NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible for Girls AND NIV Beautiful Word Bible Journal-Mark: A Review

As most of you know, I love Bibles. I have an entire shelf of them at home–different translations and editions for different purposes. Several years ago, I applied to be part of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid. I didn’t expect much of it, just thought it would be another avenue to get my blog out into the world. But, one of the coolest things about being a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid is that I get to review Bibles. I love getting new Bibles the same way other bloggers love getting to review new clothes. It’s so much fun!!

This month, I got to review TWO new products from Zondervan: The NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible for Girls AND the NIV Beautiful Word Bible Journal–Mark. As always, these were provided free of cost by the publisher for the purpose of review. The opinions are mine alone (kind of–keep reading).

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The NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible for Girls is exactly what it sounds like. Actually, it’s a lot more, because not only does it come with lovely pictures to color, it includes stickers and a set of colored pencils. According to the publisher:

Created especially for girls ages 8 to 12, this beautiful Bible, sticker sheets and coloring pencil set provides the tools for young artists to express themselves.Girls will get creative through coloring and journaling in the NIV Beautiful Word™ Coloring Bible for Girls. Included are pencils to color, blend and shade the detailed line art surrounding hundreds of inspiring verses. This Bible gift set is perfect for the special young girl in your life and will become a cherished keepsake full of personalized creative expressions of faith.

Because I am the lone woman in a house of men, I decided to get some help with this review from a young friend from church. She used this Bible and gave me her notes. As she is the target audience, I wanted to include her notes here. Consider this an expert opinion:

~The Bible is super pretty! (Almost too pretty to color in.)

~I like the color of the Bible.

~I like the size of the Bible.

~I like how the table of contents is organized.

~I like how they put pictures and places where you can take notes on the sides.

~I like that it has scriptures on the sides and they stretch out the letters.

~Love the texture of the pages.

~The pencils are kind of thick, so maybe use my own.

She closes with the following:

If you read this Bible, go to page 924 and read this…”This very night before the rooster crows you will disown me three times.” Matthew 26:34. This is my favorite Scripture. Read all the things on the sides.

If you know of a girl who might be interested in this Bible, you can find it on sale now at the Bible Gateway Faith store. Here’s the link: NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible for Girls. Shipping is free!

NIV Beautiful Word Bible Journal-Mark

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This small book would make a great gift for anyone who is interested in doing some Bible journaling, but maybe isn’t sure how to get started. The book of Mark is the shortest of all the Gospels. Mark doesn’t waste time in details, but gets straight to the point. The Bible itself has lots of space for journaling, and some beautiful artistic drawings of Scriptures. Here’s the information from the publisher:

The NIV Beautiful Word Bible Journal, Mark, includes the full text of the book of Mark, along with verse art and wide margins for journaling. As fans of Beautiful Word have come to expect, the colorful, illustrated art and uplifting imagery encourage a deeper and more inspired quiet time. The single-book format and slim paperback size make it easy to carry this Bible journal anywhere. 

The NIV Beautiful Word Bible Journals are set in Zondervan’s exclusive NIV Comfort Print® typeface for smooth reading. Expertly designed to be used for the New International Version (NIV) text, Comfort Print offers an easier reading experience that complements the most widely read modern-English Bible translation. The art inside is from the NIV Beautiful Word Bible, Updated Edition, along with new illustrated verses created specifically for this Bible journal. 

Zondervan has several of these individual books from the New Testament, Pauline letters, and the Psalms. If you need a nice gift for someone, or want to encourage the reading of Scripture, these would be perfect. And, they, too, are on sale at the Bible Gateway Faith Store. 😉

Whatever version of the Bible you read, keep digging into the Word of God.

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Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Doorknob Dilemmas

Our front doorknob wasn’t turning. Some mechanism within was stuck, and no matter how much force we exerted on it, the knob simply wouldn’t turn. It happened on a week when my husband was really busy. So, in an effort to solve a more hands-on problem without his help (not something I am particularly adept at), I bought a new doorknob. I sat down in front of the front door with my new knob and some screwdrivers. The box said “easy installation”. But then I opened the instructions.

“What the heck?” I thought, as I looked at the myriad pictures and letters and all sorts of verbiage that made absolutely no sense to me. I called my 12-year old from the couch to help me decipher the strange code in front of me. He couldn’t do it. Undeterred, I pulled out my phone and went to that fount of all knowledge–Google. Finding a set of instructions that made sense, I began the task of removing the doorknob. Fast forward about 45 minutes. The knob, which was supposed to have a click mechanism for easy removal, was not removed. I had removed every other part of the lock except the knob. Frustrated and tired of my home improvement project, I did the only thing I knew how to do. I grabbed a pair of my husband’s pliers and pulled and twisted and cut through metal until the rosette part of the knob was removed. Pulling up a video on YouTube made by a very comforting grandma-type figure who explained things clearly and precisely, I was finally able to spot the little hole with click mechanism to release the knob from the door. Success!

