighbor, co-worker, and even your brother-in-law were created in the image of God. God’s intent is that we would reflect His character and nature.



He’s creative, so we are given the opportunity to create — though all the tools and resources we create with were already created by Him. He’s loving and gracious, so we’re able to be loving and gracious. He’s holy, so we’re commanded to live holy. We were created to rule over creation. The God who doesn’t need anything or anyone sovereignly and lovingly decided to hand responsibility to humanity. After creating the beautiful garden of Eden, God placed humanity there to care for it. We were created to relate to others. When Adam was alone in the garden, God said, “This is not good. I will make a helper suitable for him.” While creation was perfect and good, the lack of community wasn’t. So, God created a helper from Adam’s side, and Adam named her Eve. God blessed us with relationships, with each other.

Introducing the Mess We Made

There was absolute peace, no shame or despair, and God and man were in perfect harmony. God had given us so much, but here is how we responded. When you turn the page from Genesis 2 to Genesis 3, everything goes terribly wrong… Instead of reflecting His image, we rebelled. God instructed humanity not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but we disobeyed. The name of the tree alludes to the authority to declare good and evil, to decide what is right and wrong. By eating from this tree, they were declaring they were in charge and not God. Like Adam and Eve, every one of us has sinned. Every one of us has insisted we’re in charge of “our own lives.” Instead of ruling over creation, creation rules over us. A serpent is the one giving us orders, and the awe for a created thing, fruit, is stronger than our awe of God. Our longing for things less than He is greater than our longing for Him. The impact of the sin was devastating. Instead of life, there will be death. Instead of blessing, there is curse. The beauty of “no shame” in Genesis 2 is traded for hiding in Genesis 3. The ground is cursed because of sin. Death and sickness enter the world. Work will no longer be enjoyable. But, even in the midst of such pain and horror, we see a foreshadowing of redemption. In Adam and Eve’s sin and shame, they foolishly attempted to cover themselves with fig leaves (see Genesis 3:7). They attempted to cover their own shame to no avail. So God, in His mercy, made clothes for them in the garden (see v. 21). The clothing came from the skins of an animal. God slayed an animal in the garden to cover Adam and Eve in their shame. The same chapter that contains the first sin also contains the first sacrifice — which points us to the One who will be slain for our sins. □

Eric Geiger serves as one of the vice presidents at LifeWay

Christian Resources, leading the Resources Division. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including Creature of the Word and the best-selling church leadership book, Simple Church. He also serves as the senior pastor of ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin, Tenn. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters.


As with any story, one must start at the beginning to understand the whole. The first few chapters in the Bible tell us a lot about who God is, who we are, and what we did with His great blessings.

family parenting on purpose

More than a Fairytale

Question ▶

We have been blessed with a 6-year-old and two preschoolers, but struggle with finding time and creative ways to connect as a couple. Any suggestions?


Answer ▼

Did you hear about the little girl who came home from school and excitedly told her mom the story of a princess who fell asleep and was awakened by the kiss of a handsome prince? At the end she asked her mom, “And do you know what happened then?” Her mom answered, “And they lived happily ever after?” “No,” the little girl responded, “they got married.” Just as there are seasons in the weather, there are seasons in a marriage. When you have young children, a marriage can be like a rollercoaster. They’re fun to ride but not fun to live on.

For far too many couples, even Christian couples, the fairytale ends as the family grows. The problem isn’t marriage or having children. The problem is that we haven’t been taught how to navigate the often wonderful and sometimes scary rapids of growing an intimate marriage while raising a young family. Intimacy doesn’t just happen. In Colossians 2:2, Paul talks about our hearts being “knit together in love” and that’s an ongoing process. It takes time, and it starts with making a mutual commitment to having a Christ-


If you aren’t cultivating relational growth, you will experience relational atrophy.

centered (not schedule-centered) marriage and family and learning how to plan around your couple times and not squeeze them into an existing schedule. What can you do? Bump this up to the top of your prayer list. Find at least three couples who will agree to pray daily for you. Hold hands more. Set regular date nights. Play together. Exercise together. Be silly. Talk about some of the stuff that used to crack you up when you were dating. Get some fresh ideas. I’ve had many couples tell me how much they were helped by reading and discussing Quiet Times for Couples by Norm Wright, and 52 Ways to Connect as a Couple by Jay Payleitner. If you aren’t cultivating relational growth, you will experience relational atrophy. In the words of Ephesians 2:20-21, God wants to do “above and beyond all that we ask or think” in your marriage relationship. A few simple choices will help you grow in that direction. □

Gary J. Oliver, Ph.D., is the executive

director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, a university and seminary professor, and the author of more than 20 books including Mad About Us: Moving From Anger to Intimacy and Raising Sons and Loving It! Learn more at



family power of the home


who make things happen. Here are four ways to help our children become leaders.

Help your kids grow into leaders who honor God through serving others.

Dr. Nicholas Butler, former pres-

Do you know a family who is using their home to reach out to others? How about you? Let us know at



ident of Columbia University, divided the world into three parts: those who make things happen, those who watch what’s happening, and those who don’t know what’s happening. While we don’t expect every child to grow up and hold a senior leadership position, we do strive to develop children into people

TEACH THEM TO COMMUNICATE Many adults communicate poorly, unable to speak or write in a concise, clear manner. Crowds follow individuals who communicate well. Every business, church, school, or ministry needs people who know how to transfer information understandably. Help your kids learn how to write. They need to know how to present an idea and support it with evidence. Great concepts require thoughts to be transferred from one source to a receiver through words. In our image-saturated


Making Things Happen

DREAM BIG Pat Williams writes that a “vision is a glowing word-picture of a desirable and optimistic future.” As parents, we can paint that portrait for our kids. We want to convey that life is more than just existing, paying bills, and managing problems. God created them and has a deep interest in their lives. Familiarize your family with stories of noble heroes. Read biographies, watch movies and documentaries, and hear radio dramas of missionaries, statesmen, inventors, presidents, and soldiers. Visit historic sites and homes of great Americans. Challenge your kids regularly. I tell mine, “I want you to grow up and accomplish more than me, see more than me, and make more money than me.” I want them to have a robust vision of their futures. They don’t have to become famous or rich. But I want to instill a life-long desire for excellence and possibilities.

Serving others includes stepping up to the plate and stepping out to meet needs.


day, we’re wise to remember that the Lord revealed Himself to humanity through written words. And through time, people who know how to communicate through writing often influence the masses. Help your kids know how to speak well. Create opportunities for them to stand up in front of other people and speak about anything. Ask your 6-yearold to stand in front of the family at night and talk about his or her favorite superhero. My fifteen-year-old came home from drama camp one night and said, “Dad, they called on me to pray three times today! No one else volunteered, and they knew I would do it.” Way to go, son, I’m proud of you! We live in a day where the battle for culture rages around who controls the flow of ideas. And those ideas flow through written and spoken words. Help your children know how to open their mouths and communicate verbally. Talk about great ideas in your home, and challenge your children to learn to communicate those ideas. MOLD GODLY CHARACTER President John Adams said, “Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private virtue, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics.” Our homes can be training grounds for good and godly character. More than I want my children to be famous, rich, or exceptional, I want them to be good.

