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Everyday Hope {a guest post}

I’m particularly drawn to instructions. I long for someone to tell me what to do when in order to achieve my desired outcome. Whether it be how to put a savory, yet nutritious meal on the table in less than an hour cooking time, or the best way to maximize my time as a work-at-home mom, I’m especially drawn to the how-to’s in the areas I feel weak.

 

I think many people are this way, and our spiritual life is no different. It only takes a quick stroll down the self-help book aisle to see what we all crave: something more than what we have now. It’s easy to feel depleted and defeated emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.

 

As a Christian, the pressure’s on to be a beacon of light to the lost world around me, yet sometimes I can’t seem to shake the feeling I should be doing or experiencing something I’m not. Scripture tells us that Christ came to earth to provide a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). It’s one thing to read these words on a paper and say, “Amen.” It’s quite another to experience this living hope in our everyday lives.

 

Maybe you feel this dissonance as well?

You and I are on a voyage. A journey toward this living hope and abundant life our Creator and Savior has promised. However, our travels can often feel more like we’re aimlessly tossing in a storming sea of hopelessness. You may desire to better navigate the trip ahead. You may find yourself looking for a way out of the chaos, for a ladder that will lead to the lifeboat that promises rescue from the storm. Or, maybe you’ve given up altogether, and all you have left is a weak cry for help from the bottom of the boat.

 

You may have heard from others: “Keep your chin up. Don’t lose hope!” It’s easy to see hope as a verb — something we need to do. An action we need to take. Though there are actions we can and should take when our soul is in despair, trying to conjure up the strength to be hopeful is not helpful.

 

It’s impossible.

 

Hope is a noun, not a verb. It’s not something we do to escape the storm. Hope is what we hold fast to, as we endure each wave.

 

Hope is a treasured possession, not an action.

Hope is a guiding light, not a ladder to climb.

Hope is a steadfast anchor, not a search for more.

Hope is a harbor of promise, not a way of escape.

 

Our hope is found in the Gospel of Christ alone. This good news of Jesus is not a one-time experience; it’s a moment-by-moment need.

 

 

PRAY THIS WITH ME: God, we are desperate to experience the hope of Christ in our everyday. We look forward in anticipation to all You have planned for us through Your Word. Open our eyes to see the truths the Bible holds about our gospel-hope. Soften our hearts to receive them. Enable our souls and minds to follow you in obedience as we respond to all You will speak to us.  

———–

This is an excerpt from Everyday Hope, an easy to use, four-week study. Designed for women who are pressed for time, yet crave depth from their Bible study, Everyday Hope offers a relevant and lasting approach for reading and understanding Scripture. In as few as 15 minutes a day, explore hope that fills the Scriptures and the same hope God intends to fill your life. Everyday Hope, will help you discover how to hold fast to His promises amidst feelings of hopelessness. Purchase your copy today at your favorite retail bookstore. Also available online at these online stores.  

 

Free of Me {a review & giveaway}

“Parenting is not about you.”

I can still hear Paul David Tripp’s words ringing in my ears. A handful of us had gathered to watch a livestream of his parenting event. It was a like a balm to my weary heart. Tears sprang to my eyes as I reminded that my  job as mommy is not controller or commander of my children’s hearts, but ambassador of God’ authority in their little lives. When I make parenting all about me, my reputation, and my comfort, it is “neither Christian nor parenting and I am simply left with a punished rebel.”   A weight lifted off of my shoulders as I remembered that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to break, change, and mold my child’s heart.

On our way home, Adam and I discussed  the parallels between parenting and ministry in the local church context. The shepherding, ministry, and counsel that occurs on a regular basis can so easily overwhelm our hearts. It’s only when we realize that church is not about us and that it’s success is on the Spirit’s shoulders not ours, that true freedom is possible.

Ultimately, all of life is NOT about me. God must have needed to drive this point home to my heart this past weekend, because I also had the opportunity to read the brand new book by Sharon Hodde Miller, Free of Me: Why Life is Better when it’s NOT ABOUT YOU. Sharon, a “serial people-pleaser,” found herself bound by a self-focus and self-absorption that had seeped into virtually every area of her life. I was immediately convicted as she described our tendency to make life about ourselves when it’s not! We are trapped in the idolatry of self-image and can only be set free by a “reprogramming” of our hearts and minds.

