Category Archives: God

A Handful of Helpful Books for Children

At the the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education, we are always on the lookout for great resources for parents. Whenever we discover some that will be beneficial, we do our best to pass them on to you! This week’s blog is about a handful of books that have come to our attention recently. They are written for children at a variety of ages. We hope that you find them helpful. We also hope to periodically offer you more “handfuls” of books that come our way!

13064502_10208132571623813_5266007699731931930_oFor the youngest children among us, we have found the board book called What Do You See at Liturgy? By Kristina Kallas-Tartara. This brightly-colored board book is filled with pictures of what a child will see when they go to the Divine Liturgy. The text is simple, with a delightful rhyming pattern. The photos are basic, featuring only the item being discussed on a white background, but the colorful photos are crisp and engaging. This book is the perfect size for little hands, and offers us an opportunity to help our wee ones enter into the service when their attention needs to be redirected. To learn more about this book, and/or to purchase it for a little one in your life, visit https://www.etsy.com/listing/196402444/what-do-you-see-at-liturgy-orthodox?ref=shop_home_listings.

13062316_10208132571223803_2347741077465837668_nYou may remember our blog post about Marjorie Kunch’s book, When My Baba Died. (Check out the blog if you missed it before, so that you are aware of this wonderful resource for parents to use to help their preschool-through-elementary-aged childen learn about an Orthodox funeral: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2015/06/24/gleanings-from-a-book-when-my-baba-died-by-marjorie-kunch/.) We recently learned that Marjorie Kunch has also published a companion workbook to go with the book! When My Baba Died Activity Workbook is a full-sized workbook that parents and children can read through and complete together as a way to familiarize children with the Orthodox Christian funeral service and its components. The activity workbook has activities at a variety of levels, for many different ages of readers. Among other activities, there are coloring pages, drawing spaces, places to process the experience through writing, word searches, prayers to pray together, and even a recipe for Koliva! This activity book partners well with the book itself and will be helpful for parents to use to help their children learn more about what happens when a loved one departs this life. We recommend reading and working through these books before a child experiences a loss. It could also work to have them on hand to use in the event of a loss, but when such a difficult time happens to a family, there is so much going on that it may be challenging to even find the time to process in this way. That is why we recommend using them before a child’s first experience with the departure of a loved one. If you have, when a family member departs this life, you will be able to pull these books out and revisit them, pointing out, “remember when we talked about this? See, this is what we will experience with grandpa’s funeral today…” To purchase either book, or both of them together, visit http://www.paschapress.com/services.html.

13051693_10208132570823793_4281369946063680263_nSeveral years ago when it was first published, we asked two young people to evaluate Hear Me: A Prayer Book for Orthodox Teens, written/compiled by Annalisa Boyd. You may have read their evaluations here: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/hearme. The third book we want to feature in this handful is the second edition of Hear Me. This edition is a smaller size at 4”x6”, so it is quite comfortable to hold and easy to fit in a backpack or a back pocket. Although it is smaller, the new edition contains additional prayers. It also answers more questions that young people have, and it tackles even more of the difficult subjects that young people face. This tiny book contains much needed help for our high school and young adult children, sweetly wrapped in a pleasant, “able-to-be-used-in-public-by-young-people” cover. 12932769_10208132571023798_421223402898251662_nIt is an excellent addition to any Orthodox Christian young person’s library. Purchase one (or a handful) for the youth in your life here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/hear-me-a-prayer-book-for-orthodox-young-adults/

So, there is our current handful of helpful books. What books have you recently found helpful that the rest of our community may benefit from? We’d love to know what is in YOUR hand! Please comment below to share your suggestions with the rest of us! Thank you in advance!

 

Here are a few ways that you can learn more from the authors/publishers of this handful of books:

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What Do You See at Liturgy? By Kristina Kallas-Tartara is a lovely little board book about church and is worth noting of its own accord. However, it led us also to the the author’s blog page, called “Raising Orthodox Christians” (https://raisingorthodoxchristians.com/). The blog is a wonderful resource of its own! Check out the page to find blogs about Orthodoxy, teaching children, activities that will help children to learn more about the Faith, and recipes for allergy-friendly fasting.

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Follow Pascha Press (the publisher of the When My Baba Died Activity Workbook ) on Facebook for encouragement, tidbits of humor, and additional resources related to parenting and/or the departure of loved ones. https://www.facebook.com/paschapress/?fref=ts

A side note: the publisher selects an Orthodox-related charity to receive a tithe of their income for each quarter of the year! Find out the current charity at http://www.paschapress.com/about.html.

