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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Cultivating Your Child’s Habits for a Relationship With God

Cultivating Your Child’s Habits for a Relationship With God

Janel Breitenstein explores spiritual life skills like identity and discernment and offers practical ways to help your child develop those. You’ll learn to equip your child to become a disciple who is “on fire” for Jesus.
Original Air Date: August 21, 2023

Preview:

Janel Breitenstein: So sometimes for my kids, for example, my son Jack, when he’s being bullied, we talk about, “How do you navigate the bullying situation in a way that returns a blessing for an insult?” And that right n-, there, that’s a … the Gospel in a walnut right there, is someone returning a blessing for an insult. Even when I’m not saying the name of Jesus, I’m showing them Jesus.

End of Preview

John Fuller: That’s Janel Breitenstein, and she’s with us today on Focus on the Family. Thank you for joining us. I’m John Fuller, and your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly.

Jim Daly: You know, one of the most exciting things in parenting is when the kids are catching those spiritual truths. You know, they’re understanding, “Oh, there is a God, and you can see him in nature,” and all those wonderful moments. And, you know, it’s expressed differently as your children get older through the teen years, et cetera. And hopefully, that’s been your experience. Not always, and I understand that. Sometimes kids wanna go their own way.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And that happens. But today we wanna equip you and help you better shape your child’s, uh, spiritual journey and to introduce them to the Lord so hopefully they’ll embrace him, follow him, and be on fire for him.

John: Mm-hmm.

Janel: Mm-hmm.

John: And Janel Breitenstein is an author, freelance writer, and speaker, and, uh, she’s a mom of four. That’s a pretty important credential-

Janel: But it feels like six. You got it.

John: … as we have this conversation.

Jim: (laughs)

John: Yeah.

Janel: (laughs)

John: And, uh, Janel has a new book. It’s called Permanent Markers: Spiritual Life Skills to Write on Your Kids’ Hearts. It’s a great resource, and we’ll encourage you to stop by focusonthefamily.com, uh, slash broadcast, to get your copy.

Jim: Janel, welcome.

Janel: Thanks. Great to be here.

Jim: It’s good to have you. And I wanna kick it off with, uh, giving folks a little bit of your background. You were a missionary in East Africa. Is that right?

Janel: Yeah. Uganda for five and a half years.

Jim: Five and a half years?

Janel: Yeah.

Jim: Wow.

Janel: Went there when our youngest was two, so yes, we were-

Jim: So the whole family? I mean, you-

Janel: Yeah.

Jim: … your husband, your firstborn.

Janel: Yeah. All of it. We all … Yep. And we just, um, kind of toddled onto that 757 and, uh, started the adventure. But it was actually a great place to raise kids.

Jim: When you say that, I mean, a lot of times, people go, “How c- … Really? In a third-world country? How could that be a great place?” W-, we have all the creature comforts.

Janel: Oh. You’re asking just the right question-

Jim: (laughs)

Janel: … because, um, I actually loved that my kids were divested of the creature comforts every-

John: Mm-hmm.

Janel: … now and then, that-

Jim: Yeah. They’re called screens.

Janel: Yes. (laughs) That is exactly it.

Jim: Yeah.

Janel: They would automatically shut off when the power went off.

Jim: (laughs)

Janel: And also-

Jim: Which was every day.

Janel: (laughs) Which was very frequently, sometimes at the same as the water. Made a mom wanna scream.

Jim: (laughs)

Janel: Um, but you know, just to, um, see how the other maybe 80% of the world lives in poverty, that my kids knew kids and went over to play at houses where they were living in one room, you know, had no power, and were cooking over a charcoal stove on the outside, and, um, what a gift.

Jim: Yeah. You know-

Janel: You know?

Jim: … it, it’s interesting. Let me … I’ll share a quick story. I was in Indonesia. It was a seven-country trip I was making.

Janel: Wow.

Jim: I was exhausted. And this was the last country, the last two days of the trip. So I, uh, was complaining like crazy-

Janel: (laughs)

Jim: … to the Lord. I mean, you’ll relate-

Janel: Yes.

