Category Archives: Family Matters

8 Magical Words that End All Arguments in Marriage!!

8 Magical WordsRecently I heard a sermon that challenged me deeply; the pastor shared he knew 8 magical words that could conquer any conflict in a marriage.  He went on to say that these magic words have the power to shatter strongholds, tear down barriers; and would bring healing to arguments that couples have.  These words could alter perception.

WOW!  As one who is in marriage ministry I was eager to discover what these “magic” words were!  Before letting us in on his secret, the pastor warned us that these 8 magical words may be harder for us to say than we might imagine.  He was afraid that many of us would not have the strength and courage to utter these powerful words to our spouses.

We were on the edge of our seats.  The moment of truth was upon us.  So with a dramatic pause he clearly articulated these 8 magical words:

“I was wrong.  You were right.  I’m sorry.”

My initial thought was … that’s it!?  I was wrong … you were right … and I’m sorry!  Then the attitude needed to speak those words hit me like a ton of bricks; I realized how powerful that simple and humble phrase could be in marriages.

James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”

I Peter 4:8 continues, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

Over the years I’ve come to realize that when arguments occur in my marriage, both of us begin to do and say things that are not honoring and glorifying to God.

When I say, and truly mean, these 8 words I’m admitting my mistakes, and beginning to diffuse the pressure that has been building between us.  By assuming my responsibility in the argument, and accepting the consequences of my mistakes, Karen and I can start moving towards reconciliation and renewed relationship with each other.

So, the next time you find yourself in the middle of a battle with your spouse, remember these 8 magical words and give them a try.

Let us know how they work for you!

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Filed under Family Matters, Fan the Flame Marriage Devotional, Marriage/Family, Uncategorized

Too Much On Our Plate

Imagine for a second that you enjoy golfing (for some of you that won’t be hard).  One day Phil Mickelson calls you up and says that he is in the area and was wondering if the two of you might play a round of golf together at a local course.  My guess is that you would immediately begin to clear your schedule to make it happen, no matter how busy you might be.  After all Mickelson is one the most famous golfers in the world!

Or let’s say you are really into leading worship music and one day you receive a text message from Chris Tomlin who says that he is giving a concert in the area and thought he might stop by the church and sit in on your practice session.  You would immediately call the entire team and tell them to come no matter what , right?  After all, it’s Chris “the Godfather of Contemporary Worship” Tomlin!

The truth is that whenever we get an opportunity to personally meet someone who is at the absolute top of their field we try to do so.   It doesn’t matter how busy we are or how cluttered our calendar is, we find a way to meet them.

And yet…

Whenever someone challenges us to deepen our commitment to God, or spend time in prayer each day, or get into the Word more, many of us often respond with that familiar lament “I just don’t have time.”  There have been many occasions  where I’ve been a part of a small group, Sunday school class, or other gathering of believers and the leader has given a challenge to put more energy and effort into being a better spouse… or more involved parent …or a more devoted follower of Jesus.  Many times someone will reply that they want to do those things and know that they should, but they are just really busy right now and once things slow down they are going to really commit to it (sometimes that person has been me).

We would gladly drop everything to meet the “heroes” of our areas of interest, but we claim that we don’t have time to connect with the God of the Universe, the Creator of heaven and Earth, our Heavenly Father.  For some reason we just can’t find the time.

Huh?  Doesn’t make much sense does it?

I’ve fallen into this trap as well.  I feel like I’m too busy for God.  I can’t manage to find time for devotions (though I manage to find time to watch football or the Phillies).   There are times when I’m tired when I get home, so I’d just as soon have the kids play by themselves.  Sometimes I know Mary and I need to talk about something, but it seems easier just to put it off until the “perfect moment” arrives.

Somehow many of us have let our lives become so filled with “stuff” that  we feel we don’t have time for what is really important.  Some of that “stuff” is good “stuff,” to be sure.  But even good “stuff,” when it comes at the expense of our relationship with God, our spouse, or our kids needs to be removed from our lives so that we have more time for our most important relationships.

Mary and I have started getting up a little earlier than usual in the morning so that we can each spend some time connecting with God before our days begin.  It’s been a really good thing for both of us, but it has at the same time shown me just how much growing I need to do as a husband, father, and follower of Christ.

