Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Bridge Builder: The Life and Continuing Legacy of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein Review

The Bridge BuilderI grew up in the South of the United States, in the buckle of the Bible Belt. There were three or four Jewish families in my small hometown and I knew nothing about them. I always wanted to know. My Jesus is a Jew. I do remember one Sunday, Mrs. Cook brought in one of the Jewish men of our town, who talked to us about Christianity's Jewish roots. I always wanted to know more.

Fast forward to my time in the Midwest in an area where there are lots of Jewish families. My children learned about Jewish traditions and holidays from friends from school. And then we learned about Friendship Circle and began to learn even more. (The Jewish community reaches out to families with special needs children in a way that Christians do not.) I longed for a collaboration between the Christian community and the Jewish community in terms of serving families with children with special needs and sometimes vocalized my desire on deaf ears in my Christian circles. Now we live in the South again, where we don't interact with Jewish families on a daily basis and I don't know where to begin thinking about a collaboration.

When I was given the opportunity to review The Bridge Builder: The Life and Continuing Legacy of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, I was thrilled.

No, the story is not about serving families with special needs. It has nothing to do with special needs.

The story is Rabbi Eckstein's incredible journey bridging the gap between Christians and Jews and between United States and Israel, from a culture that forbade him from interacting with evangelicals to not only interacting, but building relationships with evangelical Christians - and the price he paid to do so. As he went against the teaching of his culture and religion, he sometimes sacrificed his reputation and his friends and family in order to build this bridge.

The book is as much a history book as it is a biography, giving the reader insight into the world political stage and the religious and political climates in Israel and the United States at the times of different events on Rabbi Eckstein's timeline in the last 40 years. I haven't studied history in years, my memory and understanding are weak and fuzzy and I need the detail for my understanding as I read.

I never gave much thought to how much work would have to happen to bring Jews and Christians together in ministry. One would just ask the other and the other would say 'yes'. The effort has not been a simple one. There have been big barriers to work around and remove. The process has been a labor of love over decades. I love Rabbi Eckstein's heart and how he followed the calling he felt from G-d. And I understand a little better some of the challenges that need to be addressed for a collaboration in terms of helping families with a child with special needs.

Author Zev Chafets goes into great detail to give the reader enough background and context and he gives the reader an authentic look into the life of Rabbi Eckstein, good, bad, ups, downs. He's human. And he loves people. I enjoy the peek into Rabbi Eckstein's life. I suspect that you may enjoy it, too.

Know this: His work is ongoing; there is more to his story yet to unfold. Follow Rabbi Eckstein on the internet and social media to see what events are added to his story. Don't miss the social media - the Rabbi Eckstein web site offers a free chapter of the book.

Twitter:  @TheFellowship


"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Plan Your Teacher Gifts Now

School is just beginning - the time is too soon to worry about Christmas or even end of the school year gifts, right?


Allow me to tell you about my favorite teacher gift. Are you familiar with the legend about the starfish? Here is one version. Here is another.

My favorite teacher/therapist gift is starfish themed.

I use card stock or construction paper as a background for a bookmark. I format the poem to fit on a bookmark, add "Thank you for making a difference in me!" and have my daughter sign her name. I size photos of my child working with the teacher to fit the bookmark and attach them to the back of my bookmark. Then, I laminate my homemade two-sided bookmark and I attach the bookmark to a gift with a starfish motif. Yes, I should have taken a photo the last time I made bookmarks, but alas, I did not. You'll have to imagine it.

When you begin looking, you'll probably notice all sorts of items with a starfish motif. You may find some bargains now as summer items are put on clearance. Look for jewelry, candles, picture frames.

Your to do list so you'll be prepared at gift giving time:
- take some action photos of the teacher or therapist working with your child
- cruise stores for items with a starfish motif

Hint: print extra copies of the poem in case your child needs to practice.

Thank you, readers, for making a difference in me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

And the winner is... (Patterns of Evidence DVD)

We had four entries. 

