Category: The Influence of Christian Faith Page 3 of 15

hope and honesty

Barking with The Big Dogs: Hope and Honesty for Children

“It is necessary to be hopeful to write successfully for children, yes, because children themselves are generically hopeful, but the quality of hopefulness is not an immature quality.” -Natalie Babbitt ( pp 42)

Natalie Babbitt’s book Barking with the Big Dogs is a collection of her essays and speeches written over several years. In all the various topics she focuses on, from types of fantasies to critical thinking to childhood itself, there are two major themes that pop up repeatedly: hope and honesty.

Hope is woven into the very nature of children’s books. Babbitt kicks off with an essay on happy endings and explains that children’s literature contains a quality of joy adult fiction lacks. In fantasy for kids, the belief that the world can and will be better is proven true. What is a happy ending if not a proof of hope? The villain can be defeated, the ordinary child can be a hero, and the world can be saved. Hope and optimism reign in children’s literature.

Does this mean that children’s books must present utopias?

Absolutely not. Natalie Babbitt claims that when authors try to write perfect worlds, they instead create worlds that are, “patently artificial, a placebo, lacking. . . consistency with the author’s philosophy” (37). In order to escape the one-dimensional depictions of life, Babbitt explains that authors need to write with “as much honesty and skill as we can muster,” (40).

She argues that we need to write stories that have flawed characters and flawed worlds, because flaws are part of human nature. But she also writes that we need to write authentically within our worldview. If we try to write what we don’t believe, we rob our stories of depth.

Herein lies the important message for Christian authors. For Christians, a huge part of writing truthfully is writing hopefully. Hope and honesty go hand in hand for us.

Natalie Babbitt misses this connection between the two. She writes, “it seems a peculiarly contradictory thing for the Bible to say in one place that truth is liberating when in another place it puts hope on a level with faith and charity. . . For hope and truth don’t always go together” (108).

However, hope and honesty are inseparable.

As Christians, the truth we cling to is our hope. God overcomes our greatest fears with His power and promises. The hope of eternity stands in defiance to death, the promise of God’s provision quiets our daily worries, and prayer itself brings us to God’s throne when we face trials.

Babbitt views as a contradiction something she doesn’t understand. She doesn’t recognize a solid hope. Her hope seems to be simply defined as the belief in possibility. She writes, “Life is infinitely more interesting when we can believe in the possibility of something wonderful just over the next hill” (110).

For Christians, hope is so much deeper. We know that something wonderful lies over the next hill. We know that the God of the universe is sustaining His creation. The son of God came to bring us life, and He’s coming again soon. His resurrection is the promise that everything broken will be renewed. A new heaven, a new earth, and a life forever with Him. What greater hope could we ask for?

Therefore, since we have such hope, the only honest way we can write is with that same joy. Hope and honesty should define Christian fiction.

Perhaps more than any other authors, we have the ability to write happy endings authentically. We believe in the greatest happy ending the world will ever know. The ultimate defeat of evil, ordinary people chosen by God for great tasks, and the world forever saved.

As we enter Easter week, may we reflect on the incredible hope that Jesus has brought to the world. May our hope and honesty in our writing be a light in the darkness.

Book Review:

What about the book itself? Natalie Babbitt’s essay collection wasn’t what I expected. While the essays usually focus on discussions around children’s literature, they also tap into Babbitt’s philosophy on life. Her words are instructional at times, but are more personal at others. If you choose to read this book, pick it up as an opportunity to hear the perspective of a fellow author. You’ll learn far more from her words if you view it as a conversation rather than as a lesson.

Overall, I give her book 3  1/2 out of  5 stars. She makes some strong points, but there are still lulls in the book, as well as points that seem out of place or repetitive.

Have You Ever Doubted that God is Good All the Time?

God is goodWhen a friend had successful cancer surgery, she joyfully announced the results, along with her conclusion that God is good. And the social media responses were positive and predictable:

 

Mr. Rogers – Will You be Our Mentor?

 

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?

Childhood Recollections

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.

Jarm Del Boccio’s debut middle-grade historical fiction, The Heart Changer, released with Ambassador International April 26th. You can connect with her at https://www.jarmdelboccio.com/

Difficult Times — Tips For Working Through the Tough Parts of Life

Sometimes life isn’t kind, and it’s hard to focus on your job or your personal projects. Here are some tips to help you work through difficult times.

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)

Difficult times can be combated by counting your blessings instead of sheep.I’ve been struggling with anxiety since the accident, and my husband’s night-shift job has exacerbated the situation. It’s difficult for me to sleep, let alone focus on work right now.

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

Difficult times do not mean you have to stop working. Start by adjusting your expectations for yourself.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: A Teen Review

I was instantly drawn to this book by the beautiful illustrations of animals on the cover and the interior pages. Since I am an animal lover, the stories of exotic animals kept my attention.

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

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.

Illustration by Fred Apps

 

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.

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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.

 

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