Tag: music (page 1 of 2)

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands | Kadir Nelson

A few weeks ago I stopped by the garden section of a favorite grocery store to visit with the plants. They flaunted spring finery and iambic names—columbine, stonecrop, a fluffy young thing called asparagus fern. Overhead played that ubiquitous shopping music, something by JLo maybe. I wouldn’t have noticed the music at all if two things hadn’t happened at once:

1. A song came on with a tolerable dance beat.

2. An old woman paused as she shuffled past me with her grocery cart. She got a good grip on the cart’s handle. And then she began to dance.

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson | Little Book, Big Story

She swayed happily back and forth the way my baby does when she hears a catchy tune, bobbing her head and closing her eyes in a moment of complete contentment. When the song ended and the old woman caught me beaming at her, she grinned and shrugged. “If they don’t want us to dance, then they shouldn’t play music with such a nice beat,” she said.

Amen.

That story has nothing to do with today’s review, nothing at all. But it was too lovely not to share.

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson | Little Book, Big Story

Today’s review has to do with a book whose text is simple—the lyrics from the old spiritual, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” The illustrations seem simple—light-soaked paintings that follow one boy as he explores what each line means for his life, his family. But that pairing of a traditional hymn born within the horrific fist of slavery with the wonder one child turns upon the world around him makes He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands a rich and beautiful book.

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson | Little Book, Big Story

I would not, of course, expect every kid to make the connection between the old and new here. But even without an underlying knowledge of the song’s roots, this is a book worth sharing, as it takes a familiar song and makes it a visible story, one rooted in hope and joy. Nelson’s paintings invite us warmly into the life of the main character. He introduces us to his family, shows us his interests, allows us to tag along as he visits the beach and studies the stars. He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands manages to be both weighty and feather-light; both broad and sweetly specific.

And it’s hard to read without singing.

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson | Little Book, Big Story


He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
Kadir Nelson (2005)

Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible | A Kickstarter Campaign

What could be better than news that Slugs & Bugs is currently fundraising for the release of their third Sing the Bible album?

Reading that news while eating a donut would be nice. Reading that news while eating a donut and drinking a cup of coffee would be nice, too. But better than both of those is the news that Slugs & Bugs is fundraising for both Sing the Bible Vol. 3 and for a Vince Guaraldi-seasoned Sing the Bible Christmas album!

You can read more about the project (and watch a behind-the-scenes video) here, at The Rabbit Room. And you can support this worthy project here, on Kickstarter. Happy Valentine’s Day to us!

Looking for the Gospel in Good Songs

I grew up on good music.

My mom favored folk singers; my dad introduced me to everyone from Louis Armstrong to Michael Jackson to Nirvana. By the time I held my first guitar, I had a wealth of influences to draw on and didn’t have to wonder what made a good song good—I knew what to listen for. That I would write my own songs seemed inevitable.

I want to give my own daughters that same sort of creative foundation, but with one alteration: I want them to know the classics, but I want to introduce them, first, to artists who tuck the gospel into their music, who inscribe on their lyrics and compositions Bach’s inscription, “Soli Deo Gloria.” Glory to God alone.

Looking for the Gospel in Good Songs | Little Book, Big Story

At home we listen to everything from Billie Holiday to the Black Keys, but in our minivan I have a captive audience, and so I curate our travelling collection in the same way I curate our home library: the songs we hear while buckled up together are the ones whose lyrics will take root in our daughters’ young hearts, the ones that become part of our family’s collective memory. I want them to be good songs, creative songs that nourish our souls. I put a lot of thought into which albums make it into the van, and while not all of the artists in our collection are exclusively (or overtly) Christian, most of them are.

We listen to Liz Vice (her music is one of my favorite discoveries of the past year) and Josh Garrels. We listen to JJ Heller, of course, and 16 Horsepower, an old favorite from before we married. The Gray Havens captured the girls’ imaginations with their story-songs, and the music of Ordinary Time has been with us through all manner of seasons. (It goes without saying that Slugs & Bugs and Songs for Saplings are in heavy rotation, too!)

Looking for the Gospel in Good Songs | Little Book, Big Story

Not every song on this list has made it into the van yet—some are still waiting on my Amazon wishlist for their moment to come. But they are all good songs, by artists who use their gifts to tell again the story of who God is and what he has done, and to tell it in fresh and creative ways.

