Archive for January, 2016

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Simmer Starters – January 29, 2016

January 29, 2016

Simmers

Fairy Tales Could Be Older Than You Ever Imagined (Erin Blakemore) – Did you know that some fairy tales (in older versions) may have been around since before the Flood??  Considering we know very little about the world before the Flood, it kind of changes your perception, doesn’t it?

The New Sexual World Order is So Confusing (George Fields) – I found this article to be a hilarious example of how much confusion there is now that people are rejecting God’s constructs for marriage and gender. There is no consistency on values.

“Hospice Babies” (Cori Salchert) – A beautiful look at a family that has chosen to undertake a heart-rending mission – adopting and caring for small babies with life-threatening or terminal diagnoses.  I love the mom’s faith and how she trusts in God to use even the hardest circumstances in life for God’s glory.  The second time I read this it brought me to tears…so…don’t miss this one. <3

Learning Humility with Bob Ross (K.M. Carroll) – I enjoyed this article by my friend Kessie, about how it’s best to start learning with an open mind.  “A know-it-all will never learn, because they know it all. Whereas the more you learn, the more you realize you have to learn.”

G.K. Chesterton Turns 4 Objections to Christianity Upside-Down (Trevin Wax) – Heh, I love this.

Haters (Nancy Ann Wilson) – “If you love the right things, you will necessarily hate those things that threaten it. Do you love your liberty? Then you hate tyranny. Do you love the baby in the womb? Then you hate abortion. Do you love marriage? Then you hate adultery, fornication, and sodomy. Do you love the truth? Then you hate falsehood.”

Christian Fantasy and Magic (Nathan Lumbatis) – Eeeeep, this article made me geek out so hard. 😀

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Great Books for Teaching Little Ones About God

January 25, 2016

A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest. ― C.S. Lewis

I am rather persnickety in choosing Christian literature to share with my kids – a 4 year old, 3 year old, almost 2 year old, and a baby.  It is of utmost importance to me that the books are theologically sound according to our family’s understanding (we are Reformed Presbyterian) and contain the true gospel, not moralism.  I want Bible stories to be direct, either straight from the Scriptures or retold elegantly without embellishment.  It’s also important to me that such books respect children as intelligent human beings, handle the reality of sin honestly, and aren’t trite or cartoonish.  Needless to say, sometimes these kinds of books are hard to find.

So when I do find one, I’m thrilled and excited about it!  I love to share about resources I use, so here are some of my favorite books I’ve used for teaching my little ones about God.

ESV Illustrated Family Bible

I love this kids’ Bible because the stories are lifted straight from the ESV translation as short excerpts.  The illustrations are beautiful paintings instead of cartoonish ones, which is very important to me and gives kids something lovely to look at while you read actual Scripture to them.  My kids have all but destroyed our copy because they like to leaf through it on their own, even the littler babies and toddlers (who tend to tear pages)!

Possible negatives: it’s out of print and can be hard to find inexpensively.  As you can see from the cover, there are pictures of Jesus in the book, so this will make it unacceptable to families with a stricture view of the 2nd commandment.  Also, sometimes the illustration doesn’t quite tell the whole story – for example, we see Noah’s ark in the water but we aren’t shown the animals disembarking or Noah’s family offering sacrifices.  And of course there is the negative of it being actual Scripture…sometimes it is not very understandable to children even when the story is abridged.

Overall it’s a solid option if you want to read to your kids directly from Scripture, but want them to have nice pictures to look at while you do so.  I’m torn between buying another one to replace our shredded one, or upgrading to the ESV Children’s Bible, which is illustrated but includes the whole Bible.  (Also out of print – gah! Whyyyyyy?)

The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung

I can’t decide what is more awesome about this book – the fact that the illustrations are some of the most gorgeous, rich, mesmerizing Bible art I’ve ever seen…or the fact that this story summarizes the whole Bible in a short, 10-chapter book that can even be read in one (long) sitting if you want to!  It doesn’t stand alone as an introduction to the Bible, but as supplementary material to kids who already know the Gospel and many Bible stories, it’s fabulous.

It tells the story of man’s sin and Christ’s salvation, from Genesis to Revelation, with a strong emphasis on God’s relentless grace.  It was originally written as a Christmas Eve sermon, but translates perfectly to a story that can be appreciated for all ages.  See my Amazon review here.

The pictures are heavily symbolic, so if you avoid pictures of Jesus this may be a good fit for you.

The Donkey Who Carried a King by R.C. Sproul

We were given this book as a gift, and I wasn’t sure what to expect because I usually find these kinds of books shallow or contrived – but I was pleasantly surprised!  I very much enjoy reading this one to my children and knowing their minds are being sparked by it.

It’s a fictional story about a little boy who is having friend trouble.  His grandfather comforts him by telling him the story of Davey, a little donkey who was given a big task (carrying Jesus into Jerusalem).

