November 2016 Posts

Free #BethMooreNovel Live Stream Event (Enter to win a free book!)

Join Beth Moore for Beth’s Big Book Club! This free 2-hour web stream event is a great way to connect with your friends, and dig deeper into The Undoing of Saint Silvanus.




This seeker friendly book group is a great way for women and their girlfriends to gather at your church for a book group discussion like they have never experienced before! With Beth as your host, you know it will be a fun evening full of laughs and amazing insight straight from the Word. The first part of the evening we will explore the themes and backstory, meet a few of Beth’s friends that helped shape the characters in the book and have some time for Q&A. Beth will be speaking from her heart, encouraging women to lean into the hope of the Gospel for the undoings needed in their lives.

The second part of the event will go into the book a bit more, exploring the events of the story more deeply, discussing the plot and the twists and turns. You will not have to had read the book to enjoy this, but keep your ears open for spoiler alerts. It will be a fun, one-of-a-kind evening with Beth you won’t want to miss!

Learn more at:


Sign-up to receive reminder e-mails about the web stream event and you’ll be entered to win a FREE signed copy of So Long, Insecurity by Beth Moore. We’re giving away five copies!

Fill out the Gleam form below to sign up. When you sign up for the email list you’ll automatically be entered to win a free book. Follow the directions to earn extra entries. We’ll choose five winners on December 11th.

So Long, Insecurity Giveaway

November Kids GIVEAWAY!


This chapter book is about ten-year-old narrator Laney Grafton and the new girl in her class—Lara Phelps, whom everyone bullies from the minute she shows up. Instead of acting the way a bullied kid normally acts, this new girl returns kindness for a meanness that intensifies . . . until nobody remains unchanged, not even the reader.

In this unique story, Laney communicates the art of storytelling as it happens, with chapter headings, such as: Character, Setting, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax. And she weaves an unforgettable tale of a new girl who transforms an entire class and, in the process, reveals the best and worst in all of us.

Enter below for your chance to win this powerful and emotional story! 

Larger-than-life Lara Giveaway

Grateful Hearts That Last: 5 Ways to Keep Kids Thinking about Thankfulness by Kathryn O’Brien


I love this time of year, don’t you? Leaves are falling. Temperatures are dropping. Cozy scarves, pumpkin spice lattes and brisk walks are once again an integral part of our lives. Hallelujah! And isn’t it nice, before the stockings are hung and the lights are strung, that we are able to pause as a nation, as families, and as children of God, to give thanks?

It’s that sweet time of year when we collectively stop to focus on our blessings before the flurry of the season hits. An entire day to focus our attention on family and friends, concentrating on the abundance of goodness in our lives. The chance for kids to make November lists of all they have before starting those December lists of all they want.

And then, just like that, it’s gone. We pray, we eat, we do the dishes. So long turkey, hello tinsel. Goodbye gratitude, bring on the garland.

Wouldn’t it be nice to keep our Thanksgiving thankfulness a bit longer? Hang on to those grateful hearts even after the gravy is gone? Try these five autumn activities at home to encourage your little ones to maintain an attitude of gratitude throughout the year.

1. Verse of the Month


Help your children create a list of twelve passages related to thankfulness (the book of Psalms is a terrific place to start or try or Assign each verse to a month of the year. Using construction or printer paper, create posters for every verse and decorate with crayons, marker, watercolor or paint. Each time the month changes, place a new poster on the fridge for a monthly memory verse and daily reminder to give thanks!


2. Thank You Notes

paper-thanksgivingDiscuss the important people in your children’s lives. Think grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, classmates, friends, teachers, coaches, neighbors, and pastors. Guide your children in writing good old-fashioned letters to each one (you remember, the kind with a real envelope, mailing address, and stamp!). Kids can share a favorite memory, retell a holiday or special event spent together, or simply express appreciation. On the first day of every month drop a
letter or two in the mail to prolong a spirit of gratitude for those who mean the most.


3. Helping Hands

There are usually many opportunities in November to help at a local food bank, retirement home, or donation center. Have a discussion with your kids about the needs of others that we often take for granted: food, clothing, shelter, blankets, toys, books. Those needs may be more publicized around this time of year, but they don’t stop once the holidays are over. Make a commitment to serve at least once a month with your kids through the year, as a continuous reminder of our daily blessings.


4. Wreath of thanks


Ask your children to trace their hands on red, brown, yellow, and purple construction paper. Carefully cut out the shapes, labeling each with something for which to be thankful. Ideas can be serious, like doctors and warm beds, or silly, like chocolate cake and funny jokes. Glue the edges of the hands together to begin your wreath. Every month, ask for more ideas and keep attaching more hands of blessing. Watch the wreath grow bigger and bigger as thankful hearts grow!


5. Thankful Jar


Get a jar (or basket or box) and a post-it notepad. Keep the jar in an accessible place, like the kitchen table or counter. Every time someone in the family relays a blessing, an answered prayer or piece of good news, write it on a post-it note and place it in the jar. Kicked a goal at the soccer game? Put it in the jar! Got an A on a math test? Write it down! Kids will be amazed at how fast it fills up, and whenever a bit of encouragement is needed, you’ll know just where to look for reminders of God’s faithfulness. Oh, how He deserves our thanks!

