Mud Cookies Shouldn’t Exist. Fair Trade Friday Exists Because They Do.

I should have never watched the video before bed.

But I did.

And then I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t stop thinking about the countless hungry children in Haiti who dine on the flat brown cookies baked in the sun, made of mud and a bit of flour.


But mostly, I couldn’t get the image of these desperate bakers out of my head–women, mostly mothers, who make their job selling cookies made of dirt to kids who have nothing else to eat.

It’s part of the terrible cycle of poverty, selling things that weren’t meant to be bought (like dirt and sex) because it helps people continue to live–in that same cycle.

I think that’s why God spoke the words to me in the middle of the night so clearly a couple of years ago.

I told Him, I want to help women and He said, Provide them with jobs.

Jobs that will feed their hungry families.

Jobs that will open the door to the Gospel.

Jobs that will provide sustainability and hope.

And that’s why Fair Trade Friday was created. It was intentionally started through Mercy House because we believe in empowering women in Jesus’ name. No one is making money off this endeavor, except the women who need it most.

In my exhausting yes to God, I have discovered the passion of my life. This is it.

Friday we celebrate the one year anniversary of Fair Trade Friday.


In the past year, we’ve provided more than 1000 jobs in 18 countries and sent out more than 6000 fair trade boxes to thousands of people. All in the name of Jesus.

And thankfully, I’m far from alone in reminding women they aren’t forgotten. There are a host of local volunteers and nearly 2000 club members who are helping us do just that.

If that isn’t enough, we’ve had an amazing online tour happening this summer, where bloggers and Facebookers and instagrammers have been sharing about this life-changing club. I’ve asked these precious women to link up their posts today for you to enjoy (and get a wonderful glimpse of what comes in a one time box).

Visit their fun posts and come back here and leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win one of TEN Fair Trade Friday One Time Boxes (Value $50 each) that we are giving away to celebrate this momentous day!


(items will vary from what is pictured)

And although we have a beautiful waiting list for our monthly club (join the 2-3 month wait list here), we still have room for late summer/ fall home parties for you to host your own girl’s night out!

We also have an unlimited supply of one time boxes (in various styles) for you to enjoy until a spot comes open for you. Use code 4hope to save $5

(photo source)

winners have been notified

5 Ways To Change America From The Dinner Table

We were on the 3rd hour of the trip and somehow the youngest convinced the other two to watch a scratched version of Shrek the Third on the DVD player in the backseat.

As we drove, my husband looked over at me and said, “Why do we own this movie?”

I shrugged and pointed to the old album of discs we keep in the car for moments of travel desperation.

At one point, I guess we were both tuning in because we heard our soon-to-be third grader ask why one of the princesses was a man dressed like a woman with heavy stubble.

“Because someone thought it would be funny,” a sibling answered.

Subtle, Hollywood.

Terrell and I talked about the way kids movies, TV shows and teen books are filled with innuendoes, edgy subject matter and an obvious effort to normalize alternative lifestyles to the next generation.

“It’s easy to ignore, laugh or shrug it off, but we need to point this desensitizing out to our kids when we see or hear it. And turn it off,” he said.

It’s part of teaching our kids what we believe is right and wrong.

I don’t know about you, but I cringe at the world I’m raising my kids in.  My online feed is a battleground of opinion and the daily news is like a horror show.

It’s not just that our culture vies for an anthing-goes-lifestyle, it’s that we don’t understand the value of life. We live in a world where a lion’s death trumps a human’s life. We live in a world where the senseless death of an animal causes more outcry than the brutal dismembering and selling of unborn babies.

Yes, both are wrong, but one we abhor, and the other we make possible through legislation.

Recently, I ran across an old quote from my favorite President and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head:


I’m not political. I don’t jump on every bandwagon or issue.  I don’t engage on Facebook when someone says something I don’t agree with and I honestly try not to jump into controversy (although occasionally I stumble into it here). I’m a wife and mom and writer and most days between those big jobs and saying yes to God, there’s not much left when I fall into bed.

But I can see that America is changing. And I can see that American needs to change.

And I have to agree with The Gipper-great change for our country starts in the center of our home at the table.

It’s the place we communicate with one another, care about each other, celebrate and challenge each other. The table is the place we teach our children right from wrong, it’s our lectern. It brings us together, so together we can change the world.

