My Book of Mean People Journal

My Book of Mean People Journal
Toni and Slade Morrison
Pictures by Pascal Lemaitre
This book was a gift many years ago from a dear friend. She knew I was going through a rough patch and bought this book to cheer me up. It is a place to share your feelings using words and pictures when you are struggling with mean people. I will admit that I have not yet written in the book. I pull it out regularly and imagine what I would write and draw when people are mean.
This journal gives you space to write about actions of mean people, times you are mean, what you would say to mean people, and what you wish mean people would stop doing.
This is a perfect gift for anyone who is having a tough time and needs a safe place to share their feelings. I like it much better than the book by the same name because the journal acknowledges that we can be mean too!

Book Review-Water Bugs and Dragonflies

Water Bugs and Dragonflies
Explaining Death to Young Children 
Doris Stickney

Explaining and understanding death is complex and difficult for adults. How can we help children when someone they love dies? Although there is not one easy answer, I highly recommend this book. In this short storybook, water bugs are changed into dragonflies. The water bugs do not know where their loved ones have gone. The dragonflies cannot go back to explain all is well to the water bugs. It is a simple and beautiful way of explaining that our loved ones are fine and one day we’ll be changed too. The story ends with a prayer for the one who has died that can be prayed together with a child. And at the end of the book, you’ll find helpful words for parents as they’ll most likely be grieving too while trying to explain death to their children.

I recommend every house of worship keep some of these inexpensive books on hand to share with families when needed. This book works for all ages. It is good for adults to read when you need a reminder that we will change from water bugs to dragonflies one day. It could make a great prayer station or discussion starter for youth. And what child won’t want to snuggle in your lap to hear this story?

Paddington Movie Reflection

I have fond memories of spending part of every summer with my grandparents. When we would stay with G and P, my sister and I would sleep in the bedroom with the red carpet on the bed that was my Dad’s. I loved this bed because the headboard was a bookshelf. And on that bookshelf was a set of Paddington Bear books. Grandma used to read to us every night. When I got bigger, I got to be the reader. I’m not sure how many times we made it through those books or if we ever finished one before it was time to go home. I remember the note around his neck, “Please look after this bear” and how Paddington would get into trouble accidentally of course.
When the Paddington movie came out a few years ago, I wanted to see it in the theaters. Sadly, I did not see the movie until this week. In the comfort of my own living room I was transported to Darkest Peru where Paddington lived. I saw as he met the Brown Family. I watched him make mess after mess. And I smiled and laughed. It is silly and fun and reminded me of evenings spent reading books at 510. If you imagined what Paddington Bear would look like on the big screen, give this movie a try. You’ll be reminded that home and family do not look the same for everyone, and that’s okay.
The movie ends with this line by Paddington Bear, “Mrs. Brown says that in London everyone is different, and that means anyone can fit in. I think she must be right-because although I don’t look like anyone else, I really do feel at home. I’ll never be like other people, but that’s alright, because I’m a bear. A bear called Paddington.”

Book Review-Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home

Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home
Traci Smith
 
A wonderful book that should be in every home. In these pages you find ways to celebrate and live out your faith with whomever makes up your family. You’ll find a new spin on ancient traditions (Advent: Make and Use an Advent Wreath, 63) and new practices (Starting a New Journey: Moving, 86). This is a book you can read from cover to cover very quickly or you can use as a reference guide and pull out a practice when needed. 
 
Near the end of this book you’ll find the Special Event Guide. On these pages you’ll find everything you need to provide a 90 minute workshop for families in your church to introduce some of these practices to them. If you were giving this book as a gift to families in your church, this workshop would be a great way to show off how user friendly this book is!
 
I highly recommend this as a perfect gift for churches to give families as a baptismal gift or any other occasion when a gift is needed. This book should be on every pastor and church staff member’s shelf because it is full of great ways to encourage your church members to practice their faith, and it contains ways for those working in the church to practice our own faith. And although this book is written out of the Reformed Tradition, families who want to create meaningful rituals in their homes can use this book even if they do not have a church home or consider themselves religious.  
 
