3 reasons why I try to expose my kids to lots of different kinds of books

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Tuesday night, the UPS guy arrived at the door with our latest Amazon order. I secreted away the box as quickly as I could in order to avoid too many “What is it Dads”. (I was only partially successful.) I opened the box, and pulled the two books out. Perfect, I thought, we’re going to have fun reading these.

“Hey, Abigail,” I called into the living room. “Want to see what we got today?”

“YES!”

I presented her with two new comic books: Tales of the Batman: Len Wein and The Mighty Thor by Walter Simonson vol. 1. Abigail went supersonic with delight.

This is one of the things I love about being a dad. I love being able to share the things I loved as a child and youth with them (like comics, which I still enjoy). But more than that, I love being able to expose them to as many different kinds of books as possible (as does Emily). There are a few reasons for this:

1. We want them to find books they like to read. As you can imagine, we place a high value on reading in our home. With certain exceptions—we tend to avoid books that glorify witchcraft and death, and books series where every instalment has literally the exact same plot, for example—we really don’t care what they read as long as it’s close to age-appropriate. So we’ve got superhero comics, we’ve got fantasy novels, we’ve got historical fiction, and classic works all readily available. And because they have a lot of different kinds of books available to them, they tend to read pretty widely, even if some days Abigail simply reads and rereads Bone during resting time.

2. We want to help our kids as they learn to read and develop their vocabulary. Hannah, our middle kid, refuses to let us help her as she reads (unless it’s her idea). In fact, she gets pretty ticked if we notice she’s doing it at all! One of the great things about having comics in the house, though, is we’ve seen Hannah sounding out the onomatopoeias in her quest to master reading. The variety of books also helps the kids develop their vocabularies as they’re exposed to words they may not be otherwise.

3. We want to help our kids understand the world around them. The same night we introduced Abigail to Walter Simonson’s Thor, we also wound up having a discussion about something she read in her book about Princess Isabel of Spain. In that book, a Catholic priest informed the young princess that it was inappropriate for her to learn about math and science because she was a girl. (Abigail was quick to point this out as being wrong, in case you’re wondering.) This allowed us to explain about how God created men and women, the equal value and dignity we all have by virtue of being made in his image, and even talk about how sin causes conflict between us. That’s kind of a big deal, and the type of thing you don’t really get from Walter the Farting Dog (although nothing’s wrong with Walter the Farting Dog… except his horrible flatulence).

That, in a nutshell, is why we try to expose our kids to as many different kinds of books as possible. And it’s pretty exciting to see how they’re developing as little people as a result.

5 books our kids should read

books-for-kids

I love reading great books—and really love introducing new books to my kids.

My oldest (at the time of this writing) is coming up on eight years old, but she’s already a super-reader, having recently completed abridged (child appropriate) versions of Moby Dick and Treasure Island. Our middle child is nearly five and has a strong grasp of the basics (she just needs to develop her attention span a little). Our youngest, well… at almost three, he’s only really starting to identify letters, which I think is pretty good. He’s also memorized Beatrix Potter’s The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit, particularly loving the line, “This is a man with a gun…”

Sometimes in my zeal, I get a little ahead of myself, though. I want to share really great books with them, but there are so many they’re just not quite ready for yet. But they’re getting closer. Here are five that I’m looking forward to sharing with them (some of which are series, which may or may not be cheating), and think every kid should read, too:

1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. This one should be obvious to everyone: Lewis’ writing is spectacular. The story is compelling throughout each volume in the series. And you get the added bonus of having some really fantastic faith-related conversations with your kids as they work out what they’re reading.

2. The Ashtown Burials and 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson. I actually picked up these two series for myself—not because I’m an avid Y.A. reader, but because Nate Wilson’s got style. He knows how to spin a good yarn, to keep it entertaining for both children and parents. He even manages to keep things clean (some violence, but nothing graphic, and no teens with “the feels” for one another), but doesn’t play things safe.

3. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond. Bond’s stories of a talking bear from “darkest Peru” are some of my favorites. I recently picked this one up as my oldest is actually at the right age to read it, so she may start digging in as part of her homeschool curriculum, or in reading time with Dad.

4. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I remember loving this book as a child, but I never realized it was actually part of a series of books until much later in life (which means I may need to go and get the rest out of the library).

5. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. This one is probably the biggest challenge for a lot of  kids. Tolkien does so much world-building in his books, they can be a tad impenetrable if you’re not willing to put the work in. Nevertheless, The Hobbit is a terrific place to start as it is by far his most accessible work (and far more interesting than the recently released—and extremely bloated—movie trilogy).

Those are just a few of the books (and series) I’d recommend for kids to read. There are, of course, so many others that could be added—what’s one you think should be there?

Links I like

Links

You and Me Forever

Today is the last day to get You and Me Forever by Francis & Lisa Chan free from ChristianAudio.com. If you’re not sure about the book, be sure to check out my thoughts on it here.

No Grey Area

Kevin DeYoung nails it, as did Marshall Segal the day prior.

Girls vs boys

Yep:

Learning My Children are not Machines

Aaron Earls:

When I push the button on my laptop, it should start up. If it doesn’t, it can’t blame its nonexistent emotions. It should respond immediately and appropriately because that’s what it has been created to do.

In evaluating my parenting, I realized much of my anger with my children arose from my having the wrong perspective about them. I was viewing them as if they were machines.

Can Jobs Be Stolen?

R. Campbell Sproul’s on the right track here: “Jobs are not property, and since jobs are not property, it is impossible to steal them.”

The Act of Rigorous Forgiving

David Brooks:

There’s something sad in Brian Williams’s need to puff up his Iraq adventures and something barbaric in the public response.

The sad part is the reminder that no matter how high you go in life and no matter how many accolades you win, it’s never enough. The desire for even more admiration races ahead. Career success never really satisfies. Public love always leaves you hungry. Even very famous people can do self-destructive things in an attempt to seem just a little cooler.

Why Is the Number of the Beast 666?

Greg Beale:

The problem is that no clear identification can be made linking 666 with any particular ancient historical name. Attempts have been made to alter spellings and incorporate titles to try to make a multitude of names fit, but nothing conclusive has emerged. Most commonly, the number has been identified with Nero, on the basis of a Hebrew transliteration of the title “Nero Caesar.” However, this option flounders on confusion concerning the exact Hebrew spelling of Caesar, and does not fit the fact that John’s readers were largely Greek-speaking, and that Nero had many titles other than Caesar. Additionally, if John were using gematria, he would have alerted his readers by saying something like, “the number in Hebrew (or Greek) is . . .” as he uses the phrases “in Hebrew” or “in Greek” in 9:11 and 16:16, when he wants to draw the readers’ attention to certain significance.

The Pastor’s Kid

The Pastor's Kid by Barnabas Piper

I’m not a pastor’s kid, but if I were, there are two things I know to be true: First, I’d want everyone in our church to stop using the term “PK,” and second, I wouldn’t want to be the kid of a famous pastor.

Barnabas Piper didn’t have much of a choice on either count. Born three years into his father’s call to pastoral ministry, he’d known nothing but the PK life, and as the son of John Piper… Well, let’s be honest: the fact that Barnabas hasn’t dyed his hair purple and started running marathons in leather chaps may well be the surest evidence of God’s grace.

Okay, I’m probably exaggerating.

A bit.

Maybe.

But one thing he makes clear in The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity is the PK life is anything but simple:

The life of a PK is complex, occasionally messy, often frustrating, and sometimes downright maddening. It can be a curse and a bane. But being a PK can also be a profound blessing and provide wonderful grounding for a godly life. Often the greatest challenges are the greatest grounding and the biggest falls are the best blessings. This polarity exemplifies the challenge it is to be a PK. (Kindle location 71)

This polarity Piper describes—that being a PK can be simultaneously a blessing and a burden—is a theme that runs throughout this book. The insane expectations of simultaneously being perfect and the perfect rebel, as as though the PK will be the MVP in a game of Bible All-Star while at the same time wearing a beer helmet to church. Living in the fishbowl, where all eyes are on you (and often knowing private things they have no business knowing) because of Pastor Dad. The confusion of knowing a lot of Bible stories, but not knowing Jesus because Jesus has become boring:

Being around Jesus-related teaching, literature, and events all the time makes Jesus rote in the minds and hearts of PKs. Rote is mundane. When Jesus becomes mundane, He ceases being life-changing and life-giving. In the case of many PKs, He never was either of these; by their estimation, He was just a character in an overtold story. Instead of Savior and Lord, He becomes any number of other things, most of which take on the character of those who represent Him in the church. (Kindle location 634)

As a parent, that is probably the most terrifying thing for me when I think about my own children’s spiritual health. They’re not PKs, but they are in the bubble because of my job and my extra-curricular activities. They’re exposed to a lot of Bible, a lot of books, a lot of discussion… and honestly, the last thing I want for them is to find Jesus boring.

So what does it mean for me as a parent? I need to give them grace and space to figure stuff out as they grow. To wrestle, to ask questions. To meet the real Jesus at the end of it all because, “only when Jesus becomes real to a PK can she begin to figure out what she is, who she is” (Kindle location 648).

This is where, from a  practical standpoint, the sixth chapter, “Pastor and Child,” is so helpful to me (even as a layperson). It’s a simple reminder to be dad before being a pastor or ministry leader or anything else. To talk with instead of at. To have fun, have friends, to play and be silly. “The greatest grace a pastor can show his children is not being a great pastor; it is being a parent who is fully invested, cares deeply, and shows it as well as he can” (Kindle location 1110).

Writing on a subject so closely tied to the author’s life and experience can be touchy, especially one as complex as being a pastor’s kid. It’s easy to veer into bitterness, grumbling and complaining about how awful being a PK was. While that might even be true for some, this is not where Piper leaves readers. He’s not bitter or jaded. He hasn’t abandoned Christianity. He’s not angry with his parents for giving their lives to church ministry. Instead, he is grateful:

…PKs are blessed to have parents who devote their lives to serving Jesus. It is a challenging calling, and not one person in the world’s history has figured out how to do it perfectly. It is a daunting life. But it is necessary and good and rewarding. So thank you, pastors (and spouses). You have given your lives to serving Jesus and His church, and that is a blessing. (Kindle location 1343)

If there’s one key takeaway from the book, this is it. Despite its complexity, being a PK ultimately is a blessing, rather than a burden. Although some stumble and fall, and some try to run as far away as possible from the faith of their parents, they don’t have to. They don’t have to live up to false expectations, or let unkind and uncharitable comments become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Instead, they can run full tilt toward Jesus, owning their responsibilities to “honor Jesus, to honor our fathers and mothers, to love and support the church, and to go about our lives not as victims but as the redeemed” (Kindle location 1394). This is what I see Barnabas Piper doing, both in The Pastor’s Kid and when I interact with him online or when we happen to be in the same city (when we’re not making smart-alecky comments, that is). And this is what I’d love to see for my kids who aren’t PKs, as well as for all the PKs at our church and in all the faithful churches in our community. While none of us can make it happen for any one person, this book is sure to offer a great deal of healing for wounded pastor’s kids and challenging encouragement along the way for their parents.


Title: The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity
Author: Barnabas Piper
Publisher: David C. Cook (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

Links I like

What We All Agree On, and What We (Probably) Don’t, In this Sanctification Debate

Kevin DeYoung:

It’s no surprise that I share the concerns raised by Jen, Michael, Mark, Jared, and others in this discussion. I’ve already written a book on the subject and dozens of blog posts, so I won’t repeat everything I’ve already said. What may be helpful, however, is to try to push this discussion to the next level. I think Mark Jones has the right idea. Whether it’s a public debate or not, we as fellow evangelicals, often fellow Reformed pastors, and sometimes fellow friends, should be willing to provide further clarity and answer some probing questions from both sides of this scuffle over sanctification. And we should do at least some of this publicly, because this has been a public discussion entered into willingly by “public figures” on all sides.

We all agree the differences are not mere semantics. We all agree the issues are of crucial importance for the church’s preaching, counseling, and overall health and vitality. So let’s move past boilerplate and try to get to the bottom of these critical disagreements.

