Review of “Read and Share Bible”

March 21, 2011

Gwen Ellis has created a retelling of “more than 200 best-loved Bible stories” called the “Read and Share Bible.” Thomas Nelson Publishers sent me a copy to review and they describe the book this way:

The Read and Share Bible is perfect for sharing the amazing joy and wonder of God’s Word with little ones in a whole new way. Some of the Bible features include:

  • More than 200 beloved Bible stories in short-form, which is ideal for the attention span of younger children
  • Bold, bright illustrations
  • Discussion starter with each story
  • Stories adapted from the International Children’s Bible
  • Ideal for guided learning

I decided that the best way to review a children’s book was through the eyes of a child and so I took the “Read and Share Bible” with me when recently staying with a LOGOS colleague’s family which included their six-year old daughter. She almost didn’t let me leave their house with the Bible in my suitcase!

I asked her what she thought of the pictures first—could she figure out what might be going on in the story from what she saw in the illustrations? Not only did she say she could, but she also described perceptions of “surprise,” “happy,” “anger,” “scared.” And she was right. This is critical for connecting the stories with an early or non reader. The people in Steve Smallman’s illustrations have interesting noses—almost puppet-like but their expressions are spot on.

The stories seemed a little short for a six year old but they certainly kept her attention and she insisted on “one more” again and again. I suppose there could be some things worse than a child asking for more of the Bible! I was particularly interested to see how she answered the “discussion starters” at the end of each story. A few questions test knowledge (“God wants us to believe His Word. Of the 12 men who explored the new land, who were the two that trusted God?” Numbers 13:1-14:35). But they are more often “wondering” questions (“Do you think the man noticed how kind the woman was?” Genesis 24:15-20) or “tell what you think happened next” questions (“Elisha was not doing these miracles in his own power. God was helping him. What miracles do you think happened next?” 2 Kings 4:42-22) or even life application questions (“We should always remember to say thank you for what God has done for us. What has God done for you?” Luke 17:11-19).

The discussion starters are not only questions. Sometimes they are statements (“God always has a plan. He has a plan for you too.” Genesis 44:3-45:28) or lessons (“The father in this story is like God. God sees us make bad choices, and He is sad. But He is always waiting for us to come back to Him.” Luke 15:20-32). She was fully engaged and willing to discuss with me before going on to the next one.

The “Read and Share Bible” seemed a bit Old Testament heavy (a quick count was 144 Old Testament stories to 65 from the New Testament) and I wondered if that ratio was typical of Bible story books. So I pulled out my own childhood “Bedtime Bible Stories” (yellowed pages and a copyright in Roman numerals!) and counted 13 Old Testament stories and 24 from the New Testament. My now grown son’s “Precious Moments Stories from the Bible” (1991 was the most recent printing) was more difficult to count because these stories were arranged by category (“Acts of Hate,” “Deeds of Love,” “Acts of Unbelief,” “Deeds of Faith” for instance) and not in order from the Bible.

I liked the “Read and Share Bible” and would recommend it for either very young children or as an introduction to stories of the faith for older children (still needing a deeper exploration by the teacher or parent). And I think I’ll mail my review copy to my little helper!

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Sustainable Faith II

December 8, 2010

What makes the difference between a teenager staying connected to the church or straying from it? A previous article here shares several key observations by David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group on the topic. His organization has been researching what makes for sustainable faith and while the organization is still in the midst of the study, he did share several key observations at the LOGOS Live Conference in San Antonio, Texas in October. This article continues the discussion.

What about those of the “next generation” who do leave the church?  Do they share any common characteristics?  And if so, does that give church leaders clues as to how we can keep our young people engaged and connected to the faith?

David described three types of young people who leave…Prodigals, Nomads, and Exiles.

Prodigals: These are the ones who have walked away from their faith. They’ve made an intentional break.  Presumably they’ve had a negative experience with the church or with Christians.  They’re feeling angry or annoyed with Christians in general now.

Nomads: These are the spiritual wanderers who have gradually disengaged.  Church is just not as important to them as it used to be.  They don’t feel that they “fit in” to church anymore and they don’t see that church matters.  This is the most common group who leave the church.

Exiles: These are the young people who now find themselves in a culture or environment that is very different than what their “growing up in” church understands or accepts. Because of their occupation or where they live or how they live, they have a need to navigate new territory and don’t see the church as being helpful or supportive.

I’m wondering if many of our nomads started as exiles as they entered college.  Unless they were very intentional in connecting with a Christian community it would be all too easy to move deeper and deeper into a place that separates them from what they experienced in their home-church environment—no matter how beloved at the time. And then that separation just becomes the norm and there’s little recognition of the importance of a church community or for practicing their faith.

What do you do to maintain the connection with the post-high school (and particularly college attending) youth from your church?  Is it important to keep them connected not only to their home church leaders but also to their home church peers?

What are some ideas to reconnect with them on a regular basis and when they come home for their natural seasonal breaks? Do you plan mission trips or on-line Bible studies?  Fellowship gatherings?  Please share your ideas and thoughts.


