I still smile as I envision this beautiful picture Bible, The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes, by Kenneth Taylor, sitting atop my nursery dresser, part of the decor of every one of my nurseries–from the pastel “Care Bear” motiff nearly thirty years ago to the last one, a dozen years ago, with toys and hues of deep green and navy. It didn’t matter the color scheme or decorating theme, this Bible was at home in every nursery.
I smile even more, though, when I think back to the hundreds of mornings in which I snatched my little angelic being from his or her crib (after we put the toys in the toy basket in the corner of the crib–you can never start teaching “chores” too early!), telling that child how much Mommy loves her, how much Daddy loves her, how much Brother loves her, how much Sister loves her, and how much Jesus loves her.
I wrapped that sweet bundle in that day’s favorite blankie, and the two of us got cozy in the nursery’s rocking chair. Depending on the age, we would nurse, rock, sing, recite rhymes and verses (or sing verses), and talk about how amazing she was, how soft she was, how great she was going to be in God’s kingdom.
When the feeding and singing were done, it was Bible time–actually, it was “Little Eyes” Bible time–for that is what my toddlers and preschoolers called this precious nursery Bible. (I get misty-eyed thinking of the toddler snatching that Bible off the dresser and following me around with it, saying, “Little Eyes Bible, Mommy?” I have to keep myself from wishing I had stopped what I was doing and read more often…)
After a story or two (the stories are short, just perfect for toddlers or young preschoolers), the “Little Eyes” Bible would get propped back up on the dresser, that cherished spot where this beautiful nursery Bible stood for nearly two decades. And we would start our day, busy, full, precious days that nearly always began with the nursery Bible.
Note: For a thorough review (and where to purchase the original version of this Bible used), see the following link from an earlier blog post: http://charactertrainingfromtheheart.blogspot.com/2010/01/day-thirty-two-start-young-with-bible.html
A few years ago I wrote a “Holiday Musings” article for Training for Triumph’s newsletter. It has a lot of the same ideals that you will find in this blog—in season and out of season! However, I want to share it with you this Christmas. I pray that you will be moved and encouraged by it.
by Donna Reish
I love Christmas! I love giving gifts to my children; I love lights and beautiful decorations; I love doing family activities over and over again every year; I love baking goodies and giving them away. I even have a verse to substantiate my desire to give good gifts to my kids at Christmas time: “If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your father, which is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11). I mean, God knows that even we mere mortals love to give good gifts to our kids!
Although all of the things in my “I love” list above are somewhat “unspiritual,” we have found through the years there are some common threads that we try to emphasize/do during the Christmas holiday—some to remember and ponder what Christ has done for us more fully; some to deepen our relationships with each other; some to show Christ’s love to the world. Allow me to give you a list of my holiday musings.
1. Think about, talk about, sing about, and remember the true reason for Christmas as a family throughout the month.
We have found many things that help us focus on the birth of Christ more and more throughout December: singing carols together; reading Christmas picture books with the littles in the afternoons; collecting nativity scenes; reading from chapter books that emphasize the birth of Christ, such as Max Lucado’s Cosmic Christmas, Gene Edwards’ The Birth, and Marjorie Holmes’ Two From Galilee; going to community events that point us back to the reason for the season, such as Christmas plays, live nativities, walks through Bethlehem, Christmas cantatas, movies, and plays that emphasize the coming of the Savior.
2. Create family traditions.
We have too many holiday traditions to list in just one short article, but research has born out the importance of traditions in building a child’s outlook on many things—and it is so obvious when you hear children talk and repeat that mantra: “We always…” There is something about being able to say that “We always …” or “In our family, we… “
Two of our favorite traditions are decorating the house together and reading inspirational Christmas stories throughout the month of December. Our older kids laugh until they cry as they give play-by-plays of each ornament making ordeal we have gone through. (Our tree is decorated with only home made ornaments—another tradition we have is that of making ornaments together.) Anyway, they have a joke of holding up the sample ornament (one that I bought that we were modeling after) and holding up one of ours and chiming, “Sample ornament; Reish ornament” over and over. Then they tell about the time I threw the cinnamon sticks across the room in a fit of Christmas stress as we tried to make the “ornaments in a minute” out of cinnamon sticks. Then we all laugh some more—and I try my best to keep from crying as I think about Christmases gone by—and wonder where the years have gone and long for just a day from a Christmas ten or fifteen years ago.
Traditions do not have to be elaborate or expensive. Some of ours (besides the decorating night and ornament making) are as simple as watching certain Christmas movies while we wrap gifts; eating shrimp alfredo while we watch White Christmas; reading about holiday traditions each morning; learning a new carol together each year (all the verses!); having the kids exchange their gifts with each other on Christmas Eve; reading inspirational stories each night before bed; reading one of the Gospels during the month of December; etc.