The apostle Peter wrote, “Make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness” (2 Peter 1:5). Culture today includes many examples of badness. Sharing big dreams for our children includes raising godly offspring who shine like stars for the Lord. SHOW UP, STEP OUT, AND SERVE OTHERS Children learn how to serve others in part by watching their parents serve. Several years ago, our family was a part of starting a new church. If you have never done that, it means that there is a lot of work to do! Together our family has started classes, painted walls, set up chairs, and cleaned bathrooms. Serving others includes stepping up to the plate and stepping out to meet needs. An older pastor told me, “When our children were young, I began pastoring a small church that had no other children or activities. My kids were part of starting everything. They helped us start new groups, ministries, and opportunities. They did not have any of that handed to them. Today, as adults, they are all leaders and servants. I think not having it all handed to them and being required to serve at church made them the people they are today.” Some parents may look to their church to primarily meet their children’s wants and preferences. Maybe we should look for ways to teach them to serve. Servants, however, understand that you don’t serve because you have nothing else going on in your life. Actually, people who serve are usually some of the busiest people I know. They are, however, the people who don’t just watch what’s happening. They make things happen. □

Rhett Wilson, D.Min., pastors The Spring Church in Laurens, S.C. His blog, Faith, Family, and Freedom can be found at He enjoys doing life with his wife Tracey and their three children, Hendrix, Anna-Frances, and Dawson.

Stepping Up By Tracey Wilson

When we needed a Bible class for fifth- and sixth-graders, Rhett started the class that I now teach. When no one volunteered for three years to direct Vacation Bible School, I jumped in. Actually, our entire family jumped in. We learned songs, made sets, and planned training. When my oldest son needed a small group, Rhett started one in our home for his age group. When the children needed help getting plays together for Christmas and Easter, I rolled up my sleeves with one of my girlfriends and made them happen. Some people don’t serve because they think they are too busy or unqualified. Rhett and I try to challenge our children, “Don’t be people who always wait for others to lead. You make it happen. You speak up. You do what is right, and God will reward you.”



family family time BY STACY EDWARDS

Don’t Be Afraid God can handle our fears.

DEVOTION▼ Every October, we find ourselves in a season filled with ghosts, goblins, and haunted houses. Whether or not you participate, the message is still everywhere. It’s found in the aisles of stores and in the yards of neighbors and the message seems to be that fear is fun. Don’t get me wrong; it can be entertaining. There’s no harm done when someone jumps out and catches you by surprise and everyone laughs. It’s all good when someone leaves a rubber bug in your coffee to make you jump. Then, there are other occasions when fun and fear could not be farther apart.

■ Read: Judges 6:11-12

Use this devotion — or let it be a starting point for a family devotion based on a memory verse or two. Discussion questions and optional decor and activity ideas are included. It’s all about family!



■ Ask: Have you ever felt like hiding from something or someone? ■ Say: It’s a tempting way to live — hide and survive. But, when God calls you out, it’s no longer a satisfying way to live. Even when the task at hand seems far more than you are capable of — especially then. God looked at Gideon hiding from the world and called him a “mighty warrior” while he was still hiding. Knowing how God

viewed him gave Gideon the courage to step out and choose more for himself. It’s tempting to stay within the comfort and familiarity of our homes. The more we stay tucked away inside our safe place, the scarier it seems out in the world. Everything in us may want to simply hide and survive, but God has called us to much more. He certainly called Gideon to much more!

■ Read: Judges 6:14


■ Say: Gideon didn’t come from an impressive family and, on top of that, he was the baby of the bunch. In his estimation, he was young and he was weak. In fact, when the Angel of the Lord came to him, Gideon was threshing wheat in a wine press because he was hiding from the Midianites. No one would have looked at him and seen a mighty warrior. No one except the One who had created him to be just that.

“WHEN I AM AFRAID, I WILL TRUST IN YOU.” ■ Say: God was sending Gideon to face and defeat the very people he had been hiding from when the Lord found him. ■ Ask: What thing, person, or scenario brings you the most fear? How would you feel if God called you to face that very thing? ■ Say: In obedience to God, Gideon

we decide that we want to be counted among those who stay and fight for what is right, fear flees. Fear has no place in that. Any time you are tempted to fear, learn to say, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Psalm 56:3).


prepared himself to face his fear head on in battle. As all of the men stood before the Lord, they were all given the choice of continuing on to face the enemy or stay in the comfort of their homes.

DISCUSS▼ Older Children: How would it change the way you acted if you knew that God saw you as a mighty warrior? Younger Children: What should you do when you begin to feel afraid?

■ Read: Judges 7:3

DO▼ (OPTIONAL) There are hundreds of “Do not fear” verses. Have everyone in the family pick his or her favorite, write it on an index card, and share it with the family.

■ Ask: What would you have done? ■ Say: God was providing everyone with an out. There were 22,000 men who did just that. The first people eliminated from being a part of what God was about to do were those who lived as slaves of fear and chose fear over faith. Now let’s read one of the best verses in the Bible.

DECOR▼ (OPTIONAL) Post all of your “Do not fear” verses in a central area of your home as a reminder to choose faith over fear.

■ Read: Judges 7:4 ■ Ask: Why is Judges 7:4 so amazing?


■ Say: After 22,000 men had fled in fear, Gideon was still standing beside the Lord, awaiting His next instruction. Gideon wasn’t going to go home. In fact, he was going to face the very enemy he had been hiding from when God first came to him. Fear will always flee in the face of faith. When we choose to be a part of what God is doing, fear flees. When

Stacy Edwards is a trucker’s

daughter and a pastor’s wife. She is a writer, speaker, and homeschooling mom to five fabulous little girls. Stacy blogs at and her newest book, Devotions for Christmas, releases this month.

Memory Verses October 2 ▶ “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” ~ Psalm 56:3 October 9 ▶ “Don’t be afraid of them, for the LORD your God fights for you.” ~ Deuteronomy 3:22 October 16 ▶ “Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff — they comfort me.” ~ Psalm 23:4 October 23 ▶ “In God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” ~ Psalm 56:11 October 30 ▶ “So don’t be afraid therefore; You are worth more than many sparrows.” ~ Matthew 10:31

Keep It Going: For a daily Family Time Scripture reading and discussion starter, visit and download this month’s Family Time Calendar.



family abundant living


Nothing Wasted

My mother-in-law stretches a newly finished quilt

across the bed. It’s full of beauty. Tiny white flowers on pale green squares. Buttery yellow swirls on cream. Lavender dots on the softest gray. “It’s fantastic!” I tell her as I run my fingers along the careful stitching. She brushes off my compliment by saying, “Oh, it’s just a bunch of scraps put together.” Then she begins to point out, “This is from a dress I made for one of my daughters. That came from an old pair of pants. I got this from a neighbor.” Other little stacks of fabric squares in the room reveal more of what she means. And, truth be told, on their own, the individual pieces don’t look like much. Their edges are ragged. Messy threads hang all around their borders. I can’t see their potential. As I consider this, I also think of how my life can sometimes look to me like those scraps. I often don’t see the possibility of beauty or usefulness in it. I see small. I see ordinary. I see leftover or left out. But in that moment I suddenly realize God doesn’t share this perspective. He values that bit of patient love we show to our cranky toddler even though we’re tired.



