Hudson Taylor: Deep in the Heart of China is a biography by Janet & Geoff Benge and published by YWAM Publishing (1998). Hudson Taylor grew up in a Christian home in the 19th century, but he was not a believer. Through the prayers of his mother and sisters, Hudson became a devoted follower of Christ and felt a calling to go to China as a missionary.

In his early years, he trained to be a doctor. As he studied, he learned to depend on God with his finances. Sometimes, Hudson had no money to pay for food and his bills, but God was faithful and provided what he needed at just the right time.

On the long and perilous boat ride to China, Hudson and his colleagues witnessed to the crew and later they led them to Christ. When they reached China, the missionaries’ lives were filled with sacrifices, hardship and persecution; but they depended on God and persevered. God was faithful.

These are true and powerful stories of God’s faithfulness when believers put their lives in His hands. It shows what wonderful things He can do when we trust in Him and what it means to truly follow the Lord.

Growing up my parents read missionary stories to my sister and me. It gave us a heart for missions. I recommend reading Hudson Taylor first since his work paved the way for other missionaries. There are over 40 books in this series; Christian Heroes: Then & Now by YWAM Publishing. Hudson Taylor: Deep in the Heart of China is for ages 10 and above and is 208 pages. You can order this book or Books 1-5 as a set, which includes Gladys Aylward, Nate Saint, Amy Carmichael, and Corrie ten Boom.

J. D. Rempel is a graduate of Simpson College. She is working on a middle grade novel and an adult fantasy series. She loves to read and started a library at her church. She enjoys working with her husband in youth ministry. She also enjoys spending time with and taking care of her turtle, Applesauce.

 

John Bunyan was a religious dissenter in 1600’s England. While imprisoned, he passed much of his time writing The Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the first allegories in Christian history. This classic remains relevant even today, though the language of his time is difficult for modern readers, and some of the historical references may not make sense to us. However, this is a story worth reading.

The Pilgrim’s Progress illustrates the walk of faith from seeker, to believer, and on through the trials and victories of life. It describes the journey as a road through places like “the Wicket-gate,” “the Slough of Despond,” “Vanity Fair,” and “the Delectable Mountain.” We follow Christian on his journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. We fear for him and cheer for him  as he meets obstacles and also many companions on the way, including people named Obstinate, Goodwill, Hypocrite, Watchful, and The Shining Ones. We see him put on the armor of God, use the Key of Promise, and see him met by heavenly hosts. He faces temptation and makes mistakes; he repents and moves on. There are moments of great evil—as when his companion, Faithful, is killed at Vanity Fair.

For young readers, I recommend two other versions of the book, written in the mid-1900s. Pictorial Pilgrim’s Progress (by Moody Publishers) updates the language, while maintaining the entire original story line. Each page contains a line illustration of the text, making the action easy to follow. The costumes reflect the fashions of the time the story was written, and the style has the feel of an old-fashioned adventure tale, complete with fighting between good and evil. Some scenes are rather graphic, so you must decide if your reader is ready for that kind of conflict.

My favorite version is Little Pilgrim’s Progress, updated by Helen L. Taylor, which retells the story through the eyes of children. It, too, is illustrated, and the language is simplified and amplified to make the more abstract concepts accessible to young minds. It is a gentler, but still complete telling of the allegory. For example, when Little Christian’s companion, Faithful, dies, we do not see his death described or illustrated. Little Christian only sees that the angels carry his friend away. Another nice quality of this version is the inclusion of Little Christiana’s story, so that girls as well as boys feel that they may take that journey to the Celestial City.

All versions are saturated with scripture references, and might not be comprehended, at least in full, by a person unfamiliar with Christian beliefs and worldview.

These could be fun read-aloud stories for a family.

The Pilgrim’s Progress, Pictorial Pilgrim’s Progress, and Little Pilgrim’s Progress are all available in paperback on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.com.

Donna Fujimoto’s children love to read. She is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. Her collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge  is available as an e-book at Amazon.  The Shining Orb of Volney, a science-fiction novel, is her latest title. 

Nancy:  A new movie that bases itself (loosely or not we cannot say yet) on Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace is due in theaters on August 19. I thought some of you might want to read Donna’s review of the book. The novel, it has been reported, has a different emphasis from both the present film and the 1959 version.

Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace, is a much beloved and acclaimed story read by millions. It begins with the retelling of the nativity of Christ and then moves into the life of Judah Ben Hur, a wealthy young man living in first century Jerusalem. Messala, his boyhood friend and a Roman, returns from soldiering, changed in his view of the world. When he cannot convince Ben Hur to embrace his cause, Messala betrays his friend, sending him on a journey through trials and victories. Eventually the two men face each other once more, meeting as opponents in a high-stakes chariot race.

Now also a man, Christ re-enters the narrative. His gentle influence has a profound effect on Ben Hur. Wallace illustrates how choices for good or evil, when fully embraced, mark a person’s life.

The author tells a compelling tale, particularly in his ability to define the inner journey, not only of the hero, but also of a large cast of supporting characters. Vivid scenes stay with the reader after the book is closed. However, the style of writing reflects the tastes of Wallace’s time (1880s). By current standards it may seem wordy and slow. The point of view is omniscient, which is rarely employed in contemporary books. Although historical and political details are meticulously researched, personal and cultural descriptions seem more imaginative than realistic.

Another feature distinguishing Ben Hur from modern novels is the explanation, once conflicts are past, of what happens to characters followed faithfully through its pages. Ben Hur, rather than leaving the reader wanting more, offers satisfaction that the story is complete.

Donna Fujimoto’s children love to read. She is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. Her collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge  is available as an e-book at Amazon.  The Shining Orb of Volney, a science-fiction novel, is her latest title. 

 

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown is the true story of nine young men who electrify the rowing sports world by winning Olympic gold. (Brown’s book has been adapted for young readers by Gregory Mone and is published by Puffin, 2016.) The story focuses on the number two man in the boat, Joe Rantz

Joe grew up trusting no one. When he was about four years old, his mother died of cancer, and his father abandoned him. Joe’s older brother, a college student, was unable to care for his younger sibling. Joe took the train across the country to live with an aunt for about a year. Then his father came back to the eastern Washington area, with a new Canadian wife.

She did not like Joe from day one and this would put a wedge in Joe’s relationship with his father. She would demand that Joe’s father abandon Joe two more times, once when he was age 10 and again at age 15. Joe learned not to trust anyone, and to make his own way. He did meet one very important person. In Idaho he met Joyce, an understanding young woman who would become his wife.

At age 17, Joe left Idaho to live with his brother, a teacher at Roosevelt High School in the state of Washington. Joe was accepted to the University of Washington during the Great Depression. He would need to find a job to pay for his education. If he could make the freshmen crew team, he would get a job with the university helping him to pay for college. After months of hard practice on the icy lake near the university, he and seven others made the freshmen crew team.

The freshmen managed to win the races that counted, even against the formidable University of California. The boys in the boat struggled during practice and the coaches were perplexed. Joe seemed to struggle the most. He needed to figure something out that would take him to the top. He needed to trust the other members of the team, but he still trusted no one. In the middle of Joe’s sophomore year, his stepmother died and his father mended his relationship with Joe. His father even watched the races near his house where there was a race course.

During their junior year, the Washington crew was becoming established as the one which would make the 1936 Olympic trials.  But the team would have to beat the University of California crew. The two battled it out with Washington coming out on top. The junior crew won the national championship, earning them a spot at the Olympic trials.

The east coast teams were supposed to be the best, but Washington once again came out on top, securing the opportunity to represent the United States in Berlin. However, the U. S. Olympic Committee was not going to send them unless they could raise the funds to pay for their transportation. The east coast teams had members who could and would pay. When the University of Washington heard about this, the school was outraged. The school agreed to raise the money and in a few days they had enough to send their boys to the Olympics.

The University of Washington team was not expected to medal. Great Britain and Italy were tough competitors. Then there was the feared German team, claiming they were the best in the world. When the boys got to the games it seemed the German team was the best. The United States won a spot in the finals, but they were still considered the underdogs. The climactic moment in the book is the race.

The Boys in the Boat: The True Story of An American Team’s Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics, is a great read for middle school and high school boys. (A version of this same story is also available for adults: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, Penguin Books, 2014.)

The book shows the power of forgiveness and trust. It shows that teamwork and dedication are key to winning. There are some themes in the book that talk about the Great Depression and the pre-World War II era which may be  need to be discussed with younger children who are not familiar with this period of history. There is a glossary of rowing terms in the back of the book that I found very helpful. Also I encourage people to remember that 2016 is the 80th anniversary of the Berlin Games.

