Tag Archives: Parenting

Aaron Perry ~ A Grief in Birth

I’ve never been pregnant. I watched my wife, a complete champion, bear three children with heroic efforts. Bearing a child means to carry the child through pregnancy to birth, when the child is born. Leading up to the birth, there are contractions. Contractions prepare the body to deliver the baby by shortening uterine muscles and dilating the cervix. As the uterus contracts and the cervix expands, the baby passes through the birth canal. But that description is deceptively simple. Like I said, it took heroic efforts.

And a midwife. By no means could I keep my wits through the process to support my wife to any great extent. I was able to boil water (stereotypes to the wind!), rub her back, cheer her on, and grab towels. But a midwife helped keep me together and coached my wife along. I’ll come back to this point.

My Dad died on October 17, 2018. It was about 30 months after a terminal liver cancer diagnosis. My Dad taught me many things; he was teaching us until the day he died. My brother, Tim, summed it well: He taught us to die slowly. By God’s grace, most of my Dad’s final 30 months were quite enjoyable. He had a good quality and quantity of life post-diagnosis. A doctor helped us to frame the situation: Dad refused to surrender to death easily and fought in such a way that he won many battles, though it was a losing war.

I am now learning to grieve. And my Dad isn’t here to teach me. I watched grief and experienced grief after the deaths of grandparents. But, like pregnancies, deaths and their grieving are unique. My Dad’s grief for his own parents was different from my own. C.S. Lewis noted after the death of his wife that he didn’t know grief felt so much like fear. The fear I have is that I won’t grieve – or that I won’t grieve well. I have had my tears, but what is grief supposed to look like? How will I know I’ve grieved?

Every pregnancy was different. My children were all carried differently. They sat in different positions and they liked different foods; they rested and played at different times, all within my wife’s body. I recall one time when my unborn daughter (though I didn’t know the child was a girl at the time) was awake but my wife was asleep. We played a little game of tag. I would tap my wife’s abdomen and wait for the response: a kick. I would wait just a bit and then tap again. Another brief pause and then another kick. There was a little life inside my wife, completely dependent on her to survive yet with a life and will of her own.

I’m taught and I teach that grief comes in waves. It’s true; I don’t deny it. Grief often comes in force and then recedes. But (so far) not for me. I wait for the waves, but they don’t come. There are only brief laps at the beach’s edge, laps that dissipate without foam, even, into the sand. I want more.

Back to the midwife. My wife learned to handle contractions in waves: accept them as they come, breathing and staying as relaxed as possible, and, finally, letting them go. I don’t know what a contraction feels like and I don’t know what grieving—this grieving, at least—is supposed to feel like. This unique grieving has taken the form of irritability, temptation, weariness, flashes of drive and energy.

I take these experiences as contractions. You can’t stop contractions and you can’t speed them up. They come and they go. Contractions prepare the body to birth a baby. They intensify and bring urges to push; the body wants to deliver the baby. In a similar way, I want to control my grief. I want to speed up the waves. I want to be delivered of my grief.

“Heather, on the next contraction, you are going to want to push. You are going to want to push very, very badly, but I need you not to push. If you push, you are going to blast that baby right out of you.” That was some of the most memorable support the midwife gave my wife. The contractions were working, but the body was not yet ready to be delivered of the baby.

I want to blast this grief right out of me. But I can’t. At least, it will be harmful if I do. I need to hold on and let the grief come; let these grieving moments do their work until the grief is fully delivered. I need to do this without breaking trust—without giving into the irritability, the temptation, the manic drive. C.S. Lewis didn’t know grief felt so much like fear; I didn’t know grief took so much faith. 

Note from the Editor: the featured image is from the painting “Grief” by
Morteza Katouzian, 1983.

Omar Al-Rikabi ~ The Stuff of Life

Note from the Editor: Enjoy this…fascinating sermon from Rev. Omar Al-Rikabi.

In a first for Wesleyan Accent, we recommend listening for ages 13 and up or at parental discretion.






Elizabeth Glass Turner ~ #notwithoutmychild

Today’s post is written alongside others delving into the moral, ethical, and biblical ramifications of the current practice in the United States of separating immigrant parents from their children. In it, we include reflections on the plight of children in the Old Testament; the plight of families in the Western hemisphere; and the ways in which Jesus, a Messiah who saw the suffering of families, stretched his followers’ moral imaginations.

It is also written with consciousness that this is not the first time parents and children in the United States have been separated from each other, as the history of Native Americans and the Black slave trade demonstrate.

Please feel free to share today’s post with the hashtags #notwithoutmychild and #familiesbelongtogether.

Children Adrift: The Old Testament

Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. – Exodus 2:1-6

I do not think I’ve ever heard someone preach on the compassion of Pharoah’s daughter. She also strikes me as a savvy woman. She came face to face with a squalling infant who was suffering because of her father’s decree to kill the Hebrew infants and toddlers who could potentially pose a future threat to the Egyptian way of life. She probably surmised precisely who the young girl was half-hidden in the reeds near the basket. She knew it was a Hebrew baby; here was a nearby young girl. Not only did Moses’ birth mother get to raise him while he was young, she was now paid to do so. Yes, Pharoah’s daughter was compassionate, and savvy.

I don’t know if she was able to intervene in the fate of other little baby boys; maybe she saved the one she could. Maybe she was haunted by the fates of the ones she couldn’t.


Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob.

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid;God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. – Genesis 21:14-20

Hagar didn’t ask to sleep with Abraham. She was a servant, and Sarah, impatient and distrustful of God’s promise, lent her to Abraham. But Sarah couldn’t put away her jealousy of Hagar’s son, even after having her own. She wanted Hagar to go. Hagar didn’t get autonomy over her own body, and once she had a son, the injustices continued. With no secure future, she was sent away.

Yet what a tender passage we encounter: she is sobbing, she cannot bear the notion of watching her son die. And this little slave woman and her beloved son do not escape God’s notice. What’s the matter, Hagar? Don’t be afraid.

Later, Pharoah’s daughter will hear a young one crying and feel sorry for him. Here, God hears a young one crying under a bush, and responds as well.


The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”

Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.” So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel. When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “At your service,” he replied.

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” 

 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet. – II Samuel 9:3-13

Mephibosheth was five years old when the news about his dad and granddad came. While David was mourning the loss of his best friend, Jonathan, Jonathan’s son was being spirited away by his nurse, to protect him in the political upheaval; but in her hurry, Mephibosheth fell and was disabled the rest of his life: the little boy’s feet would never work again. On top of the tragedy of his father dying, he would equate receiving the news with the loss of being able to properly run, jump, and play.