Nothing in our lives is wasted. Bit by bit, God is making something lovely out of all of it — and all of us.

He notices that moment of integrity as we speak up in the meeting despite our heart pounding in our chest. He treasures our tears as we say another prayer when we’re tempted to stop trusting. He also sees the mistakes and the “lost time” and what we wish we could do over or take back. We say of all this, “Oh, it’s nothing” or try to pretend it never happened. But the God of the universe, the One who is so big we can’t even fathom His beginning or end, dares to endow our little scraps with the divine. He is the One who sews our stories and “by Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). True confession: I don’t even know how to sew on a button. Put a needle in my hand and I’m far more likely to end up with a Band-Aid than anything beautiful. But I do understand the process. And I desire the faith of a seamstress. I’m asking for eyes that can see — not just what is but what can be. I long to understand more about how each square of my life is a necessary part of the whole. I want to stop overlooking what seems worthless and honor it as essential. This is the truth every tattered heart needs: There are no scraps in the hands of God, the One who works “all things together for our good” (Romans 8:28). Every little piece will one day have a place and a purpose. Nothing in our lives is wasted. Bit by bit, God is making something beautiful out of all of it — and all of us. □

Holley Gerth’s life and sewing skills both require

a lot of grace. She believes we’re all in the process of becoming, and coffee helps a lot. Holley loves encouraging women like you through her site and books like Do You Know You’re Already Amazing? 30 Truths to Set Your Heart Free.


There are no scraps in the hands of the One who works all things together for our good.


Emily Burger for


Download this printable scripture at



Ten Thousand Miles The boundless God of opportunities brings an African boy and an American lawyer together to do what seemed impossible. By Mark Kelly


HAT COULD THEY POSSIBLY have in common? Henry is a frightened teenager in Uganda, unjustly thrown in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Jim is a middle-aged American whose storybook family is living the American Dream in Malibu, California. On the surface, their lives are miles apart — more than 9,300 miles, actually.

Malibu, California 52


Yet not only did Henry and Jim have one crucial thing in common, but God had their lives on a collision course — and both of them would be forever changed.


Henry had been jailed after a mob killed one of his father’s farmhands. The man had stolen the family’s savings, and when word reached their town in western Uganda, a lynch mob tracked him down. The police arrested Henry, his father, and one brother — even though they had nothing to do with the murder.

In Uganda, like many developing countries, police arrest suspects and jail them while they investigate. That process can drag on for months, even years. Henry suddenly found himself trapped in a juvenile “remand house,” forced to work as slave labor on nearby farms and unable to continue the schoolwork he knew was the key to his future. As weeks in jail turned into months, Henry was driven ever deeper into the faith his mother had instilled in all her nine children.

Edward, Henry, and Jim just after Court of Appeals hearing


“The hardest part was to keep praying and trusting when the answer is not coming as soon I hoped.” – Henry

“I grew up in a very good, loving, God-fearing family,” Henry recalls. “Before, my dad was not a Christian, but my mom was. She was the foundation of all the strength we had in God. “Mom always told us there are valleys and mountains in life,” Henry says. “She would always tell us there is trouble in life, but nothing matters except the love of God. She would tell us let’s just keep believing in God, whatever circumcircum stances we face.” At home, Henry’s biggest problem was wrestling through his homework, but now he faced a nightmarish “valley and mountain” challenge. His dreams of finishing school and becoming a pilot were crushed. So Henry did what his mother had taught him: He prayed and fasted. He waited and believed God would set him free. But not only did freedom not come, Henry was charged with another murder when a fellow inmate was killed for trying to escape. As a trusty in the remand house, Henry was responsible. He doubled up on the prayer and fasting. “I was really challenged to trust in God,” Henry says. “When I was arrested, I thought that by praying so much, God would hear my prayers. The hardest part was to keep praying and trusting when the answer is not coming as soon as I hoped. There is nothing which really needs a little con concentration like waiting more than two years when you hoped it would happen within days.”


Jim’s life could not have been any less like Henry’s. Raised in California’s Sonoma County, Jim’s mother came from a family with deep roots in the church, and his father was saved while studying at a Christian college. Both were teachers who had Jim and his two siblings in church every Sunday. Because their jobs provided summer leisure time, the family enjoyed many idyllic days camping in some of the world’s most picturesque settings.

Uganda, Africa




After graduating from law school, Jim landed a lucrative position with a Los Angeles law firm. He married Joline, a teacher like his parents, and two decades of successful marriage blessed them with three children. Then Jim landed his dream job: returning as a professor to his old law school at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He was coaching his kids’ soccer teams, attending their school performances, and teaching their Sunday School classes. He was mentoring young adults toward careers as Christian lawyers and even encouraging them to volunteer on mission projects that took them overseas to help at-risk women and children. But, as good as life was, Jim felt a nagging sense that God had something more for him and his family. He was challenging students to help people in need overseas, yet he had never gone himself. Jim finally took a step of faith in 2010 and, at age 42, signed up for a project that would help child prisoners in Uganda who had no lawyer to help them navigate a system utterly insensitive to their plight. He intended the trip to be a “one and done.” “It was going to be a ‘Let me show my family, let me show my wife, let me show my God that I’m willing to trust Him but it’s only going to be this one time,’” Jim confesses. When Jim arrived at the remand house 7 in Masindi, Uganda, however, he was deeply disturbed by what he saw. More than 20 kids were warehoused in a stifling hot, unlit concrete building, with only thin foam pads to sleep on. They worked hard in the fields during the day and were fed poorly at night. Worst of all, their childhoods were slipping away. They were out of school and at the mercy of an inefficient and often corrupt legal system. Some of the kids had not even committed a crime — like the 15-year-old named Henry who was assigned to translate for him. Jim realized the Lord didn’t intend for this to be a “one and done” project after all. He personally took on the teen’s case and decided he would come back to Uganda to clear Henry’s name. As he worked on that,




1. 2. 3. 4.