I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review-On Living by Kerry Egan

On Living Kerry Egan
If you’ve ever wondered what the work of a hospice chaplain looks like, read this book. In fact, I almost didn’t read this book because I feared it would feel too much like a day of work. While her stories resonated with me, I didn’t feel like I was working. I felt like I met someone who understands what I do and why I do it. I’m so glad I read this book.
In my time with hospice, I’ve heard stories from people in their 20s, and those who have passed the century mark and every age in between. I’ve met people who have never lived far from where they’ll die and people who arrived here shortly before their deaths. I’ve met people who have spent their whole lives worrying about money and people who have never worried about money. I’ve congratulated couples who have been married 40, 50, 60, even 70 years, and I’ve sat with people who saw the hospice team as their family because they had no one else. I tell you this because what is written in these pages is not unique. All hospice chaplains hear stories. As one of my favorite social workers says often, “We love to hear your stories.” And that is what I do, I listen to stories and help those entrusted to my care make meaning for themselves.
This wonderful book gives you an insiders view into life as a hospice chaplain. You’ll read about joy and heartbreak. You’ll see that it isn’t easy to be present as another’s life nears the end, and you’ll see that it is so worth it. I highly recommend this book to you!
It was difficult to pick only one quote to share with you because this book is filled with so many beautiful words. I’ll leave you with the words used to end the book.
“If life were like a novel, and I could tie things up nicely with a bow, I would claim it was Gloria [the patient we meet on page 1] who gave me my parting advice. But it wasn’t. It was a little old Jewish lady who gave me a blessing every time we met. She’d fled Poland with her parents and brother in the 1930s arrived in the United States ten years later alone. A woman whose story I haven’t told here, and will instead keep bundled in my heart with hundreds of other stories. I’ll leave you with it, as she left it with me: “Promise yourself,” she said that last time we met, “promise that you’ll have a great life, no matter what happens'” (206).

Celebrating Earth Day with Faithful Families by Traci Smith

In my work with children, youth, and families, I was always searching for great ideas and resources to share with others. One of the resources that I highly recommend is Traci’s Smith, Faithful Families. In this new book, you’ll find all the information you need to create a variety of spiritual practices for your family or for yourself. My review of the book will be shared soon, and in the meantime, I’d like to highlight one of the practices from the book.

Earth Day is coming up soon and Traci does a wonderful job of helping us combine celebrating Earth Day with God’s love of creation. (In fact, all of the practices are ways of acknowledging God’s presence and our connectedness to God and each other in our regular, daily lives).

Earth Day-Feeding the Birds begins with a brief reflection and introduction. “This practice is designed to help children honor creation every year on Earth day by reading the creation story and making a bird feeder” (56). This practice is recommended for ages 4 and up and can be completed with only pipe cleaners and O-shaped cereal. You can make this bird feeder in about 10 to 15 minutes. You’ll want to gather your family outside on Earth Day with a Bible and bird feeder making supplies. Read Genesis 1 together. Next you’ll talk about creation as a family. You can use the question provided like “What is your favorite part of creation?” (56) or use your own questions. To create the bird feeder you simply string the cereal on the pipe cleaner and bend it into the shape of a ring. Place your bird feeder on a tree and say a prayer together.

Each practice includes notes and variations to help you. The practices are written as a script so you can easily follow along or pass the book to older children or other family members to share the reading responsibility. The script includes options for everything you need to say including prayers, introductions, and questions. As you can see from the Earth Day practice, the intention of the practices in this book is to make it easy for your family to find ways to “create sacred moments at home.”

I hope you’ll spend some time out in creation on Earth Day creating sacred moments. And I hope you’ll add the book, Faithful Families,  to your family library and your church library. For more information about this book and many other resources, please visit http://www.traci-smith.com.

 

 

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review of this book.

Book Review-There’s a Clergywoman in the Pulpit

There’s a Woman in the Pulpit

Christian Clergywoman Share Their Hard Days, Holy Moments & the Healing Power of Humor
edited by Rev. Martha Spong
An excellent collaborative work by clergywoman of all ages from the United States and a few other countries. The essays are divided into Calling, Sacraments, Death, Experiences, Being a Pastor And ______, and Life Outside the Church. In these pages you read real stories by pastors who are just like you and very different too. You’ll laugh and cry as see yourself in some of the stories and wonder how this happened as you read others.
I hope this book give non-clergy a little insight into the life of a clergy person. And I hope this book will inspire you to support the future clergy people in your life. It isn’t an easy calling, and it is our responsibility to support the next generation so they can lead us.
On a particularly hard day, I read Rev. Robin Craig’s, “Preaching Ahead of Yourself.” She said, “Preach ahead of yourself. Preach what you hope to know again one day. Preach the confidence for which you long. Preach the promises awaiting fulfillment. Preach the peace that seems utterly elusive. Preach the practices you follow, despite the bone-dry life on which they leave no imprint” (147).
I encourage you to read this book at your own pace, and then to pass this book along to someone you know who needs to read it too.