Mephibosheth was a child of tragedy and grief, through no fault of his own. He didn’t ask to be in the middle of political upheaval; he didn’t choose his family, he wasn’t old enough to weigh in on their decisions.

But David wants to “show God’s kindness” to any lingering survivors of Saul’s line. He restores property; he ensures income and livelihood; he bestows honor by issuing a standing invitation to supper, any time. David can’t erase Mephibosheth’s past, but he can ensure a future of dignity and safety. And he can make sure that Mephibosheth’s family is provided for.

The cries of other sons had been heard by God, had been heard by a Pharoah’s daughter. David went searching for a child whose cries had faded, if the injuries to spirit and body had not.

In a basket; under a bush; in the arms of a nurse.

The lost children of the Old Testament were not overlooked by God.

Children Adrift: The Western Hemisphere

Currently in the United States of America, immigrant parents are being separated from their children. No law requires this.

It can be difficult for American citizens with quick access to WiFi to imagine life with dubious communication connections; frequently immigrants to the United States have incomplete or inaccurate information about what lies ahead, what policies they will face, how much money they’ll have to pay to whom.

Some parents are trying to get their kids away from cartel violence, food shortages, and political upheaval. In Venezuela, children are starving to death. In Guatemala, the raid of one workplace in the U.S. can directly affect the sustenance of an entire village.

Children Adrift: A Messiah for Families

In a time when Americans often suffer compassion fatigue, seeing footage of wildfires and hurricanes, volcano eruptions and war, school shootings and tragedy, we are called to step back and reflect. Frequently in the Gospels we read of a Messiah gone AWOL: frustrated disciples search high and low, scout around town, attempting to find Jesus. In these moments, he had always withdrawn to pray in quiet away from the frequent chaos that surrounded him.

When Jesus encountered people swept up in debate or confusion about ethics or religious laws or the will of God, he invited them into the insight and truth he centered on in those times of prayer. Often, he met their questions with stories.

“Who is my neighbor?”

“Once, a man was traveling…”

In these teaching moments, Jesus was stretching the moral imaginations of his hearers. He took them from a narrow question to a broad principle, by way of illustrating vivid characters. Jesus’ responses may as well have been prefaced with the phrase, “imagine this…”

Over on First Things, Jonathan Jones describes the strengths and virtues of moral imagination: “a uniquely human ability to conceive of fellow humanity as moral beings and as persons, not as objects whose value rests in utility or usefulness.” This is a profound challenge: to conceive of other humans as persons, not as objects useful or unuseful to us. Neighbor implies valuable personhood, not just asset or liability. To be fully human, Jones posits, is, “to embrace the duties and obligations toward a purpose of security and endurance for, first and foremost, the family and the local community.”

This personhood is woven in the most essential fabric of human existence, the family. To deny family is to deny personhood. To deny personhood is to relegate people to existence as asset or liability in a ledger. But to deny recognition of personhood to another is also to undermine our own humanity, because, as Jones asserts, moral imagination is a uniquely human ability.

Jesus was a Messiah who saw families: frantic parents like Jairus asked him to heal their children; young kids offered their fish Happy Meals to him, which he happily multiplied and fed the masses with. When the disciples tried to remind parents how important Jesus was, he stopped them, and said, “let the little kids come over.” To stuffy adults, he sternly reminded them that to enter the Kingdom of God, one had to become like a child.

Jesus constantly reframed the questions his followers threw at him. He challenged the edges of their imagination, coaxing them to a place of empathy. Imagine this, he’d say: your neighbor is the Samaritan you fear who saves you from robbers on a barren road and pays for your recovery; maybe the person you distrust will be the means of your survival. Maybe the dynamic between you will be turned upside-down and you’ll end up receiving, not just sacrificing and giving.

Today, what do we as Christians believe about who God is?

We see that God cares about moms and children who have had an unfair life and are left out in the cold without resources.

We see that God allowed a savvy, compassionate woman and a completely vulnerable infant to encounter each other in a river in ancient Egypt, restoring the baby to his worried mama and preparing him for leadership later.

We see that God intersected David’s life in such a way that David knew and trusted God’s kindness and wanted to show God’s kindness to the devastated survivors of warfare, a family ripped apart at the seams.

We see that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, valued the personhood of sons and daughters, moms and dads, and saw their lives as valuable and worth intervention.

We see that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, constantly pivoted questions away from the concerns of the asker and toward the concerns of those being asked about. Jesus Christ celebrated the humanity, the personhood, of those who were deemed a liability.

In continuity with God-who-heard-a-child-crying-under-a-bush, in continuity with God-who-made-his-way-to-the-dying-daughter-of-Jairus, today, we affirm that families matter to God; that children have personhood and value, and that to willfully separate parents from their children and children from their parents is to deface our own “uniquely human ability to conceive of fellow humanity as moral beings and as persons, not as objects whose value rests in utility or usefulness.”

We affirm the beauty of parenthood, the value of childhood, and the imperative to honor both. We appreciate the parenthood of Mary and Joseph, the childhood of the toddler Jesus, and the care Jesus extended to his mother while he was dying by crucifixion.

We grieve violence, food shortage, corruption of leaders, and lack of infrastructure that places families in the impossible scenario of weighing whether their children will be safer in their home towns or migrating to a new place. We agree with Jesus that it would be better to have a millstone around the neck and to be thrown into the sea than to deliberately hurt and harm a child.

We pray that a robust vision of the value of human life will prevail over short-term practices that separate kids from their dads and moms. We pray that a holistic value of human life will stretch from dangerous school hallways to full social services for impoverished pregnant women, from holistic crisis pregnancy centers to bleak nursing home hallways, from law enforcement encounters with people of color to immigrant detention centers.

We reject notions that ease us into giving up our moral imaginations, like the necessity of evil “for the greater good,” the necessity of social “collateral damage,” the necessity of inflicting damage on others’ families in order to prevent potential future harm on our own.

We condemn the use of human lives as pawns in political maneuvering when done by any portion of the political spectrum. We celebrate expressions of immigration policy that maintain the dignity and God-given value of every individual human life.

We know that the government of the United States is separate from any one religious body. But we pray that current and future government officials and representatives will recall the ethical principles at work in many world religions and that often guide our common life together in the public square of our democratic republic. Our grand experiment in the United States cannot succeed without a robust appreciation of individual personhood existing in the fabric of family.

And so, we stand, sit, and kneel with those who are crying for their children and their parents; we pray for peace, stability, and opportunity in their home countries; and we pray for wisdom for the leaders who have the power and the moment to create humane policies, if they will only have the imagination to do so.


