A Necessary “No”


For the past 10 weeks in our Marriage/Family Bible Study Class on Sundays we have been focused on the verse 3 John 1:2. With this verse, we have been asking ourselves, “How’s Your Soul?” Each week has been a different facet of “How’s Your Soul?” and what that looks like according to God’s Word and our very own Souls. In one week we parked in Genesis 2:1-22 and asked ourselves the question, “What makes a healthy soul?” There were four facets that we studied, but for now, I would like to focus on one of the four: A Healthy Soul Requires a “No.”
“The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17
Look at it this way, God gives lots of Permission before His One Restriction. As we read these verses it’s obvious that the odds were so stacked in Adam’s favor: “Any Tree you may eat from freely…Any… But ONE you may not…only one out of the MANY.” Again, God gives lots of Permission before His One Restriction. That’s the Heart of our God, yet we will still focus on the ONE “No.”
That’s the sign of a hurting Soul; they will purposely focus on the ONE “No” and ignore all the “Yes’s” around them.
I gleaned two key nuggets from these two verses. First, this protects the “Integrity” of the definition of love as defined by God. Because Love requires a Choice. Love requires a Yes/No. Love requires a Decision. As we read those verses, we see that the One Tree provides us with a choice: God’s Way or Our Way.
Next, it is true that our soul needs a “NO”…A necessary No. Kerry shared with me that she thought to herself, “How often do you think Adam walked past that tree and had to tell himself ‘No.’?” Great question. We both agreed that every time Adam said “No” it was good for his soul.
So, this is very much about Sin right now. Because it is good for our Soul when we choose to say “No” to distorting and abominating God’s Blessings in our life. However, too often it is not just black & white or “Sin & Not Sin.” It can be anything that leads us into sin and thus we should have said “No” even though so many at the time say “Yes.”
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12
Think about it, what many may say is good may in fact not be of gain for me at all. Also, even though it’s ok and not ‘sinful’ or ‘illegal’ may easily become my idol and thus slips into sin. So, we began to own this statement, “It is good for you to hear yourself say “No” to yourself.”
So, we encourage each of you this new year to begin to ask yourself these questions: “What is it right now that you are saying “No” to? You could possibly be saying “Yes” and there even may be those around you that do say yes, but you choose to say No?”

In fact, maybe the better question is this… “What do you need to say “No” to starting today?”
As you begin 2018, realize that it is good for your soul to have Restrictions/Boundaries.

