Making Biblical Family Life Practical

College Without Debt or Fortune – MBFLP 230

We’re on the road this week, taking our son – our fifth son, by the way – off to college. He’s not taking on a load of debt – and neither are we. And we’re not rolling in dough and writing checks to cover it, either!

In fact, his four older brothers have done the same thing – three graduated on time and debt free, and the fourth is on track to finish strong this year. How is that even possible?

In this timely episode, we talk about how to find the funding you need to send your student off to college without looking forward to years of punishing repayment. If you have a graduating senior, you need to listen to this one now – because deadlines are looming closer than  you think!

Planning for the New School Year – MBFLP 229

As we look forward to the new school year – whether with fear or anticipation – we’re looking at the problem of planning. How much is necessary? Is there a point of “too much”? What sort of process works best?

We’ve been homeschooling for twenty-five years now, and we’ve probably done it all, from detailed daily schedules to very flexible, constantly adapting plans. “Life happens,” as they say, and sometimes we’re reminded that God has lessons for our family that we may not have expected. In fact, that’s a key learning for us as homeschooling parents – make plans, yes, but with the humility to accept that God may overrule them at any point – and when He does, it will be for the good.

This episode we talk about striking that balance, being good stewards of the time we have with our kids, but also knowing that opportunities and emergencies will disrupt the best-laid plans. We’ve found you can accommodate both of them!

This episode brought to you by Evangelical Christian Credit Union

Special Thanks to Our Network Sponsor -Overcomer Movie

Life changes overnight for coach John Harrison when his high school basketball team’s state championship dreams are crushed under the weight of unexpected news. When the largest manufacturing plant in town suddenly shuts down and hundreds of families begin moving away, John must come to grips with the challenges facing his family and his team. Urged by the school’s principal to fill-in and coach a sport he doesn’t know or like, John is frustrated and questioning his worth… until he crosses paths with a student struggling with her own journey.
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Spiritual Doubts and Your Kids – MBFLP 228

“Mom, I think I’m an atheist.” That was the chilling announcement from the back of the van, from our nine-year-old child. Spiritual doubts may arise at any time, especially with young teens, and this episode we’re talking about some practical things you can do to help shepherd your young person through this stormy time.






Apologetics Museums We Enjoyed

These are remarkable places to visit, but even if you can’t travel there, they have great websites with lots of information and more resources to offer.

Ark Encounter – Williamstown, Ky. could find practical solutions with the existing technology of his time. It answers boatloads of objections with reasonable explanations – questions like how to house so many animals, how to handle feeding, watering, and waste removal, what to do about lighting and ventilation, and much more. Really impressive and thought-provoking. Said to be the largest freestanding wooden structure in the world!

Creation Museum – Petersburg, Ky.

We first visited the Creation Museum only a few weeks after a family trip to Washington, D.C. We were totally amazed at the professional quality of the exhibits and facility, which were much better maintained than the famous museums of the Smithsonian. Every subsequent visit we’ve found new exhibits and presentations. This is a first class museum, in addition to presenting an evidence-rich argument for creation of the world by an intelligent Craftsman. Ken Ham is the public spokesman, but the museum itself is the work of a huge team of geologists, biologists, archaeologists, historians, theologians, and more. Well worth a journey!

Museum of the Bible – Washington, D.C.

This collection traces the development of the written Bible from the earliest records through the ongoing translation missions of modern times. There are truly remarkable items on display – a Latin Bible signed as a gift by Martin Luther, a beautiful illuminated prayer book made for the Emperor Charles V, pages from the Gutenberg Bible, and a copy of the first Bible printed in America – in the language of the Wampanoag Indians! Exhibits talk of the influence of the Bible on civil rights and social justice, the impact on language and fine art, and more.

Apologetics Books We Recommend

More Than A Carpenter – Josh McDowell

A classic look at who Jesus was, and is, and why that matters.

Evidence That Demands a Verdict – Josh McDowell

A fantastic work that looks at hundreds of questions about Biblical reliability, with tons of references and yes, evidence. A good one to have on hand for those “Wait, what about …” discussions.

The Case for Christ – Lee Strobel

An investigative journalist recounts his search into the Bible’s claims about Jesus’ life, work, and person. A dramatic and personal story of a skeptic’s journey into faith.

