Category Archives: Creation

Gleanings From a Book: “Everything Tells Us About God” by Katherine Bolger Hyde

Author’s note: This book is so eye-catching! As soon as I saw it, I was excited to read it! The illustrations are delightfully appealing. The book’s backstory adds to its intrigue. I couldn’t wait to crack it open! However, I had other writing that needed to happen, so when the book arrived, I reluctantly set it on the shelf to wait until now. It was hard to not peek, but I prefer to write about a book right after reading it, so I forced myself to wait. It was well worth the wait. This is a delightful book.

From the first glance, this beautiful book invites engagement. The cover sets the tone for the book: it creates an expectation for beauty, variety, and a joyful revelling in God’s generosity with His people. When the reader opens the book, the end paper catches their eye. It is a golden, nearly-completed puzzle. But why is that one piece missing? And what does this have to do with the title? Without reading a word, the reader is already curious and determined to know more!

The book begins by telling the reader that the world is like a giant puzzle. God made this puzzle to tell us about Himself. He designed each piece – each part of the world – to help us learn some of His secrets. When we really look at the pieces, we can learn about Him through them!

Page after engaging page, the book points out different things in our world and how God uses them to teach us about Himself. For example, the sun tells us we can’t live without God because His love warms our hearts and helps us to grow closer to Him. The food that we eat reminds us that God always makes sure we have what we need, and that He always takes care of us. The animals tell us about God, too: elephants help us see how mighty God is; hens and chicks remind us of how He cares for us; doves remind us of how the Holy Spirit brings us peace; etc.

Livia Coloji’s charming illustrations simultaneously cheer the reader and invite interaction. Bright colors, playful perspectives, and soft edges all help the reader to feel the warm message of the text. Readers can savor the images as well as the words. The first time through the book, the reader looks forward to turning the page to unveil the next illustration and the next piece of the puzzle. Every reading after that, the reader will anticipate the illustrations, revisiting old friends.

The book concludes with an answer to the reader’s initial question. The missing piece in the puzzle of God’s world is each of us! He gives us life so that we can be part of His puzzle. He wants to show the world part of Himself through us! When we love and serve God, we are able to be a puzzle piece to those around us!

The author’s note at the end of the book offers the reader a glimpse at its backstory. The concept of this book was initially presented to Ancient Faith Publishing by Fr. Thomas Hopko of blessed memory. He had written of a conversation with an elderly bishop on an airport run one day. As they drove, the bishop kept pointing things out in the world around them, and talking about how each thing pointed us to God. Katherine Hyde sent Fr. Thomas her rendition of his idea, but it got lost in the shuffle over the years. Fr. Thomas’ family has given their permission for her to publish it, so now we can read this book and marvel at God’s willingness to reveal Himself to us, one piece at a time!

The end paper at the back of the book shows the completed golden puzzle. The reader now knows why the piece was missing and can see how beautiful the puzzle is with all of its pieces in place. Glory to God for including each of us in the puzzle of His world!

Purchase your own copy of this book: http://store.ancientfaith.com/everything-tells-us-about-god/

Here are some gleanings from the book, as well as ideas of ways to incorporate it into a family time:

