Monday, November 30, 2015

Goyer's "Prayers That Changed History" introduces grade schoolers to 25 world-changers

Advent began yesterday, and for a lot of Christians that means a season of waiting and expectation. I'm planning to begin a new series on the blog, focused on different ways to spend time gazing on Jesus in prayer. You know me, I'm always trying to connect my own interests, whether spiritual or otherwise, to my kiddos. I snagged a review copy of the newly released devotional "Prayers that Changed History" by Tricia Goyer. The book covers 25 men and women who made a direct or indirect impact on Christianity and the world at large, with an emphasis on their answered prayers. Before you might think this is a how-to manual with exemplary prayers that are effective at getting God to do something--the title kind of makes it sound like that--I want to clarify that Goyer writes about pray from a few different angles. She sees prayer as both petitioning and as spending time with God, open to His transformation. As Goyer says, "prayer changes things, starting with us," which indicates that the second view of prayer is the primary frame for most of the stories in this book.

At a Glance
This 223-page paperback is organized chronologically, with chapters on Polycarp, Constantine, St. Patrick, Oswald (King of Northumbria), Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther, Governor William Bradford, John Eliot, Susanna Wesley, John Newton, Robert Raikes, Mary Jones, Sojourner Truth, Catherine Booth, David Livingstone, Florence Nightingale, George Muller, Billy Sunday, Helen Keller, Amy Carmichael, John Hyde, Mother Teresa, The British People of WWII, Corrie ten Boom and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

4 picture books that explore what it's like to be a refugee

I'm a little late on this post as Thanksgiving Day has passed, but honestly, why should feelings of gratitude and thankfulness abruptly give way to the materialistic frenzy of Black Friday? They shouldn't. I'm still immensely thankful to have a lovely home and to have my family near me: safe, happy and healthy. And when so many in this world do not have a home and are not able to keep their families safe and happy and healthy, I hope I'll continue to be thankful regardless of the day or season. In particular, knowing that hundreds of thousands of Syrian men, women and children are terrorized and displaced by ISIS humbles me. The heated debates over this crisis in the news and on social media show that it's easy to let fear, mistrust, self-righteousness and self-love be the lens through which we see the world. But because of Jesus, I'm compelled toward compassion, and I hope to model it for my boys. So with these thoughts in mind, I bring you four moving picture books (found at my local library) that make the concept of a refugee a little more personal.

For me, How Many Days To America?: A Thanksgiving Story by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Beth Peck perfectly united both a sense of gratitude for our country's freedoms and bounties as well as a sense of duty to maintain our long tradition of receiving those who are fleeing religious and political persecution. For my kids, it tells a rather gripping tale of a family who leave all their possessions behind to escape their Caribbean island home by boat. They face rough weather, food shortages, pirates and rejection from other potential destinations before finally being received in the United States on Thanksgiving day. While I found the story engrossing and my boys aged 2-7 stayed tuned in to the end, they were mostly interested in knowing whether pirates still existed today and why the pirates in the book didn't look like the Veggie Tale variety.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sink into your comfy chair and wile away the hours with "The Message 100" bible

I grew up with extreme loyalty to one bible translation, believing it was the most accurate. But as I've gotten older and less dogmatic, I've discovered the value in comparing passages across several versions to get a multi-faceted view of scripture. One of the main versions I like to use in my YouVersion Bible app, (along with NLT, NIV, NKJV and AMP), The Message is a contemporary translation created by long-time pastor and biblical scholar, Eugene Peterson and published by NavPress. It's not the bible most of us have lodged in our heads as memory verses from youth group, and Peterson often paraphrases by a few verses at a time, so sometimes entire passages seem quite different than what I remember. One example is the oft-quoted James 1:19 (quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger). Peterson translates it: 
"Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear." 
To me, the rendering isn't quite as catchy, but the unusual personification of anger did cause me to do a double take. For other verses, Peterson's metaphoric style really did add something special. Consider a few verses later in James 1:21: 
"In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life."
What a gorgeous word picture!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Berry's "Sabbath Poems" have become part of how I do church Sunday mornings

The Parrinos have made a pretty big transition in the last couple of months: We've moved states after nearly a decade living in Kentucky. We've both changed jobs and two of our boys have had to adjust to a new level of academic rigor. We've gone from small town to bigger city. We've moved from a modest ranch to a lovely home with three floors and many, many places to put people. Perhaps one of the most significant changes, and the one that probably raises the most eyebrows among both our "Kentucky people" and our "Ohio people," is a shift in our church community. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

ZonderKids "Good Samaritan" a good intro to Jesus' parables for new readers

I have to confess my kids and I rarely stay on with a devotional or children's bible all the way to the end. Lately I've been trying to build my collection of stand-alone bible stories. I've also got a first-grader learning to read, so Zonderkids' I Can Read book, Adventure Bible The Good Samaritan seemed like a good fit-- plus, it's one of my favorite parables. With only a sentence or two on each of its 32 pages, this slim paperback Level 2 reader kept my three sons' attentions.

I liked that this version puts the familiar story into context as a parable Jesus told in response to a question about obtaining eternal life. I also liked that the text and illustrations of the priest and the Levite didn't portray them as "bad guys" but rather as people making the wrong choice because of fear and anxiety. This choice leaves the characters open for discussion. My son wanted to know, "Why did they just leave him there?" The book also ends with a simple description of the relationship between Jews and Samaritans, "In Bible times, the Jews and Samaritans did not get along. They were foreigners and did not know a lot about each other" (32). I felt this provided another jumping off point for relevant discussion.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Chapman's "Growing Up Social" offers new perspective to the screen-dependent family

So, somehow I thought I had written this review already. But apparently I did not. Maybe because subconsciously I was feeling guilty about my use of screens as baby-sitters of late. Over the past four months, we've moved 8 1/2 hours away from the only home my three boys have ever known. We've lived with family and friends, started a new school and new jobs. Transition has a way of wrecking hard-wrought schedules or forestalling good intentions. This is all a fancy way of confessing that sometimes I let my older boys play on or for 3 hours straight. Sometimes my 2-year-old watches his favorite episode of Curious George (the one with the mariachi band) three times in a row. And it keeps me sane for those hours... and it also makes my younger two boys super cranky and ungrateful when it's time to unplug. There. I've gotten that off my chest.

I knew I needed a book like Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World, co-authored by Alrene Pellicane and Gary Chapman of 5 Love Languages fame. I aspire to have children who play outside whenever its above freezing, who read books for fun, and who play together using their imaginations. I want my boys to value creativity and generosity and kindness over the accumulation of stuff. I feel like this book speaks to that longing.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

"Apartment Therapy" a visual treat for modern eclectic collectors

So. I just moved into a new house a few weeks ago. Because this is the first abode I've genuinely felt excited about inhabiting, I'm brimming with ideas to make it "my own." Maxwell Ryan and Janel Laban's Apartment Therapy: Complete + Happy Home with its 300 pages of full color photos brought me into the dwellings of well-to-do homeowners and renters, city and country folk.

While I enjoyed gawking at all the photos and imagining the designers, artists, professors and CEOs that actually lived in the locations featured, I didn't feel there were too many ideas that applied to my tidy, 1940s brick cape cod. Most of the rooms featured - especially living rooms and bathrooms- were truly oversize. Even the supposed "entry-level" apartment has an open, airy feeling afforded by gigantic windows.