Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Book Recommendation: Overcoming the Nevers

Take a look at this book trailer video and then read more about Teri Johnson's book, Overcoming the Nevers.

(Just for the record, Teri is not a client of KCWC. I offered this book spotlight because I believe in her project and think her message is relevant for today.)

A part of living is enduring challenges and confronting unexpected situations. The “negative NEVERS,” which stem from our list of disappointments, somehow find a way into our lives regardless of our intention.

We are all impacted by the “NEVERS”... ...what have you experienced that you NEVER thought you would?
When we experience “negative NEVERS” that life inevitably throws at us, they can leave lingering feelings of shame, embarrassment and resentment.

These toxic feelings manifest in our lives causing insecurities and fear—for some of us even depression and anxiety. Often times we start to believe lies about who we are, and seek approval from others.

What have you come to believe about who YOU are?

Teri Johnson has been there. She had gotten to a place of hopelessness, a place in her life where she NEVER thought she would be. Teri was stuck and longing for freedom, restoration, and life.

Change was the only option.

Through her journey, Teri discovered that it takes intentional action to restore and recover from this place, and a willingness to overcome.

Are you stuck? If so, you must read this book. Teri Johnson is honored to share with you the tools that she’s learned and how to practically use them in your life to overcome your worst NEVERS.

Expect  to:  
  • discover truth
  • Embrace love 
  • Experience joy
Teri Johnson is the President and Founder of Keeping it Personal, keepingitpersonal.com. She is a speaker and sought-after personal growth expert who enjoys great conversations while sipping coffee, photography, and soaking up as many sunsets as she can. Teri is passionate about helping others as an encourager and a cheerleader to many. The author lives a joy-filled life, deeply devoted to her husband, her two boys, and her relationship with God. 

Teri found that there is no better way to start our day than with some inspiration. It helps keep us grounded and in tune with what’s most important.  She wants to share that connection with you, please join her Daily KIP network to receive an inspirational quote, little nuggets of through in your inbox every morning. http://keepingitpersonal.com/daily-kip/


Connect with Teri at www.terijohnson.com 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Stories of Two Readers for Dewey's Read-a-Thon Day

Photo Credit: Michael Wade Carlton, 2007
In honor of Dewey’s Read-a-Thon on Saturday, my friend Joy Weese Moll and I are posting our reading tales, childhood stories about reading. We grew up in the same small town, so we share similar experiences but focused on different ones when writing about our memories of reading. One thing strong in the mind of us both are our memories of the Carnegie public library in our hometown. 

A Reading Tale

By Kathy Carlton Willis

The love of story leads us all to devote time from our busy schedules to visit a new world, a new time, a new way of life. Because time is precious, it makes sense to maximize our reading experiences as much as possible. I’ve always been a lover of books. What’s your rite-of-passage book story?

I’ll start with my own reading tale.

My mother encouraged me to learn to read as soon I started school. She was a voracious reader, eager for me to develop the same love of books she had. This Chatty Kathy loved every form of communications since my first spoken word, and the written word was no different. I took to it like gravy goes with biscuits. Remember those Weekly Reader magazines (oh, the delicious smell of the ink and paper!)? And the SRA Reading Lab inspired me to read not just for speed, but for retention—thanks to those specialized tests. It was my goal to make it through each level before the appointed time. To this day, I still like to beat deadlines.

I received my first public library card as soon as I started school, and Mom walked us kids to the library several times a month to pick up books. Yes, it seemed like it was two miles uphill both ways, but it was worth it! Our little town of four thousand was blessed with a Carnegie library (built in 1905) full of well-loved books. Mom taught me how to follow my favorite authors, and I read every title they’d ever written. I knew how to thumb through a card catalog and recite the Dewey decimal system as well as I could spell my own name. By the time I outgrew the children’s section, I had read every book and graduated to the “grown-up” shelves.

Now I’ve grown up even more. My love affair for words inspired me to start my own communications firm, so I get to fiddle with words all day long. We promote authors and books, and present programs to various groups, stringing together words we’ve written, edited, proposed, sung, spoken, coached, pitched, and more! Words thrill me. Story entices me—draws me in—beckons to me.

Most avid readers have been caught saying their idea of a time-out from stress and life involves curling up with a good book—claw-foot tub or blazing fireplace optional. Some readers aren’t quite as gung ho to dig in to their “to be read” piles. They want to like to read, but they aren’t quite there yet.

My favorite reading tip is this: Don’t waste time on a mediocre book. When reading for recreation, remember that you aren’t in school anymore. You aren’t being graded for reading every word. So if a book doesn’t appeal to you, put it down! Grab a different one. We have only so much time in life—definitely not enough time to get bogged down with a boring or confusing story line. Just because a book earned rave reviews doesn’t mean it’s the right book for you, any more than gorgeous size 7 shoes will fit size 10 feet!

Think about your own reading tale. What was it like when you learned to read? What turned you on to books? Do you recall the favorite authors of your early years? Who inspired you to read more? Did reading lists and contests in school motivate you to try harder? What challenges you today in your reading? We all have a story—even a reading story!

Louisiana (MO) Public Library

By Joy Weese Moll

The stone building that housed my hometown public library seemed a castle filled with books when I was twelve. Walking up the steps to the bright red double doors, I approached the entrance to a place of magic.

The previous summer, I exhausted the library’s small collection of books for children by finishing the L. Frank Baum series of Oz books. I wanted to advance to the adult room for more books. In particular, after reading my mother’s copy of Little Women over the winter, I was eager to read Little Men.

With both hands and leaning back my body for counterweight, I pulled the iron handle of the heavy door while crafting a plan to prove my worthiness for the adult room. Once through the foyer, two sensations rushed over me, the refreshing coolness of air conditioning and the comforting smell of books. After nodding to the librarian as a greeting, I went to the children’s shelves to search for my book. As I remembered, Frank L. Baum filled much of one shelf. Scanning back to the authors beginning with A, there was no Alcott.

The card catalog was next to the children’s shelves. I’d never consulted it at the public library, but we learned how at school. Trusting it to be similar, I slowly slipped open the drawer marked ‘Authors A,’ trying to minimize the sound of sliding wood in the quiet room. A card for Little Men told me that the library owned a copy. Then I was stuck. The organization of the adult room remained a mystery to me and I was unsure if I could be stopped for entry without permission. I wrote the call number, simply the first three letters of the author’s last name, on the provided scrap paper as I learned in school.