Henry’s classroom before his arrest. Henry translating for Jim and a friend. Prison Project, 2015 Henry and Joseph with their mother in court before the first case was dismissed 5. Ihungu kitchen 6. Henry’s graduation from Restore with Jim 7. Team photo for Ihungu Prison Project, 2012

Jim was asked if he would help address the broader injustice in Uganda’s legal system that kept kids like Henry jailed indefinitely as their cases wound through the courts. Jim heard God’s call in that request, but realized he would need to move to Uganda for several months to accomplish that task. Even more significantly, Jim realized he would need to ask his family to move to Uganda with him. Giving God control of his life had been challenging enough, Jim says. He had stepped temporarily out of his comfortable job and predictable life to help children in need. Now he was headed back to Malibu to tell his family he believed God was leading them to move to Uganda. Jim recalls: “That wasn’t well-received! My son was fine with it, but my wife and two daughters were more than a little bit hesitant. But then my oldest daughter said, ‘Let’s pray for 40 days and see where we feel God is leading us.’ At the end of the 40 days, we decided it was time to take a family step of faith.” That step of faith changed everything, Jim says. “The biggest fear I had going in was fear of failure, of going somewhere and it wouldn’t work or there wasn’t something for me to do,” he recalls. “But as I reflect back on it, the biggest fear really was the fear of success. What if I took the


“What if I took the step of faith and God was there saying, ‘I’ve been waiting for you and I have something for you to do’?” – Jim




step of faith and God was there saying, ‘I’ve been waiting for you and I have something for you to do’? Then everything would change. Then you wouldn’t be living in Malibu. Then you wouldn’t be doing the same sort of comfortable routine. You would be living an unexpected, unknown, unpredictable life. That was quite scary.” Jim discovered his fear was unfounded. “You realize God is in control. He loves us, and He’s going to provide for us. He’s going to give us challenges, and He is going to give us opportunities to serve individually and collectively together,” he says. “It was transformative, not just for me but for my entire family. We have a deeper connection, and now my kids’ world is so much bigger than it would have been, so much bigger than mine was when I was growing up.”

Henry and Jim

Trusting God and waiting patiently changed everything for Henry too. “If I had not been patient and trusted God, I probably would have escaped from the prison,” he says. “By escaping I would have been in trouble up until now. The police would have kept searching for me.”


“When you say, ‘Hey, God, You write this story,’ it removes all boundaries and barriers and says, ‘God, You’re a God of possibilities.’” – Jim


In addition, Henry’s prison experience helped him see the suffering of others. When the doctor would come to the remand house, the prisoners would line up and wait while he worked on two or three patients. Then he would go home and leave everyone else untreated. “I realized a doctor can make a big difference in peoples lives,” Henry says. “Because of this challenge, I decided to become a doctor, if I live, and help some people.” With Jim’s help, Henry was able to resume his schoolwork and was admitted to medical school in Uganda. By not trusting God, Henry says he would have been putting a limitation on God and what the Lord could do with his life. Jim says he was doing the same thing by staying in his comfortable, predictable life. “When you are writing your own story, you’re limited by your imagination,” Jim says. “What is it I think I can do? What would be fun and be my skill set? What do I imagine to be the gifts I have? “But when you say, ‘Hey, God, You write this story,’ it removes all boundaries and barriers and says, ‘God, You’re a God of possibilities, and I’m just going to rely on the fact that You have a better plan than I do. I’m going to live into whatever it is You have for me and accept that may be completely different than what I imagine for myself.’” Trusting God for what’s next in life requires a change of priorities, Jim adds. “We all have a finite amount of time and energy. You have to discern between what is life-giving and what is life-sucking,” Jim says. “My wife and I pray together every night, asking what is it that we should be going toward and what should we be resisting due to the limited amount of time. We seek the advice of really good friends. We try to figure out what God has given us as tools to use and what is going to fulfill that. When someone is asking you to do something you are capable of doing, the next question has to be ‘Instead of what?’ Instead of time with your family? Instead of engaging in this work God has given you?” Jim’s advice for Henry as he seeks God’s direction for his life is the same advice he would give to every believer: “Keep an open heart, open hands, and open mind to where God is leading you. Don’t limit God. He is a boundless God of opportunities that will surprise you.” Jim tells his and Henry’s amazing story in his book, Divine Collision (Worthy). Hear an interview with Jim Gash on the author’s website, □

Mark Kelly is a freelance writer living in

Marietta, GA.



life a funny thing happened


When it comes to walking this life in faith, we can’t believe everything we hear there either. Those who don’t follow Christ will tell you that if you do all your stepping just so — if you have just the right look, the right family, the right houses and cars and things, if you have all the right moves in all the right places — then your life will be a graceful dance. They’ll tell you that when you know the right people and can say the right words in the right way, that’s when life will be good. Sadly, you don’t have to try the world’s way for very long before figuring out that those moves make up a dance that’s everything awkward. It ends not just in embarrassment but in emptiness. Relying on things and power and self to make us happy will always end in that vacuum. With no singing. How do we find the remedy for that emptiness, in the most graceful, spin-and-swing-and-whirl-of-joy way? Not in our culture. Not on our own. It begins in His Word. “Make my steps steady through Your promise; don’t let any sin dominate me” (Psalm 119:133). Our choice here? Let evil govern our steps. Or let the Lord. “Through Your promise” means “by Your Word.” And the indication in the original language is that the psalmist isn’t actually talking about our own sinful nature here, though that’s a battle we never take lightly. But this refers to sinful influence. He’s asking for deliverance from the dominance of evil people. All too often in life’s dance we take our cues from others who would love nothing more than to lead us off in some wrong direction. In the same psalm, we read, “I have kept my feet from every evil path to follow Your word” (v. 101). It means literally, “I hold back my feet.” Hold on, feet. Do the right thing. We have to give the Word of God a place of prominence in how we think and act and live — every step. As we do, oh what a difference! “Abundant peace belongs to those who love Your instruction; nothing makes them stumble” (v. 165). It’s the difference between peacefully and gracefully moving through a day, and stumbling embarrassingly out of control. Poetry in motion. Or plummeting in an awkward commotion. Because seriously, some moves are never meant to be busted. □

We have to give the Word of God a place of prominence in how we think and act and live — every step.

Follow God’s rhythm of grace and stay in step with Jesus. I’m not one to dance like nobody’s watching. Mostly

because I don’t want to watch it either. But I do sing loud. And big. Sometimes with motions. So, while I might not necessarily dance like no one is watching, I have been known to sing like I’m vacuuming. A couple of months ago, I did accidentally bust a few new moves, but it was because a bug flew into my hair. That was some sweet choreography. Embarrassing, sure. I didn’t even know I had those moves. I heard it was Charles Baudelaire who said, “Dancing is poetry with arms and legs.” He obviously never saw my moves. Either that or he was super bad at poetry.



Rhonda Rhea is a speaker, humor columnist,

and author of 13 books, including Join the Insanity. She recently co-authored Get a Grip with her daughter, Kaley Faith Rhea, and hosts the TV show, That’s My Mom. Rhonda and her husband, Richie, live in the St. Louis area and have five grown children. Follow her on Twitter @RhondaRhea.


Good Choreography

family-friendly media life Fall Fun!

Children of God

Phil Wickham Fair Trade Services Prolific singer/songwriter Phil Wickham says he wrote out of a newfound sense of identity as a child of God when penning songs for his latest album. Children of God builds on the vibrant sonic foundation laid by Wickham’s massive No. 1 radio single, “This Is Amazing Grace,” from 2013’s The Ascension. Children of God solidifies Wickham as one of modern worship’s best and brightest songwriters. Huge pop/rock anthems abound — big enough to fill arenas — yet Wickham’s artistic, intimate songwriting keeps the lyrics fresh and personal. The church will soon be singing along.

