Monday, April 30, 2018

Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

Picture Book: Mama Always Comes Home
Author: Karma Wilson
Illustrator: Brooke Dyer
Summary: Young children will love this reassuring story in verse. It has at its core various animal mothers who are faithful to their children. They must briefly leave those they love most, but then they joyfully return. The book begins with baby birds protesting when Mother Bird must fly away.  
Despite the protests, she must retrieve a worm for herself and her babies. 
She returns with food, demonstrating her steadfast love and devotion. 
Mama Cat can't stay snuggled,
she must feed herself to sustain her milk 
 and snuggle in again. 
When a round of puppy play with Mama is interrupted by a call, 
the pups whine for her to stay. She suggests a nap 
and bounds to her human boy for another sort of play.
Later, she gladly returns to her puppies.
Even Mama Dolphin, 
Mama Chipmunk, 
 Mama Chimpanzee,
 Mama Polar Bear,  
Mama Gopher, 
Mama Mole, 
and Mama Pony must leave their little ones for a time. 
For Mamas all over the world have to go away. 
But they hurry to return to those they love most. 
Human Mama gives a hug and explains it's time for her to go. 
Daddy and child watch her leave, anticipating her return 
because Mamas always come home.   
Hanna’s Comments: When choosing PBT books, it is important to consider the experiences and family situations of those in your audience. This book offers a message you might expect all children will relate to positively, but the truth is not all mamas (or daddies) come home and not all children are primarily raised by their mamas. The last thing you want is to alienate or confuse a child so choose wisely. Also, offer a reminder that even when Mama (or Daddy or a Grandparent) is away, God is always with them. Such reminders may seem too advanced for very young children, but such reassurances will become a part of their self-talk if heard often. If this book is too juvenile for your group, forget about a book and offer older children the idea of instinctual parental love across animal species as examples of faithfulness, including humans. Older kids will have no trouble thinking of evidence in the animal kingdom. They will enjoy sharing stories found in popular media or their own first-hand observations. Then they can meaningfully transfer to their own home situations. If you want to read a picture book, stories of faithful parents abound or look for other PBT books about faithfulness in the search engine below this post or in the window in the upper right corner.  
Original Publisher & Date: Harper Collins, 2005
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up, Toddler and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: In addition to The Fruit of the Spirit verses in Galatians 5:22-23… A faithful person will abound with blessings (Proverbs 28:20); One who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much (Luke 16:10)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of young children in your faith family when introducing the concept of faithfulness or devotion.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

Picture Book: The Kindness Quilt
Author & Illustrator: Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
Summary: This story's primary setting is a classroom. Mrs. Bloom reads an Aesop fable to her class. 
In The Lion and the Mouse, the children see how a small animal's kindness 
can reap benefits and feel really good. 
The children decide that kindness should be practiced everyday. To celebrate kindness and learn the many ways it can be shown, a Do-and-Draw-and-Share project about kindness is assigned. Minna discusses this with her family. What should she do, then draw, then share with her class? Her family offers to help.  
Minna reads to her little brother and knows it's a kindness, but she's still considering her project. 
With her mother, Minna picks up litter in the park, and she takes soup to a neighbor, 2 more kindnesses. When she sits to plan her project, she realizes there are many kindnesses. 
Her brother shares his markers; that's a kindness. Her mother brings more supplies, another kindness! 
On Sunday night, Minna has many kindnesses to consider for her project. Then the project takes shape in her mind, and she gets to work. 
Other children in the class present their drawings, each of one kindness, but when Minna goes upfront,... 
she shares a quilt of kindness. Later, Mrs. Bloom invites other students to make kindness quilts.  
 The art supplies are brought out. 
The children get busy making their own kindness quilts. 
These are hung on the wall. 
More quilts are added, 
and a few more until...
the display has to be moved to a larger bulletin board. 
Eventually, a quilt comprised of students' kindness quilts gets so large that it is placed in the hallway so that all in the school can read and experience it.  
That's when other classes start adding to the quilt, 
and the kindness keeps growing and growing and growing.   
Hanna’s Comments: You have so many acts of kindness illustrated in this book that you may want to read it over 2 lessons. The advantage of such a tale is that the story and the kindnesses are so relatable to children. Additionally, this book gives you an obvious art project that will have your children considering how to practice this Fruit of the Spirit in meaningful ways. 
Original Publisher & Date: Two Lions, 2006
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K 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 benefits self (Proverbs 11:17); She opens her heart with wisdom, and 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 compassionate hearts, kindness… (Colossians 3:12) 
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of elementary-aged children who are learning about kindness or The Fruits of the Spirit

