A friend of mine recently found herself at the beach, and so she stopped at the wonderful Browse About Books to see what wonders were contained there. As you might expect from a friend of mine, she purchased many books. She was kind enough to allow me to read one of her new purchases, Miracle Man. This is a wonderful children’s book that brings the story of Jesus to life in modern language and colorful illustrations. It is short enough to read with a child while still including many familiar parts of the Gospel stories. The author admits he could not share every story from the Gospels and yet he does a great job of highlighting the story of Jesus in a short story form. You will enjoy the artwork and the way the art and story blend seamlessly. This is a great book for a church library or your home bookshelf.
We are all grieving. We do not get over grief. We learn to live in our new normal.
In my work as a hospice chaplain, I help people to name their grief and decide how to respond. Whenever life does not happen as we planned or hoped, we may grieve for what will not be.
Too often, we are told grief is linear. As if we can move through the correct steps of grief to come out the other end or to the finish line and be grief-free. Grief does not work like that. We circle around and around. We feel better and are sad again. We cry and smile. We scream and wonder why. Grief is unique to each person and circumstance. We need to acknowledge and accept each other’s grief.
In order to invite you to think about grief and possibly think about it differently, I encourage you to listen to this amazing conversation about grief. Pauline Boss, The Myth of Closure from On Being with Krista Tippett
A Prayer for All of Us
You are the constant in our lives. You love us every second of every minute. From you, we learned to love. This loves that brings us so much joy also brings us pain and heartbreak. You know our hurts and our grief. We grieve the changing of relationships and we know that people are not the only cause of our grief. God, you know that changes cause grief even when we know the changes are good. While it is difficult to thank you for the pain of grief, we do thank you, Gracious God, for our ability to love and adapt and change.
We bring our grief to you-
for relationships that ended,
for chances we did not take,
for loved ones who died,
for new jobs and new schools,
for the ends and the beginnings,
for the things we are no longer able to do,
for the times we are told no,
and for anything else that causes us grief, we give to you, God.
Continue to walk with us on this journey, Faithful God, as we grow, change, and grieve. Amen.
Dancing with Jesus by Sam Stall
Are you looking for the perfect gift for your pastor? Here it is. In this short board book you’ll find dance moves paired with Bible stories. What’s not to love? Warning-Some people will find this book sacrilegious and inappropriate, however, I think we need to laugh. My favorite dances are The Pilate Shuffle and The Apostolic Conga. In The Pilate Shuffle, you get to shuffle around the dance floor, wash your hands, and act like a chicken (see Matthew 27:24-26 for a sampling of Pilate’s part in the story). To do the Apostolic Conga and bring more people to Jesus, you start a conga line and invite others to join you. It is obviously one way of living out the great commission from Matthew 28: 19-20.
This book makes the people and stories of the gospels come alive (Lazarus even makes an appearance) with humor and wit. I highly recommend this book as a gift for the pastor or seminarian who needs a laugh and, maybe, some new dance moves.
Way to Live: Christian Practices for Teens
Dorothy C. Bass and Don C. Richter, editors
This fall I began a youth ministry position after the program year had begun. I needed a resource that would jump start my planning each week. This book was that lifesaver. In this book, each chapter is written by adult and teens around a topic of faith. When combined with the leader’s guide, each topic can fill a full night of youth group or a Sunday morning class time.
This book is not new. It was published in 2002, so you will need to update some things. However, you will still find that the struggles and concerns that youth face are much the same.
And even if you don’t work with you, this is a good read for anyone. One of my favorite chapters is Stuff. Like so many people, I have too much stuff. This chapter reminded us to think about not just the quantity of your stuff but the quality. Is the stuff you own making the world better for others? Do you purchase stuff that can be used for years, was created in safe environment by people paid a living wage, and is something that brings you joy? “Stuff belongs to God. Stuff is for sharing. God will provide the stuff. Keep the stuff in perspective” (62-63).
This book will open your eyes to God in the everyday questions and situations of life. I highly recommend it to anyone who works with youth. I highly recommend this as a slightly different read for those of you who want to ask questions of God about your regular life. I highly recommend reading this with the leader’s guide and doing the activities and worship described. Give this book a read!
God is Disappointed in You
Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler
While searching for inspiration for our weekly youth gatherings, I found this book. Inside you’ll find 18 lessons on themes like dating, employment, gifts, risk and weakness. This book is written to be used in a coffee shop ministry with youth. You could take the book to the coffee shop, open it up, and lead a discussion with little to no preparation. I’m using the book a bit differently. For three weeks in April, we are focusing on the themes of Doubt, Friendship, and Servant. I’m using the book as a guide and jumping off place.
And for Doubt, it was very helpful. We began by playing a game of I Believe It/I Doubt It. I updated the questions found in the book. Here’s an example, according to the CDC 20 Americans are killed each year by cattle. Although it sounds strange, it is true. I had hoped to play a game of I Doubt It (the card game I knew as BS growing up), but we didn’t have enough time. I altered the Table Notes activity by having them draw a picture of themselves and then write or draw their doubts around themselves. While this was happening, I played Nickel Creek’s song, Doubting Thomas. Then we shared some of our doubts with the group. Next we turned to Scripture and read the story of Thomas (John 20:24-29) and to remind us that others doubted too we read Matthew 28:16-17. We ended our time together with a prayer thanking God for accepting our doubts and love us still.
