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Seeing God Through My Son’s Autism (Part 1 of 2)

Seeing God Through My Son’s Autism (Part 1 of 2)

Emily Colson explains how her view of God has changed and how her faith has been strengthened as she's worked to raise an autistic son as a single parent. (Part 1 of 2)

Opening:

Excerpt:

Emily Colson: See, God’s goal for Max is not that he become like other young men. God’s goal for Max, is that he become more like Christ.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: That’s the perspective of today’s guest, Emily Colson, discovered through years of difficulty as a single mom of a son with Autism and she has more insight to share on today’s Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Here at Focus on the Family, one of our major goals is to celebrate life and to remind folks that we are created in the image of God and today’s speaker really has a knack for encouraging us to see the image of God in children with special needs. But her passion was born out of some pretty devastating circumstances as you’re gonna hear in just a moment. Emily Colson is a popular speaker and author of the award-winning book, Dancing with Max. I’d encourage you to get a copy from us here at Focus on the Family.

John: That was a book that had me in tears pretty much every chapter– she is such a gifted writer and a great speaker. Here now is Emily Colson at a Mother’s Day service at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colorado on today’s Focus on the Family.

Body:

Emily: Good morning! I am thrilled to be here with you today. Thank you all for coming out on this beautiful spring day. You guys have a different idea of spring. I’m from Boston, so I’m used to snow, but I’m really, really ‘over’ snow.

So thank you for coming out. I’m honored to be here. I think that Mother’s Day is a celebration of life, and I hope that this morning will be just that, for all of us. I have a beautiful son, Max. He’s 24. He has a diagnosis of Autism, and we have had a grand adventure. We have had many challenges, and we have had great joy. The author of Hebrews encourages us to run with perseverance, the race marked out for us. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me.” This morning I am thrilled to be able to tell you a little bit about my journey, and my story, and how these scriptures have played out, and become so important in my life. And I hope in doing so, you will find encouragement in your own life, in your own journey, as you are called to run with perseverance.

I– bring Max everywhere, really. He’s a great guy. He’s just this awesome young man. He is so full of joy, has this wonderful personality, and we just go everywhere. So, about a year ago, I brought Max to the movies. He loves to go to the movies. Now, before you hear this story, you have to understand that as a mom of a child, adult child, with Autism, you think through everything. So, it was a three o’clock matinee, a Disney film, two days after Christmas, right? Families. Everything would be great. We get in there, sit down, and the previews were too loud. Have you ever had that happen? I don’t know why they do that. I put my hands over my ears. My ears hurt. Well, with Autism, so often the sensory system is very vulnerable, and sights and sounds and smells can just overwhelm an individual with Autism, which is exactly what happened to Max. It was too loud. He put his hands over his ears, and he cried, “I wanna go home.”

Our feature film started, and he cried out again. It just startled him. Put his hands over his ears. “I wanna go home.” Twenty seconds into our feature film, the couple beside my step-mom, who was with us, leaned forward. The woman leaned forward, and she said, “Are you gonna make him be quiet?” My step-mom kinda took a breath, and she said, “He has Autism,” and she was about to ask for a moment’s grace, when the woman said, “I know he has Autism. But why should the rest of us have to suffer?” With that, her husband leaned forward, threatened to call the manager. I thought, you know, “I don’t wanna be here.” I looked around the theater a little bit thinking, “should we just move our seats? It’s just, do we need to get away from these people?” But when I got Max up, it was then that I heard the applause around us, for our leaving. We began to walk down the stairs. People yelled things out. One man yelled, “And don’t come back.” We got to the front of the theater, and a man all the way in the back yelled the cruelest thing possible about my son’s disability. And as if that were not enough, just as we’re stepping out the door, he yelled sarcastically, “Merry Christmas.”

What do we do, when life doesn’t go as planned. How do we run with perseverance? Mother’s Day is kind of extra special for me, because it was Mother’s Day 25 years ago today, that I found out I was expecting Max. I think it was sort of a hug from Max saying, “I gotcha. I gotcha. You do not know how big, and amazing, and complicated this is gonna be, but I got you.” Well back then, my life looked really nice. It looked really, kinda perfect. I was married, had a beautiful home, had a great career, and Max on the way. You know, does it get any better than that? Well, very quickly after Max was born, we realized that things were going pretty differently than we had planned. He wasn’t hitting any of those milestones. You sort of follow this book, and you try to check off. He’s doing this at this age, and this at this age, right? Well, we didn’t have a manual. There was no book for what was going on. By the time Max was 18 months old, he finally took his first steps. Oh, this was a huge victory! He was gonna walk! And three days later, because of the stress and strain on my marriage, my husband walked. I went through a painful divorce. Trust me when I tell you this, there is no other kind. And on the heels of divorce, Max was diagnosed with Autism.

