Archive for November, 2012

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Are there Advent calendars?

Treasuring God in Our Traditions“Mommy, Mommy! May I open the next window on the calendar?” A simple pasteboard Advent calendar with one flap to open on each day in December is probably the most familiar way to help a child understand the wait until Christmas. In the stores, several themes are likely to be available, including Swiss mountain villages and Santa’s workshops. But since the Advent—the coming—we’re waiting for is Christ’s, let’s make sure our daily countdown has a real Christmas setting. (from Treasuring God in Our Traditions)


To all who have asked, I’m sorry. I don’t have Noel Advent Calendars anymore.

There’s been a pang of regret every time I have to say that. For a season I was making them myself. After that, I contracted the work. Now the last few years, plans just haven’t worked out to continue producing them.

That pang somewhere in the area of my heart was because I felt I was fulfilling a mission to help families treasure God in their CHRISTmas celebration. It gave me great pleasure to hear of God’s work through the Noel Calendar.

But this year there’s been a lightening of my heart because I’ve seen other Advent Calendars that I’d be pleased to use myself, and even the most expensive costs less than what I’d need to charge for mine.

Here’s the story that goes with the Noel Calendar. You may have lost yours or you may find a way to use the story with another Advent calendar. Blessings as you count the days till the day we remember Jesus’ birth.

Here are an assortment of Advent calendars, sorted somewhat by price. Some are for one season’s use. Others could become part of your family’s tradition.


The familiar sort of Advent Calendar with one door to open each day.

No Room at the Inn Advent Calendar  Advent Calendar - Peaceful Nativity Scene  Bethlehem Village German Advent Calendar  Nativity Scene German Advent Calendar


Come to Bethlehem and See - Advent Devotions and Stickers w/ Advent Pamphlet

Come to Bethlehem and See — Advent Devotions and Stickers with Advent Pamphlet






Kurt Adler The Story of Christmas Interactive Magnetic Advent Book


Magnet Advent Calendar






26-Piece Fontanini Nativity Magnet Advent Calendar #65402The Magnet Advent Calendar is fun for kids to play with even if you’re not using it in the usual day-by-day Advent calendar routine.






Entertaining with Caspari Christmas Advent Calendar and Story Book, Nativity, 1-CountAdvent Calendar and Story Book







Nativity Advent CalendarNativity Advent Banner with pockets





Nativity Fabric Advent CalendarNativity Fabric Advent Calendar







Fontanini 25-Piece Nativity Advent Calendar Set With Wooden Stable #65400Wooden Nativity Advent Calendar Set with Wooden Stable




Kurt Adler Wooden Nativity Advent Calendar with 24 Magnetic FiguresWooden Nativity Advent Calendar with 24 Magnetic Figures







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Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Another Bible story audio

So sorry for my absent-mindedness. Here’s another Bible story audio that I fully intended to include in my original list. Thank you, Sarah, for the reminder.

The Big Picture Story Bible (Book with CD)

A few years ago, we gave The Big Picture Story Bible to all our sons’ families. I was wishing there was audio, and now there is.

The title is perfect. This is a Bible story book that focuses on the big picture, not just each individual story as a stand-alone. Trevin Wax says that if “you have long hoped for a book that teaches children the biblical story from Creation to New Creation – a book that anticipates Jesus in the Old Testament and makes his crucifixion and resurrection the proper climax of the New Testament – then this book is for you.” (Note: He links to the earlier edition that does not include CD).

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Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Sally Lloyd-Jones’ audio for kids

The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His NameThank you, Amanda and Erin, for reminding me about The Jesus Storybook Bibleby Sally Lloyd-Jones (to link to the audio version go to the “format” box and choose “audio”). That’s one that I definitely was going to include on the list in my last post, but my brain turned off too soon. The reader you mention with the “charming British accent” is David Suchet.

If you’re not familiar with The Jesus Storybook Bible, here’s our son Barnabas’s review.


Thoughts to Make Your Heart SingOne of the great values of good children’s Bible-related audio is to help our children have “Bible Time,” as we called it in our family–a time alone with the Word–even before they’re able to read. Tim Keller recommends Sally’s newest book, for just that reason:  “Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing may be the best, first introduction for children to have their own time with God.”

