Archives For Marriage & Family

Santa Arrives!—Flickr/Creative Commons/MIKECNY

I recently heard a woman’s compelling story of victory through Christ over a persistent sin in her life. One thing she stated stood out in light of the upcoming Christmas holiday. She shared that when she learned as a young girl that there was no such thing as Santa, she also began to wonder about Jesus. She reasoned that if her parents could lie about Santa, surely Jesus could be a cleverly devised lie as well.

You may not have experienced what this woman did when she learned the truth about Santa, but you probably felt some disappointment, disillusionment, or even anger. I know that both my husband and I were disappointed when we learned that Santa wasn’t real and for us Christmas lost some of its magic, and that’s why we didn’t insist to our children that Santa was real. What we told them was that once upon a time there was a real person named Saint Nicholas and that Santa was patterned after him. We also told them that we give gifts at Christmas to celebrate Jesus’ birth. They were totally fine with that.

I’m not saying we should never tell the children in our life stories about Santa or the Easter bunny or the tooth fairy, but I think we need to think twice about how we do. After all Santa is a myth, and when we perpetuate the myth of Santa we can inadvertently downplay the true meaning of Christmas. We relegate the story of Jesus in the manger to just another heartwarming but fictitious story.

The story of Santa is a sweet little story, but that’s all it is. Jolly old Saint Nick brings gifts, but Jesus was the gift—God’s gift to us. Let’s remember this holiday season to put the emphasis on the Christ child, the Son of God, who left heaven to come to Earth to live as an example for us to follow and to suffer and die so that all who believe in Him might have eternal life. It doesn’t get any better than that!

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”

Let’s be honest: The family is a flawed institution. We’re all broken. We’re all part of a family that’s broken. All of us. No exceptions. Brokenness is normal.

But we’re not left without hope. And that’s the message Elisa and Evan Morgan shared with us in our webinar: The Myth of the Perfect Family.

While they didn’t attempt to glaze over the messiness of family life, Evan and Elisa described how God has been and still is restoring beauty in the midst of their brokenness because of His great love for broken people. He’s restoring hope and love because of the “broken family values” that they’ve learned along the way.

To listen to the audio recording of the webinar, click the link: Myth of the Perfect Family Webinar audio

To download the PowerPoint for the webinar, click the link: Myth of the Perfect Family Webinar PowerPoint

To get a free download of the introduction and first chapter of Elisa’s book The Beauty of Broken from Thomas Nelson, click on this link:

The Beauty of Broken (Free Sample Chapter)

To purchase the book Click Here

The 2012 film People Like Us tells the story (inspired by true events) of a slick-talking, self-assured salesman named Sam whose estranged father dies from cancer. Sam, who has stayed clear from his parents for years, reluctantly returns home and learns of a secret that turns his world completely upside down. In the process of fulfilling one of his father’s last wishes, he discovers that he has a sister, Frankie, whom he never knew existed.

Sam, much like his father, is not good at relationships. He doesn’t know how to open up or show empathy to others. Nor does he put a lot of stock in being part of a family. But Sam finds himself slowly pushing through his relational hiccups and reaches out to connect with Frankie, who has never recovered from being abandoned by her father as a child.

At first, Sam doesn’t tell her who he is. When Frankie, who is a struggling single mom, finally learns the truth, she feels utterly betrayed and wants nothing to do with Sam.

Eventually, Sam contacts Frankie again and attempts to apologize for keeping the truth from her. Frankie understandably asks him how she’s supposed to be able to trust him again. With the conviction of one who has been genuinely questioning everything he always believed about family and relationships, Sam says to her, “Because we’re family, and family makes mistakes . . . Let me be your brother.”

“Family makes mistakes.” As one who grew up in a family of nine and has raised a family of my own, that sure has been true for me. By no means does this excuse the mistakes we make with each other, but mistakes, big and small, are a common part of our brokenness as human beings. The families who realize this are the families who are open to giving each other second chances that allow broken relationships to recover and grow.

We invite you to join us for an RBC Webinar on September 19 at 12 p.m. EST Evan and Elisa Morgan will be sharing their story of struggle, heartache, redemption, and hope.

P.S. Be warned. If you happen to watch this movie, you are going to have to take the good with the bad. After all, it’s a Hollywood film. But from this viewer’s perspective, I was pleasantly moved by the message about the importance of family and second chances and found it to overwhelmingly outshine the inappropriate qualities of the film.

