Tips for Parents in the Digital Age

By Andrew Calabrese

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According to recent research, children ages 8-18 are spending more than 7 hours a day in front of an electronic device of some sort—whether it be a computer, iPad, smartphone, television, video game system, or anything else. According to a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, “The average kid sponges in 2.5 hours of music every day, almost 5 hours of TV and movies, 3 hours of Internet and video games, and just 38 minutes of old-fashioned reading.”

Yes, we live in a tech-saturated world. Most kids cannot even imagine a world at home, school, or anywhere else without some sort of device within arms reach, and it’s having some incredibly negative effects on their emotional, intellectual, and physical well-being.

Do you remember when we were kids? We would come home from school and play in the back yard or ride bikes with our friends. Nowadays, kids want to plop on the couch and transform into a media garbage disposal for hours at a time. Is this really the best outlet for our kids?

Whatever happened to kids being instructed to go outside and use their imagination to have fun? What ever happened to our boys playing with sticks and homemade slingshots, and our girls playing with dolls and fixing each other’s hair? Whatever happened to kids sitting down and enjoying reading a good book?

If you ever fear that your kids are spending too much time in front of their gadgets and wish that you could motivate them to do something else, here are some ideas.

1. Pay them to do something more productive.

Yes, that’s right. Pay them to do something more productive with their lives rather than binge-watching Youtube or Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. For example, you could pay them to read a book. Why not choose what books you want your kids to read, and then tell them once they’re finished, you’ll pay them $10 (or whatever amount you choose). There are some great books out there that this generation may never even know existed. What better way to motivate your kids to read than to pay them to do it?

It doesn’t have to be reading. Pay them to do anything that would be more productive than sitting in front of a screen. You could pay them for learning to ride their bike, learning to fix the car with dad, or cleaning around the house—the list could go on!

2. Show them how much fun you can have doing other things.

Sadly, one of the biggest reasons our kids have become device junkies is because they have some amazing examples to follow—mom and dad. If your family time consists of everyone sitting around the living room doing their own separate things on their own devices, including mom and dad, then who’s to blame?

More than our kid’s desire to spend time on their devices, they are craving to spend time with us. Your kids want to have fun with you, but the problem is that we often don’t want to have fun. Let’s be honest in admitting that there are nights we would rather sit on the couch and sit in front of a screen ourselves than go outside and play catch with our son, or take a walk with our daughter, or build a fort with the kids to protect ourselves from “the bad guys.” I believe that if our kids saw how much fun they could have doing other things, then they would be more motivated to do them, and nothing is more motivating than when mom and dad participate in the fun.

3. Just remember, you are the parents.

We are the ones God has chosen to lead our families. We have the right to tell our kids what they can and cannot do. We can set time limits on their device usage. We can lead them to do what we think is best for their well-being. We can even enforce consequences when our expectations are not met. We can parent them in doing more productive things with their time. When parents provide even minimal media guidelines for their kids, it decreases their media consumption by as much as three hours a day! Unfortunately, only one third of kids say that their parents put any limits at all on their media usage.

Author Paul David Tripp points out, “You are God’s agent of change in your child’s life.” God gave you to them to shape and mold them into the people He wants them to be, and God gave them to you because He considers you trustworthy of such a task. I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy the devices that our family owns as much as anyone else, but as the parents, we always have to be the ones in control of our devices—not the other way around.

Change Your Life by Journaling

By Andrew Calabrese


For most of my life, it seems like I have heard or read about great people of influence practice this discipline of journaling. I always thought it would be something I would get to as I travelled further down life’s road, but the more I have travelled, the more I have realized this was something that would benefit me greatly right now.

In his book Willpower Doesn’t Work, Benjamin Hardy said, “Journaling is a powerful therapeutic and healing tool.” From my experience, that statement is a fact. Here are some ways consistently journaling has helped me, and if you choose to make it a part of your life, these are also ways it could be a help to you too:

1. Journaling provides greater self-awareness.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman, has proposed a popular definition of self-awareness in his best-selling book Emotional Intelligence, as “knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources and intuitions.” Thus self-awareness is the ability one possesses to monitor their inner world, as well as their thoughts and emotions as they arise. 

