A “Spooky” Family Devotional

Every Halloween children dress up in costumes and go from house to house in search of free candy. While some Christians debate the celebration or aspects of it, the idea of witchcraft, speaking to the dead and other black arts regularly make their way through circles of young people.

Your kids don’t have to be “goth” to be intrigued with the idea – or even just curious. As Houdini and one half of Penn and Teller can testify, mediums and witches often use basic tricks of magicians to make it appear as if they know things they can’t possibly know without the help of spirits or witchcraft. This devotional teaches older children and teens the techniques so they won’t be fooled by people who may try to take them down a very ungodly path.

This devotional is long, but can be divided into several sessions. Chances are your children will be curious and intrigued enough though, that they want to finish it in one sitting. (Please note citation for the information regarding the various tricks.)

Tell the story of King Saul and the Witch of Endor, being careful not to make it sound too scary. Explain that the fact that she could call up Samuel seemed to surprise even the “witch”.

Tell students that today many people have carefully watched people who pretend to talk to dead people and/or tell the future and have realized that they use tricks and not real magic.

Explain you will teach them some of the tricks people use to trick other people into believing they can tell the future and often taking their money from them to do it. The reason you are teaching them is so people claiming to tell the future or see spirits won’t trick them. Tell them it’s okay to do these tricks for fun, but not to really trick someone into believing they can do things only God can do.

Here are some of the most common tricks used by “seers”. Younger students may only be able to understand and practice one to have fun with their families, while older students may understand them all. Constantly remind students these are fun when everyone knows they are tricks, but wrong if people really believe they can tell the future. Only God knows the future. They should never use these tricks to convince people to do something or to make money.

The following information can be found at this link http://www.psychicscience.org/coldread.aspx. Please change the wording to be appropriate for your students.

The term ‘cold reading’ refers to strategies used by mentalists and by fraudulent psychics and mediums to give the impression that they can psychically discern personal information about a client.

The reading is ‘cold’ because it does not depend on any prior knowledge of the client. Instead, the ‘psychic’ combines careful observations of the client’s characteristics and behavior with a series of guesses that are based on deduction, knowledge of probabilities, and use of general (‘Barnum’) statements that are readily accepted by large numbers of people as being true of themselves.

There are several key techniques that form the basis of cold reading. These are

1. Setting the scene

The cold reader must set the scene for the client, manage client expectations, and elicit client cooperation.

Presentation

It is vital that the client has full confidence in the professionalism and ability of the psychic or medium and this can be encouraged in various ways, for example:

By using professional props – e.g., tarot cards, crystal ball, pendulum, runes, or other items.

Managing expectations

Expectations must be managed by briefly explaining to the client what they may receive from the reading, for example:

“I will try to answer any questions you have about your past and future.”

Eliciting cooperation

Cold reading will only succeed if the client is cooperative and actively assists the psychic. This needs to be explained to the client at the outset. For example:

  • “You will need to help me to read the signs.”

2. Observing characteristics

The cold reader carefully observes the client. Important characteristics to note are:

  • Gender.
  • Age.
  • Ethnicity.
  • Weight, apparent health, personal hygiene and any noticeable disabilities.
  • Any scars, bruises or skin blemishes.
  • Clothing, hairstyle, jewelry and badges, body decorations.
  • Any transfers on the clothes (e.g., animal or human hair, grasses, mud, oil, or stains).
  • Voice quality (regional accent, pitch, pace and modulation).
  • Vocabulary.

3. Making deductions

From these observations, the psychic will be able to make some highly probable guesses about the client. This is sometimes referred to as the “Sherlock Holmes” technique.

For example:

  • An engagement ring will generally indicate an impending marriage.
  •  Educational level may be guessed from voice and vocabulary.
  • Wealth may be inferred from clothing and jewelry.
  • Particular interests may be guessed from T-shirts, badges, etc.
  • If the reading is done in the client’s home, much more information can be gleaned (e.g., from family photographs, bookshelves).

4. Pigeonholing and focusing

The cold reader will generally aim to pigeonhole (stereotype) the client into a particular category of person.

The most basic categories are based on gender and age (e.g., teenage female; middle-aged man; elderly woman).

