Category archives: Family

Imitating My Father

by Daniel Hart

June 15, 2018

Courtesy of State Library of Queensland

My one-and-a-half-year-old son imitates everything I do these days. “Hey, babes,” I said as I greeted my wife a number of weeks ago. “Hey babes,” he garbled from his high chair a few seconds later. When I left a garbage bag next to the front door one day, he toddled over to it and began attempting to tie the drawstrings together, just as he had seen me do minutes before. Now, to my amazement, he is feeding himself with a spoon. It brings me great joy to watch him carefully position the spoon in his fingers so that he can angle it correctly into his bowl and scoop up food, which he then brings to his mouth with remarkable control and efficiency. It’s as if he saw someone else doing the same thing.

To see my son constantly imitate me is thrilling, humbling, and a bit frightening all at once. It’s exhilarating to know that another human sees me as such an influential presence and role model—I’m excited by the prospect of passing on the passion I have for reading, music, sports, and the knowledge and love of our Father up above. At the same time, I’m realizing more and more the extent to which my words and actions can influence his behavior, which means I really do need to watch what I say and do.

As Father’s Day approaches, I’m reminded of all the ways I imitated my own father when I was growing up. I’ll never forget the Saturday he brought me along with him to the local rec center to play pickup basketball when I was around 10. I watched in awe and a little trepidation at how quickly the much larger men moved and passed the ball. I was soon thrown into the mix, and found myself panicking as I tried to keep up. “Stay between your man and the basket,” my dad said. I could tell by the way he played that he took pride in playing good defense. Something clicked for me after that, and I’ve loved playing basketball ever since.

Then there was the beautiful sunny day my dad first showed me how to swing a golf club in our front yard. He explained the proper grip to take, how far away to stand from the ball, how to bring the club back, and the appropriate motion to take on the downswing. As I imitated his golf swing for the first time, I remember a feeling of comfort come over me. Playing golf has been a natural fit and a great source of fulfilment for me from that day on. 

What I am most grateful to my father for is his determination to keep his Catholic faith central in his life. He always wore a dress shirt and tie on Sundays while a large percentage of other men wore jeans and t-shirts. During Mass, he would always sing out the hymns with passion, while many other men in neighboring pews would stand silently with seeming indifference. The reverence he showed during Mass always struck me—his head was often bowed forward, his eyes closed, and his hands clasped together. After the gospel was proclaimed and the congregation took their seats, he would often remain standing for a beat longer than everyone else, as if to take an extra moment to let Christ’s words soak into his soul. I could feel the devotion emanating from within him during Mass, and it rubbed off on me.

The car ride home from Mass would usually entail a heartfelt commentary from him about the priest’s homily. Countless conversations at home about the nature of faith and reflecting on the life of the Holy Family are some of my fondest memories. There were also numerous times that I recall him witnessing to friends and acquaintances who did not share his faith. This has always been something I have greatly admired in him—there was an energy and joy that his faith gave him that he did not want to contain, compelling him to share it with others. There was also fearlessness in the indifference he had to what others might have thought of him. Seeing him take his faith so seriously clearly made a great impression on me. I can see now that it was through my imitation of my father at a young age that I first began to make the Catholic faith my own.

Every father knows that they set an example for their children, but what they perhaps don’t know is how much of an impact they can actually have on them. Part of the reason for this is that it is easy for parents to underestimate how observant their children are, which I have discovered with surprise at my own son’s remarkable ability to imitate me. I doubt that my dad knew the extent to which I was watching him as I grew up. What I have noticed is that this is a common experience. I remember numerous occasions where my sister and I have related our experience of a childhood memory, to which my parents have responded, “Really? You remember that? I didn’t think you noticed” or “That’s funny—I don’t remember it that way!” I have also seen this same interaction happen with my friends and their parents. I have no doubt that when I am advanced in years and I listen to my son’s experiences of childhood, I will be blown away.

In the first verse of 1 Corinthians 11, Paul states plainly: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” For me, this is the perfect encapsulation of what authentic fatherhood should be. God created us in such a way that the father of a family is to be the image of Himself—God the Father. We see this in how a father and mother welcome a newborn child—with love. The first experience of God’s love that a newborn encounters is through the love of their father and mother. As Paul says, the model that fathers need to follow is Christ, the Incarnation of God Himself. But since Christ no longer physically walks the earth, His followers must imitate Him in order to allow His presence to abide in the world. Paul stood as an amazing model for Christ in the early Christian church, and his example was imitated by his followers, who were then imitated by their followers, and so the faith was passed down through the generations. This mission has been passed down to all Christian fathers today—to imitate Christ in order to lead by example for the good of their children and for the good of everyone they encounter.

