What’s the Magic Word?

When I was growing up, there was only one answer to the question, “What’s the magic word?” It wasn’t Abracadabra. I’m guessing it was the same at your house, too. “Please!” That magic word was invariably followed up with the required phrase, “Thank you.”

Please and thank you have been staples of our vocabulary for generations. Good manners weren’t a luxury, they were a necessity. But lately they’re becoming a bit scarce, replaced by rudeness and a me-first mentality.

You may be thinking, that’s not the case in our home. My children (or grandchildren) have been taught to say please and thank you. That’s probably true when they’re with you, but what about when you’re not around? Are good manners part of their DNA, or are their responses something they parrot back because it’s expected?

Do good manners carry through in their behavior when they think you’re not looking? I taught a Bible class last week that included Acts 22:12-23, in which the apostle Paul’s nephew overhears a plot to kill Paul. Another example that children are often paying attention when we least expect it! Remember the adage, “Little pitchers have big ears”?

It’s been said children learn best when the lesson is caught instead of taught. Let’s face it, remembering what we’ve been taught often takes intentionality – we force ourselves to remember, to memorize, to practice. But when we’re exposed to behavior over a long period of time, or when we observe something that piques our interest, well, that’s another story. Think about it. We don’t say, “Learn the vision,” we say, “Catch the vision.” It’s not, “Learn the excitement,” it’s “Catch the excitement.”

So how can we help children catch the importance of good manners? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Model good manners in interactions with your family. Do you say please and thank you when you ask your child to do something? Do you extend the same courtesies to your spouse?
  2. Practice kindness and good manners with strangers. Do you hold the door open for the person behind you at the supermarket? Do you graciously allow the other driver to take the open parking space? What about when you’re on the phone trying to resolve a customer service issue? Are you modeling that it’s okay to be rude if you haven’t been treated the way you deserve?
  3. Model good manners and kindness as you respond to current events or discuss the political process. Let your children “catch” the truth that political views are not exempt from good manners!
  4. Show that kindness and graciousness aren’t just qualities we need, they are attributes of God.

“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love”
(Psalm 145:8).

   “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us”
(Titus 3:4-5a).

And since God wants us to grow more like Him each day, that’s something to get excited about!

Prayer Garden

What does it mean to young children when they hear adults say, “Our prayers have been answered”? I can hear it now. The conversation might sound like this:

“When we pray,” you say, “we are talking to God.”

“When you pray,” your child asks, “does God answer out loud?”

Young children interpret everything literally. Their senses—what they see, hear, smell, taste or touch–help them understand more clearly and remember longer.

What can you do to help your young child begin to understand the concept of answered prayer? How can you make it more part of your child’s experience, easier to grasp?

Prayers aren’t often answered in a flash, in a twinkling of an eye. It usually takes longer  to see an answer, more like the time it takes a plant to grow. If you and your child check a plant’s daily growth, your child will think it’s taking forever, but the child will be able to identify the stages of growing–getting taller, leafing, budding, and blossoming. Your child will know that something good is happening.

To help connect the idea of your prayers for Nana to an answer, you need a visual aid. Help your child create aPrayerGarden. Here’s how:

1. Hang a strip of paper from near the floor to as high as you want it to be. With crayons, magic markers, etc. draw soil at the bottom of the paper. (NOTE: If this is a private matter of prayer, hang it in a private place.)

2. Cut flowers from colorful paper. Tulip shapes with writing space work well.

3. When, for example, Nana has a prayer concern, help your child to write Nana’s name, the date and details of her concern on a paper flower.

4. Using masking tape, stick Nana’s prayer flower to the paper, near the floor. Draw a stem for the flower.

5. With your child, pray for Nana. Check regularly on her condition.

6. As Nana’s condition improves, i.e. an emergency situation is reversed, health begins to return, she is released from hospital, comes home, can have visitors, goes back to church, shops at the store again, each time you receive such a report, thank God and move Nana’s prayer blossom farther up the wall and lengthen the stem. The flower seems to grow, and your child begins to see the connection between your prayers and Nana’s progress toward becoming well. The prayer flower’s moving up on the paper is a visual reminder to pray, a visual comfort, a gradual realization for your child that Nana is getting better.

So, at last, when Nana is well and comes for a visit, encourage your child to show her the PrayerGarden, the picture of her progress during your prayer times for her. It might well be that, on this day, your child will be the one to say, “Yea! Our prayers have been answered.”


