Food for the SoulTweet
Posted 10/8/15 at 12:35 PM | Audra Jennings
An interview with Justin and Lindsey Holcomb,
Authors of God Made All of Me
It’s perhaps a parent’s greatest fear – that at some point his or her child will become a victim of sexual abuse. The statistics are alarming: Approximately one in five children will become victims by his or her 18th birthday. Authors Justin and Lindsey Holcomb have responded to parents’ concerns by writing God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies (New Growth Press/September 8, 2015),a resource for moms and dads who want to protect and educate their children.
Q: What prompted you to write God Made All of Me? What age range was it written for?
The book is for 2-to-8-year-olds. We wrote it because we have two young children and know parents need tools to help talk with their kids about their bodies and to help them understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch. It allows families to build a first line of defense against sexual abuse in the safety of their own homes. Our goal is to help parents and caregivers in protecting their children from sexual abuse. Because private parts are private, there can be lots of questions, curiosity or shame regarding them. For their protection, children need to know about private parts and understand that God made their body and made it special.
Q: What do the statistics about childhood sexual abuse tell parents about the importance of tackling this topic with their kids?
Child sexual abuse is more prevalent than most people think, and the offenders are usually people parents and the children know, not strangers.
Approximately one in five children will be sexually abused by his or her 18th birthday. A child is much more likely to be sexually abused by a recognized, trusted adult than by a stranger. Most victims of child sexual assault know their attacker; 34% of assailants were family members, 58% were acquaintances, and only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.
Of child sexual abuse victims, approximately 10% of victims are age 3 and under, 28% are between ages 4 and 7, 26% are between ages 8 and 11, and 36% are 12 and older.
Q: You were intentional about using the terms “appropriate” and “inappropriate” when referring to kinds of touch, instead of the words “good” or “bad.” Why?
It is important to be clear with adults and children about the difference between touch that is appropriate and touch that is inappropriate. Experts discourage any use of the phrases “good touch” and “bad touch” for two main reasons. First, some sexual touch feels good, and then children get confused wondering if it was good or bad. Second, children who have been taught “good touch” or “bad touch” would be less likely to tell a trusted adult as they perceive they have done something bad.
To your child say something like: “Most of the time you like to be hugged, snuggled, tickled and kissed, but sometimes you don’t and that’s OK. Let me know if anyone — family member, friend or anyone else — touches you or talks to you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.”
Q: Why do you encourage moms and dads to use the proper names when referring to private body parts, even for young children?
It can be uncomfortable at first, but using the proper names of body parts is important. This knowledge gives children correct language for understanding their bodies, for asking questions that need to be asked and for telling about any behavior that could lead to sexual abuse.
Offenders most likely will not talk to children about their private parts by using the anatomically correct names for genitalia. They will likely use some playful-sounding term to make it sound more like a game.
Q: How did you approach talking about this issue with your own children?
We started by teaching them the proper names of their private parts at an early age and telling them their bodies are strong, beautiful and made by God. We read books to them from an early age on this topic and would talk about who can help them in the bathroom or bath and that it was OK for the doctor to check their private parts at appointments when Mom or Dad is present.
We would also role-play different scenarios to get them thinking what they would do if someone approached them and wanted to touch their private parts, show theirs, take pictures, etc. Play the “what if” game with them at the dinner table with different scenarios to see their thinking and problem-solving skills. “If someone asked you to show them your private parts and promised to give you candy if you didn’t tell anyone, what would you do?” Remind them they can tell you anything and anytime without fear of getting into trouble.
We’ve also tried to instill a sense of control our kids have over their own bodies. We would tell them to say “no” or “stop” when they were all done being hugged, tickled or wrestled. We encourage them to practice this with us so they feel confident saying it to others if the need arises. We also tell them they don’t have to hug or kiss a family member if they don’t want to and teach them how to express this without being rude. It is important to empower children to be in charge of their bodies instead of at the mercy of adults.
Q: Is there a way to educate your children about this without instilling fear?