I don’t have all the answers here, but over the next few weeks I’ll be offering some thoughts as to how even the “busiest” of believers can find time for spiritual disciplines in their life.  If you can relate to what I’ve shared here, I invite you to check back and join the conversation.


Filed under Family, Family Matters, Marriage/Family, Ministry, Parenting

Being a Difference Making Dad

I was presenting one of our workshops on parenting at a local church this past weekend when I made the comment that some day in the future I ‘m going to walk Abby down the aisle and give her away to a young man.  As I’m doing that, I said, I don’t want to be thinking “I’m not done with her yet.  There’s still more that I need to teach her.”  It is a point that I often make when I’m speaking on parenting.

Imagine my surprise, then, when later that night a couple who was at the workshop sent me a message that as they were sitting there listening to me they did so in something of a daze, knowing that their oldest daughter was in the middle of being proposed to!  Although it seems a long way off, I know that the day is coming when I too will be in  a daze, wondering how in the world my little girl grew up so fast.

“It’s a girl,” may be at the same time the most joyous and most frightening words a man ever hears.  Being a dad to a daughter is tough stuff, certainly not for the faint of heart.  We sort of have an idea with our sons, but our daughters are a whole other ballgame (and spending time with them often doesn’t involve a ballgame!).  Boys will be boys, and since we were boys once (although some of us never quite grow up!) we can at least draw on those experiences as we parent.

My Princess

But (and this is earth-shattering) boys and girls are different, which means that parenting boys and parenting girls needs to be different as well.  It’s probably not a coincidence (but rather a “God thing”) just a couple days after speaking at the parenting workshop I started prepping for a Daddy/Daughter banquet that I’ll be speaking at in a few weeks.  As I reviewed some things that I had gathered for just such an occasion I was reminded of two things:

1. Just how much I love my daughter Abby and how much joy she brings to my life.

2. How much more growing I need to do as her dad between now and the inevitable day that she says “I Do.”

Here are a few “difference making” areas that we dads need to be mindful of:

Touch.  Many dads struggle with showing physical affection with their daughters.  Daughters need physical contact, and it needs to go beyond high-fives and wrestling (which work great for our boys).  Appropriate physical affection provides a world of benefits for daughters.  Not only does it show our love for them, it also provides a sense of security for them, and models appropriate touch as they grow older and want to date.

Speech.  A dad can crush his daughter’s spirit with one harsh word.  A sarcastic, joking manner of speech often causes her to misunderstand.  We dads need to be mindful of our speech with all of our kids, but we need to realize that we can hurt our daughter’s feelings very easily.  That doesn’t mean that we avoid correcting them or that we treat them like they are younger than they are, but it does mean that we need to be much gentler with our speech.

Self-Image.  Girls struggle with maintaining a healthy self-image much more than boys.  Dads need to express confidence in them and their abilities on a regular basis.  We don’t want to make stuff up (they’ll see right through that), and we may have to look real hard at times, but it is so important that we express our confidence in our daughters.  It does no good to just keep it inside, we need to tell them.

Presence.  I could devote an entire book to the importance of being there for your kids (many people have).  There is simply no substitute for it!  Go to their sporting events, piano recitals, and club activities.  In order to have a great relationship with your daughter you have to spend time with her, talk with her, and listen to her.  Yes, when they are younger their stories may not make sense and may take a looooooong time for them to tell. But if we don’t listen to them when they are younger, they won’t talk to us when they are older.  The best tribute a daughter can make about her father is that Dad taught her to love Jesus and that she could always count on him being there for her.

This is So True!!

Dads, we have such a huge responsibility when it comes to raising our little girls.  They are watching our every move, taking note of how we treat their mother, how we respect other women, and how we honor God.  Let’s be the involved, loving, and honorable fathers that God calls us to be so that when our princesses are deciding who they want to date and eventually marry they think “I want a man just like my dad.”


Filed under Family, Family Matters, Parenting

HOTRFM Mailbag – Part VII

This is the final installment of our HOTRFM Mail Bag regarding common questions parents have about social media, technology, and cell phones.

Q.  My son is only 12 but is already involved in many extracurricular activities.  My wife and I are considering getting him a cell phone so he can call us when he is ready to be picked up after practices.  We really don’t want to give him a “regular” phone.  Are there any phones out there that are safe for kids to use?

