Unlocking Your Child’s Spirituality (Part 3 of 4)

Opinion by Jim Denney, author of Battle Before Time,
Christian time travel adventure for young readers

[Read Part 1 here.]  [Read Part 2 here.]

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In Parts 1 and 2 of this four-part series, I talked about the research of Dr. Catherine Posey, which showed that good books nurture a child’s soul and encourage spiritually sensitive children. In Part 3, we’ll loo at five ways we can use Dr. Posey’s insights in our own conversations with our children. In the process, we can encourage our children to build lifelong habits of reading good books and thinking deeply about eternal values. Here are ten “key” principles for using children’s literature to unlock your child’s spirituality.

Key No. 1: Read to your children. Help your children learn to associate reading with joy, pleasure, fun, adventure, laughter, and play. Read with them at play time and snack time (books and healthy snacks go great together). Read with them by the fireplace in the wintertime, or out by the pool in the summertime. Take good books on family vacations.

Read from picture books, chapter books, the Bible and Bible story books. Read fiction, poetry, and books about science, nature, and history. Read in a lively, enthused voice, so that children sense the excitement of reading.

When is a child too old to be read to? Never! In The Reading Promise, Alice Ozma tells how, when she was ten years old, she and her father made a pact that he would read to her every night for a hundred nights. By the hundredth night, they had built a habit they didn’t want to break—and they continued reading together until Alice went away to college, a reading streak lasting nine years or exactly 3,218 consecutive nights. 

Key No. 2: Encourage your child’s imagination, curiosity, and wonder. Take books on trips to the mountains or the seashore. Imagine the joy of reading to your kids about hobbits and elves while huddled by a campfire in the forest, reading by flashlight. Or read about Jonah and the great fish as you sit on the beach, watching the waves washing in to shore.

Books come alive in a setting where the stories could actually come true. In the mountains, under the stars, or even in a city park, your children will absorb a special sense of wonder about nature and the Creator. You can even connect with nature in your own backyard, watching the hummingbirds at the feeder or looking at the Moon through a telescope, then reading together about birds or worlds beyond our own.

Key No. 3: Ask your child thoughtful questions about books. Set aside quality time with your kids to talk, listen, and interact. Put away the phone, turn off the TV, give your child steady eye contact, nods, hugs, and other signs of affirmation, and let your child know you are really listening. Your undivided attention makes kids feel valued and loved.

Ask open-ended questions—questions that require thought and conversation, questions that can’t be answered “yes” or “no.” Ask about feelings: “How do you think the mouse felt when that happened?” Ask the child to identify with the characters: “What would you do if you were a mouse and that mean cat was chasing you?” Ask the child to compare storybook events with their own experience: “Isn’t that kind of like the day you had yesterday?”

Don’t expect your children to draw the same spiritual meaning from a story that you would. Don’t expect their answers to be “theologically correct.” Avoid making a child feel corrected for giving a “wrong answer.” Nod and smile, and let your child speak freely. A child who fears giving the “wrong answer” will stop talking. 

Key No. 4: Use good books to reinforce family rituals and celebrations. Read together as a family in your devotional and prayer times. Read different versions of the nativity story throughout the Christmas season, and different versions of the resurrection story during the Easter season. Combine short spiritual poems and Scripture readings with mealtime prayers.

Encourage your children to see God everywhere—in your home, in the world around them, and in the books they read. Make talking to God feel as natural as talking to each other in the family. As God told Israel, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, NIV).

Ask questions during the devotional time: “What book are you reading? What was the book about? What did you think about while you were reading? Did the book remind you of the blessings God gives you? Let’s thank God for our blessings.” As screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi has said, “Great art makes a soul homesick for Heaven.” By incorporating spiritual discussions with the books your child reads, you help stir a hunger for God and a longing for Heaven in your child’s soul.

Key No. 5: When talking to your children, freely admit you don’t know all the answers. Your children may ask a difficult question, and you may need to do some research or ask an expert. Don’t hesitate to say, “Let’s find the answer together.” Your children may learn more from researching the answer with you than if you spoon-fed the answer to them.

“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.” —Kate DiCamillo

Next Saturday: Five more ways to use great children’s literature to help raise spiritually sensitive children.

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CharacterCarvedInStone-Integrity

00-PatWms-CharacterCarvedInStone2Just released: My new book with Orlando Magic founder Pat Williams, Character Carved in Stone. Overlooking the Hudson River on the campus of the United States Military Academy at West Point are 12 granite benches, each inscribed with a word representing a key leadership virtue: Compassion, Courage, Dedication, Determination, Dignity, Discipline, Integrity, Loyalty, Perseverance, Responsibility, Service, and Trust. These benches remind cadets of the qualities that lead to victory and success, not just on the battlefield, but in all of life. In Character Carved in Stone, Pat Williams shows us how to develop these 12 essential virtues in ourselves, our children, our teams, our students, and our churches. Foreword by Coach Mike Krzyzewski.

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Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.

 

Jim Denney also blogs at Writing in Overdrive and Walt’s Disneyland

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Bible Study Encouragement by Julie Arduini

This season I realized I was participating in three Bible studies. Three.

Our church is going through Goliath Must Fall by Louis Giglio as a small group experience. Although I read the book last year, this year I’m attending one group as a participant and am hosting another with my husband.