Carrie Carter ~ Living Alive

I’ve seen a lot of death. Not just because my husband has a full-time pastoral calling, but also because my parents never shielded me from the reality of death. Many parents today hesitate to take their children to funerals because, “they wouldn’t understand,” and that is true, but only to an extent. As a parent, it is my duty (privilege?) to explain the mystery of death.

At the viewing of my grandfather many years ago with my own son…

“Yes, you may touch the cheek of Poppy. Gently, now.”

“Why does he feel weird? Wait! I think I saw him breathe!”

“No, baby, it’s your eyes playing tricks on you.”

A few weeks following…

“Look, it’s heaven!”

Trying to decipher small boy’s exclamation.


Pointing to the cemetery.

“Over there! You said that’s where Poppy was going, and we took him there, so that must be heaven.”

Insert awkward explanation to a literal-thinking three-year-old about the vague timeline between resting and eternal destination.

Over the next couple of years…

“No, you may not touch the cheek of ‘insert-random-deceased’s- name.’”

“Can I ask ‘grieving-relative’ if I can touch him/her?”

“No, this is not an appropriate time for that.”

Unfortunately, my son didn’t always ask me before he asked the grieving loved one. Grace was always extended and always resolved with a hearty chuckle.

He had such a fascination with death and a deeply sympathetic heart for the grieving at such a young age, that I wouldn’t have been surprised had he grown up to be a funeral director. It still wouldn’t surprise me.

It is this exposure to death and the traditional ceremonies that follow that calms the fear of the unknown. In fact, in most cases, I welcome the re-orientation that a funeral brings to me. There is a shift of perspective, a reminder that my priorities again need to be realigned. It makes me very aware that sympathy can only reach so far, and it is only empathy that can touch a heart. I have never lost an immediate family member or close friend, so I am always conscious of my lack of understanding of the intensity of pain those losses bring under normal circumstances.

Last month, my family suffered a loss and a near-loss that awakened me—not just to the familiarity of death, but also to the foreignness of life.

Foreign? How could something so natural, so normal, be characterized as foreign?

Unless you have seen over the edge of life’s precipice, it is difficult to grasp the magnitude of life itself. When you sense the fingers of death brush over your shoulder and realize that it has rested its hand on one close to you, life holds a value not recognized before – a value prompting gratitude that emanates out of the heart.

How then, shall life be lived? How do we step back from our story as a stranger and embrace our lives as our own?

Life, as it should be lived, is far more than a bucket list, more than another experience to cross off.

Life is being aware.

It is absorbing the sights and sounds around you. Feeling the peace as well as the pain. Life is allowing God to overflow you until he spills out on everyone around you. It is speaking for those who have no voice, standing for those beaten down. It is taking every opportunity to reach out a hand to someone in need. Life is treating your marriage as sacred, treasuring your children as a gift. Life pauses to hear context rather than anger; it speaks a gentle word instead of driving the blade deep.

Life begs to be viewed through new eyes.

Do you make an effort to appreciate gestures of kindness, even the smallest ones? Do you have the ability to recognize when someone is having a rough day? Can you sense a need without it being spoken? Can you say you’ve made others’ lives better as you walk out of the room?

Life is being aware. All in.

I feel it fading, this reality of life that always comes when I am faced with death. Aliveness lasts for two or three weeks. I write notes of appreciation to those who have contributed to my life. I send “thinking of you” texts. Suppers actually have love sprinkled into them rather than impatience and frustration. I’m on top of making sure everyone has clean clothes.

Then the mundane sets in. Routine, pressures, and conflict pull my focus away and I find myself distracting my mind with Tsum Tsum rather than reorienting myself with God’s gift of simply being alive.

Last year, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to live every day as if it were New Year’s Day—fresh, hopeful, and anticipating a bright future.

I lasted until about April.

This year, within the first two weeks of 2018, my mother-in-law passed away, and a friend faced a life-threatening medical emergency with a poor prognosis. Both were unexpected. One was released from life and one was given a new lease on life.

Death breathed on my cheek and with a whisper, reminded me to live alive.

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”    -2 Corinthians 3:5 (NASB)

Carrie Carter ~ Find Your Wings

I didn’t cry when our boys went to kindergarten. 

I didn’t cry when our boys went to high school. 

I didn’t even cry when our oldest graduated from high school. 

Maybe that’s why the flood of emotion that washed over me a couple days before we took our oldest to college completely caught me off guard. Even now, as we’re back home, the wave swells, tears rise and threaten to spill over. 

Why now?  

I’ve always known before that he will invariably be home at the end of each day. 

No longer. 

And yet 

A tiny word filled with purpose. Yet. The tiny word that reminds me why we do what we do. It keeps me focused, goal-oriented, intentional. 

We raise them to the best of our ability so they can spread their wings and fly away. It’s biblical. 

“If anyone comes to me but does not hate [or loves more than me; Jesus is using hyperbole to emphasize his point] his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, or sisters—or even ·life [life itself; or his own life]—he cannot be my ·follower [disciple].”  Luke 14:26 (Expanded Bible)  

So a man will leave his fatherandmother [in the sense of a new primary loyalty] and be united with his wife, and the two will become one ·body [flesh].” Genesis 2:24 (Expanded Bible) 

We haven’t reached the applicability of the second verse, but it’s biblical that I open my palms and graciously release him to leave. 

This first step of releasing is new territory for me. As my husband wisely said, “We’re stepping back from coaching and allowing him to be the team captain. He’ll be calling his own plays.” This means lessons learned the hard way. We will be there to support and advise, but only when it’s asked for. This is probably the most difficult of all, given that I cut my teeth on “Dear Abby.” No comics for this girl. 

Did we do enough? 

The answer is yes, though it falters a little. We did what we knew to do. Maybe it’s not enough, maybe we could have done better – know there were areas in which we could’ve done better – but we did what we knew to do in the best way we knew how. 

Is he ready? 

The answer is yes, a hearty yes. The boy has been trying to set off on his own his entire life. Twice at the age of three and again at the age of eight. He has hitchhiked with strangers twice, he’s been brought home by police. He has been an observer of navigating the world. His spiritual footing is solid for a guy his age. Will he stumble? Yes. Will he question? Yes. Does he have weaknesses that need purified? Yes. But he is ready to work out his own salvation and make it his own. 

The yes’s don’t make the letting go easier, but they magnify the yet 

Many parents have asked me, “How can you let him go so far away? Why can’t he stay around here?” 

The yet is what prompts me to answer the questions with my own. 

