Family Time DIY Projects

In some past posts, we’ve discussed an unfortunate reality of modern life:  a lack of time to spend with the family.  Obviously this is a problem that affects everybody to different degrees.  One family might lament the fact that it only gets a few nights per week to spend together as one cohesive unit, and another might be lucky to get even a few minutes together.

In today’s world, it’s not uncommon that both parents work, and it’s certainly not uncommon that teenage children work as well.  Everybody has their own commitments – be they professional or personal – and getting all of the schedules to align can be tricky at best.  But that doesn’t have to mean that “quality time” is off the table entirely; you just might have to be more creative about where you find it.

SUGGESTION #5:  Work Together on DIY Projects

Working on DIY projects as a team is an excellent way to enjoy family time if you do not expect perfection. Try to select activities suited to your children’s ages and abilities, so attempting things beyond their capabilities will not discourage them. In addition, keep safety in mind when choosing which ventures to tackle, and use the opportunity to teach important safety lessons as you work.

Everyone will enjoy making a bird feeder and watching the birds that come there to eat after it is finished. You can find complete directions for a very simple feeder here. This is a good family time DIY project when you have small children. They will enjoy gathering supplies and decorating the cardboard tube but will need your help with punching holes and gluing. Or try this whimsical birdhouse for your feathered friends. An old rubber rain boot can have new life as a home for your backyard birds and provide entertainment for the family as well.

Puzzle-piece friendship necklaces make great family time DIY projects if you have young girls. The necklaces can become inexpensive gifts for their special friends, and the whole family can participate in the fun of choosing interlocking pieces and making the necklaces. Find instructions for this simple activity here.

Check out the TLC page for ideas on how to create unique window treatments for kids’ rooms. Use old shipping crates from warehouses to make rustic window shutters. Since the wood is already rough, you will not need to be concerned about extra gouges the kids may inflict on it during assembly, and the materials should be quite economical.

Even if your children’s ages are far apart, you can still work on DIY projects together as a family. Let the older ones help their younger siblings, and choose simple projects. You can tackle ventures that are more complicated with your older children when the younger ones are in bed, so they will not feel that all the family activities are childish.

About the author:  Philip J Reed works in association with Westwood College.  Westwood offers a wide variety of programs and degrees at 17 separate campuses, and also offers a comprehensive online college experience, which may be of particular interest to busy parents.  For information and answers to any questions you might have, please visit the college website.

PS: WHAT ARE YOUR QUESTIONS FOR ME? Ask here. To give a gift of support, click here.

A Joyful Noise Movie Review: Some Things to Be Joyful About & Some Not

From Brent

I took my wife to see Joyful Noise last night, the reportedly “Christian” movie with Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah. Given how easily fads sweep through American Christianity with little discernment, I thought I would give you a review of the movie. I’m not going to try and decide for you whether or not to see it, or promote it as a “Christian” movie. I’ll just give you my observations, positive and negative and leave you to consider it.

FYI, I’m not trying to review like a movie critic. I’m not addressing whether the story, acting or production was good. I’m commenting on it for the sake of Christians being able to discern the CHRISTIAN merits of the movie since it’s 1) set in a church/Christianity environment and 2) it’s already being discussed as a “Christian movie” by Christians.


The movie is about a church choir competition. The plot involves a mother with two kids, a father who left them, the mom’s struggle to raise the kids, and the kids struggle with growing up and the ever popular Hollywood premise of “finding out who they really are” (which is most often code language for “don’t be like your parents”… this movie is no exception but with a twist that makes it somewhat tolerable).