Monday, April 23, 2018

Fruit of the Spirit: Love

The amazing power of love, the first fruit listed in Paul's Fruits of the Spirit, is explored in the book below. I confess, I'm not crazy about this book. It's a little too saccharine for my taste and some illustrations don't meet the standards of most PBT books. I also apologize for the damage to the book that you'll see in the photos. This copy has been loved! Despite all these reservations, I firmly believe the idea at the center of this story! It has such potential for ministry to folks of all ages and would offer important reassurance to children. Exploring the facets and power of love is always a good idea for families of faith so consider using it as inspiration for creative programming ideas, especially if, like me, this book's shortcomings bother you. If you like the book, fabulous! Read it to those you love! 
Picture Book: The Invisible String
Author: Patrice Karst 
Illustrator: Geoff Stevenson
Summary: The story begins with twins frightened by a thunderstorm.
They rush to their mother, needing comfort. She encourages them to go back to their beds. 
The siblings want to stay close to their mom, but she reassures them that they are together even if rooms separate them. The children wonder how this can be. 
Their mom explains that her own mother told her about "The Invisible String" when she was a child. It seems that "people who love each other are always connected by a very special String made of love." 
The children are intrigued and ask how they can know the invisible string is there if it can't be seen. Mom explains that there's a tug you feel that is the love in your heart. 
When the twins are at school, the love between the three of them is still strong thanks to that Invisible String across the distance. Their love goes to Mom all the way from school. 
Her love comes to them from home. 
The kids want to know if their cat has a string. "Sure," their mother explains. 
Best friends do too. Then a profound question comes: "How far can the Invisible Strings reach?"  
Their mom explains that this kind of string is unlimited. Her son tests that idea with distances to the bottom of an ocean.
A mountain top?
On animal adventures? 
And aboard a spaceship?
Her daughter asks about performing in France. In all situations, the children are assured that The Invisible String of love will connect them no matter the distance or situation. 
The last question is offered by the son who remembers Uncle Brian in heaven. Does his string reach that far? "Yes, even there," his mother answers. 
Then their mom considers the future. She explains that even when they are older and arguing about what to watch on a screen 
or who gets to sit in the front seat of the car, The Invisible String will be there, connecting them with love. 
Reassured and no longer so afraid of the storm, the children are hustled back to bed.   
Soon they are dreaming of all The Invisible Strings that connect them to their many friends
The story ends with the comforting message that no one is ever alone. 
Hanna’s Comments: This story is an important message of the connections we have with those we love and the transcendent power of love. Notice that the author chooses to capitalize the words The Invisible String, perhaps a subtle hint of the sacredness of such love. God's love is not mentioned, but it is between every line and page. One other criticism of this story: There's some gender bias here. Notice that the son tests the limits of The Invisible String in more varied and adventurous ways (a submarine, a spaceship, a mountain top). In contrast, the daughter is seen performing on stage in Paris. Parents and folks in ministry should pay attention to subtle ways female roles are limited and male roles are elevated. We don't want our girls ambitions to be stifled. 
Original Publisher & Date: Devorss & Co., 2000
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 consider this simple but profound verse: Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:8). Also, there are Bible stories that emphasize human to human connections despite distance. Here are some familiar possibilities: David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 20), Jesus separated from his parents (Luke 2:41-52), Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), and Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:41-32, 49-56).  
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book or present this intriguing idea to a group of children or teens who are exploring being connected despite distance thanks to the power of love.