Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why You Should All Buy This Children's Book

Ryan gave me The Jesus Storybook Bible as a gift on our honeymoon, and we immediately loved it. The illustrations are striking, even humorous, Jesus isn't a pale blonde, and it covered the WHOLE Bible, even less-storified things like Psalm 23 and Isaiah. But as I've used it for teaching this past year, I have realized the huge capacity for worship-building held within its cardboard covers. The thing is chock full of GOSPEL! As I assemble and outline the curriculum for our preschool next year, I've been researching a lot of books and Bible story books we may use. An interview with Sally Lloyd-Jones (the book's author) that I just read just left me speechless. And I don't just say that because I'm the only one home! I just wanted to stop and think and praise the Lord when I read it.

And call all the parents of young children I know. We tend to slap morals helter-skelter onto our kids, taking truisms and do-isms out of every Bible story. But that's totally NOT the point of the Scriptures, Old Testament or New. If you want that, get Aesop's Fables. If you want a how-to- formula, get a home-improvement book or a Geometry textbook. Not the Bible.

"When I first saw that everything in the Old Testament, is pointing to a child—the one who is coming—it blew me away. Suddenly, here was a way to read the Bible without it leaving you condemned (I’ll never keep all the rules all the time) or in despair (how can I ever be as brave as Daniel? or David?).
I found it so moving when I started to discover how the Old Testament is basically one long record of failure—the failure of God’s people time and time again to live rightly, to rescue themselves—and that the stories in the Old Testament are all getting us ready for the One who is coming. They are all signposts to the True Hero, the True King, the True Prince, the True Servant, the greater David, the greater Daniel. The Rescuer.

As a child, I thought the Bible was packed with rules you had to keep (or God wouldn’t love you) and heroes setting examples you had to follow (or God wouldn’t love you). I thought, in short, that the Bible was all about me and what I should (or shouldn’t) be doing. Until I read a Story.

It’s the Story running like a golden stream underneath all the other stories in the Bible: the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. Suddenly, I realized the Bible wasn’t about me and what I should be doing at all. It was about God and what he had done. And it changed everything.

So, throughout the mapping out of the book and writing the stories, I was resolute in my determination to avoid even a whiff of moralizing in terms of applying the stories. The absolute last thing I ever wanted to ask a child was: “And what can we learn from David about how God wants us to behave?” The story isn’t there to be an example for us to follow. If that were the point, Jesus would never needed to have come. We could have saved ourselves. The story is there because it’s true and because it’s telling the bigger story—of the greater David who is coming. To do for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves, to fight the battle we could never fight. To be the Hero we all need. To be our Rescuer.

I wanted children to know this Story—and to meet this wonderful Hero in the pages of this book. Because rules don’t change you. But a story can." [I would clarify: a PERSON, The Person-- God-with-us-Himself-- can]

Now, please don't think that I abhor application in sermons, or that I'm determined to never point a child to the Law or examples in the Scriptures. I distincly remember the facial expression of one struggling five-year-old as I told him, on no uncertain terms "Sin is crouching at your door, just like it did at Cain's, and it wants to have you! But you must master it." 1 Corinthians 10 leaves us quite "in the loop" as to what moralizing purposes the stories of the Bible hold (and aren't you glad He gave us stories instead of dry rules and pithy sayings!?):
"[After outlining Israel's history, we learn] these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:6-13)
That passage says Old Testament stories are both examples to us-- warnings, illustrations, encouragements, reminders that all has already been done before-- AND that they were pointing to something else; the end of the eons, the fullfillment of time. So... go read this "children's" book, and never look at the old "heros" like you did before! :)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Thought After Reading Many Books

I read this snippet while skimming the Journals of Jim Elliott, and it resonated deep within me:
"I am reading The Return of the Native. Poor Hardy! If only he could have once seen the hand of God."
So true of a great many books --like A Thousand Splendid Suns or The Kite Runner-- and many many movies. Sort of reflects your feelings on The Dark Knight, Jeannette. (she commented: "I enjoyed the movie very much (so many unexpected twists and turns), but I came away thinking this is what our world would almost look like without the presence of the Holy Spirit.")If only these tale-spinners would be caught in the Great Story! Then, oh how wonderful, how true, how moving, how deep their tales would be-- truly glorious. Truly heroic.