More specific categories and stereotypes can also be useful (e.g., thirty-something, white, well-spoken, apparently affluent, female non-smoker with a New York accent). Consider, for example, what you probably could infer about such a woman.

Having pigeon-holed the client, the reading is then focused around areas stereotypically of concern to people in this category, and also around any specific deductions that can be made based on observations of the client.

 For example:

  •  A mid-teen female is likely to experience difficulties relating to popularity, peer pressure and boys.
  • A middle-aged, poorly dressed man, who is rather overweight and wears no wedding ring, may have low self-esteem.
  • An elderly person may have recently lost close friends or family, and may also have their own health concerns.

5. Using Barnum statements

So-called ‘Barnum statements’ are named after the American showman P.T. Barnum. Barnum statements are those that seem to relate to a particular individual but actually apply to everyone, or almost everyone. Such statements are a typical feature of horoscopes and they are used extensively in cold reading.

Research by psychologists (e.g., B.R. Forer) has shown that a person, if led to believe that the statements apply specifically to them, readily accepts such statements. Because the client easily accepts them, such statements also serve to enhance the client’s general faith in the psychic.

Examples of Barnum statements are:

  • “You have much unused potential.”
  • “You get a little anxious in new social situations.”
  • “You have been a victim of a theft or burglary in the past.”
  • “You have a strong need for approval and recognition.”

Experienced cold readers will develop their own extensive list of useful Barnum statements, which can also be tailored to particular categories of people.

6. Fishing

‘Fishing’ refers to making some very specific, seemingly improbable, statements that may or may not be true of the client.

If the statement turns out to be true, the strength of the “hit” will greatly impress the client, and the statement will be clearly remembered.

If wrong, then the psychic can simply move on to something else, and the client will very likely forget the ‘miss’. 

In general (to avoid embarrassing failures) it is best to choose fishing statements that are not too improbable but which are likely to be true of many people.

Examples of fishing statements are:

  • “The name Jane is significant in some way.”
  • “I am getting something about a car crash.”
  • “You were separated from your father during childhood.”
  • “You used to own a brown dog.”

Note that, when fishing, you should generally use statements rather than questions. (e.g., “The name Jane is significant” rather than “Is the name ‘Jane’ significant?”).

You can also go fishing using several baits in one sentence. For example: “I am hearing the name Jane, or perhaps it is Joan, or June, or John”. In this way you can maximize your odds of getting a ‘hit’.

Fishing is especially effective when cold reading with a large group of people (e.g., stage shows). Names make very useful collective bait. For example, “There is someone named George who has a message for a woman”. It is very likely that at least one woman in the audience will know a George who has died.

Experienced cold readers often learn the popular first names for both boys and girls for different decades.

7. Observing responses

Especially when fishing, you can gauge the accuracy of your statements by observing carefully how the client responds.

In particular, watch the face and hands, and also look out for any uncomfortable shuffling in the seat.

These responses can often give away how the client is feeling about what you are saying. In this way it is generally quite easy to tell if you are on the right track, or completely wrong.

If you are right, then continue along the same line; if wrong, then subtly change track.

8. Using verbal tricks

There are certain tricks and subtleties in the way that language can be used that will greatly enhance a cold reading.

For example

“Somebody here knows George”. This is a very useful trick often used by spiritualist mediums in group meetings. It is based on the ambiguity of the word “here” – it could mean either “here in the audience” or “here in the spirit world”. In this way, the odds of a hit are effectively doubled.

“I am getting something about a will”. This could mean either Will (the personal name) or an inheritance or legal document.

“The word ‘book’ is somehow relevant”. This could refer, for example, to an ordinary book (of pages), or “the Book” (Bible), or the telephone book, or a reservation for a show or flight, or a police booking, or a bookmaker (betting), or a financial account, or it could even be a surname.

By observing how the client interprets an ambiguous word, the reading can then follow up that particular meaning.

Stating questions negatively

A very commonly used verbal trick in cold reading is to ask questions in the negative form.

No matter how the client responds to these questions, the psychic can interpret the response as confirming the statement made.

For example:

  • “You’re not married are you?”
  • “You weren’t brought up in the country were you?”
  • “You’re not an only child are you?”
  • “You don’t believe in reincarnation do you?”
  • “You haven’t had a letter from your mother recently have you?”