3. Think about Jesus’ entire life—his birth, life, death, and resurrection—not just his birth.
Linking the Christmas story to the fact that without it we would have no hope of salvation is important, especially with younger children. Two ways that we do this include discussing, reading about, and singing about the names of Christ and what they mean throughout the month; and reading one of the Gospels—not just the Christmas story—during December. This helps us focus on our salvation even more. (Another thing we have done to focus on Jesus’ entire life is to listen to Focus on the Family’s radio theatre “The Luke Reports.” I will put links to some excellent resources throughout December, so check back frequently!)
4. Reach out to those less fortunate—and do so in a way that costs you and your children something.
I know that doesn’t sound very “Christmasy”—good cheer and mistletoe and all (btw, I love mistletoe if the right “mistletoe-ee” is around!), but taking a can to a canned food drive or parents buying gifts for the children to leave at the angel tree are not sacrifices for our children—and do not do much to teach our children the true meaning of Christmas—and the true meaning of sacrificial giving.
When I speak of reaching out to those less fortunate, I am talking about giving up time (a few evenings or days?) and money (money with which a child could buy himself something). I’m talking about doing hard things. I’m talking about getting dirty, being inconvenienced, etc. I know that sounds strange, but honestly, what could we possibly do or give that would be too much for our Lord? Find true, meaningful service projects for your children—extensive time spent at a nursing home or group home caroling, making cookies with residents, reading to them, etc.; earning money to be used to give gifts to truly poor or forgotten people (like county home residents or the disabled); going out into the homes of people who never have a Christmas visitor; serving food at a soup kitchen; cleaning mattresses at a rescue mission. Focus on others more than ever before this Christmas—your children will thank you for it eventually. (For the new year, read the stories written by the author of Mandate for Mercy (also the founder of the Mercy Ship ministry) about how his mom made his family squeeze together in the car every week to pick up poor and desperate people to take them to church—and the impact this had on this man causing him to spend his life on the poor and desolate—this is the kind of reaching out we are purporting here.)
5. Reach out to your relatives.
Yes, those strangers who are watching “bad” things on television the whole family get together while puffing away on their cigarettes. Teach your children to go to family get togethers to serve—not to judge. Start out teaching your children about this concept of serving relatives with a Bible study (ahead of time) on “being great in God’s kingdom by serving” and “doing for others asking nothing in return” and “being a light by your good works.”
Then, if it is true, tell your children that you have been more concerned about yourself than you have of others at past family get togethers. And that you want your entire family to change all of that. That you want to “do your good works that others would glorify your father in heaven.” Discuss ways that you can do this during this holiday season: working harder to make good dishes to the gatherings (no lentil casserole, please—bless these people with fat and sugar!); helping with young cousins; encouraging grandparents; helping to set up and take down; being kind to each other as an example of family unity to those who might not have any idea what that looks like.
(Note: Because I always get asked this, I will put a caveat here—I am not talking about reaching out to relatives in any way that would put your children in danger. We recommend that your children never be left with non-Christians and never be put in situations in which they could be harmed.)
6. Really talk to others this holiday season.
Your ministry of bringing your relatives to Christ will begin not with your family’s judgment of them, but with your interest and concern for their lives in general. Jeff Myers, leadership specialist, founder of Passing the Baton, and current president of Summit Ministries (as of 2012), gives the following list of things to discuss this year with relatives young and old. Some are one-on-one types of discussions while others would work well for group discussions**:
Express thanks to someone in the room for something they did for you.
“I’m thankful for…” Finish the sentence.
If you could have the attention of the whole world for 30 seconds, what would you say?
One thing I’m thankful for about our country.
What is the key to success in life? Why do you say that?
Tell about a lesson you learned the hard way.
What are some ways life is different now than in the old days?
Tell a story of a decision your ancestors made that changed the direction of their lives-and yours.
Tell about a lesson you learned by watching someone else.
“A person I would like to honor publicly is…”
“Time and money aside, I would rather be…”
Tell about an experience that changed you for the better.
Tell a story about something that started out bad but had a happy ending.
“My first hero was _________.”
Tell about a time when you showed courage.
Describe a teacher who had a significant influence on your life.
Tell about an invention that made your life easier.
“The most admired public figure when I was growing up was ____.” Tell a story.
Tell about a memorable event in your life.
“A famous person I’ve met is _____.” Tell about the experience.
“I got in so much trouble…” Tell the story!