Self-awareness has been labeled as the key cornerstone to emotional intelligence. The ability to monitor our emotions and thoughts from moment to moment is key to understanding ourselves better, being at peace with who we are, and proactively managing our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. 

I’m not really sure how to articulate this, but the more I journal the more self-aware I become. It helps me monitor the condition of my heart like nothing else. Solomon instructs us, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” It’s hard to guard your heart when you lose touch with it. 

Writing would help anyone disentangle their thoughts, but journaling takes it to a whole new level. It allows you to really wrestle through issues you are facing, feelings you are experiencing, and thoughts you are thinking.

In addition to that, journaling would help one understand the context of what is going on in their world. Life happens so quickly, and we may be tempted to think we don’t have time to stop and reflect on where we are in the bigger story. Journaling has a way of helping you discern the difference between the trees and the forest. 

2. Journaling causes you to process the past and cherish memories.

One of my mentors has said, “What happens to me is not as important as the meaning I assign to what happens to me.” Journaling will help you sort through what you have experienced and intentionally interpret it the way you would like to.

When I journal, I like to record things about my wife and children that I will cherish forever. I can reflect on those happy memories for years to come. Oftentimes, when I have had a “bad day,” I find myself scrolling through my journal entries, reflecting on happy memories, and it lifts my spirit. Having a journal as a resource is invaluable to me. It can shift my mood from negative to positive in a matter of moments.

3. Journaling fills the heart with gratitude.

Part of my journaling exercise is listing three things I am grateful for as well as three things I am thankful for specifically regarding my spouse. This has helped me in astronomical ways! If you write down a list of three things you are grateful for, your brain will be forced to scan the past 24 hours for potential positives—things that brought laughs, feelings of accomplishment, a strengthened connection, or a glimmer of hope for the future. The more opportunities for positivity we recognize, the more grateful we will become. Journaling in this way will unequivocally fill your heart with gratitude, and as a result you will be happier and healthier.

4. Journaling allows you to record significant lessons.

In general, humans are pretty unskilled at retaining information. We forget most of what we read and hear. However, when you write down the things you’ve learned, you retain them far better. Even if you never re-read what you’ve written, the simple act of writing something down increases brain development and memory.

Neurologically, when you listen to something, a different part of your brain is engaged as opposed to when you write it down. Memory recorded by listening does not discriminate important from non-important information. However, writing creates spatial regions between important and non-important pieces of information — allowing your memory to target and ingrain the important information you want to remember.

Furthermore, the act of writing allows your subconscious mind to work out problems in unique ways, intensifying the learning process. You’ll be able to work out problems and get insights while you ponder and write about the things you’re learning.

Journaling is one of the most important things to do in your life. If done effectively and consistently, it will change your life for the better. You’ll become the person you want to be. You’ll design the life you want to live. Your relationships will be healthier and happier. You’ll be more productive and powerful. I hope you choose to make this important, powerful practice a part of your daily routine.

Invest in Your Kids This Summer

by Andrew Calabrese

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Summer is just around the corner, and it presents us parents with an incredible opportunity to invest more in our children. Because they are out of school, we can spend entire days with them! Here are some helpful thoughts as you endeavor to spend more time with your children this summer:


In our highly digital and socially connected generation, parents are inadvertently ignoring their children more than ever. When you ignore your children, it communicates that you don’t love and value them. A June study by AVG Technologies surveyed more than 6,000 children, ages 8 to 13, from the United States, the Untied Kingdom, and several other countries. The survey discovered that fifty-four percent of the kids think their parents spend too much time on their phones. Fifty-two percent of moms and dads agreed with their children and worried that they were setting a bad example for their kids. 

It can be hard to navigate this crazy connected world we find ourselves in, and remember that the digital universe can wait while we interact with those most important to us in the present moment. We as parents need to put down our cell phones and focus more on our kids. They are more important than the latest work email or what’s trending on Instagram or Facebook. Let’s make sure they know it.


