Category: Book Reviews

Review: Sacred Roots

6a00e54fc7cbdb8834019b045f1b15970d-200wiEver started a book and never got around to finishing it?

Do you ever find yourself thinking, “Wow, this author could have said everything they have to say in just 3 chapters. Too bad some publisher made them fluff it out.”

Or, “Well that book started out awesome but the last half of the book went downhill.”

Me. Too. That’s why I really like the FRAMES series, put out by Barna. These small books cut right to the chase and engage in some important cultural topics in a potent way. No fluff- every word counts. These little books are perfect for small group discussion and take about an hour or two to read.

What is this book about?

Sacred Roots: Why the Church Still Matters (Frames) digs into the somewhat over talked about, but under solved problem of why church attendance has declined. Author Jon Tyson doesn’t blame it on lack of morality, busyness, or general disinterest in God. Instead, he puts out a call for the church to move from “consumer centers in the Christian ghetto to provocative countercultures for the common good and renewal of our world.” (p. 52)

Often we think that if we can be more entertaining, the world will flock to our building and eventually to God. Better preaching, cooler videos, good music. Tyson wonders if perhaps that is not the answer at all. When talking about the downfall of trying to use entertainment to draw people to the church, he says, “Something happens when entertainment shapes our church. Our emotions may soar, we may have a shared sense of ‘us’, and we may resonate with the experience, but rarely does entertainment sanctify our hearts. It rarely challenges the practices that form our character or shape our lives.” (p. 45).

Why did I choose to review this?

What is the future of the church gathering as we know it? What is the point of gathering with a bunch of people, all while we stare at someone onstage, not interacting with those around us other than the 5 minute smile and handshake time. I can listen to a sermon anytime, anywhere. I can turn on some worship music and sing to God on my own or with my family. Questions like that are on the tips of my generation’s tongue. I was eager to hear Jon Tyson’s point of view, especially since he is a pastor of a large NYC church.

My takeaway:

We’re not 100% engaged in a church community yet – bouncing back and forth between a couple locations of the same church, trying to find a way to really get to know people. As we’re working on this, we need to remember that we need to have a community that lives kinda near us– driving 30 minutes somewhere doesn’t make it easy to be engaged in others’ everyday lives, which is kinda what the church is meant to be. 

Questions I’m now asking:

  • How could our church gatherings be structured differently- with more interaction and intention?
  • What parts of the church gathering exist to meet needs of 50 years ago? What parts serve needs of the community now?
  • Tyson describes how his church community has changed from being consumer/entertainment driven (maybe not on purpose, but as a default) to being intentional about living in and reaching the communities where the church lives. He didn’t talk a whole lot about how they made that shift- I’d be really interested in hearing more about that!

Where you can go to find more: 

You can learn more about Barna Frames, and also about the author, Jon Tyson.

Thanks to Booklook Bloggers for providing this mini book in exchange for an honest review. 

**Some of the above links are affiliate links.** 

 

Review: Slow Family Living

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Slow Family Living: 75 Simple Ways to Slow Down, Connect, and Create More Joy is a book by Bernadette Noll, mother of 4 kids, who together with Carrie Contey, PhD in prenatal and perinatal psychology, began Slow Family Living.

It is our desire to help families and individuals find ways to slow things down, not with a recipe or a prescription, but rather by questioning how things are going, and finding ways that work for them. It is our biggest intention to help families find ways to slow things down, connect and enjoy life together. (from slowfamilyliving.com)

This book is a collection of ideas, stories, and questions that Noll shares from her experience in raising 4 kids. The Nolls are thoughtful and intentional parents who seem to be gentle, structured, loving, and a whole lot of fun.

Why did I choose to review this?

Slow Family Living drew me in by its title– who wouldn’t want some ideas on slowing down and connecting? Jake and I tend to put decent hedges around our pace of life. We’ve said “no” to sports that demand us to be somewhere multiple days a week. We nearly always eat dinner together. Our weekends are crafted to include time where we have no place to be. At the same time, the buzz of class schedule, writing deadlines, household chores, kids’ needs, homework, “homeschool preschool” activities, various once-a-week lessons, library times, etc. can make us feel a bit (or a lot) frazzled by the end of the week.