The illustrations are lovely (Jesus is not shown), and although I’m not a huge fan of the on-the-nose application style, I do love the point of the book and the way it gives a new perspective on Christ’s death that children can relate to and ponder.  I definitely want to check out more of Dr. Sproul’s works of kids’ fiction!

My ABC Bible Verses from the Psalms by Susan Hunt and Richie Hunt

This is another one given to us as a gift.  My kids loved it.  They eagerly asked for it every morning at breakfast (when we do our devotions or Bible lesson every day).  The teaching is sound, and it’s rare to find a kids’ book that teaches from the Psalms.  There are 26 lessons, one Psalm verse featured for each letter of the alphabet.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the format – each lesson is a simple story about a group of kids who are learning to apply the verses to their lives, with lots of exposition from authority figures and some scenarios that seemed contrived to me.  But many kids truly benefit from these kinds of real-life applications they can relate to, and because my kids loved it so much it’s one of my favorites too.  I wish there were more story collections by the same authors, so I could get some more!

The Creation Story illustrated by Norman Messenger

I have to include this one, because it’s so drop-dead gorgeous.  These illustrations are rich and full of beauty, teeming with life.  The text is essentially taken straight from the Bible (I’m not sure what translation…it is very closely paraphrased).  It’s just the story of the seven days of creation, but it’s a beauty and definitely worth adding to your library.  Kids love to pore over these illustrations!

Note that the Amazon listing the photo links to is not the big hardcover version (which is what I have, and which seems like a better fit for enjoying the art).

Everything a Child Should Know About God by Kenneth N. Taylor

This is a good theology primer for very young toddlers or preschoolers who are very unfamiliar with Christian doctrine.  Each lesson is only a few sentences long, very simple, with a couple of application or comprehension questions or a prayer suggestion at the end.

The illustrations are rather cartoonish, but adorable and pleasant to look at (those who avoid illustrations of Jesus should not get this one).  I do wish that the book had been more direct about the gospel, sin, and judgement – too many kids’ books shy away from that hard content, and this one unfortunately tends to do that too.  But for what it contains, this is a good way to introduce your child to concepts like, “God is everywhere,” “Jesus loves you,” “What is the Bible?” and other basic introductions to the faith.  I liked it so much that I bought a couple of extra copies to give away to other families with toddlers.

Do you know of any excellent, Reformed resources for teaching children about God?  Please spill in the comment section!

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Simmer Starters – January 22, 2016

January 22, 2016

Simmers

Land Travel Before Engines (Chris Winkle) – This is an incredibly useful article for any author whose characters are going on a journey!  And full of interesting factoids, too…like this one! “It was uncommon for any overland travel to go much faster than human walking speed. That’s because when we’re fit, humans are the epitome of endurance; any animals that move faster than us have to rest sooner.”

Today Is An Anniversary (Greg Morse) – This article is like poetry in the rhythm of the language…heartbreaking poetry that makes me choke to read it, but important to read and remember.

Down’s syndrome people risk ‘extinction’ at the hands of science, fear, and ignorance (Tim Stanley) – This article is pro-choice but raises some beautiful and important points. “The true moral test of a society is not how pretty, sober or well organised it is – but how it treats its most vulnerable, even its most difficult, citizens. And the true sign of grace in a man is his ability to look at something that is supposedly ugly, or just different from himself, and see beauty. Just as one Flemish artist managed to do, 500 years ago.”

An Open Letter on Graphic Imagery in Pro-Life Activism (Caitlin Marchand) – I thought this was very well-put and thoughtful, and I agree with her.  Usually such imagery is not necessary and counterproductive to valuing human life.  (But sometimes it’s helpful to use pictures to understand atrocity, like we do with photos and museums of the Holocaust.)

I Won’t Apologize for the Great Life I Portray on Facebook (Lynne Meredith Golodner) – Some good food for thought here. “My kid pictures are funny faces and fancy outfits, all of us hugging it up in some silly way. I don’t record the moments when I’m yelling at them or they’re yelling at me because I don’t want to stay in those moments – and I’m surely not inviting you into them.”

Nikabrik’s Candidate (Gina Dalfonzo) – An apt comparison between why some conservatives support Trump and some dwarves wanted to bring back the White Witch…

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Flash Fiction: “Catastrophe”

January 19, 2016
cat_on_black_background
This is the first of two flash fiction pieces that were requested by winners of my blog giveaway last year (long overdue, my apologies!).  Fellow author H.L. Burke wanted me to write a flash piece about “cat invaders.”  So without further ado… 😀

Catastrophe

The head of Secret Service stood by the drapes, sweat dripping down his forehead. “We’re surrounded.” Through the window of the Oval Office, small alien ships glistened in the sunlight…an unbroken ring of them around the White House.

The First Lady gripped the arm of her chair so tightly that President Burke thought she would break it. “Where is Emily?