I approached the wood counter behind which Mrs. Sterne ruled all she saw, the children’s shelves, the card catalog, and the entrance to the adult room. “Yes?” she glanced up from the stack of books that she sorted onto a library cart.

“I’m looking for Little Men by Louisa May Alcott,” I said in a rush, holding up my slip with the letters ALC on it.

“Fiction is through the door, along the wall, alphabetical by author. The A’s start on the right.” Apparently, there was no protocol. All I had to do was cross the threshold and I would be in the adult room with a vista of books, ten times as many as in the children’s section. I scurried through the doorway before Mrs. Sterne could change her mind.

Once out of her line of sight, I found the copy of Little Men that I craved and was thrilled to discover several other books with ALC on the spine: Jo’s Boys, Eight Cousins, and Rose in Bloom. Alone except for a man absorbed in his study of books open on the table in front of him, I took a few moments to explore this new space. Tip-toeing down the alphabet of dark wood shelves built into plastered walls, I passed the novels of Victoria Holt and Emilie Loring, all the way to Elswyth Thane shelved next to the portrait of Andrew Carnegie over the unused fireplace.

Clutching Little Men, I walked sedately, as befitted a newly-minted initiate to the inner sanctum of the library, to the counter to check out my first book from the adult shelves at the Louisiana Public Library in Louisiana, Missouri.

What are your early memories of libraries?

Joy Weese Moll is a librarian writing about books at Joy's Book Blog.

Friday, September 09, 2011

September 11th, Ten Year Anniversary

Below is the newspaper column I wrote right after 9-11 happened. To be honest, I remember how much I struggled to know what to write. Everything sounded trite and insignificant when facing the magnitude of our country's loss and fears. I see now that my writing has also improved in the past 10 years (I would hope!), but I'm still posting this in memory of 9-11. May we always remember that day and may we always honor those who paid the ultimate price.

September 11

As I sit in front of the television watching the news unfold, my deadline approaches to send in my column. How can I possibly write something now to address our national condition that will still be relevant next week? So much can happen in seven days’ time. So all I can do is just reflect and share from my heart to yours.

One thing we have learned from this tragedy is how fragile life really is. Watching the gut-wrenching video clips on the news caused many of us to put ourselves in the shoes of those who died. All any of us can do is live like it is our last day on earth. Only then will we have no regrets.

Another thing we have dealt with since 9-11 is the spirit of fear that has clung in the air much like the smoke and debris was in the air around the footprint of the World Trade Center. My favorite verse is 2 Timothy 1:7, which says, 

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 

God gives us all three things mentioned there. Even when we feel powerless, we can be strengthened by His omnipotence. While we are hurting from the hatred in this world, we can know His unconditional love. And finally, when the enemy wants to confuse us, God can comfort us with the calm assurance of a sound mind.

I have been blessed to see the unifying spirit of our great nation. We are seeing patriotism again. Compassion is being shown. Donations of blood, monetary gifts, and volunteer service are being offered up. A small price to pay in the wake of the ultimate price many have already paid for our country.

I know God can comfort us, as His only Son paid the ultimate price for each of us.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

CPD 23 (Thing #5 & #6)-Reflective Writing & Online Networks

The CPD 23 Thing #5—Reflective Writing
I'm participating (albeit tardy) in a program for current professional development. Thing #5 is to consider reflective writing online. It is essentially reviewing the experiences we've gone through, evaluating them through reflection, and using it to develop where we go from here—not just in future actions, but for character development. This is a practice I do often in my writing.
See LINK for full write-up about Reflective Writing on CPD 23.

The CPD 23 Thing #6—Online Networks
I am active on facebook, twitter and linked-in, all recommended by CPD 23, but have not been involved in some of the other online networks mentioned, mainly because the others were more for librarians than the rest of us. I teach social networking in seminars, and don't believe there's just one right way to do it. For me, I've found my most social network is on facebook, and my most business network is linked-in. Twitter is somewhere in-between. I have about 6250 contacts total at this point, and it grows almost daily. I love the balance of getting to do business and pleasure all in one place!
See this LINK for full write up by CPD 23.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

FIRST WILD CARD TOUR: When Bad Christians Happen to Good People

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

I've been discussing the woes of "expectations" on my blog in June and July. This book covers yet another variety of the expectations some people face. Sometimes as Christians, we deal with other believers who try to strong-arm us into some sort of shame. They should work as travel advisers because they've mastered the art of the guilt trip. The author has obviously been hurt by some of these "spiritual" abusers and has also witnessed the pain of others. Like many of us, this experience has left him with some snarky attitudes regarding what happened. For me anyway, sometimes mixing sarcasm and humor is my first approach when I try to cope with the damage. Could that be what the author is doing as well? I certainly related to many of his descriptions, so for his transparency, he earns points! Some of the comments might come off as a bit harsh, but I think it shows how far down we spiral when we've been beat up by "church folks." Sadly these often well-meaning individuals (the ones who are hurting others in the name of God) can put a black-eye on the whole of Christianity.

Dave Burchett's subtitle describes the goal of the book: "Where we have failed each other and how to reverse the damage."

His back cover copy helps fine tune that—
After dealing with his own hurt, Dave Burchett now shows believers how to:
* Live as Jesus followers, not rule enforcers
* Stop using religious performance as the standard for accepting others
* Let go of moralism, legalism, and an allegiance to trying harder
* Discover God's grace as a daily reality, not just a word to use in evangelism

This book helped reveal bits about me on both sides of the equation. Sometimes I'm the one trying to force my expectations on others, and sometimes I'm the one being hurt when others are forcing their expectations on me. As I move outside the umbrella of "ought to do" thoughts and enter the umbrella of grace, I find I am now equipped to strive for holiness without coming across as holier-than-thou. We are all on the journey, some of us are further along at different points. And we all face obstacles, set-backs and detours. So it's not a guilt-trip journey, it's a grace journey. I do want the best for others, so they can experience the joy of pleasing God, but I'm learning to do this without legalism. And I'm praying I can deal with those who still try to "guilt" me into the fear of disappointing God. Often what they are really telling me is I should fear disappointing THEM. And news flash...they aren't God!
(Kathy Carlton Willis)

and the book:

When Bad Christians Happen to Good People:
Where We Have Failed Each Other and How to Reverse the Damage

WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (July 19, 2011)

***Special thanks to Lynette Kittle, Senior Publicist, WaterBrook Multnomah, a Division of Random House for sending me a review copy.***


Dave Burchett started his career as a disc jockey in Ohio, and later moved into sports broadcasting. An Emmy Award-winning television sports director, he has directed events ranging from baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan’s sixth no-hit game to the Summer Olympics. The author of Bring ’Em Back Alive and a blogger on Crosswalk.com and theFish.com, Burchett writes honestly and authentically out of his personal experience. He and his wife, Joni, live in Texas and have three adult sons and a daughter in heaven.