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. —Johann Sebastian Bach

Slugs and Bugs (Giveaway!) | Sing the Bible, Vol. 2

Around New Year’s the ground on our side of the state was still muddy and gray, so we went to the mountains in search of snow. On the way there we sang merrily, knowing that our road ended at a cabin in the mountains full of good friends, a woodstove, and steaming mugs of hot cocoa. No matter how long the day or how red our cheeks from the cold, there would at least be good company and hot cocoa.

And sledding.

Sledding! | Little Book, Big Story

The road home was less magical: traffic slowed to a crawl for most of the journey (we were not the only ones snow-hunting that weekend), and the trip that took six hours going was a grueling nine-and-a-half hour ordeal coming home. What saved our sanity, in the end, was pineapple pizza, a ball of play foam, a roll of paper towels, and Slugs and Bugs.

We had given the girls Sing the Bible, Vol. 1 and Under Where? for Christmas, and while we savored them on our way to the cabin, we depended upon them on the way home. The antics of Randall Goodgame, Andrew Peterson, Sally Lloyd-Jones and others kept us laughing when little else seemed funny—when the snacks ran low, when the toddler got loud, when the continued presence of seatbelts began to oppress us all—and reminded us to rejoice in the Lord always.

Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible 2 (Giveaway!) | Little Book, Big Story

These albums have hardly left our CD player since that trip. I listen to them when I’m in the car alone, delighting in the stellar musicianship (that harmonica in “New Testament Song“!) and brilliant lyrics, and I make sure to queue up a favorite like “The Wagon Song” for the girls when I pick them up from school. Mitch and I can’t resist singing “I Wanna Help” to Phoebe when she thoughtfully dumps all the hardware on the floor for Mitch while he’s trying to assemble her toddler bed. These songs have already become part of the collective, musical culture of our family.

Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible 2 (Giveaway!) | Little Book, Big Story

But we’re ready for more. How timely, then, that Slugs and Bugs’ Sing the Bible, Vol. 2 released this month! This album has a different sound from Vol. 1, featuring as it does a gospel choir rather than the African Children’s Choir, but it still offers a glorious mix of songs that appeal to kids and to parents: my husband loves “The Ten Commandments”; my daughters love “Stars.” I can’t listen to “Raisins” without laughing so hard I cry or to “You Forgave Me” without crying because it’s so beautiful (or perhaps because I’m eight months pregnant, but I’m leaning toward “it’s so beautiful”).

Slugs and Bugs | Little Book, Big Story

Randall Goodgame and his posse clearly delight in what they do, and that delight is infectious. They pull jokes in from other albums and create completely new jokes for this album, while still treating Scripture as something living and active, to be handled with a sense of reverence and awe. I am most grateful for them in the moments when I hear our daughters (even the littlest one) singing Scripture to one another as they play.

But though I could go on at even greater length about how wonderful this new album is in the hope that you’ll go purchase a copy of your own, I get to do something a little different today: I get to give one copy of Slugs and Bugs Sing the Bible, Vol. 2 away to one of you instead! How lovely is that? Details on how to enter the giveaway are below.

Enter to win a free copy of Slugs and Bugs' new album, Sing the Bible 2! | Little Book, Big Story

How to Enter the Giveaway

Enter your info into the form below and complete as many of the possible options as you like: share, follow, or comment away! On March 17, a winner will be randomly chosen and notified by email (and if you aren’t notified promptly, please allow me a little extra grace: our baby is due that weekend). Best of luck to you!

 


Sing the Bible, Vol. 2
Slugs & Bugs (2016)

The Ology | Marty Machowski

On one end of the children’s literature spectrum, we find what Charlotte Mason famously called “twaddle”: books with pat morals, flat characters, and no life. These are often books adapted from TV shows or toys, where the crisis involves fairies losing their sparkle or forgetting the secret of spring or something. They are the books we sneak back onto the shelves before leaving the library, the ones our kids enjoy for a while but ultimately forget. They don’t stick in the hearts and minds of our children because they assume that our kids need to be entertained by what they read, not shaped by it.