That wasn’t the toughest time. The toughest time came when Max was nine. The Autism was so severe, that we could not even really leave our home. We stopped going to church. We couldn’t go to the grocery store. Max couldn’t make it through a day at school. I would come downstairs at the end of the night, putting Max into bed, hoping he would sleep for an hour, maybe two hours. That was it, for the night. Autism can do that. I would put him into bed, and sit in that rocking chair, and I was too tired to go to bed. So I just stared at the wall, this one yellow wall in my living room. I wanted white noise. I wanted to stop feeling. I just wanted to go numb.

I did that for a lot of nights. I’m not even sure how long. It was months. And then I began to think about a scripture. John 10:10. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Abundant life. We didn’t have abundant life. We had the opposite of abundant life. I was a Christian, sitting in that rocking chair. I was a Christian. Kind of a new Christian. I trusted God, but I couldn’t even imagine how God was going to get us out of this. I kept thinking, “So, is the deal that He will simply sustain us in this painful place? Is that the deal? Or is it possible that there’s something more. And what is this abundant life that Jesus promises?”

So I made a decision that night, sitting in that rocking chair. And the next morning, I got Max up, got him dressed. I thought, “We are gonna trust God, and we are gonna find out.” So we went out. And it was disastrous.

The next day I did the same thing. Got Max, got him dressed, went out. Disaster, over and over. It was a mess. But I began to see something amazing happen. People began to step out of their comfort zones, and into our bumpy, messy lives. They did things that were [00:09:00] kind, kind beyond what I think even they knew they were capable of doing. They joined us. They let me know, “you’re not alone in this.” “I’m with you in this patch in the grocery.” “I’m with you over here.” I began to see God shine through my son’s life, not despite the Autism, but because of the Autism.

I wanna tell you how far we have come. Max was nine when I made that decision, that we refused to live as hostages any longer. He was nine. He is now 24, so that will tell you how long we have been doing this, every day, refusing to back down. Here’s how far we have come. I brought Max into a Trader Joe’s a couple years ago. I know you guys have Trader Joe’s. It’s a really fund store, right? Kinda little. Well, Max loves Trader Joe’s. He loves going everywhere. He got into that Trader Joe’s. He was so excited. You know, Max is just great. He’s like this amazing tour guide of life. Because we walk around, all worried about, “Oh, I’ve got my, I’ve got my mortgage payment. I’ve gotta be at this meeting. I gotta, you know, I gotta do this. I gotta do that. Here’s my to-do list.” Max comes in. He’s like, “Yes! We’re at Trader Joe’s!” He got so excited, right? We need that. We need that. Well, he got so excited that he made a beeline over to the freezer section. So you have to know this about Max. He loves appliances. So he loves microwaves, and vacuum cleaners, and all forms of refrigeration.

He made a beeline over to those freezers. They were Hussmann. If anybody wants to talk refrigerators later, I know a lot about refrigerators. They were Hussmann brand refrigerators. He got so excited that he’s dancing in the middle of the aisle. He started reaching into the freezer, grabbing pizzas, throwing them up over his head, and yelling, “Pizza! Get your pizza here.”

Within 45 minutes, that freezer was empty. Every single person took a pizza. Aww. But they didn’t want the pizza. What they wanted was a part of that kind of joy.

Program Note:

John: You’re listening to Emily Colson on Focus on the Family and you’ll hear how she and her father, Chuck Colson, handled Max’s request to be baptized at their church; that’s coming up. Get Emily’s excellent book, Dancing with Max. We’re gonna pair that with a CD of this complete message when you make a generous financial donation of any amount by calling 800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or go online and donate at focusonthefamily.com/radio. Let’s return now to Emily Colson.

