Junior Review: Nathalia Buttface and the Most Embarrassing Dad in the World

In this book, the main character, Nathalia Buttface, is forced to live with her embarrassing Dad and her sometimes supportive Mum. 
They have just moved to a different town (in their shameful campervan, the Atomic Dustbin) and now she must start a new school and make new friends. 
She thinks this a chance to start again without her Dad embarrassing her, but she still has the same silly last name and the same embarrassing Dad.
This book is full of hysterical stories of how her dad embarrasses her and how she tries to overcome her shame. I found it an easy read and I recommend this hilarious book to girls aged 10 – 12.
Title: Nathalia Buttface
Author: Nigel Smith                         
Publisher: HarperCollins, $14.99                                                                      
Publication Date: 12 January 2014
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780007545216
For Ages: 10 – 12
Type: Middle Fiction

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Romans 12:10

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

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Double Honor

Double Honor | John Bevere

Many times God will send us what we need in a package we don’t want. Give respect and honor to all to whom it is due. — Romans 13:7 One primary reason God instructs us to give honor to the authorities over us is for our sake, not for theirs. It is exciting to note

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Redeeming the Years Spent in the Pit

Lord, I’m choosing to believe that You can and will redeem the years I have spent in my pit. In our Christian subculture, we think a pit of sin is the only kind of pit there is. But we have to think much more broadly. For starters, I see in God’s Word three ways we

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Promise #144 – Thursday May 24, 2018

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Psalm 30:5 (WEB)
For his anger is but for a moment. His favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

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May 24th One Year Bible Readings

2 Samuel 4:1-6:23 ~ John 13:31-14:14 ~ Psalm 119:17-32 ~ Proverbs 15:31-32
~ Click here to read today’s Scripture on BibleGateway.com ~ // Mobile Site Link
~ Listen to today’s Scripture on One Year Bible Online Audio, ESVBible.org: OT, NT, Psalms, Proverbs or DailyAudioBible.com (podcast) ~

Old Testament – Second Samuel chapter 4 verse 11 stood out as David said this to the 2 murderers of Ishbosheth: “Now what reward should I give the wicked men who have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed? Should I not also demand your very lives?”  Similar to the Amalekite who claimed to have killed Saul and reported this news to David, David was not happy with the news.  This all reminds me of the old adage that you cannot fight evil with evil – you’ll get corrupted in the process.  These 2 guys murdered an innocent man, thinking they were doing a greater good for David.  David disagreed.  Are there times in our lives where we do something wrong / bad / lie / evil for what we think might be a greater good?  Aren’t we then corrupted in the process?  Do we go from left to right in this photo below? 🙂  (sorry, couldn’t resist this silly image!  On the website where I found this image, they labeled this photo, “The Dog I bought versus the Dog I got”… 🙂

Good_evil

In Second Samuel chapter 5 David is anointed King of Israel!  Israel and Judah are now united – but they will be divided again only a short 75 years later.  Verse 7 is the first time the term Zion is used in the Bible: “But David captured the fortress of Zion, now called the City of David.”  Below is a visual of Jerusalem at about this time that David conquered it from the Jebusites – and to the right the map shows the growth of Jerusalem just 50 years later in Solomon’s time.  (1000 B.C. to 950 B.C.) We’ll come back to this visual when we get to Solomon in our readings.

Jerusalemdavidsolomon_1_1

 

In Second Samuel chapter 6 when the Ark is brought back to Jerusalem verse 14 is phenomenal to imagine: “And David danced before the LORD with all his might, wearing a priestly tunic.”  And David’s words in verse 21 are something for you and I to consider in our lives today – “So I am willing to act like a fool in order to show my joy in the LORD.”  Are you willing to act like a fool to show your joy in God?  Have you ever danced before God with all your might?  Think you ever could?

Davidarkdancing

Bible.org’s commentary on our Second Samuel readings today titled “A Place of One’s Own” is at this link and “When God Rained on David’s Parade” is at this link.

New Testament – I love the dialogue today between Thomas and Jesus in John 14 verses 4 through 6!  Somehow I didn’t quite remember the context of Thomas’ question setting up Jesus’ profound statement in verse 6.  Beautiful.  Jesus starts us off in verse 4 – “And you know where I am going and how to get there.”” “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We haven’t any idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”  These last two sentences of Jesus’ we’ve probably all heard many times.  But how often have we asked Thomas’ question either to ourselves or to God or to now one in particular – “how can I know the way?”  Jesus answers this for us perfectly.  Have you ever felt in your life that you didn’t know the way? Do you believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life?