Our Sunday School class just finished Lysa TerKeurst’s It’s Not Supposed to be This Way. As a participant we watched the weekly video and discussion. Proverbs 31 hosted an online study, so I also did that, branching off into a private group where I’ve facilitated a weekly chat with a very small group also going through the study.

Rounding it up is a small group we started to tackle Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind. I read this years ago and the group hit some delays, but re-reading in the midst of the other two studies has been something else.

I’m not going to lie, the information between these studies is overwhelming. There are so many nuggets I’ve gleaned. Principles to apply. Challenges to overcome. So much to surrender at the Lord’s feet.

I’ve also been blessed to look back on situations and find confirmation. I might not have handled everything perfectly, but God was present. He remains good. And none of those rejections and devastation were God’s joke at my expense. He had a purpose the entire time that advanced His kingdom for His glory.

Here’s a couple encouragements I thought I would share.

Years ago I had a mentor who listened to me struggle about God not moving fast enough on behalf of those who were hurting me or those I love. I didn’t get why they seemed to flourish while I was treading water. She gave me a visual that continues to help me to this day, and reinforced what I was reading in Goliath Must Fall.

“Your job is to lie on the couch and watch Jesus leave to fight your battles. When He returns, He longs to curl on the couch with you and talk about His day.”

It sounded so simple, but impossible. Trial by trial I let it go and trusted God, even if I’d never see the results this side of heaven. Although not every situation has played out, one that came to mind was an event where I was clearly facing intentional rejection. The pain was so deep it hurt to breathe, but I knew Christ was calling me to be obedient. I didn’t make waves, I attended with my head held high.

As lonely as it was, I felt God with me. His peace surrounded me. And He arranged such a blessing just for me to know He loved me and had my back. It was a simple gesture, but in man’s rejection, God’s proclamation that I mattered echoed through the walls of that place. It felt so good to know God handled it. None of that pain was God’s joke, even though at times it felt that way.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with all that free time I’ll have once these studies all finish, but I feel so much richer for them. My prayer is that if you are struggling, you will glean the confirmations, principles, and encouragement that God is always present and cares deeply about you and your pain. He has a purpose, an amazing plan for you on the other side of it, and your job is to be still and let Him fight your battles. He’s got you. Always.

***

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Jazmin’s a natural at dance until a series of changes make her wonder if she should even keep up with her favorite hobby.

Lena’s a mom with young children overwhelmed with her schedule when a woman remarks that what Lena does isn’t even important.

Both Jazmin and Lena belong to Linked, a mentoring ministry where all ages encourage each other and build friendships.

Can these two surrender the lies they are believing and realize they are amazing?

A novella for tweens, teens, and women of all ages by mother and daughter team Julie Arduini and Hannah Arduini.

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You’re Amazing eBook

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When Hope has a Hole in it.

We all go through valleys in life.  The rain falls on the just and the unjust after all.  We don’t get out of this life unscathed, but hopefully, we grow in the process.    I don’t know if any of you have ever felt without hope, but it is the worst experience of my life.  To feel like I’m useless to God and not know what my purpose is has taken a part of my soul. Even when you’re in it, you know it’s a lie of Satan.  And we know what they say, when you’re walking through the valley, keep on walking.

Believe it or not, I’m naturally an upbeat person, but when my spirit was crushed, I was surrounded by the kind of Christians who were like Job’s friends.  They told me I deserved the punishment.  That it was a natural consequence. If only I’d done this, or said that…

35438347_10156178195326251_317147879854571520_nLooking back, I know that wasn’t true.  Here’s the thing.  When you are in the valley and things look really bleak?  You want real Christian friends who will surround you and walk with you.  They won’t lie to you to make you feel better, but they won’t beat you when you’re down either.  Some acted as if they were immune to such a terrible fate as though they were more righteous and immune from troubles. The truth is, we all deserve death.  We’re only saved by His grace, not our own works.

People rarely know the whole situation when you’re in a bad place, so take that into account when you’re feeling hopeless.  (Is this person giving me bad advice aware of the whole story?) We are Christians, but we are human too and so we will suffer.  Being a Christian doesn’t mean sweeping our pain under the rug as if it never happened. When we don’t deal with our emotions, they don’t go away. Things get more uncomfortable until we deal with the truth.

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If God was done with you here on earth, He’d take you up with Him.  If you’re still here, then you’re supposed to be.  Your situation is meant to grow you as a human being. Ask yourself what you’ve learned in your situation.  What lessons have you conquered that you can help the next person going through it?

When darkness seems relentless, I try to remember that Paul had to study for 11 years just to be fit to preach.  He had to be locked in a prison and his extreme knowledge of Judaism was nearly unnecessary since he’d been called to speak to the Gentiles.  Paul had one plan for his ministry, but God had another.  Could that be your situation?

God loves us. He gave up His Son for us.  He doesn’t want you to hurt but He is there if you do.  Let those with the gift of compassion hear your story and help you walk out of the valley.  Patch that hole up.  If you have to scream it out with God, go ahead.  He can handle it.  If your hope has a hole in it, stay away from smug religious types who want to tell you that you shouldn’t feel a certain way.  Feelings can’t be helped.  They are your truth.  Acting on them is a different story.

