Advent is Parenting

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The best part about Advent is that you take time every day for a whole month to focus on the birth of Jesus. The hardest part about Advent is that you take time every single day for a whole month!

If you’re doing Truth in the Tinsel for your Advent celebration (and I hope you are!) that means you’re sitting down with your kids, reading a passage of Scripture and making an ornament craft with them EVERY DAY. Maybe you’re just reading a devotional (I’m doing Liz Curtis Higgs’ Women of Christmas) by yourself. Or maybe you’re reading a storybook like Jotham’s Journey with your kids (we started this one and I love it so far!). Or maybe you’re unwrapping a picture book everyday and reading them in front of the tree. Maybe you’ve got a paper chain or a light-em-up idea or even a little chocolate calendar.

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And maybe, like me, you’ve breathed a heavy sigh and said, “We didn’t do our Advent stuff today!”  or you had a busy day and your kids said, “We can’t go to bed now! We have to do our Advent calendar!” and you know that the best thing you can actually do is put your over-tired kids to bed. Or maybe you just don’t want to get off Facebook or get up early to read your advent Bible readings.

There are simply days that just because it is December and Advent doesn’t mean you actually feel like celebrating or always have the time and space to make time and space!

{read the rest of this post at my personal blog,}


We Said No To Ho Ho Ho

This is a guest post by my hero and mentor, Jim Wideman, author of Tweetable Leadership. (Jim also wrote the forward for Truth in the Tinsel!)

Back in November of 1978, Julie and I began our lives together. It was a wonderful day; all the kids in our children’s church were so excited about attending our wedding. I’ll never forget one little fellow named Zack who asked us if he could go on our “moon ride” with us. I told him he couldn’t, and one day he would have his own “moon ride.” (He thought when his parents said we were going on a honeymoon, they said we were going on a moon ride.)

I had no idea all of the work involved in the two becoming one. You see, although Julie and I both love Jesus, our families, rock and roll, and each other; we soon found out we had come from two completely different parenting styles. As we began to talk about all of our differences, the big desire of our hearts was to train our children based on God’s Word more than our own family and cultural traditions.

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I believe that just like the church needs a biblical vision for reaching children, so does the family. Have you ever asked God for what He wants for your family? God designed the family to put His Word into future generations. If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. So if God gives you the desires of your heart, what are your desires and goals for your children? For me, I wanted our family to be close. I wanted them to love the Lord and the Word with all their hearts. In fact, I wanted them to love the Bible so much that it would be what they base every choice in their lives on.

Julie and I believe the Bible was and still is the benchmark of how we should view the world and how we should live. The Bible tells us we are in the world, but we are not of the world. The Bible also tells us to come out of the world and be separate, yet we are told to be salt and light to the world. Over the years, I have studied families and the different ways they parent. I’ve also studied churches and the different ways they do church. To me, the families and churches who have the greatest successes are the ones who have teamed together to join forces and develop in individuals a biblical view of how to live 24/7.

I have had the wonderful honor of raising two wonderful daughters. They are both successful, not only in business but also in their spiritual walks. My girls are as different as night and day: if I had not been in the delivery room with both of them, I would not believe they were kin. I have had to discipline them differently; I have to communicate and instruct them differently. But when it comes down to making choices and how to live, it was the same for them as it was for their mother and me—simply, what does the Bible say?

There are lots of voices that speak into our lives and challenge a biblical worldview. As a parent and as a pastor, I cannot block out every voice that speaks to my family and to my congregation, nor should I; but I have spent my life pointing out that God’s Word contains truth, and the truth of the Word is what will set us free. God’s Word is the filter we should view the world through. Years ago, I learned that a stronghold is just believing wrong information. When we take captive every thought and make it obedient to the Word of God, it produces right thinking that creates right actions.

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Our actions come from our thinking; that’s why we have to be intentional about the voices we listen to and the actions we do, regardless of our age. When my children were small, we limited the voices and the traditions we planted in our children. Just because a movie or TV show was animated or geared for children didn’t mean we allowed our children to feed on it.