End of Program Note

Emily: When Max was diagnosed, I called my family, and then I called a dear friend of mine. Peppermint Patty we called her. Peppermint Patty was a very wise woman. She had worked with adults with Autism, for much of her life. Christian. And she said, “Emily, God works through these children. Max is a gift. These children are a gift.” I thought I understood. I said, “Oh, I love Max. I love him so much. Of course he’s a gift.” And she said, “No.” She said, “This might take you a while to understand.” Well, Max is 24, and I haven’t seen all the gifts yet. But I can tell you this, that I have watched Max teach us, teach others, about love and compassion, and kindness, and gentleness, and patience, and joy, and perseverance.

I watched Max teach my own dad about selfless love. I know many of you know of my dad, or knew my dad, Chuck Colson. Maybe you read one of his books, or … I think he had 30 books that he wrote in his lifetime. He founded Prison Fellowship Ministries 40 years ago, the Colson Center for Worldview. He was a brilliant man, but when God got ahold of his heart, and he said, “Yes,” to God, his intellect and his changed heart made him a great man.

But it’s Mother’s Day, so before I tell you about Max and my dad, I wanna tell you about my mom, because my mom is an extraordinary individual. She prioritized joy. She still does. When we were growing up, she would let us take all of the furniture in the house, except for the living room couch, and the dining room table. We were allowed to take all of the furniture out of the house, and bring it out into the front yard, and build things. In the winter … Isn’t that awesome? In the winter, we pushed aside the living room furniture. We clearly never had a living room. Pushed aside the living room furniture, and we would bring in a full sized trampoline, so that my two older brothers and I could jump, and just have fun in the house. She let my brother, when he wanted a room, his own room, she let him figure out how to do it. He had to get all the teaching and the research. She let him build an addition on our home. He was 13. Still there. Beautiful town. Beautiful home. There’s that addition.

Max happens to love everything about the Apollo 11 moon launch. It’s just the way it is with Autism. They get really, really interested, and then all of a sudden, I think it’s cool too. So every single morning, we watch the Apollo 11 launch, and the moon walk. Every morning. So, as a family, we thought, “well, we’ve gotta do something about this, right? We gotta kind of build on this.” So, as a family, we all got together. My brother is very handy at building things, and we all got together. Max helped. And we built an Apollo 11 capsule. It’s the size of a car. You can fit a couple people in it. It’s so cool. It’s got a little dashboard where you can set the iPad, and then you can play the whole film of the Apollo 11 launch. Really cool. I wish you could see it.

We didn’t know where to put it, because this thing is really big, right? So my mom has just moved into this over 55 community, and had an extra space in her garage. So she said, “Well, this is perfect. I’ll just park the spaceship in my garage.” Right? She is so kind. She is so generous. And genuine. And every time she meets a friend of Max’s, she’ll say, “You should come over and come see my spaceship.” And I’ll say, “Mom. When you’re 83, just because you have a spaceship, doesn’t mean you should tell people you have a spaceship.”

Let me tell you the best gift my mom gave to us. My parents divorced when I was five years old, long before my dad became a Christian. I know what comes with that. I know the pain that comes with divorce. My mom never said an unkind word about my dad. As a matter of fact, she only said kind things about my dad. She told us he was a wonderful man. She told us he was a good man. She told us how much he loved us. Let me tell you what that did for us. Because of my mom’s grace and selflessness, she opened the door for us to have a relationship with my dad. And because of that, my dad became my best friend. I’m so grateful to my mom.

When Max came into the world, my dad … Now some of you know, he was like super Type A personality, right? Very hard, driven. I mean, you just kinda got caught in the back draft of my dad, and whoosh, you went. Right? It was awesome. But all of a sudden, Type A Grandfather meets Type A Autism Grandson, and it was a really complicated mix. It didn’t go well those first few years. My dad couldn’t quite figure out what to do. And then all of a sudden, my dad began to see the beauty in who Max was, exactly as he was. He began to realize, when Max was six. “Emily, I have been speaking about the sanctity of life for all these years, and I never put it together, that here is my beautiful grandson. Here’s the one I’ve been speaking about. Here’s my example right here in front of me.” Changed my dad completely.