If you’re getting the audio (once again, the narrator is David Suchet) be sure to get the book too. With this book, as with The Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally has partnered with Jago for the artwork which multiplies the appeal and impact of Sally’s word pictures. The one-page devotionals are rich in the truth of God’s love, faithfulness, forgiveness, salvation that draw a reader’s heart toward him–that make a reader’s heart sing.

Song of the Stars: A Christmas StorySong of the Stars is one Bible story–the one that the saints of the Old Testament were waiting for, the one that all creation awaited on tiptoe. Sally leaves a reader breathless with the joy as the bated breath of generations is exhaled in celebration at the birth of the Savior.




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Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Help us: Bible story audio recommendations?

Update: Here’s a free audio of Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible. Thank you, Kim, for your message at my Facebook page. To get the download, page down slightly to choose the type of download you want.


“What do you think I am? A dog? Coming against me with sticks and stones! C’mere, kid! I’m gonna feed you to the birds!” Three-year-old Abraham, in terry cloth robe and dishtowel head covering, plastic sword in hand, growled Goliath’s Treasuring God in Our Traditionschallenge. 

Quickly he threw aside the sword and faced the other direction, becoming David, grasping his imaginary sling. “You come to me with a sword and a spear, but I come to you in the name of the LORD!”

This “reality” form of make-believe grew out of Abraham’s daily morning Bible time. He couldn’t read yet, so he listened to Bible stories on tape, filling his mind and imagination with the Lord who fights for his people. . . .
(From Treasuring God in Our Traditions)

Someone asks at my Facebook page: “Could you please give some Bible story audio recommendations for children?”

My children are old enough now that I’m rather unfamiliar with what’s good now. So I’m counting on some of you to give us your recommendations. In the meantime, here are a few suggestions.

Hurlbut's Story of the Bible, Original Edition (Yesterday's Classics)I have to start with Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible, the Bible story book I grew up with. It was a gift when I was born. I had no idea till just now that it’s available in audio (In the “formats” box, click the Audio Edition option).

Since the book is designed to lead the young reader to the Bible itself, and not away from it, the language of the Bible, or a language somewhat like that of the Bible, has been employed. The Bible stories are made plain with explanation of unfamiliar terms as they are introduced, but the stories themselves are not rewritten or changed. (Amazon description)

Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book [Audio CD]Justin Taylor wrote:

If you’re looking for an illustrated family Bible story book, especially with elementary school children, I would warmly recommend The Mighty Acts of God. I’ve been using it with my kids and they really like it. . . . the best in terms of capturing the details of the individual stories and their God-centered point.

The Word and Song Bible: The Bible for Young Believers with Cassette(s)


I wish The Word & Song Bible were available new with CD instead of cassettes, but I mention it here so you can watch out for it used. I gave this to each of my sons’ families one Christmas a few years ago.




The Lion Children's Bible

Though I haven’t used The Lion Children’s Bible or its audio, I’ve liked all of the individual Bible stories published by Lion.

All the significant stories of the Old and New Testaments from Genesis to the book of Acts are retold in clear, simple language which children understand. The stories may be read on their own, yet they form a continuous narrative which closely follows the “one story” of God and His people contained in the whole Bible. (Amazon description)

The Action BibleAn earlier edition of The Action Bible was a favorite of one of our sons. It was falling apart by the time he “outgrew” it. We didn’t have an audio version back in those olden days, so I haven’t heard it, but the comic book art is just right for some kids at some ages and I imagine the audio can only add to the pleasure.



Here are some of the basics I’m looking for in audio for pre-readers.

  • A Bible story told without added details or characters;
  • Presentation of God as the central character;
  • Appropriate respect given to the Word of God;
  • and less important, but helpful for a younger child’s understanding is that stories be narrated rather than dramatized.

 What audio Bible stories would you recommend?


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Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Advent: What shall I do? part 2

More suggestions for Advent devotions.

1. Good News of Great Joy — I mentioned earlier Desiring God’s booklet of daily Advent readings. It is available now to download.

