One of the things I’ve been busy with this year has been writing a year’s worth of children’s church lessons that go through the basic, big picture story of the Bible.
I had many goals for this project. I wanted to treat children with respect and tell them the truth. I wanted to avoid easy answers and moralizing that weren’t readily available from the text. I wanted to complement the Jesus Storybook Bible and cover some stories that it omits. I am looking forward to going back through the whole thing and editing it, but for the most part, I feel like I am on the right track.
I expected that writing the curriculum would be more profitable for me than it will be for any single kindergarten or first grade aged kid who may sit through the lessons. It did not surprise me that I struggled at times with how to explain certain stories to kids because I struggled to explain them to myself. But there were a few surprises along the way.
For example, when I wrote about Jonah recently, I tried to tackle that tricky fourth chapter of Jonah that is often forgotten by story bibles. I remembered well that Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh, did not think the people deserved to be saved, and threw a fit in chapter 4 after the city was spared. But Jonah’s fury is not quite the way I remembered it. When I read it again, it was clear he was saying, “Lord, isn’t this exactly what I thought would happen when I was still at home? That’s why I ran away in the first place! I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”
Jonah had every expectation that God would save the Ninevites. He was mad that God for being that gracious, that merciful, that he would save even evil Nineveh. Of course, Jonah had his issues, but I couldn’t help but admire his great faith in God’s power. I know that changing hearts is the work of the Holy Spirit, but Jonah woke me up to some of my own apathy about God’s love for others and his ability to save even those who seem the least interested or needy.
I hope that some churches are able to use what I’ve written and that it will help others, but even now, I am thankful for the opportunity to have wrestled with God’s story this year and for the church that funded the endeavor. Four more lessons to go!
Hello again. I apologize for the long absence from this blog. I took a temporary job last semester and had to keep up my writing gigs in case it didn’t turn into a permanent gig (it didn’t) so I was run ragged from all the work I was doing.
But, I have a little more time at the present, so I am reading more books and getting out to run and doing other things that are healthy and make me happy. Blogging is somewhere on that list, so even though blogs in general–and this blog in particular–have jumped the shark, expect some posts here for the time being.
Happy Birthday to Lexi who is SEVEN today! She is full of life and navigates all kinds of situations with ease: diligent in the classroom, tenacious on the soccer field, fun with friends. I am proud to be her mom.
A little interview:
What was the best thing about being 6? Starting first grade.
What are you most proud of learning? How to do cartwheels.
What was the best book you read? The one I am reading right now, Absolutely Lucy by Ilene Cooper.
What is your favorite song? I like too many to choose.
What is your favorite tv show? Shake it Up!
What are you looking forward to about being 7? Going to the beach on vacation.
What college do you want to go to? I’m only seven, Mom.
Do you think you’ll get married when you grow up? Have any kids? Yes, I think I’ll get married and have one kid.
What do you want to be when you grow up? A rockstar when I am a teenager and a veterinarian when I am an adult.
The goal for this recipe was to lighten it up a bit without compromising taste. Michael told me if I hadn’t told him about the changes I made, he wouldn’t have noticed. I consider that a victory. This makes a very full 13×9 casserole we eat for two days, no sides necessary.
1 pound ground beef (85/15)
1 pound ground turkey (93/7)
1 medium onion, diced
2.5 Tablespoons of butter (divided)
2 cloves garlic
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
5 cups frozen mixed vegetables (such as broccoli, carrots, corn, peas, green beans.)
1/2 cup of beef broth (99% fat free)
2 teaspoons worchestershire sauce
1 head of cauliflower, in pieces (or a bag of frozen cauliflower)
1.5 pounds (about 4 medium) yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup all-natural sour cream
Preheat oven to 400. Brown ground meat, drain and set aside. Cook garlic and onion in 1 TB of butter until translucent. Add mushrooms and 1/2 cup beef broth, cook for 3 minutes, add vegetables and cook until tender. Mix vegetables, meat and worchestershire in 13×9 pan. When you start the filling, set a pot of water to boil. When boiling, add cauliflower and cook until very tender (6-10 minutes). Fish out with slotted spoon, then add potatoes to water. While cauliflower still hot, use food processor to puree until almost smooth. I keep the cauliflower in the food processor bowl and switch to the plastic dough blade. Add potatoes when very tender, and mix/mash with sour cream, parmesan and 1.5 T of butter. Add mashed potato and cauliflower mix on top of the meat and vegetables. Make peaks with the side of a fork. Bake uncovered at 400 until topping starts to brown (about 30 min.)
