Category: Bibles & Bible Stories (page 2 of 13)

The Awesome Super Fantastic Forever Party

One night at sleepover, a friend asked, “What do you think heaven will be like?”

A second friend chimed in wistfully, her voice sleepy and half-muffled by her pillow: “I think it will be like the happiest moment of your life, but it’ll last, like, forever.”

But, I wondered, what would be the happiest moment? And who gets to decide which moment I’d relive? What if that got boring—could I change moments later if I wanted to? (Yeah. I was that kid.)

The vision she volunteered, out of the sweetness of her heart, didn’t satisfy me: it was like being told I’d get to eat ice cream, which I adore, forever—which actually sounds pretty awful.

The Awesome Super Fantastic Forever Party, by Joni Eareckson Tada | Little Book, Big Story

So, really. What will heaven be like? Joni Eareckson Tada’s description of it (drawn from Scripture, of course) is far more compelling: in The Awesome Super Fantastic Party, she shows how the snippet we see in Scripture of the new heavens and the new earth sounds varied, exciting, and wonderful. Unlike a loop of one feeling, this party will be tangible, a real place full of delights we can’t yet imagine—endlessly surprising and perfectly satisfying.

The Awesome Super Fantastic Forever Party, by Joni Eareckson Tada | Little Book, Big Story

Because at the heart of it is a host who knows us perfectly, who draws us forward toward him. The future with him is full of wonders, and Tada and Catalina Echeverri capture this pull in a way that will draw young readers (and parents, too) into the story of Christ’s restoration. They remind us that this party won’t be abstractly warm and fuzzy but concrete, solid, and real. And everyone is invited!


The Awesome Super Fantastic Forever Party: A True Story about Heaven, Jesus, and the Best Invitation of All
Joni Eareckson Tada; Catalina Echeverri (2022)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review this book or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.

The Big Wide Welcome | Trillia Newbell

If you’ve ever spent time on a playground, you know “Can I play, too?” is a loaded question. Some days, it’s met with warmth and welcome—and other days with, “Nope! There’s no room in our game.” My daughter came home from school a few weeks ago, feeling the sting of a game that’s “only for three people” when she wanted to make a fourth. What could I tell her? That her friends will outgrow it and all this will get better on its own? Or could she take comfort in the fact that she’s never ever done this to a friend (or a sister)?

No, of course not. She knows I know she can’t. Just as I can’t pretend I’m not guilty of picking and choosing who I greet at church, or even which clerk’s line I join at checkout. Favoritism doesn’t disappear when we graduate second grade; adults aren’t immune to practicing it. We continue to be drawn to people who are like us and who we think will make friendship or social interactions smooth and easy.

And so I’m grateful that, in this newest volume of Tales That Tell the Truth, Trillia Newbell takes a look at favoritism. What is it? What does Scripture have to say about it? Through the story James tells in James 2, she studies what it looked like then, in the church James was writing to, and today—in our own churches, on the playground, and in the classroom. And she shows us, best of all, that Jesus is a king who welcomes us in—a king who doesn’t play favorites. To the question, “Can I come in?” he responds with a glorious yes.


This post is part of my “Hooray! We’re launching a book!” blog series, celebrating the upcoming release of Wild Things & Castles in the Skya book I both contributed to and, alongside Leslie & Carey Bustard, helped edit. Today’s post features an author whose books are warmly recommended in Wild Things.


The Big Wide Welcome: A True Story About Jesus, James, and a Church That Learned to Love All Sorts of People
Trillia Newbell; Catalina Echeverri (2021)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review it or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.

Esther & the Very Brave Plan

It rained for days. Not the drizzly, misty rain we’re known for in the Pacific Northwest, but fat, cold, splashy drops that fell and fell and fell. We could hear them, hammering the roof. We could see them, coursing down the windows. We watched the backyard spring puddles like leaks in places there had never been puddles before.