If your hope is all patched up and pretty, go help patch a friend’s today.

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ON THEIR SHOULDERS WE STAND: PRESIDENTS’ DAY By Vicki Hinze

President George Washington, long ago dubbed the Father of our Country, was our first elected president after claiming independence.  He died in 1799, and his birthday, February 22nd, became a day of remembrance in appreciation of the sacrifices he made to establish our nation.

Washington was revered by the citizens of this country and, while his birthday marked a day of remembrance and appreciation, it was not an official holiday.  It was an unofficial day of observance and celebration of his life.

It stayed that way until the 1870s when Washington’s birthday became a federal holiday that applied only to Washington DC.  It wasn’t until 1885 that his birthday became a federal national holiday.  At that time, there were only four federal holidays, and Washington’s was the first to celebrate a single individual.  (Later, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was noted on calendars also, but his was a State holiday.)

In the 1960s, the sole celebration of Washington expanded to Presidents’ Day to celebrate the contributions of all presidents.  And so in 1968, much of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act passed, and by executive order in 1971, along with several other holidays, Washington’s birthday celebration shifted to Monday.  The third Monday in February.  No longer do we dedicate the day to the Father of our Country, but celebrate Presidents’ Day, collectively acknowledging all presidents.

Let us today remember our heritage and the root reason for the celebration and today’s federal holiday. Let us recall all who sacrificed to make our nation strong and independent. And let us express our gratitude to them. For it is on their shoulders we stand as a free people today.

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Unlocking Your Child’s Spirituality (Part 2 of 4)

Mother&ChildReadOpinion by
Jim Denney, author
of Battle Before Time,
Christian time travel adventure for young readers

[Read Part 1 here.]

Good books nurture spiritual children.

What does it mean for a child to be “spiritual”? I define a spiritual child as one with an awareness of God, who talks to God in prayer, and who has a sensitive conscience. Such children express their spiritual side in tangible ways — by showing kindness to others, by seeking to be honest, and by actively trying to obey God. 

How does good children’s literature affect a child’s spiritual life? That’s the question Dr. Catherine R. Posey asked in her research on children’s spirituality. She earned a Masters in Children’s Literature from Roehampton University, London, and a Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction (with a specialization in Children’s Literature) from Pennsylvania State University. (And, I’m proud to say, Dr. Posey happens to be my niece.) She wanted to discover whether children’s books without any overtly religious content would nevertheless stir spiritual thoughts, questions, and insights in young readers.

AMouseAndHisChildDr. Posey chose two popular children’s fantasy books that deal with toys that think, talk, and have adventures. The first book, Russell Hoban’s The Mouse and His Child (1962), tells about two wind-up toy mice, a father and son, who set off on a quest for a home and family — with the hope that they might become “self-winding” and no longer need wind-up keys in their backs. The second book, Kate DiCamillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (2005), relates the adventures of a vain, selfish porcelain rabbit who learns to love others.

“In both books,” Dr. Posey told me, “the heroes are searching for their identity, for relationships, and for a place of belonging. Both books draw us into the inner journeys of the characters — into their struggles, hopes, disappointments, and victories. Both books deal with death and loss.

“When I interviewed young readers, ages ten or eleven, they talked about these themes in the books. They often related the storybook deaths to either a grandparent who had died or to questions about Heaven. The two books provoked conversation about the children’s fears, their prayers, their relationships with family and friends, and such character traits as kindness, perseverance, and courage.”

KateDiCamilloHow did Dr. Posey get children to talk about the books? “I asked open-ended questions,” she said. “I asked the children in the study to retell the stories in their own words. The details they choose to talk about were revealing. I asked questions like: ‘What do you think God is like?’ ‘Do you ever talk to God?’ ‘Does anything in the book remind you of God?’

“One girl told me she thought God must be like a caring teacher she had, Miss Hardy. The girl said she stopped believing in God for a while because she found it hard to believe in the miracles in the Bible. Then she dreamed that Miss Hardy came to her, called her by name, and said, ‘Believe.’ She has believed in God ever since. I don’t think she ever would have told anyone about her dream — and the dream’s impact on her faith — if she and I had not had a conversation about books.”

As parents who want to raise spiritually sensitive children, we can use Dr. Posey’s insights in our own conversations with our children. In the process, we can encourage them to build lifelong habits of reading good books.

Next Saturday: Five ways to use children’s literature to help raise spiritually sensitive children.

_________________________________________

Note: Don’t miss my interviews with Christian romance writer Robin Lee Hatcher (author of Who I Am With You and An Idaho Christmas: Past and Present), and Christian science fiction writer Kerry Nietz (author of Amish Vampires in Space and Fraught). Visit my website at Writing in Overdrive. See you there!
_________________________________________

battle-before-time-cover-1

 

Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.

 

Jim Denney also blogs at Writing in Overdrive and Walt’s Disneyland

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Valentine’s Day

My husband and I have a sticky note on our bathroom mirror that says, “I love you forever.” On a daily basis we will each move it to our spouse’s side of the sink, when they are not looking. Sometimes we will put it right in the center where it will intentionally block the person from seeing their face in the mirror. Other times we might put it way up high, down low, to the left, or to the right. And it might also be straight up, upside down, or even sideways. We never know exactly where or how we will find it. But we do know that we are likely to find it on our own side of the mirror. This is just one small thing my husband and I do to bring a smile to one another’s face each day.