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is almost here. Such a joyful time! Here’s to the food and the fun, the family traditions, and keeping our kids focused on thankfulness all throughout the year.


Kathryn O’Brien writes books for kids and has a heart for moms. She’s published five children’s picture books, including her latest series (Sit for a Bit, Tyndale) and serves as a contributor for several publications. When she’s not writing or enjoying her day job as a Christian school administrator, Kathryn can usually be found texting her three grown children, hanging on the front porch with her husband, or hiking the canyons near her home in Southern California. To learn more about Kathryn, visit her at her website,


One of Kathryn’s newest children’s books, Give Thanks, presents the powerful verse Psalm 136:1 (“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!”) in a way that helps lay a foundation for a love and comprehension of Scripture in young readers. Purchase your copy today at!


Over the River and through the Woods: 6 Fun Tips for Holiday Travel


Now that Halloween has passed, we are hearing Christmas songs coming through TV ads, and turkeys are flying off the shelves at the grocery store. It’s officially the Holiday Season! And for many of us, that means holiday travel. For those with kids, this may elicit nightmares of cross-country airplane trips with screaming toddlers or hours packed into a van with siblings whose inability to form a peaceable coexistence makes hours stretch into days. Is it possible to arrive at your relatives’ front door on Thanksgiving or Christmas with your holiday cheer intact? “Sure,” you say, “but that means gluing my kids’ eyeballs to the iPad.” While a little extra screen time on long trips is a good way to pass the time, here are some tips for surviving the holiday travel season with your sanity and without screens.



  1. Play visual games. This works better for road trips than air travel, but especially with new flyers, there is a lot to observe in airports and on planes. Games like I Spy, the License Plate Alphabet Game, and Twenty Questions occupy a lot of time and will have your whole family engaged together. Click here for a great list of twenty car games.


  1. Bring new-to-them books. Hit the library before a big trip and pick out several books. Pack them away so kids are not able to read them before takeoff. The novelty of new reads will be well worth the wait.



  1. Dig out your favorite old-school toys. There’s a reason toys like Etch A Sketch, Magna Doodle, Wooly Willy, and Rubik’s Cube are classics. These timeless games are durable, easy to pack, and tons of fun. Introduce them one at a time to maximize your mileage with each.
  1. Provide a variety of snacks. Think mess-free and slow-to-eat when it comes to travel snacks. Ideally, a snack break will pass time without leaving crumbs and sticky fingers. Suggestions include day-old bagels (a little dryness means slower snacking), raisins, granola bars, string cheese, carrots, and apple slices. Steer clear of sweets to avoid a sugar rush hitting while you’re confined to a small space.




  1. Pack simple craft items. Stickers, coloring books, pipe cleaners, yarn, construction paper, and a little creativity can go a long way. For road trips, cookie sheets can be used as lap trays; the rim will keep supplies from rolling off the edges.
  1. Listen to audio books and radio theater. Dramatic readings of old favorites and new stories are sure to provide hours of entertainment. A bonus is that most are captivating enough to entertain even the adults! For plane trips, load audio onto your phone or even pick up a cheap CD Walkman for kids to operate themselves. An earphone splitter is a good solution to evade fights when everyone wants to hear the same story.


Will you be traveling this holiday season? What tricks and tips do you have for passing the time?


radio-theaterExperience an audio movie that plays on the biggest screen of all … your imagination. Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre has been entertaining and enriching the lives of both young and old for decades. From timeless classics like Dicken’s Oliver Twist, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, and Ben-Hur, Radio Theatre makes timeless stories come alive and real to a whole new generation of listeners. Radio Theatre features award winning actors, orchestral scores and riveting scripts that will draw in the entire family. Browse our Radio Theatre collection to unleash your child’s imagination today.


Did Jesus Have Bad Habits?


This excerpt is from The Bad Habits of Jesus by Leonard Sweet. 

Jesus had a bad habit of hanging out with children and even putting children first. “The children get fed first,” Jesus insisted. “Let the little children come,” Jesus said.

Kids in Jesus’ day were to be seen and not heard. Small children (under age five) were associated with death. All children were associated with dirt, noise, and annoying habits. It went without saying that they shouldn’t bother the rabbi.

Even Jesus’ disciples thought he wouldn’t want to be interrupted by rambunctious children. Sound familiar? Many of our churches today banish children to distant parts of the building during worship, then bemoan their absence from church when these same kids reach adulthood. Instead of Jesus’ “Let the children come unto me,” the church says, “Let us babysit your kids while we dazzle you adults in worship.”

Jesus’ idea of children and childhood was radically different from what was normal in his day. Jesus taught a faith that you might call adultproof. Today we childproof our medicine and our faith, making them as hard for children to get into as possible. In contrast, Jesus made faith child friendly and adult averse, meaning Jesus did everything he could to protect children’s faith from adults and to help even the most adultish among us become more childlike so as to get into the Kingdom without messing it up.