From Nancy–There are a several youtubes of the race that your reader might want to check out. The following is a link to one of them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk3JzMVGe00

Kristina O’Brien is the mother of three children, twin girls and a boy. She is an avid reader and a credentialed teacher. She has taught both middle school and high school history.

Larkspur Cove by Lisa Wingate and published by Bethany House Publishers (2011) is the perfect summer read. It contains romance, suspense, beautiful descriptions of summer on a lake, and spiritual renewal for the main characters. You will enjoy the plot development against the backdrop of Moses Lake, Texas. The novel will also encourage you. Tragedy has entered the characters’ lives, but the story offers that renewal and healing can still take place as we trust in the Lord.

Andrea Henderson and her fourteen-year-old son, Dustin, move back to the home of her childhood summers and into her parent’s lake house. Andrea is disillusioned. Her husband has betrayed her. He was living a double life, involved in cheating his company and his marriage. Now divorced and on her own, Andrea has landed a job with Child Protective Services in the area and wants to make the most of it.

Game warden Mart McClendon is also new to Moses Lake. He is trying to forget the accident that took the lives of his brother and nephew. He feels somewhat responsible for this accident.  He and Andrea are both close to forty years old. He meets Andrea when Dustin and some of Dustin’s new friends disobey the lake boating rules. Mart wants Dustin to take a water safety course and offers to drive him there since his mother works full time.

Dustin’s father has promised a visit to his place this summer, but so far, he isn’t returning Dustin’s calls. Andrea is skeptical that Dustin’s father will fulfill his promise, and tries to encourage Dustin to make new friends and try some new activities. They meet Reverend Hay, who encourages Dustin to help with the sound system for the next theater production at church.

Near the beginning of the story, a mysterious little girl is seen with the town’s recluse, Len. Len is fairly reliable, but slow of speech, and his household is in tremendous disarray. Mart and Andrea come together to figure out the situation and try to help out. They are drawn together and develop an attraction for one another. They both walked in faith at one time, but disappointments and attitude issues have clouded the light of God’s grace.

The plot becomes more involved and there are some close calls, which I will let you discover on your own. Larkspur Cove ends happily, with God once again in the center of the main character’s lives and young Dustin happily settling into his new area.

I enjoyed the descriptions in this story. I could picture the lake, the area and the people. I also learned a lot from the lessons the characters learned. I know you will enjoy this story as much as I did. I would recommend this book for women or men eighteen years old and up.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

 

 

When I opened my email on Saturday morning this was in my Inbox. It’s from National Center for Biblical Parenting. I thought the info was so helpful that I want to share it. I hope it helps you with the children in your life and I hope its thoughts encourage and strengthen you in your own life. BTW: I regularly receive parenting tips from this group. If you would like to get them as well, you may sign up. https://www.biblicalparenting.org/parentingtips.asp  –Nancy

Dealing With Fear After Tragedy

Day to day life provides opportunities to teach children about God. It’s the job of parents to frame the picture of world events, to help children understand life from God’s point of view. Teachable moments become available in times of crisis. That doesn’t mean that you preach or lecture. It means that you ask questions and carefully share information that can guide your children to right thinking.

Keep your child’s developmental stage in mind. Teens need to wrestle with conflicting values and benefit from open honest discussions. Younger children are concrete thinkers and see the world differently than adults. For example, a young child may not understand that the repeated videos on TV are all showing the same scene that is now over – it’s not happening over and over again.

So what do you say? How do you respond to their questions? How can you draw your children into productive discussions? What kinds of things can you do that will help your kids during this time?

Here are some ideas to consider when helping children deal with fear and questions about world events:

•  Explain that the world isn’t out of control and help put these events into perspective. Pray with your kids for those directly involved in the tragedy. Pray for those who are hurt, those who are grieving, those who are frightened, and those who are “the helpers” onsite caring for others.

•  Be careful about lying to your children by saying, “It’s all okay.” Your children can see that things aren’t okay. In fact, this kind of statement can be counterproductive and cause children to feel like they can’t trust you, further increasing feelings of insecurity.

•  God is with us always. We can trust him. His angels protect us. God loves us and cares for us and he is in charge (Psalm 46). God is not surprised or caught off guard. God is very present in times of tragedy and available to touch hearts and bring comfort.

