Read This Book Before You Divorce

Churches usually go one of two ways when discussing divorce….they either say it’s wrong in most cases or they accept it as normal in today’s world. The reality is that divorce was something God has allowed with certain provisions, but it was not something He ever wanted for us (Matthew 19:8). Whenever we stray from God’s original plan and His wisdom, there are usually real earthly consequences. The church has avoided discussing many of these for fear of hurting someone’s feelings….or perhaps because they don’t feel understanding the possible consequences is even necessary.

Yet to move people towards strengthening marriages, reconsidering divorce or in some cases understanding the divorce is both scriptural and has better outcomes than the marriage, we need to better understand what really happens to kids when their parents divorce.

Between Two Worlds by Elizabeth Marquardt uses research and the personal stories of the author and others to enlighten readers about the actual impact of divorce on the children. While she obviously has her opinions, the author does a great job of using research to support the ideas she has formed based on her own experience and observations. Her most compelling belief is that adults filter their opinions of divorce through the adult perspective and have done little to examine the short and long term impact on kids. She is also quick to point out that being able to get an education, hold a job and have romantic relationships as an adult aren’t the only ways to measure the impact of divorce on children.

Marquardt is from a Christian background, but actually deals with faith rather generically in the book. She looks at how a divorce impacts kids faith and beliefs and how a church’s response to a parent’s divorce also impacts children. Interestingly, throughout the book, she categorizes children as growing up in homes with “bad” (contentious) divorces, “good” (low conflict) divorces, high conflict marriages and low conflict marriages. As one can imagine, even within divorce and marriage there are nuances that can make the impact children for better or worse.

If you are considering divorce, I highly suggest reading this book. It’s important to understand how it will really impact your kids. If you are divorced – whether it was something you wanted or were heartbroken over – you should read the book to understand what is happening to your kids and to find ways to minimize and/or address the issues. If your marriage is fine, it’s still a great book to read to motivate yourself to keep working to make your marriage better.

Helping Your Kids Slay Goliath

One of the toughest things for some adults to understand is that problems which seem small to them can feel insurmountable to a child. Adults have learned that friend troubles pass or a bad grade on one homework assignment isn’t the end of the world. To a child, however, these are problems that can feel scary and overwhelming, causing anxiety, dread and fear to grow.

For years, kids have been told the story from the Bible of David and Goliath. Hopefully, your kids have been taught it’s an example of how, for God, even the impossible is possible. That God will be with them as they face their giants, if they will let Him. For some kids, that is what they need to know to understand how to lean on God. Others need a little more practical help applying the lessons from David and Goliath to their lives.

Louie Giglio has written a new book for eight to twelve year olds called Goliath Must Fall. Within its pages, Giglio tries to give older children some practical advice to help them apply the lessons from David and Goliath in practical ways to their lives.

Sandwiched in between introductory and closing chapters, Giglio goes into detail about several giants with whom he believes older children struggle – fear, rejection, comfort, anger and addiction. For the most part he does a better than average job of giving kids practical strategies to use. I particularly appreciate how often he encourages them to read the Bible and suggests numerous passages to them. I also appreciate that he quotes quite a few scriptures within the text, for those who may not be as inclined to actually look them up to read.

Personally, I appreciated Giglio for tackling the topics of comfort and addiction – too often ignored when teaching young people how to live a Christian life. Although the chapter on addiction deals primarily with age appropriate topics like video games, earlier in the book he mentions addictions which the eight to twelve year olds for whom the book is written are a bit too young. He also writes a bit about social media. He does add that most have parents who don’t allow them on it yet, but that he hopes to prepare them. I would have preferred that he address head on the required age limits and that cheating them to get on social media is already showing a potential to “build a giant” in that area.

My other primary criticism is his discussion of how to become a Christian. I will never understand how people supposedly so deep in Bible study will promote a man made invention within the last two hundred or so years as the way to become a Christian. Following the example of Jesus and a quick reading of Acts make it abundantly clear baptism is essential, not only for the remission of sins, but to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. To make kids believe they are saved and have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit from praying a modern made up prayer is irresponsible. Thankfully, for kids who have been taught the Bible, this is about one page in the book and can be mentioned with reminders before giving the book or when discussing it.

If your child struggles with anxiety or other issues, this book might be the practical help to understand how to apply scripture to their lives that they need. It can also give you some helpful, godly hints to work with your kids to incorporate in their lives.

Mr. Rogers as Christian Parenting Mentor

Mr. Rogers was one of my favorite people when I was little. He seemed so kind and friendly. What you may or may not know is that Fred Rogers was actually a minister. While he didn’t overtly teach Christianity, many of the principles he taught were godly.

