Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New Max Lucado Picture Book

  I love picture books.  Their stories are often sweet and fun.  They encapsulate the innocence of childhood and the sweetest moments spent reading with my children.  This book arrived today and I had been looking forward to reading it with the girls and Eli.  It was different than I expected, but still sweet.  The pictures are full of fun and the daily moments in the life of a preschooler.  The story is of a little girl, a dog, and a bear doing all the things that we use our hands for through the day.  The story begins with how we use our hands to take care of ourselves and then progresses to how we use our hands to care for others.  At the end of the book, there are two pages that summarize the things our hands are used for--to help, to love others, etc.

The story is perfect for 2-4 year olds.  In my mind, I picture a little girl curled up with her grandma or mom or dad reading this story together.  I'm sure it would be great for a little boy too, but since the main character is a girl, my mind jumps to my girls first.

Max Lucado's other childrens story books about Hermie and Punchinello are for older kids.  It's fun to have one by him now for younger ones!  This would be a very sweet book to give as a gift.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Thomas Nelson Publishing.

A Change of Mind on matters of Translation

Last week, I received a new Bible study in the mail.  It is on 2 Corinthians from the NLT Life Application Bible. At the beginning of the study, there are several detailed pages explaining the NLT translation and the Life Application Bible.  I read the first few pages carefully since I have been concerned over the past few years about the NLT.  It was very interesting.  I didn't know whether to be concerned or not, so I brought it up with my husband who is much more knowledgeable about Bible translation than I am.  I went through each of the detailed explanations of specific facets of the translation with him.  He was able to explain to me that in matters of translation, all of the things that they did that some people (including me in the past) have been concerned about are a part of a good translation.

In short, what I'm trying to say is "I'm sorry."  I made a mistake by questioning the legitimacy of the NLT translation.  I know that my motive comes from a concern that translations are being written to tickle people's ears and give them what they want to hear, rather than being true to the Word of God.  Feminism has made such outcries against Christianity, the submission of wives to husbands, women's roles in the church, and even how the Bible is written.  My husband explained to me that it is not wrong for the NLT to use gender neutral language.  I do not want to be cynical and so I am going to trust this matter to the Lord--trust Him that the translators of the NLT did not choose to use gender neutral language because of the influence of Christian feminists.

What came out of my discussion with my husband is that the NLT is more accessible to be read today.  It is a good, solid translation.  If someone has not grown up in church and does not have a lot of knowledge about the Bible it is a very easy to read translation.  My daughter loves it in her Hands-On Bible.

The Life Application Bible is another interesting thing to talk about.  In the culture of the church today, people things to be easier to understand.  At times we don't want to have to work and sit with the Lord to dig for ourselves in the Word amidst the craziness of our lives.  We are a culture that seeks instant gratification and that loves to have our ears tickled.  It is far easier to listen and read the things that agree with us than that disagree with what we think.  So, the introduction pages about the Life Application Bible brought these things to mind.  The purpose of this study Bible is to make it easier for us to understand the Bible and God's purposes and to show how God's Word applies to your life.  There's a lot of buzz words in that last sentence, but I think they're buzz words because things have gotten twisted in our culture.

It is important for us to understand that God's Word matters to each one of us and that it is the Living Word.  It is also important for us not to lose sight that we are hear for God's glory and not for our own.  Many worship songs today focus our eyes on ourselves and what God does for us rather on God's glory.  We need to remember to be thankful for God's loving care, but we need to remember to praise Him above all else.

So, those are some thoughts that I've needed to write down.  Please forgive my change of mind and past misunderstanding about the NLT and translation method.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Solid Bible Study

I just finished reading By His Wounds You Are Healed by Wendy Horger Alsup.  It is a Bible study about the book of Ephesians for women.  I have been challenged to think about many things as I've gone through this study.  

Before I talk about the rabbit trails I wandered along, I want to share what I think about this study.  It's a really good Bible study.  It's laid out a little differently than other studies I've done, though.  There are 35 lessons that would take about 15-25 minutes each.  It depends on how much time you spend in prayer or reflecting after the lesson.  The length of the lessons vary from 2-5 pages.  I am not a good at reading recipes all the way through before I begin them and I'm the same way with books.  With this book, make sure you look through it first. There's an introduction, then the lessons with space for reflection after them.  After the 35 lessons, there is a section with 1-3 questions for each lesson--which are worth doing.  Some Bible studies are primarily a commentary with a few personal questions.  This is that kind of study.  There are other studies like Cynthia Heald's and Tim Keller's studies that are less commentary and are primarily questions.  Both kinds of studies have their strengths.  

