Book Review – The Barber Who Wanted to Pray

In The Barber Who Wanted to Pray, the story unfolds as we join a family gathered together for family worship.  One of the children asks her father how come he could pray so beautifully.  In answer, the father tells them the true story of how Herr Peter once asked his famous client, Martin Luther, a very similar question.  Luther replies by writing the simple, yet profound classic, A Simple Way to Pray. He emphasizes three things to focus on or pray through: the Lord’s Prayer, the 10 Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed.  In the end, the family clusters together again to practice this new and exciting way of learning to pray.

I love children’s books and love that my children love books.  We were given R.C. Sproul’s book, The Prince’s Poison Cup a few years ago and my children have asked me to read and reread it.  It is a beautiful illustration of how Jesus Christ died willingly, taking God’s punishment for sin on himself and how the “poison” turns to sweet water.

When I received The Barber Who Wanted to Pray, I was expecting the same caliber of storytelling.  Alas, this was not the case.  In The Barber Who Wanted to Pray, I felt like the storyline was too forced and dry.  Much detail is given to the barber’s preparation for Luther’s shave (including a somewhat graphic musing about the possibility of killing Luther by cutting his throat with the razor!).  The opening details of the dad’s family worship routine seem overdone and geared towards providing an illustration of how family worship time could look.  Although I certainly think that such illustrations can be valuable, it felt misplaced in a children’s story.  A true test of a book’s ability to capture a child’s attention is, well, to read it to them.  Unlike The Prince’s Poison Cup, my children had a very hard time sitting through this book.

While the intent of the book (teaching our children how to pray) is very important, the execution of it in this particular book felt rushed and lacking the wonder of many of Sproul’s other children’s books.  The message of the book, especially Luther’s method of praying, is worth learning.  I would recommend those looking for resources on family worship to turn to Luther’s book itself  or to Voddie Bauchum’s book, Family Driven Faith  (a book which has issues of its own, but the chapter on family worship is invaluable.) 2/5 stars

(Thanks to Crossway’s Homeschool Book Review program for providing a review copy of this book.)

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Food for thought

“We spend so much energy wishing we were someone else.  Don’t waste your time on that.  Christ has completed the work for us.  We are his and he is ours, and in him we rest in triune love.  Why waste time thinking we are not sufficient and being jealous over those we think are sufficient?  We have already seen that no one is sufficient but Christ, and in him we are brought into union with the Father. That’s enough. What can you add to perfect love?

“The guy who slugs it out at work every day displays the kingdom when he is living for the love of the King.  He is faithful, loves his wife, leads his home, adores his kids and admits when he fails.  You and I will never hear about him, he will never be famous, and some of us would look at his job and think it is not a place you could live with passion.  But Jesus has become the object of his desire, and by the grace of Christ he displays the kingdom of peace, mercy, kindness, faithfulness, joy, and purity in every detail of his life.  He won’t preach a sermon on Sunday, but he will leave a legacy in his home and his workplace, where he did what God made him to do for the love of the King.”

(A Kingdom Called Desire: Confronted By the Love of a Risen King, by Rick McKinley, pp.124-125)

Book Review – Give Them Grace

Are you a parent who wants perfect kids?  Adjust your parenting style to any number of the hundreds of books on parenting currently in print and you’ll be the successful parent you’ve always wanted to be with the successful children you’ve always wanted!

Sadly, this is the message of many parenting books that draw the hopeful and discouraged to their pages with each new publication.  In Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus, mother and daughter team Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson want parents to be the best Christian parents they can be, raising Godly children.  So what makes this book any different?  The answer is found in the gospel and grace of Jesus Christ.  The path to successful parenting isn’t found in what parents do or even how children react to what parents do.  Such a method leads only to law and, as the book cover says, the law is “a set of standards that is not only unable to save our children, but also powerless to change them.”  Not only do they take aim at the path to successful parenting, but they offer a rethinking of what it means to be a successful parent.

Much of the book is focused, not on the behavior of the child, but rather the belief system of the parent.  You won’t find very much in the way of the “how-to’s” of child discipline, but rather solid principles intended to have parents examine their own attitudes and understanding of the concept of grace.  Further, this idea of grace is firmly grounded in what believers have been given through Christ’s finished work on the cross in paying God’s penalty for sin and obtaining our right standing before God.  Based on the parents’ understanding of gospel work in their own hearts, the authors then answer the question of successful parenting – that is pointing our children to God by modeling the grace of God in our lives.

There were two chapters that I appreciated the most: one (“The One Good Story) offers wise principles for pointing our children to the grace and love of God in various situations.  For example, the question often comes up (at least it does in my family) of which movies to allow children to watch.  Instead of giving a bulleted list of do’s and don’ts, the authors offer several questions to ask about how that movie (or other entertainment medium) will either point to or prevent them from seeing gospel truths.  In their own words, “Our hope is that if we have taught them how to discern the one good story and judge every other story by it, they’ll be better equipped to answer the wicked Imposter’s lies when they hear them.” (p.120) They also touch on the subject of modesty and, instead of going straight to the obvious question of “is it revealing?” they suggest principles that will get to the heart of the child and not simply outward appearances.