To teach children about sexual abuse it is important to explain about private parts. Clearly identify for your child which parts of their anatomy are private. Explain to your child that “some places on your body should never be touched by other people — except when you need help in the bathroom, or are getting dressed, or when you go to the doctor.” You can do this with young children during bath time or have your child dress in a bathing suit and show them that all areas covered by a bathing suit are “private.” The bathing suit analogy can be a bit misleading because it fails to mention that other parts of the body can be touched inappropriately (like mouth, legs, neck, arms, etc.), but it is a good start for little ones to understand the concept of private parts.
To teach about sexual abuse offenders, it is important to teach your kids about “tricky people.” Tricky people are grown-ups who ask kids for help or tell kids to keep a secret from their parents. Teach your kids not to do anything or go anywhere with any adult at all, unless they ask for permission first.
Q: What do parents need to know about child offenders?
Although strangers are stereotyped as perpetrators of sexual assault, the evidence indicates a high percentage of offenders are acquaintances of the victim.
Most child sexual abuse offenders describe themselves as religious, and some studies suggest the most egregious offenders tend to be actively involved with their faith community.
Sex offenders are often religious, and many of them attend church. In a study of 3,952 male sex offenders, 93% of these perpetrators described themselves as “religious.”
Dr. Anna Salter, a sexual offender treatment provider, states it is important for parents and child-serving organizations such as churches to avoid “high-risk situations.” This is because “we cannot detect child molesters or rapists with any consistency” and thus “must pay attention to ways of deflecting any potential offenders from getting access to our children.”
Many youth organizations have prevented the abuse of children in their care simply by limiting the access of potential offenders to boys and girls. Child abusers count on privacy to avoid detection of their criminal behavior. When churches or other faith institutions remove this privacy, it becomes more difficult for the offender to succeed.
Q: Is it a bad idea to force our kids to sit on an uncle’s lap or to return Grandma’s kiss? What are some ways parents help their extended family understand the physical boundaries they allow their kids to have?
It is important to teach kids how to say “stop,” “all done,” and “no more.” You can reiterate this by stopping immediately when your children express they are all done with the hugging or tickling. Your reaction is noteworthy for them as it demonstrates they have control over their bodies and desires.
If there are extended family members who may have a hard time understanding your family boundaries, you can explain you are helping your children understand their ability to say no to unwanted touch, which will help them if anyone ever tries to hurt them. For example, if your children do not want to kiss Grandpa, let them give a high five or handshake instead.
Q: What are some practical things parents can do to protect their children?
In our book, the last page is to parents and is called “9 Ways to Protect Your Children from Sexual Abuse.” Some of the key practical things parents can do are: teach proper names of private body parts, talk about touches, throw out the word “secret” and identify whom to trust.
Q: What advice do you have for parents who want to create an open environment in their home, so children always feel comfortable talking to them about issues related to their sexuality or body?
We remind parents some people are out their looking to prey on our children. We have a duty to protect and prepare them for the world and to fight for them. By talking with them candidly (and again developmentally appropriate) about their bodies, we are setting up safeguards around them.
Dr. John T. Chirban has written an excellent book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Sex, that we highly recommend to all parents. He explains: “Someone is going to teach your kids about sex. . . . Shouldn’t it be you?” His book gives parents tools to talk with their children about the connections between sex, intimacy and love.
Q: What is personal safety education?
Education is important in preventing inappropriate sexual behavior or contact. By teaching children about their bodies and discussing appropriate and inappropriate touch, you are helping them understand their ability to say “no” to unwanted touch, which will help them if anyone ever tries to hurt or trick them.
Our friend Victor Vieth, the senior director and founder of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center, explains, “Personal safety education involves simply telling children that the parts of their body covered by bathing suits are not supposed to be touched by others and, when they are, they should tell someone. If the person they tell doesn’t believe them, they should keep on telling until they are believed.”
Parents are quick to teach about fire and swimming safety but are hesitant to encourage personal safety training, which is designed to empower and protect children against offenders.
Q: It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, but what should a mom or dad do if he or she suspects his or her child might have been the victim of sexual abuse?