Put them on paper 

Folded them, put them in a bowl, shook, and CHOSE A WINNER:

and the winner is... TAMMY!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Apologetics Study Bible for Students Review and Giveaway


We got the opportunity to use and review a copy of Apologetics Study Bible For Student from a special needs perspective.

I have never hidden the fact that the idea of God is a difficult one for my child who is on the autism spectrum. Some of the stories in the Bible are scary, and that fear makes Sunday School and Bible study sometimes aversive for her. I continue to look for products that reduce her anxiety about God and church while increasing her understanding. I want her to have a confident faith, but she is concerned about why the king wanted to kill all of Esther's people or why the men nailed nails into Jesus's hands and feet. Separating now from history and figuring out who God is when He is invisible is a difficult concept for many children with autism.

My first favorite thing about the Apologetics Study Bible for Students are the index (reverse) tabs on the page edges that allow us to find books of the Bible quickly. My daughter has never owned a Bible with the books visually imprinted on the page edges.

Everything about the Apologetics Study Bible for Students is inviting. The version of this Bible that we were given to review is weighty and substantial and the cover is hardback and easier to handle than a soft, slippery, floppy leather cover for kids with motor challenges.
A Few Features of The Apologetics Study Bible for Students HCSB:
- Book Introductions for each of the sixty-six books of the Bible.
- Study Notes provide evidence of the reliability and truthfulness of Scripture.
- 120 Articles written by today's leading Christian thinkers dealing with life's ultimate questions.
- 60 Twisted Scriptures address ways that various religious movements distort Scripture to support doctrine contrary to historic Christian teaching.
The chapter introductions give us historical context and background information. The text is smaller than my girl is accustomed to, more words on a page, yet the layout on the pages is inviting enough that she will pick up the book and read from it to herself. (This is amazing!) The study notes (extra tiny) add more important context and explanation. The 120 articles addressed things we've all wondered about; for example, "How were people saved before Christ?".  Twisted scriptures also answer questions I've wondered about - why didn't Adam and Eve die the moment they bit the fruit from the forbidden tree?

My homeschooler is a big fan of archaeology and the Apologetics Study Bible for Students contains 50 Bone & Dirt features  that tell us about important archaeological discoveries and why they are important. Other features are 25 Tactics, to equip students to withstand opposition to Christianity by outlining tactics and strategies for handling frequently heard anti-Christian arguments; 20 Personal Stories of encouragement; 20 Top Five bullet points.

As part of the PR materials that arrived with the Apologetics Study Bible, I learned that, this summer, the gift of Confident Faith is being celebrated with 16 brand new, but energetic and brief videos featuring Sean McDowell, free resources like Bible studies and articles as well as wonderful specials on apps and Bibles.  There are new resources every week - a full 16 weeks of resources when it is all done. The videos are located here. They are short (under four minutes long) and to the point. They give me insight into how to answer questions - so if you find the material is too advanced for your student, you may choose to watch them and teach the material yourself.

The intro to each video is a bit bothersome to me for my child with special needs (but not for the typically developing sibs). Allow me to explain. One of my problems with Sunday School lessons for typically developing teens is the topics are sometimes not developmentally appropriate for my child with autism. She is not ready to talk in a group about topics like dating, sex, cheating at school (that doesn't apply to her), abortion. The intro to each video is the same, a piece featuring Sean McDowell, and he mentions the topics that are too advanced for my teen w autism. I am able to fast forward through the intro and begin each video without the intro. The videos are clearly labeled, so I can avoid the topics that my child is not yet ready for - I like that flexibility and control and those are things Sunday School can't give me.

