Tuesday, April 21, 2015

on the lighter side

It's rare that I find a new children's book series that I can recommend. Those that are well written often have objectionable content. Those that are innocuous are often written poorly. A great many more suffer from both maladies. As a result we tend to favor the "classics" at our house -- Frog & Toad, Beverly Cleary, E. B. White, The Boxcar Children, and the rest of those listed to the right under "Best Kids Books." I've practically stopped even trying to find series I like.

But this week I've met an endearing new friend — Clementine. She makes me laugh page after page, and the prose is an absolute delight to read. The author is a genius at creating characters. No sorcery. No convoluted sentences. No (real) superpowers. No wildly dysfunctional family. Just a refreshing look at life through the eyes of an 8-year-old from a loving family – a sweet girl who is earnestly trying not to get sent to the principal's office . . . again. 

So if life is heavy and you need a few laughs, pretend you are checking out these books to read them to some children you know. I promise I won't tell anyone the real reason you have them in your possession.

Three cheers for great literature and good, clean fun!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

best books in Christian publishing 2015

Dr. Daniel Block
Dr. Karen Jobes
Dr. Douglas Moo

The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association has just released their list of finalists for the 2015 Christian Book Award. There's quite a bit of overlap with Christianity Today's top picks of the year. Wouldn't you know . . . my dissertation committee makes up half of the finalists in the Bible Reference category!? I guess that means I'm in very good hands!

Congratulations to Dr. Block (my advisor), Dr. Jobes (my second reader), and Dr. Moo (who will chair my defense) for their excellent publications.

Daniel Block, For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship (Baker)
Karen Jobes, 1, 2, and 3 John: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the NT
Douglas Moo, Galatians: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the NT

The ECPA will announce the winners in each category as well as the overall winner on May 5th. In the meantime, you can check out the finalists in Non-Fiction, Fiction, Inspiration, Bibles, Bible Reference, Childrens, and New Authors on their website.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

adventures in noticing

Prayer prepares us to see what we would otherwise miss. It conditions our soul for richer relationships. It "tunes my heart to sing thy grace."

It's a phenomenon common to every short-term mission trip. People who are normally rather shy and private about their faith and whose day-to-day experience is not terribly prayerful become bolder, full of faith, and fervent in prayer. The prayerful-ness of missions opens us to see what God is up to. We celebrate it. Seize opportunities to participate. And pray some more.

I remember those prayer-filled moments in Latin America as if they happened last week. I was only 14 at the time, on a short-term mission trip with Teen Mania in Venezuela. If we saw an ambulance go by, we would stop to intercede. When one of us was sick, we prayed. At a new ministry site we would pray, go out to invite people to come see our drama, and then pray them into the kingdom. Every moment was fueled with prayer.

How can we capture that kind of fervor for ordinary days?

During our pastor's sabbatical, he has invited us to read Mark Batterson's, Draw The Circle with him. Forty brief chapters, spread over forty days, invite readers to pray, and in so doing to draw circles around areas of life they want to see transformed by God.

I'm drawing circles around my students, my neighbors, family members, unbelieving friends, my dreams, and yes, my dissertation. It's amazing to watch God answer. Did he change the course of history because of my prayers? Or did my prayers simply wake me up so that I could watch him at work? Or is it some of both?

Batterson says that praying makes us "first-class noticers," people who "see things no one else sees" (67). "Prayer," he says, "is the key to perception" (70).

And so I pray for a student who has been absent from class. That prayer prompts me to write them an email. I continue to pray, and they respond, asking if we can talk. Their struggle fuels more prayer (and along with it the sense that we are in this together). Meanwhile, I begin to pray for another student who appears burdened, drawing a circle around that name and asking God to intervene on their behalf. And then I watch and wait. I don't want to miss God's answer!