Mere Christianity – C. S.Lewis

A conversational but philosophical look at the nature of God, man, sin, and other fundamentals of Christian faith.

Raising Boys in a #MeToo Generation – MBFLP 227

You spend years teaching your sons right from wrong, good manners instead of bad, and all the right social skills. Yet in a super-sensitive time, even a hint of misbehavior toward a female – sometimes just an accusation – can affect the rest of their lives! When you’ve worked hard to keep your son’s conscience clear and his life innocent … how can you keep him from stumbling into trouble he didn’t deserve? This episode, we’re talking about training your son how to keep his life above reproach – and sometimes, making hard choices because they’re not only right, but safer.

The Most Important Thing

The best way to stay out of trouble is simply, don’t do it! Paul asked in Romans 6:2, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?Jesus said, “If you love me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) If we claim the name of “Christian” we have a responsibility to live like it. If you don’t chase after sin, then you’re not earning the trouble that comes with it. Easy, right?

We need to be careful about the “hidden” sins we permit ourselves, too. Pornography is a trap that many young men fall into. When Jesus warned in the Sermon on the Mount, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery in his heart” (Matthew 5:28), He put His finger right on the use of porn–what else could you call it? Sadly, young men who dive into porn sometimes try to imitate it, but always receive harmful, false ideas of how to relate to women. It’s poison.

One thing that seems common to so many of the accusations that emerged with #MeToo is alcohol use. How often to we hear protests or explanations that start, “We were at a party and we’d been drinking …” This is not about the morality of alcohol per se, but a simple observation to our sons–it’s best not to partake when you’re young, single, and need to be alert!

But even if we’re careful to avoid sin ourselves, we need to be very cautious about who we associate with. Proverbs 13:20 says, “The companion of fools will be destroyed.” Peter, again, says in 1 Peter 4:3-4,

We have spent enough of our past lifetime [before we became believers] in doing the will of the Gentiles–when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties … In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.”

Did you catch that? He not only warns against drunkenness–unquestionably sinful–but also drinking parties. Just hanging out with people who are pursuing sin is risky behavior, and it can damage our reputation even if we weren’t deep in the sin with the others.

(continued …)




Reputation matters

In fact, that’s a good place to wrap up. It’s important to avoid a negative reputation, where people are willing to believe an accusation because it would be consistent with your past behavior. But even better is to build such a positive reputation for the right sort of behavior that even when the accusations come, those who know you will come to your defense. The culture is pushing us to believe that men and women are interchangeable, that there’s no difference in their thinking and feeling, that everyone wants to live out the same lascivious fantasies–yet the Bible tells us differently, and experience proves it!

Our calling is to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh (Galatians 5:1), and our lives should be marked by the fruit of the Spirit–which includes things like kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). When our sons walk in that spirit, they may not avoid every accusation, but they’ll steer clear of trouble they can avoid, and they’ll find it easier to deflect the falsehoods others may fling!

Upcoming Events

July 15 – Albuquerque, N.M. – Redemption Hill Church

July 19-20 – Phoenix, Ariz. – Arizona Homeschool Convention

November 8-10 – Flat Rock, N.C. –  Come Away Weekend marriage retreat

Unexpected Benefits of Graduation – MBFLP 226

It’s Graduation Time!

We’re heading out for our fifth high school graduation (our homeschooled son will be in the ceremony at the North Carolinians for Home Education “Thrive!” conference). It’s a milestone that doesn’t grow stale even the fifth time around!

It’s good to see our children growing into the first steps of independence, as they graduate from high school and move off to college or their first job and apartment. We’ve found several unexpected benefits to that transition, though – things that benefit not only the graduate but also their younger siblings and our family as a whole. Join us as we unwrap some of these surprising gifts that come after the tassel’s turned!

Upcoming Events

Come by and see us at one of these upcoming conventions!