When we intentionally tackle tough issues, cultural shifts and trends, and communicate truth to our kids over a meal, we are giving them something secure to come home to in a world that is balancing precariously on a sandy foundation.

When we turn our table into a tool, our home becomes a classroom, and our children world changers.

change America from the dinner table

5 Ways to Change America From the Dinner Table:

1. The Table Creates a Healthier Family  | It might sound too simple, but simply having dinner together makes an impact on the family and eventually the world. It’s far too easy to let the busyness of schedules, sports, school and society interrupt dinner. Research shows the long term emotional and educational benefits to families is monumental. It’s the best time to connect and communicate, to check-in with each other. There are countless health benefits of eating dinner together, but the “parental engagement fostered at the dinner table can be a simple, effective tool to help prevent bad choices and addictions later,” research says. So, basically, we are better when we eat dinner together.

2. The Table is Where We Break Open Both Kinds of Bread | Food is a great opportunity to introduce culture and new countries to our family. What better way to learn about oppressed people groups or impoverished areas or intriguing cultures than by getting a small taste of how other people eat and maybe live? Food opens the door to the rest of the world and makes room for perspective, one of the best gifts we can offer our family. Our dinner table can become a pulpit where we open God’s Word and compare and contrast and consider truth with a verse here and Bible story there. It’s not about quantity (and with kids, it’s often not about quality), it’s about consistency. Breaking Holy Bread at the table is a significant way to say to our children–this matters as much as eating. It’s imperfect and messy, and it’s important. It’s life.

3. The Table is Where We Talk About Current Issues (or the latest kid’s movie) | Gathering around the table affords us the chance to talk. Sometimes it’s goofy and silly and seemingly insignificant. (Don’t believe that.) But some nights, it’s family communion where we connect with each other and God on a deep level. When we make this time a priority, we make room for this to happen. Talking about our day at school and work one day leads into praying about the bully on the playground and the stress of a tough boss on another.  When we linger at the table and lay our thoughts and opinions on it, it becomes the perfect place to talk about what’s going on in our world.

4. The Table is Where We Teach Absolute Truth | Truth has become a bad word in our culture where nothing is absolute and standards are doubled and everything is subjective.  Murder is okay inside the womb, but not out. We have freedom to live however we want, unless our religious convictions make someone uncomfortable.  “God’s word is truth.” (John 17:17) If we explain to our children what the Bible says about right from wrong, we are teaching them truth that doesn’t change.

5. The Table is Where We Learn to Love | The table is where we model manners to our children. It’s where we teach babies basic communication and toddlers courtesy. The table is a place of comfort with favorite foods that remind us of home and fond memories we carry with us as adults. It’s the place we learn to take care of and love other people.  When absolute truth is taught and love isn’t, judgmental and pious Christians are fostered. But when we teach and exemplify love of God and others (especially to those we don’t agree with), over our own opinions and desires, we raise kids who change the world.

[image source]

Our Top 15 Family Movie Night Picks

I let my kids have pajama and movie days regularly. Because summer. But with two teens and a third grader, sometimes it’s challenging to find a suitable movie that everyone can enjoy. I can only do so many cartoons. That’s why I love a good family movie night at our house. Even though it often involves compromise, it’s a good excuse to spend time together. My kids love piling in my bed with extra blankets and plenty of popcorn.
movie night

And if there’s popcorn involved, I’m there. I don’t know about you, but I’m always filtering, double-checking and monitoring what my kids are watching. We have kids zone brought to you by XFINITY, available with all X1 systems, is a great option that gives kids control of the remote and parents peace of mind. kids zone on the X1 operating system by XFINITY is a safe and secure destination for kids (2-12) to independently browse and watch their favorite movies and shows. They are branded age appropriate by Common Sense Media. Plus it’s completely customizable. It’s the safe way to let kids watch TV these days.


