This is Black History Month here in the States and we can recommend a few books that we think shouldn’t be missed.

For teens:
George Washington Carver: From Slave to Scientist
Why We Can’t Wait
William Wilberforce, Take Up the Fight

For upper elementary school and middle school kids:
Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition
William Wilberforce, Take Up the Fight

Picture Books for younger children:
Didn’t We Have Fun!
Emmanuel’s Dream

A Grace Disguised written by Jerry Sittser and published by Zondervan; Enlarged edition (2004) is a small book about how the soul grows through loss. As Jerry writes, “The experience of loss does not have to be the defining moment in our lives. Instead, the defining moment can be our response to the loss. It is not what happens to us that matters so much as what happens in us.”

On the way home from a family trip to Idaho in 1991, Jerry’s vehicle was struck head on by a drunk driver. Three out of the seven people in the minivan were killed. Jerry had to frantically watch his mother, his wife, and his four-year-old daughter, Diana Jane, pass away. Three of his children survived. Catherine and David the two oldest recovered quickly, but John had serious injuries.

Jerry writes, “In the hours that followed the accident, the initial shock gave way to an unspeakable agony.” With candor, he tells us his crying lasted for about seventy days. However, the darkness of pain and loss did not end there, and he experienced grief in other ways.

And yet, he had to continue working and providing for his three surviving children. He was now a single father, completely responsible for his children’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. He was a teacher of theology at a Christian College, experiencing his own struggles. He asked the eternal question, “Why?” and desperately wanted his family members back. 

Jerry expresses his grief journey in a way that many people who have experienced loss can relate to. Eventually he says, after three years on his journey, he now feels that his soul has been enlarged to experience God’s grace in a much deeper way than before. His children have grown as well.

He says that facing the pain, and acceptance are key in order to profit from the loss. He accepts himself as a single man, serving His Lord to the best of his ability. He says that he and his children still continue to miss their family members each and every day, but much of the sting is gone, and he is finding enjoyment in the simplicity of living day to day.

The reality he describes can be understood by those who have lost a loved one or have experienced another type of catastrophic loss.  After recently losing my oldest son, this book helped me immensely. I believe there is a way to grieve and continue to trust entirely on the Lord’s mercy. He is our only hope and help in times of need. A Grace Disguised is very insightful and encouraging at a time when we are fragile. I would recommend it to readers eighteen years old and above. I hope you feel the comfort I did when I read this book.

Patsy Ledbetter has written poetry, short stories, devotionals, and book reviews for many years. She has also been a drama instructor, special needs teacher and substitute teacher. She and Kevin have been married for 41 years. They recently lost their oldest son Craig, age 33. They now have three children, Vanessa, Bethany and David. They also have three grandchildren, Elyse, Aurora, and Hayden. Kevin has been a music pastor most of his life and together they serve the Lord in a local church. Patsy loves to read, pray, and spend time outdoors and with family and friends. Her main desire is to bring glory to God through all the talents He has given her.

New Year’s Resolution: Spend time with the Someone who loves you. You know the one I mean. Spend time, set it aside, with God. He loves you more than anyone and loves you no matter what is going on in your life. (No matter what! You’re happy, sad, thoughtful, angry, excited. Share it all with Him, the Someone who loves you best.) And, point your kids to do the same.

I think using a devotional can be part of that experience. Reading and considering a devotion can get you thinking in a deeper way about God and His love for you. It can help you see an aspect of Him that you haven’t before. It can be a conversation starter between you and Him which can grow into something WONDERFUL–a richer life, a wiser direction.

For older teens, young women and adults we can commend: Adventures in Prayer, Praying with Jane, The Anne of Green Gables Devotional

We think you and your little ones will like: The Little Visits. . . series; Words to Dream: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers

For school age children we have read and liked Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids; Indescribable: 100 Devotions about God and Science

For teen girls we can suggest Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women

For family devotions we think you and the family will be enriched with: Faith Forward Family Devotional; Grace for the Moment Family Devotional; Kingdom Family Devotional

For me, one of the best, best parts of celebrating Christmas is the Christmas program at church. Maybe you like it too. This year it probably didn’t happen for you. But . . .

My church was going to do a drive through. In their cars, people were going to drive around the church’s parking lot and visit various scenes. But as Christmas grew nearer, it was decided that such a program would not be the best choice all things considered. However, it was, after some prayer, decided that they could go forward and celebrate and share the joy of God’s love and presence in another way.

They could use video from nativity numbers (songs and dances) from past programs and then add to them video of this year’s contemporary musical numbers. They could film the new numbers (dance and song) outdoors in the parking lot in front of the beautiful colored lights. (Think colored light parade of a certain well-known theme park.) And they did!

Needless to say, I thought you might enjoy the video.

So here’s a few instructions. When you click on the link and it comes up, ignore the menu bar at the top with the cart and sign in. (There is no charge for watching the performance and you don’t have to sign in.) Scroll down to CONTINUE and click on that. They will ask you for your email and you name so they can send you an email message with the link to the actual video. Also know that if the church should send you a follow-up message, you will be able to unsubscribe. When you get the link to the video, you may play it anytime up to January 15th.