May 30-June 1 – Winston-Salem, N.C.
Thrive! Conference – North Carolinians for Home Education (NCHE)

June 6-8 – Richmond, Va. 
Virginia Homeschool Convention – Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV)

June 15 – Raleigh, N.C. 
North Raleigh Homeschool Conference

July 19-20 – Phoenix, Ariz. 
Arizona Homeschool Convention – Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE)

… or see more events on our webpage here

The Importance of Fun – MBFLP 224

Who said school can’t be fun? This episode, we sit down with our friends Roger and Jan Smith, long-time homeschool parents and leaders in Louisiana. The topic is simply, “Fun” – what it can do to create memories, bond family members, and make learning a lot more enjoyable for parents and students alike!

Recently we visited with Roger and Jan Smith, leaders in the Louisiana homeschool community and dear friends of ours. One evening our family and our friends were playing a fast-paced game together, laughing hysterically, and thinking about what an important, bonding thing that is.

We were noticing how well our teenagers interacted with the adults in the room, and the obvious respect going in both directions, and we were talking later about how the shared experiences build that sort of relationship. They’re more and more important as we all become more individualized and isolated, focusing on our work and entertainment through private screens—even when we’re in the same room, we’re not interacting.

That’s one reason we love audiobooks when we’re driving or working together, because the whole family can share that experience and have a basis for conversations later. It’s a good reason for reading aloud together, even when the children are reading well on their own. We try and make intentional choices to do things together so in later years, our adult children will have memories that draw them back to their family home.

Another thing we do is make a big deal over family holidays. Birthdays are an example. In our home, the one we’re celebrating gets to choose the family menu for the day. At supper, we center the conversation on memories of the birthday person. Afterward, we take turns sharing things we love or admire about them. It’s really touching – everyone loves being appreciated, and it’s very easy to overlook the chances to communicate that respect.

A Sense of Humor

Shared humor is another thing we look for. A study of newlywed couples noticed how they interacted, especially the moments of humor in the midst of a problem. It defuses situations and reduces tension if we can refer to a shared joke or inside story. It’s a sign of a healthy relationship if you can still smile, if you can still laugh, if you can lighten up in the midst of your stress. That applies to your kids as well as your mate!

In fact, that study really pointed out that our relationships are formed from the moments we share. Little things count. It’s not like you have to learn a new language to really score points with your kids. Instead, you just need to  hear when they speak, make eye contact, and come back with a positive response.

And that’s something you get a dozen times a day to do. If you miss one, just determine to catch the next. It’s something you can build up without feeling like you have to make a huge investment before you see any benefit.

(Listen in for more great ideas about building memories and relationships with your family!)

Adoption When It’s Not Easy – MBFLP 225

Adoption is a picture of God’s love for His people. It literally saves lives and it rescues children from terrible situations. It’s not as simple as choosing a pet from the store, though, and adopted children often have problems that continue into adult life. This episode, we talk with Shauna Lopez, an adoptive parent who’s dealt with traumatized children in her own home. Learn what to prepare for if you’re considering adoption, and how to come alongside and love families who are in the process themselves.

Adoption When It's Not Easy

Recently at the Teach Them Diligently conference in Waco, Texas, we had the opportunity to interview our friend Shauna Lopez. We met Shauna, her husband Abel, and their family in our travels several years ago, and we’ve stayed in their home. A few years before we met them, they had a difficult experience adopting three young boys, and Shauna agreed to share some of what they’ve learned.

(You can read their whole story on their website,

One of the concerns we have is that Shauna and Abel’s experience is not uncommon, but it’s not widely recognized. Children who have been through trauma react differently to parenting.

“People think that’s an exception to the rule, and it isn’t. People don’t realize that trauma in any form alters the brain, but especially in children who have been taken from their parents,” Shauna said. “It alters the brain chemistry and it alters their development.”

Trauma has a tremendous impact

Others observe that any adoption, even within a family, starts with some sort of catastrophe. Children don’t end up adopted unless there’s been some loss, some trauma, or some trouble in that young life.

“And that’s really the thing,” she continued, “because when a child undergoes trauma, it undermines new trust. … When we adopted three-month-old twins, we thought they’ll only ever know us as their parents. But that wasn’t true, because they had a family for three months [after they were born] plus nine months [in the womb]. So for a full year they had a whole other family, whole other sounds, whole other voices, whole other stressors and non-stressors in feelings. And then to go from hospital with mom, three days later taken from that environment, those smells, those voices, those environmental contributors, to a foster mom for three months — different sounds, different smells, different voices–and then placed in our home–different sounds, different smells, different voices. And we think ‘What’s the big deal?’”