Visit the author's website.


Have you been wounded by bad Christians? Author Dave Burchett experienced that kind of pain and offers authentic help and understanding. In this revised and updated edition, he states, “I am not the same guy who first wrote When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. Writing that manuscript was part of a refining process that God used to bring me to the Throne of Grace and then to begin to create a room of grace around me.”

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (July 19, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307729923
ISBN-13: 978-0307729927


The Unfriendliest Club in Town?

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

—Brennan Manning

Author Flannery O’Connor once noted in a letter to a friend, “It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the church as for it.” I believe her. The most painful experience of my marriage came courtesy of the church.

In 1985 my wife, Joni, gave birth to our daughter, Katie. We were thrilled, but our happiness dissolved into grief when we learned that Katie had a terminal neural tube birth defect. Her condition was known as anencephaly, meaning that in the womb her brain had not developed normally. She basically possessed just the brain stem and was not expected to live more than a few hours or days. The delivery-room doctor described her situation in physician-speak that I will never forget. “Her condition is not compatible with life,” he said.

Our shock and grief were immediate because Katie would have no chance to enjoy a normal life. There would be no cure, no hope for even modest improvement. I went through the painful process of calling family and friends. And I had to tell our two sons about their sister.

But Kathryn Alice Burchett confounded the doctors and lived. She was never able to open her eyes, nor could she smile. Katie also lacked the ability to regulate her body temperature, so her room temperature had to be monitored. Part of Katie’s deformity was an opening with exposed tissue at the back of her skull. It had to be covered regularly with a new dressing.

Joni loved and cared for Katie in a way I will always respect and never forget. She insisted that Katie come home with us. I worried about the effect that caring for Katie at home might have on the boys. Truthfully, I was probably more concerned about the effect bringing her home would have on me. But Joni would not have it any other way, and when she sets her mind to something she is scrappy. So I showed my spiritual wisdom by agreeing with her.

Katie found her place in our family’s routines. She could drink from a bottle. Katie responded to her mother’s touch and even grew a little. We took her on a camping trip with us, and she was a regular at the boys’ ball games and other events.

Sometimes people would make hurtful or mean remarks. A kid at school taunted our oldest son because his sister didn’t have a brain. (That was something the classmate had no doubt heard at home, and it reminds me that we should always be cautious about what we say in front of our children.) Once, when we wanted a family photo taken, we dressed up the troops and went to a photography studio. The photographer insisted that Katie needed to open her eyes. We explained patiently (for a while) that she physically could not open her eyes. He informed us that we couldn’t get our picture taken because their lab would not develop a picture if any person in the group didn’t have their eyes open. Katie totally upset their system, and they would not flex. We finally left without the photos and ended up going to a private photographer. Still, all things considered, our life with Katie went about as well as it could.

Then the church entered in.

One Sunday morning before church, a friend called to tell us that Katie would no longer be welcome in the nursery. The moms had met and decided (without any input from us) that Katie might die in their care and traumatize some volunteer worker. They worried that the opening at the back of Katie’s skull could generate a staph infection. In truth, however, the nursery workers did not have to deal with potential infection because the opening was covered with a sterile dressing and a bonnet, and it required no special attention during the brief time she was in the nursery each Sunday. And there was almost no danger of spreading infection because Katie did not interact with other babies. Clearly, a little caution would have eliminated any possible risk.

As to the possibility that she might die while in their care, we knew she was going to die. No one would have been to blame. Since we were in a church of only one hundred fifty people, I think they could have found us fairly quickly in an emergency. If they had come to us with their concerns, we might have been able to put the volunteers’ fears to rest. But the decision was made without us. Katie was no longer welcome, and our church had done what I had not thought possible: they made our pain worse.

Joni was devastated, more hurt than I have ever seen her before or since. I am sure our church didn’t intend to wound us as they did, but the hurt lingered for years. And the pain was multiplied by the method. We had no warning that there were concerns. We received no invitation to come and address concerns. Instead, a secret meeting was followed by a phone call to tell us what had already been decided. I’m not the only one with this kind of story.

I know a pastor in the Midwest who suffered the tragic loss of his wife to leukemia. Within a matter of weeks the board asked him to resign because they did not want the church to be led by an unmarried pastor! This grieving man had to change denominations in order to continue his ministry.

It is a miracle and tribute to God’s grace that he kept going at all.

In my hometown of Chillicothe, Ohio, an acquaintance finally decided it was time to get his family into a church. He loaded up the crew and visited one nearby. The church immediately showed a tremendous and heartfelt concern for his…grooming issues. You see, Roy had the audacity to show up in God’s house with a full beard, not unlike Jesus’ in the picture hanging in the foyer. A church leader met Roy on the way out.

“So are you going to start worshiping with us?” he asked.

“Why, yes,” Roy replied. “We want to start coming to church.”

The church leader looked at him and said, “Well, I hope you will have shaved by next Sunday.” Because of that comment, it took another twenty years before Roy found a regular church home.

Stuck in Legalism: The Airing of Grievances

And at the Festivus dinner, you gather your family around, and you tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year!

—Frank Costanza, Seinfeld episode “The Strike”

Most of us chuckle over the invented holiday of Festivus. In the famous Seinfeld episode, Frank Costanza explains how he grew frustrated with the commercialism of Christmas:

Frank Costanza: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.

Cosmo Kramer: What happened to the doll?

Frank Costanza: It was destroyed. But out of that, a new holiday was born: a Festivus for the rest of us!
Part of the “tradition” of Festivus was the airing of grievances to all who came to dinner. Frank Costanza’s frustration with Christmas commercialism mirrors my angst over the odd brand of Christianity that we’ve too often foisted on our culture. I am borrowing Frank’s concept of the airing of grievances. Actually, churchgoers are pretty good at the airing of grievances, even without the Festivus excuse. In the Seinfeld episode, the airing of grievances is followed by the traditional “feats of strength.” The head of the household selects one person at the Festivus celebration and challenges that person to a wrestling match. Festivus is not over until the head of the household is pinned. Wouldn’t that be a fascinating addition to our church bylaws?

