Episode 199: Michelle Lazurek and Helping Our Children Trust God

In this episode we talk with Michelle Lazurek whose new book is all about faith, the people in the Bible who were noted in Hebrews 11, and how to help our children trust God.

Our Guest: Michelle Lazurek

Michelle S. Lazurek has an M.A. in Counseling and human relations from Liberty University. She is a multi-genre award winning author, a literary agent and a certified writing coach. She is a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and Christian Authors Network. Michelle is a sought- after writers’ conference speaker. She has received nine awards including being a two- time Children’s Book of the Year award winner. Michelle lives in Coopersburg, PA with her husband and two children, her three biggest awards to date.

You can find out more about Michelle from her website michellelazurek.com. She is also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Michelle’s New Book: Hall of Faith: Remembering Ordinary People Who Trusted God

Show Notes/Transcript:

Terrie (00:09):

Welcome to season eight of “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that help us with everyday discipleship every day, sparking important conversations with our children. I’m so excited to introduce you to our guest today. Michelle Lazurek is with us and she has a brand new book coming out soon called The Hall of Faith, and so I am excited for you to hear from her. Thank you for joining us Michelle.

Michelle (00:33):

Hi Terrie. Thanks so much for having me.

Terrie (00:35):

So tell us about this new book.

Michelle (00:37):

Okay, yeah, so this new book is called Hall of Faith, and it is a retelling of the Hebrews 11 story for kids ages four to eight. It’s a 32 page picture book. It basically retells the people whom God chose to highlight in the book of Hebrews in chapter 11, which starts off with saying, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” This is what the ancients were commended for, and so it goes on to talk about all of the people who God had used for his glory through their faith. There are some people that are people that any Christian would probably assume would be in there, David, Noah, Abraham, but then there’s some other people we chose to highlight like Rahab and some other people whose stories were a little messier. Yet God chose to use that in big ways.

Michelle (01:23):

We wanted to relate that story to kids, letting them know that we all can be members of the Hall of Faith. One of the main repetitive phrases throughout the book is that these people had faith because they believed God could be trusted and want kids to remember that when we trust God, that’s when our faith grows and when we demonstrate our faith, that’s when God uses us in big and mighty ways. Yeah, I’m really excited about it. I think it’s going to be a great book and I think it’s going to be a great way to help kids understand Hebrews 11 in a new way.

Terrie (01:54):

Remind us when it’s available.

Michelle (01:56):

So it’ll be coming out October 29th.

Terrie (01:58):

But it is available for pre-order now, right?

Michelle (02:01):

Yep. It’s up on Amazon and B&HKids.com for pre-order right now.

Terrie (02:06):

Awesome. Okay, so first of all, what made you want to write this story?

Michelle (02:10):

Well, sometimes I get stories that I want to write, but most of the time I get stories that God gives me to write. So this kind of came as a vision, for lack of a better word. Sometimes things will pop out at me as I’m reading scripture. Sometimes I’ll hear it through somebody’s conversation. There’s many ways that God speaks to us and when I’m writing sometimes the Lord will use those measures for me to write, so that’s how I got started writing this book. Hebrews 11 faith was really not anywhere in any children’s books that I had seen, so I thought that would be a really great way. My original idea was actually to relate it to the Hall of Fame for boys with MVP like most valuable player and allowing kids to understand that they all could be that MVP in God’s eyes, that through their faith they could all be a part of that.

Michelle (02:58):

As I partnered with the people at Lifeway, we were able to kind of change it a little bit and tweak it a little bit to more of a biblically focused narrative, but also helping drive home the point that they believed because they understood that God could be trusted. When we are able to trust God fully, that’s when our faith grows and I think that’s such a great way to help kids understand faith is such an abstract concept that kids don’t quite understand. I am not sure a lot of adults understand it honestly, and we need a better understanding of what faith looks like in everyday life. That’s why I write the books that I write, because I want kids to not only understand the Bible better and get more Bible knowledge, but rather to apply it in everyday life. And so I think that the people at Lifeway have done such an awesome job as they normally do, this is actually going to be part of their one big story, the gospel project brand that’s pretty popular used in many churches in children’s church curriculums. So this will be associated with their brand with that. So we are super excited to see what God’s going to do through that, but we want to drive home the point that when we trust God fully, our faith grows and when our faith grows and we apply it in everyday life, God’s honored and that we are a part of the hall of faith in his eyes.

