What my garden taught me about parenting.

Posted by Mark Forstrom on Nov 23, 2015 in Reflections on Parenting

gardenMany of you know that since becoming an empty nester, I’ve taken up Square Foot Gardening.  The concept is unique:  you build raised-bed platforms, fill them full of fertile soil, and partition each one into sections that are exactly 12 inches by 12 inches.

In each square you can plant different crops.  The size and nature of each plant determines how many of them you can put into one square:  1 cabbage, 4 spinach plants, 16 carrots, etc.  As you can see from my photo, I had great success with it this past summer.  I had 96 squares, each clearly labeled with the type of seeds that were planted in it.  With that many squares at my disposal I planted just about every vegetable known to man!

One day in June as I was doing some weeding, I noticed one square with a plant I didsunflowern’t recognize.  It certainly wasn’t the jalapeno plant that my label indicated should be growing in that spot.  I almost pulled it out.  But it looked determined and my curiosity got the best of me, so I decided to let it grow to see what would happen.

Before long, that plant was the tallest in my garden.  As it grew, Cindy and I began to suspect that this would turn out to be a giant sunflower plant.  Sure enough, that’s what it was!  (Ironically, this was one of the few plants I hadn’t planted in my garden.)

It dawned on me that our children are exactly like this.  We may have expectations of who they should become or what they will accomplish.  But in the end we have no control over that.  They are who they are.  Our job is to discover who they are, how God wired them, and help them develop into their potential.

Sometim1024px-Sunflower_Taleghanes we parents have expectations of how we want our kids to interact with others or fit in socially.  We may have specific ideas of how they should learn, grow or develop.  Sometimes we may want our kids to follow in our footsteps, make us look good, or achieve our own unfulfilled dreams.  But is it possible that in doing so we may be pressuring them to be somebody they are not?  Could it be that God designed them in ways that are uniquely different than our expectations?  I suspect a lot of parent/teen conflict stems from just such pressure.

Better for us to look at our kids the way I did with that renegade garden plant — with curiosity rather than particular expectations.

As I often say, “Be a student of your student.”  Enjoy watching them grow into who God made them to be.  The harvest may not be what you expected, but it will be every bit as fruitful!


Relationship conflicts? I recommend murder.

Posted by Mark Forstrom on Nov 15, 2015 in Personal Reflections, Reflections on Parenting

Over the years I’ve witnessed many families and friendships devastated by conflict.

I’ve observed how such people tend to position themselves as enemies, sparring with each other, inciting resentment, anger, indifference, or revenge.  All are wounded, some deeply.  Some for a lifetime.

So I don’t recommend sparring with your enemies.  Murder them instead.  

But before you go off and commit a capital offense, I’d like to redefine “the enemy.”  Because I think we get this wrong.

Usually, those of us in conflict view the other person as the enemy, hurting them, correcting them, resisting them, or simply avoiding them.  The outcome of this is that both parties end up even more wounded and the original conflicts actually end up compounded.

A better solution seems to be to declare the enemy to be the relational wall between you.  Make the wall the real problem, not the person on the other side of it.

So how do you murder this true enemy, the wall between you?  Here’s my 10-step battle plan.

  1. Stop focusing so much on how the other person needs to apologize, accept responsibility, change, or conform to your expectations.  These things may be better addressed and received once the wall is down.
  2. Choose to be Unoffendable.
  3. Start talking about how awful it is to have a wall between you.  How you hate being disconnected relationally.  How you long for both of you to get to a place where you can be a blessing to one another.  How you desire a lifetime of mutual enjoyment of one another rather than one of perpetual wounding.
  4. Express your commitment to begin removing the relational bricks that you contribute to the wall.
  5. Humbly ask the other person to identify the bricks they’d like you to remove.
  6. Listen.  Seek to understand.
  7. Change what you can.  Explain what you can’t.
  8. Always treat the other person with kindness, as a person you care about rather than a problem that you want fixed.
  9. When they’re ready, gently let the other person know what changes they might make that would be helpful to you, i.e. what bricks they may have unknowingly added to the wall and how they might remove them.
  10. Stay attentive to the condition of the wall and — as a team — keep working away at removing bricks one at a time.

