Why I’m Not Mad At Disney

Beauty and the Beast: The Controversy.

As I scroll through social media or engage in conversations with many of my readers, I can’t help but title the new movie this way in my head (accompanied by the sound of ominous music). It seems like everywhere I look, I see opinions raging, most expressing disappointment, some reacting with outrage, some with support and many with apathy.beautiful-963893_1920

So there it is. The Controversy. In the live action version of Beauty in the Beauty, there is a nod to Same Sex Attraction (SSA). You can go look up the details if you haven’t heard about it yet, but if you haven’t, I’d be shocked.

I have a few people ask me for my take on this. Specifically, I had someone ask me “Doesn’t it just make you so mad?” And, I had to look at them and say, “No, not at all.” And here’s why:

  1. Disney is not an evangelical Christian company – They never have been. It’s not in their DNA. They are a company that has always reflected the culture and the things that are important to the culture.
  2. Disney is not beholden to me for….anything – They have not entered into any kind of arrangement to offer me what I deem family-friendly entertainment or promise me that they will express my values in their movies or television shows.
  3. Disney is not raising my children – I’m doing that. And there have been MANY Disney moments where I’ve stopped the movie and said, “Hmm, what do you guys think about that? Is that how Christ would have us act or respond? What do you think Jesus would have done in that situation? What about you?”
  4. Disney is pushing an agenda – Of course they are! Everything and everyone is! Friends, we are. Walmart is. Chick-Fil-A is. The trash company is. Everyone is. Part of the beauty of our country is that we can. And part of the beauty of our republic is that our right to do so is protected and our right to not engage with something is also protected.
  5. Disney is primarily a business – They want to make money. Lots of money. And as we know, any publicity is good publicity. Those who have hit the airwaves and social media calling for a boycott and spreading inflammatory articles and blog posts have helped create a storm of publicity for them that will help them meet their ultimate goal. To make more money.

I can’t be mad at Disney for doing what Disney does any more than I can be mad at any other company for doing what that company does.

Friends, we are called to be “alien and strangers” in this world (I Pet. 2:11). We are supposed to be the odd ones out. We are supposed to be different. It’s not the world’s job to conform to us. It’s our job not to conform to it (Rom. 12:2). Expressing outrage over the world being the world is like expressing outrage that a bird flies.

If outrage is to be expressed, let it be for things that truly break God’s heart.

He LOVES the world, so much that He sent his only Son to say it in the loudest way possible. Look at how Jesus approached life.

He didn’t say, “Boycott the world!” He said, “Love your neighbor, do good to those who come against you.” (Mt. 5:44)

He didn’t act in ways that said, “Withdraw from society” but rather he ate dinner with outcasts, with “sinners”, with the ones no “righteous” person would associate with (Mark 2:13-17).

He did not expect the world to be like Him. Instead, He went to them wherever they were and stayed who He was without shaming them (Luke 7:36-50).

There are things that do break God’s heart.   Jesus wept over Jerusalem because the very people He came to love, didn’t see Him, didn’t know who He was (Luke 19:41-44). He wept in the garden because the cup He had to bear was so difficult but His overwhelming love for the world was stronger (Luke 22:44). He wept when a friend lost his life, even though He knew that life would be returned to him (John 11:35).

Jesus’ heart breaks for people.

His outrage was expressed only against those who claimed to love him and acted in ways unlike Him (Mt. 21:12-13, Mt. 23). Whether we choose to watch the movie or not, let’s be sure that our actions, our words, reflect Him and His love for the whole world and all the people in it.

Because that is our agenda – that is what we are called to do (Mt. 22-36-40).


Want ideas on how to turn any Family Movie Night (Disney or otherwise) into an intentional discipleship moment at home?  Click here!!

For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

They Disagree. But They Still Love Each Other.

Sometimes in the Embree house we have debates. No, that’s not code for “fights.”  It actually is debates. We even time them. Two minutes to make your case, 30 seconds to question, 30 seconds to defend and then switch sides. Each participant gets a 1 minute conclusion.  So, see…actual debates.

I know that sounds a little strange, but hear me out. Somehow, in our home, we have managed to raise two beautiful, strong, intelligent daughters of two very different political persuasions. Now, I’m not sure they realize they have “political persuasions”. I think they just think they have opinions about how life should go. But as parents, we sometimes chuckle when our conservative daughter makes a comment and our more left-leaning daughter gets all fired up.  We’ve debated everything from government subsidies for small-town grocery stores to whether or not education is a fundamental right or a limited privilege. It’s quite interesting to hear their takes on things, without our input.

So, why do we do this?  

Is there a greater purpose being fulfilled by this seemingly academic activity?