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“The sun tells us that nothing can live without God… His warmth fills our hearts, and His love shines on us every day.” (from “Everything Tells Us About God,” by Katherine Bolger Hyde)
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“The water we drink tells us Christ is our life…” (from “Everything Tells Us About God,” by Katherine Bolger Hyde)
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“Rocks tell us Christ is as strong as a boulder… Nothing and no one can ever defeat Him or make him stop loving us.” (from “Everything Tells Us About God,” by Katherine Bolger Hyde)
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“Small things, like flowers… tell us God cares about every detail of His creation.” (from “Everything Tells Us About God,” by Katherine Bolger Hyde)
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“Animals… tell us what God is like… The mother hen tells us He cares for us.” (from “Everything Tells Us About God,” by Katherine Bolger Hyde)
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“Schools… tell us Christ is our Teacher… And He Himself is the perfect student of God the Father: He always does His Father’s will.” (from “Everything Tells Us About God,” by Katherine Bolger Hyde)
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“The people we meet… tell us Jesus became human, just like us.” (from “Everything Tells Us About God,” by Katherine Bolger Hyde)
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“Some years ago, Fr. Tom Hopko submitted to Ancient Faith Publishing a story… In this story… a young Fr. Tom drove an elderly bishop to the airport, hoping to engage in some deep theological conversation along the way. Instead, the bishop humbly and simply pointed out how everything they passed had something to tell us about the nature of God.” (a bit of the back story of the book, from “Everything Tells Us About God,” by Katherine Bolger Hyde)
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If you have children who enjoy coloring, one of the first pages of the book has been made into a coloring page! Download and print it here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/content/everything-coloring-page.pdf
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Family time idea #1: Before reading “Everything Tells Us About God” together, hand each family member a blank puzzle. Provide watercolor paints, markers, and/or colored pencils and invite them to write a message or create an image that makes them happy on the puzzle. Share the book while the images dry. Then have each person turn their puzzle over, and on each piece, write the name of something or someone in their life that points them to God. Who/what are the pieces that God uses in their life to draw them closer to Himself? (Be sure to help family members for whom the writing is difficult!)

(You may want to buy different sized puzzles, depending on the ages of those in your household. You can find blank puzzles online – for example, this one: http://www.orientaltrading.com/compoz-a-puzzle-blank-puzzles-28-a2-13646291.fltr;
or in a local craft store – for example, this one: http://www.michaels.com/design-a-puzzle-set-by-creatology/10489364.html)
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Family time idea #2: Before sharing “Everything Tells Us About God” with the family, gather items (or pictures of them) that are mentioned in the book. Bring together a few rocks, some water, a cutout of the sun, some stuffed animals (an elephant, a hen, a bee, a lion, a lamb, and/or a dove), seeds, flowers, fruit, bread, stars, a picture of a playground, a picture of school, an article of dress-up clothes, a mini photo album, etc. would work. Place the items you’ve gathered on a large tray. Present them to the family, and ask why they think you’ve gathered these things? Then read the book together and ask the question again. Go through each item and ask how it tells you about God. What items did you miss that are important to your family? What if one of these “puzzle pieces” went missing from your life? What can we learn about how important each piece of God’s puzzle is to the world?
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Family time idea #3: Read “Everything Tells Us About God” together, and then engage in a discussion. How does God reveal Himself to us? What “puzzle piece” from the book did each family member like, and why? Go out for a hike together. Occasionally stop and look around. What “puzzle pieces” do you notice that God has placed around you, that point you to Himself? At the end of the hike, or when you get back home again, invite each family member to think of their own “puzzle piece” that could be added to the book, and draw or write about it on this printable pdf.

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Gleanings From a Book: “Sacred Sky and How to Locate 24 Constellations” by Lois Clymer

I am mesmerized by the sky. Day, night, cloudy, sunny, it matters not: I could watch it for hours, if I allowed myself the time. As a child, I loved to lie in the grass and watch the clouds or stare at the stars. Now that I’m an adult, I don’t give myself much time to do that. (Where I live, it is difficult to see the stars at night. This is a big change from my childhood home, where the Milky Way was easily visible.) But even as a “busy adult,” I still notice the sky. There are moments when it absolutely takes my breath away. I find myself gasping, and exclaiming to whoever is nearby, “Wow! Just LOOK at the sky!”

Orthodox Christian author Lois Clymer’s book, Sacred Sky, offers older children (and sky-loving adults) the opportunity to study the sky, learn a bit of history, and see how, even from ancient times, people from all over the world have seen the stars as telling about a divine human who comes to save the world.

Each chapter of the book focuses on a different aspect of the sky. The first chapter is the most detailed. It introduces 24 different constellations and many of their named stars, and teaches the reader how to find them in the sky. The chapter also offers further information about many of the constellations, including the meanings of some of the stars’ names. Many of the meanings remind us of Christ, the conqueror, who came to crush the serpent’s head!

Chapter 2 is focused on the sun, moon, planets, and eclipses. The chapter contains very nice explanations of the solar system, planetary orbits, moon phases, and eclipses. It also offers suggestions of how to find the other planets in our solar system in the night sky.

