Friday, December 13, 2013

MORE Favorite Christian Picture Books

Photo:  Napat Chaichanasiri

Picture books that teach a spiritual lesson or share God's love are a beautiful way to incorporate faith lessons in everyday life.  What child doesn't want "just one more book" read to them at bedtime?  Children who are no longer interested in picture books themselves are usually happy to read them to a younger sibling or friend.  The timeless messages of these books are of benefit regardless of age.  (I found myself being blessed by these stories!)

I've already blogged our favorite Christian-themed picture books.  Since then we've discovered some new favorites that are absolute treasures, and I am excited to share them with you. 

Henry's Song by Kathryn Cave - Henry wakes full of the joy of life, but the other creatures don't like his singing. The Maker asks them to tell Him by the next day what their voices are for.  This is a cute story that illustrates the value God places on each person's talents and the importance of using them for His glory.

The Blessings Jar: A Story About Being Thankful by Colleen Coble - Punky Grace is having a really grumpy morning when Grammy suggests they have an adventure and fill her Blessings Jar to the top.  Punky discovers that God’s blessings are enough to outweigh any bad day.  Recognizing the blessings that God sends us every day makes such a difference.

How Big is God (Harperblessings) - In a heartwarming conversation between mother and son, the nature of God is made understandable to children.  How Big Is God?  Is he invisible?  Is he like a superhero?  Can he fly?  How can he be everywhere all at once?

Small Gifts in God's Hands by Max Lucado - In this re-telling of the miracle of loaves and fishes, a boy is wondering what "big" thing he can do for Jesus.  In the process, he discovers that Jesus can do big things with a small gift.

You Are Special (Tenth Anniversary Limited Edition) (Max Lucado's Wemmicks) by Max Lucado -
 Punchinello believes that he isn't good enough because of what others say about him.  Then he meets the Maker who tells him, "You are special because you are Mine. . . . I made you, and I don't make mistakes."  You Are Special is a beautiful story that reminds us that we are precious to God just the way we are.

Brave Young Knight by Karen Kingsbury - In a competition to determine who will be the price of the land, a boy wins who is not the fastest, strongest, or smartest.  The brave young knight is the winner because he doesn't follow the crowd, instead making decisions based on what is right and true and in accordance with his faith. The moral of the story is that the bravest young boys are those who exhibit the strongest character.  Karen Kingsbury has written a parallel book for girls called The Princess and the Three Knights.

Do you have a favorite Christian picture book?  Please tell us about it in the comments below.  After all, a person can never have too many good books, right?

Photo:  Ambro

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bible Bee's Local Contest Day - A Day of Worship

Photo:  Microsoft Images
 We nearly missed the Bible Bee's end-of-summer celebration.   Honestly, I hesitated to attend because I didn't want my son to feel discouraged.  He had not completed the Bible Bee Sword Study or committed all the verses to memory.  But we went--just hoping that the emphasis would be on what he did know rather than what he didn't know.

The official name for this wonderful event is Local Contest Day, but in my heart it felt like Worship Day.   Indeed, it is a day of worship, prayer, and praise.  It is a day of bringing glory to God.  Yes, someone unobtrusively records points for oral and written test rounds.  But the focus is not on the competition.  Each child is encouraged to proclaim God's word with joy--whether they know only one verse or all of their verses.  The number and the points are not emphasized.  The entire day is about God's Word being lifted up to His ears and bringing Him pleasure.

The oral test round can be a source of anxiety, especially if you aren't sure what to expect.  Let me share our experience of the oral test round.  Our family was led to a private room with a judge and one other Bible Bee volunteer.  They warmly welcomed us and explained the procedures.  Before starting, they prayed a special individualized blessing over my son who was competing.  (Is there anything more heart-warming than someone praying a special blessing over your child?  I was deeply touched.)  Then, it was time to get down to business.  They prompted my son to recite the memory verses that had been provided to us.  The only reaction from the Bible Bee volunteers was praise and encouragement.  They didn't frown or otherwise indicate disapproval when there was a verse he had not memorized.  If he missed any points on the verses he had memorized, we never knew it.  It was a very uplifting experience--very much a celebration of what he had learned.

Local Contest Day was a day of fun, fellowship, and joy.  If you participate in the Bible Bee's summer program, I hope you are able to attend this wonderful event.  It is inspiring to be surrounded by Christian families from different communities, different demographics, different denominations who are all gathered for a common purpose--to bring glory to God and bring up their children to do the same.  God's presence was evident throughout the event.

