Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Air We Breathe

Leslie Basham: Steven Canfield, Jr. remembers the home in which he grew up.

Steven Canfield Jr.: Christianity wasn’t a compartment in our home. It was the atmosphere in which we lived. It wasn’t just a part of our life like here’s one tenth, and that’s Christianity, so let’s do our Christian thing. Christianity was the whole thing and everything else was woven in and out of that. It is true: The air we breathe is Christ in our home.

Leslie: It’s Thursday, May 10, and you’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Yesterday, we heard from Steve and Debby Canfield. They serve with Nancy at Life Action Ministries. They talked openly about the kinds of issues that can divide parents and teens. We’ll pick up on that conversation with Steve and Debby and their children, Zac, Anna, Steven, and his wife Christy.

Nancy: Let’s look at the whole issue of relationship—and having your kids’ hearts. Zac and Anna, Christy and Steven, what would you tell parents are keys to being able to cultivate that relationship, so the kids want to listen the parents and want to respond to them?

What are some things your parents have done that have helped to cultivate relationship? We’ll start with you, Anna.

Anna: One thing is that we go out on dates with our parents just to talk. We can talk. Sometimes I feel that, “I don’t want to go outside. I don’t want to talk to you outside. I’m afraid someone will hear.”

For that kind of stuff, we’ll just stay inside and eat lunch by ourselves so that we can have talks. We can enjoy ourselves and the fellowship, and I can tell them my problems and they can tell me theirs.

Nancy: Do you do this with both parents together or just each parent individually?

Anna: We do it with each parent individually. My dad will take me out or my mom will. My Dad will take Zac out, or sometimes Mom will take him out. They’ve done that with their kids so we can be together and share our hearts.

Steve Sr.: I’ll tell you, it’s a whole different ballgame, having five boys and now having a little girl.

Nancy: There’s a difference?

Steve Sr.: Oh, my goodness! I could never imagine myself sitting here having a tea party. I mean, some of these things were way out of my comfort zone. For Anna, she needs to have a lot more communication, and that’s not natural for me.

I’m not prone to that, and yet, that is a great need for her. She wants that, needs that, and enjoys that. I think sometimes we can get into a pattern even individual children, but each of our children are different.

If you don’t study your child and know their needs, then you’re not going to be able to give them what they need. Anna has vastly different needs than Zac does. They both have needs, but their needs are different.

If we don’t take time to realize that, we can just lump them together, and somebody falls through the cracks.

Nancy: So, Zac, you’re 17. What has helped you to want to have a relationship—to have a positive relationship with your parents?

Zac: Well, first of all, I just know that they love me, and they really care for my best interests.

Nancy: What communicates that to you?

Zac: Besides them telling me often, one way they show me love is by getting up early. If we wake up early in the morning, we’ll see them out on their knees praying for us and lifting up our name before the Lord. They are praying not only to lead us in the right way, but that God would show them how they can change to lead us in the right way.

Nancy: Steven, your parents told you that they loved you, but there was also discipline in the home. When there was discipline going on, how did you know that they still loved you?

Steven Jr.: The discipline that my parents gave me, and particularly my father—because he’s the one who would discipline me when he was home. I knew that the discipline he was giving me was motivated out of a heart of love. Which means that he had to do it in a loving way so that I didn’t just think, “Man that was painful.”

I thought, “Man, he loves me.”

Nancy: How is that affecting the way you parent now?

Steven Jr.: It affects it greatly. Above all, when I discipline my children the biblical way, I want them to know that I love them. I want them to know that I’m not doing it to them because they’re annoying me at that particular time in my life.

There is a real challenge for me every time I go to discipline my children to make sure I’m communicating above all else a heart of love for them. When Christ the Lord disciplines me, He does it purely out of love.

I want them to see that same heart of God—a loving discipline and not just, “This is retribution for what you have done wrong.” Not, “Get over it, and stop doing that,” but that “I care about you.”

“I care about you so much that I’m going to discipline you so that you don’t mess up again and again and hurt yourself.” That was definitely communicated in our home.

Steven Sr.: Proverbs says that a parent who disciplines their child is communicating love to that child, and if there’s not discipline, “He who spares the rod hates his son” (Proverbs 13:24).