-Dad With A Cab, New Holland

SP – There are plenty of cell phone options out there for parents in your situation.  These options, however, are rarely advertised!  That’s because cell phone companies want your kids to have the most expensive cell phones and get used to using all the applications and features (they’ll have a customer for life as a result).

There are three general ways for parents to gain some sort of control over their child’s cell phone use.  The first is to install and use cell phone monitoring/accountability software on the phone.  Covenant Eyes ( is a faith-based company that provides such software. Covenant Eyes enables parents to set up an online account and get daily reports on what their child’s cell phone is being used for, when it is being used, and for how long it is in use.  The company also provides software for computers that perform the same tasks for internet browsing.  Phone Sheriff (http:/ is another monitoring software option, although it is not a faith-based company.

Another option is to use the monitoring/restricting options that are already available through your cell phone service provider (and even in individual phones).  These “parental controls” are rarely seen in any promotional literature, but they can be very effective.  Check out the links below for your service provider to see what is available:

ATT Smart Limits

Verizon Parental Control Center

Sprint Mobile Controls

These controls allow you to set times that the cell phone can receive a signal, program the phone to only dial certain numbers, and disable certain services.

You can set many of the same controls directly on the phone.  iPhone users, for example, can access the Restrictions menu on the phone and restrict any of the functions of the phone!  Check with your individual phone’s instructions.

For some parents, however,  spending the money to buy a “regular” cell phone only to restrict its use might not seem prudent.  There are several cell phones on the market that are kid-friendly.  Please note – your kids might not want them (they would much rather you just buy them an iphone or android)!   Here are just a few options to consider (click on the phone to visit the company website):

 Kajeet– This is a cell phone company that has a variety of cell phones available for young children all the way up to teenagers. With Kajeet you have no contracts, no activation fees, and no fees for termination. What distinguished these phones from the rest is that parents can control (through an online dashboard) all sorts of things like hours the phone is to be used, what numbers can be called and accepted, as well as a GPS locator with automatic locator alerts.

LG MIGO VX1000 – **You need to be a Verizon customer for this phone** This is a very basic small cell phone that is made specifically for young children. It fits small hands nicely and only has 4 numbered keys which the parent programs with the four numbers the child is allowed to call. Additionally there is a power key, emergency key, and speakerphone.


Firefly glowPhone– This is another phone designed for preteens and children you think are too young to have a lot of features. The glowPhone does have voice mail but not a lot of other features. There are two big programmable keys meant for calling Mom and Dad but you can program any number into them. Parents can also set the glowPhone up where only certain numbers can be called out and received.

Parents, we have more control over our kids technology than we may think!  Check at ALL of your options before deciding on a cell phone for your kids, you’ll be glad you did!

Relevant Verses – “Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. “I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion.” Proverbs 8:10-12 (NIV)

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HOTRFM Mailbag – Part VI

This is the next installment of our HOTRFM Mail Bag regarding common questions parents have about social media, technology, and cell phones.

Q.  I keep reading about teens “sexting” one another using cell phones.  Is this something that I should be concerned about as a parent of both a teenage boy and girl?  Who in their right minds would do such a thing? 

-Disturbed Mom, Willow Street

SP – You should definitely be concerned.  Sexting is the practice of sending sexually explicit photographs or text messages through one’s cell phone to friends or potential “suitors.”  It is a rapidly growing trend among older teens and young adults.  In fact, some researchers estimate that at least 20% of teens and 33% of young adults have engaged in sexting. 

Teens will often exchange these provocative (or pornographic) pictures with their girlfriend/boyfriend as a way to experiment and explore their sexuality.  They feel that this expression of themselves is “safe,” since the audience is supposedly limited.  Teens tend to be very trusting of their friends and dating partners, and fail to see the potential for embarrassment and harassment that can come with sending these images.  They truly believe that only the intended recipient will see the picture.  Unfortunately, it is quite easy for their trust to be betrayed and the image sent to other phones or posted online. 

Parents need to constantly be reminding their teens that texts, posts, and pictures that are sent either by cell phone or posted online are permanently stored somewhere (either on someone’s phone or on a internet server). 

Now, you might be tempted to think “My kid would never do something like this.  I’ve taught them better than that.”  One group of researchers determined that the teens most likely to be involved in sexting are middle to upper class, raised in the suburbs or rural areas, good students, and have a high level of involvement in a local church.  I don’t know about you, but that describes just about every kid in my church’s youth group!