The greatest strength of this study is also something that may not make it easy for a lot of women to connect with the author and this study.  Let me explain...most women's books are written by feelers for feelers.  A good example of what I think of as a feeler's book is Let Go by Sheila Walsh.  Many women see life through an emotional lens rather than a logical lens.  Men tend to be more logical in how they see things.  But, there are many women who see things in between or more on through more of a logical than emotional lens.  If you happen to be a more logical woman, I believe it is often difficult to connect with books written by women.  That is where this Bible study is a perfect fit.  

This Bible study tends to be more logical rather than emotional.  That doesn't mean that someone who is a feeler won't grow by going through it or enjoy it, but I want to give this warning.  This study is about pointing women to God and not to themselves or the stories of other women.  Rather than seeing this as a weakness of this book, it is a strength.  So often women's books get distracted, I think, from pointing women to God.  As women we can engage so much in the stories of one another, me included, that it is the stories that keep us reading rather than digging deeper in the Word.

For most of this study, I couldn't tell a great difference between a study written by a woman or a man because it is a more logical study.  The author makes this statement in the introduction that commentaries are "written by men and aimed at a mostly male audience.  My experience is that many women skip these books and focus instead on books on women's topics by women authors."  p. 9.   (1 Please see post script below.)  Because of this statement I was looking for how this study would be different.  I didn't find a lot of differences except when it came to addressing the issue of submission.   I appreciated Ms. Alsup's perspective and discussion.  I've read many books and chapters in books about submission during my marriage.  I thought her 4 pages about it were wonderful.  One of the things that I have come to believe over the past 9 years is that there are many things that I cannot speak into my husband's life.  I must leave them to prayer and to the Lord.  I haven't known the scriptural support for this, but Ms. Alsup gives this in her explanation and really explains this principle that I've come to believe.

I would definitely recommend this Bible study to you if think you might be more of a thinker than a feeler.  I'd also recommend it to you if you are a feeler and are looking for a study that's going to point you to the Lord and encourage you to think about Him and your relationship with the Lord rather than about other women's life experiences and lessons.

Please note that I did receive a complimentary copy of this book for review from Ms. Alsup.  If you are interested in this study, I don't believe it is available in bookstores, but it can be ordered on Amazon.

Post Script Note...  I think that the reason most commentaries seem to be written for men is that primarily pastors use commentaries and the biblical support is for men to be church pastors and elders, not women (I Tim. 3:2 and other scriptures).  I don't believe they were intentionally writing to a male only audience, though.  I also think that much of the reason that many women pass up such books is that they don't desire to read deep theology.  But, I also think it has a great deal to do with being a thinker or a feeler.  I am a huge feeler.  When I read a book, I want to know that the author really understands and that I can identify with him or her.  I've had a handful of friends over the years that read deep, scholarly books on a regular basis by choice.  I find myself in both camps.  I read a wide variety of books, but I have to be honest, I get overwhelmed if I read too many deep books in a row!  I can understand both why as women we choose to read challenging books and at other times why we don't.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


We started our school year yesterday.  So far, it's been a great start.  A few little bumps, but I'm learning along the way.  Overall, it's going much better than the end of last year.

One of the things I've started off doing is reading a Bible story book during breakfast and then a chapter from the Bible.  We've started in Matthew.  Today we read chapter 2 which mentioned that Joseph had had in his mind to divorce Mary quietly when he discovered that she was pregnant.

Two months ago, I realized that my kids didn't know what the word "divorce" meant.  I explained that my mom, their grandma, was divorced.  I needed to explain that though God hates divorce, that it was okay that Grandma got divorced--that there was a reason.  It was tricky, but I felt okay about it.

It was interesting to come across the word in the Bible and for Autumn to notice it.  Later, she suddenly said, divorce is worse than breaking a tea cup.  She paused, and then she said, it's a hundred times worse.  She understood that divorce is a very sad thing.  Sometimes it's hard to explain such grown up things to little children.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jokes and laughing

One of the best simple pleasures of life I think is watching children enjoy reading.  Yesterday, we found a new Animal Joke book at a garage sale.  Autumn read jokes from the book for such a long time.  She and Sami laughed and laughed.  They laughed even when they didn't understand what the joke was really about.

