Category Archives: Family

Encouraging Words, part 1

What encourages those who are grieving?

Some of the most encouraging words we received as we have faced the unexpected home going of my mother.

I have been praying for you regularly.
I’ve been praying that the Lord comfort and sustain you.

Can I help you with meals?
Can I do grocery shopping for you?
Can I help you with preparing anything for the memorial?

How can I serve you?

Your mother was so gracious in caring and snuggling with our kids in the nursery.
Your mother had such a positive attitude and influence in our ministry.
Your mother was so real.

Those are all things friends of ours have said and done–thank you!

Spiritual Family Tree

I have traced our family tree back 10 or 11 generations in this country, including the first generation of Scotch-Irish immigrants who fought in the American Revolution. And the Kilgour Clan (original spelling) can be traced many generations back in Scotland before being transported to Ireland by King James I.

But for me one of the interesting things to trace is my spiritual family tree.  While it is true that including  me, 6 of the last 10 generations of Kilgores that I trace in my family line were ordained ministers and I am thankful for the fact that my grandfather and father have had a spiritual influence in my life–they helped me develop my love for the Word of God–I know that I cannot rest on my heritage.  It is not enough to look back at the generations that came before me.  I have always been challenged to own my own relationship with the Lord, not as a family right or family history but as a personal passion.  I know how easy it is for a rich heritage to be lost.

If each generation does not own their own relationship with the Lord, personally, the influence of the heritage can be lost within one generation.

It is common for the passion and conviction of one generation to become conviction without passion for the next generation.  And then that passionless conviction becomes simply ritual for the next generation.  And finally ritual becomes forgotten history.

So what am I doing to leave a spiritual family tree?

If your spiritual family tree has deep roots—what are you doing to keep it healthy and growing straight and bearing fruit?

  • Who has influenced me?  How did they do it?
  • What must I do to insure that I have conviction, passion and own my own relationship with the Lord?
  • Who am I influencing to develop a spiritual family tree?

Psalm 78:1–8 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, 3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. 5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; 8 and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God. (ESV)

Who is really leaving the faith and why?

This is a challenge to parents as much as it is to the church.

Many have reported alarming numbers of Millennials leaving their faith. This summary provides a good context for understanding what the numbers actually reveal.

See previous related posts
Critical Thinking

What follows is from the Gospel Coalition blog.

Who is Really Leaving the Faith and Why?

It’s likely you’ve heard the news: the sky is falling. Reports have been circulating for a while now that our churches are on the decline and it’s the young people who are to blame. Articles, blogs and even books have been written warning ministry leaders and parents alike, the Millennials are leaving our churches in droves of hundreds and thousands.

Intrigued by the implications of a generation giving up on organized religion, we set out to understand who is leaving and why. And what we found was surprising. Many of the most significant and encouraging findings are largely being ignored, while the less accurate and discouraging ones are being emphasized.

Focus on the Family talked to respected sociologists of religion and studied the best, nationally-representative studies and found the bad news is not as bad as you might have heard. Our new report, “Millennial Religious Participation and Retention” draws out some very important research for those who are raising and ministering to the next generation

Pew Research recently found that 18% of young adults leaving their faith altogether and another 20% are switching from one faith to another. This latter cohort, while leaving individual churches, are not leaving their individual faith. They might be switching to a church across town or to one near their college campus. With more young adults switching than leaving, it’s odd very few are talking about those switching. In fact, many, we suspect, have been counting them along with those who are leaving.

Also interesting is the huge difference between conservative, Bible-teaching churches and mainline Protestant churches. The General Social Survey, perhaps the most academically-trusted source for demographic data back through 1972, recently noted a 2.2% decline in mainline churches and a slight 0.6% increase among conservative churches (from 1991 to 2012).