2. A Twitter follower suggested that I check out The Park Forum. They describe themselves as “helping urbanites enjoy the Bible daily by writing short and smart devotionals. As the Park is to the City, so the Word is to Life.” I’m curious to see their devotionals during advent.

3. A Jesus Advent Celebration — MrsHLBjr’s comment on my previous Advent post:

Last year, I downloaded Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree Advent Devotional which includes printable ornaments to be cut out and hung on the tree after reading the day’s entry. We also used this in conjunction with her son’s advent wreath, which can also be used during lent (along with her Trail to the Tree Lent Devotional) and the 40 days until the Ascension.

My kids loved this and we created new traditions for our family with these tools.

4. Knowing Him by Name — Bethany’s comment on my previous post:

Focus on the Family has an an advent book which is free for download. It uses Scripture readings, activities, and thought-provoking questions centered around the names and titles of Jesus to help parents introduce their children to the Savior.

Thank you, thank you for your suggestions.

Are there other Advent resources you’d like to mention?

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Sunday, November 25th, 2012

Advent: What is it? And what shall I read?

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1 Peter 1:10-12}

We are a people of promise. For centuries, God prepared people for the coming of his Son, our only hope for life. At Christmas we celebrate the fulfillment of the promises God made—that he would give a way to draw near to him.

Advent is what we call the season leading up to Christmas. It begins four Sundays before December 25, sometimes in the last weekend of November, sometimes on the first Sunday in December. This year, it begins this coming Sunday, December 2.

1 Peter 1:10-12 is a clear description of what we look back to during Advent. For four weeks, it’s as if we’re re-enacting, remembering the thousands of years God’s people were anticipating and longing for the coming of God’s salvation, for Jesus. That’s what advent means—coming. Even God’s men who foretold the grace that was to come didn’t know “what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating” (verse 11). They were waiting, but they didn’t know what God’s salvation would look like.

In fact, God revealed to them that they were not the ones who would see the sufferings and glory of God’s Christ. “They were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (verse 12). They were serving us. We Christians on this side of Jesus’ birth are a God-blessed, happy people because we know God’s plan. The ancient waiting is Treasuring God in Our Traditionsover. We have the greatest reason to celebrate.

(This was posted originally at the beginning of Advent 2011, and is taken from my book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions.)


Here are some sources of daily Advent readings you might want to check out for personal or family devotions.

Desiring God will offer a daily Scripture reading guide later this week.

Arrival: Preparing to Celebrate Christ’s Birth — Free download of Billy Graham’s advent devotional.

The Essential Journey to Bethlehem — Daily Advent Scripture readings from Scripture Union. You can download the free ebook or subscribe via email, RSS, FaceBook, Twitter, or email.

Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative


When I mentioned Behold the Lamb of God last year during Advent, Russ Ramsey responded with this description:

It has 25 chapters, one for each day of December leading up to Christmas day. I designed it that way so if folks wanted, they could use it as a 25 day Advent devotional. And I did write it for family devotional use. The chapters are short enough to read in about 10 minutes. It follows the story of the need for and the coming of Christ from Eden up through the Nativity story. You hit the New Testament somewhere around chapter 17.

May God bless you as you celebrate his advent, his coming.

Please tell us about Advent resources you’ve found helpful.


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Saturday, November 24th, 2012

Books for boys

I’ve had sons and grandsons for quite a few years, so it’s a long time that  I’ve been on the lookout for books that entice boys to read. In case some of you are running into the same challenge, here are a few possibilities, loosely in age order. Since I’m remembering some from my adult sons’ childhoods, I hope I might be introducing some of these to you for the first time.

To my thinking, one of the things that makes a good boys’ book is that I enjoy it too, reading  aloud with the children or quietly on my own. And of course, a lot of girls will like these books too.

Please comment with your thoughts about any of these books and with your recommendations of good books for boys.


Of course, top of the list is C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series.

Chronicles of Narnia Box Set


The Cooper Kids Adventure series, by Frank Peretti. There are quite a few more of these too.