How can I not let him go so far away? How could I force him to stay here? 

Seven hours away is exactly where God wants him. God so graciously closed all other doors in order to make the decision very clear. Who am I, his mother, to stand in the way of God’s path for his life? He is suited for a purpose far above anything I could dream for him. 

So the tears may fall, yet we have reached the goal line in raising him. I now have a piece of my heart in Illinois, yet our purpose has been fulfilled.  

There is an area of my nest that is vacant, yet I’m so proud to see him fly. 

Find your wings. We’re so proud of you. 

Elizabeth Moyer ~ Anxiety in Worship

Note from the Editor: We’re pleased to feature this important piece on mental health, anxiety, and communal worship. It also may be helpful perspective for clergy leading Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday services.

“Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” – Hebrews 11:25 (MSG).

What if worship has become so creative that 18% of the population is on the outside?

The pendulum for creative contemporary worship has swung so far in many regions across denominations that segments of the population cannot assemble with others. Many Christians gather weekly and experience a one-sided worship celebration. It is one-sided because, even though everyone is welcome, these worship gatherings are not for everyone.

Welcomed may not mean hospitable. Someone living with an anxiety disorder (or any medical condition) that makes being in loud, dark areas or separated from family  unendurable does not feel welcomed. This is not a commentary on the theology or religiosity of the “turn up the volume and dim the lights, no children allowed” movement. The concern here is how the Body of Christ meets those who would dare join in for worship.

Collectively, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population (National Institute of Mental Health). Moreover, in the name of the contemporary worship experience, the real needs of this segment of the population are disregarded.

What are anxiety disorders? Anxiety disorders are panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and separation anxiety disorder, to name a few. It is not uncommon for an adult or child to receive a diagnosis at some point in their lifetime (Anxiety and Depression Association of America). Still, in the name of the experience, the church turns a blind eye, and in many cases, does nothing to reasonably accommodate these individuals or their families. (Reasonable accommodation here would refer to any change that would not cause undue hardship to the house of worship.)

To ignore is not to be concerned about the “one.” When the church is not worried about the one, the church ignores Jesus, our example. Like Jesus, the Body of Christ must be concerned about the one (see Matthew 18:11-13, Luke 15:3-7). To turn a blind eye is to ignore the command to love.

The heart of the matter is that by disregarding these issues, the church may be causing many families to separate for worship or not to worship in community.

Loving the people of God, desiring to live out the mission of God, and suffering from varying degrees of anxiety disorders is a battle my family tries to navigate weekly. What does this mean for many families like mine during worship? It means a constant struggle between being part of and serving within a faith community that continually divides.  It means surviving an entire worship service, with immediate discomfort when the lights go down and the music goes up. It means feeling unsafe in a dark worship space full of strangers, Christ-followers or not. For those suffering from anxiety disorders, there is something profoundly disconcerting about the inability to truly see what is going on around.

Yes, the focus should be on the worship experience, the Word coming forth, and not the aesthetics. But families comprised of individuals who have suffered childhood or adult trauma struggle make it through the entire service. From the moment the lights go down, there is a need to escape the darkness, the loudness of the drums, the sheer uncertainty of the environment and the familiarity of the dangers of such uncertainty. Many people have a clear and distinct need to hear and especially to see what is going on in a room. Understanding or feeling as if they are in the minority and believing that there is no place for them to hear the Word is disheartening. Many followers and would-be followers of Christ forsake assembly to avoid the discomfort that may lead to a panic attack, flashback or other undesired response.

Having had countless conversations with individuals from all walks of life who love God, follow Christ, and yet forsake assembly, there is not an easy response. When children are not allowed in worship,  families may immediately find themselves on the outside of the local church. Separation anxiety is a disorder that impacts many. When music is deafening, those with any number of anxiety disorders are adversely affected as well as those with hearing impairments and those with chronic daily headaches.

So while I enjoy some elements of contemporary worship, it saddens me that the church is unashamedly leaving many on the outside. I am not naïve: I do not expect any local church to change what is working for them. However, I would offer the following points of accommodation:

*A multi-service congregation might consider offering family or traditional worship.

*Turning the lights up even slightly can make a difference for many.

*Adjusting the bass would be life-giving for some.


*Be honest and upfront and consider adding a disclaimer to the church website that simply states, “may not be suitable for those with anxiety disorders.”

To reach the one, the church must remember that one size truly does not fit all.

Tom Fuerst ~ One Thing White Evangelical Parents Can Do

For many white people, and clearly about 80% of white Evangelical Christians, the election of Donald Trump feels like a high moment in our nation’s history. I’ve heard Evangelical Christians refer to his election as everything from a Cyrus-like moment to a downright deified development. For many Evangelicals, this moment represents making America great again – a return to a pre-women’s liberation, pre-Affirmative Action, pre-Roe vs. Wade, pre-pluralistic, and fully Christianized America. Some Evangelicals lament Trump’s individual morality but laud his pro-life judiciary possibilities. For many, they just did not want Hillary as president.

But the fact is, what seems like victory for many white Evangelicals creates fear in the hearts of those who feel marginalized by Trump’s rhetoric. From promises to send immigrants back to Mexico, to his threats to profile Muslims and forbid them entry into the country, to his dehumanizing imitations of persons with disabilities, to his business track record of taking advantage of small companies, to his sexual assault allegations, and to his clearly perverted antics, many non-male, non-white, non-Evangelical persons feel threatened by his presidency. And not just ideologically threatened – they literally fear for their safety and the safety of their families.

Now, you may say that the fear is unjustified. You may disregard it as the product of liberals telling people they’re oppressed when they’re not. You may think it’s the over-emotional reaction of a thin-skinned generation. Or you may try to qualify or justify his statements and attitude.

I disagree with you. But my point here is bigger than whether we agree or disagree.

Just think about someone else’s experience for just a second: Can you imagine what it must have been like for a Latino family to send their child to school on Wednesday morning knowing the kinds of things they might hear on the school bus? Can you imagine the things Muslim kids had to hear in the halls? Can you imagine the fear many of these children had when they sat down at lunch surrounded by white faces? Can you imagine the fear the parents of gay or transgendered kids felt as they released their kids to school? Can you imagine the thoughts of young girls who know their country just elected a president who has a self-admitted history of using his power to be sexually aggressive toward women?

Now, listen, you don’t have to agree with someone ideologically, politically, or religiously in order to appreciate that their fear is real. No child should have to worry about what will be said to them when they go to school the day after an election.

