Audra Jennings is a publicist with Litfuse Publicity Group.
Posted 11/18/15 at 3:42 PM | Audra Jennings
An interview with Marty Machowski,
Author of The Ology
Theology is brought to life for young people in the new book The Ology (New Growth Press/October 19, 2015/ISBN: 9781942572282/$29.99), penned by celebrated children’s author Marty Machowski, with stunning illustrations by Andy McGuire. FULL POST
Posted 11/17/15 at 11:39 AM | Audra Jennings
In a day when marriage seems incredibly disposable, USA Today best-selling author Rachel Hauck weaves a story rich in symbolism that reminds us of timeless truths about love. Hauck is captivated by the 1940s, and in The Wedding Chapel (Zondervan/November 17, 2015/ISBN: 978-0310341529/$15.99), she juxtaposes two story lines: one capturing the simple romance and commitment to family embodying the earlier era and another showing the challenges and complications of romance in a modern world.
Retired football hall-of-famer Jimmy “Coach” Westbrook never imagined anything would come from the wedding chapel he built, stone by stone, for the beautiful Collette Greer, the woman he fell for back in 1949. He lost her long ago, and for 60 years his labor of love has sat empty, a monument to his memories. Then one day an offer arrives to turn the chapel into what it was meant to be: a place of love and eternal promises. Coach sees no reason to hang onto his dream any longer.
Meanwhile photographer Taylor Branson is trying to make a life for herself in New York. She leaves her home in Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, determined to put the broken promises and dreams of the past behind her. Given how divorce tore apart her family, Taylor tends to be more cautious with relationships but surprises even herself when she falls head-over-heels for Jack Forester. Taylor allows her heart to carry her into a whirlwind elopement, but doubts, disagreements and second thoughts enter shortly after they say “I do.” Jack has his own demons to battle and struggles to show Taylor his true self and the depths of his love for her.
When Taylor takes an assignment in Heart’s Bend, the job does more than send her back to her hometown. She becomes immersed in a world of long-buried family secrets and finds her journey intersecting with Coach’s in a surprising way. Together they rediscover the heartbeat of their dreams and find it’s never too late to seek love— and it’s worth every single moment of waiting.
Many people are afraid of commitment and marriage because they’ve seen the way divorce can destroy a family — maybe even their own. Hauck reminds readers that their family history doesn’t have to determine their destiny. “In Christ we can break those family iniquities. We don’t have to carry forward whatever our ancestors did,” she explains. “‘Old things have passed away,’ the Apostle Paul writes. ‘All things have become new.’”
Above all The Wedding Chapel affirms the truth that while the pressures of life will always be with us, true love never fails. “I always hope my stories leave readers uplifted, hopeful and aware of God’s love for them. In this book, I tried to show how His heart beats for us, even when we are running the opposite direction.”
About the Author
Hauck has a journalism degree from Ohio State University and is a huge Buckeyes football fan. She worked in the corporate software world before she began writing full time in 2004. Hauck serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and leads worship at their annual conference. She is also a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, a conference speaker and a contributor to Southern Belle View Daily.
Hauck lives in central Florida with her husband where she writes from her two-story tower.
Posted 11/10/15 at 6:17 PM | Audra Jennings
Seattle: What if you met your 23-year-old self in a dream? What would you say? No matter how young or how old, there’s a part of us all that wishes we could go back and tell ourselves what we should have done differently. It’s a desire award-winning author James L. Rubart explores in his new novel, The Five Times I Met Myself (Thomas Nelson/November 10, 2015/ISBN: 978-1401686116/$15.99).
Rubart’s strength of teaching life lessons within the context of story shines in this new release that will appeal to fans of Andy Andrews and Mitch Albom. The author introduces readers to Brock Matthews, whose once-promising life is now unraveling. There is tension in nearly every one of his relationships, and with his son soon leaving for college he’s forced to confront the gaping gulf that lies between him and his wife. His successful company, where he’s found so much of his sense of identity and fulfillment, is suddenly on the rocks. He’s at a loss for how to deal with the pressures he’s facing, when one night he encounters himself as a young adult in a vivid dream. When he learns he might be able to change his past mistakes, he jumps at the chance but soon finds that while the results are astonishing, they’re also disturbing. For Brock, getting what he wants most in the world will force him to give up the one thing he doesn’t know how to let go. FULL POST
Posted 11/6/15 at 10:48 AM | Audra Jennings
An interview with J.A. Myhre,
Author of A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest
Nearly 80 percent of the world’s population lives on less than $10 a day. For globally-aware parents who want to give their children a glimpse of majority-world reality, long-term medical missionary to Africa J.A. Myhre has penned A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest (New Growth Press/October 6, 2015/ISBN: 9781942572084/$15.99). FULL POST
Posted 10/29/15 at 3:19 PM | Audra Jennings
An interview with Jill Lynn Buteyn,
While your heart might be in the right place, it is not unusual to feel uncomfortable or insecure when you’re around loved ones who are in the midst of a trial. The temptation to back away can be strong; after all, couldn’t they use some space? You don’t want to be a burden. Is that ever the right choice though? Is there something both of you can gain from friendship in the midst of suffering?