Tell Them Your Story

Dennis Moles —  September 12, 2013 — 2 Comments

We all have a story – but very often we don’t tell it.

As a minister, my story includes helping families say goodbye to loved ones. That’s what I was doing in Big Stone Gap, VA on April 12 of this past year: helping four children, 11 grandchildren, and 20 great-grandchildren say goodbye to their mom, grandma, and great grandma.

The difference on this crisp spring afternoon is that my wife was one of the eleven, my children three of the twenty, and my mother-in-law one of the four. This time it wasn’t someone else’s grandmother; it was mine.

We all have a story – and sometimes they’re painful.

After the interment, we all went to lunch and then loaded into the van and headed toward the little coal camp where my mother-in-law grew up. As we drove the winding roads of western Virginia, my wife’s mom told stories. She told stories about her childhood, about learning to drive on those crooked roads, about her parents and grandparents. She pointed out the little church she went to as a child. We saw the house she grew up in. For several hours that day, this place was home. It was home because we were seeing it thought the eyes of my mother-in-law.

We all have a story – and sometimes we don’t even know it.

The hours passed and the stories flowed. Some of them were new even to my father-in-law. That day, my children were given a great gift. Their grandmother told them her story – the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. And in so doing, she told them THEIR story.

Some of our stories are happy and light, but many of them are sad and troubling. Some we feel are fit for public display while others are just a little too raw and unflattering for the world to see. That leads most of us to keep our stories in two categories: the ones we tell and the ones we don’t. But I wonder if that’s what’s best?

I think these unflattering and painful stories need to be told as well, as they can serve a special redemptive purpose. They communicate hope in a way that other stories can’t.

We all have a story – and all of it is worth telling.

If you think your story is too painful for God to redeem and use I’d invite you to join us for an RBC Webinar on September 19 at 12pm EST Host Tim Jackson will be speaking with Evan and Elisa Morgan about their story of struggle, heartache, redemption, and hope.

Hope to see you there!

In her new book The Beauty of Broken, Elisa Morgan writes in the introduction:

“Formulaic promises about the family may have originated in well-meaning intentions, but such thinking isn’t realistic. It’s not helpful. It’s not even kind—this prodding one another to think we can create something we can’t: families immune from breakage” (p. xii).

Like the vast majority of Christian parents, Elisa had bought into the unspoken, unwritten, and unrealistic expectation that if she did all the right things—like Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, and teaching her kids about God—then her kids would turn out okay or, in her words, would be “paragons of Christian virtue.” When the desired outcome was radically shattered by the entrance of issues like alcoholism, learning disabilities, legal issues, abortion, homosexuality, addiction, teen pregnancy, infertility, adoption, divorce, and death, Elisa was forced to confront the myth she’d wholeheartedly embraced: the myth of the perfect family.

The journey that Elisa and her husband, Evan, took together radically transformed their view of family life and values. They came to understand that there are no perfect families. Every family is broken because everyone in every family is broken. Broken families are the norm, not the exception.

And that’s why I’m excited to sit down with Elisa and Evan in our next RBC webinar to discuss their journey and what God has taught them along the way that we can all learn from as well. Please consider joining us on September 19, 2013, at 12:00 p.m. EDT for our webinar “The Myth of the Perfect Family.” Space is limited, so please sign up at:


Family Stuff

Tim Jackson —  August 27, 2013 — 1 Comment
Piles of stuff-M640

From Creative Commons by Lara604

Every family has stuff. And by that I don’t mean the stuff we’ve all piled up in our basements, garages, spare rooms, attics, and storage sheds. Not the stuff we’ve accumulated, stashed, or just couldn’t bring ourselves to throw away along the way (perhaps someday I’ll tackle that topic in a later blog), but the stuff that has affected and shaped us, for good or bad, into who we are.

Every family has stuff. Family stuff. The stuff we’ve all accumulated along the way with shared experiences, memories, and relationships that have produced lessons learned, patterns established, habits ingrained, and themes forged into our lives that often go undetected until many years later when the “unpacking” or “processing” of our stuff commences.

We often try to hide our stuff because it can be a devastating source of shame, regret, sorrow, or pain if exposed. It’s things like moral failures, foolish choices, family squabbles, financial ruin, or a pattern of failed relationships that we’d simply like to ignore, hoping no one will give it a second glance. After all, nobody likes the interrogating glare of the spotlight when the sight, sound, or smell of something unhealthy is unearthed. There’s also the stuff we’re unaware of but that’s glaringly apparent to just about everyone within a 10-mile radius.