Section 7: Resolution of Conflict

The elders shall invite the congregation to an annual church potluck, followed by the airing of grievances. The potluck shall be followed by praise songs and then the feats of strength. The congregational meeting shall not be adjourned until an elder is pinned to the mat by a church member.
Perhaps the sight of a volunteer wrestling with an elder would be silly enough to help us understand that 98 percent of our grievances are pointless in the context of the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandment. But there is a place for the airing of grievances, especially in reference to the way we do Christianity in this culture. But I pray that I will always come around to grace and truth that enable the real feats of strength to be our focus. I hope we will learn how to trust God to demonstrate truly amazing feats of strength, such as forgiveness, selflessness, serving, and unity.

My Personal History with Legalism

My own grievances date back more than four decades (gulp) to a legalistic church in Chillicothe, Ohio. I have to start with my spiritual pedigree, since that figures prominently into my dysfunction. I was raised in a non-church going family. At the age of fifteen, I started going to church for a very spiritual reason: a cute girl I knew attended that church. Unfortunately, my first church experience was with a congregation that was so legalistic it went out of business.


The denomination this church was part of is not even around anymore because they couldn’t round up enough miserable people to keep it functioning. My nickname for our dysfunctional church body was “The First Church of Misery Loves Company…But We Probably Won’t Love You.” We sang “Amazing Grace” but wouldn’t have recognized grace if it had snuck up and bit us on our self-righteous backsides.

This church featured a lengthy altar call every Sunday to target the one or two unsaved folks who might have stumbled in. I was the target one memorable Sunday. They sang fifteen verses of “Just as I Am” and then the preacher told a tragic story about a man who rejected a moment like this and then was flattened by a steamroller on the way home. According to the preacher, the man was now being tormented in hell. Meanwhile, my ADD brain was wondering why a steamroller was out on a Sunday. Then we shifted to singing “Softly and Tenderly” about a dozen times. Apparently, all of this was designed to give me a little taste of what eternity would be like.

One of the pillars of the church was a matronly lady who was—how can I say this kindly?—not underfed. In a scene that would have been hilarious if it hadn’t involved me, this substantial saint tried to drag me to the altar. I was like a Labrador retriever being pulled into the vet’s office with legs splayed out and fighting every inch of the way.

This church wasn’t acquainted with the role of the Holy Spirit in salvation. Getting sinners to the altar was the goal, whether that sinner wanted to be there or not. Their philosophy of ministry was simple: “You will get saved, and you will like it!”

I resisted this church pillar’s gentle headlock to heaven that Sunday in spite of the risk of being flattened by a steamroller on the way home. But a couple of days later I did pray the sinner’s prayer, without being dragged anywhere. And that began a journey of good, bad, and ugly that has lasted for more than forty years so far. While it is true that I heard and accepted the gospel message after attending that church, my early doctrinal exposure would prove to be an ongoing problem.
Hypocrites or Healers?

The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word hyprokrites, meaning one who plays a part, an actor. Probably no word is more destructively used in describing Christians than hypocrite. AndrĂ© Gide once defined a true hypocrite (an oxymoron?) as the “one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.”

Inevitably, my first and natural reaction upon hearing the word is to think of people I consider guilty of hypocrisy. When it was revealed that Reverend Ted Haggard had been engaged in inappropriate relationships, my first reaction was to smite him with my hypocrite hammer. But instead I should have asked God to shine a light in my own dark places to see if a similar lack of integrity lives in my own heart.

One of the most stinging rebukes Jesus ever issued concerned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (see Matthew 6). These religious leaders liked to be seen and heard when praying, recognized when giving money, and pitied when fasting. Had the Jerusalem Broadcasting Network been on the air, you just know that slick-haired Pharisees would have hosted the prime-time programs.

Today, the church condemns those who drink and smoke and live immoral lives, while churchgoers freely engage in gluttony and gossip and selfishness and bigotry. The un-churched stand by in amazed, bemused, cynical, or angry observance of our hypocrisy. And they lose respect for our message.

As a young man, I sat through many sermons in which the preacher condemned tobacco and “devil alcohol.” Immediately following, the congregation would enjoy a potluck dinner where apparently the demon of calories was a welcome guest. It seems to me that morbid obesity is also a desecration of the temple (our body). Is that not also wrong? Overweight churchgoers often explain their extra pounds by citing low metabolism or thyroid disorders. I acknowledge that, for many, there could be a legitimate medical reason behind the weight gain. But if church members can fall back on metabolism as an excuse, shouldn’t we allow for the possibility that someone else’s addiction to nicotine might be similarly genetically predisposed? Or that someone with a weakness for alcohol or drugs could suffer from a brain-chemistry imbalance that exacerbates the problem?

We all are broken people, whether we are gluttons, gossips, smokers, drinkers, or hypocrites. I believe with all of my being in the life-changing power of God. I know He can empower an alcoholic to become and stay dry. I have witnessed that truth. I believe God can give a smoker the strength to snuff out his last cigarette. I am convinced God can enable a person to flush pills and drugs down the drain once and for all.

Church members love to condemn addictions. But not all addictions. The uncomfortable flip side is that Christians too often overlook God’s power to help us overcome certain of the “favored” addictions. Why don’t more Christians acknowledge the truth that God can give us the power to walk away from the buffet table? That He can give me the strength to bridle my tongue when I am privy to gossip that would hurt another person? Should I not recognize that God might want me to keep driving my unsexy old car or keep watching a conventional, low-tech television instead of a giant screen 3-D HDTV in order to free up my resources to help someone in need?

I marvel at Christ’s approach to sinners. Obviously He could not have condoned the lifestyles and actions of many who surrounded Him. Yet He was drawn to the spiritually needy and they to Him. Prostitutes, lepers, and tax collectors all felt the need to hear what Jesus had to say. (Note to my IRS friends: In first-century culture, tax collectors were turncoats who unfairly extorted their own people for personal gain. Nothing at all like the honorable members of our fine government tax organization evaluating my home-office deductions on this year’s tax return.)

It seems the people who were the most uncomfortable around Jesus were the ones known to be the most religious—the churchgoers, as it were. Those who are most ill need the physician’s time, and Jesus gravitated to the ER cases. I have friends who are physicians, and probably no patient annoys them more than a hypochondriac. These unfortunate people drain the resources and time of medical personnel that could be far better used healing the truly sick. It seems to me that Jesus dealt with the hypochondriacs of His day (the Pharisees and other religious people) with that same attitude. Jesus had little patience with those who failed to recognize their true spiritual symptoms. But He was always willing to see the spiritually ill.