Jim Elliot goes on in a slightly different vein than did my thought, but one I appreciate nevertheless (much of my frustration with modern novels, or even most lately with Villette are expressed so well by him):
"The tragic lines of Egden Heath form patterns which resist any idea of the working of the will. If he could once have experienced a well-timed incident that wrought the greatest possible good, perhaps he would not have written as he did. Each event is so meshed with the unreasoning ill, and the reader gets to expect the blackest. Really he does in the negative what poor novelists do in the positive-- accentuates improbabilities-- only he does it to his heroes' ill; they to the betterment of theirs. Neither are true to life. Granted, fate and tragedy, aimlessness and just missing by a hair are part of human experience, but they are not all, and I'm not sure that they are even a major part, even in the lives of men who know no Designer or design. For me, I have seen a keener force yet-- the force of ultimate good working though seeming (and sensed!) ill. Not that there is rosiness ever; there is genuine ill, struggle, dark-handed, unreasoning fate, mistakes,"if onlys," and all the Hardyisms you can muster. But in them I am beginning to discover a plan greater than any could imagine." (November 29th, 1951)
Maybe that's one reason so many of us have deeply enjoyed Harry Potter; certainly why The Lord of the Rings has resonated with so many for so long: both must be finished with the realization that EVERYTHING, every name, every niggling detail, every seeming loose end, was part of a Great Plan; that nothing was in vain, and that evil could not, did not win-- all was Better Planned.

Lord, send such story-writers to our generation!! Let us see movies flooded with eucatastrophes; true horrors redeemed by purpose; neither flippant shallow storybook endings nor despairing pointless sequences... God, make Your Plan obvious in my life-- and this is the Loom upon which every Saved Soul's story is woven: that Christ should be more evident in me (Rom 8:28-30).


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hot Night, Dark Knight

Well, Ryan & I just got back from cleaning up the church after VBS all week. It was nice to be in a mostly air-conditioned building for awhile, as our AC suddenly went out yesterday! I'm very thankful it waited until all our company was gone, and on a day when we'd be out most of the day anyway. Today we headed out and enjoyed the outdoor heat, which at least isn't stuffy :), at a birthday party for 4 one-year-old friends of ours. :) ...then we enjoyed an air-conditioned viewing of The Dark Knight, and a date at Moe's.

Now it's a still a bit too hot inside to sleep (I've gotten spoiled and used to air conditioning!), so I'm lookin' up stuff online about the movie we just enjoyed. It WAS a good movie, with a largely satisfying end...but I will say one thing: it is INTENSE. Two and a half hours long, and it does NOT let up. WHEW!! I'm not sure what I think the movie was advocating, either... As our pastor Ryan put it "your emotions were likely assaulted in a thoroughly post-modern way, and it will take your rational mind a week to sort out what the movie was actually trying to say."

In the meantime, I did find this review helpful and accurate.

Good night!

PS- some kids from VBS have said they'd be at church/sunday school tomorrow... pray that they come! Just pray in general that we would know how to follow up with these kids and their families, and see them transformed by meeting the Risen Savior!

After seeing the above-mentioned movie, I think this article is even more thought-provoking. That movie played clearly into this author's observance of the lack of heroes in our movies these days. It was pretty much built on the idea of two sorts of heroes... with the true hero being the one cast out as an outlaw, while the hero everybody's brain needs was really quite corruptible. It makes me wonder- are we actually afraid of heroes made out of ordinary people, because they might fall? Because they might actually turn out to be human rather than permanently larger-than-life? Aren't you glad the Bible gives us corruptible heroes -there's the "us"- made holy by faith in The Hero, the Holy One who did not, will not EVER see decay!? (Psalm 16:10)

Friday, July 18, 2008

11 Things I Love About You

Happy 11 Monthiversary to me & to Ryan!! :)
A year ago we were in full wedding-planning mode, and I couldn't believe I only had one more month to go until the Big Day!! WOW!! Then, I knew my fiance loved me, and I knew that I loved him, and we'd already been shown God's grace and mercy through each other... but how much more now! To the praise of the Spirit at work in my husband, I can say that I KNOW he loves me, and that I've seen more grace & kindness from him in 11 months than probably anyone else in my entire life (except my parents, who've known me a bit longer ;D). Scripture tells us to "outdo one another in showing honor" (Rom 12:10), so in that spirit I set forth 11 things I love and want to honor about my husband:

1. his understanding of the Gospel-- it makes him very forgiving, and helps me to cling to and believe in immediate forgiveness from God
2. his resolution to repent immediately of sin
3. his patience with me-- someone once said of Ryan "he can't be anything BUT gentle" -- and I agree
4. his refusal to return "tit for tat" even when I provoke him
5. his tenderness towards me... he's always willing to stroke my head at night, which is the one thing that makes me relax & feel right with the world in about 5 seconds
6. his habit of loving the friendless-- once his mom told me "Ryan made friends based on who didn't have any"...and once again that is so often true. Ryan can enjoy himself with just about anyone, which leaves him free to befriend even the least promising of companions.
7. his tenacious belief in the Spirit's power to transform-- himself, me, and anyone!
8. his dedication to Biblical Leadership in our home. It makes my job of submission about 200 times easier
9. his commitment to me, even to delighting in me
10. his desire to use ALL his gifts in service of our Master-- speaking ability, intellect, capacity to learn, the list goes on & on (he is very talented)... except for video-gaming-- not sure how that can be Redeemed ;)
11. his integrity-- this extends to work, church, and anywhere else I can think of
Ryan Daniel Szrama, I love you, and I am thankful that I get to have the privelege of being your wife. God was showing unmerited kindness to me YET AGAIN when He led me to you and led you to love me... while we are both young, no less!!
Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him, all creatures here below; praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts! Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! AMEN.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In Full Swing

