The Christmas letter we sent out to our email subscribers.
Dear Friends of FLS:
A while back I got an interesting letter. Please take just 3 minutes and read it for some insight.
Dear Tim and Staff,
I just wanted to take a moment of your time and let you know how things are going for me.
It is hard to believe that just a year ago I was in such a desperate state of mind. When I walked into your office, I was relieved to see a friendly face. Yet, I was a little embarrassed because of my situation. I had never been in such bad shape financially or emotionally.
As we talked about what I was going through, I began to realize that you weren’t going to judges me for my present situation, that you and your staff were there to help my in any way possible. Being divorced, unemployed, and just finding out I was pregnant had literally devastated me. We talked about my nine-year-old, how he had grown, all the joy he gave me, and how I felt when I held him for the first time in my arms. You made me realize things I hadn’t thought about in years, and just how precious that tiny life I was carrying truly was.
That is when I decided to keep the baby.
I wish that everyone who ever considered an abortion could spend just one day with me now. My son, who is now 10 months old, is the joy of everyone around him…including his father, who I am now married to, and especially his ten-year-old brother. I am starting a new job in a couple of weeks and moving out of state.
I feel better knowing that at least I got the chance to thank you, although there aren’t enough words to express how I feel. Please know that I will always be grateful for you and your staff for being there, for listening, and for letting me cry. Thanks again and God bless!
She also sent along a picture of her son with this note of the back:
“Thanks for everything, your work is one of the reasons I get to see this smiling face today!”
All I can say to you who are reading this right now is “THANKS” to you for allowing me to have these wonderful experiences and we appreciate your generous support!
Tim Durham and Staff
Thank you for your generous support and
Merry Christmas from all of us at Family Life Services,
Tim Durham, M.Ed.
I was doing some basic organizing at work and came across a long-forgotten poem from 1996 that I had cut out of the newspaper and stored away. Do you remember Ann Landers? She had printed a poem that was sent in by a reader. Reading it over again after so many years I remembered why I kept it in the first place.
And God Said No
By Claudia Minden Weisz
I asked God to take away my pride,
And God said, “No.” He said it was not for Him to take away,
But for me to give up.
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole,
And God said, “No.” He said her spirit is whole,
Her body is only temporary.
I asked God to grant me patience,
And God said, “No.” He said that patience is a byproduct of tribulation.
It isn’t granted, it’s earned.
I asked God to give me happiness,
And God said, “No.” He said He gives blessings,
Happiness is up to me.
I asked God to spare me pain.
And God said ”No.” He said suffering draws you apart from worldly cares
And brings you closer to Me.
I asked God to make my spirit grow,
And God said, “No.” He said I must grow on my own,
But He will prune me to make me fruitful.
I asked God to help me love others as much as He loves me,
And God said, “Ah, finally, you have the idea.”
My wife and I were studying the story in Acts 3 where Peter and John healed the man lame from birth. After people ran forward and a crowd gathered, Peter preached a short but powerful message to them. In the next chapter, they experienced immediate resistance as the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees had them arrested. Notwithstanding the arrest, the number of men who came to believe in Jesus was 5,000 (Acts 4:4). The next day, the elders and scribes asked them to explain their involvement in the healing event and once again Peter, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, told them even more about Jesus:
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated common men, they wondered; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man that had been healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition (Act 4:13).
Notice what Peter and John had and what they did not have during these events. They had the Holy Spirit and the opportunity to give the message. That’s it. And that is all they needed. They did not have: a PA system (even a megaphone), a radio program, a blog, a website, a printing press, a telephone, telegraph, video camera, computer, fax machine, DVD, MP3 or any other electrical invention. They just stood up and spoke and the results changed the world. This happened!
If we could see the opportunity to speak the truth in love to our friends, neighbors, and family, it is certain that we can make a huge difference in their lives. Face-to-face is still the strongest communication by far.