Bestselling author Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn answer those questions in the new book Just Show Up: the Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together (David C Cook/ October 1, 2015/ISBN: 978-1434709530/$15.99). With grace and practical advice, the friends wrote about what relationships look like in the midst of changing life seasons, loads of laundry and even Tippetts’ battle with cancer, which she tragically lost on March 22, 2015.
Kara Tippetts was a grace-filled mother and pastor’s wife who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36. While fighting cancer, she shared her story with thousands of readers on her blog, Mundane Faithfulness. She also wrote the book The Hardest Peace about her journey and co-authored Just Show Up with me before passing away at the age of 38.
While Kara was blogging, I was writing fiction. We often talked about collaborating on a book. We settled on the subject of walking through suffering together because we could write from both of our perspectives. I learned a lot from watching Kara’s community rally around her, from seeing her friends in action. Of course, as the one suffering, Kara had firsthand knowledge of what works well and what doesn’t. We both hoped the book would take some of the mystery out of showing up for each other and allow people to engage more confidently in community, even during really hard times.
Q: How and when did you learn about Kara’s cancer diagnosis? Did it change your relationship with her?
I actually heard about Kara’s diagnosis when she posted about it on her personal Facebook page. We were friends through school and church, but as I say in the book, our friendship developed more after her diagnosis. She had only been in Colorado for six months at the time. I do remember thinking about our friendship. Where did I fit in all of this? Was I “in”? I decided the answer was yes. I wasn’t going to shy away from Kara because things could get scary or hard. I told her later that choosing her was a conscious choice for me.
Q: Do you think it’s easier to be someone’s friend when times are good?
Certainly there’s a simplicity to friendship when things are good, but at the same time, when is “good”? We all have hard times, and we’re often dealing with tough stuff in different areas of life at the same time. But there’s also beauty that comes in doing the really hard stuff together. When I look back on my time with Kara, on the way she let me and so many others in when she was suffering so much, I see a lot of tears, prayers and pain, but I also see grace and even peace. I see really great friendships formed in a short amount of time. It was beautiful to walk with her, even though it hurt so much. It still hurts. But I would choose her all over again.
Q: You write in Just Show Up that being there for a friend can be as simple as literally just showing up. Why is presence so important during suffering?
Presence is so important in suffering because sometimes that’s really all we have to offer. We don’t have the right words, or there isn’t anything we can do to help. Sometimes it is just about being there. There’s peace and support in being with each other — from both sides. Often it was a comfort for us to be with Kara, even if she was sleeping, and I think she felt that same thing. One time I sat at the hospital with her while she slept. I brought my laptop and just wrote, sitting in the chair. I remember wanting to have something to do so she would feel free to sleep and rest. She opened her eyes and said something about how it gave her comfort that I was there. I could have easily second-guessed offering to sit with her — it wasn’t really necessary. But just being present with each other meant something to both of us.
Q: You talk about learning to be “comfortable with your uncomfortable.” Can you share a story from your friendship with Kara that illustrates what you mean by that?
Kara never expected us to have answers for the hard she was being asked to walk. I could say, “I don’t know what to say,” and that was enough for her. Or, “I’m so sorry. I hate this for you.” She accepted things like that. She was dying, and even though our hearts were breaking, we still wanted to be with her. We craved time with her.
Q: Could you offer some advice for others on how to move past moments of awkwardness?
Pray, then step out in faith. God will meet you there. Be honest. You could even say to a friend, “I want to help. I don’t want to be the person who disappears because this is awkward or uncomfortable. How can I be there for you? Will you help me by telling me if I’m doing something offensive or don’t have a clue?” I think friendships can grow from this kind of honesty.
Q: Sometimes it’s easy to struggle with self-doubt and wonder if your efforts to help will be a nuisance. How did you work through some of those concerns?
I prayed a lot about decisions regarding how to help. I also had a few friends I could hash out my doubts with who were willing to process with me. Sometimes we just need someone to speak truth into our doubts. And at times, I did things and still didn’t know after if they were a help. Sometimes it’s just about doing. We may never know exactly how our help impacted someone else for the better.
Q: When offering help to someone, why is it important to be very specific about how you would like to help them?
It’s far easier for people to accept help when we offer something specific. I used to say to people, “Let me know if you need anything.” And I meant it. But rarely, if ever, did anyone ask me for anything or admit what might help them. However, when I offer a specific, “Hey, I’m at the store, can I pick anything up for you?” or, “I’d love to come by and do a couple loads of laundry this week. What day works?” it easier for the suffering people to decide if and when they need that specific help or how they can tweak it to meet their needs.