Replacing the knob was pretty simple, and although it doesn’t quite shut the way it’s supposed to (sigh) it at least turns and allows us both entry into and exit out of our house.

Needless to say, I am not a very patient person. If something doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, my default mechanism is to throw/beat/push/pull the object until it finally does what I think it ought to do. My impatience leads to anger, and instead of solving the problem in a quick and effective manner, I only end up making it worse. This is why we’ve had to buy new remotes, garage door openers, and an occasional lawn mower. I don’t want to patiently figure things out, I just want them to work.

Here’s the rub with impatience…it always leads to a bigger mess than what you started with.

This is why patience is a fruit of the Spirit. It has to be cultivated, over time, in relationship with God. God is infinitely patient. It’s the reason we, as humans, still exist. If God was not patient, he would have wiped us all out millennia ago. Fortunately for us, God is patient. His plans unfold with slow precision…each step carefully calculated to reveal itself at the appropriate time. God is in the long-game. And if we want to participate with him in building his kingdom, we need to cultivate the art of patience. So, how do we learn patience? The same way we learn to exhibit any fruit of the Spirit…we spend time with the Gardener. When we spend time with God, he imbues his Spirit within us. Patiently he works in our hearts, so that eventually there is more of him and less of us. In time, we bear fruit, including the fruit of patience.

Proverbs 14:29 states:

Patience leads to abundant understanding,
    but impatience leads to stupid mistakes.

I had a cool graphic ready for this verse. However, the computer I’m working on didn’t want to download it. In an effort to cultivate patience, I’m choosing to be okay with that. I’m letting it go, secure in the knowledge that the meaning is more important than the design.

This week, choose patience. See what God might start to cultivate in you.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

It’s the Little Things…

A couple of weeks ago, an email was sent to our team of writers at work about the importance of space. I mean literally, the space on a document. Writers were inadvertently adding an extra space between two different portions of text, and this extra space was adding lots of extra steps for our loaders who take our curriculum from Word documents to online content. Just adding one extra space to the text made tons of extra work for the loaders. Something I didn’t even think about was adding time, effort, and frustration to someone else. Space matters. Who knew?

As I considered the idea that inadvertently hitting the “return” key one extra time would add so much work for someone else, it dawned on me that the converse is true, too. Little things can make a big difference, for good or for ill. Jesus talked about this in the parable of the mustard seed in Matthew 13.

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Notice how Jesus says that the seed of the mustard plant will grow taller than any garden plant. That’s because it’s a weed. Mustard is an invasive plant, like dandelions or clover. Once it takes root, it just keeps on spreading until the entire field or yard is covered. Most gardeners want to cut out invasive weeds before they get started, but Jesus compares the entire kingdom of heaven to a weed. Jesus tells his followers that the kingdom of heaven is something that, once it takes root, will spread like wildfire throughout the land. Unlike weeds, God’s kingdom isn’t coming to choke the life from the garden, but to give new life. See how the mustard plant becomes a place where other creatures can come and nest. In this way, the kingdom of God nurtures. It replaces what is with something that is bigger and brighter and more inviting.

Jesus continued his discourse on mustard in Matthew 17. The disciples had just failed in their attempt to force a demon out of a boy and they asked Jesus what they had done wrong. Jesus replied, you didn’t have enough faith. But he doesn’t leave it at that. He goes on to further rebuke their lack of faith by telling them that if they had had the faith of even a mustard seed, they would have been successful. What Jesus was really saying to his disciples was, “Guys…you’re not even trying.” Had they utilized any of the power that Jesus made available to them, they would have been able to do far more than they could ever imagine. A little faith can go a long way…but we have to utilize it.

Just like the mustard seed, a little faith can turn into a full-grown plant that, once rooted, spreads rapidly throughout our communities. Jesus calls us, like his followers, to be like weeds. We are to spread the kingdom of God wherever we are, and we often do this by small acts of faith. Something as simple as taking a loaf of fresh baked bread to a neighbor can open the door to spreading the love of God to those around us. That’s because once we start acting, others start acting, too. You take a loaf of bread to your neighbor. Your neighbor sends an encouraging note to a co-worker. Your neighbor’s co-worker makes some extra time for his son. And that son helps another student who is struggling at school. You get the idea. Mustard plants spread. Small acts make a big difference. And, if we do it all as an act of faith, God moves mountains.