This book is an affordable way to introduce some different topics into your youth ministry. It is part of a whole series of affordable books by this author. It works well as it is written or can be added and changed to meet the needs of your youth. I’m looking forward to using it over the next few weeks to explore more topics. I recommend this book for any youth ministry that needs some new ideas or wants to try something a little different.
Medicine as Ministry: Reflections on Suffering, Ethics, and Hope
Margaret E. Mohrmann, M.D.
This book has a price tag from Eden Seminary and highlights that end less than halfway through the book. This book reads like it would be better as a series of lectures and maybe that is why I didn’t finish it in seminary. And even though it is short, it was not a fast read for me.
As I was reading this book, my husband, a pharmacist, was presenting at a conference. The topic was “to dispense or not to dispense.” Pharmacists have a “right to refuse” to dispense a medication. A pharmacist might refuse because the prescription looks forged or the patient has refilled too many times recently. Sometimes a medication would not be dispensed because the pharmacist has a religious objection to the medication. My husband was encouraging the other pharmacists to explore how their faith and scientific knowledge influenced their decision to dispense or not dispense. As I listened to a small group conversation about this topic, I heard absolutes and standing firm in faith. For some gathered, changing the circumstances didn’t change anything.
This is the opposite approach from Medicine as Ministry which argues that each person/patient has her/his own story. We cannot treat or participate in the healing without hearing the story. The parts of the book where she focused on each life story were my favorite parts of the book.
Because there are great ideas in this book, I recommend that we need to see each other as those whom God loves when caring for each other. I want to remember the idea that there are times I am the Samaritan and times I need someone else to be the Samaritan. I want to listen for the stories of each life when helping a person make important decisions. Although I highly recommend some of the ideas from this book, I struggle to recommend the book. It was difficult for me to read and finish despite all the good ideas it contained.
“The question is, ‘How shall I live the life I have?’ Health-seeking behavior is not death prevention; it is life enhancement (21).
“We shall not always–in fact, we shall rarely–get from our reading of scripture either direct answers or magical formulas that solve all our ethical problems. Rather, what we shall always obtain there is a dawning understanding of who God is, of how God acts with us, and of how we, therefore, are to act with each other” (59).
As one who commutes, I try to use my car time wisely. I was delighted to receive the gift of Great Figures of the New Testament by Amy-Jill Levine. Each of the 24 lectures are about 30 minutes long. This collection is part of The Great Courses series, and I highly recommend it.
I first heard Professor Levine speak while I was seminary student. When she speaks her intelligence and depth of knowledge shines through and she speaks well to her target audience. In these lectures, she would refer back to something she’d already explained and also give you a quick reminder. This study is perfect for beginning Bible students as well as those who have studied the Bible for years.
She took stories and people I have studied and brought fresh insights. For example in the story of the Good Samaritan, she said that too often when we tell it we don’t emphasize how much the Jews and Samaritans hated each other. “Who do you despise so much that you’d rather die than let that person help you?” Wow. That made me stop and think more about this story.
The CDs come with a course guidebook which gives you the scope, outline, suggested further readings, and questions for each lecture.
I would recommend these lectures for anyone who wants to dive deeper into the Bible. I would recommend these lectures for anyone who wants a refresher course with new insights into some of the most familiar people in the New Testament. I would recommend these lectures for Bible study groups who like to learn together and for individuals who prefer to learn alone. I highly recommend this course.
The Way of Tea and Justice: Rescuing the World’s Favorite Beverage from Its Violent History Becca Stevens
You know how easy it is to ignore problems other people have? It is easy until you stop seeing the people as other. Until your eyes are opened to the truth. Thoughts like this were why I didn’t want to start reading this book about tea and justice. I love tea. And when my eyes are really opened to the problems that still plague the tea industry, I may have to stop drinking one of my favorites. This makes me sad, and yet I believe I was created to live in relationship with creation and with all those God created. I need to be informed. I need to let my eyes be opened. And so I began to read…
In these pages the author weaves together many stories, and it works. While tracing the history of tea, we journey with the women of Thistle Farms and Magdalene as the idea of a teahouse called The Thistle Stop Cafe is birthed into being. In these stories my eyes were opened to stories different than my own. And yet in the differences, I also found similarities. In these pages you’ll meet women who are seeking to be all God has created them to be. You’ll read about the struggle to create a tea shop where stories and justice are served in each cup. You’ll see faith and the stories of the Bible interpreted through the eyes of one who is called by God to love others, seek justice, and walk humbly with God. And if you are anything like me, you’ll find yourself laughing, smiling, crying, and cheering for the success of this little cafe and all the amazing women. You’ll make yourself another cup of tea and keep reading.