You can purchase the Apologetics Study Bible here in a variety of covers and prices. You can enter here to win one - I have one copy to give away. Leave a blog comment by Friday to enter. I'll choose a winner at the end of the week (22-Aug-15). AND, if that weren't enough, a Confident Faith Sweepstakes is being offered to give away Bibles, free mini libraries of B&H's best apologetics resources and even a trip for two to the National Conference on Christian Apologetics (NCCA) being held October 16-17, 2015 in Charlotte, NC where some of the world's leading thinkers will offer insights and teaching. Enter sweepstakes here.

We are enjoying this resource - it is inviting enough its own that my reluctant reader does not have to be coaxed to read a little. I like that a LOT. 

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Friday, August 7, 2015

Flying Creatures

Our local library is a wealth of field trips that are real learning experiences for a homeschooler who learns better by doing.

How often do you get this close to a flying squirrel, an owl, a bat, a hawk, a parrot?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Teeny Gecko

Palm trees, the ocean, sea shells, and teeny geckos - all things we saw in Florida that we don't see here where we live. My girl saw him. She notices the teeny things. I would not have noticed him. He blended in with the side of the swimming pool so well. He is a camera hog; he waited for me to grab my phone and stood still and allowed me to take several photos.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Toes in the Sand

My 'Rella and I took a 600+ mile trip together to see an autism doctor. I drove. We spent way too much time in the car on the road. We headed to Florida, and the hotel was a few blocks from the beach. On the long, long stretches of roadway, she rides in the back and watches a DVD. When we headed to the beach, I asked her to ride up front with me and read the directions. She hopes to be able to drive a car one day, but operating a motor vehicle is just one small aspect involved in driving. And she has just begun to show interest in those pieces.

Giving Mom directions was a first - and she passed with flying colors. She wanted to read the entire thing to me all at once, but I can't hold all the steps in my mind, so she got a lot of practice slowing down and staying engaged with me and with where we were, with looking for the cues given to us by the hotel desk manager.

And we made it to the beach. I got to show her the ocean for the very first time!

We didn't have a lot of time because we were meeting friends for dinner, but we were able to stick our toes in the sand and find a few seashells and write our names in the sand with our feet. :)

I wish we could have stayed longer. The day had been rainy with more rain coming, so the temps were comfortable and the sun not scorching. Would have been a perfect day to relax and watch the waves for hours. I'm glad we got to meet our friends for dinner and wouldn't trade that for time on the beach without them.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Theater Camp Success

What a difference a year makes - and what a difference the right people make. My girl completed a week of musical theater camp including a performance - a miracle after a dismal experience a year ago.

No one-on-one support required. No accommodations. No one treated her like she has autism. And when allowed to be a fully active participant with the right kind of teaching and encouragement, she flourished at musical theater camp this year! I am one proud mom!

My dear friend Amy said, "I'm telling ya. Sometimes "programs" are not where it is at. Just takes a little loving from people."

And loving she got. The camp directors planned a schedule that balanced movement and vocal exercises and acting exercises and snacks and lunch against the times to sit down and study a script. It worked - and it worked well.

On the day of the performance, my girl began exhibiting behavior that she was anxious. I heard her mutter something about what happened last year (story is below). She had just one brief outburst and it was during the dress rehearsal- and I went in and got her out. (I stayed for camp in the lobby in case I was needed - and that was the first time I was needed.) I took her off site for something to eat, assured her that she didn't have to perform if she didn't want to. She wound up going on stage, facing her fear and anxiety head on - she had the support of her peers on stage and the support of her directors, and she knew they had her back. She even missed one line and kept on performing. I had a front row seat to little miracles that day. When you understand the disaster a year ago of a camp for kids with autism, you'll appreciate the little miracles, too. My kid overcame an episodic memory of a horrible previous experience at a different musical theater camp.

A year ago, I enrolled my child in a theater camp specifically for children and teens on the autism spectrum. The camp is affiliated with a big famous elite university. The bio of director of the program says that the director an expert in emotional regulation challenges in autism.

