Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Real-World Families

Leslie Basham: For generations, there is one topic parents and their children have been debating. Anna Canfield is explaining what that topic is to Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Anna Canfield: Mom and I have a very different view on clothes.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I’d like to hear about that.

Anna: We have very different opinions on a lot of things on styles, modesty. So I have to overcome that because a lot of times I feel kind of embarrassed. You know, a lot of people feel embarrassed by their parents. I’m trying not to because I know that’s just another kid thing.

Leslie: It’s Wednesday, May 9, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Over the last couple of weeks, Nancy’s been teaching through Psalm 127 and 128 in a series called Leaving a Godly Legacy. Last week, as part of the series, we met Steve and Debby Canfield, who serve with Nancy at Life Action Ministries. Nancy appreciates the way Steve and Debby invest in their family. They’ll help us see how some of the principles we’ve been learning can be applied in real-world situations.

Here’s Nancy talking with Steve and Debby, along with some of their children: Steven, Zac, and Anna.

Nancy: Let’s talk about this thing of family devotions for a moment. I know for some families that’s a thing they feel is important, something they ought to do. But I know for a lot of families they feel like, “How?” It’s a challenge to fit it in and make it a priority. And for some families, they have no clue what we’re talking about: “What does this mean?” Maybe they’ve never seen that modeled.

Steve and Debby, how did you come to believe that taking time with your family in prayer and in the Word on a daily basis was something that you wanted to make a priority? And how did you pull it off?

Steve Canfield: I think that probably it started with Debby and I when we got married. I made a commitment to her that we would pray together each day of our married life. And that simple commitment is usually—it’s not a long time—as we’re dropping off to sleep at night. When she hits the pillow, she’s pretty much gone. So there’s a security she has that started there between us.

And then, when we started having kids, we did the same thing. We committed to pray with them each night before they went to bed. As they got able to talk and so forth, we began to do some things that were leading them and teaching them spiritually.

I think that family devotions scares some people. You’re right. It’s not about a formal time. Family devotions is a 24-hour-a-day lifestyle. But it’s just stopping your day for a few moments to say, “God is important for us, and we’re going to turn off whatever we’re doing. We’re going to take some time to say, ‘God is important in our home.’”

I think consistency is as important as content. I remember a time when the boys were young. We’ve done all kinds of things for family devotions but the default mode is the Proverbs—to take the proverb of the day and read through the book of Proverbs. Every sentence is a sermon.

We’ve done a lot of things. We’ll have them draw a picture of the verse or some other things. But often when we've got nothing planned, we just say, “Okay, let’s just read what the proverb of the day is.”

One time we were doing that, and we had probably the three boys. It was just one of those times when the phone rang, and somebody came to the door, and Steven and Jeremiah had to break up a fight. They were fighting on the couch. And then Josh had a dirty diaper. It was just chaos, but I made it through all the verses.

We got through, and they dispersed. I remember saying to Debby, “No one heard a single thing I said, but at least they’ll know we’re consistent.” And I think that a lot of times just having that consistent time of saying, “God is important enough to stop what we’re doing and make Him the priority” is important.

Throughout the day there are good times and other things you can do to add to the content of that. But just the consistency, I think, is important.

I think that probably there are other times that have been more meaningful than the actual formal times. For us, as we’ve established this habit of praying together with each of the kids before they go to bed at night, those have been some more meaningful times than even the formal times.

I’ll just be lying on the floor whenever they go to bed for us again. It’s probably 11:00 at night. And they’ve got one of two choices: either go to sleep or talk to Dad. We’ve had some of the best discussions and theological discussions in those times—teachable moments, call them what you want. But a willingness to just pause.

I remember one time we were talking, and one of my sons, Ben, said, “Dad, are we supposed to love our enemies?”

I said, “Yes, the Bible says we’re supposed to love our enemies.”

He thought for a minute, and he said, “Dad, is the devil our enemy?”

I said, “Yes, the devil is our enemy.”

Nancy: I know where this is going.

Steve: He said, “Dad, are we supposed to love the devil?”

I said, “Time to go to sleep.”

But you know, we’ve had some great discussions during those times, where they’re just lying there thinking out loud. And Anna, each night as we pray, she basically walks through her day with me, and we talk about things. She values that time. It’s important.

I think some parents, perhaps, have a schedule. And it’s important to have a schedule. But to say, “Okay, you’ve got to be in bed by 8:30. No talking and no lights”—whatever it is—there’s got to be some flexibility in those times. Look for those times. It may not be, for some families, at that time. But there’s got to be a time.

I remember Andrew Murray had an article called “Wasting Time with God.” His whole point is: You should come into the presence of God without an agenda. Really, there’s no such thing as wasting time with God.

