Tag: devotional

Wise Up | Marty Machowski

In Wise Up, Marty Machowski (whose books The Ology and The Gospel Story Bible have become standards in our home), takes families through the book of Proverbs in ten-minute jaunts. He asks probing questions about selected passages, all with the aim of teaching our kids to value and pursue wisdom.

Machowski pulls passages from all over the Bible into the discussion as well, showing that the pursuit of wisdom is not a topic limited to the book of Proverbs, but one that is prevalent and highly-prized throughout the whole of Scripture. This is a quest that matters—to God and, therefore, to us—and Machowski is careful to emphasize that while not leaning toward a moralistic interpretation of Proverbs. The gospel is everywhere in this book, and that is beautiful.

But here is where I need to make a confession.

Wise Up, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

When I flipped through this book just now, I found our bookmark, placed there months and months ago, holding our place at the reading for “Day 4.” I have written before about our inconsistency with family devotions, but I was sure we’d made it at least a week into this one before shelving it. So, I need you to know that: we haven’t read through this full book as a family. We didn’t try any of the projects (though I love the idea of them), and I don’t think we sang any of the hymns (though we love singing hymns). But I wanted to share this book anyway, because it is a great study and I want you to know about it.

Wise Up, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

I also want to ask for your help: for those of you who make family devotions a part of your day, what does that look like? We read together before bed—sometimes from the Bible itself, sometimes from a story bible—and I just embarked on a study with the girls as part of our school day that I hope to share here a little later.

But I’m learning that when presented with pre-written questions, the five of us old enough to know what’s happening seem to wilt and conversation dries up. If we read a story Bible and follow the girls’ questions wherever they lead, a rich and rewarding discussion sometimes ensues (or sometimes, people flop on the floor and pretend to sleep). It’s harder to measure our progress when we have discussions that way, but I’m starting to make peace with that.

Wise Up, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

What about you? How does your family read Scripture and hold devotions together? I’m on a quest for ideas here and, through that, I hope to win some wisdom.


Wise Up: 10-Minute Family Devotions in Proverbs
Marty Machowski (2016)

For Such a Time as This | Angie Smith

After reading a picture book that praised Eve for her courage in defying God, I almost quit my search. But the stories of so many women are sown quietly throughout Scripture, and I loved the idea of drawing those stories out. I loved the idea of reminding our daughters, in a time when Paul is derided as a misogynist and the question of women’s roles in church is hotly debated, that they have a treasured place in God’s Great Story.

For Such a Time as This, by Angie Smith | Little Book, Big Story

Moses went on to guide the Israelites out of Egypt, but his mother, sister, and midwife shielded the infant Moses from Pharoah’s wrath. Israel fell into fragments, yet one Moabite woman became the thread God used to sew redemption into Israel’s tapestry. Surely some author has told the stories of those women in an honest, yet beautiful way? Right? One that steers clear of the “bad girls of the Bible” motif?

Yes. Dear friends, the answer is yes. Angie Smith did it, and she did it well.

For Such a Time as This, by Angie Smith | Little Book, Big Story

For Such a Time as This is an anthology of stories about the women of Scripture, and there are more stories in it that I thought possible: Mary and Sarah and Esther are in here. Ruth, of course. But Gomer is in here, and Delilah and Jezebel and Sapphira, too. Smith did not shy away from the less savory characters of Scripture, but even in their stories found the beauty of the gospel pricking through the soot and grime. She approaches them all from a gracious angle, not asking “What does this tell me about me?” but “What does it say about God that he would graft this figure into his family tree, that he would use this figure to do mighty things despite her brokenness?”

For Such a Time as This, by Angie Smith | Little Book, Big Story

Breezy Brookshire’s illustrations get the tension of that question just right: her fluid, glowing watercolors are punctuated by understated pencil drawings. By mixing those two, she captures the tension of our sin and God’s grace in a luminous way.

For Such a Time as This, by Angie Smith | Little Book, Big Story

For Such a Time as This is, I suppose, a selective story Bible. It’s obviously not comprehensive, but focuses on the women of Scripture specifically. But it is also a devotional, as each story ends with a section for young girls to read alone or with parents, and for a prayer that families can pray together for their daughters. If your daughter has a birthday this summer and you invite us to her party, be warned: we’ll probably buy her this book.