And then, Sunday night, the Nooksack River overflowed. Several towns throughout our county were stranded; landslides blocked the interstate. Houses stood silent and empty in the water. The creeks threading through our city surged over their banks and formed rivers down a street known for its car dealerships, and people paddled down it in kayaks. The park down the hill from us disappeared under water; the schools closed; the girls’ karate instructor cancelled classes after watching three cars float down the street.

Esther and the Very Brave Plan, by Tim Thornborough | Little Book, Big Story

This was not our plan for the week. I thought we’d run the usual rounds of school, karate, ballet, orthodontist. I’d walk to the nearby coffee shop and work hard, wrapping up an editing project due, you know, right now. I’d catch up on housework and make pie crust for next week. But if the Lord has been teaching us one thing over the past few years, it’s that his plans aren’t always ours, and they’re not always easy to live through. But they are good. And he will walk through those waters with us.

The idea of plans, and the unexpected way God works them out, is woven through Tim Thornborough’s Esther and the Very Brave Plan. This addition to his Very Best Bible Stories series introduces young readers to the story of Esther and shows how the plans of the different characters play out—and how God’s plan runs under them all. The book of Esther is one of my favorite biblical stories, but it’s laced with difficult content that makes it hard to translate for young readers. But Thornborough succeeds: his adaptation keeps heart of the story intact even as he sets aside the tricky stuff for readers to meet later. Jennifer Davidson’s illustrations are animated and vibrant, perfect for telling this story.

Esther and the Very Brave Plan, by Tim Thornborough | Little Book, Big Story

When we are in the midst of them, God’s plans are hard to see in full. But stories like Esther’s give us an opportunity to see one of his plans worked out from beginning to end. They remind us that he is always at work, even when we’re not sure how or where, and that he can use anything—even Haman’s genocidal rage—for good. He is trustworthy, and he will not leave us. “Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam” (Psalm 46:2–3).

This flood has impacted a lot of people in our county: hundreds have been displaced from their homes and are facing costly and extensive clean-up when they are finally able to return home. Please remember them in your prayers and consider donating to the Whatcom Community Foundation to help with our county’s recovery. Thank you.


Esther and the Very Brave Plan
Tim Thornborough; Jennifer Davidson (2021)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review it or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.

A Tale of Two Kings

Last month we had to put a beloved cat to sleep.

Her name was Captain Jack Sparrow, and she was one of two littermates my husband and I adopted early in our marriage when we decided, on a whim, to stop by the pet store just to “look at the kittens.”

Sparrow was a gray and copper tortoiseshell with sprinkles of white on her nose, chest, and paws. If one of us was sad, she knew: she’d find the woebegone one and puddle in her lap, purring like an oversize bumblebee until the suffering one, in spite of herself, began to smile a little. She scratched at bedroom doors in the middle of the night until we let her into her room of choice, where she’d drape herself over a sleeping inhabitant and set the mattress thrumming with her purr. Sparrow preferred her water fresh from the bathroom tap, and she’d meow in a rich contralto until we turned the tap on for her. She was awkward and charming, and she and I understood one another. Our family decided that if she had an epitaph, it would have to be a modified quote from James Herriot’s Moses the Kitten: “She was a connoisseur of comfort.”

Sparrow was sixteen years old; she died quietly, dwindling from the round cat she had been to a frail form who still purred feebly whenever someone looked at her. Her brother continues to scale six-foot fences and scrap with the neighborhood dogs like he intends to live forever. As these things go, it was a best-case scenario—but everything about it was wrong.

A Tale of Two Kings, by Gloria Furman | Little Book, Big Story

Our little loss is, of course, nothing compared to the harrowing separations those around us have faced over this past year and a half. But it awakens in me a lament: It isn’t supposed to be this way. Death isn’t random; it’s not meaningless; nothing about it is natural. We love with the knowledge that what we love will pass away—even children learn to worry about this. Something in us cries out for permanence, for the assurance that what we love will persist in some way. We long to love without loss.

