Author and blogger Jessica Smartt offers suggestions for capturing special moments with your family that you will cherish remembering for years to come.
Becket Cook: In that moment, I knew homosexuality was wrong. I knew it was a sin. I knew it was no longer who I was. It wasn’t my identity. I knew it was my old self, and that I knew that dating guys were not a part of my future. But I didn’t care at all because I – I was like, “Jesus – this guy Jesus is a way better than those guys. I’m gonna go with him.”
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Becket Cook joins us today on Focus on the Family. And your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: Here at Focus on the Family, we love hearing stories of God’s grace and how he’s worked in someone’s life to bring about healing and redemption. That’s what it’s all about. In fact, in the New Testament in the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But the good news is, uh, it’s God’s great mercy and love that never fails. So, he is there for us through Jesus Christ. That’s what it’s about, and that’s what the good news is. So today, we want to share an amazing story of how God’s redemptive love can transform a life riddled with sin, like most of us. And, uh, we have hope, as we’ve talked about.
John: Mm hmm. And Becket Cook is a former production designer in the fashion world and, uh, has a master’s degree from Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. He spends much of his time in ministry speaking on the issue of homosexuality at churches, universities and conferences. And he’s written an excellent book which chronicles his story. It’s called A Change of Affection: A Gay Man’s Incredible Story of Redemption. Look for your copy at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Becket, welcome to Focus on the Family.
Becket: Thank you for having me.
Jim: I bet a few years ago, you would have never imagined, uh, hearing that or being here.
Becket: No. I mean, it’s totally surreal because, you know, my whole adult life, I thought of Focus on the Family as the enemy because I was a gay man living in LA, and you guys were, like, the bad guys.
Jim: Mm hmm.
Becket: But, of course, now I love you guys.
Becket: So, I’m thrilled to be here.
Jim: Well, we like to be loved. That’s for sure, but…
Jim: Hey, your story is fascinating and, uh, so reflective of God’s grace. I mean, that’s what it’s about. Uh, let’s start at the beginning. Who was Becket Cook as a child?
Becket: Becket Cook was raised – I was raised in Dallas, Texas, born and raised – and the youngest of eight kids in a large Catholic family. And, you know, at a very young age, in elementary school, I began to realize that I was attracted to the same sex, which was very much forbidden in that time, you know, according to my family, my – my – the church and my peers. That was very much frowned upon in Dallas. So, I had to keep it a deep, dark secret for a very long time. And then in high school, I – I ended up becoming best friends with someone who was also going through the same thing, and we came out to each other. And that was a big turning point for me.
Jim: One of the things, you know, so commonly asked is, what was going on in your childhood? Were there environmental factors that, um, moved you in that direction? It’s always the toughest question.
Jim: But there were some circumstances in your childhood that impacted you, correct?
Becket: Yes. When I was, I think, 9 years old, I spent the night at a friend’s house. And in the middle of the night, I woke up to his father molesting me, which was very, um, scary.
Jim: Oh, sure.
Becket: And what’s interesting about that is, I never thought it – because I didn’t want that experience to be a part of my identity as a gay man, so I pretended for many, many years that that night had – it was no big deal…
Becket: …had nothing to do with anything. But, obviously, now I look back on that, and I see how powerful and damaging that night was to me and not just in sexuality, but in a lot of other ways.
Jim: So, uh, high school – you kind of confide in a friend. He confides in you. What – what takes place throughout the rest of high school? Were you active, or were you…?
Becket: Yeah. I – well, I we – we started to – I was 15 years old going to gay bars in Dallas and, uh, you know, going to nightclubs. And I remember going to this nightclub in Dallas that was – it was called The Starck Club, designed by Philippe Starck, the famous French designer. And I walked in, and there were straight people, gay people, drag queens. And it was just like this – it was like Studio 54 kind of vibe.
Becket: And I just remember walking in as a 15-year-old and just thinking, “Wow, like, these are my people.” Like, I…
Becket: I felt a connection to these people because they were all kind of, like, the misfits, so to speak.
Becket: And even though I was popular in school and I had girl – you know, went steady with girls, this is where I really felt at home…
Becket: …and at ease.
