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Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

5 powerful pictures book

Julia Gonzaga by Simonetta Carr 64 pages / 2018 This is another book in Simonetta Carr’s “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” series and it is once again a very well researched book with lovely pictures. Julia Gonzaga was born in 1513 into a wealthy nobleman’s family. She was married at age 13 and was widowed 2 years later. She never remarried but became a strong voice for the Reformation in Italy, and supported it financially. In the land of the Pope, the Reformation didn’t take place as it did throughout Europe. In 1542 the pope reopened the Sacred Office of the Inquisition, a court that put Christians on trial who opposed the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Many believers were tortured and martyred. Italian Bibles were outlawed until 1769 when the Roman Catholic Church published a translation of the Latin Bible. I learned that education flourished in the Protestant countries making it possible for the common people to read the Bible. In 1861 only 25% of the people of Italy and Spain, predominately Roman Catholic, could read and write over against 69% in Europe and 80% in USA. Julia Gonzaga is not at all well-known making this book an asset to the many books written about the Reformation in Europe. For children ages 7-12. – Joanna Vanderpol God’s Outlaw: The real story of William Tyndale and the English Bible by The Voice of the Martyrs with A. Paquette 40 pages / 2007 We all have many Bibles in our homes, something we take for granted. But there was a time when no one had that wonderful gift, a Bible which they could read and use to instruct their children. William Tyndale (1494) was a very learned scholar and the reading of the Bible in the original languages was a life-changing experience for him which he wanted to share with all people “even a ploughman.” Against the wishes of the Church and King Henry VIII, he began this task. But soon he had to flee to Germany and from there his pamphlets found their way into the hands of the common people in England. The Church responded by imprisoning and killing many of them. In 1535 Tyndale was betrayed, refused to bow the knee before the church leaders and was burnt at the stake  Just before he died he prayed “Lord Jesus! Open the King of England’s eyes!” And two years later King Henry VIII decreed that the Bible should be available to all people. This book ends with some thoughts and questions for reflection. The pictures are bright and descriptive edging towards the graphic novel style. This is a good book for Primary school teachers to read to their class. This one is not widely available but can be found at – Joanna Vanderpol Something from nothing by Phoebe Gilman 32 pages / 1993 This children’s book, winner of the Ruth Schwartz Award, has become my favorite book to read out loud to my grandchildren. It is adapted from a Jewish folktale and in wonderful, rhythmic language tells the story of Grandpa who lovingly sews a blanket for his newborn grandson to “keep him warm and to chase away bad dreams.” As the boy grows up, the blanket wears out and is altered into a jacket, which is altered into a vest, etc. The pictures are so delightful and add to the story. For instance, we see that mom is pregnant and then a few pages later a little sister appears in the story. A second wordless story takes place along the bottom of each page. Father and mother mouse set up house and as the little mice appear, use the scraps of material from the blanket that falls between the floorboards and make them into clothes for their family and also into blankets and curtains for the wee mouse house. This is a type of story where you want to take your little dear one onto your lap and just warmly snuggle and read, explore the pictures and find lovely little treasures. – Joanna Vanderpol God made Boys and Girls by Marty Machowski 32 pages / 2019 My not even six-year-old already knows that some people think girls can marry girls. And she knows God says that isn’t so. We haven’t had to talk – yet – about folks who think that girls can become boys, but when that time comes, this book will be a help. The story begins with a fast little girl, Maya, outrunning the boys…so one of them teases her that this means she’s going to become a boy. And that gets her worried. Fortunately, this little girl has a great instructor, Mr. Ramirez, who teaches the class that gender is a “good gift from God.” He shares how, if you are a boy, then you are a boy right down to your DNA. And the same is true for girls too. Mr. Ramirez then brings things back to the very first boy and girl, Adam and Eve, and how their Fall into Sin happened because they wanted to do things their own way instead of God’s good way. Today some want to do try their own way – not God’s way – when it comes to their gender too. One of the many things I appreciated about this book was how clear kids were taught what’s right, and then encouraged to act kindly to those who are confused. Finishing up the book are a couple of pages intended for parents, which, in small print, pack a lot of information on how to talk through gender with our kids. One caution: there is one depiction of Jesus, as a baby and with no real detail given, on a page noting that God the Son became a tiny speck inside a girl, Mary, and became a man. I don’t think this a violation of the Second Commandment, but maybe someone else might. The only other caution is in regards to what isn’t tackled in this story: gender roles. God made us different, and He also gave the genders some different roles and also gave us some different general tendencies. So yes, as the book notes, some boys do like dancing, and some girls like car repair…but that’s not the general trend. And because the general trend is never noted in the book, this absence could, if left undiscussed, leave young readers with the impression that no such trends exist. Then they would fall for a different one of the world’s gender-related lies: that other than sexual biology, men and women aren’t different at all. This is not a picture book you are going to read over and over with your children because it is more of a conversation starter than a story. But it is a wonderful help for parents in discussing an issue that none of us ever confronted when we were kids. It is a different world today, and we want to be the first to broach these topics with our kids. Reading and discussing a book with your little one is a fantastic way to do it. - Jon Dykstra Sophie and the Heidelberg Cat by Andrew Wilson & Helene Perez Garcia 32 pages / 2019 The story, written in engaging rhythm, opens with Sophie crying because her sister broke her dollhouse and Sophie, in anger, pushed her over and then yelled at her parents. As she thinks about what just happened and meditates on how bad she is, she looks out the window and sees the Heidelberg’s cat from next door.  Surprisingly, the cat asks her why she is crying and Sophie tells her sad story. He invites her onto the rooftop and as they walk along, they chat. At first I thought, oh no, this is not a Reformed story, as Sophie tells her story and how she tries to be so good but fails. But then the cat sets her straight by explaining that no one can be good because we are all sinful. There is only one person who is good and that is Jesus. Only He can free us from our sins. The cat then uses Lord’s Day 1 from the Heidelberg Catechism and comforts Sophie with the words that “I am not my own” but belong to Jesus.  This is a lovely book for ages 4 and up who can understand the concept of God’s love and grace in Christ Jesus. – Joanna Vanderpol