I think it’s the same thing with your family. There’s going to be times when you’re just wasting time with your family, because in the midst of those times, that’s where things are communicated.

Nancy: Debby, I know we have a lot of moms who listen to Revive Our Hearts who either don’t have a dad in the home, or the dad is not a believer, or he doesn’t have a heart for the Lord. How do you encourage moms in that kind of situation to be able to provide a spiritual environment for their children—devotional times or whatever—if there’s not a dad there who has a heart for that?

Debby Canfield: I think for single moms, or moms whose husbands don’t want to interact in family devotions, there’s nothing wrong with you taking the Word of God and reading it or singing it or having that time with your kids.

One thing I appreciate about my daughter-in-law is that she teaches them passages from the Word of God. She does it with hand motions so that they remember. At Christmas time, at Easter time, and throughout the year, we’ll go visit them, and they’ll have this whole chapter. They’ve been doing this since they were two, three, and four.

To me, I think a mother can have a very good impact on her children even if the father isn’t there.

Nancy: We’ve talked on this program about the importance of parents guarding their children’s hearts when they’re young and creating an environment that protects them from being exposed to ungodly influences before they’re prepared to handle those.

Steven, Zac, Anna, and Christy—now into the Canfield family—as you think about growing up, what are some of the things that your parents did that helped to protect and guard your hearts? And how did you feel about some of those parameters or restrictions that they put into your life?

Anna: I have one. Mom and I have a very different view on clothes.

Nancy: I’d like to hear about that.

Anna: We have very different opinions on a lot of things on styles, modesty. I do follow her—not only because she’s in charge of me, but because I know that this is for my greater good. And even though a lot of times I don’t agree, I don’t want to say, “Mom, I don’t want to wear that because I don’t like it, because you picked it out.”

I have to overcome that because a lot of times I feel kind of embarrassed. You know, a lot of people feel embarrassed by their parents, and I’m trying not to because I know that’s just another kid thing.

My mom is definitely a great influence. So I know that I need to obey her even though I don’t agree with her. And I know someday, if I do not obey her, I will regret that.

Nancy: I want to talk about this thing of differences for a minute. Anna, you just mentioned some differences in clothing preferences. Steven, any differences you’ve had with your parents growing up that you care to talk about?

Steven Canfield: How long is this show? No, the funny thing is, I have a lot of differences still. I’ve got kids. And all of a sudden the differences were a lot less, and I became almost more strict. I think that growing up in that environment where you are being guarded you wonder, “Well, what’s out there? What am I missing? Why can everyone else who claims the name of Christ do these things?”

Nancy: Such as?

Steven: Music, television, mostly entertainment things, a lot of the worldly influences. There were a lot of times as a teenager that I became very upset about having to live under these guidelines. I remember music was a big deal in our home. I was very upset often about the music I was not allowed to listen to.

I remember one time I had been upset about it for a long time. There was one particular CD I really wanted. Everybody had it. The Christian people had it, so I felt that this was a justifiable CD. There’s nothing unbiblical about it. So I had gone through all the biblical explanation of why I should have this CD. My parents didn’t approve of me having it, and I just really wanted my way on this one.

I remember at Christmas one year, I opened up my stocking, and the CD was in there. And I just kind of looked at my dad, because I was like, “What’s going on here? This is what I’ve been fighting for, for all this time, and now you’re just giving it to me? Are you surrendering, or what?”

Nancy: Santa brought it, right?

Steven: Yeah. Maybe it wasn’t them! That made a statement to me, though, that they recognized that that wasn’t the real issue. It wasn’t the CD that was the issue. It was really following their authority. It wasn’t that they had the final word on what music was acceptable. But it was they were the final word in my life at that point.

I remember my dad said to me, “You can have this CD, but only listen to the songs that the Holy Spirit gives you freedom to listen to.” And that all of a sudden made it all new to me. “Okay, so I have to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit when I’m listening to this. Okay, that’s a new thought.”

That began a process in me of being sensitive: “Lord, what do You want me to listen to?” I’ve found, as I started having kids, that a lot of the rules that I thought were a little bit oppressive in my mind as a 15-year-old—I began to see the value in them.

Now, I’m looking at my children and going, “I don’t want the world to just beat them up. I want to do whatever I can to be in my home, to be a filter and a funnel. I want to filter out the junk. I want to funnel in the truth and all the glory of God and the bigness of God.

My parents were a good example of being a filter and a funnel: funneling in the truth of Scripture and the reality of Christ, and filtering out as much gunk as possible. I mean, we can’t filter everything because it’s all around us. But the things that come through our television and that we listen to in our headsets can be filtered out. I appreciate that, and we’re filtering out a lot of stuff in our home. Hopefully our kids will understand as they get older as well.