Gloria Furman—author of many excellent books for adults—understands this. She knows the world isn’t supposed to be this way, and in A Tale of Two Kings she assures families that it won’t always be this way. Through this picture book contrasting the lives of Adam and Jesus, Furman shows us both how the world was broken (through Adam’s failure to fulfill his role as king) and how it is, already, being redeemed through Jesus, our perfect king.

A Tale of Two Kings, by Gloria Furman | Little Book, Big Story

This book is a slender presentation of the gospel and of the entire narrative arc of Scripture. Natalia Moore’s illustrations bring these deep truths to life, and Furman writes to her young readers with the same theological richness evident in her books for adults. “We have nothing to fear,” she writes at the end of A Tale of Two Kings. “Instead, we can have a great hope! Jesus is greater than anything scary and sad—he is greater than all the world. We can trust Jesus, the King who is making all things new.”

I don’t know if our cat has a place in the new heaven and earth; if she does, it will be in an unmovable patch of sunlight. But I do know that our God cares for his creation—sparrows, Sparrows, and all. I know that any loss we face, whether large or small, is a symptom of Adam’s failed kingship, not a whim of an impersonal universe. And I know that Jesus, our true and perfect king, is repairing what broke in the fall. He is making all things new.

“Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)


A Tale of Two Kings: God’s Story of Redemption
Gloria Furman; Natalia Moore (2021)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review this book or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.

The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible

In February I had the sort of realization I hate having: I had forgotten something. Last year swallowed up a lot of things, and as it passed, we noted and mourned a lot of those losses. But this loss bobbed to the surface one morning, as startling as a shark fin in a smooth sea: This was supposed to be Josie’s preschool year.

Preschool, in our house, is a small affair. But for each of our girls so far, this year before kindergarten has been the one where I make playdough from scratch at least once, introduce them to the alphabet, collect snails with them, read all those picture books I want to read with them, and occasionally break out the super-messy art supplies with nary a thought for our floor.

The Gospel Story Bible, by Jared Kennedy | Little Book, Big Story

But we were well into February by the time I thought of this. All the upheaval of starting a new school year under Covid protocols and, well, just surviving and tending to everyone’s needs—it had shunted this thought so far to the back of my mind that I’d noticed its absence, something felt off, but I hadn’t been able to name it. That morning I got out my giant binder of preschool magic, assembled a bag full of books to read together that month, and I began making lists.

I am utterly, profoundly, abundantly grateful that God brought this to mind when he did. Josie and I still had four months together to read and play and make messes in the garden while the older girls were at school; she still had hours each day when she knew she had me to herself. And every school-day lunchtime we had our routine—not, as formerly, she eats at the table while I tidy the dining room around her or something, but: we sat down together; we read a Bible story and a picture book. We took our time over them. It was delightful.

The Gospel Story Bible, by Jared Kennedy | Little Book, Big Story

And so Jared Kennedy’s The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible became the stem of our time together, with everything else branching off it. The readings in this book are short but honest and deep, and they ask great questions of us. Trish Mahoney’s illustrations (have I mentioned yet how much I love her illustrations?) represent some fairly abstract ideas in ways that make sense to young readers. They’re symbolic and beautiful.

A friend described this book as “The Jesus Storybook Bible for even younger readers” and I think there’s something to that. But though it works wonderfully for toddlers, it doesn’t work only for toddlers: Josie, at five, picked up on big questions and mulled them over as she finished her peanut butter and honey sandwich. As we read, I saw her putting down roots in the truths of our faith and learning to know God a little better for herself.

The Gospel Story Bible, by Jared Kennedy | Little Book, Big Story

School is out now and our house is full again with the daily bustle of sisters. But those mornings with Josie still feel like a gift—one we savored then, and one we’ll continue to savor in the years ahead.


The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible
Jared Kennedy; Trish Mahoney (2017)