While our tendency is to hide our negative stuff, God has other plans. In the infinite wisdom and providence of God, He has been using all our “family stuff” to shape, mold, and bring about transformation in us. That’s the reassurance of Paul’s words in Roman 8:28-29. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose . . . to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” Paul had stuff too. But he knew all the stuff in his life was being used by God to somehow bring about His greater purposes in and through Paul.

Having this perspective allows us to see and appreciate the good stuff too. Not all the patterns, habits, and themes in our family are negative. There are also a lot of positives, like a solid work ethic, an ability to laugh at adversity, an inherited creative talent, a commitment to integrity and honor that may have marked your family for generations. To throw out all the stuff means we’ll miss out on celebrating with gratefulness the good stuff that is masterfully woven into the fabric of our stories.

So lets make a commitment together: No more pretending. We all have stuff. I do. You do. It’s time to be honest about our stuff—both the good and the bad. Some of that won’t be easy. But when we turn our stuff, all of our stuff, over to God, He will bring joy to us and glory to Himself.


It has been nearly 25 years since the phone rang bringing us the terrible news that my younger cousin Jacob had been badly hurt. He had been playing with some neighbor kids and in a freak accident a guttering spike had been driven 6 inches into his brain. It entered between his eyeball and the orbital bone. He was rushed to the hospital, but the situation was grave and the doctors gave us very little hope that he would survive. It would take a miracle.

During this crisis, our family scrambled into action. Several hurried to the hospital to be with Jacob. Several others gathered at with my grandmother’s house to wait.

The usually light atmosphere at my grandparents’ house was replaced by one of heaviness and sorrow. Without much conversation, we gathered around Grandma who lay weeping on the couch. With Jacob barely clinging to life, we did the only thing we felt we could do. We prayed. I did not know it at the time but that prayer would forever change how I approached God in prayer.

As we began to pray, my grandmother could do nothing but weep. We prayed and she cried. She cried and said “Please, Father” under her breath as we timidly plead for Jacob’s healing. As the family prayer session went on, Mommaw started to pray.

There was no pretense or pleasantries in her prayer. At first it was agonizing to listen to her, but then the agony, while still present, began to give way as she charged boldly into the throne room of the Almighty. It was clear that she was asking for God’s help. She wanted Him to heal Jake, but it was also more than that. She also needed His presence, for without His presence she could not survive the pain. She needed to know that even in this terrible circumstance God was near. That He still heard and still cared.

By the time she really hit her stride in prayer, we had all stopped praying. We simply knelt quietly, and with our eyes wide open we watched Mommaw pray. We all knew she had taken us to a holy and intimate place. It was a place she seemed to know well; she had obviously been there before.

In those tense and fearful moments, Mommaw showed us that what we all really need in times of intense grief and sorrow is the Lord’s presence. We longed for Jacob’s healing—and by God’s grace and mercy we got what we wanted—but what we really needed more than anything else was God Himself. For He truly is our only hope in life and in death.

One of the great gifts my father gave to me was the ability to tell stories. One of my preferred pastimes as a boy was to sit and listen to Dad tell stories about his childhood. One of my favorite involved my grandmother and her prayer closet.

Dad, according to his recollection, was about 10 years old when my grandfather (Poppawe Damon) took him and his two younger siblings, Joe and Eileen, out to mend a fence that was about 200 yards behind their house.

As they worked my grandfather suddenly stopped what he was doing and looked back toward the house. Poppawe’s sudden lack of activity caught the attention of the kids, and he answered their unspoken question with a simple, “Listen.”

As they stood there in near silence, the kids began to hear what he had heard. In the distance, they made out a single voice. It was hushed but earnest; tender and pleading.

It did not take the kids long to figure out who was talking. It was their mother. And it didn’t take them long to figure out who she was talking to—God. The longer Momawe prayed, the louder she became.

Dad still remembers standing there at the edge of the woods listening to his mother pray. He remembers the intensity and passion in her prayer. He remembers hearing her pray for him, Joe, and Eileen. He remembers her crying with joy at the presence of her Lord as Jesus met her in the midst of her worship and petition. He remembers Poppawe telling them that Momawe was in the closet, where she went to meet with God (Matthew 6:5-6).

I heard this story many times while I was growing up. And while the actual event took place nearly 20 years before I was born, I still sense the reverence of that moment.