More Bible Bee posts:
The Bible Bee:  A Family Adventure
Bible Bee:  Transforming Hearts

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bible Bee: Transforming Hearts

The best part of the Bible Bee for us was seeing how God used it to influence the hearts of every member of our family.  The person most impacted was my son who was registered as a contestant.

Let me share some of the heart transformation we experienced as a result of participating in the Bible Bee.  On Day 1 after receiving our box of Bible Bee goodies, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and not sure where to start. I introduced the first memory verse to my son and which was received with . . . (what shall I say?) . . . . resistance.

By the end of that first day, he had gained a vision of the program.  The realization that thousands of children all over the country (and beyond) were participating in the same process gave him a zeal that went deeper than my greatest expectations.  Before the day was finished, he was enthusiastically reciting his memory verse over and over without prompting--quite a contrast from the grudging attitude of that morning!  He proudly announced that he had read the entire book of 2 Timothy (the focus of the 2012 summer Sword Study) on his own and that he couldn't wait to do it again tomorrow.  For weeks, he faithfully dug into his Sword Study first thing upon waking.

At my son's suggestion, we started a new practice that has become a permanent fixture in our home.  He requested that an entire wall of his room be made into a scripture wall, displaying all his memory verses.  We did this by printing them out of nice decorative paper, displaying them, and will create a beautiful binder of his memory verses for him to review any time he wants.  Our family has always valued scripture, but through participating in the Bible Bee, I saw my son reach a new level of treasuring God' Word.

Photo:  Microsoft Images

My youngest child is still too young to officially participate in the Bible Bee, but we did start a scripture memory project with him as a direct result of the Bible Bee's influence on our family.  During the Bible Bee last summer, he began asking when he can learn verses also.  Of course, I can't let a request like this go without acting on it. :)  We hung free Bible verse visuals from Bible Story Printables on his wall, had him recite a verse daily, and then saved them in a keepsake binder.  A true love for scripture was instilled in the hearts of both my children. 

Enthusiasm did ebb and flow throughout the summer.  The local events provided by the Bible Bee probably would have helped with this, but unfortunately our family was unable to attend last year.  At the end of the summer, my son told me that he wants to participate in the Bible Bee every year until he's 18.  He said that he will learn a lot about the Bible through doing the Sword Studies, and he reminded me that "time spent learning scripture is not empty.  It has eternal value, even after this life is finished" (Isaiah 55:11).

More posts about the Bible Bee:
Bible Bee:  A Family Adventure 
Bible Bee's Local Contest Day - A Day of Worship

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Object Lesson: Teaching Children Why Jesus' Sacrifice Was Necessary

Our family loves to use object lessons as a way to teach spiritual truths.  The benefits of activity-based object lessons are described here.

Today's post is a peek into a lesson our family did to learn more about the necessity of Jesus' sacrifice.  It is based on "Mr. Clean" and "A-Cross the Bridge" from Heritage Builders' book An Introduction To Family Nights: Family Nights Tool Chest (a favorite resource!).

We gathered outside and read Exodus 3:1-6 (Moses taking off his shoes to walk on holy ground).  We each took off our shoes and discussed about the meaning of holiness (set apart from anything unclean).  Then I used masking tape to mark a short path on our driveway and filled in the pathway with powder.  The book recommended cornstarch or baby powder, but we used baking soda since the Bible sometimes uses leaven to represent sin.  At the end of the powdered path, I taped a clean sheet of black construction paper. 

In their bare feet, my children tried to traverse the walkway and then place their feet on the construction paper without getting any powder on it.  (I was ready to sweep away powder residue with a hand-held broom so they could try again and again.)  The powder represented life on earth which always includes sin (Romans 3:23).  The black square at the end represented holy ground, being in the presence of God.  It shouldn't have even the tiniest speck of leaven on it.

As my children tried various strategies for going through the powdered path without tracking powder onto the black paper.  They leaped . . . they ran as fast as they possibly could . . . they jumped . . . they tiptoed.  Finally, they determined that there was no way to walk through the powder without tracking it onto the black paper at the end of the path.

After lots of giggles and many failed attempts, we talked about what we learned:
  • Is there any way we can get to the holy ground without making it dirty with sin? 
  • Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins.  He didn't deserve our punishment, but we are so thankful He took it.

Next, I took out two strips I had cut from a cheap plastic tablecloth and tucked out of sight behind a bush.  One strip went vertically down the path and had the word "JESUS" written in large letters.  The other plastic strip went across it to make the shape of a cross.  We tried again to walk the sin-covered pathway and reach God without tracking our sins.  Of course, it was easy to make it to the end since the powder had been covered by the cross.  We were able to reach holy ground without tracking any powder.

