Category: Grown-Ups (page 1 of 3)

Every Moment Holy | Douglas Kaine McKelvey

I came of age as a Christian in a church plant “for people who don’t like church.” We were reinterpreting church, making it new for those who had grown up in stodgy, liturgical places and hungered for something heartfelt and sincere. We were a composite of black sheep: some of us had never gone to any church at all; others had drifted in from mega-churches, in search of a tighter, more authentic community. Most of us owned skateboards. We were all under thirty.

Mitch and I were married in that church when I was nineteen, but within the year, we gradually stopped attending—I don’t remember why. For a few years, we didn’t attend anywhere. But eventually we found ourselves at another small church plant, this one full of people who were not running from the church, but to it: some of them, like us, refugees from churches that had jettisoned doctrine in a dive toward “relevance.”

We heard a call to worship and prayed the Lord’s Prayer every week. We took communion not at special believers’ services, but every Sunday, together. We looked into one another’s eyes as we broke the bread.

Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey | Little Book, Big Story

It was through this church that I began to appreciate liturgical worship. I didn’t notice it happening—at first, I read clumsily through the bold print in the bulletin, not sure what I was supposed to feeling as I read.

Years later, a decade in perhaps, I began to understand that I didn’t have to adjust my feelings before reading the liturgy, but that God can use a good liturgy to shape my feelings and affections. No matter what I am grappling with when the service starts, by the time I’ve recited and responded and prayed and sung “The Doxology” and received the benediction, the Spirit has unstuck my heart from my worries and oriented it once more toward God.

It is a quiet work I cannot control. And it is one we participate in together, every Sunday.

Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey | Little Book, Big Story

Every Moment Holy invites liturgies into the home, around the table, outside under the stars—it is a collection of liturgies written by Douglas Kaine McKelvey (a writer I very much admire) and illustrated by Ned Bustard (an illustrator I also very much admire). These liturgies are prayers, meant to be read alone or together; in unison or in a call-and-response exchange. They are intended, as Andrew Peterson writes in the book’s introduction, to “edify you, reshape your thinking, recalibrate your compass, ignite your imagination, and pique your longing for the world to come.”

And they do: the words themselves set my thoughts running along new lines, and they draw my eyes upward in moments that may not normally elicit prayer. “Upon An Unexpected Sighting of Wildlife,” for instance. “Upon Feeling the Pleasance of a Warm Shower.”

Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey | Little Book, Big Story

These liturgies are not only for Sunday mornings, but for the week-in, week-out trials and celebrations that we often hurry through. Pausing to read “A Liturgy for the Preparation of a Meal” or “Liturgy for a Moment of Frustration at a Child” reorients our thoughts toward the One who gives us hands and herbs and aromatics and children who challenge our sense of order.

Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey | Little Book, Big Story

Though I had begun to appreciate liturgies at our last church, it wasn’t until that church dissolved and we started attending our new church that I truly began to love liturgies. We closed that final service with “The Doxology,” and the next week stepped into our first service at our new church knowing that we didn’t have to muster up certain feelings during worship but that we could rest in the familiar rhythm of the liturgy.

Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey | Little Book, Big Story

Participating in the liturgy of a new church was like hearing a beloved piece played by a different musician: we heard variations, but the melody still came through, beautiful and clear. At the end of the service we could sing with our new church family, “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow,” and by then we really meant it.


If you’re new to the idea of liturgy, or would just like to read more about it (besides reading Every Moment Holy, which is an excellent place to start), I highly recommend You Are What You Love, by James K.A. Smith. That book more than any other has helped shape my understanding of liturgy.