The church should be in the business of addressing spiritual illness. When you are deathly ill, you don’t start thinking of going to the health club: “Well, this will be a lovely time to get in shape. I feel horrible, and I think I’m going to die, but at least I’ll be a trim corpse.” Yet many churches have communicated that only the spiritually healthy are welcome there. The result is that the spiritually needy think their lives are too far gone to be accepted at church, when in fact their brokenness makes them ready to receive God’s amazing grace. But too many avoid the ER, thinking that going to church would make them uncomfortable or heighten their guilt. They sense they would be judged and treated with condescension.

Yes, some of these feelings are self-inflicted wounds. But many are not. We must face the possibility that we are doing things that make hurting people stay away from the church. Do you ever think your health is too messed up for you to go to the hospital? Does a hospital ever communicate that you are just a little too sick to come in? When did the church step away from its responsibility to heal emotional pain and meet physical, emotional, and spiritual needs? Steve Martin used to say, “Comedy isn’t pretty.” Sometimes ministry isn’t either. Sometimes it requires us to pay a price.

Most of us don’t much like to be around the truly spiritually ill because it makes us uncomfortable. Treating the spiritually ill is draining, and it comes with no guarantee of success. We would rather hire someone to clean up the mess and report back to us at a praise service. Yet how can we preach Christ’s love and not care about those with HIV/AIDS? How can we talk about God’s grace but ignore other people’s physical needs? How can we talk about the importance of giving and then spend money on things we don’t need, often to curry the approval of people we don’t really care about? How can we minister to others when we don’t first meet the spiritual needs of our own families? How can we win the respect of the world when we cruise around in luxury vehicles and turn our faces away from hurting people?

Do we think that if we ignore the problems, perhaps God will not hold us accountable?

My family had a wonderful golden retriever for fourteen adventure filled years. If Marley (of book and movie fame) was the “world’s worst dog,” then our dog, Charlie, would have been an honored runner-up. Charlie was an aficionado of used Kleenex and paper towels. He knew I disapproved of him running off with tissues, so each time he nabbed one, Charlie would dash to the family room and stick his head and front quarters under a Queen Anne chair. He didn’t realize that 75 percent of his body was sticking out, with his tail wagging wildly. He thought he was safe from retribution because his face was hidden.

Is it any less ridiculous to think that we Christians can avoid our responsibilities as Christ’s representatives on earth? Are Christians any smarter than Charlie when we avert our gaze from the needs of others and convince ourselves that God won’t notice? Somehow I don’t think

God smiles and says, “Oh, that Dave, he was just too busy to notice his friend was in pain. But that’s okay.” No. Instead, my selfishness sticks out just as noticeably as Charlie’s rear end. (There is a certain symmetry in that comparison.) Adam’s first impulse was to hide when God held him accountable in the Garden of Eden, and not much has changed since then in people’s hearts. It was just as futile for Adam as it was for Charlie and me to try to hide from our sin.

Country Club Christian

The rules and regulations at the legalistic church I attended when I was young smothered the concept of grace. No jewelry for women. No mixed bathing. (That one was a wild fantasy for my adolescent hormones, until I realized they meant swimming.) No musical instruments in the church, other than a piano or organ. I never did find the biblical basis for that one.

“And thou shalt have no stringed instruments or percussive idols.”

No long hair for men. No short hair for women. No shorts. No cussing. No makeup. No pants for women. No card playing. No movies. No dancing. No smoking. No drinking. I actually sat through a sermon in which the preacher spent sixty minutes trying to explain that the wine of the New Testament was actually grape juice. So Jesus turned the water into Welch’s? What a wedding feast that must have been, with great food and a fine vintage grape juice. “It’s a lovely little vintage…stomped just this morning.”

On and on the list went. If any activity involved an ounce of pleasure, you could be reasonably certain that it was forbidden. People in our church used to put a sheet over their television set when the preacher made a house call. As if the good reverend wouldn’t know that a “devil’s box” was hiding under the cover. Obviously God wouldn’t know either. I mean, how could the Creator of the universe possibly know that the big, box-shaped object under the oddly placed sheet was a TV set? The effect of the long list of prohibitions was predictable: We experienced no joy, no peace, no assurance of God’s forgiveness—and no interest from anyone outside our miserable little circle. And while we were told to never play cards, dance, or attend a movie, nothing was said against a long list of much more repulsive things. Things like pride, racism, and bigotry. There was not a stated policy, but you would never have seen a “colored” (our term for African Americans) in our church. Actually, only the more “open-minded” in our body called African Americans “coloreds.” The less enlightened used the term “darkies”—or worse. It was mentioned that black Christians had their own churches, and it was assumed that having separate churches was somehow God’s will. That memory still hurts my heart. Members of our church also railed against Jews. I heard it stated from the pulpit that Jews were ruining our country, while the fact that the Savior happened to be a Jew was ignored. And don’t even begin to mention “sodomites,” as we so colorfully called the gay population.

I was attending a church for people who looked like all the others, talked like all the others, dressed alike, believed the same things, and even shared the same prejudices. No wonder so many people feel excluded. If you don’t look or sound or dress like a promising candidate for club membership, of course you’ll feel alienated. Even some who are already members feel alienated.

Jesus’ church is not a highbrow country club. And believers who hang around with a homogeneous group of carbon-copy Christians limit their growth. The church should exclude no one. The church should welcome those who are unwelcome in other places. And yet most churches are not places where people feel comfortable, especially if they are found to be in open violation of any of the proscribed activities. In fact, a person could be living a completely normal life and still feel uncomfortable in church.

Passing the Test

Outsiders have good reason to be wary, but so do insiders. Christians often accept (and enforce) a hierarchy within the church. Have you ever wished that certain people would remain on the sidelines, or even completely out of sight, in your congregation? You would be more comfortable bringing un-churched friends if the slightly embarrassing brothers and sisters weren’t out in the open.

How amazing that our prideful minds can even think like that. My own family reunion—as much as I love my relatives—would look much better if attendance were by invitation only. Let’s face it, when you include the entire family, there are some embarrassing, even tense, moments.

