Wonderful Counselor

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year. Since most of my friends know this, they either feed my passion or tease me about it. Either way, I relish the four weeks of Advent as a time of joyful expectation as I count down the days until we celebrate the Savior’s birth once again.

One friend fed my passion last week by sending me an Advent calendar. Remember those? Paper windows hiding candy or toy treats? This one isn’t a paper calendar – it’s software for my computer. But the creativity behind each number contributes to a story that will culminate in a magical Christmas scene. Technology may change, but the result still points me to the Christ-child.

Or perhaps you celebrate the season with an advent wreath, lighting one candle each week. This first week of Advent, the candle we light is called the prophet candle. It signifies waiting…but waiting for what?

Not what. Who. From the first prophecy in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15) to the prophets of the Old Testament to Simeon waiting in the temple courts (Luke 2:25), God’s people waited for a Savior.

What would that Savior be like? Isaiah, one of Israel’s prophets, described Him using four names. Four descriptive terms that speak of Immanuel, God With Us. Isaiah 9:6 tells us:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Wonderful Counselor. Wonderful. Counselor.

As I think about this name, I’m convicted that I use the word wonderful far too often, and rarely in the context it deserves. Wonderful…something that stirs a sense of wonder and amazement. And yet, I find myself using wonderful to describe a good shopping trip or a day in which nothing went wrong. Really? That’s what passes for wonderful? Of course not!

The other half of this name is Counselor. The Savior would be a counselor. One who would lead His people with wisdom and discernment. One whose plans for His people are perfect and wise, making Him worthy of our trust.

As we enter this beautiful season and think about this name Isaiah used to describe the Savior, let’s dwell on the joy that comes from knowing that the birth we will be celebrating is not just the birth of a baby, but the birth of our Savior, the Wonderful Counselor.

Let the countdown begin!

Perfect for Christmas: New Bible Storybooks

Having helped to create many children’s Bible storybooks and written two of my own, I know just how challenging it can be to develop an excellent, trustworthy product for introducing children to God’s Word.

That’s why I like to help celebrate Bible storybooks that are especially well done. This year I found two I’d like to recommend to you, and they’re available just in time for Christmas giving!

Here’s the first one:

  • Title:  Jesus Calling Bible Storybook
  • Author:  Sarah Young with Jean Fischer
  • Illustrator:  Carolina Farias
  • Publisher: Tommy Nelson
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-4003-2033-2
  • SRP: $16.99
  • Reviewed by: Diane Stortz

Visually beautiful, the Jesus Calling Bible Storybook combines nearly 100 concisely told stories with richly colored artwork sure to appeal to children. Stories also feature a “Jesus Calling” section, with an appropriate Bible verse and short devotional thought for children in the style of Sarah Young’s popular Jesus Calling devotional for adults. The devotional thoughts offer a balanced focus on Jesus’ love and the obedient behaviors that please him.

Longer Bible stories, such as the story of Moses and the Exodus in the Old Testament and Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament, are divided into several shorter stories under a single heading–keeping the attention span of young readers in mind. In some stories the author skillfully interjects simple explanations of life in Bible times or a character’s actions.

I like the way this Bible storybook handles important stories that include aspects parents may not want their children exposed to just yet, such as the destruction during Noah’s flood, the Egyptian army drowning in the Red Sea, the conquest of Jericho, or even the crucifixion itself. The author and illustrator both demonstrate sensitivity and restraint throughout the book.

The book’s design allows text and artwork to shine, as does the extra-heavy coated paper the book is printed on.

Here and there I spotted small details that I might have chosen to express or illustrate differently, but those don’t detract from the overall effectiveness of this book meeting its expressed goal: “To help young children come to know God’s Word and enjoy the Presence of Jesus in their lives.”

Rating: :) :) :) :) :)

The second book I want to tell you about today is the Little Angels Bible Storybook:

  • Title:  Little Angels Bible Storybook
  • Author:  Roma Downey with Carolyn Larsen
  • Illustrator:  Rick Incrocci
  • Publisher: Tyndale Kids
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-4143-7022-4
  • SRP: $16.99
  • Reviewed by: Diane Stortz

 

Roma Downey’s Little Angels series of DVDs and books now includes a flagship Bible storybook. As such, this book combines well-told stories, cartoon-style illustrations, each of the eight Little Angels, and twins Alex and Zoe, who learn along with readers throughout the book.

Experienced Bible-story writer Carolyn Larsen tells the Bible stories factually and clearly. The colorful yet consistent book design will please both young readers and their parents or caregivers.

A special feature of this book is the “I learned that …” and “so I pray …” sections with each story. In the “I learned that …” sections, either Alex or Zoe talks about a lesson from the story, and in the corresponding “so I pray …” sections, the other twin prays a short, related prayer that young readers can pray too. I especially like that most of the time, these sections focus on aspects of God’s character as the primary lessons of the stories, rather than treating the stories simply as vehicles for teaching moral lessons or good behavior.

Each story also includes an “I can …” section with activities and questions for parents and children to do together. These sometimes bring in core preschool learning concepts such as colors, numbers, and the alphabet, which the entire Little Angels series also includes. A memory verse appears with each story as well.

A section at the back of the book includes special verses to remember, the Ten Commandments, facts about angels, and a list of some of Jesus’ miracles.

