Is It Time to Rethink Your Definition of Christmas?

When Christmas seems to have been reduced to a shopping list;
When the squares on your December calendar are bulging with enough activity to exhaust Frosty the Snowman, Santa, and all his elves;
When you are tired of the knot that has already twisted itself into your stomach by the day after Thanksgiving . . .

. . . it’s time to look carefully at your definition of Christmas.

This Christmas season, join Meadow Rue Merrill at Lantern Hill Farm where a Christmas party in the barn helps to redefine the season for her young friend Molly who knew all about Christmas!

“Christmas was Santa and reindeer and elves!
Christmas was bright lights and a tall tree!
Best of all, Christmas was presents!”  (5)

 

The Christmas Cradle Picture Book (Ages 4-7) spins a realistic tale in the context of family and comes alongside parents with practical and yet winsome suggestions for activities that will help children discover the joy of serving others. Inspired by Jesus, the ultimate Sharer who invites us into a poured out life, our acts of love become a gift to Him. Like Molly and her friends at Lantern Hill Farm, we learn:

“Christmas [isn’t] Santa or reindeer or elves.
It’s not bright lights or a tall tree.
It [isn’t] even presents.
Christmas was a baby who shared God’s love with the world so that we could share it, too.”

Many thanks to Hendrickson Publishers for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Because of God’s great Gift to the world,

Michele Morin

 

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase, The Christmas Cradle Picture Book (Ages 4-7)  [or the board book version, The Christmas Cradle Board Book (Ages 1-4)] simply click on the title here or within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Hearing the Stories Anew

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It is a trick of human nature that if we walk by the sock under the coffee table enough times, it will eventually disappear.  We will have stopped seeing it.  This is unfortunate for pristine housekeeping practices, and even more so when we’re reading the Bible. It’s tragic when we’ve heard the stories so many times that we’ve simply stopped hearing them.  The phrases slip by unheeded:

“. . . without form and void
. . . and God saw that it was good
. . . two by two
. . . and the waters prevailed exceedingly.”

Maybe it’s time to slow the stories down for the sake of our hearts; for the love of foundational truth that puts the creativity of God and His limitless grace on display; for the joy of seeing it all new through the eyes of a small person in our lap or beside us in the comfy chair.

In the Beginning and Noah’s Ark, part of the Baby Bible Book Series crafted by Susana and Owen Gay, have streamlined Creation and Flood narratives down to the essential points and the actions of God which reveal His character.  Colorful drawings are simple enough to invite tiny fingers to point to favorite animals and to count the stars on a page, but include sufficient detail for the little smarty pants to show off the fact that they know all the colors of the rainbow and the sound the monkey makes.

Parents, grandparents, and teachers of even the youngest toddlers can begin to establish a foundation for their tiny Bible scholars and, at the same time, find their own hearts rejoicing in the truth.

God created.
His work is good.
God rescues.
He keeps His promises.

When we participate in the spiritual formation of the small people in our lives, we may find — to our own great surprise — that we also are formed anew.

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These books were provided by Worthy Kids/Ideals, an imprint of Worthy Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

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Love Hides Close By

Until I put it on display, love is sometimes hard to see.

Dr. Mary Manz Simon invites pint-sized theologians to embark upon a delightful scavenger hunt, looking for all the places love hides in the daily life of a preschooler.  She does this with precision, because when we demonstrate the love of God to others, it is not with the intention of motivating Him to love us in return or to increase His love for us.  Rather, we love Him (and others) because He first loved us, and all our acts of love or obedience serve to demonstrate the unselfish mercy and grace that is God’s love.

So . . . where does love hide?

Readers will find six replies, hidden under the flaps that have been incorporated into the construction of Hannah Wood’s large, vivid illustrations which feature a rainbow of children who have been caught in the act of being good with actions with which even the youngest toddler can identify.

My grandson’s tiny fingers were well able to grasp and open the flaps, and it turns out that love hides very close at hand, for the revelation of love can come with an invitation to a friend, a sharing of cookies, a cheerfully executed chore, or practical services offered to the weak or the elderly.

Relevant and simply stated Scripture verses make a solid case for each example of loving deeds and will help parents (and grandparents!) to set the example in establishing memory habits as they work together to learn the verses.  A fun way to encourage this would be to let the child pull back the flap and give the answer to the question while the adult says the verse — and then switch roles.

Giving and receiving love involves words as well as actions that lend weight to those words.  After all, God Himself communicated His love to us through the Word, but He didn’t stop there:

“God demonstrated His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,”                 Romans 5:8.