Chapter 3 explains galaxies and explores our own galaxy, the Milky Way. (If you have never been in a place where you can see the Milky Way, try to do so with your children. It is awe-inspiring and beautiful. Pictures of the Milky Way are beautiful, but they do not do it justice!)

Chapter 4 discusses auroras, more commonly called “northern lights” in the northern hemisphere, and “southern lights” in the southern hemisphere. It offers an easy-to-understand explanation of how and why these lights appear in the sky.

The afterword sheds additional light on the parallels between the night sky and the predictions that a conqueror/redeemer would be born of a virgin in order to defeat Satan. It concludes with, “we now know that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of this prediction. May we honor Him!” (p. 21)

This book will be useful in a home learning library. Homeschoolers will find this book to be an excellent addition to any study of the sky, stars, and planets. It could also be an interesting study for an older Sunday Church School class, perhaps in a series of “creation appreciation” lessons or just for something different from the usual lesson.

Let us not just notice the sky; let us take the time to really look at it, and to marvel at God’s greatness, which is so clearly exhibited there! After reading this book, we will be better able to ponder how the sky has helped people, even from ancient times, to learn about Christ. Sacred Sky will help us to find some of the constellations that pointed to Him, and wonder at the fact that “the heavens declare the Glory of God,” for they have helped people to learn about Him for millenia. As we take the time to be still beneath the sky and look, it can point us to Christ, as well.

Learn more about author Lois Clymer and order her book from her website: http://www.locateconstellations.com/

Here are a few links that can also help you learn more about the sky. Some of these are found in the book Sacred Sky.

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Find and print your own star wheel, which can help you see where the stars are in the sky at any given day/time, at www.aosny.org/Starwheel.pdf.

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Families who like to observe and learn from the sky may want to check out Classical Astronomy. It is a website created by Protestant Christians related to the sky. Learn more at: http://classicalastronomy.com/
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Find suggestions of fun activities to do with your children if they enjoy studying the sky at http://www.mykidsadventures.com/discover-astronomy-for-kids/. The page suggests additional books to read, a snack to make, and other activities you can do together as a family to learn more about the sky and stars.
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If you and your children discover that you enjoy looking for constellations in the night sky, you may want to look for one or both of these books by H. A. Rey at your local library:
The Stars: A New Way to See Them (https://www.amazon.com/Stars-New-Way-See-Them/dp/0544763440/)
and/or
Find the Constellations (https://www.amazon.com/Find-Constellations-H-Rey/dp/0544763424/)
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Which of the constellations did your child like learning about, or finding, the most? With black paper, star stickers, and a piece of chalk, invite them to draw that constellation.

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The book Sacred Sky can help us to better appreciate how “the heavens declare the glory of God.” (Ps. 18:1) Create a family art display with that theme: post the verse on a wall in your home (or on the fridge). Surround it with pictures of the sky (that you’ve taken or found in magazines), as well as sky-themed artwork that you and/or your children create. Need inspiration? Check out
https://www.adventure-in-a-box.com/painting-space-watercolours-kids/; https://buggyandbuddy.com/starry-night-sky-art/; or http://homeschoolingtoday.com/article/nebula-chalk-art-tutorial/ for a few ideas.

 

Gleanings from a Book: “When God Made You” by Jane G. Meyer

Jane G. Meyer’s new book, “When God Made You” invites readers of all ages to look at each person in the world and consider what God was thinking when He made them. Every spread of this gleefully-worded book introduces a child from a different part of the world, and suggests what God had in mind when He created that child. Each “person recipe” in the book, just as in real life, is completely unique and brimming with the love and enthusiasm of our Creator.

“When God Made You” celebrates each person’s extraordinary qualities, looks, talents, and interests, recognizing each facet as a gift that has been poured into that person’s life by God Himself. The book also demonstrates to the reader that God does not just give those qualities to us to enjoy, but because He wants them to be used and shared. Every child in the book, upon being created, is issued a command: to plant, to sing, to paint, to lead… The book brings to life the reality that from the moment we are created, God has in His mind the work that He has set for us to do.

