Aslan’s Library: Best site for children’s books that communicate theological truth in a beautiful way

If you are a parent (and even if you’re not), Aslan’s Library will nourish your soul and the soul of the children in your life. I went to school with, and had the great privilege of serving in youth ministry alongside with, one of the blog’s co-authors. Here’s from the Library’s introductory post:

When we became parents and started thinking about how we wanted to raise our children, meaningful interaction with great literature was a top priority for each of us.  Wonderful children’s books are available in abundance, and we have delighted in exploring the world of kids lit.

However, when we began to search for Christian children’s books that were on the same par as our favorite nonreligious titles, we were disheartened.  More often than not, the Christian books we encountered were theologically sloppy or artistically mediocre – or both.  Since such books don’t do justice to the beauty and truth of Christianity, we were unwilling to share them with our young ones.

We believe that the literary and artistic qualities of all types of childrens’ books matter – and we believe that the quality of Christian books matters even more because those books attempt to reflect God to their young readers.  Children’s ideas about God’s character, his creation, and the story of redemption are important, so we care about how those stories unfold in literature.  The religious books our children read will deeply impact their spiritual imaginations: what could be more important?

Check out their children’s book list, which I especially appreciate for its focus on Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter. And let this recent post restore you–“When Advent is Neither Quiet Nor Still.”

There is much to explore at Aslan’s Library; it’s a site to refer to often.

Lights withstanding the wind (Martinmas)

A guest post by my wife, Sarah K-J:

For the third time, I handed my two-year-old son his homemade lantern and hoped the wind would allow a few minutes more of light. We were on our first “lantern walk.”

Guided by another young family with experience in this ancient tradition honoring St. Martin of Tours, we stepped out into the dark. Each young child bore a homemade lantern and eagerly watched the wind catch and play with the flame. We periodically stopped to relight each one. In the darkening dusk we walked along the beach, flickering orbs bobbing in front of young, expectant faces.

I was amazed at how gentle the wind was, how perfect the setting. The stars began to gain strength, and distantly echoed the scattered constellation of lanterned children. The waves stood back and gave us firm ground to walk on.

Our lights were small and inconsistent in the north Atlantic wind, but their hope a meaningful tribute to St. Martin. A Roman solider, Martin met a starving beggar at the city gates of Amiens. Moved with compassion, he tore his cloak in two, giving half to the beggar. That night in his sleep, Christ appeared to him dressed in the half-cloak. He was soon baptized and later became a bishop in the Church.

I’m unsure how much of the beauty and meaning the children were able to absorb, but the excitement and courage with which they carried their fragile paper lanterns in the wind of the North Atlantic gives me hope.

Their small lights were extinguished several times, but they kept asking for their lanterns to be lit again. Whenever their light withstood the wind, they joyfully announced it to all around, and fixed their eyes upon its hopeful, persistent light.

10 things about the new Archbishop of Canterbury

Breaking news: the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is on Twitter. (He’s funny, too.)

He comes to the Anglican Communion’s highest position from a post as Bishop in Durham, where N.T. Wright previously served.

A piece on him in the New York Times is here.

And the BBC has published an article with “10 lesser-known things” about the new Archbishop. I found this one particularly poignant:

4. He set up a special day for bereaved parents in Coventry Cathedral. There is now an annual service commemorating the lives of children who have died. A book with the names of lost children is always on display in the cathedral – anyone who has lost a child under any circumstances can ask for their child’s name to be added to the book.

Bishop Welby’s own eldest daughter, Johanna, died when she was just seven months old in a car crash in France in 1983. He has previously said her death brought him and his wife Caroline closer to God. The couple have five other children.

The rest of the BBC article is here.

New Archbishop of Canterbury

The Telegraph reports that the new Archbishop of Canterbury has been named: Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham.

Sources have confirmed that the Eton-educated bishop will be announced as successor to Dr Rowan Williams as early as Friday, after the Crown Nominations Commission put his name forward to Downing Street.

It marks a meteoric rise for the former oil executive who has been a bishop for only a year, but insiders described Welby as “the outstanding candidate”.

The full article is here.

Katharine Bushnell (1856-1946): “God does not curse women because of Eve”

Two days after All Saints Day, I express my admiration now for a perhaps even lesser-known “saint” than Perpetua, Moses the Black, or John Huss.

Katharine Bushnell lived from 1856 to 1946. She was a doctor, a missionary, an advocate for those without other advocates, and a theologian.  Her commitment to the authority of Scripture was strong. About the Bible she said, “No other basis of procedure is available for us.” She learned Greek and Hebrew, and was particularly interested in applying her knowledge of biblical languages to understanding what the Bible had to say about gender. She spoke seven languages.