My takeaway:

Bernadette Noll is super gracious in her approach to slow living. She writes out of a place of gentleness where she is simply sharing about her family’s experiences/desires/goals. She realizes all of those ideas are not for everyone, so she encourages readers to just take what you like and discard what you don’t.

Some of her ideas that we will be or have already implemented:

  • The “Do-Over”: When someone says something unkind, impatient, or downright rude, someone says “Do-Over!” which allows for the rudeness to be called out, but in a way that gives the person a chance to make it right. This simple phrase allows for the bad attitude to be corrected right then and there, and the air to be cleared of bad, grudgy feelings for the next hour.
  • Throw the Rules Out the Window: Eat dessert first. Abandon bed time (one night only, use sparingly :)). Lift screen time limits for a whole day. Wear PJs all day long. The point of this, I think, is doing something surprising that will make a memory and foster a fun family culture.
  • What Do You Need?: In a common area, place a whiteboard where everyone can write what they need throughout the week. Perhaps it’s more Triscuits or a carton of ice cream… but maybe it’s an hour of alone time, a date night, a hug, or additional screen time. Just because it’s on the board doesn’t mean that the person gets it, but it allows everyone to see the felt needs of the family and perhaps another family member can help meet those needs throughout the week.

Where can you go to learn more?

After reading the book you can head over to their website, Slow Family Living. On it you can learn more about Bernadette and Carrie, as well as other events, websites, etc. that they recommend. And of course, if you like what you see, you can follow them on FB and Twitter.

Review: Treat Yourself

So I don’t normally review cookbooks, but who wouldn’t want to have a whole book full of nostalgic treat recipes? Twinkies, Nilla Wafers, Oatmeal Cream Pies, Snowballs… just a few things you’ll find in TTreat Yourself: 70 Classic Snacks You Loved as a Kid (and Still Love Today).

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I loved that this book showcased so many traditional treat foods that come highly processed. We’ve been working processed foods out of our house, and these delicious items haven’t graced our kitchen cabinets in a really long time. I tell my kids that these treats are not actually food. They are chemicals mixed with flour. Blech.

BUT, thanks to Jennifer Steinhaur, I have a cookbook full of recipes to make from real ingredients. The ingredients she uses are simple normal, everyday ingredients, as well as the methods she uses to make them. The most unusual item she includes on the supply list is a kitchen scale, and even this she says is not necessary by any means. Just helpful for weighing chocolate :).

And, for those of you who are not into sweet foods, I would probably not recommend this book because there are only a few savory recipes (some crackers, cheetos, chips, etc.). But let’s be honest, why waste time in the kitchen making crackers when you could be making Twix bars?

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The pics she includes are great… my only tiny criticism is that every recipe doesn’t have a picture. What’s up with that?! I must know what the thing is going to look like before I make it. Or I probably just won’t try it. Whatever, it’s just how I roll.

Now that I’ve told you all about this great book, won’t you excuse me while I go make myself some moonpies :)?

Thanks to Blogging for Books for providing this book to me in exchange for an honest review!  

**please note that this post includes an affiliate link!**

Review: Soul Keeping

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What is this book about?

Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You is John Ortberg’s newest book, in which he shares everything he knows about the formation of the soul, in addition to letting the reader see a little bit of his own struggles with tending to the soul.

We live in a “soul-challenged world.” Maybe it’s because of pride and striving, perhaps busyness, maybe a hardness of heart, or even simple disinterest. Most of us spend our time caring for what we can see (work, family, appearance, status, etc.) and neglect the inside of us because our lack of tending is easier to disguise. Our connection to God slowly fades, and one day we wake up and realize we don’t feel connected to the Vine at all anymore, and sadly we don’t really remember how the fade happened.

