Lent is right around the corner. In a few short days, we will gather for Ash Wednesday in churches, on sidewalks, and in coffee shops to confess that we have not been as faithful as we could be, and to begin this journey we call Lent toward the empty tomb of Easter.
Here are four books I’ve read recently that would be great resources for small groups, sermon series, or individual devotional time.
source: New York Daily News
quietly in the garden.
unseen. unheard. unknown.
as God breathed the breath of life into adamah,
evil slithered in the shadows.
muscles, skin, and bones walking around
breathing; sighing; crying;
placed in the beauty of the garden.
Finding Your Voice: What Every Woman Needs To Live Her God-Given Passions Out Loud, Natalie Grant, Zondervan, 2016.
Grammy nominated Christian artist Natalie Grant has been a force in Christian music since 1999. As she tells it in her new book, Finding Your Voice, she had what one could call a spiritual awakening during a trip to India. This “pivotal encounter with God,” she says, changed her career.
It was on that trip she came face-to-face with women and girls who were victims of human trafficking. It was this encounter of the image of God in the Other that Grant had her epiphany: She has a voice and her voice has power.
Down to Earth: The Hopes & Fears of All the Years Are Met in Thee Tonight, Mike Slaughter & Rachel Billups, Abingdon Press, 2016.
In this book for the Advent season, pastors Mike Slaughter and Rachel Billups explore what it means for love, joy, peace, and hope to come down to Earth. The book accompanies a four-week Advent study that opens up Christmas to examine how one helpless baby changed everything.
What makes this a great read during Advent this year, is how relevant it is to current events. While it was written before we had two primary presidential candidates or even an election, reading it post-election is food for the soul. Slaughter and Billups acknowledge that we put too much attention on the wrong things. They write, “Or in arguing about things such as red cups, sexual identity issues, who we voted for, and where refugees should go, are we allowing these issues to create dividing lines between us?”
In 1996 the song “Mary, Did You Know?” written by Mark Lowry, was released. Since then, it has become a Christmas standard, sung by various artists and church choirs. Lowry had pondered questions he would ask Mary if he had the chance to sit down and talk to her. Buddy Greene put music to those questions. It is hard to find a version of the song that is different. In the video below, the Singing Contractors stop their work to sing.
Emmy-nominated director Billy Dickson has written an endless number of family-based, faith-based scripts. Most them, however, have only collected dust. Dickson told Jacob Sahms for ChristianCinema.com, “I had been writing family-based, faith-based scripts but they were collecting dust because people wouldn’t take a look at them. They were too soft; there weren’t enough gun fights.” His new project, Believe, seeks to be the faith-based film that crosses barriers. It has a little bit of everything. And promises to be a new Christmas classic.
The small town of Grundy, Virginia looks forward to one thing every year – the annual Christian pageant provided by the Peyton family. Matthew Peyton (Ryan O’Quinn) has inherited his family’s business, and the responsibility for the Christmas pageant. The family business, however, has fallen on financial hardship, with implications of the same happening to the whole town.
Simon Tofield Simon’s Cat for Magazine interview. 24 October 2009
Changing the bed sheets is one of those necessary chores. You watch the sheets, take the old sheets off the bed, and then put the warm, clean sheets on the bed. Putting clean sheets on the bed just right can be a change all its own. Add a curious cat, and it becomes even more challenging.
Simon’s Cat has a collection of short films on YouTube. The most recent film is called Bed Sheets.
It is that time of year. We have given thanks for the blessings of life, gathered around a table full of food, family, and friends. Now, we are putting up Christmas trees, lights, and stockings . . .with care. We have made lists (and checked them twice) of the things we want for Christmas. In this classic clip from The Brady Bunch, Cindy waits to tell Santa what we wants for Christmas.
The Redemption of Scrooge, Matt Rawle, Abingdon Press, 2016.
There are a few things that are a must at Christmastime. The tree with treasured ornaments. The rich aromas of holiday cooking. The time spent revisiting old memories.
For me, Christmas is not complete without watching Christmas movies. At our house, it’s A Christmas Story, Elf, and Christmas Vacation. And some version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. (My favorite is still the Mickey Mouse version.) Dickens’ Carol has captured readers for centuries. His story has been retold on stage, in film and television. Quite possibly because the story of Ebenezer Scrooge is timeless.
In a few short days, families will be gathered around tables full of food for Thanksgiving. Some, like Rev. Tom Berlin, have wondered what this year’s Thanksgiving would hold after a stressful and contentious election. You can read Tom’s thoughts here.
Last year, during the primary season, it felt just as contentious. Saturday Night Live‘s sketch “A Thanksgiving Miracle” explored this same wondering. What could unite a divided family? What could stop the arguments across the table? SNL‘s miracle worker was the popular singer Adele, whose latest album was released at the same time.