Verses 12 through 14 today are so convicting for me – because I really rarely follow this teaching (or fully believe in it?) of Jesus’ – “The truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, because the work of the Son brings glory to the Father. Yes, ask anything in my name, and I will do it!” Do you believe that you can do the same works Jesus has done, and even greater works?  I’ll confess – I’m not so sure that I do.  I mean, it’s encouraging to think that I could, even if I don’t fully believe it.  And, yet, I believe most everything else Jesus teaches.  Why would I doubt this teaching?  Maybe it’s because I have some sort of inferiority complex – or maybe I think it would be prideful to think this.  But Jesus teaches it quite plainly!  Or…  maybe…  I haven’t really asked Jesus for the guidance and wisdom to believe this – and asked for even just this in his name.

Bible.org’s commentary on our John readings today titled “Having a Friend in High Places” is at this link.

Psalms – Wow.  Psalm 119 verse 29 is powerful: “Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your law.” Do you ever lie to yourself? If you answered no, are you lying to yourself now?  🙂  I think that lying to ourselves is part of our fallen human condition.  I think we’re probably pretty good at it.  And I think that maybe the cure for this is even found in this same verse – the prayer of “give me the privilege of knowing your law.”   It is a privilege to know God’s Word.  It is a free privilege, but a privilege that I think we can often take for granted or simply ignore.  Through our study of God’s Word let us pray that we allow God to show us any area of our life where we might be lying to ourselves.  And let us allow God to redeem that area and give us the clarity of Truth.  Like this Psalmist, will you pray to God and ask Him to keep you from lying to yourself?  Will you pray this prayer often?

Proverbs – Proverbs 15 verse 32 I think is one great reason for us to be in community with others: “If you reject criticism, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.”  I think if we are not in community with others, we can avoid criticism.  Which is just as good as rejecting criticism.  But, if we are truly in community with others – and yes, community can and should be messy really – then we will inevitably be criticized at some point and in some way by those around us in community.   But this is a good thing!  We need to listen to correction from those around us.  We need to grow in understanding.  Let us live our lives in community!

Community_group_

Worship God: Today’s readings in Second Samuel remind me of the David Crowder song “Undignified:”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQeNVXY6ZIc

Will you become Undignified in dancing before God? Click here and dance!

Please join us in memorizing and meditating on two verses of Scripture today: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 TNIV

Prayer Point: Pray that you are loving everyone you come in contact with in your life. Pray that the world will see you are a disciple of Jesus, because of your love for others. Pray that you will love others like Jesus loves you.

Comments from You & Questions of the Day:  Are you in community?  A community that will actually constructively criticize you from time to time?  And will you listen to this criticism so that you might grow in understanding? What verses or insights stand out to you in today’s readings?  Please post up by clicking on the “Comments” link below!

God bless,
Mike

p.s. Download our monthly Small Group study notes for our One Year Bible readings at this link.

p.p.s. Download a schedule of our One Year Bible readings for the year in PDF format at this link.

p.p.p.s. I would greatly appreciate it if you would pray for this One Year Bible Blog ministry today. Thanks!

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Where Does God Want Me to Work?

Where Does God Want Me to Work?

How do I find God’s will for my life? It’s always a pressing question on the college campus, and especially in our day of unprecedented options. Like never before, in an anomaly in world history, students loosened from their community of origin, “going off” to college, now make decisions about their future with minimal influence or limitation from their adolescent context.

Before asking, “Where is God calling me?” we would do well to first ponder, “Where has God already called me?” — not that your current callings won’t change or take a fresh direction in this formative season of life, but for a Christian, our objective calling from God always precedes our consciousness of it. If it is from him, he initiates. He makes the first move. This is true of our calling to salvation, and also true of any “vocational” assignment he gives us in the world.

Consider Three Factors

For the college student or young adult who may feel like a free agent — considering options and determining for yourself (and often by yourself) which direction to take — it’s important to acknowledge you are already moving in a direction, not standing still. You already have divine callings — as a Christian, as a church member, as a son or daughter, as a brother or sister, as a friend. And from within the matrix of those ongoing, already-active callings, you now seek God’s guidance for where to go from here.

Given, then, that you are already embedded in a context, with concrete callings, how should you go about discerning God’s direction after graduation? Or how do you find God’s will for your work-life? Christians will want to keep three important factors in view.

