Audra Jennings is a publicist with Litfuse Publicity Group.
Posted 2/27/15 at 1:14 PM | Audra Jennings
The saying used to be “father knows best,” but with changing cultural tides, a man’s role in the family has been greatly diminished — especially when it comes to single dads. The divorced father is often portrayed in movies and television as an object of humor, ridicule or pity. Where does that leave real single dads trying to do their best? It can easily make them susceptible to overcompensation or apathy, which is why Tez Brooks has written The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce (Kregel/February 27, 2015/ISBN: 978-0825443602/$14.99).
Brooks understands how modern single fathers feel all too well. “Divorce was not something my family did, but you can’t make someone love you, and you can’t make someone stay. So although I didn't want a failed marriage, I found myself single again. It was a lonely time for me, but I ran to the Lord to survive,” he explains.
The Single Dad Detour was born out of the difficult and painful lessons Brooks learned along the way. Using the metaphor of a car accident encountered while on a road trip, the book is interactive, with each chapter offering steps to take, questions to consider and suggested scriptures and prayers.
With an honesty and vulnerability that will appeal to men, Brooks admits divorce is ugly and depressing, totaling families and denting parent-child relationships. Without a strong connection to God, it can leave a dad feeling hopeless. “As I interviewed men in my research for The Single Dad Detour, I ran into guys who said they were tempted to be absent,” Brooks admits. “There’s already an expectation from the world that they are going to fail. Coupled with the normal low self-esteem that comes with a failed marriage, a guy can be left feeling like maybe his child would be better off without him in his or her life.”
Study after study discredits this fear and affirms a dad’s critical role. Without him, children are more likely to be involved in crime, promiscuity and other risky behaviors. Through this practical guidebook for the rocky road of single fatherhood, Brooks extends hope and compassion, instills confidence and addresses difficult challenges.
Brooks says his time as a single dad ultimately made him a better father and husband. “The Lord spent those seven years of singleness re-building me into more of what he wanted me to be. My wife, Christine, has always said she would not have been attracted to the kind of man I was before,” Brooks reveals. “I can’t say I blame her, Thankfully, God’s timing is perfect.”
Offering down-to-earth wisdom from one dad to another, Brooks wants fathers to finish The Single Dad Detour filled with the grace to forgive themselves and the courage to be the dad God is calling them to be.
About the author
Tez Brooks has been a writer since 1980. His experience includes serving as editor-in-chief for TODAY magazine, a publication of Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) and as managing editor for The Jesus Film Project. His articles have been published in magazines including Australian Family, Eternity and Worldwide Challenge, among others. Brooks has also authored two other books: Imagine Australia and Somewhere in the Journey.
As a former law enforcement officer, his ability to relate to the everyday man with transparency and humor sets him apart. He is an international speaker and a certified Stephen Minister whose passion is to see husbands and fathers succeed as courageous men of God.
Tez and his wife, Christine, are full-time missionaries who recently returned from living overseas. They have two children together and two adult children from Brooks’ first marriage. They reside in Orlando, where Tez serves as a film writer/producer for The Jesus Film Project.
Posted 2/26/15 at 1:07 PM | Audra Jennings
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than a quarter of a million babies are born to teen moms in the U.S. each year. Best-selling author Tricia Goyer has written Teen Mom: You’re Stronger than You Think (Zondervan/March 3, 2015/ISBN: 978-0310338871/$15.99) because she doesn’t want one of them to fall through the cracks of the culture.
Everything changes the day these young girls discover they’re going to be moms, and the pressures they’re under can be crushing. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reports teen moms are more likely to drop out of high school and nearly half of them live below the poverty line.
Tricia Goyer understands. Born to a single mom, Tricia found herself pregnant at 17, and she remembers what it felt like to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders. “My boyfriend was out of the picture, and I faced raising a child alone with little education, no money and maybe, according to the world, little hope for my future,” Goyer admits. “Yet, I am not a statistic. And you know why I’m not a statistic? Because God doesn’t do them.”
Goyer has gone on to be an award-winning author and popular speaker. She’s also been the coordinator of a teen MOPS group for more than 12 years and has cheered on many young mothers — from all walks of life — through their journeys. “Every moment I’ve spent volunteering in these teen mom support groups is worth it. I remember being the one who needed to hear about Jesus’ love and forgiveness. Somebody talked to me, and it cost them too. There is someone in your community who needs to hear too.”
While most young moms would never trade their children for the world, some days are just hard. Baby-daddy drama, dealing with their parents, and worries about the future slam them. They find their friends can’t relate to their little family, and some girls will begin to wonder if God has turned His back on them. In Teen Mom, Goyer pours out her heart and provides encouragement to these young, single mothers, reminding them they can be the mom their children deserve — not in their own strength, but in the strength God provides.