Don’t Waste Your Loneliness

Sarah Van Beveren:

One of the wonderful things about the Church is the community we share. In Christ, God has knit us together, and instead of admonishing us to become a community, he tells us that he has already made us into one. In John, we read that our unique love for one another is what will set us apart and show that we are disciples of Christ.

I recently attended a women’s breakfast and listened to a talk on friendship, specifically the masks that we have a tendency to hide behind. It seems that despite our bond, many in the Church are feeling lonely and disconnected. Over the last year I’ve spent much time evaluating and praying through my own experience with loneliness, and have sought to dialogue with both men and women, hearing their thoughts and desires for our brothers and sisters. From this, two principles have come to define how I seek out and approach friendships.

Save up to 64% on books for graduates

Westminster Books has some terrific deals on books ideal for high school and college grads, including Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper and Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung.

And while we’re talking about deals, here’s a look at a few recent Kindle deals:

How Many Children Should I Have?

David Murray:

I know, I know, I’m going where many have perished.

But.

I want to highlight two simple biblical principles that I think could help Christians have more confidence that they are pleasing God in this vital area of life. And of course, this is all under the sovereignty of God who alone can give life.

Common Problems In Modern Preaching

Andrew Webb:

Modern preaching has its own problems, and while there are some commonalities, there are differences between the problems you are likely to see in reformed and non-reformed preaching. Here then are my observations on the common problems in both camps, I should stress this is just my opinion and is not intended to be exhaustive, and yes I’ve been guilty of some of these myself. I offer these lists in the hopes that they might be noted and avoided by preachers in the future!

2 kids’ albums that are actually really good!

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As y’all know, my wife and I are the parents of three little kids—Abigail (7), Hannah (4), and Hudson (2). Our house is always hopping with this crew, especially when there’s music on (or in their heads). I took the girls to The Muppets Most Wanted recently, and while we were in the car, Hannah and Abigail immediately started singing a heartfelt rendition of every girl’s current favorite song, “Let it Go.”

Just imagine that for a minute.

Alright, back to the task at hand. Because these kids really enjoy music, I get to expose them to a lot of different material. The challenge has been finding good kids’ albums! Many, as you can imagine, are vile, poorly produced, dreck. Some are okay. Few are exceptional.

But the exceptional few are ones I’d like to talk about a bit today. Here’s a look at two kids’ albums that are actually really good!

1. Coal Train Railroad, self-titled. I was pointed toward these folks by one of my followers on Twitter and I’m so glad they did. Coal Train Railroad is a jazz group for kids from Nashville, and their stuff is exceptional, both what’s been released on their self-titled debut and the follow-up, Coal Train Railroad Swings!

Our kids really like to bop to these albums, and Hudson typically asks for “Train!” when we get in the car, so there’s that.

Learn more or buy it at: Amazon | iTunes

2. The Verve Pipe, Are We There Yet? Honestly, I never thought I’d put “The Verve Pipe” and “great” in the same sentence, but there you go. These guys had a couple of big songs in the mid-late 90s but they fell off my radar a long time ago. Then I learned they had made a couple of albums for kids, the latest being Are We There Yet? This album has a lot of fun songs, including one called “When Grandma Says No,” which describes the all-too-true reality of Grandma’s no’s true meaning: maybe.

And all the parents said, “amen.”

Learn more or buy it at: Amazon | iTunes

So those are a couple of really good kids’ albums we’ve picked up recently. If you’re a parent, definitely check them out, and if you have recommendations, share them in the comments!

3 gift ideas to share Christ with your kids

I have a confession: I’m woefully behind on my Christmas shopping this year. I’m pretty sure I’ve not been this far behind since before Hannah, our second child, was born. And, of course, it’s her we’re struggling to find the right gift for.

Maybe you’re in the same boat as me. If so, I hope today’s post can be a help. Here are three gift ideas to share Christ with your kids:

lightlings-cover

The Lightlings by R.C. Sproul.