For Such a Time as This, by Angie Smith | Little Book, Big Story

Update (Sept. 2017)

We are currently reading this aloud as a family and I love it more after each reading. We’ve read about Abigail and Bathsheba, Hagar and the Queen of Sheba, and Angie Smith does a beautiful job of connecting each story to the Big Story of Scripture, while drawing in details that bring their stories to life. My daughters are enthralled with all these women they had never met before, and I am a little obsessed with the illustrations.

I just wanted you to know that. I loved this book when I wrote about it, but we love it now, all of us. The girls each take sections from the devotional readings, I read the prayer, and even Phoebe repeats our “Word of the Day” and memory verse after me. This book is one of our favorites now.


For Such a Time as This
Angie Smith, Breezy Brookshire (2014)

Brave Girls: Beautiful You | Jennifer Gerelds

Nine. My eldest daughter just turned nine.

I thought this was momentous because it was her last single digit year, but no: a friend mentioned yesterday that she was halfway there, and the park around us got suddenly swimmy. It took me a minute to realize what my tear ducts understood instantly: “halfway there” meant halfway to adulthood, and the park looked swimmy because I was crying.

Yikes.

Brave Girls: Beautiful You (A 90-Day Devotional for Girls) | Little Book, Big Story

But this birthday called for a little something different, as birthday books go, and so I explored the “devotional Christian girl” shelves of Amazon. I found a cheap book, one that looked promising, and ordered it.

Brave  Girls: Beautiful You was (whew!) not a theological mess in pink and floral print. It is a collection of devotions that encourage girls with a growing awareness of their appearance and identity to measure these things by God’s metric and to weigh their beauty on his scales. As I flipped through it, I was impressed by the depth of the devotions and the simple way they illustrated, through the imagery of “putting off” our old selves and “putting on” Christ, how a young girl can best glorify God in whatever situation comes her way.

Brave Girls: Beautiful You (A 90-Day Devotional for Girls) | Little Book, Big Story

There are quizzes in here, too, which initially made me nervous, but again and again I saw that they were intended as an expedition through a girl’s heart and not as a measurement of her value or success.

So, this is a new sort of book for this blog, because we are in a new sort of season. Brave Girls: Beautiful You is sweet, yes. But it is also rich, and, I hope, it is the sort of fuel my young daughter needs as she begins to set her sights on becoming a young woman.

Brave Girls: Beautiful You (A 90-Day Devotional for Girls) | Little Book, Big Story

Footnote

I was not able to read this book from cover-to-cover before I needed to wrap it up, so though I recommend it, I can’t promise that there isn’t some murky spot in there somewhere. But every page I landed on was good and true.


Brave Girls: Beautiful You
Jennifer Gerelds (2016)

My ABC Bible Verses From the Psalms | Susan and Richie Hunt

Lydia and Sarah curled up on the floor, listening or coloring as I read from My ABC Bible Verses From the Psalms. It was winter and we were well-pajamaed; outside, it was probably raining. I had just finished our reading for that day and moved to pick up our book of fairy tales when Sarah spoke over the squeak of her markers and said, “I like this book because it helps me see how to behave.”

My ABC Bible Verses from the Psalms, by Susan and Richie Hunt | Little Book, Big Story

I was struck by her insight: after all, that’s exactly what I like about this book, too. Susan and Richie Hunt collected twenty-six verses from the Psalms, fit them all to a letter of the alphabet, and wrote stories about a particular family to fit each one. There are stories about disobedience and service; stories about conversion and loving those that are hard to love. They all illustrate different qualities that we’d love to see our children take to heart, but they press past that, pointing toward our dependence upon God in a way that keeps this book from reading like a blue print for good works without faith.

My ABC Bible Verses from the Psalms, by Susan and Richie Hunt | Little Book, Big Story

For a five-year-old who is told daily to put others before herself but struggles to understand how that ought to look, it must be helpful to see a family live out that sort of love in the pages of a book. I know it’s helpful for me as a mother to watch the way the parents in the book answer their children’s questions, honor their own parents, and weave Scripture into their interactions with their children. Though the family may seem a little too perfect in places, the book is rich in grace and I’m thankful for that.

