Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Children's books are fun to read A new one coming out May 20 is about Pentecost. Many children have no idea what that word Pentecost means. Some grown-ups don't either. So Paraclete Press in Brewster, MA decided to help those who care about mysterious words they don't know, but are eager to learn.

This book is called The Day When God Made Church and the subtitle is A Child's First Book About Pentecost. Children won't know the word Pentecost until someone shows or explains it to them. The person who wrote this book is Ms. Rebekah and the person who drew all the pictures is Ms. Stephanie They made a wonderful book for children to read or see or hear.

It begins with telling that Jesus, God's Son, is gone. Where did he go and why, and when will he come back, or who will he send? Those who are waiting are nervous and curious and eager to know who Jesus will send to them. After awhile, the animals become excited, the people are eager, and suddenly they hear words! The Holy Spirit has arrived! And who is that?

Peter arrives and stands up to preach and he tells the people how Jesus loves them, how Jesus healed some of the people, and how he told stories and shared good news with them, too. Then Peter tells them of how Jesus was hung on the cross and he died. All the people who loved Jesus were sad. But Jesus did come back!

God, his Father, raised him from the dead and gave New Life to him and to all who believe in Jesus. Peter tells them that God sends the Holy Spirit, good news, baptism, and we are a new family together. We call that the Day of Pentecost, "the day when church was born." It is for men and women, boys and girls, and for all those who are filled with the Holy Spirit, for all who "are Alive and Risen, as we worship Jesus."


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Children's Guide to Lent and Easter

Here it is: Make Room, and it's not only beautifully illustrated but also clearly written and Kids who read this book are going to Know and they won't forget it. Author Laura Alary has a plan. She begins with what Lent and Easter are all about: how it tells the stories of Jesus, how we all are reminded of these stories in our families, churches, and friends, and how Jesus' stories might fit into our lives and theirs as we grow and remember what we are learning. Published by Paraclete Press, and illustrated by Ann Bovajian, it is a pleasure to read and think about how these stories might fit into kids' lives.

They begin with three about Jesus: Making Time, Space, Room and then about Holy Week. Readers will learn that Jesus is the Son of God, and what he did and why. Readers will be encouraged to "make time to be with God" during Lent. They will find that many people came to hear Jesus and to ask him questions, some expressing desire for healing. And in our own day, people are listening and hearing and growing into the kind of people Jesus wants them to be as we wait for the day when the Kingdom of God comes and Jesus is known as Lord of All.  He also taught the people how to pray what we call "The Lord's Prayer." He taught them to be kind to all, not just the ones they like, and to help those who need help.

Author Alary reminds us that when the 40 days of Lent come, usually in March or April, people tend to make their lives more simple. They are learning what the Lord wants them to do and they get ready for Holy Week, which comes at the end of the 40 days. The people who lived long ago, with God and his kings and prophets heard about the Kingdom of God and that they would live there with God some day.  Those people were reminded that they were once slaves in Egypt, but now they should remember how God saved them and what he wants them to do next. Now-a-days kids hear about Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday and wonder what that's all about. They may hear about the Last Supper (Jesus with his disciples) and how he knelt down and washed their dusty feet,

Friday is the hardest day to read about and to know what happened to Jesus. He was mistreated and hanged on the Cross. Very painful to watch for those who loved him. But then, as he promised, after three days Jesus rose from the dead. Our Heavenly Father, God and the Holy Spirit prepared him for it. On a special day, called Easter, the people come to church to pray and to worship and to thank God together. The people call "Hallelujah," "Jesus is risen... the Lord is risen indeed." And God has "done A WONDERFUL thing." Thanks be to God! May many children read this book.

Lois Sibley, ireviewreligousbks.com

Friday, December 9, 2016

Advent with Coloring and Music...

Here we are at Advent again! I took a peek at what I suggested for reading a good book during our last Advent, and it was Bud Holland's book of stories, called Advent Presence, from Morehouse Publishing.  We enjoyed Bud's stories as we began Advent, and learning more of the biblical stories and the people who lived through those times.

With this Advent, we have new possibilities to add to our preparations for the coming of the Lord. It may sound strange or funny to you, but a Coloring Book? Am I kidding you? No, because I am actually used to the idea of coloring books to relieve stress. I worked in a company that produced just-passed new laws for local, small-town officials. These books had to be perfect. Changing where a comma was could change the law and that thought was stressful. So if our boss saw we were upset and stressed, he would say, "Take a break, and do a page in the coloring book," (thanks, Bill) and it usually worked.