Once you’ve set those bricks on the ground you’ll find instead that there’s now something else between you — a bridge!   The wall will have been completely obliterated.

And those are murders I love to witness!


You’ll never believe what this idiot said!

Posted by Mark Forstrom on Nov 2, 2015 in Personal Reflections

meI want to shine the spotlight on a social trend I see running rampant in our culture today:   opposing someone of a different perspective by using mockery, ridicule, name-calling, unflattering photos, out-of-context quotes, and unfair characterizations.  These are ad hominem attacks, which are directed against a person rather than the positions they hold.  I see it everywhere, especially on social media.  And I think it’s leading our society down a dangerous path.

This strategy of “besting” our opponents by mocking their personhood seems like such an immature, “elementary school” tactic.  The thing that made The Three Stooges so hilarious was the way that their slapstick pie-in-the-face methods of correcting one another were so obviously foolish and pointless.  But now we’ve adopted these same tactics as a matter of course.  Continuing on this track may soon make The Three Stooges seem like documentaries of modern culture.

Certainly we all hold divergent views about politics, morality, religion, and how the world should be run.  These are important issues, which need to be discussed and debated and understood.  But complex issues — such as these are — do not have simplistic answers. Though it may make us feel superior to laugh at our opponents, we will not solve the problems of the world by mud-slinging.  Is this not bullying on an adult level?  We need to hear each other, respect one another, and listen with open ears and open hearts to fully explore all sides of the issues.

In the end, how tragically ironic would it be if we won battles of politics and morality and religion by sacrificing human dignity in the process?

“How long, foolish ones, will you love ignorance? How long will you mockers enjoy mocking and you fools hate knowledge?”  (Proverbs 1:22)



A word I would like to erase from a parent’s vocabulary.

Posted by Mark Forstrom on Oct 26, 2015 in Reflections on Parenting

Parents:  choose carefully the words you use when talking to your kids.  There is one word in particular that I would like to ban from a parent’s vocabulary.  I have no doubt that by using it parents are well-meaning and trying to be helpful, but I want to draw to your attention how I’ve seen the use of this word create lifelong, relational gaps between parents and their grown children.

What is the word?  “Disappointed.”   As in “I’m very disappointed in you, young man.”

I understand that parents are using this word as a way to express their displeasure at a child’s behavior — in hopes of correcting it.  But the problem is that the child hears something the parents likely don’t intend.  They hear  “You’re a disappointment to me.”   It becomes about the child’s worth as a person, rather than about a poor choice he made or a parent’s unmet expectation.  It’s the same as saying, “You’re never good enough for me” or “You don’t measure up to my expectations” or “You’ll never amount to anything.”

I’m not suggesting parents can’t comment on a child’s poor behavior or unmet expectations.  I’m not saying parents should stuff their feelings.  I also admit that it can be motivating for kids to know that their parent doesn’t like what they did.  But what I am saying is that when parents express disapproval of behaviors they need to be very careful to keep behavior and personal worth separate, affirming their relationship and affection for the child.

Why am I so adamant about this?  Because I’ve heard story after story from grown children who are grieving over the way their parents have always been disappointed in them.  One college-age girl recently said to me on the phone, “I wish I could tell my mom what I’m thinking about here at college, but I can’t — because I know she won’t approve of me.  I’m such a disappointment to her.”  Some adult kids have told me they dread coming home to their parents’ house.  Some won’t even talk to their parents anymore — it’s just too painful.  I once taught a parenting class at our local pregnancy support center and and not one of the twelve there could share of a single incident where they felt their parents affirmed them as people.  How sad.

So my encouragement is for parents to take more care in how they express concern over a child’s choices or unmet expectations.  Try a script like this:  “I’m glad I’m your dad even though you did something that I didn’t like.  I want you to know that my love for you doesn’t change a bit because of this.  I believe in you and in your ability to make good choices in life.  How about we talk about this some more over some ice cream?”