So it is with any church family, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, consider what we are dealing with: sinners. The “acceptable” members as well as the ones who sometimes cause embarrassment—and even the ones behind the pulpit—are all sinners. And that invites problems. I recall dating a girl long before I met my beloved Joni. I asked her to go to church with me. Since she wasn’t a Christian, she was unaware of the official rules. She arrived at church wearing a dress that didn’t completely cover her shoulders. She had simply worn her best outfit; she had no idea she was doing anything wrong. (Of course, she wasn’t doing anything wrong, but you get the point.) From the moment we walked in, the two of us felt the saints’ reproachful, laser-beam stares of righteousness drilling into us. Instead of asking God to make her heart receptive to His Word, I spent the service worrying about what the pea-brained congregation thought of me. (I could almost hear their thoughts: How could Dave bring a hussy like that to church? ) There were a handful of gracious people who welcomed us, but most folks were too busy being appalled.

This would not happen in a sinner-sensitive church. The sinner sensitive church (SSC) is my proposal for a new church movement committed to making everyone feel welcomed and loved. The SSC would model nonjudgmental attitudes. Issues such as having tattoos, body piercings, weird hair, or ugly shoes would not be equated with demon possession. The SSC would pledge not to gossip, because we would realize that it’s only by the grace of God that we are not the current targets. The sinner sensitive church would value every spiritual, physical, and financial gift, no matter how big or small. This church would appreciate but not elevate the person who made possible the new multipurpose wing through his or her enormous financial gift.

The SSC would make it a practice to reach out and care for one another sacrificially because we know that we all fall down in life. At the SSC we would have corporate executives holding hands in prayer with laborers and not thinking twice about it. Blacks and whites and Hispanics and others would break bread together because we all are sinners in the eyes of a color-blind God.

The sinner-sensitive church would give freely out of profound gratitude to a God who somehow saw fit to give us an undeserved chance. The sinner-sensitive church would practice the prodigal-son ministry, running to welcome those who are returning home from mistakes and bad decisions and sin. Our members would get involved in other people’s lives. We would lovingly hold our brothers and sisters accountable to godly standards. Marriage would be cherished and taken seriously as a body of believers. Families would have a community of support during problems and trials.

Congregation members would not be so self-centered that they would demand the undivided attention of the pastor at every little crisis. Other believers would help meet many of the needs that Christians often prefer to leave to the “professionals” on staff. The people of this church would come on Sunday with hearts ready to be fed but also realizing that God has provided resources beyond any available in history to meet their spiritual hunger. Should they walk out the church doors still feeling needy, they would know they can draw from the marvelous resources of Christian books, music, radio, video, digital downloads, and studies to meet their needs.

The sinner-sensitive church would also delight in the company of other spiritual travelers and make it a priority that no one would ever feel alone. We would make each other feel valuable but, on occasion, a little uncomfortable. Being comfortable in church is not the primary goal. I am not always comfortable at the dentist’s office. I often arrive in pain because I have neglected to do what I should have done. The staff always makes me feel welcome and even cared for. Then the dentist confronts me with the truth: “You have let this go too long, and I must hurt you (a little) in order to heal you. You will have to pay a financial price and spend time recovering before you are completely well.” Those are the facts of my dental-hygiene sin.

Likewise, the sinner-sensitive church would not back off the truth, but we would seek God’s love to communicate that truth with grace so healing could take place. Decay, whether it appears in tooth enamel or the soul, must be addressed. We will tell one another the truth and explain that the process might be painful. We would participate in ongoing preventative maintenance and help one another deal with problems as soon as possible, before they become even more painful and expensive to fix.

The SSC would worship with enthusiasm, whether singing hymns or praise choruses, because God is worthy of that praise. The sinner-sensitive fellowship would have a sense of profound reverence because we have received God’s grace, the most amazing gift ever offered. The sinner sensitive church would be so excited about this grace that the incredible news of the gospel would be as much a part of who we are as our jobs and our families.

Our Lord’s ministry style was sinner sensitive. He made Himself available to people who realized their need. Merely being a seeker did not necessarily merit His time. The wealthy young man came to Jesus to find out what he still needed to do to receive eternal life. However, the jarring truth of Christ’s answer—telling the man to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor—revealed that he was not ready to follow Christ (see Matthew 19:16–22). But when sinners came with a humble confession of need and a willingness to obey God, Jesus never turned them away. The church of Acts was sinner sensitive and functioned much in the way I have described above.

Frankly, sometimes we try a little too hard to attract the un-churched. A church that functioned like the one described above would be such a societal miracle that you couldn’t keep people away if you locked the doors. And while the majority of my idealism has been beaten out of me, I still believe that such a church will be possible when we finally get tired of faking it as a church. The needed change will not come until we are willing to pay the price for a sinner-sensitive church. Receiving grace is easy, but giving grace is costly.

The harsh reality is that most of us are afraid to commit to this radical type of fellowship because we aren’t sure what it would require of us. My own natural reaction is, “Praise the Lord, but keep the Lexus!” I’ll hazard a guess that you are the same. When the rich young man in Matthew heard Jesus’ words to him, “he went away sad, because he had great wealth” (19:22).

Governed by Grace

Author Philip Yancey shared a compelling illustration about a recovering alcoholic friend who attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. His friend said, “When I’m late to church, people turn around and stare at me with frowns of disapproval. I get the clear message that I’m not as responsible as they are. When I’m late to AA, the meeting comes to a halt and everyone jumps up to hug and welcome me. They realize that my lateness may be a sign that I almost didn’t make it.”

Twelve-step support groups have become what the body of Christ could and, in fact, should be. And while the roots of Alcoholics Anonymous are firmly planted in Christian grace, why did the movement have to be launched in the first place? Shouldn’t the church be the place that welcomes hurting men and women so that they would instinctively be drawn to receive the help they need? Shouldn’t the church be a place of abundant grace where people have your back because they realize their own condition? Shouldn’t followers of Christ understand that at any moment they could need that same grace?

Even a cursory study of the life of Christ will reveal that any of us could have quite comfortably walked into His “twelve-guy” program and announced our status as sinners. In fact, that little confession would have moved us to the head of the class and could very well have made us Teacher’s pet. So why has the church repelled so many of those who have the needs Christ has equipped us to address? I realize that it is not entirely the fault of the church that the spiritually ill stay away. But it seems to me that we had better examine the part of the problem we’re responsible for.