Another seemingly unrelated story from yesterday... my husband and I watched the new Alice in Wonderland starring Johnny Depp.  He was curious about it and someone he knew had liked it.  In the end, we just thought it was a bad movie.  It was really warped and dark--even the light was dark.  As I went to sleep, I wondered what was missing from the movie.  Even the white queen--the kind and good queen--seemed to be missing something.  I think she was missing love.  In the Word, it says that...  
I Corinthians 13:1-3
1If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,[b] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Without love, kindness is nothing.  Wisdom is nothing.  Power is nothing.  Humor is nothing.

We don't let our kids watch a lot of movies or public television.  We've felt for a long time that what children watch teaches them what is funny.  If you show children adult humor then they will laugh--because they want to laugh with you--not because they understand what is funny.  Alice in Wonderland is an adult's movie.  It is not one I would recommend for children.  I didn't see anything beneficial in a child watching it.  Potty humor is at someone's expense.  It is without love.

Two unrelated things that have a strange connection... Without love, something is nothing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Getting ready for school

It's a very strange thing to realize that we will be starting school full time next week.  We've been easing ourselves back into it.  Just math and reading.  It will be good to have my focus back again and have the purpose to our days that comes with homeschooling!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Chapmans

Two days ago, I started reading Mary Beth Chapman's book Choosing to See.  It was a rough night and I had just received the book in the mail that day for review.  God is so gracious in the little things.  I pulled it out and laid on our bed.  I began reading.  I felt comforted and strengthened as I read.  My hope was renewed by the Lord in those moments.

I haven't listened to Steven Curtis Chapman's music in a long time, but many of his lyrics are in Mary Beth Chapman's book and I began singing them in my head.  I was reminded of how powerful his songs are.  The video above is of a song from the album Beauty will Rise.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Quite a Week

It's been quite a week here in our house.  We tried to go on vacation and it just didn't work out.  My daughter got sick, my other daughter's cough got worse, our windshield got a star crack, the driver's window stopped working, we had to switch rooms at the hotel two times, our tail light cover fell off one mile from our home...   Life is often not what we want. I don't have time to write more of the story here right now, but a friend posted the second song on facebook and I enjoyed it.  The mess is what I am struggling against feeling right now.  The weight weighs down on my shoulders.  
The first song is one that I come back to and have been encouraged by...

Nichole Nordeman's Beautiful for Me from Jeff Arnold on Vimeo.

Nichole Nordeman
Every girl young and old has to face her own reflection
Twirl around, stare it down
What’s the mirror gonna say
With some luck, you’ll measure up
But you might not hold a candle to the rest
“Is that your best?” says the mirror to the mess
But there’s a whisper in the noise
Can you hear a little voice
and he says

Has anybody told you you’re beautiful?
You might agree if you could see what I see
‘Cuz everything about you is incredible
You should have seen me smile the day that I made you beautiful for me
If it’s true beauty lies in the eye of the beholder
What my life and what’s inside to give him something to behold
I want a heart that’s captivating
I wanna hear my Father say

Has anybody told you you’re beautiful?
You might agree if you could see what I see
‘Cuz everything about you is incredible
You should have seen me smile the day that I made you beautiful for me
Close your eyes
Look inside
Let me see the you that you’ve been trying to hide
Long ago, I made you so very beautiful
So I ought to know you’re beautiful

Has anybody told you you’re beautiful?
You might agree if you could see what I see
‘Cuz everything about you is incredible
You should have seen me smile the day that I made you beautiful
You’re so beautiful
Beautiful for me
So beautiful for me
Has anybody told you?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Prayers for Children

Last year, I reviewed a book by Stephen Elkins called 100 Bible Stories, 100 Bible Songs.  The girls loved it.  The Bible stories were simple and good for preschoolers.  The book included two cds with traditional Sunday school songs.

Recently, I received 100 Prayers God Loves to Hear: 100 Praise Songs.  I was curious if we would like it as well as the other book I reviewed by Stephen Elkins.  I pulled out the first cd to listen to.  The music was very electronic and my girls didn't really like it.  The hard part is that I asked them why and since my oldest daughter is only 6 years old, she couldn't really tell me why--she just knew she didn't like it.  I read through the prayers in the book and for the most part the prayers were okay.  I liked the 10 Bible Verses about Prayer list in the front of the book.  There is a great table of contents in the beginning of the book so you can find your favorite prayers easily.

