Communication tips from a teen counselor

Certa blog - communication tips


Communicating with teens can be tough!

30328_396137371891_3263081_nMark Gregston is a Certa authorradio host and director of Heartlight Ministries, a residential program for struggling teens. He recently wrote on his blog about a topic many of us need help with… communicating with our teens.

Please enjoy this excerpt of 8 Keys to Better Communication with Your Teen:

People were made to communicate and be in fellowship with one another, so when our need to connect is stifled or lacking, it creates within us a longing to engage.

The way that today’s teen communicates may have changed—they may talk more with their thumbs, and less with their mouths—but it doesn’t mean they’re not interested in connecting with you. Teens really do want parental involved in their lives; they just want it on their own terms.

So, if you’re interested in learning how to keep the lines of communication with your teen open, then keep reading…

Eight Keys to Better Communication 
  • Watch your parenting style. These three styles are no longer effective once your child hits the teen years: the perfectionist, the authoritarian, and the judge. These three styles will shut down the lines of communication between you and your child faster than you can say, Bye, Felicia.
  • Quit correcting them all the time. Your teen lives in an appearance and performance-based world, so, if the only thing they hear from you is constant correction, they’ll quickly tune out and miss out on the wise guidance that you can provide. Research shows that it takes four affirming statements to counter one negative statement, so, watch what you’re saying to your teenager and how you’re saying it.
  • Spend more time listening than you do talking. We’ve all heard the phrase, God gave us two ears and one mouth—well, it’s true. Use them accordingly. When you listen to your teen first, they’ll be more likely to listen to you later.
  • Determine to leave your conversations open-ended or leave your teen with a question. There are very few meaningful conversations can be wrapped up in one sitting, and only a handful of questions require immediate answers, so leave the door open for more. When the time arises, welcome them back with a friendly smile and the opportunity to engage in deeper discussion and a more meaningful connection.
  • Toss the ball in their court.  Ask them questions that make them think and reflect on the topic and issue at hand. Leave them with something that will stimulate a deeper thought.
  • Keep the discussions about them and only share your opinions about a situation when they ask. Proverbs 18:2 tells us that “a fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in his own opinions.” Mom and Dad, don’t be that person.
  • Remember that every conversation doesn’t need to be a lesson. You can answer their questions, but be sure to leave room for your teen to learn and solve problems on their own.
  • Sometimes silence is the not only the best response, but it’s the greatest answer. Again, Scripture reminds us that “even fools are thought to be wise and discerning, if they keep silent.”

Mom, Dad … your teens want to talk. They just don’t know how to because they’re being raised in a culture where it’s more about communicating with their thumbs than with their mouths. They live in a world where it’s more about presentation than content. More about appearance than the condition of the heart. You haven’t been replaced, you’ve been nudged out—not by a generation gap, but by technological influence that thrives on appearance and presentation. And your teens are consumed more by social constructs and defaults than by intentional ignoring. Your role is to break through this cultural influence and give them an example of what a deep and meaningful conversation is all about. So, you have to be intentional if you want to be more influential than what they are learning from their phones.


Parenting Today’s Teens: A Devotional for Dads
Punctuated with Scriptures, prayers, and penetrating questions, these one-page devotions will give you the wisdom and assurance you need to guide your teen through these years and reach the other side with relationships intact.
$13.99 | 224 pages


Raising Teens in a Contrary Culture
In this 9-session DVD study kit, Mark Gregston shares his wisdom gained from forty years of working and living with teens and helping their families.

Coronavirus: A familiar crisis

Certa blog - coronavirus a familiar

For many of us, the Coronavirus ranks as one of the most impactful events we have ever lived through. You may have even been reassured by a friend or pastor that, “None of us knows how to navigate a pandemic.” And while this is true in the literal sense, the truth is that history offers us many examples of those who’ve suffered great loss and upheaval.

Author Shirley Stahl has spent considerable time studying this subject and offers us these thoughts, as well as an exciting announcement:

“…..And he sat down among the ashes” (Job 2:8 KJV).

There was a man named Job. He lived a life with riches, fame and family. Job was a respected member of society; a counselor to those in need and most importantly Job was counted “perfect” and “upright” in God’s eyes. But suddenly, everything changed and Job’s possessions and positions were gone.

Job in his helplessness sat down in the ashes of all that was left of the life he had lived in the grandeur of yesterday and considered the emptiness of today.