The other bonus to offering a specific help is that it gives us the freedom to serve within our gifting. If I’m a kid person, and someone asks me to paint their guest room, that probably won’t bring me the same joy as watching kids. We can find so much joy in helping others, and I think part of that is in doing the things we’re gifted in — not that we don’t ever step beyond that. It’s just a good place to start. I love what I learned about being specific in helping others. It was a light-bulb moment for me. It just makes sense, and yet, I’d never really thought about it before. It’s important because it makes things easier and more comfortable for both sides and takes away the guess work.
Q: What are some words we can use to offer comfort? Are there any words that can hurt more than help?
I don’t think there are perfect words. I guess that’s why showing up for others can be confusing and scary. But maybe recognizing this — that there isn’t anything perfect to be done or said — will make it easier for people to dive in with each other. Say things that are comforting, listening phrases. “I’m so sorry. That’s hard.” Comforting is also about what not to say. Don’t try to solve your friend. Listen and love them in their hard.
Q: How did you see God and his love expressed in your friendship with Kara?
When I think about how she let us in during really hard stuff: while she was dying. In pain. Broken. I’m amazed. She gave and gave. She loved so big. I don’t even know how to explain it. God’s presence was felt by so many. It was really beautiful even though it’s still hard.
Q: What do you think holds people back from pursuing deep connections with others even during the good times?
Hurt. We’re all a bunch of sinners, and relationships can be scary. We do stupid things and say stupid things, even in good times. I know I have regrets in this area. Plus, relationships are hard work. It’s hard to open yourself up to others, to let people in to the not-so-great sides of ourselves.
Q: When you and Kara wrote about “big love,” what did you mean?
Loving more, bigger than you thought possible. Opening yourself up to community. Loving beyond your limits. Kara didn’t find a few friends and then stop letting others in. She kept opening herself up to more people. Even online, she shared so much of herself and impacted many lives.
Q: Even though Kara knew she was dying, why was it important for her to finish Just Show Up with you?
Kara fostered community in everything she did. And even though she had to accept a lot of help from others, she also gave. This was a way she could give: by taking some of the unknown out of showing up and being in community with one another. Plus, she was just Kara. Stubborn and wonderful and wanting to squeeze every minute out of life.
Q: Kara’s blog, Mundane Faithfulness, had a large following of faithful readers that followed her through her cancer journey. What were the main messages Kara always tried to impart to her readers?
Kindness, kindness, kindness. And loving big.
Q: So many readers fell in love with Kara and her family through her blog and book The Hardest Peace. Can you tell us how the Tippetts family is doing since her passing in March?
I think only the Tippetts can really answer how they are doing. I would suggest following the Mundane Faithfulness blog. Jason has been gracious to share updates there about how he and the kids are doing.
For more information about Jill Lynn Buteyn and Just Show Up at www.jill-lynn.com and on Facebook (JillLynnAuthor), Pinterest (JillLynnAuthor), Instagram (JillLynnAuthor) and Twitter (@JillLynnAuthor).
Posted 10/22/15 at 1:53 PM | Audra Jennings
An interview with Lynne Gentry,
Author of Valley of Decision
The world says we should make our decisions about love based on feelings. This story shows us how different the world would be if true love were based on actions.
Q: Why did you decide to set the book and the series in Carthage?
The Roman era has always interested me. When I stumbled across a third-century plague that nearly destroyed the empire, I had to know more. My research uncovered the fact that the Plague of Cyprian originated in Africa. So I didn’t choose the setting; history did.
Q: The book opens with your heroine, Lisbeth Hastings’, daughter traveling back to the third century against her mother’s wishes. If the propensity toward rebellion dwells in each of us, why do you think Lisbeth is so surprised when her daughter disobeys her?
I love my children. The desire to protect them from the painful mistakes I made framed many of my parenting decisions. However, my kids are human. Whenever they dared to step out of the safety of the boundaries I’d established for them, it was more than anger that kicked in. It was sheer terror. What if they were hurt? What if I couldn’t rescue them? What if their rebellion cost them their lives? I don’t think Lisbeth and Cyprian were surprised, but I do think they were terrified for their child.
Q: As a parent, how did you find the balance between letting your child exert his or her independence and being too permissive?
The short answer is prayer — lots and lots of prayer.
This is a tough one, and there isn’t a clear-cut answer. However, I believe if you let children exert their independence, you must be willing to allow them to suffer the consequences of their decisions. For example, when my son began to bristle against my reminders to pack his lunch in his backpack, I had a choice to make. I could nag him, or I could allow him a little independence. So I tried an experiment. One morning I didn’t say a word about the lunch sack sitting in the fridge. As I suspected, he forgot to pack it. At noon he called from the principal’s office in a panic. It wasn’t easy to let him miss a meal, but I did. He never forgot his lunch again, and I never had to remind him. Win-win. I think if we allow children to exert independence in situations that don’t threaten their safety, the lessons they learn will give them a solid foundation.