Dad was given a great gift that day. He was able to hear how his mother prayed when she thought no one was listening.

Christian prayer in its most intimate form is like that. It is an intimate conversation. It’s raw but beautiful. It is not ritualistic and measured but relational and empowered. It’s saying what you would say when you think no one but God is listening.

If you have a desire to grow and be strengthened in your prayer life please join us for a live webinar event, “Prayer: What It Is, What It Isn’t, and Why It Matters”.

Register soon; space is limited. Hope to see you there!

Kids need adults in their lives. Two recent studies have captured my thinking over the last 6 months:

  1. The Barna Research Group tells us that 6 in 10 young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 are leaving the church (You Lost Me by David Kinnaman).
  2. The Fuller Youth Institute tells us that adult engagement is the most consistent factor in determining whether or not a young person will continue to stay in the Christian faith (Sticky Faith).

In short, the Barna study tells us that younger people are leaving the church at a greater rate than they are staying. This is discouraging. But the Fuller Youth Institute study gives us hope. It tells us that the most significant determiner as to whether or not a young person’s faith will “stick” is directly connected to adult interaction.

The study says that if a young person has five adults of varying ages who intentionally invest in them, they are much more likely to stay in the faith. When I was a youth pastor, we were told that we should have one adult leader for every five kids. But the FYI study indicates that we ought to turn that ratio around. Not only do kids need more adults, the study also says that they need people from multiple age groups.

The kids whose faith “stuck” the best were those who had relationships with five adults from multiple generations who intentionally built into their lives.

Now I know that the Holy Spirit is the One who draws us, illuminates us, and saves and seals us in Christ. And I do not intend to say that anyone can come to Christ apart from the work of the Holy Spirit; nor am I attempting to say that human effort can keep us in Christ. But I am intrigued by this common thread of multigenerational adult relationships with young people whose faith sticks.

What do you think? Is it noteworthy that young people whose faith sticks have adults other than their parents who are available and present? What is the significance of this multigenerational aspect to spiritual relationships? Is it fair to say that if young people have present, active, and intentional spiritual fathers, mothers, grandparents, and older brothers and sisters, they are more likely to be persons of faith?

Marriage Is Good Work

Tim Jackson —  March 4, 2013 — 3 Comments

Ben Afleck Jen GarnerAt the recent Academy Awards, Ben Affleck, the director for the Best Picture category in 2012, made a revealing comment in his acceptance speech that created quite a stir for some who can be critical of just about any dialog.

In his excitement and rush to thank everyone involved in the movie, he proceeded to thank his wife, Jennifer Garner, with these words:

“I want to thank my wife . . . for working on our marriage for 10 Christmases. It’s good . . . it is work, but it’s the best kind of work . . . and there’s no one I’d rather work with.”

When I heard his comments, I thought, Wow! Here’s someone in the spotlight who isn’t ashamed to say that marriage is work—good work, hard work, and the best kind of work.

What a refreshing splash of reality in a world, and especially in an industry, that has made generous profits on creating unrealistic expectations for romantic relationships. The reality for many is that, whether they are aware of it or not, they’ve been influenced by the computer-generated media mythology that genuine love just happens. The new measure of the success or failure of a love relationship has become personal happiness and fulfillment. And if your partner or spouse doesn’t do it for you anymore, then it’s time to move on and find someone else who does.

The reality check is that if you listen to anyone who is honest about building a marriage, that person acknowledges that it takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to construct something substantial that can go the distance. It takes hard work, and that’s what real love requires.

Whether he knew it or not, Ben was echoing the ancient wisdom found in the Proverbs 24:3-4:

By wisdom a house it built,

and through understanding it is established;

through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

Now honestly, I don’t know Ben and Jennifer. I have no insights into their personal lives (and this is not an endorsement). But my hunch is that those who took potshots at him with comments like “Ben Affleck could probably use a ladder to get out of that hole he dug himself into at the Oscars last night when he called out the imperfections in his marriage” probably reveals more about the chronic cynicism that is all too prevalent when it comes to marriage.

His final comment to his wife was a precious affirmation of loyalty: “and there’s no one I’d rather work with.” I know for a fact that most wives would love to hear that kind of unabashed affirmation of fidelity from their husbands.

And that’s a good reminder for all of us who are married. Is marriage work? Hard work? Yes! But it’s good work and the best kind of work. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work loving each other well.