God Is Calling Us To Grow Up

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Endure Hardship Well
Learning to stay relational and continue to act like the person God made me to be during times of struggle and suffering. We examine the five levels of maturity, why most adults are stuck at infant or child maturity, and what God can do about it.

Last in a series using biblical principles and brain science based on “Rare Leadership,” by Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder.

Return To Joy: Key To Positive Emotional Health

What is the strongest indicator of emotional health? Our ability to quiet ourselves quickly during emotional upset or…Return to joy

This is the third in a four part series on what it means to be a RARE leader. We are combining biblical principles with the latest brain science, based on the book Rare Leadership, by Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder.
When we develop four uncommon habits to increase our emotional maturity (EQ) we increase trust, joy, and engagement with the people we live with. The people we work with.

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Why Crushing Legos is Bad Parenting #0571 Jennifer Clark Tinker

Love is patient.

1 Corinthians 13:4


Confession: whenever I see my son’s Legos on the floor I have the urge to step on them and crush them underfoot just to make the point that he needs to pick up his toys. I’m pretty sure that’s terrible parenting, but the thought goes through my head. Every. Single. Time.

Is my 10 year-old son old enough to take responsibility for his own toys? Of course he is. It’s just that angrily destroying his belongings isn’t the best way to instill a greater sense of responsibility in him.

There’s a term for behaviors like crushing Legos just to teach a lesson. It’s called being “passive-aggressive” which basically means you don’t address the person or problem directly, but you do or say something indirect that undermines the person or situation.

Passive-aggressive behavior is never a good idea in any relationship–parenting included. Here’s why:

  1. It isn’t actually addressing the problem in a way that is likely to get the desired result.
  2. Quite often, it is so subtle as to get no result.
  3. In many cases passive-aggressive behavior makes the situation worse.
  4. It just isn’t nice.

So, if it is such a bad idea, then why do I want so badly to crush those crazy bricks to bits? Well, honestly, because it is easier to avoid addressing it head on. Because really, the problem is bigger than just a few Legos left out.

You know the old adage, “a place for everything and everything in its place”? Well, there isn’t actually a place for everything–let alone all the Legos–in our home.

There are a lot of reasons why there isn’t a place for all the Legos.

  1. My son’s room is still half-filled with boxes from our move two years ago.
  2. It is hard to find good Lego storage methods that work for us.
  3. My husband and I probably let our son have too many Legos and it is hard to find places for that many.

If you’ll notice, all of those problems are due to factors that are at least in part my responsibility. So, to actually address the Legos left on the floor problem, I would have to take responsibility.

It’s important to me as a parent to own my responsibility in the situation. It would be way easier just to get angry and blame and shame my kid for the problem. But it’s not fair and it’s not nice and it doesn’t solve anything.

I’d love to be able to sit here and tell you that since I know I’m part of the problem, I am going to mend my ways and be part of the solution. But really, really, really, clutter just makes me want to run and hide.

I hope to make progress over time and work with my son to find solutions, but I will be patient with him as I need him to patient with me.

It’s not easy being the grown up.

But I am the adult, I am the parent! I don’t want to be a bad parent, so even if I’m not the best at all the details, I won’t actually crush the Legos when I find them on the floor.


Disclaimer: No Legos were crushed in the digitization of the photograph that appears with this post. It was staged for illustration purposes only.


Homeschooling Pros & Cons #0559 Jennifer Clark Tinker

We’ve been homeschooling our 10-year-old son since he was in the 2nd grade (he was in public school for Kindergarten and 1st grade). Yesterday a ministry colleague asked me about the pros and cons of homeschooling. I thought it was an excellent question and thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts more widely.

Overall the pros outweigh the cons for me, which is, of course, why I’ve chosen to homeschool. Still, I’ll try to present both sides as best I can.


