LIKE FATHER – LIKE SON … Joseph Rader and his son Mikel don the costumes at a recent Boy Scouting event.
Sometimes, a person has to leave home in order to find out who they are in the big scheme of things. With some people though, they seem to have a fixed life vector from childhood. For Joseph ‘Joe’ Rader, it’s a combination of the two, under a constant refinement through faith.
Joe is a member of the Hilltop Class of 2001. “I lived in West Unity for most of my teenage years with the Hands … Deb and Mike Hand. I was with them for my high school years. I was in foster care through them; they were my foster parents, and they’ve lived in West Unity for a long time.” Currently, he is employed as a counselor with the Bair Foundation, and resides in Brook Park, Ohio, with his wife of ten years Lori, their eight year old son Mikel, and their five year old son named Mason.
Joe is also a published author with two books to his credit, and number three on its way. The first one was called ‘Eyes,’ and bears witness to the aforementioned ‘refinement’. “That was one that I published a long, long time ago,” Joe recalled, “… but now I illustrate and I write kids’ books. I have two separate kids’ books published that I illustrated and wrote. ‘Eyes’ was never fully published; it was more of an e-book, but the other kids books have been published and are physical copies. ‘Eyes’ is one of those books I did in the past, that as I look back at it, it’s not something I want to tell many people about. It does have Christian elements in it, but then it has some stuff that’s kind of spooky. I don’t want to push that one out there, so I’m doing the kids’ books. I’m using my talents with the writing, with the drawing, and actually reaching out to this next generation of kids, and giving tools to the parents to work with.”
Joe’s first real publication was entitled, ‘When I … (feelings)’, which came out on Amazon on November 23, 2017. “I did the illustrations. I did the words. I did the whole gambit,” he said. “In the midst of doing ‘When I … (feelings)’, God gave me the idea of doing a study edition of the book, because I’ve been a social worker dealing with foster kids, and I’ve seen a lot of kids make emotional decisions and live by their emotions and then the bad consequences that reaps. You can make a decision on a sadness, depression, anger and not expect things not having consequences to it. And so I kind of wrote ‘When I .. .(feelings)’, with that mindset of I want this generation to know the Bible does speak to how to deal with your feelings…it says we walk by faith not by sight. So, ‘When I … (feelings)’, I present a whole bunch of different negative emotions through the drawings. At the end, it gives the idea that no matter how you feel, no matter what you attempted to feel like, you can still praise God in the midst of your feelings. You can still praise God when you’re sad. You can still praise God when you’re angry, because He is the answer to what you’re feeling and dealing with.”
From that point came the idea of the second book. “God gave me an idea for the study edition which is called, ‘When I … (feelings)’ Study Edition,” Joe said. “So the first one I looked at as an overall if a parent just wants to plant a seed in a kid. The second book takes eight of the previous pictures I did, and I add new artwork to it. It’s like the old artwork, with new artwork on top of it and then the word pages and picture pages are separated. In the word pages at the bottom, there’s a parent portion, and the parent portion gives a Bible verse. So if I do the page ‘anger’, and the next page you can still read the story, and at the bottom of that word page is a Bible verse that deals when anger, and next to it questions as conversation starters to help the parent or guardian to talk to the kids and communicate with the kids about what the Bible says about that particular emotion.”
‘When I…(feelings)’ Study Edition,’ has a special place alongside the first book. As Joe explained, “I look at it like that they complement each other. The first book has 18 or 19 various emotions. Kids feel them. Whether they feel overloaded, feeling alone or feeling angry…any kind of gambit of emotions, even feeling sick. You know, like you feel that your body’s in pain. In the midst all that, you can still praise God. The second book takes eight of those previous emotions that I had illustrated in the first book, and adds four new ones to it like hate, sadness, and feeling stuck. They are not a continuation of each other, but they are designed to complement each other or to work independent of each other.”
Joe is putting the finishing touches on his new book in the series, entitled ‘When I…(action)’. “I’ve got these books years ahead in my mind. Right now it’s the ‘When I’ series, but then after that, having other books that kind of step out and do new things.” Joe said that the target release date of the new book is the beginning of March. “I’m actually finishing up the last page today for the interior, then I have to work on cover design and stuff like that. So whereas ‘When I…(feelings)’, is pointing out that no matter how you feel, you can still make the choice to praise God, and that God is the answer to what you’re dealing with, ‘When I…(action)’, points out the simple fact that no matter what you’re tempted to do, you can say no to those desires and temptations.”
So, when did the author in Joe Rader first appear? “Actually, I’ve been a writer for a while,” he said. “I wanted to do what God put me on this earth to do. I am a firm believer of Ephesians 2:10, which says we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. We all have a destiny. We all have a plan of purpose God has made us for. In my social work, I’ve seen so many kids make emotional decisions, and make decisions that have lasting consequences. I see a lot of things in this generation that these kids are missing. It could be a simple fact that the parents don’t know. It could be something where the parents don’t know how to communicate. They might have the tools. They might need the help to do it.”
His secondary career as an author can be seen as an extension of his work as a counselor, but that would be an understatement. His writings carry the underpinnings of faith, being cast forth like a life preserver to kids in a stormy societal sea that have no anchor or safe port. “We live in a generation where kids live by their emotions,” he said, “…and don’t know their value or their identity in Christ, or know how much God loves them. I feel like they are ill equipped to truly be who God has called them to be. I just want to come partner with them and say, ‘You know what…you’re not in this fight alone’. I want to provide tools for you, and assistance to you. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing, because there’s a lot of negative seeds out there in the media, be it through books or movies. As Christians, we shouldn’t be throwing our hands up and saying that society is too dark. As I was reading the Bible today, Jesus said if you’re not working with Me, you actually working against Me. I want to be part of the answer, taking my gifts, my talents, writing kids books to help this next generation to be the strong pillars strong leaders that God has called them to be, and not to operate by a society that feeds ideas that you’re just one in a million. Not given to emotion, or, ‘Do what you feel. If life doesn’t treat your right, take that easy way out’. That’s why I’m doing what I do.”
Timothy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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