Ortberg takes the reader on a journey to discover what the soul is, why it’s important, what it needs to be healthy, and how God restores it after a long fade.

Ortberg dedicates this book to Dallas Willard, who died in 2013 from cancer. Willard had a huge impact on Ortberg’s soul development, and you can see Willard’s fingerprints all throughout this book. For me this was such a treat — Willard’s writing has been formational to me, especially during college– so to see a personal side of Willard through Ortberg brought together who I am now and a bit of my college self/ambitions/expectations of myself in an encouraging way.

I think I’d like to step out on a limb and say that this may end up as Ortberg’s best book. It seems to be built on everything he has learned and written about thus far in a rich, Spirit-inspired way.

Why did I choose to review this?

I was hesitant to review this book. While I’m very interested in spiritual formation in general, I wondered if this book would be dry. Was there really that much to say about the soul? In a moment of perceived weakness, I said “yes” to the book, and I now see that it was probably the Spirit that prompted me to request it. 🙂 This book ministered to my own soul deeply, as well as to my brain (I learned a lot!).

My takeaway:

While reading it through the first time, the chapter entitled “The Soul Needs Blessing” was most challenging. In it, Ortberg suggests that at all times, our soul is either blessing or cursing someone. He tells of a session with Willard where he really grasped this truth.

I used to think cursing someone meant swearing at them, or putting a hex on them, so it was pretty easy to avoid because I do not swear much or do hexes. But as I listened to Dallas, I realized how wrong I had been. You can curse someone with an eyebrow. You can curse someone with a shrugged shoulder. I have seen a husband curse his wife by leaving just the tiniest delay before saying, ‘Of course I love you.’ The better you know someone, the more subtly and cruelly you can curse them.

The reason we are so sensitive, Dallas said, is that our souls were made to be blessed and cannot survive without the blessing.

I began to think about blessing and cursing as it relates to Jake, to my kids, to my other family and friends, and it encouraged me to be more careful in my words and actions.

Questions I’m now asking:

  • What is my soul most in danger of?
  • How am I blessing others? Cursing them?
  • What can I do to better attend to my soul? How can I help others do the same?

Where can you go to learn more?

 John Ortberg is a pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, CA as well as a prolific writer on all things spiritual formation. He’s married to Nancy, who also has written at least one book that I’ve read, and they have 3 kids. You can read his blog, follow him on Twitter or FB. He has written some truly great material- interesting, significant , and very accessible. Check out his Amazon page to read about some of his books.

If you read this book, be warned that you may decide to call in sick from work for a week while you read everything by Dallas Willard that you can get your hands on. I just discovered that there is a last book out, The Divine Conspiracy Continued: Fulfilling God’s Kingdom on Earth— Dallas had been working on it when he died. In January 2015, Eternal Living will be released, about which I’m intensely excited.

Thank you BookLook Bloggers, for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Giveaway: Notes from a Blue Bike

With summer just around the corner, perhaps you’re looking for a book to read. I’m working on my 52 books in a year challenge, and so far, so good! I’ve been reading some really great books, many of which I’ve reviewed right here on the blog.

A few months ago, you may remember me talking about the book, Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider.

Well, I’m happy to say that the publisher wants to give away a copy to one of you!

This is an easy entry. Just leave a comment here on the blog to let me know you’d like to be entered to win. I’ll draw a name out of the hat on Friday morning and send you an email! Winner will be posted on here as well.

Share it on Facebook or Twitter and leave an extra comment to get extra chances to win!

Happy Day!

Congrats to Nicole!!!

The Importance of Pretend Play

Today at Asante’s chess tournament I enjoyed some leisurely reading while he was playing against some middle schoolers (seriously, it looked really funny to see his little boy self across the table from these not-so-little-boys– they would groan when they say him– “do I have to play a little kid? This is ridiculous”. When Asante beat one of them, the guy just laughed and buried his face in his hand.)

