Get your FREE treasure box & cross

Wow – how time flies! This year marks the ten year anniversary since we first decided to produce a series of original, interactive cards for parents and godparents to give their children in celebration of their baptism.

To celebrate that anniversary – and to commemorate the upcoming birthday of the Christian church, marked by Pentecost – we’re giving away free Faithkeepers treasure boxes, crosses, and baptism day cards, while supplies last.

Just click through to our shopping website, to take advantage of this offer! (Full-disclosure: there is a modest shipping/handling charge.)

Culturally Christian

There was an interesting article that ran in the Toronto Globe & Mail recently, summarizing the current dialogue around the subject of “neurotheology” and the notion of a biological predisposition that we humans have to belief in God or a high spirit. In other words, faith is literally in our DNA. But, while that subject is a fascinating one, the part of the article that caught my attention for the purpose of this article, was the following section, about Dr. Phil Zuckerman’s research on populations in Sweden and Denmark.

He observes both countries are: “…affluent places where non-believers count for 80 per cent of the population. His research found that, rather than being hostile to religion, non-believers in those countries tended to express indifference or to call themselves ‘cultural Christians’ because they still participated in many rites – baptism, marriages, funerals and holidays – linked to the national church.” You can read more about these research findings in Zuckerman’s book Society without God.

To some extent, I think the United States is another example of a society where there is a large population that is culturally Christian. The rising, post-WW II affluence that we have gained, further guaranteed by the Great Society mandates of the 1960s, have made values taught by Christ and the church part of our country’s heritage and social operating system, so to speak.

It wasn’t always that way. And, it’s interesting to hear from voices that lived during the times when the United States’ prosperity and leadership place in the world wasn’t always so obvious. This week (and month), we are very pleased to offer the comments of Pastor Merle Franke, who was born in the shadow of WW I and lived through the Great Depression.

Pastor Merle’s comments offer us all a bridge for understanding how much our current and future generations owe to the generations before us. They built their lives, and ultimately much of our country’s governance, based upon “an assurance of things hoped for; a conviction of things unseen” – in other words, a personal and shared faith in a higher power, on which we should base all aspects of society.

We hope you enjoy Merle’s reflections. And, in a quick end-note, I want to thank my son Andrew (in the picture with me, enjoying a recent birthday brunch) for his work on the video series we’ve been bringing to you so far this year.

We couldn’t have done it without his film editing wizardy!

God and Magic

I was looking back through some of my favorite article clippings and web links this past week from the past decade or so and I ran across one, from which I just had to share an excerpt.

It is from an interview with Rabbi Harold Kushner in the January 1999 issue of Educational Leadership magazine. Some may recognize Dr. Kushner as the best-selling author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People and other popular works.

In the article, the interviewer asked Kushner how a parent rather than a teacher can “help a child experience God?” Here is Dr. Kushner’s answer:

“Somebody once asked me how to convince a 9-year-old to believe in God. I answered that you can’t convince someone to believe. The question is: how can you teach a child to recognize God?

A task for parents, not teachers, is to create a catalog of moments in which children can recognize that God has intervened in their lives. When they have been sick and they get healthy, when they have done something naughty and they are forgiven for it, when they have gone out of their way to do a favor for somebody else and they feel good, when they see how beautiful the world is on a sunny day or after the first snowfall of winter, those are experiences of God.

Children need two things to nourish their souls. They need a sense of ritual and they need a sense of magic. If parents don’t give those basics to their children, it is the same as not giving them basic nutrition. I consider it a form of child abuse.

A child’s world is overwhelming and out of control. Doing things in a prescribed way gives them a sense of reliability. Whether it’s church every Sunday, candle lighting on Friday night, or certain prayers, they need predictability.

And they need the magic, the sense of specialness. In my own tradition, it might be just holding a child up to kiss the Torah as it is carried through the congregation. In the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, it might be the incense, the robes, the mystery, the music.

The sense that there is a reality beyond the reality of everyday life and that there is something wonderful about this – that is what nourishes the soul.”

Of course, you can gather why this resonates so much with us at Faithkeepers. Because at our core, our mission is to provide you with resources – ideas, encouragement, symbols, and more. It’s all about helping each other ensure that a strong faith takes shape in our children and young people as they grow up, through habit (practices) and through a sense of personal discovery (the “magic” Kushner speaks of).