God’s blessings to you. It is a happy new year!

The gifts that were under the tree are unwrapped. But the gift-giving of God our Father goes on. May you have a blessed day after yesterday’s celebration and every day in the new year. Because the gift goes on. Maybe we don’t like the wrapping paper, (I sure don’t sometimes) but the gift of God’s love and goodness will be revealed. Look for it. Know that it is there beneath the wrappings.

The Anne of Green Gables Devotional by Rachel Dodge, artwork by Jana Christy, published by Barbour Books, (2020)

Sometimes people say, “Oh, but I fell in love with that book from the first sentence.” Well, I didn’t fall in love with the novel Anne of Green Gables from the first sentence or even the first pages.

Nosy, busy-body Mrs. Rachel Lynde going to “interrogate” steely Marilla Cuthbert about where Matthew Cuthbert was going—me, not interested. Not at all. There might be fireworks and at eleven years old, I didn’t want to be around to watch. Those women were scary.

I’m about to put the book down when shy, gentle, kind Matthew and talkative, plucky, imaginative Anne appear. From that moment on, I am theirs. And I don’t want to leave Green Gables or Avonlea. I become an invisible witness to Anne’s life, adventures, and misadventures. I even imagine that she and I are friends.

Rachel Dodge has taken this lovely, lovely book, Anne of Green Gables, that many of us read when we were younger and used its story elements to show adults and teens the face and heart of God. Following the story chronologically and looking into each chapter of the book, Rachel gives us in each devotion a quote from the novel’s chapter, a summary of the main action and then using that point as an illustration, reveals in a few paragraphs God’s activity in everyday life.

For example, in the chapter where Anne notices that she has been at Green Gables for a year, the author tells the reader that the room’s physical appearance is still the same, but the room is different. It now is filled with Anne, “a new, vital pulsing personality that seemed to pervade it.” Rachel then writes, “In the same way, you are no longer the same since you became a follower of Christ. The basic structure of your personality and being is there, but your soul and spirit have come to life. . .Your entire being is infused with the vivid presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

There are 39 devotions. As well as beginning and ending each devotion with a pertinent scripture, Rachel often refers to the stories of Biblical people such as Daniel, Esther, David, Ruth, and the healed Gadarene demoniac.

Each devotion also contains a few paragraphs on personal application. I found it refreshing that these personal applications often suggest first, ways you may grow in your relationship with God before suggesting that you serve others. For example, “. . .Wherever you are today—at home, at work or school, at the doctor’s office—that’s exactly where God wants you to be.  It may seem as though another life or another location would seem better or brighter, but God has purposes for you right here, right now.” And another I particularly liked: “As Christians, many of us still operate with an orphan mentality. When we’re in trouble, we forget to call for help. When we’re lost, we forget to stop and ask for directions. When we’re in pain, we forget to ask for comfort and encouragement. . .Start living like you belong to Jesus.”

The devotions, before ending with scripture, offer short prayers which can be personalized.

Many of the other devotionals that I’ve come in contact with, though instructive and useful, are more like chugging a glass of OJ, grabbing a piece of toast and you’re out the door. A devotion in The Anne of Green Gables Devotional is more like sitting down with God and eating His breakfast. Now don’t get the wrong impression, it is not a long, leisurely breakfast, but it is breakfast, and it will nourish you for the day like nutritionists say a good breakfast does.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest works for children are I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue, mystery novels for girls 10-13.

Advent can be a crazy time for all of us, young and old and in-betweens. Especially in-betweens. We can forget what’s important. We can think we have to make Christmas happen. We forget that Christmas will come because He has come.

I suggest some down time to re-focus; read with the kids. And give yourself permission to not make a big event of it. (Hot chocolate is very optional and only if you really, really want to do it.) Just pick a book with a Christmas theme, settle on the couch and enjoy the story together. (If you don’t have kids, read to the kid in you.)

The Silent Noisy Night written by Jill Roman Lord, illustrated by Kelly Breemer and published by B&H Kids (2018), is a delight. This Christmas story wonders if it was all that silent on the night of Jesus’ birth. “It’s hard to stay so silent when we’ve heard the greatest news.”

Maybe the animals got excited and made animal noises. The shepherds certainly hollered. (She says townspeople in Bethlehem may have danced and sung. According to Luke, it’s not likely. They wondered at what the shepherds told them, but it doesn’t say they believed them and glorified God.) We do know that a host of angels couldn’t be silent and filled the night with their praises to God.

The Silent Noisy Night is a board book, so its target audience is young children, ages 2 to 4. I think five-year-olds will enjoy it as well and not be put off because it is a board book. The take-away message is beyond 2-year-olds, but don’t worry about it. These little ones will love the colorful, lively illustrations, the good rhyme, and if you make animal noises, etc. and invite the kids to join in, a fun time will be had by all. (In families with older children, they might even join in as well, albeit at first reluctantly.)