You won’t be disappointed!


Choosing to be “Unoffendable”.

Posted by Mark Forstrom on Oct 19, 2015 in Personal Reflections


I read the book Unoffendable by Brant Hansen this past month and I highly recommend it. It really captures the outlook on life that I intend to have.  Hansen articulately expresses ideas that I’ve thought about quite a bit over the years, but never fleshed out on paper.

Here are my thoughts about being unoffendable, along with some great quotes from the book.

We have to suspend our judgment of others and instead give people the benefit of the doubt.  When we judge the motives of the person who cut us off in traffic or who has failed us in some way we set ourselves up to becoming angry and offended.

“We simply can’t trust ourselves and our judgment of others…And since we don’t know, let’s choose ahead of time: we’re just not going to get offended by people.” (page 16 )

If we had a good understanding of our own weaknesses and shortcomings, we’d be less likely to take offense at others. 

“When you’re living in the reality of the forgiveness you been extended, you just don’t get angry with others easily. I suspect our sense of entitlement to anger is directly proportional to our perception of our own relative innocence.” (page 65)

We should quit trying to change people and rather treasure them.

“I don’t control anyone, because that’s God’s job. That’s his deal. I can just enjoy and love people. As I keep saying, I wish I would have known this sooner. I wish I could have seen the entire redemptive, narrative arc of the Bible.” (page 84)

We need to trust God rather than expect others to fulfill all our needs.

“We hold on to worry because we don’t trust God. We hold on to anger because we don’t trust God. We feel threatened because we’re insecure, and where insecure because – surprise! – we don’t trust God. When you start practicing it, you realize: choosing to be unoffendable means actually, for real, trusting God.” (page 111).

We need to give up our ego’s demand for vindication.

“My sense of justice says the person who hurt me should pay: but with forgiveness, it’s the forgiver – the victim – who must pay again.”  (page 140)

“The cross simultaneously stands as a constant reminder of [Jesus’s] willingness to pay the bill, and as an indictment on us when we are unwilling to do the same for others.” (page 141)

“Real humility lies in self-forgetfulness. Few want to hear this but it’s true, and it can be enormously helpful in life: if you are constantly being hurt, offended, or angered, you should honestly evaluate your inflamed ego.”  (page 184)

“Self-forgetfulness is not about mystically wishing myself into non-existence or pretending I’m meaningless. It’s just the opposite. Self-forgetfulness is what happens when were emotionally healthy. Its remembering that God is my defender, his opinion is what matters and whatever my offenders are doing to me, I’ve done to others as well. And God has forgiven me I simply must forgive in return and forfeit my right to anger.” (page 194)

Living unoffendable results in a life of greater joy.  Focusing on how much God has forgiven you while focusing less on the disappointments of others is so less stressful.  It’s a better way to live.

This  concept of being unoffendable became part of the life resolutions I wrote years ago.  Number 20 reads: “Resolved to never take personal offense at anyone, knowing that given the same circumstances and apart from the grace of God I would have treated me likewise.”


My crazy story of God’s mercy.

Posted by Mark Forstrom on Oct 15, 2015 in Personal Reflections

Yesterday I had a crazy encounter with God’s mercy.

I typically give plasma on Wednesday mornings before going to work.  Since it’s chilly in the plasma center when I go there I wear a special down sleeveless jacket to keep me warm, yet with my arms exposed.   I keep this jacket in the backseat of my car.  Yesterday, as usual, I went into the garage, opened the car’s back door, put on my jacket, got in the front seat and drove the mile and a half to Biolife.

I parked in the first row and went in and, again as is typical, had a successful donation.  But when I returned to the parking lot 75 minutes later, I was SHOCKED to find my laptop sitting on top of my car!  I was horrified and stunned to realize that I had set my laptop on the roof of my car in my garage when I was retrieving my jacket, I had forgotten about it, I drove the mile and half without it falling off, and then it sat there on top of my car for 75 minutes without getting stolen by the many passers-by.  This was a miraculous encounter, which to me is a perfect demonstration of God’s mercy.