“Their brains are rapidly developing during those times. And with trauma after trauma after trauma–and all of those things are traumas to a young child–it changes the chemistry of their brain and the way that they respond. How on earth could they expect to feel safe when everything keeps changing over and over?”

Understanding children with trauma and the families who adopt them


Discipline will be different with adoptive kids

“So you can’t take the typical parenting advice about discipline for a young child and apply it to a child who’s been traumatized. … When we deal with children who have been safe from the beginning, those kids know they’re okay. They know they’re safe, they know everything’s going to be all right. They have that trust. But when you deal with a child who has been traumatized, where that trust has been taken away–if it was ever even there–…sometimes, they don’t have that trust that no one’s going to hurt them. Instead they freak out. They ‘fight or flight.’ They literally go into self-preservation mode even as young children.”

“We’re not saying don’t adopt. Adoption is amazing. God adopts us. It’s God-ordained. It honors God. It represents Christ and the church. It’s wonderful. What we’re saying is be prepared. Not just what the state requires of you, but beyond that. We have to go beyond that.”

To find out more about loving children with trauma – and ministering to the families who adopt them – listen in to the rest of the program!

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Teaching Kids About Money – MBFLP 223

Teaching Young Kids About Money

Today we’re talking about one of those most practical of all topics – money, and particularly how you teach your young people about it. This was easier with the older kids because with the older kids, I mean, you get a job, start a business, make a budget, save money, easy. You can’t tell your five year old to go get a job.

So how do you teach these young kids to manage money? How do you teach them to take it seriously?

We do need to take it seriously because of the things we noticed when we were researching our book on marriage. The Holmes-Rahe Stress Test, something psychologists developed years ago, ranked major life events in their order of impact on your health. The death of a spouse is number 1. Number 14 was “financial issues,” but everything above number 14 had a financial impact of some sort. It touches every aspect of our lives and you know, it’s something that we need to be intentional about teaching, starting from very early, to be stewards of what God’s given them.

So what does that look like?

Teaching Young Kids About Money

Part of it is just teaching them what money is and what it’s about. For example, we teach our kids that money is like a voucher for work. That’s a concept which we don’t think everybody has really thought through. We’re in the business of writing and publishing books, but we can’t take box loads of books down to city hall to pay our electrical bill. They’re not going to be impressed because they don’t need books. You need money because money is a voucher – we get a check for the month for the work we do and we take it to the bank and when we use that money to pay other people to their work,

That’s an important principle to get to the children to see that every piece of money that passes through your hands, somebody worked and did something productive. Either they did some labor or they produced something for sale, and that that piece of money represents certain amount of their work, time, and effort.

It’s really super important for young kids to grasp because you know when you connect it, when you can say, okay, well dad had to work for this money. What he did earned the money that we’re spending. That makes it real and helps the child understand that spending is not just, “Oh, Daddy has this wonderful magic card and we just hand it to the merchant and they give us hamburgers.” … (listen to the whole thing below!)


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Teaching Discernment – MBFLP 222

How do you teach discernment to your teens?

How do you teach your kids discernment in a world soaked in media? We may be able to tightly control our youngest children’s exposure and experience of the entertainment world, but that changes with time. We need to train our teens how to recognize both the good things in media and the deceptive things which lie in wait for the unwary! How can we prepare them to see everything, even entertainment, through a Biblical lens? 

Media is a powerful social force

“Media changes culture throughout history. We can look at so many times a book at the right time changed the world. And so, you know, given that, we’ve got to teach our kids how to handle it.

“I heard somebody say, whenever there is a big revolution in media and communications, two things happen. It’s immediately used to communicate the gospel and it’s immediately used to broadcast pornography. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the printed word or you’re talking about radio or streaming media online. There’s going to be fantastic stuff and there’s going to be stuff that you really want to avoid. Our kids need to understand. You need to teach them enough so that they’re not caught by surprise, they’re not lured into traps, and they don’t stumble into bad neighborhoods but rather to say, “That path goes a place that God doesn’t want me to follow.