I love how she addresses very specific areas of our daily lives. Self-focus can rear its ugly head in our relationships, calling, appearance, and even our approach to God Himself. I was especially encouraged by the Interlude where Sharon wisely reminds us that any change in our lives will not be automatically permanent and requires the power of the Holy Spirit.

“The human soul is a lot like that [out of tune musical instruments]. It drifts. Without deliberate retuning, it goes out of tune with the gospel…..Salvation unbends our souls and points us toward God and others, but left unchecked, our souls will always drift back to the inward position.”

The last half of the book focuses on four ways to be “free of me.” These are practical habits to implement into our lives to effectively live with an outward focus. She reminds us that in Christ we can find balance between self-sacrifice and the healing we so desperately need. The Spirit enables us to obey God’s call while still experiencing the incredible joy He offers His children.

I was left challenged, convicted, and encouraged by the words in this book. We all too often are handicapped by a constant over-awareness of self, and true freedom is only found in our Savior.

I would love for you to read it too! Grab a copy over at Amazon (it’s available now!) or leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy. Details below:

*Let me know a book you’ve been reading lately for your comment to count towards the giveaway! I will pick a winner on Sunday, 10/8/17.

UPDATE (10/9/17)

Congratulations, Suzette! You have won the book! Look in your email inbox for the details!

Take the Awkward First Step in Friendship {a guest post}

This post is an excerpt from Christine Hoover’s new book, Messy Beautiful Friendship: Finding and Nurturing Deep and Lasting Relationships, which explores the joys and complexities of friendship among Christian women. Find out more about Christine at www.gracecoversme.com.


 

 

When it comes to school dances, Footloose was no lie, except for the part when Kevin Bacon, who’s been practicing punching and kicking the air in an empty warehouse, shows up and everyone suddenly becomes fantastic dancers and instinctively knows the choreography. Middle school dances are perpetually the beginning of that final scene in Footloose, where the guys and girls are on separate sides, no one dares talk to the opposite gender, the music is lame, and absolutely no one knows how to dance so they just stand against the wall trying to look casually cool. Everyone’s waiting for someone else to make the first move.

 

Making friends and even deepening the ones we already have feels eerily similar to being an awkward middle schooler at a dance. We show up. We put our best foot forward. We want to be invited and chosen, because we want so badly to belong. We gravitate toward the huddle of people just like us. It all feels desperately awkward and clunky as we hang out against the wall, hoping for someone—anyone—to make the first move.

 

Really, we’re all just separated by an unwillingness to be uncomfortable. It’s too uncomfortable to cross the floor. It’s too uncomfortable to strike up a conversation with someone who appears as foreign as a middle school girl does to a middle school boy. It’s too uncomfortable to reveal our lurching dance moves when no one else is dancing under the glaring strobe lights.

 

I am one of the most awkward people I know. I’m actually quite shy, I’m hopeless at telling a good story or delivering the punch line well, and I tend to ask penetrating personal questions way too soon after meeting someone.

 

And I have realized I’m not the only one feeling awkward in relationships. Everyone is uncomfortable. And everyone wants to be loved. Which means that anyone who is willing to resist and push through the discomfort has an incredible opportunity to make friends.

 

I learned this through church planting, because when you start a church in a city where you don’t know a soul, and when you have a three-year financial deadline to form a self-sustaining church that has actual people, you figure out how to push through awkwardness and meet people pretty quickly. I was crossing dance floors right and left—chatting up moms at the park, inviting strangers into my home, joining the PTO, and interacting with anyone who so much as glanced in my direction. Little ol’ shy, nerdy me. And guess what? People responded. They chatted back, they accepted my invitations, they were happy to have me volunteer. People are waiting for someone to care.

 

Sometimes, if you want to know the truth, it was awkward. They’d ask why we’d moved to town and I’d tell them about the church that we were starting in our living room–and they’d get quiet and stare off into the distance, unsure what to make of me and silently willing me to go away.

 

I learned to just keep at it, because I had started connecting with women and getting to know them and, wouldn’t you know, actually making friends. Making these connections had little to do with my personality or my marital status or the ages of my children. It had everything to do with my newfound willingness to push through my own discomfort and initiate with others over and over and over again.