Mercy is not getting the negative consequences that we deserve.   By all accounts my negligence should have resulted in my laptop being shattered on the roadways or stolen.  (Btw, on many other occasions I have received the penalty of my negligence such as sending iphones through the washing machine multiple times!)  But this time God showed me great favor so I didn’t end up getting what I deserved.

While I’m on the subject, closely related to mercy is another biblical term called grace.  Grace involves receiving a blessing that is completely undeserved.

I like to visualize the relationship between mercy and grace using the illustration of an elevator.  Mercy is like an elevator when it raises us up out of the curses we deserve down below.  Grace is the same elevator when it takes us up to levels of undeserved blessing.


What was it like to give Brenda away?

Posted by Mark Forstrom on Oct 11, 2015 in Personal Reflections, Reflections on Parenting

On May 18, 1993, Brenda was born.   Holding her for the first time I was completely smitten!  I was captivated — and indeed overwhelmed — by the realization that she was mine.  This perfect, beautiful, baby girl was given by God to me!  I relished the thought that I was to be her sole protector and provider.

Admiring her precious newborn body, my eyes came to rest on her tiny fingers.  When my glance landed upon her left ring finger I distinctly remember welling up with tears of sadness, dreading the day some man would snatch her away from me.


Photo by Clayton Besong

Photo by Clayton Besong


8,047 days later, on May 30, 2015 I walked that same little girl down a long aisle to give her away to Mr. Timothy Pierce.  This moment — like the previous — was accompanied by tears, but these were not tears of sadness, but rather joy.

The ease with which I gave her away to Tim would have shocked my “new dad” self of 22 years ago.  How did I attain this ability to hand her over so readily, something which was formerly unthinkable?  This is what I want to reflect on today.

  1. The primary reason I could let her go, I think, was my gradual realization over the years that most of what I used to claim as my own was really not mine at all.  I came to see that all of the people and things in my life are mere temporary entrustments, not entitlements. These I should steward well and cherish dearly, but never presume they would always be mine to keep.  I’ve tried to remind myself of this in my prayers for my family, “…that I would shepherd and treasure them more and more, yet hold them looser and looser.”  I think this practice of “holding loosely” has helped me in numerous ways over the years including dealing with my birth-mom’s death and letting both girls leave home to go off to college.  It wasn’t unusual for my family to hear these words from me: “I don’t need you….but I sure do want you!”  They understood.
  2. Another reason for my change of perspective I think has to do with my growing pursuit of contentment.  I’m learning to trust God with what He brings my way and not make demands of him for the future.  In that sense I want to fully live in the present, not in the past or in the future.
  3. I’m pretty sure that on that first day with Brenda I was entirely focused on what was best for me.  That has changed.  As I’ve gotten to know her and love her for who she is and learn of her passions and interests and loves it motivates me to focus on what’s best for her.  My delight is now wrapped up in hers, so giving her to Tim was a joy.  The tears I shed on her wedding day were not from a sense of my loss, but rather came from the realization of how much we mean to each other and how excited I was for her future with Tim.
  4. Additionally, it helped a lot that Brenda chose a godly young man who I am confident will protect and provide for her as well as I ever could have.  And knowing that her dream is to someday move to a needy and potentially hostile country somewhere on the other side of the world it’s nice to know she’ll have her own bodyguard!
  5. Finally, the Frozen song “Let it Go” had a huge influence on my ability to release her to Tim’s care.  Nope, that one’s a lie.


You CAN be a friend to your kid.

Posted by Mark Forstrom on Apr 22, 2015 in Reflections on Parenting

A common adage in parenting circles insists that you shouldn’t be a friend to your kid.  The thought is that being your kid’s friend will somehow usurp all your parental authority and your kid will not respect any of your rules.

I disagree.   I think we should try to be friends with our kids.

The fallacy in the argument above is the assumption that you have to choose between being a friend and being an authority.  That’s a fool’s choice.  What if you could do both!