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I finished up a small book by Vivian Gussin Paley called A Child’s Work: The importance of fantasy play. Paley has worked as a kindergarten and preschool teacher for at least 37 years, most of those years spent at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. She’s seen a ton of fantasy play in her days, and has some fun stories to share and insightful comments to make about the importance of fantasy play in the development of the child.

With the disappearing of time for play in the classrooms to make more room for the three R’s- reading, writing and arithmetic, “work” has become “play” for our children (instead of the other way around). What are we losing by this shift in focus? More importantly, what are our children losing?

With story after story, Paley paints the picture of the importance of play, and how we can interpret children’s play, learn from them as they play as well as engage with them without ruining it. I came across a few ideas that were interesting to me…

1. In one classroom that Paley observed, the teacher no longer used a time out chair for punishment. When asked about this, she said, “I used to have a punishment chair. Then I saw that, although the body was restricted, the child’s mind entered many fantasies and behavior was never improved. I decided the approach did not work.” When asked what did work, she said, “Patience. And then stories of good things happening, not bad. And making the child welcome into the play of others. I watched the children and saw that all these things work.” (p 72)

2. A Russian psychologist by the name of Lev Vygotsky said that ‘in play a child stands taller than himself, above his age and ordinary behavior. It’s as if he’s climbing up a ladder and looking around at a larger area.’ (p. 82)

3. At one point in the book, the author was suggesting that every subject of study could use a little fantasy play- even math. She said, “Whenever we are reminded that there may be a story involved, our minds seem to loosen up and work better.” (p. 91) So true- I think this could be applied to the parenting/discipline arena too!

4. I hear “Pretend that you’re the mom and I’m the kid” from Ada quite often. This is not a fun scenario for me because that’s my everyday life, right? I have wondered why Ada wants to pretend this way. In the beginning of chapter 18, Paley says that, “play is the model for the life-long practice of trying out new ideas. Pretending is the most open-ended of all activities, providing the opportunity to escape the limitations of established rituals. Pretending enables us to ask ‘What if?'”?

How wonderful is that gem of information? Pretend play is not just something to pass the time, but it’s a way for our kids to explore, create, examine the world around them. By engaging in pretend play, they are being little scientists in a way!

Thankfully, Aly has been in a classroom where play is respected and valued- I’m hoping Kindergarten will be the same!

Review: When We Were on Fire

I’m kinda digging memoirs right now. Especially the kind of memoirs that deal with the “consuming faith, tangled love, starting over” — which happens to be the tagline of a most excellent book I finished in a 48 hour period.

when-we-were-on-fire-682x1024When We Were on Fire is Addie Zierman’s story of growing up “on fire for Jesus” in the 90s  (WWJD bracelets, SYATP, True Love Waits, kissing dating good-bye), her slow burn-out and loss of identity, and eventually a rekindling of her faith, but in a more “whole” way.

Addie gets caught up in loving a boy who is very much all in to living his life for Jesus, and unknowingly allows his faith and passion to unhealthfully lead her to places that were damaging to her heart. While on the outside it may have looked like innocent teenage love, inside it was doing some serious damage to Addie’s faith and understanding of who God created her to be and what it looked like for her to love God and love others authentically.

As I was reading this book, I was cracking up at some of Addie’s stories of being a “Jesus freak” because I could totally relate. About halfway through, I realized that we are the same age, so that explains why I felt like she was describing the youth culture I remember from not-too-far but actually kinda-far ago. In a conversation at the back of the book, Addie is asked why she wrote her story. She replies:

When I share bits of my story and others connected with it, it made me feel seen. It made me feel less alone. And that’s what I hope that this book does for readers. Memoir, at its best, is never about just one person. It’s about all of us- the collective story we’re all living.

And I think this is exactly why I loved this book. I did connect, because although our situations were very different, the elements of overzealousness and fundamentalism were there in living color and was shaping the way that I looked at life and faith… and are one part of the lens through which I view God, the church, and my purpose on earth.