A lot of us have those ‘aha’ moments, but do we really act on them? Totally changed my dad. My dad and Max became best friends. They were the most unlikely pair, and the most perfect pair, because each one had a gift the other needed. We were there in Florida visiting, as we did quite a bit, and we were at my dad’s church, out in the lobby. We couldn’t go to our church at the time. It just wasn’t working. Couldn’t find our place yet. But we’re out in the lobby, watching a television monitor, and Max sees a woman being baptized, and asked me what it was. And I said, “Well, it means she loves Jesus.” A moment later, I hear my 13-year old son, in that sweet voice, I hear him say, “I wanna get baptized.”

Well just then, my dad came out to check on us, and oh, I would love to tell you that when I told you, we both just pranced around, and it was like a Hallmark card, and we just dashed off and baptized Max. But we didn’t. We really struggled. I mean, Max has severe communication problems. He has such a hard time sort of figuring out how the world works, and how do you fit in it. He just doesn’t fit in it. So we struggled. “Well, what if he doesn’t understand it?”, so we started asking Max questions, right, a whole list of questions. We’ll ask this, this, this, this. He knew the answer to everything, because he’s a fact factory. But we still struggled. We thought, well what do we do? What if we baptize him, and he doesn’t understand? Is that worse than not baptizing him, when he does understand? We got so caught up for three days, we struggled.

And then I thought of something that the pastor of my church said to me. We had stopped going to church. Max was seven years old. Didn’t have a lot of language. He could speak, but it, it was pretty tough for him to communicate. I went up to the pastor. I was there by myself, without Max. And I told him that I was heartbroken, that Max wasn’t in church, that we couldn’t figure out how to do it. I said, “It breaks my heart, because Max loves to memorize Scripture, and he loves to watch his Christian videos.” The pastor of my church looked at me and he said, “Emily. The Holy Spirit speaks Max’s language.” I thought of that, and at the same time my dad and I realized, “We are making this way too hard.” So I drew out pictures for Max. That’s just sort of one of the ways we communicate. Drew out pictures, and a little sequence of events, of “here’s what will happen, and here’s what a baptism means, and here’s what you’ll do,” right? And in part, I just didn’t want him to cannon ball into his baptism.

But he knew it was different. He walked in so slowly and pensively, this little smile on his face, and he stood in front of my dad, and I watched as my dad, who was such a strong influence in my own journey of faith. I watched him baptize my son. Of all the things the world says my son cannot do, he can give his life to Christ. See, God’s goal for Max is not that he become like other young men. God’s goal for Max, is that he become more like Christ. Don’t you think that’s amazing? God has the same goal, for this young man with Autism, who struggles so greatly, that He has for you and me.

Closing:

John: Emily Colson on today’s Focus on the Family and you’re going to hear the conclusion of this great presentation next time. Jim, what a picture she’s painted there of her dad, Chuck Colson, when he realized that her son Max was a living example of the sanctity of human life that he and so many of us have championed over the years.

Jim: Yeah, John, and sadly, of course, Chuck passed away in April 2012 at the age of 80 and I gotta tell ya, I miss that man! He was a wonderful mentor to me, I can’t imagine the father he was to Emily and the grandfather he was to Max. We interviewed Chuck and Emily together in 2010 and he made a very important point that I want to reiterate. He said that much of our culture has accepted an idea popularized by Charles Darwin that a person’s worth is defined by their usefulness, their contribution to society. Chuck said that people with special needs have value and importance regardless of their usefulness and they can teach us how to love more fully, how to depend on God to strengthen us during times of difficulty and that’s a powerful lesson we can learn from what the Colson family has experienced.

John: Yeah and Chuck co-authored the book with Emily called Dancing with Max. You referred to it earlier, Jim. We’d like to recommend getting their perspectives on life with a special needs child. It’s a great resource and we have it here at Focus on the Family.

Jim: We sure do, John and I’d like to offer it to you paired with the CD of Emily’s entire message for a gift of any amount. As you support the work that we do here at Focus to remind our culture of the value of every human life, regardless of their circumstances or their utility.

John: Yeah and that’s a core value here, something I really appreciate about Focus on the Family. And you can add your voice as a supporter of life by attending our Evangelicals for Life event in Washington, D.C. That’s coming in January or you can watch it online; it’s a simulcast. Look for a link for Evangelicals for Life at focusonthefamily.com/radio or ask about it when you call 800-A-FAMILY.

When you get in touch, please remember to donate and request the book and the CD bundle featuring Emily Colson. And if you enjoyed today’s program, please encourage a friend to tune in next time when Emily explains what she’s learned through her son’s autism.