Indeed we can be both friends and authorities.  I have a lot of friendships that transcend lines of authority.  Pastor Kim is my supervisor and am one of his direct reports, yet I consider him one of my closest friends.  Going the other direction, I’m the boss of my admin Angela as well as the high school youth leaders and the students themselves, yet many of them are dear friends of mine.  Similarly, I’m the head of our home and thus given the primary responsibility of leadership, yet in spite of this, my wife, Cindy and I are best friends.  In all of these relationships there is no correlation between friendship and authority.  So it makes no sense to insist that kids will necessarily rebel against parents who are friends.

Next I’d like to clarify what I mean by “friendship.”  The kind of friend I’m talking about in this discussion involves much more than hanging out, kicking back, and feeling good.  True friendship delights in the other person and invests time getting to know who he or she really is on the inside.  A true friend — what I call a “Becoming-Good Friend” — shows genuine interest in the well-being of the other person, engages in heart-to-heart conversations about things that matter, utilizes tough love when needed, and gives constructive feedback.  A true friend cares even more about the other person’s well being than they do about being liked.  People end up better off due to friends like this.

Sounds a lot like the job description of a good parent to me!

Of course, many parents attempt to be “Feel Good Friends” to their kids.  They try to “buddy up” to their kids as a way to build their own self-esteems, to attain a status of “cool” in the eyes of the kids, to avoid conflicts with their kids, or to fill some void in their inner world.  Trying to be BFFs with your kids seems very unhealthy — as well as unwise!

So on the one hand, don’t believe the age-old adage that says you can’t be friends with your kids.  And on the other hand, don’t follow the faulty friendship pursuits of those trying too hard to be a their kid’s Feel-Good Friend.

Instead, consider investing in a true friendship with your kids, which starts with time together, listening, understanding, loving, delighting, and helping them grow.

Counting your kids among your friends is a blessing worth pursuing.   If you don’t believe me, just ask my friends — I mean my children!


Should we silence the Day of Silence?

Posted by Mark Forstrom on Apr 8, 2015 in Personal Reflections

DOSDOSDOS jpgThis is a similar post to one I did in 2008.  I feel even more passionate about it then I did then.

Yesterday, an email was forwarded to me encouraging the boycotting of the April 17th Day of Silence and I want to offer my perspective for consideration.

For those of you who don’t know, the Day of Silence is a national day of action in which students across the country vow to be silent all day to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.  It is sponsored by GLSEN.

I’ve done a lot of thinking and research about this event. The organizer’s website says the purpose of the event is to bring: “attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.” In contrast, the Concerned Women for America of Iowa email that I was forwarded claims “The Day of Silence exploits government schools, captive audiences, and anti-bullying sentiment to advance the left’s social, moral, and political beliefs and goals. GLSEN seeks to advance the belief that all public expressions of moral disapproval of homosexual activity are bullying.”

As a response to the Day of Silence, CWA and a host of other fundamentalist Christian organizations are calling for parents to…

1. Write letters to principals asking if students will be allowed to be silent on April 17th.

2. [if affirmative] Keep your kids home from school on that day as a way to hit them in the pocketbook (supposedly, schools get government revenue based on daily student attendance.)

3.  [if affirmative] Demand every parent in the school be sent a letter explaining what is being allowed and that GLSEN is behind it.

They are calling it the “Day of Silence Walk Out.”  You can read about it yourself here.

To me, this is a knee-jerk reaction that does far more damage than it does good.  Here are six reasons why I think this reaction is bad for our cause.


First, these Christian organizations are ignoring the clearly-articulated purpose of this student-led event and are reacting to assumed motives about GLSEN’s agenda.  I believe we must base our response on the event’s stated purpose, not our assumptions or interpolations. To do otherwise makes us look like fear-mongering, paranoid, over-reacting, extremists, who don’t understand plain English.  To put it in perspective, suppose atheists did the same thing with our event, “See You At The Pole”.  Every participating Christian student knows that the event’s purpose is simply to pray for our schools.  What if atheist organizational leaders sent emails to their constituencies and the principals claiming that despite the stated goals SYATP is really “a day for Evangelical Right-Wingers to proselytize our campuses, cramming the Bible down our impressionable children’s throats and trying to make Southern Baptists out of our kids.”  Would that be fair?  No.  Similarly, we need to react to this event on its own and not engage in an unnecessary battle.

