Making Biblical Family Life Practical

Fighting Cabin Fever – MBFLP 241

Cabin fever - how long can this go on?

“February is the cruelest month” is how T.S. Eliot began The Waste Land – until Ezra Pound suggested he change it to “April” for poetic reasons. Be that as it may, February is a time of dullness for many of us. It may affect us ourselves, it may affect our children. So what can we do about mid-winter cabin fever?

Admit it – the seasons do have an impact. You might have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – here’s an article from the Mayo Clinic website.  You may not have a condition that needs medical attention, but the fact that some people do have a problem with change in seasons should tell you it’s not just your imagination.

It’s not a sign of weakness or a character flaw to realize some things can make a difference. We have family from Scandinavia who tell us people there (where the winter days are really short) take active, preemptive steps to increase their cheerfulness – more light, more houseplants, and so on.

Listen in for more practical ideas to cheer up your dark days of February!


The unutterable boredom of cabin fever


Seasons are a fact – and a blessing of God

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.” (God, in Genesis 8:22)

You [God] have made summer and winter. (Psalm 74:17)

God thunders marvelously with His voice;
He does great things which we cannot comprehend.
For He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth’;
Likewise to the gentle rain and the heavy rain of His strength. (Job 37:5-6)

He gives snow like wool;
He scatters the frost like ashes;
He casts out His hail like morsels;
Who can stand before His cold?
He sends out His word and melts them;
He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow. (Psalm 147:16-18)


Don’t Laugh – here’s how to understand Southerners and snow

Chocolate snow cream recipe


Would you like to have Hal and Melanie speak at your church, group meeting, or some other gathering? We travel a great deal and it may be easier than you think! We’re going to be in the states in yellow in 2020, so CLICK HERE to start the conversation!

  • February 27-29, 2020 – Nashville, TN – Teach Them Diligently – Nashville
  • March 13-14 – Williamsburg, VA – HEAV LeaderLife Conference
  • March 26-28, 2020 – Rogers, AR – Teach Them Diligently – Northwest Arkansas
  • April 3-4, 2020 – Kansas City, MO – Midwest Parent Educators (MPE) Conference

Raising Kids to Love Their Siblings – MBFLP 240

Is sibling rivalry just something to expect? Is it a foregone conclusion that our kids are going to be simmering with jealousy, rivalry, and unkindness toward one another? Or is there a way to promote friendship and affection between brothers and sisters? We have eight kids, and while they’ve had their moments of conflict, we’ve been blessed to see them grow in genuine love as they’ve matured. How can we foster this sort of relationship in the home?


We know families where the sibling relationships are so broken, some aren’t talking decades after the original hurt feelings. Our college students have remarked how many of their classmates are uninterested in going home for holidays or breaks. Where does the breakdown begin? More importantly, what can we avoid or correct, to preserve and promote better relationships?

  • Bullying or provoking behavior – they’re two forms of the same problem
  • Name calling – and when nicknames are and aren’t cool
  • A culture of sarcasm and irony
  • Battle of the sexes – don’t even start
  • Favoritism – it didn’t end well for Joseph nor Isaac


On the other hand, there are many things we can do to cultivate a better sort of family culture.

  • Teach them how to be friends
  • Praise and reward good behavior
  • Make family harmony a matter of honor
  • Provide opportunities to be friends
  • Build memories together
  • Share emotions – rejoice with them that rejoice
  • Cultivate respect – starting with husband and wife of each other, then parent/child and siblings

Remember, and teach your kids, that when the Bible speaks about love, it involves knowing the other person, and choosing to behave in a considerate and kindly manner to them. It’s an active choice, not just a feeling! And that means that we can hold that as a standard of behavior … and know it’s something we can actually do. Trust that when our actions are right, the feelings tend to follow!


February 27-29 – “Teach Them Diligently” Homeschool Convention – Nashville, TN

March 13-14 – LeaderLife Conference (Home Education Association of Virginia) – Williamsburg, VA

Relationships and Holiday Stress – MBFLP 239


The song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” but for many families, it’s also the most stressful. How can you accomplish all you need to do during the holidays, without putting a strain on your family relationships? And how do you deal with visiting family members who may be bringing their own kind of stress into your celebration? Join us for this timely discussion heading into Thanksgiving!