You can call your local sexual assault crisis center and talk with a child advocate or hotline volunteer about your concerns. They will be able to point you to the proper authorities. Some areas would have you speak with a detective, where other areas would have you talk to a victim witness advocate. Don’t ask probing questions that could instill fear in your children. Just assure them you are so proud of them for telling you what happened and that you believe them and your job is to keep them safe.
Q: Tell us about GRACE. What does it offer to the church and families?
GRACE stands for “Godly Response to Abuse in Christian Environments,” and the mission is to empower the Christian community through education and training to recognize, prevent and respond to child abuse. We help educate churches and other faith-based organizations about how to protect vulnerable individuals from abuse, and we help churches love and serve survivors of abuse who are in their midst. Check out GRACE at www.netgrace.org.
Corbin Bernsen most recently starred as Henry Spencer on USA Network’s hit original series Psych. First catapulted to stardom during the 1980s by the hit NBC TV series, L.A. Law, he was nominated twice for both an Emmy® Award and a Golden Globe Award®. Along the way, he hosted Saturday Night Live, and guest starred on Seinfeld and Star Trek to name a few notable television appearances. In the feature film arena, he starred in the comedy Hello Again, followed by other critically-acclaimed roles in Disorganized Crime, Wolfgang Peterson’s Shattered, The Great White Hype, and as the Cleveland Indians’ third baseman-turned-owner Roger Dorn in the extremely popular Major League series of films. With the film Rust, Bernsen shifted his focus to family-friendly movies and formed Home Theater Films. Bernsen’s latest film project, Christian Mingle, was released in January 2015 by Capitol. Bernsen lives in Los Angeles with his wife of 26 years, actress Amanda Pays, and their four sons. His new novel from Pelican Book Group is based on his film of the same name, Rust. FULL POST
Q: You actually had ten teenage girls help with the contents of this book. Talk about that process.
A: I was so honored when the teen girls I approached agreed to help write the content for the book because they are all remarkable young ladies. For eight weeks, we met in my home for three hours each week and I had a topic prepared that we would discuss. One week we would talk about boys (which was ALWAYS interesting), and another week we would talk about communicating with parents effectively. The girls’ ages ranged from 12-18, so they would divide into groups by ages and discuss the questions I gave them for that topic. Then, we would all come together as a group and share. That was always interesting because the younger ones were often more graphic than the older ones! They know so much, so it was never awkward for the younger and older ones to talk about the topics and they all learned a lot from one another. I know I learned the most! One of the greatest parts for me was hearing their stories, and they asked me to be sure to include some of those in the book. They also gave me some marketing advice by saying, “Ms. Shannon, girls our age will buy this book if you have a cute cover on the book, good stories inside, and they know you’re not preaching to them.” :) FULL POST
A recent Barna research study confirmed that Americans are becoming more inclined to dismiss the concept of a Creator. The study showed that one in four un-churched adults are either atheists or agnostics. Twenty years ago, 18 percent of skeptics were under 30 years old. Today that proportion has nearly doubled to 34 percent—nearly one-quarter of the total U.S. population. Christians are increasingly exposed to greater antagonism and arguments against faith in Christ and Scripture. In his new book, God The Reason: How Infinite Excellence Gives Unbreakable Faith, theologian Craig Biehl offers Christians a definitive guide on how to grow in faith and answer the most sophisticated arguments of unbelievers.