This led us to the big question: what were we going to do about mythical traditions?

Julie and I both grew up in Christian households. Both of our families attended church on a regular basis. Our parents also told us about the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and Santa Claus. We also both grew up watching all the Disney™ fairytale movies and reading traditional children’s books. When Julie and I found out that our parents were really Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, and the tooth fairy; it affected us differently. Julie just kind of went along as long as her parents wanted to play the game. I felt betrayed. It also made me question if Jesus was real, too, or made up?

One thing Julie and I knew was we wanted to do whatever we could to help our kids know the difference between fiction and truth. We decided to do something that might not have been popular, but we felt it was right for us as a family. We chose to not tell them there was a tooth fairy; daddy bought their teeth. Oh, we still to this day give our kids Easter baskets, but they don’t come from Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail; they come from mom and dad.

But the most controversial decision we ever made was to no to “Ho Ho Ho!”

We never told our girls their Christmas presents came from the North Pole or that they where made by elves. We told them the stories as stories, not as truth. The truth was their presents came from mom and dad with love bought with money Father God provided to us because He loves His kids and wants us to love ours. We told our children that Father God started the whole gift-giving tradition by giving the first Christmas present—His one and only Son. 

I don’t think our girls could have been more excited about Christmas than they were growing up. They went to bed wondering what mom and dad were going to give them in the same way other kids were excited about presents from Santa. A funny thing that happened was when adults would ask Yancy what Santa was going to bring her, she would answer, “Nothing.” Those adults would look at us like we were the worst parents in the world. I’ll be honest with you; at first, I was guilty of being somewhat of a Santa basher. Some of you might have heard a song I wrote for an early Puppet Trax tape that says, “Santa Claus never died for anybody’s sin, and the Easter bunny never rose again.”

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I remember walking through the mall around Christmas time and seeing a mall Santa. I remember saying something about there he is, the god of this world; and I remember Yancy as a very little girl saying, “Dad, it’s just a man in a suit like your gorilla suits.”  After that, I just took a chill pill. We had done what we had wanted to do: we had taught our girls the difference between truth and fantasy.

My kids loved Disney™. They were big Snow White fans and big Little Mermaid fans. They loved puppets, all my full-bodied costumes, and clowns. They even have had their picture made with Santa. But more than anything, my girls love Jesus. They love their parents and are very close to us. Although we are not perfect parents, we have never told them a half-truth, a white lie, or a fantasy story as a true story.

Because of this, my children believed me about Jesus. When I told them about the hurt and pain from living contrary to God’s Word, they believed me. They didn’t need to experience the pain themselves; they learned from my mistakes and believed me because I have always told them the truth. I learned when I first started working with kids in church to always keep your promises to them. I never made a promise in children’s church that I couldn’t keep. If I did that at church, I needed to do that at home.

I have no regrets for telling my kids the truth. They still look forward to Christmas and seeing what they are going to get from mom and dad, but greater than that, they know the reason for the season is that God’s Son became a man and dwelt among us.

Jim Wideman is considered as an innovator, pioneer, and one of the fathers of the modern children ministry movement. He has trained hundreds of thousands of children’s and student ministry leaders from across the U.S. and around the world over the past thirty-five years. He has built strong ministries for families in five great churches. Jim and his wife, Julie, have two fabulous daughters and the cutest grandson ever born!

This article is reprinted with permission. ©2013 Jim Wideman Ministries, Inc.


Why Does Truth in the Tinsel Work?

The first week of Truth in the Tinsel is a busy one. Everyone is figuring out how to fit in a half hour to do crafts with their kids. Christmas parties and gifts have already started along with decorations and every other Christmas-y thing that “must” be done.