The other day my three children were trying to decide (also called “arguing”) which movie to watch when I suggested the first movies that popped into my head: “What about Flubber? Sound of Music? or Hook?” They looked at me like I was an alien. “Mom, what is Flubber?”my son asked. You guys. It’s moments like these that I feel like a failure. I, mean, Flubber is a classic, right? “Is ‘Sound of Music Hook’ good? I’ve never heard of that one,” my second grader asked. Crickets. I quickly jotted down some of the older movies we have loved:

  1. Wizard of Oz
  2. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
  3. Inspector Gadget
  4. Sound of Music
  5. Lassie Come Home
  6. Tangled
  7. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  8. Flipper
  9. Mary Poppins
  10. Hook
  11. Narnia
  12. Flubber
  13. Freaky Friday
  14. Finding Nemo
  15. Up

I think our movie days and family nights are planned for quite some time now. And I love that every one of these can be found on kids zone brought to you by XFINITY–plus another 6500 choices. Trust what your kids are watching. Sit back, relax, eat some popcorn and watch them fall in love with the movies you already love!

This School Year’s Game Plan for Screen Time

parenting upstream in a go with the flow world

Guest Post by my friend Arlene Pellicane

{Scroll down for a great giveaway!}

When you walk into a cell phone store, you have a dizzying array of plans to choose from. In the same way you choose a cellular plan to suit your family’s needs, you need a digital plan for screen use in your home. How much time per day is allowed? Which shows, games, and social networks are approved? Without a working plan, your child’s time will erode into mindless screen time and entertainment that usually runs counter to everything you are trying to instill as a mother.

Maybe you are unhappy with how screen time went last year. Good news – the school year is around the corner and you have a new chance to put a plan in place.

Remember these are suggestions to get your brain in gear. Pick and choose what you need – remember you don’t have to replicate anyone’s plan including mine. You just need wisdom to devise the best plan for you and your kids (and stick with it). We’ll begin with the Pellicane game plan, otherwise known as “The Dinosaur Plan.”

None of our three kids have a gaming device, tablet, or phone. Now granted they are younger (ages 5, 8 and 10). But my 10-year-old son has never played Minecraft which puts him in an elite category!

The kids use our laptop for homework which ends up being about two hours a week. When James and I were first married sixteen years ago, he asked to do a “no-cable” trial period of one month. I agreed reluctantly and to make a long story short, we haven’t had cable since. We choose what the kids watch and use DVD time as a treat.

No video games exist in our home. Ethan’s in fifth grade and of course catches a lot of slack for not gaming. One night we talked it over at bedtime. “Mom, my friends say they feel sorry for me, but I feel sorry for them. They don’t read, or play the piano, or know martial arts. They just know how to play video games.”

I don’t include that to pat myself on the back.

I share it to give you courage: It’s okay to raise children who live differently than their peers.

This School Year's Game Plan for Screen Time

After all, the norm of kids who are addicted to screens is not helping our culture one bit. Here are some other ideas to consider for your plan:

The Priority List: Author Dannah Gresh realized when her kids transitioned to middle school, she would lose a lot of control over what they were watching. They needed to be able to self-moderate. She had her kids write down a list of their priorities. They wrote their list which included family, time with God, homework, soccer, piano, video games, and time with friends. They had them put them in order of importance which made them realize why they didn’t get to play video games until homework was done or chores were complete.

Dannah says, “Teaching consequential thinking skills was important so they could carry those limits into high school, college and beyond. Otherwise you’re just setting rules.”

Nighttime Round Up: Author and mom mentor Hannah Keeley collects all phones, tablets, and laptops at night around 10 pm – even with three college kids living at home. If any of her college kids need to work later on homework, they can ask her for that extra time. “We know what they are doing online because we keep the computers out where we can see them. Every night we have a time when we shut down and a place where all the electronics go.”

Track the Time: Our very own Kristen Welch observed that so many parents are unaware of how much their children are consuming on screens. She began by watching her children closely and then setting a time limit: thirty minutes on weekdays – kids pick the screen. They use a screen time chart to keep track. Sometimes they bend the rules to watch family movies, but generally during the week the house rule is 30 minutes a day. In the summers with more free time, the kids can earn screen time by reading.

Use a Timer: CWIVES founder Jennifer Degler employs a screen time manager – a handy BOB timer – to avoid screen time battles. She programs 30 minutes on each device and after that, the device just shuts off. If her children need more time on the computer, she can program that. Her teenage son said, “I just hate that TV timer; you are so controlling. You know I hope those are still around when I’m a parent because I’m going to use them on my kids.”

What are some screen smart guidelines you want to implement this year in your home?

Leave a comment with your answer and you’ll be entered to win Arlene’s brand new book: 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom.

