Gary Bower Posts

If God Is Saying “Go,” Why Am I Stuck Here? by Gary Bower

Tyndale Kids

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It was a beautiful July evening, back in the olden days before GPS and cell phones. The weather was perfect as we left the rustic lodge in the foothills of Appalachia. With my new bride in the seat beside me, I was enjoying gorgeous scenery inside and outside the vehicle while we drove to a special event. The winding road threaded through a dense forest of hardwoods, and with every twist and turn I became a little more unsure of my bearings. Somewhere along the way I missed a turn, and we became lost among the trees, unable to find our way out of the park. The signage was poor, and there were no hikers to ask for directions. I could have kicked myself for leaving the lodge without my park map.

As a Christian, I have a map, directions to help me navigate my way through thick forests. It’s called the Bible.

Same week, same honeymoon, different region. In a sparsely populated area known for its countless inland lakes, we found ourselves, once again, driving along a winding road, this time with a map in hand. But a few miles from our destination, around midnight, all the lights of our 1967 Plymouth suddenly went dead. We pulled over and sat in darkness wondering how to find our way, until a friendly local stopped to offer help. After hearing our situation, she said, “I know the place. Follow me.” For the remainder of the dark journey, her tail lights gave the guidance we desperately needed.

winding-road-in-forest

As a Christian, I have a mentor, a guide to lead me through places that are so dark I struggle to see the map clearly. He’s called the Holy Spirit.

Moses received his directions, his map, when God spoke clear instructions to him at the burning bush and again, later, on the mountain. Moses also had a guide—his mentor—in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, so he and the people could keep going even in the dark. After all the opposition they had faced in Egypt, Moses and his people were finally making some real progress, heading down the road toward the destination God had for them. Except for one problem: They ran out of road.

You’ve probably been there. I know I have, trying to follow God’s Word and seeking Him for guidance. And just when you think you’ve received your directions and you’re heading down the path He has for you, you hit a brick wall (or in Moses’ case, a sea). There simply is no more road. The career door closed. The ministry opportunity ended. The family plan dissolved. The medical options ran out. The money dried up. You’ve taken the last step you can take, right up to the water’s edge, and the hostile army is closing in. Here’s how I describe it in my kids’ book The Hurry-Up Exit from Egypt: “[This is] the sea that made them all cry, ‘We’re trapped here like rats, and we’re all gonna die!’”

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Sometimes, I’ve found that same mentality in me. I’ve followed my map and my mentor right up to what seems like a brick wall, and here I am at the end of the road. But God had a third “m” for Moses: a miracle. While hundreds of thousands looked back at the approaching terror, Moses looked forward and watched the Waymaker make a way. God used a tremendous wind to heap up the waters of the sea like a wall on each side. Extraordinary! Truth really is stranger than fiction.

And while this was a truly incredible miracle, it was by no means the only miracle God did for His people. How about water in the desert . . . out of a rock? (Exodus 17). Or defeating an innumerable army while standing still and singing? (2 Chronicles 20). The Bible is filled with mind-blowing miracles done for the helpless in times that were hopeless. It tells us repeatedly to remind ourselves and our children of the wonders God has performed (Joshua 4:21-24; Psalm 78:2-7; Psalm 105; 1 Chronicles 16:8-12; Isaiah 43:16-19). These reminders build faith in our children. They build faith in me. And as my faith starts to swell again, I realize that, with God, not even the sky is the limit. You never know what He might do! After all, many years after He parted one sea, He simply chose to walk on top of another one.

I’m not exactly sure why my painful losses tend to be easier to recall than the incredible answers to prayer I’ve experienced. Maybe that’s why I’m supposed to tell and retell my children about God’s wonderful deeds. I can’t afford to let myself forget the miracles God did yesterday; I may be needing one tomorrow.

I’ll continue to look to my map. I’ll try to keep up with my mentor. And sometimes, when I run out of road, I’ll just have to remember to ask for a good old fashioned miracle.


Gary Bower is an award-winning author, speaker, and ordained minister. His many years of experience pastoring small children, tweens, teens, and adults have helped him develop a rare ability to touch hearts of a wide age range simultaneously. He is the author of sixteen books, including Perfect Christmas. His books have received high praise from Gary Smalley, Randy Alcorn, Chuck Bentley of Crown Financial Ministries, and the Duggar family. Gary speaks all over the Eastern United States at homeschool conventions, churches, and MOPS groups. He loves to read to his children and grandchildren.