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Annalisa Boyd, the author of Hear Me, has also written two other books: The Ascetic Lives of Mothers and Special Agents of Christ. Both are wonderful resources for Orthodox Christian families. She also offers many ideas and encouragements for moms/parents/teachers in her podcast at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/asceticlives and on her facebook page https://www.facebook.com/theasceticlivesofmothers/timeline.

 

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Gleanings from a Book: “When God Made You” by Jane G. Meyer

Jane G. Meyer’s new book, “When God Made You” invites readers of all ages to look at each person in the world and consider what God was thinking when He made them. Every spread of this gleefully-worded book introduces a child from a different part of the world, and suggests what God had in mind when He created that child. Each “person recipe” in the book, just as in real life, is completely unique and brimming with the love and enthusiasm of our Creator.

“When God Made You” celebrates each person’s extraordinary qualities, looks, talents, and interests, recognizing each facet as a gift that has been poured into that person’s life by God Himself. The book also demonstrates to the reader that God does not just give those qualities to us to enjoy, but because He wants them to be used and shared. Every child in the book, upon being created, is issued a command: to plant, to sing, to paint, to lead… The book brings to life the reality that from the moment we are created, God has in His mind the work that He has set for us to do.

Throughout the book, Megan Elizabeth Gilbert’s whimsical illustrations bring to life the individual being described. Readers can see Makani, Hikaru, Bridgid, Carmelo, and all the others in their home environment, savoring their surroundings and beginning to act on the command that God has given for them to fulfill.The illustrator has carefully captured cultural details (down to the very fabric of the traditional clothing), and uses these characteristics to effectively embellish each spread. The reader can sense the joy God has in creating each person through the charming illustrations in this book.

The book both begins and ends with this important question: “What beautiful things was God thinking when He made you?” This question – actually, the book as a whole – naturally lends itself to a family discussion on individual uniqueness. God’s plan for each person, His delight in each of us, and His love for each person are clearly demonstrated in the pages of this book. This book will be an invaluable addition to any Orthodox Christian family’s library.

Here is more about the book itself:

Take a sneak peek into the book by taking a look at the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5F5hoXb8-mM&feature=youtu.be or by flipping through a few digital pages here: https://issuu.com/ancientfaith/docs/when_god_made_you/13?e=0

Check out the “When God Made You” facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WhenGodMadeMe/

To add this book to your family’s collection, purchase a copy here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/when-god-made-you/

 

Here are a few activities your family can do together after reading “When God Made You:”

Have each member of your family draw a self-portrait and write (or describe) what God was thinking about when He made them. Hang the self-portraits up where you can all see them and enjoy them. Find ideas of unique ways to display them here: http://www.helpyoudwell.com/blog/2015/9/30/12-ways-to-display-kids-artwork

Encourage each family member to celebrate the other members of the family. Allow each person to write their version of God’s recipe for every other member of the family. What did God think of when He made the other members? Write the “recipes” on recipe cards such as this (print on cardstock): http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/when_god_made_you_recipe_card.pdf. After you’re finished, read the recipes together and talk about what you’ve written, celebrating the great things God has created in each member of the family. Display the recipe cards near your self-portraits.

Work together to make lists of words that describe each member of the family. These lists can have some similarities to each other, but should largely unique, just as the person they describe is unique from the rest of the family. Order (or create your own) a canvas art piece for each family member, featuring their name and descriptive words, as suggested here: http://www.iheartcraftythings.com/2013/07/god-made-you-subway-art-canvases.html?m=1

Challenge each member of the family to take this idea one step further: Ask each person to  think of someone they don’t get along with very well. Instead of thinking of how much they don’t like the person, have them make a list of the good things that God has put into that person. What was God thinking when He made them? (This is an excellent way to realize that God has created EVERYONE, and to look for the positive even in those whom we struggle to love.) Take some time to pray for the people who you have a hard time getting along with. After making the list of great things God put into the person/people you struggle to love, tuck the list(s) away somewhere that can be re-visited when the going gets tough with the individual(s) again. Re-visit the list to add more great things, as you think of them! And, as Fr. Andrew Harmon says in http://www.antiochian.org/love-your-enemies, keep focusing on the GOOD thing(s)!