Jim: … to this.

Janel: I totally will.

Jim: And they sent a car for me. It’s a Mercedes-Benz. They send me this-

Janel: Wow.

Jim: … car to pick me up for the speaking engagement, and the driver says, “I know a shortcut.” It’s five o’clock in the afternoon. If anybody knows traffic in Jakarta-

Janel: It’s the driver.

Jim: … it’s the worst traffic in the world. I mean, it’s polluted. It’s dirty. It’s-

Janel: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … you know, bumpy dirt roads. It’s bang, hitting your head.

Janel: Potholes the size of a child.

Jim: Potholes. The whole bit.

Janel: Yep.

Jim: Uh, you, you get the idea.

Janel: I do.

Jim: I’m in the back of the car just … I’m reading my prep information, my speech, trying to get that down. And we stopped at this light. Not really a light. I can’t remember if it was just somebody with a stop sign card. And there’s these kids playing in this dirty, filthy water, with, like, Coca-Cola cans that they had shaped into little ships or boats.

Janel: Yep. Yep.

Jim: And they’re moving them across this dirty puddle. And then they see me in the back of this car, and they come over. “Hello! Hello!” And they have me-

Janel: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … r-, you know, roll the window down-

Janel: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and “Hello!” And, you know, they’re ti-, shaking my hand-

Janel: (laughs)

Jim: … and, and I roll the window up ’cause we start moving, and the Lord goes, “I see their joy. Where’s yours?”

Janel: Oh, man. Knife to the heart.

Jim: And it was my heart, like, “Wow. Okay, Lord.” ‘Cause they were so happy.

Janel: Oh, yeah. Some of the-

Jim: And they had tattered-

Janel: … happiest people I’ve seen.

Jim: … tattered clothes and-

Janel: Yep.

Jim: … only one button on their shirt.

Janel: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And their shorts were filthy, and-

Janel: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … you know, they didn’t realize how dirty they were.

Janel: Yeah.

Jim: The point is to live with the blessings, with a grateful heart, not a, you know, a poor attitude.

Janel: Very much.

Jim: That’s what the Lord was trying to teach me that day.

Janel: Very much.

Jim: Where’s your s- … Where’s your joy?

Janel: (laughs)

Jim: They’ve got it, and you’ve got everything.

Janel: (laughs)

Jim: Right?

Janel: Well, yeah. I, and I think, even just spinning off of that a bit, Jim, I, um, I just also realized, coming back to America, that this snowplow parent thing is very real, where we wanna push all the obstacles out of our kids’ way. But so often, it’s those obstacles that develop really sinewy, muscle-y character in our kids.

Jim: Boy, it’s true. Well, let’s get into that.

Janel: Yeah. Let’s do it.

Jim: That’s what we’re here to talk about. You’re a mom of four.

Janel: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Give us the ages of your kids.

Janel: 18, 17, 15, and 14. There are no twins in there, people. So if-

Jim: (laughs)

Janel: … you’re doing the math, that, I was just, like, running a preschool for several years.

John: (laughs)

Janel: I was just exhausted.

Jim: Well, the point being, you, you know what it’s like to be a busy parent, right?

Janel: I do.

Jim: And the way to passing on the faith, your faith to your kids, I mean, that’s what, that’s what the book’s all about, Permanent Markers. You know, uh, it’s got to be a burden. It should be a burden for us, actually. We want our kids to enjoy a faith in Christ.

Janel: Yeah. And, you know, the sad thing is, is there’s so many things entertaining our kids right now, and sometimes they don’t associate our faith with that. They don’t a-, associate faith with, um, with being engaged with, um, spiritual life skills, having actual life in them.

Jim: H-, how is God’s word like a bag of tea steeping in a cup? I love these analogies.

Janel: (laughs) Well, yeah. With kids, you got to have a lot of word pictures, right, because their brains can only do concrete reasoning for a while.