Ligonier Ministries has a number of resources available for children, but this is one of our favorites in the Armstrong house. This book weaves an allegorical tale of redemption, focusing specifically on the incarnation. “A race of tiny beings known as lightlings represent humanity as they pass through all the stages of the biblical drama creation, fall, and redemption. In the end, children will understand why some people fear light more than darkness, but why they need never fear darkness again.”

(Learn more or buy it at Ligonier Ministries, Westminster Books or Amazon).


Sammy and His Shepherd by Susan Hunt.

This book, a child-friendly exploration of Psalm 23, helps children “grow in their understanding of the metaphors the psalmist used in composing this beloved poem. But more important, they will gain a deeper appreciation for the one who is the subject of the psalm: the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.”

(Learn more or buy it at Ligonier MinistriesWestminster Books or Amazon).

(Incidentally, Westminster Books has these two titles along with The Prince’s Poison Cup available as a set.)


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Buck Denver Asks: What’s in the Bible?

Phil Vischer began producing this DVD series a number of years ago, walking children through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. While obviously there are going to be a few quibbles here and there due to your particular theological emphases, the series itself presents a very good—even excellent—look at the core truths of the Christian faith in a way that’s highly engaging for kids.

(Learn more or buy it at Amazon or What’s in the Bible)


So those are three gifts I’d encourage parents to check out for their kids. What are a few ideas you’ve got?

Children Are a Glorious Inconvenience

Good word from Mark Driscoll:

 

Children are a glorious inconvenience. Are children an inconvenience? Absolutely. It’s why many people don’t want to have children. “Oh, they’re such an inconvenience.” Having a child is a big deal, infertility can be a real pressing issue. You finally get pregnant, maybe you have a miscarriage, maybe you don’t, you don’t have the miscarriage, then you have all the water retention and the weight gain and the heartburn and the kicking of the bladder. I mean, I’ve seen it firsthand, it’s exciting. It’s an inconvenience. And then the baby’s born. Having a baby is an inconvenience. I’ve watched it, I know why we give women drugs. It’s necessary. And then the child is born and the children, they sleep during the day, they’re up all night, they cost tons of money, they scream and fluids come from every hole like a sprinkler, right? They’re an inconvenience. And then we get to junior high, oh. And then it’s an—and then they want to go to college, then they want to get married and it costs money and they take time and they’re an inconvenience.

And you know what? They’re a glorious inconvenience. They’re a glorious inconvenience.

And here’s the big idea: we tend to not see ourselves as children. We tend to see ourselves like the disciples, “Well, we’re very responsible adults with very important things to do.” And God says, “You know what I see? Ponytails, boogers, and Fudgesicles, that’s what I see.” You’re not totally able to take care of yourself. You need your dad. You were an inconvenience. I don’t know about you, Father, I apologize for being such an enormous inconvenience. But you know what? The fact that the Father loves me and he endures with me and he protects me and he provides for me and he instructs me and he corrects me, it reveals that he’s glorious. He’s amazing. And we, by the grace of God, get to be the children of God. We get to be that inconvenience through which he is revealed to be glorious. That’s what Christianity’s all about.

So if you’re here and you’re not a Christian, I would invite you through Jesus Christ to enjoy God as your Father and we as your family. Isn’t this good news?

And I want you just for a moment to consider with me, that if we had the heart of Jesus for children and we raise children who we love and instructed in the Lord and they grew up to love and serve Jesus. . . . We’re leaving a legacy of gospel faith that goes on maybe until Jesus comes back.

There’s a story at the end of Genesis where a little family of sixty-some people goes into Egypt, and they’re the children of God. They have children who have children who have children. Four hundred and forty years later, they emerge as the nation of Israel, a few million people. They went from a few dozen to a few million.

We may be in the midst of that. And it starts with the heart of Jesus. We need to approach our Father and his kingdom like kids and we need to raise our kids to love their heavenly Father.

HT: Z

Book Review: Halfway Herbert by Francis Chan

“Herbert Hallweg was seven-and-a-half years old, three-and-a-half feet tall, and fifty-five-and-a-half pounds heavy. He had lots of friends, but none of them called him Herbert. Instead, everyone called him… Halfway Herbert.”