This week, ask God what small acts you can do to make a big difference for his kingdom. Remember….

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Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Straining to See in the Fog

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The fog rolled in overnight. Swirling mists billowed from the clouds like smoke from a wildfire until all was consumed. No light could pierce it. No sound echoed through it. Looking outside, there was only a gray and murky haze. I told my boys goodbye and sent them out to the bus stop. Before they reached the end of the driveway their dark figures were engulfed. Try as I might, I couldn’t see them. The fog had swallowed them up. Yet still, I waited and watched. I strained my eyes toward the end of our cul-de-sac, somehow thinking that the force of my will would be enough to pierce the seemingly solid, yet strangely fluid atmospheric condition outside. Minutes passed. And there it was, a shift in the darkness. Through the fog, a glimpse of pale yellow. The beams of the headlights that signaled the arrival of the school bus. And in that pale light, I caught the shadow of two dark shapes…my boys making their way onto the bus. With a contented heart, I turned away from the darkness outside and went about my morning, secure in the knowledge that my children had made it safely through the fog even when I couldn’t see them.

Lately, the world seems to be shrouded in a deep fog. It’s hard to see the hope when everything seems to be falling apart. Like many of you, I was completely untethered by the events at the U.S. Capitol the week before last. It was shocking and frightening and saddening all at the same time. Compound that with the unrelenting pandemic and continued instances of racial injustice and it seems like there is no right answer, no good course of action, and no discernible landmark for us to grab onto and orient ourselves around. Of course, it’s not just national tragedies that lead to these moments of darkness. We can experience this crisis of vision when we get an unexpected medical diagnosis, when we lose a loved one, when a relationship ends, when our finances get upended. Honestly, the list could go on and on. The point is, we all walk through darkness. Jesus was very clear about this in the Gospel of John. He told his disciples, point blank, you’re going to experience hard times. It’s going to be difficult, and you’ll feel lost in the darkness. (John 15:18-22). Fortunately, that is not the end of the story, for while we have moments where everything seems lost, Jesus promises that he is the light that will guide us through. While our own little lights struggle to pierce through the fog, God’s light, like the light from the school bus headlights, can make a way. If we’re looking, God’s light will appear, and his light is enough to help us navigate through mist that presses in on all sides.

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It sounds trite, but it’s so profound. God brings light, and it is the promise of this light that fuels our hope. As Paul writes, we hope for something we have yet to see, but that we KNOW is coming because we KNOW the One who will bring it. And so, as I patiently waited and strained through the darkness as my boys disappeared into the mist, so we, as Jesus followers, patiently wait and strain though the darkness of pandemic, civil discord, injustice, and emotional exhaustion to see God’s light. And where, you might ask, are we supposed to be looking? Start with Scripture. Remind yourself of all the promises God has already fulfilled. Pray. Pray for God to open your eyes to his light, to give you the ability to see where he is shining in the darkness. Then go out into the darkness, carrying your light that has been lit by the flame of God and join it with the beautiful lanterns God has placed in the hands of others. See where God is working and join him to make a difference. Look for the light. Wait for the light. Carry the light. This is our charge. This is our mandate from Heaven. So get your lamp ready, because the light will come.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

The Problem with Sheep

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I do not have a lot of experience with barnyard animals. Sure, I’ve driven by a lot of cows over the years, and even visited a few farms on school field trips. But, for the most part, my experiences with barnyard creatures has been relegated to petting zoos. This Christmas, our church set up a live nativity for Christmas Eve services. Our local veterinarian and his family brought an animal menagerie to the church yard that consisted of a donkey, a burrow, a sheep, a lamb, and a Scottish Highland cow. I was just as excited as the kids to spend some quality time with these animals. I even got to carry the lamb, which was an experience I never knew I wanted until I had it. I became immediately attached to the soft, snuggly, squirmy little fuzzball, and would have brought him home if my husband hadn’t intervened.

While all of the animals were a joy to behold, it was actually the sheep that proved most enlightening. This was because she had absolutely zero interest in being put on display for our Christmas Eve viewing pleasure. After descending from her trailer, this stout black and white furred diva lay down in the middle of the street and refused to move. Despite the pleading, prodding, cajoling, and nudging of her humans, she would not perform. Not even the promise of fresh hay could bring her to her feet. She stubbornly lay on the cold, hard concrete forcing her handlers to push and pull her short but stocky frame up a hill, across a yard, and to the front of the church. Once situated in her spot, she stood quietly and munched on the fresh hay while her lamb nursed, ensuring that her back was always turned toward the congregation–a quiet protest at being dragged from her barn and set out for all to gawk at.