So the question you might be asking yourself is “Why do kids who’ve been brought up in the church and have been taught good morals and values still get involved in sexting?”  One main reason is that sexting allows them to experience sexual things while still keeping all their promises to remain physically pure.  Promises that they’ve made to you, to the youth pastor, to their sports team’s coach, and (in their mind) to God.  Remember, teens tend to think that things that happen online don’t really count!

The news, unfortunately, gets worse.  Studies are showing that teens who get involved in sexting are much more likely to eventually engage in sexual intercourse.  Clearly this is a topic that needs discussed in our homes!

Believe it or not, for parents there are some significant legal ramifications here as well.  Sexting is illegal.  In fact, it’s a felony, falling under the statutes that ban the creation, possession and transmission of child pornography, even if the child creates the image of themselves. 

So let’s say, for an example, that a girl sends a sexually suggestive picture of herself to your son.  He doesn’t share the photo with anyone but does keep it on his phone.  Then for whatever reason his phone is taken from him at school by the administrators, who then discover the photo and alert the authorities.  Who owns the phone and is now guilty of possessing child pornography?

Whoever pays the bill.  That’s right, parents are legally responsible for what a child does with their cell phone.

Now to be clear, I’ve yet to see a parent prosecuted under these set of circumstances.  It is certainly possible, however, and a number of lawmakers are taking up bills to address it.  Sexting, which many teens and young adults see as victimless crime, can be anything but victimless!

So,  moms and dads, if you haven’t already sat your teenagers down and talked to them about sexting do it today!


Relevant Verses – “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)

“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.  Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18-19)

Next time we will address some more common questions that parents have about social media, technology, and cell phones.  Got a question?  Send them to, or leave it in the comments section below.   I’d love to take a crack at it!

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Becoming a Proverbs Parent – Wealth and Poverty

This past summer my son Greg and I spent a lot of time going on bike rides together.  It was a great experience for both of us.  Thankfully we live in an area near a lot of relatively flat back country roads, so we could often ride side by side.  Oftentimes those rides would produce some deep conversations between my son and I.  One afternoon we had been riding in silence for a short while when out of nowhere Greg asked me “Dad, are we middle class?”

Whenever my kids ask me questions like that I always have the perfect response, “Ask your mother.”  (I’m kidding…sort of!)  This question caught me off guard, so I bought some time to think by asking him “Why do you ask?”  “Well,” he replied, “There are all these commercials about people saying the middle class is in trouble and promising to help the middle class.  Do they mean us?”

Ah, the joys of election season!

As we rode on I tried to explain to Greg that while our family is probably considered middle class, we were still very blessed by God and there were a lot of families who didn’t have near what we had.  He pressed the issue further, “So why is the middle class in trouble?”  I explained that a lot of people had lost their jobs over the past few years so they didn’t have as much income as they had in the years before.  “So…,” he said thoughtfully, “Since we are Christians, and Christians should help people who are, you know, poorer than us, what are we doing to help?”


 I realize that there is A LOT of opinion on this subject, much of it political in nature.  I’ll leave those debates to the talking heads on TV and radio.  I certainly don’t know those answers.  What I do know is what the Bible has to say on the matter.  In Proverbs 14:31-32 Solomon tells his sons that “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (NIV)

No matter what a person’s personal definitions of “rich” and “poor” are, Christians are called to compassionate and kind to those who are less fortunate.  While the evangelical community has sometimes been thought of in less than flattering terms in regards to this expression of our faith, I believe that many of us are obedient to God’s instructions on the matter.  The key for me personally, however, is whether or not my kids see Mary and I expressing our faith by helping those in need.

It can be easy to write a check and feel like we have done our job.  And indeed, those funds are needed.  But do my kids see their mom and dad being kind to those less fortunate than us in other, more tangible ways?  As Greg and I continued our bike ride, I realized that he was struggling to make that connection.  So we talked about some of the ways that our family does try to help those in need, and as I jogged his memory he said “Oh…so that’s why we did that!”  The matter was apparently settled in his mind, because he soon changed the subject to something else.