You don’t have to wait until your kids are teens to teach them life skills. Get a jump start on teaching practical lessons to your children right now— how to clean the house, how to manage their time and money, how to cook—the list could go on! The point is, nobody has more influence on your children than you. So, make time to seize the “teachable moments.”


I have two children, and I marvel at how fast they are growing. Time really flies! The truth is, you don’t really know how much time you will get to spend with your children. So, make the most of every opportunity you get and create happy memories with them. Your kids will never forget the spaghetti fights at the table, the trips to the zoo, the countless hours you played with them at the park, or any one-on-one time they had with you! This will create a bond that will last a lifetime. The more time you spend with your children the more opportunities there will be for happy memories to be created and cherished.

Again, this summer allows you more time to spend with them, and I hope you’ll make this summer the best it has ever been for your kids!

Activity Ideas to Do with Your Kids this Summer:

  • Go to the park
  • Play catch outside
  • Go to the zoo / aquarium 
  • Go swimming
  • Take a hike
  • Go on a scavenger hunt
  • Make a craft
  • “Camp out” (in the living room)
  • Fly a kite
  • Take them to a Vacation Bible School


By Andrew Calabrese


Every day we make choices that shape our life story. What would your life look like if you let godly principles guide those choices? If someone asked you to tell your life’s story, what would you say?

It’s About Time

By Andrew Calabrese

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This may seem like an obvious question, but I want you to think about it anyway. Are you ready? Here it is: what is your most valuable, non-replenishing resource? The answer is—ding, ding, ding—time. You can always make more money, but you cannot make more time.

Simple Ways to Refresh Your Pastor

By Andrew Calabrese

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For those of us who are not senior pastors, we cannot fully understand the burdens that they face on a daily basis. While being in ministry is no doubt the most rewarding life one can live, it has also proven to be the most difficult one too. There is an immense need for God’s people to have a greater burden to refresh their pastor. According to 1 Timothy 5:17, each church member has the privilege and responisbility to be a blessing to his pastor: “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.”

One Handful Living

By Andrew Calabrese


“Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.” Ecclesiastes 4:6

I love skittles! They are probably the best candy made of all time (in my opinion). However, my love for skittles taught me a very hard lesson to accept. Back when I was in the sixth grade, I went to the movies and I brought two packs of Skittles with me. I ate through the first pack one by one, a red one, a green one, a yellow one, a purple one…I ended up eating a whole pack in one movie!

So, I opened the second pack. I ate and ate and ate, and I got down where I had three left. Then suddenly, my body had a violent reaction and kicked back. To be polite, I remember having a “technicolor yawn”—a “rainbow” come forth out of my mouth right then and there in the theatre! Looking back on that moment, I realize God was trying to teach me a very important lesson.

Our culture teaches us that if one is good, then is two is better! If you’re like me, I bought in to this lie many times over the course of my life. I always thought if having one dollar is good, having two is better. If having one donut is good, two is better. If having one pack of skittles is good, two is better!

God teaches us from His Word that quite frankly the opposite is true. According to Ecclesiastes 4:6, God explains that it is actually better to have less. Come again? You didn’t just say what I think you said, did you? Yes, God says it is better to have less of what doesn’t matter and more of what does.

Better is one hand full with quietness (with tranquility, with peace) than two hands full with travail and vexation of spirit (toil and striving and stress and chasing after the wind.)

Jesus hit this principle head-on in the New Testament. In fact, He was very aggressive with His words. This is what Jesus said in Luke 12:15. He was talking to a group of people and He said: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”

What was He saying? He basically says, “Watch out! Be on your guard. More is not always better. Watch out for covetousness and greed because your life does not consist in what you have.” And then He told a parable…something along these lines:

Once upon a time, there was a guy that had a very successful business here and the guy said, ‘Oh man, I’m going to tear down my old barns and I’m going to build new ones, bigger ones, better ones, more! I’m going to kick back, and I’m going to take life easy. I’m going to drink; I’m going to be merry; I’m going to be happy!’ And Jesus said, ‘On that very night your life will be taken away from you.’ Why? Here’s what Jesus said, He said in verse 21:

“So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21)

This will be what it’s like for anyone who just goes, “More, more, more!” You’ll be chasing after the wind, and won’t have what matters most—an intimate relationship with God

I’m convinced God doesn’t care so much about what we have. He doesn’t want what we have to have us. He wants us to be rich in that which really matters. That’s why it’s better to have less of what doesn’t matter and more of what does.