I am fascinated by technology and much of it is extremely useful. After all, this is a blog! The problem is our message is crowded out with millions of other messages as each person can be their own expert, have their own platform, and so on. But, just as in Peter and John’s day, people can’t discount your personal testimony, which is still the most powerful message of all. I have been thinking a lot about that after reading this passage and making sure I am not so busy with technology that I don’t notice the important people around me! Look around you and see the opportunity before you right this minute and remember, be like Peter and John!
After talking and counseling with countless people over the years, Sandy and I wrote the curriculum for “Cultivating your Future.” The idea was to use a garden as a metaphor for your life. This allows all kinds of fun ideas to develop of how a beautiful garden is amazing, but how it takes planning and work.
If you look at the image below, you will see two drastically different views. As you look carefully at each of these, consider the differences. What is the story behind each photo? Where would you rather be? What happened before that caused each scene to turn out a certain way? For anyone that has had a garden, they know that it takes time, effort, planning, boundaries, and commitment for it to be beautiful and fruitful.
You see, at any time in our life, each of us is drifting toward one picture or the other. We all change. Change for the better (the picture of the beautiful garden on the right), requires intentionality, thought, planning, resilience, and work. To end with a life depicted by the picture on the left can be accomplished with little or even no effort at all. You get what you “pay” for.
So, as you ponder the picture, you can also ponder something much more important, your life. Where are you in your life? Which way are you drifting? What are you willing to do to get where you want? What is stopping you?
Sandy and I don’t try to “change” people, but we can certainly encourage people and help them to understand what they need to know. We are also overjoyed when our friends and clients begin their journey toward the beautiful garden and away from the demolished neighborhood. Let me finish with a little secret: they are overjoyed as well.
Countless songs have been composed and hundreds of books have been written about love. It is all around us as stadium-rock oldies play overhead in every elevator in civilization while the concept is threaded into the plots of an endless chain of movies and sitcoms. Indeed, love is all around.
Still love remains a mystery to our culture as we allow children to be unsupervised (and uneducated) with others as early as possible, then act surprised when the result is often unhealthy. People learn about love through trial and error alone. How can something so important be so thoroughly misunderstood?
Our very own English word (“love”) has a plethora of meanings, understood only within the context and misused routinely to manipulate. Articulating that you love someone does not mean anything in and of itself. So how can we ever remove the confusion? This may come as a surprise to everyone in our current culture, but true and genuine love does not have as much to do with feelings as it has to do with other, much more important things. Much of what is called “love” today is simply extreme interest, desire, and infatuation. Infatuation is not, in itself, a bad thing, but confusing it with genuine love is, well, confusing. Feelings! Wait a minute, that is just one more song title for those of you who were alive in the seventies. Love feelings. I feel like I have feelings.
And so on.
Yes, love is actually what you do, not how you feel. When people tell me how much they “love” each other and then proceed to tell me how awful they treat each other, I am not impressed. But when I see people sacrificing for each other’s needs and fulfillment and watch their feelings grow into a robust commitment, I know they are getting it. Feelings can be powerful, but they are just emotional sensations that may come and go. Doing the right thing for someone is doing the loving thing. If people thought about this, they would certainly make decisions that build relationships and families, rather than tear them apart. If you act only on your feelings, your chances of doing the right thing (making good decisions, having success) are minimal.
When you are acting toward the actual welfare of the other person, you will always be acting in genuine love.
Dealing with the public, many people who call themselves “Christian” generally think of it in terms of either:
What I have noticed over and over again is that a person who thinks Christianity is any of these is missing the life-changing effects and implications of the gospel. Yes, Jesus dies for our sins, but the questions is, “If you believe that basic fact, how does that affect the way you live?”
All of us can find ourselves being ungrateful, selfish, bitter, and actually consumed with our own security, comfort, happiness and pleasure. But living as a Christian is living as a representative of Jesus, the only Jesus most are going to encounter. We have to change; we cannot reduce the work of Christ to a fortune cookie affirmation. It has to come from the realization that Jesus is the Savior, and without Him we cannot be saved…saved to eternal life, but saved to an abundant life right now!