Between Us: A 52-Week Keepsake Devotional for Daughters and Moms

by Vicki Courtney B&H Publishing Group Throughout the year, mothers and daughters can use these 52 devotions to share their thoughts and grow their faith. Each devotion unpacks a focus Scripture and offers guidance and biblical truth that is relevant to today’s tweens. Moms and daughters will find questions to ask each other and to journal about, as well as fun activity ideas. As the devotions are shared and the journal is passed back and forth from mom to daughter, readers will be building their relationship with each other, strengthening their faith in God, and creating a keepsake to treasure for decades to come.

Bibleman: The Animated Adventures DVD

Clobbering the Crusher (also includes two bonus animated adventures) B&H Kids Even his evil henchmen are afraid of the Crusher. But this villain is also wickedly clever, luring Bibleman and Cypher into a deadly trap, and using schoolkids as bait. Can Bibleman rescue the kids before Crusher destroys them all? Based on the Bible story of Rehoboam, this adventure offers a lesson in gentleness.


When it comes to instilling a sense of responsibility and work ethic in your kids, giving them chores around the house is a great first step. The challenge comes in keeping kids motivated and held accountable for the chores you’ve given them. With the help of the ChoreMonster app, this no longer is a problem. ChoreMonster is an app for both parents and kids. For parents, you can schedule chores for your children, add rewards for specific chores completed, and check in to ensure chores are being completed. For the kids, their app allows them to see the chores they need to complete, giving them an opportunity to see all the rewards they can earn, motivating them to complete chores even faster. If you want to make chores fun and engaging, and even rewarding for your kids, try ChoreMonster today!



life purse strings BY SCOTT & BETHANY PALMER

College Bound

Illustr ation Source

Take time now to have three must-have conversations with your child.



In just 20 years, U.S. News reports,

the cost of tuition and fees at private, national universities increased 179 percent. During that same time period, tuition and fees at public, in-state universities grew 296 percent. Even if you started saving when your child was born, the expense of college is more than most of us ever dreamed it would be. The cost is overwhelming, but think back to your first mortgage. You didn’t pitch a tent and decide that giant number was impossible. You got through it. And you can get through this, too, with a few critical conversations about how much advanced schooling will cost, the financing options available, and who is paying for what. HOW MUCH WILL IT COST? That’s the hundred-thousand-dollar question. Fire up a spreadsheet or scribble on the back of a napkin. Let your student see some real numbers associated with college. Compare all of your schools on one site. That way, if the tuition and fees are inflated or understated, at least they are apples to apples for your initial comparison purposes. Consult college selection websites like to view tuition, room and board, and fees. For the initial review, select an in-state option, then a few schools your student is interested in. Toss in some schools you happen to think would be good but aren’t on your kid’s radar, and add a “reach” school (a college with GPA or test score requirements just outside your student’s current reach). WHAT MONEY IS AVAILABLE? Scholarships abound, but getting them can be a chore. Start with the organizations nearest to you and work your way out to organizations you have less contact with. Some places of employment offer scholarships, and some clubs that you belong to might. Investigate activities your student participates in, the church you attend, and ethnic organizations you are affiliated with, who may also offer scholarships. Have your child set a Google alert for “new scholarships” and watch your inbox

Discuss the realities of college expenses and find a way to invest in this exciting season of life.

for opportunities that might be a good fit. Summer is a great time to do this when your student isn’t weighed down with schoolwork. Historically, the largest amount of monies awarded will be from the institution they plan to attend. Private schools often have higher sticker prices than public schools, but they may have huge endowments and more monies to offer. We have close friends whose son attends a highly selective private college on the east coast for less money than he would pay at his in-state university. Grants are another way to get “free money” for college. To see if your family is eligible for federal grants and to estimate your eligibility for governmental financial aid, check out the federal government’s calculator, FAFSA4caster, at StudentAid.Ed.Gov. You may never feel like you have enough to sit down and write a check to a university to cover your child’s education expenses. That’s okay. It’s not really about having enough. It’s about using what we have, responsibly, to help the next generation. WHO PAYS? This is a good time to set the expectations for who is responsible for what portions of the college education expense. Some kids assume their parents will foot the bill for college because… well, because you guys have covered most of the tab so far. Everyone has a right to his or her opinion

so try to avoid backing anyone into a corner. Make this discussion a positive one. There are lots of ways to share the financial load. ◆ Kid’s Choice. Parents pay all: tuition, room, board, books, fees, club dues, travel, trips, weekly expenses, and more. ◆ Parent’s Choice. The student pays all expenses, except trips home. ◆ Bookworm Package. Parents pay all expenses directly related to earning the degree: tuition, room, board, books, and fees. If a student joins a club, the student foots the bill. If he or she drinks designer coffee every day, the student forks it over. If there is a car on campus, parking and upkeep is the student’s expense. ◆ Carrot-and-Stick Option. Mom and dad pay all expenses as long as the student meets an agreed-upon GPA, works 15 hours on campus each week, and has a summer job. ◆ Baseline Offer. Mom and dad pay a set amount. The student knows the remainder is his or hers to finance through student loans, family loans, and so on. Help them determine how your contribution looks at different schools, and then let them decide. Any amount saved now is money you won’t have to borrow later. Check out your state's 529 account options. A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan to help you set aside tax-free funds for college. Most plans will automatically deduct small amounts from your checking or savings accounts to be used for college expenses later. Advanced degrees are a wonderful addition to your child’s life, and for some future jobs, they are a requirement. Now is the time to discuss the realities of college expenses and find a way to invest in this exciting season of life. □

Scott and Bethany Palmer, The

Money Couple, are financial planners, authors, and speakers who help couples tackle money issues in their relationship. Grab a copy of The 5 Money Personalities: Speaking the Same Love and Money Language, and be sure to take the FREE online Money Personality Assessment.



life from your kitchen

Author, Bible Teacher, Songwriter… and Cook Kelly Minter shares a few of her favorite recipes. In her Bible studies, Kelly Minter

does something unique: She shares welltested recipes from her own table with her readers. It’s what makes her Living Room Series a little different from your average study. These delicious favorites will bring your family or study group together for a relaxing evening. □

rocketed to “Kale has aps it’s atus. Perh celebrity st nal benthe nutritio because of atility in rs ve s it ts or love efits it boas ch en ips. I ps, and ev u so the , es ds ri la sa at mar is recipe th ful or av fl making th e th kale with texture of , the heart of sausage gs in on t of in seas h a d an ans, iness of be d garlic.” tomato an el – K ly



Mom’s Ginger Snaps▶ Makes 4 to 5 dozen cookies Ingredients ¾ cup butter, softened 1 cup brown sugar 1 egg ¼ cup molasses 2 ¼ cups flour 2 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon ginger ½ teaspoon ground cloves ¼ teaspoon salt white sugar for rolling

Directions Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg; add molasses. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt. Add dry ingredients to the wet ones and stir well. Form into 1-inch balls, then roll in white sugar. Bake on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