We are women who long for community and to live lives of purpose, but just like anything else that is good and beautiful and worth having, these things don’t come just because we want them. The secret to discovering friends is to be a person who is willing to bust in like Kevin Bacon, ignore the gasps and the silence, see a person who wants to be known and loved underneath the casual cool, and move toward them. In other words, be someone who isn’t afraid to take the first step, look a little silly, and possibly be rejected or misunderstood. Someone who isn’t afraid to push through the awkward.

 

In order to be a friend and have friends, we have to get over ourselves and just go for it. Invite an acquaintance to coffee. Visit a small group in your church even though you won’t know anyone and give it time and effort before you decide whether it’s working or not. Ask an older woman whom you admire to get together. Start a book club in your neighborhood even though it’s possible no one will show up. Serve alongside others. Ask penetrating questions to turn the conversation onto spiritual things. Confess sin to someone you consider a friend. Host a game night and invite people you want to get to know. Say yes to an invitation from a co-worker even though you’ve never spent time together outside of work. Basically, do things that make you feel uncomfortable but will possibly invite deeper friendship.

 

Of course, it’s true that we may push through the awkward and then things will be, well, awkward. The person may not respond how we hoped she would. She may not get why we’re doing what we’re doing. Our expectations and hopes for friendship may take a little tumble. We may have to do the work of getting ourselves back up and dusting ourselves off.

 

But it’s also true that we may push through the awkward and experience all sorts of incredible things, like a freeing dependence on the Lord and a new or deepening friendship.

 

We simply can’t know unless we go for it.

 

Just like Kevin Bacon.

 


This book releases on April 18th, but if you preorder, you get all sorts of fun goodies, plus the book is almost 1/2 off right now!! Get your copy here.

Snickers the horse and exciting news….

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My first big writing project started in my mid-elementary years. Like most girls my age, I was extremely intrigued by anything horse-related. I devoured books on horse breeds, horse training, and horse racing. My birthday gifts for a few years included trail rides, horse calendars, and more horse books.

It was only natural that I would attempt to write a equestrian novel of my own featuring a sweet mare named Snickers. Unfortunately, I was limited by the busyness of fourth grade so I never made it past the Chapter 1 rough draft. I would have been a best-seller, of course, had I ever finished the rest of the story.

Fast forward twenty years and I find myself in a similar position. My passion has changed from horses to theology, but I still possess a love for reading and writing. Occasionally, I entertain the idea of writing a book, but the thought of composing anything longer than a blog post is intimidating to me. How does an author find enough words to fill a twelve chapter book? How could I find time to write in the middle of homeschooling, demanding church ministry, and life in general? Who would read anything I write anyway?

Last year, I wrote a post about my tendency to appear stronger that I actually am, and I quickly realized that I wanted to dig a little deeper into this topic of discovering Jesus’ perfection in my brokenness. I was able to write in the small crevices of time that this current season of life offers me and am excited to announce the completion of my very first booklet entitled, I’m Fine: discovering His completeness in my shortcomings.

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What is it about? 

As indicated throughout Scripture, humans are extremely adept at convincing ourselves that by simply trying hard enough we can meet the standards held for us by God, others, and even ourselves. Nothing could be farther from the truth because, in fact, we are in our nature “not fine.” This book intends to take us on a short journey to explore the areas of our life that suffer under an “I’m fine” mentality and remind us that those very shortcomings can bring glory to the One who completed perfection on our behalf.

Who is this booklet for? 

Do you struggle with feelings of failure when your idealistic expectations are shattered again?

Do you fight pride when those around you seem to be faltering in areas you have already mastered?

Do you fall into bed each night hoping that you did enough that day to at least appear successful to others?

Do you feel like the pace of your life is currently unsustainable?

If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions (like I can) then I pray the words of this book will be an encouragement to you. Because I am a mom, many of my illustrations will resonate with women, but the encouragment from Scripture is intended for all believers who hope to depend on themselves less and their Savior more.

Where can I find it? 

Purchase I’m Fine on Amazon in the format that works best for you!