When I was a kid, the spread of tuberculosis was a big concern. Those with the disease were isolated in a hospital-like dormitory with the scary name “sanatorium.” Whenever I’d pass the sanatorium in our town, I would look fearfully at the building. I knew the people inside had something I did not want to come into contact with. Knowing that many people today drive by a church with the resolve to avoid contact with Christians at all costs gives me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Every person should find the most level playing field of all in the church. In Jesus’ eyes, the soul of a Fortune 500 CEO is no more valuable than the soul of a meth addict. That sort of thinking is scandalous to most of us because it contradicts our culture’s values. We honor looks, money, power, and fame. Jesus cared about none of those. In Luke 16:14–15, the gospel writer talked about “the Pharisees, who loved money, [and] heard all this [Jesus talking about the parable of the shrewd manager] and were sneering at Jesus. [That is a phrase that I hope to never see next to my name.] He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.’” I am constantly amazed that the words of Jesus apply just as accurately to the stories that appear in USA Today as they did to stories in the Galilee Gazette two thousand years ago.

Through the years I have thought about what would have happened if Jesus had walked into the nursery where our daughter, Katie, was unwelcome. I am convinced of several things based on my study of His life. He likely would have been drawn straight to her. He might have chosen to heal her. He probably would have shed a tear, because the suffering of children always touched His heart. And I am absolutely sure that He would not have rejected her. I believe that He would have comforted Joni and me with the reassurance that Katie’s affliction was not the result of our sin.

The once-popular saying “What Would Jesus Do?” has the ability to confront us with an important and necessary spiritual question. Sadly, the church Joni and I used to attend never asked that question concerning little Katie Burchett. In order for our family to worship together at the same church, we had to find a different congregation. Christians, like physicians, should vow to do no harm. But forgive us, Lord, because too often we do inflict harm.

Note: In honor of the late, great Paul Harvey, I will tell you the “rest of the story” about little Katie in chapter 16.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

CPD 23 (Thing #4)-Twitter, RSS and Pushnote.

I'm behind on my assignments with the Continuing Professional Development Program (cpd23), but I will play catch-up the next couple of weeks so I can stay on track. The goal is for me to advance what I do with my blogs. Thing #4 covers three tools for staying current: Twitter, RSS and Pushnote.

I'm still tweaking my twitter presence. I need to have a custom background and a better blurb. I'm pleased with my progress though. On twitter I currently have 2603 followers and I'm following 2837 others (on facebook, I connect with 3059 contacts). I like to share my blog post links and my e-blast links on these social networking sites. It's one way I drive traffic to my blogs. And I like to ask questions to help stimulate a more interactive experience. I've found acquisitions editors for book publishers are looking for writers to be actively involved in expanding their platform by engaging in meaningful conversation with their audiences, so this is something I look to do even better in days ahead.

I don't have RSS hooked up to my blog, but I'd like to get that as well as the subscribe-by-email widget on my site. I do sign up to read other blogs via RSS or e-mail, and I like how that works. I know more what I NEED TO DO than I make time to get it done, to be honest. I guess I need to give myself a break and allow baby steps, right?

I checked out the pushnote program CPD recommended, and while I did subscribe so I could look around, I just can't bring myself to add one more thing to my plate before I've mastered a few of the programs I currently have. It is a tool that allows you to rate and comment on any website. Sounds a little like what Google+ does. You are welcome to go take a look for yourself though, to see if this program would be of use to you. It's at: http://pushnote.com/

Monday, July 18, 2011


Expectivity, Assumivity, and Flexibilitivity 
By Robin J. Steinweg

Trouble, for me, does not stand for “T,” which rhymes with “P,” which stands for pool, which means Trouble right here in River City. In my book, Trouble starts with “E” or “A.” And not enough “F.”

“E.” Expectivity (from Robin’s Book of Definitions): To harbor high expectations of people/ events. If you expect much of people, they usually give it to you.

That can be true. Or maybe not.

Example 1: I expect my sons to obey me. They usually do, but not because I expect it; my husband and I worked hard at consistent discipline until our expectations were met.

Example 2: I expect my choir to sing beautifully. They usually do, but not because I expect it; We work hard at consistent practice of notes and technique until my expectations are met.

The trouble comes when Expectivity meets Assumivity.

“A.” Assumivity (R’s book again): To expect others to behave in a certain fashion (the way I would). I expect friends, leaders, strangers and family member to behave the way I would in similar circumstances. I assume they will.

Example 1: A driver passes and cuts in front of me, inches from my bumper, without using the directionals conveniently located within reach of any of several fingers, forcing me to slam on my brakes, and in turn forcing cars behind me to take evasive action in order not to rear-end me, which causes a chain reaction of horn-honking and foul language from those drivers who have not yet learned to control their tongues. All this when there’s been no good reason (other than said driver paying no attention—jabbering on a cell phone or illegally texting or simply behaving like an imbecile) for such erratic behavior. And I assumed that the driver would not do such a thing, because I wouldn’t. 

Example 2: Too upset about Example 1 to offer another.

“F.”: Flexibilitivity (R’s book): 1To be a pine tree; let the ice of adversity slip off the branches.
2To sway with grace as the stiff winds assault, so not to break under the strain. 3To forgive. 4To expect the best, assume the worst, applaud the good and release the bad.

As Bing Crosby and the Andrews sisters sang in the 1940s, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, accentuate the positive, and don’t mess with Mr. In-Between!”

Robin J. Steinweg thinks life is sweet right in the middle of writing children’s books, directing, writing and arranging music, teaching music, and listening for the Music of the Master’s voice. Among other things, Robin writes devotionals for the online magazine The Christian Pulse.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

CPD 23 (Thing #3)-Consider Your Personal Brand

Tips from CPD about Branding:
(I summarized and personalized their tips here from their full post at: http://cpd23.blogspot.com/2011/06/thing-3-consider-your-personal-brand.html)

1.     Maintain a consistent image and ensure you are portraying an accurate reflection of who you are. My branding impression is strategic and consistent.
2.     Consider your core values and how you can convey those messages to those who meet you in person and those who find you online. I think my message has remained consistent with my "heart core" values.
3.     Name used: Kathy Carlton Willis or KCW Communications
4.     Photograph: I had a photo shoot in the summer of 2010, but I still need a photo that captures my essence. Everywhere I speak, people say I have more youthfulness and spark than my photo displays.
5.     Professional/personal identity: I’m pretty much an open book, so for me, the term coined by CPD works: "profersonal" demonstrates both sides at once.
6.     Visual brand: All of my KCW branding uses my logo and the color palette of various aquas and teals. My personal blog has some of these elements, but my professional blog has all of them.
7.     Time for a bit of a vanity check. Search for your name in Google. I have 38 pages of google links, and all are positive for my branding strategy.

