The way I remember Christmas morning when our children were small was a row of eager children sitting on the couch—excited to open their presents, but first basking in the warmth of hearing Dad read the Christmas story. And of course, meditating on the grace of God in taking on human form and…

Unfortunately, that’s not the way our old VHS tape preserved one of those Christmas morning memories.

In one particular home video, rediscovered in recent months by our son, Larry, and watched with interest and delight by our other adult children, our four kids were not in a row (or even on the couch). I was reading the Christmas story—or rather, trying to—over Matt’s three-year-old interruptions.

Matt would try to get up and go for the presents, and I would snap at him.

Matt would interrupt to ask a question, and I would tell him to be quiet.

After a few repeats, I had enough and firmly set Matt down on the couch. “Sit still until we’re finished! We’re reading about Jesus!” And I didn’t say it in a tone that made “reading about Jesus” very attractive!

When I saw that video played several months ago—as a “sermon illustration” while Larry was preaching (I told you he refuses to forget it)—our church family laughed…and I cringed. I hated seeing how impatient I had been with Matt on Christmas morning.

If there is one thing I’ve learned as a parent, it is that, despite our best intentions, we fail. (The other thing I’ve learned is that our children remember those failures—sometimes with a lighter perspective than ours.)

Every parent has great intentions. But it takes more than great intentions to raise a family. It takes the Word of God and the wisdom and leadership of the Holy Spirit.

As the Christmas incident above confirms, it really is only by God’s grace and to the credit of the principles found in His Word that all four of our children and their spouses are walking with the Lord and now raising their children for the Lord.

Terrie and I weren’t perfect parents, but we did seek God’s wisdom, pray for our children, and study God’s Word for truths for our family. I share many of these truths and biblical principles in a new book, Making Home Work in a Broken Society. (The book will be available December 2, but you can learn more about it and read the first chapter at

So if you fail as a parent this week—or this Thanksgiving and Christmas season—welcome to the club.

Apologize to your children (I’m sure I did that—it’s just not on the tape), remember your dependence on God’s grace, and press forward in following God’s principles for your home.

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