Ebenezer: Memorial Stones to Guide Our Children by Sarah Rubio

Tyndale Kids

memorial-wreath

Monday, we will celebrate Memorial Day. If you visit or drive by a cemetery or war monument, you’ll see wreaths and flowers laid to honor and you’ll remember those who sacrificed their lives while serving in our country’s armed forces. These flowers, and the stones they decorate, serve as memorials—reminders—to those of us who have benefited from that sacrifice.

Thinking about memorials reminds me of my favorite biblical monument, the one Israel’s last judge, Samuel, called Ebenezer: “Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means ‘the stone of help’), for he said, ‘Up to this point the Lord has helped us!’” (1 Samuel 7:12).

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The Ebenezer monument commemorates a miraculous victory God won for his people against one of their greatest enemies, the Philistines (see 1 Samuel 7:3-13). Following Samuel’s instructions, the Israelites had gathered at Mizpah to recommit themselves to God. The Philistines got word of this convocation and decided to attack. The terrified Israelites begged God to save them, and the Lord responded in dramatic fashion: “The Lord spoke with a mighty voice of thunder from heaven that day, and the Philistines were thrown into such confusion that the Israelites defeated them” (1 Samuel 7:10). After the battle, Samuel set up the Ebenezer stone to remind Israel of their God’s faithfulness.

I think remembrance is one of the most important reasons we start recounting the Bible’s historical narratives to our children from such a young age—not just because they are entertaining, or an engaging entry point into Scripture, but because of what they help us remember about God. The creation account reminds us that God is our Source, that he is joyful and creative, that he delights in what he has made. The story of Noah and the Flood reminds us that God preserves even as he purifies. In the story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac, we remember that God provides (see Genesis 22:14); his provision of a ram to sacrifice in Isaac’s place foreshadows his greatest provision of all—Jesus, the perfect sacrifice and substitute.

It has been my privilege in recent years to edit some beautiful Bible storybooks for Tyndale Kids—books that I use to set up “memorial stones” for my own children, and that I hope and pray will become such memorials for thousands of other parents and children. Here are some of my favorites:

 

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God Made the World by Sarah Jean Collins—Author/illustrator Sarah Jean Collins celebrates God’s artistry with her beautiful geometric illustrations. The fun shapes and bright colors are a feast for grown-up and tiny eyes alike, and the sturdy board-book pages are easy for little hands to turn. This is the perfect first Bible storybook for babies and toddlers. (Releasing October 2017.)

 

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The Faith that God Built series by Gary Bower—These four cumulative rhyming stories (The Beautiful Garden of Eden, A Patch on the Peak of Ararat, The Hurry-Up Exit from Egypt, and The Frightening Philippi Jail) commemorate big moments in the history of God’s people in a fresh way. Each book points the reader back to the Book with a key Scripture verse and a reference to the entire passage the story is taken from.

 

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The Story Travelers Bible by Tracey Madder—This 85-story volume is a great entry into the world of the Bible for young grade-schoolers. Kids join Lana, Munch, and Griffin on an epic adventure to find out more about the people, places, and events of the Bible. The book includes informational features, application points, and memory verses to help kids go deeper, and each story includes its biblical source reference.

It is good and right for us to place or contemplate one of the memorials honoring our fallen soldiers this weekend. But I pray that you will also take some time to place a memorial of God’s faithfulness in the life of a child dear to you. “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!”—and because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)—we know that he will help us through every point ahead.


sarah-rubioEditor Sarah Rubio grew up as a missionary kid in Ecuador and holds a bachelor of arts in communication from Wheaton College. She joined Tyndale’s editorial team in 2007, working mainly on Spanish books until transitioning to English nonfiction and children’s in 2014. One of the first Tyndale products she encountered was a One Year Bible that her father read with her every year from the age of eight to eighteen. Sarah loves challenging authors to be better writers while they’re challenging her with the ideas in their books. She lives in Chicago’s northwest suburbs with her husband and children.