It’s easy to forget, as a grown-up, how hard it can be for a child to see how to behave, and so I was grateful for Sarah’s reminder that we do need to see it, parents and children alike: we can’t just be told, but we need to see those around us living out their faith. And while a good book is no replacement for a real, live example, it can certainly be a help.

My ABC Bible Verses from the Psalms, by Susan and Richie Hunt | Little Book, Big Story


My ABC Bible Verses From the Psalms
Susan Hunt, Richie Hunt (2013)

Mission Accomplished | Scott James

Our daughters have a knack for arriving on holidays. Our first made me a mother on Mother’s Day, which made me feel a little like an impostor: when a nurse wished me “Happy Mother’s Day” as I sat there holding my hours-old infant, I must have given her a “Who, me?” look, because she laughed and said, “Yes, you.”

Our second arrived in the midst of a month of family birthdays; our third, on St. Lucia’s Day, early in the morning (though she was due the next day, on our anniversary). Our girls seem to like days already made significant by our family or the world, and we like that about them. I thought that this daughter might be the exception, until I looked at the calendar for Lent this year and realized that she’s due right in the middle of Holy Week. That gives her something like four holidays to choose from.

Having had one daughter during Advent, I can tell you: this was welcome news. Anticipating the birth of a child during a season that celebrates the birth of the Christ Child was beautiful and deeply significant. Rejoicing over the Resurrection of Christ and our new life in him while holding the newest illustration of new life in my arms sounds equally lovely.

(Of course, that assumes that I won’t go horribly overdue. But I have my hopes. And my trust in God’s timing.)

A two-week devotional for Easter: Mission Accomplished, by Scott James | Little Book, Big Story

And so Lent is a quiet, mildly planned event in our home this year. Today’s book is the only new Easter book I’ve discovered this year, and because it is a devotional meant to be read during Holy Week and the week after Easter, I can’t guarantee that we’ll read it all the way through as a family this year.

But I read it through and found it worth sharing, so I thought I’d kick off the Lenten season with a new book for you, then follow by republishing a few of our favorite Lent and Easter books during the following weeks.

Mission Accomplished is a collection of fourteen family devotions, meant to be started on Palm Sunday and read for the next two weeks. I don’t know what your history is with family devotions, but ours is spotty, and a two-week devotional is right up our alley. Each devotion begins with a reading from Scripture, followed by a short reading from the book. There are questions and prayers and, at the end, a hymn to sing or a project to work on as a family.

A two-week devotional for Easter: Mission Accomplished, by Scott James | Little Book, Big Story

I liked that last part, because the hymns were (almost) all hymns I knew, and the projects were simple projects that I’ll actually (probably) do with the girls: painted rocks or crosses made from twigs and twine—stuff that doesn’t take a lot of preparation but that does deepen the lesson learned through the reading.

Illustrated by A.E. Macha (who also illustrated The Gospel Story Bible), Mission Accomplished ties our Lenten celebrations back again and again to the Gospel. Whether we read it now, well before Holy Week, or during Holy Week (accepting the very real possibility of being interrupted by a trip to the hospital), I’m excited to share this book with our family and to remember the Reason we have for singing together, reading Scripture together, and painting rocks together.


Mission Accomplished
Scott James, AE Macha (2015)

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing | Sally Lloyd-Jones

At our house, we joke about “turning over a new leaf.” It’s not a very funny joke, just one we fall back on when we feel the need to make a change, big or small. “It’ll be a whole new leaf!” we cry, determined to keep our bedroom tidy or to fold and put away the clean laundry before it engulfs our purple couch. But a few weeks later, cat hair drifts across the bedroom floor like tumbleweeds and we find ourselves asking, “Where is that new leaf anyway?”

Well, my friends, ’tis the season of new leaves. I know that some of you are renewing your gym membership while others scrutinize the very fine margins of your budget. You’re scouring your child’s toy box and donating half the toys to a good cause, or vowing to cut back on coffee/booze/sweets/Facebook, and so on.