Jim: Um, then you get into college. Did it change, or did it just get deeper? And…
Becket: It – it just kind of progressed. And, uh, in college, again, I had – I befriended someone who was gay. We came out to each other. And then, again, we just, you know, went to gay bars together. We – but in college and in high school, I was in the – still in the closet, and I – you know, no one really knew.
Jim: So, your family didn’t know at this point.
Becket: I mean, they probably – I don’t know. They probably had an inkling. I don’t know (laughter).
Jim: Probably suspected it, but…
Jim: …no one had ever asked you, “Hey” – to this point, no one had said…
Becket: No one had ever asked me. And, um – and so I had, like, a few friends who knew. And then – and then after college was when I really came out completely because I met…
Becket: …my first boyfriend after college.
Jim: OK. Now, before we get there, I mean, one thing you did was you were in Tokyo. Was that high school or college?
Becket: That was after college. I moved to Tokyo with my best friend from college.
Jim: Oh, you did. OK.
Becket: And that’s where – so when I was in Tokyo, my roommate, best friend – his friend from Texas came to visit us for a week. And he stayed with us in our tiny Tokyo apartment.
Becket: Pocket-sized apartment. And, um, he and I ended up falling in love, and that’s when – that was the first time I experienced that and been in – and was in a relationship with a guy.
Becket: Like, a serious relationship. And that was a huge turning point for me. That’s when homosexuality as my identity was totally cemented. And I thought, “This is who I am. It’s never gonna change.” I mean, I was all in. And…
Jim: So, it was like it was complete at that point.
Becket: Yeah. It was like – and that’s when I came out to my family and my friends, everyone.
Jim: And describe that, um, you know, talking to your family – that has to be an incredibly difficult moment, um, in some ways.
Jim: But what happened?
Becket: Fortunately, my sister did all the talking. Um, she – my sister had written me a letter while I was in Tokyo asking me if I was gay. And I wrote her back, and I said, “Yes, blah, blah, blah,” and I explained everything to her. And – but I said, “Please wait till I get back to Dallas. Don’t tell mom and dad because I’ll tell them.” But, of course (laughter), she told them immediately. So, by the time I got home, you know, months later, everyone in my family knew. So that was kind of actually easier on me because…
Becket: …I didn’t have to be like, “Mom, dad, I have to tell you something.”
Jim: At least – right – at least that was expressed. But I’m sure it still had issues connected to it.
Becket: Yeah. But what’s interesting is my parents – my siblings didn’t really react to it. They were all kind of older.
Becket: You know, they were – I was the youngest, so they were all sort of living their own lives and married and had kids. And I didn’t really interact with them about this issue. But my parents were very lovely about it. They were so gracious and loving to me. And part of it could have been the fact that I was the youngest of eight kids, and they had just been through so many things (laughter).
Jim: Right. It’s the end of the line and…
Becket: So, they were just – my mother cried. And she was crying at the kitchen table one night. I walked in, and she said, “I heard you’re a homosexual.” And I’m like, “Mom, it’s OK. Don’t worry. This is who I am. It’s not a big deal.” And then my dad came up to me a couple days later and said, “Hey, Beck. Like, did I – are you angry at me for anything as a…”
Jim: Good questions.
Becket: “…you know, being a father? Like, did I do anything wrong?” And I’m like, “No, Dad. This is not your fault. This is…” – again, I was just trying – I was just like, “This is who I am. This is not a big deal.” And so, I tried to sort of minimize it to them. And they, over the years, were just super loving to me and never condemning. I mean, they, uh – they believed it was – they definitely believed it was wrong and it was a sin.
Jim: Yeah. But let’s pick it up. So, you come back from Tokyo. You eventually do move to Los Angeles.
Becket: Yes. So, I moved out to LA, and I immediately got into this great group of friends who had all gone to college on the East Coast at Brown University and – and Princeton because my closest friends from high school went there.