Perhaps most interesting is what Pew learned about those leaving their faith. Pew asked those leaving if they ever had a strong faith as a child. Only 11% said they did. The other 89% said they never had a strong faith in the first place. As our report says:

Not surprisingly, homes modeling lukewarm faith do not create enduring faith in children. Homes modeling vibrant faith do. So these young adults are leaving something they never had a good grasp of in the first place. This is not a crisis of faith, per se, but of parenting.

Young adults are not developing a strong faith as children and walking away as they enter adulthood. Instead, the majority are failing to develop strong faith in the first place and then walking away. As Notre Dame Sociology Professor Christian Smith writes,

Religious outcomes in emerging adulthood … flow quite predictably from formative religious influences that shape persons’ lives in early years … religious commitments, practices and investments made during childhood and the teenage years, by parents and others in families and religious communities, matter – they make a difference.

This has huge implications for those working to instill faith in our children. First, it’s encouraging that those children who develop a deep faith early on will likely hold onto that faith throughout their lives. But secondly, this shows being in and around church is simply insufficient to develop strong faith for many children. Taking children to church and Sunday school, while important, should not be seen as the only, or even best, way to instill strong faith in our children.

Parents should be intentional about creating homes where their children learn a vibrant faith from God-fearing parents, relatives and other adults. Parents should teach personal habits of prayer and Bible reading in their children, which makes them much more likely to hold onto their faith.

Christian Smith doesn’t mince words: “Parents are huge, absolutely huge, nearly a necessary condition” for a child to remain strong in their faith into young adulthood. He concludes “without question, the most important pastor a child will ever have in their life is a parent.”

There are many reasons why young adults leave their faith, but perhaps the most significant is that they never developed a strong faith in the first place. Instead of trying to appeal to those with lukewarm faith, perhaps we should back up and consider how we can teach parents to cultivate strong, lasting faith long before our children enter adulthood.

For more of our findings, read the complete report at Focus Findings, a ministry of Focus on the Family.

Andrew Hess is the Manager of Church Outreach at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Adjunct Professor of Humanities and Theology at Colorado Christian University. He is passionate about equipping pastors and ministry leaders to lead thoughtful, thriving ministries.


The movie Courageous hits theaters tomorrow.

I saw the movie this summer with my wife.  I found the movie engaging, fun (good use of humor) and challenging.  It is the best movie so far for the Kendrick brothers (Facing the Giants, Fireproof).

I highly recommend it for all men–you will enjoy it, you will be challenged.



Jesse Tree

One of our family values is legacy-leaving a legacy.  Since we have a rich legacy on both sides of our family, we want to pass that on to our boys.  One of the ways we want to do that is by establishing traditions. Tradition defined by Webster’s New World dictionary as, “the handing down orally of stories, beliefs, customs, etc. from generation to generation” and “a long-established custom or practice that has the effect of an unwritten law.”

I can’t say that word “Tradition!” without thinking of the musical, “Fiddler on the Roof”.  Traditions are often thought of in negative terms-things that keep us from moving on to things that are new or things with more personal meaning.  But traditions are also powerful ways of reinforcing meaningful and purposeful values and beliefs.

As we approach Christmas and contemplate the first advent of our Savior, we can all struggle with the desire to keep first things first in our celebration, while at the same time being pulled in many different directions with activities that just add to already busy lives.  Meaningful traditions can help us and our families maintain a proper perspective.

For our family, “tradition” or “making memories” as we often refer to them, are a key part not only of helping us keep a proper perspective but are means to teach our boys what we believe in a positive and proactive manor.

While we have many traditions one of our longest held traditions (for most of the past 10 years) occurs during December.  It’s called an Advent Jesse Tree

Starting on December 1 and leading up all the way to December 25 we have a special Bible reading and symbol that reminds us of what God went through to provide us with a Savior.

The idea behind a “Advent Jesse Tree” has been around for quite a while, there are a number of books that describe the making and content, and there are a number more that provide readings and devotions (see below for a resource list).