In addition to encouraging these moms, Goyer says she hopes Teen Mom will equip church leaders, pregnancy crisis centers, counselors and anyone involved in the lives of young mothers to broach challenging topics such as purity, sexual abuse and bad boyfriends. Questions found at the end of every chapter will help them discuss these difficult issues, while giving teens a chance to open up and share their experiences.
Teen Mom ultimately serves to remind us all that every young mom is worthy of the love, forgiveness and hope for the future that can only come from God’s love.
About the Author
Tricia Goyer is a busy mom of six, grandmother of two and wife to John. A best-selling author, Tricia has published 50 books to date and has written more than 500 articles. She is a two-time Carol Award winner, as well as a Christy and ECPA Award Nominee. In 2010, she was selected as one of the Top 20 Moms to Follow on Twitter by SheKnows.com. Tricia is also on the blogging team at MomLifeToday.com, TheBetterMom.com and other homeschooling and Christian sites.
In addition to her roles as mom, wife and author, Tricia volunteers around her community and mentors teen moms. She is the founder of Hope Pregnancy Ministries in Northwestern Montana, and she currently leads a Teen MOPS Group in Little Rock, Ark. Tricia, along with a group of friends, shares ideas about simplifying life at www.NotQuiteAmishLiving.com.
Posted 2/17/15 at 1:34 PM | Audra Jennings
We all want to guide our children into the abundant life that Jesus offers. But when we pursue the more and better that the world offers above our pursuit of Jesus, we fall into dangerous parenting habits.
In Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family: Avoiding the 6 Dysfunctional Parenting Styles(David C Cook/January 1, 2015/ISBN: 978-0781411394/$15.99), Dr. Michelle Anthony unpacks six common dysfunctional parenting styles that we fall into out of habit, lack of attention, or just oversight due to busyness. If you long to show your children Jesus but don’t know how to do it, you’ll find hope in this practical guide to creating a relentlessly grace-filled home that is focus on God as first in charge.
Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family was made for that “freak-out” moment nearly all parents have when they realize their child’s view of God largely comes from what he or she learns at home. While the task is intimidating, parents can avoid the temptation to ignore, outsource or overcompensate and find balance in letting the Lord become the Director of their family’s story.
Anthony points out that while some dysfunction is simply the reality of living in an imperfect world, truly painful dysfunction comes when we choose to sit in the Director’s chair of our life — pursuing abundant life instead of pursuing Christ. By surrendering the pen and allowing God to write the script as He sees fit, parents can guide their children into the abundant life Jesus offers, even in the midst of day-to-day living. This inspiring guide offers practical ideas to get parents unstuck in their family journey of faith.
Q: What does a spiritually healthy family look like?
A spiritually healthy family is made up of members who, in a relationship with Jesus, seek to understand and live a surrendered life to God’s plan and will. Through God’s Word they learn this plan, are convicted by God’s Spirit to understand sin areas and allow forgiveness and grace to heal broken places in their lives. They understand that without God’s help and power, they will not be able to live in peace or victory.
Q: Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family shares a number of stories from parents trying to make Christ the director of their families — what is the common thread you see in spiritually healthy families?
Spiritually healthy families still make mistakes and have sin in their lives; however they are endeavoring to live in reality, and they own up to their shortcomings and mistakes. They keep short accounts with God and others so a one-time offense does not have to become a habit or character flaw.
Q: You use a picture of the relationship between a director and an actor to illustrate our relationship with God. Why did you choose that analogy?
James Dean once said, “When an actor plays a scene the way the director intended, it isn't acting, it’s following directions.” I love the idea that our Christian lives are simply waking up every morning and following directions from God. There is security in living our lives “on script,” but in order to do so we must give up our need to be in control. We must give up the entitlement to have it our own way. Submission to Christ is one of the most difficult parts of living a spiritually healthy life.
Q: You talk about living “on script.” What do you mean by that?
“Living on script” is simply a metaphor for surrendering the need to control my own life, to accept the life God has given me and to play out that life, as written, for His glory and my good. It acknowledges I am not God and He knows better. He sees the beginning from the end and is working things together to accomplish His plans. It is His story, not mine. But I do play a part in it. If I don’t play my part, no one else will.
Q: In Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family, you encourage parents to go beyond chore charts and good behavior. What do you mean by that?
