When we moved up here to the north, I started listening to the Christian radio station off and on. I LOVE any kind of talk radio other than loudmouth blathering and they ran a few programmes that I found that I liked. Much to my surprise, the Focus on the Family daily broadcast became something that I really found myself enjoying.
Before I get into all of the things that I have discovered that I really like about Focus, I do have to declare that there are things with which I strongly disagree, primarily in the area of politics (hey, I should offend everyone here, I am hitting on religion and politics in one post!) I am not an American and I have come to the conclusion that there are aspects of the American mind that I, as a Canadian, will never understand. I do not understand the need for the right to carry firearms, I do not understand (or agree with) most of the foreign policy of the Bush years and I do NOT understand what there is to be afraid of in health care reform, particularly when it might mean that people would be less likely to lose their entire financial future due to an illness, the birth of a baby that goes wrong or an injury. I turn off Focus when they are talking politics and just agree to disagree.
Now that's cleared up, I do want to say that there is a tremendous amount about Focus that I have found myself really, really liking. I love their daily broadcasts (other than a tendency to replay the same shows a bit too often). They feature many well-informed, educated and compassionate guests who are able to share a great deal of useful information about managing family life (including marriage, parenting and finances). I loved Shaunti Feldhan's book about men, Gary Smalley stuff on relationships, I LOVE what Kevin Leman has to say about parenting, the list goes on and on. These experts are compassionate, realistic, do no advocate parenting techniques that I find to be overly harsh and as a woman who works outside of my home, I don't feel like I am vilified for not being a stay-at-home mother and homeschooling my children. These experts and resources really meet the needs I have as a parent and a wife. There are many wonderful books that I would never have discovered without Focus. They also have a number of programmes featuring stories of hope, recovery, forgiveness and healing that have me in tears (which is really embarassing when I am listening to their programmes on my ipod).
They have also brought out new resources that I am really enjoying. The first is their new magazine, Thriving Family. There are six issues a year and each issue addresses a variety of issues and needs of families with children at various stages of development. The magazine is easy to read, has great ideas and fits with my family's lifestyle (as opposed to a lot of other parenting magazines, which are full of ads and are mainly designed to get me to shop). The price is right and I am grateful for it.
Another Focus resource that I have found myself really liking is their new website, Kids of Integrity. The website is organized around a series of character traits that we might want to develop in our children and then features all kinds of lessons, strategies and activities for developing those character traits. We have been working on the obedience trait (defiance is a big thing in our house these days) and I found some great stuff in terms of using Bible stories as a jumping off point for discussing obedience (our focus this week has been on Jonah and next week, we are going to look at Noah). Everything you need is there to help design a programme to meet the needs of your own child. Given that the site is free, I am really, really impressed and grateful to have it as a resource.
Another Focus resource that I have found to be absolutely excellent is the Plugged In Online. It's a website that features reviews on music, movies and other media that you may be interested in or that your children may be interested in. I find them to be non-judgemental - you get a factual breakdown of the amount of violence, coarse language, sexuality, adult themes, etc so that you can make an informed choice about what you want to expose your family to. Dh and I have used it to research movies we are thinking about and as Pk and Baby Bean get older, I sincerely hope that it continues to be available as a resource to parents!
Finally, while Pk is a bit young for it, Focus has also worked in partnership with Phil Vischer of Veggietales fame to develop a new online experience for children called JellyTelly. Jellytelly features programmes, games and other media that help children to explore their faith while being entertaining. Phil Vischer is brilliant and is able to use the modern media to reach children in a way that speaks to them in the way that other media is sharing ideas and values that go against what so many of us want for our children. It's really worth checking out. It's a subscription service but at $4.99 a month, it isn't exactly expensive.
Thank you, Focus, for doing so much to support families!