  • Individualized Study Plan: We get to tailor everything to our kid and his learning style and unique interests. If he excels in something we can let him soar in that area. If he is “behind” in some areas we can decide how/when/if we want to get him “caught up.”
  • Flexible Time Off: We enjoy the flexibility homeschooling gives our family. Especially since we’re a ministry family and we work on weekends and holidays, we enjoy having a weekday off together as a family and getting to take vacations when we choose.
  • Quantity of Time: Quite simply, we get more time with our kid. Our window of time with him is so short before he will be all grown up and out of the house. Homeschooling gives us lots of opportunities to spend time with him, bond with him and make memories with him.
  • On the Scene: I’m aware from my own experience as a public school kid how very much goes on in a school day that parents never know about and kids don’t think to tell parents about. Some of this is trivial, inconsequential stuff, but sometimes there are incidents at school that can shape a kid for better or worse. As a home educator I am on the scene with my kid and more likely to get to be in loving, parental conversation with him about what’s going on in his life.
  • The Good and the Ugly: When my son was in public school there was a lot of homework—in K & 1st grade! Our battles over his homework were the worst kind of ugly. I figured if I was going to have to spend a couple of hours fighting with him about schoolwork anyway, I might as well bring him home so I can can enjoy the fun parts of the school day too.
  • Groups: We have enjoyed some extraordinary bonding with other homeschool families through homeschool groups we’ve joined. Our son and we have all formed/reinforced lasting friendships through these groups.


  • Planning: It’s not difficult, but it does take effort to decide on curriculum and approach to homeschooling. There are more options than ever before for home education and it takes time to research the choices and make a decision.
  • Legal Considerations: Homeschooling rules and regulations vary by state. Home educators are responsible for knowing and following their state’s specifications. For example, some states require home educators to submit an educational plan each year, some require annual assessment.
  • Balancing Act: As a homeschooling mom who also works at home, scheduling time for his work and mine gets tricky. I try to take a big picture view on his educational goals so I don’t make myself crazy if I need to take a break from his schooling to meet a deadline of mine.

This list is strictly my opinion. Different homeschool families will have slightly different pros and cons about their experience. Overall, we have been very happy with our decision to do school at home.

How are you choosing to provide for your child’s education? What are the pros and cons of your choice?

Why I’m Ambivalent about Mother’s Day #0532 Jennifer Clark Tinker

Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday. I’m a mom–it’s my day! So why do I have such a hard time getting into it?

Okay, in fairness to all the other moms out there, my own mom, included (Hi Mom, Thanks for always reading & listening to my work!), Mother’s Day isn’t just my day. But the part of it that is about me has always come with a complex set of emotions.


Infertility Angst

I am a mom now, but it took a long time to have my one and only child because of my history of infertility. And despite doing nothing to prevent pregnancy since my son was born 10 years ago, I still have only been able to have one child. It’s a reality sometimes called “secondary infertility” which is when you already have one or more children and then experience infertility.

I go back and forth about whether I want more kids. Mostly I do.

But then I daydream about my other goals in life and feel like I could be okay without going through the hands-on baby & toddler stages one more time. I’m starting to get somewhere with my writing and speaking and it takes time to churn out the words, prepare talks, and make connections–having another small child would make it harder to fit it all in.

But I can’t help it…I want another baby. I don’t know how I would make it all work. We’d definitely need some more hands on deck here at Life & Liberty. And I would have to choose wisely the writing and speaking opportunities that I accept.

But I want another baby.

But it’s not happening. And that takes me to a painful place. I ache to think I won’t be able to hold another baby in my arms, to expand my family.

I know, I know, I should be grateful that I have one child. And I am. I really am. You can’t know how much I am. I can’t imagine my life without him.

But I also pictured having a few more kids around too.

The pain of secondary infertility is different from the pain of one who has no child at all, but it is still real for those of us in this place. So, I often approach Mother’s Day with a hint of lament–mourning that I don’t have the big family I always thought I would have.


Stupid Depression

In addition to my history of infertility, I also have a history of depression. And that also factors into why Mother’s Day is hard for me.

Before I was able to have my son, that time of infertility was very dark for me. I spent a lot of time being mad at God, and being mad at my body.

The most difficult questions for me spiritually were about God’s will as it relates to me being a mom. I had always thought I would have a lot of kids, but then found that I couldn’t. I wondered whether God was purposefully keeping me from having children because I wasn’t good enough to be a mom.

I worked through those questions with a lot of prayer and supportive Christian community and eventually was able to hear God’s comfort that he loved me no matter what and that he was not punishing me with my infertility.

In many ways, this assurance of God’s love in my life was as much a miracle as the birth of my son.

Fast-forward to when my son was born and I hit rock-bottom with postpartum depression. I struggled to bond with my son in those early months and I felt tired all the time.

I felt awful for not being more enthusiastic about mothering. And it was as if all of my worries about not being good enough to be a mom were coming true.

I emerged from the worst of the postpartum depression with the help of medication, therapy, and an amazing husband.

But my ongoing issues with depression continue to mess with my head and my confidence in my parenting still wavers.

