Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Review: Building Family Ties with Faith, Love & Laughter

I wanted to share a review of "Building Family Ties with Faith, Love & Laughter," by David Stone, because I found it an inspiring, helpful, and practical source of ideas others might also enjoy. Stone, a pastor, posits that joyful Christian families are "an endangered species" (p. 16) and that, not only is it posible to be such a family, it is one of the things that ultimately matters at the end of our lives.

Each chapter discusses a way to reach this goal, including these topics:
  • Creating a family mission statement together, encouraging each other to live it out, and regularly evaluating how the family is reaching this goal.

  • Cultivating trust, starting with marriage commitment and unity as a foundation for parent-child and sibling relationships.

  • Making lasting special memories and teaching kids about the Lord through humor, just as Jesus used hyperboles to make His audience laugh and remember spiritual truths. Stone clarifies humor should uplifting and edifying, not belittling or cutting.

  • Making the "hour of power," or family meals together, a high priority and a productive time to  focus on others and demonstrate hospitality. This chapter includes a variety of mealtime activities and practical ways for kids to be actively involved in showing kindness to guests.

  • Developing contentment, gratitude, and generosity, particularly with material possessions. The heart of this chapter is that "[joy is not] dependent on your possessions; it's derived from your purpose" (p. 96).

  • Maintaining loyalty within the family, showing mutual respect through confidentiality, such as not sharing embarrassing stories with other people about a family member.

  • Recognizing the power of words, how hurtful comments affect people for decades, but using kind, truthful, and uplifting words unifies and strengthens families.

  • Actively practicing service together as a family, which creates special memories and sets an example for kids. Stone discusses the "Good-Better-Best Principle" in which parents and kids discuss what good behavior woud be in a specific situation, but what would be even better, and what could be best (p. 136).

  • Keeping an eternal perspective as a family practices these principles in daily life.

I particularly enjoyed these characteristics of Stone's writing style:
  • Numerous Scripture verses throughout the book.

  • Humor and memorable anecdotes that illustrate key points in a memorable way.

  • Creativity, such as breaking the family meal chapter into "courses" (appetizers, main course, dessert) correlating to main points.

  • Abundant concrete, practical examples of family activities.

  • Clear organization of chapters and sections for easy reference on a particular topic.

  • Lighthearted tone, challenging the reader to serious action in a motivating and inspiring way.

My own take-aways:
  • I have a lot to learn about how to raise a godly, joyful family! It's obvious but worth reminding myself that parenting is all about example! The most important contribution I can make to my family is walking closely to Jesus and learning from others.

  • I want to re-read this book periodically to evaluate how our family is doing and to acquire fresh ideas and perspective about specific topics.

  • I am not too into the family mission statement part. I understand the rationale, but it would feel forced to me.

  • The material could be used for group discussion with other parents or for sermon or teaching ideas in church settings.

  • Some ideas in the book could be useful for missionary families: the importance of family traditions in the midst of the many transitions that come with missionary life; providing a safe haven of trust and loyalty for missionary kids who might feel like they live in a "fishbowl" both overseas and in their home countries.

  • Cross-cultural families could discuss how to apply principles in their specific contexts. For example, Garífuna families do not often sit down together at a table for a meal (everyone eats whenever he/she is ready), but they do spend quality time together in other ways (such as gathering in the kitchen in the evening).

In summary, I was challenged and inspired by this book, and I highly recommend it to others.

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