Some Joyful Noise About Joyful Noise

Here are my positive observations about the movie:

  • It’s cleaner and more “wholesome” than 99% of what Hollywood and TV produces. That’s not a huge endorsement given current entertainment standards but it is true relatively speaking.
  • The movie contains no real violence, overtly vulgar language (again, compared to what Hollywood typically produces, more on the language below because there is cursing in the movie), or graphic sex, immodesty or nudity (a negative about that below too)
  • For most of the movie it appears the typical Hollywood message that “conservative (and especially) Christian parents are intolerant, out of touch, close minded and need to be enlightened by the liberal, worldly and in particular the youthful characters” is going to be played out to the end… but in a refreshing twist, the mother confidently and accurately puts the smart-mouthed rebellious daughter in her place and the movie doesn’t use that as “proof” the mom is a jerk. Wow! What a concept!
  • The mom gets to say what every parents wants to say to their ungrateful, spoiled, self-pitying teen and it leaves the crowd applauding. Normally, Hollywood only puts in that kind of scene when it makes the parent look even more controlling and close-minded. Not this time. The mom looks like the wise, strong, parent deserving of respect. Amazing that a movie actually (FINALLY) portrays a Christian, authoritative parent in that kind of positive light.  (Caveat: but even still, the subtle final message is still that the mom loosened up and let her 16 year old daughter “grow up” even though she was allowed to put her foot down against the blatant rebelliousness and self pity.)
  • The music is clean and entertaining though hardly “Christian” in any substantive way. It’s pop music sang in the best tradition of black gospel.
  • The story ends up with family reconciliation, portrays faithfulness to marriage vows, and implies the strength of traditional family.
  • The movie shows whites, blacks and Asians all getting along and living together just fine in a small, southern town. That drives liberals CRAZY who sincerely believe that all southern states are really just closeted KKK hotbeds. While there is no doubt racism is alive and well (from ALL COLORS) in American MOSTLY IN BIG CITIES NOT RURAL TOWNS, it has been my experience in 40 years of small southern towns that the ’60’s Lyndon Johnson idea of racism is rarely seen today. Whites and blacks and browns and reds and yellows in conservative small town America live and work and worship and play together without a whole lot of thought of “race”. You’ll never convince Washington or Hollywood of that though because it would erode the power of people who live and prosper by fanning the flames of racism.

Some Not So Joyful Noise

If I were to stop at merely comparing this to the normal trash that is shown on flat screens today, I would give this film a double thumbs up and tell you to take the family to see it. However, it’s not quite that simple from a Christian standpoint. Compared to Godly standards, there are several concerns, and given the impression it leaves about Christianity in general, I’m not all that joyful about it. My observations:
  • Casual fornication (no sex scene but the deed is obvious) between two choir members is played off mostly as a joke and it’s never seriously implied (or stated) that fornication is a sin to be repented of.  Even the Pastor makes a joke about it at a funeral (the man died from a heart attack while having sex).  It’s also implied several times that if you haven’t had sex for several years, you can’t help but want to jump in bed with someone.
  • Cursing: there are a couple of scenes when unbelievers or the rebellious say a “mild” curse word and that could have been livable as demonstrating  “real life”. But the movie goes much further with a couple of dozen or more curse words used casually and without concern even from the Christian characters in the movie.
  • There is one scene where the mom comes down on the daughter about cursing,  the mom spouting some curse words then saying “see I can cuss too. It’s easy and it proves your stupid” (I’m paraphrasing). That kind of message I can live with. The gratuitous cursing for a laugh or simply because no one, even the Christians, think it is any big deal is not something I can pass over as no big deal. The movie in total leaves you with the impression that “mild” cursing is not a concern. I guess that’s a good selling point in light of some of today’s Christian writers like Doug Giles (whose thoughts I agree with but I’m concerned about his growing use of crass verbiage and cursing).
  • The typical Hollywood message (particularly to the youth) that no one who is a serious student and Christian can possibly be living life to the fullest is present and never completely debunked.  The rebellious daughter, the wayward grandson and the worldly grandmother are sympathetically portrayed as compassionate, thoughtful, earthy, feeling and really embracing life. The uptight mother and pastor are close minded, controlling and stifled.  A couple of other Christians are buffoonish rednecks and simpletons. Yawn…. typical Hollywood.  It’s not NEARLY as blatant in this movie as most but the message is clear. At the end of the movie the mom’s strictness is shown to be somewhat positive AFTER she softens towards her daughter and the rebel boyfriend. Three steps forward, one step back.
  • In one scene, the black gospel music presentation is almost clownish (specifically their “competition” from a Detroit black church)… on a positive note, the primary choir the story revolves around is entertaining and dignified even though the music is not Christian, it’s pop music.
  • Other than some casual contemporary Christian stanzas, no serious Christian music (doctrinally speaking) is used in the movie; the choir sings pop music from the likes of Michael Jackson. The church service is where the performances are rehearsed.  It adds to the overall subtle message (in my opinion) that Christianity is more social than anything, and not something to be taken very seriously. Unbelievers are invited to be in the choir because of their music talent and the Sunday church gathering is trivialized. The rebellious unbelievers come to accept the Christians because they like the music but it’s never portrayed or implied that they accepted the Christian Gospel.
  • The Christians in the movie are wholesome for the most part but apologetically worldly and no serious Christianity or Gospel message is portrayed in any substantial way.  Even though the entire movie is about Christianity, “Jesus” and supposedly faith, not one single serious message about Christ, the Bible, prayer or any Christian doctrine is expressed; not even a hint about the Gospel.
  • The Pastor declares the church can only remain “open” because of rich a member and her support (any real Pastor would recoil at referring to the Church as a business that depends on rich donors). In the end, the Pastor sends that same member packing because she tries to demand his obedience for her support. But… she then pulls another (weird, not very creative) trick out of her bag and ends up with the Pastor in her pocket again at the end of the movie.  Of course, typically, the uptight Pastor eventually comes around and loosens up like everyone else.


