Christmas Hymns of Faith

With my day to post on Christmas Eve, I just couldn’t write about a favorite vintage book. December 24 is as much of a holy day on the Christian calendar as is Christmas Day. In fact, the two days together create a most holy time rivaled only by Holy Week leading up to Easter.


What better way to acknowledge this sacred time than to look at a few centuries-old hymns celebrating the birth of our Lord? I love at least a dozen, having sung them since I knew how to carry a tune. I’ve picked three.


“O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” I fell in love with this melody in a minor key the first time I was allowed to attend the midnight Christmas Eve service. Within the lyrics, I recognized how the people ached for Messiah’s arrival. They mourned in lonely exile. They begged Him to end all envy, strife, and quarrels. I felt their pain, and at the same time, I was filled with joy. For Messiah came! He answered their prayers! And I reap the benefits of His arrival, and subsequent sacrifice, on earth.

credit to: dewthis.blogspot.com

“Angels We Have Heard on High.” Every verse is filled with the story of the angels proclaiming Christ’s birth: they appeared to the shepherds, the shepherds were jubilant, and they were invited to see the newborn Messiah for themselves. The final stanza invites all of us to find this joy for ourselves.

But it was the “Glorias” that hooked me. What a thrill to take a deep breath and then belt out “GLO—————-RIA!” My little girl worship soared to the heavens, and I knew Jesus was pleased. Kind of like what the Little Drummer Boy felt–but I’m not going to choose his song today.

joy-to-the-world

“Joy to the World!” This hymn is so familiar, I tend to take it for granted, but when I consider the words, oh my! The words are why we sing it so often! Be joyful! The Lord has come. Even the rocks cry out! He’s broken the curse! We have the best ruler the world has ever known or will ever know! And He loves us beyond what we can imagine. Lots of exclamation points. I don’t know how to skimp on exclamation points with such a hymn! One is even included in the title.
It’s certainly worth your time to go over the words in these hymns with your children. Each is an individual sermon.
Which hymn would you choose to share with your child in detail? And why?
Have a blessed Christmas!

Advertisements

6 Dates to Disaster

51gkvseyi7l-_sx322_bo1204203200_

6 Dates to Disaster by Cynthia T Toney is a thought-provoking book for high school students. Wendy is coasting through the last weeks of school eager for her family trip to Alaska to see Mrs. V and Sam. Unfortunately, financial struggles threaten that dream. Wendy is determined to figure out a way to get to Alaska. When a job opportunity from a classmate looks like the ideal way, Wendy is forced to consider whether or not it’s too good to be true. There’s also a fun mystery involving a jewelry box, and Wendy’s former best friend has a new boyfriend who is bad news.

Pros: See my comment below about one of the main plot points related to a scandal that arises as a result from Wendy’s tutoring job. The ensuing ethical dilemma was thought-provoking. Cynthia creates strong and fun characters. Her stories are humorous and realistic but are clean and morally uplifting. Wendy’s stepdad looses his job threatening her summer plans. Consequently Wendy pitches in to earn money for her Alaska trip to see Mrs. V. David and Wendy handle coupledom without being too physical or dramatic. Wendy is a big-hearted girl, especially when it comes to her stepsister Alice and her former best friend Jen.

Cons: Not too many. There are a few ethical things that come up. The aforementioned plot point of Wendy’s tutoring job. Also, Jen gets involved with an older boy who is a bad influence. There’s alcohol involved, which is handled very well. It’s clear that underage drinking shouldn’t be condoned and that drinking and driving is extremely dangerous. David and Wendy kiss and physical temptation (at a very PG level) comes up. The two “put on the brakes” fast so the story doesn’t go far with this.

Rating: 5 Stars. I bought a copy of this book and will buy other copies for teens. It’s definitely a book for high school kids, possibly seventh or eighth graders. There’s nothing really inappropriate in the subject matter. However, it’s is a bit too mature for kids any younger than this.

