Top 10 Tips for Starting the School Year Right

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Most children start back to school this month. Here are 10 tips to make the school year easier.

1. Start the school routine early. Most children stay up a little later during the summer. It takes at least a week or two for their bodies to get adjusted to the new sleep schedule. It will help them get a head start if you place them on that schedule at least a week before school starts.

2. Help your children decide a homework time. Children are more apt to follow through on homework assignments if they have a say in initiating it. Discuss with your child how much time he’ll need to do his homework, when’s the best time, and where he should work. Some children would rather do their homework as soon as they get home and get it out of the way, but other children need to unwind before they can concentrate on more work. Work with them instead of against their natural work habits.

3. Set up a homework station. Some children like to work out in the open where everybody is so they don’t feel isolated. Other children want privacy and quiet. Find out what’s best for your children.

4. Discuss extracurricular activities with your children. Most children are so overburdened with sports, dance, music, art, and other activities that they never have downtime just to play. Give your children limits about how many activities they can be involved in. Let them know they have decisions to make about which activities to participate in. They can’t do them all.

5. Schedule and limit TV, computer, video games, and other electronic devices. Let your children know that, during the school year, these activities will be limited. Tell them how much time they have on each device, and let them decide how to use that time.

6. Buy a number of easy and healthy breakfast items for your children. If they’re running late, they’re much more likely to eat breakfast if there’s a banana or breakfast food readily available.

7. Take your children to the grocery store and let them help you pick out items for their lunches. If your goal is for them to eat healthy, let them know that, and help them choose foods they’ll eat and not throw out.

8. Go school shopping. This is an exciting time. Make a day of it.

9. Visit the school your children will attend. If possible, try to meet the teacher.

10. Decide how your children will get to school. If they ride a bus, what time will the bus pick them up? If they walk, who will they walk with? Have they met the crossing guard? What route will they take? If you drive them, you might want to set up a car pool with other parents. Also give your children a secret password that you can use for anyone you might send to pick them up in an emergency.

List of 35 Must Read Young Adult Fiction

Many of the books on most Young Adult reading lists are not acceptable for a Christian teen or preteen to read because of the content. Here is my must read YA list. YA consist of books for ages 10 – 18, so it has a wide span. This list doesn’t consist only of Christian books, but they all have Christian principles or a Christian worldview. Because each parent’s standards are different, I’ll leave it to you which books your teen should read and at what age each book is appropriate. I’ve listed them in order of what I consider age appropriate.

Pipi Longstocking Series by Astrid Lindgren

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol

Anne of Greene Gables Series by LM Montgomery

Chronicles of Narnia Series by CS Lewis

A Wrinkle in Time Series by Madeleine L’Engle

Wizard of Oz Series by L. Frank Baum

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

William Henry is a Fine Name and I’ve Seen Him in the Watchfires by Cathy Gohlke

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Silas Marner by George Eliot

Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavin

The Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan

The Hagenheim Series by Melanie Dickerson

If We Survive by Andrew Klavin

The Giver Series by Lois Lowry

Diary of Anne Frank (non-fiction, but still a good book)

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Christy by Catherine Marshall

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Homelanders Series by Andrew Klavin

The Lost Books Series by Ted Dekker

Watershed Down by James Ashton

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Outsiders by SE Hinton

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

10 Signs a Great Awakening has come to America

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

I, like many of you, am praying for another great awakening to sweep over the United States. Revivals have broken out. One is happening in my local church, but we need God to send a great awakening to this land once again. Based on revivals and great awakenings in history, here are ten things we could expect if our prayers are answered in no particular order.

1. The culture will change. Movies will mostly be clean entertainment because those will be the most profitable. Sports games, movie theaters, and other entertainment venues will begin to shut down on Sundays. It wouldn’t be profitable for them to stay open since most people will be in church. People will have no problem praying for each other or talking about God in public.

It will affect elections, laws, the government, the news media, education, and the entertainment industry. People will get married instead of living together. They will have babies after getting married. Race relations will improve drastically. The crime rate will go down. Morality will become the norm. Some won’t like it, but everything will change.