Author and theologian Mimi Haddad (where I first learned about Bushnell, via this PDF article) writes about her:

Bushnell grounds the ontological equality of men and women first in the early chapters of Genesis where, according to Bushnell, we learn that Adam and Eve were both created in the image of God, that Adam and Eve were both equally called to be frutiful and to exercise dominion in Eden, that Eve was not the source of sin, and that God does not curse women because of Eve.

Bushnell began a hospital of pediatrics in Shanghai, was part of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and helped found a homeless shelter for women in Chicago.

Psalm 68:11 says, “The Lord announces the word, and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng.”

Bushnell joins Perpetua and countless others as part of a mighty throng of women who have proclaimed God’s word in ways that continue to inspire today.

John Huss (c. 1372-1415), who said the Psalms as he burned at the stake

Though All Saints Day was yesterday, I want to highlight two more lesser-known saints today and tomorrow.

John Huss is nowhere near the household name (well… Christian household name) that Martin Luther or John Calvin is. But he tilled the ground for these and others.

Huss taught and pastored in Prague. Like the better-known reformers that would follow him, Huss criticized the established church of his day. He held that the Bible should be in the hands of the masses.  In his view, the only proper “head” of the Church was not any humanly established church government, but Jesus Christ. He advanced the Reformation idea of “Sola scriptura”—that the Bible alone should be the authority in issues pertaining to life and doctrine.

Christian History writes of his death this way:

In November 1414, the Council of Constance assembled, and Huss was urged by Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund to come and give an account of his doctrine. Because he was promised safe conduct, and because of the importance of the council (which promised significant church reforms), Huss went. When he arrived, however, he was immediately arrested, and he remained imprisoned for months. Instead of a hearing, Huss was eventually hauled before authorities in chains and asked merely to recant his views.

When he saw he wasn’t to be given a forum for explaining his ideas, let alone a fair hearing, he finally said, “I appeal to Jesus Christ, the only judge who is almighty and completely just. In his hands I plead my cause, not on the basis of false witnesses and erring councils, but on truth and justice.” He was taken to his cell, where many pleaded with him to recant. On July 6, 1415, he was taken to the cathedral, dressed in his priestly garments, then stripped of them one by one. He refused one last chance to recant at the stake, where he prayed, “Lord Jesus, it is for thee that I patiently endure this cruel death. I pray thee to have mercy on my enemies.” He was heard reciting the Psalms as the flames engulfed him.

Luther, who later would stumble on Huss’s writings, said, “I was overwhelmed with astonishment. I could not understand for what cause they had burnt so great a man, who explained the Scriptures with so much gravity and skill.”

(I remembered Moses the Black yesterday, Perpetua on Wednesday, and wrote about All Saints Day more generally the day before that.)

St. Moses the Black (4th century)

Happy All Saints Day!

Moses the Black was a 4th century African saint. He has some sweet aliases, too: Abba Moses the Robber and Moses the Strong. As in the image above (which is from here), he is also known as St. Moses the Ethiopian.

The Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black gives a short biography of the saint, which I have also seen (unsourced) elsewhere:

St. Moses the Black was a former gang leader, murderer, and thief in ancient Africa. However, he became a model of transformation. His is one of the most inspiring stories among the African saints.

Moses, an escaped slave, was the leader of a group of 75 robbers. He was a large and powerful man, who with his gang terrorized the entire region. Moses was transformed after he and his group attacked a monastery, intending to rob it. He was met by the abbot, whose peaceful and warm manner overwhelmed him. He immediately felt remorse for all his past sins, sincerely repented, and begged to remain at the monastery.

Moses was tortured by his past and for years was tempted to return to his old ways. One day, as he was confessing his sins to St. Macarius, it was reported that an angel appeared with a tablet full of his sins. As he confessed, the angel began wiping the tablet clean. The more he confessed, the more the angel was said to have wiped, until by the end it was completely clean. After meeting St. Macarius and St. Isidore, he completely left his old ways behind him and became a monk.

Later, St. Moses was ordained to the priesthood — a rare honor among the Desert Fathers– and founded a monastery of 75 monks, the same number as his former group of thieves. He was known for his wisdom, humility, love, and non-judgment of others. Once a brother had been caught in a particular sin, and the abbot asked St. Moses to come to the church and render judgment. He came reluctantly, carrying on his back a leaking bag of sand. When he arrived, the brothers asked him why he was carrying such a thing. He simply said, “This sand is my sins which are trailing out behind me, while I go to judge the sins of another.” At that reply, the brothers forgave the offender and returned to focusing on their own salvation rather than the sins of their brother.

In 405 A.D., at age 75, St. Moses suffered a martyr’s death when his monastery was attacked by a group of barbarians. He is remembered on the 28th of August. Today he is considered the patron saint of African Americans.

More on Moses the Black can be found here.

(I remembered Perpetua yesterday and wrote about All Saints Day more generally the day before that.)