Monday, April 16, 2018

Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

Here’s another newly published book that directly relates to one of The Fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians. This story mostly takes place in a classroom so elementary age children will especially relate and see ways they can become more kind.
Picture Book: Be Kind
Author: Pat Zietlow
Illustrator: Jen Hill
Summary: This story begins with Tanisha's accident.
Then the unnamed narrator's words of compassion are misunderstood. 
Empathy for Tanisha builds thanks to the illustrator. The narrator struggles with what to do. 
She paints a purple picture for Tanisha but is afraid she will hurt her again so she imaginatively explores what kindness looks like.
She considers spilling her own juice, just to be more helpful. 
What is it to be kind? Cookies for a neighbor? 
Passing on some outgrown shoes?
Helping at home? 
Caring for the class pet? 
Perhaps just paying attention to her classmates with affirmation 
or invitation. 
Listening can even be an act of kindness, especially when you've heard the stories before. 
She believes being kind should be easily done throughout that day. 
And her mom suggests that using someone's name is especially kind. 
Kindness sometimes requires a lot of patience. 
The hardest (and scariest) of kindness is sticking up for a friend. Now, back to Tanisha. 
She decides that she can't solve Tanisha's problem (such great insight!), but she can offer her gift knowing that Tanisha likes purple too. 
Then her insight becomes broader. She realizes that her small gesture can grow just as she imagines how a kindness to a grandmother 
spreads to a granddaughter and then to a granddaughter's friend. 
Kindness can spread throughout her community, 
her country, 
and her whole world 
while still helping Tanisha experience kindness 
and helping her learn to be kind again and again. 
Hanna’s Comments: This is a great PBT book for lots of reasons. The narrator is authentically exploring ways to be kind. She is a wonderful model for that growing edge of spiritual formation. Be Kind offers so many relevant situations in which children can directly see kindness put into action. Many examples are tucked into the illustrations so point these out. Also, this book captures how simple acts of kindness can grow and positively affect a whole community in time. Lastly, this book highlights the spiritual practice of imagination. In just a few moments at her art desk, this narrator has some amazing insight. Consider offering new scenarios of potential kindness to your children after reading the book, but be sure to address (as this book does) when kindness is hard. Be Kind could be read to adults if you quickly translate the situations into adult contexts. Surely adults need to be talking about kindness, particularly in such politically divided and uncivil times.
Original Publisher & Date: Roaring Brook Press, 2018
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: In addition to The Fruit of the Spirit verses in Galatians 5:22-23…One who is kind is benefitted (Proverbs 11:17); She opens her mouth with wisdom; the teaching of kindness is on her tongue (Proverbs 31:26); Love is patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13:4); Be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32); Put on then… compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…(Colossians 3:12)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to group of elementary-aged children and help them see ways they can build their kindness skills and why this is pleasing to God.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Fruit of the Spirit: Love