I always assumed that sheep just blindly followed where they were led. But this little mama had spirit. She displayed a rugged individualism I didn’t know sheep had. She willfully refused to follow the lead of her shepherds, and as I watched her be dragged across the yard I thought to myself, “This is what Jesus really has to put up with!”

When Jesus talks about being the good shepherd, I always picture him standing in the middle of a field with all of these quiescent little sheep gathered around him blissfully following him with big doe-eyes as he leads them on their way. I never even considered that Jesus would have to push, pull, and prod his sheep where he wants them to go–even though that’s how Jesus has often had to lead me! Truth be told, I do not always jump up and run to God when I hear God calling me. Rather, like the sheep at our Christmas Eve service, I lay down right where I am and refuse to budge. Following God is often inconvenient, sometimes uncomfortable, and occasionally disruptive. It means changing my course, deviating from my schedule, and giving up my own personal ambitions or plans. I don’t want to follow because it’s not my will. Case in point, the other day I found myself thinking about a friend. Time and again she came to my mind. I knew I needed to give her a call, but I had so much work in my inbox. There wasn’t time. It was inconvenient. And yet, God kept pushing and pulling until I finally laid the work aside and picked up my phone. We had a great conversation. It was good, and the work was still there when I hung up. Did I make it through my to-do list for the day? No way. But, God reminded me once again that it is infinitely more important to invest in people rather than tasks.

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Recognizing the shepherd’s voice isn’t the problem for most of us. It’s following the voice that proves most difficult. This week, we have a choice to make. Will we willingly relinquish our own goals and plans in order to follow the voice of God we hear calling in our lives? Or, will we remain stubbornly ensconced in our own to-do lists, ignoring God’s entreaties to follow his lead? The shepherd knows where we need to go. Let’s try to follow him willingly and see what amazing opportunities he has for us this week!

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

How Do You End 2020? Love.

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This is likely my last post for 2020. I’m in the midst of a staycation which involves sleeping in until mid-morning, laying on the couch binge-watching Apple TV and Disney + shows, re-reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and eating copious amounts of Christmas cookies. Oh, and of course, continuing my sort-of daily walking with Leslie Sansone’s Walk at Home! It’s a tough life…but I am relishing every moment. 🙂

2020 has been a….well…you can fill in the blank with your favorite descriptive word. We seem to have swung from one crisis to the next. Pandemic, racial injustice, contested election, economic hardship, pandemic again. It’s been stressful and exhausting, and for many it has been utterly devastating. So, how do we close out a year that has brought such tragedy to so many people? We end as we begin…with love.

God is love. It is this love that we celebrated on Christmas. God loved us so much that he sent his own son into the world to redeem it. God wants to be reconciled to us, his beloved. He has pursued us across time and space, from the Garden of Eden to the cross in an effort to open the door of our hearts to receive his love. As John tells us in the above passage, God sent his son into the world so we might live through him. And what does this life lived in the Son look like? John has an answer for that too–it looks like love. We live through Christ when we love others as God loved us. When we reach out beyond ourselves, beyond our own opinions and desires and personal ambitions to show another person that they are valued and have worth, then we are living through Christ. John says, “we ought to love each other”. So that is my prayer for all of us as we leave 2020 and embark on whatever the new year might hold. We ought to love each other.

What might 2021 look like if each of us makes the conscious decision to love each other? Would there be less sniping and bickering? Would there be less judging and condemning? Would there be more compassion and empathy? Would there be more encouragement and peace? I think so. I think, as we continue to navigate these uncharted waters, love is the key. We ought to love each other. This means thinking the best of people, not anticipating their worst. This means offering the hand of forgiveness, not the middle finger. This means listening to others instead of shouting out our own opinion. But above all, this means accepting the fact that those we interact with on a daily basis are also beloved children of God.

We ought to love each other.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us.  The following is a prayer ascribed to St. Anselm. As we end 2020 and venture into 2021, let us take this prayer to heart. Let us love each other with the love that comes from a life lived in Christ. We ought to love each other. Will you pray with me?

Lord, because you have made me, I owe you the whole of my love; because you have redeemed me, I owe you the whole of myself; because you have promised so much, I owe you my whole being.

Moreover, I owe you as much more love than myself as you are greater than I, for whom you gave yourself and to whom you promised yourself.

I pray you, Lord, make me taste by love what I taste by knowledge; let me know by love what I know by understanding.

I owe you more than my whole self, but I have no more, and by myself I cannot render the whole of it to you.