We think so and we think it’s something that is vitally important for our children, for us, for all of us to understand.

My girls often disagree. They don’t see the world the same way. They’ve been raised in the same home, with the same parents, and the same life experiences. But, for whatever reason, they have formed unique ways of seeing the world that often clash with the other.

My girls often agree. They both love Jesus. They both love family. They both love chocolate, The Flash, and goofing off when they are supposed to be doing the dishes. And, most importantly, they both love each other.

They disagree. But they still love each other. 

Friends, we are at a time in our country where our children need to learn from us that we, the adults, may disagree but we still love each other.  

They need to see us share our hearts with grace and walk away from conversations saying, “I love you” or “I respect you” or “I see you.”  They need to understand that while it is fine to care about and speak to these issues that face us in the world today, in our country today, in our homes today, on social media today, it is not okay to end the conversation with division, strife, and hate.

You see, we are more than our opinions. If we find that our opinions are robbing us of our peace and joy throughout the day, then we need to examine how we are sharing them with others. Because as Christians, we are called to more.

When I was a kid and fought with my brothers or sister (this time it really was a fight, not a debate), my mom would often make us write this verse.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18

As a kid, I thought that meant I couldn’t get mad. As an adult, I think it’s a little more than that. Because this verse is embedded in a much bigger picture that Paul is painting. He’s not saying, “Don’t have convictions. Don’t get upset. Don’t disagree with anyone.”  He’s saying that in every situation, there’s a bigger picture.

Love Above All

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. heart-791047_1920Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” 

We may define what is “good” differently (especially politically), but we must love sincerely. We may not always agree with others but we always honor them and remain devoted to love.  Our zeal should primarily be for serving the Lord, even if other things stir our spirits.

Walk Before Talk

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Opinions are one thing, but we are called to actions of grace and love. We are to be about the work of the kingdom, always, regardless of political climates.  Regardless of what others say or do to us, names that are called, attitudes that are exhibited, we are challenged to not respond in like tone; we are called to respond with grace and love.  That is seeking peace.

Others  Before Self

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

See others, truly see them. Try to understand how and what they are feeling. Don’t think that any of us has the corner on “reality”, rather, seek to understand WHY someone feels the way that they do.

Grace Before Grievance

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

If someone uses language that is filled with vitriol, respond with words seasoned with grace. As far as it depends on us, be kind to other people, even in disagreement.

This passage of Scripture ends by saying, “Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  There is only one true good. Jesus tells us that “No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19). And we know that God is LOVE.

It is our hope as parents that we are teaching our children that they don’t always have to agree with each other, but they do have to honor each other and love each other. It is also our hope that we are modeling this for them in our interactions with the world around us and with each other. We don’t always succeed at that. We sometimes fail. We sometimes say things that days, months or years later we think, “I wish I’d said that differently.”  But it is our hope and our heart to help our children live in the tension well. To end each conversation on our part with “They disagree. But they still love each other.”


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

I wasn’t going to say anything. Shame on me.

I wasn’t going to say anything.  I wasn’t going to use this space to make a statement. I told myself it was the right call. I gave myself a million reasons why I couldn’t write about these things here, in this space, dedicated to the home and to the church, to generational discipleship and faith formation. I told myself to let it go, to move on, just like so many others on social media have told me they are doing and I should do. Post pictures of dogs and dinner. Write blogs on Sunday School and Kids Church.

But this morning, the battle playing out all over social media, all over the news, all over our country made its way into the church, into the home.  This morning I read this:

A group of Hispanic/Latino young people attending the annual Pilgrimage youth event in the North Carolina Annual Conference were victims of repudiation and intimidation upon their arrival on Friday November 11…

“Since we arrived at the event last Friday, young people wearing hats with the ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan have carried out hostile actions on our young people. Actions continued on the second day and we are worried and disappointed by this situation…Upon their arrival on Friday November 11…the clothes pins we traditionally used at this event to share positive messages of Christian love and fellowship were used to convey messages like, ‘I Love Trump’ and ‘Build the Wall’. The pins were put on the clothes of some of our young people.”

So why is this different than all the other reports on social media and in the news?  Why was this the one that moved me to find my voice and speak out in this space at this time?

Because the headline for these atrocious acts read, “YOUNG LATINOS INTIMIDATED AT METHODIST EVENT” and I currently work at a Methodist church and that, my dear friends, hits a little too close to home. 

Samerican-flag-795307_1920ince the campaigns began, I have been pleading with adults to please, please, consider the words they are using and the actions they are choosing because the younger generation is watching them and learning from them and emulating them.

Throughout the campaigns, I was told repeatedly by supporters of Mr. Trump that I should “vote for the policy, not for the person.”

The thing is, that is impossible.