If the client answers “No” to such questions, the reader replies with “I thought not”. If the answer is “Yes”, the reader can say “I thought so”.  The psychic therefore wins every time.

Repeating information given by the client

The cold reader should file away in memory every bit of information that the client gives during the reading.

This not only allows further deductions to be made from the information given, but the psychic can also exploit the fact that clients will often forget that they have said certain things.

This enables the cold reader to repeat back to the client, at some later point, information that the client has given, as if this information was being received psychically.

9. Reinforcing successes

Whenever the client confirms one of the psychic’s statements, this should be clearly reinforced by saying “That’s right”, or “Yes “, or “Good”, or something similar.

This will help to convince the client that the reading is succeeding.

10. Using ‘Outs’

Sometimes the psychic will say something that is contradicted by the client. When this happens, the cold reader should come up with a plausible explanation or excuse for the apparent mistake.

Magicians call such strategies for dealing with failures ‘outs’ and there are several types of ‘out’ that are useful for the cold reader.

Often, the psychic can save face by subtly blaming the client for not understanding or not agreeing with a statement  The implication is that the statement is true, but the client doesn’t realize it, and is wrong to disagree with it.

This strategy can generally be used whenever there is a possibility, however remote, that the original statement is true.

There are various ways this can be done, for example:

  • “You will understand this better later.”
  • “You should think about this later.”
  • “You should ask your grandmother – she will be able to confirm this.”
  • “No, there were definitely three brothers – you will discover this later.”

The psychic can also directly blame the client for any resistance to statements, for example:

  • “You must open your heart to these messages, my dear.”

Twist the statement

Often an incorrect statement can be subtly twisted to make it correct.

For example: “Your grandfather had two sisters.” “No. He had one.” “Yes, but there were two other girls, maybe friends or cousins who were like sisters.”

If all else fails, the cold reader can blame others for any errors made, or for any failures to come up with useful information.

For example:

  • “The messages are not very clear today.”
  • “The messages are a little mixed up tonight.”
  • “I’m getting some crossed lines tonight.”

11. Clinching the deal. At the end of the reading, the psychic should briefly summarize the key (correct) information that was given (including that which came from the client) aiming to do so in a positive way that will provide comfort to the client. This should be combined with a statement that reinforces how accurate and genuine the reading was.

For example: “So, your grandfather wants you to take away from this that he is alive in spirit and that he loves you very much. In particular he wanted to explain to you his sorrow over the will. The other information he gave about himself – working as a postman, about his sister and cousins, and about the soccer – I couldn’t have known any of this, could I? You can be certain that your grandfather has come through today and that he is still watching over your life with love.”

Preparing your children for when they are exposed to mediums and Wicca can protect them from getting fooled by it. It’s worth taking the time and effort to teach them about these tricks.

Teaching Your Kids Christian Coping Skills

Some people believe that Christians should never feel anxiety. While God does want us to place our faith in Him, anxiety begins as an emotion. Like other emotions, God created them for a purpose. A little anxiety can help build resilience and encourage us to prepare ahead of time for important presentations. Anxiety, however, was not meant to cripple our ability to try new things or fully participate in life.

Scientists have found however, that when our brains stay in a specific emotional state for too long without a break, our minds can have more and more difficulty in switching emotional states. It’s one of the many reasons it is important to teach your children some godly coping skills that will help them control their anxiety levels and even switch emotional states. Teaching these coping skills is also important because when young people don’t have healthy coping skills they often turn to more dangerous ones like alcohol and illegal drugs.

Here are a few ways to teach your children to help curb their anxiety.