Thank you, Dad, for your example of Christian manhood. Your witness of faith is something I hope to pass down to my own son, just as you did for me. Happy Father’s Day!

Getting to Know Generation Z

by Marion Mealor

June 14, 2018

For years, researchers have been studying the worldview of millennials and how it differs from the generations before them. More recently, however, a new generation that is just entering their college years is stepping into the spotlight and gaining attention—Generation Z.  Who are they? The simple answer is that they are the 60-70 million people born between 1999-2015 (ages 2-18), making them the second largest generation in America. The more complicated answer, however, encompasses the identity of the most ethnically diverse generation alive today. What is shaping them? What is their worldview? How can we lead them? Based on research conducted by the Barna Group in partnership with the Impact 360 Institute, Jonathan Morrow answers these questions at an FRC Speaker’s Series event yesterday in Washington, D.C.

As Gen Z is growing up, it is vital to know and understand what is shaping them and if they will carry on the cultural and moral trends that defined Millennials. David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, asks a very significant question, “Is it possible that many churches are preparing young Christians to face a world that no longer exists?” This is something we must recognize in order to equip Gen Z for the challenges they are sure to face. The percentage of people with a biblical worldview has been in evident decline with each generation, from the Baby Boomers to Gen Z. According to Morrow, only four percent of Generation Z have a biblical worldview, making them the “post Christian” generation. It is important to evaluate whether we are preparing our young people for the world we wish we lived in or the world that actually exists.

Jonathan Morrow, the Director of Cultural Engagement at the Impact 360 Institute, offers some essential mindset shifts needed for leading Generation Z. This generation does not remember a time without interactive screens, and they exemplify the pros and cons of being “digital natives.” Many in this generation need to learn more about how to form relationships with people and how to engage in face-to-face conversations. Today, many young people feel unequipped to defend their faith because they lack the training and knowledge to do so. Morrow pointed out the importance of allowing them to test what they believe by being challenging in their faith, which will give room for it to grow.

Too often, the data of our lives is compartmentalized into different boxes, but one of the best gifts we can give Gen Z is showing them how all these isolated parts work together. Our faith should not start and end when we go to church on Sunday, but instead be integrated into everything we do. One of the positive things about Gen Z is that they have a lot of empathy. Our job is to help them channel that in the direction of virtue. They need to know why they believe what they believe so they can take a stand of faith no matter what they may face. In short, Gen Z needs more connections, more challenge, more training, more integration, and more critical thinking.

Understanding Generation Z is critical if we want to serve, lead, influence, and equip this next generation. The majority of these young people are still heavily influenced by parents, friends, teachers, and churches. They are driven by the desire for success in schooling and careers, and one of the best ways to reach them is vocational discipleship. We can be an ally to this “next, next generation” and continue to direct them to a biblical worldview. In the words of Morrow, “Listen and be present.” For more information and to learn more about Generation Z, be sure to view FRC’s Speaker Series event with Jonathan Morrow.

Marion Mealor is an intern at Family Research Council.

Remembering the Little Ones Up Above on Mother’s Day

by Daniel Hart

May 11, 2018

We shall find our little ones again up above.”

-St. Zelie Martin

Recently, the state of Nebraska passed a bill that is the first of its kind in the history of the United States. The bill allows parents who have lost a child due to miscarriage to apply for a commemorative birth certificate as long as a health care practitioner has verified the pregnancy. Unlike previous bills which mandated that the miscarried child must have been at least 20 weeks old, this bill has no minimum gestation period.

The beauty of this bill is that it publicly acknowledges the life of the unborn, no matter how short their time may have been with us. Miscarriage is an experience that is all too common but often not spoken about in our culture. It is estimated that 15-20 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. end in miscarriage. Anecdotally, it seems to me that this number is an underestimate—almost all of the couples I know who have multiple children have experienced at least one miscarriage, if not more.

Although these children are unseen and never encountered face to face, their passing has an unavoidable impact on families, especially mothers. As one woman recounts in Karen Edmiston’s book, After Miscarriage, “I could no more pretend that nothing has happened than I could pretend to be fine if my husband died.” This natural response underscores the deep wound that all mothers who have lost children experience. 

