If you were to ask author Karen Whiting to list the most important things in her life, she would likely have no problem rattling off the top three with very little hesitation: her faith, her family, and serving others. Beyond those three, I can’t claim to know what might fall next.
Blessed with a large family – five children and twelve grandchildren – and a deep relationship with the Lord since she was a young girl, Karen has always instilled a sense of servitude and love of helping others in her kids. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows her and her family.
Karen was born and raised in a family where many of her relatives were called to serve, whether it be with the military, fire department, police department, or emergency relief, and that tradition carries on today.
Her late husband, Commander Jim Whiting, served in the U.S. Coast Guard for twenty-two years. Her grandfather, John Hartigan, served for four decades in their town’s fire department, which he founded. Her dad, John Hartigan Jr., served in the U.S. Army in WWII. Her son, Michael Whiting, served in the U.S. Air Force. Her daughter, Rebecca White, spent time as a disaster relief case manager for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). In addition, she has a son-in-law, two uncles, a brother, three brothers-in-law, and several cousins who all have served in some capacity.
As for her, Karen has been involved with the Officers’ Christian Fellowship for more than four decades: “When I was in Maryland, I was very involved with the Naval Academy OCF and did Bible study with the midshipmen there. I also taught the women’s Bible study group and coached the women midshipmen on how to lead Bible study so they could do it themselves.”
With her obvious passion for faith, family, and serving others, writing 52 Weekly Devotions for Families Called to Serve was a no-brainer since it combined all three areas together in one book.
The book is meant to be a devotional workbook of sorts for parents and children to read and do the activities together. Karen realized that oftentimes families are too busy to commit to a structure that is daily; therefore, the book’s devotions are set up in weekly increments and families can start with whatever devotion sparks their interest and skip around after that from devotion to devotion. That’s why there are no dates and the devotions don’t begin on January 1.
Each devotion is centered on one theme, such as “Gratitude,” “Teamwork,” “Responsibility,” or “Time for Family” – all the important traits and characteristics parents want to instill in their children from an early age. Every week, once a family has picked a specific devotion to focus on, the book offers the following elements: family beatitude, focus, weekly Bible verse, three activity options, a contemporary story along with a Biblical story that furthers the same message, and some chat prompts.
“I really hope it inspires children to want to follow God’s direction in serving people and to really understand that putting other people first is part of loving one another and following what God has asked us to do,” said Karen.
Hopefully the book will also serve as a platform that parents can use to discuss with their children the different aspects of their lives and being a child of God. From the perspective of someone who serves our country or their community, it’s often difficult for a mom or a dad to explain to a young child why they have to leave a birthday party or family night with very little notice because of an emergency. This book helps in those situations.
“There wasn’t really any vehicle, any book, that children and families could use together to be able to do that before,” Karen stated.
Karen believes that one of the keys to kids learning how to live a life of love and servitude is through stories, which is why Jesus relied on stories and parables so often in his ministry. That’s why she considers both the contemporary and biblical story in each devotion valuable.
One such example of a story featured in 52 Weekly Devotions for Families Called to Serve tells the story of a little boy named Duane who was at home with his Dad when his Dad had a seizure. Knowing enough to call 9-1-1, the little boy called the emergency number and spoke to an EMT. Wanting to keep the child on the line until the paramedics arrived at the house, the EMT kept the child calm by asking him questions.
Although the story is short, its message is simple. It helps children realize that calls to 9-1-1 or other emergency hotlines are important and they can find help at the other end of the line because the phone is their lifeline at that time. The biblical connection the book uses to relate to the story of Duane is the time when Jairus cried out for Jesus to help his twelve-year-old daughter:
But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. Then He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement (Mark 5:40-42).
The weekly devotions also include ideas on how families can help others by working together or individually. The hands-on activities help children think about what they need to do to show love, honor, and respect toward others, demonstrate a positive and open attitude, have joy, and pray together.
For parents looking for a way to awaken the giving heart within their children, 52 Weekly Devotions for Families Called to Serve delivers.
But in case you have a child who is resistant to spending time together as a family in faith and devotion, Karen has one last bit of advice. “Make sure you put an element of fun in there. Add some laughter in there so it’s not too rigid and help them understand why you’re doing it.”
Order your copy of 52 Weekly Devotions for Families Called to Serve by Karen Whiting
John Farrell is the Digital Content Writer / Editor of Inspiration.org.