Becket: And so, when everyone migrated out to LA, and I – so I suddenly had this huge group of friends who were – and they were all just hilarious, smart, funny, super ambitious. And so, I got into this crowd of friends. And we were kind of, like, lived the life in LA. I mean, we – we went to premieres every week, movie premieres and the Oscars, the Emmys, the Golden Globes, all the, uh, afterparties, Vanity Fair parties, the Governors Ball after the Oscars. And, you know, I met everyone. And a lot of my – all my friends ended up becoming very famous in their field. You know, like, they – I had best friends who became famous actresses. And, uh, one of them has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame now. But and, you know, my friends became famous directors and writers and producers. And they basically run Hollywood now…
Becket: …those – all those old friends.
Jim: You know, in that context, I think that’s a good place for the question of the longing that you felt. What was happening there? I mean, with the friendships that I have in the homosexual community, one of the things that we’ll often talk about is the fact that it – even gay marriage now doesn’t fill that void like they thought it would.
Jim: Getting societal acceptance. “This’ll be it. If we can get this, then I’ll feel complete.” And it’s not there.
Becket: I mean, I was having so much fun for about 10-plus years that I mean, of course, at the back of my mind, I wanted to know the meaning of life, like everyone does.
Jim: But you’re in your 20s.
Becket: But – yeah.
Becket: But I mean, God was never an option for me because I was gay. And so, I knew that I could never be a part of that club, the Christian club, because I was gay. So, but the weight of postmodern relativism really started to bear down on me after about 10 years of kind of this pleasure life that I was living.
Jim: Well, define that for us, some that may not be catching that. What did that mean for you, the postmodern life?
Becket: Well, in postmodern relativism, there’s no – everything’s subjective. There’s no objective truth, so you don’t really know what’s up, what’s down, what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s left, what’s right. You’re just kind of, like, in this state of almost existential angst. And you don’t – and that is sustainable for a while, but after a while, it just becomes unbearable. It’s like, well, I – what is – there’s got to be some objective truth. I can’t just – you know, not knowing whatever I do is right – I mean, I kind of knew, you know, when I was, like, just going through a series of boyfriends and a series of casual one-night stands, like, I – I sensed that it was empty, for sure, but I also sensed that there was something off about it. And I didn’t know how to explain that because I was in a postmodern world where everything was feelings-based and subjective. And so that was – that was tough to – to deal with. But, again, I was so distracted by the shiny objects…
Becket: …in Hollywood…
Jim: I totally get it.
Becket: …that it distracted me for a long time.
John: Yeah and get a copy of Becket’s book A Change of Affection: A Gay Man’s Incredible Story of Redemption. Uh, we have that here at Focus on the Family. Call 800-A-FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Uh, Becket, September 2009 was a turning point in your life. I mean, I think that is what you say in the book.
Jim: Something happened. Tell us how that unfolded.
Becket: Well, briefly, six months prior to that, I was at Paris Fashion Week. I used to go to fashion weeks in New York and Paris, and I was at Paris Fashion Week. And I went to a bunch of the shows, a bunch of the afterparties. And one night, I was at an afterparty, and I just – everyone was there from the fashion world dancing, drinking champagne, having the times of their lives, allegedly. And I’m standing there, and I just had this sudden overwhelming moment of, “This isn’t it. Like, this is” – and I felt so empty.
Jim: So, you’re soaking in the scene. You’re looking at everybody.
Becket: Yeah. And I’m like, “This stuff can’t sustain me anymore.” Like, this has worked for the last many years – since high school, really.
Becket: But this is not going to sustain me anymore, and I don’t know what is. And, again, God’s not an option. And so, I went back to my hotel room that night in Paris, and I just was up all night in a panic about, what am I going to do for the rest of my life? I can’t just go on going to parties and going to this thing and that thing. And there – I can’t – there’s – I need (laughter) – I need some – some purpose and, like, a meaning in life. And so, six months later, I was at a coffee shop in LA, and I was with my best friend, who was gay as well. And we were chatting, doing our usual weekend thing – brunch, shopping, you know, which is, like, gay church. And, uh – and then we go to this coffee shop, and we were chatting. And we suddenly see a table next to us with a group of people, young people with Bibles on the table.
Becket: Which was shocking to see. I had never seen a Bible in public in LA…
Jim: Yeah, interesting.