**Note: These are good to print off and use as dinner discussion for your immediate family, too!
6. Express genuine gratefulness to God and others.
December is a month to really display the quality of gratefulness—and to teach your children to do so too. Not just mere ”thank-you’s”—but sincere thanksgiving to God for His Son and for others for everything they do for us. Teaching children to say thank-you, write thank-you notes, etc. is a start. However, gratefulness begins with the realization that everything good we have comes from the hand of God. That we are nothing without Him. And that He knows what we need more than we do. It is deepened when we give up materialism—the idea that we have to have this or that in order to be happy—and focus instead on the good things God has done for us. Thoughts on materialism would require an entire article in itself, but when we have to have things to make us happy, when our mood and outlook change as a result of getting more and more, or when we cannot be happy in whatever situation we are in (materially speaking), we are probably steeped in materialism. Praying through this, sharing with our family the importance of giving up our ideas that we somehow deserve this or that, focusing on gratefulness for all that God has done for us outside the material things we are lacking—these are ways to feel and exhibit true gratefulness.
7. Spend quality time reaching into your children’s hearts.
That’s a tough one, huh? I mean, the busiest time of the year, and we have to add another thing to the list. I remember vividly eighteen years ago when I had five kids ten and under. I still had younger siblings at home who would come and spend a lot of Christmas week with us. I made four Christmas dinners in a row for various relatives. I got up early in the morning to make home baked bread and rolls and went to bed late at night to get the overnight breakfast casseroles in the oven. I get tired just thinking about it. I was trying to serve others, but found myself distanced from my kids by the time the holiday week was over. I can remember looking at Joshua, then ten, one evening after the relatives had all left, and calling him over to ”sit in Mommy’s rainbow” (my bent legs as I lay on the sofa)—and he seemed so far away. I had been with him all week—I was usually with my older kids all the time as they did not have any older siblings to take them anywhere like my littles now have! However, I felt so far from him. I had let the busy-ness of Christmas keep me from those I love the most. Now I have to remind myself that one more home made goody or one more shopping day is not worth distancing myself from my children. Stay close. It’s Christmas!
This Christmas I pray that all of us can ”keep Christmas” in a way that glorifies God and teaches our children deep Christmas truths.
*Copyright TFT 2008
#3: Bible Talks
Bible Talks with Dad were another time to not only talk, but also to teach. They were just as the name suggests—times in which the kids and Dad talked about the Bible.
While Malachi Time was usually one-on-one, Bible Talks with Dad were often two or three kids at a time with Dad. Malachi Time was often picture books or heart talks. Family devotions/family worship were usually the entire family together studying something or reading aloud from a devotional. Bible Talks, on the other hand, were just that—talks about the Bible.
The reason Bible Talks were often two or three kids at a time is because we began Bible Talks with Dad with the boys when there was a big age/learning level difference between the “olders” and the “littles.” Thus, Ray could talk to the kids at their levels.
Another benefit of Bible Talks is that they did not require any books. As a matter of fact, Bible Talks often took place on the road or all stretched out across the bed. Very informal. Read a verse (or bring a verse on a card) and talk about it. No fancy handbooks or concordances—just what do you think this verse means or how can we apply this to our lives?
Bible Talks are a good way to show kids that the Bible is relevant to our entire lives. That it is something we want to talk about, learn about, and live. That we should discuss applications in our lives all the time. Plus, it’s just another “terrific time to talk” to our kids!
“You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” Deuteronomy 6:7
In our last post, we described our morning (and after nap) times with our toddlers. TodayMy B I will give you links to some of our favorite early children’s books/Bibles. See our blog at http://www.positiveparenting3-6-5blogspot.com/ for more reviews of resouces to use to teach your children the Bible and character!
“My Bible Friends” http://www.kidenergy.com/14-002.html
“Leading Little Ones to God” http://www.sonlight.com/BB01.html
“The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes” http://www.moodypublishers.com/pub_productDetail.aspx?id=41823&pid=53160
“Bible Time Nursery Rhyme” http://www.amazon.com/Bible-Time-Nursery-Rhyme-Book/dp/089081404X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1306172724&sr=1-1
“Christian Mother Goose” http://www.christianmothergoose.com/
“My First Hymnal’ http://www.rainbowchristianstore.com/product.asp?sku=0634056727
“The Beginner’s Bible” http://beginnersbible.com/
“The Early Reader’s Bible” http://www.christianbook.com/the-early-readers-bible-revised/v-beers/9780310701392/pd/07062
“You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” Deuteronomy 6:7
Today I will list (along with links and short annotations) some of the “collections” that we have used with our “littles.” Some of these are spiritual in nature; some were used for Bible/character reading for morning devotions (“when you rise up”); some were used for story time and other fun reading times. I am going to put all of them here, regardless of how/when they were used, so all “collections” are together. Happy reading!
