Colorful Chalk at Chalkboard

Ready to go back to school?

As the school year quickly approaches, I find myself going over endless mental checklists. Do I have the right math workbook for the 6 year old? Does my 6 year old remember the math facts we learned last year? What about my middle school child? Will they be able to stand against the pressures of their peer group? What about gym shoes? Does everyone have clothes that fit?

The list goes on and on, yet in the midst of all the planning and schedule, there are a handful of key things I feel sometimes get overlooked when we start to plan our school years. Really important things – things that can “make it or break it” for our kids.

  1. It’s not just about academics – We go through so much turmoil trying to figure out the proper academic course for our kids. But fast forward twenty years from now, and let’s say your son is married, has 2 children, and a dog. His marriage hits the rocks. You know, the fact that he aced chemistry is not going to be what saves his marriage. What is going to save the marriage are the principles you taught him about conflict resolution in relationships. It is going to be all the character building you poured into him that is going to help him the most right now.1 Is that to say academics are not important – no, not at all. But we need to remember that character training principles are just as important as the strictly academic stuff, and we need to make room for character training in our curriculum.
  2. New year, new peer influences – With a new year comes the opportunity for new friends. Mom and Dad, do your part to check out the new friends. Give opportunity for the new friends to hang out with your family. Make your house the place to hang out. Do what you can to check out the new friend’s family, too. The friend may be a perfectly great kid, but what does the friend’s brother get into on the computer while your child is at their house? And parents, don’t be afraid to say no to things like slumber parties or other activities that make you feel uncomfortable, especially if you haven’t had a chance to get to know the new friend better. And if you have to say no to a certain activity, give opportunity for an alternative that can be done under your supervision.
  3. Practice your faith at home – your family’s faith is what is going to ground your child. Whether your children go to public school, private school, or are homeschooled, they are going to need some grounding. There are so many influences poised to derail our children’s faith. The things you do as a family to regularly spend time with God and show a living, dynamic relationship with Him are going to help your children realize that not everything they see out in the culture is true. If nothing else, pray for your kids before they climb onto the school bus or head out the door to their violin lesson.
  4. Have a plan – Raising our kids to be pure in the midst of our culture is going to take some proactive planning. Your approach needs to be age-appropriate and intentional. This is the reason I wrote Against the Tide, a curriculum guide for parents that gives you a grade-by-grade approach to training your children in godly sexuality, Christ-like character, and healthy relationships. My team and I spend a lot of time reviewing the latest and greatest resources that come out on the subjects of sex education, character development, and parenting. Our very top recommendations make it into our curriculum guide, which we update every year. Check it out here.

May the Lord bless you as you prepare for the upcoming school year. Remember to pray and commit the time to Him – He certainly knows what our kids need better than we do!

1. This is a paraphrase of a concept I wrote about in my book, Guardians of Purity.

Last month I highlighted the specific traits that make moms excellent guardians of their children’s purity. This month, it’s time to encourage Dad as we celebrate Father’s Day. Dad, your role as the protector of your family is so important. God has designed your role to be perfectly suited as a guardian of your children’s purity. I’ve listed some specific traits I’ve seen many fathers demonstrate that I’d like to highlight here:

  1. Dads are role models – Dad, your kids are watching you. Your example is so powerful in the lives of your family members. Author Fred Stoeker is a good friend of mine. In his book, Hero, Fred relates a story specifically about being a role model in the area of self control and godly sexuality. After struggling many years with a pornography addiction, he looked into his young son’s eyes that saw every move he made and decided right then and there he was going to earnestly seek the Lord’s help to overcome his addiction. Decades later, his children are still following in the new footsteps this dad has laid down.
  2. Dads are good with technology – Almost every dad I know is at least somewhat tech savvy. What does this have to do with purity, you may ask? Plenty. Your kids need to be safeguarded from all the harmful influences available through modern technology. There is a way to put safeguards on their devices and to check up on what they do with those devices. This is where you come in big time, Dad. Even if you don’t know exactly how to work something, you are good at problem solving and will eventually figure it out. At a conference last week, I met a dad who had a brilliant idea to keep his kids off the internet after lights out. He plugs their internet router into one of those outlet timer devices in his bedroom. At the appointed time, the router shuts off and Dad does not need to worry about the internet anymore. Way to problem solve, Dad! My husband is a Facebook professional. I don’t think there is a single status update or picture my kids have posted that he has not commented on or liked. The man sees everything that goes on – and this is a very good thing.
  3. Dads know how to have fun – Have you ever noticed Dad’s presence brings fun? I’m not trying to be negative here on moms (because moms have a lot of opportunity to have fun with their kids, too), but sometimes I spend all day with my kids and we have a great time. But when Dad comes home, it’s like “YAY!” and everyone gets all excited. Including me. Dad, you have an amazing ability to connect with your family and bring joy. I cannot stress enough how important it is for families to connect. A strong sense of connection between kids and parents will guard them from so many lures of the enemy. Connecting is sometimes as simple as having dinner together consistently, going on walks together on the weekends, watching a movie together, going out for ice cream, anything. And the best part is, Dad, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. All it needs to be is you and your family. My husband is very busy with his job and he travels a lot. But when he’s home, my kids know it’s time for some dad dates. One child goes to the carwash with him. He buys a healthy snack at the gas station (you know, donuts and chocolate milk), and then they sit and chat as they go through the wash. Another child accompanies him to get his hair cut. It’s simple but doable for my husband. And my kids love it.
  4. You know how to express clear expectations – Men are good at being matter-of-fact. Which is a very good thing when it comes to issues of physical purity. For instance, after reading Interviewing Your Daughter’s Dates, my husband is very clear about how young men should treat my daughters if they are spending any amount of time together. He doesn’t leave anything to chance. He will tell the young man exactly what is ok to do while with my daughter and exactly what is not ok to do. Things like where hands and lips are allowed to go – and more importantly where they are not! Then he texts the young man several times while he is with my daughter just to check up and ask “are you being honorable with my daughter?”. Then he gets a report from my daughter afterward to make sure the stories match up.
This is Anne - a dear friend and one of our GOV advocates in Singapore.

This is Anne – a dear friend and one of our GOV advocates in Singapore.

Dates: February 19th – March 18th (plus a few other days here and there from January – April)

Where to even start with Singapore? This nation is starting to feel like our team’s third home! The friends we have in Singapore have become some of our dearest and closest. And opportunities to minister in this nation are opening up for us like never before. We are very much looking forward to all the things God has planned here.

Rose: The International Baptist Church in Singapore generously donated the use of a guesthouse for a big chunk of our time there. Because of their generosity, we were able to save a huge amount in lodging expenses. It was an incredible answer to prayer – as it is quite difficult to find housing for a large group in Singapore. We also had more ministry opportunities in Singapore than we have had in previous years. There was even one weekend where we facilitated 5 different events in 2 days. When we weren’t ministering, we were meeting with pastors and other ministry leaders to organize events for the future. The best rose in Singapore is all our friends – new and old – who have supported Generations of Virtue either through hosting or feeding our team members, helping us organize events, and just generally being a help to the work God is doing there.

The food in Singapore is incredible - even if it is a little more expensive!

The food in Singapore is incredible – even if it is a little more expensive!

Thorn: The price of food in Singapore is relatively high – it’s especially hard to find affordable healthy food there!

Spaghetti: We had quite a few entertaining taxi drivers. Including one who explained that Americans have wide, fat lips, which makes it possible for them to eat more than other people!

Testimony: A lady we met at a small group meeting had a God-story to share with us. She had started to see the need of parents to train their children to guard against all the pitfalls of culture and felt overwhelmed at the thought of where to start with that. She began praying for a ministry or resource that could help parents do this. A couple weeks later, she met the Generations of Virtue team at a small group meeting a friend invited her to. Excited, she realized this was the answer God was giving to her request. We were able to meet with this lady to talk about ways we can partner with her church in the future. She is also going to start a Raising a Pure Generation group at her church, using our DVD curriculum for parents. This is just one example of people God is bringing our way who have a heart for purity and equipping parents.

One of our entertaining taxi drivers. This gentleman was rather gracious as we maxed out his taxi with suitcases and books.

One of our entertaining taxi drivers. This gentleman was rather gracious as we maxed out his taxi with suitcases and books.

Did we mention Thailand is beautiful? An excellent place to rest and recoup after some intense ministry time!

