Discover New Worlds

Kid reading the Book. EducationBooks take you to new worlds. Your mind tramps through new places and situations, but your feet don’t get muddy. When you read my books you walk through some of the same fascinating cultures and sub-cultures I have encountered as I grew up in American, lived 16 years in Taiwan, and now live in New Zealand.

During my 35 years of writing for Christian publication I’ve seen the publishing world turned upside down. In Taiwan I reached out to Chinese people who knew little about Christianity with ESL Bible studies. In New Zealand I’ve needed to tailor church programs and puppet scripts to fit a small mission church in various stages. In recent years I entered a new world of cooking as I learned to cook gluten-free recipes for my celiac husband. I want to use this website to share these resources with others. I hope you’ll find them helpful.

You may also want to follow my weekly blog in which I talk about subjects of interest to writers and people in ministry. I hope these posts will bring hope and help to others in ministry.

Bible Story Books for Kids Aged 5 and Under

mother and daughterThis blog is written by my daughter, Lisa. She has done extensive research on finding good books for her kids and recommends these resources for parents and grandparents to buy for younger kids.

I remember sitting on the couch with my husband, his hands on my pregnant belly. We were listening to Christian music and discussing how we would pass our faith on to our children. Since that time, we’ve been on the look-out for good devotional materials for children.  We’ve made it a tradition to expand our kids’ Bible library each Easter, finding something that fits their age and needs. Consider good Christian devotional materials as a gift to bless family members or friends at baby showers or birthdays.

Here’s some we’ve enjoyed:

 Bible Story Books

Age 2 and Under

What Did Jesus Say and Do? by Helen Haidle, Illustrated by Nancy Munger

This board book has simple, rhyming text and a Bible verse with each spread. I often find the earliest Bible story books use so many baby animals and flowers that they make Jesus look “cute” (not the message I want to portray.) These drawings did not give that sense, but were still pleasant and colorful. The book starts with Christmas, touches on Christ’s boyhood, then moves through His baptism, ministry, Passion Week, and Easter. Now that I have more than one child, board books can entertain the little one while I’m reading to the older one.

Age 3 and 4

My First Read-Aloud Bible, by Mary Batchelor and Penny Boshoff

This Bible story book includes more stories than most books for this age—about sixty each for Old and New Testaments. Each spread contains a very short and simple text about the story and includes the Bible reference at the bottom. The information given usually comes straight from Scripture without added imaginary details or interpretive comments. The drawings are colorful, a bit like cartoons but not silly or irreverent. I appreciated the inclusion of some of Jesus’ parables, not just His miracles. There are long sections for Christmas and Easter as well. (Material on the Psalms, prophets, epistles and Revelation is sparse.)

Ages 4 and 5

The Story Bible: 130 Stories of God’s Love, Engelbrecht and Pawlitz, editors

The vibrant, detailed full-page paintings attracted me to this edition. The pictures are a notable exception to many books whose pictures have an out-of-date feel to them. The layout is inviting as well, with a partial or full-page picture on each spread and ample room for the text.

The text of the stories is taken almost verbatim from Scripture, though shortened. While this sounds admirable, it doesn’t work well: helpful explanations are lacking and many inconsequential details are retained. I wish the publishers had adjusted the text for a smoother, but still accurate, retelling of Scripture. Sidebars include questions and prayers which are phrased assuming the child is saved (you may want to adapt or skip them based on your child’s spiritual interest.)

 Psalms for Young Children, by Marie Helene Delval, illustrated by Arno

The author paraphrases part of forty Psalms in simple language. Each selection is accompanied by a full-color drawing of children—playing music, sitting by a brook, standing on a mountain. A friend reports that this book helped her young daughter work through emotions during a difficult long-distance move. I like this book because it introduces young kids to the Psalms and gives ideas for worship and prayer. Kindergarteners or first-graders could use this book as a early-reader as well.