The camp for kids with autism a year ago supplied a one-on-one student peer. My child had different peers during the camp (I am not sure why they couldn't assign her the same peer for the whole camp!) and one of them was behaviorally threatening when my child asked for a break. "If you don't behave, you'll get kicked out of the play." Rather than take a walk on the campus with my child to give her a break with the one-on-one peer, they tried to threaten her to behave. When I addressed this statement with the director, she said she would correct the student peer.

I don't believe the director knows much about emotional regulation in autism - the director provoked my child into a meltdown and then told my girl to "sit down there and get control" of herself. When she could not get control, the director removed my girl from camp two days before the performance. The director told me to take my screaming child to the emergency room right away - but my child calmed when I arrived because I know how to help her regulate. Interesting, disappointing, and sad that the "expert" in emotional regulation PhD did not know how to help her. And the expert promised to call me the next day - a call the expert never made to me.

May all of us find the places where people are loving on our children.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Patterns of Evidence -Exodus- Review & Giveaway

My homeschooler, a teenager on the autism spectrum, has long had a fascination with all things Egypt. This special interest is one I have encouraged and fed along the years. Recently, she has become fascinated with the story of Moses in the Bible. As I allow her to chase her interests, I am fascinated to see how much other learning happens as it relates to Egypt.

When we received an opportunity to review the DVD "Patterns of Evidence -Exodus-" I hesitated. Yes, my child w/ an ASD is very visual, but she has auditory processing challenges. Information written for younger children is better understood by her. Would she watch a documentary? Would she absorb any information from it?

The answer at my house is a yes.

"Patterns of Evidence - Exodus-" is almost two hours long and we watched it in one sitting. If you have a child with special needs or with auditory processing challenges, please know that it contains a lot of spoken information and dialogue. In the first 10 minutes of the DVD, I thought we were going to have to break it into several short viewing sessions, but my girl wanted to push through and watch all of it.

She fascinates me - at times, she gives me evidence that she is absorbing much more than I think she is - and at other times, there is clearly less understanding happening - and it was no different with this DVD. I appreciate how the evidence is presented with an explanation of why that particular piece of evidence is important. I am never left wondering why a piece of info was included in the film - he systematically builds a case for the Exodus as a real event in history and he builds a case for where he believes it fits in time. Filmmaker Timothy Mahoney gives us big glimpses into how his mind works in the way he presents information, important for me as I continue to work with my child with autism on perspective taking.

I really enjoyed Patterns of Evidence - Exodus. Quite a bit of footage was shot in Egypt. The visuals are educational, informative, interesting. The filmmaker uses a several-layer visual timeline that keeps me grounded in the information being discussed - and when facts outside the Bible indicate that the events might fit withing history if shifted on the timeline - it makes sense to me. Mahoney puts together a detailed puzzle of history that draws me in. I appreciated the non-Biblical history presented alongside information from the Old Testament. The details from other non-Bible writers who documented events during the time surrounding the events of the Israelite exodus from Egypt makes the Bible stories deep and rich, it adds layers of context and meaning that I did not have before. I like that the producer of the DVD chose experts whose opinions differ - the presentation is not one sided and causes me to think and ponder.

I hope more Patterns of Evidence DVDs are produced. We will watch them. Having our first experience be about my child's special interest of Egypt creates a warm introduction and I suspect that daughter will be open to watching another and another.

We enjoyed the Patterns of Evidence - Exodus, DVD!

I have a DVD to give away! Leave a comment to enter and I will choose a winner, Thursday, August 6th, 2015.

Twitter:  @PattofEvidence

Official Website:  http://patternsofevidence.com

Official Website to Purchase:  http://shop.patternsofevidence.com

Blog featuring interviews with director Tim Mahoney and an article by Anne Graham Lotz:  http://patternsofevidence.tumblr.com

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. 

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Baseball and Strep Throat

The guys are three hours away at a travel baseball tournament. I took one of the kids to the doctor this morning. Diagnosis: STREP. In the meantime, my brother and sister were able to go to my son's baseball game and have been sending me photos and giving me updates.

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