•  Answer your child’s questions. Explain the details briefly in clear terms and then focus on the good that we see in God and in the people who are helping.

•  The solution for fear is to learn to trust. Trust is the ability to release control to another. Children can learn to trust when they take small steps of risk and have positive experiences over a period of time. Gently encourage children to take small risks of separation and then provide the comfort they need. During that process children need a lot of parental love, patience, encouragement, and support. Remember, it’s God’s presence that helps us through difficult times.

For other suggestions about helping children deal with anger, fear, and grief, consider the book Parenting is Heart Work, by Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN. After all, emotions reside in the heart, and learning to connect with kids on a heart level can help them explore emotions in a healthy way.

                                           

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is I Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

 

In The Prince Warriors, Xavier and Evan and their friends, Brianna and Levi, are transported to the world of Ahoratos. A cloaked figure named Ruwach leads them to a cave where he gives them armor and a task. He instructs them to follow the armor. (The armor they are wearing shines a light in the direction where they are to go.) He also shows each of them a phrase in The Book (God’s Word) which will help them on their journey.

Based on Ephesians 6:10-18, the novel is an allegory of the Christian life. The characters learn to face trials while following the truths of the Bible. The path isn’t easy. Sometimes they fail or are misled, but they are always given a way out. There are also consequences for their actions, which effect them in the real world. When they obey the instructions and follow the armor and The Book, they succeed. And once they return to the physical world, they are changed and try to lead others to become Prince Warriors.

Throughout the story, there are verses and teachings about Christian living. An example of this is when one of the characters is instructed to “Lean not on your own understanding.” Some of the other teachings are about working together as a group of believers, showing that as believers we need each other, and also sacrificing ourselves for others. The Prince Warriors is a great resource for discussing with children how they can use God’s Word to face challenges in today’s world.

You can find out more about the characters, the spiritual meanings behind the chapters, and additional material at the book’s website. http://theprincewarriors.com/

The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer with Gina Detwiler is a middle grade fiction novel. Published by B&H Kids (April, 2016), it is 288 pages. It is available through multiple book outlets including Amazon.

J. D. Rempel is a graduate of Simpson College. She is working on a middle grade novel and an adult fantasy series. She loves to read and started a library at her church. She enjoys working with her husband in youth ministry. She also enjoys spending time with and taking care of her turtle, Applesauce.

 

The Baby Wren and the Great Gift was written by Sally Lloyd- Jones and illustrated by Jen Corace. It was published by Zonderkidz in 2016.

Without mentioning God or the Bible, Jones introduces the reader to the wonders of God’s world and how a tiny wren struggles with the question of what she can do that is wonderful. As a backdrop, the monarch milkweed and gurgling river are threaded throughout the story, continuing the theme of God’s amazing world. However, the biggest wonder is the magnificent canyon where the little wren lives. This adds to the contrast of the smallness of the baby wren.

The baby wren peers out from a crevice in the rocks of the canyon and sees many wondrous things, from the blue sky above to two eagles flying on the wind. During a terrifying thunderstorm, she wants to be like the eagles.

Finally, the young wren discovers what she can do that is wonderful. At sunset, she bursts into song that travels throughout the canyon walls and reaches to the sky. This enables the reader to see the beauty that is all around, as well as appreciate the wren’s song.

Two simple words, “Thank You,” expand across the last page and are a great point for ending this story, emphasizing that small isn’t necessarily small.

Jen Corace’s vivid and striking watercolors splash across each page in a stylized manner and enhance the book’s charmingly poetic text.

This beautiful book will delight children, ages four to eight, but adults much older than eight will also find it a delight and a blessing.

BTW: Don’t miss another of Jones’ books, Thoughts to Warm the Heart.

Carol Green, a graduate of Northwestern, is a widow and the mother of three adult children. Her five grandchildren affectionately call her “Grams cracker.” She is the published author of many poems for both adults and children; three coloring books: God Gave Me Five, ABC Fun Book, and Color God’s World Bright; and the picture book: My Mom Loves Me.

Looking for a beach read, a plane read or a commuter train on- your-way-to-work read? A read that will invite you to a new world? a different time? with interesting people? One of the following books may just do that for you. The titles come from the books we have recommended for the College Age/Working Adult. They represent a variety of genres: historical fiction, contemporary romance, nonfiction, science fiction, fantasy, biblical fiction. And we have more titles to suggest. To see all of our recommendations, use the Select Category drop down menu at your left.