  • Prayer. Teach your kids they can pray about their emotions to God. Tell them to let God know how they are feeling and ask Him to help calm them.
  • Scripture. Have your kids find verses that comfort them or remind them of ways to manage their anxiety. Philippians 4:6-8 is a great one. Have them create scripture art and place it where they will see it on a regular basis. Encourage them to memorize helpful verses and repeat them to themselves as a way to help calm themselves.
  • Controlled breathing. Anxiety makes hearts beat faster and breathing become quick and shallow. Slowing down the breathing can slow down the heart and calm the anxiety. There are various methods, but I’ve found for young children, breathing in for three counts and out for three counts is easier for them to remember and use. Tell little ones the story of Adam naming the animals or Noah and the Ark while placing a stuffed animal on their diaphragm as they lie on their back on the floor. Count as they make the toy go up and down for three counts each by taking deep breaths.
  • God’s creation. Walks on the beach or in a forest naturally soothe as they combine exercise, an opportunity to have a parent’s full attention and being in God’s creation – reminded of His presence and love. You can also bring creation indoors with natural decorative elements, art and recorded sounds.
  • Guided imagery. You can teach your children how to replace an unpleasant image or thought in their minds with a more pleasant one. You can find details online or in our book Ministering to Children of War. (There is a lot of information in the book about helping children and teens with anxiety. Much of it would be helpful to any child – even if they have not experienced war. It’s a free ebook on our website. http://teachonereachone.org/ministering-to-children-of-war/)
  • Math. Sounds silly, but asking your child to count backwards from a hundred by sixes, can calm him or her. You can also try having them recite their multiplication tables or do some practice problems in the math they are taking at school. Be prepared to bring their focus back to the math if they seem to start becoming anxious again.
  • Healthy habits. Eating healthy foods, exercising and getting 9-12 hours of sleep a night can also help curb anxiety in some. If nothing else, being physically healthy makes it easier to do the things necessary to be less anxious.

It is important to note that some children will need professional help in learning to manage their anxiety. If these coping strategies don’t seem to help, their symptoms worsen or they can’t function in their normal activities, consult your child’s doctor. For most children, the ideas above will help. It takes time, however, for them to learn these techniques and to remember to use them when anxious. Just keep coaching them until they automatically try a few without your reminders and assistance.

Great Ways to Help Your Kids Express Strong Emotions

Have your kids ever bitten or punched someone when they were extremely frustrated or angry? Or maybe your children have pitched a tantrum when upset. Part of the problem is a sense of being unable to adequately express the strength of their emotions in ways they believe are being heard. Other children may appear to shut down entirely, unwilling to talk about what they are feeling and thinking. Helping your children find ways to adequately express what they are feeling and get the emotional decompression they need can be accomplished by teaching them some alternative strategies to replace inappropriate ones.

Here are some great ways to help your kids express their emotions.

  • Increase their emotional vocabulary. The word “angry” doesn’t feel strong enough if your kids are furious and feels too strong if they are merely irritated. Teaching them more words for various levels of emotions can make a huge difference – especially in younger children.
  • Encourage them to pray their emotions to God. Show them some of the Psalms that express obviously strong emotions. Explain that for thousands of years many people have not only read and sung the Psalms, they have prayed them as well. Teach them that God wants them to tell Him about their emotions and ask for His help in expressing them properly. This can be particularly helpful for children reluctant to talk about their emotions to the people around them.
  • Provide art supplies. Allow them to paint or draw anything they want. The images themselves will at times depict what is upsetting them, but often the underlying emotions are expressed by their artistic choices. You don’t need to analyze or understand their works of art. You can try asking open ended questions like “Can you tell me about your painting?” Don’t worry if they keep the conversation on a shallow level. They are still having benefits from the process of creating the art.
  • Encourage listening to music or playing an instrument. Explain that the right music can help them better control their feelings by calming, soothing or energizing them. Some children benefit from listening to music that matches their current emotions, while most find music that represents their desired emotional state is more effective. Check in periodically to see if they believe certain songs are helping them or making them feel worse and encourage them to replace songs that aren’t helping.
  • Provide opportunities to help with household chores like cooking, washing dishes, vacuuming and others in age appropriate ways. The repetitive, mindless nature of most chores can prove soothing. It can also keep them occupied in positive ways as they sort out their feelings.
  • Encourage hobbies that have some physicality and repetitive tasks in them. Knitting, crocheting, wood working, model building – even putting jigsaw puzzles together – can prove soothing and calming.
  • Encourage outdoor exercises. Sunlight helps regulate moods and the physical element can help lessen the impact of string emotions. Children should be encouraged to find a type of exercise that they enjoy so they will happily do it when stressed.

