Shift Your Thinking For a Deeper Faith

What if by making small adjustments in how you think, speak and act, you could make larger strides in growing as a Christian? That’s the basic concept behind the new book, Shift Your Thinking For a Deeper Faith by Dean Del Sesto. It supposedly contains 99 ways to strengthen your relationship with God, others and yourself.

Quite frankly, I’m a bit torn by this book. The format means each potential change is addressed by reading a couple of quick pages. Each topic contains scripture, the authors thoughts, suggestions and a deeper thinking question. The list of topics is thorough and covers a lot of areas that can cause Christians issues. At least it would if such a list existed. Instead the reader is forced to read sequentially instead of having the ability to easily find segments they may need at the moment.

In some cases, the author provides a somewhat unique and helpful perspective. Most of the time the entries are more of a reminder of what we should already know (which granted most of us need from time to time.) A couple of entries were a bit concerning to me. I’m not comfortable with the idea that “God doesn’t answer every prayer” – when a more accurate description is that He sometimes tells us “No” or “Wait”.

I was really uncomfortable with the concept of Christianity as a “brand” and a “personal brand” – as if somehow it doesn’t matter what we do or don’t do as long as we call ourselves Christian. It may not have been the author’s intent, but in a world where God’s absolute truths are viewed as more and more irrelevant, this entry seems to feed into the problem rather than stopping it.

In general, this book could be helpful to many Christians to help them be a bit more intentional about how they live their lives every day. Just be sure to double check every thing by scripture – this is one case where there are a few things that just don’t seem to fit.

This book was provided to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.

Fun Way to Teach Kids About Complaining

Ask parents what bothers them the most about their children’s behavior and “whining and complaining” probably make the top five list of almost everyone. What if you could do something fun that might just help them better understand why complaining is something they need to erase from their lives?

This one takes a little effort, but it’s more fun and thereby possibly more effective than your daily lectures on the topic. You will need to get some tonic water, some quail (your butcher can special order it they don’t normally carry it) and make a batch of “manna” cookies (you can find a recipe here). Then grab your kids and a Bible.

Tell your kids they are going to have an experience very similar to one the Israelites had in the wilderness. Take your kids outside and go on a really long walk. (This works best on a warm day.) Have the tonic water and some cups in a tote bag. When your kids complain about being thirsty, give them a drink of the tonic water. (It’s bitter, but won’t hurt them.)

When you arrive home, serve them manna cookies. Ask them what it would be like if that were the only food you served them at every meal for the rest of their years at home – no restaurant meals, no school lunches – just manna every meal. (Note: No one knows for sure exactly what manna tastes like. This recipe is based on the few clues we can find in the Bible.)

Pull out your Bible and tell them the story from Numbers 10 and 11. When you reach the part about quail, let your kids taste some of the quail meat you cooked.

As they are eating have them discuss how they felt on your little “journey”. What are some reasons all of the complaining made God and even the leaders so upset and angry? Remind them God had just delivered the people from horrible slavery. Discuss what the people should have been grateful for instead of complaining. Ask your kids how all of the complaining might have affected Moses and Aaron and their leadership. What about Joshua, who was in training to become the next leader? What about the people themselves?

Ask them what things they complain and whine about a lot. What should they be grateful for instead? How does their whining and complaining have a negative effect on others? Challenge them to think of ways to remind themselves to be more aware of their complaining and make an effort to stop. (You might even want to have a family challenge to encourage everyone to break bad habits!)

Where Do You Belong?

One of the more difficult things about Christian parenting – especially done the way calls us to do it – is that you are parenting on the edge of the bell curve. You are not only making parenting choices different from more secular parents around you, but you may be making choices radically different from other Christian parents you know, too.

It can become easy to feel like you don’t belong any where. This sense can be heightened if your family moves, changes congregations or has other factors that make you different from the “average” family.

Yet God created the church in part, because He knows his people need a supportive community around them. What do you do though, when it seems impossible to find those people to support and encourage you?