Look at what the Scriptures have to say about God creating us uniquely. For example, read Genesis 1: 27-28, Psalm 118:73-74, Psalm 138:13-16, Job 33:4, Isaiah 64:7, Jeremiah 1:4-5, Jeremiah 36:11, Romans 8:28-30, Romans 12:6-8, and Ephesians 2:10. Select one to focus on as a family and create a piece of wall art together featuring that Scripture. Find Scripture wall art ideas here: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/scripture-wall-art/

This song called “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” combines many Scriptures as a sort of lullaby from God to each of the people He has created: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igYWIzrC9Ko

Older children and adults will be encouraged to read this blog post called “What God Says About Me.” The blog tells about the author(who has Down Syndrome)’s search through the scriptures and how learning what God says about His people brought her comfort. Read the blog at http://www1.cbn.com/devotions/what-god-says-about-me.

Consider taking this challenge from “When God Made You” author Jane G. Meyer herself: “…If your kids are interested in either writing a profile about themselves, or drawing their own portrait, with your permission we’ll be collecting these images to post on the When God Made You facebook page,and maybe on a page here on my own website. And it doesn’t just have to be kids! Feel free to send me your own writing or illustration as well!!!” She posted that challenge in this blog about her book: http://www.janegmeyer.com/blog/when-god-made-you/

The Creed: The Giver of Life

The Holy Spirit inspired the first disciples to preach fearlessly, even unto death, the good news of Jesus Christ. The holy Spirit inspires us as we struggle to live as our Savior commanded. Jesus said, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4) It is through the Holy Spirit that we abide, or stay with Jesus. The Holy Spirit abides in us and is the lifeline for our journey.

In the first words of the Old Testament, we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1,2) The Spirit was (and continues to be) the “breath” of God that gave Adam life. The Spirit is the “breath of life” for all that lives, and especially for man, who has been made in the image and likeness of God. for this reason we often refer to the Holy Spirit as the “Giver of Life.”

“God the Father created the world through the Son (Word) in the Holy Spirit. The Word of God is present in all that exists, making it to exist by the power of the Spirit. Thus, according to Orthodox doctrine, the universe itself is a revelation of God in the Word and the Spirit. The Word is in all that exists, causing it to be, and the Spirit is in all that exists as the power of its being and life.” (Hopko, “Doctrine,” p. 143)

Try this:

Help your children think about the Holy Spirit by using familiar objects (an egg, water in its various forms, and the wind) for examples, as suggested in activity #1 at http://ministry-to-children.com/holy-spirit-mystery-lesson/. Then lead your children into the scriptures to find answers to questions about the Holy Spirit as suggested in this puzzle-piece matching and scripture-reading activity (activity #2) at http://ministry-to-children.com/finding-him-holy-spirit-lesson/.

The Creed: And Ascended Into Heaven, and Sitteth at the Right Hand of the Father

By witnessing the Ascension, the disciples understood that the same Jesus who had lived among the poor and lowly was truly the God of all and would soon be glorified at the right hand of the Father. In the icon of the Ascension, we see the disciples with the Theotokos in the center, looking straight at us, lifting her arms to point to her Son, Jesus Christ, enthroned as ruler of all. “Ruler of All” is what the Greek word “Pantocrator” means. That is also the name of the icon we see in the center dome of many Orthodox churches. For us, the Feast of the Ascension is the reassurance of Christ’s living presence with us and the call for us to recognize Him as Lord and Master of all that exists.

“To say that Jesus is ‘exalted at the right hand of God’ as St. Peter preached… means exactly this: that man has been restored to communion with God, to a union which is, according to Orthodox doctrine, far greater and more perfect than that given to man in his original creation.” (Hopko, “Doctrine,” p. 107.)

“…The Ascension of Christ is seen as man’s first entry into that divine glorification for which he was originally created. The entry is made possible by the exaltation of the divine Son who emptied Himself in human flesh in perfect self-offering to God.” (Hopko, “Doctrine,” p. 109)

“The Ascension is proof that man was made for heaven, not for the grave; for glory, not for death.” (Coniaris, “The Nicene Creed,” p. 49)

Try this:  Talk about the “Pantocrator” icon together. If you need a refresher course before beginning this discussion, check out this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1a17zFbaPU and read this blog post http://www.orthodoxmom.com/2012/03/05/why-i-love-the-christ-pantocrator-of-mt-sinai-icon/. Both offer some of the symbolism behind the icon and can help you help your children better appreciate the icon! Consider making Pantocrator icon magnets like these http://thefrugalgirls.com/2010/10/marble-magnets-tutorial.html together, to stick on your fridge, in lockers, etc. to remind each member of the family of the Ruler of All’s presence in your everyday life!