We talked again:
  • How is the cross like a bridge?  How is Jesus' death like a bridge for us to reach God?  Can we become holy by ourselves? 
  • Even though we made this plastic cross and can use it to get to the clean area, we can never really make a way to get to God.  We read John 14:6 which states that Jesus is the only way to God.  No matter how hard we try, we will always have a little sin in our lives.  That's why Jesus needed to die to rescue us.

We ended with a prayer of thanks for Christ's sacrifice.  We asked God to make us holy and help us to not sin. Start-to-finish, the lesson took less than 20 minutes, but my children gained a deeper understanding of why Jesus' death was necessary.   This object lesson might become annual tradition for us each spring, the season of redemption.


Friday, February 15, 2013

The Bible Bee: A Family Adventure

During the summer of 2012, our family participated in the Bible Bee summer program.  Two things about the organization attracted me:

1. Focus on family discipleship
This is not a children's program where you drop off your kids and pick them up later.  The Bible Bee is a commitment for the entire family--a commitment to study God's word together.  This article in The Christian Post describes how the Bible Bee is a program of family discipleship.  One of the mottos of the Bible Bee is

The Bible Bee encourages family discipleship . . . one verse at a time.

We found this to be very true.  The Bible Bee provides the tools and structure to teach your children in God's truth and ways.  It can bond you in a new and meaningful way and set your family on a rewarding path of spiritual growth.

2. Flexibility  
There are enough pressures on families today already, and mine is certainly no different in that regard.  The Bible Bee is an appealing summer program because our family didn't need to conform to the program.  The Bible Bee offers monthly local events, indepth Sword Study (focused on one book of the Bible), memory scriptures, opportunities for social interaction and support, as well as local and national competition.  We experienced no pressure to do it all.  Instead, we customized the program in the way that would best serve our family.   For example, we slowed down the Sword Study and will completed it in the winter, and we memorized the number of verses that we could comfortably manage.

The best part of our experience with the Bible Bee was 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Where Does Family Ministry Fit In The Big Picture?

Photo:  Microsoft Images

 Let's explore some big questions about Family Ministry.
  • What is the role of Family Ministry? 
  • Where does it fit into the overall theme of the Bible?  
  • What does Family Ministry have to do with God's plan for the world?  
  • How does Family Ministry relate to the Great Commission of the church?
  • How can the church be more effective in missions, small group ministry, and children's ministry?
  • Is Family Ministry anything more than just the newest trend in the Christian community?
  • Does Family Ministry apply to singles or people who are not parents?

These questions and many more are answered in Dr. Rob Rienow's FREE audio presentation The Essential Role of the Family for World Evangelism.

Click on the link above to listen today.  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo:  Microsoft Images

Thursday, January 3, 2013

God's Love for My Children

This is the final post in a 5-part series about perfectionism.  Previous entries can be found here:

                        How Do I Measure Up As A Christian Mother?
                        The Slippery Slope of Perfectionism
                        The Source of My Perfectionism
                        The Remedy for My Perfectionism

Photo:  Microsoft Images
This series has been about my own personal struggle with the discouragement.  II Corinthians 10:12 tell us, these comparisons amongst ourselves are unwise.  Even with this knowledge, I slip into the habit of de-valuing my parenting efforts when I compare myself with others or with my own fantasy of the ideal Christian mother.  I have come face-to-face with the reality that this hinders God's plan for my family--the exact opposite of my good intentions.

As I consider the effects of my own perfectionism, I realize the importance of trusting God to my parenting.  The underlying question I have to ask myself is this:  Do I underestimate God's love for my children?  I call them "my" children.  But truly they are His children whom He has so graciously entrusted into my care.  In turn, I need to trust and rely on Him.  He knows what He is doing--even when I can't see the end result or the steps to get there.

 I've collected some scriptures describing God's boundless love for my children:

Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.  
          - Psalm 103:13

 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them. 
          - Psalm 139:13-16

Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
          - Isaiah 49:15

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?
          - Luke 11:13

My eyes should be riveted on my Savior (Heb. 12:2).  Keeping my attention focused on Him involves turning my sights away from myself and my shortcomings.  Years ago, I heard a talk by Linda Anderson, Founder of Mom to Mom ministries, speak to a group of mothers.  What she said has stuck with me for years: "We're not called to be Jesus to our children.  We're called to point them to Jesus."  Let's cast off the burden of perfectionism.  Let's replace it with:

Photo:  Microsoft Images
 Trust in His plan

Trust in His methods

Trust in His ability to overcome

Trust in His love for us (imperfect though we are) & our children.

Let's trust in the promise contained in Proverbs 3:5-6 and be encouraged by it:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not rely on your own insight.
 In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.