“Barna’s findings confirm what pastors and parents have known for some time,” says Dr. Biehl, who earned his PhD from Westminster Theological Seminary. “The influence of Christianity on our culture is diminishing. But to blame unbelief on a lack of effective arguments for Christianity would be too simplistic. Many of the crowds who witnessed Christ’s miracles had plenty of evidence and arguments, yet shouted for His death. All people live in a sea of compelling evidence, but deny the clear display of God’s power and genius from a refusal to bow the knee to their Creator. Nonetheless, increasing skepticism not only calls Christians to a more authentic and Christ-like life, but to a greater understanding of the faith assumptions of unbelief, the defensibility of Christian belief, and the infinite excellence of the God of Scripture. Too often our lack of faith and understanding of key issues of faith and unbelief serve to reinforce the rejection of Christ and Christianity.” FULL POST
Posted 10/7/15 at 12:45 PM | Audra Jennings
Parents often experience a "freak out" moment when they realize their children's view of God will primarily come from what they learn at home. Most parents spend more time helping their kids succeed at academics or athletics than infusing shared spiritual experiences into the rhythm of everyday family life. While the idea of strategically passing down our faith can seem intimidating, the annual Rites of Passage Experiences contained in Pass It On (David C Cook/ September 1, 2015/ISBN: 978-1434709073/$15.99),make it easy for families to celebrate milestones from kindergarten through high school graduation.
Q: Why do you think some parents place more emphasis on grades or athletics than spiritual development?
Burns: I think parents do want to help their kids grow spiritually, but they are often caught up in busyness of life, which distracts them from the main goal of faith development. They mean to, but they just don’t get around to it because of the breathless pace of life in which the American family is living. The Pass It On experiences give parents an easy opportunity to build into the spiritual formation of their family.
Lee: It’s easier to put an emphasis on those things because there’s a clear action parents can take to help their child improve. If I want my child to grow academically, then I can hire a tutor. If I want my child to grow athletically, then I can hire a private coach. If I want my child to grow spiritually, I can’t hire someone to do it for me. I can’t outsource the spiritual development of my child. Spiritual development is subjective and not concrete. One of the ways we want to serve parents with Pass It On is to help give them concrete, shared spiritual experiences they can lead their child through. It gets them started with spiritual leadership in their home.
Q: What is a rite of passage, and how does it help a child internalize a truth or lesson?
Burns: It’s simply celebrating a milestone in the life of a child and family. Sometimes a rite of passage is very spiritual, and other times a rite of passage is getting a driver’s license or learning to tell time. By celebrating rites of passages along the way, it keeps faith present in the basic aspects of life.
Lee: A rite of passage is an invitation to something greater than yourself. It’s crucial for all cultures to extend an invitation to things such as family and faith. In my opinion, it’s one of the reasons our culture is struggling. The most common rites of passage in our culture are a “sweet 16” birthday party and/or the loss of virginity. Those aren’t invitations to something greater than themselves; those are invitations to themselves. When parents invite their kids to faith through rites of passage they are helping their child connect to God’s greater story.
Q: Would you describe one of the rites of passages Pass It On encourages parents to experience with their kids?
Lee: I think my favorite one is the manhood/womanhood ceremony in the 12th grade. It’s actually the one that inspired everything. I was invited by a dad to his son’s manhood ceremony. His son was turning 18, and the dad had invited a group of men to come and teach him what a man of God looks like. The dad then asked his son to kneel down as he went to the closet, got a Braveheart sword he had ordered off the Internet and laid it on his son’s shoulder. Then he said, “Son, I have friends who are 30 and 40 years old who act like boys because no one ever told them they are men. I’m telling you tonight that based on the authority given to me by God as your dad, you knelt down as a boy, but you will rise as a man.” Can you imagine what that son must have felt in that moment? He was unleashed into the world with his father’s full blessing and a clear understanding of what a man of God looks like.
Burns: My favorite is the purity code in middle school. Kids are making major decisions that affect the rest of their life at a young age. We now know without a doubt that the more positive, healthy sex education kids receive from home, the less promiscuous they will be. It’s a really cool celebration that gives parents and their kids the opportunity to talk about a really important decision in their life. We ask kids to commit to the purity code, which says, “In honor of God, my family and my future spouse, I commit to sexual purity.” They learn how to:
- Honor God with their bodies.
- Renew their minds for good.
- Turn their eyes from worthless things.
- Guard their hearts.
Q: Can you share a story of how you’ve celebrated one of these rites in your own family? What feedback have you heard from your children about the practice?