There was a family named Shank who lived at the time of the ushering in of the twentieth century. The Shank Mennonite Family story tells of the sudden loss of all possessions and no means of obtaining everyday necessities. The family must find a way to pick up the pieces of their lives and locate a path into the future. Although Job lived thousands of years before the Shank family, the devastation of each was no less dramatic.

Today multitudes of people around the world are experiencing the unleashed power of the destroyer virus Corona-19. This unseen invader has penetrated the unprepared nations, bringing death and destruction with him. The Corona-19 virus story is similar to that of the death destroying angel that passed through Egypt in the time of Moses (Exodus 12) and relates to the stories of Job and the Shank family.

There is a common bond between Job, Corona-19 virus-infected people and the Shank family since the person or group suddenly tragically loses everything important. One might say each is experiencing sitting on the ash heap of their dreams.

The crises that came upon Job and those fighting in the war against Corona-19 virus and the Shank family disaster indicate a greater loss than possessions and a familiar way of living. Each crisis requires a response from those involved that will be decisive to the outcome of their story. A person can read the story of Job in God’s word. The story of the Corona 19 virus and people today has not ended but even now is being written.

I am proud to announce that my new book centered on the Shank family story, Finding the Good of the Day, is in the process of publication.

Who is this Shank family and what is their story? Three Shank women hold the family together after being met with devastating losses. The household includes four children who attend the Mennonite school system and Minerva who has recently graduated from school. She is almost fifteen. Finding the Good of the Day is a pledge Minerva makes to herself.

How do the Shank family members handle the challenges they face?

1. They meet daily and pray together.

2. Faith in God is their backbone, connecting them to God and each other.

3. They determine as a family unit to triumph over the demands of circumstances.

4. Family members show love for one another and speak of this love.

5. They daily share promises from God’s word and thoughts about these promises.

7. They know about and use the value of good work ethics.

8. They look toward the future without fear.

9. When opportunity is knocking at their door, they open the door.

10. They count their blessings.

Grandmother Mary, Mom and Minerva propel you through the good and the less-than-good days ahead. Will they Find the Good of the Day?


Shirley_Stahl_300x260_01Some of Shirley’s earliest remembrances are going to a small country church in Northwestern Ohio where she heard the stories about Jesus. The Word of God has been her constant companion ever since.

Peter_Got_Out_Of_The_Boat_265x400_01After completing Bible college courses over 35 years ago, Shirley began teaching in churches, retreats, prisons, home study groups and anywhere a door would open.

She and her husband make their home in Western Michigan where she continues to teach and write.

Shirley is the author of Peter Got Out of the Boatwhich challenges the believer to be an overcomer and participator with Jesus in extraordinary events.

Books to read in times of crisis

Certa blog - crisis books


Crisis causes questions. Will I be okay? What will happen to my loved ones? Where is God in this? Are these signs of the end times? If you find yourself full of questions, these resources will point you toward truth and scripture.


If any of you lacks wisdom,

let him ask God,

who gives generously

to all without reproach,

and it will be given him.

James 1:5



Dr. Patricia Green expounds upon the book of Revelation through the illumination of the Holy Spirit that makes these events understandable and undeniable.
236 pages | $13.99 


A timely book sharing Pastor Rod Aguillard’s prophetic revelations that cause us to consider what God is doing and how he is moving.
162 pages | $12














This writing looks to the God of hope, the God of a better day as Pastor Rod Aguillard points us to the hope he has found in Jesus.
76 pages | $9 


When your life has been shaken, what practical steps can you take to turn things around? You need to have proven strategies in place to help you successfully navigate through these issues and move forward!
209 pages | $12.95














Follow Peter from the time he first heard Jesus say “come” to the night Jesus said “come” again. You too can be an overcomer and participator with Jesus in extraordinary events. 
116 pages | $10.99


In an age of decadence, degradation and despair, God is calling forth an Elijah generation! Based on years of study and prayer into the lives of Elijah and John the Baptist, this book draws attention to 30 godly attributes to pray into your life. 
152 pages | $13.99















Our prayers are with you and your family during these trying times. We pray this blessing over you from Numbers 6:24-26:

The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you

and be gracious to you;

the Lord lift up his countenance upon you

and give you peace.

The truth you need to hear

certa blog - the truth

The voices are many. Facebook friends. Political pundits. Opinionated family members. Even our own thoughts.