Personal Opinion: I’m a big fan of the Bird Face series and 6 Dates doesn’t disappoint. Wendy is as funny and plucky as ever. Alice is sweet. David, Gail, etc. round out a strong supporting cast. Without spoiling anything, we’re reunited with several characters from 8 Notes to a Nobody (Book 1).

Discussion points for parents & teachers:

  1. Job Loss
  2. Family
  3. Dating/Relationships
  4. Academic Dishonesty
  5. Underage Drinking/Drinking and Driving
  6. Integrity
  7. Priorities

Most of all, Wendy’s dilemma about her tutoring job challenged me. She is concerned that she’s doing too much for the students she’s tutoring.  As an adult, I didn’t see anything wrong with what Wendy did. However, I had to step back and put myself in the shoes of a high school student. While adult writers might hire an editor or someone in another profession might have a peer or senior colleague review their work and mark it up with corrections and suggestions, that isn’t really the role of a tutor. They’re just supposed to help a student understand concepts not heavily correct or even rewrite assignments.

Cynthia T. Toney

Blog:  http://birdfacewendy.wordpress.comFacebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/birdfacewendy

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/CynthiaTToney

Twitter:  @CynthiaTToney

 Instagram:  @CynthiaTToney

Pinterest:  Cynthia T. Toney, YA Author

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Image result for inside out & back again

Ten year old Ha and her family have to flee Saigon during the Vietnam war. They are one of the lucky ones who make it out before their home is destroyed. In America though, Ha considers herself the unluckiest girl in the world. Tormented by bullies and missing the familiar of her home she struggles to find her place.

Pros: Again. Beautiful cover. Full of so much life and really speaks to the core of the story. This book is about a ten year old but the subject matter gripped me and I’m sure it would any teen. It’s written in free form poetry so it is a quick easy read but it’s full of so much to ponder and chew on. Ha and her family are very real and deal with very serious situations but it’s presented in a very gentle way.

Cons: There is a church scene where Ha and her family are required to be baptized in order to be accepted into the community. It is not judgemental. It is from the viewpoint of a child that does not know why getting dunked in water makes her acceptable. The Lord’s name is used in vain once in response to the student’s mocking her about “Boo-dah” over and over again.

Rating: I would rate this PG 13 as it does deal with real emotional topics and there is the use of the Lord’s name in vain. Although, I think the way it’s presented in the book is a great springboard to discuss other religions with a teen.

Personal Opinion: I really liked this book. Got teary near the end as Ha dealt with one obstacle after another. It’s also great to see the other side of the Vietnam war. A side that included real people who lost their homes and families. It is an easy read but there is so much packed in there that I’m certain this is a book that I will read again and again to peel back another layer of the onion.

Discussion points for parents & teachers:

  1. Vietnam war
  2. Belonging
  3. Bullying
  4. Loss
  5. Being different/accepting people who are different

pic-and-bio

 

 

The White Water Fountain: A Tale of Innocence Destroyed

Vintage reads

 

Last month I shared the childhood story of my education into the world of racial prejudice (The Colored Water Fountain: A Tale of Innocence). I told you it was a set-up for the book review in a future post. I decided to make it book reviews—two middle grade novels by Mildred D. Taylor, Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry and Let the Circle Be Unbroken.

Middle-graders are ready to expand their horizons past their own homes and friends, to take on the deep questions of life and decide how they will choose to live. Taylor’s books are a great start in helping them examine the concept of prejudice.

roll-of-thunder

Set in the Depression Era, the books follow an African American family in the Deep South, poor in possessions but rich in love, who have the rare distinction of owning their land, much to the chagrin of the white plantation owners surrounding them.

Both stories are narrated by Cassie Logan. From her earliest memories, Cassie knows she must steer clear of trouble from whites because whenever there is a showdown, the Negroes lose. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry starts when Cassie is nine. The main story follows events leading up to the murder of a white man and ending with a black teenager wrongly convicted of the crime. As we read, we live what Cassie lives—her fears, her pride, and her anger at how unfair life is for black families.