Every Moment Holy
Douglas Kaine McKelvey; Ned Bustard (2017)

The Anne of Green Gables Series | L.M. Montgomery

Today’s summer re-run originally appeared way back in February 2014, in the early days of this blog. But it is about one of my favorite series in all of literature, so it’s worth sharing again. (Also, these books are perfect for reading beneath a favorite tree. Just in case you were looking for books perfect for reading beneath a favorite tree . . . )


L.M. Montgomery’s books make me want to befriend some patch of land and explore it thoroughly until I know and have named every tree, every brook, every starry-eyed flower in its thickets. I want to wear clothes made from fabric with names that sound edible—chiffon, taffeta, voile—in colors like “dove gray,” “dusky rose” and “pale green.”

Oh, to eat preserves from quilted jelly jars and don hats festooned with silk flowers and curling ostrich feathers! (I also want to clean, because I harbor a strong suspicion that Marilla Cuthbert and Mrs. Rachel Lynde would not approve of my standards of housekeeping.)

Anne of Green Gables (series), by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story

Montgomery’s writing transports me so completely to the Prince Edward Island of yesteryear that it is with a jolt that I come to at the close of the chapter to find myself camped out on the couch with a sleeping baby on my chest and a mean crick in my neck (a scene no less lovely, by the way—just slightly less romantic).

You have read Anne of Green Gables, of course. I had—twice—and had also acted in the play (some of you may recall that I married Gilbert Blythe), so I was more than familiar with Anne’s story. But in these early days of new motherhood, I decided to read on in the series and, in doing so, discovered a story of rare beauty.

Anne of Green Gables (series), by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story
Anne of Green Gables (series), by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story
Sometimes, when it is windy, I need a small assistant

Anne is an endlessly endearing, perfectly imperfect heroine, settled into a story of lush scenery and unforgettable characters. To walk with a character through childhood and into adulthood, to watch her friendships and marriage grow and change, is a delight. Montgomery’s ability to present Anne in the various stages of life without slackening the pace or vibrancy of the story, allowing the reader to watch Anne grow in wisdom as she becomes a mother, confronts loss and watches her own children mature without slackening, shows just how masterful an author she is.

Anne of Green Gables (series), by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story

There is something singular about seeing a life spun out in story like that. I can’t help but hope that, in heaven, we’ll see our own lives in a similar way: we’ll step back from it a bit so we can see God’s delicate foreshadowing in our own stories and, knowing the end of things, we’ll see, in those moments when life seemed “a vale of tears,” the first glint of the glorious light up ahead.


Anne of Green Gables
L.M. Montgomery (1908)

ESV Story of Redemption Bible

This full-length study Bible aimed toward adults may not seem like my usual fare. But I’d like to argue that, actually, it is. This is a children’s book (as well as a book for the mostly-grown, the fully-grown and the elderly), and it is certainly one that emphasizes the Big Story. What makes it seem like an unlikely subject for review, however, is the fact that I don’t really intend for you to read it to your kids.

Here is what I mean:

The older my children get, the more I realize that I can’t teach them anything I don’t know. And I can’t expect them to follow me in anything I don’t live. I can tell them, Yes, we must eat our salad. Here are three excellent reasons why salad is beneficial. But if they hear me say this and then watch me take the tiniest helping of salad and push it around on my own plate without taking a bite, they won’t be fooled.

ESV Story of Redemption Bible | Little Book, Big Story

Likewise, if, in my attempts to encourage them to love Scripture, it becomes clear that everything I know about it comes second-hand from Marty Machowski (excellent though his work is), they won’t be fooled by that either. What I need, in those heated parenting moments, is not a flow chart from a parenting book or an applicable devotional (though those are both helpful), but a deep love for the gospel and its Author. I need to know the Big Story of Scripture and how my kids (and I) fit into it. And I need to be fluent enough in it to remind them of it when called upon, in a heated moment, to do so.

This is brought home to me again and again.

I make no assumptions about you other than that you are, like me, in need of the gospel, and you clearly love good books (or you wouldn’t be here). So I offer for you the best book, in a format that makes that Big Story—the gospel—shine like a diamond just rubbed free of grit.

