Book Review: Parable Treasury by Liz Curtis Higgs

parable treasury

The Parable Treasury (by Liz Curtis Higgs) is a compilation of 4 full-length books, one for each season of the year.

In each story, we’re given a life lesson, using examples from the changing seasons.

  • The Parable of the Lily tells a story of Easter forgiveness.
  • The Sunflower Parable uses harvest time to talk about how we can share God’s love with others.
  • The Pumpkin Patch Parable shows how God can make us new from the inside out.
  • Pine Tree Parable (which is my favorite) is a story about generosity.

Each of the stories includes verses of Scripture at the bottom, connecting each part of the story to a Scripture verse. While some of the verses work, others are a stretch. I get nervous about using Scripture in this way– pulling it out of context and relating it to something that is completely unrelated. For example, in the Pine Tree Parable, the text on the page says, “The next holiday season brought more neighbors to the farm. The perfect tree was taller than ever.” The Scripture at the bottom? “So the tree was taller than all the other trees in the field. Ezekiel 31:5” Do you know what happens just 5 verses later of that chapter? The wicked tree gets handed over to the enemies for its wickedness and pride, and the foreign nations cuts it down. Whoops! Pretty sure the editors should have thought that one through a little better.  🙂

Some may argue that these kinds of things won’t really matter. But I disagree. I think these types of elements of books teach kids to use the Scriptures to support what they want to support instead of looking at the true meaning of the passages. If our kids see this type of thing enough times, they may start thinking that by slapping a verse onto something, regardless of what it really means, will add God’s magic fairy dust to their lives. I want something much more for them than that.

Higgs has a gentle way of sharing wholesome stories that children who are interested in nature can relate to. While I really love the Pine Tree Parable story, I’m not as big of a fan as the other stories. They’re certainly winsome, but a little to wrapped up in a bow for my tastes.

Overall, I would not recommend this book. There are plenty of other good children’s books out there that don’t proof text with Scripture!

I received this book for free from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. 

 

Every Little Thing (A Grown-Up Coloring Book Review)

I have always loved coloring.

Smurfs. Strawberry Shortcake. Lisa Franke. I even had a Vincent Van Gogh coloring book that I bought at the art museum in my early 20s when grown-up coloring books wasn’t even cool yet. #trendsetter

Every Little Thing Coloring Book

Every Little Thing is a fun new coloring book by Payton Cosell Turner, an acclaimed artist, designer, and owner of Flat Vernacular.

If you’re not into that industry, you probably have never heard of her. That’s totally fine. I hadn’t either.

The pages are kaleidoscope-patterned so it kinda feels like you’re coloring funky wallpaper. Lots of hand drawn animals and vegetation fill the pages, but they’re paired with funny objects. Alligators and radios. Cats with cell phones and calculators. Panda bears with pinwheels and gumball machines.

While I totally would not want this wall paper up in my house (sorry, Payton), I do like the uniqueness of it. And while it’s not my favorite coloring book out there, it fits a unique homegrown style.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for my honest opinion. 

 

The-Not-So-Perfect Life: Advent Edition

Not So Perfect Life Advent

For Advent this year we’re keeping it simple.

After dinner, we read a chapter of the Jesus Storybook Bible and take a link off of a paper Advent chain given to us by our church. Each link has a discussion question or a small game/activity to do. Easy, right?

We missed December 1st altogether. Nothing says intentionality and awesomeness like missing the very first day.

On December 2nd, we played a hot potato game and tears were involved for one kid. And when we talked about what they were excited about for Christmas, several said presents, which is ironic, because I just posted about how we DON’T EVEN DO PRESENTS ON CHRISTMAS CHILDREN!!

And yesterday I stopped reading mid-sentence to say (loudly), “Can’t you guys just sit and listen to a short story for 5 seconds???!!”

Advent memories, baby.

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Why My Kids Will Be Getting Toys for New Years

toys for new years

At our house, the kids get to open their gifts on New Years Day instead of Christmas. While it’s only a slight variation, it’s one that matters to us. For our family, Christmas is about waking up to Jesus in a manger, not gifts under a tree.

We also recognize that gifts are an expression of love to our kids and to each other, so we shifted the idea of gifts to the New Year. It’s a fun way to start the new year!

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s become best-practice to give experiences to our kids instead of toys. You know, because toys are wasteful and experiences create memories that last forever. But, despite the trend towards giving vacations, experiences, lessons, and money towards an education fund, our kids will be getting (three!) toys under the tree this year. Some of them will be plastic and all of them have zero educational value. And we’re happy with that. 

I can admit that I like the sentiment behind the “non-toy” gifts. Less stuff. Less waste. Simple.

But I resist the trend for several reasons:

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November 2015 Loves

november2015loves

Today I’m sitting in my in-laws house, happy and full of food and family. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, mostly because, well, food (duh), but also because the whole center of the holiday is focused on gratitude, family, and just hanging out.

November was a stressful month overall for the family. Jake finished his prelims and is now waiting on feedback from his committee. A favorable response would mean that Jake has moved from coursework to “All But Dissertation”– a huge step in the doctoral student journey. The sense of progress is mentally energizing for both the student and the family :).

We also had a couple birthdays this month….

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What We’re Reading (November 2015)

November was a good month for us in finding book for the kids that they LOVE. Anaya has been getting to the age where she knows which books she loves, which books she doesn’t, and there is nothing we can do to influence her opinions. I love this growth in her reading skills, even if I don’t always love reading her strange books :).

Here are the books we’re reading this month!

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Who is my neighbor?

I get the fear.

