Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Creating a Climate Conducive to a Child's Faith

Leslie Basham: Danya Powell grew up hearing about the Lord. As a teenager, she needed to take another step and answer an important question.

Danya Powell: Is it my faith? Is it what I believe because I believe it? Or is it what I believe because it’s what my parents told me to believe?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, July 26.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We have a lot of moms who write us here at Revive Our Hearts and just ask for some practical wisdom and help about issues related to mothering children at different seasons of life.

I think one of those seasons that is particularly difficult is those middle-school years. I’m so thankful that my friend, Rebecca Ingram Powell, has written a book addressing that subject. The book is called Season of Change. If that doesn’t describe pre-adolescence and early teenage years, I don’t know what does—Season of Change. The subtitle is: Parenting Your Middle Schooler with Passion and Purpose.

This week we’re blessed to have with us on the broadcast the author of that book, Rebecca Ingram Powell and her daughter Danya. So, Rebecca and Danya, thank you for being willing to come and to share with us out of your journey as a mom and a daughter.

Danya just graduated not too long ago from high school, and, Rebecca, you still have two younger sons.

Rebecca Ingram Powell: I sure do.

Nancy: Thanks for talking honestly with us about the journey God has had you on. I know this is going to be very helpful for listeners who have children in that season or children who are perhaps coming into that season.

Rebecca: Thank you.

Nancy: At the end of the last program, we talked about how the goal of parenting middle schoolers is not to just survive. It’s not to just get through the season. You want to have children who love God, children who have a heart and a hunger and an appetite for spiritual things.

I hear so many parents today of teens or young adults saying, “It hasn’t clicked with my kids. They just don’t have that hunger.”

You can have rules and tell them things they can and can’t do, but if they don’t love Jesus, you feel like it’s not really enough. But I look at your family, Rebecca, and I see a daughter here, Danya, who does love the Lord, who has a heart for ministry. I just want to talk about, not how it can be a perfect family—because yours isn’t any more than anybody else’s—but what are some of the things in your family that have been helpful in cultivating an appetite for spiritual things in your children?

So, Rebecca, start us out. I know you’ve been real intentional about this. As you think back to your kids’ middle-school years, how did you try to create a climate that was conducive to your children being interested in the Lord?

Rebecca: We instituted what I’ve called “the 7-up rule.” A friend told me about it when Danya was actually in kindergarten. She was five, and my boys were, like, three and one. They were not allowed to get out of bed until 7 o’clock.

Now, of course, the first question one of them said to me was: “What if we need to go to the bathroom?” Well, you could go to the bathroom, but then you had to go straight back to your room. I showed them what 7 o’clock was on that digital clock, and they knew they had to stay in there because I was going to have my quiet time.

As they got older, one of the things I had on their schedule was—we had “the four B's”: BED—They had to make their bed. There was BRUSH—which was they had to brush their hair. There was BATHROOM on there. And then there was BIBLE. They had to do those four things before they had BREAKFAST.

I had learned that from reading something Elisabeth Elliot had written that her parents had done, which was, “No Bible, no breakfast.” I had some criticism for that from friends who thought that I was crazy to ask that of my kids, but it was always my thought that if we built a habit, that the understanding and the revelation would come later.

Bad habits are just as easy to get into than a good habit.

Nancy: Easier.

Rebecca: Yes, certainly . . . so let’s build a good habit.

Nancy: Let me stop you here a minute. You’re saying really two things. The first is modeling to your children a hunger for the Lord if you want them to have that kind of hunger. The second is giving them direction and leadership that helps them to formulate some habits that can create that hunger in their hearts.

Danya, I just wonder if you can remember back as a young girl in elementary school, going into your middle-school years, what was your perception of what the Lord meant to your parents? What did you see, and did it make you want that?

Danya: Yes. I remember walking in on my mom sometimes when she was in her room, and she would be sitting in the chair. She’d have her Bible open and her notebook, and sometimes she would ask me if I needed something. Then if I was just sitting there, she would kind of hold her hand up, like, “Wait one second, sweetie.” I would sit down on the floor, and I would watch her finish writing out what she had, and then she would shut the Book, and we would go on with the rest of our day.

I remember that all the stories that we had (we were homeschooled) would be about Bible characters, and Bible stories, and Jesus. When we were going through elementary school, we would have reading time where we would all gather around, and Mom would read us some Scripture.

