…can be tricky.

Often, sometimes intentionally and often unintentionally, we measure our spiritual growth (or the growth of others) by way of comparison. We compare ourselves with someone else.

More often than not, we compare ourselves who has been on the journey of faith longer than us, and as a result we end up feeling like a spiritual zero.

Don’t believe me… Pause for a moment and take a moment to try comparing yourself with some of the great heroes/saints of the faith–––Moses, Ignatius of Loyola, Mother Theresa. Of course, I need not expand that list any further. If you are at all like me, you probably already feel like an enormous failure––a spiritual weakling.

The other option is to compare ourselves with someone who we know we can more than stack up against. I shouldn’t have to elaborate here. After all, you know exactly what I’m talking about. When we want to feel good about our growth and maturation, we like to compare the best of who we are against the worst aspects of other people. The end result being that we emerge feeling overly confident and self-assured.

A third option, and quite likely a much more helpful means of gauging our spiritual maturity, is to compare who we were with who we are now. John Wesley commonly applied this criteria as he sought to judge the spiritual progress of the members of the early Methodist societies.1

As I look into the mirror and compare who I was with who I am, I find that far have I come, but far have I to go… In other words, I’m further in my journey of faith than I was yesterday (and, I’m definitely a whole lot further than I was as fifteen or twenty years ago), but I still have a lot of growing and maturing to do.

  1. John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley: Volume 2, 3rd edition, 14 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 74.

Dr. Kara Powell’s most recent book, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family: Over 100 Practical and Tested Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Kids, is a follow up to the earlier, Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids, which she co-authored with Dr. Chap Clark. While both books draw on research that was collected as part of longitudinal study conducted by the Fuller Youth Institute, two things set The Sticky Faith Guide For Your Family apart from the earlier book. First, The Sticky Faith Guideutilizes research that has been done in the years since the release of Sticky Faith, as well as interviews conducted by the Fuller Youth Institute during 2012-2013. Second, The Sticky Faith Guide, while referencing research, tends to be more oriented more toward the practical––the question of what one does in light of the research.

With that in mind, let’s explore the content of the book. Chapter 1 tackles the important question: ‘Why does your family need a sticky faith guide?’ In the end, you (and I) need this guide because it marries findings and ideas––theory and praxis. Chapters 2-12 focus on practical matters such as: modeling faith, showing forgiveness, relating to teenagers, the importance of intergenerational interaction, etc. Chapter 13 lays out a pathway for implementing the ideas contained in the book. (In my opinion, this chapter may appear unneeded and readers may want to skip over it. To do so, however, would be a shame, as this chapter provides the necessary connection between arm-chair theorizing and the often-scary task of translating ideas into everyday life.)

Each of the chapters begins with a story that illustrates or illuminates the question or topic addressed by the chapter. After the story, Kara delves into the research pertaining to the question/topic. The latter half of the chapter includes practical ideas that have been offered by families. This means that the ideas aren’t theory. They have been tested in the laboratory of life.

Although chapter 13 officially ends the book, two appendices have been included. Appendix 1 provides an overview of The College Transition Project Research. While Appendix 2 outlines The Sticky Faith Families Project Research. (For judicious readers who are concerned with research methodologies, data collection, etc., these appendices are quite helpful and informative.)

The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family is an excellent book. It’s an informative read for those who are involved in ministries geared towards children, youth, young adults, and families. The chapter on intergenerational relationships should be read by everyone who is involved in ministry, as it challenges (for good reason) the silo approach to ministry––i.e., specialized ministries––that has been adopted by so many North American churches. And, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family is definitely a must-read for any parent, soon-to-be parent, or anyone who hopes to cultivate enduring faith for their family and loved ones.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Goodnight, Ark, written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Jane Chapman, is part of the Zonderkidz line of books. (I recently had the opportunity to read and review another book from the Zonderkidz line: Jonah and the Great Big Fish.)  If it isn’t readily apparent, Goodnight, Ark is a children’s book that seeks to recount the biblical account of Noah and the ark in an age-appropriate manner. As an adult who is reading and reviewing the book, I’ve tried to keep that in mind.

First, let’s look at the content of the book. Admittedly, when it comes to this aspect of the review, I can’t help but comment as an adult who is well-acquainted with the story of Noah. If you are looking for a traditional retelling of the story of Noah and the ark, you’ll be rather disappointed by Goodnight, Ark. The book begins with Noah calling to the animals and ushering them aboard the ark because it is bedtime. The animals come two-by-two and the rain does fall, but apart from those two details, the vast majority of the story focuses on the antics of the animals aboard the ark as they pile into Noah’s bed-chamber for the night.

Needless to say, the story is far more imaginative than biblically accurate. Sassi is less concerned with the narrative and more concerned with creating a cute, captivating story for children. And, honestly, she succeeds. My children (ages four and six) loved the book and the plot.

The second aspect of the book that I’d like to address is the artwork. Jane Chapman’s artwork is bright, colorful and sure to catch the attention of young and old, alike. The animals are lively. The background is teeming with loads of interesting details. And Noah is quite expressive. This was quite a contrast to the artwork of Jonah and the Great Big Fish, which I found to be quite disappointing.

All in all, I’d recommend this book. It is cute and fanciful. My kids loved it. That said, however, if you are looking for a narrative retelling of the story of Noah and the ark for your children, this wouldn’t be the book that I would choose.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Jonah and the Great Big Fish is part of the Zonderkidz line of books. Intended for children ages four through eight, Rhonda Gowler Greene attempts to tell the story of Jonah in an age appropriate manner. As an adult who is reading and reviewing the book, I’ve tried to keep that in mind.

First, let’s look at the content of the book. Admittedly, when it comes to this aspect of the review, I can’t help but comment as an adult who is well-acquainted with the story of Jonah. The story begins with God instructing Jonah to go to Nineveh. He’s to tell the people of the city to repent. Jonah does not acquiesce and consequently flees. He climbs aboard a ship and sets sail. (For where, we’re not told.)  While sailing a wicked storm develops. Jonah is thrown overboard and is rescued by ‘a great big fish.’ After spending three days in the belly of the fish, Jonah wises up and agrees to go to Nineveh and proclaim the message that he has been given by God.

Overall, I was impressed by the author’s attention to detail and the fact that she did not add details––e.g. making the fish a whale. I also appreciated that she explains why Jonah was sent to the city.

That said, however, I was frustrated that the book ended with Jonah repenting and agreeing to proclaim the message that God had given him. While this is what he did, he did so reluctantly and then he became upset with God when God decides not to destroy Nineveh. In other words, by concluding the story where she did, the author suggests that Jonah is a hero, when, in fact, he’s far from it. What is more, kids are left with the impression that the people of Nineveh did not repent and that God destroyed the city. In short, the story has been sanitized and made far more palatable––the tension, struggle and temper-tantrums of the drama that is found in the biblical text have been smoothed over (or vanished altogether) to make for a cute story for children.

The second aspect of the book that I’d like to address is the artwork. No doubt, Margaret Spengler is a gifted and accomplished illustrator. However, I found the artwork rather unspectacular. While the colors are bright, the pictures appear fuzzy and out-of-focus.

All in all, the book started out strong. In fact, a couple of pages in, I was convinced that this was going to be one of the best (and most accurate) age appropriate book on Jonah that I’ve seen. And, it is. Yet, sadly, the story concludes far too early. So the big question is: Would I purchase the book? The answer, sadly, is that I would not. While it had a great deal of promise, the artwork and the abrupt ending ruined what could have otherwise been an excellent age-appropriate retelling of the story of Jonah.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”