Many women may blame themselves or feel ashamed of their miscarriage, and may even be unaware of their grief. Holly Cave recounts one mother who confided to her:

I thought to grieve you had to have lost something you’d met – like a person that you had talked to – or you could grieve over a baby that maybe you’d held,” she tells me. “I didn’t know anything about grief… I didn’t know whether I should leave that to people who had lost actual people, not a very, very tiny baby that you’ve never met.”

As Edmiston explains, “Grief is necessary, and our children deserve the dignity of our mourning, the recognition of their infinite worth, the respect that is manifest in our grieving of their passing.” Grief is an affirmation of love. It is an affirmation that a child is missed. 

It is clear that our society needs to do a better job of honoring the grief of women who have experienced miscarriage. The Nebraska birth certificate bill is a great start in bringing a tragic event into the light in order to help facilitate healing for mothers and their families, especially by officially pronouncing a name for the unknown child. Although no parent should feel guilty if they have not thought of giving their child a name, this can be a beautiful way of affirming God’s gift of life. As Christians, we believe that the life in the womb of a mother possesses an eternal soul, and therefore, the child may possess a name. “Names are powerful,” Edmiston writes. “They identify us, shape us, connect us to one another… It is a small but very real gift you can give to the baby you were not able to see or embrace.”

On this Mother’s Day, let us remember and pray in a special way for all those mothers who have children whose lives ended before they were born—from miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion—or whose lives ended after birth, from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or other tragedy.

Here are some resources to help those who are grieving the loss of a child:

Faith-Based Adoption Providers Must Be Allowed to Serve Needy Children

by Family Research Council

April 26, 2018

In America today, over 400,000 children are languishing in foster homes or other institutions, waiting for a chance to be adopted by a loving family. To help solve this crisis, it is obvious that parents who want to adopt need all the help they can get in being matched with a child, which means they need an adoption agency that understands their needs.

Instead, adoptive families who are religious are finding themselves left out in the cold. In Massachusetts, Illinois, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and now Philadelphia, faith-based adoption agencies like Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services have been forced out of serving needy children because of their religious beliefs by progressive activist organizations like the ACLU, who demand that faith-based organizations affirm same-sex relationships or be barred from offering adoption services.

However, since there are plenty of adoption agencies who already serve same-sex couples, barring faith-based agencies from serving needy children is simply outrageous and will only compound the foster care crisis. As Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) pointed out at a recent Speaker Series event at FRC, Christian churches are the ones who started healthcare and adoption services in the U.S. to begin with, so to bar them from practicing their religious beliefs as they serve the public is counter-productive and benefits no one. As he succinctly observed, “If it’s the truth, it can’t hurt anybody.”

Because of the activism of extremists on the Left, legislation is clearly needed to protect faith-based adoption providers from discrimination. That’s where the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (CWPIA) comes in. CWPIA simply “ensures all available agencies can continue to serve the 440,000 children in the foster care system and the more than 100,000 awaiting adoption.”

Be sure to view Rep. Kelly’s full remarks here.

For a complete analysis of the benefits of CWPIA, click here.

Of Guns and Prodigal Fathers

by Peter Sprigg

March 16, 2018

After a school shooter murdered 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, the calls by liberals for new gun control laws were predictable, and received blanket coverage in the mainstream media.

Gun rights activists, in another unsurprising response, resisted efforts to blame the weapon rather than the killer, promoting instead ideas like arming teachers to defend their students.

I’ve been heartened to see that a number of pro-family conservatives have pointed out a third factor that must be addressed when examining violence in our society—the role of family structure, and specifically the negative effects of fatherlessness on boys and young men. The Parkland shooter (whose name I choose not to publicize) was fatherless, just like many other perpetrators of mass murders. Yet most of the media have not focused on this issue.

Susan L. M. Goldberg was one of the first to raise the issue, at PJ Media. Former Sen. Rick Santorum also raised it in a CNN interview. Unfortunately, one statistic that was cited multiple times turned out to be unverified (at this writing, it lives on in a headline at Patheos: “Of the 27 Deadliest Mass Shooters, 26 of Them Had One Thing in Common.”) Paul Kengor, a scrupulous scholar from Grove City College, apologized for having cited this number in a piece in Crisis Magazine. After studying the available (albeit incomplete) data more closely, Kengor said that

[W]e found maybe four or five of the 27 shooters that we could definitively conclude (without doubt) had been raised in an intact family, or a family that included the biological dad at home, or a biological father who was consistently at home… .