Burns: Cathy took each of my daughters away for their celebration of purity. She took them to a nice dinner, bought them an outfit, stayed at a fun hotel. During that time, she read them part of a book on purity. Each daughters’ reaction was different. Christy loved the information and dialog. She engaged. Rebecca told Cathy what she was reading was “totally inappropriate” and to stop reading. Heidi, our youngest, told Cathy that she wanted to go on the outing to get the food, outfit and stay in the hotel, but her sisters had already filled her in on all the juicy stuff in the book!
I also took each daughter on an overnight before they could go on their first date. Amazing memories and incredible conversation. It’s all about memories and traditions.
Lee: I’ve loved every time I’ve gotten to lead one of my children through a rites of passage experience. My boys are 10 and 7, so I’ve focused on the elementary years. I guess my favorite so far was the second grade rite, which is called “An Invitation to the Bible.” This is where you invite your child, who should be a budding reader at this point, to engage with the Bible in a more meaningful way. We bought my son Campbell a red Bible that had a big lion on it. It was awesome! Our family and friends underlined their favorite verses in the Bible, and then we presented it to Campbell. That night when he was going to bed he went through the Bible sharing with us everyone’s favorite verses. Even today, he treasures that Bible.
Q: What about families who are getting a late start? Is it too late to build a legacy if your kids are in their teens already?
Lee: It’s never too late. It’s always better to do something rather than nothing. I tell parents to begin right where you are. For some parents you may have to begin with an apology and a promise that your spiritual involvement will increase in your child’s life. Also we encourage parents to feel free to change the order of the rites of passage or adjust the whole thing as needed for their family. The whole purpose of this book is to inspire parents to lead their children spiritually. If they feel inspired to do something differently or better, then we have done our jobs.
For more information about Jim Burns, visit www.homeword.com or follow him on Facebook (Homeword) and Twitter (@drjimburns). To keep up with Jeremy Lee, visit http://jeremylee.me or follow him on Facebook (yojeremylee) and Twitter (@yojeremylee).
Posted 10/6/15 at 10:54 AM | Audra Jennings
Nearly 80 percent of the world’s population lives on less than $10 a day. For globally-aware parents who want give their children a glimpse of majority-world reality, long-term medical missionary to Africa J.A. Myhre has penned A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest (New Growth Press/October 6, 2015/ISBN: 9781942572084/$15.99).
This beautifully-written adventure book for young readers brings to life the African savannah Myhre calls home, inviting readers to explore the country through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy named Mu. Orphaned as a toddler, Mu has served his whole life in his great uncle’s house where he is unloved and ignored. In his drudgery-filled life, Mu has little hope of happiness and doesn’t believe anything will ever change.
On his way to draw the morning water one day, Mu is astonished when a chameleon greets him by name and announces they will embark on a quest together. Mu and his chameleon guide face peril and find unexpected allies as they journey through an ever-changing African landscape. Throughout his adventure Mu learns many things about himself and the nature of good and evil.
Myhre has served alongside her husband as a doctor in East Africa for more than two decades. While living in a very remote area on the Uganda-Congo border, Myhre noticed that although her children were avid readers, none of the books in their hands related to the world in which they lived. So she began to write short novels for them each Christmas, which they would read aloud together. “Most of the kids who hung out at our house every day had lost one or both parents and struggled to stay in school. Our next-door neighbor ended up in a rebel group,” Myhre admits. “This is reality for kids in much of the world. So I wanted a story where kids who live with that kind of challenge had courage and hope, even if they made mistakes.”
A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest gives a voice to the millions of children like Mu who must make painful, irrevocable choices along the path of growing up. Dealing with real themes African children face every day, such as forced labor, the duties of child soldiers and the Ebola virus, Myhre hopes A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest will captivate young minds and foster in them a new sensitivity toward the forgotten orphans of the world. “I think our kids are the generation that will grasp justice,” says Myhre. “They know we are all responsible to struggle for those who are oppressed. I hope by giving the poor names and stories, kids everywhere will embrace their struggles.”
New Growth Press now brings the powerful message of this story, originally told from one mother to her children, to all bookshelves, drawing families into a tale about hope, happiness and what it means to be human.