Helping your children learn how to control their emotional state gives them an important Christian life skill. It’s worth taking the time and effort to help them learn and practice.

Fun Way to Teach Little Ones to Pray

Often parents start teaching their babies to pray by teaching them to fold their hands and bow their heads when an adult says a prayer. While prayer can be said in any posture, it is a great way to help set apart talking to God from regular conversations and to teach that God should be respected.

The next step – once they can speak a few words – is to teach toddlers rote prayers that are said for every meal or at bed time every night. There is another option, however, that I believe more clearly teaches how most Christians talk with God in prayer. With a little effort, you can make it fun and easy for even the smallest child to pray with a family member or independently.

Grab some magazines, family photos, colored card stock, glue sticks, a hole punch, metal rings (laminating film is nice for longevity) and your toddler. Toddlers often have a difficult time thinking of things for which to pray. Explain to your toddler that you want to help him or her make a special book to remind him or her of things he or she wants to either thank God for or ask God’s blessings about.

Start by helping your toddler find photos of things for which to thank God (for which He has blessed your child). As you find the photos, let your toddler glue them to a “thank you” page. Remember, a toddler has a very short attention span, so you may only add one or two items a day. That’s okay. Your toddler can begin praying for those items and it gives you a reason to talk about prayer every day you work on their prayer book.

After you have several items in that section, you can begin a “God bless” section. This will involve family photos and pictures of others close to the family. You can also cut from magazines photos of world leaders, recent events that concern your child or things like a photo of a hospital to remind him or her to pray for the sick.

As your child gets a little older, you can add sections for “God is Great” and “I am sorry for”. Although tiny children don’t sin according to the Bible, it is good to get them in the habit of repenting for when they are old enough to sin. It is also a subtle way to begin teaching them about the things God says are sinful.

If you have a small home laminator, it will make the pages sturdier. Punch one or more holes along the edge and put a metal ring through each hole to keep the pages together. Help your children use the book to pray with you and then begin teaching them how to use it to pray independently. When the book gets long, remind them they can choose just a few items about which to pray each time they pray. If they pray several times a day, they can cover a lot of their items.

Prayer is critical for the spiritual growth and health of your children. It’s great to start them with good prayer habits as early as possible.

Fun Way to Introduce Your Kids to God’s Role in Science

Many people mistakenly believe that God can be completely separated from science. Actually, God created science. By creating the Universe and the Laws that make it work, God also created the things that scientists study. For centuries, scientists were often Christian, but in a post Darwin world, even Christians felt pressured into removing God from science entirely. Interestingly, many of the underpinnings of this faulty belief system are based on ”truths” long since rejected by even secular scientists. While many professional scientists are perhaps not ready to admit to the existence of God, their increasing awareness of the complexity of the things in our Universe cause even skeptics to admit the Darwinian notion of chance is not viable.

Christians don’t need to reject science – just science that is influenced by an atheist bias (especially if Christian scientists have supportable and compelling alternate theories). The key is introducing your children to science at home. Science that acknowledges God’s role in it’s creation and that does not undermine biblical truths.

A great, fun way to begin having those discussions is by using the story of Noah’s Ark to teach your children about the science needed for building boats. Start by telling your kids the story of Noah building the Ark. Point out the specificity in the instructions God gave Noah. Note that if Noah had altered the dimensions or materials in any way, the Ark may not have floated. (Note: For children who are older and interested in science, this article has more details of the science behind the building of the Ark. https://answersingenesis.org/noahs-ark/thinking-outside-the-box/

Give your children scrap materials like aluminum foil, paper, craft sticks, etc. Challenge them to build a boat that will not only float, but hold weight. When the boats are completed, try floating them in a tub or sink of water. Add pennies to each boat until it sinks. Which boat stayed afloat the longest? Older children may want to compare the ratios of the dimensions of their boats to the Ark. Ask them to imagine how long it would have taken Noah to figure out how to build a sturdy boat the size of the Ark (that could hold that many animals) without God’s helpful knowledge of the science He created that was needed to build the Ark. Remind your children that all reliable science is based on the science God created….

For more science activities connected to Bible stories in meaningful ways, check out our children’s activities under the lesson plans tab on our website… www.teachonereachone.org