The Door in the Dragon's Throat (The Cooper Kids Adventure Series #1)   Escape from the Island of Aquarius (The Cooper Kids Adventure Series #2)   The Tombs of Anak (The Cooper Kids Adventure Series #3)   Trapped at the Bottom of the Sea (The Cooper Kids Adventure Series #4)


The Spirit Flyer Series, by John Bibee (There are 4 more books, but these are the ones we read aloud together when our boys were younger)

The Magic Bicycle (Spirit Flyer)   The Toy Campaign (Spirit Flyer)   The Only Game in Town (Spirit Flyer)   Bicycle Hills: How One Halloween Almost Got Out of Hand (Spirit Flyer)


The Archives of Anthropos series, by John White

The Tower of Geburah (Archives of Anthropos)  The Iron Sceptre (Archives of Anthropos)   The Sword Bearer (Archives of Anthropos)   Gaal the Conqueror (Archives of Anthropos)   Quest for the King (Archives of Anthropos)   The Dark Lord's Demise (The Archives of Anthropos)


The 100 Cupboards Trilogy, by N.D. Wilson

100 Cupboards (100 Cupboards, Bk 1)    Dandelion Fire: Book 2 of the 100 Cupboards   The Chestnut King: Book 3 of the 100 Cupboards


The Dragon King Trilogy, by Stephen Lawhead

In the Hall of the Dragon King (The Dragon King Trilogy)   The Warlords of Nin (The Dragon King Trilogy)   The Sword and the Flame (The Dragon King Trilogy)

I haven’t read all the books written by Stephen Lawhead, but I’ve liked every one I’ve read, and most of them would be good choices for boys as well.


Chiveis Trilogy, by Bryan M. Litfin. You might want to check out my review of audiobook edition of The Sword.

The Sword (Redesign): A Novel (Chiveis Trilogy)   The Gift: A Novel (Chiveis Trilogy)   The Kingdom: A Novel (Chiveis Trilogy)


The Pendragon Cycle, by Stephen Lawhead

Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 1)   Merlin (The Pendragon Cycle , Book 2)  Arthur (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 3)   Pendragon (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 4)   Grail (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 5)

That’s off the top of my head. I’m sure there are more, but they’ll have to wait for another post.

Remember, please chime in with your suggestions.

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Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

The devil’s conjunctions

Behind the Ranges: The Life-Changing Story of J. O. FraserOn this day before Thanksgiving, I’m reading Behind the Ranges: The Life-Changing Story of J. O. Frasermissionary to the Lisu in Southwest China in the early 1900s.

I’ve often said to seminary wives what’s true for all of us: “These years of preparation are not so you can begin living later. You’re living now.”

Fraser’s biographer quotes a letter from 22-year-old Fraser expressing this much better than I do:

The temptation I have often had to contend with is persistent under many forms:  “I am just in preparation at present taking Bible courses and so on, but when I get out to China my work will begin.” “Yes, I have left home now, but I am only on the voyage, you know; when I am really in China, I shall have a splendid chance of service.” Or, well, here in the training home, all my time must be given to language study–how can I do missionary work? But when I am settled down in my station and able to speak freely opportunities will be unlimited.”

It is all IF and WHEN. I believe the devil is fond of those conjunctions. . . . The plain truth is that the Scriptures never teach us to wait for opportunities of service, but to serve in just the things that lie next to our hands. The Lord bids us work, watch and pray, but Satan suggests, wait until a good opportunity for working, watching and praying presents itself–and needless to say, this opportunity is always in the future.

And so I give thanks for where God has me today and what he gives me to do today. As Fraser also says, “Since the things that lie in our immediate path have been ordered of God, who shall say that one kind of work is more important or sacred than another? I believe that it is no more necessary to be faithful in preaching the gospel than in washing up dishes in the scullery.”

So today, I’ll be thankful and try to be faithful in my work in the kitchen . . . Then tomorrow, I’ll give thanks that the Piper men wash the dishes after Thanksgiving dinner!

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Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

What’s up this weekend?

Hop over to Tell Me When to Pack and find out what I’m doing this weekend.