Did we mention Thailand is beautiful? An excellent place to rest and recoup after some intense ministry time!


Dates: March 26th-April 8th

Rose: Our team enjoyed some much-needed R&R after a solid and intense 8 weeks of ministry in Asia.  We were also doing some strategic planning for future ministry in this region. Our team is planning on coming back to Asia next year around the same time, and we are already working with churches to plan events for next year.

Part of our health regimen - trying to shake off sickness with fresh fruit juice!

Part of our health regimen – trying to shake off sickness with fresh fruit juice!

Thorn: Another wave of sickness passed through our ranks at this stage of our trip. We tried several natural remedies to fight it off (IE: eating lots of mangos and pineapple), but in spite of our best efforts several of us were feeling a little under the weather.

Spaghetti: While holding an Easter service on the beach, we were greeted by strolling elephants. It is the first time any of us can claim attending an Easter service that had elephants!

Our Easter service on the beach was made complete with an elephant strolling by - that was a first for most of us!

Our Easter service on the beach was made complete with an elephant strolling by – that was a first for most of us!

We got to see the Great Wall! It was awesome - and really cold!

We got to see the Great Wall! It was awesome – and really cold!

Dates: March 18th-25th

Rose: We held a simultaneous parenting and teen culture shock event at Beijing International Christian Fellowship where twice as many people showed up as we were expecting. We were praying for increased attendance – and God certainly answered that prayer! Another big answer to prayer was two generous people who let us stay at their houses. We were able to fit our whole team in these two houses – which is quite rare to find so much space in Beijing!

This was Julie's packed-out parenting session. Meanwhile, in another room, we had a packed-out teen session.

This was Julie’s packed-out parenting session. Meanwhile, in another room, we had a packed-out teen session.


Thorn: It was so cold in Beijing! After being in Singapore and Southeast Asia (tropical climate) for several weeks, we nearly froze in China, where it was snowing. On the plus side, though, the snow actually helped the smog index go down while we were there. Beijing has a huge issue with smog and pollutants – we had been praying for God to help the smog situation and He certainly did! Our friends who have been living in Beijing for several years said we had some of the clearest days they had ever seen.

Our packed-out teen session involved toilet paper....lots of toilet paper.

Our packed-out teen session involved toilet paper….lots of toilet paper.

Spaghetti: During the teen seminar we facilitated at BICF, we had the teens come up with trendy outfits….made entirely out of toilet paper.

Imagine how tight this tuk-tuk (local taxi composed of motorbike and trailer) is with 5 people - yeah....we rode around Phnom Penh in this :)

Imagine how tight this tuk-tuk (local taxi composed of motorbike and trailer) is with 5 people – yeah….we rode around Phnom Penh in this :)

This was the first time our ministry team has been to Cambodia. Although we were only in-country for a few days, we had an awesome time ministering to a young and growing church there called New Life. God is definitely moving in Cambodia. We were surprised to learn that movie theaters have only been in Phnom Penh for a couple years. In many ways, it is a nation just starting to gain exposure to Hollywood and a lot of negative culture. It was so eye-opening for our team to see a culture that is increasingly being influenced by popular culture, yet not quite totally sold out to it. We felt like we were able to lay some groundwork here by talking to young people about the effects of the media and its influences – particularly in your beliefs about relationships. We can’t wait to go back!

Dates: March 25th-27th

Rose: Our team had the privilege of ministering to a group of university-age students – many of whom were new believers. We felt very honored to be some of the first people to tell this group about the incredible plan God has in mind for love and romance.

Tim persevering through some technical difficulties.

Tim persevering through some technical difficulties.

Thorn: It was incredibly hot in Cambodia! And few places had air conditioning.

Spaghetti: Fitting 5 team members in a tuk-tuk (a local taxi that is a motorbike with a trailer on the back) that really should have only fit 4.

What an awesome group of young people! We had a blast with them!

What an awesome group of young people! We had a blast with them!

Testimony: After sharing one night to the group of university students, a girl pulled Katherine aside and told her how much she could relate to the testimony she shared. Even though this was our first time in Cambodia, and Katherine and this girl came from very different backgrounds, it was clearly God’s spirit ministering to His people.

Reaching the nations in Dubai - we had a blast ministering to many expats there.