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing | Little Book, Big Story

Meanwhile, a handful of you are determined to be more intentional about reading to your children. You don’t want to read just anything to them, either: you’re thinking in words like “discipleship” and “training,” if you’re that sort, or you just want to fold something about God into your daily routine. You haven’t the nerve to tackle full-on Scripture and yet, you want to feed your children something substantial.

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing | Little Book, Big Story

If you’re one of those folks, then I’d like to introduce you to Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing. Written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago, the team behind The Jesus Storybook Bible, this book is a devotional book for kids that is simple but not simplified, so it lends itself to a variety of uses. Older children can benefit richly from reading through it on their own, while families can read it together before bed or around the table. We like to read passages from it over breakfast, an association that has been cemented by our three-year-old, who calls it our “breakfast book.”

As always, Lloyd-Jones brings a depth and honesty to her writing that resonates with readers big and small: she doesn’t write down to anyone, which means that the whole family can enjoy the brief devotions (and stunning artwork). And from the verses cited after each entry, you can springboard into a deeper discussion of Scripture, if you feel so inclined.

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing | Little Book, Big Story

Whatever your new leaf is this year: good luck! My goals are small this year, thanks to Phoebe, and consist of things like “brush teeth occasionally” and “start cooking again (eventually).” “Cuddle the baby as much as possible” tops my list, and I’m happy to report that I’ve got that one down pat.

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing | Little Book, Big Story


Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing
Sally Lloyd-Jones, Jago (2012)

The Advent Jesse Tree | Dean Lambert Smith

If it seems like I’m getting an absurdly early start on reviewing Christmas books, I apologize. Please consider it a kindness to you, because I love finding new Christmas books and traditions but loathe finding them on December 21 and having to try to remember them by November of the next year. I wanted to give you a head start.


I love Advent. The hymns and prayers of quiet expectation create a counterpoint to the holiday noise of stores, streets and schedules. The sense that the season isn’t now, not yet, but is on its way, lends our home a building suspense, one that is marked out daily by our favorite Advent celebration: the Jesse Tree.

Celebrating Advent with a Jesse Tree | Little Book, Big Story

Here is the Jesse Tree in a nutshell: you start with twenty-five ornaments, each decorated with a particular symbol (I made mine with cheap ornaments from Michael’s and a gold paint pen). You gather a bunch of bare branches and stick them in a jar. Pinterest will tell you to spray paint your branches and nestle them into a twine-wrapped, be-ribboned jar, but ignore Pinterest. Pinterest is crazy. Bare branches in a Mason jar work fine.

Now, for every night of Advent, read a passage from The Advent Jesse Tree, and put the corresponding ornament on your makeshift tree. Got it? Those are the mechanics of the celebration.

Celebrating Advent with a Jesse Tree | Little Book, Big Story

But the heart of it is in the readings, each of which draw a different story from the Bible to its final conclusion: Jesus. You begin in Genesis and read on to Jesus’s birth (with a peek forward into Revelation), stopping at the end of each story to remember who the story is really about. Abraham? Noah? Ruth? No. Jesus.

This book also includes hymns for each night, and questions for your children. There are readings for children and readings for adults, so you can customize this for your family. The hanging of ornaments is a simple routine (and a good one for the littlest hands), but it anchors our Advent in Scripture and reminds us that the heart of the holiday hubbub is not family, food or gifts, but the Giver of all of those good things.

Every night we are drawn back to the manger to rejoice in the work that God has done over centuries, thousands of years, in bringing his plan into effect: He came down as a child, made Himself—the Creator of everything—small, so that we could be magnified in him.

That is worth waiting for. That is worth remembering. That is worth celebrating.

Celebrating Advent with a Jesse Tree | Little Book, Big Story

Read More About The Jesse Tree

For more ideas on how to make (or where to buy) Jesse tree ornaments, read my post, “A Quick Guide to Jesse Tree Ornaments.” You can also read more about our family’s Advent traditions in the post “Advent: What It Is and Why We Love It.”


The Advent Jesse Tree
Dean Lambert Smith (2011)