On the other end of the spectrum, we find The Ology. Marty Machowski is an already-beloved author in our home: his Gospel Story Bible has been a favorite among every one of every age here for years, and his family devotional Long Story Short (mentioned last week) gives us hope that one day we will study the Bible with our children. With The Ology, though, he’s departed from the tried-and-true forms of the story bible and the family devotional and written a systematic theology for children.

Yes, you read that right. The Ology is a systematic theology for children. It doesn’t get further from twaddle than that.

A systematic theology for children? Yes! Introducing The Ology, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

The Ology opens with an interesting premise: two children find an old book in a disused room of their church and discover that it was left there by “Jonathan E.” In a note accompanying the book, Jonathan E. writes,

Those who were helped [by the writings of the theologians] wanted to pass these truths on to their children. And so they wrote a book for children, entitled The Ology, so that they too might understand deep truths about God, drawn from the Bible. . . . But sadly, after many years, The Ology was forgotten. Parents and children began to think the truths of The Ology were old-fashioned and out of date. One by one these books vanished. The book you now hold may be the very last copy of The Ology in existence.

From there, we get to read the text of that last copy of The Ology in short chapters, each of which focuses on a specific doctrine. These are clear enough to read with preschoolers, but can be adapted to share with older children. I can see both Lydia (7) and Sarah (5) gleaning a lot from the readings, while Phoebe (just shy of 2) combs the illustrations for kitties.

A systematic theology for children? Yes! Introducing The Ology, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

Machowski is an author who clearly believes that children can and should have access to every part of Scripture. He believes they’re capable of understanding big concepts and so he doesn’t dilute truth for them, but lays it out in a methodical, accessible, interesting way. I am not pulling these beliefs from a parent’s note or introduction, though: it’s evident from the way he writes every page that Machowski respects his readers, no matter how small they are or how outlandish their questions.

A systematic theology for children? Yes! Introducing The Ology, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

The more we read of The Ology, the more deeply I love it. This is a book that strives to shape our children, to nourish them and help them grow in the rich soil of the gospel. It is not meant to entertain them (though it does), and its content will not be easily forgotten. Our daughters may not remember where they learned certain doctrine, but it will linger there, in their hearts, one of the means by which the Lord helped root and establish them in their faith.


Fun Fact!

Sovereign Grace Music has released an album to accompany this book. I have only listened closely to a few songs so far, but I loved this one (my daughters deemed it “too scary”):

If you have given the rest of the album a good listen, I’d love to hear what you think!


The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New
Marty Machowski, Andy McGuire (2015)

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 7: Legacy

Long before we had children, I stayed up late, dragged my husband and guitar into seedy downtown venues, and serenaded strangers over their pints of beer. The story of what music meant to me then, as a mildly professional musician, and what it means to me now, as a mother and a Christian, is one of my favorite ones to tell, and I had the privilege of telling it in the newest issue of Deeply Rooted magazine.

Thea Rosenburg | Little Book, Big Story

Photo: Gabriel Boone Photography (2007)

Writing that article inspired me to organize and upload what recordings I have and make them available for free download through Bandcamp. Consider it a multi-media experience: you can read the article in Deeply Rooted, listen to my studio EP from 2007, and listen to the live recording of a show played in 2013. It is a pleasure to share both the songs and the story behind them with you.

But, of course, that’s not all you’ll find in the new issue of Deeply Rooted. You’ll also find an article by William Farley, author of Gospel-Powered Parenting (we had the good fortune to hear him speak recently and it was richly rewarding), as well as “Trusting God With Your Child’s Education,” by Lindsay Cournia, and a beautiful essay on David’s legacy through Psalm 51 by Yasmin Sarai Robinson. Also, some recipes worth making now.

Like its predecessors, this issue is filled with the sort of riches you can spend all at once (that is, read piecemeal while waiting to pick up kids and so on) or savor and draw on slowly (i.e. read on a sunny porch while the kids sleep). You can order a copy here.

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 7: Legacy | Little Book, Big Story

(But wait—this isn’t a children’s book! Why am I writing about Deeply Rooted?)