Sending an Orphan Back to Russia

April 12, 2010

This is a blog post from my friend Pastor John Smith. He is the Senior Pastor at Grace UMC.

I have been coaching them this year in the start up of their LOGOS Ministry and Inter-generational Family Worship service.  Pastor John has considerable experience with ministry in Russia and is passionate about children.  He shares some wise words that I think will interest all of us in Children’s Ministry.

Please read it here.


Helping Children Wait for Easter

February 24, 2010

A child prayingIt occurs to me that most Christian adults navigate Lent through some pretty serious spiritual practices by reevaluating their lives, rededicating themselves to God, and engaging in often tough disciplines such as daily prayers, personal deprivations, special service projects, and fasting. But can we help children find meaning in such Lenten practices?

Already in stores we see signs of “Easter”…plastic eggs and baskets, stuffed bunnies, candy—all items that can derail a parent’s commitment to making Lent a spiritual journey for everyone in the family. How can we include children in the Lenten preparations for Easter?

In Gateways to Worship, Carolyn C. Brown suggests that we teach children that, “Lent is a time to wait for Easter by finding ways to be closer to God. Purple is the color for both Advent and Lent because in both seasons we wait for the coming of the King. Unlike Advent, Lent includes no special songs, stories or rituals that are obvious to children. Therefore our goals are simply that children recognize Lent as the time we wait for Easter and know its color to be purple. Children are already familiar with a variety of prayers we use in congregational worship and they should be grasping the concept that we can worship and pray at any time and in any place.”

A good prayer focus for your children during Lent is learning the Lord’s Prayer. Read Matthew 6:9-14 and tell the story of the time when Jesus’ friends asked him to teach them how to pray. Each week of Lent you can focus on one line of the prayer. Ask children what they think the words of the prayer mean. Make placemats for your dinner table and write the Lord’s Prayer on it; use the prayer for your mealtime thanks and grace.

Faith at Home advises that “In addition to the typical Lenten activities, which young children will probably not understand fully, enrich your family life during Lent in other ways. Choose activities, stories, and play that highlight things coming to life, or the sparseness and simplicity of the season, or themes of Easter to come. A twig’s green wood underneath a scraped-away outer layer. Budding and blooming plants. A simplified home décor. Quiet evenings enjoying each others’ company without the television. Delicious, simple meals of good soup and bread. Finally, begin to look ahead, in your storytelling, playtime, books, and more, to the great stories of Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter.”

Keep Lent simple and focused: get close to God and stay close to God…through prayer and simple family activities.

Amen.


A Valentine for Children

February 10, 2010
Red Grammer

Image courtesy of RedGrammer.com

I love Red Grammer. He writes and sings songs for children. I like that he loves and respects children and that his songs are about oneness, character, conflict resolution, and community. One of my favorites is “I Think You’re Wonderful” and it goes like this:

If we practice this phrase in the most honest way
And find something special in someone each day
We’ll lift up the world one heart at a time
It all starts by saying this one simple line…

I think you’re wonderful
When somebody says that to me
I feel wonderful, as wonderful can be
It makes me wanta to say the same thing to somebody new
And by the way I’ve been meaning to say
I think you’re wonderful, too

When each one of us feels important inside
Loving and giving and glad we’re alive
Oh what a difference we’ll make in each day
And all because someone decided to say…

I think you’re wonderful
When somebody says that to me
I feel wonderful, as wonderful can be
It makes me wanta to say the same thing to somebody new
And by the way I’ve been meaning to say
I think you’re wonderful, too

Teaching Peace © 1986 Smilin’ Atcha Music, Inc.

Recently as I listened to this lovely song, I wondered: how many of us love others conditionally? Most parents know and understand the value of affirming cooperation and positive behavior in children. We seek to find accomplished tasks to applaud and conduct to praise on the road to building obedient, productive, responsible children. Good job, Tommy! Nice picture, Billy! Thanks for taking out the trash, Greg!

Does God love us because we just are or because of what we do?

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1 New International Version)

God is love. If we keep on loving others, we will stay one in our hearts with God, and he will stay one with us. (1 John 4:16 Contemporary English Version)

It doesn’t matter if you are a Greek or a Jew, or if you are circumcised or not. You may even be a barbarian or a Scythian, and you may be a slave or a free person. Yet Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. (Colossians 3:11-12 Contemporary English Version)

I could keep listing scripture, but you get my drift: nothing in these passages about being loved because of good work or taking out the trash. What we read is a reassurance that God has always loved us, goes on loving us no matter what, and wants us to actively love others just as God does.

I know, I know. Valentine’s Day is basically a Hallmark holiday…regarded as a romantic time for couples. But hey, how about joining me in expanding the usual Valentine message about love? This Valentine’s Day, reflect the unconditional love God has lavished on you onto those around you, especially your children. Take a moment to lift a child’s heart by saying “I think you’re wonderful”… period.

Amen.

Learn more about the importance of healthy, Christian relationships by viewing “God & You & Me” a new webinar from The LOGOS Ministry. Go to http://www.logosresources.com for more description and price.