That’s how Francis Chan begins his children’s book, Halfway Herbert. Herbert only ever does things halfway. He brushes half his teeth, does half his homework, eats half his food and gets half the sleep he needs. So when he is riding his bike and is only half paying attention, he hits his dad’s car & decides to tell only half the truth… and gets caught in a whole lie. When his dad confronts him, he teaches Herbert that none of life isn’t meant to be lived halfway—especially our lives as Christians.

In this book, Chan does a terrific job of distilling the core message of Crazy Love into a powerful reminder of the importance of loving the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. That there’s no such thing as being halfway obedient to Christ—He demands all of us. Although we always follow imperfectly, even in that the Holy Spirit is making us more and more like Christ.

I was quite impressed when I read Halfway Herbert. It’s geared perfectly to children around ages 4-8 (my oldest daughter listened attentively as my wife read it to her before we secretly bought it as a Christmas gift)—but it also has a lot to teach adults. Our children learn as much from our example what it means to be a Christian as they do from reading the Bible themselves. And when they’re really young, they learn almost entirely from us. So what’s the example we’re setting? Do we live like people who are completely sold out for the cause of Christ… or are we, too, Halfway Herberts?

I’d highly encourage parents to pick up a copy of Halfway Herbert for their children. Read it together and encourage one another to live a life fully devoted to Christ.

Title: Halfway Herbert
Author: Francis Chan
Publisher: David C. Cook

Book Talk: The Mighty Acts of God by Starr Meade and Tim O’Connor

Kids’ Bibles are a strange animal.

There’s a lot of effort that’s put into making the stories of the Bible sensible to children; in the process, however, many important facets of God’s interactions with His creation can get glossed over or lost altogether.

Enter The Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book.

Written by Starr Meade and illustrated by Tim O’Connor, The Mighty Acts of God is intended to teach children the essential doctrines of the Christian faith from a Reformed perspective.

Recently, I received a copy of The Mighty Acts of God and in the video below, my wife Emily and I share our thoughts on the book and how it impacted our family.

http://vimeo.com/17315247

To summarize:

  1. The stories introduce key doctrines of the Christian faith in a way that children can understand;
  2. The content focuses on who God is and what He has done in creation;
  3. It’s extremely cross-centered, constantly bringing readers back to the gospel; and
  4. The “For me and my house” discussion section is one of the greatest strengths of the book, providing opportunities to discuss what’s been learned in the story and how it applies to our lives.

If you’re looking for a kid’s Bible that the whole family will benefit from, I would highly recommend The Mighty Acts of God.


Title: The Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book
Authors: Starr Meade & Tim O’Connor
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

A copy of this book was provided for review purposes by the publisher.

Book Review: The Church History ABCs

The study of Church history is an incredibly rewarding—and daunting—experience. In the 2000 years since Christ founded His Church, we’ve seen slave-traders dramatically converted into hymn writers, men give up their lives so that people can read the Bible in their own language, church fathers martyred for defending the faith, a reformation that transformed the world and countless other events. If there’s one thing Church history is not, it’s dull.

So how on earth do you begin to introduce kids to the riches of Church history? How about alphabetically?

In The Church History ABCs, author Stephen J. Nichols and illustrator Ned Bustard, introduce children to 26 heroes of the faith from Augustine to Zwingli. Nichols keeps his text lively and concise, avoiding getting bogged down in too many details about the people to whom he is introducing readers. I particularly enjoyed his write-up of Ulrich Zwingli:

I always come last because my name starts with “Z.” Zurich starts with a “Z” too. Go used me to teach the people of the city of Zurich about Jesus. From Zurich, the Reformation spread to other cities in Switzerland (there’s a “Z” in that word, too). I preached many sermons. One of them had a funny title, “On the Choice and Freedom of Foods.” . . . The Reformation came to Zurich. I wanted everyone to know that we should follow God’s Word and do what it says. The Bible tells us everything we need to know from A to Z.

Bustard’s clean illustration style is a lot of fun and very expressive. I’m impressed at his ability to communicate so much personality in such “simple” drawings (my wife is an illustrator, so I know how difficult a task this can be). It’s a style that serves the content and the audience well.