Q: You’ve based some of Cyprian’s decisions in Valley of Decision on actual historical documents. What was the most important piece of research to the development of the book you found?
My stories are loosely based upon multiple historical accounts and Cyprianus Thascius’ own extensive writings, so from the beginning I’ve known Cyprian died a martyr’s death. As I wrote this final installment of his story, I took a closer look at his final day. Cyprian’s best friend Pontius recorded that soldiers came in the night and escorted Cyprian from his villa. He spent the night in the home of the commanding officers. That piece of information caused me to consider those long, dark hours. What went through Cyprian’s mind? Was he frightened? Did he ever consider recanting his faith? While we don’t have Cyprian’s thoughts, Pontius tells us that in the morning Cyprian went bravely and with “exceptional cheer” to face his executioner. To me, Cyprian’s demeanor validates the Lord’s calming presence in our lives . . . especially when the end comes.
Q: In the third century, Christians had the choice to run toward or away from those suffering from a deadly viral outbreak. What caused your characters to run toward the ill?
When the World Trade Center towers came down on September 11, 2001, cameras captured the terrified faces of people running for their lives. What struck me the most, though, were the unbelievable images of people running toward the smoke. Why would anyone risk their own lives to save someone they do not even know? That’s a question without an easy answer. I believe selflessness is a Christ-like characteristic best acquired through observation. When the church operates as Christ intended, a spirit of selflessness is modeled. Placing the welfare of others above your own is a picture of true love.
Q: Lisbeth is a doctor determined to help those impacted by the outbreak. How do you want your readers to be impacted by her passion to use her skills to better the lives of others?
I believe all of us are gifted for the purpose of making the world a better place. My gift is not medical, but I do have the ability to listen and come alongside someone who is suffering. My challenge is the same as the third-century Christians: to use my gifts and be willing to step out of my comfort zones. My prayer is that all of us will strive not only to notice areas where we can bring comfort, but also to become active participants in the reduction of suffering.
Q: Have you ever struggled finding the courage to do the right thing?
Absolutely. I’m a fearful person by nature. I don’t like to make mistakes, and I avoid conflict. So when the Lord called me to write this story of conflict and courage, I nearly bolted. Had I not constantly buoyed myself with the countless scriptures of God’s abiding presence, I could not have written The Carthage Chronicles.
Q: In Valley of Decision, everyone has a decision to make. How are your own past decisions woven into the tapestry of your life?
This series originated out of my own regrets. My life had come to what I thought was a disappointing dead end. I began to ask myself “what if” questions. I nearly made myself sick longing for a chance to redo the past. Ironically, it was in the writing of Lisbeth’s desperate attempts to right her own wrongs that I discovered poor choices and failures are the dark threads that give our life the depth of tapestry. If I was granted the opportunity to go back and change one choice, it would be like pulling a very important thread from the picture of my life. What would I want to give up? My husband? My children? My beautiful grandchildren? Never. While failures have the ability to shape us as profoundly as victories, ultimately we have a choice. Do we allow these experiences to make us bitter or make us better? This crossroad is what I call the valley of decision, and eventually everyone walks through its dark halls.
Q: What does your heroine, Lisbeth, discover about the true meaning of family in her efforts to reunite her own?
Lisbeth is like me. She longs to live in the security of a loving, united family. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered no one lives in a perfect family. Feelings get hurt. Relationships fragment. And sometimes, blood is not thicker than water. Flesh-and-blood families don’t always stay together. This would be a sad story if that was the end of it, but, like me, Lisbeth discovers family doesn’t always match our DNA. She learns families are the people who choose to love you no matter what.
Q: How does your own family reach beyond flesh and blood?
Every time the Lord called us to serve him in a new location, we moved farther from my flesh-and-blood family. I mourned not having my relatives close. I wanted my kids to know the joy of running in and out of their grandparents’ home. I wanted them to grow up playing with their cousins. To my surprise, those missing relationships were filled by people who weren’t related to us. At every church we served, the Lord provided a loving older couple excited to step in and love on our kids. The Lord brought a steady stream of families into our lives. Our children gained instant cousins, and our house was always full of laughter and friends on the holidays. Some of these friends have used their vacation time to sit by my bedside or care for my family as I recovered from surgeries. They’ve driven across the country to meet us for vacation. They’ve even sent checks to keep us afloat during a financial crisis. I’ve learned Christ is the blood that unites us all. Someone gave me a plaque that reads: “Friends are the family we choose.” I pray that you too dare to extend the borders of your family relationships. I promise you will be blessed.