Picture Book: Love
Author: Matt de la Pena
Illustrator: Loren Long
Summary: This beautiful new book begins with the birth of a child, but the story is about several children. The word "you" refers to each of them. This allows the images and ideas to more easily apply to the reader as well. In your case, your audience.
Sounds, smells and other sensory experiences of these children's lives are celebrated as evidence of love, as in this urban scene and...
the sky above a trailer home. 
The delight of an urban summer day and playing with the big kids is one of many examples of love here! But these moments are not all joyful. Love comes at hard times too.
When fire alarms interrupt your sleep, a neighbor reassures you that stars shine with love long after the flames die out. 
Sometimes love is harder to find such as when there's violence in your home 
or when there's violence on the TV and no one will explain. 
You might go to bed and face bad dreams, but then 
awake to find loving arms to hold you. Then you hear, "It's okay. It's okay." That's love. 
Some love gets unappreciated like the love of a parent who is at work in the morning but leaves breakfast to share. 
Love is in each deep crevice of the face of a granddad who will fish with a grandchild. 
Love is in a young girl's daydreams 
your uncle's stories, 
and the love songs of the man who sings on the street. 
Most importantly, love is in the face you see in the bathroom mirror. 
And then one day, you'll be off on your own, surrounded by family wishing you good luck, 
but it won't be luck you'll have.  Instead you'll have the love they've given you all along. Love. Love. Love.
Hanna’s Comments: This book is a celebration of the universal bonds of love, across cultures, diverse family situations, and various milestones. This is not a straightforward book. I suggest you read each double-page spread and then discuss that situation. Begin by simply asking, "Where's the love?"  You might have to start with, "What are the feelings being experienced?" Help your audience expand the sources of love from human to divine. Consider talking about God's hope or Jesus's examples and how those might apply. Ask: "Where's The Holy Spirit?" in each situation. "What are people being called to do? Why?" Try to encourage as much connection with your audiences as they will allow. This will build meaning and perhaps lead to transformation. 
This author's last publication was so impressive that it won the prestigious Newbery Award for 2016. This is unusual for a picture book. Like today's feature book, Last Stop on Market Street is all about a loving relationships but via a soup kitchen and a child's first exposure to poverty. [Here's] my post featuring that book.
Original Publisher & Date: Putnam’s Sons, 2018
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: In addition to The Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23: ... love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18); A new commandment I give you that you love one another (John 13:34); The Love Chapter (1 Corinthians 13); Let all you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14); Above all these, put on love which binds everything together (Colossians 3:14); Above all, keep loving one another earnestly (1 Peter 4:8)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of new parents or those who are anticipating parenthood. OR Read this book during a lesson series for elementary children on The Fruit of the Spirit. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control

Today begins a series of PBT posts featuring books that are about 1 of the 9 Fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We need an abundance of these in our world today! 
Picture Book: Katie Loves the Kittens
Author & Illustrator: John Himmelman
Summary: Katie is thrilled when Sara Ann brings home 3 new kittens. 
You can tell because of her happy howl 
which doesn’t go over so well with the kittens. 
Sara Ann strongly suggests that Katie stay away until the kittens get used to Katie’s enthusiasm. 
Katie is very sad. 
But Katie wants to play with those kittens so much! Later she sees Sara Ann playing with the trio. 
She tries to control herself, but... 
chaos ensues and Sara Ann reprimands her again. 
Katie misses the kittens terribly when they sleep in Sara Ann’s room that night.  
She must see them so she goes outside, 
finds the window, and looks in. 
Katie really wants to smell those sweet kittens,  
but they are too far away. Here she goes!
Sara Ann thinks Katie doesn’t like the kittens. 
Katie is very, very sad. 
The next morning, Katie finds 3 bowls of breakfast! Yum! Yum! Yum!
When Sara Ann finds her,  
Katie realizes she has done wrong.
She goes to her bed and stays there all day, very sad. Eventually she falls asleep. When she wakes…
the kittens are snuggled in with Katie! 
She wants to howl. She wants to jump. She wants to chase! But Katie doesn't. The kittens love her!
Sara Ann adds to the joy with some praise.
The story ends with more joy and not much self-control from anyone!
Hanna’s Comments: Think this book is just for kids? Imagine reading it to group of adults and then tiptoeing into issues of self-control regarding screen time, junk food, sports, and other adult obsessions. Explore why these issues are about faith and devotion to God. Consider why God is pleased when we demonstrate self-control. Your children will relate to this book, but your adults might find the conversation more meaningful if handled sensitively. You may want to begin with a confession about one of your own self-control struggles. That will leave the humor behind and steer the conversation to a level of seriousness ripe for vulnerability. 
There's a sequel that has Katie once again struggling with her self-control when a neighbor dog "invades" her home. 
By the way, if you're a student of the Enneagram (big fan here!), Katie is definitely a 7 (so am I)!
Original Publisher & Date: Henry Holt, 2008
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet, video, audiobook
Scripture Connections: In addition to The Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23: A person with no self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls (Proverbs 25:28); For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7); Supplement your faith with virtue, your virtue with knowledge, your knowledge with self-control… (2 Peter 1:5-7)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of any age folks in your faith family and consider how self-control relates to our devotion to God.