 The Big Picture Bible Storybookby David Helm, Illustrated by Gayle Schoonmaker

What makes this Bible storybook different than most is how it traces overarching themes in Scripture in a simple way that kids can understand. In the Old Testament portion, we learn about God’s plan for mankind and man’s repeated sins and idolatry. The New Testament portion describes how Christ is able to restore us as individuals, the growth of the church and His plan for us in heaven. The author seeks to interpret the Biblical narrative; at times, we disagreed with his terminology (for example, whether or not Acts describes the growth of God’s Kingdom.) Also, some of the drawings were too whimsical for my taste.

 Other Resources

 Music

Lullabies: Songs for Quiet Moments, from Discovery House Music

This twelve-track CD is unique because many of its songs focus on Scripture passages (for examples, “You Knew Me” echoes Psalm 139, “Love God” reiterates Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22, and A Parent’s Prayer echoes Micah 6:8.) Several songs are reworked from past children’s hymns and a few of the songs are simply nice lullabies without a strong spiritual message. We’ve enjoyed this CD as an introduction into nighttime for our kids for many years.

 Bible Memory

We’ve recently begun using the Foundations verses with our young kids. It’s a list of 75 basic Bible verses published by Bethlehem Baptist Church. It includes simple pictures as memory prompts for the children and verses are in the ESV. These are accessible in several formats; I use the Foundation verses section included in the smart phone app for their adult Scripture meditation program, Fighter Verses.

Other Bible memory program for young children include: ABC Memory Book from Scripture Memory Fellowship (KJV or NKJV) and the ABC memory verses printable from Icanteachmychild.com (NIV, NLT, etc.)

 Coloring Books

Several reproducible coloring books are available that include pictures from all parts of the Bible narrative. Here are two I have used:

Thru the Bible Coloring Pages for Ages 2-4, from Standard Publishing

Simple coloring pages that coordinate with the 2s and 3s curriculum from the same publisher. This book has a Bible picture on one side and a modern-day application picture on the other. Over 200 pictures.

Bible Story Coloring Pages, (set of books)  from Gospel Light

Over 100 stories included, a picture on one side with simple text retelling the story on the other. Reproducible by the original purchaser.

These reviews are my honest opinion. I did not receive any compensation from the authors or publishers, but write about the materials as a service to other parents looking for Bible resources for their kids.

[image courtesy of Syda_Productions/deposit photos]

Why I Write

zEdges cover with awardOn discouraging days you calculate the time it took you to write a book, divide that by the amount of money you made on it, and moan about writing being the poorest paying job on the planet. You wonder why you put yourself through all the work and ups and downs of writing for publication. Yet something deep within you wants to start planning the next book. Why? You are a writer.

To be fair, writers are not the only ones who feel this passion to create. Quilters search for patterns, dig through fabrics, plan, dream, measure, cut, sew, quilt. Few of them would make minimum wage for hours spent. Classic car guys seldom restore old cars purely for the money it earns them. Athletes, musicians, gardeners, and cooks strive for excellence rather than dollars.

I feel this when I write, yet as a Christian writer there is something more. I feel it when:

  • a 9-year-old girl says, “I read your book ten times. It taught me what I should be like when I moved to a mission field with my parents.”
  • a new reader finds my book and says, “Your book deeply touched my heart and life. There are so many parallels between my life and your novel.”
  • a missionary says, “I’m using your ESL Bible studies and one of my students just got saved.”
  • I don’t hear from readers, but know that God has led me to write and “my labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58)

Writing books is a risky business. It doesn’t come with guarantees. I look to the Lord to lead me from project to project, do my best to write and promote, and leave the results with him. Most often I don’t see how God may be using my writing, but once in a while I catch a glimpse that God is using my writing in more ways than I can see. This is one of those weeks.

If you’ve been following me at all you know that the Lord led me, a few years ago, to write Edges of Truth: The Mary Weaver Story. Mary was a godly Christian woman from Marshalltown, Iowa who was providing childcare for an 11-month old baby when the baby quit breathing. Though Mary administered CPR and called 9-1-1, within a day the child died. Before long Mary was charged with first-degree murder. Some of the doctors were convinced that Mary had shaken and slammed the baby because of certain injuries that cause medical experts to diagnose shaken baby syndrome.