The fact that Jesus can take away our sins also means that we no longer have to be hurt by other’s sins against us. We no longer need to be burdened by our own mistakes that we have logged throughout our lives. To be unforgiving of others and unforgiving of ourselves is continuing to make a memorial of our victimhood and our own depravity. Either way it is a form of idolatry and denies the full impact of the gospel. If we use our faith, it will be powerful, and it will be much more tangible than any religious activity which actually distracts us and wastes our time. Do you struggle with this? I certainly do sometimes, but I know the remedy. Are you stuck? Quit denying the gospel and get grateful!
I say this because our mission statement is “to save one life and change another, through the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Yes, we work with many secular and government agencies and our door is open to all. But we know that the gospel is powerful to change lives. The gospel is true no matter how we feel and our lives should prove it! I just wish that more people that say they are Christians actually acted like they understand this important principle. We all fall, but remember: we don’t have to stay there.
In Him Alone,
Tim Durham, M.Ed., Director of FLS
My husband, dog, and I live in a large, old historical house with big rooms meant to host a lot of people and that’s just what we did last Saturday afternoon. Around 20 adults and 20 children assembled into our house to attend a “Lambs among Wolves” luncheon/ Seminar. The seminar focused on protecting the personal safety of our children.
I had two reasons that motivated me to have this seminar. One was the alarming things I was hearing from parents in my office at Family Life Services. Did you know that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually exploited by the time they graduate from high school according to Childluresprevention.com? For parents this is a terrifying statistic but somewhat preventable if the parent and child are proactive. Parents have to be aware of the lures that perverted individuals use to groom, intimidate and exploit our children! It could be a matter of life or death!
The second reason I was moved to have this seminar was my own experience as a child with a sexual abuser, a neighborhood boy. That terrible event clouded my view of myself for years to come until Jesus wrapped His healing arms around me and set me free!
How about you? Are you a parent of young children or even a teenager? Do you know what to do to help keep your children safe from sexual exploitation and abuse? If you need help or just want information we are here to assist you.
Recently, Family Life Services sponsored a seminar that was held at Cowley College. The purpose was to investigate the latest scientific research about life in the womb and how it is affecting the culture’s understanding of life issues. This was an important event because our knowledge of who we are and how we got here leads back to the moment we were personally created. It also affects gender issues, politics, medicine, sexuality, and, well, just about everything. For these reasons, this issue remains one of the most important moral questions of our day. To show that this is not just a political concept or even just a religious one, I quoted Christopher Hitchens, an author and journalist who is one of the most well-known atheists of our time.
“I do, as a humanist, believe that the concept ‘unborn child’ is a real one and I think the concept is underlined by all the recent findings of embryology about the early viability of a well-conceived human baby… I feel the responsibility to consider the occupant of the womb as a candidate member of society in the future, and thus to say that it cannot be only the responsibility of the woman to decide upon it, that it’s a social question and an ethical and a moral one. And I say this as someone who has no supernatural belief.”
How terribly odd it is that many of us who are otherwise charitable and thoughtful simply cannot see what is clearly observable, even to a child, or, importantly, to an articulate adult who doesn’t even believe in God. Life itself has a purpose. Aren’t you glad you were born?
Family Life Services is hosting its annual banquet on March 2, 2019. Miss Kansas, Hannah Klaassen will be the key-note speaker. Call 620-442-1688 for tickets.
(Tim Durham, M.Ed., is the director of Family Life Services, an adoption agency, parenting and guidance center and prenatal education center.)
Emotional pain is all around us. Loneliness, and anxiety is experienced by all. Loneliness’s cousin, boredom appears whenever there is the slightest lapse of time without entertainment. I have been meeting with clients face-to-face for many years now. Just recently it became clear to me how this affects all of us and how our attempt to regulate this feeling is backfiring in a very serious way.
So many of us will do anything to avoid the feeling of loneliness. We are constantly bored and, after about 20 seconds of inactivity, we have to look at our phones, eat something, drink something, smoke something, watch something, buy something, or chew something. We have trained ourselves to be anxious if we do not have constant affirmation or constant visual distraction.