Overall, the movie is fairly enjoyable and certainly “wholesome” when measured by Hollywood standards. Christianity is not openly attacked or mocked (as is typical on TV or movies today almost without exception) but the way morality, holiness and “church” is trivialized throughout the show, it leaves Christians with concerns. What’s worse? Outright mockery of Christianity, or the subtle trivializing of it?

(Something to think about: the movie “Soul Surfer” portrays a faithful Christian family without mockery but the whole movie is filled with teenage girls in bikinis [the real life girls looked more like prepubescent children, but the movie girls were post-puberty]; is that better or worse than a movie like “Joyful Noise” that’s not start-to-end-teen-girls-in-bikini’s but trivializes morality, faith and Christianity for the most part? Just something to think about…)

The usual message that authoritative parents and/or serious Christians are uptight and close-minded is loud and proud for most of the movie… then knocked down momentarily towards the end… then left as implied truth when the movie ends.  The flipside is also clear: the worldly, the youthful, and the rebellious are the enlightened, happy and compassionate people who really know how to enjoy life. The movie knocks down (appropriately) the worst of the rebellious behavior from the teens but still leaves the final underlying message that they were mostly right about everything, they just needed to be a little more respectful about it.

About the best I can say is this: it’s downright clean and wholesome compared to most movies. However, if you do choose to see it, you should not be undiscerning about it and promote it without concern. I would also be careful labeling it a “Christian movie” when it’s more accurately “a movie whose characters go to church and sing in a choir”.  Maybe that’s enough to call it “Christian” but it’s nowhere close to a movie that clearly communicates the Christian message (no one says that was the purpose; but if they aren’t calling it a “Christian” movie, should Christians?).

  • A good clean family movie compared by Hollywood standards? Yes.
  • A “Christian” movie that portrays morality, holiness and faith seriously and accurately? No.
  • A movie devoid of liberal Hollywood messages about enlightened youth and close minded authoritarians? No.

I just want Christians to be discerning. We are so used to the garbage and filth in most movies or books, that we jump on any “Christian” scrap media throws us with very little scrutiny or discernment. I would not take my children under 12 to see it unless I could edit out the cursing and the fornication jokes.  I would only see it with my teens or older if I was ready to explain to them where the movie falls short of true Christian messaging.

Contemplation: isn’t it amazing that we are at a point in Christianity where we consider a movie with a dozen or more curse words, unrepentant fornication, church favoritism, a manipulated Pastor and a trivialized Christian experience something we would even CONSIDER seeing because it’s a wholesome family movie compared to the rest of Hollywood trash?

PS: WHAT ARE YOUR QUESTIONS FOR ME? Ask here. To give a gift of support, click here.