Q: Since time travel is a unique part of this series, name one 21-century item you would be unable to live without.
My Keurig coffeemaker.
Q: If you could go back in history, what time period would you visit?
I would love to return to the time of Christ and walk the same cobblestones and sandy beaches with him. I think my love of all things Roman came from sitting in Sunday school and listening to the stories about that intriguing part of the world.
Q: How does it feel to complete The Carthage Chronicles series?
I feel like I have been on an epic journey: a personal journey of explorationand growth. As I’ve already said, this story had its roots in my own regrets, my desireto go back and make some different decisions. Similar to myself, in the end Lisbeth decides all of the threads of her life have madeher who she is. That’s how I felt when I wrote the epilogue of Valley ofDecision. I’m comfortable with who I am: an imperfect person wholoves God and is loved by God — even when I fail.
Q: What projects are you working on next?
Stories are always clamoring for my attention. My next series is but a nugget based on a very unique event that happened in a dusty Middle Eastern town at the end of World War II. But I promise you, the stakes will be high, the adventures outlandish and the romance heart-melting. In the end, the world will be changed for the better!
For more information about Valley of Decision and Lynne Gentry visit www.lynnegentry.com, become a fan on Facebook (Author-Lynne-Gentry) or follow her on Twitter (@Lynne_Gentry) and Pinterest (lynnegentry7).
Posted 10/20/15 at 4:53 PM | Audra Jennings
Research and experience both support the truth that parents are the single most important factor in determining a child’s view of God and whether or not faith will become a cornerstone of his or her adult life. Although it is a great responsibility, moms and dads need not panic at the daunting thought. In Pass It On: Building a Legacy of Faith for Your Children through Practical and Memorable Experiences (David C Cook/ September 1, 2015/ISBN:978-1434709073/$15.99),HomeWord president Jim Burns and ParentMinistry.net founder Jeremy Lee give parents a year-by-year plan for sharing rites of passage that will set the foundation for their child’s faith. FULL POST
Posted 10/19/15 at 11:15 AM | Audra Jennings
Theology is brought to life for young people in the new book The Ology (New Growth Press/October 19, 2015/ISBN: 9781942572282/$29.99), penned by celebrated children’s author Marty Machowski, with stunning illustrations by Andy McGuire.
The Ology is the first of its kind — a systematic theology book designed specifically for young people between the ages of 6 and 12. One might think the topic is too complicated for young minds, but Machowski disagrees. “It sounds more complicated than it really is. Theology is just the study of God, and systematic is simply study in a logical, organized way. We teach kids about God, one step at a time. We start at the beginning with God, who created the world, and end with the promise that Jesus is returning again.”
The book begins with a tale sure to draw in every young mind: In the cellar of an old stone cathedral, two children discover an ancient book that ushers them into a story of adventure, mystery and wonder. Together they discover life-changing truths about God, themselves and the world around them.
The Ology arrives during a time when society is presenting many values that run counter to how Christian parents want their children to view the world and themselves. It’s never been more important for kids to grasp important topics such as how God created Adam and Eve in His image — that they were the first husband and wife, the nature of sin, and our need for salvation. An early understanding of these important spiritual concepts will begin to build our children’s worldview during the critical formative years.
The Ology is also unique in that it includes built-in adaptations that make it captivating for younger kids while still stimulating for preteens. The book is subtly layered; from McGuire’s beautiful colored pencil-over-watercolor pictures, to the Bible references sprinkled throughout and the study guide in the back with probing questions, the book can be enjoyed and explored by the whole family. Even moms and dads will benefit from this easy-to-understand, step-by-step explanation of God and how he relates to all of us.
Machowski joins parents in their desire to foster a love in their kids for the Bible. “Parents want to see their children develop a love for God and live for him,” states Machowski. “That can’t happen without teaching them good theology and giving them the gospel message. The Ology only scratches the surface of a gold mine that runs miles deep. God’s Word is an inexhaustible deposit of truth. I’m just opening a door to an eternity-long study of God.”
About the Author
Marty Machowski is a family life pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, PA, where he has served on the pastoral staff for more than 20 years. As leader of their children’s ministry, Promise Kingdom, he has worked for many years to develop kids’ Bible curriculum and devotional material that connect church and home. His passion is equipping families to understand the Bible as one gospel story and help them share that with their children.
He is the author of the Gospel Story for Kids series, which includes The Gospel Story Bible, Long Story Short, Old Story New and the Gospel Story Curriculum, as well as the Advent devotional and curriculum Prepare Him Room.
Machowski, his wife, Lois, and their six children reside in West Chester, PA.