The Balance of Art and Message

“Every time we talk about this, I think about Francis Schaefer’s book Art and the Bible. That is such a good resource because he explains this … How do you look at art?

“There are a couple of things here. There’s good art or bad art, and there’s good message or bad message.

“When you’re talking about art, it’s about the skill of the artist … Are they able to write? Can they write a coherent sentence? Can they tell a story? Can they handle the camera? But then the message is, what are they communicating?

“We recognize good art with a good message – Rembrandt, for example. Or bad art, bad message – that’s trash. Sometimes we tolerate things done badly because they’ve got a good message. But the really dangerous part is good art with a bad message, where you have a story which doesn’t glorify God, which contradicts Scripture, which teaches immoral ideas, ‘but the music is so good and the special effects are just incredible!’”

“One of my teachers in high school, a very conservative, older lady, she said she remembered one of the scandalous books during her younger years. She was at library one day when this prim elderly lady came walking in and very quietly slid that book across the circulation counter to return it. The librarian said, “Why, Miss Jones! I never would have thought you’d be reading this!” And the older lady blushed and said, “Well … it was so beautifully written!”

Kids – Don’t be like Miss Jones!

Parents – let’s teach them how to avoid that trap … tune in to the whole podcast below!

BONUS – The second half of the episode, we talk through a recent movie the way we discuss it with our teens. Listen in and see what that sounds like!

Are your teens watching media with Biblical discernment?

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Upcoming Events

March 21-23, 2019 – Rogers, AR – Teach Them Diligently – Northwest Arkansas

March 28-30, 2019 – Nashville, TN – Teach Them Diligently – Nashville

Check out our complete schedule here! 

Love in a Time of Sickness – MBFLP 221 (repeat!)

HARRRCH! Greetings from our bronchitis ward! With the whole family, including your hosts, suffering from all sorts of respiratory unpleasantness … we’re going to bring back our show about navigating the challenges of sickness in your family. We hope to be healthy and “back in the saddle” soon! ~ Hal and Melanie

The traditional wedding vows include the promise to love and cherish one another “in sickness and in health.” Yet most of us come to our wedding without a lot of personal experience of serious, life-disrupting illness. We accept the vow but don’t have much practical knowledge of what that may look like.

“We’ve got kids who’ve had broken bones, we’ve had a child was born with a congenital heart defect.  We have had all kinds of bizarre and strange problems over the years. And yet I don’t think of us as a sickly family, … Here’s the thing. We make that promise up front that we’re going to be there for one another. We’re going to love one another even when we’re sick and you know that that’s really a practical manner. That’s really the rubber meets the road there because you know, that’s when the loving feelings just aren’t there.

“You know that you don’t have warm, fluffy feeling when one of you is throwing up in the bathroom, the romance is not in the picture at that point. And yet, …

“Do you remember when I got food poisoning? … We had only been married a matter of weeks. I will never forget that feeling of being in the bathroom throwing up and feeling such a nasty mess, and I was a newlywed! I was used to trying to be pretty and everything and I felt … so helpless. And I remember you wetting a washcloth and washing my face off and I tell you what — I felt some love for you. I felt a huge wave of affection for you.

Love is about doing. It’s not about feeling.

It’s an action, a choice of our behavior toward another person rather than purely a reflection of our feelings at the moment.

“That’s an important thing to remember. You know that over and over again in Scripture, love works its way out in our actions, not just in the butterfly kind of fluffy feelings. I mean, those are there, that’s great when they’re there; but when you’re absolutely beat by chemotherapy, when you are recovering from a really difficult pregnancy, or whatever … something else comes into play than just the animal attraction.”

“You know what true love is—it’s putting someone else’s feelings and needs ahead of your own, right? There’s a passage starting in Ecclesiastes 4:9 – it says, ‘Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their labor, for if they fall, one will lift up his companion; but woe to him who was alone when he falls and he gas no one to help him up again. If two lie down together, they will keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.’”

“You know that the two of us in marriage together, if one of us has a need, the other one can step up and meet it. I’ll be strong one day or week or even year. And you’ll be strong another one. Can we just take turns? And in that threefold cord that’s not quickly broken — when we have the Lord to rely on, we are strong.”

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