About the Author
J.A. Myhre serves as a doctor with Serge in East Africa where she has worked alongside her husband, Dr. Scott Myhre, for more than two decades. She earned her medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and completed her pediatric training at Northwestern University’s Children’s Memorial Hospital. She also received a Master’s in Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
Myhre works in the AIC Kijabe Hospital, which provides healthcare in the name of Jesus to the vulnerable people of East Africa. She has given a special focus in her work to HIV prevention and nutrition and has invested heavily in training emerging indigenous leaders. Myhre is currently spending one year living and traveling in the U.S., telling others about her work in Africa. She and her husband have four children, all of whom attend university in the States.
Posted 10/1/15 at 11:06 AM | Audra Jennings
While your heart might be in the right place, it is not unusual to feel uncomfortable or insecure when you’re around loved ones who are in the midst of a trial. The temptation to back away can be strong; after all, couldn’t they use some space? You don’t want to be a burden. Is that ever the right choice though? Is there something both of you can gain from friendship in the midst of suffering?
Bestselling author Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn answer those questions in the new book Just Show Up: the Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together (David C Cook/ October 1, 2015/ISBN: 978-1434709530/$15.99). With grace and practical advice, the friends wrote about what relationships look like in the midst of changing life seasons, loads of laundry and even Tippetts’ battle with cancer, which she tragically lost on March 22, 2015.
As Tippetts walked the road of cancer, learning to receive offers of help from friends — and the vulnerability that comes along with it — was sometimes an uncomfortable journey for everyone involved. Yet, she discovered an astounding depth of relationship with women who wanted to walk with her and her family, including Buteyn, who became one of her closest friends. “We all have tough times, but there’s a beauty that comes in doing the really hard stuff together,” Buteyn reveals. “When I look back on my time with Kara, I see a lot of tears, prayers and pain, but I also see grace and even peace. It was beautiful to walk with her, even though it hurt so much. It still hurts. But I would choose her all over again.”
Buteyn faced her own challenges as she reached out to Tippetts and her family. Maintaining friendships can be difficult even on the best of days, and troubles compound relational challenges. For Buteyn, it was hard at times to know what to say or do, and there were moments when her words sounded awkward and hollow. Along the way, though, Tippetts and Buteyn both discovered ways to meet each other in the “hard.” The book offers insightful chapters full of wisdom about the gift of silence, the art of receiving and the beauty of just showing up.
“Presence is so important in suffering because sometimes that’s really all we have to offer,” Buteyn admits. “We don’t have the right words or there isn’t anything we can do to help. Sometimes it is just about being there.” In addition to sage advice born from experience, Just Show Up offers practical tips, such as what clichés to avoid, why it’s important to be specific in your offers of help and how to avoid making your friend’s pain all about you.
Whether readers want to be present with someone going through a difficult time or find inspiration for pursuing friendship in a new way, this eloquent book reveals the power found in being present during the everyday as well as the terribly hard — and reaching out to others, no matter what.
Learn more about the life of Kara Tippetts at www.mundanefaithfulness.com. For more information about Jill Lynn Buteyn and Just Show Up at www.jill-lynn.com and on Facebook (JillLynnAuthor), Pinterest (JillLynnAuthor), Instagram (JillLynnAuthor) and Twitter (@JillLynnAuthor).
About the Authors
The late Kara Tippetts was the author of The Hardest Peace and blogged faithfully at mundanefaithfulness.com. Cancer was only a part of Tippett’s story. Her real fight was to truly live while facing a crushing reality. Since her death in March 2015, her husband, Jason, is parenting their four children and leading the church they founded in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Jill Lynn Buteyn is the author of Falling for Texas, an inspirational novel, and a recipient of the ACFW Genesis Award for her fiction work. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Bethel University. Buteyn lives near the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her husband and two children.
Posted 9/30/15 at 1:52 PM | Audra Jennings
An interview with Catherine DeVries,
Author of Let’s Learn about the Lord’s Prayer
This fall, David C Cook is launching a new series for toddlers and preschoolers that combines word and song to help young children memorize scripture. The first book in the HeartSmart series, Let’s Learn about the Lord’s Prayer (September 1, 2015/ISBN: 9780781412698/$10.99) by bestselling author Catherine DeVries, not only introduces children to Bible memory, but teaches them about how to pray.
