Monday, September 18, 2017

"What do I get a new believer??"

     We get this question ALL THE TIME. So in order to make it easier for you (the customer) and for us, I've found several books for kids all the way to adults, to help you and your friend, parent, brother, grandmother, uncle, and your cousin twice removed into a better understanding of Christianity!

Let's start with the youngest:

     This book is great! It has so many helpful and useful pages to help your littlest understand this simple and huge idea that Christianity offers: that Jesus LOVES us and wants us to understand His word. From the serious questions that even we adults struggle with, to knock knock jokes, and why are there so many translations, this book covers the basics.

For more information on Bible Basics for Kids by Terry Glaspey, visit our website here.

     This book is a-w-e-s-o-m-e. It's hard to summarize because this book covers SO much. Champ Thornton describes to adults that his purpose is that kids will love, trust, and follow Jesus. He also says "I hope this will encourage young readers to keep on learning about his Word, his gospel, his church, and life in his world".
     I'd say the approximate age group that would enjoy this book and find it helpful would be ages 8-14. It'd also be helpful for parents and teachers for either devotions or discussions.

For more information on The Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith by Champ Thornton, visit our website here

For our teenagers:

     Just flipping through this book, I would DEFINITELY recommend it to Youth Pastors who want to give their "newly accepted" students a little extra help. Scott Rubin has done a great job at making this book "cool". It looks pleasing to the eye and it's written in a language that our youth will understand and accept. In the second section, Rubin talks about how there are no perfect Christians and he answers the (possible) question of "how can I be sure I'm a Christian"? In the very last section, Rubin goes through and answers the questions like what is baptism, communion, etc. But most of the book would be a walk through of how the life of your teen is going to change. A great little book!

For more information on The Essential Guide to My New Life With Jesus by Scott Rubin, visit our website here.

Two things about this book: each "chapter" or question is followed by a Bible verse that has to do with, or answers, the question being asked, and Greg Johnson's answers only cover 1-2 pages. And he covers all the FAQs that teens are facing or asking, or their friends are asking. This book would be good all on its own or would be a good pairing with the book above.

For more information on If I Could Ask God Just One Question by Greg Johnson, visit our website here.

And lastly, for the adults:

    This book is a great option for someone who has just accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. The introduction celebrates the decision of your loved one (or yourself) and then acts as a basic guide for how your life is going to change. Alex Early says this in his introduction for the book: "One of the early themes of this book is the simple fact that life with God is not always fun. Abundant? Yes. Fun? Not necessarily". I'm happy he addresses this out front. Being a follower of Christ does not mean that life gets automatically easier. Likely, it will get harder, but fundamentally sweeter. 
     Besides a guide for entering into this new life, Early goes through a bunch of topics that will come up eventually. For example: identiy, prayer, obedience, baptism, church membership and money. And each chapter ends with "questions to consider" for personal or group study.
For more information on The New Believer's Guide to the Christian Life: What will Change, What Won't, and Why it Matters by Alex Early, visit our website here.

     This book is also a great option for someone who has just accepted the Lord. I'd recommend getting this book and The New Believer's Guide to the Christian Life together, as they both talk about basic concepts but talk about different topics. James Sire says in his introduction, "The chapters are organized around a simple scheme: creation, the fall, redemption, new life in Christ, and glorification." Also, in this expanded edition, he adds a chapter on the person of Jesus.
     An all around good introductory book. Easy to read, not too deep; a great starting point. Each chapter concludes with "questions for reflection" for either personal or group study.

For more information on Beginning with God: A Basic Introduction to the Christian Faith by James W. Sire, visit our website here.

--Elise F--

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Boy Who Grew Flowers

   For the quiet ones, the shy kids, the ones who are a little bit different than "everyone else", The Boy Who Grew Flowers is an excellent reminder of the delight and wonder and power in being outside of the norm, depending on how you carry that title.

   This is a wonderful, colourful, beautiful children's book, written especially to the ones who don't seem to fit in anywhere else, and a powerful reminder that everyone is a little bit different than everyone else. We just have to give them the chance to show it, purely and proudly, with all of its wonder and beauty and colour.