We don’t elect a policy to the position of president. We elect a person.

81% of evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump, the person.

The silence of this group in regard to these atrocities that have been going on since the election is deafening.  The silence of president-elect Trump is twice as loud.*

See, the thing is, children and youth – they don’t understand the distinction of voting for someone because you agree with their “policies” but disagree with everything else about him unless they are expressly told that, early and often.

Children don’t hate, until it’s demonstrated for them. Children don’t understand immigration policy or the status of refugees. They need to have those things explained to them. By us. The adults. The ones they are imitating.

A quick perusal through the post-election hate crimes and racist actions will reveal that a a majority of the increase we are seeing is taking place in schools – schools!  Where the children are. Where the youth are. Where the young adults are. The bullying taking place, the graffiti being painted,the words being spoken are by and large coming from…children. 

We cannot close our eyes to this reality. We have taught them something, America. We have taught them something, Church. At this point, I don’t even care who we voted for. I care about what we are going to do now.

Are we going to tell our children that this. is. wrong?

The things Mr. Trump said during his campaign were wrong. The words he called human beings were wrong. The way he made fun of people was wrong. The manner in which he treated, talked about, and manhandled women was wrong. It was all very, very wrong.

90 youth, 6th-12th grade aged youth, were ostracized, terrorized, and threatened…at church. By church kids. Our kids.

And they learned it from us.

We were pretty loud in our support of policy, calling on the evangelical community to vote for the person.  If we are not equally as loud now in calling for the end to racism, sexism, and all the other -isms then we are continuing to teach our children that those things are okay.

In this space, dedicated to the home and to the church, to generational discipleship and faith formation, I cannot stay silent. Because this is in our homes. In our churches. It is how we are discipling our children. It is faith formation. It’s everything I write about. It is exactly why I started this blog. And I couldn’t remain silent about the biggest thing affecting our homes, our church, our children today.

It is my prayer that you won’t either. Talk about this with your children. Regardless of how you voted, remind them that every person, every child, every race, every gender, every human being is made in God’s image, loved and cherished, of great worth in His sight and we are called to love like Him. Disciple them.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

*I was just made aware that Donald Trump has asked those harassing minorities to “Stop It”. See article here


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook. 

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

Friends, Our Kids are Confused

Last night I was woken not once but twice with repeated alarms from my phone. An Amber Alert had been issued. A four-year-old girl had been taken. The entire country went on alert. Prayers were offered, however brief or fleeting. People took more notice of certain vehicles and blonde-headed little girls. For a moment, an anonymous person, a random child, because the focus of everyone’s attention. And thankfully, she has been found.

Over the past decades, an similar alarm has sounded within the church. A wake-up call for the church. Our children are going missing. I know, I know, you’ve heard that right?

 We’ve seen the statistics. We’ve read the books. We’ve heard the speakers. The rise of the “Nones” or the “Unaffiliated” is full of children who have grown and chosen to leave the church.

There are multiple reasons for this. Many theories have been offered. I’ve offered a few myself. But it wasn’t until recently in a discussion with a couple of kids did I start to see things a little differently.

And yes, it has to do with this election.

And yes, it has to do with us.

I’m going to share what they said. And that’s all. And it might sting. It did me. But I think we need to hear it.

I heard some kids discussing the election. They expressed some serious concerns about things they were hearing from the candidates on the news. Granted, not everything they were saying was spot on, although sadly, it was surprising how much they had picked up.

“I don’t understand…”

I can’t go on to tell you what they didn’t understand because they named specific candidates but I can tell you what confused them.  They had heard on the news some things the candidates had said and done and in real life, they heard Christians defending them. And they didn’t understand how Christians, who are supposed to love God and love others, could defend the things they had heard about.

They were genuinely confused.

They could not figure out for the life of them how to reconcile one with the other.  And these things were coming from adults they know, love and respect, which was even more confusing.

And I couldn’t help but think in that moment, “Christians, what have we done?” What message have we sent this generation?  Who can blame them for growing up and thinking that the church is, that we are, hypocritical?

Friends, I can’t and won’t tell you how to vote but I urge you, deeply, to consider what our words and actions are teaching our children, our grandchildren, and the children who see us at church.

This is an Amber Alert. A “Wake up, Church.”alarm-959592_1920

Our children are watching how we respond to this election cycle.

Are we letting fear determine our footsteps, our words?

Are we allowing God to be manifest in our actions and reactions?

If we had to stand up today and defend ourselves as believers called to extend the truth in love, would our social media platform defend or condemn us?

The alarm that Apple has chosen to attach to the incoming Amber Alert calls is loud, it’s jarring, it’s uncomfortable. I know that this post is outside the normal voice I write with. It’s loud, it’s jarring, it’s uncomfortable.