Deeply Rooted Magazine
Issue 7: Legacy (Fall 2015)

The Family Journal | Songs for Saplings

When we learned that we were expecting our first child, we Made the Announcement, scheduled appointments, wrung hands, and rejoiced. We contemplated, with an ecstatic sort of sobriety, the fact that our lives would never be the same again.

And then I bought a notebook.

Why We Keep a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

Thus began the first in a three-volume set of notebooks chronicling the first months—or years—of each of our daughters’ lives. They bore witness to first teeth, first words, and first steps, but more than that, they contain a steadily evolving picture of what our family was then when each of the girls was small. In them, I dropped stories of missed naps and meltdowns, overheard conversations between siblings, favorite bedtime stories. But I also dropped my own perspective into them—that couldn’t be helped—and so essays like this one, or this one, sprouted from my musings upon life then as a mother of one daughter, two daughters, three.

I became the family historian.

On Keeping a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

On Keeping a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

Sarah’s notebook is the only one still active and a part of me feels bad about that (poor middle child!). Her babyhood is a slim notch on the timeline of that book, but of the three children she will have, I think, the richest, most complete picture of our family life captured in time lapse over the course of four years. But her notebook is almost full. What then?

We don’t know yet if that will be the last volume in that set, or if there will be other children for whom to keep other books (update: I’ve started a new one!). But I had begun to wonder about a place to keep a family history, one that is open to everybody and that will contain a little of everyone’s story—a braided work, with room to include the small moments of the next few decades.

On Keeping a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

And then!

The day after I posted my review of Songs for Saplings, Dana Dirksen emailed me. That is how that sentence sounded in my head, but when I said it aloud to my husband, I think it came out of my mouth like this: “DANA DIRKSEN EMAILED ME.” And in case that wasn’t clear, I clarified: “She sent me an email! In my inbox. There is an email from Dana Dirksen.”

On Keeping a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

I’m not used to having the authors and musicians I review notice my reviews, let alone contact me and thank me for them. But Dana noticed. And her email was really very nice. There was more in that email that shall be revealed in the fullness of time, but for this story, the important part was that she sent me a package to thank me for loving her music so much that I wanted to share it with all of you.

In that package was, among other things, the Songs for Saplings Family Journal: beautiful, hand-bound, smelling of leather and travel and memories in the making.

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

And now is when I pause and inform you of my unofficial policy on solicited reviews: I don’t write them. People can send me free stuff if they want to, but I can’t guarantee them a review. Because this blog is about you and me and our shared love of books, I like to think that we’ve built up a certain amount of trust over the years: you come to me for book recommendations and I give you a library of carefully curated recommendations of books that I love—not books I wanted to love because they were free and I felt beholden to authors or publishers. Perhaps that policy will change one day, I don’t know. But that’s what it is right now.

I’ve never said that on this blog before, but there it is. I say it now because I want you to know that Dana sent me the journal as a thank you gift, understanding that I was not obligated to post about it on my blog. I am posting about it now because I do love it.

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

The Family Journal features the full text of the catechism as adapted for the Songs for Saplings albums, along with related Scripture and—this, my friends, is the clincher—blank pages in which to make notes on the conversations you and your children have about the topics covered.

I’m still feeling my way around that part, getting the hang of what I want to record and how to go about recording it, but already I find that having a place sent aside for recording little steps in our spiritual growth as a family causes me to pause and take note of moments like these: the child too shy to pray aloud finally piped up at dinner. The child with a lie on her conscience came to me unprompted and sought forgiveness. The child who struggled with fearfulness at night announced that she is not alone, not really, because God is always with her. The baby made “Amen!” one of her first ten words.

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

These moments are stones in the road our daughters travel toward faith, and I expect that recording them in our journal will not only keep us looking forward toward the day when each of us will stand before Christ and, I pray, hear the words, “Well done,” but will keep us looking back at the sins overcome, the prayers answered, the victories won by grace.

I continue to be the family historian. And this is our new chapter.

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story


If you’re interested in purchasing the Family Journal, you have two options: you can buy it through the Songs for Saplings store at full price for (gulp!) $90 (that’s when I remind you that it is hand-bound, leather, beautiful, and smells like memories), or you can get one for free by becoming a monthly supporter of Songs for Saplings for whatever amount feels comfortable to you. If you’re not sure why you should be a supporter of Songs for Saplings, read on.