There were a couple of prayers that were disconcerting to me and are why I wouldn't recommend this book if you are looking for a book about prayer for children.  The prayers that concerned me were "The Prayer of Jabez".  The book quotes the NKJV of this verse and it says that "The prayer of Jabez pleased God because he prayed for others."  p. 52  My last blog entry goes into what the different translations say and so this statement isn't really biblical.   Yes, God did answer Jabez's prayer, but it doesn't say why.  We don't know.

Another entry is a prayer that is on page 196 "The Prayer of the Twenty-Four Elders".  I don't think it's unbiblical, per se, but it just didn't sit with me for some reason.  I guess it bothered me.  The idea that we praise Jesus because he's worthy--because he has "earned the right" to be praised makes him sound more like a human than the Son of God.  I praise the Lord because of who He is.  Jesus didn't have to do something so I would love Him.  I think it rubbed me the wrong way because we are so caught up in the idea that we should only respect someone if they've earned it--if they deserve our respect.  We are so rebellious against authority and are so caught up in pride that it clouds the way we look at things sometimes.  I don't think the author meant it this way, but I am so sensitive to this weakness in myself and our society that I seem to pick up on it a lot.

In the end, this book is fine, but I don't think I would spend $20 on it.  If you're looking for a book on prayer for children, I would recommend Prayer: Learning How to Talk to God by Jeanete Groth.  It is illustrated by Jan Brett.  I love it!  It is a wonderful book that teaches children the different things we pray about (praising God for his creation, praying for guidance, thanking God, etc.).  

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Thomas Nelson.


Whatever God gives thee be grateful for, for if too proud to take from the raven’s
mouth, it will be well for thee to go without, until thine hunger consume thy pride."
-Charles Spurgeon

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Prayer of Jabez

I requested a children's book of prayers to review last week.  It arrived the other day and I started listening to the cds with the book and reading through the prayers.  One of the prayers, of course, was Jabez's prayer.  It was really interesting to me to see what the book wrote, which translation it based it's lesson on, and then go to the Word myself and see the context of the verses.  Over the past year, I've thought often about translation and why it matters which one you read.  The prayer of Jabez is definitely a case in point.  There are actually only 2 verses in the whole Bible that refer to Jabez.  Here they are in several translations:

1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (New King James Version)

9 Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.

1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (English Standard Version)

9Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, "Because I bore him in pain." 10Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!" And God granted what he asked.

1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (New Living Translation)

 9 There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. 10 He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.

1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (King James Version)

 9And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow.
 10And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.

The Amplified and NIV said the same basic thing that the ESV said interestingly enough.  The ESV, Amplified, and NIV all translate Jabez's prayer as a request that God would keep him from harm so that he would not be harmed or hurt.

The NKJV and KJV translate Jabez's prayer as asking that he would not harm others.  The book of prayers for kids that I'm reading praises Jabez for thinking of others.

I trust the accuracy of the translation of the ESV more than the NKJV and KJV.  In the ESV, it is clear that Jabez is not thinking of others but rather of himself!  Hmmm...

I've always been skittish about the prayer of Jabez and the fad that grew out of the book 10 years ago.  It concerned me because it was used by the name it and claim it theology (aka the health and wealth gospel) as an example of how to pray.  This prayer is not how Jesus told us to pray.  In the context of Chronicles, Jabez is sited as an example of one man who sought God amidst many generations who did not.  I think his prayer is a very human prayer.  I don't think we want to go through pain.  I also don't think it is wise to infer and guess about the details of Jabez's life and how he lived his life.  We don't know.  If God had wanted us to know, I believe it would be in the Bible.  The point of the Bible is to point us to God, not to ourselves.  Theologically, I'm still not quite sure what to think about Jabez's prayer except that he came to the Lord with his requests.  God graciously granted that request out of love.  I know I do this every day when I come to the Lord with my prayers.  Sometimes the answers are what I would hope and other times not--because God knows what is best and I firmly believe that He works in all things for my good.

As a last note, it is interesting to me that this difference came up with the NKJV and not one of the modern paraphrases.