 

Small things like this bring contentment to our lives. It’s the little things, as they say. Unfortunately many of us get in a hurry, worried about our to-do lists, and small gestures like this go unnoticed. But if we take a look around and savor the special moments in our daily lives, then we will find a sense of happiness that wasn’t there before.

 

I chose to bring this up today because it is Valentine’s Day. Sadly I believe many people put too much pressure on this one day of the year. They expect a dozen roses, a box of chocolates, an elaborate gift, and a fancy dinner. While I do like Valentine’s Day as much as any other hopeless romantic, I don’t think it’s fair to put that kind of pressure on this one day. Instead I believe we should aim to treat one other with love and respect every day, with small gestures. We should try to find ways to make one another smile each day, not just on Valentine’s Day.

 

And the truth of the matter is this – no one is ever going to love us perfectly. Except for One person. When I think of the greatest love story ever told, I think of Jesus. Reading the Bible, especially the Old Testament, we see how shocking human beings were from the very beginning. We continued to make mistake after mistake. And God knew we would make even more mistakes to this day. Yet God still loved us so much that He sent His only Son to save us. Because God is Love. He can’t be anything but Love. He can’t go against His own nature. Someone asked me recently what love was. My answer? God is Love. He is the only one who can love us perfectly. So no matter how you spend this day, take a moment to give thanks to God, for showing us true love.

(Photo by estyzesty.)

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All Kinds of Heroes

Mountain Lion TracksThere is a woman in our town who is an unsung hero. I could not do what she is doing. I know this because Mel and I did it today in 16 degree temps, 60 mph wind gusts. Do you KNOW how cold that is? (See above)

Here’s an example: while carrying out this woman’s evening duties, I forgot to put on my gloves while checking on the horses. Before I could get back to the animal house, I couldn’t feel my hands. If Mel hadn’t been with me, I wouldn’t have been able to complete the task.

And the task is something wonderful. I’ll call this hero Joy because she puts joy in a lot of lives, cares for many wounded and struggling animals. I followed her around yesterday evening to see what medications needed to be given to which animal, and which horse needed to be placed in another corral to eat–because he’s almost 30 years old and the other horses pick on him. I got dizzy just following her. Sometimes this takes her up to four hours a day, depending on how many animals she’s caring for. And that’s on top of her regular job.

What kind of person does this?

She’s just a normal person who can’t stand to see anything suffering. She drives a gasoline truck, and she’s a strong woman. She’s got her own health issues, and so does her husband, but that doesn’t stop them from caring for those weaker and in need.

In the harsh winter climate of Wyoming, feral cats can easily freeze and starve. Joy catches these cats, tames them, and finds homes for them. Let me tell you from experience that when you rescue a cat and keep it in your home, you will no longer have mice. But Joy does more than just catch healthy feral cats for taming. She takes injured and sick cats that no one else wants and nurses them back to health so that someone else will want them. She holds the weakest on her lap while watching a movie at night, gives all their meds, hauls them to and from the vet, and agonizes over their suffering. 

With Joy’s hectic schedule, especially with these physical issues she and her husband have encountered, she’s asked for help this week. Since I’m the only person she knows who has medicated animals AND handled horses, I gladly volunteered to play with her menagerie. For me it’s fun for a few days–oh, man, hanging out with horses again is a dream come true! For her, this life is a calling and she takes it seriously every day of the week.

Some might not think one little animal would be worthy of such time and attention. Proverbs 12:10 says “A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal.” NASB

I think the little things, and little animals, count to God. So do our actions. How would you like to be a hero?

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February Book Release by Tara Randel

Greetings! This month I’m excited to announce my newest book release from Harlequin Heartwarming. His Honor, Her Family, is book two in the Meet Me At the Altar series. I’ve love writing this series so much and wanted to share a bit of the story with you.

His Honor,Her Family

In the first book, the Matthews brothers, all law enforcement officers, discovered their widowed mother was dating again. And being the protective sons they are, you can expect the news didn’t sit well. In book one, they discovered a lead that now brings Deke Matthews to the rustic mountain town of Golden, Georgia under the guise of exploring the area. As the lead starts to pan out, he quickly decides to hang around and find as much information as possible, by taking a job as a wilderness adventure guide to protect his cover. All goes well, until he gets personally involved with his boss and her family.

Grace Harper doesn’t want to be in Golden, having escaped to a law career in Atlanta. But family ties are strong and she’s back to bail them out of trouble…again.  Never in her wildest dreams did she think hiring Deke would change her life!

This is where the fun starts. Grace and Deke soon learn that putting family and honor first can come with a price. But what about love?

She could be The One.

If he’ll let her in.

The rustic mountain town of Golden, Georgia, is the ideal place for crime scene investigator Deke Matthews to heal after a tragedy left him questioning everything. But there’s another reason he’s here, and moonlighting as an adventure guide provides the perfect cover. It doesn’t include falling for his boss. Attorney Grace Harper is back in Golden only long enough to save her family business. Just when Deke has found the woman to share his life with…

Read an excerpt:

As the guys left, deep in conversation, Grace turned, ready to finish up so she could head back to the cabin and change for the excursion on the lake. She stopped short when Faith’s knowing eyes met hers, sparkling with humor.