ESV Story of Redemption Bible | Little Book, Big Story

The Story of Redemption Bible is something between a study Bible and a reader’s Bible: it’s beautifully formatted in a single column so it reads like a thick, pretty book, but woven through it is commentary by Greg Gilbert. Every interjection is meant to point back to that single narrative that arcs through all 66 books of the Bible. See how this connects here? he asks, pointing from some obscure prophecy in Malachi to the moment Jesus fulfilled the prophecy in the Gospels.

Making these connections always enlivens my understanding of Scripture. It helps to put those strange passages of Scripture in context. Understanding where the sacrifices began and why they were necessary makes Jesus’ coming—and his abolition of the sacrificial system—all the more beautiful. I love the Author of this story; I love that we are a part of it.

ESV Story of Redemption Bible | Little Book, Big Story

And the gorgeous design of The Story of Redemption Bible reminds me, when I read, that the Bible is no ordinary book. Peter Voth’s illustrations illuminate the text. Elegant maps and timelines don’t gather idly in the back of the Bible, waiting for an invitation to dance, but stand proudly where they’re most needed: right where they’re mentioned in the text.

ESV Story of Redemption Bible | Little Book, Big Story

The Story of Redemption Bible also offers two reading plans: one that will take you through the whole Bible in a year, from cover to cover, and one that will take you through the Bible in chronological order, interweaving the prophets with the narrative books about their lives, or interspersing Paul’s letters throughout readings from Acts. And a fold-out timeline of God’s redemptive story tucks into the back of the book, ready to be explored.

ESV Story of Redemption Bible | Little Book, Big Story

So this one, dear parents, is for you. Let us love our God more every day and draw freely upon his wisdom and grace when we need it. Let us remember that we’re not yet at the end of his story, but that that ending, when it comes, will be glorious.


ESV Story of Redemption Bible
Crossway (2018)

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 13: Holiness

I carry the cold in with me and stand for a moment, still in my coat, and warm my feet over the vent before I sit down. Pumpkin bread presides at the table, attended by the French press, the cream, and a stack of napkins. April, in the kitchen, gathers mugs. A timer dings. We call quietly back and forth—How are you? Tired. A laugh. You?—keeping our voices low so we don’t wake her sons sleeping upstairs. As I take my Bible and notebook from my bag, the front door groans open then closed, and there is Megan, shaking her boots off onto the mat, rubbing her gloved hands together.

We sit down in our usual places and each claim a mug; April pours out coffee. The sound of it, the bitter smell, warms us as we talk for a moment about which kid woke most last night and how that first foster placement is going. But we don’t talk for long. We don’t have much time.

For the most recent issue of Deeply Rooted, I got to write about the Bible study I share with two close friends. This isn’t an instructional, “Five Steps to a Better Bible Study,” but an intimate peek at one of our mornings together—ukulele interludes and all.

The whole issue is, as always, beautiful both in form and content. In it, you’ll find articles on holiness, on identifying different biblical genres, on the story behind the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy.” You’ll find DIY spa recipes, and an article on how marriages are shaped by a shared Christian faith according to extensive, long-term research. And more! You’ll find this issue a great late-summer read, perfect for reading at beaches, on benches by playgrounds, or while looking out over a hazy, smoky-pink lake (that’s what’s happening here, anyway).

You can order a copy here.


Deeply Rooted Magazine
Issue 13: Holiness (2018)

Slugs and Bugs Giveaway

Last week, I raved about the new Slugs & Bugs album, Sing the Bible, Vol. 3. This week, I get to give two copies of it to two of you! What do you need to do to win one of these beauties? I’m so glad you asked.

Sing the Bible, Vol. 3, by Randall Goodgame and Slugs & Bugs | Little Book, Big Story

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

To enter, fill in as many options as you like in the widget below. The giveaway closes on Tuesday, May 29. After that, two winners will be randomly selected and notified by email.

Game on!

5 Beautiful Devotionals for Lent

We have one window in our living room—one window highly sought after by the cats, who get their best bird views there—and it’s in that window sill that I heap the books I’m currently reading. This is a terrible place for books—they fall when you bump them or when you put the blinds down (or when you lunge at a bird), and they block a small portion of coveted daylight. But it’s close to the armchair where I like to read, and so that is where the books stay.