Heheh, I sort of fell off the face of cyber-world, didn't I? I guess wedding prep, catch-up time in Greenville (20 years worth of friends down there), family time, VBS prep, and that ongoing blasted curriculum development kept me out of the habit of blogging. Oh yeah, and sleeping and traveling... When Grandma P called me this morning to ask whether we were doing VBS this week (because she prays for us every day!!!!), I realized I really should give a brief update.

YES, Olympion is in full swing at Immanuel, and while Monday was the most pandemonious experience I have ever overseen, yesterday went SO smoothly! I spent a good deal of the afternoon yesterday walking around our neighborhood, talking to neighbors and inviting kids to VBS. Christy King lent me Alexis and some IcePops so I could even better attract kids, and we had a great time. Lex is quite the trooper, let me tell you! Please pray for the children at VBS!! The children from our neighborhood- as I type, I see their precious, eternal faces- weigh heavy on me. Their lives bear very little imprint of the Kindness of God, it seems to outside eyes. Please pray that this week would sow seeds of Saving Grace in their hearts, and that they would even this week See and Believe. Every morning I wake up with them on my heart, and at night I go to sleep praying for them and asking the Lord how we might continue to minister to them after VBS, how to best reach them now, and asking the Lord to show Saving Kindness to them. The children of our own church are also of course heavy on my heart, though perhaps a little less urgently: their parents WILL preach the Gospel to them, and already have countless times. VBS is certainly a wonderful crucible for them, and we pray that the Lord is pleased to turn the light bulbs in the the still-pagan minds which are so faithfully catechised.

We've also MOVED IN UPSTAIRS!!! Ryan's half of our wonderful family came up over July 4th weekend, and served us non-stop!! Thanks to my them (plus a lot of Lyle, a little bit of John LeToto, and the muscle masses of JC & Charlie), we now have a working doorbell, a comfortable cane-back rocker safe for sitting, a porch swing, 3 full sized bookshelves, a clean chimney, internet access in a new location, furniture upstairs, and artwork hung on our walls!!! Have I mentioned that we have a working living room, bedroom & guestroom? Our house has expanded three-fold! The "reading room" upstairs is still "under construction," and my project today and yesterday is making some order out of the remaining chaos in our former-bedroom-one-day-dining-room-now-library. It's so fun to watch the shelves fill up with familiar books! Opening my long-boxed books has been like greeting so many returning friends. It's also satisfying to my big-picture brain to get Ryan's & my books successfully integrated, organized in one central location (or at least all the books of one topic together), by topic, and alphabetized by author's last name. AND our garden is bearing fruit. Lots of grape tomatos reddenin' up, and the cucumber and pumpkin flowering promisingly! So far the herbs and plants we brought back from G'ville (Mom & the Whaley's gardens) have survived and are anxiously awaiting re-planting.

Ryan & I have enjoyed being together again after the longest separation of our marriage (Sun-Fri), and are finding each passing month of marriage sweeter than the past. Seriously! I can honestly say that I have never been happier in my life. Praise the Lord!

So... VBS & ordering our home... that's the Big Two this week.

Last week's main event was my college roommate's wedding! Christina DeCiantis ("Trin" to me and most of our buddies) and Jonas Davison became Mr. & Mrs. Jonas M. Davison in the eyes of the State of SC and God Himself in a very musical, very green ceremony last Saturday (July 12th). I had the honor of being a bridesmaid, and also putting together her guest book. This was a wonderful privelege because I got to look through all sorts of fun pictures of the bridal party from all through Christina & Jonas' relationship (hehe and some really cute baby pictures, too!). Looking at college pictures brought back thousands of nearly-forgotten memories. I laughed all over again at our antics as roommates, and remembered the deep waters God brought us through. There were times when we both thought we'd lost each other, times when we nearly lost our footing, and the other one steadied us in tears and prayed truth (incarnational water and the Word). I remembered just how much I love Christina Dawn, and for some reason felt I would miss her terribly... when the truth is that I've already missed her-- I left her last August, and now that we're both married, we're far MORE likely to see more of each other. (she has far less attractive reasons to visit Jonas on weekends, for instance).