Today, there are new ideas and combinations of helpful materials to guide and teach us as we think over the biblical stories we know, or are learning. As we think about the angel speaking to Mary and saying, "Be not afraid." And Joseph, rethinking his plan about caring for and helping Mary with her news, and his being told by an angel to take her as his wife. Could that be real, he thought, and he decided "yes," it was real, and he began his plan for a new life.

In our minds, thinking of what happened, I'm sure we could use a 24-day Advent Coloring Calendar from Paraclete Publishing, and also two cds, one called Keeping Christmas: Beloved Carols and the Christmas Story; and for those who are interested in Gregorian Chant, they offer The Coming of Christ: A Celebration of Faith in His Name. I am impressed by the idea of doing this, especially putting the coloring together with the music as we remember the biblical stories. Try it! And see if it works for you!

---Lois Sibley, ireviewreligiousbks

Friday, December 2, 2016

A Reformed Church?...

According to my list, I began reviewing religious books on my blog on June 11, 2012. That was quite awhile ago and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Today's review is #100, although I admit that sometimes I did put together two reviews that seemed important to be together.

Today's book is called What is a Reformed Church? and its series title is Basics of the Faith.  It's only 28 pages, but those are important and informative pages. Author is Stephen Smallman, who is a pastor in Philadelphia, and publisher is P&R Publishing, at wwwprpbooks.com. What is a Reformed Church? is part of a series of books on questions people ask. Pastor Smallman says that during his many years as pastor, he was often asked this particular question and this book began as answers to those who shared this question.

Pastor Smallman planned to cover six themes in this book and he begins his answers with historical roots of the Protestant Reformation. In the 1500s, committed Christians, such as Martin Luther, were trying to reform the established church of their day, known to us as the Roman Catholic Church. Luther joined his voice to others calling for corrections of abuses in the churches, and Luther came to the "unshakable conviction that, to be faithful to the Lord, the Church must build on the absolute authority of Scripture." Luther's "uncompromising stance forced him to leave the Church of Rome in 1520, and the new movement was under way."

Some of the churches followed Luther while others in Europe were labeled "Reformed" churches, and one of the leaders of the Reformed was "the Frenchman John Calvin, the principle teacher for the church of Geneva." Even today, terms such as Reformed and Calvinist are nearly synonymous. Calvin's Institutes began as a tract but was revised and enlarged four times. The final edition of 1559 is still studied today.

Smallman continues, describing the six themes of Reformed heritage. They are: Scripture, Divine Sovereignty, The Covenant, The Law of God, The Church, and The Kingdom of God. He describes each theme, giving some of its history. explaining where it is now and what we should look for in future. I highly recommend this book. As the Reformers said, "True reform is never finished---a Reformed Church will be continually reforming. God is the same. His word is true." But our world is changing. We need "new ways of speaking about the God who is our Rock."

---Lois Sibley, ireviewreligiousbks

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Advent Mystery and New Beginnings

As we think about and plan how we will spend Advent, it's good to search and find some new books that may be helpful in our Advent study. One of the possibilities, especially for families who have children and reading is a part of their family devotions, is this new book: All Creation Waits, The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings, written by Gayle Boss, illustrated by David G. Klein, and published by Paraclete Press.

In the northern hemisphere of the world we think of special ways of fasting, giving, and praying throughout our Advent time. Gayle Boss with her words shows that she is thinking of the animals, how they cope, and what they do, at such a time. Have you ever thought about how wild animals manage as they search for food and warmth and safety in the winter ahead? Perhaps not. Animals may "take in the threat of dark and cold, and they adapt in amazing and ingenious ways," Boss says. And, the animals say, in their way: "the dark is not an end, but a door. This is the way a new beginning comes." Boss believes the animals can be our companions and guides. She writes "They can be to us "a book about God..."a word of God, the God who comes, even in the darkest season, to bring us a new beginning."

David Klein's illustrations are beautiful and interesting. Children who hear the stories and see the sketches will be captured and have many "why," "why," "why," questions. Here are the animals as depicted and explained. They are: painted turtle, muskrat, black bear, chickadee, whitetail deer, honey bee, chipmunk, cottontail, common loon, wood frog, raccoon, little brown bat, opossum, wild turkey, common garter snake, woodchuck, striped skunk, porcupine, common Eastern firefly, meadow vole, Eastern fox squirrel, red fox, northern cardinal, lake trout. Followed on Christmas Day with a meditation on Jesus, the Christ. "For the animals, their hope, and the hope of all that breathes, is that human ones abandon themselves to the One Great Love. For that, all creation waits."