HeartSmart is a Scripture memory series designed to create opportunities for children to fill their hearts with God’s Word. HeartSmart combines key scriptures with songs, giving parents a spiritual formation path for building a strong foundation of faith.
Q: Why did you decide to use the Lord’s Prayer as the first passage of scripture in the series?
I was thinking about what Scripture is generally memorized by children — not just one verse but a complete thought. That led me to the Lord’s Prayer. Not only is it the model Jesus gave us for how to pray, but it also invites us all to talk with God through prayer. God wants to have a relationship with us, and it is important to express that to children early in their faith development. The Lord’s Prayer is often said around the dinner table, so I also wanted to equip parents and grandparents with a natural way to invite children to participate in this tradition at home. Many churches still say the Lord’s Prayer during the service, maybe not every week, but at least a few times during the year. By knowing the Lord’s Prayer, children are also invited to participate in community worship.
Q: Emma, the narrator of your story, could be compared to another little girl popular among pre-schoolers, Dora the Explorer. In what ways are they similar, and what makes Emma unique?
This part of the series is geared toward preschoolers, so I want to offer readers an opportunity to interact with the story and even to be part of the story. When I have observed children, including my own, watching Dora the Explorer, I love how engaged they are with her. They actually do talk to her through the screen and answer her questions. It’s all part of their beautiful, creative imaginations at work. To them, talking to a screen is natural. My hope is that talking to a book also feels natural. Every time parents sit down with their child and this book, the reading experience will be slightly different, depending on the child’s response to Emma’s questions. This interactive nature of the text is true for all the board books in the series, and children will get to meet a different child in each book.
Q: Why did you choose to have Emma teach the Lord’s Prayer to her toy bear, Blueberry, instead of Emma learning it herself?
Preschool children learn through play and, more specifically, play scripts. Have you ever heard a child speaking to her stuffed animals and dolls or to his dinosaurs and legos? These times are not only fun, but they are times when children process information. They “try on” various things they have heard and start to synthesize what they are learning. It seemed natural that Emma would involve her teddy bear and want to teach it something important to her. Again, fostering that emotional connection to the Lord through relationship is so important. That’s why Emma says that Blueberry reminds her of another friend she has: Jesus.
Q: At the end of the book there is a code to download a song that accompanies the book. Please tell us more about the song.
This song is the exact wording of the Lord’s Prayer that readers will see in the book. It is a custom song created by talented musicians and sung by a mother and young child. The music is simple to follow and is a beautiful expression of this prayer. If you go to the HeartSmart website at heartsmart.davidccook.com, you will be able to download the song that goes along with each book in the series. You’ll also find updates about the series and what I’ve been up to as the author.
Q: How do songs help children learn scripture?
Songs engage the audio part of a child’s brain. Rather than just hearing the words, children will remember them better when the words are put to song. As an example, whenever my children needed to learn a new phone number or new house address, I created a simple song to help them remember it. Then we could have fun practicing it together. Thinking back to my childhood, I still remember many Bible-based songs from church: “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he!” “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” “Jesus loves me, this I know.” I could go on for a while! Not only do I still know these songs, but I also have a positive, emotional connection to them. I believe we want the same for our children.
Q: Why is it important for our spiritual life and communication with God to understand the Lord’s Prayer?
We need to remember God wants to talk with us. He wants us to share what’s going on in our lives with Him because He wants a relationship with us as His children, no matter what our age. The Lord’s Prayer is structured in such a way to teach us to honor the Lord first, to thank Him for who He is. Once we have acknowledged that, we bring our requests to the Lord — providing for our needs and helping us steer clear from temptation. With thankful hearts, we once again honor the Lord by remembering He is all-powerful and we want to follow Him in all we do.
Q: In what ways have you emphasized prayer in your own home while raising your children?