“What?”

“I see how it is.”

Grace shook her head. “How what is?” Please, please, please don’t say it.

“You and Deke?”

She said it.

“It’s not what you think.”

“Really? You didn’t just get all gooey when he promised to take John on the lake?”

“It was nice of him.”

“Nice.” Faith snorted. “I saw you melt.”

Grace rolled her shoulders. “I’m not having this conversation with you.”

“Fine, but sis?”

“Yes?”

“It’s about time you stop being all about work and let yourself get involved with a nice guy.”

Was that what she was doing? Getting involved with Deke? From the look on Faith’s face, her sister thought so.

She couldn’t argue either.

Yikes. I’m in trouble here.

Banner - His Honor Her Family

If you want to learn more about the book, please join the His Honor, Her Family Prism Book Tour starting today, where you can enter to win a prize package.

 

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Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author. Family values, a bit of mystery and of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, Trusting Her Heart, available August 2019.  Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TaraRandelBooks. Sign up for Tara’s Newsletter and receive a link to download a free digital book.

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Unlocking Your Child’s Spirituality (Part 1 of 4)

BBT-1by Jim Denney,
author of Battle Before Time,
Christian time travel adventure
for young readers

Gladys Hunt, author of Honey for a Child’s Heart, urges parents to give their children the gift of soaring to other times and places, the gift of discovering strange wonders and fascinating people. “Life is full of choices between good, better, and best,” she writes. “Parents are the ones who bend the twig.” How do we, as parents, bend the twig toward what is best? Through good books for children.

“The plea I am making,” Hunt writes, “is simply this — make time for books! . . . Fill your children up with words, with imaginative worlds, with adventures beyond your ken.” 

She goes on to suggest several crucial benefits children derive from good literature:

First, good books teach children to savor life. “Books help children know what to look for in life,” Hunt explains. “Reading develops the taste buds of the mind.” As our culture grows increasingly more corrosive, literature elevates a child’s appreciation of grand ideas and deep truths.

Second, good books introduce children to the world of imagination, creativity, and curiosity. “Fancy a child who hasn’t met a dragon or a unicorn!” writes Hunt. “Imagine a child who doesn’t speculate about what small creatures live in a hollow tree or rocky crevice! That’s the stuff a sense of wonder may feed on.” Good books expand your child’s awareness of the universe of ideas.

Third, good books impart an understanding of different people and cultures. In books, children meet characters from other backgrounds and cultures. Young readers, Hunt says, “come to accept the feeling of being different. . . . Fear, which is the result of not understanding, is removed.” In this way, books help demolish barriers between people, so that understanding can flourish.

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Fourth, good books impart confidence, courage, and compassion. “Facing failures and tragedies with the characters of a story,” writes Hunt, “may vicariously give children the experience of courage and loyalty. Weeping with some and rejoicing with others — this is the beginning of a compassionate heart.” Great literature helps children identify with characters who face injustice, hard choices, mistreatment, and loss — and teaches children to endure adversity with character and faith in God.

Fifth, good books provide bonding experiences between parent and child. Hunt quotes Newbery Award laureate Richard Peck (A Year Down Yonder) who recalled, “I heard my first stories in my mother’s voice.” Peck adds that the bedtime-story bonding ritual is vital “because most of who we are is decided in those first five fleeting years of life before we ever see a school.”

Next Saturday, we’ll hear from a researcher who has studied the impact of children’s literature on the spirituality of children.

[Read Part 2 here.]

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Note: Don’t miss my interviews with Christian romance writer Robin Lee Hatcher (author of Who I Am With You and An Idaho Christmas: Past and Present), and Christian science fiction writer Kerry Nietz (author of Amish Vampires in Space and Fraught). Visit my website at Writing in Overdrive. See you there!
_________________________________________

battle-before-time-cover-1

 

Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.

 

Jim Denney also blogs at Writing in Overdrive and Walt’s Disneyland

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My Budget Sparkle Confession by Julie Arduini

This is hard to write, but I promised I’d always share what God prompts me to, so if this encourages you, awesome.

I’ve been in official menopause since my surgery in 2008. I wasn’t even 40, but the symptoms weren’t bad and I was so free from pain, it was a small price to pay.

Then I hit 45 and a new level of menopause seemed to hit. Weight gain. Big, dark circles under my eyes. Blotchy skin.

As I’ve learned the Curly Girl Method and faced trial and error with that, I’ve become more than vain, but afraid. I get I’m never gracing a catwalk. I know I’m inching toward 50 and few call that an exotic time of life when it comes to looks. But I confess I wanted something, anything that would make me feel a little special.

Enter Meghan Markle.

Or as I kept reading, Markle Sparkle.

She’s a romance author’s dream. American actress meets prince. Both from broken homes. Conflict between her not being English, her divorce, her career, and sadly I’ve read even her ethnicity as bi-racial has rankled those in the very elite circles that I can’t even imagine why that matters in 2019.

Anyway, when I saw clips from her wedding, and even as she’s visited places or been out with her husband, she glows. Yep, that Markle Sparkle.

And I thought, hey, I’d like to get me some of that.

Enter Google.

Instead of writing, like I should have, I spent the afternoon looking up that Markle Sparkle. Some attribute it to her personality, her marriage, her motivation, and then there was the skincare regime.