I know that comparing myself to other moms is a trap and there is no such thing as a perfect mom. But with all the superlatives and poetic expressions extolling the virtues of mothers on Mother’s Day, I am left feeling like I don’t actually deserve to call this day mine.

See how stupid depression is?


Thanking You Kindly

All the same, this is my day because, well, I am a mom.

And I rejoice that I have my sweet son despite my infertility. I am a mom because of him.

And I know my family doesn’t expect me to be super mom and they love me for exactly who I am. In my better moments I like to think that I am the best possible mom for my particular kid.

My depression sometimes makes it easier to give than to receive praise. Sometimes I have to consciously make myself say “Thank You” when someone says something nice to me.

So, as Mother’s Day approaches, despite my doubts about whether I deserve to be celebrated, I plan to be grateful for the day.


Small town Texas Christian speaker, writer, and all-around creative type, Jennifer Clark Tinker is a Lutheran Deaconess, mom to a son, wife to a Lutheran pastor and emerging communication talent. Jennifer is our “Journalist of the Heart” and Editor-in-Chief here at Life & Liberty.

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Elf on the Shelf #0310 Life & Liberty

Why the Elf on the Shelf is Evil and Must be Destroyed!

Have you heard of this crazy Elf on the Shelf thing? What fool started this nonsense? You get this creepy looking elf doll thing and tell your kids this scary little imp is watching and reporting everything they do to Santa. As if Santa and his Naughty or Nice List weren’t enough.


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Just to give the illusion to the kiddos this thing is alive and active at night, like some crazed hamster that sleeps all day long hidden under bedding and spends the entire night grinding away on his wheel, you move the elf around the house after the kids are all fast asleep. And the elf can’t be nice and be helpful.

No this cretin gets into mischief, destroying things, unrolling the toilet paper, scattering flour all over the kitchen counter, leaving their tiny elf footprints in the mess. And who do you think will be cleaning that mess up? The kids? Right, because at my house with three sons I can’t walk ten feet without finding another abandoned sock randomly laying on the floor. And why don’t I just remind the kids to clean up their socks? You think my wife and I have not tried that? Are you kidding me? And now we are supposed to trash our house to make it look like some evil elf is active in the house at night and then we have to clean it up as well???

This is madness.

And have you seen one of these evil little beasts? To say these elf things are creepy does not do their evil grins justice. As someone who is still wigged out by clowns I can’t imagine waking up in the middle of the night to find the Elf on the Shelf sitting on my night stand staring at me. I would not sleep for the next week. Children probably come screaming into their parents’ rooms in the middle of the night, as if I don’t have enough trouble getting a good night’s sleep as it is.

But it gets worse. So you tell the kids that Santa is real and he has the naughty or nice list.  The beauty of course, is this suggestion provides great leverage for parents trying to keep their kids in check in the mad rush towards Christmas. No need to tell the kids it is an empty threat. I cannot imagine a parent actually returning gifts to the store. But never mind. Back to the elf. Then you raise the stakes and give the kids this real looking thing to see and feel and touch. You trash the house a couple times, move the elf every night and next thing you know the kids, the ones who love you and trust you, are starting to believe this elf is really alive and tracking their every move.

You are better parents than that.

Now let’s talk to the kids about someone else, say Jesus. Can you show them a picture of Jesus? Not really. Can you see him or feel him or touch him like the elf? Nope. I would guess for plenty of kids Jesus is far less real to them than that creepy elf. So what happens when they discover the elf is a fraud, a fake, a phoney?  If they can’t trust you about the elf that seemed so real, how will they trust you about Jesus?

I believe you want to be a better parent than that. I also trust you want your kids to have the gift of a faith that will sustain them when really truly bad things happen in their lives, because you don’t live long in this life without some pain. There must be a better way.


So tell the kids the truth. Santa was inspired by St. Nicholas, a pastor of the early church who gave gifts to children. Sure you can give gifts from Santa, but tell the truth: We are Santa to each other. And remind them of this as well: We give gifts to each other as a way of celebrating the greatest gift of all, the gift of Jesus.

If you bought an elf, don’t return the evil thing. Throw it is the garbage where it belongs. Teach your children about the love of God, not the fear of some crazed evil elf and his coconspirator, Santa Claus.

Paul Walters is the pastor of Lutheran Church of the Master in Troy, Michigan, and Senior Spiritual Editor for Life & Liberty.

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