2. Wild manifestations will appear, some of God and some because of emotional excitement. Miracles and healing will become commonplace. Outbursts of joy will cause laughter. Being drunk in the Spirit will occur often. People will be “slain in the Spirit, dance, and shake. Strange things will happen. Sarah Edwards, Great Awakening Jonathan Edwards’ wife, called it “being swallowed up in God.

Some preachers and church members will lament that the services are out of order and declare this is not of God. Some people will be reacting to the emotionalism, but that’s all right. It’s easier to correct someone out of order than to bring the dead to life. The churches that don’t put God in a box will be the ones that grow that fastest. Things will get messy at times, but God will have it under control.

3. People will spontaneously meet in homes during the week for prayer and worship meetings and Bible studies. There will still be organized small groups, but meetings will also spring up organically. Every time people meet, they’ll end up praying, talking about God’s Word, and worshipping.

4. Youth and children will be a major part of the Awakening and will have Bible studies and prayer meeting in school whether they were allowed or not. They will also tell their friends about Jesus and lead many of them to Christ even if they get in trouble for it.

5. People will do radical things like give all their money to the poor, decide to become missionaries, or start street preaching outside of bars. Most churches will invite homeless people and the poor to come to their churches and they will feed them and provide services.

6. The Name of Christ will be glorified and the gifts of the Holy Spirit will be emphasized. No one will pretend everyone is going to Heaven. They will preach Christ crucified, risen, and coming again. This will be verified by the baptism, gifts, and multiple fillings of the Holy Spirit.

7. An intense wave of persecution would hit because those who are resisting God will become angry. While some are coming to God in record numbers, others will do everything they can to stop it. Some of this persecution will come from the church.

Glowing Bible with Cross on Brown Backround8. False doctrines will rise up to try to deceive. The real church will immerse themselves in the Word to rightly divide the Word of God and will be led by the Holy Spirit.

9. Churches will balance the Word of God with the Spirit of God. An intense interest in the Bible will accompany a great move of God’s Spirit and a deep spirit of intercessory prayer and worship.

10. God will require a greater surrender and yielding to Him in ways we might not like. We will learn what it means to yield to Him.

10 Things to Do When Life Overwhelms You

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Everyone is busy these days, but there are times in our lives a major event happens that completely overwhelms and swallows our lives for a season. Whether it be an injury or illness, a major family event, a emotional crisis, a move or major life change, or a crisis at work, these changes can swallow up our lives and leave us feeling drained.

I am currently going through one of these seasons. My elderly mom has moved to another state, and I’m helping with the move. At the same time, my husband and I are building a new house in that state. My daughter is going through a major life event. If that’s not enough, I also have a summer children’s revival schedule going on and have a deadline with my publisher. My next book is due October 1st. So, I understand what you are going through.

Here are ten things to help you, and me, when life becomes overwhelming.

Remember this is a season. Sometimes taking a breath and regaining our perspective can help immensely. This major crisis is not the new normal for your life. You will get through it.

Keep your eyes on Jesus. Peter was walking on water when he kept his eyes on Jesus, but when he focused on the waves and the storm, he sank. The larger the waves, the greater our focus needs to be on the One who commands the wind and the waves. One way to do this is to print out copies of a verse you’re holding onto and put in visible places everywhere.

Exercise: Before you say you don’t have time, I’m not telling you to spend hours at the gym, but even some exercise, like a brisk walk around the block, is beneficial. Exercise has been proven to defeat depression, offer mental clarity, and increase your energy. These are benefits you need during overwhelming times in your life.

Make a To Do List. Write down EVERYTHING you need to do. Then decide what you have to do now and what can wait. You are in crisis mode right now. You can’t do the things that can wait. You’ll get to those things after the crisis is over. For now, do only what you have to do.

Ask for help. This is hard to do, but it is essential to survive this season of your life. Friends, adult children, and your church may be able to help you with certain tasks. Also, if you can hire some temporary extra help to do daily tasks, do so. Housekeeping, laundry services, and delivery services are well worth the cost during overwhelming seasons.

Don’t take on any new projects. Even if its a project you want to do, say no. You’re no doesn’t have to be permanent, but for now, you can’t agree to do anything.