Sometimes we are seduced into believing that somehow in the abundance of good deeds and behavior we have achieved spiritual health or faith. However, the Bible is clear that there is a distinct difference between good people and redeemed people. Good people will never be “good enough” to be in a relationship with a holy God. Redeemed people are made right with God because Jesus is good and He took the penalty for sin. When we accept His goodness, He makes us clean. When we try to achieve it on our own we will remain far from God. We want to make sure we are passing on faith to our children, not the counterfeit.
Q: What role does a mission statement serve for a spiritually healthy family?
It serves as a compass. It keeps us focused on the things we declare are most important. Life is full of distractions, and without it we will consistently find ourselves with competing agendas and priorities.
Posted 2/9/15 at 12:35 PM | Audra Jennings
No one who starts a family plans on falling into patterns of dysfunction, but between the baggage of the past and the pressures of the world today, developing destructive parenting patterns is all too easy. Family ministry leader Dr. Michelle Anthony has now brought hope and practical help to parents in her new book, Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family: Avoiding the 6 Dysfunctional Parenting Styles (David C Cook/January 1, 2015/ISBN: 978-0781411394/$15.99).
Outlining the six most common dysfunctional parenting styles, such as the “I-Can’t-Say-No Parent,” the “Criticizing Parent” and the “Double-Minded Parent,” Anthony offers grace to parents who fall short, while providing practical tips, advice, activities and reflective questions at the end of each chapter that will help parents envision what it looks like for a family to follow Jesus and not the seductive alternatives the world offers.
Q: In the book, you present six dysfunctional parenting styles. Of those six, which do you think is the most common?
All of these represent the common dysfunctions in today’s families. What is interesting about them is that these are the “acceptable” dysfunctions . . . so much so that we don’t normally think of these styles as “dysfunctional.” We tend to think of addiction and abuse as dysfunctional, but things such as control and friendship in parenting as good things. So when these things begin to creep into the excessive category we simply justify we are doing more of a good thing rather than engaging in a habit stemming from a place of brokenness or dysfunction.
I have found rarely do we fit neatly into one category. Often we see many of these dysfunctions and/or their tendencies woven together in our lives. Once we take our eyes off God’s plan, this loss of focus opens up our families to all kinds of “acceptable” dysfunctions simply to survive.
Q: What have you done to avoid dysfunction in your own parenting?
I have seen all of these dysfunctions in my parenting at one point or another. At the root of these dysfunctions is sin. Because I am sinful, I am susceptible to any and all of these every day. The best way to be a spiritually healthy parent is to be a spiritually healthy individual. I thrive as a parent when I am living in concert with God’s way and keeping a pure and humble heart before Him. When I am regularly in God’s Word, bringing all things to Him in prayer and thankfulness and being honest about my need for Him, my kids reap the benefits of having a mom who is living with Christ’s love and grace. Yet when I live my life on my own terms and neglect His Word and my prayer life, my sin seems less offensive. Then my kids and those in my family are victims of my selfishness.
Q: What should a parent do if they recognize themselves in the descriptions of dysfunctional parents you've included in Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family?
The first part is simply to recognize the dysfunctional behavior. Next, to accept responsibility for its presence instead of blaming others is important too. Once this has taken place, I encourage parents to have a conversation with God about it — simply as if you were sharing it with a friend. God is not going to be surprised by what we say; He already knows it all. He is gracious and loving and will give us wisdom right away on how to deal with things in a more God-honoring and healthy manner. Often God will use a close friend, pastor or counselor to bring clarity to the next steps, so we should seek those individuals in our lives for fresh perspective and accountability.
Q: Why is it important for parents to identify whether or not they were themselves parented in a dysfunctional style?
If we can understand where we came from, often it will inform where we are going. Parents typically fall into either repeating sin patterns that were handed down to them or they will swing the pendulum to the opposite extreme and begin a new dysfunction in an almost-rebellious response that is motivated by a heart that does not want to repeat how their parents did it. Neither of these extremes solves the problem. Yet, taking an honest assessment of how we were parented and the good and bad impact it has had on us creates an environment for parents to make healthy and appropriate adjustments to their new families.
Q: What does a spiritually healthy family look like?
A spiritually healthy family is made up of members who, in a relationship with Jesus, seek to understand and live a surrendered life to God’s plan and will. Through God’s Word they learn this plan, are convicted by God’s Spirit to understand sin areas and allow forgiveness and grace to heal broken places in their. They understand that without God’s help and power, they will not be able to live in peace or victory.
Posted 2/9/15 at 12:28 PM | Audra Jennings
It’s difficult enough sometimes to live with the consequences of your own decisions, but what do you do when the ripples caused by your choices begin to endanger the ones you love? In Twisted Innocence (Zondervan/February 3, 2015/ISBN: 978-0310332367/$15.99) beloved suspense author Terri Blackstock weaves a gripping tale of murder, mistaken identity and human frailty.