Back Roads to Belonging by Kristen Strong attempts to help readers find “your place and your people”. The book is divided into three main segments – wandering, finding and inviting. Within each there are several chapters devoted to different topics.

This book feels more gentle than many Christian self help type books. Although there are suggestions she makes to help you along the way, they are so subtly introduced, you don’t feel as if you’ve been given another to-do list to accomplish. Strong is empathetic without letting readers wallow too long in their loneliness.

Her suggestions are good advice and she does a great job of weaving scripture and Bible stories throughout the book. Her advice may not be terribly different than any other Christian book written on a similar topic, but there is something about her writing style that is soothing regardless of what she is suggesting. Somehow she can make a reader feel that she will indeed one day find her place and her people. Perhaps that is the greatest gift this book gives – the gift of restoring hope to those who feel lonely and isolated.

This book was given to me in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.

Fun Way to Teach Kids About Building Their Lives on God

Have you ever talked with your kids about centering their lives around God? Do they know what it means to view the world through the lens God would want them to use? There’s a fun activity you can do with them that can help them better understand what happens when you use God as the foundation of your life and when you don’t.

Grab your kids, a Bible, some scrap paper or other materials. Read them the story of the wise and foolish builders found in Matthew 7:24-27. If your kids are younger, you may want to ask them to sing the song that goes with this story.

Explain that the story may be hard for them to understand since they have probably never built a building. Put out the stack of recycled paper. Give each child a pillow, heavy sweater or anything soft that will create an unstable foundation. Tell your kids they are to build the tallest tower they can using only paper on the foundation you have provided.

Give them a set amount of time to build their tower. Explain that you will now be a hurricane and see how strong their towers are. Go to each tower and blow on it, fan it, whatever you need to do to get it to start falling apart. Then have them repeat the experiment using the floor as their foundation. Can they build a stronger tower on this firmer foundation? (Realize your “building materials” are weak too, so go easy on the “wind” for the firmer foundation!).

Talk about what happened. Ask why Jesus wants us to build a firm foundation on God. Discuss what having a firm foundation in God means. What will they do differently than someone whose foundation is not in God?  (Note: For younger children, keep it very simple.)

Are Your Kids Wonderful?

Parenting is such a delicate balance. Not enough encouragement and constant criticism and your kids can develop poor self-esteem. Over do the praise and never correct your kids? Then their self-esteem is too high – just as bad for your kids (although in different ways.)

So where’s the proper balance for your kids to develop a healthy self image? As with most of the big questions in life, God has the answer. The balance is in seeing themselves as God sees them – so beloved that He sent His son to die on the cross for their sins – yet realizing their sin and need for that grace from God.

A new book (published as supplemental material for the new movie Overcomer) Wonderful, The Truth About Who I Am by Stephen and Alex Kendrick (with Amy Parker) is written to help elementary aged children tackle the ideas they have about themselves.

The book doesn’t address the movie, so I honestly can’t say whether or not it ties in well. It’s broken into ten chapters, each of which has several short entries of about two pages. That’s probably about right to encourage a child to read the book in smaller doses and take time to reflect before moving on to the next section.

Unfortunately, they don’t suggest that, so I’m not sure how many children will actually take time for reflection. Most young people need to spend more time in reflection, so it would have been great for this book to give them that gift by walking them through how to do that. They do have a couple of little areas with suggestions for kids to draw something specific from the chapter. In theory, this could be reflection, but I would imagine quite a few older elementary children will skip the drawing.

The topics are addressing various aspects of how a child may see him or herself and how God sees them. The Writing is straightforward without being condescending. The principles appear to be biblical – at least on the level the average child would read them.

Graphically, the book will look like an easy read to a child who flips through it. The type is a little larger, without appearing babyish. There are scattered illustrations and a few factoids spread throughout.

This book is a great introduction to a child who has never been taught how God sees them and wants them to see themselves. It’s also a good reminder for kids who may be struggling a bit. I wouldn’t say it’s at the level of a classic, but it’s good enough to be worth the read for most elementary students.

This is book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.