Another Concerning Book Gaining Popularity with Christians

Note from Brent:

Books about people visiting Heaven or Hell, or communicating with someone there have been all the rage for the past few years. Although each of these – from Baxter’s “Divine Revelation” to a child’s testimony in”Heaven is for Real” –  have been repeatedly (and easily) shown to be EXTRA-Biblical at best and unScriptural and metaphysical at worst, the undiscriminating embrace of such accounts continues with no less enthusiasm.

Just as the Bible predicts about the lukewarm Church of the last days, the craving for ear tickling sensationalism and the elevation of experience over doctrine primes Western Christians to gulp down and savor pretty much any story that the book sellers eagerly promote (I say “western” because I can’t speak for other cultures). Unlike the Biblical admonition, few Christians “search the Scriptures to see if it is so” (Acts 17:11) and because anecdote-filled books are more interesting to read than the Bible (another sign of spiritual immaturity and a lack of discernment), there are masses of Believers who simply read and accept… without discernment.  If a Christian publisher prints it, it must be true, right?

Whether it’s “‘The Shack’ changed my life and my view of God” or “‘Heaven is for Real’ made me really understand, long for and see Heaven”, alarming numbers of Christians now readily accept extra-Biblical accounts, “visions”, “visits”, “revelations” and analogies as a  better (or at least supplementary) source of God’s knowledge than the Bible itself (which is what all Christian teaching is… the problem is, Christian books and teaching must AGREE with the Bible, not add to it, or contradict it).

It doesn’t seem to cross anyone’s mind that Satan doesn’t care when or whom he deceives: he will deceive a child just ask quickly as he will deceive grieving parents, or an author of a book. In fact, it is more shrewd for Satan to use the “innocent” to deceive us.  In our naivete, we don’t want to consider that small child is being led astray by the demonic influence. In our understandable sympathy, we shudder to think that Satan would appear as an angel of light to grieving parents who just lost their son and wish desperately to communicate with the boy.  To think for one second Satan won’t do these things, and worse, is to sorely and dangerously underestimate the lengths the Father of Lies will go to in order to deceive Believers, distract them from the Bible and spread false teaching.

What follows below is a question and answer about one of the newest fad books sweeping Christianity and in myopinion one of the more dangerous because it indirectly but undeniably encourages communication with the dead (forbidden by God) and opens up incredible potential for Christians to be supernaturally deceived (after all, who wants to believe that the vision or visit they just had with their deceased loved one is really a demon in disguise?).  If God allows the parents of a dead son open and ongoing visitation and communication, why won’t God let me speak to my dead uncle, or you with your dead mother, or anyone with a passed away best friend?

Where does it end?  The book in question below (maybe unintentionally by the authors but definetely NOT unintentionally by Satan) opens up a whole new trend in Christianity that evidently God allows, blesses and facilitates open communication between us and those who are already in Heaven.  There is only one result of accepting this “truth” based on experiential proof: rampant and destructive spiritual deception.

Here’s the Q&A from Be sure to read it so that when this book makes it’s way to your Church or family, you can be the voice of discernment that is so sorely needed today:


Question: In a previous TBC newsletter, you wrote about a book titled Heaven Is For Real. You introduced the article as an “exercise in discernment.” I was recently sent a book that rather shocked me. Its title is Have Heart: Bridging the Gulf Between Heaven and Earth. It seems to do what you objected to in Heaven Is For Real–that is, supply information about heaven that is not taught in Scripture. Actually, it goes well beyond that problem by seeming to promote things prohibited in God’s Word. The most disturbing aspect of the book for me, however, was that two of the endorsers are men for whom I have great respect: Greg Laurie and Chuck Missler. What is your discernment regarding Have Heart?

Response: Have Heart was written by Steve and Sarah Berger, a couple who suffered the tragic loss of their 19-year-old son, Josiah. Their stated objective is to use what God showed them through their experience surrounding his auto accident in 2009 and beyond that event to comfort and help  others who have had a similar loss of a loved one.