Yet we also know that kids are cruel. Most of you can remember a moment of racism, classism, sexism, or religious discrimination from your childhood. You can remember, even if you didn’t participate, seeing someone else socially ostracized because of the color of their skin.

In the last 48 hours, I’ve heard (firsthand) and read (on social media) numerous stories from minority parents and teachers saying that their kids are being bullied at school by other children. Latino children are being told by white children that President Trump is going to send them back to Mexico. One African American child was worried because a white kid told him President Trump was going to take his house from his parents.

No kid should have to live with this.

So, instead of just lamenting the problem, here is my proposal. Here is something you can do as white, Evangelical parents to make your world a better, safer place. Here is a way you can love your neighbor as yourself: Tonight at the dinner table, have a very serious conversation with your children about these things. Tell the truth about Trump’s rhetoric, do not justify it, do not excuse it, do not minimize it. Tell the truth about it.

Then, tell them two things very clearly.

  • Tell them in no uncertain terms that bullying is not acceptable. They need to hear you tell them that snide remarks, off-hand comments about race and gender, or downright aggression are not acceptable practices.
  • Tell them in no uncertain terms that if they see something, they should say something. They should say something to a teacher or school administrator. Or if none of them are around, give them permission to confront the bully.

I know these two things are universally valuable no matter the president or children involved. Bullying is always wrong. Yet the nature of our President-Elect’s rhetoric over the last year (and longer) suggests that this time is at least unique in its intensity.

To that end, two nights ago, my wife and I did just this. We told our kids that Mr. Trump has said really mean things over the last year and that some of their friends at school might feel afraid. We told them other kids at school might even be mean to kids who have disabilities or have a different color skin. We told them we want them to be on the lookout for this.

Fortunately, our kids hadn’t seen anything happening at their school, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going on. We don’t often see what we’re not taught to see. So by telling our children to be on the lookout for such behavior, we were helping attune them to the fears and experiences of others. We were teaching them they don’t have to just accept the injustices of the world as normal. We were teaching them the moral example of the leader of the free world should neither be emulated nor normalized.

Granted, you may think this is not a conversation you need to have with your children. Fine. I understand that. I tend to think my children are pretty good kids who would never bully someone over skin color. And I like to think if they saw something they’d say something.

But teaching our kids the habits of observing injustice and fear is not a passive act. We need to establish habits in our children of intentional observation. White Evangelical kids, who grow up in a segment of society powerful enough to almost single-handedly elect the President of the United States, can be blinded by that privilege. By establishing the habits of observing other people’s sufferings, of taking time to notice the pain and fear around them, we teach our children a genuinely Christian ethic. And in this, my hope is that they become adults who care about justice and equality for everyone. My hope in conversations like this is to sensitize my children to the lived experiences of others. My hope is that our children grow up able to hear, rather than disregard, the fears of others.

The fact is, Donald Trump is our new president. But even if you think his economic policies, foreign relations, social agendas, and Supreme Court appointments make it worth it, the fact is, his moral compass is not something we should want our children emulating. And in so far as we normalize – and do not discuss these things in our homes – we allow our children to think this behavior is acceptable.

You and I may agree or disagree with someone’s religion, politics, sexual ethics, or anything else. But what we cannot do is normalize any behavior that belittles someone for their difference. That is neither an act of love toward God nor neighbor.

So white parents, my call to you today is to talk to your kids at dinner tonight. Begin helping them observe the world around them. Empower them to act. They don’t have to be passive recipients of the way things are. You model this by taking the initiative in this conversation. You model this by refusing to participate in bullying behavior. You model this by silently standing by while you see others harassed at work or in public. It turns out, your children will follow your example more closely than the president’s.

Make it a good one.

Robert Carter ~ Steinbeck and the Prophet Jeremiah

Our two boys, Brennan and Jared, enjoy different types of food. Jared, our younger, has a palate mostly formed by traditional foods that most millennials in Western culture crave. Brennan, on the other hand, has always had a curious, gourmet tongue. We shouldn’t have been surprised at his pre-teen culinary adventures or his fascination with the TV show Master Chef; even as a toddler he would eat Pad Thai and Jambalaya. Sometimes, just for fun, we would offer him lemons or limes cut into wedges so that we could witness the uncontrolled pursing of his entire face that would quickly follow his bite. He’d always go back for more, though! Sometimes we would all take turns with wedges of lemon, the objective being not to allow the acidity of the fruit to pucker our faces. We never succeeded in the challenge—we all scrunched. The reaction was as swift as it was lemon_cutuncontrollable. When we bit down on the lemon, we’d pucker. Watching someone else might bring a slight sympathetic pursing to our own lips, but not much. To get any measurable effect, we had to actively participate.

Jeremiah 31 comes out of chronological order, for it clearly belongs to exilic Judea. Babylon has captured Jerusalem, ransacked its resources, brutally massacred many of its people and carried captive the balance (except a few poor farmers who were left behind as caretakers of the demolition). Even though Jeremiah is not one of those exiled to Babylon, he continues to provide prophetic hope to his forlorn people through letters sent to his people. In this particular letter, Jeremiah becomes the linkage between God’s promises for yet-to-be newness and the embittered exiles who are certain that they are unfairly suffering for the sins of previous generations. A creative proverb was gaining popularity among these disenfranchised refugees—everybody was sharing it on their Facebook wall: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Jeremiah 31:29b).

Taken literally, we can argue that this proverb is incorrect, for we’ve done our own experiment, and we know that the sour grapes (or lemons) must touch our own tongues to cause any measurable biological reaction. But we know better, don’t we, than to get technical with this proverb? We recognize symbolism, poetic license, and language usage well enough to know that this carefully-crafted proverb is intended for greater application. And we also know that it’s frighteningly accurate when understood in its intended literary form! Ever wonder what it feels like to be Hitler’s grandchildren, left with the emotional burden of his bigotry? Try to look a Native American in the eye without remembering that your forefathers confined them to their reservations. Your ancestors are long gone, but you still bear the burden of their wrongdoing.

This proverb was accurate in the immediate context of the exiles referenced in this passage, especially for those born in their Babylonian displacement.  Their forefathers’ persistent, generational disobedience brought God’s judgment and the loss of their fortunes. These exiles found themselves part of a foreign culture—one that threatened to erase their Jewishness. It didn’t seem fair that they were paying the bill for their ancestors’ sins.

This maxim is also accurate in the larger context of our world— Adam and Eve ate “sour grapes” and the world’s teeth have been set on edge ever since. In addition to the broad-spectrum brokenness of the post-Eden world, Adam and Eve’s disobedience also unleashed what theologians call “original sin.” Every child comes with his own inherited capacity for evil. The seed is there. Yes, the proverb is accurate, but that doesn’t make it seem any fairer.