The second chapter I appreciated the most was Chapter 9 (“Weak Parents and Their Strong Savior”) in which the authors gently point out that sometimes, even after all our best efforts and trusting in God, our children may not live as believers.  This chapter dealt with seeming failure as parents.  But even here, the authors point us to the fact that God is honored and glorified in everything.  In what was perhaps the most poignant statement of the chapter, they write “What if he has called us to Jeremiah’s ministry rather than to Daniel’s? Is there room in your parenting paradigm for weakness and failure if weakness and failure glorify God?” (p.149)

Perhaps the one negative aspect of the book is the examples of conversations between parent and child.  The table in Appendix 2 (“Common Problems and the Gospel”) is helpful in keeping our focus on Christ and the gospel in various situations, but the examples of conversations given seem too overblown and forced.  While I certainly want to teach my children the beauty of the gospel and of Christ, it seems more than a little forced to relate losing a baseball game to the suffering of Christ.  There are times when we as parents simply need to be there for our children, encouraging them when they fail/lose and helping them to do better next time.  Does this mean that we are ignoring the gospel and only promoting selfish little bootstrap hoisters?  Absolutely not!  However, the adage “too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good” seems to apply here.

Give Them Grace gives us a much needed reminder as parents that changing our children’s hearts and the outcome of our parenting is not dependent on us.  Oh yes, God uses this tool for this change but ultimately it is God who does the changing.  I was encouraged to continually point my children to the love, beauty and grace of God that is ours because of Jesus.  (4/5 stars)

(Thanks to Crossway’s Homeschool Book Review program for providing a review of this book.)

Almost Paradise

Last Saturday, I took Jeremiah, Natalie and Ben with me to the store to get a few various and sundry food items that Sarah needed. (Yes, I know saying “various” and “sundry” is redundant, but you have to admit, it’s fun to say together.) Usually, such a venture is a crapshoot – you never know what’s going to happen, how they’ll behave and whether or not I’ll end up getting the urge to buy a roll of duct tape. Sometimes, it’s an ordeal just getting them to cooperate by riding in the cart. And believe me, I would MUCH rather have them ride in the cart. That way, I know where they are and know where their hands are (“please keep arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.”)

But on Saturday’s excursion, they each did wonderfully. There was no arguing as to who got to ride where, why couldn’t they walk instead and generally refrained from adding things to our cart that didn’t need to be there. Jeremiah, in particular, however offered up some rather funny moments. This should be no surprise since this is also the child whose style of worship leading covers quite the range of music. On the subject of putting things in the cart, Jeremiah quipped “Do you know why we don’t put things in our cart? Because it’s not on our list.” He definitely gets that from his mother.

After getting all of the food items on our list, we went to get some toothpaste. Since the toothpaste is right beside the toy section, we couldn’t possibly NOT go down the toy aisles. Especially since the munchkins had done such a great job in the store. I lifted them out of the cart and they made their way down each aisle, checking out the various and sundry toys [see? You had fun reading that, didn’t you?]. We checked out the pink aisle with all the girlie stuff and the more colorful aisle with the Legos, building block and other learning toys. But then, we rounded the last corner and Jeremiah must have heard angels singing and a bright light shining a path for him. He stopped, stretched out his arms and exclaimed with a sigh, “Ah! The toys with all the buttons!” And that’s exactly what they did – pushed buttons to their hearts’ content.

I told Jeremiah that I felt the same way when I go into a bookstore. He just looked at me like I was nuts.

World Piece

Hey, this puzzle looks great!  It’ll be a fun thing for the kids to do and educational to boot!

Yeah, famous last words.

When we ordered our school books last year from SonLight, they threw in a free 600 piece world map puzzle.  Tonight, Carlos got it out of the closet and we went to work.  Now, in theory, a puzzle whose pieces are shaped like the actual country is a pretty cool puzzle.  In theory.  The downside is that pieces with irregular shapes do not interlock like a regular puzzle would.  The water pieces interlock and the border pieces interlock, helping to make a frame to keep the country pieces together, but this works only if you actually do the water and border pieces first.  I, of course, went straight for the countries.

I learned several things tonight.  First, don’t pay any attention to kids who complain that the puzzle is too hard while they do the VERY easy, interlocking border pieces.  They obviously aren’t struggling with the complexities of getting Georgia, Turkey, Kazakhtsan and Russia to stay together, much less India, Pakistan and Nepal.  (And yes, I actually spelled Kazakhstan right the first time – thanks Sporcle!)

Second, keep the country pieces away from the seismic activity of a toddler’s feet.  For whatever reason, Jeremiah insisted on putting his pieces together near me.  This wouldn’t be so bad if he also didn’t insist on turning around and around, swiping his feet across Southeast Asia and the Middle East with every turn.  My poor tectonic plates couldn’t handle much more abuse.