We also see the white culture of the time—the raw power of the landowners, the hate and arrogance in the hearts of so many men, women, and children, and the woefully few who see the injustice. The last group lives between a rock and a hard place. If they try to stop the evil, night riders destroy their homes and livelihoods, and they lose every person who might have been called a friend.

elliott_erwitt_segregated_water_fountains_north_carolina_1255_67-water-fountains

The novel also contains its own water fountain scene. While my tale from last month was humorous, Cassie’s story could have been tragic. She saw a water fountain in the courthouse, and she was thirsty. Only it was a WHITE water fountain. As she stepped up to it, her white friend yanked her backward and hauled her out of the courthouse before anyone saw she was in the hallway much less ready to drink from their fountain. He deposited Cassie with her older brother Stacey, who was furious. With her. When Stacey pointed out she could have been hanged for using that fountain and Jeremiah had saved her life, any hope she ever had of being considered equal with whites died on the courthouse lawn that day.

Let the Circle Be Unbroken continues the story of Cassie’s family. She’s eleven now, a little wiser, closer to womanhood. Stacey warns her she can’t be friends with Jeremiah, who is always nice to their family. The black man has learned by experience, that even if the white man seems friendly, you never know when he’ll buckle under the pressure of his own culture.

Against his parents’ wishes, Stacey leaves home determined to help the family earn money. His father knows a black boy on his own is easy prey for unscrupulous white bosses. He follows every lead to find Stacey and bring him home. While mother and father search, Cassie and her younger brothers learn several lessons about surviving in an unfriendly world.

Taylor has written other books about the Logan family over the course of twenty years. She gives us an eye-opening and heartwarming view into the heritage of African Americans. When she must describe a violent scene, her words pack an emotional punch instead of embellishing every bloody detail. Her message goes beyond the sting of racial conflicts and offers hope to humanity through the deep questions of right and wrong, good and evil, and the light of individuals who choose to do right.

Write, Run, Live: My New Adventure 


A couple of my favorite Bible verses are “13Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a]that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV) and one of my favorite books is The Pilgrim’s Progress. This evening I will begin an amazing adventure that is the answer to a prayer I didn’t even officially pray!

Our church offers a 2-year leadership training for the men in our church called Timothy Leadership Training or TLT based off these verses. Two years and my husband was tapped to do it and it was life-changing for us and our marriage.

Now they’re starting one for women. I am so excited about this opportunity and humbled that I was selected. The best part is that we’re doing mostly the same books the men did, weighty books on topics like spiritual discipline and church doctrine.

I was telling someone about the Ladies’ Leadership Training (LLT), and the person made a comment about there being good books for women in leadership. I was kind of irritated and insulted. I get so frustrated that somehow I’m supposed to fit into this nice “church lady” mold. I’m supposed to love playing with babies, sing in the choir, and get “the feels” in Bible study to the point that I need a tissue for something other than seasonal allergies. I don’t want to study something geared for women like some Victorian who can’t handle “the men’s version”. I want to study the authoritative books used in seminaries. And for those of you who went to Steve Laube’s session at Realm Makers 2016, a couple of the titles we’ll be studying are on his recommended reading list. Spiritual disciplines is one of them.

As for being like most women, I don’t like kids until they can read chapter books, I’m painfully tone deaf, and I want to study deep stuff. Dig into God’s word, preferably one that requires using Vine’s Bible dictionary and Strong’s concordance. I want to learn, be challenged, struggle, and ultimately change. The reason Matthew 7:13-14 appeals to me is that I see my daily walk as a quest. One with dragons and sorcerers and dark cloaked in light. Enemies to defeat. Innocents to rescue. And to come through the battle stronger than when I entered.

I love theology and Bible study. My mentor and I are wrapping up The Cost of Discipleship right now. A couple of years ago, I read Eric Metaxas’s Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, SpyIt’s one of the best biographies I’ve ever read. If I have to face persecution, I want to go down fighting!