“I love gin ger snap cookies. Pa ir these u p with a cu p of tea an d your friends w ill love yo u. Or, if you’re lik e me and your mom makes th em for yo u, you will love your mom even more than you already do .” – Kelly

◀Kale and Cannellini Bean Soup

Makes 8-10 servings Ingredients


¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil 6 to 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 2 teaspoons dried oregano 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar 2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed 9 cups chicken stock 1 lb sweet Italian sausage 1 large bunch kale, large ribs removed, chopped salt and freshly ground black pepper shaved Parmesan cheese

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add garlic and oregano, and sauté until garlic is translucent. Stir in vinegar and tomato paste and cook an additional minute, stirring, until tomato paste and oil have mixed together. Add drained and rinsed beans and stock. Bring soup to a simmer and let cook 30-45 minutes. While soup simmers, partially cook Italian sausages in a small skillet. Let cool, then cut into bite-size pieces and add to the soup. (Letting them cook the rest of the way in the broth will flavor it.) After simmering, add chopped kale to the pot and partially cover. Cook 15-30 minutes, until sausage is cooked through. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve with shaved Parmesan cheese on top.

kitchen tips

Mom’s Ginger Snaps

• Don’t overbake! You want these crunchy on the outside but chewy on the inside. Once they come out of the oven, let them cool on the cookie sheet for one minute before moving to a cooling rack.

Kale and Cannellini Bean Soup • Add some bruschetta or a toasted baguette and you have an easy, tasty meal you can throw together even in the busiest of seasons.



Nonna’s Meat Sauce ▶ Makes 6-8 servings Ingredients 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 3 Tablespoons butter, divided 1 medium yellow or white onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup) 4 cloves garlic 2 stalks celery, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup) 1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped (about 1/2 cup) 1 Tablespoon freshly ground fennel seed ½ pound ground beef (or veal) ½ pound ground pork 2 ounces pancetta, finely chopped salt and pepper, to taste ½ cup dry white wine, good quality 2 (15-ounce) cans whole plum tomatoes, undrained 3 Tablespoons orange juice


sauce this pasta “You’ll love think the I r. vo fla its recipe for d pancetta el seed an ground fenn ticeable no e ake th are what m t have to n’ , but you do st difference . Again, ju is th le op ll pe s old hi actually te ‘T , se ra e ph resort to th Really.’” as nothing. recipe? It w – Kelly

Heat a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat; add the oil and two tablespoons of butter and cook until butter is melted. Add the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot and lightly sauté, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft but not brown, about 15 minutes. Add the fennel seed and cook until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the ground beef, pork, pancetta, and a pinch of salt. Break up the meat while cooking, until the meat is no longer pink, but not overdone, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until it has reduced completely. Add the tomatoes and their juices along with the orange juice; reduce the heat to very low and barely simmer, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Right before serving, and after you’ve taken the sauce off the burner, add the remaining tablespoon of butter and allow to melt into the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.



pantry list: Mom’s Ginger Snaps Baking soda, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, egg, flour, ginger, ground cloves, molasses, pepper, salt, sugar

kitchen tip Nonna’s Meat Sauce • Grinding your own fennel seed really gives this extra-fresh flavor. Serve over rigatoni with warm bread and a crisp salad on the side.

Kale and Cannellini Bean Soup chicken stock, dried oregano, garlic, olive oil, pepper, red wine vinegar, salt Nonna’s Meat Sauce butter, garlic, olive oil, onion, pepper, salt

shopping list: Kale and Cannellini Bean Soup cannellini beans, Italian sausage, kale, Parmesan cheese, tomato paste Nonna’s Meat Sauce carrot, celery, fennel seeds, ground beef, ground pork, orange juice, pancetta, plum tomatoes, white wine

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HomeLife is looking for familyfriendly, budget-conscious, original recipes from readers like you. Simply email us your recipe, name and contact info to homelife@lifeway. com. We will pay $25 for each recipe we print. We regret that mailed submissions cannot be accepted. Recipes become the property of HomeLife and may be edited prior to publication.

life school zone BY JON ECKERT LEARN ABOUT THE CULTURE My son started kindergarten just outside of Washington, D.C. There were children from all over the world in his class. We spent very little time engaging students or learning anything about their cultures, languages, or countries. This was a missed opportunity. TRY TO COMMUNICATE Encourage your children to learn words in the languages of their friends. They will pick them up much more quickly than we will. As parents, we should also try to learn to make our children’s friends feel safe and to connect with their parents. Don’t worry about mispronouncing words — the effort will be appreciated and it can be a humorous way to break the ice

A mosaic of students makes an exceptional classroom. If your children are lucky enough to

be in a classroom with students who represent many different cultures, help them celebrate this as an asset, not a deficit. Today, I was teaching third-graders at a school that was almost entirely Latino, and approximately half the students were English language learners (ELLs). My objective was to teach inertia through a series of demonstrations and experiments. Of the 36 students in the class, not a single student could



pronounce the word inertia, or tell me what it meant (at least not in English). I had no idea what they could tell me in Spanish. This isn’t a deficiency in these students. They were listening intently, volunteering to participate in every experiment, and constantly trying to understand and communicate complex science concepts. Many of them were trying to do this in a second or even a third language.

APPRECIATE THE CHALLENGE If nothing else, appreciate what ELLs are doing. They are learning the curriculum that native speakers are learning — in a second or third language. Give them a few years, and they will know and be able to learn in two or more languages. □

Jon Eckert, Ed.D., is an associate

professor at Wheaton College, former elementary and middle school teacher, and a parent. He enjoys playing basketball and spending as much time as possible with his wife and children.


Teachable Tapestry

Encourage your children to learn words in the languages of their friends.

life fyi


▼Hi-Tech Toddlers▼ According to a study by Com-

mon Sense Media that surveyed 1,384 parents in the spring of 2011:


of 2-yearolds have a TV in their bedrooms.

olds use computers every day. of 2- to 24%4-yearolds use computers every week. The average 2-year-old watches


of 2- to 4-year-


minutes a day of TV or DVDs and is read to only 23 minutes a day.

On average, children who use computers start at age three. Source: nytimes. com/2011/10/25/us/ screen-time-higher-thanever-for-children-studyfinds.html?_r=0

Hello? According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, cell phones:


Are useful for quick information retrieval (used by 50 percent of all adult cell phone users).

2. Are an important tool in emergency situations (according to 40 percent of users).


Help stave off boredom (42 percent use their phones for entertainment).


Help prevent unwanted personal interactions (13 percent of cell phone users pretend to be using their phone to avoid personal interaction).


Young adults score a higher percentage in all the points above. Source:



life living well BY DR. CHRISTY OTT

If your child has incessant scratching and can’t seem to find relief, this may be a possible diagnosis.

The Itch that Rashes

➊ ➋ ➌ ➍

For inflamed skin, apply a topical steroid. This can be a mild potency hydrocortisone cream or a stronger potency prescription ointment or cream.