From a parent’s perspective, The Church History ABCs is a lot of fun—the basic premise is intriguing enough to  make you want to pick it up and take a look, the content is strong enough to give a firm foundation in the bigger picture of Church history, and it’s a neat handy tool for teaching your kids the alphabet. Get a copy for your kids today.


Title: The Church History ABCs: Augustine and 25 Other Heroes of the Faith
Authors: Stephen J. Nichols, Ned Bustard
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

DVD Review: Adventures in Booga-Booga Land

You never know what you’re going to get with kids videos. Sometimes they surprise you; they’re packed with great content and have terrific production quality. Sometimes they’re okay, but forgettable. And then there are the ones that are an absolute train wreck—mind-numbingly painful to watch and just awful, awful production values.

(I’m not sure if that’s the best opening for a review, but there you have it.)

Recently I received a copy of Adventures in Booga Booga Land, distributed by Tommy Nelson (Thomas Nelson’s children’s product division). Based on Richard Milner’s children’s book, the DVD features three stories that serve as retellings of Jesus’ parables & teaching: The workers in the Vineyard from Matt 20:1-16, The Wise & Foolish Builders from Matt. 7:24-27 and The Lamp under the Bowl from Matt. 5:14-16.

So, how did it fare? Well…

The stories on the DVD really only serve as a lead-in for parents to have a discussion of the biblical teaching. This can be a good and bad thing. On the one hand, it’s great to have something to call your kids back to as in, “remember when Marty and Gerard got all huffy because their boss paid people who started working at the end of the day the same wage as them? Well, let’s take a look at that story in the Bible…” So in that sense, it’s a helpful learning aid. On the other hand, if you don’t always have time to do a full lesson with your kids and need something that has a more “complete” message, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

Another concern that came up was that the stories themselves are surprisingly violent; my daughter was very confused and concerned when Marty the Monkey and the Schwarzenegger-styled adult education teacher were fighting in the grocery store. Additionally, the attempts to recall fond memories of classic Looney Toons shorts fall flat; it just doesn’t work.

The production quality of the cartoons is terrible. My wife commented that it looks like it might have been done by the same people who made “Toopy and Binoo” (one of the strangest kids shows we’ve ever seen). Truthfully, it reminded me a bit of a bad Flash video.

The final thing I have to comment on is the voiceover work. The voices just grated on us adults. Gerard reminded my wife of Canadian author and radio personality Stuart McLean (it wasn’t, we checked). And the pseudo-Canadian bus driver… Really? We’re still doing that? (There’s another level of irony to this in that the government of Ontario receives a credit for playing a role in the production of the video.)

All that to say, while this certainly wasn’t the worst kids video I’ve seen and I greatly appreciate the intent, Adventures in Booga Booga Land is not something that will be a fixture in our home and I wouldn’t recommend it become on in your’s either.

A complimentary copy of this DVD was provided through Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze Program

Music Review: Meet the Rizers

It’s hard to find great kid’s music that’s both fun to listen to and has rich content. (Parents reading this, can you back me up on this?)

Then I heard about Meet the Rizers, a new release from RE:Sound.

When I learned about this record, I was intrigued. We’ve got very little children’s music that I’d consider great, especially that provides us with opportunities to talk about faith with our kids (which is a fun thing to do with a three-year-old; the baby doesn’t have much to say yet). With a family vacation on the horizon, I listened to a couple of samples (see below) and decided to give it a shot.

What was the verdict?

Meet the Rizers blew me away. Seriously.

Tyson Paoletti of Tooth & Nail Records and Greg Lutze (both members of Mars Hill Church in Seattle) had an idea for an album of Scripture-based, guitar-pop worship songs for kids. As parents, they were also looking for a way to teach Scripture memorization as a value in their homes.

This desire led them, ultimately, to create this record.

By taking nine passages from the Bible and setting them to music, Meet the Rizers allows children (and parents) to not only listen to some catchy, head bopping music, but to learn to memorize Scripture.