Print version

E-book for Kindle

Would you share? 

Many of you have friends, family, and blog readers that would really benefit from the truths in this booklet. If I could meet them all, I would ask them to meet me for coffee and discuss it with them in person. Because that’s impossible, I hope you’ll share it with them for me!

Thank you for your support and prayers here at Dishes & Doctrine. My prayer is that this new resource is a blessing to your heart as you find your completeness in our Savior!

 

Headache-free Bible Study for Children

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Most Christ-focused families realize that Bible study is an vital step in spiritual growth. After all, how else can our children know and love the God of the Bible if we don’t take time to read His words?

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There are many helpful books and articles on developing a family worship time – a few minutes a day set aside for Bible-reading, prayer, and singing as a family.  I wouldn’t begin to act like our family has arrived in this area. Unfortunately this special time gets lost in the mix of busy weeks, sick kids, and Netflix binges. So, if you need help in this area, you may want to read, Family Worship, by Donald Whitney. His ideas are simple yet effective in setting up a regular time of corporate (or combined) worship time in your home.

Recently, however, our family has had success in individual Bible study times for our boys. As parents, we want them to grow to desire the corporate aspects of church worship and the sweet fellowship of private study equally. Because things have been going so well for the last month or so, I thought I would share our ideas with you!

*Ages 0-3

These are formative years. Don’t discount reading to them before bed from a children’s Bible such as the Jesus Storybook Bible. While the illustrations initially catch our two year old daughter’s attention, she is starting to learn words such as Jesus and sin. This is so important in her understanding of her sin problem and her Rescuer in the next few years.

*Ages 4-7

When our middle son saw that his older brother was spending time studying the Bible each day, he wanted to follow suit. There is only one problem – he can’t quite read.

Enter: The Bible App for Kids

I hope you already have this app on your phone or tablet. We have had it for a few years, but have only used it while waiting in the doctor’s office or similar situations. Using it strategically as a Bible study tool has been a wonderful help for our pre-reader. This app traces Scripture from Genesis to Revelation highlighting some of the most well-known stories along the way. Each is a separate interactive chapter with animated characters and music to keep the child engaged. At the end of each story, are several questions for comprehension. It has been exciting to see our son’s excitement to get to his “Bible time” each morning after breakfast.

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As he gets older and advances in his reading ability, we will incorporate actual Bible reading and he hears Scripture read aloud in family worship times and during homeschool. Until then, I’m so thankful for this technology that helps bridge the reading gap!

*Older Child (8-12)

Our oldest can read fluently and is starting to grasp more and more theological concepts, and we knew we wanted him to have a strategic plan for Bible study. My husband created a little reading plan for him based on the book of John.

Each morning, armed with his Bible, a notebook, and a pen, he reads the assigned passage (some are meant to be read 2x). Then writes down the meaning of the verses as he understands them and one take-away thought to remember. Because he is still young, however, he needs some guidance in his study. So each evening after his siblings are in bed, he discusses what he studied with either my husband or me. This gives us the chance to check his comprehension and discuss any important theological themes in the reading.

It has been so precious to see him grow in his desire to know God through his Word and his assigned passages are often challenging or convicting to me as we work through them together.

***

All of these Bible study methods are free and simple, and none of them are particularly time-consuming which is important in this season. I have honestly been shocked to see how quickly these ideas have become a habitual part of our morning routine.

What about you? Do you have ideas for Bible-study for young children? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. We’re always game to try something new!

 

The Liturgical Home {an interview with Allison Burr}

The Liturgical Home {an interview with Allison Burr}

I am so thankful for the many online resources provided by women who hold God and His Word in high regard. Allison Burr is one of those women. I have had the opportunity to follow her ministry for several months and was so excited to hear of her upcoming webinar series for moms like you and me.

I thought it would be great for you as my readers to catch a glimpse of her heart and passion for other women and theology so I contacted her with a few questions.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

I am a homeschooling mother to 4 children, ages 11 down to 3.  I have been married to Chris for 16 years, and last year we relocated our family from Minneapolis to Franklin, TN, so we are most decidedly northern transplants to the South.