Third, when you have a 600 piece puzzle with pieces shaped like countries, many of these pieces will be tiny.  Very tiny.  Liechtenstein tiny.  Combine that with numbers one and two above and things get a little more nerve racking.

Fourth, if you have a 600 piece puzzle with incredibly tiny pieces that when finished (ha!) is supposed to be 3 feet by 1 ½ ft, almost everything on these pieces will be printed very small.  The box picture was certainly no help.  Why?  If the printing on a puzzle that will be 3 feet by 1 ½ ft is small, imagine how small the printing is on a box that is 12 by 8 inches.  I was desperately wanting some kind of magnifying glass to read these labels.  Right about then a one world government was sounding like a good idea.  It sure would make crazy puzzles like this simpler.  It’s a good thing this puzzle was free too.  Now we can put that money towards eye exams.

Educational indeed!

Book Review – Bringing Up Girls

When it comes to family psychology, there is perhaps no other name more well known among conservative evangelicals than Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.  Ten years after publishing his popular book on parenting boys, Dobson has penned the companion book, Bringing Up Girls.  In it, Dobson offers advice and insight from a clearly conservative viewpoint.  Speaking mainly to fathers, Dobson addresses issues such as femininity, beauty, sex, bullying, education and purity.  Much of the book addresses the physiological and psychological make up of “the fairer sex.”

The chapters that I appreciated the most were, oddly enough, the ones in which Dobson does relatively little talking.  One such chapter is devoted to young women talking about the things they remember – whether good or bad – about the fathers.  Reading about the profound impact of even the smallest things that their fathers had done impressed on me the importance of fathers in the lives of their daughters.   It is to this point that Dobson returns continually throughout the book and with good reason.  He quotes many statistical studies that emphasis the importance of fathers.

Another such chapter that was helpful and very practical was the contribution by Bob Waliszewski, director of Focus on the Family’s Plugged In department in which he offers advice on “protecting your daughter from invasive technology.”  He encourages parents to be involved in and aware of the media activity that their daughters are involved in (including but certainly not limited to the Internet).  He lists “Ten practical steps  every parent should take” in how to “train up your daughter to plot a safe course through today’s entertainment and technological land mines.”  These steps include “teach the WWJD [what would Jesus do?] principle,” “instill media-related biblical principles,” “model it”, “develop a written family media covenant,” and encouraging accountability with a friend.

While most of the book was somewhat informative on the psychological level, I found it to be lacking in practicality.  Additionally, Dobson’s conservatism constantly came across as overblown hype, decrying the decadent culture in which we live.  While our modern culture is most assuredly headed in the wrong direction, it seems that Dobson can’t help but highlight the most discouraging and depressing aspects of it, even while attempting to point out “the good news.”  He often seems to go overboard in denouncing things that aren’t necessarily wrong, but that he simply doesn’t like.

Lastly, it should be pointed out that while Dobson dedicates his last chapter to teaching the gospel and Scriptures, this addition seems almost like an afterthought or just an extra safeguard to help parents.  The emphasis of the power of the gospel in all our lives including parenting is missing, but I’m not sure whether I should have expected more in this area from Dobson.  This book should not be read as coming from the standpoint of Scripture, but rather from the standpoint of moral and social conservativism.

While the book has some merits to it especially for dads, I feel like there are other books that are more worthwhile to read on this subject.

(Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for providing a review copy of this book.)

Book Giveaway – Devoted

Congratulations to Nancy , winner of last week’s book giveaway for Voddie Baucham’s Family Driven Faith.

This week, I’m giving away a copy of Devoted: The Story of a Father’s Love for His Son, by Dick Hoyt.  You may have seen the incredibly stirring video of Team Hoyt, set to the song “My Redeemer Lives” or “I Can Only Imagine.”  If you’re unfamiliar with their story, watch the 10-minute video below.  Born with cerebral palsy, Rick was written off by doctors who encouraged his parents to do the same.  One day, Rick asked Dick to participate in a charity run for a fellow student – except Rick wanted to run too.  Dick raced pushing Rick in his wheelchair.  Afterward, Rick, through his computer, said “Dad, when I’m running, I don’t feel like I’m disabled anymore.”  “Now, over one thousand races later, including numerous marathons and triathlons [including the Iron Man competition], Dick Hoyt continues to push Rick’s wheelchair….continuing to inspire millions and embodying their trademark motto of ‘Yes, you can.'” (from the book cover)  Devoted: The Story of a Father’s Love for His Son is their story.

To enter the drawing, you can do one or more of the following:

  1. Leave a comment below.
  2. Post a link to the drawing on your blog
  3. On Twitter, retweet the following: @Eskypades: Book Giveaway!  Enter to win Team Hoyt’s “Devoted” at http://wp.me/pzfPF-et

You can earn up to three entries for the drawing, one for each option above.  I’ll randomly select the winner sometime Friday afternoon, July 23, 2010 and post another book giveaway.  (Giveaway is open to US residents only.)