Category: The Influence of Christian Faith Page 1 of 9
Our family had the opportunity in December to watch A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks, who, by the way, did a fabulous job portraying Mr. Rogers. It would not surprise me if he won an Oscar. It helped me understand the heart behind the man so dearly loved by his young viewers. What can we learn from this children’s icon?
Reflecting on my childhood, I can’t believe my mother never introduced me to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. I’m sure he would have brought peace into my sometimes troubled heart. Instead, Garfield Goose filled our screen. Are you old enough to remember the program? You can watch an excerpt HERE.
In rewatching a few minutes of Garfield Goose, we are introduced to a few new ideas which concentrate primarily on information, with a bit of humor thrown in. Mr. Rogers, on the other hand, focuses on feelings. Sure, he exposes children to many new things as well, but all with concern for the young viewer’s heart. Many of the topics Fred brings up, are issues children deal with sometimes on a daily basis. Death, divorce, bullying, prejudice – the list could go on.
What Was His Attraction?
After watching A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, I understood what attracted me to this iconic figure, and why I would have cherished him as my mentor: compassion and patience. Two traits I lack in spades. Oh, not that I’m not compassionate when others are hurting. No. It shows up when I face those who have chosen a wrong path, have hurt others, or are generally un-loveable. But, according to Mr. Rogers, there are no unloveable people; only those who need to be heard, understood and loved — just the way they are.
I admired his patience as he waited for a response in conversation. He felt no need to fill in the silence with platitudes or advice. His goal was to listen and accept each person on the journey they were taking, praying daily for many as he took an early swim.
That’s why I’m thankful his legacy can continue on at the Fred Rogers Center where they pass on his mission as they help children grow as confident, competent, and caring human beings.
I wanted to know what made the man we know as Mr. Rogers? Biographies tell us he was a minister who loved God, his fellow man, Scripture, and prayer. His Christianity shone through.
Mr. Rogers Quotes
Here are a few quotes from Mr. Rogers that we all need today, compiled by Geoffrey James:
“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”
“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”
“We speak with more than our mouths. We listen with more than our ears.”
“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully, your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”
Enjoy getting to know Mr. Rogers more fully in this trailer of another film that debuted last year, more of a documentary with Fred himself as the star.
If you’d like to see episodes from years past, find them here on Mr. Rogers’s official website. They are precious black and white footage from days gone by. Why not watch a few with your family and reminisce? If you want to get to know the puppets and their role in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, check out this LINK.
A few days ago, I listened to Janet Parshall’s In the Market podcast You Are Special where she hosted Amy Hollingsworth, one of the few journalists allowed to interview Mr. Rogers, due to a rebuttal she made to an article maligning this gentle man. For over a decade, they conversed, exchanged emails and shared thoughts about life and faith. Amy was the last one to receive a letter from the humble star young viewers loved. Listen to the In the Market podcast HERE.
What does this have to do with the craft of writing?
Hmmmm. . . I had to think about that one. Mr. Rogers was engaging. He was genuine. And he loved children. He told stories about real people in everyday situations. Senarios children would experience during their young lives.
Death. Divorce. Loss. Anger. Friendship. Kindness. Jealousy. Fear. Bravery.
He helped them deal with the scary things in life and made peace with them. Then showed the good side of folks we all can emulate. And isn’t that what we strive to do in our writing? Connect with our readers where they are.
Be truth-tellers — even in a scifi or fantasy world. Be heart-healers — giving hope to others via our words. And, be bridge-builders to a better world where all things work together for good — in God’s kingdom.
What about you? What do you hope your readers take away when they read your work? Share your thoughts below!
**post repurposed from my author’s blog.
Just a few weeks ago, my husband and I were involved in a hit-and-run accident with an 18-wheeler. It brushed the side of my Honda Civic and sent us spinning across the highway and flipped us onto the grassy shoulder.
Thankfully, we sustained only minor injuries, but our vehicle was declared an “obvious total loss” by our insurance company.
I’m looking forward to freeing up the space in my brain that has been occupied by this accident. It puts pressure on everything else I have to think about: my personal life, full-time job, freelance projects, and graduate work. I don’t have enough mental energy to give the needed attention to each of these things because the accident keeps overshadowing and crowding them out.
But even when this accident blows over, I know something else will be thrown my way. It seems like life is always trying to trip me up, trip you up, trip us all up. However, I’m learning to change my perspectives, and the first thing I’m choosing to do is replace the worries with gratitude.
Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)
I was telling my parents about my struggle, and my dad suggested focusing on the miracle of safety and fostering gratitude toward God for protecting me and my husband during the accident.
So that’s what I’ve been trying to do — foster gratitude for the miracle of safety.
When people ask me about the accident, I praise God for protection. There is something shocking about being the recipient of a miracle, and it isn’t a great feeling. It feels like an out-of-body experience. I shouldn’t be walking or writing or speaking or laughing.
Yet I’m here because of God’s protection, writing with just a slight ache in my back. It isn’t that I’m not thankful or feel undeserving. I just feel shocked and slightly awed.
The conversation with my parents made me think of the song “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)” by Irving Berlin.
When I’m worried, and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
I think those lyrics are going to be my motto for this year. I’m going to count my blessings before I go to sleep instead of recounting my worries from the day, and I hope each day will get a little easier as a result.
Practically, counting your blessings looks like keeping a gratitude journal or speaking prayers of gratitude. Personally, I found that keeping a journal was a good way for me to keep the blessings of each day at the front of my mind. Writing things down really solidifies the good in my mind and gives me a way to go back and recount blessings from the Lord.
Adjust Your Expectations
Over the past six weeks, I’ve found that the best way to focus on work is to lower my expectations for myself. Usually, I’m a very quick and efficient worker. I write and edit quickly. I always make sure to make edits and keep projects moving as fast as possible because I know deadlines always close in quickly.
So I’ve been showing myself some grace and adjusting my expectations. I’ve been intentionally communicating with my supervisor and letting her know I might need help with some things or may not have things done by the end of the day. And guess what? It’s okay.
Sometimes, the expectations I have for myself aren’t the expectations others have for me. If I need to slow down, it isn’t going to inconvenience anyone terribly or change their opinion of my work. I’m still producing quality work, but I’m taking my time and allowing myself to think and feel and draw my attention back to the task at hand if my mind wanders.
It’s been difficult getting back to work after the accident and the holidays, but I’m slowly hitting my stride.
I’m not sure what life has for you at the moment but know there is a season for everything. While many of us want to experience uninhibited creativity, that isn’t always an option. It’s okay to be run down. It’s okay to experience both the good and bad parts of life.
I hope you’re able to adjust your expectations and find reasons to express gratitude to God through difficult times. What are you thankful for today?
Learn more about Emily here.
Himalayan Adventures by Penny Reeve is a unique book. As the name implies, the book relates adventures the author heard about or experienced while she was a missionary in Nepal. In the introduction, the author describes her struggles as a missionary, especially the difficulty of learning the Nepali language. She tells a story about the beautiful Nepali mountains, reminding readers to look up to God during turbulent times. Each subsequent chapter contains a short story about Nepal, its people, or its animals. Then, the author uses that story as an analogy to illustrate one of God’s truths, ending each chapter with a Bible verse.
Illustration by Fred Apps
The stories are interesting, and the vivid imagery instantly draws the reader in. I was fascinated not only by the tales of exotic people and animals, but also by the way the author found biblical symbolism in her stories. In addition to simple truths, the author relates her stories to the way God’s creation works together. One story tells how the Chepang hunters catch bats, which provide needed protein for their people. A unique tree attracts the bats, and the hunters set traps at these trees. The bats help pollinate the trees and are caught by the hunters. Thus, they nourish the trees and the Chepang people. Without the bats, neither could survive. Also, many stories tell of the miracles God worked in the Nepali peoples’ lives to aid in the spread of the gospel. One of my favorites was about a man who was attacked by a leopard and miraculously survived. He thanked God for his survival and used his scars to witness of God’s grace to others. However, my favorite story was the one about Kanchi, a pet monkey who was very bossy to her owners; it reminds the reader not to be prideful.
I think this book is a great educational resource because it provides information about Nepal, its people, and the work of a missionary. It would make a good devotional for middle-grade students, yet the lessons and truths provide encouragement to readers of all ages. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone, especially those who need encouragement.
Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including her cats, Prince and Harley; dog, Lady; and two fish, Minnie and Gilligan. She is a homeschool student and enjoys math, playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.
A pastor-friend once preached a message on how to leave a legacy. Legacies were on his mind because he had been recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. He had been thinking a lot about his own legacy, which in turn motivated me to think about mine.
I wasn’t sure I had a legacy, or if I even needed one. We don’t have children, and I considered the subject irrelevant. Still, his message struck a chord in me.