Find more #tyndalekids books today for your young readers at tyndale.com/youth.


 

A Fresh Look at Rainy Day Fun by Kathryn O’Brien

Tyndale Kids

Springtime is all about being outside, but every so often those “April showers” dampen our outdoor fun. When plans outside are scattered by a sudden storm, don’t let a few showers rain on your parade. Be prepared with these age-old, indoor ideas with a fresh twist.


Send it! Pulling out the arts and crafts box passes the time nicely, but how about giving your masterpiece a purpose? Make a list of people that may like to receive a special gift. Grandparents or cousins that live far away? A neighbor who has been recently ill? A friend with a broken arm or a cold?  Use your gray day to brighten someone else’s by drawing, coloring, crafting or painting a personalized work of art.  In this age of technology, hand-made surprises found in a mailbox are extra appreciated. (This is also a good time to remind kids how to address an “old-fashioned” envelope and use a stamp!)

board-games-rainy-day-activityMake it! Board games like Candy Land and Shoots and Ladders are great classics to have on hand, but a kid-created board doubles the fun. Sketch a curvy, zig-zag path onto poster board. Next, divide the path into squares. Fill each square with rewards (ie: You found a pretty shell at the beach; move ahead three spaces) and pitfalls (ie: You forgot to bring the tent on our camping trip; move back a space). Personalize the squares by citing specific places your family loves to visit during the summer.  Use markers and crayons to decorate, dice to move ahead, buttons for tokens, and you’re on your way!

popcornWatch it! Who doesn’t love a bowl of popcorn, a comfy couch and a good movie on a drizzly day? But have you thought of starring in that movie yourself? Pick a family favorite and choose some well-known scenes. Dress up as characters, gather props, practice saying lines, and take turns as actors, directors and videographers (even preschoolers can push “record” on Mom’s ipad or smartphone). For those with extra imagination, rewrite a scene altogether or think of a different ending to really make it your own production. Don’t forget to make that popcorn, as you’ll need it for the viewing party when filming wraps.

Read it! Making a cozy space with blankets and books is a great idea rain or shine, but why not publish your own book? Gather some computer paper and staple down the left hand side. Think of a great summer trip or outing your family has taken (or would like to take) and write about it from beginning to end. Decorate the cover with a title and the author’s (your) name. Inside, use the bottom half of each page for text, the upper half for illustrations. Be sure to describe the setting and all of the characters by adding lots of details. And don’t forget an “About the Author” page at the end telling readers all about you.

puzzle-piecesCreate it! Everybody loves puzzles, but have you ever designed your own? Use a sheet of plain white paper (preferably heavy cardstock) to create a colorful picture. Be sure to cover the entire page; don’t leave any spaces blank. Turn the paper over and draw squiggly lines from top to bottom and left to right, dividing the sheet into small sections. Then cut on the lines. Place the puzzle pieces into an envelope and give to a friend or sibling, or try putting it back together on your own. Optional: glue the pieces onto a colored sheet of construction paper as the puzzle is reconstructed, for a cool mosaic piece of art.

making-a-listLearn it! Action games like Pictionary and charades are wonderful pastimes, but why not throw in a little academics?  First, make a list of historical characters or Bible heroes. As you make your list, take time to discuss the famous figures. Who were they? What did they do? When did they live? What is important about them? Use a children’s Bible or a safe internet site to gather more information if needed. Cut up the list and gather names into a hat or bowl. Take turns choosing and acting out (or drawing) clues. Valuable information is shared and learning is reinforced as answers are eagerly discovered.


So here’s wishing your family fair skies ahead, but if gray clouds threaten to bring on the blues, put some of these ideas into action and enjoy a cheery day.


Kathryn O’Brien is the author of the My First Bible Memory Book series, now available in board book format! See more from Kathryn on her website, www.kathobrien.com.


For some additional reading, check out these Tyndale Kids titles with rainy days of their own!

Jonah and the Fish by Dandi Daley Mackall

Jonah and the Fish by Dandi Daley Mackall

A Patch on the Peak of Ararat by Gary Bower

story-travelers-bible

The Story Travelers Bible by Tracey Madder (Specifically, “An Unusual Way to Travel by Sea”, starting on page 231)