Perennial allergens exist throughout the year and are more commonly associated with chronic exposure to indoor allergens. Diagnosing eczema is generally simple. A doctor can often look at the rash and identify it. It’s best to have a health professional examine your child, because look-alikes may require a different therapeutic approach. Further allergy testing can be done to determine the causes. Treating eczema can be summarized in four easy steps:

Other helpful hints include giving an oatmeal bath to soothe dry, itchy skin; avoiding long, hot baths that can exacerbate dryness, cracking and peeling; and taking an antihistamine when itching is associated with allergen exposure. Eczema is a common pediatric chronic condition that is often taken care of by a child’s pediatrician, a dermatologist, or an allergist. □

Dr. Christy Ott is a board-certified

pediatrician. A native of New Orleans, she currently resides and practices medicine at Zoe Pediatrics in Columbus, Ga. Christy is also a published author of a bedtime story entitled, I Don’t Like Night, Mommy!


ails many children is eczema. If your child has incessant scratching and can’t seem to find relief, this may be a possible diagnosis. Eczema can flare due to heat, sweat, dry weather, stress, anxiety, irritants in soaps or detergents, allergens in foods, or environmental triggers. Outdoor allergens include trees, weeds, grasses, and pollen. Indoor allergens include pet dander, molds, cockroaches, and dust mites. Children with seasonal allergies usually are affected by outdoor allergens.

Use soap for sensitive skin.

Moisturize skin with a lubricant, emollient, or ointment twice a day.

Treat your child’s eczema in four easy steps.

A common skin condition that

Avoid allergens/ irritants whenever possible.


One thing impacts your spiritual growth more than any other spiritual discipline: DAILY TIME WITH GOD. These newly redesigned and updated devotionals feature richer content that will equip you with a daily devotional—the starting place for spiritual growth. Visit for samples and tools to help you in your daily time with God.


Jesus shows us that the values in His kingdom are the opposite of the values in this world. by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck


obert Quinn, a leadership professor at University of Michigan, has joined others in pointing out that the origins of the word leader means to “go forth and die.” In his book Change the World, he writes: “Leadership authors don’t understand that leadership means ‘Go forth to die.’ If they did understand it, they would not be enticed to write about it — because people do not want to hear this message. Most people want to be told how to get extraordinary results with minimum risk. They want to know how to get out-of-the-box results with in-the-box courage.” True leaders are servants who die to themselves so others may flourish. True leaders go forth, not for themselves, but for others. The church, as no other group, follows the only One to die that others may forever live. If the foundation of leadership is “go forth and die,” then the church must be the epicenter for developing and deploying these kinds of leaders. Who but the church can really understand the weight and significance of “go forth and die”?



THE CHURCH HAS BEEN SERVED The church exists because our great death-defeating Savior went forth to die for us and, now, invites all who follow Him to die to themselves and truly live. The message of our SaviorKing dying in our place is central, and of first importance, to believers. He went forth and endured the shame and pain of the cross for us. We are His because He served us. The essence of Christianity isn’t that we serve Him first, but that He has served us by sacrificing Himself on the cross in our place and enduring our suffering and shame. On the cross He was treated as we deserve, so we may be treated as He deserves. His dying words capture the essence of the Christian faith: “It is finished!” (John 19:30). His sacrifice is final, the work is complete, and our salvation is secure. Reportedly, Buddha’s dying words were, “Strive without ceasing.” Work really hard for your own salvation! He died giving a pep talk, while our Savior died securing our redemption. No one has served the way Jesus has served us.


THE CHURCH HAS THE ULTIMATE EXAMPLE His service to us is the example He has instructed us to emulate. Because He has served us, we’re now free to “go forth and die” by serving others. After He washed His disciples’ feet, Jesus said: “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you” (John 13:14-15). Jesus shows us that the values in His kingdom are the opposite of the values in this world. In His kingdom, the hungry are full, the poor are rich, the last are first, and “whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26). THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS ABOUT DYING When Jesus invited the crowd to follow Him, He invited them to die. When He told them His followers would be taking up their cross daily (see Luke 9:23), they knew He meant a life of dying, as the cross was an explicit statement of death. The Christian life isn’t about trying daily, but dying daily. His life is revealed in us, with increasing measure, as we die to ourselves (see 2 Corinthians 4:11). We grow by continually “going forth to die.” Christians, more than anyone else, should resonate with what it means to “go forth and die.” Christians, more than anyone else, have been designed to lead. The church, more than anyone else, is designed by God to create these kinds

The essence of Christianity isn’t that we serve Him first, but that He has served us by sacrificing Himself on the cross in our place and enduring our suffering and shame.

Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development Most churches merely exist. Many churches don’t develop leaders intentionally and consistently. When leaders emerge from some churches, it’s often by accident. Something is missing. Something is off. Authors Eric Geiger (author of best-selling Simple Church and Creature of the Word) and Kevin Peck argue that churches that consistently produce leaders have a strong conviction to develop leaders, a healthy culture for leadership development, and helpful constructs to systematically and intentionally build leaders. All three are essential for leaders to be formed through the ministry of a local church. From the first recordings of history, God has made it clear that He has designed creation to be led by His covenant people. More than that, He has decided what His people are to do with that leadership. Whether you’re called to lead in your home, in the marketplace, in God’s church, or in your community, if you’re called by God you’re called to lead others to worship the glory of God in Jesus Christ. God has designed His people to lead. Available at

of leaders. No other people have been secured with the blood of Christ, knit together solely by His grace, and commissioned by Him to multiply. The church has been providentially formed by God to bless the world, to be a holy gathering of people who make disciples. The church has been designed to possess a holy rhythm of gathering people to scatter so more may be gathered. □ Excerpt taken from Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development, B&H Publishing.

Eric Geiger serves as one of the vice presidents at LifeWay

Christian Resources, leading the Resources Division. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including Creature of the Word and the bestselling church leadership book, Simple Church. He also serves as the senior pastor of ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin, Tenn. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

Kevin Peck is the lead pastor of The Austin Stone Community

Church in Austin, Tex. Kevin works to bring strategic leadership, strong teams, and a passion for developing leaders to the local church. Kevin also serves as the Acts 29 Network Director for Emerging Regions, helping to recruit and train church planters throughout Africa and Asia. Kevin received his doctorate in leadership from Southern Seminary. He is married to Leslie and together they have three beautiful girls, Ellie, Halle, and Ivey.



SUGAR, SUGAR That which we call by any name would taste as sweet.



By Linda Ross Shoaf


Y HUSBAND AND I took our children to visit a candy factory in Oklahoma City. We watched workers fill huge cement-mixertype vats with jellybeans of all colors and polish them to perfection. The chocolate-covered cherries made my mouth water. Elsewhere, hard candies with intricate little designs placed inside each piece fascinated me and my children. After a personal tour of all seven floors, an assistant led the children to another area while our guide motioned for us to follow him. He directed our gaze to the glass-paneled walls of a large room filled with huge bins of all the different candies made by the company. We watched the assistant give the wide-eyed girls bags and instruct them to get as much as they wanted. Our 7-year-old, with an insatiable sweet tooth, could hardly contain her excitement. She looked from bin to bin with turmoil as to which candies to grab first. Expressions of awe and delight plastered both girls’ faces.

