Heading to the Movies!

Holiday seasons, whether they be Christmas or otherwise, tend to be times when movie makers schedule the release of their new films. It makes sense – families usually have more unstructured time, are eager to find things to amuse the children or teens and may even have more spending money. At our house several family members have been counting down months, then weeks and now days, until the release of certain films. Going to the movies can be fun and extremely rewarding, but it can also be expensive, and as parents it can involve potential risks. Compared to a DVD and home viewing – where a film can be paused mid scene to allow for some explanation, fast forwarded if something unexpected and inappropriate appears, or even have the volume turned down to minimise the impact of a scary scene – movie watching in a theatre does not allow for such tactics. It can end up being an expensive experiment with potentially harmful content.

So how can parents minimise concern when children are eager to attend a newly released movie?

1) Do your homework. 
Pay attention to the build up of momentum for a film your children are keen to see. How is it being advertised? Who is the anticipated market? Does that market match your children? Who else is interested in this film? Why are your children keen to see it? (Is it just because everyone else is going to see it? And why?)
Learn as much as you can about a film, especially one you don’t know much about. One helpful resource I use is the Focus On The Family PluggedIn reviews. Admittedly they reveal LOTS of spoilers, but they are also thorough in giving parents the ‘heads-up’ as to a film’s content, particularly in areas of concern such as language, philosophy, violence etc

2) Read the book.
If a movie is based on a book it might be worth reading the book to get the heads up to any potential content before it screens. My family did this with the Hunger Games Trilogy. I don’t think we would have watched the films if we had not read the books and understood their driving concept first. The other benefit of this tactic is that it promotes discussion, not just about film about issues, but also literacy, family values and culture.

3) Consider the ages, stages AND personalities of your children. 
Some children handle visual and auditory experiences differently to others. In a movie there is no escaping what you see, or the volume of music (which can be emotionally powerful). One of my children is exceptionally sensitive to music and can be reduced to tears by particular types. Another child feels empathy very deeply, even for fictional characters. Although one child may be fine to attend the cinema to view a film, another may be better suited to waiting for the DVD release where these issues can be better contained. This is a strategy we often use.

If you’re still not sure and feeling comfortable about taking children to see a particular film, maybe consider watching it on your own first. Sometimes a film will contain content you are not 100% comfortable with, but you still feel your children can watch it. This is okay too. Remember, anytime we bump into popular culture it gives us an opportunity to talk about how Jesus challenges the culture of the world. In fact, sometimes I think the parenting decisions around anticipated movies should not be whether or not to see a film, but how to support the viewing of it so our children grow up being critical appraisers of the culture around them, rather than absorbers of it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue.




Posted in Holiday, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Daily Bread for Kids

XG817_ODB for Kids-300Our Daily Bread devotionals have been around for decades. These small monthly booklets have been used for generations and have stood the test of time. The brand name, Our Daily Bread, is taken from the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Just as we need daily food for our bodies, we also need daily food for our souls.

Our Daily Bread for Kids is a brand new release—just in time for Christmas. I had the honor of co-authoring this book with my daughter, Teri McKinley. Rather than a paperback monthly booklet, this product is a hardcover one-year devotional book, and is the first children’s product for Our Daily Bread. The subtitle is: 365 Meaningful Moments with God.

The book is designed for kids ages 7-10, but older children and even adults can enjoy the daily readings, which makes it perfect for a family mealtime devotional. Each day’s reading includes a Scripture verse, a devotion, a “Fun Fact,” and a “Read More” suggestion which directs the reader to look up a short passage of Scripture that ties in with the reading.

Our Daily Bread for Kids is not a children’s Bible or Bible storybook. It is a devotional book that uses Bible characters and Bible stories to reinforce the lesson. For example, to teach lessons on courage we used stories about Esther, Moses, Daniel, and Peter. We also include many readings on God’s character—His greatness, holiness, and power. We told many stories of Jesus’ miracles and His ministry on earth. We enjoyed exploring some lesser known Bible stories that kids would find interesting. At the end of each reading, we help the reader see how the lesson and Scripture verses apply to everyday life—making it personal and practical. A glossary of words is included in the back as well as a topical index, making the book reader-friendly and easy to use.

To say this was a challenging assignment is an understatement. At times I felt like Moses at the burning bush saying, “Choose someone else!” But when God calls us, He also equips us. As I turned on my computer each day, I prayed for God to lead me and guide me—to give me ideas, words, and Scriptures. I prayed for the Holy Spirit’s power because I was powerless on my own. And God answered my prayers.

No matter what God calls us to do—whether it’s raise children, care for the sick, teach a Sunday school lesson, or write a book—God will work in and through us if we allow Him to and ask Him to. As the angel told Mary (December 16 reading), “Nothing is impossible for God!”

As you worship the Savior this Christmas season and all through the year, remember to give thanks to God for His unspeakable gift.


Our Daily Bread for Kids is available through the following links:





Posted in Bible, Bookshelf, Church Life, Devotions, Encouragement, Writing, Youth and children's ministry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peace on Earth

Remember the movie White Christmas? Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye came to the rescue of a Vermont ski lodge owner who was about to lose his life savings due to a lack of snow. The movie ended with the title song and, of course, a steady snowfall.

When I lived in New York, I loved looking out my window at new-fallen snow. Just a couple of inches were enough to muffle the city’s cacophony and usher in the sound of peace. Of course, it wasn’t long before the white blanket turned to gray slush. And anything more than a few inches made driving a miserable chore. It also didn’t help that trudging through snow and slipping on icy patches left me tired, cold, and grumpy.

But after living in south Florida for fifteen years, my perspective has softened. As much as I enjoy Florida’s balmy weather, by the middle of December I’m dreaming of…well, I wish I could say it was something spiritual or noble. But I have to confess, I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. Just enough snow to cover the ground with a blanket of nature’s peace.

What kind of peace are you dreaming of? Maybe your dreams are more spiritual than mine. World peace? Okay, that’s a bit lofty. How about peace between squabbling children? (World peace might be easier.) Maybe you’d settle for one peaceful, luxurious bubble bath—a whole hour to yourself with no interruptions.peaceI used to wonder why the angels announced “peace on earth” at the birth of Jesus. After all, Jesus’s coming resulted in His violent death and persecution of His followers. The angels were obviously not talking about the cessation of earthly hostilities, at least not yet, anyway.

The peace they announced was peace with God. Humanity had been His enemy—hostile to Him because of our sinful condition. But Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, brought the peace we needed by restoring our relationship with the Father.

Today, people are desperately searching for peace. On a world scale, it seems as if we move from war to war. On an individual scale, our hearts ache for peace as we struggle with loss, illness, broken relationships…the list seems endless.

But we will never experience the peace of God until we have peace with God. Only then will the peace that passes human understanding flourish in our hearts and souls. Only when we’ve yielded to the One who made peace with us will we experience the fruit of His peace.

When children hear the angels’ message of peace on earth, help them apply it, not just to the world, but to their own lives. Help them understand that because of Jesus, they can have true peace…with God and with others.

As you hear the words, “peace on earth” this Christmas…as you dream of 2015 as a new year where peace will reign…as you wish for peace for your own broken relationships…remember God has done all that is necessary to achieve peace between us and Him…and teach it to the children.

Ava Pennington

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Posted in Holiday, Parenting | Tagged , , | Leave a comment