Reaching the nations in Dubai – we had a blast ministering to many expats there.

Dates: February 27th-March 4th

Rose: The expat church we ministered at in Dubai was home to people from all over the world. Included among its members were Filipinos, Indians, Africans, and middle easterners We were literally reaching the nations when we ministered there! We also had unbelievably good food – the staff and members of the expat church we ministered at spoiled us with all different kinds of good food and hospitality.

Thorn: After basing our team in Singapore, the time change to go to the middle east was a little rough. Not only did it feel 4 hours later compared to Singapore, we spent many late nights ministering and eating together! It was a blast, but a little hard to adjust to the change in time.

Do you see the cheesecake factory bag?

Do you see the cheesecake factory bag?

Spaghetti: Dubai is very multi-cultural and has several American restaurant chains. We were amused to see men in full Emirati garb – complete with turban and long white robes – walking out of a restaurant holding a Cheesecake Factory bag!

Good friends and good fellowship!

Good friends and good fellowship!

Julie speaking at Apostolic Generation Church in Jakarta - home to some very dear friends of ours. Pastor Indri Gautama and her staff graciously hosted us.

Julie speaking at Apostolic Generation Church in Jakarta – home to some very dear friends of ours. Pastor Indri Gautama and her staff graciously hosted us.

Day number 2 of country posting is all about Indonesia – one of our favorite places to minister!

Dates: February 13-18

Rose: we were apprehensive about bringing a lot of resources in to Jakarta, as we weren’t sure how interested people would be in purchasing them. At an event for parents at a private school, however, we sold almost all the books we brought in the first couple hours.

Thorn: We had a wave of sickness move through our ranks while in Jakarta, leaving some team members unable to minister at our events there. Fortunately we had a comfortable space for people to rest – we were thanking God for the apartment He provided for us!

We had a great time with the teens!

We had a great time with the teens!

Spaghetti: Literally en route to Jakarta, we were still trying to make arrangements for a ride for our whole team of 14 people (plus baggage – including a lot of books) from the airport to our lodging place. After contacting several people and thinking we had something worked out involving multiple cars and people who volunteered to drive us, imagine our surprise when a bus showed up to drive us from the airport! Thanks to a good friend we were able to fit our whole team plus baggage.

Most of the GOV team with leaders of Morning Star Academy in Jakarta.

Most of the GOV team with leaders of Morning Star Academy in Jakarta.

Testimony: Recently, Julie met up with a lady from Indonesia whose daughter attended a teen event our team facilitated in 2008 in Semarang, Indonesia. Looking back, this particular event was very rough for our team – from technical difficulties to transportation issues to some serious sleep fasting, we were feeling a little flustered by the time we got up to minister to this group of young people. But as Julie visited with this lady, we learned her daughter who attended the event is still walking out the message we gave the teens that day. Now in a university, she is committed to waiting for the husband God sends her and is intentionally guarding her purity of heart, mind, and body. We were so refreshed to hear about good fruit!
The bus that was the answer to many prayers and fit our whole team plus baggage!

The bus that was the answer to many prayers and fit our whole team plus baggage!

Our team is wrapping up an intense couple months of ministry here in Asia. As we look back on all God has done over the past several weeks, we wanted to share some of the highlights – ups, downs, and laughs – from our ministry trip. We’ll post a country a day from the 7 nations we visited while ministering in Asia and the Middle East. We’re going to borrow a family dinner time tradition and give you the roses (good things that happened), thorns (not-so-good things that happened) and spaghettis (funny things that happened) from each country. To kick off these series of posts, here are some quick stats from our trip:

  • Over 3,000 families reached with the message of purity
  • Over 40 events in 50 days
  • 7 countries visited: Singapore, Philippines, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates
  • Over 3,000 resources distributed to families in Asia and the Middle East

The Philippines

Dates: February 5 – 8th

Julie with head Pastor Manny Carlos (right) and Pastor Ado Bernard (left) of Victory Church in Manila.

Julie with head Pastor Manny Carlos (right) and Pastor Ado Bernard (left) of Victory Church in Manila.