Jim: Well, some adults, too. (laughs)

Janel: This is true. Yes. This is true. Um, but when I think about tea, um, I think about God’s word because it really permeates slowly into the environment that we’re in. Um, you know, James K.A. Smith, um, talks about the idea of automaticity is the things, kind of like the air that we’re breathing, that we don’t understand is part of our environment. And maybe you know that better than some of us at this table ’cause I know that you had some really hard circumstances growing up. And so maybe you feel the lack, or have felt the lack in the past, of having to develop those when they’re not automaticities in your home, when your family’s not doing discipleship and you’ve got to go out and develop those and find those life skills. I don’t know.

Jim: No, it’s so true. I, you know, I think God keeps pulling on us no matter our circumstances.

Janel: Yeah.

Jim: I don’t … Uh, there are benefits to rough times. I mean, I think you-

Janel: Yeah.

Jim: … learn things that other people who may not go through difficulty don’t learn. And it, it’s an odd thing, but God shows up at the, in the pit, in the valley.

Janel: Wow. You’re right.

Jim: And he’s with you there. And I think y-, the, the reality that I feel is that you get to know who you are better down low, than up high.

Janel: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Jim: Up high, you, you end up camouflaging a lot of what you are, and you can end up a veneer Christian.

Janel: Oh, yeah. I mean, isn’t it C.S. Lewis-

Jim: And you think you-

Janel: Yeah.

Jim: … get it, but you don’t.

Janel: Yeah. C.S. Lewis says, “You know, he shouts to us in our pain.” Definitely found that.

Jim: Absolutely.

Janel: And I guess, if I can just … Uh, I realize a lot of your listeners, when they’re listening to this, if your kids are out of the house or if you’re wondering if you’ve done things right, or known you haven’t done things right, I guess, more than this being a bunch of techniques, this book, it’s God, Paul says, that creates the growth. He said, Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered, and God gave the growth.” And as you’re kind of alluding to there, we can do all the right things, and it’s only God who gives that growth. And so whether-

Jim: So true.

Janel: … you’ve done the right things, or you feel like you’ve not done the right things, we serve a God who calls himself faithful and true.

Jim: Let me ask you. Um, you had, uh, Spanish.

Janel: (laughs)

Jim: I also took Spanish. It was my weakest class in college.

Janel: (laughs)

Jim: I mean, I went from high school Spanish, which was bing-, bingo every day.

Janel: (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Jim: (laughs) My Spanish teacher, that’s all we did, was bingo. La rosa. La mesa. Bingo. And that was my Spanish training. I get to college, and it’s lab work. You got to actually listen with a headset.

Janel: Like, to someone speaking the language?

Jim: And you got to-

Janel: Is that what you’re saying?

Jim: … translate the sentence, and I’m like …

Janel: (laughs)

Jim: Oh, I didn’t do well in that class at all. But you had a Spanish experience, a-

Janel: Yeah.

Jim: … Spanish class that was awesome, and then something happened. Something changed.

Janel: This is true. I had a really fantastic s-, uh, teacher my first, my freshman year. And then-

Jim: Uh-huh.

Janel: … the second year, I think the rest of us would’ve rather been having a mole removed with, like-

Jim: (laughs)

Janel: … Celine Dion on the loudspeaker.

Jim: (laughs)

Janel: It was terrible. But the great thing is, I caught the bug the first year, and so, like, la clase de drudgery of the second year could not tamp down my enthusiasm.

Jim: Oh, that’s good.

Janel: You know, I mean, there’s this great Calvin and Hobbes comic, ’cause my kids love Calvin and Hobbes, and Calvin and Hobbes are, they’re talking together about how much they hate school. But then they’re watching bugs, and they’re watching snakes, and they’re like, “We got to go find a book to look this up.” You know, and the whole idea that our kids are driven to learn what they get the bug for, what they naturally enjoy.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Janel: So creating memories, positive memories and positive experiences that are creative around faith, our kids are going to … That’s gonna cut your work in half because they’re gonna be drawn to what they’ve already had pleasure with. Um, someb-, as someone has said, “What we learn in pleasure, we never forget.”

Jim: Yeah.