Like any invention, the marvelous electronics ones can be misused, and the ubiquitous ones are misused in a powerful and disturbing way. Some of us are very nervous and uncomfortable without a screen. We have television, movie screens and computer screens. It is cell phone that is misused so often since it is in everyone’s hand much of the time.
Think I am exaggerating? Did you ever see a group of young people walking down the street on a beautiful day—all staring down at their phones? They would rather text about what they are than actually enjoy the experience themselves. Have you seen a couple in a restaurant both texting endlessly instead of enjoying a conversation with the person who is actually present at the same time and place as they are? Am I the only one bothered by this?
There is always that screen to give us that little boost we need. But it appears to me that we need the boost more and more. If we forgot our phone and left it at our house, we will drive back—not matter how much time it takes. The thought of living a full day without our little screen is unthinkable. People look at a screen most of the time not because they are being productive; they need a dose of fake attention and fake entertainment.
Young people who are growing up with the ever-present screen do not know how to regulate their emotions without a screen. We are actually training them to be even more lonely, more anxious, and more disconnected. They would rather focus on the screen than communicate face-to-face with anyone about anything. The basic art of being calm and content without constant visual stimulation has been lost. The art of conversation and storytelling is very rarely experienced and cannot compete with the electronic gadget which is perfectly developed to dominate our attention and therefor our lives.
I suggest you set aside times for conversation and times dedicated to phone-free and other screen-free experiences. Simply turn your phone off or charge it in a different room than you sleep in and a different room that you enjoy others in. Maybe you can rediscover how nice it is to be heard and to listen carefully, without reacting to the electronic ringtone that interrupts demanding we stop enjoying each other in that beautiful, natural way. People have talked to each other face-to-face for a long time. Even our ears are perfectly designed and tuned for this very activity. Try it sometime. Yes, it is not as trivial, shallow, demanding, and rude as you are used to, but I bet you’ll like it. For my clients who have decided to disconnect from the electronic culture and reconnect to human beings, every single one of them have thanked me.
From time to time, the big wheel turns, and everyone becomes more interested and anxious about political issues. The good news is that people are trying to be informed. The bad news is people are often misinformed and, much worse, purposefully uninformed. Vibrant, intelligent discussion about political subjects deteriorate in name calling. We all know at least that one someone who so easily declares that anyone who disagrees with him must be “stupid.” So much for “vibrant.” So much for “intelligent.” Unless you decide to live as a hermit, you will encounter this situation just about everywhere.
We know that Calling someone with whom you disagree a “Nazi” or a “fascist” is like other name calling—it bypasses the necessity to provide evidence and to persuade intelligently. Nowadays, so many have a strong prejudice and even hate for those who do not agree with them. It is the latest form of discrimination. Surely no one reading would say such a thing, right? But even if you would not, you don’t have to go out of your way to find yourself the victim of such brutality. What to do?
As a practical matter, remember that when most people argue, they don’t really know how to do it. In other words, having a real debate requires very refined listening skills and when people “fight” they are not listening. You can tell that someone is not listening when they:
You cannot get your point across in this situation. They do not want a discussion. They do not want a debate. They want a street fight. Don’t go there.
Now some people aren’t verbal street-fighters, but they just don’t have the capacity to be civilized during that moment in time. So, don’t try to talk to anyone about anything controversial if they are: tired, hungry, drunk, or otherwise distracted. They just can’t focus. You might want to also check yourself. Are you up to being brilliant and polite? If you don’t feel like you are, wait for another occasion to put on your political commentator hat.
If someone is not capable of listening to you, it is annoying, but don’t despair. People really care a lot more about what you do than your opinion, and you can control that. People say a lot of things, but we know how sincere or insincere they are by the way they live their life. No one can take that away from you. So, if someone calls you a name or acts hateful because you do not agree, thank God that you can continue doing good. Words are very important, but deeds are better in every way. In some situations, you don’t have a choice because words are failing to have an effect, but good deeds will eventually win any argument. Wait and see.