What was particularly interesting to me about Addie’s story is that it centered a lot around her peers, as opposed to her parents, siblings, or older church people. It reminds me that middle school and high school are a crucial time for faith development and who teens hang out with really do matter. Addie was hanging out with people who were steeped in church culture- what parent doesn’t want your kid to hang out with good kids who are committed to advancing the kingdom of God? Addie reveals the sometimes dark side to that, and in a way, opens parents eyes to the importance of helping to nurture an honest, authentic faith journey throughout the teen years.

I love that Addie doesn’t do the blame game. She honestly shares about her life and her relationships that have contributed to the spiral, but she is generous in grace as she speaks about those in her life who at the time were not being very helpful to her faith journey.

This book is very complex. Because people are complex. Our faith is complex. Addie gets that at a core level. She shares, “There were people whose words and actions hurt me, but also, there were people who loved me in incredible ways. Often, these extremes existed in the same people…because that’s what it is to be human, isn’t it? We love each other. We hurt each other. We forgive and learn and move on.”

I’ve added Addie’s blog to my feedly, and I hear that she’s working on book #2! Perhaps you’ll want to check it out for yourself.

Thanks to Addie for sharing her story with us, and thanks to Convergence Publishing for providing a review copy — I only give honest reviews!

Book Review: The Nesting Place

I’m 31 years old, been married for 2 days shy of 9 years, have 4 kids and have never owned a home. We’ve lived in 9 houses/apts/townhomes in 5 cities and 2 countries/continents. 9 places in 9 years. That’s a whole lot of packing, unpacking, decorating, undecorating. Jake and I have found that each house, apartment, or town home has its own unique spaces and places, and too often the furniture and decorations that worked in one place simply didn’t work in another. We’ve been here in Madison for 9 months, and I still haven’t decorated (well, unless you count our kids’ artwork or giant paper continents taped to the wall). Jake and I brainstorm and plan for “future house”, while not really knowing when that will ever happen.

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After reading The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful, I’m a bit more encouraged to rethink my decorating strategy (or I guess non-strategy). The Nesting Place isn’t a “how-to” book on decorating (although she does give some helpful ideas), but instead, it’s a book about creating a meaningful home that is perfect for you. for me.

Home. A place of rest while we are on this earth. A safe place for our children. A place to love and be loved. A place that is beautiful. A haven. With enough money, anyone can create a pretty house. But it takes intention to create a home.

Myquillyn shares with us her journey through her many places and spaces- houses, apartments, job losses, job gains, new babies, etc.– and what she has learned along the way. She is uber creative, but also realistic in how she spends, where she shops, and materials she uses (she can create beauty from poster board and pages of books!).

She gives tips as to how to decorate on a budget, how to think through what you already have, and how to think through what it is you really want from each room. She suggests using Pinterest to get dreaming about what you love. Not to copy what you see, but to inspire and to help create an image of what you’re going for.

[As a side note, she talks about what goes in behind those Pinterest photos and how they aren’t created to shame us, but they are given as a gift to inspire and motivate us. We would never compare our selflies from the after-school pick up line with our best friends’ wedding portrait, right? They are two very different occasions– so why do we feel the need to do so with our house photos?]

Myquillyn ends the book with a story of her trip to meet a child that she sponsors through Compassion International and what that has helped teach her about contentment. I love that she included this at the end because it’s exactly what we need to hear before we put action to the inspiration that she has offered. We need to hear that we have enough. That our homes are beautiful. That toys aren’t a hindrance to our dream home. That “the future” isn’t going to make us happier than we are right now.

What I found to be unique about this book is that the author knows what it’s like to live in a house you own, but also the joys and frustrations of rental life. They too have moved a lot for a variety of reasons, and instead of giving up on decorating (like me), she has learned to thrive in the places that she lives.

I used to be consumed by getting the right things to make our house beautiful. I was a slave to our circumstances, assuming that the right percentage of money, cute stuff, and God-given fabulous style would inevitably produce a magical, beautiful home I could be proud of. Until then, I couldn’t fully love where I was.

