Kid’s Pick Tuesday

This week, I’m showcasing one my personal favorites. It didn’t’ really have a big part in my experiences of reading to my children, although I’m pretty sure that we did read it at one point. This is one that I just happen to love for myself.

I am a librarian, and my office is filled with books. One little secret that most people don’t know: librarians rarely check the books out of their own libraries. We tend to be compulsive book buyers. It makes complete sense, really. We are book collectors ourselves so we wind up working in a place that collects books.

The Library tells the story of Elizabeth Brown, an avid reader and book collector.

Elizabeth Brown
Entered the world
Dropping straight down from the sky

Elizabeth Brown
Entered the world
Skinny, nearsighted, and shy.

She didn’t like to play with dolls,
She didn’t like to skate.
She learned to read quite early
And at an incredible rate.

If you were one of those childhood readers — the kind who always had a book, walked and read at the same time, kept flashlights in your room to read after “lights out” — then this book is for you and about you. You’ll recognize yourself in the illustrations — young Elizabeth dragging a huge trunk filled with books on a trip — adult Elizabeth having to build more shelves to hold the bookswe’ve all done some of these things.

The story is beautiful and the illustrations are by one of my favorite children’s illustrators, David Small. He and Ms. Stewart have partnered on many books. I have three of their collaborations — The Library, The Friend, and The Journey — sitting in my office. All are signed and were purchased at The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature in Abilene, Texas. If you’re ever in Abilene, I highly recommend a visit!

PS — Be sure to visit my friend Suzanne for even more wonderful Kid Picks each Tuesday!

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Grace vs. Karma OR my response to Beginning With God 7


There weren’t any specific questions in this part of the book discussion, so I’m going to share a part of an interview with one of my favorite thinkers of today: Bono. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone use their celebrity for better purposes than he has. You may or may not agree with everything he says and does, but you will be challenged, and if you read much that he says, you’ll quickly see that underneath his rock star persona, he is a very humble man.

The following passage is from a 2005 publication, Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas. I pulled this part from Christianity Today’s website I would encourage you to read more of the book, but please be warned: the language is not for tender ears.

Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?

Bono: Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas: I haven’t heard you talk about that.

Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Assayas: Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.

Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled… . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Assayas: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?

Bono: No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was—the Messiah—or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched …

Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:

Bono: … [I]f only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. …When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my _____ and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

From Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas, by Michka Assayas, copyright © 2005 by Michka Awwayas. Used by permission of Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. For online information about other Penguin Group (USA) books and authors, see the website at http://www.penguin.com

(Note: While the book includes numerous passages of Bono discussing his Christian faith, it also includes occasional salty language from both parties.)

Beginning with God 7

Quick note: Caleb had his first check-up with the Diabetes team in Little Rock yesterday. Everything went well. PRAISE! Although his blood sugar numbers still look wonky to me, they said his average is the important thing and that it was right where they wanted it for his age. His doctor even encouraged him to work a little harder at school and come in with A’s next time instead of B’s.

I love that man.

Are you ready to continue our journey of discovering God? Take a day or two to mull this over and come back to discuss when I post my answers on Saturday.

I love you!

Beginning with God 7

Worship.jpgIt all begins with God — what we think about God shapes what we think about ourselves and those around us and our world. It begins with God. What is our “narrative” of God? What are the narratives that hinder our perception and life in God?

James Bryan Smith, in The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love With the God Jesus Knows (The Apprentice Series) , is guiding his readers into a wholesome narrative about God. And one of the wholesome narratives is that…

God is self-sacrificing.

Smith tells a story about his sister, who couldn’t quite comprehend why Christians are so tied into the cross. It seems almost child abuse to her and she wondered why God couldn’t just forgive humans out of grace.

The false narrative is that of karma: good deeds, good life; bad deeds, bad life.

Jesus’ narrative: God works his way to us. Smith’s approach is to imagine a conversation between himself and Athanasius who is the “doctor of incarnation.” Athanasius said the problem was human corruption and death. The divine dilemma is to be true to God’s nature and to God’s promise and still to forgive and re-create life. Jesus surrenders his life to our life and experiences our life and lives our life and dies our death in order to bring us out the other side in the new life of resurrection.