We Love you all,
Joe and Kerry

Stay True Advice…Baylee’s list of roughly 55 things all teenagers need to know

We shared this 2 years ago when our youngest daughter graduated from high school. Since it’s that time of the year again, it seemed appropriate to share again.
Baylee, as well as the other graduating Seniors from our Youth Group, were asked by our Youth Pastor to share some wisdom and advice to those still in the Youth Group.  In her usual fashion, Baylee took this time to truly share what was on her heart and what she has learned these past 7 years as a Youth.  Both Kerry and I, as well as Pastor Bill, were so touched by her reflections on life and God, we just had to share.
Parents, go through the list. Whether you agree with it or not is not the issue, instead listen to the heart of a young lady who loves the Lord. You may learn something about your own child.
Stay True Advice aka
A list of roughly 55 things that Baylee thinks is important for you all to know:
•Make it a point to say a prayer before you even step foot out of bed, I promise it’ll help your day.
•Never be friends with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable (for any reason, whether it’s your beliefs or actions or something they say.)
•Love yourself so much that when someone treats you wrong, you recognize it.
•Never underestimate Gods grace in the midst of your brokenness.
•Boys, girls are not machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out. The friend zone is not a real thing.
•Falling in love with yourself first doesn’t make you vain or selfish, it makes you indestructible.
•Boys, if you want to get a girls attention learn to compliment her on things OTHER than her beauty.
•Just because someone desires you, does not mean that they value you.
•Boys, If your not going to marry her take your hands off another mans future.
•Girls, If your not going to marry him take your hands off another womans future.
•Don’t act like someone else. Don’t waste time on pretending.
•If they won’t hold your hand, don’t let them hold your heart.
•If you aren’t walking with God maybe you aren’t right for the person that’s right for you.
•There is no way to follow Jesus without Him interfering with your life.
•When entrusted with a secret, keep it. I don’t care if you and that person are mortal enemies now, you still don’t tell a soul.
•It’s never too late for an apology.
•If you’ve made your point, stop talking.
•Learn to admit when you’re wrong.
•Be understanding. If someone has a different opinion than you, listen to them. Don’t just sit there ignorantly, plugging your ears and screaming your opinion to the world.
•Set goals. Set them high and learn to accomplish every goal you set for yourself.
•Alcohol does not make you cooler.
•Girls, never EVER send boys naked pictures. The boys asking for them are the boys that should not be trusted.
•Never beg someone to stay in your life. If they choose to leave, let them.
•Discover your passion and run with it.
•Dance a LOT!
•High school dances are overrated.
•Girls, never spend more than $7 for mascara.
•If you’re ever uncomfortable in a situation you’ve ended up in, call your parents. I promise they’d rather you be safe and they will forgive you.
•Go to as many concerts as possible.
•Just because you turn 18 does not mean suddenly you can do whatever the heck you want. If you’re under their roof, you’re still under their rules.
•The stupid cliche “you can’t be loved until you love yourself” is so false. Listen to what others love about you and learn to love that about yourself too.
•Stop underestimating yourself. If you’re walking with the Lord He’s got your back!
•Eating a whole tray of brownies while watching Grease with your best friend can and will help you feel better. Trust me, I’ve tested this one out multiple times.
•If your parents don’t like you hanging out with a certain person, listen to them. They are smarter than us.
•Comparing yourself to others is NEVER a good idea.
•If you can’t say it to their face, don’t say it to them over text.
•Changes don’t happen overnight.
•No one can live a perfect Christian life, but you CAN intentionally decide that next time you are faced with a choice, you choose the one that glorifies God.
•When somebody hurts you, don’t try to hurt them back.
•Learn the importance of calling your friends out if they are in sin. It may feel awkward but they need it, and you’re called to do it.
•Save your money every chance you get. Future you will be thankful.
•Your mental health is so important, and if you’re ever struggling please find someone you can talk to.
•Your value is NOT based on the number of likes you get on Instagram.
•You are going to mess up, and you’re going to regret some choices you’ve made. But you have to learn how to forgive yourself, and decide to grow from the situation and not let it destroy you.
•Reading a book is more fun than reading your Twitter feed.
•One day you’ll realize how much your parents have sacrificed for you. Thank them over and over and over.
•Like people’s selfies. It takes guts to post them.
•Every time before you read scripture, pray and ask God to reveal something new to you. He’ll blow your mind every single time!
•Take pictures. So so so many pictures.
•Don’t take yourself too seriously.
•Breakups hurt. And they are allowed to hurt. They suck and knock you on your back, but the key is not staying down on your back. Look to God, use Him to fill up and repair that broken heart.
•Never diminish other’s feelings.
•Deciding to live your life completely surrendered to God is the best decision you’ll ever make!
~Baylee Vivian – Class of 2015

Social Media or Your Spouse? Which Do You Choose?

Yup, Social Media Can Erode Your Emotional Bond With Your Spouse
Cellphones, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and other forms of Social Media can either bless or break a marriage. When we learn to use these tools within the parameters of our marriage covenant, they can then greatly enhance communication between a husband and wife. However, that is not always the case. Many marriages have failed and collapsed around the selfish, misuse of cellphones, Twitter, Snapchat and other Social Media Apps. 

Here are three priniciples to apply in your marriage so as to avoid losing the trust and bond you share with your spouse while using these communication tools.

1. Avoid Secret Communications
    There is never any reason you should be having secret conversations or private chats with members of the opposite sex. These may start off as harmless text messages or IM’s that are just friendly in nature; however, those will soon grow into intimate conversations that will draw you away from your spouse. Instead, choose to protect your marriage, respect your spouse and don’t allow yourself to be led into temptation. Psalm 24:4-5

2. Be Accountable to One Another
     Have an open cellphone policy with your spouse. If you must have a password on your phone, tablet, computer or apps, then let your spouse know about it. Your spouse should have every right to read every text and every email you receive and send. Be so completely transparent that the issue is not “what are you hiding” but instead it should be “what happened today.” Ephesians 4:29

3. Put Down Your Phone!!
     If you and your spouse are together, there is nothing on Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media that requires your attention to be drawn away from your spouse. No nothing… I see it as rude and disrespectful to continue surfing or following posts and tweets when your spouse is right there next to you. Matthew 19:6
I’m sure that you may think of others, but this is a good start. Please realize that your marriage is ordained by the hand of God and both of you should be daily pursuing to be one in flesh, mind, and spirit.  