John: Hmm.

Jim: You know, one of the, uh, most difficult things, I think, and my boys are, you know, they’re in their twenties now, but especially through junior high and high school, is trying to find ways to make sure that they know their identity-

Janel: Yeah.

Jim: … and especially their identity in Christ, that can be … It’s such an art, of course. You’re trying to work in cooperation with the Lord and the Holy Spirit and your kids. And so speak to that being one of the Permanent Markers you reference in your book, the idea of identity, and how do we transfer that or get that into our kids’ souls?

Janel: I mean, great question, and one I think I’m even still working through as a parent. But it’s actually the, the first chapter in the book, and that’s because I feel like identity underlies all the other life skills-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Janel: … because if you look at the Pharisees, for example, they had so many of the life skills, but they got, they got what’s underneath, as you were alluding to earlier, they got that wrong. They weren’t finding their worth in Jesus Christ as being a deeply beloved child of God. Instead, um, Henri Nouwen, and he says that there’s three kind of general lies that we believe, that I am what I have. That can be your family, your reputation, your possessions. I am what I do, or I am what others think of me. And Jesus Christ and the person that he is, you know, f-, flies in the face of all those. But, um, there’s this great … So one day I got this, this call from, um, the vice principal who, unfortunately, I-

Jim: (laughs) Uh oh.

Janel: … knew exactly which child he was calling about.

Jim: Uh-huh.

Janel: And, um, my son Jack, the youngest one, um, had been jumping off the urinals in the bathroom to touch the air freshener because, uh, I believe the quote was, “It just looked fun, Mom.”

Jim: (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Janel: As all urinals must. Um, and, you know-

Jim: Urinal jumping. Okay.

Janel: (laughs) So, but my husband didn’t let my son off the hook. He was like, “I want you to come back and think about … I want you to tell me tomorrow why you think you actually did that.” And he just … I mean, the … When it got down to it, he wanted to be popular, and he had that desire more than he had any impulse control, um, any desire for self-control, which you could say is a spiritual life skill. Right? But he had that lie of, “I am what others think of me,” and that is what propels a lot of our sin, you know, those identity lies.

Jim: Wow. Especially at that age.

Janel: Oh, yeah. (laughs)

Jim: I mean, you’re doing things in junior high that, if you had a brain, you would never do, right?

Janel: (laughs)

Jim: High school, too.

Janel: Yep.

Jim: And especially if you’re playing sports.

Janel: Oh, yeah.

Jim: We did stupid things.

Janel: Oh, yeah.

Jim: Uh, b-, the baseball team bus, somebody started chewing gum.

Janel: (laughs)

Jim: Passed that to the guy behind him.

Janel: Oh, my God.

Jim: There’s, like, 25 of us on this bus. And sure enough, everybody chewed the same bulk-

Janel: Because why-

Jim: … chunk of gum and added-

Janel: … not?

Jim: … to it.

John: And that’s what you got-

Janel: Yes.

John: … you here. Yeah.

Jim: And we’re thinking, “Why?” (laughs) All these later-

Janel: That explains so much, Jim. (laughs)

Jim: … somebody’s going, “That is gross.”

John: (laughs)

Jim: Yes, it was. I was a little on the edge with that one, going, “Do I really wanna do this?”

Janel: You just don’t wanna be the last person in line.

Jim: But it, to your point, it’s, it’s, you know, “Do I fit in?”

Janel: Yeah.

Jim: That’s the ultimate-

Janel: Sure.

Jim: … peer pressure.

John: Yeah.

Janel: Sure.

Jim: Yeah. Eat, chew this. (laughs)

Janel: (laughs)

Jim: No. Um, you reference in the book, soul holes. Uh, how did you see that in your daughter’s life? And what is a soul hole?

Janel: That’s a great question. It’s-

Jim: (laughs)

Janel: … connected to kind of what I was saying earlier about those, those lies. Um, Blaise Pascal, a f-, famous philosopher, said that we have a God-shaped hole inside of us, all of us.

Jim: Yeah.