Becket: …in my life. So that was – and we both looked at each other, my friend and I, and we were just like, “What are they doing?” And then they bowed their heads and prayed, which was even more scary.
Becket: We thought, “Are they going – is this, like, a cult? Are they going to Jonestown, Guyana? Like, what’s happening?” (Laughter). “Is this a cult?”
Becket: Um, there – you know, “There’s Scientology buildings right there. Like, are they going to” – anyway. So, I turned to them. You know, it’s, like, a Christian’s fantasy. I turned to them, I’m like, “Hey, so are you guys Christians?” And, um…
Becket: They said, “Yes.” I said, “Well” – and they told me they were evangelical Christians. They went to a church in Hollywood called Reality LA. And – and we got into this conversation. I said, “Well, you know, I grew up Catholic. I don’t really remember – what – tell me what you believe. Just tell me what your faith is.”
Jim: Wow. That’s amazing.
Jim: They must have been shocked, too.
Becket: I – yeah. I think so. And they – and they were very capable, you know, and they knew their stuff. And, uh, they told me, you know, the Gospel. They told me what they believed. And – and of course, after about an hour of this kind of – we got into a fun – it was a lively conversation. And after about an hour of this, I asked the $64,000 question. I said, “Well, what does your church in Hollywood believe about homosexuality?” And they said, “Well, we believe it’s a sin.” And I said, “Oh, OK.” And in that moment, I – I had this flash of – “OK” – because I was a practical atheist at that point in my life.
Jim: You had moved to that point.
Becket: I was – I had just thought it was all a fairy tale; it was all nonsense. And then – so I had this moment of, OK. There’s this tiny, slim chance that God is real. And if God is real, there may be a tinier chance that homosexuality is wrong. And what if I’ve built my entire life on a false foundation, and I don’t know it? And then – so we got into this – and then they invited me to their church the following Sunday.
Jim: And you went.
Becket: I went (laughter)…
Jim: This is amazing.
Becket: …reluctantly. I didn’t think I was going to go, or I didn’t know I was gonna go.
Becket: But I – the following Sunday, I woke up, and I was like, “I guess I’m going to church today.”
Becket: And so, I get to this high school auditorium where it meets in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard. And I walk in by myself because the people who invited me – I don’t even know where they were. But I walked in, and, uh, I hear Christian worship music. And I immediately cringe because I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. I forgot Christian music existed.” And then I was like, “Wait. It’s not bad, actually. I like it.” So, I found my seat, uh, near the front. I sat by myself. The pastor comes out, and he preaches for an hour on – and he’s in the middle of a two-year series on Romans.
Jim: Oh, man.
Becket: So, he’s on Romans 7 – Chapter 7. And he’s preaching, and while he’s preaching, every word, every sentence he’s saying is resonating as truth in my mind and my heart, and I have no idea why. I’m just like – I’m literally – my mouth is agape. I’m on the edge of my seat. And I’m like, “This is the Gospel? Like, this is turning everything I believe religion was on its head.” And it was the first time I really understood and heard the Gospel in my life. And I was like, “Wow. This is good news.” And I didn’t want him to stop preaching. I was just, like, “Please continue. Just keep talking.” But he stopped, and then he – he left the stage. And he said, “You know, there’s people on the side of the church from the prayer ministry. If you need prayer for anything, you can get prayed for.” So, I had this moment of like – and then the worship music comes on, you know? And so, I had this moment of like, should I go over there and get prayed for? If I do, it could be humiliating. People might be watching me here, you know? So anyway, I just was like, “I’m just – I’m here. I’m going to do this.” So, I walked over to this random guy – not random guy, but I walked over to this guy, and I said…
Jim: Seemingly random.
Becket: Seemingly random. And I said – again, a Christian’s fantasy – I said, “Hey, I don’t know what I believe, but I’m here.” And he was like, “Let me pray for you.” And it seemed powerful and I thought, “How does this random straight dude love me so much?” Because his prayer was so loving and caring. And I walked back to my seat, and I sit down, and everyone else is standing and singing worship music for the next 25 minutes. And, um, I sit down, and about 30 seconds later, all of a sudden, the Holy Spirit just (imitates whooshing) like, floods me. And the scales from my eyes just fall. And I…
Jim: Yeah. What did that feel like?