Passages We Referenced

She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness(Proverbs 31:26 NKJV)

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20 NKJV)


Teaching Your Kids (and yourself) to THINK– MBFLP 238

Have you ever looked at your child and asked, “What were you thinking?” – and then realized that he wasn’t thinking at all? That’s common enough – and to be honest, sometimes it doesn’t improve in adulthood. This episode, Hal is talking about how you can help your kids become more intentional, more aware, more … thoughtful! (And maybe, improve your own thinking skills, too)

The Bible warns against spiritual blindness — we need to be careful about mental blindness in the physical world too. Jesus and the apostles quoted Isaiah and Ezekiel, who said though Israel had eyes to see and ears to hear, they were blind and deaf to spiritual truth right in front of them. (Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 12, Matthew 13, Acts 28, Romans 11) And honestly we often are nearly as clueless about the physical world, aren’t we?

We can help our kids focus a little better on common blind spots like:

  • Figuring out where to start with a big task
  • Organizing a task for fastest and quickest improvement
  • Finding something when it’s right where you said it was
  • Finding something when it’s close but not exactly where you said
  • Giving an honest try before giving up
  • Learning logical troubleshooting skills

Hal shares lessons he learned from more than twenty years in the military, manufacturing, and utilities – and lessons we try to teach our kids now!

Thank you to our Sponsor – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Movie!

Tom Hanks portrays Mister Rogers in A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, a timely story of kindness triumphing over cynicism, based on the true story of a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod. After a jaded magazine writer (Emmy winner Matthew Rhys) is assigned a profile of Fred Rogers, he overcomes his skepticism, learning about kindness, love and forgiveness from America’s most beloved neighbor.

Chores – Why and How – MBFLP 237

Studies show that although children who have regular chores are more likely to be happy as kids and independent as adults, less than one out of three families expect their kids to help around the house. Only 28%! As a family of ten, we found that teaching our children to help out was a necessity. There are long-term benefits, too! This episode, we talk about why we need to give kids chores, and how we made it work.

Thank you to our Sponsor – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Movie!

Tom Hanks portrays Mister Rogers in A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, a timely story of kindness triumphing over cynicism, based on the true story of a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod. After a jaded magazine writer (Emmy winner Matthew Rhys) is assigned a profile of Fred Rogers, he overcomes his skepticism, learning about kindness, love and forgiveness from America’s most beloved neighbor.

Real Modesty (a redux episode) – MBFLP 236

Hello, Friends!

Melanie’s come down with laryngitis this week so we’d like to offer this return to a frequent issue for Christians in conservative churches – Modesty! And we think you’ll find there’s more to it, and less of what you may expect, when you look back to the whole Bible. We hope you enjoy it!

In Christ
Hal and Melanie

One of the long-running controversies in conservative churches is the question of “modesty.” What does it mean, Biblically? How should we practice it? Is it just about “necklines and hemlines” or is there something more?

Sometimes the subject has bad associations in people’s memory. Maybe they’ve encountered a legalistic application of the concept, and it left a bad taste in their mouth. And yet, we know that modesty is important for a Christian. We want the way we dress to reflect that we’re God’s people. We don’t want to tempt people to sin. But how can we consider the question without bogging down in legalistic stuff?

Of course – go back and look at the biblical standard. Let’s see what the Word actually says and not just what someone interpreted.

To The Word!

Providentially, we were looking at one of these passages in our family devotions. In 1 Timothy 2:8-9, Paul is instructing Timothy on the organization of the church he’s planting. He wrote,

“I desire therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety in moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good work.”

Some people interpret that to mean women should not wear nice clothes. They shouldn’t try to be attractive. They shouldn’t wear jewelry or braid their hair. And on the surface the passage sounds like that, but other passages give it more context.

For example, 1 Peter 3 is talking about relations of wives and husbands. In his word to the wives, Peter says (verse 3), “Do not let your adornment be merely outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather, let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” And in verse five, he continues, “For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.

Here’s a significant point – Sarah was known for something. In Genesis 12, when she and Abraham were in Egypt, the Egyptians noticed Sarah. They noticed her beauty. They were staring at her. They were saying in their own language, “Wow. Check out that woman over there.” She attracted so much attention Abraham actually feared for his own life.