At this point, however, what is clear is the vast majority of shooters came from broken families without a consistent biological father throughout their rearing and development. Very few had good, stable, present dads.

(I would also note that the CNN list of the “deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history,” starting in 1949 and apparently first compiled in 2013, has now been updated to include 34 incidents, not 27. Only four of those, however, have been in schools, and another three at colleges.)

What is perhaps more compelling than the anecdotal evidence from the most extreme events is the overall data regarding the link between fatherlessness and crime and violence. Here is edited data I accessed from the National Fatherhood Initiative in 2015:

Father Factor in Emotional and Behavioral Problems

      • Children born to single mothers show higher levels of aggressive behavior than children born to married mothers. Source: Journal of Marriage and Family, 2007.

 . . .

Father Factor in Crime

      • A study of 109 juvenile offenders indicated that family structure significantly predicts delinquency.
        Source: Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 2000.
      • [H]igher social encounters and frequent communication with nonresident biological fathers decreased adolescent delinquency.
        Source: Child Development, 2007.
      • [A] more positive father-child relationship predicts a reduced risk of engagement in multiple first risky behaviors. The positive influence of the father-child relationship on risk behaviors seemed to be stronger for male than for female adolescents.
        Source: Journal of Family Issues, 2006.
      • [I]f the number of fathers is low in a neighborhood, then there is an increase in acts of teen violence. Source: Journal of Marriage and Family, 2005.
      • In a study of INTERPOL crime statistics of 39 countries, it was found that single parenthood ratios were strongly correlated with violent crimes. Source: Cross-Cultural Research, 2004.

NFI also offers these graphics as free downloads:

 

 

An infographic from the National Center for Fathering reports the following:

Fatherless children are:

  • 11 times more likely to have violent behavior
  • 20 times more likely to be incarcerated

and:

  • 70% of adolescents in juvenile correctional facilities come from fatherless homes
  • 60% of rapists were raised in fatherless homes

It’s clear we have a problem of what we might call “prodigal dads” in our society. (Writer Doug Mainwaring used that term in a piece last year in Public Discourse, “May I Please Speak to My Daddy?”)

More powerful, though, than statistics may be a three-minute film produced recently by students at Gordon College, an evangelical school in Massachusetts (full disclosure: my son is one of those students). If you want to illustrate the pain of fathers and children who are separated, consider sharing “Prodigal.”

Women Speak: A Panel Discussion on Real Issues that Women Face Today

by Family Research Council

March 9, 2018

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8th, FRC hosted a panel discussion with women staffers to discuss a variety of issues that women face today.

In a wide-ranging and animated conversation, topics included how the modern feminist agenda intentionally excludes conservative women, the trials and joys of being a stay-at-home mom, the challenges and opportunities of being a working mom, the value of flexibility in workplace policies, the role that husbands have in empowering and enabling their wives to achieve their goals, how the #MeToo movement has exposed ugly realities about the dynamics of power and a Hollywood culture of self-indulgence, and more.

Some fascinating questions are explored here. Can women have it all—both at home and at work? Is personal identity more important than ideals? Can society expect men to treat women with respect when the reality of biological sex itself is being challenged? How can the conservative movement and Christian ministry do more to give women opportunities to succeed and to lead? Don’t miss this enlightening and candid discussion.

Gentle Strength: Why I’m Not a Feminist

by Cassidy Rich

March 6, 2018

The feminist movement is in full swing and nothing seems to be stopping it. Women are breaking away from the “chains” of oppression and showing the world what they can do. In a slew of my college classes I heard young women talk about how they do not want to be controlled by a man or submit to their husband. Being strong, independent, and successful in the corporate world seems to be what defines women today. Interning in Washington, D.C. and personally witnessing the Women’s March made me realize this in ways I didn’t want to. Thousands of women (and even some men) walked the streets of our nation’s capital holding vulgar and obscene posters that supposedly showed strength and independence, but instead made my stomach turn while also saddening my heart.

With all the gender equality lingo being thrown around these days, I was surprised to hear a girl in my Women’s History class say, “I know that some women look down upon this, but I want to be a stay-at-home mom.” Hearing those words come out of her mouth with such conviction was a breath of fresh air. So often, women want to define themselves by showing how they can do just as good of a job as men, if not better. But what if women were designed to do what men cannot do in order to complement one another and bring glory to God? What if women were created to do something different and special that men do not even have the ability to do? What if all women need to do to show their greatness is embrace the role God gave them, even if society may look down on it?