So, not only am I experiencing all that at home with my own kids and schedule, I’m also getting emails from all of you–everything from thank you’s to download problems to oh-my-goodness-advent-starts-today?! to questions about theology. I was feeling up to my eyeballs in all this Christmasy, Truth in the Tinsely stuff earlier this week when this tweet stopped me in my tracks:

Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Experience for Little Hands

All that tiredness and stress just melted away! A little girl gave her heart to Jesus during Truth in the Tinsel! How cool is that?!

I asked Amanda to email me so I could hear the whole thing–I wanted to know how Truth in the Tinsel fit into her story. I mean, it was only December 5th, so we haven’t even got to Jesus yet!

Here’s an excerpt of her story:

I hung the clue chain around a little tree and we only do the coloring ornaments that we then hang on the little tree. Today we completed Days 4 and 5. I was already behind one day! We talked about Gabriel and then we did Mary. I read Luke 1:26-38 after each clue and ornament. We talked about believing what God says and about Jesus.

I asked my daughter, do you believe that Jesus died on the cross? She replied yes. She’s has heard the story before. Then I asked her, do you want to pray and accept Jesus into your heart? She said yes!…We talked about what sin is and how Jesus died for us. We talked about John 3:16 and what it means to have eternal life. Then she repeated out loud a prayer that her daddy led her in. She is a shy girl and wouldn’t normally pray out loud, but she did for this moment. She knows the scriptures from AWANA, she knows some of the stories, but tonight it became real for her. 

Doing the Truth in the Tinsel gave me a way to talk about Jesus every day. The kids expect it and nag me about opening the next clue. I need the “Talk about it together” script to ask my kids questions about the scripture reading. The questions give me a way to introduce Biblical discussions into our daily lives. While my daughter colored an ornament with a picture of Mary we were able to talk about what it means to believe God and what His word says about Jesus.  

Thank you. Truth in the Tinsel gives me an easy way to talk about Jesus in my home. Tonight that discussion time led to a prayer of salvation. I will be eternally grateful.

Did you hear that last part? “Truth in the Tinsel gives me an easy way to talk about Jesus in my home”.

Why does Truth in the Tinsel work? //


It’s not really the Truth in the Tinsel devotion that’s so good. It’s not the ornaments or the talking points or the extra activities. There is nothing holy about this little ebook.

You know what it is?

Parents are taking time out every single day to purposefully talk to their kids about Jesus. Regular moms and dads are opening up God’s Word and planting it deep in their children’s hearts. THIS is what makes the difference.

And the thing is, if you don’t focus on God’s Word in December you will be focusing on something–we bake dozens of cookies, spend money on too many gifts, think of elaborate shenanigans for an elf on the shelf, read Christmas books daily and more.

But what if?

WHAT IF we spent all of December teaching our kids about Jesus? What if we put our energy into thinking up creative, dare I say magical ways to make Jesus’ story big and exciting in their hearts?

What if we chose to be purposeful with our celebration and made it actually focus on Jesus?!

Friends, if you’re reading this, you probably are being purposeful with Jesus’ birth. You are doing Truth on the Tinsel or some other Jesus-centric Advent activity. But can I just remind you of something? This time you are giving your kids is of eternal importance! The special ways you bring sparkle and excitement to Bible stories and the knowledge of Jesus in December will open up conversations, pierce hearts and soften spirits.

Truth in the Tinsel works not because there is anything special about it. Truth in the Tinsel works because YOU work. When YOU are purposeful and work hard to lead your kids to Jesus, God will do what He said and speak and move and do miracles in the hearts of your children.

Yesterday, I saw this beautiful question on my friend, Robin’s instagram stream:

Are you celebrating a season or worshipping a Savior? // a question from at

I want to worship a Savior. I want my kids to see December as a month of worship. Not because we don’t focus on Jesus all year–we do. But because this month is already glittery and shiny, I want them to see it glowing with Jesus and His gifts. I want them to turn that excitement back to worship to Him!

Will you join me in worshipping Jesus this season? Will you be purposeful this Christmas season–not on celebrating the season but worshipping the Savior?

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