In the final installment of the Moonlighters series, Blackstock features Holly Cramer, whom the author admits is her favorite character in the trilogy. The first two books of the series (Truth Stained Lies and Distortion) portray Holly as a party girl whose wild ways came to a crashing halt when she learned she was pregnant. Although tempted to end the pregnancy, Holly chose life — and all of the rocky emotions, financial burdens and practical challenges that came with single motherhood. Now, in Twisted Innocence, some of Holly’s past choices come back to haunt her. Because of her troubled past and Holly’s valiant efforts to change, Blackstock believes readers will identify with Holly.
In Twisted Innocence, Holly begins to try to pick up the pieces of her life and create a more stable environment for her newborn daughter Lily. Everything changes, though, when police show up at her front door, asking about the whereabouts of Creed Kershaw, her baby’s father. Holly has kept his identity a secret from friends and family — she never even told him about his child.
Determined to keep Creed out of their lives and turn him over to police, Holly uses her private-investigating skills to search for him. However, her bravado backfires when he turns the tables and takes her and the baby hostage. As desperate hours tick by, Creed’s gentleness with Lily moves her, and she’s tempted to believe his claims of innocence — but how can she trust a man who has her held at gunpoint?
In the midst of these harrowing circumstances, Holly struggles with her own personal demons; will she ever be able to turn her life around and find peace? “There is nothing we've done that can’t be wiped clean by Christ,” Blackstock reminds us. “There’s nothing heavier than the weight of sin in our lives. It’s crushing. What a luxury to know the burden of it can be lifted off our shoulders if we repent and give it to God.”
Dangers old and new threaten Holly and her baby in Twisted Innocence, even as lives are demanded as sacrifices for love. Through a complex web of mistakes and regret, redemption is the one hope Holly has left to hold on to.
Blackstock isn't afraid to tell stories about the messy turns our lives sometimes take. “I want this book to reach anyone who’s ever made bad choices and feels like God is disgusted with them,” she reveals. “I want them to come away with the realization that God knows what challenges they've had throughout their lives and understands what got them to this point. He doesn't want to dwell on their sins. He wants to wipe their slates clean, because He has big plans for them. It’s never too late to start over.”
About the Author
Terri Blackstock is a New York Times best-selling author of titles such as Intervention, Vicious Cycle and Downfall. In her 25-year career as a novelist, she has sold six million copies worldwide. She is the winner of three Carol Awards, a Christian Retailers Choice Award and a Romantic Times Book Reviews Career Achievement Award, among others.
In 1994, Blackstock was writing secular romance novels under two pseudonyms when a spiritual awakening prompted her to switch gears. Her newly awakened faith wove its way into the tapestry of her popular suspense novels, offering hope instead of despair. Her goal is to entertain with page-turning plots, while challenging her readers to think and grow. She hopes to remind them they’re not alone, and their trials have a purpose. She has told her personal testimony on a number of national television programs, including “The 700 Club” and “Home Life,” as well as numerous radio programs across the country.
Blackstock has been married to her husband, Ken, for 23 years.
Posted 1/29/15 at 8:58 AM | Audra Jennings
Set against the backdrop of the birth of the Christian faith, fear and loss are pitted against the strength of a fledgling faith in Return to Exile (Howard Books/ January 6, 2015/ISBN: 978-1476746364/$14.99) by Lynne Gentry. Readers who were left on the edge of their seats after closing the covers of Healer of Carthage will devour this second installment in The Carthage Chronicles and be challenged to examine their own courage in the face of adversity. FULL POST
Posted 1/27/15 at 11:12 AM | Audra Jennings
Some studies report as many as one out of every four families in the U.S. has a child with a special need. Parenting is stressful even when a child doesn’t have a physical, mental or emotional difficulty. One can imagine the stress on special needs families. Laurie Wallin meets these parents right where they are in her new book, Get Your Joy Back: Banishing Resentment and Reclaiming Confidence in Your Special Needs Family (Kregel Publications/January 27, 2015/ISBN: 978-0825443398/$13.99).
Wallin strives every day to live out her message for families: that no matter the challenge, in Jesus they can have joy and confidence. Get Your Joy Back is full of biblical insights and practical strategies to help parents recognize and shed the resentments that leave them spiritually, emotionally and socially drained. Wallin sugar-coats nothing but addresses issues with honesty, humor and — above all — hope.