So what does God say about the role of women? Ephesians 5:22 says, “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” We must recognize that this verse is often taken out of context, and feminists use it as a way to bash the Bible. They seem to think that this verse says they shouldn’t stand up for themselves and have to do whatever their husband demands. This passage is actually much more nuanced than that, for the following verses instruct husbands to love their wives “just as Christ loved the Church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.” Accordingly, God holds men specifically to this standard, as He is instructing husbands to love their wives perfectly just as His love is flawless. Obviously, this is impossible because we are sinful human beings who will never, ever be able to do anything perfectly. God says that He wants husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church because that is what He wants husbands to strive towards. God gave husbands a target to aim at so they know what God expects of them. Women who are married to godly, righteous men willingly submit to their husbands because they know that their husbands love them well, treat them with respect, and honor them. My dad is the most wonderful example of this kind of love.

I’m not a feminist and I don’t plan on ever becoming one. I believe women should have the right to an education and the freedom to pursue their dreams, but I don’t agree with women demeaning men, not taking responsibility for their actions, and trying to show how they can do a man’s job for no other reason than to cut men down. God created men and women equally and doesn’t look at one gender more favorably than the other, but God created men to be the head of the family. My dad demonstrated this beautifully during my younger years and continues to do so to this day. He leads my family with the gentle strength that God talks about in Ephesians 5. My dad loves my mom as Christ loves the church because he listens to my mom’s opinions, suggestions, and ideas and takes them into consideration. He tirelessly serves my family to make sure we have everything we need, and then some. He is not perfect by any means, but this is one of the things I love most about my dad. He admits when he is wrong, asks for forgiveness, and strives to do better. As I heard more about feminism in my college years, I thought for a while as to why I didn’t subscribe to what I was hearing. When I came home from class one day, it suddenly dawned on me.

I am not a feminist because my dad plays his God-given role as a husband and father. My father shows me unconditional love, supports me in pursuing my dreams, and tells me when he thinks one of my ideas is simply a bad idea. When I was younger and incredibly stubborn, my dad constantly reminded me to submit to his and my mom’s authority. I didn’t want to because I thought my parents were dumb and oblivious, but now that I’m an adult I realize that my dad was trying to prepare me to make my faith my own and submit to God. Through my dad’s loving authority and gentle strength, God showed me that submitting to His authority results in a fulfilled life. It’s not an easy life and there are plenty of days when I don’t want to submit to God’s authority because it’s not what I want. I have to remind myself that it’s not about me, but instead it’s all about Him and His glory.

In this fallen world there is unfairness, and we may wonder why God has allowed things to be a certain way. But if we had all the answers, we wouldn’t need Him. He created us to reflect His glory and He has a plan that is truly greater than anything we can imagine. By following in His gentle strength I know I am loved, cared for, wanted, and accepted. That’s what women in the feminist movement desire, anyway. They are trying to find acceptance and equality but are searching down all the wrong avenues. As Katy Perry sang in her “Unconditionally” song: “Acceptance is the key to be, to be truly free….” It’s by surrendering to Christ that we find true acceptance and freedom, for He is the restorer of all things and is the standard of gentle strength.

Receiving the Love That We Need: How to Find Healing from Past Wounds

by Family Research Council

February 28, 2018

The following is based on a talk given by a priest who works with married and engaged couples in the Archdiocese of Washington.

When we find ourselves frustrated with our own shortcomings and how they are affecting our loved ones, we often think we know what we need to change about ourselves, but the Lord usually has other plans. There are deeper wounds he wants to get to first because they are much more serious.

One example of this in Scripture is the men who bring the paralytic to Jesus in Mark’s Gospel. They think they know what needs to be healed in the man—his paralysis. But the first thing Jesus says to the paralyzed man is: “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus knows that the interior wounds the man has are the first things that need to be healed, because they are preventing him from receiving Christ’s divine life and entering into his eternal reward.

Just as a doctor needs to check a patient’s symptoms to diagnose the problem, so to do interior wounds need to be diagnosed to figure out the source of our unhappiness.