Truth is truth whether spoken by a child or a king. There is no halfway Holy Spirit. The question for Jesus was not “How old are you?” but “Do you have ears that hear?” One of the most aberrant features of the gospel story is the tender spot displayed by the wifeless and childless Jesus for children—so tender as to be a hair trigger for Jesus’ anger. Any belittling of children prompted an instant emotional storm in Jesus’ psyche.

The original ending of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes” satirized not the vanity of the high and mighty for keeping a fiction going but mocked the groupthink of the crowd that ended up attacking the child who told the truth—“But he has no robes on at all!”—with sticks and canes. In a world where the emperors of religion and state wear no clothes, and their ministers and minions keep up the pretense, Jesus gave us the child-in-the-crowd’s cry of “He’s wearing nothing.” But Jesus went beyond the warning cry and gave us new clothes to wear. He was a master tailor who modeled the “seamless” clothing of righteousness he customized for real-world, rubber-hits-the-road ministry and mission.

If you want to make Jesus angry, then hamper or hinder or mock a child. For Jesus, the sight of children inspired protective impulses. For everyone else, children were as much symbols of death as of life. When a child is born today, we immediately feel a collective responsibility. But in Jesus’ day, you didn’t get too attached to a newborn infant because of the likelihood that they would be ripped from your heart. Almost one out of three children died before their first birthday in the first century. But rather than “fragility motivates distance,” for Jesus, fragility obliged responsibility.

In fact, fragility in whatever form elicited in Jesus a sense of responsibility. When Jesus picked up one child and put the child into his lap, he showed his disciples what life and faith in God was truly about, a faith that doesn’t look to death but that revels in life. And he showed them that to be responsible in God’s sight is to care for the fragile, to care for the children. For within a fragile body is often revealed a bulwark of faith. Jesus touched fragile people, dead people, and “walking dead” people, whether children or adults. But the innocent souls of children, he seemed to say, were closest to the angels, closest to the Kingdom of God.

We know that children made up approximately one third of the population in Jesus’ day. And it’s likely, given the ease with which Jesus pulled a child to his lap from the crowd, that many children came to hear him along with their parents and other adults. And while the adults may have struggled with some of Jesus’ stories, it’s likely their young charges knew exactly what he meant. They may be fragile, but they are astute. And Jesus’ message of God’s love and grace, a God who loved them, must have been honey to their hearing.

When the Twelve debate who is the greatest, Jesus does an intervention. But note to what he takes exception. It is not their aspirations to greatness. He doesn’t rebuke them for wanting to be great, to be the best. Rather, he rebukes them for their identification of what is the best and the greatest. That’s when he takes a little child in his arms and says that this is the “greatest” in the Kingdom. If you aspire to be the best, to true greatness, then make yourself small, little, of no consequence, humble.

Jesus was formed with a womb sound track of humility. The lullaby Mary sang to Jesus while she was pregnant was a praise song, “The Magnificat”: “My soul magnifies the Lord . . . He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate.” In the Greek world, humility was not a virtue but a weakness, even a despised quality of life. The noun humility does not occur in Greek or Roman writers before the Christian era. The adjective humble is common but almost always means mean-spirited, low, groveling, or poor.

Humility, what the ancient world deemed a bone of contention, was a point of connection for Jesus with others. Can you imagine how hard it must have been for Jesus and then Paul to convince people that humility was a positive virtue for a person who was free in Christ? That’s why Jesus used a child—not a scholar, soldier, priest, or prophet—to showcase what it meant to be a great follower who returns over and over again to the initial call “Come, follow me!”

The humility of a child for Jesus is not putting yourself down. Humility is accepting the great gifts and talents God has given you but receiving them as gifts. These are gifts to be cultivated and invested, not ignored or hoarded. To reject or neglect the gift is to reject or neglect the Giver. We slide into hell on our butts. We soar into heaven on our tiptoes.

This bad habit of Jesus makes us more adult in our theology and more childlike (not childish) in our faith. After all, Jesus said, “There will be no grownups in heaven.” Or more precisely, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus’ bad habit of paying attention to children needs to be our bad habit too. Children must be at the heart of the church if it’s to be a Jesus church. And the child must always be in our hearts if we are to be true Jesus followers.


bad-habits The Bad Habits of Jesus

Did Jesus have bad habits? In our culture, we have a tendency to describe Jesus in ways that soften his revolutionary edge. Len Sweet uncovers and presents to us the offensive and scandalous Jesus described in the Bible. Popular author and speaker Len Sweet examines the words and actions of Jesus and places them in context. We need to understand who Jesus really is if we are to follow him wholeheartedly. That is why it is so crucial to see the “rebellious rabbi” for who he is and not for who we may imagine him to be.

The Bad Habits of Jesus will help you see the untamed Jesus, who isn’t sanitized for our culture. That Jesus just might transform how you live out your life.