Recently, someone compiled a lot of his advice and sayings into a book that is now in paperback, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood. Much of it is godly parenting advice, even though Rogers once again avoids any direct connections to scripture, God or Christianity.

The book has quotes throughout, so it would be easy to pick a quote a day and think about it. Some would be great ways to start conversations with your kids. While you may not agree with absolutely everything Rogers writes (he was human after all!), it is generally more great advice in one book than I have seen in a very long time. It’s definitely a book you should consider reading.

Great Summer Reads For Christian Kids and Teens

Summer often brings reading lists for kids and teens. This summer you kids may have more time for reading than usual. Why not give them some books that can help them grow spiritually, dream godly dreams or develop empathy for others?

The list below is not complete and not all are technically “Christian” books. They are all, however, books that will get your children thinking. Take advantage of the summer slow times and ask them to share with you some of the things from these books they particularly liked and others with which they are not sure they agree.

Not all of these books are appropriate for every child and many of these should only be read by teens. Please do your own research before giving your child a book to read. Older children and teens can find series like Christy Miller, which will satisfy their desire to read some quality fiction books.

Many of the books today have hidden agendas for promoting ungodly thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. Some of these your children will be forced to read in the process of their education. Providing books that encourage godly thinking and empathy can help counter some of these influences. (Of course, the Bible will always be the best counterculture tool you can ever give your child.)

Have fun reading this summer – some of these books I have enjoyed as much as our daughter did – you may want to read the same books yourself. If you find other great books for Christian kids, be sure and let me know. I would love to share them with other readers.

Tiny Habits for Christian Parents

Do you want to do all of those Christian parenting things you know you should be doing, but struggle with consistency? Perhaps you do well for a couple of weeks, then something happens and you never seem to be able to keep up those great new habits.

The key word there is habit. Although Christianity is ultimately about our hearts, many of the things we need to do to keep our faith strong and Christian parent well are actually habits. We need to do them every day or several times a day to accomplish our spiritual goals.

If you’ve ever tried to break a bad habit or start a new one, you know how difficult it can be. Most of the time the very thought of trying to establish a new habit is enough to exhaust us. I don’t go to the gym because changing clothes, driving several miles, finding a class I like….all of it just feels too overwhelming.

There’s a great book called Tiny Habits by B. J. Fogg. I highly recommend reading it, if you can find the time. It’s not a Christian book, but a lot of the information can be easily adapted to be used in trying to live a Christian life.

There are a couple of key points for establishing new habits I want to share with you. It’s only a small fraction of all of the great material in the book, but you may find these three tips change everything for you.

Let’s say you want to have a family devotional time every day. You’ve started and stopped so many times, it feels like you will never be consistent. Here are three things you can do that may help you finally have those daily devotionals consistently.

  • Pick the best time. Find a time in your schedule as it is right now when you can easily and consistently fit a 20 minute family devotional. Make sure you consider possible roadblocks that could occur in that time slot, like a family member with other commitments. Let’s say your family always has dinner together. Can you work in the devotional immediately following your meal? Or could you have it while you are eating? Don’t try at this point to swap the devotional for another activity currently in that time slot, like watching a favorite tv show. You will be less likely to follow through if one of you feels they are giving up something for the new habit.
  • Make the new habit really tiny. This was the part that changed everything for me. Our new habits are always grandiose. We want a 20 minute family devotional that meets the spiritual needs of your kids, is engaging, and of course has some complex activity to make the point of the scripture reading memorable. It’s easy to fail the first time something goes wrong and give up. Instead, aim for reading a verse of scripture and having a very short prayer of blessing over your kids. Two minutes tops. If you want to do more, great! On those inevitable bad days, just read one verse of scripture and pray over your kids. Choose a book like Proverbs or a Gospel to start to make it easier to quickly find a great verse to read. (If you choose Proverbs, just read one verse from the chapter corresponding to that day’s date – January 15 – read one verse from Proverbs chapter 15. Or read the verse of the day in the Bible app.) A “victory” is that one verse and blessing prayer. Pat yourselves on the back and cheer every day you do it. On those days when you have a full devotional and activity…you’ve won the Super Bowl! On those crazy, bad days, you’ve still met your goal even if your family only read one verse of scripture together. The goal is consistency, not the amount of time or amount of scripture covered.
  • Create daily reminders you can’t miss. Set the alarm on everyone’s phone to go off at the chosen time. Have the Bible already out and open at the place you have chosen to have the devotional. Make signs that say “Devotional today at (time and place)” and hang them around your house where everyone will see them. Part of starting a new habit is remembering to actually do it! With lots of reminders, you will have less nights when you remember the devotional after everyone is in bed.

I encourage you to read the book to get more ideas, but start with these now. See if you can use them to ingrain those Christian parenting habits you need.