1. What Kind of Work Do I Desire?

First, we recognize, contrary to the suspicions that may linger in our unbelief, God is the happy God (1 Timothy 1:11), not a cosmic killjoy. In his Son, by his Spirit, he wants to shape and form our hearts to desire the work to which he’s calling us and, in some good sense, in this fallen world, actually enjoy the work.

Sanctified, Spirit-given desire is not a liability, but an asset, to finding God’s will. The New Testament is clear that God means for pastors to aspire to the work of the pastoral ministry. And we can assume, as a starting point, that God wants the same for his children working outside the church.

In 1 Peter 5:2, we find this remarkably good news about how God’s heart for our good and enduring joy stands behind his leading us vocationally. The text is about the pastoral calling, but we can see in it the God who calls us into any carefully appointed station. God wants pastors who labor “not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you.” How remarkable is it that working from aspiration and delight, not obligation and duty, would be “as God would have you.” This is the kind of God we have — the desiring (not dutiful) God, who wants workers who are desiring (not dutiful) workers. He wants his people, like their pastors, to do their work “with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage” to those whom they serve (Hebrews 13:17).

So also, when the apostle Paul addresses the qualifications of pastors, he first mentions aspiration. “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Timothy 3:1). God wants workers who want to do the work, not workers who do it simply out of a sense of duty. Behold your God, whose pattern is to take you by the heart, not twist you by the arm.

Desire, though, does not make a calling on its own. It’s a common mistake to presume that seeming God-given desire is, on its own, a “calling.” Aspiration is a vital factor to consider, but in and of itself this doesn’t amount to a calling. Two additional factors remain in the affirmation of others and the God-given opportunity.

2. Do Others Affirm This Direction?

The second question to ask, then, after the subjective one of desire, is the more objective one of ability. Have I seen evidence, small as it may be at first, that I can meet the needs of others by working in this field? And, even more important than my own self-assessment, do others who love me, and seem to be honest with me, confirm this direction? Do they think I’d be a good fit for the kind of work I’m desiring?

Here the subjective desires of our hearts meet the concrete, real-world, objective needs of others. Our vocational labors in this world, whether in Christian ministry or not, are not for existential release or our own private satisfaction, but for meeting the actual needs of others.

Our desires have their part to play, but our true “calling” is not mainly shaped by our internal heart. It is shaped by the world outside of us. We so often hear “follow your heart” and “don’t settle for anything less than your dreams” in society, and even in the church. What’s most important, contrary to what the prevailing cultural word may be, is not bringing the desires of your heart to bear on the world, but letting the real-life needs of others shape your heart.

In seeking God’s will for us vocationally, we look for where our developing aspirations match up with our developing abilities to meet the actual needs of others. Over time, we seek to cultivate a kind of dialogue (with ourselves and with others) between what we desire to do and what we find ourselves good at doing for the benefit of others. Delight in certain kinds of labor typically grows as others affirm our efforts, and we see them receiving genuine help.

3. What Doors Has God Opened?

Finally, and perhaps the most overlooked and forgotten factor in the discussions on calling, is the actual God-given, real-world open door. You may feel called, and others may affirm your abilities, but you are not yet fully called until God opens a door.

Here we glory in the truth of God’s providence, not just hypothetically but tangibly. The real world in which we live, and various options as they are presented to us, are not random or coincidental. God rules over all things — from him, through him, to him (Romans 11:36). And so as real-life options (job offers) are presented that fulfill an aspiration in us, and are confirmed by the company of others, we can take these as confirmation of God’s “calling.” Not that such a calling will never change. But for now, when your own personal sense of God’s leading, and good perspective and guidance from others, align with a real-world opportunity in the form of an actual job offer in front of you, you have a calling from God.

And we can say this calling is from him because God himself, in his hand of providence, has done the decisive work. He started the process by planting in us righteous desires to help others; and he affirmed the direction through our lived-out abilities and the affirmation of friends. Now, he confirms that sense of calling by swinging open the right door at the right time. It is finally God, not man who provides the job offer.

God not only makes overseers (Acts 20:28) and gives pastors (Ephesians 4:11–12) and sends out laborers into his global harvest (Matthew 9:37–38) and sends preachers (Romans 10:15) and sets wise managers over his household (Luke 12:42), but he makes dentists and plumbers. In his common kindness, he gives school teachers and entrepreneurs and social workers for the just and unjust. He sends executives and service workers. He gives you to the world in the service of others.

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Genesis 8:21-22; 9:13, 16

The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

“As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.”

NIV Listen

I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

NIV Listen

Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

NIV Listen

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The Words We Don’t Use: On Eviatar Zerubavel’s “Taken for Granted: The Remarkable Power of the Unremarkable”

LANGUAGE BETRAYS US.