Then we pause to look at ourselves, our families, our churches, and our communities; this adage proves true for us, too. We tend to embody the brokenness of our parents. Their sins seed ours; their failings escalate ours.  And we cry, “Foul!” Why should their evil actions become our burden?

  • As Steve stumbles back to his college dorm at 4:00 a.m. on Sunday morning he wonders, “Would I be this way if mom hadn’t regularly put whiskey in my baby bottle?”
  • Esther continues to consume three times the daily amount of sugar recommended even though she is borderline diabetic. “Mom and grandma did the same thing. They drew me into this love for sweets. Sure they both lost limbs and died at a young age. That’s normal around here, you know.”
  • Twenty-five-year-old Mike finds himself frequently captivated by sadistic fantasy and wonders if he is destined to join his incarcerated father someday.
  • Bill and Paula, a young couple, struggle to manage their money. They’re always paying their utility bills after the disconnect notice arrives. It’s stressful and aggravating; yet, in a weird kind of way, it seems normal to them. That’s the way their parents did it.
  • Thirty-five-year-old Sally wonders why she always hits her electric locks on the car when a black man crosses the street. She doesn’t feel racist! But why does she do it, then? Her reaction is quite different when a white man crosses in front of her—little fear there. Then she recognizes how the media portrays black men as criminals. She recalls how her mom and grandma taught her to be spooked by men of different color. Chagrined, Sally looks in the rear view mirror long enough to catch her daughter covering her eyes. “The cycle is complete,” Sally thinks, “I’ve taught my daughter the same racism that I learned from my folks.”
  • Anthony swings the punch that he vowed he’d never throw. He never wanted to be like his volatile, out-of-control father. Now at the age of thirty-five he’s looking more and more like him!
  • Rhonda finds herself belittling her husband again—right to his face and in front of her kids. She wonders why she behaves so poorly. Then she recalls, “Mom always did this to dad, and so did grandma. It’s not my fault,” she reasons, “that this behavior comes instinctively!”
  • Patrick, a middle-age father, shudders in horror as he steps away from his 14-year-old daughter’s bedroom. He had done the unthinkable. He swore that he would never do to his children what his father had done to him and his siblings. It’s as if he took his rightful place in a messed-up genealogy.
  • Eli reels in a large catfish from the Ohio River. Then he throws it back fuming, “It kind of stinks that our forefathers polluted this river to the point that we can’t even keep the fish.” Leaving, he throws his trash from lunch in the water’s flow—“Why not? It’s already polluted!” Besides, that’s what his uncles do…
  • Evelyn, a young grandmother, seems to intuitively know how to manipulate, effectively employing passive-aggressive measures to control her husband, adult children, nieces and nephews. She always gets her way, but it creates co-dependency, anger, and hostility. She often loathes her behavior—she knows it’s not right. How did she ever get started down this path? Then she realizes that her mom and grandmother had the same skill set.
  • Judge Conley looks at his docket, quickly recognizing the last name of the defendant in the narcotics distribution charge. “Must be Paul’s son,” the judge thinks! “It’s the family business, I guess! Like father, like son!”

The exiles welcomed the proverb because they felt that it effectively expressed both complaint and defense. Their complaint asserted, “It’s not my fault!” Their defense reasoned, “I can’t be any different! I’m part of a domino effect that began in the Garden of Eden. I didn’t put my domino in position—dad and mom, community and nation did that for me! I can’t break the cycle—why even try? As messed up as my life appears, it actually feels kind of normal and comfortable to me!”

So why would God take issue with the exilic usage of this proven-true proverb? Is God denying this thing we call generationalism? No, here’s why God was getting fed up with this Babylonian meme…

The proverb ignores personal responsibility. It was true that the exiles were suffering for their parents’ sins; but it was also true that they, too, were continuing to participate in the same kinds of broken ways in their new environment. While they obsessed with the grapes their fathers consumed and the resulting puckering that it brought to their lives, they were reluctant to acknowledge that they also ate the same kind of fruit—just from better-groomed vines. The net result was the continued contortion of life. Their denial allowed them to color their newly-formatted quests for power, sensuality, and pleasure in lighter tones that passed undetected. For this reason, God was tired of the proverb—it avoided personal responsibility, placing all the blame on the previous generation!

The proverb ignores “free will.” Verse 30 uncovers a new understanding of personal choice and consequence given to each individual. You are not confined to the composite of your upbringing. You are not doomed to repeat the sins of your father or mother, uncle or sister. You have the ability to make personal choices of which only you will be accountable.

51r57tjwb0l-_sx322_bo1204203200_John Steinbeck composes his monumental book, East of Eden, with amazingly accurate sociological and theological expression. This story, a retelling of Genesis 3-4, is set in Northern California’s Salinas Valley during the early 20th century. Before moving to the Salinas Valley, the good-hearted Adam Trask lived on a farm in Connecticut that had been willed to him by his father, a crook in his own right. Meanwhile, Steinbeck begins to develop another character, Cathy, a young girl who from birth possesses an innate capacity for manipulation and deceit. After killing her parents in a fire she set, stealing their money, and leaving town, Cathy sets a trap whereby she seduces a brothel owner for her financial benefit. When this brothel owner discovers Cathy’s evil intentions, he beats her severely, leaving her for dead.  Soon after Adam finds her, nurses her back to life and marries her. Cathy never returns Adam’s love; she only marries him because she knows he is her ticket out of Connecticut where rumors are starting to gain traction that perhaps she is not the innocent, bereaved daughter after all. Once the Trasks arrive in the Salinas Valley, Cathy discovers to her horror that she is pregnant. She unsuccessfully attempts to abort the fetus, delivering twins instead. Cathy refuses to even gaze at the twins, telling Adam she has never loved him or the boys. Soon afterwards, she abandons her family, never returning. Cathy changes her name to Kate to mask her identity, moves to Salinas proper where she resumes her work as a prostitute, manipulating and ultimately poisoning her Madam so that she can take over the business. Her work culminates in the blackmailing of many of the influential men of the area.