A lot of the spiritual wounds we have come from our mother and father. Whether they intended to or not, our parents most likely did things that negatively affected us and can remain with us the rest or our lives. For example, if your parents are perfectionists, this can affect your self-esteem because you may think that nothing you do will ever be good enough. If you’ve been abandoned by them or have felt like they have abandoned you, you will most likely be especially anxious when you feel like someone is abandoning you or not tending to your needs later in life. If you have been abused by a family member in any way, this could affect your ability to be intimate with a loved one later in life, both physically and emotionally. All of these things can leave lasting wounds that can bubble up in other ways later in life if they are not dealt with properly.

To Find Healing, Focus on Causes, Not Symptoms

If we still carry some lingering resentment from something that was said or done to us when we were younger, this can affect how we treat our spouse and children.

If we get angry or impatient easily or find it difficult to forgive, it’s important to ask: why? Why do we feel this way? God doesn’t make us this way. God doesn’t create us to be angry, bitter, resentful, etc. It is obvious that part of the reason is the effects of sin, but part of it is also what has been done to us. Wounds from the past still affect us today. People often say that they get impatient or angry easily—this could very well be from a sensitivity to something from the past that has not been healed. It’s akin to having a cut on your arm—if pressure is applied to it, you will probably howl with pain.

These kind of wounds are often passed down from generation to generation. What are some negative memories of your mom or dad? How did it make you feel? Have you forgiven them? Is there still resentment because of that experience or something else? How has that wound affected your marriage or your parenting? Are there other wounds from your past that affect how you treat your spouse or your children? Have you ever spoken about this with your spouse?

Two of the greatest sources of tension in marriage are bad communication and unmet expectations. Consider if there is any resentment in your marriage about anything. This is a door that the devil uses to get in to destroy marriages and bring division.

So how do we find healing? We first need to bring everything to the Lord with complete honesty, bluntness, and even tears, and this is perfectly okay. Jesus is the healer of all our wounds. He is the one who has created us, so he knows what we need at the deepest level.

Some of you may find this difficult if you believe that God the Father is a judgmental, perfectionistic, hard-driving father. If this is the case, you’ll never want to be near him. If you’ve felt like you’ve never been loved by your dad, for example, it will be much harder for you to experience the love of our Heavenly Father.

It is best not to focus on the symptoms of a wound but instead to focus on the cause of them. It does no good to try and bury them further and say, “It’s in the past; it will go away.” This doesn’t work—it will only make the wound worse because then we aren’t getting to the root of the problem. Covering a wound up with bandages may stop the bleeding, but it doesn’t mean the underlying problem is healed.

Talking About the Past Is Painful, but Necessary

Explicitly forgiving our parents (or any other family member) for hurting us and telling them how we feel is very difficult, but it is also very necessary. It’s important to remember that forgiving our loved ones does not depend on them—it is an act on our part of freedom. If we don’t forgive somebody who has hurt us, it’s like carrying a heavy object around with us wherever we go, and it will affect everything we do—resentment must simply be let go of. It’s important to formally renounce resentment and unforgiveness through prayer.

When addressing past wounds with your parents, keep in mind that it will probably not be helpful to immediately overwhelm them with all the things you felt you were wronged by in childhood. Act with prudence in bringing up this sensitive topic. If you specifically address this in prayer beforehand, the Lord will show you if there is something that really needs to be addressed personally with your parents. If you don’t feel comfortable at first, you may gradually sense the freedom that you want to have (that you don’t have at the moment) to be able to talk about a wound with them in the future.

As for your own children, don’t let yourself become overly worried about how your wounds are affecting them. Most people, especially kids, have the ability to forgive you for a wrong you may have done, especially if you ask for forgiveness soon after the incident occurred. This kind of conscientious approach will go a long way toward insuring that our shortcomings will not affect our family with any regularity.

God Sees Us As We Are: His Infinitely Lovable Children

It is vitally important to renounce the lies that we often hear in our heads—“you’re not good enough, strong enough, pretty enough, smart enough, hardworking enough,” etc. They’re all lies from the devil, who is the father of lies. That’s a way the devil uses to get into our lives. When we accept and believe the lie, then the devil has a foothold.

We must renounce these lies because God did not create junk. God created us to be infinitely lovable and extraordinary. That’s how we are in his eyes. That’s how he sees us right now. It’s like how we look at our children. We know they are not perfect, but we nevertheless look at them with great love and love them as they are. God loves us into being where we need to be.

