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Families Where Grace Is in Place: Building a Home Free of Manipulation, Legalism, and Shame

Families Where Grace Is in Place: Building a Home Free of Manipulation, Legalism, and Shame

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Families Where Grace Is in Place: Building a Home Free of Manipulation, Legalism, and Shame

4/5 (15 valutazioni)
216 pagine
4 ore
Nov 1, 2010


Now updated with discussion guides for families and small groups, Families Where Grace Is in Place continues to minister to couples and parents nearly twenty years after it was first published. Using his professional and personal experience, VanVonderen shows readers how to nurture God-honoring relationships free of manipulation, legalism, and shame. This book is a practical and insightful discussion on living a graceful life and building a strong and happy home using God's tools.
Nov 1, 2010

Informazioni sull'autore

Jeff VanVonderen is an internationally known speaker on addictions and church and family wellness. He has worked as a counselor in both residential and outpatient treatment settings, as well as in the religious community, taught at the college level, and is the author of several books, including Good News for the Chemically Dependent and Those Who Love Them. He is one of the featured interventionists on the A&E documentary series Intervention, which has won its second Prism Award. He has also appeared on Oprah, the Today Show, and Larry King Live. He has eight grandchildren and makes his home in Wisconsin. For more information, visit

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  • Thus, one literal rendering of “be filled with the Spirit” is this: “Allow yourself to be continuously filled with the Spirit.” It is not something you should, or even can do. It is something you should and can allow to be done to you, whenever it is now.

  • Filled with the Spirit” results in new eyes that see more, new ears that hear more, a new heart that cares more, and a new Source through which we have power to enter into the pain of others and make a difference.

  • What is destructive, however, to Rick, Danine, and ultimately their relationship, are her attempts to control and the struggles they always trigger.With Danine in control of Rick’s actions, Rick did not have to learn to be in charge of himself.

  • Even though David has chosen to act in negative ways, he is still empty on the inside and full on the outside. Negative behaviors look right in a negative crowd. But emptiness is still empty in any crowd.

  • Again, this scenario is not only about affection. It is also about one spouse failing to live up to the expectations of the other. And mostly, it’s about how people attempt to “fix” their inadequate false gods.

Anteprima del libro

Families Where Grace Is in Place - Jeff VanVonderen

Books by

Jeff VanVonderen

Families Where Grace Is in Place

Good News for the Chemically Dependent and Those Who Love Them

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse*

Tired of Trying to Measure Up

* with David Johnson

Jeff VanVonderen

Families Where Grace Is in Place

Copyright © 1992, 2010

Jeff VanVonderen

Cover design by Eric Walljasper

Study questions at the end of each chapter have been added to the original version of the book for use in families or small groups.

Unless otherwise indentified, scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977.

Scripture quotations identified NIV are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. The NIV and New International Version trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Verses marked AMP are from the Amplified Bible. Old Testament copyright © 1965, 1987 by the Zondervan Corporation. The Amplified New Testament copyright © 1958, 1987 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations identified TLB are from The Living Bible © 1971 owned by assignment by Illinois Regional Bank N.A. (trustee). Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL 60189. All rights reserved.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

Published by Bethany House Publishers

11400 Hampshire Avenue South

Bloomington, Minnesota 55438

Bethany House Publishers is a division of

Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

E-book edition created 2011

ISBN 978-1-5855-8824-4

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

JEFF VANVONDEREN is an internationally known speaker on addictions and church and family wellness. He has worked as a counselor in both residential and outpatient treatment settings as well as in the religious community, taught at the college and university level, and is the author of several books, including Tired of Trying to Measure Up, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, and Good News for the Chemically Dependent and Those Who Love Them. Jeff is one of the featured interventionists on A&E network’s Emmy Award-winning documentary series Intervention, which has won four Prism Awards. He has also appeared on Oprah, the Today show, and Larry King Live. He has nine grandchildren and makes his home in Wisconsin.


Part I: Families Where Grace Is Not in Place


1. Our Detour From God’s Plan

2. Curse-Full Relationships

3. Living Under the Curse

4. When a Marriage Doesn’t Work

5. Trying to Escape the Curse

6. Recycling the Curse

Part II: Families by the Book


7. A Real Marriage

8. Parenting Means Controlling Ourselves

9. Building Faith Into Your Children

10. Freeing Your Children’s Hearts

11. Equipping Without Tripping

Part III: Families Where Grace Is in Place


12. A Grace-Full Family

13. The Grace-Full Spouse

14. The Grace-Full Parent


Families Where

Grace Is Not in



A man asked his twelve-year-old daughter one day, Chrissy, can you do something for me?