--Elise T--

   For more information on The Boy Who Grew Flowers by Jen Wojtowicz and Steve Adams, visit our website here.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Toward a Secret Sky

   I read the four part series of Doon a while ago (you can read my blog post about the series here) and I would present Toward a Secret Sky to anyone who resonated with the series. Heather Maclean uses a similar writing style and directs her narration toward the same age group - 13- to 18-year-old girls looking for a bit of paranormal, world-hopping, and innocent romance. Not to mention, it all takes place in Scotland, with their accents in brogues and lilts, and kilts of course.

   This story begins with a funeral, oddly-placed screaming, and a sudden move to the small town of Aviemore, Scotland. Maclean doesn't go overboard with the Scottish accent by writing in every quirk and sound, so I enjoyed trying to emulate the sound in my mind as I read the dialogue of the different characters as they were introduced. The main character, Maren Hamilton, is a 17-year-old American, recently orphaned, who moves to Scotland to live with her newfound legal guardians - grandparents she has never met. So begins a tale of twists, turns, and tragedies involving humans, angels, and demons in a battle for truth, life, and forbidden love. The journey spans from America to Scotland to the underground city of London and back again.

   Essentially it's everything I could have possibly asked for in a book when I was 13- to 18-years-old.

 --Elise T--

   For more information about Toward a Secret Sky visit our website here.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Love Wins

   I have to be honest: I decided to read this book for two reasons. The first is that it sparks such controversy. Love Wins is either loved or hated - there is no in between. USA Today was of the opinion that "Rob Bell has stuck a pitchfork in how Christians talk about damnation". This sparked my curiosity. The second reason is that I wanted to know how a man who enters peoples' testimonies with such loving kindness can come to be caught up in the crossfire of such heated debate. I have listened to a podcast interviewing him on his book What is the Bible?, a book which I have also read, and I have heard stories of how he brings people together and interacts with them with incredible loving kindness and gentleness.

   I won't pretend I'm deeply theological and can argue over, about, or against any implications that Rob Bell's work might lead to, but this book speaks love, life, and goodness, to me and to many. This book speaks, breathes, believes Jesus.

   This is not a new book, nor is it his newest. This year he released What is the Bible? which describes more of this controversy that I find so drawing, only it is a fuller, deeper, and in my opinion better, account of some of his more detailed theological opinions. Love Wins attempts to examine the context of scriptures in order to guide the most accurate interpretation that it can. What I love about Rob Bell is that he always seeks to keep the original intent and context of the scriptures in mind - these are things that are so easy to forget, but they make the words feel that much more approachable, real, and applicable.

   What Love Wins really wants to know is whether or not we've been looking at "heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived" all wrong. But I find that the most beautiful thing about the way Rob Bell writes is that he doesn't provide a book of answers to all of life's questions. He provides interpretations, suggestions, and theories while acknowledging firmly that he does not have all the answers - that no one has all of the answers - and he is also still searching, the same as anyone else.

   --Elise T--

   For more information on Love Wins by Rob Bell, visit our website here.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Behind the Canvas

   I have not been this tempted and enraptured by adventure since Tosca Lee's Progeny and its sequel, Firstborn. This is of an entirely different realm. Behind the Canvas, written for ages 8-14, is an unspeakably incredible adventure; a seamless blend of C.S. Lewis' Narnia and Wayne Thomas Batson's The Door Within Series, coming together with oodles of art history and the absolute wonder of creativity. The protagonist, Claudia, is a twelve year old girl who develops an extraordinary amount of courage and bravery along the way. She has delightful character and personality - a quiet disposition with a penchant for fierce passion. She is everything that my introverted, bookworm, nerdy heart longs to become.

   I love her, I love this book, I love it all.

   Alexander Vance takes Claudia from observing art in all of its colour, to living it, when she discovers an entire world behind the canvas. It is everything a twelve-year old (or anyone of any age, for that matter) could ask for in terms of adventure, with dragons and knights, swords and fire, friendly dogs and terrifying monsters. Claudia's journey takes her from her world into this one as she follows loyalty in friendship. She strives to rescue her newfound friend Pim, who has been trapped for years in that painted world by a witch with incredible, awful power.