The Lord, in his gracious providence, converted me to Christianity at the age of 27, a mere 6 weeks after I had given birth to my first child.  Mercifully, my husband was subsequently converted a few months later.  Our journey has been difficult and grace-filled, full of beauty and brokenness all at the same time.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (1)

Recently, I heard a seminary professor use this definition of theology, and I think it is spot-on for this conversation:  “All theology is the application of God’s word, by persons, to all areas of life.  Therefore, all theology must be pastoral.” He went on to say that theology is implicitly personal, comprehensive, intellectual, volitional, and emotional.

Working from that definition, we can see that our knowledge and understanding of God’s word as revealed to us through the Bible is practical; it has meaning and application to every single area of our lives, our minds, our wills, and our emotions.  So we are working out our theology every waking hour of our day.  The way we think about current events, feel towards our husbands, act towards our melting-down children, organize our schedules and homes, create our family culture, discipline our children, communicate with other women, control our wayward emotions — each of these reflects an outworking of what we believe to be true about God, and to whom our allegiance lies.

There is certainly a place for theologians in the pulpit and in the seminary classroom.  But just as critical to the Church (the redeemed people of God) are faithful theologians in the home — i.e., domestic theologians.  In many ways, I think, we have greater influence within the Church.  Our pastors (whom I love and thank God for) have direct access to my family 2 hours a week.  I, on the other hand, have direct access to my children 24 hours a day.  As such, my husband and I are their primary influencers.  What a glorious and humbling role He has given us within the home!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (2)

If you walk into any Christian bookstore (which I don’t often recommend), you will find a whole lot of sentimentalism and borderline heresy.  Sadly, much of it is specifically geared towards women. Somehow femininity has gotten all tangled up with a rubbish heap of soft-pedaled prosperity theology, with a sugary layer of sentimentalism as the pink bow. Now, praise God that there is a small but growing number of female Bible teachers who are faithful to expositing the word of God in substantial and significant ways.  But far too much of what is advertised specifically toward women (and therefore, what women are buying) is unhelpful at best and damaging at worst.  We don’t need self-help; we need a Savior.  And that Savior is found in the richness of the scriptures — not in someone’s 10 steps to a happier week.

Related to that major stumbling block, I think, is a widespread reluctance by women to read books and listen to sermons and lectures by (male) pastors and theologians.  My joke is:  Dr. Sinclair Ferguson (a favorite Scottish theologian) speaks half as quickly as I do and yet dispenses twice as much wisdom in every phrase.  So why listen to Allison Burr, when you can listen to someone who has spent a lifetime mining the riches of God’s word and meditating on the person and work of Jesus Christ?

What I am trying to say is:  just because you’re a woman (and I’m in the same camp here) doesn’t meant that we can only learn from other women.  I have joked that RC Sproul has taught me far more about homemaking than anyone else.  And has he ever specifically addressed the topic of homemaking? Nope.   Yes, Titus 2-style mentoring and teaching is critical for us as women. But there is so much more Bible to study, and God has created the office of pastor/elder to feed his flock. Let’s not neglect the importance of sitting under the preaching of your pastor every Sunday morning, and perhaps hunting down a great series or two on the internet to have queued up on your iPod for the next early morning walk.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (3)

First and foremost, I love, love teaching biblical truths and their wide application to my own children.  I am privileged to do that 7 days a week.  And there are always heap-loads of kisses and hugs and snuggles involved in the midst of it.  What could be better than that?

Secondly, I love to take hold of my status as a sub-creator (as JRR Tolkein puts it), and as fully participating in my status as a trinitarian creator (as Dorothy Sayers puts it) in my own home.  Don’t think there is value in creating a functional and beautiful mud room? Think again! You are creating, bringing forth, and applying the glories of a smooth schedule and organizational structure that brings beauty and order to the lives of your children.

Hesitant about trying to implement some habit-building amongst your crazy crew?  Don’t be! You will be giving them life, and life in abundance, when they learn to take hold of practices and habits that will help shape their childhood and their adult lives.  We mothers wield tremendous influence and power — let’s not waste it.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (4)

Last summer, I launched 3 podcasts: Cultivating the Kingdom (theology for women); The Straight Stick(practical application into family life); and Melody, Mystery & Mayhem (a family-oriented podcast full of stories, silliness, and songs).

