Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Right Crowd

The story of the woman caught in adultery from John 8 has always been such an amazing story to me. It illustrates God's grace and man's judgment so clearly. In fact, one can glean many lessons from this story. I love Jesus' compassion and mercy, not excusing her sin, but allowing her to become free from it.

But one point I had not noticed before is found in verse 9: When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.

For years I've pictured this story in my mind as Jesus and the woman left there alone when He tells her He doesn't condemn her and to "go and sin no more." (vs. 11)

But did you see it?

...until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.

The condemning, accusing, mocking, rock-wielding crowd left one by one. However, a crowd had already been gathered listening to Jesus teach. A crowd remained after the accusers left. As I realized that, I thought maybe this crowd was a crowd of disciples, those who truly wanted to be like Jesus in their attitudes and actions, those who were governed by love and compassion. I hope they were the ones who might share their cloak to cover the woman, some older women who might mentor her, and a crowd that offered encouragement to her for a future of following Christ. That's what I hope.

If that is the case, I want to be a part of that crowd.

I know there were still some in the crowd who judged Jesus' teachings and would have liked to arrest Him, but there were others. There were true followers, true believers in that crowd.

I hope when we gather in our churches that among the crowd are those who would take the time to encourage and help others who are struggling in their faith. We need encouragers and mentors. Without them (us), we could also become accusing mobs, and accusing mobs do not bring glory to God. They lift up the Law, not the One who came to set us free from it.

Well the, since God's grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don't you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin which leads to death or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. (Romans 6:15-16, NLT)

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NLT)

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24 NLT)

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. (John 13:35, NLT)

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Kid Lit that Nourishes Our Souls

I was thinking today about words and how they can nourish our souls. Maybe it is because I'm a writer and speaker and work with words, but they can spark something magical in my heart.

Have you ever read a verse of scripture, and it nearly took your breath away? Every time I read certain verses, it happens. One is from The Message, Matthew 11:28-30 where it says, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." 

Those verses bring comfort and remind of how beautiful the Christian life is meant to be.

Another is 1 John 3:1, NLT, "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him."

The thought of God lavishing His love on us just melts my heart. I'm overwhelmed by His amazing, generous love.

In addition to God's beautiful Word, there are also some wonderful words written by mere humans that have also nourished my creative soul. I wanted to simply list some of those here and ask that you share some of your favorites. It would mean a lot to me to hear what books have blessed your life and nourished your soul, especially as a child or as you read to your child.

I have to start with my favorite author, C.S. Lewis. Most of his writing nourishes my soul and challenges my mind. I don't agree with all of his theology, but I love reading his work. My favorites will probably always be The Chronicles of Narnia, but I also love The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and his essays. I think every child should experience The Chronicles preferably read together with a parent the first time through. I once read the whole series to my class. We read a section every day after lunch and made it through the whole series in that school year with just those few minutes each day.

My Mama Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Gray is a delightful book. I love the special relationship between the mom and the daughter.

Alexander and the Magic Mouse by Martha Sanders is an oldie but a goodie. It's out of print and hard to find, but it is the most magical, quirky story. I loved it as a kid and have cherished it for years.

Hailstones and Halibut Bones: Adventures in Poetry and Color by Mary O'Neil is another oldie that I love. It is illustrated by John Wallner, and the illustrations are beautiful.

Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say is a wonderful book. It spoke to our hearts because of being on the mission field for so many years. Once another country becomes a second home, a part of you is never completely at home no matter where you are. This book, which is beautifully illustrated by Say as well, depicts so many of those feelings.

The Oak inside the Acorn by Max Lucado is a favorite. It's a beautiful story of purpose and possibilities centered on God. Lucado has several beautiful books we should all read to our kids. Who doesn't love Just In Case You Ever Wonder?

One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham is a long story, but a wonderful one. The illustrations by Richard Jesse Watson are gorgeous. It's a story that shares the Gospel in a Christmas story.

Quinn's Promise Rock by Christie Thomas is a new addition to our library. It is such a beautiful book. It is a Christian book about God always being with us. If you haven't read it, you will be blessed when you do.

When I Pray for You by Michael Paul Turner is a great rhyming book that is perfect for a parent to read to a child. It shows the parent praying to God as he interacts with the child and shows such gratitude and joy in God's gift of that child. This book will bless the parent and the child as they read it.

Water bugs and Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Young Children by Doris Stickney. You may think it's odd to include a book about death in this list, but it's really a book about eternal life in Christ, and it is beautiful. We used it in a Christmas memorial service for those who had lost loved ones that year. It is a very sweet story that helps explain death and eternal life.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams is a classic and such a sweet story. Most see it as an allegory of the Christian life, but even as a surface story, it is wonderful.

Maybe I Can Love My Neighbor Too and Maybe God Is Like that Too are two books by Jennifer Grant. Both are really great for reading to your children and discussing spiritual life and the fruit of the Spirit. I love both of these books.

A very cute good night book is Ten Little Night Stars by my wonderful friend Deb Gruelle. It is a very cute book that is sure to become a favorite of any young child.

How Far Is Faith? by Amy Parker is a sweet book that discusses the characteristics of faith and God. It's a really sweet story that will spark great discussions. She also wrote How Big Is Love? and How High Is Hope? All three are just wonderful books that help make these difficult concepts easier for children to grasp.

I will probably feature some of these again in different blog posts, and I have so many others I could add and will share in future posts. But I'm anxious to hear from you. What are the children's books that blessed you?

At a later time we'll feature books for older children. And we'll have to do one of the books that give you serious belly laughs. But for today, think of the young children from toddler to about 3rd/4th grade and what books would bless them.

Thank you for sharing your favorites with us!