Happy Mom cover

Bio: Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom and 31 Days to a Happy Husband. She is also the co-author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World (with Gary Chapman). She has been a featured guest on the Today Show, Fox & Friends, Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, The 700 Club, and Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah.

Arlene lives in the San Diego area with her husband James and their three children.

To learn more and for free family resources such as a monthly Happy Home podcast, visit

And Now, I’d Like to Talk About mmmmilk

We love milk at our house. I don’t know if it’s because we go to my in-law’s farm every chance we get… IMG_1148
I don’t know if it’s because we have a long history of naming baby calves…
I don’t know if it’s because we eat grass-fed, fresh beef at least 3 times a week (thanks Nanny and Poppa)…
I don’t know if it’s because my kids like to dress like cows periodically…
My kids have always loved milk.
And I’m always looking for natural, healthy choices that don’t compromise rich taste.
For a report at school last year, my youngest wrote a two page essay on her favorite snack (and how to make it): chocolate milk.
It was a riveting report and she actually got acknowledged for the most descriptive paper.
I have a deep affection for chocolate milk and writing, so I was obviously proud of this winning combo.

So, when we were asked to try Shamrock Farms on-the-go mmmmilk sold at Walmart, my kids sat at the dining room table like thirsty little people. I didn’t have to ask twice.

“Mom, this chocolate milk is delicious.”


“The strawberry milk is so good.”

“Mom, show them how fast I can drink the whole thing and how loud I can burp.” (I will spare you the video).

“Mom, does this make me a milk model now?”


You get the point. They loved it. And after dinner, they asked for more. (They also offered to pose for more pictures. Bless my shy children.)

These cute little 2% bottles of Shamrock Farms on-the-go mmmmilk come in 2% chocolate and strawberry and whole white milk and they are only $1 each at Walmart. Shamrock Farms mmmmilks are pure, fresh and nutritious with no added hormones.

And we think they are the perfect drink for lunch boxes or after school snacks.

(Plus, we love these healthy yummy summer snack recipes that go great with milk!)


Shamrock Farms is having a great back to school giveaway where one lucky winner will receive nearly $5,000 ($4,999) in gift cards to stock up on back-­to-­school supplies, groceries and a new wardrobe. Enter online at from now until August 20.

Win today! Answer this question: What do you like to pack in your child’s lunchbox? in the comment section. Each comment will automatically be entered to win a $100 Walmart gift card.  

Check out Shamrock Farms on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Entry Instructions:

No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 7/27/15 – 9/4/15.

Be sure to visit the Shamrock Farms brand page on where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

When God Makes Us Uncomfortable (It’s Often To Bring Others Comfort )

My husband spent 11 years in a job he sometimes hated.

During those long years, we constantly reminded ourselves to choose joy! to be grateful! to love what we’d be given!

But working to live instead of living to work can be draining.

Especially when you dream of doing something that matters.

We had countless conversations about his sweet spot–that place where passions and skills collide (you know, once we crossed Nascar Driver off the list.) The same words surfaced again and again in our long talks–words like helping people, traveling, discipleship, serving others. We had a big picture dream without a map to get there.

But he kept on doing the last thing God told him to. . . which brings us back to that job.

I’ve always marveled at my husband’s patience. Because his faithful and often unfulfilling work all those years not only provided for our family, but created space for me to pursue life-giving work through writing that resulted in starting Mercy House.

Sometimes it’s hard to see where the road is leading. But God still leads us into the unknown.

God rarely does things the way we think he should.

God is doing something important in us

While we’re waiting to do something important, God is doing something important in us.

He is refining us. He is making us uncomfortable. Dependent. He is revealing His strength in our weakness.

It’s a truth that’s hard to grasp in the middle of the waiting. But it’s truth our heart needs to hear.

Most of Jesus’ life was spent doing what he wasn’t sent to do. He was preparing Himself. And if Jesus needed time to prepare, we do, too.

Story after story in the Bible reminds us how God impositioned his people, only to position them. He made Joseph uncomfortable in a prison to position him on a throne. He made Daniel lion’s food, only to proclaim His glory in the fire. He made Esther prepare her body and heart to be queen, only to position her to save an oppressed people.

And He will do the same with you.

Because it very well might be that the job you hate or the one you can’t find is part of His great plan for your life. He may just use your discomfort to comfort others.