”The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes”—one of our first Bible picture books; this book was one of the first story Bibles that I did with my little ones (after cardboard Bible stories, etc. for toddlers); I review it at the link given below—it is worth searching for the original one—the illustrations are so beautiful, not whimsical like the newer one: http://positiveparenting3-6-5.blogspot.com/2010/01/day-thirty-two-start-young-with-bible.html
“Leading Little Ones to God”—catechism for kids! Great “collection devotional” for young ones; introduces children to attributes of God, basic tenets of the faith, and more—all at a preschool level: http://www.sonlight.com/BB01.html
“Answers for Kids”—these little books are perfect creation science books for preschoolers; they are the children’s counterpart to the “Answers Book” for older kids and adults; colorful; answer questions that kids have about creation, the truth of Scripture, dinosaurs, Genesis, and more’ even though this is not divided into “days” like many of my “collections” are, you can still do an entry a day, making it a perfect “collection” for littles: http://www.answersingenesis.org/PublicStore/product/Answers-Book-for-Kids-Set-The-Volumes-1-amp-2,5728,184.aspx
“Case for Kids” series—these little books are the children’s counterpart to Lee Strobel’s “Case for” series for older kids and adults; while not as colorful or quite as “preschool” as the “Answers,” this series is great for answering tough questions about Scripture in a child-friendly way (more for ages six to twelve than preschool); each “entry” is a question with its corresponding answer:
“Oxford Illustrated Children’s Book of American Poetry”—We have used this book when we are studying American history, reading a poem a day during morning reading; not all of the poems are necessarily “children’s poems,” but they are illustrated and fun, for the most part:
“Tales of Beatrix Potter”—while individual stories are less cumbersome to hold (and not so heavy!) and often more elaborately illustrated, we have loved our children’s “collection” story books, such as these stories from the famous children’s author; there are beautiful illustrations scattered here and there, as well as many tales, some of which are lesser known ones: http://www.amazon.com/Beatrix-Potter-Complete-Tales/dp/072325804X
“Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories”—one of my oldest “collections”; we got these from a door-to-door salesman when Joshua (now 28) was a baby; these used to be found in doctors’ waiting rooms everywhere; they are older type of character stories about children who did or did not display various character qualities; I recommend the original five-volume set—the newer, shorter ones are not as well-illustrated and a little “girly” looking with their pastel covers; while these are older stories, their topics are timeless—honesty, obedience, kindness, trustworthiness, submission, respect; all of my kids have loved these (and it isn’t uncommon for my adult kids to get them off the shelves and look through them when they are home!):
“Curious George Collection”—this one speaks for itself—over a dozen Curious George books in one volume:
“Six by Seuss”—six Dr. Seuss books in one volume, some of which we do not even have in individual books:
“James Harriot’s Animal Stories”—this lovely book is the children’s counterpart of James Herriot’s adult stories:
“Character Sketches”—the number one most age-spanning devotional that we have ever used; we started this with our four year olds and I still use it every week for our twelve and sixteen year olds; it is “individual entry” if you do all of the animal one on one day (about 15 mins reading) and all of the Bible one on another day (again 15 mins reading); my review of it is given at the provided link: http://positiveparenting3-6-5.blogspot.com/2010/05/day-136-character-sketches-review-faith.html
“Cloud of Witnesses”—this compilation of sixteen godly heroes is a biographical compilation written at a third or fourth grade level—good for reading aloud to younger kids and for new and emerging readers to read for themselves; introduce your children to godly heroes such as Amy Carmichael, Billy Graham, Hudson Taylor, DL Moody, William and Catherine Boothe, and George Mueller, among others; this book was written by our now-missionary nurse daughter when she was sixteen years old: http://www.tfths.com/
“Hero Tales”—this three volume compilation of godly heroes is also written at third or fourth grade level; hardcover, so a little pricier, but if you desire to read biographies “more often than not” to your kids, you will want to get this collection:
“Stories to Read Aloud” and “More Stories to Read Aloud”—these collections of stories are amazing; selections from Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Robert Frost, O Henry, and more—specially arranged for children five and up—but our teens love all of these stories! http://www0.epinions.com/prices/Classics_to_Read_Aloud_to_Your_Children_edited_by_William_F_Russell
“Hey, Listen to This” by Jim Trelease—another great book of read aloud stories!
“What the Bible Is All About for Young Explorers”—
Punctuation note: As the author of over forty language arts/writing books, I know that titles of major works (books, etc.) should be in italics when they are typed/keyed (and underlined when writing by hand) and that minor works (magazine articles, encyclopedia essays, etc.) are to be surrounded by quotation marks. In the blog, however, I generally put major works AND minor works in quotation marks because the blog seems to lose some of its formatting, including italics and underlines at times.