Teaser:

Emily Colson: We are valued and loved and precious because we belong to Him. We bear the mark of our Creator.

End of Teaser

Today's Guests

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Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Effective Habits to Embrace in Parenting

To be an effective parent, you must be a leader in your child’s life, guiding with a gentle hand and setting a solid example. Dr. Randy Schroeder provides the insight you need to be a leader-parent. As he explores the foundational Rs—relationship, routines, responsibilities, and rules—you’ll better understand the role you play in your child’s life. You’ll learn great phrases to employ such as “Either/Or/You Decide” and “When You/Then You”. While there is no perfect parent, this nuts-and-bolts material will equip you to lead your child in a loving, confident manner.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. Randy Schroeder

Dr. Randy Schroeder

Dr. Randy Schroeder has spent more than four decades writing, counseling, speaking, and teaching. For nearly 25 years, he was Vice President of Student Personnel Services, Dean of Students, and a professor of pastoral counseling at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind. He’s also led a successful counseling practice helping individuals, couples, and families to thrive in their lives and relationships.

Cover image of Dr. Randall Schroeder's book "Simple Habits for Effective Parenting"

Simple Habits for Effective Parenting

Effective parenting is now within your grasp! With this inspiring how-to comprehensive book, achieve extraordinary results in raising a child to be self-assured, self-reliant, and responsible! You will be able to successfully lead and lovingly encourage your child toward a Godly life!

The Spiritual Battle for Your Marriage

God designed marriage to reflect His love to the world; and because of this, the enemy wants to destroy God’s beautiful design. Based on his book, Defending Your Marriage, Dr. Tim and Noreen Muehlhoff share about the reality of spiritual warfare against marriages, and how to combat the enemy’s lies with the truth of God. Couples will be encouraged that they’re not alone in the fight for a godly marriage and better equipped to be a shining example for the world around them.

Tim and Noreen Muehlhoff Cropped

Dr. Tim and Mrs. Noreen Muehlhoff

Dr. Tim Muehlhoff is a professor of communication at Biola University in La Mirada, California where he teaches classes in family communication, interpersonal communication, apologetics, gender, and conflict resolution.  Tim and his wife, Noreen, are both on staff with Biola’s Center for Marriage and Relationships  where he is a co-host of The Art of Relationship podcast. 

Defending Your Marriage

Is your marriage under attack? Sometimes it can feel like the world is trying to tear your marriage apart. Internal conflicts or external pressures might make you wonder if something sinister is going on. How can you tell if you’re facing spiritual opposition? And what can you do about it? Tim Muehlhoff provides a straightforward resource for protecting your marriage from the threats of the evil one. He looks at what Scripture says about spiritual warfare and how our everyday struggles have deeper spiritual realities. And he provides practical steps for guarding our marriages with the whole armor of God.

Reigniting Your Passion for Jesus - Part 1

For those of faith whose passion has waned over time, Kim Meeder will reinspire you in your relationship with Jesus Christ as she tells powerful, true stories about God that will spark renewed joy in your heart and encourage you to share the Gospel with others.

Headshot photo of author Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder and her husband, Troy, are the co-founders of Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, a non-profit organization in Bend, Oregon, that rescues abused horses and pairs them with hurting kids for mutual healing. Kim is a popular motivational speaker and the author of a half dozen books including Hope Rising and Bridge Called Hope, which feature inspirational stories from her ranch.

Revival Rising

With enthusiasm that will set ablaze your passion to reach the hurting, Kim Meeder encourages you to let the holy fire of God’s presence fill your heart, soul, mind and strength. As your fear and pride melt away, those around you who are losing their battle for hope will be transformed by encountering His redeeming love in you. This–this is revival rising.

Reigniting Your Passion for Jesus - Part 2

For those of faith whose passion has waned over time, Kim Meeder will reinspire you in your relationship with Jesus Christ as she tells powerful, true stories about God that will spark renewed joy in your heart and encourage you to share the Gospel with others.

Headshot photo of author Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder and her husband, Troy, are the co-founders of Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, a non-profit organization in Bend, Oregon, that rescues abused horses and pairs them with hurting kids for mutual healing. Kim is a popular motivational speaker and the author of a half dozen books including Hope Rising and Bridge Called Hope, which feature inspirational stories from her ranch.