There were high-end products I’ve never heard of. Then there were products from Sephora that I have heard of, but that’s high-end for me, and I’m just not that girlie.

But, ah, down the list was something I could get on board with.

Could this budget friendly item supposedly part of the Duchess’ product list, be the answer that I’m seeking to get me out of my frump hump?

Aquaphor.

It’s a skin care treatment/healing ointment that I previously heard helped burns. The advice I read for that sparkle was to apply before makeup. Not a lot, and to rub in circles.

I’m so pale that my result made me feel like someone in the Twilight movies.

Then I thought I’d use a lotion that would also tan. Maybe it would bring out my freckles and highlight the glow!

You know what I have now?

A red face that looks like I’ve been drinking all night, and an acne breakout.

While Meghan has that sparkle.

But, wait. I’m not done.

I’ve also been doing quite a bit of reading, prayer time, journaling, and the like. Currently I’m working through a small group curriculum of Goliath Must Fall, as well as the study guide and book for Lysa TerKeurst’s latest, It’s Not Supposed to be This Way.

As I face some hard places and truths, I’m discovering new layers about myself and new levels of healing I didn’t even know I needed. I’m also working out regularly and trying to drink more water.

And although I’m still not loving what I see in the mirror, I saw a glimpse of something I haven’t noticed in a long time.

Joy.

It’s that gift from God that doesn’t depend on feelings, good hair, a certain weight, or royal recommendations. I’ve clung to joy when I had no clue how things were going to turn out, but I knew God was very present in it all.

Sephora can’t market that.

It’s so much more valuable than anything the royals wear.

And I have it for free.

I’m not into sounding like a used car sales tactic, so let me just say this: If that last line has you curious, if the whole post resonates because you’ve tried it all, you feel blah, and you don’t get how joy makes a difference, God gave me His Son for free. Seriously. Jesus did all the work, and it’s taken me decades to understand that. Beyond agreeing with that, I want more than to just believe. I’m constantly learning about Jesus, talking to Him, reading, listening to music, it’s a relationship. I love spending time discovering Him, and hearing from Him. He offers much, and joy is one of those things.

I’d kind of let it get buried with my stuff.

Yes, I still use Aquaphor here and there because it helps with the winter dryness. Yes, I still read articles about Markle Sparkle because she’s just so intriguing to me and I have a mom-type soft spot for Prince Harry.

No, I don’t have a younger, dew-like glow to myself that’s set me free from my menopause self. Nor am I interested in product suggestions.

But I have joy.

***

Although Christian romance is my first genre, I’m working with our teen daughter on a series that’s both middle grade AND Women’s fiction. It’s two stories in one novella. The series, Surrendering Stinkin’ Thinkin, features a mentoring ministry with tween girls and adults. Each book features a character from each age group who needs to surrender a lie they are believing.

You’re Amazing is available on Amazon.

This post first appeared at juliearduini.com.

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It’s Loving to be Truthful…

This weekend, I went to my son’s new church and I was so pleased that they are not deniers of the truth.  Sometimes, the Bible shares some tough truths and there are a lot of Christians who feel that it’s best to ignore ugly truths and focus only on the good things in life.  Honestly, how I wish I could be one of those people.  But God did not wire me that way.  He made me a discerner.

Discerning can quickly morph into judgment–as every spiritual gift has its dark side. So I must be careful about that, but this weekend I was around someone who tried to shut down opposing opinions and say, “You can’t say that.”

Have you ever been told that you’re not supposed to feel a certain way?  This is a trigger for me — I’m a feeler and I cannot change that. In the Psalms, David felt everything under the sun! His emotions ran the gamut.  Now, we are not to sin in our emotions, but to deny them only makes us live inauthentically.

As Christians, God gave us feelings and emotions for a reason.  They are warning signs.  They lead us to prayer and deeper self-awareness — and hopefully, growth.  We should not be afraid of feelings and harsh truths.  We should be afraid of pretty lies because they enable sin to go underground and become insidious.  In my experience, the wolf in sheep’s clothing is by far, the most dangerous type of person.  They are the yeast in the dough.

Telling someone a hard truth is not the easy route, but we are to be as gentle as doves and as wise as serpents.  My experience is that we all need more of one side or the other. Offering the truth is love, for me, is better than denying it to live in a false bubble.

How did God wire you?
God's Majesty over Newport Beach
“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

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A Week of Lessons by Nancy J. Farrier

Last weekend, my husband and I drove to our daughter’s house to pick up our three-year-old grandson. He came back home with us for the week. This is the first time since moving that he’s been at our house. Since our youngest child is now twenty-five, I wondered how we would do with a toddler around. It’s been many years.

 

The week has been so much fun. We’ve played out on the slide and swings. We walked to the park almost every day and Jimmy was so excited. I read books to him, sang the ABC song more times than there are letters in the alphabet, played Candy Land and laughed so much.

 

Although I didn’t get any writing work done this week, I had a job that was so rewarding. There is nothing quite like praying at night with a grandchild and talking to them about Jesus and His love for them. Even at a young age they can begin to understand the concept.