God, in Who God Is, is self-surrender within the Trinity and giving himself for — with, instead of, and for the benefit of — humans is the only way God can love. So, he entered into our condition in order to make us what God wanted us to be. What more could God have done, Smith asks, than to die for us?

For an exercise, Smith suggests reading the Gospel of John.

Kid Pick of the Week

Last week, I was a day late with my children’s book pick and this week I’m a day ahead. Tuesdays are usually very full days for me, so I’m really just trying not to be tardy again. Last week I shared a book that meant a lot to me when I was younger, but this week’s choice is a book I found when my children were little.



How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
is a precious little book that is similar in mindset to the well-know If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, but Apple Pie is so much more fun. What happens if you want to make apple pie, but don’t have the ingredients and the market is closed? Well, of course you have to travel the world to find the very best ingredients!

We had great fun with this book. It inspired artwork and map studies, and — of course — cooking lessons. Thanks to this book, we learned that Madagascar is a pear-shaped island off the coast of Africa, and that French cows are happier than British ones. 🙂

It’s great fun, the pie finally gets baked, and just when you’re ready to eat . . . oh dear! There’s no ice cream! What’s your vote? More round-the-world frolicking? Where can you get the best ingredients for ice cream anyway?

And, yes, there is a recipe included in the back. Yum, yum, yum.

Beginning with God 6, my answers


If you missed Scot’s original post, it’s just a couple of entries below.

What has helped you get over the God-loves-me and winks-at-sin narrative about God and reality? What helps you keep God’s love and holiness in balance?

I think this is one of the hardest questions in today’s Christian world. The heart and core of trusting God is knowing that he loves you no matter what. No matter what you think, no matter what you do, no matter how you feel . . .no matter what. If we cannot believe that he loves us to that level, then how can we trust that what he does and what he allows will work for our good?

But does that love mean that we are free to think whatever, do whatever, feel however? Is it love because of or love in spite of? If a thought, action, feeling is a part of us does it inherently mean that it is of God and blessed by him? If God loves me no matter what, then what I do doesn’t really matter, does it?

Although it’s easy to throw your hands up and complain about the individuality of today’s culture and the need for religion-that-suits-me, this is actually a question that was asked a LONG time ago.

Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we became Christians and were baptized to become one with Christ Jesus, we died with him? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised as he was. Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.

We may not always be able to control our feelings, but we can have a lot of say about what we think and what we do. We’re set free to choose what we will think about and do. Will we choose perfectly? No. Will God’s grace cover that? Always.

God frees our spirits to choose to serve him and love others. He may not change our outer circumstances. He may not remove everything that tempts us, but he will give us the ability to choose. Although “God loves me no matter what” may be someone’s reason for continuing in sin, it is precisely that love that cannot allow him to do that. He LOVES you and he knows what is good for you. For me. When he says, “please don’t do this,” it’s only because he knows that thought, feeling, action, is going to hurt you and his other children. He is inviting you — me — us — to a life more beautiful than anything we could create on our own.

The balance between love and justice will never be easy, but Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” May the truth keep us in line and the grace keep us in step with Jesus when we fail to meet the standard of the truth.

Before we get too serious . . .

You all know I’m a reader and that books and words are a huge part of who I am. My friend Suzanne has started a new “feature” on her blog — she’s asking people to share their favorite children’s books. I can’t resist being a part of this, even though I’m a day late getting started.

I encountered this book in fifth grade, when it was read to me by my teacher, Mrs. Mary Helsten. She had already taken us on a voyage through The Chronicles of Narnia and then she invited us to go on a journey through space! Mrs. Helsten may have had more influence on my young adult reading than any other teacher.

Such a great book has to go through several incarnations. Here are some later covers:

And here it is — making a television appearance on my favorite show:

Beginning with God 6

from Lisa: this is one of the last three installments of this series. chew on this for a day or so and then come back, check for my answers, and join in the conversation with your own. i finally did buy this book, by the way. it’s on my short stack of things to read in the next few weeks. the Beginning with God series was originally posted on Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog.

Beginning with God 6

Worship.jpgIt all begins with God — what we think about God shapes what we think about ourselves and those around us and our world. It begins with God. What is our “narrative” of God?

James Bryan Smith, in The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love With the God Jesus Knows (The Apprentice Series) is asking us to think about our narratives and the need to reshape our narratives with the narrative of Jesus.

One of those narratives is “God is holy.”