God often impositions us in our work, our health, our lives because he is preparing us to position us to reveal His glory.

I will never forget the day, my husband and I said the words outloud, the dreaming kind that make your heart pound. “What if somehow God made a way for me to quit my job and lead Mercy House?” I cried at his audacity because the weight of the burden was crushing me. We asked it and then we waited a long time for the answer.

It came nearly a year ago, when my husband left his well-paying, tenured position to travel, disciple, and help people in our work to remind women around the world God has not forgotten them.

Don’t think for a minute He has forgotten you either.

We can see now that all those years of being uncomfortable were making a way for us to comfort women around the world.

That uncomfortable place you’re in today? Offer it to Him. Ask God to use it for the comfort of others, for His glory.

He doesn’t waste anything. Even our discomfort.

Why Service & Hard Work Are Two of the Best Things We Can Give Our Kids

My teens spent a week as counselors at our church’s kids camp earlier this summer.

They spent a week in the hot Texas sun singing crazy camp songs, cheering and high-fiving a cabin full of young campers.

They spent a week tying shoes, passing out bandaids, and encouraging homesick hearts.

They spent a week putting others’ needs before their own.



More than once, I got a message from an adult at camp letting me know my kids were giving the week everything they had. They came home without a voice and a load of stinky laundry and fell in bed for a 5 hour nap.

That first night back at our dinner table, they begged to go on the youth missions trip a few weeks later to do construction projects for some marginalized people in a Texas community. We didn’t really have it budgeted or planned and my first response was to say no. I could tell my kids were disappointed.

Later, my husband said, “Honey, let’s rethink this. Our kids just spent a week serving others and instead of complaining about all the work, they are asking for more. They want to spend a week on an air mattress repairing homes for marginalized people in a segregated area. I know it will cost us, but this trip could be priceless.”

I thought long and hard about his wisdom. Because I know how physical, selfless work and serving others has turned my life upside down.

I’ve seen how working at the Mercy House warehouse a couple of days a week has got my kids thinking less of themselves and more about others.


When we told our kids we were reconsidering, they offered to contribute some of their own money. I knew something good was going to come from this.

service and hard work are two of the best things we can give our kids

They left on a Sunday and the first update from my daughter read, “Mom! We just finished our first day of hard work. Today was so hot and we are so tired! We are giving this lady a new floor, so we had to rip out the old one, leaving a huge hole in her floor and then add new supports, more flooring and then tile. It was a lot of work, but it was fun!! This lady’s house needs a lot of work, but we are just doing what we can. I miss you. Tell everyone I said Hi! Love you!”

So. Yeah, my kids are working their tales off this week as construction workers for the disadvantaged and they are having fun! Who knew?! Most importantly, they are being changed from the inside out and probably don’t even realize it.

We live in a culture where kids are often encouraged to do nothing and avoid things that are hard. We often don’t find selfless serving kids headlining in the news. But not only can our kids do hard things, they should. Here’s why.

6 amazing things kids learn through hard work and service:

  1. It’s harder for them to think about themselves when they’re busy thinking about others.
  2. It’s easier to be thankful for things they normally take for granted. Hello, a floor.
  3. It’s something our kids can feel really good about. Can you hear the pride in my daughter’s text?
  4. It’s something that is contagious they want to keep doing. See above.
  5. It’s always more fun than they think it will be. I have the texts to prove it.
  6. It’s become clear that working hard and serving others matters. I’ll let you know if this carries over at home.

I only got one text from my son all week. It read, “Mom, I love you. The week has been amazing! We just washed each other’s feet and now we’re at Dairy Queen. Serving rocks!”

8 Ways To Help Kids Fall in Love with God’s Word

parenting upstream in a go with the flow world

As parents, anytime we step out of the mainstream and try to lead our homes against cultural norms, it’s hard. We need God’s help and encouragement from each other as we try to navigate upstream. I’m excited about some friends helping me write a new parenting series that will hopefully offer both.

Guest post by Janel Breitenstein

A few years back found me embedded in an intensive Bible study of Revelation, then Daniel. At the time, I was a young mom with preschoolers wrapped around my knees and the older ones around my thighs. I tended to think of things in (exhausted, yet concerned) Mommy Vision: What if this stuff happens to my kids?