But the basic concept behind the Jesse Tree, and the reason we like it so much, is to explain the elements leading up to the coming of Jesus.  As Dean Meador Lambert states in her book, “the Advent Jesse Tree seeks to tell the story of God’s redemption plan for the world through 25 symbols form the Old and New Testament.  The symbols trace the heritage of Jesus from the beginning of creation.”

In our case, about 10 years ago Mary Anne made a quilt (about 3 feet by 4 feet) with a Jesse Tree, which has 25 buttons sewn on it.  You don’t have to have a quilt; you can use a small Christmas tree.  For each of the 25 days we have a symbol which Mary Anne and a friend made.  The symbols can be simple (made by the children themselves), homemade, or purchased, whatever fits your family best.  Our symbols fit neatly in a shoe box.  For each day we have a couple of passages of Scripture to read and then a summary taken from the book, Let’s Make a Jesse Tree!  by Darcy James, and one of the boys takes a turn (they remember whose turn it is!) hanging the symbol.  As the boys grew they participated more and more.  As they learned to read, they read the short summary or the Bible passage, which gave them more ownership and a real joy.

During December our quilt hung on the wall of our family room or as we moved (twice) to a prominent place in our house, where we could both review the story of redemption and anticipate the approach of Christmas.

Mary Anne has made a second quilt and set of ornaments so that when the boys leave the house, they will each have a Jesse Tree to continue the tradition-hopefully leaving a godly legacy.

While this tradition has been hard to maintain as the boys reach high school and have more scheduled evening activities-it will continue to be a meaningful-as we remember the memories we have made.  And even more important-as we seek to keep Christ central in our celebration.

Jesse Tree Books (Each follows the same basic idea, but uses different Bible passages and symbols.)

Darcy James, Let’s Make a Jesse Tree!  (Nashville: Abington Press 1987) Contains simple “how-to” instructions.

Dean Meador Lambert, The Advent Jesse Tree, (Nashville: Abington Press 1988) Has two sets of devotionals, one for children and one for adults.

Raymond and Georgene Anderson, The Jesse Tree, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1966) Includes questions that can be asked after the reading.

M. Breckenridge, Jesse Tree Devotions.  (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1985)

Les Misérables

As part of an extended celebration of our 20th anniversary, Mary Anne and I went to see Les Misérables  at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia.

The Walnut Street Theater is the oldest (199 years) continually operating theater in the English speaking world.

What we saw was the musical adaption of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel Les Misérables.  A novel about an ex-con who through the act of kindness, grace and redemption sees to live out his live as a force of good.

What struck my about the musical versus the movie was how strong the redemptive themes and religious overtones where.  The references to prayer, redemption, grace and salvation are sprinkled throughout the play.  In the movie there are several references but not to the degree as the musical.

One of the elements of the novel/play/book that should serve as a wonderful reminder for Christians is the impact an act of forgiveness.  One act of forgiveness leads to a life of service.  Shouldn’t that be our story?

If you every have the opportunity to see the play, take it.  The musical has various adaptations and in some of them does have some colorful characters.


I only recommend movies cautiously.  But, last night as a family we had the opportunity to go to a special screening of Bella, a movie (as one reviewer summarized it) “about life, love . . .and the love of life.”

image It is a drama about two people facing the reality of the life altering consequences of decisions–a hidden past, an uncertain future.

Themes that come through the movie are the value of family, the need for friendship, the reality of consequences and the value of life.

It is an independent, low budget movie, but well done.  It won the Toronto International Film Festival people’s choice aware in 2006.

This is a movie worth seeing, worth taking your teens to see.  It isimage rated PG13, but not for language or sensuality.  There are several intense moments that may not be suitable for young children, especially the more sensitive ones.

The timeline of the movie is a bit hard to follow in a few places, but this will give you the opportunity to talk about the movie and the message with those you see it with.

Check out the clips–trailer and Eduardo’s story to see the real life results of the movie.

We also liked the first line in the movie, “My grandmother used to say, ‘You want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.'”