Janel: And it becomes a vacuum. It sucks in things to try to plug that hole when God’s not in it.

Jim: Yeah.

Janel: And I tend to think that each one of us have different soul holes, and it may be different based on, for example, whether you grew up in the Asian community or the African community or, um, you know, what your, what your past has been like. We all have different soul holes. For my daughter, uh, she wasn’t sleeping at night, and we were trying to figure out, rather than just trying to, I guess, throw her some melatonin and, and some valerian root.

Jim: (laughs)

Janel: You know, we wanted to first figure out what was going on underneath. And it turned out, through a, some long conversations, that she was having some performance anxiety and some perfectionism and a desire to really, um, not be ostracized by her friends. And it was literally making her lose sleep at night.

Jim: Aw.

Janel: And so those, identifying those soul holes and that connection to her identity actually helped us to fix the root of the problem, rather than just put a Band-Aid on it.

Jim: And I, I think-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … you’re, uh, making that the first chapter of your book is really critical because I think it is the foundation for-

Janel: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … everything. If your i-, identity as a child is growing in Christ-

Janel: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … um, that is critical-

Janel: Yeah.

Jim: … by the time you’re in high school to give you the strength you need against a culture that will rip you apart-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … like a lion.

Janel: Very much.

Jim: Yeah.

Janel: And, actually, as a parent, too, it affects how I parent because if I think my identity is in my children, I’m gonna be propelled out of fear, and I’m gonna parent completely differently. I’m gonna try to get control.

Jim: Well, which is more difficult, the child looking for, you know, the affirmation through-

Janel: Oh, yeah.

Jim: … peers, or the parent looking for-

Janel: Oh, yeah.

Jim: … affirmation through-

Janel: Which is totally me.

Jim: … peers?

Janel: Totally me.

Jim: Same problem.

John: Oh, we’re going deep here on some really important stuff on today’s episode of Focus on the Family, and our guest is Janel Breitenstein, and, uh, she’s got this great book. It’s called Permanent Markers: Spiritual Life Skills to Write on Your Kids’ Hearts. As you can tell, it’s more than a how-to book. It really is a posture, uh, book, a posture before the Lord, and we’ll encourage you to get a copy of this from us here. Details are at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Janel, w-, what I like about your book, and it, it, unfortunately, is a bit rare, is we tend to, especially Christian parents, we tend to focus on behavior. That’s the outcome we want, good behavior. But then we are disappointed oftentimes.

Janel: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Our kids go off to college, and guess what? They didn’t have the heart.

Janel: Mm-hmm.

Jim: They didn’t connect those dots. They, they danced to your tune, and you thought they were doing well, but then you find out, “Uh oh. They didn’t catch it. They didn’t do it.” And so I like these Permanent Markers that you’re talking about ’cause, to me, they’re heart issues.

Janel: Yes.

Jim: They’re not behavioral.

Janel: Yes. You’re right.

Jim: And that’s, that’s good. The second one, so that identity’s first. Another one is discernment, uh, being a spiritual marker. Uh, how do you define that and describe it in the book?

Janel: Uh, that’s a good question. Uh, one of the things I’m trying to do is also differentiate discernment from judgment because judgment tends to have us come … Uh, even though it’s the, the same word in the word, if we look at how Jesus defines those, um, we see that judgment, by how we use it today, is coming from a superior posture, not from someone who is alongside other people who just need Jesus. We’re all the same at the foot of the cross. We tend to want to shame. We tend to want to control people. It’s not born out of love. You know? But we want our kids to discern in a way that, for me, one of the, one of the great pictures that I can use with my kids is just, um, you dump a small bag of Skittles on the table, and you have them sort it out, you know, and the idea is-

Jim: (laughs)

Janel: … (laughs) you-

Jim: I’m laughing ’cause this is painful.

Janel: (laughs)

Jim: Sort out Skittles? Oh, my goodness.

Janel: Small bag. Small bag.

Jim: Okay. So what-

Janel: But, um, (laughs)-

Jim: … put the red ones all together, the green ones-

Janel: Yeah. And the green ones.