Terrie (04:08):

I love that and I love too that the emphasis is on him. It’s God who builds our faith. It’s he who has the strength and helps us grow. I think that’s so important for our kids to understand that our faith is not something we muster up, but it’s something as we walk with God and trust him that he builds in our lives. So I think that’s wonderful.

Michelle (04:30):

Absolutely.

Terrie (04:30):

Okay, and you also have a book I want to talk about and that is your book. I Surrender All. We’re going to be talking about it on our other podcast as well, but I want parents to be aware of this book because I think this comes right alongside with teaching our children faith is helping them to understand how to surrender fully to God. This book is called I Surrender All (Sort Of): Laying Down Our Plans So God Can Do the Impossible. Tell us a little bit about that book.

Michelle (04:58):

This sort of is really what I wanted to drive home. I got the idea for this book from a worship team that I’d been part of many, many years ago. It’s one of the first churches that my husband and I had ever pastored. I was part of the worship team and we were singing the traditional hymn. I Surrender All and the gentleman who was leading the hymn just kind of laughed at the end and he just said, well, we don’t really surrender all do we? And we just kind of looked at each other. We’re like, what do you mean? He’s like, well, we surrender some but do we really surrender all? And I just thought, wow, that’s really intuitive that he’s making a really good point. There are definitely things in our lives that we hold back because we’re afraid that God is not going to give us the outcome that we want.

Michelle (05:34):

We want to maintain our control and so sometimes we hold things tightly, certain areas of our lives in our hands tightly so that God can’t get ahold of them so that we can control how our lives go. This book was actually a parallel to my own personal story of an issue that I had with anxiety and when I had a particular bout with anxiety back in 2019, 2020, it really changed my life. It was to the point where I couldn’t function normally, so I really had to take a step back from my normal everyday life and get the healing and restoration that I needed. I got medication, I sought the help of professionals, and when I did so I was able to learn how to surrender my life completely to God. Do I do that always? No. But I’m certainly learning and I do believe in the power that God can do when we’re able to do that. So that’s why I wrote the book is because surrender is such a hard concept for all of us, and I rarely write a book that I haven’t lived through myself that is a book of my own personal story and journey through anxiety and how when you lay down your life for the Lord, the Lord will really work in my new ways for us.

Terrie (06:42):

So from what you have gone through and what you’ve learned, how can we as parents help our children? Because I know a lot of children are even dealing with anxiety and fear and all kinds of things in our culture today. How can we help our children to navigate these kinds of things?

Michelle (06:58):

I think one of the main things we can do, I think there’s a couple things that we can do. So often, I know this because I’m a parent too, and I have two adult children now. I can’t believe I’ve even been saying that, but my daughter just turned 18 in January, and I have a 20-year-old son. They’re navigating their way through life, and I certainly look back and think about the many mistakes I made as a parent. I’m sure we all can think about things that we should have would’ve could’ve done in our kids’ lives, but I think one of the main things, if I could go back in time, I think there’s always room to grow in terms of our example to our kids. I could have been praying more, I could have been reading my Bible more. I could have been the example to them that they would want to carry into their adult life.

Michelle (07:38):

I think that’s number one. So I think being an example to our kids, not being perfect by any means, but just being the example that we would want our kids to become when they get to be adults. So maybe that looks like praying on our knees daily for them. Maybe it looks like practicing spiritual disciplines. Maybe it looks like being more kind or exhibiting more of the fruits of the spirit, whatever that may look like for us being that example, kids live what they learn and no matter how hard we try, the older we get, the more we become like the parents that we had good or for bad. I think when we’re able to kind of put those things aside and really strive to be the people that God wants us to be, that’s when we become more like him, number one, but that’s also when we are teaching our kids how to have strength, especially in this time when they have the word of God to anchor themselves to a word of God that does not return void.

Michelle (08:26):

That’s an inerrant word of God. It’s not like a John Grisham novel. You can’t read it once and think you know the ending. What’s beautiful about it is, we read the Bible and we can read it 80 times, and the 81st time I read the same verse and something brand new pops out at me, and that’s why the Bible is a living and active document and there’s no other book out there that can claim that same claim. And when we understand and we live every day knowing that we have 66 books that will help us live lives of more Christ-like behavior, that’s something we can claim for our strength. I think that’s the first thing. The second thing I do think that kids need to see the spirit for themselves. I’ve seen my kids literally grew up in church. My son almost was born on the altar of one of my churches.