I spent time with dear friends, was encouraged by the Lord's Hand at work in some of them, and concerned by the halting growth of others, and was once again brought to praise God for His faithfulness and goodness. More and pictures to come, but now I need to get to work. So many letters to write! :)

Full of life with a full life,
--Christina Szrama

Thursday, July 10, 2008

VBS Prayer for July 10th

...energy and creativity to decorate & prepare decorations (all the class room teachers)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

VBS Prayer for July 9th

...open hearts of the children who will attend, whatever their background

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

VBS Prayer for July 8

...for the ones who are preparing the daily Gospel presentation-- mainly Ryan Szrama, Ben Brainard

Monday, July 07, 2008

VBS Prayer for July 7th

...that Olympion staff will have clear goals and clear minds

Made It!!

The Greenville-bound van, with Sina Shuey, her four kiddos, and her sidekick (me) aboard made it safely to Greenville around 10 last night, despite a very VOCAL one-year-old who plainly wanted us to realize just how boring confinement to a carseat is... after 8 hours of buckled-in restraint, I can't say I blame her. Morgan tried a form of hypnosis involving a stuffed dog and a water bottle which produced much quieter bursts of chuckling. Babies do come in handy, though, when you need a cover-up for spilling something on yourself. Held on the side of the spill, and no one is the wiser! :) Jenna, a big girl at age 4, did WONDERFULLY in her carseat.

I was very proud of John's mastery of using finger quote-marks to denote sarcasm or irony in his oral story-telling. That was a practice I explained during our Sam's run last week, and was proud to see he's since mastered. Oh the things I teach them...

We listened to most of Ella Enchanted, to everyone's enjoyment-- if I'd been forward thinking enough, I would have checked it out at the library for them. As it was, we took advantage of Cracker Barrel's audiobook rental program. It's $3.50 for a week rental, returnable to any Cracker Barrel... only downside is having to pay for the book up front as a deposit. Audiobooks aren't cheap!! Anyway, our trip was fun and we survived my driving a van through the NC mountains (Sina hates mountain driving). The only downside was that our Arby's Jamocha shake wasn't nearly as jamocha-y as the ones in Louisville...as they SHOULD be.

I miss my husband... poor man, all alone after a weekend FULL of friends and family (not to mention explosives), in a house that has seemingly tripled in size and lost most of its familiarity. Good thing the kitchen is the same. And that I stocked the freezer with lots of ice-cream for him.

** EDIT: for those wondering who Abigail is and what she was doing in a carseat headed down to Greenville with us, she is the Shuey's 14-month-old foster daughter. She melts my heart when she waves at me or reaches her pudgy arms out to me at church. She recognizes & goes to Ryan, too... we think it must be the hair. :) She' s very adept at saying "hi," "hey," and "hiya!" Also enjoys "uh-oh" and "touch!" (usually referring to something she's NOT allowed to touch) and performs her bad-guy-laugh almost on demand. She really sounds like she's talking most of the time, but there aren't really many actual words in there, though she's a little parrot and will mimic just about anything you tell her to say.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Saturday, July 05, 2008

VBS Prayer for July 5th

...plans for our games-- Lyssa Drummond, Charlie Albright, Ricky Hardison, and others will be leading & serving the children in this way.

...also for teamwork in each area of VBS

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Independance Day!

Praise the LORD!!
Our family came up last night (after braving a 2 hour standstill in Murfreesboro, TN) to enjoy the Fourth with us, and to help us move! Today's project: moving our heavy stuff up OVER the Top Porch.

Now we have an upstairs!! We have BEDS upstairs. I actually feel more overwhelmed in some ways, since I have to find real homes for all our things; actually organize things and make everything beautiful & homelike. Pray for me!!

p.s. I helped get the first set of mattress-and-box springs up and over. Then John LeToto & JC Tyson showed up, and I switched to photojournalism.
p.p.s. our neighbors really did sit outside and watch. The Somali family next door was loading up into their car, and delayed leaving until they'd seen a few things be hoisted over. Even Ahmed (short for Mohammed), the dad, watched and laughed & smiled at our endeavors.

VBS Prayer for July 4th

...for the musicians (like me!) as we prepare. Especially pray for Ben Brainard, who will be leading in this.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

First Baby to Enjoy Them

Ashlea brought over our friend & neighbor, Isaiah, to enjoy our newly shiny FINISHED upstairs floor. He especially appreciated it because of his unique mode of locomotion. ...and he likes the noise his hands make on it when he smacks them down hard. He would just giggle and giggle...

Well, Isaiah, you were a very cute first baby to beautify our upstairs, but we certainly hope you're not the last!! :)

VBS Prayer today:

...new families to be reached through this VBS