It’s scary to think that someone could destroy a hundred or a thousand peoples’ lives in one second. I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. I would do anything in my power to save people from that.

And that is what is happening in Syria. Hundreds and thousands of peoples’ lives are being destroyed, so they are fleeing.

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Courageous men are taking their sweet wives and children and fleeing.

Single men who have hope and visions for a future are fleeing.

Mourning women whose husbands have already died are fleeing.

Scared children who have no parents are fleeing.

These vulnerable people are at the mercy of their global neighbors. They are fleeing and asking for help.

Who will say yes? Who will love their neighbor?

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“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.””

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Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James 1:27

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In college, my friends and I travelled to Oklahoma a couple times for a college missions conference. It was here that we prayed for the nations, where we heard courageous stories from missionaries who were serving and loving Muslims in closed countries. We heard about dreams and miracles and people coming to Christ. Lives changed. Our prayer was that more people would be able to go and share the good news. Here we are! Send us! 

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Many of those we have been praying for are now asking to come into our country. They’re asking to settle into our neighborhoods- they’re asking to be our local neighbors. They’re asking for food and shelter and an opportunity to flee from danger. The ones we’ve been praying for- they’re here. But we’re afraid. So we tell them to go away. Go somewhere else. We’re not willing to help you. We have a life here that’s good and we don’t want that messed up. But be blessed- we hope you will be well-fed and clothed.

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 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. -James 2:14-17

 

It’s time, Church. It’s time to step up and to do the right thing even if we’re afraid. It’s time to say yes even while we’re still nervous and wondering. The fear is going to be there for awhile, trust me, but it’s only going to go away by continuing to say yes, by continuing to read these passages of Scripture, by turning off the fear-mongering media channels, by praying, by reaching to the refugees IN YOUR CITY and getting to know someone who has had to flee.

 

Note: the picture above was NOT taken in Syria, but in Turkey. While in Turkey, we met many people from all over- Iraq, Iran, and Syria. This is as close as I’ve been, so I choose to use this picture to share my affinity for the people groups that the Syrian refugees represent.

2015: The Year of My Great Big Audacious Holiday Shopping Goal

holidayshoppinggoal

A few weeks ago REI announced it would not be open on Thanksgiving.

Just today, I came across a list of 28 major retailers who will also not be participating in the Thanksgiving consumer craziness.

I’ll be the first to admit that while I adhere to a philosophy of simple living and minimalism, deep down I love stuff. I enjoy buying myself the kids new sets of Legos and the newest, hottest education toys. If I would have it my way, I would buy new clothes all. the. time. and I’d probably have a huge scarf collection. Target is my kryptonite (seriously, have you seen the new red patterned kitchen items they have on display right now? SO CUTE).

The tension is real. Needless to say, the holidays are a tricky time of the year for me. I love thinking about what to get the kids and how to best spend our small budget on items that are worthy of being in my home. I love Amazon Lightening and Cartwheel Hot Toy deals. But I also love Advent and the time of reflecting and waiting and hoping that comes with it. In years past I’ve tried to marry these two holiday mindsets (both are about giving, right?!), but I’ve emerged every time feeling like I had a case of multiple personalities.

For the life of me I can’t focus on Jesus and waiting and hoping and quieting my soul while I’m frantically searching for the best deals and (to be honest) dealing with a mild case of both the gimmies and the frustration of “the gifts I buy will never show the love I have for the person I’m giving them to.” Other people might be able to. Not me.

So, this year I’m trying something totally different.

This year I will be done holiday shopping before Advent even begins. Yes, I will miss many deals. I will probably pay more for things I buy and our holiday budget won’t go as far. But my goal is to be able to focus my heart on the season of Advent. To slow. To celebrate. To pray. To spend time away from the ads and messages that tell me my life would be just a bit easier/happier/simpler/spiritual if I had one. more. thing.

 

How do you stay sane during the holidays? What practices help you manage the tension of the season?

 

 

Blessed are those with the comfort of answers

blessedarethose

I used to think my spiritual maturity was directly related to the amount of answers I had.

It was junior high when I walked down a green-carpeted center aisle to say “I do” to Jesus. I had invited a lot of my friends that night to the youth night revival at my church, knowing they really needed Jesus. I got ‘im instead.

I’m a learner by nature, and so the Bible quickly became my primary textbook for life. I learned that it was the ultimate handbook, and by golly, I never knew a handbook or textbook that I couldn’t master. (more…)

My Personal Spiritual Formation Reading List

It’s here. The last day of #write31days. Whew. I have 11 months to recover :).

For real though, this process has been HARD, but I’m so thankful for a supportive husband who has let me sleep in late nearly everyday because I’ve been up until midnight nearly every night this month working and writing. I’ll be sure to return the sleeping-in favor to him as he soon begins his 2 week prelims. Whew.

For the last day of 31 Days of Soul Searching, I just wanted to take it easy and share a list of soul-forming books that are on my “If I ever get 2 weeks of uninterrupted reading time, these books are what I’d read” list.

In no particular order:

  1. Two Steps Forward
  2. The Gift of Being Yourself
  3. The Sacramental LIfe
  4. Simplicity
  5. Just Spirituality
  6. Life Together in Christ
  7. Margin
  8. Praying Upside Down
  9. Faithful: A Theology of Sex
  10. Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith
  11. Eternal Living
  12. The Inner Voice of Love 
  13. Sacred Parenting
  14. Spirit Led Parenting
  15. Undone
  16. Spirituality in the Mother Zone

What books about any area of spiritual formation are you looking forward to reading??