Michelle (09:14):

I went into labor a little earlier than we expected, and I went home after practice from worship team and about two hours later started having labor pains. So if I’d been a little earlier, he may have actually been born in the church, but we definitely made the model of regular church attendance, which I do think is big, but there has to be more than that. I could never want my church to raise my kids solely. I have to be the person that’s going to help them grow in that faith, and I do think that seeing the spirit for themselves change them in ways that I never could. So even though I can be the example to them, when they had moments in a church service or had moments in their lives when they felt the spirit speaking or when they were in tune with the spirit and the spirit gave them a vision or it gave them something.

Michelle (09:57):

When you’re experiencing the Holy Spirit for yourself and you know without a doubt that that was God speaking to you, that’ll help kids claim to strength because then they can’t dispute the presence of God and the existence of God. And society wants us not only to question and dispute it, but now we’re being hated for it, which of course God promised we shouldn’t be surprised. But at the same time, when they see things for themselves, when it’s not just mom and dad telling them something, but they’re actually learning and experiencing it for themselves, it’s an experience you can’t take away from them, and I think that’s so important when it comes to kids claiming their own strength when they’re navigating this adult world like my kids are, they have to know that God is God without a shadow of a doubt and they can’t just be mommy and daddy’s God, and it can’t just be, well, mom brought me to church and dad was a pastor and he did it for a living and so it must be true. No, they had to learn that for themselves and I saw both of my kids go through, I wouldn’t necessarily say a crisis of faith, but something to the point where they had their questions and their doubts and God had to meet them in places that I never could. So when God does that and they’re open to that, that’s when kids can claim strength in a world that is completely tumultuous right now.

Terrie (11:04):

I love that. And that’s something I try to remind parents too when I speak is we’ve got to see our children not just accept our faith, it’s got to become their faith, and that’s a good thing when they’re asking questions, when they’re wrestling with the word of God and with faith it’s not a negative, it’s a positive. We want them to be there because they’ve got to come to that place where, like you said, that they’re experiencing God for themselves, that they know the Holy Spirit is in their life and leading and guiding them and they see God use them in ministry or in someone’s life or to share the gospel. They’ve got to come to that point. Otherwise they’re just walking an aisle and going through the motions and living off shirt tails of our faith and that’s not enough.

Michelle (11:50):

And then we scratch our heads and wonder why our kids don’t enter into a church when they get to be adults because well, mom and dad aren’t there. I do think another important point to make too is within the local church body, our kids have to learn and to know how to have a place there. So often we make these separate entities where kids go, well, they start off in children’s church, they’re not even a part of the service. Then they grow up and they go to a youth group, which is also not a part of the service, but then they’re old enough to be a part of the service. So they’re there, but they’re just kind of present. They don’t really serve then when they get to be adults, well, they don’t understand why a church would want or need them at that point.

Michelle (12:21):

And so they’re walking away saying, well, what’s the point of this? I can get a sermon anywhere. They need to have a place within the local church starting when they’re young for them to understand and learn that this has a place for you, and number two, we would be lost without you. And when the kids can feel like that, a place of real belonging that will trump any drug use, alcohol use, anything we use to fill that emotional void that we take with us from kids into adulthood, that’s where the church should shine, is when the youth feel like they have a place where they belong. That really is a way that they can also gain strength is when they’re plugged into the local church body. People know them and they’re for them, and they’re praying for them not only in their triumph but also their struggles; that’s a place they’ll turn to when the world has gone bad and they don’t know where else to turn.

Terrie (13:05):

Yes. It’s so, so important that they know that it’s a safe place to go when they have struggles and when they have failed to know that the church is not going to reject them, but actually walk with them through their struggle. Some of our churches are really wonderful at that, but some are not so good at it, and I know my church I grew up in was so fantastic in so many ways, but the one way they failed was they didn’t even want us as youth to be voting on anything. Even though we’d been members for quite some time, we weren’t really allowed to vote on the new pastor or anything like that, and it really was hurtful, especially cause one time they voted in a pastor that the whole youth group was like, why are we voting him– This isn’t the right guy,” and he turned out to be a really bad choice. I don’t know what happened, it was so weird, but the whole youth group would’ve voted no. It could have saved our church a lot of heartache.

