Sunday, March 29, 2015

Why Christmas? and Why Easter? book reviews

Why Christmas? and Why Easter? are family devotional books that teach children the meaning of these holidays by guiding them through passages of the Bible. The books are divided into four weeks, with a total of 25 and 28 days, respectively. Each day features a passage of Scripture, a short, easy-to-read explanation of the passage, a few discussion questions, memory verse, and illustration. There is also a song to sing for each week.

As a parent, I think these books provide a comprehensive way to have a family devotional time. I like how the content can be adjusted for various age levels, such as just reading from the explanation and “discussion verse” for younger elementary students or using all features for older kids. Both books focus on the theme of salvation and why Jesus came to earth, which I appreciated.

The author seems to have written the books for children aged 7 to 10. Early elementary students will benefit from them too, but older children will more fully appreciate the hymns and more advanced vocabulary. My only criticism of the books is that some of the illustrations look like something I could draw—not the professional quality one would expect from a published book. Nevertheless, I would recommend both Why Christmas? and Why Easter? to parents looking for family devotional tools with a gospel-centered message.

I received these books from the publisher to write this review.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

February in Review

We’re now two months into the year. Every December we receive many Christmas cards with a "year in review" letter, so I decided that I wanted to do that this year. But since so much happens in one year, I thought it better to do a "month in review" and later pick the best of the best for our annual Christmas letter.

We started February off enjoying the Super Bowl with Ismael Arroyo, his wife Deborah, and their two daughters, Delilah and Charlotte. Abby and Lukas played with their friends, Hannah and I got to know Ismael and Deborah better, and we all enjoyed some good Puerto Rican cooking—I think we watched the game in there too!

Valentines Day was on a Saturday this year, so we had a special dinner at Enfoque Ministerio de Alabanza, our Spanish-language church that meets on Saturdays where I also serve as a part-time youth pastor.

Hannah and I had some couples over for lunch a couple times, and we had the opportunity to explain the gospel to one of the people we had over. Although the person didn’t make a decision for Christ, the person is still attending our church, so we’re praying for more opportunities to share.

The last weekend of the month I got to go to Louisville for a IX Marks Conference on the gospel. The speakers were great, I met some new people, and I snagged a few free books for my library before heading home early to help Hannah with two sick kids. Lukas had to have some breathing treatments because he was so congested, but both are feeling mostly better now.

Speaking of the kids, their favorite game is hide-and-seek. Lukas has a tendency of revealing himself before he’s found, sometimes before Hannah or I are done counting. But if one of us hides him and tells him to be quiet, it can be pretty hard to find him. Hannah even put him in a bathroom cabinet once, and he didn’t make a peep until he was found. Abby’s gotten into puzzles, particularly some 24-piece Disney Princess ones she got for Christmas. She’s also doing AWANA on Sunday nights and has been working on memorizing new verses. It’s a good exercise for both her and us as we end up memorizing them as well.

February was a short month, and March already looks jam-packed with activities that we’ll get to share with you in our next “month in review.”

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ordinary by Tony Merida is, well, ordinary

Ordinary. That’s the title of Tony Merida’s recent book about how Christians should love our neighbors, practice hospitality, care for orphans, and speak out against injustice. By titling his book Ordinary, he was trying to say that these things should be typical activities and experiences within Christian churches. To that end, he argues his thesis well and shows that these activities are both expectations and even commandments in the Bible.

Merida points out that Jesus’ disciples were described by the religious leaders in Acts as “ordinary,” but that these same disciples were charged with “turning the world upside down.” He calls on his readers to also be ordinary, and in so doing, turn the world upside down. He carefully navigates the issues surrounding social justice and gospel proclamation and shows that both are necessary, that the former should undergird and not supplant the latter. I found myself nodding my head and encouraged to step out more in support of these activities.

Unfortunately, Ordinary doesn’t just mean typical or normal. It can also mean boring and ho hum. As I worked my way through this book, I kept thinking to myself, there are many other books that cover these topics better, and his citations of other books like A Meal with Jesus made me want to stop reading and pick that book up instead. Also, at some points I wasn’t sure if I was reading a book about ordinary Christian life or a commercial for the International Justice Mission. It’s not that the IJM is a bad organization, but its name kept coming up so much that I’m a little surprised it’s not stamped across the cover of the book.

Ordinary is a fine book. It just struck me as ordinary.

I received an audiobook copy of this title from christianaudio for the purpose of review.

A 5 Love Languages book for children

A Perfect Pet Pal for Peyton by Rick Osborne and Gary Chapman

Review by Amy Nawrot

I read The Five Love Languages seeking information to benefit my relationships with adults. A Perfect Pal for Peyton is a 5 Love Languages Discovery Book for kids. This story is about twins, Penny and Peyton, who are eager to attend their birthday party at Mr. Chapman’s Perfect Pet Pal Emporium. The party has been arranged so that their closest friends will attend, and all of the children will each receive their “perfect pet pal.” Mr. Chapman learns about the way that each child interacts with others, and then matches them up with an animal that shows love in a similar way. This is how the love languages are expressed in terms that children can understand. It made me realize that I, as a parent, can apply the love languages to how my children show like to receive love.

This book was an enjoyable read for me. I liked that the love languages were presented in a kid-friendly format. For example, throughout this story the children do acts of kindness for each another, and the author recaps those acts to reveal their love language at the end. Parents will find this a good resource for seeing how their children love. I also enjoyed the illustrations and built-in activities. There are bright pictures, things to seek and find, and the black text has random colored words that make the page appealing to the eye.

I did have one concern though. The book jumps from one scene to the next with no explanation. It made me think of the movie Elf where a book publisher sells a book even though it’s missing a page. I hope that’s not the case, and even with that confusing part, I found this as a beneficial read.

A review copy was provided by the publisher.