Throughout the book, Megan Elizabeth Gilbert’s whimsical illustrations bring to life the individual being described. Readers can see Makani, Hikaru, Bridgid, Carmelo, and all the others in their home environment, savoring their surroundings and beginning to act on the command that God has given for them to fulfill.The illustrator has carefully captured cultural details (down to the very fabric of the traditional clothing), and uses these characteristics to effectively embellish each spread. The reader can sense the joy God has in creating each person through the charming illustrations in this book.

The book both begins and ends with this important question: “What beautiful things was God thinking when He made you?” This question – actually, the book as a whole – naturally lends itself to a family discussion on individual uniqueness. God’s plan for each person, His delight in each of us, and His love for each person are clearly demonstrated in the pages of this book. This book will be an invaluable addition to any Orthodox Christian family’s library.

Here is more about the book itself:

Take a sneak peek into the book by taking a look at the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5F5hoXb8-mM&feature=youtu.be or by flipping through a few digital pages here: https://issuu.com/ancientfaith/docs/when_god_made_you/13?e=0

Check out the “When God Made You” facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WhenGodMadeMe/

To add this book to your family’s collection, purchase a copy here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/when-god-made-you/

 

Here are a few activities your family can do together after reading “When God Made You:”

Have each member of your family draw a self-portrait and write (or describe) what God was thinking about when He made them. Hang the self-portraits up where you can all see them and enjoy them. Find ideas of unique ways to display them here: http://www.helpyoudwell.com/blog/2015/9/30/12-ways-to-display-kids-artwork

Encourage each family member to celebrate the other members of the family. Allow each person to write their version of God’s recipe for every other member of the family. What did God think of when He made the other members? Write the “recipes” on recipe cards such as this (print on cardstock): http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/when_god_made_you_recipe_card.pdf. After you’re finished, read the recipes together and talk about what you’ve written, celebrating the great things God has created in each member of the family. Display the recipe cards near your self-portraits.

Work together to make lists of words that describe each member of the family. These lists can have some similarities to each other, but should largely unique, just as the person they describe is unique from the rest of the family. Order (or create your own) a canvas art piece for each family member, featuring their name and descriptive words, as suggested here: http://www.iheartcraftythings.com/2013/07/god-made-you-subway-art-canvases.html?m=1

Challenge each member of the family to take this idea one step further: Ask each person to  think of someone they don’t get along with very well. Instead of thinking of how much they don’t like the person, have them make a list of the good things that God has put into that person. What was God thinking when He made them? (This is an excellent way to realize that God has created EVERYONE, and to look for the positive even in those whom we struggle to love.) Take some time to pray for the people who you have a hard time getting along with. After making the list of great things God put into the person/people you struggle to love, tuck the list(s) away somewhere that can be re-visited when the going gets tough with the individual(s) again. Re-visit the list to add more great things, as you think of them! And, as Fr. Andrew Harmon says in http://www.antiochian.org/love-your-enemies, keep focusing on the GOOD thing(s)!

Look at what the Scriptures have to say about God creating us uniquely. For example, read Genesis 1: 27-28, Psalm 118:73-74, Psalm 138:13-16, Job 33:4, Isaiah 64:7, Jeremiah 1:4-5, Jeremiah 36:11, Romans 8:28-30, Romans 12:6-8, and Ephesians 2:10. Select one to focus on as a family and create a piece of wall art together featuring that Scripture. Find Scripture wall art ideas here: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/scripture-wall-art/

This song called “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” combines many Scriptures as a sort of lullaby from God to each of the people He has created: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igYWIzrC9Ko

Older children and adults will be encouraged to read this blog post called “What God Says About Me.” The blog tells about the author(who has Down Syndrome)’s search through the scriptures and how learning what God says about His people brought her comfort. Read the blog at http://www1.cbn.com/devotions/what-god-says-about-me.

Consider taking this challenge from “When God Made You” author Jane G. Meyer herself: “…If your kids are interested in either writing a profile about themselves, or drawing their own portrait, with your permission we’ll be collecting these images to post on the When God Made You facebook page,and maybe on a page here on my own website. And it doesn’t just have to be kids! Feel free to send me your own writing or illustration as well!!!” She posted that challenge in this blog about her book: http://www.janegmeyer.com/blog/when-god-made-you/