Language makes us mean. It tricks us into revealing what we think to others. It tricks us into saying things we didn’t even know we thought.

We know, for example, that when we talk about “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” we are staking out a position in the abortion debate. But according to Eviatar Zerubavel, no matter whether we mean to or not, every single sentence we utter betrays our bias.

As Zerubavel argues in his slender new book Taken for Granted: The Remarkable Power of the Unremarkable, we declare ourselves not only through the words we use, but also — in fact, mainly — through the words we don’t use. Because it is the non-emphasized words that show how indebted we are to the tacit norms and prejudices of our society. The “unremarkable” of his title refers to our ability to overlook implications, and through “unmarked” words, entire communities.

Often, as Zerubavel points out, we only realize what our default assumptions are when we have to qualify them. The term “African-American” reminds us that unhyphenated “Americans” are assumed to be white; “same-sex marriage” reminds us that unspecified couples are assumed to be heterosexual; “women’s soccer” reminds us that “regular” players are men; “disabled access” reminds us that “normal” people can walk up steps.

Understanding our embedded biases is crucial for citizens today because the complicated question of what is “normal” is one of the drivers of the disinformation and hate-as-free-speech that characterize our contemporary national conversation. Whether it arrives through social media, propaganda broadcast groups, Russian bots, or partisan websites, what we “know” as normal comes from the language we use.

Zerubavel explains, for example, that the controversial backlash over “Black Lives Matter” is a matter of ignorance or bad faith by those who complain that “All Lives Matter.” Obviously, he notes, all lives matter, but the explicit marking of “Black Lives” by the movement is a way of showing the tragic consequences of the assumption that “unmarked” — and therefore “normal” — Americans are white.

Indeed, race is one of the more obvious categories in which language betrays our presumptions. It’s certainly not the only one. American society labors not only under its racist past but also under its homophobia. At the start of Taken for Granted, Zerubavel cites Wayne Brekhus discussing his studies of suburban gays: “I was often asked if I am gay. No one ever asked, however, if I was suburban.”

As a professor of sociology in the United States, Zerubavel is focused on an immigrant society whose diversity precludes a simple definition of “normal.” As an immigrant and someone suffering from a debilitating illness, he has skin in the language game. As the riddle of the Sphinx makes clear — and as Lennard Davis, among others, reminds us — those of us able to walk are, at best, “temporarily abled.” Zerubavel tells us in the introduction that, during the writing of the book, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, so when he quotes Davis quoting a disabled activist who says, “Come back in twenty years and a lot of you will be with us,” there is special resonance to the utterance.

In every area of life there are norms, and we rapidly internalize the norms of our adopted societies so that we can “fit in.” Centuries of immigrants have wanted to be unmarked Americans. And yet, ironically, though waves of American immigrants — Irish, Jewish, German, Chinese — have striven to speak English, wear blue jeans, and salute the Stars and Stripes, the “normal” community they are trying to emulate, which is supposed to be a majority, can also, “as Somerset Maugham once quipped, […] be ‘the rarest thing in the world.’”

One only has to look at the March furor in Austin, Texas, to understand the power of assumptions. When local police chief Brian Manley labeled the series of package bomb attacks “domestic terrorism,” he faced the ire of those who tacitly believed that “terrorist,” “Arab,” and “Muslim” are synonyms. When politicians like Sarah Palin define people from “the real America” as post–Native American white immigrants, Zerubavel notes they are “effectively excluding […] recent immigrants […] and thereby ‘otherize’ such ‘abnormal’ Americans.” The lines are clearly drawn “Us: Americans” on the one side, “Them: Terrorists” on the other. Manley crossed these linguistic lines and sparked outrage.

In the book, Zerubavel also discusses attempts to correct the retrograde faults of our language. Sociologists, artists, and literary theorists have talked about doing this for centuries. When anthropologist Horace Miner first suggested looking at the strange habits of the Nacirema (“American” backward), he was trying, in Proustian parlance, to “possess other eyes.” When theorist Viktor Shklovsky identified the literary trope of “defamiliarization” and Bertolt Brecht referred to his theatrical praxis as employing “Verfremdungseffekt” — alienation effect — they were figuratively achieving what Marcel Proust suggested.