Jim: … all together?

Janel: Yeah. Um-

Jim: This is like doing a puzzle.

Janel: (laughs)

John: The good news is the pile gets smaller as time goes on.

Janel: This is true. (laughs) This is true.

Jim: (laughs) I wouldn’t know. I would-

John: (laughs)

Jim: … I didn’t hang around long enough to figure that out.

Janel: (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Janel: I just remember my husband telling me once. He’s like, “You know, if you get close to one of those old-fashioned newspaper pictures, and you’ve got … Everything looks like just a black-and-white picture, but if you get up closer, you’ve got white. You’ve got black. You’ve got dark gray. You’ve got light gray. And, um, so often, it’s easier for us as Christians to have the black-and-white categories and to shove people into those black-and-white categories. But, um, a quote that I love from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and he’s a novelist, um, from Russia, and he just said, “If only it were so easy.” This is my paraphrase. Sorry, Aleksandr. But, uh, “If only it were so easy that we could just put all the wicked people in one category. But, unfortunately, the line between good and evil lies down the center of each of our hearts.”

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Janel: You know, we’re all and the same-

Jim: It’s right out of scripture.

Janel: … made of Jesus. Yes.

Jim: (laughs)

Janel: Very much so.

Jim: Actually.

Janel: Very much so.

Jim: In that way, there is, you know, the positive aspect of discernment, though, is being able to know when something in front of you is not the way to go, it’s wrong, it’s evil, it’s, it’s not pleasing to the Lord, et cetera.

Janel: Yeah.

Jim: Uh, we have something called Plugged In, which-

Janel: Yes.

Jim: … you know, this is how this works, ’cause it happened with our boys. They’d say, “Hey, we’d like to go to the movie and go see this movie.” And Jean would say, “Go see what Plugged In says.” And then they’d go, “Do we have to?”

Janel: (laughs) My kids say the same thing.

Jim: (laughs)

Janel: Yes. (laughs)

Jim: There’s a great plug for Plugged In.

John: Pluggedin.com.

Jim: Uh, right from the president of Focus on the Fam-

Janel: Make your kids groan. Look at-

Jim: Yeah.

Janel: … Plugged In. (laughs)

Jim: But, you know, go look at it. And by having them read it, it, it provided a tool to develop that discernment, too-

Janel: Yes.

Jim: … ’cause they’re pretty straightforward with it. It doesn’t tell you not to go. It just says, “Here’s what you’re gonna encounter if you see this movie. It’s gonna have these elements, that element.” But that’s a way to develop discernment in a child.

Janel: Yes. Yes. And have those conversations. Again, like you said, it doesn’t always mean we don’t engage in culture. Instead, it means we have the right dialogue with our kids. We ask the right questions because we want them to not go to college and be like a bat out of you know where.

Jim: Yeah.

Janel: We want them instead to know how to engage with culture because the Bible says that we develop discernment by constant use.

Jim: Yeah. And, and especially in this entertainment soaked culture, whether that’s games-

Janel: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … you know, gaming or screens-

Janel: Yeah.

Jim: … or, you know, uh, motion pictures. How about that for an old term? Um, you developed an acronym. I think it’s Gerty Had Lunch With Tom. (laughs)

Janel: Yes.

Jim: But connect that whole thing about, you know, giving our kids the ability to discern well their media choices, their entertainment choices, and then how does Gerty play into this?

Janel: Sure. I mean, I designed it just as a, um … And you can get it. There’s a printable … Or it’s in the book. But it’s just a, the photo of a … It’s a picture of a hand, an illustration, and, um, so on the thumb, the G is for God. And with any situation they’re in, they can think, “What does his word say? Have I prayed about this?” So the index finger is Heart, the H of Gerty Had Lunch With Tom.

Jim: (laughs)

Janel: So, uh, that asks, “What do I want and feel?” Because we need to get honest about what we, what we feel so it’s not manipulating us from behind, um, uh, both good and bad. Is, is sin keeping me from seeing clearly? So then, on that middle finger, the L from Gerty Had Lunch With Tom, is love. What would it look like to think about other people as much as I’m concerned about my own issues?