The books’ take-away message is a good one. “. . . we are not those horses, cows or birds. But we can celebrate our Lord with actions, songs, and words! Let’s spread the love of Jesus Christ and good news with delight! . . .”

Those of us at Books 4 Christian Kids have a few suggestions for some other delightful books.

God Gave Us Christmas

It’s a Wonderful Life for Kids!

The Legend of the Candy Cane

Lucille Nadine Alexander’s Birthday

A Night of Great Joy

Read and Play Christmas

Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story

Sparkle Box

For your young teen:

Jotham’s Journey

I get it that your older teen or college/person may not want to read aloud with you, but they still may need “a warm fuzzy” and some quiet moments away from all the excitement of the season. May we suggest for the young women in your world:

A Christmas Gift for Rose 

Engaging Father Christmas

Finding Father Christmas

21 Days of Christmas

Tell me how it goes. (I understand completely if you want to wait until January to do this.) And if you do decide to make hot chocolate, I want the recipe. 🙂

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest works for children are I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue, mystery novels for girls 10-13.

I have waited until the dust settled (Black Friday, Cyber Monday) to post this column. I dislike, really really dislike, all the hype and I did not want to be part of it. That said, I do suspect that you are gift-hunting or getting ready to gift-hunt like we are at my house. If you are, let me suggest that for kids you consider gift subscriptions to magazines.

There are some terrific magazines available for Christian kids. Focus on the Family currently produces two magazines for kids and one magazine for teen girls. Clubhouse Jr. is targeted for children 4 to 8 years of age, Clubhouse is written for 8- to 12-year-olds and Brio is for teen girls. Nature Friend is a special interest magazine for kids 8 to 16.

I am the the most familiar with the magazines from Focus on the Family. These magazines contain articles, (I especially like the pieces on animals and God’s world in the Clubhouse duo), short stories (mysteries, re-told Bible stories, contemporary stories with a point, humorous short pieces), and games. They will bless a child or young person all year long.

The magazines are written with kids in mind and they present topics that interest kids. When the stories or articles wrestle with a life difficulty, the subject is handled in a way that kids can relate to and is appropriate for a child. Oh, and did I forget to mention that the mags are fun?

The websites below will give you more info.

Clubhouse Jr.


Nature Friendhttp://www.naturefriendmagazine. com


Shopping savvy: I spoke with Focus on the Family’s subscription line and the agent said that a postcard will be sent to the gift’s recipient and should arrive at about two weeks after you place the order. (So you still have time.) She also said it would be better to place an order by phone and she gave this number: 1-800-A FAMILY (1-800-232-6459).

If you are going to give a gift subscription to your child, you might also consider giving a gift subscription to the same magazine to one of your child’s grandparents or a beloved aunt or uncle. This could give that adult and your child some good conversation starters. And if you are the beloved grandparent or aunt or uncle and give a subscription to your special child, why not get a subscription for yourself? The magazines are fun, informative and interesting even if you grew up a while ago. — Nancy

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest works for children are I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue, mystery novels 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.

Hanukkah begins next Thursday, December 10, 2020, at sundown and runs to sundown on Friday, December 18, 2020. The name comes from a Hebrew verb that means “to dedicate.”  The book of John (John 10:22) tells us that Jesus was in Jerusalem during this Jewish winter festival which John calls the Feast of Dedication. I think it is interesting to consider. Why does John give us this detail?

Maccabee!: The Story of Hanukkah written by Tilda Balsley and illustrated by David Harrington is an exciting, colorful book for kids that will teach them about the beginnings of this Jewish holiday.

Clicking on the book title above will take you to a review of the book along with some background about this historical event which took place in about 165 BC.

I also want to point you to Walk with Y’shua Through the Jewish Year by Janie-sue Wertheim and Kathy Shapiro. The book has several pages on Hanukkah and gives info on the traditions. For example, potato latkes, one of the holiday treats (and yum, they are a treat!), are traditionally fried in oil. This is to remind the person who eats them of the miracle that God performed with the oil and the dedication of the Temple.

There are a number of recipes online for potato latkes. I think you and the kids would have fun making and, of course, eating this delicious treat. A few years back I found a recipe for latkes in a magazine and tried it. The latkes were superb! That recipe called for a little lemon zest, a little orange zest and a bit of thyme. I used olive oil. Other recipes that I’ve seen use other kinds of oil. I think you can adapt a recipe to your own family’s tastes. But do try making them. Your mouth will be glad you did. And don’t forget the sour cream (or plain yogurt) and applesauce. OK, enough! I’m getting hungry.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue are her most recent works. These novels are mysteries for kids, ages 10 to 13.

Advent starts tomorrow, Sunday, November 29, 2020. It is a beautiful time of the year. Recently, I came across another resource for enjoying and enriching it. Focus on the Family has created a free online Advent calendar. They gave a preview of it in their magazine for adults. It looks good. The entries they shared seemed like they would be appropriate for couples and families with upper elementary children and teens.

And I don’t think it’s too late to order one of the devotional books. Even if you start a week into the Advent season, so what? Your soul and your children’s souls will still be richer for the time spent.

Book Reviews

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