Editors and agents wouldn’t touch this story because they felt it happened too long ago and Mary wasn’t a celebrity. But Mary, her lawyer Steve Brennecke and I felt the Lord leading us ahead. We published this book in November of 2013. This story has moved my own heart as I wrote it and others have told how it has challenged their faith. Mary has spoken at quite a few events since then, some of them with secular audiences, to show how God worked in her story.

We wrote this story to give God the glory for the amazing things he did in Mary and Steve’s life, but we also wanted to shine the light on an American legal problem that continues today. Medical experts are using controversial interpretations of medical findings to accuse or convict innocent people of child abuse or murder. Each year hundreds to thousands of parents or caretakers are accused, and sometimes convicted, of child abuse because of unproven medical theories. This kind of evidence sent Mary Weaver to prison. Later she was completely exonerated, but we want our book to spotlight the problem.

In the last few months, two total strangers wrote to say their sons had been accused of abuse in similar situations.

This week we see a bit of progress. A coalition of accused families has launched a petition to be presented to Congress asking for an objective evaluation of today’s medical guidelines for diagnosing child abuse. This is a beginning of challenging mistaken medical assumptions that has endangered innocent families for decades. Mary, her story, and our book is one small part of that effort.

That’s why I write.

See the book trailer here.

If you would like to know more about this petition, check out these sites:

The petition itself: http://tinyurl.com/InnocentFamilyPetition

A companion website: https://protectinginnocentfamilies.wordpress.com/

List of example cases: https://protectinginnocentfamilies.wordpress.com/cases/

 

 

 

 

Search for Significance

Routeburn+ 051I’m sure some of my friends wonder about me. Why would I spend a year or two of my life and invest money into self-publication, all to produce a book that is not guaranteed to sell and even less likely to make me much money?

I thought of that this week on Facebook when I shared a Facebook post about a lady who crochets animals. The intricate elephant is the size of a fingertip.  These animals look impossible to make and I shared them because of a friend of mine who crochets. A different friend commented, “Why?”

I know why. Why does a quilter spend hundreds of hours sewing a one-of-a-kind quilt that’s too nice to wrap around you on a cold night? Why does a mechanic spend years restoring a classic automobile that is too valuable to use every day? Why does my husband spend months training so he can run the 60k (37 mile) mountain trail of the Kepler challenge? It’s a basic need to achieve, to excel at something, a search for significance.

Everyone feels this need to achieve on some level, but for Christians, achieving for God’s glory is our basic purpose in life. All aside from eternal rewards, we want to please him, earn his smile. Often I can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning because I have things to do, purposes to fulfil. I sense what God is leading me to do next and I can’t wait to get busy doing it. I do this for God, but he knows it is good for me too.

One of the reasons I’m currently working to build my writing “career” is that I want my life to have significance clear to the end. I’m sixty now and I could easily be in ministry for another ten years. What then? I’m learning that ministry doesn’t have to end at seventy, and that is even more true of a writing ministry than some other ministries. I want to establish a credible foundation in publication now so that I can build on it into retirement.

Today I received a blog entry from Maynard Belt, a retired pastor whose ministry it is to encourage others in ministry.

This blog was about Andrew Murray who lived and ministered as a pastor and author in South Africa.

Pastor Belt writes of Andrew Murray: Would you believe that, finally, at the age of 78, Murray resigned from the pastorate and devoted the last eleven years of his life to his manuscripts, writing profusely, moving from one book to the next with an intensity of purpose and a zeal that few men of God have ever equaled? He often said of himself, rather humorously, that he was like a hen about to hatch an egg; he was restless and unhappy until he got the burden of the message off his mind!

Writers, don’t you love that? Can you feel Murray’s zeal to communicate? Andrew Murray didn’t let his light flicker out at retirement. In his sunset years he pursued his writing ministry with fresh vigor, eager to get his message on paper where it continues to bless readers nearly one hundred years after his death.