But I am as genuinely passionate about this as I can be.  I don’t want the next generation to look back at this election cycle and say, “That’s when I knew Christianity, church, all that Jesus stuff, wasn’t real.”

So if at the very least, after reading this, we can, for one brief moment, all stop for a moment, look at the children, and pray for them, and consider, truly consider, the words we are speaking and posting, perhaps we will be taking one step towards finding them again.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About the author 

Family(40)

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed,

What’s with the Flipping Bottle?

If you have no idea what this post is about, chances are…

  1. You don’t have a middle schooler
  2. You don’t serve in youth ministry
  3. You don’t spend much time on social media

Because let me tell you, flipping bottles are everywhere.

bottles-60478_1920The newest craze to hit the middle school halls is the act of flipping a water bottle (or pretty much any kind of bottle) in the air in order to get it to land on its head…and stay.  Hours, and by hours, I mean hours, of time have been spent throwing bottles and have them thunk, thump, thud to the ground before the jubilant cheers of a standing bottle erupt. Some kids are really good at it. Some never get the bottle to stand.

But flip those bottles they do..endlessly..in hopes of the flawless stand.

Now, here’s the thing, the whole reason I found out about this phenomenon was because an adult was posting about it on Facebook. It was not a happy post. It went on and on about how annoying this game was and how they wished kids would stop playing it and how ridiculous it was.  Since then I’ve seen a number of similar posts, not quite as vehement, but still expressing frustration with kids for playing this game.

And frankly, I’m baffled.  

I feel like we as adults are creating a no-win situation for kids today.

This game is absolutely harmless. It’s creative and fun. It is not a video game, which we constantly rail against and say kids shouldn’t waste hours playing. It’s not TV, where kids tune out and lay around. It fits well with the message of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” that we have been feeding them for years.  It is generally played with a group and promotes friendship.

It’s free!  It’s fun!  It’s everything we want for kids…right?

But then, when they start exercising their imagination, talents and creativity, the message they get from from adults isn’t “Way to go guys! What a fun game! Way to use your imagination and find a creative use for that used water bottle!

No, what they hear from us is, “Please stop. That’s really annoying to us. Just go do something quiet like..play video games or watch TV. Just stop bothering us.

These kids can’t win for losing.   They are stuck hearing two simultaneously different messages and they will never be able to measure up.

And sometimes we do that to them in church too.

We want them to grow up with an active and vibrant faith. We want them to want to go to church. We want them to know and love God and to know that they are known and loved by God.

But we shush them when they are too loud.

We hush them when they fidget too much.

We remove them from our midst when they are annoying.

We even build them whole wings or buildings so that they can be loud somewhere else.

Now, hear me – I am not against having kids in age-appropriate ministry settings like Sunday School or Kids Church. In fact, I think those are really important opportunities for us to share God’s love and Word with them.

But, I do worry about the message we are sending our children and youth if we never create a time where they get to be with the whole church and they can see, hear, and feel that they are a part of that faith community, that they are known and loved by the whole church, and they belong there – truly belong there.

Are we sending them mixed messages like “Be creative and use your imagination” and “Be quiet and stop doing that”? Or perhaps more like, “We want you here” but “Here’s a better place for you to be”?  Are we in some way creating a “no-win” situation for our kids?  Or are we looking for ways to be both/and instead of either/or. To come alongside of them and join them in the journey.

It’s at least some thing to consider.

And while considering that… try flipping a bottle.

It’s actually pretty fun. 😉


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About the author 

Family(40)

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com

Can They Hear You? Practical Communication for Multiple Generations

One of the challenges of leading children’s, family, or intergenerational ministry is the need to communicate with a large audience of varying needs and perspectives.  The target audience ranges from infant to 99+. The intended receivers communicate in vastly different ways. The focus group is never in focus but rather all-encompassing and ever-changing.

Recently, I read a book that really helped me consider this challenge in a new light. In her book, Faith Formation 4.0, Dr. Julie Anne Lytle points out that, “the twenty-first century is unique because it includes cohorts that were significantly shaped by the four eras of human communication.”

So, what might these four eras be?

Oral Tradition

This era of communication was humanity’s first way to communicate through the passing down of wisdom through storytelling. There was a strong sense of community, since this kind of communication relied on face-to-face interaction, and the wisdom shared was passed from one generation to another within a communal context.

Written Text

With the introduction of symbols to represent words, wisdom was able to be passed further than one’s immediate community. You didn’t need to see or even know the person passing on the knowledge; you could read about it! But that was nothing compared to what happened next.

