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. Despite all these, I love 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 a resource book for creative ideas 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 between them across the distance. Their love comes to her 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 Threat 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 is still there, connecting them with love. 
Reassured and no longer so afraid of the storm, the children are hustled back to bed.   

Soon they were 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.