More thoughts from me to go with this assignment:
1.     I need to be more consistent with my blog posts on both this personal blog and my professional blog at http://kcwcomm.blogspot.com
2.     In weeks ahead, as I work through the CPD “things to do” I look forward to personalizing my blog even more (header, wallpaper, design, plug-ins, e-mail notifications, etc.)

Monday, July 04, 2011

CPD 23-Thing #2-Investigate Some Other Blogs

I'm playing catch-up on my CPD blogging program, so, here is Thing #2: Investigate some other blogs. 

This is something I do routinely with my communications firm. We have a database of over 500 bloggers we work with for book blog tours, book reviews, article placement via guest blogging, and more. I love seeing what they are up to. And then there are my clients—keeping up with their blogs. And cyber-following (NOT STALKING) other industry pros. I have to be strategic and selective in this or I could spend all my time reading blog posts and not being productive in other ways! The assignment suggests we leave comments, and encourage comments. That's probably one of my favorite parts of blogging—the interaction. What's your favorite part of blogging? What types of blogs do you follow?

The most followed/recommended blog in my industry is here:

Michael is the chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers. He takes blogging principles and puts them on STEROIDS—so brilliant!

One of my friends has great random insights. I find myself going over to her blog again and again, even when we haven't talked for a while. Life gets in the way, but our blogs can talk to each other! Perhaps you'd like to check out what Gina Stinson has to say. Her address is:

One more recommendation. My high school classmate, Joy Weese Moll is a librarian, and we share a love for books. She's the one who told me about CPD23. Her blog is:

New Program-CPD 23

I'm participating in a blog enrichment program to help me get more plugged in with all the opportunities as a blogger. I know a lot of the available ideas out there, but this structured program will provide the accountability I need to keep moving forward. What good is knowledge without application? Often when I have other projects, this blog gets put on hold for a while. Just look at my hit-or-miss posting record over the years to see that. I'll see what I can do to remedy that, through CPD23. Maybe you want to join me? It's primarily for librarians who are blogging, but it's open to anyone. There will be 23 projects in the program. This explanation post is "Thing Number One." Here's the link: 


Spelling It Out
Guest Blogger: Hally Franz

Word art is huge. Over the last several years, walls have become hosts for something besides prints, sconces and photographs. Framed, as well as stand-alone, phrases and impact words have become standard decorating forms in millions of homes. These linguistic touches are opportunities for families to communicate their values and core beliefs in an artistic way.

When my 13-year-old son was born, I contemplated developing something like this for his room. I envisioned a framed code of ethics that would identify his parents’ expectations for behavior and outlook. I never accomplished that task; probably the business of actually tending to my infant took precedence.

While that was a nice thought, I don’t think we need to write our values on our walls for people to understand who we are, children to recognize the family priorities. Our behavior should communicate and demonstrate where we stand without the help of visual aids.  

For the Franz household, three of our key expectations include: appreciation for what we have, respect for elders and authorities, and hard work. We value kindness and charity and lots of other things, but, for us, a demanding, disrespectful and lazy nature is perhaps most offensive.

That doesn’t mean that my children always display the desired level of excitement and gratitude after receiving new clothes or having a day out. Nor, does it mean that don’t sass. I wish! And, they regularly need prodding to get on-task with the day’s chores. It does mean there are consequences when they deviate too much from our ground rules.          

Every home establishes, either intentionally or unconsciously, their rules to live by. Each home has its own unique set of standards. Children need to be clear about what these are; parents need to expect that children will falter as they figure it out. Just as our Heavenly Father displays grace when we fall short of what’s expected, we need to show grace when our children do as well.

The over-arching premise within any Christian home is that our belief and faith in God will ultimately guide our daily decisions and actions. We parents need to seek God’s counsel as we define and design the “look” of our homes; after all, He is the master designer. Then, whether our walls are painted, splashed or left bare, our children will know our expectations.  

Hally Franz is a former high school guidance counselor, turned homemaker. Hally sees each day as a new exercise, where routines change and weights vary. Her goal is to maintain all-around fitness for service, while training her children to be competitive, compassionate and Christ-like in the world in which we live. Read more of her articles at The Christian Pulse.

Saturday, July 02, 2011


Parent/Child Expectations
Guest Blogger: Hally Franz

Summer vacation is here! Summer break used to be a time for kids to ride bikes, enjoy long afternoon tanning sessions, explore the woods with impromptu hikes, and spend mornings in Vacation Bible School. Today, many young people have little time for hikes, bikes and tanning. Instead, youth have camps of all nature, sports, outings with family, church and school, and even summer school to remediate or enrich their education. The word “vacation” may be a misnomer.

My children have completed V.B.S. this season, but have lots of activities before school resumes in August. Few days are left open for spontaneity. While I say that with some melancholy, I make no apologies for the summer’s agenda. I contend that busy kids tend to stay out of trouble, have opportunities for more growth experiences, and build better self-esteem through their multiple involvements.

There is a fine line that parents walk between having high expectations and pushing their children too hard. While my children are often scheduled, I’ve learned to recognize when it’s time to call a “stop day.” Those are days when we hibernate at home and are completely lazy.

When school is in session, I expect hard work and good grades. I think that’s fair. However, I don’t expect all A’s, if I see that they are trying. The letter on the report card is far less important to me than the rigor of the work required and the effort that my children display.

Our society provides an endless array of activities for children, particularly in larger communities. As children grow older, it’s fun to see their interests and talents develop. Parents should allow kids chances to explore and permission to pursue the endeavors they choose. We don’t all have soccer players, cheerleaders and singers. Among our young people, there are actors, trumpet players, junior politicians, entrepreneurs, chalk artists and barrel racers.

My husband is a long-time Boeing employee and military reservist. He loves airplanes; the T-45 Goshawk and the F-18 Hornet excite him. Our son likes horses, woodworking, gardening and drama. That’s okay, too. My 9-year-old daughter has a whole other set of gifts, because no two are alike. We need to let our children be who they are.

Setting and maintaining expectations for our children is tricky. There are so many areas to consider. Hard work, discernment, creativity, compassion and prayer – He expects us to use these.

Hally Franz is a former high school guidance counselor, turned homemaker. Hally sees each day as a new exercise, where routines change and weights vary. Her goal is to maintain all-around fitness for service, while training her children to be competitive, compassionate and Christ-like in the world in which we live. Read more of her articles at The Christian Pulse.