Take time for Self Care. Self care is what you do to make yourself feel better. You might enjoy reading a book, watching a movies, or doing a fun event. Whatever makes you feel good inside is something you need to take time to do. If you don’t have self care no matter how busy you are, you will end up burning out.

Get away from the situation. Sometimes getting away from a situation, even for a couple of hours, can help you feel refreshed.

Talk to a Friend. Venting to someone who will listen is vital during these overwhelming times. A good friend will let you vent when you need to, but when you are going into self-pity, she will encourage you out of it.

Be filled with the Spirit of God. The joy of the Lord is your strength, so go to the source of your strength to help you through this. Pray constantly asking God for strength, peace, and joy and allowing Him to fill you with His Spirit. Put you hand on your head and pray for yourself. This is last on the list, but it is the most important step to take.

100 Must Read Works of Fiction

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

I’ve seen a lot of lists of books everyone should read before they died. Many times I was disappointed certain books weren’t on the list or that other books were. I decided to make my own fiction list everyone should read. It is in alphabetical order according to title. Comment how many of these you’ve read and if you think I should have added any.

  1. 1984 by George Orwell
  2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  3. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  4. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  5. Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
  6. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  7. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  8. Anne of Green Gables Series by LM Montgomery
  9. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
  10. Atonement by Ean McEwan
  11. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  12. Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Willhelm Grimm
  13. And Then There were None by Agatha Christie
  14. Atlas Shrugged by Ann Rand
  15. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  16. Christie by Catherine Marshall
  17. Circle Series by Ted Dekker
  18. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  19. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  20. Emma by Jane Austin
  21. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  22. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  23. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  24. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  25. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  26. Hind’s Feet in High Places by Hannah Hurnard
  27. His Brother’s Keeper by Charles M. Sheldon
  28. Hondo by Louis L’Amour
  29. Hounds of the Baskervilles by Sir Author Conan Doyle
  30. In His Steps by Charles M. Sheldon
  31. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  32. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  33. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  34. Left Behind Series by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
  35. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  36. Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  37. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  38. Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke
  39. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  40. Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C Douglas
  41. Mark of the Lion Series by Francine Rivers
  42. Much Ado about Nothing by William Shakespeare
  43. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  44. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  45. Persuasion by Jane Austin
  46. Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti
  47. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
  48. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
  49. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
  50. Riven by Jerry Jenkins
  51. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  52. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  53. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austin
  54. Shane by Jack Schaefer
  55. Silas Marner by George Elliot
  56. South Pacific by James A. Michener
  57. Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  58. Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe
  59. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  60. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  61. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  62. The Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett
  63. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  64. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  65. The Cantebury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  66. The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  67. The Chronicles of Narnia Series by CS Lewis
  68. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
  69. The Covenant by Beverly Lewis
  70. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
  71. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  72. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  73. The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
  74. The Lord of the Rings Series by  J. R. R. Tolkien
  75. The Hobbit by  J. R. R. Tolkien
  76. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
  77. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
  78. The Metamorphosis by Frank Kafka
  79. The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe
  80. The Outsiders by SE Hinton
  81. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  82. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
  83. The Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flannigan
  84. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  85. The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis
  86. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  87. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  88. The Time Machine by HG Wells
  89. The Virginian: The Horseman on the Plains by Owen Wister
  90. This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti
  91. To Build a Fire by Jack London
  92. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  93. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Sevenson
  94. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  95. Twice Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  96. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Tubman
  97. War of the Worlds by HG Wells
  98. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  99. When the Heart Calls by Cindy Woodsmall
  100. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

My Top Ten Favorite Hobbies

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Everyone has things they enjoy doing for fun. Here is my list of 10 favorite hobbies. I didn’t include spiritual activities such as Bible study, prayer, and worship, but I love them too. I also didn’t include my ministry activities such as Gospel illusions, puppets, and preaching.

 

10. Playing board games and card games: I love to spend an evening with friends playing games.

9. Dancing: I took 20 years of dance lessons when I was younger.

8. Knitting: I learned how to knit from my grandmother, but I taught myself how to make more than scarves when I was pregnant with my first child.