In an effort to streamline my efforts, I converted The Straight Stick to a 60-second video-podcast, hosted on my Instagram feed and on my website.  This has given me the chance to include my kids in all the recordings and to learn how to speak “on point” in a much more efficient manner (something I will probably struggle with until I meet Jesus face-to-face!).

Just this week, we began recording new segments for Season 2 of Melody, Mystery & Mayhem podcast (to release the last week of August).  The Lord has graciously provided some very talented folks to help our family with this aspect of ministry for our 2nd season, and we are humbled and delighted to be working alongside some folks who will be new to the Melody, Mystery & Mayhem crowd!

As for Cultivating the Kingdom, I decided to push pause on interviewing theologians for a bit, and instead will be teaching live, online webinars.  I am offering 3 new webinars on 3 different theological topics.  I am exceedingly nervous and excited, and am continually praying that the Lord would grow me as a lifelong student of the Bible, and as a teacher who is ever faithful to the word of God.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (6)

As I just mentioned, each webinar course will address an entirely different topic.  The first course in September is “The Liturgical Home,” and I am using as a foundation the first half of James K.A. Smith’s book: You Are What You Love.  (You don’t have to read the book to take the course). This 4-session webinar will look at the Augustinian view of affection-forming (ordo amoris), how our habits shape our desires, what types of liturgies might already be present in your home, and how we as mothers have the gift of creating and implementing new liturgies that reflect the realities of the Kingdom of God.  And you might just want to take the course to find out what I mean by the word liturgy!  🙂

The second course will run 4 sessions in October and is called Building Foundations: Our Calling for the Younger Years.”  This is what I wish an older, wiser homeschooling Christian mother had told me 11 years ago, when I was a brand-new mother and a brand-new believer.  I knew nothing about everything, and so much of those early years were a disaster or much harder than they had to be.  My oldest is now 11 1/2, and my 4th child is 3 1/2, and so I am still in the thick of (imperfectly) implementing my theology in this area of child-rearing, but sometimes wisdom wrought the hard way is still worth sharing!

The third is a 3-part webinar entitled “Fear & Motherhood: Identity and Remembrances in Times of Crisis.”  Quite providentially, I scheduled this to land in the first weeks of November, in the midst of our upcoming presidential elections.  I have been asked countless times about handling fear as a mother (particularly as it relates to the cultural and political environment in which we find ourselves).  So I decided to dig deep into some long-dead theologians, and the book of Romans, in order to exhort my own soul — and the souls of any others who want to join me — about what it is we need to know, trust, and remember when our world seems like it is falling apart.

**The cost for each course is $15, but if you elect to sign up for all 3, there is a $10 bundle discount.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (7)

TruthBeautyGoodness.net is the umbrella for all our other ministry endeavors.  You can find all the details there about podcasts, webinars, and any other resources I have created.


I’m so thankful for Allison and her heart for the gospel! Sign up for the Fall 2016 Classes HERE. You’ll be so glad you did!

 

Frolic Series {a review}

I love diving boards.

Strangely though, I actually never dive correctly off of them. Instead I walk to the very end and jump feet first into the pool. I can vividly remember swimming at the olympic size pool at my college. I loved the way time seemed to stand still as I fell from the high board. I would allow gravity to take me deep into the water hopefully to feel the cement bottom with my toes.

As parents, we have the special privilege of sharing the depths of Scripture and the gospel with our children as they grow. We will be their swim vest during the early years, keeping them afloat with core doctrines and beliefs of our faith. We offer them the diving board to know God through Jesus in an intimate personal way. Our ultimate goal is their ability to navigate the waves of theology with their own grasp of biblical truth.

These “swimming lessons” must start very early in life. Even when a little one’s language is just forming, he can learn truths about God, our sin, and our Savior. It is never too early to begin.

Recently, I was asked to review the brand new Frolic Series from Sparkhouse Family. Because of my role as a pastor’s wife, I am asked often about resources for children so I was eager to explore these books.

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Frolic Board Books (Ages 0-3)

Appearance:

My daughter who is almost two, wanted to read these books right away. As she flipped through the pages, she pointed out small details like a butterfly or flower. This age is naturally enamored with animals so the use of a sheep, dog, hedgehog, dove, and goat for the main characters is a fun touch.