Mass Media

When written text met printing press, the ability to share knowledge became a global phenomenon. Written information could be shared with anyone and passed anywhere. Knowledge no longer required community, just a way to be passed. But it was still one-sided; you could read but you couldn’t respond. Until…

Interactive Communication

Beginning with the telephone and up to the social media connected world of today, not only could you read and pass on information, you could react to it and interact with it without global limitation. A new type of community has risen; a global community of shared and accessible knowledge.

And guess what?

In your church (and in mine) there are generations that give and receive information best in each of these ways. 

Some want the face-to-face interaction. They want to hear from you what the vision, mission and needs of the church are. They don’t necessarily want to interact with that information, but they do want to know it. These are the ones who want to “hear it from the pulpit.”

Others prefer to read about it. They want to pick up a piece of literature and read about what is happening in your ministry, in the church, within the community, and around the world. Again, they may not want to interact with it, but they do want to read about it. These are the members of your congregation that “look for it in the bulletin” each week and subscribe to the church newsletter.

generationsStill others gravitate to mass-produced information that can be accessed and passed on easily, such as brochures about the church and its ministry, reproducible videos that can be used for Bible study or training, books that can be shared from the church library, and a easy-to-read and up-to-date church website.

Finally, there are those who feel most comfortable with information that allows them to interact with it such as posts on Facebook, small groups focused on discussion, text messages and Snapchat.  In fact, there are many in this group that only get their information from these avenues, rarely reading anything they are handed on paper or going to the church website for information.

So what does this mean for us?

  1. Communication must be multi-faceted – If you want your message to reach the entire congregation, it is necessary to use a variety of avenues to share your information.  For one event you may have to have it announced from the pulpit, written in the bulletin, printed in the newsletter, sent out by email and posted on social media.
  2.  Communication must be shared more than once – Let’s assume that Miss P. who only takes things to heart if the Pastor says it from the pulpit misses the one Sunday the announcement is made and Mr. C. who meticulously reads the bulletin each week gives his copy to a visitor… you’ve just missed your chance with them. It’s best to assume you need to share your information multiple times in multiple ways.
  3. Communication must be timely and interesting – We must face the fact that there are many voices with lots of information vying for people’s attention. Certain times are worse than others to try to get your message across. For instance, when school re-starts, parents are flooded with information from their kids new teachers and schools and information overload is bound to happen. Time your information sharing to reach them before or after the onslaught, again multiple times, in multiple ways.

While this means we have to spend a lot more time working on our communication materials (slides, articles, announcements, videos, social media posts, text reminders, etc) it also means that if we do so, we will have a much better chance of having our voice heard and gathering more generations into our ministry’s mission and vision.

Understanding how members of our congregation receive and interact with information can help us do a better job at ministering to each generation and creating ways for them to all grow together.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com

Balancing the 24/7 News Cycle for the Sake of our Kids

I once worked with a personal trainer who started my 150 hours with her by doing an evaluation of my current fitness level. I admit; I went into the whole thing a little proud of myself. At the time, I was a pretty active person and I was able to do more physically than many in similar shape. At the end of the evaluation, she looked at me and said matter-of-factly, “We are going to spend the next few sessions on balance. You have the worst balance I’ve ever seen and without balance and core strength, the rest of what we are going to do won’t work. You need a good foundation.”

Balance? Really? I wanted to be fit and trim not learn how to stand up straight.  Our next session she began running me through a battery of balancing exercises. From a distance, these simple movements appeared simple and effortless. In actuality, they were the hardest things I’d ever done physically. My whole body hurt afterwards. She was right. I had terrible balance. She even targeted my weak side and made me work on it the most and by golly, I could hardly walk afterwards. My balance affected everything and it was absolutely holding me back from the other exercises I deemed most important.

So why do I share all this with you?

Because I am starting to think as a society, we lack balance, and without balance, we are building on a weak foundation. And the repercussions of that on the next generation from a distance may look like no big deal, but in actuality, could be creating major problems for our kids that we can’t even see.

Recently, the New York Times printed an article entitled What is a Constant Cycle of Violent News doing to Us?  It’s a question I have been asking myself, so I had to read it (as I encourage you to do as well).  Basically the answer is “Not good things.”

According to the article, “living in a digitally linked world where broadcasts of violence are instantaneous and almost commonplace means that many of us are becoming desensitized” and that “that exposure to violent imagery on social media can cause symptoms that are similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, defined as a persistent emotional reaction to a traumatic event that severely impairs one’s life.

From watching and hearing the news?  Doesn’t that seem a bit dramatic?

I don’t think so. I think it is spot on.

I think the reality of this constant flow of news into our homes, cars, screens, and lives has to have an affect on us as a people. And while I would never advocate for ignorance or withdrawing from society and pretending these things don’t exist, I do think as parents and ministers it behooves us to demonstrate for our children and youth the necessary practice of balance and Sabbath rest.