I think we’ve grown up in a generation that wonders why there are so many parenting difficulties. Children have not been assured from their youngest days, “My parents love me.” So now in their teen years when restrictions are put on, if they aren’t convinced that parent loves them, they are going to resist those restrictions because they don’t see the heart behind it.

I don’t think Anna understands the reasons why we restrict certain things, but she does understand that we love her. Because she knows we love her, she can accept some of those restrictions before she has understanding of them.

Steven now has his own children, so he’s understanding some of those things more than when he was 11. But the issue is that through those years there has got to be a foundation of, “I know they love me, so even though I don’t agree, it’s okay because I’m convinced of their love.”

It’s the same things with God. We’re so finite. He’s so infinite. I don’t understand why God does a lot of things, but I know He loves me, and because of that, I can accept some things that are difficult for me to filter through my intellect because in my spirit, I know that God cares about me.

Nancy: Have there been times, Steve and Debby, when you weren’t on the same page, as it relates to how you were going to handle an issue with one of your children? I assume the answer to that question is, “Yes.”

Debby: Yes. There’s been many times.

Nancy: How do you get on the same page as parents, and how important is that?

Debby: I think that for me, I’m stronger. I’m a strong woman, and I want things done right away, right now. Steve sits back, and he thinks about it for a while. So I’ve had to learn over the years.

One of the things we do is to go in the bedroom, and we will talk about it. I’ll ask Steve, “Will you please explain to me why you didn’t do this or why you did it this way?” Then we will talk about it, and I will have to come under whatever he feels is right because he’s the leader of our home.

Even if I don’t agree, I just have to ask God to help me to submit to that and trust God—which helps me to trust Steve.

Steve Sr.: You asked for specifics. I think probably one of the hot buttons in our home is in the area of music. Debby came out of a very conservative background musically, and I did not.

There are some lines that are arbitrary about music that relate to preferences, and somebody has to decide, “Okay, here’s where the line is going to be.” Well, her line and my line are in different places.

Now, if it was a biblical thing, we’d come down at the same place. It’s not. It’s a preference issue, so there are times, especially as the kids are getting older, where I say, “Okay, you can listen to a certain thing,” that steps over her preference line.

I’m realizing that I want them to learn to make those decisions, guided by the Holy Spirit. She knows that, and I have to help her understand that. We have to give the kids some parameters but also give them some freedoms, so I can help guide them.

I don’t want them to be under my line and then at 18 go “jump off the cliff.” I want them to little by little progress, so they begin to make decisions. When they make wrong decisions in those teen years, I can then be there to help them and say—forget music now—but in some other areas to say, “Here’s where that wasn’t a good decision.”

I want them to have some freedom to grow during those years before they “jump off the cliff” and turn 18.

Debby: My fear is that they’ll jump off too soon. But I have to realize that Steve’s heart is in God’s hands, and He’s turning that, whether I agree with him or whether I don’t (Proverbs 21:1, paraphrase).

It really goes back to, “Do I really trust God?” If I trust God, then I’m going to be able to say, “Okay, whatever. You are in charge,” and that’s when I go to prayer and ask God for protection.

Nancy: Is there anything you wish you would have done differently—more of, less of—if you had to do it again?

Steve Sr.: I think one thing I’d do differently is prepare them financially. I don’t think I prepared my kids financially the way that they needed to be. Both of them have gone to work at churches—two of them are married so far. I didn’t teach my kids those kind of practical things about finances. I with I’d done more in that regards.

Debby: For me, I wouldn’t be so dogmatic. I would be more understanding and listening and not so fearful that they were going to make a wrong decision.

I would have more peace in my heart, and I know that comes with just my relationship with the Lord. Also, I was so fearful when the boys were little. I had so many fears in my life.

Nancy: Fears of . . . ?

Debby: I feared that someone was going to come in and take my children from me—fears of somebody breaking in, fears of thunderstorms. My kids do remember those fears, but now I understand the sovereignty of God. I know it’s because of the crisis situations that He’s taken us through that have helped me to learn to trust the Lord.

Nancy: Has that made it easier to trust the Lord with your children?

Debby: Yes, definitely. I think that’s why there are four things I’ve learned since 1976, when I married this man.