IMG_4500

Content:

These books introduced initial concepts about God and faith in a gentle way. For instance God’s Wonderful World uses the five senses to introduce Creation and Pray to God focuses on praying to God anytime and anywhere.

Conclusion:

These books are a good fit for its target ages. Babies and toddlers can easily begin to understand very basic tenets of our faith. The topics and pictures help them learn about the world around them in a gentle way. I would label these books as good “diving boards” to deeper topics as they get to age 3 and above.

 

Frolic Friends (ages 3-5)

Appearance:

Again, I loved the illustrations in this set of four books. My four year old begged to read them as soon as I opened the box. The size of the books is perfect for little hands to hold and their hardback cover is definitely a plus for busy little ones.

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Content:

These books cover a variety of character building topics such as patience, anger, friendship, and sharing. When each character struggles with those respective qualities, he stops to pray to ask God for help resulting in an answer to prayer and change in the situation. The last page of each book includes verses, discussion, and prayer for the parents to use with the child.

Conclusion:

It’s important for children at this age to realize that being a good person will never come naturally because of our sin nature. I appreciate the prayer in each of these books pointing to a need that can be solved only outside of ourselves. However, I do think these prayers could have been written to more specifically point to the answer which is Jesus and His sacrifice for us. Because he was perfectly patient, giving, etc…. we have hope to show those same qualities. This is an extremely important age for beginning to truly comprehend the gospel and our desperate need for a Rescuer. I would hate to short circuit that understanding by focusing mainly on outward behavior.

 

Frolic First Bible (ages 0-3)

Appearance:

I was impressed with the quality of this little Bible. It’s binding looks like it would hold up well with toddler use. The illustrations are bright and colorful which would definitely interest little ones.

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Content:

This Bible includes 20 of the most well-known stories from both the Old and New Testaments. Each story is two pages with simply written text and a short application at the end.

Conclusion:

I have mixed feelings about this Bible. While, it is geared for very small children who cannot read and will mainly be interested in the pictures, I was disappointed in the faith message at the end of each page. Even at two years old, I want my my children to understand theological truth on their level. For example, one story concluded with “God is pleased with me.” When in reality, God is only pleased with me through the blood of His Son. The story of David & Goliath goes beyond bravery and ultimately shows us the One who defeated the giant of sin. On an age-appropriate level, even the smallest of children can begin understanding these truths.

If these books are a part of your family library, I think they could act as great beginning diving boards for your child’s faith.

Thank you to Sparkhouse Family for the opportunity to review these materials! Check out these and other Sparkhouse products at their website or the Sparkhouse blog.

Blotch {a giveaway}…

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She shook her tiny toddler finger in my face and scowled. “Stop,” she commanded with all the authority she could muster. My mouth fell open. How had she learned to be so bossy, so demanding?

The truth is that I shouldn’t have been the least surprised. After three children, I’ve clearly seen how early and naturally sin manifests itself.  As my husband said while holding each of our newborn babies for the first time, “What a cute little sinner”.

In order to correctly teach the doctrine of sin to our kids, we must reinforce the fact that we are inherently or naturally sinners from the time of our conception. It is that original sin that then reveals itself in wrong behaviors and attitudes. In other words, we fail to meet God’s perfect standards before we have officially committed our first misdeed.

Just like when we teach about the eternal punishment for sin, it’s this bad news that makes the good news so wonderful! Jesus took the separation and consequences of our evil choices on himself to offer us a way out of the horrible mess we all find ourselves in from birth.

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It can be intimidating to explain these concepts to our kids and we fear that we might explain it incorrectly or somehow confuse their little minds. That’s why it can be so helpful to have resources like the brand new book, Blotch by Andy Addis.

This 5-chapter parable, follows the story of Blotch who is a boy who lives in a kingdom where everyone is born with one mark on their skin. Each time they act or think wrongly, a new blotch appears. He is determined to find out a way to get rid of these embarrassing spots, so he sets out on a journey. Along the way, he meets different people dealing with this blotch problem in different ways (hiding them, ignoring them, etc…). He finally finds the answer to this pressing dilemma when he meets a kind stranger who is willing to offer himself in a sacrificial way.

