Book Review: Is that poop on my arm?

Several months ago, I attended my first-ever book event, where two authors would read portions of their books and make sales at a nearby church.

I knew both authors a little bit through our shared life in ministry and Minnesota, plus both books promised advice on helping teach children about our faith - and I am always looking for ideas when it comes to that.

Late in the event, I ended up winning a drawing to take home one of the author's books. This review is the result of that happy circumstance, and I'm glad to share with you a review of Is that poop on my arm? Parenting while Christian, by my friend, Justin Lind-Ayres.

I'm still finishing up edits for my book, Red State Christians: Understanding the voters who elected Donald Trump, which will release in Fall 2019. Between that and my habit of reading at least three daily newspapers every single day, it took me awhile to read Justin's book. Fortunately, with our recent Minnesotan polar vortex, I've had a little more time for book reading - and I recommend as our frigid temps continue, that you do the same!

Is that poop on my arm ... Parenting while Christian was one of the first books that my son Jacob was able to read the title of himself. He's in Kindergarten and just beginning to read, and Justin's title immediately sent Jacob into peals of laughter.

"Mommmm!" he shrieked. "What are you reading? Poop!"

I love a good, surprising title - and I noticed that Justin's title was a solid encapsulation of his book. Many of us, especially those of us who work in ministry ourselves, approach the idea of sharing our faith with our kids with a great deal of fear and solemnity. Faith is so important, and yet sometimes it's hard to figure out how best to share that Christian faith without bringing back memories of forced Bible study or mealtime prayers. Is that poop on my arm?, opening with a story of bringing Justin's small - messy diaper-filled baby - up to communion at his church, reminded me of the messiness of parenting and family life, and it is into this very imperfect world that God join us, with our imperfect children.

Rather than beginning his book with only holy moments, Justin begins his first chapter with a story about a time he felt disappointed in himself as a father, losing his temper with his daughter. He took that opportunity to teach and share about confession and about the calming presence of the Holy Spirit through breathing together. His story reminded me that we worship a God who brings peace into the very midst of chaos, rather than eliminating the inevitable chaos of our lives. Rather than feeling guilty as a parent - sometimes a seemingly natural state of being, especially for moms - I was encouraged to think about forgiveness and moments of peace.

In sharing with his daughter that he too needed her forgiveness -- and that giving forgiveness is as important a part of the Christian life as getting forgiveness -- Justin empowered his daughter while teaching her one of the most important lessons of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.

Throughout his book, Justin walks a careful line between reverence for the Christian faith and church he holds so dear, and also bringing a sense of humor, joy and levity to parenting while Christian. He tells about the time his two children said: "Cheers!" while receiving communion, and in doing so he taught his kids that church was not meant only as a solemn remembrance but also as a joyful party to give thanks for a God who loves and saves eternally and joyfully.

As a campus pastor at a local university, Justin does not have responsibilities on Sunday mornings, and so he and his family had to undergo the difficult ritual of "church shopping" with young children. As I spent part of last year as a freelance writer and speaker without a pastoral call, I can relate to Justin's challenge as a "parent in the pew." I'm glad he's reminding all of us how important it is to embrace young children in our midst, and the ways that kids remind people of all ages about grace and the role of the young and vulnerable in Jesus' story.

Finally, as Justin shares a story of tragedy and the support he received from his former congregation in Georgia, I was reminded of one of the underlying messages of his book: the importance of telling our stories and the importance of listening to other peoples' stories. As a parent of a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old, both of whom love to share long-winded and seemingly never-ending stories, Justin's reminder is important. I want to create space to listen to my kids so that I model for them that we worship a God who listens and a God who cares. I also notice that Justin's congregation cared for him because he risked being vulnerable. As a parent, and as a faith leader - and heck as a human being in 2018 - it's tough to be vulnerable. But when we share our stories, God stands between us and our listener, creating relationships and reminding us that the Gospel is centered in love and acceptance.

Is that poop on my arm? Parenting while Christian -- 4.5 STARS

Justin, thank you for sharing your book with me! I'm so glad I got to read it and share first-time author stories together last summer. I look forward to following your journey through ministry and writing books.

If you are an author and have a book you'd like me to read and/or review, please send me a copy and I'll be happy to do so as time allows! I have another review on the docket coming soon, and a book I need to read on my desk. As I move into preparation for publication of Red State Christians, I know the importance of reviews and am excited for the day when my book will be reviewed!

If you want to recommend a book for me to review, please send me those as well!

Stay warm fellow Midwesterners -- and those of you in the South, globally or nationally, send us some sunshine!


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