Think of the woman at the well in John’s Gospel who had five husbands who didn’t love her—that doesn’t say anything about her worth. Jesus responded to her with patience and love, showing to her her true worth in his eyes. We have to agree that we are who God says we are and not as other people try to define us as being.

Receiving the Love That We Need

Getting good spiritual direction from a trusted pastor or priest is key to finding healing. Please note that this should not be seen as a substitute for getting counseling/psychological help, if necessary. We must remember that any wound takes time to heal.

Our spouses play a key role in healing as well. Hearing a kind word from our spouses—something from the heart that isn’t flattery or said to get something—can be very healing. At the same time, it’s vital to have permission to be direct (in a loving way) with your spouse if there is an issue in the relationship that needs to be addressed.

What all of this really boils down to is receiving the love that we need. Never take that for granted—the need we all have to hear something good about ourselves. Jesus has plenty of good things to say if we go to him in prayer—give the Lord the chance to tell you what he thinks. When we have the courage to take off the bandages and ask the Lord’s help to see what’s there (with the help of a spiritual director/counselor if necessary), prudently but candidly discuss what we find with our families, and offer forgiveness where needed, the Divine Physician will reward our efforts by healing even our deepest wounds.

Billy Graham’s Stand on Religious Liberty, Life, and Marriage and Family

by Family Research Council

February 21, 2018

Over the course of his 58 years in public ministry and well into his retirement years, Dr. Billy Graham, “America’s Pastor,” did not hesitate to stand up for religious liberty, life, and marriage and family.

Religious Liberty

  • In the founding era of our country, it was not organized religion but personal faith that brought focus and unified the early leadership—maybe an unspoken faith in God, and certain values that came with that faith. So in that sense, we cannot discount, in my judgment, religious faith in politics.” (Newsweek – Aug. 13, 2006)
  • Americans have always fought for freedom. This is why America was founded — to worship the one true God openly with no fear of tyranny. Our early fathers led our nation according to Biblical principles … Our country is turning away from what has made it so great, but far greater than the government knowing our every move that could lead to losing our freedom to worship God publicly, is to know that God knows our every thought; He knows our hearts need transformation.” (Newsmax – Oct. 5, 2013)

Life

  • I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life…” (Los Angeles Times – Oct. 21, 2012)

Marriage and Family

  • I believe the home and marriage is the foundation of our society and must be protected… The Bible is clear—God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.” (USA Today – May 3, 2012)
  • The greatest career is being a mother … And if you’re interviewed sometime on television or Phil Donahue, say ‘I’m a housewife and a mother’ and be proud of it.” (The Oklahoman – Oct. 27, 1983)

  • Many people enter into a marriage without realizing this is for keeps. It’s to be permanent. The tension is normal, but it can result in strength if you take those [problems] to God.” (The Oklahoman – Oct. 27, 1983)

How the New Tax Bill Helps Families

by Andrew Guernsey

January 4, 2018

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1 “TCJA”), signed into law by President Donald Trump on December 22, 2017, provides numerous provisions that benefit working families.

Child Tax Credit

The Child Tax Credit (CTC) has a positive impact on individual families and the economy as a whole and helps parents bear the costs of raising their children.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increases the CTC for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it) by:

  • Increasing the CTC to $2,000 for children under 17;
  • Making the CTC refundable up to $1,400 (indexed for inflation) for low-income working families based on
    • 15 percent of earned income in excess of $2,500; or
    • (if greater) the amount of payroll taxes in excess of the earned income tax credit, for a taxpayer with three or more qualifying children;
  • Removing the CTC marriage penalty for the income phase-out, and increasing the income threshold to $200,000 for single filers and $400,000 for married couples filing jointly;
  • Providing a $500 non-refundable Family Care Credit credit for dependents who don’t receive the CTC; and
  • Requiring a qualifying child to have a Social Security Number for a taxpayer to claim the CTC

Obamacare’s Individual Mandate Penalty

Starting in 2019, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminates Obamacare’s individual mandate penalty. This helps many working families obtain relief from being forced into an Obamacare health insurance plan. Repealing the individual mandate penalty also allows individuals to forgo purchasing coverage if doing so violates their conscience. This is especially relevant for individuals who live in the states where there are few or no pro-life health insurance plans that exclude coverage of abortion.