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Monday, November 12th, 2012

When the snow didn’t stop

When Johnny let the dog out last night, he called to me, “It’s snowing.” This morning, the snow picked up again and at breakfast was still in the air and covering more of the leaves we haven’t yet raked.

Last night was November 11.

Two groups of Minnesotans probably shared the same thought as they looked out their windows this morning. The two groups are those who can remember November 11, 1940 and those who know some Minnesota history (I fall into only one of All Hell Broke Loose: Experiences of Young People During the Armistice Day 1940 Blizzardthose groups, and it’s not the first one.) The thought we shared was: November 11 . . . snow . . .the Armistice Day Blizzard.

The day started out with temperatures in the 60s. People in Minneapolis left their overcoats at home and many outstate hunters took advantage of the beautiful day to head out to their duck blinds–in light jackets. By midday, snow was heavy and temperatures continued dropping dramatically to as low as 30 degrees below zero before the blizzard ended.


Wings in the Wind:  The Armistice Day Storm of 1940At the end of 3 days, 49 Minnesotans were dead–and a total of 150 over a 5-state area.

Minnesota’s survivors continue to tell stories of those days–both from personal memory (also here) and in historical fiction.

The Armistice Day Storm is one of those events that remains as a historical landmark. It’s planted in Minnesota memory.



In the Grip of the Whirlwind: The Armistice Day Storm of 1940But now, mid-morning, the snow has stopped. The sun shines, then doesn’t from the sky that’s snowfall gray–an average late fall day in Minnesota. The forecast is for 30% possibility of light snow showers. Weather forecasting was changed as a result of the Armistice Day Storm, so we don’t expect a blizzard this Veteran’s Day holiday.

Of course, God is the one who knows for sure.

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Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

On voting the first time

The first time I voted was by absentee ballot when I was in college.


I was thinking about that at 7:15 this morning while I was standing in line at our polling place–thinking about voting the first time. Out of about 30 people waiting, I’d guess at least 20 were Somalis. Or rather, I should say they are Somali-background Americans, exercising their right to vote. Some were young enough to have been born here, but most looked old enough to have come here as refugees, so they’ve been naturalized as American citizens.

Many of the people waiting ahead of us were directed to the table where they could register, which means this was their first time voting in Minnesota.

Just imagine, I thought, how different this is than anything they’ve experienced. First of all, there is an election–there are ballot choices, not a dictator as the only name that everyone must “choose.” Beyond that, there is no fear of being attacked entering or exiting the polling place. There’s an expectation of a fair count, even if it should involve recount and vituperation. And if history is any clue, there’ll be a peaceful transfer of leadership–no fighting in the streets, no civil war, no burning and looting.

Just imagine.

I’m not a political person. And I don’t think America is the savior of the world. But today I was thankful.

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Monday, November 5th, 2012

One day, with one voice, for one purpose

Yesterday, people in churches in at least 24 countries of the world were praying for orphans and thinking about how to follow God’s example of caring for the fatherless.

I was amazed to discover just a couple of days ago how Orphan Sunday began. It’s truly a story of not despising the day of small beginnings.

This story touched me especially because it starts in Zambia. I’ve never been to Zambia, but once upon a time Kristin was a special friend to our daughter, and she was part of our prayer team, and occasionally she loved us with parcels of her yummy baked goods. Then she went to Zambia for a year and met Derek. Now they’re married and live in Lusaka, Zambia, working with Action International‘s Cross Project.  One aspect of Cross Project HIV/AIDS-related ministry is attention to orphans, which brings us back to the beginnings of Orphan Sunday.

I hope you can sit down with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and watch all 33 minutes. But if not, here’s a rough breakdown of the minutes:

2:30-8:30 — The first Orphan Sunday and its spread through Zambia

15:00-17:00 — Spread to America

17:00-23:30–Words from Gary Schneider, Steven Curtis Chapman, Jedd Medefind, Francis Chan, and Orphan Sunday coordinators of Ukraine, Philippines, Kenya, and U.K.

During the rest of the minutes are two young people telling their touching personal stories of being lifted by God’s local people from the loneliness and despair of orphanhood.

Zambia’s Gift to the World:

Zambia’s Gift to the World from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

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