Still, it wasn’t settled for me, and I realized that I was just assuming that my kids understood why we gave financially to the groups and causes that we gave to, and why we volunteered our time the way that we did.  Like so many issues with parenting, we moms and dads can’t be content to sit back and wait for subjects like this one to come up.  We need to be having intentional conversations with our kids about wealth, poverty, and what God expects of His children.   I encourage you to have those conversations with your kids in the coming weeks.  Now that the Christmas shopping season is here, there really is no better time.  And while you’re at it, find some ways that your entire family can help out those in need during the holiday season.

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Becoming a Proverbs Parent – The Disney Channel Dilemma

My children are in the stage of life where they enjoy watching the Disney Channel on TV.  When the channel was launched back in 1983 (yes, that long ago!) it mainly aired the cartoons and movies of Mickey, Donald, and all their friends that Walt Disney Studios had built its entertainment empire on.  Gradually original programming was developed just for the TV channel, and today those classic cartoons are rarely shown.  Still, for many parents and grandparents the Disney Channel represents “safe” viewing for their kids.

While it is probably true that the content on the Disney Channel is not nearly as violent and sex-saturated as the content on other popular channels, that doesn’t mean that all of the Disney programming is necessarily “wholesome.”  Here is a partial listing of the Disney Channel’s current (non-animated) lineup:

Good Luck Charlie – The show is centered on a large family composed of mom, dad, 3 teens and 2 very small children.  Most of the episodes revolve around the kids tricking either each other or their parents in order to get what they want.  Occasionally the parents scheme against each other as well.  The dad is portrayed as being something of a doofus and the mom is a bit prone to wanting the spotlight to shine on her.

Shake It Up – The latest in a long line of music-themed Disney shows.  Shake It Up revolves around two teenage girls who are selected to be on a Chicago dance show.  Much of the show’s content revolves around the girls getting into (and then out of) crazy schemes.  The girl’s parents are very much peripheral characters, with both of their fathers rarely seen or even mentioned on air.  The one girl’s mother is a police officer who constantly lies about her age and often gets into arguments with other characters on the show.  The other girl’s mother owns two beauty salons (a reoccurring theme across Disney programming is that all parents have jobs that involve long hours and keep them away from home), and much of her interaction with her children involves keeping secrets from their absentee father.

Austin and Ally – A teenage boy secretly records a song written by his friend, a talented young lady.  He posts the video on Youtube as his own work and becomes an overnight sensation.  Each show revolves around the two teens and their friends pursuing fame and fortune.  Of course, each of the main characters has a different idea as to how to achieve those goals, and often do things behind each other’s back.  Parents are almost completely absent from this show.

Code 9 – A prank show where the kids of a family scheme together to pull off an elaborate prank on one or both of their unsuspecting parents.

Gravity Falls – Two tweens are sent away by their parents to live with their great-uncle who is obsessed with making money, sometimes resorting to cheating or dishonest schemes to do so.  When he is not trying to make money, the great-uncle watches TV.

Sense a theme here?  The kids in these shows are all involved in scheming, lying, and cheating in each show, and the parents are all either missing entirely or barely engaged in their children’s lives.  I wonder what Walt Disney would think of this!

Now, to be clear, I am not suggesting that if you allow your kids to watch these shows or the myriad of others like it you are a bad parent.  As I mentioned, my kids watch Disney as well.  What I am suggesting, however, is that parents need to take time to find out what morals and values these shows revolve their storylines around.  Then parents need to decide if these shows are really something they want their kids watching or if they at least need to watch the shows with their kids.  In fact, watching programming like these shows with our kids and pointing out the poor character traits and decision making can actually be helpful.   We just can’t think that just because something is on Disney it is “OK!”

In Proverbs 6:16-19 Solomon lists 7 things that the Lord hates:

There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. (NIV)

God does not approve of folks who are proud of themselves, lie or withhold truth, bring harm to others (by word or by deed), devise schemes, foolishly rush into sin, and stir up dissension and discord within a group of people.  God does not approve of the schemer – one who lies, cheats, and steals in order to get what they want or to make themselves look good to others.  Yet far too often the television shows that our children want to watch are centered on characters who seek to do that very thing!

To be sure, many (if not most) adult television programming also centers around plotting and scheming (virtually all “reality” programming is built on it), so we adults need to be judicious in what we watch as well.  While adults can (hopefully) see the foolishness in the scheming that occurs on the TV shows they watch, I’m not sure kids can.  As parents we need to be diligent in monitoring the media that our children consume, and not assume that just because a show is on a “kids” channel it is good for our kids to watch.

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