Marriage Penalties

Marriage penalties exist in the tax code and also in welfare programs. The penalty generally applies in the tax code when a tax deduction or credit applies to single and married persons based on income, but a married couple is eliminated from receipt of the benefit making less than 200 percent of an eligible single person’s income.

Income Tax Brackets

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has no marriage penalties for five of seven tax income brackets for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it).

  • Marriage bonus in the 22 percent bracket. Married couples filing jointly have a 2 percent lower rate than single filers for the first $25,000 they make over $140,000 in taxable income. This is a maximum $500 bonus, decreasing income taxes by up to 1.41 percent.
  • Small marriage penalty in the 32 percent bracket. Married couples filing jointly have an 8 percent higher income tax rate than single filers for the first $5,000 they make over $315,000 in taxable income. This is a maximum $400 penalty, increasing income taxes by up to 0.61 percent.
  • Large marriage penalty in the 37 percent bracket. Married couples filing jointly have a 2 percent higher income tax rate than single filers for the first $400,000 they make over $600,000 in taxable income. This is a maximum $8,000 penalty, increasing income taxes by up to 2.59 percent.

Alternative Minimum Tax

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduces marriage penalties for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it) by removing the marriage penalty for the AMT income phase-out ($500,000 for single filers and $1 million for married couples filing jointly). TCJA retains the marriage penalty for the AMT exemption ($70,300 for single filers and $109,400 for married couples filing jointly).

  • Due to the marriage penalty in the AMT exemption,
    • Married couples filing jointly are taxed at 26 percent higher rate than single filers for the first $31,200 they make over $109,400 in taxable income. This is a maximum $8,112 penalty, increasing the AMT by up to 22.19 percent.
    • Married couples filing jointly have a 2 percent higher AMT tax rate than single filers for the first $31,200 they make over $295,700 in taxable income. This is a maximium $624 penalty, increasing the AMT by up to 0.71 percent.

Other Marriage Penalty Provisions

  • Retains a marriage penalty for the $10,000 State and local income tax (SALT), property tax, and/or sales tax deduction, which is equal in amount for single filers and married couples filing jointly. This is a maximum $3,700 penalty.
  • Removes the marriage penalty in the Child Tax Credit phase-out ($200,000 for single filers, $400,000 for married couples filing jointly).
  • Fails to address the marriage penalty for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Alimony Deduction

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanently repeals the alimony deduction, which subsidizes divorce. A divorced couple can often achieve a better tax result by receiving a tax break for payments between them than a married couple can. Removing the alimony deduction restores equitable treatment for divorced and married couples’ expenses for child support.

529 Education Savings Accounts

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanently allows 529 education savings accounts to be used for up to $10,000 per year per child for K-12 tuition expenses at an elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school.

529 plan contributions have tax-free earnings and are exempt from the annual federal gift tax if under $14,000 for that year ($28,000 for married couples filing jointly). Contributions to 529 plans receive significant tax breaks in many states. Previously, the 529 plans were only allowed to be used for higher education related expenses.

Death Tax

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act doubles the tax exclusion from the estate tax, also known as the “death tax,” thereby shielding from taxation the first $11.2 million (indexed for inflation) of bequeathed assets. This provision applies for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it).

The death tax is double taxation that handicaps families, and particularly family-owned businesses, by imposing heavy and burdensome taxes on bequeathed assets. Families often work as a unit to build their small businesses, but when a parent dies with the intention of leaving his or her small business to the children who helped build it, that transfer of assets is often taxed at such high rates that the business cannot continue operating and pay the government, causing the grieving family to close the business’s doors.

Adoption Tax Credit

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act retains the adoption tax credit in current law, which is currently a $13,570 non-refundable credit per eligible child (with a phase out for wealthier individuals). According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, in 2015 over 111,000 children were waiting to be adopted. Maintaining the adoption tax credit in current law helps adoptive children find loving families.

Standard Deduction and Charitable Giving

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act repeals the deduction for personal exemptions, including the taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse, and any dependents. The legislation consolidates the personal exemption for the taxpayer and taxpayer’s spouse into a larger standard deduction. The standard deduction is substantially increased from $6,300 to $12,000 for individuals and from $12,700 to $24,000 for married couples (and surviving spouses), giving working parents more take-home pay to provide for their families. The legislation consolidates the personal exemption for children and dependents into the expanded child tax credit and a new family tax credit to care for non-child dependents. However, increasing the standard deduction could harm charitable giving, including to nonprofits and churches, since fewer people will likely itemize.

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