Acceleration: Parenting in a Fast-moving World

February 3, 2010

I don’t own a Toyota car. Never have—no special reason, just never have. These days, however, I am glad that I am not dealing with a car that can accelerate out of control.

Imagine starting off on a routine drive, only to find yourself careening down the highway with your children in the back seat, unable to stop your car. Unthinkable. Horrifying.

Sometimes being a parent can feel like you are in an out-of-control car. Each stage of growth and development brings its own set of issues and challenges. How do parents find their way through these issues and challenges while needing to…continuing to…steer the family?

God provides all that we need to be the person God means us to be. God also surrounds us with all the resources we need to be effective parents. We are to live boldly, and openly seek out those resources that can support us as God’s children, and as parents of our own children.

Are you living up to God’s loving expectation for you?
What kind of example do you set for your children?
Does your life as a parent feel out of control?
Who inspires you to be a better parent?

Toyota advises drivers to shift into neutral when they find the accelerator stuck. Good general advice for life! This week, when family issues threaten to send you careening, shift into neutral: find a quiet time and space and spend some time with God. Give thanks for your life and ask God to reveal to you the people and resources you need to be fully the person God intends, and the loving parent your children deserve.

Amen.

Two resources that can help support the spiritual growth of your family are available from The LOGOS Ministry: LOGOS @Home [$9.95 for 52 sessions for family nights; go to http://www.thelogosstore.org] and the FREE heartfelt online newsletter [monthly; sign up at http://www.thelogosministry.org/heartfelt.html].


Enduring Pain

January 27, 2010

Finding the balance between responding to tragedy and compassion fatigue

It’s been two weeks since the earthquake in Haiti. Images of injured, hungry and homeless people still fill the nightly news. PSA’s, fund-raisers and telethons invite us to keep helping, to keep sending money.

I must confess that last week, I wept over each news report—this week, I have begun to avoid the news altogether.

It is almost too much to watch or think about, especially as we each go about our own daily routines, handling our own daily challenges, even though those challenges may be much less frightening or enduring than those of the people of Haiti. And Haiti is only one place that is full of suffering today.

How should you respond when faced with tragic and overwhelming events? Before you begin to help others:

• Take care of yourself physically. This includes eating nourishing food, getting enough sleep, doing mild exercise.

• Increase the time you spend with family members. Play together. Go for a walk together. Work on a household project together. Take time to appreciate each other with smiles and hugs and words of appreciation.

• Talk with other adults, which will help lessen your feelings of isolation and anxiety. This also provides a “reality check” on your reactions, helping you realize that your feelings are normal. Talking with others also helps bring feelings of helplessness or fear you may be experiencing back to reasonable parameters.

• Spend time with people you enjoy, doing things you enjoy.

• Give yourself permission to be distracted. It is equally important to be kind toward others and tolerant of ways in which their coping needs may differ from yours.

• Avoid real and symbolic tragedy for a while. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the television images, listen to the radio, or avoid news sources altogether. Periodically, you can ask others if there is any significant new information you should know.

• Engage in activities that reaffirm your sense of yourself and others as members of a caring community. Involve yourself in worship and prayer. Join a small group Bible study where you can feel free to explore how God wants us to live with one another.

• Work in a charitable organization within your own community. This can help lessen your feelings of helplessness in the face of so much need.

When you have taken care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually, you can then comfort and assist your children:

• Remain alert to the cues children will give about their thoughts and feelings, so that you can provide ongoing support for them.

“Will there be an earthquake here?” “There could be. We should check our plan for what to do and where to go. Having a plan will help us make sure we have emergency supplies, too”. OR “There are usually no earthquakes where we live. But this is a good reminder that we should have an emergency plan and extra supplies for our family. Let’s make a plan now.”

• Remember that it is important to answer the questions children and youth are actually asking and not the ones you think they are asking.

“Who will take care of those children on TV?” “There are lots of people from all over the world who are helping the people in Haiti and they are making sure that every child will have a place to live, just like you have lots of family and friends who would look after you. Let’s make a list of people who would help our family.”

• Most importantly, you can listen to what children and youth have to say, not only in order to minister to them, but in order to learn from them. In crisis situations children will frequently express what others are afraid to say, or will give voice to emotions adults have hidden, even from themselves. Children and youth, as well as adults, are capable of a profound ministry in the face of tragedy.

“If you were in Haiti now, what help would you want? How do you think our family could be ready for an emergency? How do you think our family can help others?”

It is perhaps one of the most difficult things we do, to let go of our fear. However, in our Christian journey, we are reminded over and over, to trust God. That doesn’t mean we will be spared from tragedy. It doesn’t mean our lives will always be serene and simple. It doesn’t even mean we will always have an easy, peaceful feeling. It does mean that no matter what happens, we know that because of our relationship with God and our place in the Body of Christ, the resources will be there to give us comfort, faith and hope and we will get through it.

And when we have arrived at this knowing, we can be God’s truest and most helpful ambassadors to others.

You can read more about how to respond to frightening and overwhelming events in the free LOGOS Ministry resource “Terror and Tragedy: Responding to Our Children and Youth”. Send your email request directly to patjanssen@thelogosministry.org