Faith-building is a contact sport

The past several weeks, we’ve been producing videos of people from different age groups and backgrounds – Jeff Collier, Michael Watt, Susan Scrupski – to serve as a resource for parents and sponsors to use with your children. The thinking is that when your kiddo won’t listen to you, perhaps they’ll listen to someone else – the more voice, the better.

But the other thing these faith stories have done for us is provide another source to inspire us grown-ups – the parents, sponsors, and other adults whose duty it is to be role models and support networks for the faith formation for our children. We, too, can learn from the stories of others.

A couple of different sources brought the importance of story-telling further to light this that I wanted to share.

First, a report released this week by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the California HealthCare Foundation discussed how people who are fighting chronic illnesses, once they are online, are much more likely to blog or participate in online discussions about health problems. “It’s really literally saved my life, just to be able to connect with other people,” said Sean Fogerty, 50, who has multiple sclerosis and was quoted in the story about the study.

My key takeaway is that often, people with such crippling problems are unable to physically get out to meet with others from whom they can receive comfort and with whom they can socialize and share stories. The internet has become an incredibly valuable tool to connect these people with a sense of community.

Second, an upcoming event notice from Priority Associates caught my attention, because of its basis in a universal story of love, loss, and renewal, as shared by Kristin Armstrong. Kristin is something of an old “sorority sister” for my husband Steve, because he and she were members of the same Leadership Austin class, in 1996-1997. So, we have a fond spot for her and her story.

As the event notice describes, very few of us get to live out our “fairy tale dreams” of our childhood of getting the perfect job, marrying Prince Charming and living in a foreign land.  But Kristin Armstrong did!  In 1997, while working for an Austin advertising and PR firm, Kristin met her “Prince Charming,” world famous cyclist Lance Armstrong.  One year later they were married and on their way to the French Riviera where they lived and he trained for the Tour de France.

Unfortunately, after 5 years of marriage and 3 children, the marriage ended in divorce. Kristin went through dark times, trying to sort out who she was and how to rebuild her life.  Now an author of 4 books, a freelance writer and a marathon runner, Kristin has been interviewed on Oprah, CBS, ABC, and other national TV shows and magazines on how to survive the break-up of a relationship.

Kristin is now forging a new life and will be talking about how she dealt with disappointment, failure and faced the harsh realities of life, and found her true identity.  She’ll be sharing how her faith in God became the foundation that helped her rebuild her life, forgive, and move on.

Man or woman, cute-as-a-kitten or tough-as-nails, no matter who you are, chances are at some point in most everyone’s life, we’ve all felt insecure, lost in our way, and experienced failure or the pain of a difficult relationship breakup, with loved ones, peer groups, organizations, or others with whom we built strong bonds.

The fact is, faith-building is a contact sport, because life itself is a contact sport. You don’t live it alone. Check out our events page to get more of the details about the event led by Kristin; it’ll be a good one.

Using Current Culture for Faith

I had a visit yesterday with one of the Austin representatives of Priority Associates. They and Search Ministries put together a great breakfast meeting a couple of weeks ago – over 230 men before 8:00 am in the morning – to hear an inspiring talk by Dr. David Cook, a professional sports psychologist, talk about his practice with famous pro athletes and his personal mission to spread the faith.

Part of this personal mission for Dr. Cook involves his current quest to bring to life a major motion picture, Links of Utopia. One of the things we’re encouraged by is the increasing sophistication of believers like him to use the culture to witness the good news.

George Barna was among the first during the current internet age to research and document the critical importance of employing music, movies, games, the internet, and other modern media to reach children and young adults, where they spend an increasing majority of their waking time.

We couldn’t agree more. That’s our journey here at Faithkeepers – to equip you with inspiration, recommendations, and resources to give your kids (as well as family, friends and colleagues) a chance to add healthy culture to their lives. It’s no different than adding healthy foods to your daily diet.

Speaking of daily diet, we hope you enjoy another in our series of faith stories, this one shot at an Austin Tex-Mex favorite, Maudie’s with a long-time friend, Susan Scrupski.

In her “day job,” Susan is the founder and chief analyst for the 2.0 Adoption Council. There are few positions that one could have more prominent than Susan’s to put you at the pulse of how companies are using the most ground-breaking technologies to make the products and services that shape our culture.

But, Susan is also a mother, community volunteer, passionate advocate for those things she cares about, with a deep spiritual core that she shares in her story. You can get to know her better at her personal website, “Taking it Personal.”   We hope you are inspired by her thoughtful comments, perhap hearing some situations that are familiar to your own life.  Share it with others and, as  always, let us hear from you!