How can we live a “one handful” life?


The writer to the Hebrews in Hebrews 12:1 said: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us,” Why? So that we can, “run with patience the race that is set before us,”

Let us lay aside anything and everything that hinders. This is interesting: the Greek word that is translated as “lay aside” can also be translated as cast down. It’s kind of a violent throwing down. Like if you get a June bug that flies into your hair, what do you do? He meets concrete when you throw that baby down! That’s what you do—you cast off, you throw down, and you lay aside everything that hinders or gets in your way of the race marked out for you.

I hope you’ll always remember that there is a race that God has marked out for you. God put you here on earth to do something significant, and your spiritual enemy is going to say, “Hey, what about that? You don’t have that!” And before long, we’re chasing the wind, something that doesn’t matter. You have to have the discipline to lay that aside, and cast down anything and everything that does not matter.

Now, here’s three quick phrases that I believe will help us let go of the things that do not matter:


What are we going to cut back? I don’t know what you need to cut back on, but most people I know need to cut back on spending and their schedules.

Let’s start with your spending: Better is one handful; better is less with tranquility and financial margin than two handfuls with a financial noose around your neck. Better is one handful with money left over at the end of the month than two handfuls with fights and worry and financial fears.

How stupid is it in our world that we buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like? And then we worry and we’re anxious about, “I don’t have enough money! I don’t have enough money!” Better is less with room to breathe.

Consider your schedule. For some of you it’s time to get very prayerful and very aggressive in cutting back on society’s pressure to say yes to everything. In fact, what is the most common answer to the question in our culture when someone says, “Hey, how you doing?”

What do most people say?”I’m really busy!” Right? “I’m busy!” And if they don’t say that, then they’ll say, ”I’m tired!”

Do you really think that God who says, ‘Come to me all who are weary and heavy and I will give you rest’ (paraphrase) meant our lives to be lived out that way? Culture has lied to us: “More is better, more is better, more is better!” It’s time to say no to some things that everybody else says yes to.


Some of you need to throw out a lot. Clean the clutter out! A friend of mine told me a couple years ago, “We’re throwing out!” And he said, “Throw away as if your life depends on it, because it does!” I love that phrase! I’ll never forget about it! He said, “Throw away as if your life depends upon it because it does!”

And that’s kind of become a motto for me. It’s, I mean, I want to get rid of everything all of the time. Katie and I get rid f things all the time. Here’s the deal, you haven’t worn it in a year, give it to somebody who can use it, get it out of your closet.


I don’t know what you need to turn off, but some of you need to turn something off. I don’t know what it is, turn the television off. You may spend more time watching the television than you do in God’s Word, or playing with your kids, or serving in your church, and if that’s you…I’m here to tell you that you’re wasting your life! Here’s the deal, you will never change the world watching reruns. So, why would you waste your life spending hours doing something that doesn’t matter?

For many of us, our cell phones have become an idol! You go out to dinner, and watch a nice family of four sitting there at the table. Everybody’s talking to somebody else, reading whatever, words with friends, you know, it’s ridiculous!

One reason I’m so passionate about this is because Katie told me early on in our marriage, “You’re on your phone too much!” And my response was, “Hey, I’m changing the world on my phone baby; I’m talking to people!” And I thought it was important, but I am beginning to realize it actually affects our marriage and our family in a negative way. Some of us need to get real serious and throw down, cast off, let go of what doesn’t matter.


I love the way Nehemiah said it whenever Sanballat and Tobiah were trying to talk God’s people out of rebuilding the wall. Nehemiah said: “…remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” (Nehemiah 4:14)

Fight for what’s important! Draw your swords and fight; fight like a man; fight like a man of God; fight like a woman of God! Fight for it! And don’t let the culture lie to you. Don’t waste your life, fight for what matters. Less of what doesn’t matter, more of what does.