That is: flexibility, surrender, sovereignty, and now, it’s a privilege. It brings a lot of peace to me if I look at everything through the eyes of God. This is a privilege that I get to do this instead of thinking, “I can’t do this. We can’t keep going. I have to give up. I’ve got to quit.”

But with my children, it helps me to have my hands open with them—not trying to control their lives, but letting God teach them as they’re older, and leaving it to Him because He’s the Author!

Steve Sr.: I think another would be—time. I’ve been with over 400 pastors in extended meetings. I’ve never had a pastor say to me, “Boy, I have spent too much time with my family.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had pastors sit in regret and say, “I have spent too much time counseling people—doing good things—at the expense of my family.” I think if I could do one thing differently, I would not do as many “ministry things,” and I would do more things and spend more time just with my family.

Some of the things I used to think were so important, things that couldn’t get along without me—they could get along without me. I think that is where most people find themselves: either chasing the American dream, or feeling that they have to be involved in things.

What their kids need is not a nicer house, a nicer car, and more presents. What they need are parents in their life, whether they want it or not initially—they need their presence physically with them.

Nancy: We’ve been looking at Psalm 127 that says, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth” (verse 4). Steve and Debby, as you think about your children, and now your grandchildren, what do you want to see God do with them through their lives?

What would make you feel as a mom and dad or as grandparents that you’ve been successful in passing on a legacy to your children?

Debby: I pray daily for my kids that they will love the Lord with all their hearts, with all their souls, with all their minds, and I always add with all their emotions (Deuteronomy 6:5, paraphrase).

Steve: Yes. Some people have asked me if we have ever talked to our children about being in ministry. Steven was a youth director for five years before he joined Life Action. Our second son is a youth director in Florida.

We have other children that are preparing for ministry. I never prayed that they’d be in ministry. I’m glad that they are, but if they don’t go into full-time vocational ministry . . . I’m not saying it’s wrong to pray that. I never really thought about praying for that.

Really, the driving prayer of my life for my kids is not that they would be successful, not that they would be in ministry, but that they would be holy men and women of God, and the legacy I want for my kids is that they would be holy.

I want to be faithful to pray for them and guide them, that they might be holy, holy, holy men and women of God. That’s the legacy I’d like to see them leave.

Nancy: Steven and Christy, what are some of the things you have experienced in your own homes as you were growing up? Now that you’re starting your family—you have four little ones so far—what are some parts of the legacy that you’ve received? What baton has been handed to you that you want to pass on to your children?

Christy: I think for me, one of the things my dad instilled into me and my brothers was a servant’s heart—to serve people. My parents, especially my dad, was a big giver. He would loan out our car to people many times when we needed it, but he would do that.

I remember seeing that. I remember him always having a heart for others, and just teaching us to serve others—to drop what we’re doing, to take the initiative, and just serve others. That is something I definitely want to pass on to my children.

Steven Jr.: I want to pass on to our children that family is so crucial that other things have to be sacrificed for it. I think for me, I’m a vision type person, and when I get a vision, I just want to go for it.

My parents also had vision, but yet they would sacrifice some of the pursuit of the vision (whatever God had called them to do), to make time for us. I feel like it’s something I’m not doing very well right now.

I recognize that there is such a need to let my children know that they are in the vision as well, and we’re going to drop things and set aside things to spend time with them—to invest in their life, to pray with them, and to teach the Word to them.

The most important thing in our home is our relationship with Christ. A relationship with Christ was number one.

Nancy: How did you know it was?

Steven Jr.: We took time to say that it was on a daily basis, as much as possible. We spent time in the Word as a family. Every night we spent time in prayer. By the time we spent time in prayer every day and in the Word every day as a family, Christianity wasn’t a compartment in our home.

It was the atmosphere in which we lived. It wasn’t just a part of our life: like here’s one tenth, and that’s Christianity, so let’s do our Christian thing. Christianity was the whole thing—everything else was woven in and out of that.

That is what I want my home to be now with my children. I don’t want them to see Christianity as something that happens at church or even something that happens at family devotion time or family prayer time.