Second, one of the key justifications for the DOS protest is that students who are silent on that day will cause a big disruption to education.  Really?  Does this mean that students with laryngitis or who are mute are also a major disruption to education?  This seems like a cheap-shot.  How much of a hindrance to education could this be anyways?  Quieter classrooms with less chatter and wise-cracks might actually be better learning environments!  What about letting the “free market” system do what it does best.  If education is actually hindered, let each school or classroom make its own guidelines accordingly.  Pressing for universal rules to address theoretical obstacles seems like a poor use of energy.

Third, how is keeping our kids home on that day not a disruption to education ten times worse than students not speaking?  Think about how hypocritical this sounds:  If you don’t prevent the disruption of education, we’re going to disrupt education.  Good plan.  Plus, consider that the parents who keep their kids out of school are causing their own kids to fall behind.  That’s helpful.

Using my SYATP illustration again, what if the response of atheist parents to our event was to keep their kids out of school on this day because it restricts traffic flow near the flagpole (thus hindering education) and so their kids won’t be exposed to Christian propaganda.  What if they got all worked up because schools allow this event to happen and complain that some teachers even stand at the pole in support of this Christian bigotry. If the atheists responded to SYATP like that, we’d think: “How lame. What’s wrong with these people? What an overreaction. Get a life!” etc.

Fourth, think about how foolish this “Walk Out” action item sounds:  [Ask the principals:] “Will you be permitting students to refuse to speak in class on the Day of Silence?”  Seriously, we’re asking the schools if they’ll allow students to refuse to speak.  What, are we now going to start forcing students to speak?  Is that really the solution?

Fifth, the idea that creating a low turnout attendance day will hit the schools in the pocketbook and result in less favor towards homosexuality and more favor toward heterosexuality is unlikely.  It will far more likely create a distaste for Christians right-wingers who use such tactics to try to strong-arm the school systems.

Sixth, the argument that we need to keep our kids from being exposed to homosexual indoctrination on this day would be more believable if the participants weren’t being silent all day! Their only communication will be to be hand out cards saying “Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence (DOS), a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices.”  I have no problem exposing my kids to that message.  In fact, I agree with it completely.

My opinion is that this DOS Walk Out idea is just plain silly and actually counterproductive.

Though I completely disagree with GLSEN about the morality of homosexual behavior I think a better response is needed.


Instead of pressuring principals or keeping kids at home, how about trying to figure out what being like Jesus would look like in this situation.  I don’t presume that my suggestions below will change everyone’s minds and hearts — only God can do that.  But we are called to speak the truth in love like Jesus did, so my suggestions below are an attempt to do that.

1. Talk about the event with your family and friends so you’re properly informed and prepared to respond constructively.

2. Use whatever publicity this day generates as an opportunity to build a bridge rather than a wall. We can agree wholeheartedly that harassment, name calling, and bullying are deplorable—whether about race, religious affiliation or sexual preference.

3.  Since those participating in the Day of Silence won’t be talking, it might be a great opportunity to talk to them! Express appreciation for their stand against harassment and use the opportunity to love them and affirm something good about them, perhaps shattering some stereotypes about Christians. Ensure them that though you may disagree with the morality of homosexual behavior, you promise to never harass, bully, or name-call anyone who has different views on this topic. Perhaps offer to have some discussion (after the silence ends!) about each other’s perspective on the whole homosexuality issue.  Create understanding, not animosity.

[Note: one person emailed me with the observation that if we say we disagree with certain behaviors we ourselves may well be declared bullies.  One could respond that if bullying includes believing someone else’s views are wrong then our critics are bullies to us in the same way we are to them.  Regardless, if they do choose to view us as bullies, then let’s be the nicest bullies they’ve ever met!]