Book Review-When God Was a Little Girl

When God Was a Little Girl 
David R. Weiss
Illustrations by Joan Hernandez Lindeman

The story of creation is told from the imaginations of a father and daughter in this beautifully written and illustrated book. You’ll want to read this one again and again with a child you love or you might find yourself reading it by yourself. The starting point for this story is the creation stories of Genesis. From that foundation, the words and images jump off the page as the joy of creation comes to life. God’s creative Spirit shines through this book. You will know in your heart that creation is good and you are loved by the God of all creation when you finish reading this book.
Enjoy!

Book Review-What Did Jesus Ask?

What Did Jesus Ask?

Christian Leaders Reflect on His Questions of Faith

Edited by Elizabeth Dias


Jesus asked many questions. Our faith leaves us living those questions and wondering how best to live as his disciples. Each chapter of this book is a short reflection on a question Jesus asked. The voices who wrote the reflections are diverse in all ways except all being Christians. You may recognize some of the authors and others voices will leave you wanting to know more about them. You could read this book quickly or savor it. You could use this book to open a meeting, as a starting question for Sunday School or as themes for a sermon series. This book does not answer the questions Jesus asked instead it invites us to ponder the questions and ask more questions.
In this book are theological positions with which I disagree and even in those essays, I found truths that ring true. This book forced me to read essays with which I agree and disagree and to think and ponder with the authors.
This is a book for anyone who wants to dive in Scripture in a different way. You’ll enjoy this journey along with fellow believers. Your faith will be challenged and strengthened by exploring the questions Jesus asked.
Sister Simone Campbell pushed me to be extravagantly generous and be grateful for the extravagant generosity of others.
Yvette Flunder said, “Any theology that suggests that God receives some and rejects others is not reflective of the ministry of Jesus Christ” (81). I read these words on a night when I needed to be reminded of this fundamental truth.
Carrie Newcomer said, “I know when the world feels anything less than miraculous to me, I’m probably not paying attention” (105). You’ll enjoy one of Carrie’s song here- https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2qZyoRiBteI
Dhyanchand Carr reflects on the Good Samaritan and leaves us with this challenge, “So maybe, rather than simply drawing a lesson to be compassionate toward the less fortunate, we should reflect on the great and immeasurable love of God which transcends all legitimate and difficult barriers and reaches out to us” (176).
I struggled with these words from Rudy Rasmus, “The truth of the matter is, no one really knows what the impetus was for Judas’ actions, but we do know that either failure, shame, or remorse caused him to take his own life, subsequently killing the prospects of hope for reconciliation, restoration, and the truth to ever manifest” (206). In response to this I say, I do not believe it is ever too late for reconciliation or restoration in our relationship with God. Why do we limit God and God’s love for each and every one of us?
I had to force myself to keep reading the essay that began with these words, “You do not expect a priest to be formed by a woman” (216). I wanted to scream at the author why not? I kept reading his story searching for the good news among the pain his words caused me.
I struggle with what changes I need to make in my own life to live out these words. “If we choose not to care, then we are no longer indifferent onlookers; we are in fact active aggressors. If we do not allay the pain of others, then we are contributing to the suffering of our world. If we do not choose to heal the suffering around us, then ultimately we do not want to be healed. Like Christ, then, it is our vocation and  obligation to seek out the oppressed and to discern the consequences of our actions. If we do not work for the welfare of our world, then we do not genuinely desire to be well. In our efforts for healing and reconciliation, we must ask ourselves difficult questions about lifestyle and habits. Just how prepared are we to sacrifice our excessive lifestyles–that is to say, when will we learn to say, “Enough!”–in order for others to enjoy the basic right to survive?” (229-230).

Book Review-The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

You will like Arthur Pepper. He is a man trying to find his place in the world after his wife dies. He begins to question everything he thought he knew about his wife after discovering a unique piece of jewelry she owned. This discovery leads him on a quest to know his wife better. It makes him question how well he knew her. It makes him wonder why she married him. Arthur reminds us that grief and learning to live again look different for each of us. Join Arthur as he grieves the wife he lost, the changes in his life, and the chances he takes to live again.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves to read a good book. This book is written for anyone who is grieving the loss of someone you love or wants to support someone who is grieving. You should read this book because you need to meet Arthur Pepper.
Someone else’s review ended this way, “The author’s outlook remains relentlessly upbeat, and in the end, this sentimental novel is as cozy and fortifying as a hot cup of tea on a cold afternoon.” So, I recommend you fix yourself a cup of tea and read this book!