As special needs parents fight tooth-and-nail for the best life for their child, their mental, emotional and spiritual reserves quickly deplete. Wallin offers replenishment in her book from her own journey. “I've been married for 16 years to a man with a wicked sense of humor and an Asperger’s diagnosis,” she reveals. “Two of our four daughters have half a dozen medical, developmental and mental health special needs. Daily we try to balance their care with ‘normal’ family stuff like sports, homework and my desire to lock myself in a closet and watch entire seasons of Downton Abbey in a single night.”
Wallin reminds us while we might think the exhaustion felt by special needs parents is from the mountains of research they conduct or the long days spent monitoring their child's precarious physical or mental health, what truly weighs them down is the eternal wish things were different—for their child and as they relate with care professionals, their communities, and extended family These tentacles of resentment can choke the heart and are the parents’ greatest stressor and source of pain. Wallin makes a bold, audacious claim within the pages of Get Your Joy Back: In the midst of this intense task, having an abundant life, full of joy, is still possible. The key to restoring joy is forgiveness. In her book, Wallin helps parents find that restoration, offering them a lifeline to pull them back to shore even as they feel like they're drowning.
While bookshelves are crammed with parenting books — including some titles for caring for special needs children — Get Your Joy Back is unique in that it is written specifically to teach parents how to care for themselves so they can truly care for their children. “Get Your Joy Back is not about the kids. It’s about the parents — the primary caregivers, specifically,” Wallin says. “There just isn’t much out there for the people who are raising these unique kids. Our lives become about getting our children the best possible care, and we can nearly become invisible. This effects our health, life expectancy, quality of life, relationships, careers . . . and we often feel like that’s just how it is and there’s nothing we can do about it. From one fellow parent in the trenches: ‘You’re still there. I see you. You matter, beyond just your role as Mom or Dad.’”
About the Author
Laurie Wallin is a speaker and the author of the book Why Your Weirdness Is Wonderful: Embrace Your Quirks & Live Your Strengths. A certified life coach, she has helped people for over ten years to get unstuck and live powerfully by discovering and developing their strengths, identifying and releasing resentment and pursuing their God-inspired hopes and dreams.
She blogs at LaurieWallin.com, and contributes to others. At Not Alone, she shares thoughts on thriving in families with special needs, while on God-Sized Dreams she writes on the ups and downs of pursuing our passions. A wife and mother of four, including two foster-adopted children with special needs, Wallin and her family make their home in San Diego.
<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/FD_m1nVyQpQ?feature=player_detailpage" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
Posted 1/9/15 at 2:15 PM | Audra Jennings
Fans of Adventures in Odyssey are wishing the Odyssey Adventure Club a happy birthday as the team commemorates their first year delivering this beloved radio drama digitally to subscribers. Offering 24/7 access to 25 years’ worth of Adventures in Odyssey episodes, the club is a safe, fun environment where children can explore, create and imagine, all while developing their faith and learning biblical truth.
“For more than 25 years, Adventures in Odyssey has been fostering spiritual and character growth in listeners. Many parents have come to trust us for solid lessons brought to life by fun characters,” says Focus on the Family Resource Marketing Director Christi Lynn. FOTF regularly receives stories of families impacted by the Club: FULL POST
Posted 1/8/15 at 3:43 PM | Audra Jennings
NLB Horton, author of The Brothers’ Keepers, has found herself in situations that would make great material for any writer’s next novel. She has surveyed Israeli and Jordanian archaeological digs, tossed a tarantula from her skiff into the Amazon after training with an Incan shaman, driven uneventfully through Rome and consumed gallons of afternoon tea while traveling across five continents.
The inspiration for Horton’s protagonist, Grace Madison (a mother who would do anything to protect her family) was born from an experience the author had while on an archaeological dig she embarked upon as a part of her master’s degree program with Dallas Theological Seminary in 2007. As she stood at the edge of a dig pit in the tel Dan of northern Israel with her husband and their teenage children nearby, heavy artillery fire began booming from Syria as staccato machine-gun reports peppered near the Lebanese border. An Israeli Defense Force camouflage-painted plane broke through an unseasonal cloud cover, circling the site. It was a harrowing experience sure to stick with anyone! FULL POST
Posted 1/7/15 at 9:29 AM | Audra Jennings
Set against the backdrop of the birth of the Christian faith, fear and loss are pitted against the strength of a fledgling faith in Return to Exile (Howard Books/ January 6, 2015/ISBN: 978-1476746364/$14.99). Readers who were left on the edge of their seats after closing the covers of Healer of Carthage will devour this second installment in The Carthage Chronicles and be challenged to examine their own courage in the face of adversity. FULL POST