Rose: While ministering to Victory church in Manila, we had the privilege of being hosted by Pastor Manny Carlos and his staff.  Several pastors and staff at this church were incredibly gracious and became fast friends as they ushered us around the city to our ministry events and appointments. There was more than one rose in the Philippines – including the wonderful time of ministry at Victory to a group of over 200 pastors and their spouses. Julie also spoke to a group of parents at a homeschool academy while the team facilitated a Culture Shock seminar for their teens. In conclusion, a bookstore in Manila picked up several copies of Julie’s book, Guardians of Purity, and a few other resources from Generations of Virtue, so now people will be able to find our resources there in the future.

After much trouble with airlines and shipping, we were so glad to be able to have resources for our events. These pastors were very blessed by them!

After much trouble with airlines and shipping, we were so glad to be able to have resources for our events. These pastors were very blessed by them!

Thorn: Just hours before flying to Manila, we found out we would have to pay incredibly high baggage fees to bring the resources we wanted to bring for our ministry events. We ended up having to pay for an extra plane ticket to be able to avoid the baggage fees. Unfortunately, this is just one example of the problems we face trying to bring hard-to-find resources into these countries.

Spaghetti: Upon arriving at a missionary guest house we were staying at in Manila, Julie opened her suitcase and was greeted by a family of cockroaches! Considering the trauma of the situation, we were doing pretty good to only wake up half the neighborhood with our screams :)

Pastor Sky and his wife, Fem, did a lot of ushering around the city - here's our team getting ready to head back to Singapore. We were sad to say goodbye!

Pastor Sky and his wife, Fem, did a lot of ushering around the city – here’s our team getting ready to head back to Singapore. We were sad to say goodbye!

Sandy Hook - AngelsSurrounded by Christmas trees and nativity scenes, it is difficult to imagine that America has just experienced one of the worst acts of violence ever. Now as we grieve with Newtown and try to assemble our families for Christmas, we need to begin the process of healing. Especially for our children, this is imperative. When we look at our precious kids, our hearts break for what this Connecticut community must be going through. But for the sake of our kids and the families in Connecticut, we need to walk the road of healing this wound.

How do we help them through this crisis? What can we do as parents to build their faith in God during this time and apply the balm of Gilead to their hearts and minds?

Comfort during difficult timesFor children younger than 7, it is so important for them to know that God is our great protector and only in trusting in Him is there safety. There will always be situations that are far beyond our ability to control, and this is where God our protector shields us. Verses from Psalm 91 are reassuring for this young age. They help children see that God is someone they can turn to and is a very present help in trouble. When my kids were younger, we read Psalm 91 everyday for a season, and with that they easily memorized it. We need to help them focus on God’s breadth and depth of love to come to their aid, whatever may happen, and assure them that they can never be separated from God’s love. (Romans 8:38-39)

For our tweens, they need affirmation that God is faithful to keep them safe, but also that He has a hope for their future. This a time in life, especially for 10-12 year olds, when their minds are being shaped for the future. They are setting their values, and parents need to reaffirm that God has a future and a hope for them. Verses like Jeremiah 29:11-13 will be helpful for them to underscore that God has a very specific plan and destiny for each one of them.  “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Also remind them that God loves them and has not abandoned them.  “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”(Duet. 31:8). God actually wants to use each one of them to bring His eternal hope to those around them that do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior yet.

For teens, life can be a rollercoaster of ups and downs, and it is critical that they know who they are in Christ. The world and our culture bombard them daily with lies that are enticing to believe. If they do not stand on the truth of God’s word in the midst of situations like this they will be derailed into depression, hopelessness and even suicidal thoughts. We need to build our teens up with affirmations and promises taken from Scripture: For God has not given a spirit of fear; but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). I have God living in me; greater is He Who is in me than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Communicate to your teens that they can be agents of God’s healing in those around them as they impart God’s love and hope. Help them to find God’s promises in Scripture that will encourage those around them. They can even bring verses to share at the dinner table with the rest of your family. Help them to know that in every situation they face, it is an opportunity for God to use them as arms of love and hugs to family, friends and coworkers.

The reason for the seasonThis is a season of the celebration of Christ’s birth. Jesus was born in a very unlikely and inconceivable place for a King – a stable. Taking God’s example, let’s invite Jesus Christ to invade our hearts with hope and promise in the inconceivable situations we face with our families.