These voices can murmur worries, shout frustrations and whisper lies.

For a moment, let’s tune them out and tune in to some truth. We asked some of our Certa authors this question:

_How do you find peace in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis__ (1)

We were delighted (but not surprised) to see their answers full of scripture. They’ve tuned into the truth. Let’s join them:

bruce lengeman

bruce lengeman

“Peace comes with surrender and trust. When circumstances are unchangeable, it seems glorious to be content in what I can’t change. When my agendas are sabotaged, I can curse the opposing circumstances, or find the what now? A mantra branded into my spirit contains two words applicable in everything life throws at us—BUT GOD! I can complain or find the but God. In the midst of it are two incredibly applicable passages of scripture—Romans 8:28, and Habakkuk 3:17-10. These truths help me live above the arch-enemy of trust—fear!”

—Bruce Lengeman

linda knight


“I am reminded of 1 Peter 3:15 “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”  As Christians, we always need to be prepared to give testimony to the HOPE we have in Christ no matter the circumstances.  

I personally claim several of God’s promises: Psalm 46:1-3 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” God is with me no matter what is happening in and around me- the storms of Covid-19.

Lamentation 3:21-23 states, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  I can rely upon God’s faithfulness and each day is new with more of His mercies.

And last but not least- my go-to verse is 2 Corinthians 12:9, which states, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  I can trust that His grace is sufficient and will see me through.”

—Linda Knight

Reflections for Ash Wednesday

On this Ash Wednesday, we would like to share these reflections from Certa author Linda Knight:

IMG_3519Walk with me during Lent through the book of Ephesians as we meditatively think about all that we have and are in Christ.   Let’s look at the unity of the body of believers growing there as Paul preached and taught for 2 years.  Later John also came to Ephesus and lived among the believers.  We will see the aspects of who we are in Christ, what place the body of believers called the church is to God and finish with the wonderful words about the armor available to us in Christ.  Each day we will see the amazing provisions and position we have because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead.

As we begin this Ash Wednesday, let’s look at Ephesians 1:1-2.  Paul introduces himself in the letter, tells who he’s writing to and pronounces a preliminary greeting that is typical of his writing.

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

unnamed (1)

Paul would have stood on the library steps surrounded by enormous stone work, telling of the might and power of Jesus.

Put yourself in Ephesus and become one of the believers who received this letter from the Apostle Paul.  He is addressing you as a saint, a faithful believer and he is sending greetings of grace and peace from God.  Do you think of yourself as a saint?  The New Testament repeatedly refers to believers as ‘saints’.  He also attributes faithfulness to their walk of faith.  How would you describe your daily walk with Jesus?  Are you faithful?  Paul also sends you grace,  which is God’s unmerited favor,  and His peace.  What precious gifts these are.  How will you use or experience God’s favor today?  Will you rest in His peace?   As Ephesians opens we see that because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, we can be His saints and faithfully, walk in His grace and experiencing His peace.  Praise God!

Walk with me towards the cross, contemplating our sinfulness and His blameless character.  Join me in daily meditation and prayer for these coming 40 days of repentance and focus on who God desires us to be because of Jesus and His sacrifice.

Let’s journey toward the cross together.

Linda_Knight_300x260_01Linda Knight, author of Fearless Living, is a teacher, speaker, and Bible study leader.

Follow Linda on her blog and receive inspiration on your journey:

Listen to Linda’s interview about her first book “Fearless Living” on Life Lessons with Rick Tocquiny:


$13.99 |  172 pages


$13.99  |  200 pages







How should Evangelicals observe Lent?

certa blog - lent

If you travel in Christian circles, you may have noticed that the observation of Lent has become more common and encouraged within evangelical denominations. Once reserved for only the liturgical sects of Christianity, setting aside 40 days before Easter for focused prayer, fasting or other observations has become quite widespread.