I want to do that!

I look down the road at friends just a bit older than I, especially people who are nearing the end of their fulltime ministry or have just moved into retirement. They may feel their ministry is almost over but my heart calls to them: Your work is not done. I’m watching you. Teach me to live well into retirement.

What significant work are you doing today? It can be small and still be significant. You may be stumbling ahead in confusion, doing the next thing faithfully, seeing few results from it, and still leading a significant life. I’m convinced that significance will look much different on the other side of eternity.

So today, in whatever challenges life is throwing across your path, I want to encourage you to search for that significant task God has for you and do it well. God is not done with you or you would be dead.

I’m going to end my blog today with some words of encouragement from Andrew Murray. While he was going through a very painful experience in his life he wrote of these four comforting concepts to remember when you are going through a difficult trial:
First, He [God] brought me here, it is by His will I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest. Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child. Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow. Last, in His good time He can bring me out again–how and when He knows. Let me say I am here….by God’s appointment, in His keeping, under His training, for His time!”

Announcing the Arrival of My New Novel!

broken windows 043This weekend I am launching my new novel, Broken Windows. It is much like a cozy mystery in that it has no profanity, sex, or gratuitous violence. It does, however, deal with some serious issues. Though it is a fun book, this Christian novel also challenges even mature Christians to think. So if you’re tired of shallow Christian fiction that mimics Hollywood romances, you might want to try Broken Windows.

My last book was a memoir about Mary Weaver, an innocent caregiver who was accused of first-degree murder. The story happened in and around Marshalltown, Iowa which provided a venue for an amazing book launch. This time around, however, I’m dealing with fiction and I am nearly 10,000 miles from most of my readers. This launch will look a lot different from my last one. In my December 15, 2014 blog (Must-Have Homes for Authors) I told some of my plans for this launch. Today I plan to follow that up with the details of the actual launch. I’m hoping this will help other authors who are looking for ideas for their own launches as well as direct readers to some fun activities.

First of all, I announced in December that I planned my launch on January 16. The first rule for launches is: Never announce a date for a launch unless you’re absolutely sure the book will be for sale (and in your hands, if necessary) on launch date. Well, I broke that rule because I thought I had plenty of time to bring the book to publication. Wrong. Due to circumstances beyond my control I’m launching this book a whole month later than planned. Thankfully, since this launch is entirely online, I don’t think the delay will inconvenience my readers at all. I’m so thankful that last time, when we had an auditorium full of friends and supporters, the books arrived on time.

windows

Amazon

You’ve heard me say it before. Amazon reviews are gold to a writer. This time I’ve had some readers read my book ahead of time and give input. I’ve asked these people to post reviews ahead of my launch. You can read the reviews that have already been posted here. I am also looking for about five readers who would like to receive my book free in exchange for an honest review. If this is something you’d enjoy doing, just comment on this blog.

Author Central is a good author’s tool. I only had to make minor changes to bring this up to date. You can read it here.

 Website

You are reading my blog now. If you want to find my book from my website, you can find it here. Soon it will link to my first chapter. (Situations beyond my control again.) And while you’re there, you might want to look at some of the other free resources I have. You can follow my blog from here by clicking on “subscribe” in the sidebar or from my Facebook Author Page by clicking on “like” at the top of the Author Page.

Facebook Author Page

I want to have a little fun with my Facebook Page. You’ll find items of interest if you are a car guy, an artist, a writer, an M.K., or if you’ve ever been to Boise, serve in ministry, or have ever read any of my books. You can also go in the draw to win a free book here.

 Goodreads

On Goodreads you can enter my giveaway here. You can ask me a question under “Ask An Author,”  or become my friend or fan here. Or you can join the Christian Books Only Review Group here.

Pintrest

Broken Windows includes some fun graffiti images and photos. Adding even one color image to a book means the whole book has to be printed differently from a black and white book and the cost is prohibitive. If you want to see these images in color, go to my Pinterest board. (The Nook version is also in color.)