We would learn songs, and we even had hand motions to them. We had memory verses, and the Scripture was just implanted in us throughout our childhood. I remember that Mom never thought any of it was cheesy. Every story was true, and every song meant something, and every verse had value.

I remember being in my room, when it would be our nap time or something, as soon as I grew out of that, Mom would say I could get a book. Almost all of the children’s stories that we had in our house were Bible stories. They were stories about: How do I pray to God? What did God think about me? Things like that.

What I was just completely surrounded with and immersed in my entire childhood and middle school were the books and the stories and the songs about Jesus. So that’s how I knew that we thought it was a big deal. It was very, very important that we based even our entertainment around learning more about God.

Nancy: What you’re describing is exactly what Moses said to the Children of Israel in Deuteronomy chapter 6—you just gave a modern telling of that. Let me read that passage, beginning in verse 4. He says:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

So can’t pass on to your children what you don’t have yourself. Then he says:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

That’s, like, 24/7. This is what you’re talking about. This is what you’re engaging with.

You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (vv. 4-9).

I think he’s saying what you just described here, and that is, every day, all day, the Word of God, the ways of God, a heart for God is supposed to be not just a compartment of our lives, but the whole of our lives.

I think, Danya, what you’re saying is that you saw that this really was not just part of your parents’ lives, but it mattered a lot to them.

Danya: Right. We would even sometimes get to stay up a little later so that our parents could come in and pray for us before we went to sleep. That was essential that we had our prayer time. They did it with each child individually. They would come into our room to say goodnight, and they would pray over us.

Sometimes, if Mom came in and said a prayer before Dad came home, if he was out with his friends or at a church meeting or something like that, he would come in, and when he’d come in and say goodnight, he would pray for me again. A lot of times they both prayed, whoever came in first, or if they came in together. So we would fall asleep to our parents praying for us. That is something that I think really strengthened me. It was life spoken over me as I grew up.

Nancy: Did they continue doing that into your pre-teen and teen years?

Danya: Throughout middle school. Once I started driving, sometimes I came home a little later, and they’d stay up. We still have prayer time. We still pray together.

Nancy: Was there ever a point, as you think back, that you thought that was kind of cheesy or you got a little bored with it or wanted to push back at all?

Danya: Well, when we were younger, it was a whole night show. We sang songs and told stories and did prayer. As I got older, the night show drifted away a little bit. I’d go, “We don’t have to sing tonight, Mom, no.”

But the prayer was still essential, and it was something we got out of. It was actually something that we took ownership of. Because we would come in, and Mom would say, “It’s your turn to pray tonight. You’re going to pray for us before we go to bed.” Or, “Tonight, I think we should pray for your friend.” And we would pray for one of our friends. Or, “Tonight, we’re going to pray for your future husband,” and we would pray for a future husband.

I think that was really important, too, that they started involving us more as we got older instead of just saying, “Well, you’re on your own now. You can pray for yourself before bed.” They taught us how to do that, and they incorporated it into our habits and our lives.

Nancy: So one key here is that you started really young.

Rebecca: Yes.

Nancy: You didn’t wait until they were eleven and say, “Okay, now we’re going to have family altar and prayer time and Bible reading.” This was a way of life for your children.

But I can still imagine some mothers who are listening thinking, “Well, my kids would roll their eyes if we did this in our family. They would not engage; they would not want to pay attention; they would not want to be involved in this. This would bore them. They would think it was cheesy.”

Do you keep doing it anyway?

Danya: Yes. I say, “Yes.” Because if you start showing your kids that you’re going to back down, they think something is cheesy or not cool, then those kids, when they have their faith, they may back down when their friends think it’s not cool, or their friends are saying, “That’s not really true. You don’t need to do that.”

Our parents were the influence on us. They were the ones who said, “This is how we do it in our home. This is what we do, this is what we believe. If you’re going through a phase this afternoon where you think that you don’t want to do this, well, we’re still going to do this because this is the way that we live, and this is the God that we serve.”

So even when we thought it was maybe a little silly, or we were too tired, or we had somewhere to be, God still came first. That’s impacted me as I’ve gone through high school and middle school. God comes first in my life. Whether my friends think it’s cool or not, God comes first.

Rebecca: And also, to a mom who might be hesitant to do that, you might want to start out by just telling your child, “Here’s something that we’re going to start to do. What would you like to pray about?” In that way, just be praying that God reveals Himself quickly to get that child on board. “What would you like to pray about, and let’s see what God will do.”