Nancy: So did your parents create an atmosphere where you felt free to challenge them, to ask questions? Or did you feel like, “You just do this, and there’s no discussion about this?”

Zac Canfield: They always encourage us when they tell us to do something, that we first say, “Yes,” or “Yes, ma’am.” Then, if we have a question we say, “Can I make an appeal?” They were very open to us making appeals. I know I make appeals often. My brothers and Anna have too.

So it wasn’t that they said, “This is it.” Sometimes, if it carried on too long, they would say, “This is it, period. We aren’t going to discuss it anymore.” But they have always been open to questions and to explain to us why they don’t want us to listen to certain things or watch certain things.

Nancy: I’m assuming that the attitude of the appeal had something to do with its effectiveness?

Zac: Yes. If we came to the appeal out of selfishness and just wanting our own way, most likely they weren’t going to accept the appeal. But if we came broken and really wanted to understand the heart behind the rule, they’d be more open to that.

Steve: Age has a lot to do with it. The first thing we wanted them to do was learn the “whats,” and then the “whys.” You want to teach them the “whys.” But if they don’t learn to obey the “whats” first—if a child is going out into the street and you say, “Get out of the street.” You don’t want them to say, “Can I make an appeal?” You want them to obey and then ask why.

So I’ve told the kids, “Listen, I will always explain to you why. You obey first, and then I’ll tell you why." I think parents need to spend as much time as their kids want to explain to them, “Here’s why we don’t watch this. Here’s why we don’t stand in the street when a truck is coming by.” But they’ve got to learn to obey first. Otherwise, they’re set up for disaster.

Nancy: Now, Zac, I think you just said something that really hit on an important issue. You said your parents wanted you to understand the heart behind the rules. So there were rules. But, Steve and Debby, you wanted your kids to do more than obey. You wanted them to have a heart for the Lord and for obedience and for holiness—not just to conform to the rules.

Steve: We’re preparing them to leave. And we can’t parent—we’re not going to be with them—all their lives. So if that never got on the inside—if they never understood that this is not about what Debby and Steve think; this is about what God thinks; it’s about what the Holy Spirit thinks—then we can train little soldiers and send them out, and they’re going to do everything they’ve never been able to do before because it’s not inside.

Nancy: So how do you get it inside? How do you get past rules to kids having a heart? Kids, you can jump in, or Steve and Debby. How does that process of helping the children get ownership of their own faith happen?

Steven: I think it’s interesting, because I look back, and I’m kind of the second generation of the oldest child, having a sister that was born when I was in college. So trying to observe the rules that they now have, I often look and say, “Well, I couldn’t do that when I was eight years old. What’s up with that?”

Nancy: I’m sure you’ve pointed this out.

Steven: Yes, I’ve done that a number of times, and we need to talk about that more. Anyway, it’s interesting, because I’ve seen my parents grow in their own spiritual walks. I was the oldest, and so I kind of was on the lesser level of their sanctification. And they’ve grown.

Nancy: Debby, do you acknowledge this?

Debby: Yes. Definitely.

Steven: So I’ve watched them grow immensely in their walk with the Lord. They’re parenting at a more in-tune level with the Lord than they did when I was a child. So my brothers and sisters who are younger get to have the benefit of that.

I think there were some things that I didn’t understand the heart behind, early on, of why we did things. And some of those things have even changed, things that I was always arguing about.

Nancy: You wore them down.

Steven: Well, I hope not. I probably did. I was sometimes not a good guinea pig. But one of the things I appreciate—on this whole topic of why have we not rebelled against rules that have been put on us—is that we’ve seen that they’re willing to change if God directs them in a different way. So it’s not just that they have said, “We’re just going to do this because I think it’s a good thing to do.” I’ve seen my parents adjust their rules as God has grown them up spiritually.

That gives us some hope, so we can at least pray and say, “Lord, would You change their hearts on this rule?” Because they’re being sensitive to the Lord. And I hope that my children see the same in me: that it’s not just about the rule; it’s about following the heart of God. If God’s shows us that this is what His heart is—then we’ll change right along with it.

So it’s not about their rules. It’s about them discerning God’s will for our home, which is just a bigger topic and a bigger expression of love.

Nancy: And Steve and Debby, as most of your children now are out of the nest or approaching it, I assume there have been some issues where your older kids have made some choices and decisions that are not necessarily what you would have chosen. None have flagrantly rebelled, but they are now young adults and making their decisions under the lordship of Christ.

How do you handle that with them, as we’re talking about releasing arrows, releasing children into adulthood? How do you process that with them as they make choices of their own?