7. Going to the movies with my husband: I love to watch good, clean movies.

6. Researching my ancestry: This is a lot of fun, and you wouldn’t believe what I’ve found out.

5. Studying history: This is probably why I write historicals.

4. Watching classic movies: I love classic movies, especially movies from the 1940s and 1950s.

3. Traveling: I’ve been to 40 states and 8 countries. Going to the other states and a few more countries is on my bucket list.

2. Reading: I have always loved to read. I remember reading with a flashlight under the covers when I was a kid and supposed to be asleep. When I was a teen, I read classics and Shakespeare for fun.

1. Writing: Writing isn’t really a hobby since I am an author, but I do enjoy it enough to include it on the list.

10 Reasons the USA Should be Celebrated

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

The United States of America has a unique history and heritage that most other nations haven’t shared. Whether you call it exceptionalism or something else, America is special and should be celebrated for its differences. At this time in history, we are divided as a nation in a way we haven’t been since the Civil War, yet I believe America will survive and thrive. Here are some of the things to be proud of this 4th of July.

The United States was birthed out of a revival. While other nations’ origins were born out of class warfare, overthrowing dictators, and bloody overthrows, America fought a civilized Revolutionary War in comparison. A few years earlier, men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and the Wesley brothers had led the colonies into a untied nation under God during the First Great Awakening. Our founding fathers were affected by this revival and many were strong Christians. The day of the vote on Independence, the Continental Congress all got on their knees and prayed for God’s guidance.

The United States First Amendment guarantees the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of press, and freedom of assembly. This amendment has been assaulted in recent years, but it is the bedrock of why we remain a free society.

The United States has a peaceful transfer of power. Other nations also have this, but many don’t. We are guaranteed that every four years there will be an honest election and the leaders will abide by the will of the people whether they like it or not. It doesn’t matter if you like this president or the last one, you can rest easy that there will not be a coup. The Constitution put this in play, but it was initiated before that when our first president, George Washington, refused to become king.

The United States is a democratic republic. Many people don’t understand this or believe the USA is a democracy. We are a democracy, but we are also a republic. That means that although leaders are chosen by majority vote, we don’t have mob rule. Every person, every minority, is represented and protected.

The United States has a balance of powers. Our government moves slowly because of this, but it essential to our form of government and prevents dictatorship. When it works correctly, the Congress makes the laws, the President enforces the laws, and the Supreme Court interprets the laws. The US Constitution is above every branch of the government and has kept us from straying from our origins.

The United States is the strongest nation on Earth. When it comes to military power, financial power, and innovation, the US is the strongest nation. We could use that strength to conquer, but instead, we use that strength to protect and serve.

The United States has benefitted the quality of life everywhere. Because of the structure of freedom in our DNA, the US has been a leader in industry, medicine, innovation, creativity, and innovation. We gave the world electric lights, movies, computers, and airplanes. We were the only nation to put a human being on the moon. Our scientists are some of the best in the world.

The United States has the best medical treatment in the world. While debates are going on in Congress about medical insurance, remember how medical technology and innovation is stronger in the US than any other country. People who can afford it come to the US for medical treatment. We have shared that technology with other nations and have been instrumental in the fight against aides, ebola, and other epidemics.

The United States learns from its mistakes. America isn’t perfect, but no nation is. We have made mistakes. Slavery, prejudice, and our treatment of indigenous people are some of them. Yet with each generation, we strive to learn from the mistakes of the past and correct them.

The United States is great because it is good. In the 1800s, Alexis de Tocqueville toured America and said, “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” While this statement is being worn thin, America is still good in many ways. America and Americans go overseas every year to help people in other nations. We give more money and man power to help in natural disasters than any other nation. Missionaries all over the world feed the hungry, cloth the poor, treat the sick, and care for orphans. In this country, when we become aware of a need, there is an outpouring to meet it. Not everyone in America is good, but there is a remnant that is still good.

For these reasons and more, America has been a beacon of hope drawing people from all over the world. We have reason to be proud to be Americans, so let’s celebrate.