Joe & Kerry

3 Keys for Your Boys in A Sex Saturated Culture



The first time I saw a Playboy magazine, I was about 12 years old and hanging out at a friend’s house. My buddy had covertly collected a secret stash of magazines under his bed. He had gone to great lengths to acquire the contraband, and his bedroom stash became the stuff of legend among our adolescent crew of hormonally-driven friends.

I had been brought up with parents and church leaders who taught me about the sacredness of sex and the dangers of objectifying women. Still, my raging hormones and weak willpower got the best of me and I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the airbrushed images. Those magazines became a “gateway drug” of sorts and ultimately led me down a dark road towards more graphic pornography.

I’ve been porn-free for a little over two decades, but I’m still living with some scars in my mind and my marriage. Thankfully, God’s grace and my wife’s love (plus some important accountability measures) have helped me escape from the grip of porn.

Kerry and I know we have a sacred responsibility to our children to teach them about sex and protect them from all the ways the misuse of sex can harm them. We raised two daughters; however, we also know what we were praying for and longing for in a man for our daughters.

So let’s share with you parents raising sons. The first step is obviously teaching your sons to have a deep and abiding respect for women, but respect alone isn’t enough to help them overcome the bombardment of visual temptations out there. If you’re looking for some practical ways to get started, here are three simple ways parents of boys can equip them to live with sexual purity in a sexually-saturated culture.

3 keys to raising boys in a sex-crazed culture:

1. Don’t just have “The Talk;” have many talks about sex and purity.

Instead of having one big talk about the birds and the bees like many of our parents did when we were growing up, open up an ongoing, healthy dialogue about issues related to sex and porn. Ask questions and encourage your son to ask you questions too. Be as transparent as possible in your responses. Kids don’t expect you to be perfect, but they need you to be real. If you want some practical tools to help guide you through those conversations, check out Jonathan McKee’s book, More Than Just the Talk.

2. Try to understand your son’s thought process.

If you’re a man raising boys, you already know all about the male thought process and mental wiring that makes visual temptation so powerful, but your son is living in a different world than ours, so keep the dialogue open to learn how he’s thinking. If you’re a mom and you’d like to understand more about how and why males react so instinctively to visual images of sex and sensuality, I’d encourage you to read the new book, “Through a Man’s Eyes: Helping Women Understand the Visual Nature of Men”, which is written by Craig Gross and Shaunti Feldhahn. The research in the book is eye-opening, and their insights made me think they’d somehow installed hidden cameras in my brain! This book and accompanying video series could help you understand your son—and your husband, too—on a new level.

3. Monitor every screen in your home.

The average kid sees porn by age eight. Sometimes, kids are exposed to porn on accident, and other times, they’re deliberately looking for it. Parents must be constantly vigilant by setting parental controls, downloading porn-blocking software, and using every tool at our disposal to protect our kids from unwanted images. Know where your kids are going online and let them know you’re watching. Tell them what’s off limits, but also follow up by inspecting. Kids aren’t usually as interested in what you expect as they are in what you’ll inspect. Remember this bit of advice, Don’t Overreact-Interact when you discover your son viewing pornography.

As you get started…

You may be intimidated by the thought of even beginning these conversations with your kids. That’s completely understandable. I think we all feel that way at first. This aspect of parenting is indeed one of the most difficult, but also among the most important. As parents, we must conquer or own fears and feelings of inadequacy to give our kids the help they desperately need.

Don’t feel like you have to do it alone, because there are many great resources to help you and your family. Don’t be passive in this process. Be present. Your kids don’t need you to have perfect answers to all their questions, but they need you to be present and transparent with them. If you’re willing to do those things, and to use the tools and resources at your disposal, you will navigate these complex issues with great success.


Joe & Kerry

What Tables Need To Be Overturned in Your House?


And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Matt 21:12,13

This past week during our staff devotion we spent time in Matthew 21:12-17.  The above verses struck me personally. Pastor Larry asked us, “Why did Jesus react the way He did?”  Great discussion ensued and we all agreed that His house became a house of selfish gain and no longer was it a house of prayer. It was no longer a house of worship. It was a temple that defiled God and dismissed the worship He deserved. God’s house, His temple was purposely dishonored.