As Roma Downey writes in the introduction: “Alex and Zoe face the same challenges all kids do, and our Little Angels are always there to help them along the way. And because the angels are messengers from God, our Little Angels are there to remind Alex and Zoe that they are never alone, for God is always watching over them and loving them.” This Bible storybook surely helps fulfill that purpose.

Rating: :) :) :) :) :)

I received free copies of these books from the publishers in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for these reviews.

DIANE

Visit Diane at www.dianestortz.com
© 2012, Diane Stortz

How to Share The Giving Concept with Young Children

Christmas is the season for giving as a way to celebrate the Birth of Christ Jesus but how can we share the concept of ” it is better to give than receive” with our children during this season?

There are several ways that my husband and I have tried to share the concept of giving with our children and grandchildren. In this age of wanting much more than we need, it is an important concept to teach along with other Christian life skills so children can understand how joyful it feels to give and share with others.

Here are some of the ideas we have done over the years:

1. Several years ago my grandchildren gave up the price of one gift and instead helped us to choose a child to adopt through World Vision. They chose a girl whose birthday and whose age was the same as our granddaughters and every year they exchange pictures. Our grandchildren talk about Sarah and have read stories and books about the area in Africa where Sara lives. It has become a prayer for her safety and her for the safety of her family and though we may never see her in person, she has become a part of our family especially during the holiday.

2. When our son was in grade school, he wanted to pick a child off the angel tree. We bought gifts above what the boy on the card had requested because my son had such fun picking things out that he would have liked. It became a tradition to choose an angel child every year. Again, we will never meet each child, but the fun in knowing we have worked together to give gifts to a special child was a life lesson about giving without receiving.

3. Another important way to share the giving concept is to have your children clean out the toys they no longer play with to share with the local shelter or to donate to those in need. It can be difficult to get kids to understand that sacrifice but it is well worth the time to share this great lesson.

4. Have your children or grandchildren pick out hats, gloves, and scarfs to give away to schools and shelters for children in need in the upcoming winter. Explaining the need to provide warmth for others helps kids to understand and be grateful for the winter clothing they own.

You may have done many of these ideas in your family or maybe you have other good ideas for sharing the concept of giving with your children. From buying gifts to baking cookies for the neighbors,the most important lessons are those that demonstrate the love of Jesus and there is no better time then giving to celebrate His birth during the Christmas season.

The Solution to Fear

I don’t know a person who at some time in their lives was not afraid of the dark. Even if one isn’t normally afraid when the lights go out, if they were lost in a dark, unfamiliar place and couldn’t find their way out, most people would be scared. Darkness is one of our basic fears. Most children are afraid of the dark, even if only for a short time in their life.

That’s why it was such good news.when Jesus entered the world.

Isaiah 9:2 predicted it hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (NIV). Light in the darkness! Yes! Isn’t that what we all need?

The world is much less scary when there’s light, both literally and figuratively. When life seems dark, fear tries to crowd in. The “what ifs” begin to taunt us and we become afraid. But Jesus shines light and hope into every dark situation. We can rest in the fact that even if the worst “what if” should happen, He will walk through it with us and give us the strength to bear it. We don’t have to try to control every situation because we know He already has it in full control. His light dawns in our darkest hours bringing hope, freedom from fear, and divine help.

So the next time you or a child in your life is afraid, let Jesus’ light shine. Go ahead and turn on a night light just as a reminder that He’s there and will always be your light in the darkness. Pray for His help, trust Him, and be warmed by the light of His presence.

November – Adoption Awareness Month

As I put my sweet baby boy to bed this evening, I was thanking the Lord for Caleb’s precious little life, and what a blessing he is to me.  I was also giving thanks to the Lord for his birth mother who chose LIFE for Caleb, and for that I will always be grateful.  I can’t imagine my life without him.  Here is something you may find interesting.  I wrote my first poem July 2, 1999 called “To You Oh Lord.”  I was sitting in my car during my lunch hour praying for my baby (mind you…there was no talk about adoption at this point in my life) I felt at that moment I needed a pen and paper so I could write down what my heart was feeling, so I did, and this is what I wrote.  ( this was my hearts cry to the Lord) –

I humbly bow right now, before Your holy throne,
and offer up a heartfelt prayer, for a child of my own.
Oh, to look upon his glorious face, and into his blue eyes.
To give a sweet kiss upon his lips, and place his hands in mine.
I’d rock him in my arms of love until he fell asleep.
I’d hold him closely to my heart, and pray he sleeps in peace.
My voice will sing praise unto Your wonderful name,
thanking you Lord, for this precious child, this gift you freely gave.
Don’t worry Lord, I won’t forget to dedicate his life to you,
for you are the one, who gave me my son,
so now, I give him to you.


That was my prayer and hearts cry to the Lord for my baby.  I didn’t know where my baby was going to come from, I just knew my baby was in my heart and I was just going to be still, and wait upon the Lord.  I wrote this poem July 2, 1999 and 7 years later to the day (July 2, 2006) Caleb’s birth mother went into labor with him! God is good and he does hear our prayers.

I would love to see Adoption be the only option.  There are so many people just like me out there who couldn’t get pregnant and who desire a baby so badly that it hurts.  Children are such a blessing and a GIFT from God.  My heart smiles every day because Caleb is in it! :-)

Blessings,

Melissa~