White Gold

Sugar is the wonderful sweetness in candy. After honey, it is the oldest natural sweetener. Evidence of sugar cane goes back to 9,000 B.C. The sweet cane, perhaps first used by Polynesians in the South Pacific, migrated to India. King Darius of Persia invaded India and found “the reed which gives honey without bees.” When Alexander the Great conquered that region in 327 B.C., he spread sugar cane throughout Persia extending to the Mediterranean Sea. Only in the 11th century A.D., during the Crusades, did sugar cane become known to Western Europe. Sugar became “white gold” and the center of political gain, taxes, and wars. Columbus brought sweet cane to the New World in 1492. Sugar beets, as a source for this prized commodity, surfaced in 1747. About fifty years later, sugar beet factories extracted that same white gold. Whether from cane or beets, sugar has the same flavor, look, and chemical composition.


America’s Sweet Tooth

The use of sugar in the United States has steadily increased to an average annual intake of nearly 135 pounds per person. Eating too much sugar is a major cause for overweight and obesity in more than two-thirds of the population. The recent

2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended limiting added sugar in the diet to less than 10 percent of total calories. According to the American Heart Association, women shouldn’t consume more than 100 calories daily from sugar, and men no more than 150. That’s six and nine teaspoons, respectively. On average, though, Americans eat or drink the equivalent of more than 22 teaspoons of sugar daily for a total of 355 calories. One 12-ounce cola contains approximately eight teaspoons of sugar. How will we cut back on this favored food item?

Good or Bad?

Sugars have their place in a normal diet, yet a healthy lifestyle avoids excessive indulgence. Along with fats, sugars are good as discretionary calories — those the body needs for energy after nutrient requirements have been met from appropriate food groups. While individuals vary, most can include approximately 300 discretionary calories with slightly more for men and less for women. Those on restricted 1,200-calorie diets can consume about 170 discretionary calories selected from nutritious food groups or an occasional non-nutritive source. For a good balance, consider about 14 grams of fat and 16 grams (or four teaspoons) of sugar, including that used in cooked foods. Sugar isn’t always the culprit in health problems and isn’t harmful when used in reasonable amounts. It’s a substance we enjoy, but as with many things, our taste and appetite may lead to poor choices. Problems arise when sugar replaces more nutritious foods or we consume so much that weight problems result. While you appease your sweet tooth, remember to be sensible and avoid overindulging. “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 1:2, NIV). Enjoy a little sweetness as you consider your health. □

Enjoy a little sweetness as you consider your health.

Linda Ross Shoaf is a registered/licensed dietitian nutritionist

with a doctoral degree in adult education. Her motto, “To nourish body and spirit,” reflects her goal to encourage people in healthy physical and spiritual living. Linda blogs at




Whac-a-Mole Days Jesus is with you every day, all the time. Figuratively speaking, I love

“waterslide days.” Exciting, refreshing and fun. On waterslide days, you really don’t have to do anything but lean back and let the giant-sized plumbing pipe do the rest. Waterslide days end up in the pool at the end of the tube. But waterslide days aren’t nearly as frequent as Whac-a-Mole days. You’re at the noisy pizza place with a velvet-coated hammer, whacking as fast as you can at the pesky little problems that pop up in a split second. For me, these are the times when my neat, predictable, iCal-friendly, Southern Living-inspired, Billy-Graham-sounding persona is blown to smithereens.

Welcome to the “Whac-a-Mole days.” These are the days when projectile vomiting from the six-month-old intersects with the timing chain going out on the minivan while the 8-year-old gets called to the principal’s office for throwing his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure into the chili pot, causing seconddegree burns to the lunchroom lady. It all comes in at once and if you didn’t have your coffee, quiet time, and morning kiss before it all went down, you’d probably be practicing macramé at the rehab center across town. There are days when the faster you whack, the

We’ve got to splash cold water in our face, look in the mirror, and remind ourselves who we are as Christfollowers.



more the furry moles pop up from the game booth. This is life in all of its aspects. Not all days are Whac-a-Mole days, but we can rest assured that all winning streaks must come to an end, often with tumultuous crescendos when we least expect it. Surviving Whac-a-Mole days requires the heart of a Father who saw His share of rebelling children, deceptive villains, and dramatic teen romance disasters. I’m so glad that the Bible didn’t leave out the Whac-a-Mole days. God left it all in a Book for those messy days we’d experience from time to time. King David, the man after God’s own heart, survived a number of Whac-a-Mole days. There were days when he was surrounded, his family was kidnapped, his friends turned on him, and his enemies ramped up their attacks. I love the narrative of one of those days in 1 Samuel 30. Everything closed in on him and “David encouraged himself in the Lord.” When there is no encouragement from our friends, spouse, associates, or even the dog, we’ve got to learn how to do this. We’ve got to splash cold water in our face, look in the mirror, and remind ourselves who we are as Christ-followers. On Whac-a-Mole days we’ve got to remember some things. Jesus teaches us more in the Whac-a-Mole days than He does in the waterslide days. Jesus loves our kids more than we do. The whole point of marriage is to teach us about servanthood and sacrifice. Hair grows back — usually. We all get a turn on the small group prayer list. And finally, we should whack at the mole and not the people around us! I don’t know how deep my relationship with God or my wife would be without Whac-a-Mole days. Plus, they make waterslide days even more delightful. □

Matt Tullos is a media producer for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. He and his wife, Darlene, have four sons. Matt travels and writes with Arthur, his trusted golden retriever, at his feet.


life living light

life abide

Fall serves as a reminder that spring is as far in the past

Hunger makes bad food good, but praise God that there

as it is in the future. New flowers have long made way

is nothing bad or bitter about the gospel. To the hungry

for fall foliage. Honeybees buzz no longer, but their labor

soul, the bitter things of life are made better by God’s

has not been in vain. Their combs have been filled.

love, Jesus’ friendship, and His sweet, sweet Spirit.

Imagine a truly hungry child who is nauseated by the thought of sweet honey. Or a famished adult who

Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be satisfied by His Son, the Bread of Life.

destroys a full comb so that no one — not even she — can

Honey is easiest to harvest when the summer isn’t too far

enjoy its yield. The act would be senseless no matter how

in the past and the comb is still warm. God’s goodness is

satisfied the appetite. But to someone who is starving,

best enjoyed the better we know Him and the closer we

even the near-empty comb can nourish.

walk with Him. Remain in Him. Abide in Him. Be filled.



Proverbs 27:7


N E W S T U DY f r o m B E T H M O O R E


We were never meant to take this journey of faith alone or in secret. God has entrusted us with the great and mighty gift of the gospel, something too precious and life-giving to keep to ourselves. In this 6-session Bible study, Beth will encourage you to guard what God has entrusted to you, further His kingdom by sharing Christ with others, and pour into future generations just as Paul once mentored Timothy. Because in this journey of joy and hardship, we need each other to stay the course and live lives of faithfulness.

Bible Study Book Leader Kit Leader Guide Audio CDs Scripture Cards 800.458.2772 | LifeWay Christian Stores

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