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Janel: And then the ring finger, wisdom. What do God word, thoughtfulness, and good judgment, and experience say I should do? And then trust, the T on the pinky finger. What would it look like to depend on God? So, in going through those questions, I can’t say that that will make your kid Teflon, but I think it’s good even for me as an adult, to think about all those five aspects that can really infiltrate and, if I don’t think through those, lead me to making some really poor decisions (laughs) in, even in the name of Jesus sometimes.

Jim: What are a couple of those really good tips? So parents listening right now, maybe hasn’t paid attention to developing discernment in their child. I mean, some of it comes naturally. I think parents try. But what are a couple of good tips for them to think about developing in their kids, in the area of discernment?

Janel: Well, uh, you’re asking a great question. Before discernment comes our knowledge of the word of God, because it’s pretty hard to discern when you don’t know what authentic truth looks like.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Janel: So I’d say, first of all, increasing your kids’ knowledge of the word of God, even through things like, uh, Seeds Family Worship has incredible songs that you don’t mind playing in the front of the minivan with your kids.

Jim: (laughs)

Janel: You know? So you can start talking about those and then applying them to culture that you see around you or that your kids have. If they’ve got a meme, ask them to show you some of the memes that they’re really into right now, and talk about, “Okay. Let’s dissect this. What’s good about this? What’s not godly about this?” so that they can also see how God shows up in secular culture, like Paul did in Acts 17 at the Areopagus.

Jim: Yeah. The, the idea, moving to another of those Permanent Markers, being able to share your faith, uh, that, that one can be a little more difficult because, you know, I think, especially younger children, certainly teens, they’re a little, maybe, more hesitant. It takes a bit of courage and confidence to say, “Oh, let me tell you about my relationship with Jesus,” right? Ho-, how do we encourage them to share their faith and, uh, in essence, speak about evangelism?

Janel: You’re right. I mean, I, I will say that sometimes my definition of sharing your faith, just even taking a page from Paul in First Corinthians 3:6, he says, “I planted. Apollos watered.” There’s different stages of evangelism, and I know, as somebody who really gets into gardening, sometimes if I try to harvest and it’s just a seedling, you could actually thwart any kind of harvest that you could get after that. So understanding that sharing our faith is a, is a seasonal thing, um, you know, where we are, there are times when we’re planting, there are times when we’re watering, and there are times that we’re harvesting, and a good gardener knows when each one happens. So sometimes for my kids, for example, my son Jack, when he’s being bullied, we talk about, “How do you navigate the bullying situation in a way that returns a blessing for an insult?” And that right n-, there, that’s a, the Gospel in a, in a walnut right there. Is someone returning a blessing for an insult? Even when I’m not saying the name of Jesus, I’m showing them Jesus. Um, you know, Saint Francis of Assisi, you know, um, “Speak the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” And that’s not to say, “Don’t use words.” It’s just to say, “Have a broader idea of how we’re playing out our faith at any given moment.” And when your kids have those training wheels, where, even when I’m being bullied, I’m looking to how Jesus would be spoken here, it’s a little easier later on, when they’ve got a friend who’s crying with them, and you’re saying, “Can I pray with you?” or “Where do you find your … Who are you leaning on right now?”

Jim: Yeah. Let me ask, uh, your dad had a charred license plate, I think, if I understand this story right.

Janel: Ah.

Jim: It’s such a beautiful story. What happened?

Janel: That was, um, in 1980, which was the year that I was born, but it was before I was born. My mom was really heavily pregnant with me. Uh, there’s this 1977, um … Ah. He’s gonna get me. Is it Chevrolet Seville or Cadillac Seville? Sorry, Dad.

Jim: We’ll leave it to Dad.

Janel: I know.

Jim: It was a car.

John: Cadillac Seville.

Janel: Cad- … Thank you. Thank you. I knew someone would know that, but I didn’t.