Declaring God’s love can be overdone, Smith states. God’s love doesn’t mean God permits sin. God, he says, “is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29). Two dominant narratives are wrong:

God is wrathful and God does not care about sin. This angry-distant God narrative isn’t what Jesus teaches. H. Richard Niebuhr put the problem this way: “a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross” (116).

What has helped you get over the God-loves-me and winks-at-sin narrative about God and reality? What helps you keep God’s love and holiness in balance?

The teddy-bear God won’t do. God’s wrath, Smith argues, “is a beautiful part of the majesty and love of God” (117).

Wrath, for Jesus, is God’s right action. John 5:28; Matt 12:36-37; 16:27; Luke 21:23; John 3:36.

People, like Thomas Jefferson, like to clip out the parts of the Bible they don’t like. Smith says many clip out the wrath stuff. God’s love does not wax and wane like our emotions; God’s love is to will the good of humans. Wrath is not rage. Wrath is not passion but pathos, a determined decision of God that is rational. Wrath expresses God’s commitment to love, peace and justice. It is God’s verdict on evil.

Holiness is God’s essence. Love loves unto purity is the idea of holiness. Nor do we want an unholy, unwrathful God. Moral indifference will not do. This means, Smith states, that hell is necessary.

He finishes this with a soul training exercise on the need for margin in life.

Friday Fun: What’s on your desk?

My friend Maury was brave enough to post about what’s on her desk. I thought it would be fun to do it too. I don’t have much control about what winds up on the desk at the house, but at work — it’s all my fault. We’ll be moving from left to right, viewing things from my seat.

This is lotion, agua, caffeine, medication, and paperwork central. Behind the paper stacker is a rocking chair and a large Van Gogh sunflower print. They’re not technically on my desk, but since you can get a glimpse of them, I thought I’d let you know what they are. The mug was empty but had held a wonderful cup of chai tea earlier in the day. The glass of water is an ever-present thing. I always have at least one small thing of lotion there and the Midol was just indicative of a current need. (cough, cough)

A true panormic view would include a picture of my computer now, but since everyone knows what those look like, I skipped it. On to the next side!

Peeking out between the right-hand speaker and my telephone is a thought-a-day calendar that used to belong to my Grandmother. I can still see it sitting in her kitchen and having it in my office gives me a lot of comfort. There aren’t words to describe how wonderful she was, but these words help me to remember. Although she never worked away from home, her strength has helped equip me to manage the balancing I have to do each day.

In case you’re wondering, I have an L-shaped desk. This area is to my right when I am seated. That’s my fancy new phone. I haven’t really figured it out yet, but it’s much nicer than the Brady Bunch-era phone that preceeded it. I like pictures, so I have lots of them. The one in the wooden frame is a picture of Christian College Librarians — a group that gets together every year. Last year we met at Pepperdine in Malibu, California. This year, we got to host and it was SO good to see all of these faces in person. The silver frame is one of my favorite-ever family pictures, taken by Maury. It was a going-away gift from our church family in Monticello.

Behind the phone is a hodge-podge of images I want to keep in front of me — a postcard of the Mona Lisa, thank-you notes from a few people, and a postcard of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man that my sister picked up for me on her most recent trip to Italy.

Oh yeah — on the desk itself. Paperwork. Mostly it’s social club stuff. Go Yea Rah Regina HEY! 🙂

Moving just slightly to the right — more pictures! I have a collage frame of images that I took while I was in Italy with Sheila last year. Above that is a Valentine’s Day card that Daniel made for me last year. Isn’t it sweet? Here’s the whole story: I was sitting in a room full of people at church, waiting on Daniel to come up from his class. He walked in, threw the paper at me and said (very loudly), “Here Mom! I put 40 hearts on it ‘cuz you’re 40 years old,” and then he ran off to play.

His future wife has a real romantic on her hands.

The final sweeep to the right has a printed calendar, my Regina name tag, and a plethora of phone books and files. I squealed like a little girl when I got that name tag! It’s been 20 years since I got my first one and it has been a real honor to be a part of Regina again. We always say, “Once a queen, always a queen,” but getting to be around it again has been just wonderful!

So there’s a glimpse of my life at work. My friends and family are still very much with me every day! Thanks for making it more fun, even though you probably didn’t know that you were.