We try to have meals together as much as possible. Before we eat, we take turns praying. One person prays for us all on that day. On Sundays, we always pray the Lord’s Prayer together as a family. Brad and I have also encouraged our children to pray at night before bed. We started with, “Now I lay me, down to sleep,” but then added on blessings to our friends and family members. When the kids were old enough, we invited them to talk to the Lord about the day. We also have a tradition of praying in the car before leaving on a big trip. We ask for the Lord’s presence with us and that He will give us safe travels and protection. One other thing we do is pray whenever we see an ambulance or Life Alert helicopter. We live near a hospital, so this is a regular occurrence as we drive around town doing errands. I just love how my kids initiate it now when they see these visual reminders to pray for others.
Q: Do you think parents place enough emphasis on their children’s spiritual formation?
I think parents aren’t always sure where to begin or what to do. We can no longer assume parents have had a Christian upbringing in the church, have a good grasp of Scripture and the stories from the Bible or even feel comfortable praying. Yet we still get a strong sense they desire to give their child a spiritual foundation. The HeartSmart series is meant to come alongside parents or grandparents with encouragement and support. The beautiful thing about these types of books is the adults are learning right along with the children.
Q: We’ve all heard — and perhaps even chuckled — at the cute prayers of little children. Do you think God hears and answers their prayers?
I have learned so much about faith through the eyes of my children, as well as other children. Jesus talks about how strong the faith of a child is and how we all should seek that depth of faith (Isaiah 11:6; Matthew 19:4). Yes, I know in my heart that God hears every prayer. It is up to Him how He chooses to respond to prayers. He might not answer in the way we expect Him to, but we can rest in knowing He knows our heart, hears us and is with us every step of the way through life’s journey. He wants what is best for us (Jeremiah 29:11), and we can trust in that.
Q: Did you read a lot with your parents when you were little? What do you remember about those moments?
My mother read to me, my older sister and younger brother. I remember “seeing” The Chronicles of Narnia unfold in my imagination and being on the Minnesota prairie with Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family on the frontier. It was a special time when we gathered together, pushed pause on life and got swept away to another place. The power of reading is amazing, and when we attach faith messages and learning to it, we are talking about a lifetime faith that begins to develop and grow in the lives of children.
Q: What upcoming releases in the HeartSmart series can readers look forward to?
We will have a book coming out every fall and spring for the foreseeable future:
By the time the entire series is launched, we will have books and songs for parents of newborns and toddlers, preschoolers, all the way to children age 8.
Popular radio show host Shellie Nichol has released her first book entitled Destination: Hope –A Guide Through Life’s Unexpected Journeys (Clovercroft Publishing/STL Distribution). Nichol opens up about the most difficult moments of her life including being physically and mentally abused as a child, molested, bullied, going through two divorces, fighting cervical cancer, losing a child, suffering from an eating disorder, experiencing debilitating panic and anxiety, ADD, OCD, and a doctor pronouncing a death sentence for her first-born child. But though the trials have at times felt “Job-like,” Nichol admits she has also found the secret to surviving -- hope.
“The one thing I can tell people who go through terrible circumstances is never allow despair inside your soul, no matter how hard it is to resist,” says Nichol.” “Look at your situation as a chance to grow. View it as an incredible movie -- thrilling, dramatic, and a real nail-biter --that in the end will be inspirational because you and God did it together and you will be an amazing overcomer.” FULL POST
Posted 9/24/15 at 11:00 AM | Audra Jennings
Lynne Gentry takes readers to third-century Carthage for a thrilling time-travel adventure in Valley of Decision(Howard Books/September 22, 2015/ISBN: 978-1476746418/$14.99), the explosive conclusion to the Carthage Chronicles. In her latest release, Gentry brings her thorough research of the Plague of Cyprian to life as she examines the power of family connections.
Thirteen years ago, Dr. Lisbeth Hasting made an impossible decision to leave third-century Carthage and her husband, Cyprian, behind for good to protect their daughter Maggie. Summoning all her courage, she struggled to move on with life and keep her promise to Cyprian to keep their little girl out of harm’s way. FULL POST