Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Read Me a Book, Mommy ~ Biographies

Ride along on Hudson Taylor’s  first voyage to China..
.trek through the virgin forests with George Washington, the young surveyor...
.painstakingly sew a flag with Betsy Ross....
suffer the grief of a mother dying with Abraham Lincoln...
.brave the dangers of going to a remote tribe with David Livingstone.

All of these adventures and more will be yours and your children’s as you read biographies aloud. But this isn’t the only benefit to reading biographies to your children. The true story of a great man or woman will set before your sons and daughters a wonderful example for them to follow. Most of the heroes of today’s society are not fit to be copied. But godly men and women of the past and present as well as the great statesmen and patriots of our American heritage are worthy of presenting to our children. Reading biographies helps us understand the backgrounds of these people’s lives that lead to the great feats they did usually in their later lives. Let’s raise our children’s dreams to those thing that are noble and good, that are unselfish and of pure motive, that are full of worthy character. All of this can be done by reading aloud biographies to them.

Reading the tales of great people also indirectly teaches history to your children. This is so much more effective than a straight historical account in a textbook. The people of history “come alive”. After all, what is history? God’s work in the lives of people involves in the circumstances of life.

Many series of biographies are available today at reasonable costs. Not everything you can sign out of libraries will be good for your children to read. Choose carefully. Remember that most of the public library books will not be written from a Christian perspective. So a great American who was a Christian will be presented without that important part of his life being portrayed. Those who opposed Christianity throughout history will be presented as worthy role models. So be careful when you are picking biographies. Listed below are some good sets of biographies and some good publishers, as well as some sources for finding these for your family. Grade levels listed are approximate and for your child reading the book for himself. Of course, these books can be read aloud to children younger or older than listed.

It may take awhile for your children to learn to really appreciate a good biography because this type of literature is rarely assigned in school work today. And when was the last time you read a biography? Perhaps I can challenge you to read at least one. I find the missionary biographies particularly interesting. When I read these, my problems become petty; my “sufferings” are meager; and my faith is found wanting. I need these giants of the faith to keep my life in perspective. We love biographies so much that our family has collected almost 2,000 of them! You are welcome to come by and borrow some for your spring and summer reading. We also have some excellent audio cassette and CD sets of great biographies. Wonderful for traveling time!

Biography Sets

Childhood of Famous Americans - This popular set was first published in the 1950's and some of the 200+ titles have been reprinted in paperback now. We have found almost 100 of the old edition at book sales. They are wonderful stories, telling about the childhood of famous American people. Our children loved them. Each book is close to 200 pages with black and white sketch drawings or silhouette illustrations. For grades 3-5. Not from a Christian perspective but do not mock these heroes  for their beliefs and Christianity.

The Sower Series - Published by Mott Media, a Christian company, these biographies will tell of the true Christian character of many famous people such as Appleseed, Morse, Wesley, Handel, carver, Webster. For grades 5-8, about 150-200 pages.

Men & Women of Faith series - This set is mainly of men and women who were missionaries and portrays their faith in God including Carmichael, ten Book, Elliot, Stam, Muller, Kuhn, Slessor and Carey. Reading level is grade 6 through adult. Published by Bethany House.

Hero Tales - four volumes - by Dave & Neta Jackson. A family treasury of true stories from the lives of Christian heroes. Short biographical information and three stories that display the person’s character plus Scripture verses and thought provoking discussion questions. For all ages.

Biographies for girls by Tracy M. Leininger - Priscilla Mullins, Nan Harper, Sacagawea, and Dolley Madison. Available from Vision Forum. Other titles of biographies from this company as well for boys and adults.

Living Principles of America - Audio dramatizations of America’s Greatest Heroes. CD. Each set has 12 stories.

Your Story Hour recordings - Audio dramatizations of American heroes. CD.

Focus on the Family Radio Theater - They have produced many biographical audio dramas. For example: Squanto, Corrie ten Boom, William Wilberforce, John Newton, etc.