Posted 10/8/15 at 12:35 PM | Audra Jennings
An interview with Justin and Lindsey Holcomb,
Authors of God Made All of Me
It’s perhaps a parent’s greatest fear – that at some point his or her child will become a victim of sexual abuse. The statistics are alarming: Approximately one in five children will become victims by his or her 18th birthday. Authors Justin and Lindsey Holcomb have responded to parents’ concerns by writing God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies (New Growth Press/September 8, 2015),a resource for moms and dads who want to protect and educate their children.
Q: What prompted you to write God Made All of Me? What age range was it written for?
The book is for 2-to-8-year-olds. We wrote it because we have two young children and know parents need tools to help talk with their kids about their bodies and to help them understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch. It allows families to build a first line of defense against sexual abuse in the safety of their own homes. Our goal is to help parents and caregivers in protecting their children from sexual abuse. Because private parts are private, there can be lots of questions, curiosity or shame regarding them. For their protection, children need to know about private parts and understand that God made their body and made it special.
Q: What do the statistics about childhood sexual abuse tell parents about the importance of tackling this topic with their kids?
Child sexual abuse is more prevalent than most people think, and the offenders are usually people parents and the children know, not strangers.
Approximately one in five children will be sexually abused by his or her 18th birthday. A child is much more likely to be sexually abused by a recognized, trusted adult than by a stranger. Most victims of child sexual assault know their attacker; 34% of assailants were family members, 58% were acquaintances, and only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.
Of child sexual abuse victims, approximately 10% of victims are age 3 and under, 28% are between ages 4 and 7, 26% are between ages 8 and 11, and 36% are 12 and older.
Q: You were intentional about using the terms “appropriate” and “inappropriate” when referring to kinds of touch, instead of the words “good” or “bad.” Why?
It is important to be clear with adults and children about the difference between touch that is appropriate and touch that is inappropriate. Experts discourage any use of the phrases “good touch” and “bad touch” for two main reasons. First, some sexual touch feels good, and then children get confused wondering if it was good or bad. Second, children who have been taught “good touch” or “bad touch” would be less likely to tell a trusted adult as they perceive they have done something bad.
To your child say something like: “Most of the time you like to be hugged, snuggled, tickled and kissed, but sometimes you don’t and that’s OK. Let me know if anyone — family member, friend or anyone else — touches you or talks to you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.”
Q: Why do you encourage moms and dads to use the proper names when referring to private body parts, even for young children?
It can be uncomfortable at first, but using the proper names of body parts is important. This knowledge gives children correct language for understanding their bodies, for asking questions that need to be asked and for telling about any behavior that could lead to sexual abuse.
Offenders most likely will not talk to children about their private parts by using the anatomically correct names for genitalia. They will likely use some playful-sounding term to make it sound more like a game.
Q: How did you approach talking about this issue with your own children?
We started by teaching them the proper names of their private parts at an early age and telling them their bodies are strong, beautiful and made by God. We read books to them from an early age on this topic and would talk about who can help them in the bathroom or bath and that it was OK for the doctor to check their private parts at appointments when Mom or Dad is present.
We would also role-play different scenarios to get them thinking what they would do if someone approached them and wanted to touch their private parts, show theirs, take pictures, etc. Play the “what if” game with them at the dinner table with different scenarios to see their thinking and problem-solving skills. “If someone asked you to show them your private parts and promised to give you candy if you didn’t tell anyone, what would you do?” Remind them they can tell you anything and anytime without fear of getting into trouble.
We’ve also tried to instill a sense of control our kids have over their own bodies. We would tell them to say “no” or “stop” when they were all done being hugged, tickled or wrestled. We encourage them to practice this with us so they feel confident saying it to others if the need arises. We also tell them they don’t have to hug or kiss a family member if they don’t want to and teach them how to express this without being rude. It is important to empower children to be in charge of their bodies instead of at the mercy of adults.
Q: Is there a way to educate your children about this without instilling fear?
To teach children about sexual abuse it is important to explain about private parts. Clearly identify for your child which parts of their anatomy are private. Explain to your child that “some places on your body should never be touched by other people — except when you need help in the bathroom, or are getting dressed, or when you go to the doctor.” You can do this with young children during bath time or have your child dress in a bathing suit and show them that all areas covered by a bathing suit are “private.” The bathing suit analogy can be a bit misleading because it fails to mention that other parts of the body can be touched inappropriately (like mouth, legs, neck, arms, etc.), but it is a good start for little ones to understand the concept of private parts.
To teach about sexual abuse offenders, it is important to teach your kids about “tricky people.” Tricky people are grown-ups who ask kids for help or tell kids to keep a secret from their parents. Teach your kids not to do anything or go anywhere with any adult at all, unless they ask for permission first.
Q: What do parents need to know about child offenders?
Although strangers are stereotyped as perpetrators of sexual assault, the evidence indicates a high percentage of offenders are acquaintances of the victim.