“Why haven’t you found her already?” the President snapped.

“Mr. President, the systems are down. She – ”

“I’m here! Don’t worry, Mama, I’m here!” Emily Burke scurried into the room, clutching a furry object tight to her chest.

The last Secret Service member clamped the door shut behind her, grunting through his teeth, “She went after the cat.”

“Oh, for the love – ”

A window shattered.

The entire first family ducked, screaming. With a clunk, a round projectile landed in the middle of the carpet, steam rising from it in tendrils.

It’s a bomb!” the First Lady screeched.

Guards swarmed toward the object.

Then a tinny, electric voice said, “We. Do not. Wish to bomb you.”

“Wait, stop.” The president stepped forward. “It’s a communicator. How are they speaking English?” He directed the next question to the metal ball on the carpet. “Uh…greetings. What brought you to our planet?”

There was a strange garble of squalling noises, hisses, and thrumming sounds, and then came the translation. “We came. To command. Our servants.”

“You have servants here on Earth?” The president’s blood ran cold.

“You. Are. Our. Servants. Ha. Ha ha.”

Did it just translate a laugh? Skin cold with sweat, he stuttered, “I’m sure we can arrange something more amicable than that.”

“No arrangements are necessary.” The translator seemed to be picking up speed. “You will obey us. There is. No alternative. I wish to speak with. My head agent.”

Young Emily had gone stiff with shock during the exchange, and now the gray cat in her arms leapt to the floor, unhindered by her limp hands.

“Yes. Mr. President. We are here on Earth,” the voice continued. “We are in your homes. We are on your streets. We. Control. Your internet.”

The cat strode toward the electric ball. The nearest Serviceman moved to kick it away, and Emily suddenly came alive and threw herself in the way. “Stop it! He doesn’t know any better!” She trembled.

The cat licked her face.

“You see. You are doomed,” said the communicator. “Your people. Already. Stoop to save us.”

While the rest of the room sat frozen, the cat strode to the communicator with its tail high in dignity, and licked the camera at the front.

An audible cat’s purr sounded through the device. “Mission accomplished, Agent Fluffy. We will advance. On your signal. You shall be our occupying governor.”

Fluffy lifted his nose high and jumped onto the Oval Office Desk, where he curled his tail around him with an air of majesty, staring down at his subjects. “Meow.”

The End

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Simmer Starters – January 16, 2016

January 16, 2016

Hooray!!  The Simmer Starters are back!  I’ve been saving links ever since I stopped blogging…it will be hard to pick the best. 😀

Blue Pomegranates (Abby Jones) – “[The famous pastor’s] response was to lump all fantastical type stories into a form of discontentment for the world God has created. Not only did he put Twilight hand-in-hand with such epics as Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Harry Potter, andThe Odyssey, but he said they were all a form of saying God just didn’t make the world cool enough so I’m going to make my own. Obviously, I took a strong offense to that.”

Catholic or Pagan Imagination (David Russell Mosley) – This is a fantastic rebuttal to an Atlantic article that asserted that the British tell better children’s stories because Great Britain’s literature has its roots in paganism instead of puritanism.

Three Questions to Ask Before Listening to Any Sermon (Tony Reinke) – This is a great way to cut right to the worldview of anything.

In the Grand Scheme of Things (Hana Schank) – This is long, about a mother’s coming to terms with her daughter’s blindness, but I love this quote in particular. “I’d known, of course, that there were people who weren’t perfect, but they had lived at the fringes of my vision, barely existent in a landscape populated by the able-bodied and able-minded. And now, suddenly, the entire focus of my world had been inverted. I no longer saw ‘normal’ people as the focal point, with blurry disabled people at the edges. The whole world, I now understood, was made up of disabilities. Some people just wore their disability a little more obviously than others.”

Nine Questions to Help You Steward All of Your Life for God’s Glory (Brad Hambrick) – I found this exercise very helpful; although my direction in life is pretty “fixed,” it gave me a little bit of a better understanding of where God might be leading me.

The Clever Trick My Dad Used To Turn Me Into a Rabid Reader at 8 Years Old (Christopher Reiss) – Love this story!

The Force is With Her (Alicia Cohn) – If you haven’t seen The Force Awakens, beware spoilers, of course. “Throughout the series, Star Wars has shown us a chosen character grappling with how to use his unmerited gifts. It established the pop culture expectation that a young man has the right to choose his own path. Now perhaps it’s time for an iconic coming of age tale about a young woman. It is particularly encouraging — particularly for the mothers taking daughters — that for once, a female coming of age story in popular culture might not involve a messy sexual awakening, but her own search for power, agency, and calling.”

The True and Better YA Hero (Shannon Stewart) – Love this!!!  “All these things we find so magnetic in our fictional heroes are already ours in Christ.” On a similar note, check out this article by my friend RJ Conte which talks about a common fiction trope and how it shows a longing for God at the root.