Voice of the Martyrs - Beautiful picture story books of famous people including St. Nicholas, St. Valentine, and others. Lovely!

The Reading Parent

I had a parent who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
Blackbirds stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a parent who read me plays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every child has a right to know.

I had a parent who read me
Tales of Gelert the Hound of the Hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness bent with his final breath.

I had a parent who read me the things
That wholesome life to the child heart brings -
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each parent of children were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold,
Richer than I you can never be -
I had a parent who read to me.

~Author unknown~

The photo above is my husband's grandmother's aunt and her two children. Photographed in the 1920's. Isn't it precious?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jews' Shoes

Deuteronomy 29:5
"And I have led you forty years in the wilderness.
Your clothes have not worn out on you, 
and your sandals have not worn out on your feet."

We have two vehicles: a '98 Dodge Caravan with 232,000 miles on it and a 2002 Chevy Suburban with 199,000 miles on it. So......what does that have to do with the sandals in Deuteronomy 29:5?

Recently as I drove the Caravan (which is not my preferred vehicle!!!), the Lord brought Deuteronomy 29:5 to my mind. Just like the Jews' shoes did not wear out in their journey through the wilderness, this old Dodge just keeps going. My husband, the optimist in the family, always says "It hasn't let me down yet," when I worry about him taking it on a trip longer than just the 3 miles to work! 

The reason God favored the wandering Israelites with sandals that did not wear out is stated in the next verse:
Deuteronomy 29:6b ".... that you may know that I am the LORD your God." He wanted them to know He was their God, a capable, loving, enabling, maintaining God. A gracious God. He knew there were no sandal shops in the wilderness. He knew their funds were limited. He foresaw the problem and took care of it for them. One less thing to worry about! 

And so, even though this Caravan is not my favorite car to drive, I am truly thankful that God keeps it running and running and running. I know, Lord, you are Lord even over the purple minivan in our driveway. You are God!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Breath of Life ~ From First to Last

Sarah and Mercy, age 2
September 29, 2004, 7:02 p.m. - Sarah was born, much to the relief of the dear mother, father, family, doctor/midwife, and friends. As Sarah entered the world, we held our breath, waiting for her to breathe. Come on, little one.......what seemed like a minute or two passed, but was only a few seconds......there it is! A lusty wail was heard as her lungs filled with air, a totally new experience for her. Her eyes opened and her parents looked into them for the first time. Sarah was handed to me as I sat on the bed next to the momma.  Just minutes later, Sarah's sister came forth and the same anticipation occurred. We waited.......come on, baby, breathe!.......Ah, yes, then Mercy cried out. She was okay. We all exhaled. Mercy's eyes were open, gazing about at all the new sights. What a special moment to see the faces of these two new daughters for the first time. Matt and Pam and their five other children welcomed with tears of joy and relief these two new little ones. What a privilege to be there as these babies breathed their first breath of life.

October 21, 2004, about 5:30 p.m. - Bill lay quietly on his bed at the nursing home in Riverview. His eyes were closed; there was no response from him. His wife and I talked quietly to him and to one another. Every once in a while we stopped to listen to his breathing.......shallow.......with between. Several times we leaned over waiting for him to breathe again.......15 seconds passed. Come on, Bill, breathe. There it was........another long, slow exhale. Minutes later, there was a 20 second interval between breaths. We talked quietly on about how wonderful of a man he was, how she loved to serve him and make his life happy.......a long pause again.......20 seconds passed.......then 30......I leaned over to listen for his next breath. I took his hand and tried to find a pulse. No more breaths came, no pulse. He was at rest. Bill entered heaven with joy and rejoicing. The pain and suffering of recent months was all gone; He was seeing his Savior face-to-face. For his wife, a time of sorrow and relief. Losing a husband two times in 5 short years was not easy. What a privilege to be there with her and with Bill as he took his last breath.