Most child sexual abuse offenders describe themselves as religious, and some studies suggest the most egregious offenders tend to be actively involved with their faith community.
Sex offenders are often religious, and many of them attend church. In a study of 3,952 male sex offenders, 93% of these perpetrators described themselves as “religious.”
Dr. Anna Salter, a sexual offender treatment provider, states it is important for parents and child-serving organizations such as churches to avoid “high-risk situations.” This is because “we cannot detect child molesters or rapists with any consistency” and thus “must pay attention to ways of deflecting any potential offenders from getting access to our children.”
Many youth organizations have prevented the abuse of children in their care simply by limiting the access of potential offenders to boys and girls. Child abusers count on privacy to avoid detection of their criminal behavior. When churches or other faith institutions remove this privacy, it becomes more difficult for the offender to succeed.
Q: Is it a bad idea to force our kids to sit on an uncle’s lap or to return Grandma’s kiss? What are some ways parents help their extended family understand the physical boundaries they allow their kids to have?
It is important to teach kids how to say “stop,” “all done,” and “no more.” You can reiterate this by stopping immediately when your children express they are all done with the hugging or tickling. Your reaction is noteworthy for them as it demonstrates they have control over their bodies and desires.
If there are extended family members who may have a hard time understanding your family boundaries, you can explain you are helping your children understand their ability to say no to unwanted touch, which will help them if anyone ever tries to hurt them. For example, if your children do not want to kiss Grandpa, let them give a high five or handshake instead.
Q: What are some practical things parents can do to protect their children?
In our book, the last page is to parents and is called “9 Ways to Protect Your Children from Sexual Abuse.” Some of the key practical things parents can do are: teach proper names of private body parts, talk about touches, throw out the word “secret” and identify whom to trust.
Q: What advice do you have for parents who want to create an open environment in their home, so children always feel comfortable talking to them about issues related to their sexuality or body?
We remind parents some people are out their looking to prey on our children. We have a duty to protect and prepare them for the world and to fight for them. By talking with them candidly (and again developmentally appropriate) about their bodies, we are setting up safeguards around them.
Dr. John T. Chirban has written an excellent book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Sex, that we highly recommend to all parents. He explains: “Someone is going to teach your kids about sex. . . . Shouldn’t it be you?” His book gives parents tools to talk with their children about the connections between sex, intimacy and love.
Q: What is personal safety education?
Education is important in preventing inappropriate sexual behavior or contact. By teaching children about their bodies and discussing appropriate and inappropriate touch, you are helping them understand their ability to say “no” to unwanted touch, which will help them if anyone ever tries to hurt or trick them.
Our friend Victor Vieth, the senior director and founder of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center, explains, “Personal safety education involves simply telling children that the parts of their body covered by bathing suits are not supposed to be touched by others and, when they are, they should tell someone. If the person they tell doesn’t believe them, they should keep on telling until they are believed.”
Parents are quick to teach about fire and swimming safety but are hesitant to encourage personal safety training, which is designed to empower and protect children against offenders.
Q: It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, but what should a mom or dad do if he or she suspects his or her child might have been the victim of sexual abuse?
You can call your local sexual assault crisis center and talk with a child advocate or hotline volunteer about your concerns. They will be able to point you to the proper authorities. Some areas would have you speak with a detective, where other areas would have you talk to a victim witness advocate. Don’t ask probing questions that could instill fear in your children. Just assure them you are so proud of them for telling you what happened and that you believe them and your job is to keep them safe.
Q: Tell us about GRACE. What does it offer to the church and families?
GRACE stands for “Godly Response to Abuse in Christian Environments,” and the mission is to empower the Christian community through education and training to recognize, prevent and respond to child abuse. We help educate churches and other faith-based organizations about how to protect vulnerable individuals from abuse, and we help churches love and serve survivors of abuse who are in their midst. Check out GRACE at www.netgrace.org.
Posted 10/7/15 at 12:45 PM | Audra Jennings
Parents often experience a "freak out" moment when they realize their children's view of God will primarily come from what they learn at home. Most parents spend more time helping their kids succeed at academics or athletics than infusing shared spiritual experiences into the rhythm of everyday family life. While the idea of strategically passing down our faith can seem intimidating, the annual Rites of Passage Experiences contained in Pass It On (David C Cook/ September 1, 2015/ISBN: 978-1434709073/$15.99),make it easy for families to celebrate milestones from kindergarten through high school graduation.
Q: Why do you think some parents place more emphasis on grades or athletics than spiritual development?
Burns: I think parents do want to help their kids grow spiritually, but they are often caught up in busyness of life, which distracts them from the main goal of faith development. They mean to, but they just don’t get around to it because of the breathless pace of life in which the American family is living. The Pass It On experiences give parents an easy opportunity to build into the spiritual formation of their family.