Becket: Oh, my gosh. It felt like Isaiah in the temple when he sees God’s holiness and he comes undone. I mean, I – I – God revealed himself to me in a split second. And he was like, “I’m God. Jesus is my son. Heaven’s real. Hell’s real. The Bible’s true. And you’re now adopted into my kingdom.” And I just started bawling. And it was meeting – encountering Jesus that day was so – it was like you sitting right there. It was, like, that real.
Becket: And it was, like, a road to Damascus moment. And – and I was crying for the next 25 minutes harder than I’ve ever cried in my life, just crying and crying and crying.
Jim: That’s so beautiful the way your story unfolds that way. I mean, that’s something.
Becket: Yeah. And it was so powerful that God just was so clear, you know…
Becket: …to me in that moment. And then (laughter) I get home right after the service. I just went straight home to take a nap because I was so just overwhelmed. I get into bed, and God’s like, um – it was like Moses in the cleft of the rock. God is like, “Let me show you a little more of my glory.” (imitates whooshing) And just, like, I’m just, like, overwhelmed with his presence again. And I jump out of bed bawling again, crying again. I’m just like, “God, you have my whole life. I am done. It’s yours.”
Becket: And I knew – In that moment, I knew homosexuality was wrong. I knew it was a sin. I knew it was no longer who I was. It wasn’t my identity. I knew it was my old self, and that I knew that dating guys were no – was not a part of my future. But I didn’t care at all because I – I was like, “Jesus – this guy Jesus is a way better than those guys. I’m gonna go with him.”
Jim: Becket, I mean, for some people that maybe struggling in this area, I – I have friendships with people that want to be where you’re at, but they haven’t had that Damascus experience.
Becket: Mm hmm.
Jim: They yearn for it, though. I can feel it. I hear it…
Jim: …in what they say to me. What’s that difference, you know, for the heart that’s yearning for that kind of confirmation of what you thought was true in that little bit, as you described it? And what do you say to that person that is still in that space where, “I want to believe. I just, like, I’m, not there yet”?
Becket: I – I know. That’s a – that’s a tough one. I have friends in my church who – who don’t even deal with this issue at all who haven’t had that kind of powerful encounter with God, and so their lives – they’re just kind of like lukewarm about everything.
Becket: And I just – I don’t know what to say to them. I’m just like, “I wish God would encounter you the way he did me because it just is so transformative.” And I mean, I would just say, “Just keep asking God.”
Becket: Like, “God, I want to – I want to sense you. I want to know you better – more.”
Jim: Keep pursuing.
Becket: Just keep pursuing and keep asking.
Jim: Yeah. I think that’s good.
Jim: You know, we have to cover some of the obvious questions, um, when it comes to homosexuality. It’s such the social divide now.
Becket: Mm hmm.
Jim: And, you know, we – again, it makes your story all the more amazing, uh, given what you’ve lost from a worldly context – your job, your friendships. Uh, it has cost you…
Becket: Mm hmm.
Jim: …to come out as formerly homosexual.
Becket: …come out as Christian (laughter).
Jim: And, uh, well – and it takes a lot of courage, like we’ve said. But speak to, uh, the spiritual dimension of this. You’ve alluded to it. You know, homosexuality is a sin. It’s one of the great kind of corrections that the culture is trying to do in the church is to differentiate homosexuality – take it off the list. Take it out of the book of Romans.
Jim: Let’s not admit that it’s in the list as if somehow, we’re the great editors of the Book, like we can take an eraser (laughter).
Jim: You know, because there’s things heterosexual men particularly would want to erase, like when you look at a woman and have lust in your heart. Yeah, let’s erase that one too.
Jim: How do you respond to that – that as a Christian man, now, you have obligations to Christ before even your own sexual temptations?
