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.

Fun Activity to Help Your Kids Understand Miracles

Miracles are an important part of the Bible – especially the ministry of Jesus. The Bible tells us they were necessary so people could tell God from magicians and fake gods. Modern theologians often try to explain miracles as some natural phenomenon God used to make a point.

Unfortunately, that viewpoint undermines the very purpose of miracles – God being able to overcome natural laws only because He is the one who created them and is more powerful than those laws.

There is a fun activity you can do to help your kids understand how impossible it is for man to do a true miracle (Note: During the Ten Plagues the magicians could fake the first few plagues, but soon gave up as God increased the miracles).

You will need your kids, a Bible and a large paper or plastic plate, markers, sticks, optional masking or colored tapes. Tell your children the stories told in Joshua chapters 10, 11 and 18. Talk about the miracle involved. Explain that God uses miracles to remind people He is God and can control anything – including the sun.

Help your children understand the basics of how the sun normally moves during the day, creating a marker for time. By causing the sun to stand still, God was in effect making time stand still as well. (Since this is a difficult concept for children to understand, you may want to do the craft before telling the story. Take the finished sundials outside and have them note where the shadow is at that time. After telling the story and discussing it , note where the shadow is at this point. It won’t move much in those fifteen minutes, but if you have marked where it was, a slight difference should be visible.)

Give them paper plates. Have them decorate the center with something that helps them remember God as the Creator can change any “rules” of nature with miracles any time He wants. Have them mark the rim of the plate with numbers like a clock. (Plates can be pre-marked with tape at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 positions.) Help them insert the stick in the middle of the plate through the hole made there. Have them put a bit of play dough on the reverse side of the sundial around the stick. (This will keep the stick stable and more accurate.)

Take the sundials outdoors and line them up so the shadow reflects the current time. Have your kids try to make time stand still as reflected on the sun dial. The only ways they can think of (like casting a shadow over the sundial) are really tricks and aren’t actually making the sun stand still. Explain that in order for God to do that He broke several of the natural laws He created (like rotation of the Earth – technically if that were to happen all sorts of things would happen) But God was able to break the rotation for a time without the negative consequences only because He is God and it was a true miracle.

Remind your kids that anyone who tries to deny or downplay God’s miracles in the Bible is attempting to diminish God’s power. Fortunately, God is all powerful and His power cannot be removed merely because someone refuses to believe in miracles.

Teaching Your Kids About Friendship

Let’s be honest. Friends can cause a lot of drama for kids and teens. Your kids will probably have struggles in this area from time to time. They may wonder how many friends they should have, worry about finding the “right” best friend, struggle with peer pressure or any number of other friendship issues.

They need your guidance. You can’t control their friendships, but you can influence them. The younger your kids are when you start teaching them about friendship, the easier it will be for them to handle whatever happens.

So what are some things you should be sharing with your children? There are a lot of things that may help, but these are some of our favorites.

  • Teach them how to find godly, supportive friends. David and Jonathan are a great example of this type of friendship. They both worshipped and trusted God. They were supportive of one another under extremely difficult situations. Situations that would have made most people enemies. Talk to your kids about ways to find out if someone will be a Jonathan type friend to them. Help them understand the value of a friendship that will make them grow in positive ways.
  • Teach them to be friendly to everyone, but choose close friends carefully. Kids and teens are more likely to become like the kids with whom they spend the most time. It’s a rare young person who would have the ability to convince a child who is constantly in trouble to change his or her behavior. It’s more likely your child will soon start to get in trouble with his or her trouble bound friends. That doesn’t mean however, your child should act in unkind or unloving ways to people whom they have not chosen as close friends. Their behavior should reflect God’s love to everyone – friend or not.
  • Teach them the types of people who can cause them to move away from God’s plan for their lives. Sometimes, those negative traits are hard for young people to see. They may only notice outward appearances or common interests – missing the warning sides this friendship could change them in negative ways. Teaching them proactively – from places like the friendship wisdom in Proverbs – can keep you from having to point out the negative traits in a new friend.
  • Teach them to be encouraging, kind, supportive, loving friends. Teach them by how you treat your friends. Discuss ways they can support, encourage and love their friends. Correct unkind and hurtful words and behaviors towards others. Help them correct bad habits that can annoy others and cause them to reject your children’s attempts at friendship.
  • Help them develop multiple friend groups. Some children only need one or two close friends to be happy. Others will have lots of casual friends. Unfortunately, for many young people, they are only in one friend group. When the drama of their friend group becomes hurtful or annoying, they are left feeling they have no friends. If they have several friend groups – school, church, activities – it’s more likely they can find friendship respite in a friend group not currently involved in drama. It also lessens the effects of peer pressure from one group – their entire social currency is not invested in making that one group happy.
  • When friendship blues happen, remind them of everyone who will always love them. Yes, they will quite probably roll their eyes or tell you that those people “have to love them” (so it doesn’t count). Deep down though, there is reassurance in knowing God, their family and others will love them in spite of any “mistakes” they may make.
  • Give them hope for future friendships. Some kids are mature for their age. Or have special needs. Or are extremely talented. They may feel like there is no one in their current environment who really “gets them” enough to be a close friend. It can become discouraging – especially in the teen years. Explain to them that as they move towards college and/or a career path, they will move or specialize more. It is often in those environments they will find those friends who are more like them. Sometimes just giving them that hope for the future is all they need to move through their current friendship woes.
  • Watch for serious signs of trouble and get help when needed. Falling grades, changing eating habits, lethargy, lack of interest in things they normally love, flat affect and other signs of depression are often red flags. Don’t let things go on so long serious issues like drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders or suicide become a reality. Start having conversations to try and find the roots of the changes in behavior and attitude. If you feel like the problems are serious, get professional help for your child.

Friendships are essential for your children’s health and growth. Preparing them to choose and be great friends can make it easier for them to form friendships that will encourage them to reach their godly potential. It’s worth your time and effort.