Lee: It’s easier to put an emphasis on those things because there’s a clear action parents can take to help their child improve. If I want my child to grow academically, then I can hire a tutor. If I want my child to grow athletically, then I can hire a private coach. If I want my child to grow spiritually, I can’t hire someone to do it for me. I can’t outsource the spiritual development of my child. Spiritual development is subjective and not concrete. One of the ways we want to serve parents with Pass It On is to help give them concrete, shared spiritual experiences they can lead their child through. It gets them started with spiritual leadership in their home.
Q: What is a rite of passage, and how does it help a child internalize a truth or lesson?
Burns: It’s simply celebrating a milestone in the life of a child and family. Sometimes a rite of passage is very spiritual, and other times a rite of passage is getting a driver’s license or learning to tell time. By celebrating rites of passages along the way, it keeps faith present in the basic aspects of life.
Lee: A rite of passage is an invitation to something greater than yourself. It’s crucial for all cultures to extend an invitation to things such as family and faith. In my opinion, it’s one of the reasons our culture is struggling. The most common rites of passage in our culture are a “sweet 16” birthday party and/or the loss of virginity. Those aren’t invitations to something greater than themselves; those are invitations to themselves. When parents invite their kids to faith through rites of passage they are helping their child connect to God’s greater story.
Q: Would you describe one of the rites of passages Pass It On encourages parents to experience with their kids?
Lee: I think my favorite one is the manhood/womanhood ceremony in the 12th grade. It’s actually the one that inspired everything. I was invited by a dad to his son’s manhood ceremony. His son was turning 18, and the dad had invited a group of men to come and teach him what a man of God looks like. The dad then asked his son to kneel down as he went to the closet, got a Braveheart sword he had ordered off the Internet and laid it on his son’s shoulder. Then he said, “Son, I have friends who are 30 and 40 years old who act like boys because no one ever told them they are men. I’m telling you tonight that based on the authority given to me by God as your dad, you knelt down as a boy, but you will rise as a man.” Can you imagine what that son must have felt in that moment? He was unleashed into the world with his father’s full blessing and a clear understanding of what a man of God looks like.
Burns: My favorite is the purity code in middle school. Kids are making major decisions that affect the rest of their life at a young age. We now know without a doubt that the more positive, healthy sex education kids receive from home, the less promiscuous they will be. It’s a really cool celebration that gives parents and their kids the opportunity to talk about a really important decision in their life. We ask kids to commit to the purity code, which says, “In honor of God, my family and my future spouse, I commit to sexual purity.” They learn how to:
- Honor God with their bodies.
- Renew their minds for good.
- Turn their eyes from worthless things.
- Guard their hearts.
Q: Can you share a story of how you’ve celebrated one of these rites in your own family? What feedback have you heard from your children about the practice?
Burns: Cathy took each of my daughters away for their celebration of purity. She took them to a nice dinner, bought them an outfit, stayed at a fun hotel. During that time, she read them part of a book on purity. Each daughters’ reaction was different. Christy loved the information and dialog. She engaged. Rebecca told Cathy what she was reading was “totally inappropriate” and to stop reading. Heidi, our youngest, told Cathy that she wanted to go on the outing to get the food, outfit and stay in the hotel, but her sisters had already filled her in on all the juicy stuff in the book!
I also took each daughter on an overnight before they could go on their first date. Amazing memories and incredible conversation. It’s all about memories and traditions.
Lee: I’ve loved every time I’ve gotten to lead one of my children through a rites of passage experience. My boys are 10 and 7, so I’ve focused on the elementary years. I guess my favorite so far was the second grade rite, which is called “An Invitation to the Bible.” This is where you invite your child, who should be a budding reader at this point, to engage with the Bible in a more meaningful way. We bought my son Campbell a red Bible that had a big lion on it. It was awesome! Our family and friends underlined their favorite verses in the Bible, and then we presented it to Campbell. That night when he was going to bed he went through the Bible sharing with us everyone’s favorite verses. Even today, he treasures that Bible.
Q: What about families who are getting a late start? Is it too late to build a legacy if your kids are in their teens already?
Lee: It’s never too late. It’s always better to do something rather than nothing. I tell parents to begin right where you are. For some parents you may have to begin with an apology and a promise that your spiritual involvement will increase in your child’s life. Also we encourage parents to feel free to change the order of the rites of passage or adjust the whole thing as needed for their family. The whole purpose of this book is to inspire parents to lead their children spiritually. If they feel inspired to do something differently or better, then we have done our jobs.
For more information about Jim Burns, visit www.homeword.com or follow him on Facebook (Homeword) and Twitter (@drjimburns). To keep up with Jeremy Lee, visit http://jeremylee.me or follow him on Facebook (yojeremylee) and Twitter (@yojeremylee).