As instructed: Serves 8 | 407 calories per serving | 38g carbohydrates | 4g fiber | 27g protein | 16g fat. Obviously, you can use lower fat ground meat and sour cream to reduce the fat if you are into that, all cauliflower / no potatoes for the topping to reduce the carbohydrates if you lean paleo, etc.
A good memoir allows readers a glimpse into another person’s experience and leaves them better for it. The Exact Place recalls Margie Haack’s childhood in the harsh and wild landscape of rural Northern Minnesota. Margie and her husband Denis have a fantastic ministry called Ransom Fellowship. Michael and I have enjoyed their writing on faith and culture for many years, so I had no doubt that I’d enjoy this book, just as I’ve enjoyed Margie’s writing over the years on her blog and in Notes from Toad Hall.
Oftentimes, books set it rural places are idyllically pastoral, a glorification of country life. Though Haack’s childhood had some rural pleasures anyone can admire, she did not shy away from recalling the difficulties of rural poverty. These details made it feel honest and real, but so did the recipes and the happy memories as well.
One of the recurring themes of the book is Margie’s relationship with her stepfather, and her longing to know her biological father, who died before she was born. The tension as she tries to earn his love is palpable and at times, heartbreaking, but it wasn’t so overwhelming that it weighed down the book. It is a part of Haack’s story, but it is not the whole story, and there is certainly redemption to be found when we explore and acknowledge the brokenness in our lives.
The Exact Place is the second book published by Kalos Press, and I am so excited by their work so far. If you buy the print copy, they will give you the ebook for free, fantastic for people like me who appreciate both print and digital mediums for reading. Also, you can lend out your copy of the physical book while retaining your digital copy, just in case you need it.
As childhood memoirs go, this is a lovely and moving work. Though it is spiritual, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and has moments of levity and joy as well as pain and yearning. It’s real and it’s good, just like I expected from Margie Haack. If you like memoirs or are familiar with the Haacks, I highly recommend it to you. (8.5/10)
I received a free copy of this book for review purposes. The opinion expressed is my own.
Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber was one of the most buzzed about books in my circles in 2012. I enjoyed it, but not quite as much as I thought it would. It would have benefited from more editing, which surprised me as the author is an English professor, but the setting could not be beat. (8/10.)
Every Day by David Levithan is a Young Adult book that just came out. The premise was interesting to me, but the execution wasn’t as good as I had hoped (6.5/10.)
Every year, I read a little Wodehouse. It’s good for the soul. Mike and Psmith did not disappoint, it was my first Psmith novel and it will not be my last. A lot of cricket was described, which I thought would be dull, but it really wasn’t (8.5/10.)
How to Talk to Your Child About Sex by Richard and Linda Eyre is a straightforward book about the subject. Though the authors do not mention it, they are Latter-day Saints, so their suggestions skew conservative though they try to be general and made it easy to customize for various families. Some of the scripts were really unlikely, but still thought provoking (6/10.)
The Exact Place by Margie Haack is a lovely memoir I will review in full soon (8.5/10.)
Love Does is a memoir of sorts, stories and vignettes from the life of author Bob Goff. Goff is an extraordinary man, full of whimsy and heart. Some of the stories made me laugh out loud, others made me tear up. The premise of the book is that love does, love is about action. And I believe that to be true and an encouraging message.
What is a little troubling about the book is that doing for Goff often costs more than time and energy. It costs money, and lots of it. I really struggled with the lack of acknowledging that 99.9% of Christians worldwide could not live as Bob does because they could never spend as Bob does. I have noticed that evangelicalism lately is all about living lives of service and doing amazing things, and I worry that might marginalize those for whom taking a year off to ”minister” just isn’t financially possible. If you struggle with contentment, this book might not be for you.
Another concern was the lack of connection to a local church and the skepticism towards typical Christianity. A lot of this is a good thing — I love the idea of a “Bible Doing” group rather than a Bible Study — but the sum of it felt like a lone ranger, individualistic faith rather than the true and deep community of faith that I believe to be the most biblical model.
I enjoyed this book, but it made me want wads of cash so I could do the sorts of things Bob does. And that’s not really the point. I’d love to see someone live an extraordinary, whimsical life of sacrificial love on a budget of $50,000 a year or less. I’d read that book in a heartbeat. Goff’s stories are really interesting and the profits are going to Restore International, so if you are intrigued, I’d say go ahead and read it. (6.5/10)
I received a free copy of this book for review purposes. The opinion expressed is my own.
What is This Classical Life? A weblog about all the beautiful things in life, like books, food and community. It is written by Kristen, a newly-minted Memphian who is married to Michael and mother to two school-aged girls.
Why This Classical Life? Why not? The domain was bought a long time ago, the name came out of Michael's classics background and a love for WBEZ's This American Life.