4.  If a Christian student is asked to wear an armband or practice silence on that day, perhaps the response could be: “I’ll make you a deal—I’ll be happy to publicly protest the mistreatment of gays if you’ll be willing to publicly protest the mistreatment of Christians around the world considering that 200 million Christians have been murdered for their faith in this past century. Do we have a deal?”

5.  Be thankful they’ve chosen a Day of Silence instead of a Day of Screaming!



Silence the Day of Silence by participating in the ‘Day of Silence’ Walk Out.The Day of Silence, organized and promoted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), takes place this year on Friday, April 17. The Day of Silence is the king of all the numerous homosexuality-affirming activities that take place in public schools. It started in one university and then, like a cancer, metastasized to thousands of high schools and then into middle schools. Before long it will take place in elementary schools. Leftists know that it’s easier to indoctrinate 16-year-olds than 36-year-olds and easier still to indoctrinate 6-year-olds.

Ask your pastor to write a letter to the local schools. Click here for a sample letter.

If you have school-age children, contact your administration as soon as possible.

  1. Ask this specific question: Will you be permitting students to refuse to speak in class on the Day of Silence? If the administration either answers “Yes” or dodges the question, please keep your child or children out of school on the Day of Silence. Every absence costs districts money, and money talks.
  2. Also, politely insist that an e-mail be sent to every family informing them that the Day of Silence will be taking place in classes on April 17, that some students will be refusing to speak during instructional time, that it is organized by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and identifying specifically who is sponsoring it in your school. Parents have a right to know.

GLSEN promotes the Day of Silence as an “anti-bullying” effort. If it were centrally or solely about eradicating bullying, everyone — liberals and conservatives alike — would support it. But it’s not.

The Day of Silence exploits government schools, captive audiences, and anti-bullying sentiment to advance the left’s social, moral, and political beliefs and goals. GLSEN seeks to advance the belief that all public expressions of moral disapproval of homosexual activity are bullying.

GLSEN urges students to refuse to speak all day, including during academic classes, which is disruptive to instructional time. Administrators permit students to refuse to speak in class, and teachers feel compelled to create lesson plans to accommodate student refusal to speak. Teachers feel that if they don’t accommodate student refusal to speak, they will be seen as supporting the bullying of self-identified homosexual students.

The little unspoken secret is that many teachers on both sides of the political aisle hate the Day of Silence because of the distraction and disruption it creates. Unfortunately, they’re afraid to say that to their administrations because GLSEN and its ideological acolytes proclaim that opposition to the Day of Silence necessarily means endorsement of bullying. The truth is one can both oppose bullying and oppose the Day of Silence.

The homosexuality-affirming legal organizations Lambda Legal and the ACLU have both stated that students have no legal right to refuse to speak in class, so school administrations have every right to require students to participate verbally in class. And teachers have every right to require students to answer questions, give oral presentations or speeches, or participate in debates or discussions.

CWA of Iowa has endorsed the ‘Day of Silence’ Walk Out.

A coalition of pro-family organizations is once again urging parents to keep their children home from school on the Day of Silence if their school administrations will be allowing students to politicize instructional time by refusing to speak. This is the only organized national effort to oppose any pro-homosexual activity or event in public schools.

Often times parents of freshmen learn for the first time that the Day of Silence is taking place in their school when they hear about the ‘Day of Silence’ Walk Out. Even parents of sophomores, juniors, and seniors are uninformed. This lack of awareness happens because school administrations do not notify parents about The Day of Silence.

The absence of conservative influence within the culture on issues related to homosexuality is to some extent the fault of conservatives. Ignorance, fear, and an astounding lack of perseverance on the parts of conservatives have turned our cultural institutions — including public education — into the playground of “progressives.” Our passivity has enabled homosexual activists and their ideological allies to become social, political, and pedagogical bullies. Evidence of that is everywhere, including in schools on GLSEN’s annual April school event, the Day of Silence.