As the discussion continued, God began to speak to me. He took me back to a book in His word that I have been in the past few months, 1 Corinthians. I was instructed to land on verses 19 and 20 in chapter 6. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”  The Holy Spirit clearly told me, “You are My temple. I dwell in you and you have now become My house of Worship. Don’t ever forget that you are no longer your own. You were bought with a price and everything you do you must glorify Me in your body.”

So here is where the spiritual re-molding began. I asked God to begin to “overturn the tables” in this temple. Begin to clear away that which is selfish and self-centered.  Turn over the tables which defile Him and dishonor His Name. What in my life, in my body, in His Temple, is an abomination to Him?

Think about what those tables look like.  Not just my tables, yours too. We have tables of apathy, of jealousy. We have tables that are beautifully adorned and wonderful to look at; however, they are those of arrogance and pride.  We also have tables of unforgiveness, of rage and anger.  We have tables of sexual sin and lust.  How about the tables that are covered in linens of lace but hold gossip and condemnation towards other followers of Christ who are hurting?  I think we all get the picture.

So as I ask God to begin to “overturn the tables” in my life, to cleanse His temple, I must also be willing to open those doors and be obedient to what He reveals and removes.  I must never forget, as a follower of Jesus Christ, that my body is not my own and it was bought by the precious life of Him.  My body is now His Temple and I must daily glorify Him through it. It is spiritually painful, yet spiritually refreshing.

Now, are you willing to ask Jesus to “overturn tables” in you?

The Top 10 from Redeeming The White Space

top 10 list 2010-resized-600

It has been an amazing year for us. We have been blessed to encounter and counsel many couples.  We have witnessed God’s hand in the healing and restoration of 9 couples. We have also been blessed to journey with many others as they chose to Redeem the White Space in their marriages and families. We wanted to share with you our Top 10 posts from 2014. The top 3 were viewed/visited by over 10,000!  Know that our prayer is to come alongside individuals and journey with them as we all encounter God’s love and commands. To be obedient to His word and seek Him first in all we think, say and do. To live out John 3:21.

Here are our top ten posts from 2014.

10. Start the Day Focused

9. A Simple Bar of Soap: 3 Ways to Serve Your Spouse

8. Your kid’s an All Star? Wow! Someday he’ll be average like the rest of us.

7. U Pick ‘Em Date Night…

6. Adulterous Affairs Don’t Begin with Sleeping Together; They Begin with Inappropriate Friendships

5. 10 Marriage Tips Every WIFE Needs to Hear

4. Yes, Porn is a Big Deal: A Response to Elite Daily from guest author Ella Hutchinson

3. 10 Things I Hope Sam and Baylee Have Learned From Our Marriage

2. 3 Basic Rules to Follow in Your Marriage In Regards to Social Media

1. Wives, Take Note of This: “3 Reasons Your Husband Likes It When You Climax” by Kerry Vivian

Can I Smash My Daughter’s Cell Phone- PART II

Here is the last of Jonathan McKee’s 5 part series on Guardrails for our children. If you have enjoyed them, then sign up for his newsletter to be delivered to you into your inbox.


We’ve set guardrails, including some really well thought out cell phone boundaries that should be no problem for our kids to follow. But for some reason they keep pushing the limits.

That’s what ‘Dave’ explained to me, asking me for advice about what to do with his daughter. (See yesterday’s post, PART I)

Dave’s not alone. Young people today love their cell phones; but as handy as these digital Swiss-army-knives are… they can also be vehicles of distraction in our kids’ lives.

So how should we respond when our kids break our rules and veer from the guardrails we’ve set?

Dave’s daughter seems to be one of the many teenagers that keeps getting lured into inappropriate conversations on their mobile devices. The same problems that teens and tweens have experienced for years in chat rooms and on social networking sites have now become mobile.

Dave’s daughter hasn’t been sending naughty pictures or engaging in phone sex, she’s just been showing poor decision-making with the guys that she choose to share her number with. Then she gets into lengthy conversations that any dad would immediately recognize as a predator stalking his prey.

This is all too common with young girls today. With self-esteem at an all time low, girls often seek praise wherever they can get it.

SIDE NOTE: Dad’s and granddads, this is where you really need to up your game. Are your daughters hearing you tell them how beautiful they are? Are you hugging them, providing some of the only positive touch they might experience?

Young girls and boys alike often find themselves in compromising positions, even though they are miles away from each other. Here’s where some good guidelines (much like the ones discussed yesterday), and some good parent/teen conversation (also talked about yesterday) can really help.

When They Break the Rules
When our kids bust through the guardrails, consequences are necessary. Here are some tips for enforcing consequences when our kids push the limits and break the rules.