Lois Sibley, ireviewreligiousbks

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

On the back porch. . .

Early on summer Sunday mornings, I often sit on my back porch with This Day, a book of Wendell Berry’s Sabbath poems written between 1979 and 2013. While all the machines are silent, I read and savor two or three poems, reading slowly and rereading. For instance, with birdsong, ". . .the day ends/and is unending where/the summer tanager, warbler, and vireo/sing as they move among/illuminated leaves," and "heaven seizes its moment" (1998, VI). For years, Berry has been taking walks into his woods on Sunday mornings. From time to time, a poem emerges, polished on the front porch of his writing cabin at the edge of the trees.

A Small Porch (counterpointpress.com) gives us twenty-five new Sabbath poems from 2014 and 2015, plus an essay, "The Presence of Nature in the Natural World: A Long Conversation." The hardback just appeared in my mailbox, and I don’t want to hurry through it—at my usual rate, this many poems could take a couple of months of slow reading. So we’ll only explore the book a little; a spoonful or two to share the flavor with you.

First the essay, "The Presence of Nature." In surveying more than 50 years of reading, Berry reports that he has been in conversation with Scripture, which imposes "on humans the obligation to take good care of a world both given to them. . .and to which they have been given," and with several poets whose work was formed by Scripture, especially Chaucer, Spencer, Langland, Milton, Pope; and who "seem to have remembered" Alan of Lille’s Plaint of Nature (c. 1170). So, there are several pages about Alan’s Plaint followed by comments on the poets, giving some clues to how Berry reads his fields and woods.

And now, a poem from the Porch (2014, V.). "The silence of the barn at evening,/when the shepherd draws shut the door/and starts home for the night, is heavenly,/for it says almost aloud that every lamb/is found, every ewe has found her lamb/and is feeding, and is content." Reading this just before dark, I notice the silence. The hatchlings in the wisteria have ceased chirping and the wren is with them, settled for the night. She has fed them all day and now they rest.

The second stanza in Berry’s poem speaks of "another of the barn’s silences. . .[when] the ewes and their young ones/now are gone. . .to new pasture." The nest in the wisteria will empty into silence in a few more days, to be discovered by a grandson when the leaves fall in autumn.

—Larry Sibley

Friday, June 17, 2016

Christian Life and Hope

Here we are at McGrath's final book in this series on The Heart of Christian Faith. From wjkbooks it is called The Christian Life and Hope, a Guide for Study and Devotion. McGrath turns now "to the great theme of Christian hope and the way it transforms and sustains the Christian Life." Readers may ask "what is this hope" and "how does it affect how we think and act each day?" McGrath gives answers to these questions in five chapters. First, he writes about the "sacraments: signs and memories of hope." Then, the meaning of "the resurrection of the dead" followed by a chapter on "Heaven and eternity: the Christian hope." Next he discusses "Between the times: the life of faith," and his conclusion is titled: "further up and further in."

McGrath tells the reader he is using material from his earlier sermons and as he goes over his sermons and prepares each chapter he feels as though he needs to hear each biblical passage himself; he needs to understand more about the great doctrinal themes he is exploring; and he knows his need to listen, as he is preaching to himself as well as to readers and listeners.

In his Introduction, McGrath describes each of the five chapters and how they fit together. First, he talks about "the sacraments, how are they helpful to Christians, what do they believe about them, and what are they to do with them." In chapters 2 and 3, we are reminded again of the creeds and the hope of resurrection for those who do believe. And what is Heaven about and how does it fit with everyday life and worship of our God, who is "loving and trustworthy, and who refuses to let violence, death, and destruction have the final word." Though sad things continue to happen, as recently in Orlando, we look for, hope for, and pray for, "our restoration to the life God always wanted for us."

McGrath suggests that those who believe in God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) might find it helpful to have a mentor, a friend who would answer questions, explain things we might not understand. He suggests the writings of G. K. Chesterton, or C. S. Lewis, or Dorothy Sayers as possible mentors.  He himself does have a mentor and has found him very helpful. When McGrath became a Christian, his mentor helped him to see "that his new faith did not call upon him to abandon his love of science, but to see it in a new way." Actually, to have "a new motivation for loving science and a deepened appreciation for its outcomes." Could be helpful...think about it.......

---Lois Sibley, ireviewreligiousbks