She comes off as so approachable, believing that everyone is creative (because that’s how God created us to be!) and also encouraging everyone to loosen up and take some decorating risks. I very much need this encouragement.

She finished her book with a sort of benediction:

So go, make your home a place of rest and joy and nurturing. It is from home that we become all we were create to be.

I love that I came away from this book excited to think through our rooms and make a plan. Jake and I have put it on our “summer list”, and hopefully I’ll have some fun before and after pictures to share with how this book has inspired us to make this apartment into what works well for our family.

You can read more about Myquillyn at her blog, The Nesting Place.

Thank you, Booklook Bloggers, for providing this book free of charge in exchange for my totally honest review. 

Review: Surprised by Motherhood

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Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker

I was surprised by this book.

I guess I didn’t really know much about Lisa-Jo Baker. I knew that she works with (in)courage, but that’s the extent of my knowledge. I put off on requesting this book because I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to read another motherhood book. I’ve read one book too many that I thought were going to be empowering and encouraging, only to find myself feeling frustrated and missing the motherhood mark.

After 4 chapters in, I was talking to Jake about how I really liked this book, and I felt like Lisa-Jo got me and other moms like me– the ones that love being a mom, but didn’t necessarily always dream of being a mom; the ones that never babysat growing up because, well, we’re just not “kid” people; ones that love their littles fiercely and see the huge value of being intentional in the way we love them, care for them, teach them and disciple them; ones that also have passions besides our family, and believe that God has not let us off the hook in pursuing those.

Jake: How many chapters have you read?

Me: about 4, maybe 5.

Jake: This is what you say every time.

Me: What?

Jake: You “love” a book at the beginning, but then it begins to spiral downward and you end up wanting to throw the book across the room.

Me: ….. Oh. I didn’t even think about that possibility….Oh no…. What if this book does this too?!

Welp, IT DIDN’T!!!! I was so nervous she was going to do the whole “I didn’t want to have kids, but then I had kids and I’m so convinced that God only wants me to stay at home and put every ounce of energy towards my kids and home.” Blessings to you if that’s what you want to do, but some of us simply can’t, and we need women who are paving the way in what it looks like to love our family deeply while also pursuing other callings too! Because, let’s face it, those of us who fall into this camp sometimes feel like we need to hide our other passions because we don’t want others to think that we don’t love God or don’t love our kids or don’t love our husbands.

In Surprised by Motherhood, Lisa-Jo Baker tells her story- a story of coming of age, losing her mom, becoming a mom (of 3 children), moving around the world, being a stay-at-home parent, being a work-from-home parent, and an outside the home working parenting, engaging in the fight against human-trafficking. Lisa-Jo also beautifully describes the real, deep identity change that comes when becoming a mother (also known as matrescence).

Lisa-Jo Baker is probably the best writer I have ever read. Her writing is creative, but in a very down-to-earth kind of way.  I cried through most of this book– and not because it’s a necessarily sad story. I mean, parts of it are sad, but I think it’s because she wrote in a way that embraces all the joys and hurts and realness of life as a daughter and a mother and a follower of Jesus. Here are a few of my favorite lines from the book:

[talking about her mom’s transition into having kids]: “She constantly danced between her old life and her new. With the books and movies and stories that ran so thick and deep insider her, it was sometimes hard to find room for her kids. But on the days she invited us in- on those days it was magical.”

[also talking about her mom]: “She said things I wish she could take back. She said things I’m sure she’d wish she could take back. And they wriggle deep under my skin without my even realizing it, buried there for years before my own babies force me to dig them out.”

Mothers are born from the strands of so many stories woven like DNA- tenderly, delicately, and sometimes painfully into this thread that runs through families.

I also feel a special connection with her because her #2 sounds an awful lot like my #2, and if you want to now what I’m talking about, you’ll just have to read her book :).

You can find more about Lisa-Jo on her blog (she offers a few free chapters over there), on FB or Twitter. A huge thank you to Lisa-Jo for writing this book. You are paving the way for more stories like your own, and a huge band of women will be forever grateful and encouraged!