   It's a story of loyalty, first of all, and trust. And it's a story of confidence, in others and in our own gifts. Aside from the adventure in all of its exciting grandness, some of the best parts of this story are its lessons and morals. Alexander Vance writes about what is true and good, triumph over evil, and redeeming destruction and pain into newness. This is a story of creation, creativity, and the incredible influence of art, and it's a story to influence and inspire adventurers and artists of all ages.

   --Elise T--

   For more information on Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance, visit our website here.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Finding God in the Waves

   Finding God in the Waves is a far cry from orthodox Christianity, and it may be better for readers to approach this book with that in mind. Mike McHargue - better known online and by his friends as Science Mike - did not write this book for the Christian with a firm, rooted faith, seeking an inspiring story that validates their belief. He wrote this book for almost everyone else - the doubters, the seekers, the lost.  It is not a book to explain, answer, or convince. It is not a book to complain, convict, or condemn.

   Science Mike does what I imagine Christ did, and does, in meeting people where they're at - anyone, anywhere, anytime. This book walks through his experiences and transitions from Fundamental Evangelical and Southern Baptist, to atheist, to...something else. This is not a book of answers, or a backslider sliding back into the fold, because after his transition to and from atheism, Science Mike's approach to Christianity, Christ, and even God, is not at all the same as his pre-atheism days.

   There is an incredible pressure in many Christian circles that attacks doubt and questioning as the root of all kinds of evil, and a one-way-ticket to eternal torment. But the reality is that everyone has doubts. This book, even if it is an impersonal ink and paper vessel, is a safe place to experience, allow, and explore those doubts and questions. This book is for the Doubting Thomases of Christianity, the believer turned atheist, turned agnostic, turned somewhere in between. This book is for those who are dissatisfied with what their particular stream of Christianity has taught them, but who still hold onto belief - some kind, any kind, of belief. And it's for the scientists within those brackets.

   The reconciliation of science and faith is a major tension in so many religious contexts contained within Christianity. I personally do not have a very scientific method of thinking, but I have found tension between some scientific truths and faith truths that are difficult to contend with. The magic of Science Mike's book is that it contains all of the wonder of scientific discovery and all of the explanation, with none of the abstract language. He never lost me in statistics or convoluted theories. Finding God in the Waves was written to be approachable, and it is, in the most comforting way.

--Elise T--

   For more information on Finding God in the Waves visit our website here.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Boy Named Queen

On our website (here), my friend and co-worker Lauryssa left a short review of A Boy Named Queen:
"Short and sweet, this is an excellent story to help kids to deal with bullies and to accept others (and themselves) just as they are."
    She recommended this read to me the other day - whether she expected me to actually follow through is besides the point, and I did that very day, to my great delight and pleasure. A Boy Named Queen is an excellent, short chapter book starring a ten or twelve year old girl who is just going back to school, and on her first day, a new student is transferred into her class.

   His name is Queen.

   It's incredible how one small detail - one small quirk - that causes a person to stand out from the crowd can pave the way for all kinds of bullying and harmful teasing. But we've all seen it happen. From where the narrator sits, the only thing really different about Queen is his name: Queen. He is just as interesting or uninteresting as the rest of the children in his class - just as quirky or conventional as our main character, Evelyn, and simply because of his name he is treated differently.

   The story is written for children around the ages of 8-12; short chapters with a voice for description and dialogue that a child would come up with. The story is a gentle but effective way to promote the welcoming of differences and the acceptance of the unexpected. The author, Sara Cassidy, has a gift for making the children's mocking reaction of Queen seem unfair and completely unfounded, rather than blatantly pounding out an opinion or rule. By following this narrative, the mind is guided toward the conclusion of the story, lacking any kind of force but holding a hugely significant amount of conviction.

   I'm definitely older than 12, but I found A Boy Named Queen to be unparalleled, refreshing, and an absolute joy to read. Hats off to Sara.

--Elise T--

   For more information about A Boy Named Queen by Sara Cassidy, visit our website here.