Career over kids: South Korean women aren’t having babies

A new report has South Korea population beginning to decline in just ten years’ time. Statistics Korea reported in late February that the country’s fertility rate dropped to 0.98, or less than one child per woman. To put this in context, women need to be having at least 2 children each to keep the population stable: one to replace her, and one to replace her husband (the exact figure is even a bit higher – more like 2.1 – to account for infant mortality). This less-than-1 rate means that South Korea’s population is headed for a precipitous drop. Statistics Korea numbers released a month later bore that out. This year, for the first time, the country expects more people to die than be born, with an estimate of 309,000 births, and 314,000 deaths. Immigrants will keep the population stable for a few more years, but starting in 2029 the country’s population is expected to take a sharp (and irrevocable?) downward turn. The country’s coming decline seems to be caused by both women and men devaluing marriage and motherhood. The government has tried to encourage couples to have more children by extending maternity leave and expanding State daycare. But these measures don’t get at the fundamental issue – is being a mother honorable? When a culture values women only for the career they have outside the home, then women aren’t going to want to do anything to impede their progress in that career. Maternity leave – especially longer maternity leave – can’t help but slow a woman’s career progress (it’s hard to get noticed by the bosses when you aren’t there). And while easier access to daycare will mean it's possible to juggle having kids and a career, if career comes first, why even bother with the juggling? As a Church we need to show the world a different way, making it clear we understand children are the blessing (Prov. 17:6, Ps. 113:9, 127:3-5), and the priority (Gen. 1:28, Prov. 22:6) that God says they are. Whether that’s mom sacrificing career opportunities, or dad doing the same by picking a job near a good Church and Christian school, or the two of them giving up nights with the gang, or the pair of them forgoing “me time,” we know parenting is our priority…and our privilege.