Becket: Well, I – you know, it’s funny because I find such a joy in obedience to God. Because before, as I said, when I was living a postmodern life, there is no boundaries. There’s no guardrails. There – and it’s not like God is some, like, cosmic killjoy when it comes to sex. He – he created sex, you know. And – but he created sex to be, you know, in this very specific covenantal marriage between a man and woman and – and it’s – because it’s for our well-being and for our flourishing. And so, when you’re outside of that covenant, there’s so much destruction and there’s so much danger and so much harm. I mean, I – I look back on all my – my life in that world and I – many, many, many relationships and boyfriends. And – and I see how that harmed me, like, emotionally. I have emotional scars from all those people. And what people don’t talk about in the media – what you’re not gonna hear on Ellen (laughter) for example – is how dark that world is.
Jim: Mm hmm.
Becket: It’s a very – especially gay men – very dark world. Even my – my gay – and this might be incendiary to some, but my gay friends who are married, they have, you know, open relationships. They have multiple partners all the time.
Becket: And that’s kind of standard in – in the world – in that world. And people don’t ever talk about that – the back rooms and the – you know, the bathrooms and the parties and all the stuff. And, um, so that world is – I – I’m so happy to be out of that because I, you know, used to think I was sexually liberated.
Becket: But it was actually sexual bondage.
Jim: Of course. Let me ask you this as the last question, Becket. Um, people listen. You know, there are many non-believers that will listen to Focus on the Family and we’re glad you’re listening, really. Uh, there will be some from the homosexual community who are listening – some to find out what we’re saying and monitoring us, um, and then those who are seeking – I mean, because they felt that emptiness that you’re describing. They may be connecting with that right now. What would you say to them specifically – that person living in the homosexual orientation, same-sex attracted, what would you say to them?
Becket: Well, I would say just be like I was that day, you know when I – when I was like, “What if I built my life on this false foundation?” Just be open to the idea that there is a very slight chance you could be wrong. But also, I would say read the Gospel of John and just every night or every morning or every day just say, “God, I want to know you. If you’re real, please help me know you.”
Becket: And just keep saying that. Keep knocking on that door and He will open it. You know, just…
Jim: That’s an amazing idea.
Becket: …keep at it. Yeah.
Jim: Just you trust that the Lord will respond…
Jim: …when a human being says, “Show me who You are.”
Becket: Because I’m telling you and I – just like what I’ve said – but when He does open that door, you’ll understand why it’s everything.
Jim: It’s everything.
Becket: It’s everything.
Jim: That’s exactly right, Becket, uh, no better place to end than Jesus is everything (laughter).
Becket: (Laughter) That’s right.
Jim: So, this has been outstanding. Again, I applaud your courage. I, uh – I want to continue to stay in touch with you, get to know you better. And hopefully we can have you back on and – and talk more about this. It’s one of the biggest issues in the culture today.
John: Mm hmm.
Jim: And there’s no side-stepping it. And, uh, I would just encourage Christians – we didn’t touch on this – to have a heart. This is not some kind of super sin. It’s in the list of sins. Um, are you a gossiper, a liar, a cheater? OK. It’s right there. And, uh, I would not be especially upset with this particular experience that some people have. Be, uh, winsome. Be heartfelt in your conversations with those in the, uh, homosexual community. Um, in many ways, our hearts should break…
Jim: …for whatever that combination of things that occurs in a person’s life that leads them in that direction. I’ve even had one person say to me, “I would much rather be like you – married with kids. I just don’t have it in me.”
Jim: And that – that broke my heart.
Jim: That’s not what we want to hear. What we want to hear is “Jesus is Jesus, and he can mend those broken places.”
Becket: Yes, amen.
Jim: And Becket, you’re a good example of that. Thank you for being with us.
Becket: Thank you guys for having me.
John: And again, uh, Becket has this terrific book A Change of Affection. We have copies here at Focus on the Family. We’re listener supported. Your prayer and financial support allow us to have conversations like this to, uh, speak to individuals around the world, to help families around the world. Make a generous donation today to Focus on the Family and we’ll say thanks by sending a copy of this book A Change of Affection to you. Uh, donate when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Join us again tomorrow. You’ll hear how to help your kids navigate their emotions in healthy ways.
Christi Straub: If it’s depression, if it’s anxiety, if it’s fear, um, if it’s sadness, we at least can start to organize and then we can say, “This feeling doesn’t get to – it doesn’t get to be in control.” And it doesn’t get to be in control of our kids either.
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