Draw me to you, Lord, in the fullness of your love. I am wholly yours by creation; make me all yours, too, in love.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Advent 2020 Day 15: That the World Might be Saved

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One of the greatest hindrances to God’s love is judgement.  As Christians, we often take it upon ourselves to judge others.  We judge people by how they look. We judge people by how they vote. We judge people by how they spend their time. We judge people by how they spend their money. We judge people based on our own perceptions of the world and by our own systems of belief…but the way we perceive is not someone else’s reality. And the way someone else perceives us isn’t accurate either. The only one who perceives in absolute truth and understanding is God. The Father. The Creator. The One who knit us together in our mother’s wombs. God knows you. God knows me. And the above Scripture makes it clear that God did not send Christ to judge the world, but to save it.  When we focus only on John 3:16, we miss the point. Yes, Christ brings salvation, but it is a salvation born of love. God saves because he loves. This is the great love story of all of Scripture. God created. God loved. God wants to be reconciled with those he loves. And who does God love? The answer is in John’s Gospel–God loves the world. Think about that. We look at the world and see something broken. God looks at the world and sees something he loves in need of salvation. God doesn’t just sit idly by while 2020 rages around us. He is acting in the midst of the hurt, the divisiveness, the despair, and the fear to bring salvation. He’s there in the nursing home workers who decided to move into the nursing home where they worked in order to protect their residents. He’s there in the volunteers who give of their time to make sure families in need have a meal. He’s there in the friend who calls to say, “Hey, it’s been rough. But, I’m here.” He’s there in the kindness people show to strangers as they try and navigate the craziness of shopping in the midst of a pandemic. He’s there in the forgiveness someone offers when they have been wronged, or they have perceived a wrong. When we choose love over hate, peace over fear, kindness over bitterness, contentment over envy, confidence over insecurity, God is there.

God doesn’t condemn us, even when we deserve it. So, how can Jesus followers take it upon themselves to pass judgement on others?  Our job is to love others without condemnation.

Today, have an honest conversation with God about judging others.  Ask God to reveal to you the stereotypes or self-righteousness you have within you.  Then, ask God to help you as you work to love others without judgement.  Seek to see others through Christ’s eyes.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Advent 2020 Day 14: Beautiful Feet

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Feet are not often considered a mark of beauty in our world.  As someone who prefers to be shoeless, my feet are a mess. I don’t prioritize them in my “beauty” routine. They’re just there…a hard-working under-appreciated appendage of my legs. However, the prophet Isaiah declares that the feet that bring news of God’s love to others are one of the most beautiful sights we can see.

Take a moment to look at your feet.  Do you use your feet to bring peace where there is discord?  Do you use your feet to offer encouragement and hope to those in despair?  Do you use your feet to tell others that “God rules!”?

As Jesus followers, we are God’s messengers.  When people look at the world and wonder, “Where is God?” our feet should provide the answer.

In our acts of mercy, our acts of generosity, our acts of encouragement, our acts of justice and our acts of forgiveness we show the world that God is right here living and working among us.

Today, think about how you might use your feet to offer God to someone today.  Pray that God might direct your feet.  Pray also for others, that they might use their feet to proclaim God’s love, too.

Blessings and Peace

Sara

Advent 2020 Day 13: Forgiveness and Peace

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There are many barriers of hatred that divide people in our world.  Differences in gender, skin color, cultural traditions, religion, politics, family ties and even marriage create chasms of distance and distrust among God’s children. 

Jesus offered himself as a bridge over the divide.  In Jesus’ death and resurrection we have our identity.  Nothing else matters.

Today, pray St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer for peace.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:

where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

Blessings and Peace

Sara

Advent 2020 Day 12: Messengers of Peace

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I love the imagery in the above verse…the idea of God’s compassion breaking over us like the dawn. The light reveals all things. What we thought was a marauder lurking outside of our house turns out to be a bush. God’s light illuminates everything around us, allowing us to see things clearly. We gain new understanding, new perspective. We feel more confident and (maybe) less afraid. The light allows us to get our bearings…to find our path…to get our footing. Everything is easier when there is light to show us the way. And God gives us this gift because of his compassion…because he loves us and wants to enter into our lives. How beautiful is that gift!? Everything else pales in comparison to the fact that God loves us so much he comes into our lives, every day, to walk beside us as we journey. So what do we do with such a gift? Like the prophet John, we are called to be Christ’s messengers of peace.  We have been appointed to give light to those sitting in darkness and to guide others on the path to peace.

Today, ask God to show you how you might be a light to someone sitting in darkness.  Ask God to use you to guide others on the path to peace.

Also, say a prayer of encouragement for someone else.  Pray that they, too, would be a light in the darkness today.