The idea is very clever and the execution is top-notch. And honestly, I can’t imagine how challenging it must have been to arrange the music for each verse. It’s evident that a great deal of care has been taken with each song to make sure the integrity of the Scripture is maintained while not sacrificing musical quality. While all the songs are catchy, a particular favorite of is Psalm 8:1. Because the psalms are mostly songs, it was fascinating for me to hear one set to music. And the arrangement works so well—it’s fun to listen to and easy to memorize.

So what was our oldest daughter’s reaction?

When I put the record on for the first time, Abigail saw the picture and immediately assumed that it was a cartoon. After I explained to her that it there was only audio, she still insisted on having the large image on the screen. (She continues to ask for the big picture when we’re at the iMac.)

On the drive to our vacation, she gleefully bopped along to the music in the backseat. This was after listening to it three times in the house before we left.

Now, every time I take her anywhere, her first question is, “Can we listen to Meet the Rizers?!”

This is a good problem to have, but it also means I need to find more children’s music of this caliber.

Meet the Rizers sets the bar high for future releases from the group and for kid-friendly music in general.

If you’re looking for something for your next road trip or to put on while you’re hanging around the house, don’t pass up this record.

Around the Interweb (07/25)

5 Dangers Facing Over-Churched Kids and 9 Strategies to Reach Them

Tony Kummer explains:

These are the children who attend every service, and can’t remember anytime when they didn’t come to church. In my ministry, most of these kids also attend a Christian school. They can recite the books of the Bible, they’ve memorized countess Scripture verses, and they know details about Bible stories that I can’t even remember.

By over-churched kids, I mean children with too much religion and not enough actual interaction with Jesus…

One of the dangers that stood out for me:

They Have Learned to Pretend Pray: A real struggle for grown-ups is connecting with God through prayer. Too often it becomes routine and dry. Most younger children learn prayer as an act of imitation. Many don’t even realize that something cosmic is happening when we address our words to God. They don’t feel the presence of God or even expect that they should.

Tony’s solutions are extremely encouraging. Here are a couple:

Pray for Every Child: Sometimes the deepest problems require a spiritual solution. Ask God to make a difference for those over-churched kids. It’s great when we pray for those outside the church, but don’t forget to lift up those familiar names to the Lord. Remember, effective ministry depends on prayer.

Teach the Bad News: According to the Bible, we are all sinners who have earned the displeasure of God. Without Jesus, we would have no hope of passing God’s judgment. Over-churched kids need to realize that they too need a Savior. They need to learn about sin. Keep teaching the 10 Commandments, but also teach what Jesus said about loving your neighbor. None of us can really meet those standards on our own.

Read both posts; they’re well worth your time.

A Brief Bit of Housekeeping

This past week I was on vacation in Grand Bend, Ontario, enjoying some time relaxing with my family (and preparing a sermon). In my absence a number of gentlemen agreed to lend a hand and keep content coming. Matt, Chris, Gabe and Ben did a tremendous job and I know I was ministered to as I read their posts. (If you haven’t yet, keep scrolling down and you’ll find them.)

Thanks guys, I’m looking forward to having you back if you’re up for it!

In Other News

Church Life: Jason Helopoulos offers a few good reasons for changing churches (and a few bad ones, too).

Social Justice & the Bible: Kevin DeYoung wraps his Seven Passages on Social Justice series by examining Luke 4:16-21. The rest of the series includes Micah 6:8; Amos 5; Matthew 25:31-46; Jeremiah 22; Isaiah 58; and Isaiah 1.

Prayer: Rick Warren’s eyes were severely injured when he got toxic sap from his African Fire Stick plant in his eyes. His sight is gradually improving every day. Please join in praying for his full recovery.

Books and Technology: This week Amazon announced that Kindle books been selling 180 units for every 100 hardbacks for the last three months. Here’s what they didn’t say when they made that announcement.

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Matthew Svoboda tackles Eschatology and why he believes Amillenialism is the most biblically accurate view of the end times.

Gabe Posey looks at the call to ministry.

Chris Canuel examines the purpose of suffering through the eyes of Job.

Ben Reed shares the importance of the beautiful mess that is a small group.