 

In Deuteronomy 6:7 God speaks about His commandments and statutes. He tells the Israelites to, “… teach them diligently to your children and … talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

 

Teaching children is a full-time occupation and not up to those who work at a school or the video you put on the television. Every day, I talked to Jimmy about what color clothes he would wear, counted things with him, and put a red sock on his right foot and a green sock on his left foot. Every interaction turned into a chance to teach him even though it seemed more like play time.

 

Interwoven in the play time and lessons were tidbits about God and talking about Biblical truths. Although Jimmy is too young to understand a sermon, he can easily grasp stories of the Bible and begin to learn the concepts of love, sacrifice, grace and obedience. One bit at a time.

 

This coming week Jimmy’s parents and his baby brother will be at our house. I will continue to demonstrate that Christianity isn’t a Sunday morning thing to do, but is a life style. It means praying at meal times no matter where we are eating. Or learning a “God” lesson at the playground when the moment arises. A Christian lifestyle even means showing forgiveness when aggravated with someone. (Whew! That one can be tough. lol)

 

Just as I did with my children, I want my grandchildren to see me live out my faith every moment of every day. What a privilege to share Jesus with a young and curious mind—a child eager to learn. Although years have passed since I had a toddler in the house, not much has changed in the way I interact with them. Such a blessing and so many precious memories.

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When the Truth Slips Out

Opinion by Jim Denney

This past Tuesday, on the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law allowing the abortion of babies up to the moment of childbirth. Then he ordered the Freedom Tower lit with pink lights to celebrate this victory for “choice.” The pink glow from the Tower is an affront to America’s conscience.

9-11 Memorial

Photo by Luigi Novi, released to the public domain.

Advocates of unrestricted “choice” claim the unborn are formless clumps of tissue that magically become babies as they pass through the birth canal. No, a baby in the womb is a human being, genetically distinct from the mother, with a soul and a right to live.

America was founded on the principle that all human beings “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Removing restrictions on third-trimester abortion is the legalization of infanticide and a violation of the founding principle of this nation. 

Other states are seriously considering similar bills. Why are politicians hell-bent on legalizing the slaughter of infants? There is no voting bloc demanding unrestricted abortion throughout all forty weeks of pregnancy. Polling shows that only 13 percent of Americans favor such wide-open abortion laws (see Gallup’s breakdown of public opinion on abortion here).

Politicians are snubbing the will of the vast majority of their own voters. Why would they do that? Politicians like Governor Cuomo know they can get away with it. Government no longer serves the people or obeys the Constitution. Abraham Lincoln said that America fought the Civil War so that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” But today we have government of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists, for the lobbyists.

Extremists pressure groups write huge checks to politicians, and the politicians do the bidding of the lobbyists, not the will of the people. So we are increasingly being governed by extreme laws and regulations, written by extremists with power and money, in direct violation of the conscience of the people.

One state considering similar legislation is Virginia, where Governor Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, has publicly advocated a law that would allow newborn infants to be killed outside the womb (see a Washington Post video of his statement here; his disturbing pro-infanticide remarks begin at about the one-minute mark).

Kathy Tran, the sponsor of Virginia’s so-called “Repeal Act” (the infanticide bill Governor Northam supports) is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. While testifying in support of her bill, she was questioned by another delegate, Todd Gilbert.

Watch the video here, and see her repeatedly dodge Gilbert’s questions.

At the 57-second mark of the video, Gilbert asks if the bill allows abortion up to the moment the mother is dilating. Tran, a mother of four, visibly winces at the word “dilating.” She tries once more to avoid the question, but Gilbert asks again, and she finally admits, “My bill would allow that, yes.”

Tran now claims she misspoke. But when politicians say “I misspoke,” they simply mean, “I let the truth slip out.”

More experienced politicians like Andrew Cuomo are skilled at never letting the truth slip out. Last month, in a speech supporting New York’s bill to eliminate abortion restrictions, Cuomo said of two recent Supreme Court appointees, “Kavanaugh is going to reverse Roe v. Wade. I have no doubt. Gorsuch is going to reverse Roe v. Wade. I have no doubt.”

Cuomo knows better. He’s a demagogue, intent on frightening uninformed supporters. He knows that two justices can’t reverse Roe v. Wade. He also knows that, even if Roe v. Wade were reversed, it would not end abortion in America. A reversal of Roe v. Wade would merely allow states to write their own abortion laws as the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution intended.

When Cuomo ordered the lighting of the Freedom Tower, its pink glow fell upon the National September 11 Memorial at its base. There the names of some 3,000 people who died in the 2001 attacks are inscribed on the parapets surrounding the waterfalls. Included are the names of eleven women. After the name of each one is the phrase “and her unborn child” (see the photo above).

We used to mourn the slaughter of the unborn. Now, at the very site of the September 11 Memorial, we celebrate the “right” to kill unborn children.

So I’m sad and I’m angry and I fear for my nation. I pray for my nation. And I can’t be quiet.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20

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Note: Don’t miss my interviews with Christian romance writer Robin Lee Hatcher (author of Who I Am With You and An Idaho Christmas: Past and Present), and Christian science fiction writer Kerry Nietz (author of Amish Vampires in Space and Fraught). Visit my website at Writing in Overdrive. See you there!
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battle-before-time-cover-1

 

Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.