Debby: I think the first thing is taking it to the Lord. Steve and I will spend time together every morning, praying for each one of our children, for the needs that we see, and for the desires that we want them to have. I think also in the past—and even when they were young, as children—we saw bad attitudes.

But now, as many of them are out of the home, making their own decisions, we spend time in prayer and fasting for our children, that God will possibly, as Steve says a lot of times, turn the switch on in their hearts.

I’ve had to realize in my process—being with all the children for 29 years—that I came in having such a desire for them to be godly. So I held my hands, my fists, really tight. I had to learn over the years to surrender them and allow God to work in their hearts—and just to back off sometimes when I wanted to take hold of them.

I know that I fail. I failed when I was a teenager and a college student. That’s why I was holding so tightly, because I didn’t want them to have to learn from experience. I wanted them to learn from observation of our lives. But God would, many times in prayer, just say, “Debby, you just need to surrender your kids to Me and let Me take care of it.”

Nancy: Now, there’s a real balancing act here, because I’m thinking as you say that of the opposite style of parenting, which is that the kids run the place. The parents don’t take responsibility, as the kids are young, for establishing parameters and guidelines. And the kids are being left to kind of raise themselves. You’ve seen in a lot of families, Steve, as you’ve ministered, the disastrous consequences of that kind of thinking.

Steve: Right. There are four basic types of parents. The first parent is one who scores high in love and high in discipline. That would be what God wants: a balance there. There is also a parent who has no love and no discipline: a neglectful parent.

Nancy: That’s anarchy.

Steve: Yes. And then there’s one who’s high in love, with no discipline. That would be a permissive parent; basically, the child is running the show. They can say “no” to their parents, or whatever, and they just run the show. And then there’s a parent who’s high in discipline, low in love. That’s where it’s kind of the military base.

What God desires, I believe, is for there to be love and discipline, for that balance to be there. I want to say that the bottom line for your children has got to be this: God has to flip the switch in their heart. I mean, it’s all the grace of God. All of our kids have failed. All of our kids have made wrong choices at times. We all have. The grace of God is the reason that we’re sitting here right now, number one.

Secondly, I believe that we as parents create a soil for that child to grow in. There can either be a soil that is healthy, or there can be a soil where the plant has a really difficult time growing. But you can have a good soil and a bad plant. You can have bad soil and a good plant, occasionally. And I think, for adult children—talking about after they leave the nest—I don’t believe a parent is responsible for the wrong choices of grown children. I think they make their own choices.

Steven could make a wrong choice tomorrow, go off the deep end. And he is responsible for his choices right now. I think a lot of parents beat themselves up over wrong choices their adult children have made. Now, they can go back, certainly, and ask forgiveness for patterns they have set, for a soil they have created. But that adult child is going to make choices. He is a free moral agent, between him and God. And the choices of adult children are about them and God, not about their parents.

Nancy: So what role do parents have at that point?

Steve: I used to think, “It’s going to be so great when our kids grow up and they’re out of the home. It’s going to be so much easier.” You know, you never stop parenting your kids. In fact, it was easier when they were five. I could just say, “Go to your room.” It was a lot easier. You can’t do that now.

So our responsibility now is one of a counselor, one of a friend. And if there is a relationship built in those earlier years, they are going to come for counsel; they are going to come for friendship and relationship. I’m amazed at how much smarter I’ve gotten as Steven’s gotten older. I’m a lot smarter than I was when he was a teenager because, as he said, he has a family now. So he’s looking at those things, saying, “This is something I’ve got to deal with also.”

Leslie: Steve Canfield has been casting a vision for parents with younger children. Are you investing in a relationship with them now so that you can become the kind of counselor to them he just described?

If you want to learn more about developing that kind of deep relationship with your kids, I hope you’ll get a copy of this series on CD. It’s called Leaving a Godly Legacy. It includes three interview segments with Steve and Debby Canfield, along with some of their kids. And it includes several helpful teaching sessions with Nancy Leigh DeMoss from Psalm 127 and 128. This would be a perfect gift for a mom with young kids.

You can order at or call 1-800-569-5959. Whether or not you order the series on CD, be sure to ask for a gift we’re making available at no charge during this series. It’s a bookmark printed with meaningful quotes from Nancy and the text from Psalm 127. We want to send you five of these bookmarks because you probably know some other parents who could use them. Of course, you can keep as many as you want for yourself.

Ask for the bookmarks by calling 1-800-569-5959, or look for this special offer at

What does it do for a child to know that his parents are up early praying? Find out tomorrow when the Canfields are back with us for Revive Our Hearts.

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

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.