Jim: (laughs)

Janel: But, um, my mom was driving it. She had a, a foster child in the car next to her, in a, in a car seat. And, um, we grew up, I grew up in the Midwest. And, um, she came to an intersection, and the car-

Jim: And she’s pregnant with you?

Janel: Pregnant.

Jim: Yeah.

Janel: Really heavily pregnant. Uh, the corn was high, and, um, she pulled out, and somebody coming the other way, hit her at 55-60 miles an hour.

Jim: Oh, my goodness.

Janel: And, um, the car went into the field across the road, and, um, so she scooped up the foster child, scooped up her purse, stepped out of the car, and it exploded. And, um, and in that moment, my dad, when he shows me this license plate, which he still has, he just said, “At that moment, God saved my whole family.” ‘Cause I’m the oldest-

Jim: Yeah.

Janel: Um, and that means he saved every single one of my kids, every single one of my grandkids-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Janel: … and, and so on. God’s mercy in that moment spared us.

Jim: You know what? Y- … And I so appreciate that. I do, because I think that’s a great outcome. Some people may not have had that outcome.

Janel: Mm-hmm.

Jim: You know? It’s, that’s palpable, too.

Janel: It is.

Jim: You know? It … But God’s mercies are still there for everyone-

Janel: Very much so.

Jim: … even in the, the not-so-good outcome.

Janel: Very much so.

Jim: And that’s important. But I … Man, I get the, the heart of your dad. His life would’ve been entirely different if your mom and you and that foster child had died that day.

Janel: Very much so.

Jim: Think of that.

Janel: And so, just seeing the mercies around us that enable us, for me to get here in my car today unscathed, or, um, to breathe wonderful air here, you know, that my kids are going to school this morning, I mean, um-

Jim: Are you sure?

Janel: (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Janel: Well, we can-

Jim: I, I think they’re jumping off the urinals-

John: Yeah.

Jim: … or something.

Janel: That’s true. They are at school. However, what are they doing?

John: Yeah.

Jim: Janel, this has been so good. I love-

Janel: Thank you.

Jim: … your light-handedness and heartedness toward this journey of parenting. And this great book, Permanent Markers, uh, again, I said it before, but you, you’re focusing on the right thing, and I so appreciate that ’cause so often we’re, uh, again, pointing at behavior and trying to get that right, thinking if we have that right, then the heart is right. And that, that is not necessarily the case. Work on the heart, endure some behavior that you may not like, and then, eventually, and I think fairly soon, that behavior comes into align with the heart of your child. That’s what you wanna do.

Janel: Very much so.

Jim: And you’ve caught it.

Janel: By the grace of God, right? (laughs)

Jim: Yeah. Totally. Well, and the other thing, there’s no formula.

Janel: There isn’t.

Jim: I don’t like it. You know? A plus B in parenting does not always equal C. And it’s predictive, not guaranteed.

Janel: Ah. Yeah.

Jim: And-

Janel: It can be parenting legalism.

Jim: Yeah. So don’t own it. You know, your child has to own their life.

Janel: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Um, you as a parent can only guide and direct, but you can’t own it. And so many parents need to be set free from that. And you’ve done a great job here doing it. Permanent Markers, I hope you get it. (laughs) This is what it’s about. If you’re a parent going, “I’m in trouble”-

Janel: (laughs)

Jim: … this is it. Get in touch with us. Uh, make a donation of any amount, monthly or a one-time gift, and we’ll send you the book as our way of saying thank you for helping us help others.

John: Yeah. We’ve got lots of great resources here, and certainly, Janel’s book, Permanent Markers, is, uh, is worth getting a copy of. Uh, contact us when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast for all the details. And join us again tomorrow as we hear from Debra Fileta explaining the true heart behind marriage.

Preview:

Debra Fileta: It’s not you are greater than me, I’m greater than you, he’s greater than she. It’s learning to see that we is greater than me. This is for the benefit of both of us. When I am sacrificial, when I lay down my life, it is for the benefit of the we.

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Permanent Markers: Spiritual Life Skills to Write on Your Kids' Hearts

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