 

Jim Denney also blogs at Writing in Overdrive and Walt’s Disneyland

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My Laundry Addiction by Bridget A. Thomas

In the midst of my busy life, I used to do laundry every day. Now I am trying to cut back to at least every other day. Between Christmas and New Year’s, when I was getting tired of all the clutter in my house, I did laundry. When I had out-of-state family members staying at my house, and other in-state family members were popping in and out each day to see them, I did laundry.

I really didn’t think there was anything wrong with it, until other people commented on me doing laundry so much. So I stopped to consider it. It made me think. Perhaps with the hubbub and chaos, when I feel like there isn’t much in life that I can control, this gives me one thing that I can take command of. It is one thing that brings a bit of normalcy and peace to my life.

While I do find this to be a bit humorous, it is also sad. Why is it sad? Because God should be my peace, not laundry! So now I have been pondering something else. Why isn’t the Lord my peace? And how can I make Him my peace?

Here are just a few of the reasons why God might not be our peace:
  • We don’t allow Him to be.
  • We don’t run to Him with the speed bumps of life.
  • We react first to whatever is going on.
  • We allow ourselves to be too busy with life, and God is an afterthought.
  • We forget that He has already overcome the world.
  • We don’t completely trust Him.
  • We feel we must be in control of our lives, not Him.
  • We allow worry to run rampant in our hearts.
  • We don’t take every thought captive.
  • We don’t guard our hearts.
And here are just a few things we might do to allow Jesus to become our peace:
  • Spend time with Him every morning.
  • Read the Bible to allow His truth in our hearts.
  • Let Him be the anchor in our day.
  • When hurdles come along, hand them over to Him.
  • Don’t allow small annoyances to get under our skin.
  • Don’t hold onto expectations. 
  • Keep in mind that the enemy is actively trying to steal our peace. When we remember that tidbit, it prepares us for what lies ahead. And it helps us to not fall prey to his tactics.
  • Allow the Lord to have control. This is a difficult one for many people.
  • When we are worried about something, let God know we trust Him. I will sometimes say the words aloud, “I trust You!” This immediately makes me feel better.
  • When it feels like we are moving at the speed of light, we need to make conscious decision to pause and turn to The Light!

I would love to hear your thoughts. Is Jesus your peace? If not, why is that? If He is your peace, how do you ensure He stays anchored there?

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all. – 2 Thessalonians 3:16 NLT

(Photo by Bill Davenport.)

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Summer is Coming (by Hannah Alexander)

Do you miss summer yet?

It’s been quite the winter for most of the country. Harsh cold, bitter wind, heavy snows, black-outs. Actually, also dangerous white-outs that send a lot of motorists to the emergency room when the snow is blowing so thickly and drifting so badly over interstate that no one can see. I’ve driven in those white-out conditions and found my way off interstate as soon as possible, then wandered around backroads for a couple of hours before I reached my destination. After exiting the interstate, I wasn’t too worried because I’d been on those backroads before and I had a good idea about my direction and I had good tires.

So I’ve pulled out some pictures taken in summers past to remind myself that summer is coming again. 

Oh, yes, all those colors, that beauty, the green, the warmth. It’s coming. Don’t forget that it has come every year for as long as you can recall. It’s a promise, these seasons. You might live in a place where you don’t get a lot of snow. Maybe you live where the weather is just right in the winter and hits 120 in the summer. For you this is a warning–summer is coming.

This is our first winter in our new  home in Wyoming. After yet another snow, when I’m shoveling more from the drive, neighbors and the mail carrier ask me if I’m sick of it yet. Everyone expects us to leave. I tell them the sun shines every day despite the cold. I haven’t had this kind of sunshine since I was a child in California. I have been assured that by the time summer comes, I’ll be so sick of winter I’ll never want to spend another one here.

But I look at the pictures and remember that promise of summer. Here in Wyoming, that’s my favorite season. We’re high and dry here, and the elevation keeps us from the punishing heat. The trails beckon every day, and there are so many to choose from, such a short drive away. The sunshine makes me high to the point that people want to shoot me because I tend to be a little too cheerful.

If you’re in a winter season of your life–and often people tend to seasonal affective disorder when the clouds linger and the days are short–never forget that it won’t last forever. I understand that it feels that way right now, but winter doesn’t last for us. Spring always comes, followed by the warmth of summer.

If you’re struggling with more than seasonal affective disorder, if you have illness in your body or a family member is suffering, if relationships are tearing you apart and you feel there’s no way out, remember those seasons. There are deaths and divorce and awful pain, and suffering will always be with us on this earth. I know because I’ve been there. The longer you live, the more you know that suffering happens. You might look back on those times of suffering now, however, and it will dawn on you that you’ve gotten through them before and you’ll get through the again. They might be different kinds of struggle, but the darkness lifted.

If the darkness hasn’t lifted for you and you’re a child of God, then you can have the assurance that this suffering does go away, and it is removed forever. You have your true life to look forward to forever.

We are here for a few decades of changing seasons. We don’t know how long we will be on this earth. But this truly is not our world. We have so much more to look forward to. The pictures above won’t hold a candle to the true beauty of what God has in store for us. When you’re drifting through the snow, lost in the white-out, or lost in the dark, never forget that God’s got this. He will not let us down. What we see on this earth doesn’t hold a candle to the joys we have in store.

 

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