The City of Tranquil Light

God’s Smuggler

Longing

Love Finds You in Lahaina, Hawaii

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall

9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge

Oxygen

Pearl in the Sand

Shaken

Sophie’s Heart

With Every Letter

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is I Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

 

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery is a confection of a book! It is full of sweetness, a little bit nutty, with a really nice aftertaste that makes you want more. And there is more!

The author sets her story in rural Canada during the 1800s. Anne Shirley, mistakenly delivered to the home of Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, who wanted to adopt a boy to help with the farm, begs the middle-aged brother and sister to let her stay. Green Gables, a beautiful farm set back from a road near a wood, is all Anne has dreamed of. Although skinny, awkward, and freckled, she is bright, creative and eager to please. Shy Matthew is drawn to her instantly and Marilla is soon convinced that this unlikely event was caused by Divine Providence.

Orphaned in infancy, Anne has been handed from family to family as a caregiver to younger children. She has received almost no affection or education. Her imagination has been the saving grace of her life, keeping up her spirits when all else was dark. Her keen sense of personal dignity makes her over-sensitive to slights from others.  Marilla is determined to give her a proper upbringing, while Matthew delights in spoiling her whenever he can.

From the start, Anne’s imagination and quick temper lead to trouble. She berates Marilla’s friend Mrs. Lynde for pointing out her red hair, but later she makes an elaborate apology that wins Mrs. Lynde’s heart. Anne daydreams while cooking and forgets to put flour in the cake, baking a disaster. She accepts a dare to climb a roof ridgepole and falls, breaking her ankle. She buys dye from a peddler in hopes of getting beautiful black tresses, but the dye turns her hair green! Anne describes all these events in the most elaborate and romantic language she can find, for all of life is so deeply interesting to her. In fact, ordinary-seeming things like ice cream and new clothes seem utterly wondrous to her.

Anne loves school and develops deep friendships, especially with Diana, her “bosom friend.” They are neighbors and spend hours tromping in the woods, writing stories, signaling with candles from their windows and sharing secrets. Anne develops a rivalry over grades with Gilbert Blythe, which makes her excel at academics. She is befriended by the young minister’s wife and the idealistic new school teacher, who encourage her to be her best self. Anne’s flare for the dramatic makes her a favorite at local recitations.

After four years, Anne matures into a much calmer young lady, but still with a flair for getting into unexpected trouble. She has an opportunity to go to college and become a teacher, but with Matthew’s heart condition getting worse and Marilla’s eyesight failing, Anne is torn between her dreams and her duty to the Cuthberts. As sorrows and grown-up responsibilities enter her young life, Anne must make decisions that reveal her heart to those who love her.

There are eight books in the Anne of Green Gables series, all worth reading. However, the first three Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island are the most beloved volumes. In the 1980’s two movies were made based on these books starring the incredible Megan Follows. The first movie closely follows the storyline of Anne of Green Gables.  The second movie combines elements of Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, and Anne of Windy Poplars, along with some creative script writing that keeps in the spirit of the original stories. However, a later movie starring the same principal actors, departs from L. M. Montgomery’s vision of Anne’s life, creating a new storyline.

L. M. Montgomery uses advanced vocabulary, a hallmark of Anne’s character, in all of these books. The author also records the prejudices of that time and place, revealing the characters’ mistrust of anyone who is not Canadian, such as Americans, French, Italians, etc. And, there are interludes in some books where ladies gossip for pages. You may want to point out the problems with this kind of behavior to your children.

The final two books move into the next generation of characters and away from Anne. Rilla of Inglelside—the last in the series— is set in the time of WWI and has many tragic and sad moments that might be hard for younger children. (Books 5-7 are entitled: Anne’s House of Dreams, Anne of Ingleside, and Rainbow Valley.)

Your local library, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.com will all have copies of these books and DVDs. They will give you many enjoyable hours as you walk through the dreams and struggles of young people as their ideals and humor guide them on life’s journey.

Donna Fujimoto’s children love to read. She is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. Her collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge  is available as an e-book at Amazon.  The Shining Orb of Volney, a science-fiction novel, is her latest title. 

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