Tuesday, September 29, 2015

First Evangelical in America?

Author Rick Kennedy offers The First American Evangelical, A Short Life of Cotton Mather, and his book on Cotton Mather is part of an Eerdmans series called the Library of Religious Biography, edited by Mark A. Noll and available at www.eerdmans.com. Kennedy says that Cotton Mather was "a family man, a pastor, and a scholar," and he is "warmly remembered by Benjamin Franklin as a generous man, eager to do good."

During those 16--1700s in Boston, Increase Mather was pastor of the North Church and his son Cotton was his associate. They worked together though they were very different personalities. Increase tended to be strict and sometimes preached "harsh" sermons while Cotton "was softer," and he preached "more about Heaven's call than God's judgment." He called for a Bible-oriented day-by-day relationship with a remarkably active and communicative God."

In those days, as churches were formed, the people wanted a meetinghouse for worship, and a home for their pastor where the pastor had an office in his home, not an office in the church, as we are used to now. People with concerns came to talk with the pastor in his home office, sharing his Bible and his library as they discussed  whatever their concerns were. Cotton Mather shared and modeled what he called "all day long faith." Wherever he was, whatever he was doing, prayer became an important part of it. He "took his role as shepherd of a flock very seriously, as he organized and led many neighborhood groups that met on a regular schedule."

What made him the first in a long tradition of evangelical scholar-pastors resulted from the circumstances, says Kennedy. While New England became ready for a broader, more moderate Protestantism, there were also many people with an "evangelical interest," who needed leadership. Cotton Mather was not shy and he offered himself  "for the role of leader" for the evangelical group. And so he was, until his death in 1728. For those who want more, there are several pages of bibliography with suggestions.

---Lois Sibley,

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Helping Children Protect Their Bodies

God Made All of Me  is a new book to help children learn to protect themselves from becoming victims of sexual abuse. Published by New Growth Press, it is written by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb and illustrated by Trish Mahoney. It's really a book for parents with helpful words to use as they talk to their children about what to do if someone threatens them with "unwanted touch" or other suggestions. This one is especially aimed at children who are between ages two and eight, but it can certainly be used in talks with older children as well. It is very important that parents should gently introduce such a conversation, helping children understand that God made every part of their bodies and "every part is good and worth protecting."

The story is of a Mom and Dad and two small children, daughter Kayla and son David. One page has a quote from the Bible, Genesis 1:31, and the opposite page, a drawing of the family as they begin a conversation, Kayla saying: "God made me," and Mom answering: "When God made people, he called it very good." The text then says God made all things and offers illustrations of body parts like eyes, hair, arms, and nose. Dad joins in with "some parts of your body are for sharing and some parts are not for sharing." They talk about sharing hugs and kisses, or maybe high fives. And that's how they get to "private parts....that should be covered and not touched by other people." It's important that even small children should learn the correct names, like penis, vagina, bottom, and breasts.

If someone touches inapropriately, the children are taught to say, "No," and "go ask for help right away." Parents can help children to have a list of friends who might help them feel safe. Dad asks if they know the difference between secrets and surprises and Mom explains that secrets may make people feel confused or sad, so if they need help they must find a friend who will help them feel safe.

This book is good, should be helpful, if parents will begin the conversations....maybe older children will bring their concerns and questions to their parents.

---Lois Sibley,