I want Christianity to be the atmosphere which we breathe so that they see this is the real thing. We’re talking about God; we’re loving God; we’re thinking about God; we’re confessing; we’re rejoicing; we’re singing songs about God—that is what I long for my family. The air we breathe is Christ in our home.

Leslie: That’s Steven Canfield. He and his wife Christy have been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about focusing a home around the most important thing in life: glorifying God.

We also heard from Steven’s parents, Steven and Debby Canfield, and also Steven Senior's younger children, Zac and Anna. I’ve learned a lot during our current series, Leaving a Godly Legacy.

Nancy spoke to parents from Psalm 127 and 128, and the Canfield family helped us understand better how we can live out biblical principles in the real world.

People listen to books on tape all the time, teaching them all sorts of skills and hobbies. Those are great, but there are few things more important than learning how to be a parent.

Would you spend some time with the CDs of this series? Just like a business person invests in books on tape about business, you can spend some time listening about one of the most challenging and exciting roles you’ll ever fill.

Order the CDs by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959. 

If you’re in the middle of reading five books right now, and you keep losing your place in them, I have good new for you. For this series, Leaving a Godly Legacy, our team designed a beautiful bookmark.

One side of it will remind you of Psalm 127, which Nancy taught earlier this week. The other includes encouraging thoughts from Nancy about the importance of parenthood. We liked these so much we decided not to just give you one, but to give you five at no charge.

If you’re in the middle of five books, we have just the thing for you. If you’re not, you can give four of your bookmarks to other parents who need the encouragement. Ask for the bookmarks at 1-800-569-5959, or look for this special offer at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Hear some touching stories about real kids and real moms, tomorrow, when our listeners tell us about their lives growing up. I hope you can be back. Now, let’s get back to Nancy and the Canfields.

Nancy: I’d like to ask Debby and then Steve, if you would pray for our listeners as we’ve been talking through this issue. I know that there are many, many parents listening; moms and dads, who want to leave a godly legacy for their children and who want to see the next generation follow after Christ.

Would you pray for our listeners that God would do that? Pray that God would send a revival among His people that would impact this next generation, so they would have a heart and a hunger to follow after Christ.

Debby: Father, I just want to praise You because You are a sovereign God, and You are in control. You are a God that is merciful, forgiving, and You have so much love for each and every one of Your children—more love than we can have for our children or our grandchildren.

Lord, I thank You that You care about them more than we do, and Lord, I just pray for every family. There may be some mothers out there that don’t have a father. I pray that You would give them hope, that you will be the Father to those children, and Lord, that You would give each mother the wisdom that brings health to the bones, as Proverbs says.

Lord, I pray that You would guide them and help them to walk in peace and humility, and most of all to walk in faith. I pray that they would learn to trust You with all their hearts and lean not unto their own understanding, but to acknowledge You as God in their home, and You will direct their children’s hearts, their grandchildren’s hearts.

God, we just thank You for the privilege of being able to bring children into this world, and Lord, You know that we need revival. We need revival in our families, and we need revival in our lives.

I pray, God, that You would send that great revival to our country, that our children’s hearts would be turned back to their fathers and their mothers, and we can’t do that without You, Jesus. I pray in Your precious name, amen.

Steve Sr.: Father, I’m reminded of the passage that says, “I have no greater joy than to know that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4). That is certainly Your heart, to know that we, as Your children, are walking in truth and joy and obedience.

Father, there’s no greater desire, no greater prayer that I have as a parent than to know that my children are walking in truth—the truth of holiness and the truth of Your Word. I thank You for the privilege that we have to impact our children and grandchildren and for generations down the road with our lives and our decisions.

I ask for the listeners of this program and these broadcasts, God, that wherever they’re at, whatever part of the family they’re of, I pray that You would minister to their need and You would give them grace to make right choices and right decisions. I pray that they would not cave to the attitudes and the philosophies of this world and that they would not cave to the fear of man or what others will think.

God, I pray that we would be a peculiar people—a chosen generation of royal priesthood, and I pray that we would give this world a right opinion of You because of the heart of our families their attitudes.

I pray that we would just give this world the right opinion of who You are, that people will be drawn to the Jesus they see into our homes. I pray that You would raise up a generation of Christian families that could impact this generation for the glory of God. I pray in the name of Jesus, amen.

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

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