Adam is left (along with his housekeeper, Lee) to name his boys, Aron and Cal, and do his best to raise them amid his deep depression. From an early age, Aron reflects Adam’s good-heartedness while Cal replicates his mother’s manipulation, lack of compassion and cruelty. When Cal discovers that his mother is not dead as he was told but rather a Madam at one of Salinas’ brothels, he determines to meet her. After his encounter, he is convinced that he is doomed to follow in Kate’s pattern of brokenness, deceit, manipulation and anger. Adam’s housekeeper, Lee, who has extensively researched the biblical story of Cain and Abel, advises Cal that God intends each person to choose his own moral destiny rather than be controlled by the legacy of his parents. This idea, captured by the Hebrew word timshel (meaning “you may”) in Genesis 4:7, counters Cal’s fatalistic idea that he has inherited his mother’s evil and is without hope in his own destiny. Readers catch a sliver of that hope for Cal as the story concludes; when dying Adam raises his hand at Lee’s request to bless Cal, he whispers one word, “Timshel.”

Cal seems to be the embodiment of this proverb quoted in Jeremiah. Cathy ate sour grapes, and Cal’s teeth were set on edge. Not only had he inherited sin through both his parents; he had also inherited a DNA strand that disposed him to operate in strikingly similar ways to his mother despite the fact that he was raised by Adam and his good housekeeper, Lee, entirely in Cathy’s absence. Steinbeck refuses to leave Cal in his hopelessness. Instead, with pure literary genius, he infuses the narrative with Lee’s extended Biblical conversations, highlighting Cal’s ability to choose for himself what kind of man he will be.

And so God pushes back against this Jewish truism because it fails to recognize our powerful endowment by our Creator to make personal choices that defy the stack of cards we have been dealt.

Our Wesleyan Arminian doctrine is important here.  On the one hand, it informs us that all are born in sin (Psalm 51:5) and that all have sinned—no exceptions (Romans 3:23). This is bad news! On the other hand, it refuses to leave us in the position of hopelessness and helplessness, no matter how malformed we are from birth. This is good news! God’s Word reminds us that we are a people with amazing individuality (free will) to choose our own actions (Jeremiah 31:30).  God has not predetermined who will push back against sin. We alone make that choice.

The proverb ignores God’s planned newness. God determines to provide for the Cals (and you and me) of our world to be something different than heredity would seemingly allow. Jeremiah 31:31-34 sums up the way free will overtakes both inherited sin and negative imprinting.It’s not by laws on the books, by gritting one’s teeth, or by a nagging spouse. God’s plan, rather than utilizing coercion, is about newness gifted to us just as undeservedly as our inherited sin. This newness is accomplished through his healing forgiveness for the puckering of our lives (both through the sour grapes our fathers ate and the ones we willfully chewed on our own). How can this be? Through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, Eden’s toppling dominos are disrupted. The sin that threatened to irrevocably give bad direction to our life became subject to the grace of God through Christ Jesus our Lord.

We accept personal responsibility for the way we have personally leaned into the brokenness that came upon us at birth, both through heredity and imprinting. Then we make a choice out of our free will not to walk in those same kinds of fatalistic patterns. Most importantly, we understand that this cannot and will not happen through our own power alone. It will only come about through God’s newness breathed into our hearts. Jeremiah calls this the “new covenant” written into our minds and hearts. Ezekiel pictures this newness as a “heart of flesh” that replaces the old stony heart (Ezekiel 36:25-27). The Apostle Paul thinks about this newness as the transformation of a “renewed mind” (Romans 12:2).

The next time I brave an un-sugared lemon, lime, sour grape, or persimmon I’ll cringe from top to bottom, and it’s going to remind me of how crinkled my life is by heredity and imprinting. But I hope it also brings an internal “thanks be to God” as I remember the promise of newness God gives for “teeth set on edge.”

Matt Douglass ~ Baptism and the Missing Mind: My Baby

Philosopher of religion Dr. Matt Douglass and his wife, physics professor Dr. Angela Douglass recently had their second child. Shortly after their gender-confirming ultrasound they discovered their new baby was at high risk in the womb and, if surviving to birth, would be born with severe brain deformation, likely resulting from a very rare disease, Walker-Warburg Syndrome. The Douglasses learned that, “she may have some awareness, possibly emotions and pain and sensations. However, language development and abstract thought seem unlikely.” They decided to name their little girl Joy.

Joy was born in May. She experiences seizures but she is stable. Her cognitive disability means that it is likely she is unable to recognize pain. Joy’s life expectancy is two to three years. Dr. Matt Douglass wrote his PhD dissertation on theodicy – the problem of suffering.


We were worried that Joy would never be able to travel long distances, but after assurances from the doctors, we drove to Kansas for a week, which started with a wedding, ended with a baptism, and had some good and bad times in between.

Our oldest daughter Amelia was dedicated at our church in Arkadelphia.  We had considered whether to baptize her, but ultimately we decided not to. I know the basic arguments from the various traditions, but I still don’t have a settled opinion on the issue. The Nazarenes will dedicate or baptize infants, depending on the family’s wishes, but the Nazarene culture seems to have a preference for believer’s baptism.  But that’s not an option for Joy.

We could have dedicated Joy, as we dedicated Amelia two years ago, but the idea seemed…not pointless, exactly, but anemic.  Typically at a dedication the parents promise to raise the child in the church so that, eventually, she can adopt the faith for herself.  The church, in turn, promises to show love to the child and help incorporate her into the body of Christ.

But such things apply to Joy, if at all, in a far diminished way.

I sing the Lord’s Prayer to her, but she’ll never learn to pray.  We’ll bring her to church, but she’ll never learn the basics of the faith.  We’ll take care of her physically, but to what extent can we really meet her spiritual needs?

Baptism symbolizes the new creation that comes with salvation.  It also represents our eventual death, burial, and bodily resurrection.  More than this, though, we (Angela and I) believe that baptism is a sacrament, a true means of grace, not merely a symbolic ritual.

And, this side of heaven, it is the only sacrament Joy can participate in.  (I suppose there won’t be any baptisms or marriages in heaven, but perhaps communion?  I hope so.)

Fortunately, my dad got his district license from the Church of the Nazarene in July, which gave him the proper authority to baptize Joy for us.  Our church manual includes a ritual for the baptism of infants, which my dad amended for the occasion.  Here is part of it:

[To the congregation]:

Dearly Beloved: The sacrament of baptism is the sign and seal of the new covenant of grace.

While we do not hold that baptism imparts the regenerating grace of God, we do believe that Christian baptism signifies for this young child God’s acceptance within the community of Christian faith on the basis of prevenient grace.

At this time we are unsure to what extent Joy will be able to have a personal knowledge of faith in Jesus Christ. We are convinced though that she is able to sense and absorb the Christ like love that surrounds her.