My life is too valuable, my calling is too great, and my God is too good to waste my life on things that don’t matter! And your life is too valuable, your calling is too great, and your God too good to waste your life on things that don’t matter.

God created you and put you on earth to glorify Him, to make a difference, to make Him known, to love Him, and to love people! Don’t sell out chasing the wind—“more, more, more!”

Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”

“Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.”

Better one handful and a good marriage.

Better one handful and children that you know.

Better one handful and making a difference in life.

Better one handful and intimate friends.

Better one handful and a great relationship with God.

Better one handful and influence.

Better one handful and margin.

Better one handful and love, than two handfuls with toil, stress, panic, greed, and more and more—chasing after the wind. It is infinitely better to have less of what doesn’t matter and more of what does. Commit today to “one handful” living.

Seeking God in Your Marriage

By Andrew Calabrese

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Let me ask all the ladies out there a question: when you were a little girl, did you ever dream of growing up one day, getting married to the “perfect guy” with the perfect wedding, having your prince charming carry you over the threshold of the perfect house, loving you, rubbing your back, and doing all the dishes? You probably have dreamed something like that at some point or time in your life.

Now men, hopefully none of you have dreamed that before, but I’m sure you have probably dreamed of one day getting married and doing other things—several times a day. Am I right?

One more question: how many of you are still dreaming? We have a lot of expectations in our minds going into marriage, and a lot of times when we finally do get married, those expectations don’t get met. Therefore, we get disappointed, let down, or hurt.

Statistics say that about 50% of marriages that start will not make it. They will end up in divorce. Of the 50% of marriages that do make it, statistics inform us that the majority of them are miserable, have irregular intimacy or none at all, or are just sticking together for the sake of their children. With that being the case, some may pose the question, “Is a good marriage even possible?” That’s a fair question.

I believe we can draw the answer to that question from God’s Word in Matthew 22:37-39. While this passage doesn’t have to do with the marriage relationship directly, the principle we can draw from this passage can impact our marriages in a significant way if applied.

One man stated, “God is your One, and your spouse is your two.” Honestly, this is one of the most foundational principles to understand in order to have any healthy relationships. God is to be your one. When Jesus was asked in Matthew 22, “What is the greatest commandment?” Notice, He didn’t say, “Love your spouse with all your heart, soul, and mind.” What did He say? In essence, He said, “God is your One. Make Him your One.”

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” Matthew 22:37-39.

You must always seek your One with your two. Our marriages will never be what God intended them to be unless God is our One and our spouse is our two. So often, we get this all mixed up. We make our spouse our “one,” or our kids become our “one” when that is never the spot God intended for them. We must always put God first.

How do we practically do this in our marriages? I want to suggest the best way you and your spouse can ensure you seek God in your marriage is by faithfully praying together. Some of you may get excited about this and think, “Oh! You’re asking him to pray with me?!” And others of you may be thinking, “I don’t want to pray together. I’ll get nervous; I don’t know what to say. It’s going to be awkward.” I’ll admit, it may be awkward at first, but how important is your marriage to you?

Family life did a survey years ago, and they found that fewer than 8% of Christian couples pray together regularly. They also discovered this: of those 8% that do pray together, less than 1% of those couples divorce. That’s incredible! How important is your marriage to you?

In 2 Chronicles 7:14, the Bible says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land,” or to loosely apply this principle, “I will heal their marriages.”

Pray together. It will strengthen your marriage. You can make it organized—set a time and a place to do this together each day. You can say a simple prayer together before either one of you leave the house for work. You can text a prayer to your spouse.

Think about the benefits this can generate. If you seek God together by praying together, God will answer some of your prayers, and that will build your faith. Beyond that, it’s really hard to fight with someone that you are praying with and for regularly. It’s hard to commit adultery or get hooked on pornography when you have consistent, spiritual intimacy with one another. I challenge you to grab the hand of your spouse sometime today and commit with them that you two will seek God in your marriage for the rest of your lives.