Revival Rising

With enthusiasm that will set ablaze your passion to reach the hurting, Kim Meeder encourages you to let the holy fire of God’s presence fill your heart, soul, mind and strength. As your fear and pride melt away, those around you who are losing their battle for hope will be transformed by encountering His redeeming love in you. This–this is revival rising.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 2

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage - Part 2

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 2

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Embracing Your Role as a Spouse

As a spouse, you have three roles to play—a friend, a partner, and a lover. On this one-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Pastor Kevin A. Thompson explores those different roles and challenges you to live them out by investing emotionally, physically, and mentally in your relationship. As friends, he suggests we learn to play and laugh together. As partners, he equips us with solid ways to handle conflict and communication. As lovers, he offers some thoughts on how to bring back the sizzle. He shares five keys to saving your marriage: humility, respect, mercy, communication, and resilience. You’ll be encouraged to intentionally invest in your marriage.

Headshot of Kevin Thompson

Pastor Kevin Thompson

Kevin A. Thompson (MDiv, Beeson Divinity School) is lead pastor at Community Bible Church, a growing multi-site church with four locations in western Arkansas. Every year he meets with nearly one hundred couples with a range of needs, from pre-marital counseling to navigating the most serious betrayals. A marriage and parenting conference speaker, he and his wife, Jenny, have two children and live in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He blogs at kevinathompson.com.

Cover image of Kevin Thompson's book "Friends, Partners & Lovers"

Friends, Partners, and Lovers: What It Takes to Make Your Marriage Work

With engaging stories and clear, simple language, pastor Kevin Thompson shows how to live out three distinct roles in marraige. Using solid biblical principles, he helps you and your spouse grow your friendship, be supportive partners through the good times and the bad, and develop a healthy and satisfying sex life.

Sharing Your Faith with Grace and Purpose

You can confidently and lovingly share your faith—you just need to learn some new tactics to do so! In this Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast, apologist Greg Koukl outlines the “Columbo” tactic of asking questions, the “self-defeating argument” tactic to find holes in your opponent’s arguments, and other specific methods for engaging in faith-building conversations with others. Greg pulls from his over 30 years of experience debating atheists and agnostics to help you share your faith with grace and truth.

Mr. Greg Koukl

Greg Koukl is a writer, public speaker and talk show host who’s spent 30 years advocating for and defending the Christian worldview. Greg has written or contributed to 15 books, including The Story of RealityTactics, and Precious Unborn Human Persons. Greg has published nearly 230 articles and has spoken on 80 college and university campuses in the U.S. and abroad.

Tactics front cover

Tactics, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions

In a world increasingly indifferent to Christian truth, followers of Christ need to be equipped to communicate with those who do not speak their language or accept their source of authority. In Tactics, 10th Anniversary Edition, Gregory Koukl demonstrates how to artfully regain control of conversations, keeping them moving forward in constructive ways through thoughtful diplomacy. You’ll learn how to stop challengers in their tracks and how to turn the tables on questions or provocative statements. Most important, you’ll learn how to get people thinking about Jesus.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 1

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Giving up Sugar, Tasting God's Goodness

As a latchkey kid, Wendy Speake turned to sugar for comfort. Every Friday, she would pedal to the candy show and use her allowance to fill her bag with candy. And one day, when she was older and a mom of three young boys, she came to realize that she was still “pedaling” away from her stress and using sugar as comfort, instead of turning to Jesus. She was joyless, worn out, tired, and in need of a change. In this interview, Wendy will challenge Christians to take 40 days to focus on fasting from something they turn to instead of Jesus for comfort. She invited people to break free from a dependence on sugar and taste the goodness of God.

Author Wendy Speake smiling as she holds up her book "The 40-Day Social Media Fast"

Mrs. Wendy Speake

With a background in Hollywood as a trained actress, Wendy Speake ministers to women as a bible teacher by applying the power of drama, poetry and comedy to the study of Scripture and real-life application of biblical truths. She has co-authored two books with Amber Lia titled Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses and their latest, Parenting Scripts: When What You’re Saying Isn’t Working, Say Something New. Wendy is also the co-author (with Kelli Stuart) of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom.

Cover image of the book "The 40-Day Sugar Fast"

The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation

Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ. Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 1

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 1

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!