Learn more about the Ascension of Our Lord. See https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/teaching-children-about-the-feast-of-the-ascension/ for a variety of ideas of ways to do so!

The Creed: Light of Light, Very God of Very God

The Creed was formed (in part) because of a popular heresy at that time which stated that Jesus was part of God’s creation: that He was just a man. Which part of the Creed speaks of Jesus as truly God?

Shortly after the legalization of Christianity in 312, the Emperor Constantine convened the first ecumenical council. (“Ecumenical” is from the Greek economos, or “household.”) Indeed the entire “household” gathered: over 300 bishops from the Christian world. They came together to combat the heresy of Arianism that declared Jesus to be a “creature” of God, rather than coequal and coeternal.

In the Creed, the Church Fathers stated that Jesus was truly God with the phrases beginning with “Light of Light.” They continued to emphasize the equality of Father and Son with the phrases, “Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father.” In the Creed, “begotten” has a special meaning assigned to it. Jesus was “begotten,” not created. Everything that exists is created by God. Only God Himself, the Trinity, is not created. Jesus existed from all time with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

“The Word, that is, the Son, was always with the Father.” (Irenaeus, “Against Heresies, Book IV,” ch. 20, section 3, 180 AD)

“Christ Jesus, the Son of God, because of His surpassing love for His creation, condescended to be born of the virgin.” (Irenaeus, “Against Heresies, Book III,” ch. 4, section 2, 180 AD)

The divine Son of God was born in human flesh for the salvation of the world. This is the central doctrine of the Orthodox Christian Faith; the entire life of Christians is built upon this fact. They Symbol of Faith stresses that it is “for us men and for our salvation” that the Son of God has come. This is the most critical biblical doctrine, that “God so loved the world that He gave his only-begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Hopko, “Doctrine,” 66)

Try this: This week, during the Divine Liturgy, pay attention to how we express our belief in Jesus as God. We state this truth during the Creed. But where else in the liturgy do we say, sing, or show it? And how do we do so? Together as a family, talk about your findings.

The Creed: One Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God

What is the first thing that the Creed states about Our Lord Jesus Christ? Why is it important that Christ is the Son of God? What does that mean for all of humanity?

Adam, who was made in God’s image and likeness, walked with God in the evenings right after the world was created. “Walking with God” is a metaphor that describes the union that first existed between God and man. Humanity was created for that kind of union with God. Unfortunately, very soon that union was broken. Adam and Eve’s sin disrupted it. Since that time, God has worked to reunite mankind with Himself. Jesus Christ, the true God and true man, achieved that reunion.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect human being. He is all God intended for each of us to be. He is Love personified. He lived his life on earth without sin and in complete union with God. His life, death, and Resurrection achieved salvation for the world. Jesus was truly God and truly man.

“Jesus Christ is the only proper Son who has been begotten by God, being His Word and first-begotten, and power; and, becoming man according to His will, He taught us these things for the conversion and restoration of the human race” (Justin Martyr, “First Apology 23,” 150 AD).

Try this: use a cup of water and a bowl of (frozen water) ice cubes for an object lesson that helps children think about Christ, who is God, taking on human form. (See page 5-6 of http://www.powermarkcomics.com/comics/pdf/Lesson%207%20-%20Seeker%20Series%20Curriculum.pdf for a detailed description of how to do so, complete with discussion suggestions.)

The Creed: Maker of Heaven and Earth

The statements about God in the beginning of the Nicene Creed include the fact that He is the Creator. Why did God create all things, including humans?

That is a good question: why did God create everything — plants, animals, humans, as well as heaven and the angels? He created everything because of love. We humans are the summit of God’s creation and He wants to live in unity with us. God made us to live in loving union with Him forever. How are we “the summit of God’s creation?” Well, He created us in His own image!

“The Creed starts with the statement of belief ‘in One God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.’ God made everything because He is perfectly good. He made everyone and everything so that all would be good and happy with Him.” (Little Falcons issue #37, “The Creed,” p. 6.)

Try this: Think about being made in God’s image in this way: Look in a mirror. You see your image there, right? That reflection, your image, is not you, yet it reflects you. So it is with God and human beings. We reflect, or share God’s qualities. God is Creator, and He gave us the potential to create. God created freely, and gives us free will over our lives. God created out of love, and gives us the potential to love. This ability to love is the attribute in which we are best able to reflect God’s image.