Guess what? Sarah was at least 65 years old at the time.

Changing Perspective

This is worth considering for a moment. Obviously Sarah was a woman who knew how to take care of herself, who knew how to dress well, who knew how to groom herself. This woman was like a supermodel, and 65 years old. And what does Peter say? Peter says, ladies be like Sarah–she was a godly woman.

We’ve had friends who seemed to believe that “Dumpiness is next to holiness.” That “dowdy” is “godly.” And yet we have the example of Sarah to balance some of our interpretation.

(There’s much more in the rest of the episode – it’s not just an issue for women!)

Myths of Motherhood – MBFLP 235

Hal is out of town with the children and Melanie is helping her mother after major surgery, so this episode Melanie tackles some common ideas about motherhood that may not be quite so. Join this mother of eight (five all grown now) as she looks at “Myths of Motherhood”!

“Motherhood” is one of the almost-mystical concepts of our culture. It’s symbolic of so many things, though to be sure, just what it represents has changed as the culture has changed.

But like many “big ideas,” there are some mythical things that cluster around, too. Can we talk frankly about what we see as the myths of modern motherhood?

Here’s a big one to start with:

Myth No. 1 – “It’s hard now and it’s always going to be this way.”

When we had four kids eight and under, Hal accepted a new job in a different town. We couldn’t sell the house before he had to start, so we conceived the not-so-brilliant idea of Melanie and the kids staying in the present home to try and sell it, while Hal moved two hours away to begin the new job.

It was horrible.

One mom and four littles, eight and under. Every time the agent wanted to show the house, Melanie would dash upstairs and down, furiously throwing things in laundry baskets and stuffing them in the car. One of our children couldn’t fall asleep at night; Melanie would get the older two settled, nurse the baby down, and then find the toddler wide wake, feet flailing, talking to himself. She would sit by his toddler bed, crying her heart out to God, “Father! Please – let this child sleep,” unable to leave him because the bedrooms were upstairs.

It was tough and it was discouraging too. And it was easy to think, “This is my normal. It will always be the way it is this minute. And I can’t do this.”

Eventually we decided to just clean the house really well, close it up, and go live with relatives for a month or two until it sold. And eventually, it all worked out.

That little guy who wouldn’t get to sleep? He’s a father now with his own restless toddler. All four of those kids we had then are grown and gone now. We still have children at home, the younger siblings who weren’t even alive back then, but our life is drastically different. When the younger few were born, we had teenagers to help. The older kids can handle most of their schoolwork on their own. They’re helping more than they’re taking time.

Your life as a mother of a demanding young family is tough – no question. But that three-year-old who’s running around like a maniac — in a few years, he’ll be able to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and he’ll help get the toddler out of the toilet while you’re nursing the baby. When he’s 9 he’ll be able to finish fixing dinner when the baby needs Mama (as they do!). When he’s 12 he’ll be able to cook the whole meal, and when he’s 16 you can send him out for burgers when you’re sick with the flu. Your life hasn’t reached a standstill –

Don’t give up!

(There’s a lot more coming up – listen in below!)

Teaching “Adulting” – MBFLP 234


Studies show that young adults are often not prepared for adult independence. Psychologists say the current generation is growing up slowly, and some even say “Twenty-five is the new fifteen”!* But if our parents and grandparents were functioning adults at 18 or 20, why can’t our kids be the same? This episode we’re talking about how to teach adult skills intentionally to our teenagers – and what to do if they graduated before you were done teaching!

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The Parent-Child Relationship – MBFLP 233

Relationship with your kids is more that just feelings

The overwhelming business of raising a child can cause us to miss the importance of our relationship with them. There’s so much to think about, so much to do, so much to pray over and work on – how can we put the proper emphasis on the “soft skills”? And yet, at the end of the day (which is when they graduate and move out), the sort of relationship we have with that child will be the thing which draws them back home – or not. This episode, we take a quick look at the way our parent-child interaction needs to change with the growing maturity of our child.

The Two Biggest Tasks of Parenting

Have you ever asked yourself, what is the absolute core of effective parenting? What would “success” look like? What is so important that, if we miss that one thing, we’ll look back with deep regret?

We actually think there are two absolutely critical things that we must pursue as parents. You can just assume the basic life needs – food, health, safety – of course. Those don’t even have to be on the agenda; if you don’t take care of those, you may not be a parent for long.