I started my business for the wrong reasons

Why did you start your business? When people ask me that question, I often respond with, “So I could spend more time with my family while providing for them.” Or, “So I could work part-time while recovering for chemo.” Or, “So I can build up a bank account and get back to my plans for seminary.” They all sounds like noble answers, right? Well, this morning during my devotions, I read a verse that struck a chord. It was Ephesians 4:28:

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.  

Ok, so what does that verse have to do with my running a business?  Well sure, I am not to steal, or be engaged in dishonest things in business, and yes, it says that we are to give to those in need. But what is the thing that struck a chord and made me realize that that “to provide for my family” is the wrong reason? I mean, the Bible does tell us that we are to provide. In 1 Timothy 5:8 we read:

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Jesus has told us to provide for our families. So we must.  But that is not the ultimate reason we work.  As a Christian, saying, “I work to provide for my family” is incomplete and is an unscriptural view of work. We should work, whether it’s at my business, or at your job at the office, or at your job digging a ditch, because working is the Lord’s will concerning us. The thief is to perform honest work and share with those in need, not because he was a thief, not because it is some sort of punishment, but because it is the Lord’s will for all of us! Working is the Lord’s will concerning us. Boom. It’s that simple. As this revelation (one that I am sure I already knew) resounded in my head and my coffee got cold….I remembered 1 Corinthians 10:31:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

We are to live our entire lives to the glory of God. Work…to the glory of God. Rest… to the glory of God. Eat…to the glory of God. Ride that mountain bike…to the glory of God. Drink that beer…to the glory of God. Dig that ditch…to the glory of God! Post that selfie on Instagram…to the glory of…uh. Well, you get my point. Everything we do is to be done for God’s glory. What do most of us actually work for? When I worked at a regular job, most of my colleagues spoke about working towards retirement, saving for a trip, working for the weekend to go on that mountain biking trip, buying beer, working OT to get that renovation on the house, or buying the Big House to keep up with the Jonses. Unfortunately, many Christians view work in exactly the same way.  Many of us are in it for what we get out of it.  Unfortunately, I fell in the trap of viewing work as merely a means to an end. Sure, some of you may argue that we use our work to do things that glorify God. It is true that God may be honored in the results of our work, through tithing, helping the needy...saving so I can go to seminary and become a pastor… even as He may not be supreme in our view of work itself. Is He supreme in your view of work? If I am honest with myself, He has not been my ultimate focus in this business. Starting this business may not have been for his glory; but that changes today. Why do you work?

Ryan Smith blogs at where this first appeared. It is reprinted here with permission.

Daily devotional

July 31 – The way to victory

“As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.” – Joshua 6:20 Scripture reading: Joshua 6:8-21 God’s strategy for defeating Jericho was completely unrealistic. You can’t defeat a city with walls so thick that you can build a house into them, by having a parade around it. Israel was going to look absolutely foolish; it would show that they had no strategy – that they didn’t know what they were doing. Do you recognize the logic of these instructions? What did Israel have to do? In a way, we say, They didn’t have to do anything. You can hardly call that waging war, just marching and shouting. Exactly. God said, Take heart from everything that I have done to show you that I am with you. Believe that I have come to judge My enemies and to give the land to you. The way to victory for Israel was by working out their faith in God’s promises, by following God’s strange strategy. God has promised us victory over the world in the very same way. John wrote, This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (I John 5:4-5) We have to work out our confidence that Jesus is the Son of God by preaching the gospel, taking up our cross and following Him. The world will think we’re fools, but that’s what Jericho thought too, before the walls fell down. Take heart, said Jesus; Ihaveovercometheworld. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that Jesus Christ has overcome the world, that by faith, we already now share in His victory, and when He comes again, we will share fully and eternally in His victory.

This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario.

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