Featured Image -- 1092Even the article mentioned above shares, “If you have children, the American Psychological Association recommends asking them how they are feeling about the news. Keep in mind that it is possible for children to be influenced by news reports and the adult conversations around them.

Children are not immune to what is happening.

They “read” us even if they can’t read the news. For example the article shares, “Going out of your way to avoid interacting with strangers — by taking mass transit, for example — can stoke fear and anxiety in children.” Children read our emotions and our actions and use it as a framework to approach their world.

They “hear” us even if they can’t hear the radio. Our verbal reactions become their language for approaching their world. If fear and worry lace our words, if anger and frustration overlay our tone, and if despair and hopelessness fill our speech, they hear it, even if they don’t understand it.

They “feel” us even if they can’t feel for those in the news. Children don’t necessarily have the emotional tools to feel empathy of others, especially those they don’t know. But children have the uncanny ability to pick up on what adults in their lives are feeling and it concerns them. Have you ever had a child ask you why or if you were sad?  They can pick up on more than we realize because they are always with us and always watching us, learning from us how to approach life.

And thus, balance. Balance offers us and them a chance to see things from more than one perspective.

I’m not saying we should ignore all the heartache in this world and to deny the existence of these difficult things. I am saying we should make sure that we purposefully seek out the good as well.

The good won’t be dished out to us 24/7 by the media and piped into our home over the airways.

It will take work on our part to “see the helpers” as Mr. Rogers shared.

It will take action on our part to get up and be the good in the world so our children can see us participating instead of insulating.

It will take intentionality for us to withdraw from the news for a time, to turn off the TV, turn down the radio, shut the computer screen, and allow space for rest and peace and reminders of the good.

I am learning this myself. As an outgoing, extroverted, empathetic person, these news stories take a personal toll on my heart. I am sad, so very sad. I cry and I believe God cries with me. I am not unaware of the grief and heartache of this world. But, I am learning that in my sadness, I must remember joy is just as much a reality. And for the sake of my children, I need to approach each situation with balance and grace; resting from the constant stream of bad news and instead intentionally seeking out the good.

What about you?  What are some ways that you seek to create and find balance?  How do you help the next generation approach the world around them with a healthy focus?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and share with each other how we can be in the world but not of it in a way that isn’t isolating, but engaging; not wearying, but life-giving.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com

Teach Them to be Heroes

Each week a new story in the news takes social media by storm and dominates the online conversation. This week the story of the appalling crime, disappointing trial, and lenient conviction of Brock Turner has filled my feed. As the story grew is scope and more information was made known to the general public, I saw my social media feed go from rebuke of the perpetrator and his father who defended him to sympathy for the victim and her family to a call to teach our children to be like the heroes who stopped the attack and called for help for the victim.

The whole story is sickening and frightening. But I think it is also revealing of our culture and what our children are walking into as they grow up.

For decades, as a culture, we have glorified individualism.child-164318_1280

We have said if you want it, you can have it.

If you feel it, you can be it.

If you think it’s okay, then it is okay for you.

What is most important is that you are happy; that you get all you can out of this life and live it in the most satisfying way possible for you.

The almighty “You” is worshipped. In the land of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, nothing should keep You from getting what You want.

This stands in stark contrast to the life that Christ calls us to live.

Instead of You being glorified, You is humbled.

Instead of You getting what it wants, You relinquishes its right to what it wants and seeks the good of others.

Instead of You defining what is good and right and best for itself, it looks instead to its Creator and seeks first that kingdom rather than its own.

It looks nothing like the culture into which our children are headed.

Which is why, as so many people are saying now, we must teach our children something different. The posts call for us to teach them to be heroes.

But you know what those heroes did? They saw beyond themselves to others. They cared enough about another person to put aside their own individual agenda and seek the good of another. They desired justice more than fairness and truth more than lies.

If we want to teach our children to be heroes, we must teach them to be counter-cultural. We must teach them to be different. That the “You” is not more important than “Us” and that we are all part of a community not individuals living in a bubble of our own pleasure and desires.

Church, we have a huge role to play in this.

We have the calling to live this way all. the. time! If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” (Ph. 2:1-4)

This is what we should look like. We should look different.

We should be teaching our children to be heroes by being selfless, compassionate, hospitable, and humble in our interactions with one another. We should be looking out for others, not just when the circumstances are so horrid we can’t help but act, but in everyday situations when those we live surrounded need a helping hand, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a meal shared, a prayer offered.