When our children join Him in the joy of giving, His love is put on display for all the world to see.

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This book was provided by Tyndale Kids, a trademark of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

This is the third of Mary Manz Simon’s books that my grandson and I have had the privilege of reading and sharing.  You’ll also be interested in discovering God Made the Sun and God Made the Moon. (Click to read my review.)

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

Theology 101 (In the Nursery)

When school started in the fall, I introduced a series in our Sunday School on God’s incommunicable attributes — for the kids.  The timing was perfect:  everyone was going back to school.  We all have lots to learn.  God has never needed to learn anything.   He is omniscient . . .  and on we went from there, week by week, pondering God’s sovereignty, His immutability, the other omni’s, and more besides.

Childhood is the perfect time to introduce little people to the important truths of the faith.  With that in mind, Danielle Hitchen has produced a tool to make the learning process fun for the kids, the parents and the teachers.  Bible Basics – A Baby Believer Counting Primer has all the best indestructible features of a board book, the interesting and colorful pictures that go with a cute counting book, but with the important difference that the counting acts as a simple catechism that takes tiny disciples beyond the Bible stories and introduces them to the language and meaning of some of Christianity’s core tenets.

And why not?  The Bible is full of numbers!
We have one God in three persons.
God the Son exists in two natures, and He appears in all four Gospels.
The first five books of the Old Testament are called the Pentateuch, and I didn’t even hear that word until I was in college!

Each two-page spread features eye-catching drawings, but my favorite is number nine:  the fruit of the Spirit.

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Bible Basics, the first of a series, is a book for my grandson to grow into.  We’ll start out by reading the concept headings and counting together.   With a tiny brain like velcro, the little wiggler will soon be ready to listen to the Scripture verses, hymn lyrics and other supporting texts that will help him to fill up those concepts with meaning.

I’ll also be sure to put a copy of this book in my church’s nursery, because there is no better time to introduce the idea that, while no one fully understands God, and while He transcends all our outlines and file folders, theology is a helpful tool that functions like a ladder, leaned up against the great truths of Scripture to give us a place to stand and wonder.

Stand and wonder with me now with the help of these words from Augustine (on page 3) about the trinity:

“Glory to the Father who created us.
Glory to the Son who redeemed us.
Glory to the Holy Spirit who sanctified us.
Glory to the most high and undivided trinity,
whose works are inseparable,
whose kingdom without end abides,
from age to age, forever. Amen.”

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This book was provided by the publisher through the Blog About Network book review program in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

An Announcement for January

Most of us have a favorite C.S. Lewis book, whether it’s the incisive practical theology of Mere Christianity or the glorious story-telling found in The Chronicles of Narnia.  It turns out that C.S. Lewis’s favorite of all his books was Till We Have Faces.  One Lewis scholar calls it his “most subtle treatment of the relation between good and evil.”  It’s a novel, based on the mythical tale of Cupid and Psyche, and in it, Lewis explores themes such as the selfishness of human love, the limits of reason, the corrupting effects of self-will, and in Lewis’s own words, “the havoc a vocation or even a faith works on human life.”   I’m planning to lead a discussion group about the book starting in January, and am hoping that many of you will join me, so here’s a quick overview of the plan:

  1.  The pace will be leisurely at three chapters per week (about 30-ish pages), which will take us into the beginning of March.
  2. I will be posting weekly starting January 5 (Thursdays) with introductory material and a detailed reading schedule.  My hope is that the comments section here at Living Our Days will become a comfy living room where we can discuss our thoughts on the book.  If you blog, PLEASE plan to include a link to your post about the week’s reading so that we can all benefit from one another’s impressions with more detail than is possible in the comments.  If you don’t blog, no worries.  Just share your thoughts in connection with the weekly reading here, and be sure to visit and respond to others.

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

The Heavens Declare!

Capture2Little people find words first for the people and the things that are most important to them.  As one of the “named people” in my grandson’s life, I love to read books to him that include pictures of the sun, moon, and stars, because he responds by pointing to them, naming them over and over, and then returning to that page again and again as if the drawing is truly lighting up his life.

How exciting for him that Mary Manz Simon and Lizzie Walkley have collaborated on a pair of books that celebrate two basic — and yet profound — theological truths:  God Made the Sun and God Made the Moon.  Sturdy cardboard and rounded corners mean that the books were designed for little hands.  Vivid primary colors and a diverse mix of friends trumpet the fun and beauty of each day that God has made, while soothing pastels, soft jammies, and a comfy bedtime routine remind little sleepy-heads that the moon is God’s hand-made night light.