I won’t spoil the end for you, but I will say that this book explained the gospel in a gentle, yet clear way. It’s illustrations perfectly fit the story and my boys couldn’t wait for me to turn the page. It also includes notes for parents and a discussion guide to accompany each chapter. It worked well for us during our homeschool Bible time, but it would also be a great tool for family worship in the evenings as well.

I would encourage you to add this tool to your family library as you seek to share the simple yet profound story of the gospel with your children. You may even find yourself gripped once again with the beauty of the King who offers to remove your stains too!

Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my review. The thoughts and opinions are my own.

I have one copy of Blotch to giveaway. Enter below. U.S. residents only. Winner will be chosen on April 16, 2016 and contacted via email.

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Steadfast Love {a giveaway}….

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It seemed to go on forever. The 165 mph winds tore at shingles and twisted pine trees. This monster of a hurricane unleashed tornadoes and blinding rain. We attempted to get a little sleep in the crowded shelter, but it was practically impossible to rest with the sound of metal banging against the outside of the building all night long.

When the gusts finally died down, we emerged to find something similar to a war-zone. Pieces of bent metal and shattered glass covered the ground. The still air caused an eerie silence as we stood amazed the damage as far as we could see.

The two weeks following Hurricane Ivan consisted of clean-up, military MRE’s, cold showers, and more sleepless nights in the humid Florida air. The memories of sweet outdoor church services and hour-long waits to fill up our gas can will stay with us forever.

It was a storm we will never forget.

You may quickly see some parallels in your own life. You may never experience a storm of that magnitude where you live, but I know you have experienced the howling winds and battering rain of life’s storms. Cancer – Broken relationships – Financial ruin – Unanswered prayers — all tempests of life that leave us wondering what in the world hit us and where can we run for cover?

“Sometimes He wrings worship from our hearts.” – Lauren Chandler

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In 2009, Lauren Chandler found herself thrown in the middle of one of those storms of life. Her husband experienced a seizure and was rushed to the hospital to later be diagnosed with a brain tumor. The next weeks and months were filled with wave after wave of emotion, worry, and fear. It was in that whirlwind that Lauren learned some of the most beautiful lessons about God and His faithfulness.

In her new book, Steadfast Love, she takes us on a journey through Psalm 107. Its poetic style gracefully points our focus to the True Anchor for our souls in the middle of life’s tumultuous sea. Our enemy seeks to distract us by other, less effective anchors that will never survive the gale force winds of life, but God is faithful to hold on to us in spite of our wandering. She reminds the reader, that even when God says “no” to our pleas for relief, we can be confident in His love and the freedom He offers from the idols of our heart.
He is not only our anchor in the storm, but the master controller of the storm itself.
I love what she says near the end of the book…..

“He uses the adversity of the storm more than the advantage of the calm.”

I don’t know the current status of the sea of your life today. You may feel tossed about like a little rowboat. The waves may not seem too overwhelming right now, but either way, I encourage you to dig into this promising passage of Scripture with Lauren. I know you’ll walk away overwhelmed with the all-consuming steadfast love of our Savior.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my review. The thoughts and opinions are my own.

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I have one copy of Steadfast Love to giveaway. Enter below. U.S. residents only. Winner will be chosen on March 5, 2016 and contacted via email.

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The Ology {A recommendation for your kids}….

Our family LOVES music! It’s not rare for music of some sort to be playing as soon as we start the car. All three kids listen to CD’s as they fall asleep. Sometimes I find my oldest putting on one of their favorites to listen to while they play puzzles and super heroes.

It’s amazing how much sinks into little brains, and even music in the background can play a huge role in their understanding of doctrine, God, and the gospel.

That’s why I’m super excited about the latest kids recording from Sovereign Grace Music! Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 9.25.49 PM

It covers major themes of Scripture in a fun way for kids! It also pairs perfectly with the new book, The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New by Marty Machowski. It’s a great way to introduce kids to the basics of theology in a simple way .

The other great news is that the songs are enjoyable for daddies and mommies too! No annoying kids songs here!!!

Here are a couple preview videos for you to enjoy over at the Sovereign Grace FB Page!

Just the Way God Wanted Us to Be

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