That’s when I heard an interview with Voddie Baucham. And here’s what stuck with me: I may not know what lies in my kids’ future. But I do know what the Word says: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God[a] may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17, emphasis added). With Scripture, they’re gonna be prepped for anything life throws at ‘em.

Basically, I think this: of all the things I equip my kids with (Band-Aids! In fact, First Aid training! Do you know how to change a tire? You need a new backpack! Have you read Homer in the original language? Did I teach you how to sew a button? Do you know how to apply a tourniquet?)—the Word is the ultimate toolkit for life.

Still, it’s not fear that makes me want the Word for my kids more than nearly anything in this world. It’s because that’s where I’ve found life. I want them to experience God in His fullness. And as much as the Word is also a scalpel to my heart, it’s a scalpel that’s cut out the stealthy, creeping cancer of my sin that robs me and everyone I interact with. I want to lead them to true Water, true Bread—rather than them binge-eating everywhere, on everything and…still starving, like so much of the world around them.

8 ideas to help our kids love God's word

So here’s what I’m thinking—

  1. First—start with the teacher. When you get heart-level honest, what’s your own perception? It’s a decent place to start: How do I, in my gut, respond to God’s Word? Do I see God and His Word like a policeman, constantly pulling me over, or standing with meaty arms crossed, just waiting for me to completely blow it? Or do my kids see more anxiety from me about obeying or knowing the Word (“gotta check off that box!”), rather than genuine delight? Do I use it as something that makes me the “teacher” to everyone else, like some overgrown hall monitor ensuring everyone’s in line?

My husband and I worked together in youth ministry for six years before we actually decided to procreate (was this a subliminal form of birth control, I wonder?). Our assortment of youth group kids was a bit of a grab bag, and from all three major education categories: public school, private school, homeschool. We were frequently quizzed about what we thought was the best method for schooling kids; more specifically, which led kids to a more intimate, genuine walk with the Lord; the kids to truly love Him and His Word.

Now, I’m no George Barna (though it seems he’d back me up on this)—but the common factor actually wasn’t where parents sent their kids to school. Their parents’ relationship with God was a much more common factor.

  1. Never use Scripture as a club. We all know people whose parents have been so insistent on their kids’ spirituality that somehow the kids take off, arms pinwheeling, in the opposite direction. (Tim Kimmel addresses this in his timely book, Why Christian Kids Rebel.) We’ve seen it in marriages too, right? Wives want their husbands to know the Lord so badly that somehow the husband would rather be found, perhaps, enjoying the pleasures of ingrown toenail surgery with Celine Dion on the loudspeaker, than in a pew.

But we all know the problem’s not with wanting our kids (or our husband’s) spiritual vitality too much. We’ve all seen moms use Scripture as a tool to shame their kids—I know I’ve done it. Reb Bradley argues in this excellent post that the issue is that we don’t have their hearts; instead, we rely on authority and control.

A few years back, a friend told me about a mutual housekeeper friend of ours here in Uganda, whose four-year-old had brought home a note from the teacher, requesting that she could beat (i.e. cane) him in front of the classroom for consistently failing to hold his pencil properly. Now, this rightfully seems extreme to our 21st-century American sensibilities. But to me, a key principle remained the same: What would motivate that child to love writing if that’s what he associated with the subject? Would he be self-driven to improve, to learn more, if he only remembered it lathered by shame and discipline?

Now, I firmly believe that Scripture does have a place in discipline, and I love some of Ginger Hubbard’s ideas of training our kids, using Scripture, behaviors to “put off” and “put on”. This concept does not mean that we soften God’s holiness one iota, neglect the use of Scripture in discipline, or gain our authority for discipline from the Word!

But if we wield the Bible like a medieval truncheon to keep our kids in line, we’re not helping them to love the Word’s correction, and God’s kindness that leads to repentance. We’re helping them…to hate it.

The question is how we’re using it. Ask yourself, what tone do I use when I speak God’s Word to my kids? What message are they getting about these invaluable words? Do they hear God’s judgment, or God’s mercy (which still honestly addresses sin)?