Sure, Dad, Chrissy answered. What would you like me to do?

Right now I need to run an errand. But later on I have to do some work on that fence over there, he said, pointing to the high old fence that stood at the back of their property. Would you please clean up the debris that’s all along the edge of it? You can put it in these bags, and when I get back I’ll carry them away.

Okay, Dad, she replied.

The dad left, and Chrissy started on her task. In less than an hour she was finished with the entire job. Her dad wasn’t home yet, so she tried to think of something else to do to help. Looking at the old fence, she thought, I’ll bet dad is going to paint this old fence. I’ll give him a head start. He’ll sure be surprised when he gets home.

The sun was hot, the brush was stiff, and the fence was high. After about an hour Chrissy was tired, sweaty, and discouraged. She looked at what she’d accomplished so far. What a bogus job. I give up. I’m a terrible helper.

Just then Chrissy’s dad pulled up. But he didn’t get out of the car. He just sat there looking at the fence. The streaky brush marks spoke of an old paintbrush in inexperienced hands. He could picture his sweet daughter perched on tiptoe, working hard.

When he got out of the car there was Chrissy. She was covered with so much dirt and paint that it was hard to see her skin. As he got a closer look, he could see the trails of sweat and tears through the grime on her face.

Chrissy ran to him. Daddy, I wanted to help so much, she cried.

Chrissy’s dad led her to a nearby lawn chair. Sitting down with her on his lap he said, "Sweetie, I’ve got some bad news, some worse news, and some good news.

The bad news is that I have new brushes and a step stool in the trunk of my car. I ran the errand to pick up those things at the hardware store. That brush you were using belonged to your grandpa. It isn’t useful for much more than a keepsake.

Well, that’s the bad news, said Chrissy. What’s the worse news?

The worse news is that I’m going to tear down the fence.

What? After all that work! Why?

Because it’s served its purpose, it can’t be repaired, and I have the stuff right over there by the garage to build a brand-new one. Ready for the good news? Dad asked anxiously.

I suppose. Chrissy sniffed.

Chrissy’s dad took her face in his hands, looked full into her eyes and, with tears in his own, said, Chrissy, I really love you. And I am so proud that you gave that old fence a try. Why don’t you get in the car and I’ll take you out for some ice cream.

After I wasted all that time and made a terrible mess?

Well, you know, her father countered, with the lousy tools you had you didn’t stand a very good chance. And besides that, it wasn’t even your job. So let’s have some ice cream. After that, if you’re still game, we can build the new fence together. This one will be much prettier. And it’s specially designed to let the sun shine in and let the breeze blow through our yard. . . .

The story of Chrissy and her dad is very much like that of so many Christian parents who come to me for pastoral advice and family counseling. They want to do the right thing. They try like crazy to have a Christian marriage and to raise Christian kids. But they’ve ended up tired, discouraged, and feeling like failures.

If you have ever felt this way, I have news for you. Few of us are equipped to do the right job when it comes to creating the best relationship with our spouse, or when it comes to training and guiding our children. Like Chrissy, we see that there is a big job to be done, and we try to use the best relationship tools we know—but in the end, we too often wind up feeling as if we’ve done a terrible job. We don’t stop to think that maybe our tools are inadequate for the job. No wonder we feel tired and discouraged! For some, it will be a little frightening to think, Maybe I’ve gone to all those seminars and heard all those tapes on how to take charge of my family relationships, and the techniques and principles they offer don’t do the job.

There are many books available on the behaviors and attitudes that characterize a Christian family: how to have a Christian marriage; how to make your kids clean their room; how to get your sex life back; how to get your spouse to respond the way you want him/her to, and a host of other formula-oriented books. There are also many books that present ways to transfer Christian values to members of the family. And there are still others that talk about how to build positive self-esteem in family members.

Too often, though, the work we try to do as Christian spouses and parents is not the right job at all. We focus on unspiritual or wrong behavior, then we set out to apply pressure, control behavior, and do everything in our power to change our spouse or children. As I have seen with numerous Christian couples and families, this is the primary cause of exhaustion, depression, and the hopeless sense of wanting to bail out of it all. When people spend their lives trying to transform their spouse and their kids, the natural result is tiredness, discouragement, and the desire to quit. Therefore, this book is more about learning the right job, and less about learning new techniques.