Such were the experiences I had just three weeks apart that fall. As I drove home after Bill had died, the words of the verse in Genesis 2:7 came to my mind, "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breathe of life; and man became a living being." I had watched Sarah and Mercy breathe their first air; I had watched Bill breathe his last. Yes, the babies were very much alive in the womb with their needed oxygen coming through the placentas from their mother's blood, but seeing them take in air for themselves for the first time was amazing. Who tells them to do that? Think of all the physiological changes that must take place for this to happen. And for Bill, who told him to breathe his last? Why at that moment? "For it is appointed unto man, once to die....."  God! He is the answer to the first and the last breath we take. He is the source of all life. He gives it; and He takes it away. And as many have said through the centuries along with Job, "...the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21b

Obviously, if you are reading this article, you are breathing. You probably don't even remember your first breath of life at your birth, and most of you were not conscious of your breathing throughout today.....unless you felt out of breath chasing two toddlers all day! When will your last breath be? At this point in time, only God knows. Are you ready? Will you be ready when your last breath comes? Do you know what will happen to you then? The Bible tells us in Hebrews 9:27 that " is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment." If you have acknowledged your sin to God and asked Him to be your personal Savior, since He has already paid the penalty for your sins on the cross, you can be absolutely assured that you will be with Him. If you are not sure what will happen to you when you breathe your last, please read the following verses from the Bible:

Romans 10:9, 10, 13  "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.....for 'whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'"

From our first breath to our last....."Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow." Psalm 144:4 Because of that, let everything that has breath, praise the Lord." Psalm 150:6

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bigger and Better ~ A Penny for a Dryer?

Many years ago when Bud and I were young newlyweds, we were working with the teens at our church. We planned a YAC (Youth after Church) for a Sunday night and had about 30 kids in our home for fun and food. Bud divided the teens up into teams of 4 or 5, gave each team a penny, and sent them out into our neighborhood to trade that penny for something bigger and better. They could trade up as many times as they could convince people to trade, and they had to be back to our house by a certain time. Off they went! Some very interesting items came back to our home that night! Lots of laughs. I remember a bird cage even. But the one thing that was most exciting to this wife and soon-to-be-mother was a dryer. It didn’t run….but that didn’t stop us. Bud discovered it needed a $7 part, fixed it, and we were good to go. I think we used that dryer for our family of 7 for about 20 years!!

When I was a little girl, I made a trade that changed the course of my life. I traded my sin for the righteousness of God. I traded my plans for my life for God’s plans for my life. I traded my selfishness for God’s love.  And I’m so glad! It was a great trade. Something far bigger and better! This song gives my testimony.

Trading My Sorrows by Darrell Evans 
I'm trading my sorrow
I'm trading my shame
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord

I'm trading my sickness
I'm trading my pain
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord

And we say yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord Amen

I'm pressed but not crushed persecuted not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
I'm blessed beyond the curse for his promise will endure
And his joy's gonna be my strength

Though the sorrow may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning

The  Scriptures give many examples of men and women through the ages who traded for bigger and better.

Abraham traded the security and comfort of his home in Ur for obedience to follow God to the unknown, believing in the promises of God. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; or he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Hebrews 11:8-10

Sarah traded barrenness for the strength to bear a child.  “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.” Hebrews 11:11

Did Moses ever dream he would lead the nation of his people, the Jews, out of bondage in Egypt? Hebrews 11 tells us he traded the passing pleasures of sin for suffering affliction with the people of God; he traded the treasures of Egypt for the reproach of Christ.

“And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:16

And my mind goes to the quote by Jim Elliot, a missionary martyr in Ecuador in the 50’s,  “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

So many godly examples of those who were willing to trade for something bigger and better.

Why then do we hang on tight to the “penny”? What are you hanging on to? Can you not see that God has something bigger and better in mind for you? Trade in that penny for God’s best!