1.    Delay Punishment
This is some of the best parenting advice I’ve ever received. When our kids break a rule, don’t punish them that very second. Make them wait!

This brilliant move achieves two desired results:

A. It gives parents a time to cool off! I know I need that.

B. It drives our kids crazy! This “delay” is punishment in itself. Instead of just getting it over with, tell them, “Well, I really don’t know what I’m going to do with you. Just leave your cell phone right there on my dresser, and we’ll talk in a few hours about what is going to happen!” They hate this, and it forces them to think about it for a couple of hours.

But eventually you have to come up with a consequence. So when you do…

 2.    Make the Consequence Match the Violation
Let’s say your daughter is supposed to ask you before she delete’s texts, but deletes them anyway. Ban texting for a week. You could say it like this:

“I’m not going to take away your phone this time. You simply can’t send any texts for 1 week. After 1 week, I’ll jump online and see if you sent any texts (Most mobile carriers allow you to see how many texts were sent and received). If you sent any, then you lose your phone for a month. If you didn’t send any, you can start sending again. But next time you violate this rule, you lose your phone a month.”

Or let’s say your son browses racy web sites. First, talk with him about it, but don’t make him feel dirty or perverted. Let him know that these desires are normal, using this as an opportunity to tell him the explicit truth about sex. After the conversation, ask him what he thinks would be a fair consequence to help him learn to respect the guardrails you set… which leads me to my next tip…

3.    Ask Them to Set Their Own Consequences
When our kids violate a guardrail, ask them what they think an appropriate punishment would be.

I’ve done this at times because I honestly couldn’t think of anything. Then my daughter came up with something really good. I just put on my best poker face and agreed, “Excellent thinking Ashley. What do you think this consequence will teach you?” This often gives our kids a chance to dialogue with us about what they learned.

Which leads me to my next tip…

4.    Look for Teaching Moments
Far more important than any punishment is the conversation you have about the punishment. Yes, this is living out Deuteronomy 6, as mentioned yesterday… Talk as you Walk.

Sometimes our kids won’t even realize the danger they’re flirting with on their cell phones. Whenever you encounter a story in the paper about a kid making poor decisions, bring up the story at dinner, and– don’t lecture– just ask questions. “Why do you think this girl got into this situation?” “How could she have avoided this in the first place?” Parents can do the same with a pause button on their remote controlwhen they see one of these teachable moments while watching TV or a movie.

There have been times where my kids have messed up pretty bad and brought natural consequences upon themselves. At times like this, I often just say, “It seems like you’re already facing some pretty nasty natural consequences. I probably don’t need to add any into the mix, do you think?” I can’t remember my kids ever disagreeing with this. So I propose, “Just tell me what you’ve learned from this situation and what we can do to prevent it from happening again.” After discussing this for a while, I sometimes add, “What can I do to help you from getting into this situation again?”

All of these tips are good, but this final tip is essential…

5.    Demonstrate Unmistakable Love
The key word here is “unmistakable.” Don’t just assume they know that you love them while you’re yelling at them and taking their phone away for a year! Make it so “unmistakably” obvious that you love them, and your punishment is only to help them avoid veering off course from a path they believe in.

Sometimes we need to really demonstrate a bold-selflessness to model this kind of love. It’s an interesting balance. It’s bold because, we aren’t going to wimp out and let them do whatever they want. But it’s selfless, because we’re willing to invest time and money to help them succeed. This might mean giving up on some of our own activities to hang out with them when they’re grounded. I can remember some great father/son time when my son was grounded from his video games and he hung out with me because there was nothing else to do.

Parents don’t earn popularity points when they punish their kids, but this isn’t about popularity. This is about loving them enough to follow through, and caring about them enough to be there to lift them up when they’re down.

Parenting isn’t easy. Sometimes our kids will continue to push the limits, compelling us to continue enforcing consequences. Don’t give up. Consistency is important. And no matter what, don’t forget #5. If we practice the first four, but have not love, we’re a gong or a clanging symbol (a loose interpretation of I Cor 13).

Lucky for us, the process doesn’t start at “enforcing consequences.” The process starts when our kids are young and we’re helping them choose which road to embark on. All these consequences and guardrails are only as good as the road.

What about You?
What are some methods you’ve used of enforcing consequences with your kids?


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No Rules by Age 17½

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Should We Read Our Teenagers’ Texts?