[To the parents]:

In presenting this child for baptism you are hereby witnessing to your own personal Christian faith and to your purpose to continue to extend to her Christ like love and affection. To this end it is your duty to take her as often as feasible to the sanctuary where she may sense the presence of God and of godly fellowship. To share with her often the assurance of God’s love for her and as much as in you lies, to bring her up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Will you endeavor to do so by the help of God? If so, answer, “I will.”

[To Joy]:

Joy Ana Douglass, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

It was a solemn and emotional occasion.



Follow the Douglass family at https://thedouglasses.wordpress.com/ 

Wesleyan Accent ~ In Their Words: How Pastors Pray for Their Children (And Raise Them in the Church)

Recently Wesleyan Accent posed a couple of questions to pastors and their spouses about how they pray for their children while in ministry, and how they choose to shape their kids’ experience of vocational ministry. Here are their responses.

What are some ways you prayed for your children while they were growing up as you served in ministry?

carolyn-mooreRev. Carolyn Moore: My husband and I have prayed together every night for most of our daughter’s life. When she was young, she’d crawl into our bed with us before going off to her own, and we would pray over her. We always prayed for God’s hand over her life, and we prayed for her future spouse. As she got older, she always knew we were there, praying for her, night after night. Of course, she prayed with us over our church and we prayed with her over things she was involved with at church. She grew up knowing the language of prayer, and feeling comfortable with prayer.

Rev. Andy Stoddard: We as a family gather together in one of our children’s rooms, we read a passage, talk about it for minute, and then we pray and go to bed.  I’ve often wondered if we should do more. But for us as a family, this little routine works for us.  We try to be real people who love Jesus, not spiritually perfect saints.  My daughter and I on the way to school listen to Christian music on K-Love, but we are just as likely to listen to Taylor Swift or some other Top 40 song.

LipscombsRev. Adam Lipscomb: Lately we’ve been praying that they just understand how deeply God loves them.

kelli wardRev. Kelli Ward: We’ve discussed our prayers for our children and how we pray for our children to have a healthy understanding of the church. That they would have a healthy understanding of church as a family, complete with struggles and victories, grief and celebration.

Rev. John Gargis: I pray they land in an area of life that they enjoy and fit their spiritual gifts. I pray they are a light.

otis-mcmillanDr. Otis T. McMillan: Below is a sample of the prayer we prayed for our children and with our children. Barbara and I had weekly Bible study in our home:

Father God, although you have entrusted these children to us as a gift, we know they belong to you. Like Hannah offered Samuel, we dedicate our children to you, Lord. We recognize that they are always in your care. Help us as parents, Lord, with our weaknesses and imperfections. Give us strength and godly wisdom to raise these children after your Holy Word. Please, supply supernaturally what we lack. Keep our children walking on the path that leads to eternal life. Help them to overcome the temptations of this world and the sin that would so easily entangle them.

Dear God, send your Holy Spirit daily to lead, guide, and counsel them. Always assist them to grow in wisdom and stature, in grace and knowledge, in kindness, compassion and love. May our children serve you faithfully, with their whole heart devoted to you all the days of their lives. May they discover the joy of your presence through daily relationship with your Son, Jesus. May they become part of the solution in this world but never a part of the problems. Help us never to hold on too tightly to these children, nor neglect our responsibilities before you as parents.

Lord, let our commitment to raise these children be for the glory of your name. Cause their lives forever to be a testimony of your faithfulness. In the name of Jesus, I pray.

Did you deliberately shape their exposure to ministry and church life?

dave.smithDr. David Smith: Angie and I did not separate ministry into a compartment. We simply did “Kingdom life together” with our entire family. They were never excluded from the hard stuff and always were able to celebrate the high points. It seems to be a better reflection of what life is like; fully integrated in the walk of faith.

Rev. Adam Lipscomb: There have been times, especially early in the church plant, when we had people specifically assigned to them for Sunday mornings, one on one. We were both busy on Sunday mornings doing all the pastor/connect stuff.

I’ve made sure that I intentionally disciple the boys outside of church. For me, when we meet one on one, I took them through the story of the Bible and we had a little rhyme to keep the major stories in place in their heads. Our oldest son loves the Action Bible. When they were younger, we read through the Jesus storybook Bible.

Rev. Carolyn Moore: Not really, though we didn’t make her show up for every single thing. And we certainly never required that she act in a certain way around church people. We wanted her to have a genuine experience of community. She never questioned that she would be in church on Sunday mornings and at youth group on Sunday evenings. And she was always very comfortable with the people who came to our home for meals and groups. She would say that Mosaic helped raise her, and that the authenticity of that community shaped her understanding of “good church.”John Gargis

Rev. John Gargis: My focus is Celebrate Recovery. They have seen people make it…not make it…and even go on to glory.

Rev. Kelli Ward: We have been deliberate in shaping their exposure. But in more ways, we have endeavored to be consistent in our own integrity. For instance, we don’t talk negatively about the parishioners in front of the children, not because we reserve those conversations for times when they are not around, but rather because we prayerfully look to God to transform our hearts in negative situations.

David-Drury-0318_focusRev. David Drury: I have used some ministry experiences to expose my kids to things others don’t get the opportunity to do. I see them as helpful windows into my ministry, so they understand what I do, and also just to help them be better Christians. So I have taken them with me on hospital visits, to pray with people, to funerals, etc.

Rev. Andy Stoddard: For our family in ministry, we try as best as we can to be authentic.  My wife and I try our Andy Stoddardvery best not to be spiritually two-faced.  We try to act the same, live the same, talk the same, be the same at home as we are in church.  I will not act imperfect in my “real” life and then act perfect in my “preacher” life.  I try to own my brokenness and imperfection as a preacher.  we just try to be real in our faith, authentically Christian.  And my hope is that will lead my children to love the church as much as I do.

*Rev. Carolyn Moore is the Founding Pastor of Mosaic UMC in Evans, Georgia.

*Rev. Andy Stoddard is the Lead Pastor at St. Matthew’s UMC in Madison, Mississippi.

*Rev. Adam Lipscomb pastors City Life Church, a Wesleyan congregation, with his wife Rev. Christy Lipscomb in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

*Rev. Kelli Ward is Connections Pastor at Forest Hills Wesleyan Church in Evansville, Indiana., where her husband Rev. Wayne Ward also ministers as Associate Pastor.

*Rev. John Gargis is Associate Pastor of Evangelism at Fountain City UMC in Knoxville, Tennessee.

*Dr. Otis T. McMillan is the Director of Evangelism in the A.M.E. Zion church.

*Dr. David Smith is Dean of Wesley Seminary in Marion, Indiana.

*Rev. David Drury is Chief of Staff for the General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church.