And with Lent upon us, a handful of the books in that sill are Easter-related, which made me think of other Easter-related books you might like, which made me think that a post about Easter reading for you, dear grown-up reading this blog, might be well received. This list is a short one, but I’m sure you have other books worthy of joining its ranks. I would love to hear about them in the comments.

5 Beautiful Devotionals for Lent | Little Book, Big Story

So, here it is: a list of  devotionals for Lent! The first two are the ones I’m reading this year, followed by ones I’ve read (and loved) in the past.

Comforts From the Cross, by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Comforts From the Cross, by Elyse Fitzpatrick | Little Book, Big Story

This devotional isn’t marketed for Lent and I didn’t plan to read it for Lent, but I did start reading it and it struck me that it is, in fact, perfectly Lent-worthy. Each reading describes some new aspect the gospel—the beauty of it, how it transforms our lives—in Fitzpatrick’s warm, grace-filled voice. Familiarity may tempt us to grow deaf to the melody of the gospel, but Fitzpatrick reminds us that the Lord plays endless variations upon it in our lives, and that that melody will never grow repetitive to those who pay attention. Comforts From the Cross highlights some of those variations, and the result is stunning.

The Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett

The Valley of Vision, ed. Arthur Bennett | LIttle Book, Big Story

The Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions written by a plethora of authors whose names occasionally end with “Spurgeon,” “Edwards,” or “Bunyan.” You can see by the condition of the cover that this is an oft-frequented book at our house (or at least one that got knocked off my nightstand and lost under the bed for a while), and I’m reading it this Lent with Joe Thorn’s guide for praying through The Valley of Vision.

I’m two weeks in and I love it already: these little breaks for prayer reorient my heart every few hours, and I need that. (It’s true that I pray on the stairwell, often with one or two daughters in my lap, poking my face and asking me what I’m doing, but praying in the midst of that is perfect training for praying through the greater storms of life. Right?)

Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, by John Piper

Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, by John Piper | Little Book, Big Story

You thought there was just the one reason, didn’t you? Nope. In fifty short chapters, John Piper lays out fifty illuminating reasons why Jesus suffered and died for us. What this is, really, is fifty reasons to praise God for his redemption!

Note: Piper’s book The Passion of Christ is actually the same material repackaged under a new title. How do I know? Because I own them both and planned to review them each separately here—until I read the table of contents. But hey, now we know they’re both good books!

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, Ed. by Nancy Guthrie

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, ed. Nancy Guthrie | Little Book, Big Story

I read this book during Lent last year, and it was beautiful. Nancy Guthrie has curated a collection of twenty-five readings from authors that span church history. You’ll find Augustine here alongside J.I. Packer, John Calvin next to Francis Schaeffer. This isn’t technically a devotional but an anthology, one that’s easy to pick up and read any time of the day. (Guthrie’s Advent anthology Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus is lovely, too.)

King’s Cross (Jesus the King), by Timothy Keller

King's Cross (Jesus the King), by Timothy Keller | Little Book, Big Story

This is one of my favorite books, and again, it’s not one specifically written for Lent. But Timothy Keller’s study of Jesus’s life through the book of Mark places Jesus’ life within the greater framework of God’s redemptive story. This is not a difficult read, but it’s a deep one that will give you much to ponder.

Note: This book has been republished under the title Jesus the King, so don’t let that throw you off the scent. Even if you don’t read it during Lent, it’s excellent reading any time of the year.


What about you? What are you reading for Lent?

Exploring the Bible | David Murray

Within one week of starting this reading plan with the girls, I wanted to review it for you. “Look!” I wanted to cry. “We found it! The One!” Our relationship with family devotionals has been tumultuous, and after my recent revelation that we had only made it four days into our last attempt, I had the sort of clarity one has when, while trying to eat raw onions on a sandwich, one realizes that one is an adult who neither likes nor has to eat raw onions.