But the thing we find at the top of the list is discipleship. The Bible tells us over and over that we are to teach the word of God to our children throughout the day and in every circumstance (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

And inseparably connected to it is a second thing – the relationship we build with those children. In fact, we’d say you will have a very hard time teaching the first thing, if the second is weak or missing. Dr. Jeff Myers of Summit Ministries said that in the process of discipling tens of thousands of young adults, the ministry has found that truth will only be accepted in the context of relationship – a relationship of love, trust, and respect.

Relationship is More Than Just Feelings

The “warm fuzzy” aspect is important, of course, but there is a practical side to our parent-child relationship, too. That changes as the child grows and matures, and our interaction with him needs to change, too. At the start, the most important thing is teaching trust – Mama and Daddy will take care of you – and the Bible uses that as an illustration of God’s faithfulness to us:

“As one whom him mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”

(God, in Isaiah 66:13)

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Your parent-child relationship is a delicate balance!

The time for positive discipline comes after that. And again, the Bible makes it clear that discipline is a sign of our love (Hebrews 12:5-11):

… for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening … then you are illegitimate and not sons. (vv. 7-8)

But as they grown into the teen years, the way we interact with them, the way we discipline, and the responsibility we give or withhold, has got to reflect their new status as young adults. If we fail there, we may send them into the world with memories of resentment toward us. That’s not a good launch.

And through it all, we have got to communicate our affection to them in a way they understand and receive. They have to know not just that we love them, but that we actually like them. And that may take some work. 

Listen in for practical help on balancing these necessary roles – and for ideas how you can build a bridge to your child’s heart, even when you think you’ve lost your first chance already. We’ve crossed that bridge ourselves! With God’s help, so can you.

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Finding a Mate – MBFLP 232

Finding a Mate

Does the Bible give us guidance on finding a mate? Of course – but it’s not as detailed as some of the more recent advice we’ve all heard. This episode we’re talking about some unmistakable – and non-negotiable – things the Scriptures tell us about guys and girls in relationship … but keeping in mind some things the Bible doesn’t say, too!

What’s non-negotiable?

Here are a few principles we think are clear:

Respect for parents – The Fifth Commandment is to “Honor your father and your mother,” and it’s repeated in both Testaments (Exodus 20:12 and Matthew 15:4, for example). Parents have experience and wisdom, and a young lover is well-advised to seek that wisdom out! Besides, they are probably a little more objective about the object of their child’s affection and may be able to raise an issue that’s being overlooked. (We do make a distinction, though, between the commandment to honor parents – aimed at all of us, at any age – versus commandments to obey parents, which are aimed specifically at children. Note the apostle Paul uses both words in Ephesians 6:1-3 but only to children in Colossians 3:20)

(more following …)

Some thoughts and advice about finding a mate ...

Sexual holinessFor this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; … For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7) The New Testament is full of warnings against sexual immorality, and specifically against fornication in many places. The ancient world thought it wasn’t a big deal and much of our own world thinks the same – but the Bible says they’re wrong.

Friendship with honor
– When the apostle Paul counseled the young pastor Timothy, he told him to threat younger women in the church “as sisters, with all purity.” (1 Timothy 6:2) There is space for friendship between unmarried singles, with that proviso – to be careful of virtue and reputation, just like you would toward a beloved sibling.

For believers – Don’t date unbelievers. Marriage was created by God for all of humanity, and it is open for all, but the Bible warns against becoming too intimate with someone who doesn’t share your faith (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). This passage is not talking about when one spouse becomes a Christian after the marriage – look at 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 for that situation. But we shouldn’t start out with that sort of uneven spiritual relationship.

As for the rest of the advice …

So much of the other advice we hear has to be balanced against clear Scripture, culture, circumstance, and practical application. Much family life teaching comes from Old Testament examples and illustrations – wisdom that isn’t expressed as commandment. Regulations about marrying a captive of war, official recommendations for elopement, and examples of marrying two sisters – at the same time – are there in the narrative. They have to be understood in context!

So in all seriousness, we do encourage our young people to find friendships with the opposite sex, in all purity, and consider the question of deeper relationships and marriage with both godly caution and godly cheerfulness!

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