Whether you agree with this practice or not, we found George Sinclair’s article on the subject for The Gospel Coalition quite interesting. We particularly like his practical ideas for remembering the season, which can be easily adapted to your particular tradition. Lent begins on February 26th, so enjoy this excerpt and let us know in the comments what you think and how you celebrate the Easter holiday:

In our normal life we do not do the same thing every day, 365 days a year. We have a workweek, weekends, statutory holidays and vacation time. Our year is punctuated by birthdays, anniversaries, and special times like Christmas or Halloween. Organized people think of getting things done in different “seasons” of the year. Income tax and spring cleaning come to mind, but we also make plans to get other tasks done during some time period. Some of us might plan to lose a few pounds because a wedding is coming up and we want to look good. Given this is how we live our life, why is it that some Christians object to there being rhythms and seasons in the Christian life? Why is it that to have a season where you commit to a deeper life of discipleship and holiness is considered “religious,” “legalistic,” “works righteousness”?

Granted lots of Christians abuse the Christian year. Granted some Christians explain seasons, like Lent, as if they have never heard of the Gospel. But just because some Christians mess this up does not mean there is something inherently wrong with the practice. Granted we should pray and read the Bible and be concerned with holiness all year round – but as I tried to show above, in our “normal” life we do not do the same thing every day, 365 days of the year. We understand the wisdom of seasons – sometimes setting aside times to work on something helps you all year long.

At its simplest, Lent is a season where you commit to a deeper holiness and more vibrant discipleship. The season of Lent is 40 days long – modelled on Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Sundays do not count towards the 40 days – they are already the Lord’s Day, a resurrection day, a feast day. The last day of lent is Holy Saturday – so Lent ends with Easter Sunday. During an Ash Wednesday service, you go forward to have the sign of the cross written in ash on your forehead. Ashes are a biblical symbol of mourning, repentance and an acknowledgement that we are frail and need God’s grace.

Second Timothy 3:16-17 provides a helpful context here: “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man and woman of God may be complete, equipped for every good word.” We see Jesus saying the same thing time and time again in the Gospel of John. The word of God has a special role in helping us to live a more godly life. Lent should be a time where we take extra care to spend extra time reading and thinking upon God’s word written.

Consider reading the whole New Testament (you can do it if you read for 30 mins a day for 40 days – and still have a bit of time to spare!). Consider reading through all four Gospels. Consider memorizing 40 Bible passages. Consider making a 6 week commitment to meet with a couple of people and read and discuss the Bible together. Consider spending time meditating upon the “sin lists” in the Bible (Galatians 5 has an example). In this case you ask the Lord to convict you of sin, and then meditate upon the text, sin by sin. Conversely, you can read a virtue text like Galatians 5:22, spending time in prayer asking the Lord to grow these fruit in your life and/or show you how you are quenching the Holy Spirit, frustrating the growth of the fruit.

It is also good to consider spending extra time in prayer or humble service. Maybe you can “fast” from your phone and the internet for a day or week or a season. Maybe you can forsake some simple pleasure and take the money you would have spent on that pleasure and give it to support a missionary or a group that works with the poor.

Friends, please join me in having a Gospel-shaped Lent!

Why you might not need those resolutions after all

certa blog - resolutions


Marathon season is upon us. Maybe you or someone you know has laced up your running shoes and embarked on one of these grueling races.

Now imagine this scene with us for a moment… You’ve arrived at the starting line. Everyone is ready. The race starts and the runners begin to sprint. But after just one mile everyone gets frustrated at their speed, stops, packs up their shoes, drives to a different town and begins a different marathon. And then imagine if this scene was repeated mile after mile after mile. Ridiculous, right? Many races would be started, but none would be finished.

Now, let’s apply this scene to our own lives. January of a new year comes and this is what many of us do. We pack up last year’s strategies, seek out a new “race” and begin anew. Is this because we are tired and weary? Perhaps we are convinced that there is an easier way. Often we feel like progress just isn’t happening fast enough… in our parenting, our writing or our ministry.

But if you could evaluate your progress more like a lifelong marathon and less like a one-year sprint, you might be pleasantly surprised at your forward movement.

Maybe 2019 was the year you finally began to connect with your teenage daughter. You adjusted your parenting strategy to be more relational and less authoritative and now the two of you are making real strides together. Just because the calendar flipped to the new year, doesn’t mean that strategy needs to change. Keep taking her out for coffee. Stopping by her room to chat. Sending her those encouraging texts. 

Maybe 2019 was the year you made real progress on your novel. Instead of waiting for weekends away in the mountains or at the beach, you plugged away in the early morning hours, late at night after the kids went to bed, or during your lunch break. Sure, you still have more to do, but you’re doing great! No need to course-correct. Just keep writing.