Michelle (13:58):

That’s what the church doesn’t understand as adults and leaders, and there is a point to this that kids, they don’t have the emotional maturity and they shouldn’t, they’re still developing, but at the same time, this generation, we have to understand generations too. The younger generation can smell inauthenticity a mile away. They have more of a pulse on their own spiritual gifts than any generation I’ve seen, and when they’re willing to use those gifts, particularly the gifts of wisdom and discernment, which they can have by the way, when they have it and they’re telling you, “Hmm, this isn’t a good choice.” Maybe just simply because that person’s not jiving with them or not making them feel like they’re important or they’re valued or appreciated, that can become really problematic for the church because if that youth group leaves and you end up with a much older generation, which has its place, but what happens when they haven’t discipled the younger generation to follow them up 20 years from now, that church is in big trouble. We have to think about not only is this person good for me, my own preferences, do they teach well and am I getting “fed” (quote unquote), but is it going to equip and help me disciple the next generation because my church may be in trouble in 10 to 20 years.

Terrie (15:07):

That’s good. Good point. Well, I want to end with one last question, just back to the Hall of Faith through the book. How can we use this book as it comes out because we haven’t seen it yet. Do you tell each of the stories of the different characters and then how can parents use this to help build their children’s faith or encourage their children in their faith?

Michelle (15:28):

Yes, it does tell the stories of each character that we chose to use. Then of course it ends with the biggest MVP, which is Jesus Christ of course. So I do think it’s a great building block for kids not only to use the story, but I would never suggest a parent to simply just use the book, use it in tandem with the Bible and help the kids read the Bible for themselves. Help them compare and see that this is actually in the Bible, not just a story that was made up. Help them understand the messy parts as best as you can with a young child. Well, how come Rahab was chosen for that when she has a very messy background? I do think that does help kids understand the faith because when we look at different passages, and that one is an interesting one to use Hebrews 11, but it’s a motley crew, I mean, they’re far from perfect.

Michelle (16:13):

You got Jesus’s disciples, and they were far from perfect too. I mean, he had the worst of the worst in some cases with him, and he chose to use them because there was nothing that God couldn’t redeem. That’s what is one great building block this, this book can help kids understand not only just trusting and having faith, but also understanding that it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in life, the grace and mercy of the cross will cover over all of it, and when kids get out of that understanding, especially as they’re growing from ages 4-8, that’s really the ages we’re disciplining our kids the most. They’re being shaped into that culture, but they also have to understand their own independence, their own individualism, their own self-worth. That’s all developing at this time too, so I think when we can separate the discipline part of it, help kids understand that mom and dad might be disciplining you because they love you, they want what’s best for you.

Michelle (17:00):

It’s not just I’m rewarding good behavior and I’m punishing bad behavior, but rather this is for your whole wellbeing so that when you grow up to be an adult, you understand number one, what’s right and wrong, but number two, you understand that there are consequences to our choices. Some of those bad choices will result in consequences. That’s throughout the Bible too. But then also at the same time Christ came so that his grace and mercy will cover over everything we have done or everything we ever will do. I think it’s a great building block for kids to understand that Jesus’ death on the cross and his grace and mercy really can cover over anything we have said or done. And it really is our faith, which is the ultimate example of our belief in God. We’re not.

Terrie (17:43):

Thank you so much. I appreciate all that you’ve shared today and appreciate you being here. Thank you for joining us.

Michelle (17:49):

Thank you. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Terrie: (17:51)
Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” where we encourage each other to grasp those teachable moments sparked by great books and to live out everyday discipleship, helping to equip our children to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you enjoyed this episode, please like and share, so people know we are here. We truly appreciate you. If you would like to connect with me, you can join my mailing list or comment on terriehellardbrown.com. We love to hear from you and we respond to every comment and question, so please feel free to comment on the blog post, and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Most of all, we pray you feel empowered to walk by faith and to embrace everyday discipleship every day with the children in your life.

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her newest book, A World of Pancakes, just launched and is available at terriehellardbrown.com. Her devotional for families, Building Character through Picture Books: 25 Family Devotions Based on Favorite Picture Books, is available on her website and through Amazon.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 39 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 35 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

Just FYI: When you click the links in the transcript, I may receive compensation if you choose to buy one of the books recommended. So, if you do, thank you! 🙂

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