Icky, Sticky, Hairy Scary Bible Stories by Jonathan Schkade

■Title: Icky, Sticky, Hairy Scary Bible Stories
■Author: Jonathan Schkade
■Illustrator: Tuesday Mourning
■ISBN: 978-0758626714
■SRP: $14.99
■Reviewed By: Cheryl Malandrinos

Rating: :) :) :) :) :)

The fact is: not all the stories in the Bible are nice. Some are scary. Some are messy. Some involve hairy guys or guys without any hair. In this zany and fun poetry collection, children learn all about God’s love and how He is willing to do anything to “lift us up and set us free.”

I’ve probably been teaching Sunday school for close to twenty years now. I can’t say I’m always the most entertaining or inventive teacher, but I know the kids are learning. The group I have at church now runs from ages five to thirteen. The challenge is in putting together lessons that span these ages. And honestly, teaching the same stories the same way over and again isn’t that fun.

Icky, Sticky, Hairy Scary Bible Stories by Jonathan Schkade has helped me share more of the Bible with my students than ever before. From Jonah and the whale to demon pigs falling off cliffs, from the healing of Naaman to Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, from Hezekiah’s plea for God to stop the attack of Sennacherib’s army to the truth in the Book of Revelation and more, these simple and funny rhymes not only engage youngsters, they help kids remember what they learned. Complemented by the wacky artwork of Tuesday Mourning, I find myself using this book time and again to share God’s Word.

Why do I know this works? Because months after reading, “Baldy, the Boys and the Bears,” my students can still tell me the details of Elisha cursing the forty-two boys for mocking him. They can still tell me the story of Esau and Jacob, because “A Hairy Scary Man” made it fun to learn. They also recall the death of John the Baptist, as told in, “Head on A Plate.” Starting off Sunday school lessons with fun allows us to have more meaningful discussions that all the children can participate in.

I purchased a copy of this book to use for our church’s Sunday school program. I received no monetary compensation for this review.

Letters and Love From Afar

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these…you did for me.”  Matthew 25:40

Recently my six year old brought this verse home from Sunday school to memorize for her weekly assignment and it is one of my favorites.  A reminder that Jesus loved and embraced all – and that we should as well.  In an effort to extend ourselves as a family to those with little hope, this year we began our sponsorship of two children in Zambia through World Vision.  It has been a tremendous growing experience for us all as we try to understand what it would be like to struggle just to find enough food to eat and have clean water.

Through our sponsorship we have been encouraged to reach out to our children in many ways.  One way we have done this is to send letters and pictures.  Instructed not mention possession and things that we have, my girls found it a bit difficult to find questions they could ask so they could get to know our sponsored children.  Not able to ask about favorite toys, TV shows or books made it challenging.  As I helped my three year old draft her letter, I looked over to my oldest intently writing a letter of her own.  My heart melted when I read her thoughtful inquiries “I have a best friend, do you?  I have two sisters, do you?  I like to kiss my mommy at bedtime, do you?”  Whether in the United States or Zambia, the most or the least, six is still six and six year olds everywhere can love on their mommas and confide in a best friend!




Tell Me That Old, Old Story

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

Everything was set and ready for my author visit the next morning. At least that’s what I thought until I ran through my familiar story using brand new props.

After reciting the first few lines my mind went blank. I started and stumbled again and again like it was the first time I’d ever read the book. Since I was the author, you’d think I’d memorized the words by now, but like any other book read sparingly, I stumbled over the details.  

It’s like that with God’s story too, isn’t it? We think we know His story because we’ve heard it repeatedly, but if we haven’t recently read it, our memory fails us. Oh, we might remember enough to paraphrase scripture; we might quote our favorite verses successfully, but story details blur.

Paul states in Romans 15:4, that the Bible “was written to teach us so that, [through the endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures], we might have hope.” It’s not just a history book filled with exciting details of people’s lives just for entertainment’s sake. Rather, God commanded his words be written down so that we might be encouraged through it and pass God’s story, His hope from generation to generation. 

Now, the next time we’re cuddled up with our little ones reading their favorite storybook let’s remind ourselves to tell them that old, old story (God’s story) so that they too might have hope.

Dawn Aldrich
Inspirational Blogger at Dawn’s New Day
Author of Auntie’s House(2009, Halo Publishing Int’l)