My wife and I (T. A.) recently experienced the loss of her mom, who lived with us for the last three years. Yet, as difficult as that was, I can’t imagine such a heartrending event as losing one of our five children. For those who have had such an experience, the first part of the Bergers’ book fulfills much of their goal: they do give wonderful comfort and some sound biblical counsel. For example, they write, “From the beginning of our pain, we asked the Lord for only His truth. We didn’t want to be comforted by a lie or counterfeit sympathies. We wanted God and His truth….The Holy Spirit also convicts believers of what is true and what is not. He is the ultimate Teacher and Comforter. In His comforting, He brings not only the truth, but He also proves God’s Word time and time again in our hearts….We need to be rooted and grounded in this truth so that no matter how hard the wind [of brokenheartedness] blows, we’ll stand….Our words need to match biblical truth” (pp. 32-33, 36, 60). This concern for God’s truth is repeated throughout the book.


Sadly, however, midway through Take Heart, the Bergers take leave of their statements regarding the objective Word of God and begin introducing their subjective experiences involving their deceased son, Josiah. Dreams become a vehicle of communication between Josiah and his family and friends: “And then one night, Josiah showed up in a dream” (p. 69). In that episode, Josiah cryptically communicated that he was “pickled,” i.e., his term for his life being preserved in heaven. “He [God] used a dream in my life to further unfold the greatness of Heaven, to reinforce the supernatural preservation of my son…” (p. 71).


Communication through dreams featuring a deceased loved one quickly led to direct communication: “Only two weeks after Josiah went to Heaven, I (Sarah) made it a habit to talk to Josiah…I would then be in instant conversation with Jesus and Siah [Josiah]” (p. 82).


Sarah declared to her son that she needed “to be involved with your life even now…and I want to be involved in what you are doing” (p. 82). She then pleads with God to allow that to take place. Supposedly, God answered Sarah through the dream of an unbeliever, a Muslim friend of the family. Others supplied details of Josiah’s “job” in heaven through their own dreams.


The authors introduce many things that are allegedly taking place in heaven that are not specifically taught in the Bible. “Are our loved ones in Heaven able to occasionally see things that are happening on earth?…Do the saints intercede for people who are going through hard times? Yes–they know what is happening, as much as God allows, and they are praying for us!” (p. 76). Although the authors intend to comfort people with their insights, they don’t seem to be thinking the process through. Knowing what loved ones are doing on earth–perhaps in rebellion and sin–would certainly bring grief to those in heaven, a place of consummate joy. They seem to recognize that problem yet address it with another extra-biblical assessment: “It’s not all the time; they don’t get to see everything. But every once in a while the Lord grants them permission to look on this earth, and based on what they see, they intercede on our behalf.” Where is that found in Scripture?


The authors note the biblical prohibition of contacting the dead in Deuteronomy 18:10-12 but then issue a qualification presumably for believers: “We need to understand that God has the power to temporarily lift the veil between Heaven and earth at any time according to His good pleasure” (p. 95) They offer support for the legitimacy of their view experientially by adding that “Several people in our family and inner circle of friends have experienced similar meetings with Josiah…” including their pastor. The latter declares, “The next thing I knew, Josiah came into [the church] sanctuary…and he got down on one knee and bent to speak into my ear….I stood up and went over to my wife and told her, ‘Josiah was just here'” (pp. 99-100). The gist of Josiah’s communication was an encouragement regarding what his pastor had gone through during Josiah’s hospital stay.


The Bergers claim that such events surrounding their deceased son are proofs of biblical truths: “This visit proves that our loved ones in Heaven are spiritually active and that they care–they are aware of the times that we need special encouragement….God granted Josiah permission to make an appearance…it serves as proof that our son is not dead and gone, but merely moved to a different place to do other things for God. It shows he is happy there, and it demonstrates his continued presence in not only our lives but in the lives of his friends as well” (p. 100; italics added).


Although perhaps well meaning in their attempt to uphold the faith by “proofs,” the Bergers are nevertheless undermining biblical faith. Jesus gave the example of Abraham speaking to the rich man who wanted Lazarus to appear to his five brothers, saying that if they hear not Moses and the prophets, i.e., the Scriptures, they wouldn’t believe someone returning from the dead. Furthermore, Jesus chided Thomas for not believing that He had resurrected from the dead without physical proof, adding, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).