So many ways to connect with me at this time! I’d love to hear from you.

You can find Broken Windows as a paperback here.

Or the Kindle version here. (Coming soon!)

Or the Nook version here.

Coming soon!

The Kindle version of Broken Windows should be up soon, probably within a week. Also the first chapter should soon be up soon on the Amazon description page. Thank you for your patience.

 

 

Prepare for Rain

spiritual droughtA Christian coach witnesses crises in his personal life, his professional life, and his spiritual life. He doesn’t see God at work. A godly prayer warrior tells him about two farmers who desperately need rain. Both farmers pray for rain, but only one of them goes out and prepares his fields to receive it. “Which one are you?” asks the godly man. “God will send the rain when he’s ready. You need to prepare your field to receive it. “

I love this scene from the Christian film, Facing the Giants. It spoke to me during a time of spiritual drought in our ministry. For a variety of reasons we had lost a number of core families in our small mission church. As a result we had only a few kids in our youth group, a few kids who came to our Discovery Club, and no one under 18 who came to Sunday School. As I came to the New Year I was itching to plan out the year’s activities: Sunday School, youth programs, and ladies’ activities. But how could I plan when we had so few people to plan around? I soon figured out that this would not be a plan-ahead year. It was a year of faith, a step-by-step year, when we could only plan a few weeks ahead at a time.

After much prayer and thought we totally reinvented our kids’ and youth program. We combined them into one Friday night program that included both age groups. Each week I taught a Bible story with applications that would target the larger age group.

It was risky. Would the youth quit coming when the younger kids joined them? Would the younger ones be overwhelmed by the higher athletic ability of the youth? How could I teach the eight-to- eighteen age group effectively?

This might not be the ideal program in most situations, but the Lord led us into it and we followed. The Lord blessed. Our particular blend of kids and youth accepted the broader age range. Some nights we had less kids or less youth, but with the combined group we always had enough to play games. It was unusual, but it was working.

In April a new family started coming regularly. They enjoyed our Discover program, but also came Sunday mornings during our adult Sunday School time. I had told the Lord in January that if a family actually started bringing their kids to Sunday School I would teach them, so I did. Now I had a class with an age range from three to fourteen. It was different, but it worked. Then another new family moved to town and started coming. They had three children, two of which really need a nursery. We needed to reinvent some of our other church programs.

Today our church is stronger, but I still need to go to church sometimes with plan A, B, and C in my briefcase. God is blessing our church, and sometimes it doesn’t seem to be in direct relation to our efforts. Still I believe we need to prepare for rain. We need to be faithful to prepare for people we don’t yet have, for ministries we haven’t yet started. God will honor these acts of faith, the faithful expectation of his blessing. It may not be in the way we expect, but the Bible clearly shows that only God can work in hearts, yet he expects us to do our part too.

What about you? Maybe you’re an organizer like me and you’d like to plan all kinds of exciting events but you are in a drought period. Maybe everything is changing and you can’t plan ahead because you don’t know how many workers you’ll have or how many kids will commit to program practice. Maybe you’d like to start a Bible study or new ministry but you’re afraid no one will be interested. Maybe your ministry is in crisis and you wonder if it will even continue. You can only see a faint glimpse of God’s leading and you’re afraid to take the next step. What do you do?

Take the next step that God leads you to take, praying for the Lord to direct you step by step. God may prosper your present endeavor or he may use the things that don’t work to move you in another direction. But he will lead you if you sincerely want to follow him.

Faith is that next prayerful step into a dark future.  It’s the farmer who prepares his field during a drought. It’s the servant who labors on when her work seems to be in vain.

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV)

How’s your faith today?

P.S. In December I announced that I planned to launch my new book on January 15. One reader wrote: I can’t find your book on Amazon. Did I miss something? She didn’t. Due to circumstances beyond my control the book has not been released. I expect it to be up in the next week or so. Don’t worry, if you’re following my blog or Facebook Page, you won’t miss it when the time comes.

[The dry ground picture is for viewing purposes only and may not be saved or downloaded.]