What are some of your favorite Bible study books?

 

Skellig

Written by David Almond

                                                          skellig

“I thought he was dead. He was sitting with his legs stretched out and his head tipped back against the wall. He was covered with dust and webs like everything else and his face was thin and pale. Dead bluebottles were scattered on his hair and shoulders. I shined the flashlight on his white face and his black suit.”

Michael has reluctantly moved across town to a new house. His baby sister is very ill and his parents are devastated and distracted, leaving Michael depressed and without his old friends. Exploring the overgrown yard, he ventures into a dilapidated garage. He discovers, under cobwebs and dead insects, a strange creature that resembles a weak old man named Skellig. He is such a pathetic being that Michael starts to take care of him. When Michael meets a neighbour, Mina, and he introduces her to Skellig. They move the winged creature to a safer place and take care of him until he starts to gain strength. Michael wonders if Skellig is part angel. Desperately hoping his sister survives a heart operation, Michael tells the creature about her. During the baby’s operation, Michael is sure she has died, but the baby lives, and the mom describes a vivid dream she had in the hospital of a winged creature visiting the baby before the operation. Skellig disappears but the healthy baby arrives home and the family is whole again.

Pros: The cover attracted me first, but soon the lyrical prose drew me in to the characters and the mystery of what and who Skellig was. Was it human, bird, angel or all of the above? The book is very clearly written from a boy’s perspective and voice, and rings genuine. Michael’s family is going through a lot of tension with the baby’s illness, and the mental anguish they are all going through is palpable. But the theme of the power of love carries through to the very satisfying end.

Cons: Michael and Mina associated with this strange human-like creature and hid this fact from their parents, so parents of younger children would have to remind them to never talk to strangers.

Personal Opinion: This is a very well written book with mystery, good character development and suspense, but more than that, Skellig can appeal to both YA and MG readers on different levels. The adventure of finding a mysterious creature in a scary place would appeal to the younger crowd and the lyrical prose and deeper themes would appeal to the older crowd. Skellig has won two awards and was nominated for five more, so this should give readers an idea of how popular the book has been. And I would agree wholeheartedly with their assessments. I highly recommend this book.

Discussion points for parents and teachers:

MG:

  • There are many friendships. Find and discuss three.
  • Michael was very unhappy in the beginning. How did Skellig help him feel better?

YA:

  • Themes are recurrent in the book, like love and nurturing, connections, death, and spiritualism. Choose two and elaborate.
  • The lyrical prose is different from many books. Describe the difference.

lorainekemp1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black, White, Other : In Search of Nina Armstrong by Joan Steinau Lester

Image result for black, white, other

Nina Armstrong is a biracial teen whose mother is white and her father black. Fifteen is already a tough age but now her parents have divorced. Nina struggles to find her place in her family, school and a world where having dark skin labels you as “different”. Can the stories her father tell her about her great-great grandmother’s escape from slavery help her find own identity in a world that has gone crazy?

Pros: First of all, can we not just take a moment to speak of how wonderful this cover is?? Love it! I really like how this book tackles difficult topics without crossing a line for a younger audience. Nina is a very believable character and the layers of different points in history help to make it a rich read.

Cons: There are people who steal and shoplift but it is not condoned. Realistic (and pertinent) violence in the stories of slavery. Suggestion of sexual misconduct by slave owner.

Rating: PG 13 due to the sensetive topic and the realistic portrayal of slave life.

Personal Opinion: This is a well written book that I would recommend to tweens. Because it is written for younger teens those readers who are more mature may not find the tension high enough in this novel. However, this is a great springboard for discussion for those young teens who have questions regarding black history and racial tension today.

Discussion points for parents & teachers: 

  1. Black history
  2. Slavery
  3. Judging someone by how they look
  4. Self Identity (finding out who they are as a person)
  5. Speaking up

pic-and-bio