A great verse to start out with would be from Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways, acknowledge Him.”

Or, from 1 Peter, where we’re instructed to cast all our cares.

If it’s something that you haven’t been doing with your child, it’s important for them to understand that there’s nothing that you cannot pray about. There’s nothing that you cannot ask the Lord or tell the Lord. His shoulders are big enough for whatever burden, for whatever question.

I think for a lot of parents they might also be hesitant to pray with their children because they have not been praying themselves on their own. One of the things that is so wonderful about our Lord is that it’s never too late. As long as we’re breathing, it’s not too late. He welcomes us with open arms. He wants us to have that relationship with Him. He wants us to bring our kids up in the way of the Lord.

Nancy: You quoted the verse from Proverbs 3, and I know in your book you encourage parents to read Proverbs with their children. Is that something you’ve done in your home?

Rebecca: We have encouraged our kids, as one of the ways that they could begin to take ownership of their faith, is that they could begin to move from, “Okay, this is Mommy and Danya's quiet time,” to “here’s Danya’s quiet time, and here’s what it needs to look like.”

We started with the Proverbs for one reason: There’s thirty-one chapters in Proverbs, so you don’t need a devotional book necessarily. Whatever the date on the calendar is, you read that chapter in Proverbs.

Nancy: We’re talking middle-school age?

Rebecca: Oh, yes. It’s so practical. When Danya was in sixth grade, I began looking around for a devotional book for her that could be that transitional piece to get her into establishing and maintaining a daily time with God that was going to be the next step up.

As I looked around for something, I could not find something just for girls for what I wanted to say to her, and the Lord said, “This is for you to write.”

Nancy: Which you did.

Rebecca: I did. That was the Bible study called, “Wise up: Experience the Power of Proverbs.” It doesn’t go through all of Proverbs, but through the first nine chapters, which are pivotal. It’s where King Solomon is instructing his son in friendship and stewardship, choices, purity—all the things that are foundational to our lives and to her friendships and choices she was making.

Nancy: As we talk about the parents’ faith being owned by the children, becoming your own, Danya, was there ever a point at which there were doubts in your own mind? I remember when I was in middle school—and I came from a godly home, Christian home, a lot of strong teaching—but the middle school years were probably the ones where I struggled the most with, “Is this all really true? What if it’s not?” Did you have any of that in your own mind?

Danya: I did. We had a very diverse youth group when I was in middle school, and one of the girls was very questioning, very doubtful about God. When I started thinking about how I was supposed to defend my faith against her, I started questioning my faith. I started thinking, “Well, if I can’t answer her, then maybe it’s not real.”

The funny thing is, I would pray about why it wasn’t real. I would talk to God about why He wasn’t real—which still was that inside me: I always talk to God; I always talk to God. I thought of God. My thoughts weren’t, “Well, I wonder what I should do today?” It was, “God, what should we do today?” It was just very prevalent in my life.

So I would pray about it, and I would pray about the answers and the questions and the doubts and concerns. It got to the point that even when I was playing music, I started writing different kinds of music. I wasn’t very focused on God, I was focused on the world and all these new things I was learning, or that I thought were exciting, with my friends who weren’t Christians.

It got to the point where I was thinking, “Okay, is it my faith? Is it what I believe because I believe it? Or is it what I believe because it’s what my parents told me to believe?”

We went on a mission trip, and I was supposed to lead worship at the mission trip. The night before we left, I had an allergic reaction, and my mouth was swollen. My tongue was swollen. I could hardly talk. My throat was closing up. Mom and Dad got me up on Benadryl and stuck me in the back of the van, and we went ahead on to that mission trip.

The whole time I was thinking, “I can’t sing. I can’t lead worship, I can’t talk. This is not cool. I don’t understand what’s going on.”

We got there that night, and I was laying in the bunk bed thinking, “Why would God take my voice away?” I really felt like God was saying, “Well, the words that have been coming out of your mouth lately, the songs that have been coming out of your mouth lately don’t please Me, and they’re not glorifying to Me.”

I said, “Okay. I will let my words and my music glorify You if You will let me sing them.”

The next day, about 30 minutes to an hour before we had to lead worship at this Bible school, all the swelling went down. That was the pivotal point of my life where I said, “Okay, God’s real. God heals people, and God cares about the way that I live my life, even down to the words that I say and the music that I listen to and sing.”

That was the turning point for me. I was fourteen.