  1. Psych 101 says make it fun. Remember “positive association”? It’s when we associate something with being good (or with “negative association,” bad) because we experienced good things when we encountered it. Contrary to Greek thought, God’s firmly anchored our souls to our bodies (think how the lack of a good night’s sleep influences your patience and discipline with your kids). What do your kids associate with the Word? You can actually make the Word fun. A few practical ideas:
  • I had a blast in AWANA growing up, and with all its cool games, patches, jewels, and trophies, a lot of programs are still going strong.
  • My kids have gathered an amazing picture of the whole Bible from the What’s in the Bible? With Buck Denver series from the folks at VeggieTales. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
  • My parents rewarded us all for memorizing 1 Corinthians 13 by going out to dinner at Chili’s.
  • I don’t have an AWANA program here in Africa, so I am actually guilty of putting Lego Star Wars clipart around Scriptures in “Star Jedi font”, and then when my kids reach an age-appropriate goal, we go out for milkshakes.
  • I also love how they groove to Seeds Family Worship (cool enough to play in the front of the minivan, not just the back…) and Walking with the Wise (several Scriptures are taken in, but this one’s more Scriptural concepts from Proverbs).
  • I’ve gotten uber-excited about my kids’ ravenous fascination with our Action Bible—the Bible in graphic novel form, which is as awesome as it sounds!—whose cover has nearly been loved off, and in which my kids learned about all sorts of obscure kings and Bible books, as well as key teachings of Christ.
  • In a discussion during devotions, I’ve even handed out points to kids for bringing a verse into a discussion, because my boys never met a competition they didn’t like.
  • What’s your kids’ attitude toward their youth program, and what’s the quality of the teaching there? Entertainment is not But whether your kids have solid friends and an enjoyable, Word-loving atmosphere may have more of an influence on their quite-human souls than we realize.
  • Get kids caught up in God’s story! Author Jessica Thompson notes, “don’t make the Bible out to be a book of morality. That isn’t the message of Christianity. The Bible is the story of God’s unrelenting, redeeming love for sinners…I know I don’t want to read a list [of] rules. But give me an action-packed story about a good King fighting for his people and I’m hooked.” I will admit to totally playing on all the battle scenes for the sweaty, testosterone-charged, Nerf-weapon-packing boys in my house.
  • Pinterest is chock-full of ideas to help your kids memorize Scripture in colorful, creative, user-friendly ways that capture their attention.
  • Let kids act out or draw the stories and Scriptures they hear. When we’re discussing the Bible, I often haul out the markers and giant paper to let them make posters for their rooms.
  • Take them shopping for devotionals they find interesting. This site also has a printable worksheet to help kids into doing their own quiet times—to start learning directly from the Word on their own.
  • Canvass the web or your Christian bookstore for great kids’ devotionals—and get kid-approval before shoving anything in their hands.
  1. Let them get their hands in it. In my last conversation with Kristen, she raved about using the super-simple Discovery Bible Study method with her kids and even their dinner guests—where everyone gets a notebook, and everyone responds to the passage. Get them noodling on it, maybe even arguing about Scripture, and get them interested. If it helps, think of it as “sword training”: The Bible talks about the benefit of learning how Scripture applies to every situation through constant use.
  2. Let your kids know how it changes you—not as a project of yours (“I must tell my offspring what I learned in Bible Study!”) but as a genuine outpouring of your joy in Jesus. Let kids know about what you’re thinking about a Scripture, and open it up to discussion—as opposed to just telling all the time.
  3. Capitalize on the heart more than knowledge. Remember, knowledge puffs up; love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1). It’s all well and good if your kid wins first-place at the Bible Bee. But unfortunately, I do think the Pharisees could have also qualified for a similar title. What’s the difference? In a word, the heart. Knowledge should lead to worship. Faith. Holiness. Love. Love for God is the first commandment—not knowing who Ahaziah’s parents were, or the methods for preparing a bovine offering.
  4. Say “I’m sorry.” Why do I think this is important? Well—because I think that parents who are more willing to admit their sin, and their need for a Savior, to their kids are more likely to have deep humility…and the Gospel played out in their homes. Click here for more ideas to make the Gospel real in your house.
  5. Pray. Ultimately, though we have the power to cultivate a fertile space for love of Scripture to blossom in our kids’ hearts—even if you’re the Apostle Paul, it is only God who grows every seed we nestle deep in our kids’ hearts. Diligently ask God to create a deep passion for His Word—not just the knowledge of it, but the knowledge of Him.