Experiences never trump faith that is based upon the Word of God. Peter had an incredible experience on the Mount of Transfiguration when he saw Jesus glorified and in the presence of Moses and Elijah. Yet Peter declares that even better than that, we have “a more sure word of prophecy” and exhorts believers to “take heed” to the written Word (2 Pt 1:19).


In further attempting to legitimize their experiences (in view of Scriptural prohibitions), they appeal to the “spontaneity” of the “visitations” as the difference between that which is “condemned by God” and that which is “orchestrated by God” (p. 102). This is wishful thinking on their part, not Scripture’s truth.


In fact, much of what the Bergers hold for their hope in heaven is not stated in the Bible. They say that loved ones in heaven are “enjoying some pretty rockin’ new bodies,” whereas Scripture indicates that a deceased believer will receive his immortal body not right after death but when Christ returns for His church at the Rapture (1 Cor 15:52). They transfer things they love about their temporal life into the eternal realm, particularly their family relationships, and they see that relationship continuing with their deceased son: “We want all of us to continue to have relationship with Siah right up until the day that we are face-to-face in Heaven with him” (p. 103).


Just because someone wants it doesn’t make it so. We know that our relationships with unbelieving family members will not continue in heaven. How joyful, then, would a family unit be there with perhaps multiple missing members? Will there be family relationships in heaven? No matter what our rationale, Scripture simply does not tell us. We do know that there is neither marrying nor those given in marriage in heaven (Mt 22:30). Furthermore, all that the Bergers describe seems to lose sight of, even diminish, the extraordinary relationship every believer will have with Jesus Christ.


One of the dangers of this book for a person who doesn’t study the Word of God for himself (which is epidemic today) is that he is disarmed by the multiple claims of biblical veracity, which give way to human speculations–which are then accepted as biblical truth. With no scriptural support, the Bergers write, “We know that [Josiah] can see us, hear us, and even be involved, not only in our lives but also in the lives of his friends. We are continually hearing of Siah coming to friends in dreams….The dreams are incredibly profound and always prove God’s Word, point to the glory of God, and compel us to get closer to Jesus” (p. 104). They add, “We mean no disrespect to the prophets, but the idea of Siah being able to observe the choices we make here on earth is way more motivating as we seek to live for God moment-by-moment. The cloud of witnesses [of “Christian loved ones in Heaven”] is personal, and we believe it is part of their work in the spiritual realm to cheer on their loved ones still on earth…” (p. 107; italics added).


In their attempt to comfort those who have also lost loved ones to death, the Bergers fail to give the biblical warnings of spiritual deception, especially since their grieving state may make them terribly vulnerable to Satan’s ploys, such as transforming himself “into an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14-15).


In our day, when biblical discernment is practically nonexistent among most who call themselves Christians, to emphasize the experiential, as the Bergers do throughout their book, is playing right into the hands of the Adversary. Tragically, they call such supernatural experiences with their deceased son “God Nods” and encourage their readers to seek their own: “Be on the lookout for God Nods in your own life”
(p. 104). They give examples of Josiah kissing his sister after his death (p. 115), and his dad crying out to God for a sign: “I was begging God for a sign, a sign…out of the ordinary…that my Josiah was all right…. I was asking God to give me something I could behold with my physical eyes” (p. 118). Scripture, however, warns that “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign” (Mt 12:39).


In contradiction to the biblical counsel the authors give at the beginning of their book, in the end they not only capitulate to a view that disagrees with the Bible but they promote it enthusiastically: “Our loved ones may show up in dreams or visits or other ways (who can limit God’s imagination?), but the fact is that we’re connected….There is a thin veil, and we’re connected to them, forever, in Christ” (p. 110). They conclude, “You don’t father or mother a child for nineteen years and then hear God say, ‘Oh, now you can’t talk to him. You no longer have a relationship with him until you see him face to face in Heaven….’ We still talk to Josiah, and it’s going to be so great when we’re together again” (p. 125).


In our view, Have Heart is an example of how a tragic event in the lives of believers can lead many into an even more tragic misunderstanding of God’s Word.


PS: WHAT ARE YOUR QUESTIONS FOR ME? Ask here. To give a gift of support, click here.