Zerubavel analyzes strategies for “unmarking the hitherto marked” and “marking the hitherto unmarked.” One way is to add what Zerubavel calls “semiotic superfluity.” This marks the unmarked by showing how we had assumed that a term included its qualifier. For example, by using the phrase “historically white colleges” we show our linguistic, sociological assumption that colleges are white and, in the same breath, “de-naturalize” the patronizing phrase “historically black colleges.” When our assumptions are brought to the surface, the results can be both funny and deeply sad:

[T]he most spectacular example of the comic subversion of andronormativity is the classic riddle about a fatal car accident in which the man driving the car dies on the spot and his son is rushed to a nearby hospital, where upon seeing him there a startled surgeon exclaims: “I can’t operate on my own son!” As Douglas Hofstadter describes this seemingly illogical puzzle,

What do you make of this grim riddle? How could it be? Was the surgeon lying or mistaken? No. Did the dead father’s soul somehow get reincarnated in the surgeon’s body? No. Was the surgeon the boy’s true father and the dead man the boy’s adopted father? No. What then is the explanation?

By far the simplest solution, of course, would be that the surgeon must therefore be the boy’s mother. Yet as I have come to realize after trying this riddle on friends and students and watching many of them failing to solve it, people often seem to find it difficult to invoke the image of a female surgeon, thereby exposing the taken-for-granted conventional assumption that the term surgeon actually implies a man.

In political discourse, efforts to upset such social assumptions are often contentious. As the controversy surrounding Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s calls for an Equal Rights Amendment showed earlier this year, seemingly uncontroversial beliefs and rights such as women’s equality in law are far from accepted. We can see proof of that assertion in the constellation of marked and unmarked phrases surrounding the gendered sphere of labor. Women’s paid work needs to be specifically labeled: the phrase “working mother” stands implicitly opposed to the semiotically superfluous “working father” (we assume men, thus fathers, work). And the way that we mark the hitherto unmarked in this sphere is with the phrase “stay-at-home mom.”

Taken for Granted is listed as being 160 pages in length, but over 60 of these pages are supporting notes and citations, which gives you a sense of how condensed the main text is, but also of how you might use it. The book is perhaps best treated as a primer on how language perpetuates and exacerbates social inequalities. It is thought-provoking and mind-opening in the way that a great college lecture can be. Though not free from clunky academic language, it is rich in insight and has the power to shift a reader’s worldview. Cramming #BlackLivesMatter, Marcel Proust, Luis Buñuel, and Stephen Colbert into fewer than 100 pages of dense sociology might suggest that Zerubavel is pandering to a hip general audience. But he isn’t. The very point of the book is that language is our common property, and its workings affect every level of society.

Just to demonstrate how relevant Zerubavel’s message is, here is a passage that might as well have been inspired by two African-American men getting arrested in Starbucks: “Social dominance, in short, involves the privilege of being considered ‘normal’ and thereby assumed by default and taken for granted.” As broad questions of racial, gendered, and religious intolerance are raised nationally by the exclusionary words and actions of the current administration as well as by the revelations of the ongoing Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements, the nation is searching for common ground. But a national conversation cannot take place until we have the tools for that dialogue, and this remarkable book shows us how to make the language we need.

¤

Dan Friedman is the executive editor of Forward.com, a contributing editor to 8by8Mag.com, and author of an eBook about 1980s rock group Tears for Fears.

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Review: A Stone for Sascha

Aaron Becker is the younger reader’s Shaun Tan.

Becker combines a touch of Fantasia with images of lyrical beauty as he depicts raw grief and the pain of having to get on with life.

Without a single word, he narrates several epic journeys, weaving each within and between the others.

He starts with the loss of a beloved pet, Sascha, and moves quickly to a family holiday by the beach.

There, from the sand between a young girl’s toes he catapults us to outer space,where we witness the birth of our planet and life in its earliest forms. From here, we explore early civilisation and venture on to adventures on the high seas.

Each each double-page opening, worthy of art gallery space, filled both my heart and my imagination to the brim. Yet, while I dreamed and sighed over vast worlds, my personal grief over losing a beloved pet was gently cradled.

A Stone for Sascha requires time and space: time to pour over every detail on every page, time to notice what was missed in the last viewing, and space for the gentlest of healing found within these pages to germinate and spread.

And yet, for all this depth, A Stone for Sascha allows each reader to create their own story about what each illustration represents and about how grief, Sascha’s Stone, the history of the universe and pirates fit together.

Like I said: a younger reader’s Shaun Tan: absolutely priceless.

Title: A Stone for Sascha
Author/Illustrator: Aaron Becker
Publisher: Walker Books, $27.99
Publication Date: 1 May 2018
Format: Hard Cover
ISBN: 9780763665968
For ages: 5 +
Type: Picture Book

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