Daytime and nighttime are both gifts from God, and while tiny fingers trace the cut- away circles and crescents in each book, eager ears and hearts can be absorbing truth from the rhymed text as loving parents (and grandparents!) read about about these foundational concepts:

  1.  Every day is an adventure!
  2. Every night is a time to be thankful.
  3. Routines and schedules — lunch time, bath time, story time, prayer time — are sweet boundaries that bring structure and security to a child’s life.
  4. God’s love is even more reliable than the sun and the moon.
  5. The God who made the sun and the moon is well able to keep and care for His children.

What a great opportunity to introduce the truth of Psalm 19:1,2 — and a manageable memorization project for little sponges!

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.

Let’s accept this invitation to join the sun, the moon, and all of God’s creation in fulfilling the purposes for which we were made!

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This book was provided by Worthy Publishing in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

Fabulous and Full of Life!

Everyday, the townspeople of Thrim would ask, “Hey, Yoj, how are you today?”

And everyday, Yoj would answer, “I am fabulous and full of life!”

And why shouldn’t he be?  Yoj was the happy doll maker who awoke each day with a song on his lips and dinner invitations almost every night — until one day a mysterious stranger from the Shadowland arrived with promises of influence and wealth.

Without a thought or a prayer, Yoj followed the stranger to a gray land of small dreams and regret.  Is his happy life in the Kingdom of Thrim forever lost?  Is there hope of joy for the other residents of Shadowland?

Journey through The Kingdom of Thrim with author/illustrator Janis Cox where young readers will learn that you just can’t put a price tag on joy.  When all the color goes out of Yoj’s world, he learns that the path to fulfillment and peace comes through using the unique gifts that God has given.

Opportunities for Family Discussion

The imaginary Kingdom of Thrim comes under the jurisdiction of the God of heaven, which opens the way for conversations about gifting and true happiness.  Yoj’s predicament reminded me of the story of the Gibeonites with whom Joshua threw in his lot without first consulting with God through prayer.  Reading this account as a family is a good follow up to the story.  How are Joshua’s and Yoj’s situations similar?  How are they different?

A number of good biographies have been  written about the life of Eric Liddell, Olympic runner and disciple of Jesus Christ.  He knew all about the joy that comes from doing what God had designed him to do, and is famous for having said, “God made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” After having read both stories, help your children to reach a conclusion about what Yoj would have said, “God made me _____________, and when I __________________, I feel His pleasure.”   Test their awareness of their own unique gifting by asking, “How would you fill in the blanks?”  Be prepared to share your own answers as well!

It’s clear that Yoj and his friends from the Shadowland learned the glorious secret of Colossians 3:23,24:

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

The Kingdom of Thrim is the true home of all who put their whole heart and soul into doing what God has designed them to do.

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This book was provided by the author in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Be sure to visit author Janis Cox’s website for more information about her and her books!

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

Never Too Busy

Feed the cat.
Pick up your toys.
Let’s get in the car and GO!

Such is our hurry-up world that even the tiniest toddler knows what it is to be Busy, Busy.  Therefore, Eileen Spinelli’s board book is a tool in the hands of wise parents who know that our work, our rest, and our play all reside on one glorious continuum when our hearts practice the truth of Colossians 3:23:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men.”

Whimsical illustrations by Elina Ellis support the lively text which portrays the delight experienced by God’s creatures when they are doing the very things that he designed them to do:

“Bee is busy making honey.
Squirrel is busy stashing nuts.
Peacock’s busy looking handsome,
Feather’s blooming — how he struts!”

The Mommy who is busy in her garden at the story’s end knows the importance of inviting her little person to help out with a watering can, but the message is loud and clear:
” . . . she’d never be too busy for a cuddle-up with you!”

These are reassuring words for the small eyes and ears the book has been designed for, and they are also a gentle reminder to parents to turn off their devices, put down the pencil or the cookbook or the gardening tools and look that little person in the face.  Listen to their words.   Read them a story.

Busy, Busy! is a great book to usher in what my kids and I used to call “morning clean up.”  After breakfast, everyone washed hands and faces, brushed teeth, and then we checked the chore chart to see what needed to be done that day.  Even the smallest hands can water a plant, swipe a dust cloth across horizontal surfaces, or pick up her own toys.

God is always at work in His creation.  Our work has its beginning in Him and is a gift from His hand.  Busy, Busy! is a delightful way of teaching our children and grandchildren that along with the beaver and the cat and the “spider at her spinning,” when we are at work, “it is the Lord Christ we are serving.”

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This book was provided by WorthyKids, an imprint of Worthy Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.