Saturday, October 22, 2011

Favorite Christian Picture Books for Children

Photo:  Microsoft Images
What could be cozier than cuddling on the couch together or snuggling under the covers at bedtime to read a book with your child?  In those sweet moments, your child’s heart is open and receptive.  Some of my fondest memories of childhood are memories of my mother reading to me.  I sincerely hope that someday my boys will reflect on the memories of our time reading together with as much tenderness.

I thought it would be fun to talk about some of our favorite picture books with Christian themes.  Please comment and share your favorites as well.

Any discussion of favorite Christian authors seems incomplete without including Max Lucado.  Many of his children’s stories are so rich that the content is very appropriate for older children as well.  (If your older child thinks that picture books are too babyish for himself, you may want to suggest that he read some of these books to a younger sibling or friend.)  Max Lucado has written so many beautiful children’s stories that it is difficult to distill our collection down to our absolute favorites.  Here are the ones I chose:

The Oak Inside the Acorn (Novel) by Max Lucado
Little Acorn sees other trees as something special.  Despite his fears and inadequacies, Little Acorn does his best and in the end finds the truth in his mother’s words: “Within you is a great oak.  Just be the tree that God made you to be.”

The Way Home: A Princess Story by Max Lucado
Here is one princess story that both my boys enjoyed!  Full of danger and adventure, it tells the tale of a princess who is lured by deceit and her intrigue about the Lowlanders.  Her father comes to rescue her, and she needs to put all her trust in him.  This is an allegorical tale that will have richer meaning for an older child but can still be enjoyed by a young child.

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
The little lamb in this story feels inferior to the other sheep because he walks with a limp.  He is removed from the pasture and put in a barn, which makes him very sad.  At the conclusion of the story, he realizes that his bad leg allows him to do something that none of the other sheep can—welcome baby Jesus.

Other favorite picture books for our family include:

The Squire and the Scroll: A Tale of the Rewards of a Pure Heart [With CD (Audio)] by Jenie Bishop
A boy is sent on a dangerous quest to help save his kingdom.  As a guide, he is given a scroll of ancient words to help him.  He follows the instructions on the scroll, keeping his heart pure and avoiding many perils.  This allegory is innocent enough to read to a very young child, though an older child will better understand the symbolism and deeper meaning.  The Princess and the Kiss: A Story of God's Gift of Purity [With CD (Audio)] is a parallel story written for young girls. Companion books are available: Life Lessons from the Squire and the Scroll (Revive Our Hearts) and Life Lessons from the Princess and the Kiss (Revive Our Hearts).   We enjoyed this story when my son was 5, but we are planning to make a fun study out of it again in a few years by using the companion book and these printables from the Guesthollow blog. Printables for The Princess Kiss are available from Homeschoolblogger.

What is God Like? by Beverly Lewis
A father tells his children, "Even when I'm not here, God is always with you."  As they go about their daily routine, the brother and sister remember things know about God.  This book communicates how awesome and powerful God is while also conveying His concern for the small details of our lives.

God Gave Us Love  by Lisa Tawn Bergren
The God Gave Us . . .  series is told from the perspective of Little Cub, a curious polar bear.  A particular favorite is God Gave Us Love in which Little Cub is irritated by some annoying seals.  Grampa Bear explains that we need to share God’s love with others—even those who are annoying.  It’s a very cute approach to a spiritual lesson about a situation that every child faces at one time or another.

If Jesus Came to My House (reillustrated) (HarperBlessings) by Joan Gale Thomas
A boy imagines what it would be like if the boy Jesus came to visit.  He would no longer be afraid of the shadows at night.  He would pick flowers for Jesus and share his toys with him.  Of course, he realizes that the boy Jesus cannot visit him.  But he knows that he can talk with Jesus and that Jesus is with him so there is no need to fear the shadows.  This picture book is a sweet gentle way to teach your children the meaning of the verse “What you did unto the least of these . . . you did unto Me. (Matthew 25:34-40).

Five-Minute Devotions for Children: Celebrating God's World as a Family by Pamela Kennedy
This is really a devotional rather than a picture book, but I couldn’t leave it out because has read and re-read it with so much delight.  Children seem to be naturally drawn to animals.  On each page of these books is a paragraph about a particular animal and their unique characteristics.  A second paragraph draws a parallel to a specific character trait we need to develop or to God’s own nature.  There are fun colorful illustrations, a relevant Bible verse.  The questions provided for you to ask your child are well designed to help the child see the real life application of the Biblical lesson without feeling put on the spot.  If you enjoy this book, you'll also want to read More Five Minute Devotions for Children: Celebrating God's World As A Family.

His Mighty Warrior: A Treasure Map from Your King by Sheri Rose Shepherd
This is another book that is closer to a devotional than a story book.  It’s a collection of letters from God to a young boy.  The first letter begins “My Son, I have chosen you to do something great for my kingdom.  You are not just a boy—you are the child of the King, and I am your Father in heaven.  I want you to know that I am the same God who chose King David when he was just a little boy, and I have chosen you to show the world who I am. . . .Never forget who you are or who I am, and you will become a strong and mighty warrior for me.”  The illustrations are pirate-themed, and most of the letters center around a particular character trait.  What makes the book so special is the intimacy conveyed in the letters.  Beside each letter is a Bible verse and a short prayer.  Each letter is about a paragraph—very quick bedtime reading to help your child develop a deeper connection with God.  His Little Princess: Treasured Letters from Your King (His Princess)is a parallel book written especially for girls.