Thank you to the publisher for proving a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review: Faith Forward

9781770645745 Faith Forward: A Dialogue on Children, Youth, and A New Kind of Christianity is a compilation of 21 articles written by some of the presenters at the 2012 Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity conference (CYNKC). The purpose of the conference was to “help practitioners, parents, professors, and all sorts of other folks spend time together in conversation and contemplation about nurturing faith in young people; faith that is generous, innovative, contextual, and even controversial.” Out of this conference Faith Forward was born, an ecumenical organization “dedicated to seeking ideas and practices for sharing new kinds of Christian faith with children and youth.”

What is this book about?

The authors in this book come from a variety of backgrounds- evangelical, mainline, Catholic, Protestant, etc. They present information and ideas about all sorts of topics: sexuality, environmental stewardship, sparking children’s imaginations, race, peace, girls, children with autism, missional ministry, compassion, grace, etc. I can guarantee that something in this book will be stretching to every reader, no matter your faith background. Some of the topics will be a bit uncomfortable for some (no matter if you are more conservative or liberal in your theology). This book contains some conversations that you may not know much about, but it’s a safe way to peek inside and learn something new.

  • How do we minister to those with autism (an ever-growing trend)?
  • How do we talk about sexuality in a way that helps teens to have a theological framework to work from as they make decisions about their sexual activity?
  • How do we minister to girls and the sometimes crazy world that they live in? How do we allow them to understand who they are and what it means to live in a sometimes overwhelming world?
  • How do we teach our kids about grace, compassion, and service….starting first in our families and communities?
  • What does ministry look like in a multicultural America?
  • How do we engage the hearts and minds and imaginations of our children and youth with the Scriptures?

Why did I choose to review this?

I want to do be fully equipped to disciple my children and I want to share good resources with other parents who want to do the same. Much of the “same old, same old” is certainly not cutting it. Huge percentages of kids are just not getting it. Read anything by Christian Smith, and you’ll come away with a realization that something needs to change. Also, as I’m now 6.5 years into parenthood, I realize that my way of living and thinking about my faith hasn’t always translated well to nurturing my kids’ faith journey. Jake and I are question-askers and sometimes like to hang out with ideas on the margins. While I’m comfortable doing that myself, I’m not always comfortable offering that to my children. However, I’m also not comfortable handing them a jonah coloring page and having them color it while I read the story out of a children’s Bible. I want Scripture to come alive to them. I want them to be compassionate, risk-takers in loving others, generous, authentic followers who can recognize the Spirit guiding and ministering to them, as well as see that another world is possible. Or, as Shane Claiborne puts it in the book’s introduction:

We need to cultivate holy habits in children and youth, the disciplines of love and grace. We need to talk with young people about what it looks like to live as God’s holy counterculture in the world. We need to talk about what it means not to conform to the pattern of this world, but to imagine new ways to live.

How do you teach that? I don’t know, but I thought this book would give me some ideas that are not found in typical church or family ministry books.

My Takeaway:

Many of the articles were really inspiring and sparked my imagination. I’ve been encouraged to not only tell the stories of Scripture, but to think about how I tell them. The articles have given me a few new ways of engaging my children’s imagination and senses in the story, and teaching them how to ask good questions of the text. The articles have also encouraged me to think about the other stories I tell my kids- stories of grace, of hope, of peace, of Kingdom-coming-stuff. The authors have given me real tools to refashion Bible stories so that kids are able to hear them again, with fresh ears, and open hearts. I’ve observed kids (and adults…and myself!) with an “I already know that story” mentality in Sunday school, and they are then unable to encounter God through that story because their prior knowledge doesn’t allow their hearts to be open to something new that God might want to say. This is a fantastic resource that I’m recommending to those who have children of any age, as well as those who work regularly with children and youth in the church.

Thanks to the publisher, Wood Lake Publishing, for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.