Family devotionals aren’t working for us, I realized. And they don’t have to. We want to study God’s Word with our daughters; we want them to love it, to see the beauty and the brutality and the bottomlessness of it, and we want to them to love the One who wrote it. We need to find another way, I prayed. What does this look like for us?

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids, by David Murray (review) | Little Book, Big Story

And then, behold! I ordered Exploring the Bible as a Christmas gift for Lydia, thinking it would be nice for her. But when I received it and flipped through its pages and began to see what it was about, I paused. I considered. I ordered two more copies. Lydia, Sarah, and I started working through it together and discussing it as part of our morning routine (while Phoebe colored Slugs & Bugs coloring pages and pondered the meaning of “atonement”).

A week later, Mitch asked me to get him a copy, too, and now we’re all studying through the Bible together, and it is glorious. I was ready to review it right then but I refrained, thinking it would be better if we were farther in, had given it time to stick, and could be sure that Exploring the Bible was as awesome months later as it was at the start.

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids, by David Murray (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Months later: it is still awesome.

Here is what Exploring the Bible is:

It is a reading plan for kids. In one year, it takes readers through the entire story of the Bible by hopscotching from key passage to key passage. The point is not to read the entire Bible in a year, but to follow God’s Big Story through it in a series of short but central passages.

Here is how it works:

David Murray arranged the readings in a series of week-long expeditions: one week we spend with Noah, reviewing the big picture of his story within the context of the rest of Scripture, then the next week we spend with Abraham. Murray helps us find a focus for the week but is otherwise pretty hands-off. No guided discussions here, no personal application. I’m glad for that.

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids, by David Murray (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Here is how it works for us:

Each day, our reading is about five verses long. Lydia, Mitch, and I do ours independently in the morning; Sarah does hers during our discussion. Later in the morning, the girls and I read the passage, then I ask one of the girls to narrate it back to me. Together we answer the one simple question in the workbook, and then we either stop there or we let discussion blossom however it likes. I love the questions in this book, because they point us back to the text: Murray doesn’t ask us to extrapolate on the text or draw out morals, but asks us instead to look back at a key verse and see what really happened.

“What did God say to Abraham?”

“How does Moses describe God?”

“Where was the sacrifice to be placed?”

They direct us back to the text itself, not to our own thoughts on it, and I love that. Our own thoughts bubble up naturally as we discuss the passage, but I am glad the questions anchor our discussion in what Scripture really said, not just in how we respond to it.

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids, by David Murray (review) | Little Book, Big Story

So, most days offer those simple questions with the readings. Sometimes, there is a “Snapshot Verse” that Murray encourages us to copy out in the book and to memorize. The Sunday readings contain one of my favorite features: rather than doing an individual reading, we do what Murray calls “Exploring with Others.” First, we pause for a moment and look back on what we read that week; we answer a simple question about it. Then we have space for sermon notes that we all four work on during our pastor’s sermon. (This has been both enlightening and highly entertaining.)

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids, by David Murray (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Also: Scotty Reifsnyder’s illustrations have this great retro feel that has spurred interesting discussion as well. And the book itself—both its design and its actual composition—is a pleasure to use. It feels so nice to hold it and turn the pages.

In Conclusion

Taking a year to trace the big story of Scripture through Old Testament and New has already begun to bear fruit in us as well as in the girls. We can pick out the main themes of each book more clearly; we have already spotted connections from one story to the next that we might have missed if we’d spent weeks on each story rather than days.

Do our kids still fidget and complain when it’s time to read Scripture? Yes. But Exploring the Bible is like a set of training wheels for the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Scripture reading, and watching our girls gain their balance and become more confident as they read the Bible has been delightful. I am already a little sad that Exploring the Bible won’t go on forever, but I am also excited to see what we learn from this experience and how that shapes our future family reading.


Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids
David Murray; Scotty Reifsnyder (2017)