What are some of your favorite Christian picture books?

Photo: Bennewitz

Monday, October 10, 2011

Object Lessons in the Bible

This is what I lightheartedly refer to as my "woefully incomplete list of object lessons on the Bible." For every one listed here, there are numerous others that are not listed. When I started looking for object lessons in the Bible, I found that the Bible was full of them--cover to cover. Matthew 13:34 states that Jesus Christ always taught the multitude by using an illustration. This teaching technique seems to be one of the primary methods that God uses to teach human beings about spiritual matters. If the Creator of our minds--who knows exactly how we learn--chooses to use this teaching tool, doesn't it make sense that using object lessons would be an effective method for teaching our children faith lessons?  For ideas about how to incorporate object lessons into a fun form of spiritual training, please read my post about Family Time Training.

Lev 16 and Heb 8-9 sacrifices and the shedding of blood 
Lev 23:42 dwelling in booths  
Josh 4 stones in remembrance 
II Sam 22:2; Ps 18:2; Is 26:4 God is a stronghold (rock, fortress)  
Ps. 69:1-2 trials compared to turbulent water  
Ps 119:103 Scriptures likened to honey 
Prov 6:6-8, 30:24-25 ant colony represents diligence 
Pr 11:22; Mat 7:6* Someone who cannot appreciate spiritual matters is compared to a pig 
Is 64:8; Jer 18:6 God’s people as clay 
Jer 5:14 God’s Word compared to fire 
Jer 13:1-11 linen girdle 
Jer 19:1, 10-11 shattered honey jars depict destruction of Judah
Jer 27:2-11 bonds and yokes 
Ezek 4:1-3; Ezek 5 illustrations on tile, shaving of head 
Ezek 24:3-14 meat boiling in pot 
Hos 1:2-9 Hosea’s marriage to a prostitute 
Mat 3:10, 7:16-20; Gal 5:22 fruit likened to spiritual maturity 
Mt 5:13* Christians are salt of the earth 
Mat 7:3*; Lk 6:41* Board illustrates blindness to your faults 
Mat 7:24-27* practicing faith like strong foundation 
Mat 9:35-38*; Lk 10:2* People ready to convert referred to as harvest 
Mat 10: 29, 31* God’s care for sparrow teaches about His care for us 
Photo:  © Leloft1911
Mat 13:19-23* 31-32* Truth compared to seeds 
Mat 17:20* faith like a mustard seed
Mat 25:32-33*; I Pet 5:2 Christians described as flocks of sheep
Lk 13:34* God’s protection like a hen gathering chicks 
John 1;29, 36 Jesus is the Lamb of God 
John 3:8* wind as example of Holy Spirit 
John 4:14* water refers to life 
John 8:12* Jesus is the light 
John 13:14-15* foot washing 
I Cor 5:6 Sin described as leaven 
I Cor 11: 24-26* broken bread and wine as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice 
Heb 4:12 God’s word like a sword 
Heb 6:8 worthless faith compared to thorns 
I Pet 5:8-9 Satan depicted as lion 

*direct quote from Jesus Christ

-List compiled from The Heart of Wisdom Teaching Approach by Robin Sampson, Larry Fowler's writings, and personal Bible study

Review: The Power of Teachable Moments

When I first picked up The Power of Teachable Moments by Jim Weidmann and Marianne Hering, I anticipated a quick browse would confirm that it really had nothing to offer me.  What a surprise when I was fully engrossed before the end of the first page!  I laughed aloud as one of the authors, candidly described the chaos in her household that followed having twins.  Mrs. Hering felt very out of touch with her daughter during those critical teenage years, and that is what motivated her be purposeful in her use of “teachable moments.”

Teachable moments is an incredibly versatile strategy because it can be used with children of any age.  Requiring no lesson plans, manuals, special knowledge, or preparation time, it is easy to implement and is suitable for families with busy schedules because it just takes a few minutes.  Although the book’s target audience is parents, this strategy would work beautifully for grandparents or anyone else who has a special relationship with a child.


What is a “teachable moment”?  Many of us think of a crisis when we hear that phrase.  The authors define it as a moment when something occurs that affords an opportunity to impart a spiritual truth.  To be successful, a teachable moment requires three components:  a satisfactory relationship with the child, the catalyst (which may occur spontaneously or be parent-orchestrated), and Biblical truth.  Examples of catalysts may be watching a movie together, a question posed by the child, seeing a spider, or making a wrong turn while driving. 

This book opened my eyes to everyday occurrences that can be meaningful opportunities for spiritual training.  Filled with stories from real parents and children who share successful and unsuccessful teachable moments, the book was unexpectedly entertaining.  As I read, I felt as though someone was coming alongside me and mentoring me in how to spontaneously teach my child about God and His ways. 

At the end of the book, the authors have included “101 Common Opportunities for Uncommon Teaching.”  These opportunities include noticing a butterfly, seeing a military uniform, being stuck in traffic, relying on a flashlight during a power outage or camping trip, celebrating a birthday, enjoying watching a baby, feelings of inadequacy, or observing your child share or make a personal sacrifice.  The 101 Common Opportunities, as well as examples throughout the text, leave the reader well equipped for creating their own teachable moments. 

-Reprinted from Faith Networks newsletter in 2011