That is why I am so passionate about discipleship at home and intergenerational community at church. Because if we, the body of Christ, are not modeling this counter-cultural behavior for our children through our interactions with them, with each other, and with the community at large, then we are not teaching them to be heroes. And if our culture ever needed heroes that stand out, that look different, that hold up a standard of humility and grace in a world of pride and judgement, that time is now.

Teach our children to be heroes by teaching our children that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness might be our rights, but laying down those rights for the good of others can lead to the greatest freedom of all. Like the knights of the round table in the legend of Camelot, let them discover that “In serving one another, we become free.”


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

Mom, I’m scared

The thing about headlines is that they are big, they are bold, and they are bait. They draw us in with words that shock, incite, and entice. They tell a story of a million words, reduced to four or five. They call to our emotions and tells us to read on…but many times we only skim; after all, the headline tells us most of what we need to know.

I don’t know if it is because I’m getting older or because my kids are getting older, but I am becoming increasingly more sensitive to this big, bold, baiting words around us.

Maybe it’s because I spent a lot of time on Twitter the last two weeks watching people attempt to have discussions on amazingly complex topics in 144 words or less.

Maybe it’s because I’ve seen one too many headline that predicts the end of life as we know it from reasons spanning from the environment to the next U.S. president.

Maybe it’s because I am weary of the sensationalism and aggrandizement that seem to lace each article I see posted, each sound byte I hear aired, and each newspaper I pass by.

But mostly I think it’s because one of my children looked at me and with all sincerity and with deep concern said, “Mom, I’m scared.”  

Of what, dear child?  Of bugs and bats and creepy crawly things?  Of the sounds you hear in the dark or of having a bad dream?  Of missing the bus or failing a spelling test?

Because these are the things I would expect a 4th grade girl to be afraid of.

“I’m afraid because I heard on the news that…”

I won’t fill in the blank. We know what is in the news. We’ve seen the headlines.

And so have our kids.

Half-truths, fear tactics, emotionally stirring words intended to create the very emotions my daughter was feeling.  Only she’s not an adult. She doesn’t have the mental acuity or capacity to view these things through a lens of objectivity. She can’t say, “Hmm, that’s interesting. Before I charge ahead and start a campaign to right this wrong or to understand this topic, I’m going to do some research and make sure I’m well informed.”

She’s a kid. Emotions are her reality. Fear is real.

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Disciple Kids in Faith, not Fear

I can’t change the media. I can’t hide her from the real world. I can’t shield her from every radio broadcast, political conversation, doomsday prediction or end-of-the-world scenario. What I can do, and what I think as parents and ministers and adult Christians who interact with the youngest generations, is to give her some frames, some truths, through with she is able to filter whatever she hears and grab onto the hope that is offered to us through Christ and His Word.

  1. God is still God – Acknowledge the world honestly, MAGNIFY the Lord intentionally. Yes, there are bad things that happen in the world. Hiding the truth from your kids will only make them more inquisitive. Talk to them when they ask about things that are scary BUT don’t focus on the scary thing; intentionally shift your focus to how GREAT God is!
  1. Seeing (or hearing) Is NOT Believing – Walk by FAITH and not by SIGHT – Kids watch what you model. If you react out of fear, that will be the model that they learn to make decisions from. If you model decision-making from a place of faith and seeking God, that’s what they will learn to do as well.
  1. We have a part to play – Be the HANDS and FEET of Christ – We are confronted with the reality of a fallen world on a daily basis. People who are lost, in need, alone. When we become Christ to those people by serving them and sharing hope and life with them, we show our kids that faith conquers fear every time and we model participation on the life of Christ as the way to approach a Christian life.
  1. We are never without hope so PRAY without ceasing – The reality is we cannot protect our kids forever from the results of living in a sinful world. We can parent from faith, we can give them tools for the task, and we can hold their hand for a while, but eventually we have to let go. But, we never have to stop praying, in the morning, at lunch, before bed, while we walk along the road, while we sit in our house. We can always, always pray. And we can tell our kids that they can too!

I realize that I have a grave responsibility here, that my reactions and consequently, my actions are being watched and recorded. My prayer is that I am offering her more than trite answers that “Everything will be okay” but real world acknowledgment that life is hard, and sometimes scary, but God is faithful and we can trust Him.

And the best way I can do that is to live that way myself; to measure my words and my responses in ways that communicate hope instead of hopelessness, action instead of reaction, grace instead of judgment and careful response instead of emotional outburst. 

Let’s be aware that our kids see, hear, and digest a lot more than we might realize. We don’t need to fear that, but we should be cognizant of that so that when those words written above get spoken, we are able to confidently lead them to a place where hope is the anchor and love the foundation because that this the place we ourselves are living.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

The Shameful Art of Public Shaming

I’m not sure when public shaming became the new vogue passive-aggressive way to express to others one’s disapproval of who they are, how they act, or what they do but it has. I don’t care if you are scrolling through Facebook, glancing through Twitter, or listening to a PRESIDENTIAL (come on folks…really!?) debate, public shaming is the new “thumbs down” from society.