Nancy: So that was your faith becoming your faith.

Danya: Becoming real.

Nancy: Rebecca, how do you pray for your children? What do you pray for your children?

Rebecca: Well, since they were little—I don’t know if you carry these or not—but Stormie Omartian’s books, The Power of a Praying Wife and The Power of a Praying Parent have been the mainstays of my prayer life for my kids. I’ve journeyed through those books every month.

They’re set up on a thirty-day cycle, so I have journeyed through those books and have known how to pray for my kids through the Scriptures that are presented there. I think that helps.

I have always prayed for my kids with a vision in mind. I asked the Lord for that before I even had all my kids. I just had Danya and David at the time. I prayed that God would give me a vision for my children. He did. He gave me a vision for them, and so I have prayed that they would be the kind of people who could counsel, that they would be counselors; that they would know their Bibles; that they would be worshipers.

Also, not even meaning to necessarily in that prayer, but the characteristics that I have prayed for them were ministry oriented. They were about God building in them foundations and truths that would then enable them to share His love with other people.

Then, of course, like every mom, I pray safety for my children and for their protection. But I also pray, like I pray for myself and my husband, that we would love Jesus more. I want to love Him more until the day I die. I want it to always be more.

One of the ways that we learn to love Him is by learning to love other people. A lot of times I’m not really good at that. It’s easy to love loveable people. It’s not so easy to love unlovable people. As Christians, we’re called to love people—period.

Leslie: That’s Rebecca Ingram Powell. She and her daughter Danya have been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. They’ll be right back.

If middle school is on the horizon in your family, I know you’ve been listening intently, getting as many practical ideas from Rebecca as possible. I hope you’ll follow up by getting a copy of her book, Season of Change: Parenting Your Middle Schooler with Passion and Purpose.

As we heard today, it’s never too late to invest in your teenager. So even if your child is part-way through middle school, this book will be helpful for you.

We’ll send you the book when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. You can make your contribution by calling 1-800-569-5959. Again, ask for Season of Change. Or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

What questions or thoughts did today’s program generate? You have a place to share them at the Revive Our Hearts Listener Blog. Rebecca Ingram Powell will participate today. She’ll answer questions and read your comments. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com and scroll to the end of today’s transcript. You can enter your comments there and read comments from Rebecca and other listeners.

Parents can’t control their children’s intake of movies and music forever. At some point children need to make discerning choices on their own. Tomorrow, learn how to teach discernment to your children, encouraging them to make wise choices at a young age.

Rebecca Ingram Powell and her daughter Danya will join us again on the next Revive Our Hearts. Now, Nancy is back with our guests, continuing the discussion on encouraging children to have a heart for the Lord.

Nancy: I know we have mothers listening today whose hearts have been stirred as they’ve been listening because they’re thinking: “I would love to have my children have this kind of heart, and they don’t,” or “They’re little, and I hope that they will, or I pray that they will.”

I’d like us to just take a moment, and, Rebecca, I wonder if you would lead us, and we’ll just join our hearts with you in praying for moms and praying for their children that their children really will—that God will give them a hunger and a heart. I think you would be the first to say that ultimately it’s nothing that you and Rich do that is winning your kids’ hearts.

Rebecca: Absolutely.

Nancy: The Lord has to turn on the light.

Rebecca: That’s right.

Nancy: He has to connect the dots. It’s His grace and the power of His Spirit. No matter how great the home is—we’ve seen kids grow up in godly homes and walk away from the Lord.

So would you just lead us in praying for moms, for children, for the Lord to give those kids a heart and a hunger for Him?

Rebecca: Okay.

Our dearest Lord, Father, You see into our hearts. I just want to lift up to You right now the ones who are listening to this program. Father, I pray that You would stir in them the desire to pray to You on behalf of their children.

Lord, I pray that You would enable their faith; that You would help them to believe what a difference it will make when they cry out to You on behalf of their children’s hearts.

Father, I pray that You would bless these dear listeners by revealing to them ways that You are already working in their children’s lives and hearts. And God, I pray that You would just bless all of us with the ability to trust You, to know that You are true to Your Word, and He that began a good work is faithful to complete that work.

So, Lord, help us to relieve ourselves of the burden of thinking that we have to do this, that it’s up to us. But, Lord, instead, enlarge our faith to know that You will do this. Show us the steps that we need to take, Lord. I pray that You would bless the hearts and homes right now. We thank You so much, in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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