“You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 1:18-19)
First Ask Why by Shelly Wildman.
Though not an actual “devotional,” this book pushes parents to create a framework for how they can engage in faith growing experiences with their children. In the first pages, she describes her own beginning attempts to nurture her daughters’ faith. Some of those attempts went according to plan. Others ended in the frustration familiar to many parents who encounter the reality of intentional teaching among restless bodies. The story drew me in as I resonated deeply with her desire to reconcile God’s commands for parents and the reality of trying to implement a plan. Wildman proposes that asking “Why” we do what we do as families will lead to organic opportunities to for discipleship. It does not mean intentionality is forgotten but asking “why” pushes us to prioritize the ways a family uses their time, energy, and resources. There are a lot of “how to books” but families have different shapes and no one model can adequately help. As a parent myself, I found the information, grounded in scripture, practical. It felt as if a friend was sharing wisdom gained from experience. The questions at the end of each chapter challenge reflection and implementation.
Pray A to Z by Amelia Rhodes
This book transforms the way you see others in your community. If you are familiar with a prayer walk, this book takes that concept to the next level. Arranged in alphabetical order, each page offer a brief introduction to a topic of prayer including: alcoholism, cancer, divorce, depression, estranged relationships, law enforcement, Jehovah-Jireh, Truth, and Wisdom. Our family uses each topic as our weekly them of prayer. Something holy happens when you pray for those you randomly see in your daily interactions. God opens up our eyes and the Holy Spirit puts a nudge in our hearts as we encounter those for whom we pray.
No More Fear for Kids by Johanna Reardon
Finding a family devotional book that speaks in a language that draws kids in is challenging. “Fear” is a common issues children face. The stories that introduce each lesson contain elements of situations that children will most likely have experienced. Bullying, staying overnight away from home, and fears of earthly disasters are common sources of children’s fears. Rather than dismissing them with a scriptural platitude, the author confronts them head on. Questions are offered at the end of each lesson which help the family members engage with one another and gives them a chance to listen to one another. In addition, the scriptural support and prayer places hope in their hearts. In addition, a characteristic of God becomes the theme woven through the whole lesson. I wish I would have had this book when my children were younger. It’s aimed towards the 8-12 year age group.
The Teenage Prayer Experiment Notebook by Miranda abd Noah Threlfall-Holmes.
I picked up this little gem at a writing conference. The book stands out from traditional devotional books for kids/teens for two reasons: 1) It is written by a mom and her teen son. 2) Hands on application involves some really creative and culturally relevant methods of prayer. The introduction sets the premise: “This is not a book to teach teenagers about prayer. It is a book to encourage teenagers to try out prayer for themselves.” Each experiment includes an introduction (including its, the experiment itself, space for notes, and comments from other experimenters (including Noah). Ideas include creating a prayer space in a virtual world, bedroom door prayers, coloring the Bible, modelling a Bible passage using legos, and Nerf gun confession. Although this book is intended as an individual devotional book,it can easily be used as a family or youth group resource. http://teenageprayerexperiment.blogspot.com/p/running-prayer-experiment-workshop.html
The Bible Project https://thebibleproject.com/
The digital age is reality so it makes sense to incorporate Bible teaching venues into it. Founded in 2014 by friends Timothy Mackie and Jonathan Collins, “The Bible Project is a non-profit animation studio that produces short-form, fully animated videos to make the biblical story accessible to everyone, everywhere. ” The videos fall under five categories: series, themes, word study, old testament and new testament. Compelling story telling and creative animation draws the audience to watch these short clips (most are under five minutes). My family has found this resource to provide a springboard for discussions that normally are challenging to initiate with your kids. (ie: hey, what do you think about praying the Shema? How about those Covenants?). You can watch these videos on the site as well as youtube. I guarantee your kids won’t be the only ones gaining Biblical knowledge.
Today, Elisabeth Klein guest posts about navigating through the Christmas season when you are not feeling “merry.” Welcome her!
I went through a period of feeling lost. Sad. Blah. Passion-less. I purchased a book to help me work through the sad state I was in and I was clicking right along. I did everything it told me to do: I came up with a life timeline, listed the negative points, processed the redemption that has come from each, and decided upon my five primary roles. This was all good and fine; I felt like I was accomplishing something.
And then…and then I hit a wall.
So I did what I usually do when I hit a wall: I spent some time with my mentor. And I was telling her about this process that I was making myself go through and how, when I got to the step where it asked what my ambitions were – how I wanted to live out my life in each of my five roles – how I hit a wall and couldn’t think of anything to write down under any of them, after thinking and praying about it for several days.
I told her that for the past twenty years, I’ve had various passions. Mothering young children, then women’s ministry, then social justice. That I’d poured myself into each of these things, wrote about these things, been an advocate for these things. But that right then, I didn’t have a passion for anything.
And she said, “I have your answer.”
“Okay,” I said. “What is it?”
And then she said something like this, “Years ago, when people lost someone they loved, it was expected that they would mourn for a year. They were given black arm bands to wear. They even put black wreathes on their front doors. They were to rest and grieve and heal. They even had places in the middle of their town called Melancholy Park where they would be allowed to go and just sit. Can you imagine? No one would bother them, no one made fun of them, no one pushed them to get back into their regular lives. They were not only allowed but encouraged to do the grieving work, for a year.”
I sat there, tears streaming down my face, not even four months past my divorce at the time.
She continued, “You have lost something big. Picture yourself with a black arm band. Let yourself rest. Let yourself grieve. Let yourself heal. I’ll let you know if I think you’re not doing enough. But right now, just rest. Because if you don’t do the work now, it’ll come out eventually.”
I went home and put that book away. The process of finding my new place, my next chapter, my next thing, would wait a few months. (Okay, many months.) Because in that moment, I had the deeper work of rest to accomplish. How I wished I could live in Melancholy Park. (She says we can only visit…)
Is this you this Christmastime? Do you need permission to visit Melancholy Park? You have it. I’m giving it to you. Go rest and be sad.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. –Psalm 34:18–
God, I am sad. Sadness is hanging over me like a cloak that is too heavy for me to wear. Please meet me in Melancholy Park. Please help me not feel guilty for feeling this way. Please help me walk through it with your grace and mercy. Amen.
If this post resonated with you, Holidays for the Hurting: 25 Devotions to Help You Heal would be your companion through this season.
Elisabeth Klein is the grateful wife to Richard and grateful mom and stepmom to five. She writes, speaks and mentors women in difficult marriages, those going through divorce, single moms, those dating post-divorce, and those who are remarried and stepmothers. You can find her at www.elisabethklein.com.