Reteengirlscently, I saw a picture posted of a few teen girls who were taking selfies in the bleachers at a baseball game, with captions that ranged from “Is this what society has become?” to “Why even bother coming to the game? All you care about is yourself!”  Wide-sweeping judgment of these young ladies, who reminded me of my own daughters, spread like wildfire across the internet, earning them a place of “shame fame” (yes, that’s an actual term nowadays) and the public scorn of the social media world.

Of course, once the whole story came out, it was clear that we had overstepped a bit. In truth, the girls were participating in a selfie challenge hosted by the baseball game to win free tickets. In reality, they were only doing what EVERY SINGLE OTHER PERSON in the stadium was doing in that moment. And these young ladies showed their huber by using their “shame fame” to raise awareness about domestic abuse and donated their free tickets to a domestic abuse shelter. But that story has received only minimal coverage while the original photo continues to be posted, and judged, and they continue to be publicly shamed.

So what do I mean by “public shaming?”  

To be clear, I’m not referring to sharing with others what personal beliefs about God, your political stances, or your concern for society, in a respectful and thoughtful manner that invites dialogue and further conversation. On the contrary, I think that is exactly what we should be teaching our children. It’s what I hope to accomplish when I blog, when I talk with others about my beliefs, and when I share an article or start a conversation on social media. That’s healthy interaction even if what you are saying is potentially controversial.

I’m talking about something far less inviting and far more harmful.

A photograph of a single moment with a caption loaded with accusation and disapproval of a generation or person with no regard to their entire being.

A meme maliciously making fun of a political party, a group of people, or a way of life with the intention of saying, “Look how wrong/stupid/ridiculous they are and how right/smart/perfect I (and others like me) are.”

Sweeping judgments made about entire societies, classes, races, and peer groups based on single observations or just something another person doesn’t like.

Mean-spirited in nature. Out to prove a point and walk away. Taking the art of bullying to a whole new level.

People’s lives have been ruined because of this; absolutely destroyed because of one mistake, thoughtless misstep, or simply doing something that someone else finds abhorrent or objectionable. And often, later, when the whole story comes out, we find out…oops, we were wrong. What was so self-righteously declared “wrong” was actually “right” or at least not wrong and those lives destroyed on social media, network media, and people media are forever ruined.

You know, Paul had his own public forum. In Acts 17, Paul sat in Athens, in the public square, under the shadow of the Parthenon, temple to the goddess Athena, surrounded by “a city that was full of idols,” in a place where “all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest idea.”

I cannot help but see the comparison to our social media platforms today. Is that not our public square, full of idols, where people spend their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest idea?

So we must ask, how does Paul act in this situation? As God’s messenger to the Gentiles, this was exactly the group he had been sent to with the gospel. Surely, he in this situation, he went in guns ablazing right?

Nope, not at all.

Paul was “greatly distressed,” but when he spoke to the people gathered there, he did so with utmost respect and in a conversational tone. He quoted their own authors, referred to their own gods, observed that they were “very religious” and invited them into a longer conversation. When the some in the crowd sneered at him, he didn’t lash out at them, but he left the public forum and continued speaking with those who wanted to hear more. Some of the people there ended up becoming believers; some did not.  Paul moved on to Corinth but left a legacy of Christianity that remains to this day.

Personally, I think we as Christians have a lot to learn from Paul in this instance.

What if we modeled this behavior for our children in the interactions we have in our public forum?

What if we observed people’s desire for “more” in this life and invited them into a conversation about where we have found it, instead of posting an article lambasting them for being wrong or a meme that passes judgement on them from afar?

What if we invited thoughtful discussion instead of public shaming?

And what if, instead of battling things out in 144 characters or less, we took the conversation to a new level of actual discourse and when some sneer, invite the ones who want to know more to continue the conversation in another arena?

I often share that as adults we must realize that everything we do, even the unintentional and accidental things, are teaching our children what are good, right, and normal ways of acting and interacting.

Social media has the potential to be a place of great discipleship for our children, a place where we can teach them respectful and generous ways of living out our faith.

One day, they will be our friends on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram, or join our circle on whatever new frontier of social media awaits. They will have access to all we’ve said, done, and posted.

Let’s be sure that what they see there will teach them to love God and love others.  Public shaming has no place in that way of life. Let’s disciple them well even before they get there. 


Join the conversation on Facebook at ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused, intergenerational ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.