This first step is easy—if we will do it: We must learn the simple difference between God’s job and ours. God knows you have done the best you could, using the tools you’ve had. But God may be like Chrissy’s father, saying to you, I can see that you’ve worked really hard to help me and to please me. But—I don’t quite know how to tell you this—you have been burning yourself out doing a job I never meant for you to do. You’re trying to paint over something that’s bound to break down in the end, and no amount of white paint can cover the mess. Let me show you how to build something that’s brand-new.

I am talking about learning how to be continually empowered by God’s grace, and therefore able to empower your spouse and children to learn and to grow. And to do that, we have to take the frightening step of giving up our fear of people and our drive to conform outwardly to what other Christians expect of us (or seem to).

God’s job is to fix and to change. Our job is to depend, serve, and equip. This is the work of grace. And it is more restful than you can imagine.

As you change your mind about what your job really is, you are going to discover that you are more capable as a spouse or parent than you thought you were. You don’t have to keep fixing those old relationships, even though it seems you have spent most of your life working on them. God and you can build anew with the people you love, relationships that will let in fresh air and light.

While this book contains many practical examples, it is not a how-to book. This is about God’s grace. It is not possible to have truly healthy Christian families unless behaviors and attitudes are developed in the context of relationships that are grace-full, lived in an atmosphere of grace. My purpose, then, is to place the filter of God’s grace over the processes of marriage and parenting, the nuts and bolts of which may look different in each family.

Capable, creative, contented people, people of faith and depth, come from families where grace is in place. Isn’t this what we all want?

Let’s begin rethinking our relationship job by looking, in Part One, at families where grace is not in place—good Christian families where there is the sense that something is not working right. It is for these families that I want to tell what I have learned, personally and professionally, about living in a family where grace is in place— and the rest and happiness that it brings.

1. Our Detour From

God’s Plan

Jack and Joan nervously took their seats at opposite ends of the couch. They had been married for six years—and dissatisfied for five. Their marriage was characterized by the word survival. The past twelve months had brought one crisis after another. I began with a seemingly non-volatile question. Why did you come to see me?

The next half hour consisted of one person trying to answer the question and the other interrupting with corrections, clarifications, and explanations. Their frustration levels grew as they took turns defending themselves against each other.

At the end of our session, I gave them an assignment to complete and bring back. They were to answer the question: How would things have to be made different in order for you to become a happy person? It was a question I’d had to struggle with myself years before.

Early in my own marriage the same question was posed to me by a Christian counselor. I remember sitting there listening to my wife’s answer. As Holly verbalized her list, almost every item indicated a way in which I was not being adequate as a husband. I already felt like I wasn’t much of a husband, and as her list grew I felt strangely more tired and more indicted. When it was my turn I gave the counselor my list, which not so coincidentally focused on my wife. And while it felt good to finally get in my digs, I felt sad for Holly: Her face registered shame with every verbal blow, every confirmation of her defectiveness as a wife.

Look at the other person’s list, the counselor then instructed us. What are some ways you can do these things for each other? Holly and I left our session with instructions to return the next week, each with a plan for how we were going to try harder to do and be what the other needed. I felt so discouraged.

Now in the role of counselor, I wondered what Jack and Joan would say when they returned to my office. A week later, each was armed with a manifesto describing how they would like their spouse to be different. I did not ask them the question our counselor had asked us years before, the one that had placed such a burden on already tired people. Instead, I asked, How are you going to be a happy person even if the other person does not change?

I could tell by their expressions that both were totally baffled. In unison they almost shouted, What?!

I clarified, What if the other person doesn’t become the person you want them to be? Is it possible for you to be a happy person?

This alternative had not occurred to either one of them.

From the beginning of their relationship, they had each looked for right behavior from the other as their source of happiness. They were preoccupied with each other’s successes and failures. They had used a lot of energy trying to get each other to change.

To make matters more sticky, along with the mundane, the lists were loaded with very right-sounding spiritual tasks. I want him to pray with me. She should submit to me when I make a decision and stop making ‘helpful suggestions.’ He should . . . She should . . .

Unfortunately, this dynamic seems to be the rule rather than the exception for the couples and parents who have sought my help. In striving to make their homes happier and better places, they have turned them into hellish places where people sense they can never measure up. The place that is to be a blessing begins to feel like a curse. God never intended our marriages

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  • (5/5)
    A favorite parenting book. Highly recommended.