My family and friends have children and grandchildren. Most of the participants in the Bible studies I teach also have children and grandchildren. But physical descendants are not the only recipients of a legacy. I could choose to live in a way that passes the baton of faith to the next generation, even if the next generation is not my own.
Investing in these young lives isn’t just about teaching Sunday school or mid-week Bible study. It’s about spending time with the younger generation. Learning their likes and dislikes instead of complaining about our differences. Sincerely attempting to relate to their interests, even if I’m not always successful. Most of all, it’s about being interested in them as individuals.
More than thirty years have passed since I first heard that message. A few months ago, I began to wonder how effective I’ve been in investing in the next generation.
A partial answer came through Facebook during this past Christmas season. Several young people commented on childhood memories of decorating gingerbread houses at our home each year. Now married with children, they talked about carrying on that tradition in their own families.
Decorating gingerbread houses may not be especially spiritual. Still, I pray the candy and icing are only a small portion of their memories. Perhaps they also remember bits and pieces of our conversations. Maybe they don’t recall the conversations at all – but they remember a warm, welcoming, loving environment as we celebrated Jesus’ birth. And perhaps, that’s enough…for them and for their own children.
However, as writers—especially writers for children—we have the privilege of leaving a legacy another way. We can communicate eternal concepts with the gift of words. Whether it’s sharing the gospel or writing novels with a biblical world view, we can give our young readers a solid foundation. A solid foundation that will help enable them to grow into the godly men and women the Lord intends them to be.
May the words we write leave a legacy for the good of our readers, but most of all for God’s glory. Let’s use our words to fulfill the psalmist’s proclamation: “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord” (Psalm 78:4 NIV).
* A version of this post first appeared on Ava’s inspirational blog.
It’s 2020! Never has it been so clear that we are living in a completely different world with a completely different set of rules. Each generation is reared up with other influences, more distractions, and a whole new set of problems.
Since we have accepted the call of God to write for the growing generations, we must now pay attention to their needs. If you’re wondering what to explore with your upcoming projects, these 5 crucial concepts are just some that teens desperately need when they open their next book.
1. Good vs. Evil
This concept isn’t lost on storytelling. Any good versus any evil can be found in just about any book. But I’m getting at the nature of good and evil. More stories need to focus on what causes good and what causes evil. We need to promote the biblical fact that we all have a fleshly, evil nature, even if we’re the protagonist. The fight may look different when we realize that good is caused by God and evil by Satan. But the victory might be just what someone needs to hear for their own life.
2. Hope in Mental Illness
We have an epidemic of mental illnesses on our hands. I read that nearly 1 in 5 people are dealing with some type of mental illness. The coming generation is plagued with depression and anxiety. We must write freely about it in order to spread awareness, but our words need to reveal hope and a means of help. I believe more than enough people will relate better when our stories show that we see, we understand, and we offer comfort in a hopeless mindset.
3. Authentic Love
If you’re like me, you like a good old-fashioned love story. But I’m not talking about writing more love triangles and epic romances. I’m talking about demonstrating through our words, the love Christ has challenged us to show. For example, what does it mean to love an enemy? A bully or an undeserving family member? What does it feel like when people fail at showing that love to us or worse, when we fail at showing it to others? A world of possibilities will follow when we take the time to unpack true love.
4. God’s Intentions
Culture has made it easy for young people to decide what they think of the world and what it should be like. Unfortunately, culture’s agenda hasn’t been kind to God’s ways. With a velvet tongue and a delicate hand on the keyboard, we need to nudge our readers to question the views of society just as they are taught to question the views of faith. We need to give them a glimpse of hope through family, marriage, service, and morality in a way that points them back to God.
5. Independent Faith
In reference to the last idea, it’s good to question your faith. The idea is to not only take for granted what has been given to you, but to also discover for yourself the deep well of truth ready to be explored. If we aren’t encouraging our readers to understand and live out their faith, what are we doing but providing entertainment which they get just about everywhere else in the world?
It’s easy to look at these messages and say, “Well, looks like you got yourself a good recipe for a cheesy, Christian read.” Not so.
Just because these themes are necessary for our audience doesn’t mean our stories need to be safe and boring. The youth is confronted with a harsh world every day, so we don’t need to shy away from the harsh truth. Pay attention to these felt needs and your writing will live on in the young hearts of those who read them.
Leah Jordan Meahl is a Christian author who enjoys journeying alongside you through faith with her blog. Visit her full bio on the Bloggers page.