The Power of a Good Book

readTwo of my childhood friends were Dick and Jane and their dog Spot.  From the moment I met them, I’ve had a love for reading.  Even when school recessed for the Summer, I rode my bicycle to the library two or three times a week to check out books.

An article in Quartz has identified a love for reading as the common trait that links the world’s most successful people.   According to the article, “Reading is the easiest way to continue the learning process, increase empathy, boost creativity, and even just unwind from a long day. But books can also change the way we think and live.”

Because he had experienced the transformational power of God’s Word, Paul emphasized its role in the life of the believer:

  • He instructed Timothy to, “give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching (I Timothy 4:13).”
  • He reminded the church at Rome that, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).”

Perhaps the one verse in the Bible that best defines its awesome power is Hebrews 4:12: “God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.” ~The Message

I encourage you to consider your reading habits, and to use Psalm 119:14 as a prayer to guide you: “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”

The Pick-Me-Up Principle

christianencouragementsecularencouragementThe season ended much differently for the Denver Broncos than it did for the Minnesota Vikings—especially Blair Walsh.  Confetti and ticker tape parades were the focus of the Broncos’ fans; however, some Vikings’ fans were thinking more of a hangman’s noose.

During the season, Walsh had made an NFL-high 34 field goals. With time running out, all the Vikings needed to defeat the Seahawks was a field goal.  Everyone assumed Walsh would kick the ball through the center of the goal posts, but it sailed wide and the Vikings season came to a sudden end.

While many of the Vikings’ fans attacked Walsh on social media, a group of first graders in Minnesota decided to share some encouraging words with the much-maligned kicker.  One of the students, Allie Edwards, said, “Blair was really sad, and we wanted to make him feel better.”

To see how the class reached out to Walsh, you can watch this video:

The actions of these children reminds me of one of the great pick-me-up principles of the New Testament:

If a person is caught doing something wrong, those of you who are spiritual should restore that person gently. Watch out for yourself so that you are not tempted as well.  Practice carrying each other’s burdens. In this way you will fulfill the law of the Messiah. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is really nothing, he is only fooling himself . . . So then, whenever we have the opportunity, let’s practice doing good to everyone, especially to the family of faith.    ~Galatians 6

Blair Walsh was blessed because Allie Edwards and her classmates heard opportunity knocking, and Walsh was encouraged by their little hearts that were large with empathy. Who will you bless and encourage today?

Where Is The Empathy?

Magnifier with question mark isolated on white.The WSJ online edition ran a story entitled: Little Children and Already Acting Mean (Children, Especially Girls, Withhold Friendship as a Weapon; Teaching Empathy

According to research by Charisse Nixon, chair of the psychology department at Penn State Erie, “50% of children and adolescents—grades five through 12—have experienced relational aggression at least monthly. About 7% of children report experiencing physical aggression on a daily or weekly basis.”

The article also quoted Laura Barbour, a counselor at Stafford Primary School in West Linn, Oregon: “Kids forget about scuffles on the playground but they don’t forget about unkind words or being left out.”

So how should these issues be handle before they become problems? Mark Barnett, a developmental psychologist at Kansas State University, thinks he has the answer. Barnett says parents should teach their children affective empathy. He believes children should learn to vicariously experience the emotions of another person.

As I read Barnett’s suggestions, I thought I was hearing the principles of Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Before you can guide your children down the right path of life, first, you need to walk it yourself.

Look at your life through a magnifying glass, and what do you see? Does the evidence point to a life of rivalry and conceit or one of humility and service to benefit the needs of others?