Maybe 2019 was the year you set a new tone in your ministry. Things needed to change, so you read books on leadership, listened to podcasts and started the ball rolling on the improvements that were necessary. You had the hard discussions with staff and took the negative feedback. But you’re finally seeing that new tone emerge. No need to throw all that out and start new. Keep reading, studying and pushing for what God has revealed to you.

Resolutions are good. Resets are often necessary. But sometimes the more courageous step is to simply stay in the race, putting one foot in front of the other with faith and determination.

So in 2020, we will be on the sidelines of your marathon, cheering your on with the New Testament writers who say to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14) and to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1).


There is something we would like you to know…

Certa blog Dec 2019

It’s no secret that running a small business like Certa Publishing has its challenges. Deadlines are tight. Hours are long and the pressure builds up.

You might be thinking Geesh, this holiday post sure is a downer.

Hear us out…

As we look back on 2019, none of that pressure comes to mind. Instead, we are tremendously grateful. Grateful for you, our customer. You see, every time you click to the website, peruse our books and make a purchase, you’re making a statement. A statement that our work at Certa is valuable. That the resources we’ve carefully cultivated are helpful. That our work is meaningful to you.

So thank you. Thank you for entrusting us with your business in 2019. It means more than you know!

Merry Christmas,

The staff at Certa Publishing

4 Words That Can Transform Your Parenting

Certa blog -Ellen Martin

There are plenty of lofty parenting theories, well-meaning books, and platitudes from empty-nesters. But sometimes what parents need are practical tools for the nitty-gritty of raising kids. Ideas for the tantrums, fights, and messes. And who better to give us advice than Certa author Ellen Martin, mother of 5?

Her book, A Life Shared, discusses four words that have transformed her parenting and today she is expounding on that idea for our benefit. Enjoy!

Years ago, I heard a mom say, “Time to empty out.” Her son went to the bathroom without event.

Those four-words ended the battle of “Go to the bathroom.” “But I don’t have to.”

I explained the phrase one time, “Your bladder can hold A LOT of pee, it’s time to empty out.” Soon the older kids were teaching the younger ones.

“Different families, different rules,” are four words that have changed our family life. With five kids, I say “no” a lot. Our kindergartener will still fall-out on the floor in full-body tantrum some days. And have you ever seen a middle-school tantrum? It’s not pretty.

“No” can make me the bad-guy. I can handle that, when necessary, but it’s not always necessary. The answer “no” can often be replaced with a simple explanation: “Different families, different rules.”

Parents and kids know families live differently. The movies we watch, the places we go, the way we parent, the things we buy. “Different families, different rules” ends the whole discussion of “Why do they get to, but we don’t?”

Some families drink soda daily. We drink it with pizza, when we go out-to-eat once a month, and at parties. We have friends who don’t drink soda at all.

Why? That’s their family practice.

“Different families, different rules.”

No one is the bad guy. Not you. Not the other family. The practice is just the practice.

“Different families, different rules,” does two powerful things.

One, kids and parents often unknowingly elevate their family’s practices over another family. “Different families, different rules” encourages us to honor our own family’s practices and other families at the same time.

Two, it makes us, the parents and the kids, a team. Rather than pitting us against our kids, “different families, different rules” encourages our kids to embrace our family practices for themselves.

Just yesterday, the boys wanted a kid to play with them. He wasn’t allowed to leave the bleachers,

“Different families, different rules. Go play,” I said.

“What did you say?” an older child asked.

I repeated myself.

She smiled a big smile, “I’ve never heard that.”

“You like it?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said and looked at her mom.

It made so much sense to her without any explanation. That’s what makes those four-words powerful. Kids understand them and will embrace them.

“Different families, different rules.” Try it. I’d love to hear how it works for you.

So simple, yet so brilliant, right? We encourage you go pick up a copy of Ellen’s book, A Life Shared, which is an excellent resource for parents in search of practical wisdom.

Ellen Martin, mother of five, lives in Wilmore, Kentucky with her husband Andrew. With a Masters of Arts in Christian Education and Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary, her days are filled with her workshop “THE TALK: Embrace the Sacred Gift,” writing, and life with family and friends. She writes at her blog, A Life Shared with Kids.

Parents want to share life with their kids, but it is not easy with hectic schedules and life’s demands.  A Life Shared offers vision and insight on how to have meaningful conversations through the busyness of life, questions for transformation, suggestions for action, and grace for every parent.