We must match — and exceed — the boldness and perseverance of the left if we hope to stop the relentless appropriation of public education for the promotion of homosexuality.

Stop the bullying! Join the ‘Day of Silence’ Walk Out.

Pass this e-mail on to like-minded friends, family, your pastor, and acquaintances.

Please pray and ask the Lord to silence the voice of those that promote unhealthy lifestyles – physically, emotionally and most importantly, spiritually.

For more information, visit the ‘Day of Silence’ Walk Out website.

Stop the bullying!


Why I almost didn’t take a homeless man to dinner tonight.

Posted by Mark Forstrom on Jan 27, 2015 in Personal Reflections

In our city, there are a few well-known corners where you’ll often find homeless people standing holding signs. I’ve driven by them hundreds of times, and my reaction has mostly been annoyance.


I did a lot of driving today. As I traveled north past one such corner at 6 o’clock this evening, something a little unusual caught my eye. The words on the man’s sign weren’t your typical “Will work for food” or “God bless you for helping”. This sign had other words, nearly illegible in the dark, but it seemed to say something about “stop” and I thought I saw the word “talk.” The variation made me slightly less annoyed than I normally would be and just a little curious. Yet a few seconds later all was forgotten as I continued on my way to a meeting at church.


At 9 pm, after having driven back down south for Lexi’s jazz band concert, I returned along the same route I had taken earlier. It was dark by now, but surprisingly the man was still there, and this time I got a clear view of his sign. It read, “Stop and talk to me”. What a strange message! I shrugged it off.


I drove on past and headed for home. But now I was wrestling more than driving.


You see, what I didn’t mention was that the whole time I’d been driving around all day I had been listening to the dramatized book of Proverbs over my car stereo. I’d been hearing repeatedly about our obligation to the poor.


Proverbs 14:31 Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Proverbs 17:5 Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.
Proverbs 19:7 The poor are shunned by all their relatives— how much more do their friends avoid them! Though the poor pursue them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found.
Proverbs 19:17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.
Proverbs 21:13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.
Proverbs 22:9 The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.


I’m heading for home, making every excuse I can so I won’t have to turn around and go back and talk to the homeless man. But my excuses aren’t convincing. In fact, everything else tells me the opposite: I saw him twice, Proverbs has been telling me all day to be gracious to the poor, the man’s sign says “Stop and Talk to me”. Could it be any more clear?  So I drove back, parked my car at the Mexican restaurant nearby and walked over to the ramp where he was standing.


(Side note:  I’ve encountered “homeless” scammers before.  Once I saw a supposedly homeless man leave his post, walk over to a van full of “homeless” people with a Marshalltown license plate.  They were definitely a ring of scammers, travelling here just to pilfer the people of Cedar Rapids.  Disgusting!)


So I approached this man with a bit of healthy skepticism.  I introduced myself to him and explained I had seen his sign and had come to talk to him.  I offered to take him to a restaurant to have supper together.  (I figured this would allow me to hear his story and ascertain his real needs.)  I also figured that if he was willing to leave his post (i.e. income) and sit down with me to talk that would be a positive sign (I doubt a scammer would leave their post to risk being exposed as a fraud.)  He probably would have made more money during that hour than I paid for his meal.  If anything my taking him from his post probably cost him money.


He seemed glad to accept my offer.  We stashed his bike in the back of my minivan and went in to the Mexican restaurant. Over the course of the next hour we ate fajitas and I had the privilege to hear his story.


As I once learned in the book “When Helping Hurts,” the only way to truly help people is by first getting to know them. Tonight I did that. I learned a lot about Leonard. I learned that he’s had a hard life. That he likes spicy food. That he lives in a tent with his buddy Tim (another homeless guy). That he thinks his main need is for money (it isn’t). That he doesn’t utilize all the services that are available to him. That he wants to get a real job, but never will until he presents himself better.  What he needed tonight was someone to give him some spicy food, to listen to his story, to believe in him, to offer some perspective, and to pray for him.


And to think I almost missed it due to pride, laziness, indifference, prejudice, selfishness, and ungodliness.

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