7 answers you need to hear from award winning author Sally Lloyd-Jones

This is a repost of an interview I did with best-selling author Sally Lloyd-Jones. She is celebrating the 10 year anniversary of her best-selling Bible for kids ‘The Jesus Storybook Bible’ She has released a beautiful new anniversary edition to celebrate you can find out more about it here.

Sally Lloyd-Jones has written an amazing new book called “Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing” it is an amazing follow-up to her best-selling book “Jesus Storybook Bible” We have had Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing for a week and it has already lead to conversations about faith and the supreme value of Christ. Every time I read one of Sally’s books to my kids I’m not sure who gets more from what she has written me or them.  She was gracious enough to allow me to ask her a few questions about her new book that was released October 9th.

How do you see Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing and Jesus Storybook Bible dovetailing together?

The JSB (Jesus Storybook Bible) tells the great story of the Bible–the magnificent story under all the other stories of the Bible–The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. And at the center of that story is the Rescuer.

TTMYHS (Thoughts That Make Your Heart Sing) I think (at least my hope and prayer is) takes the child by the hand and gently introduces them to what Corrie ten Boom called, ” the Fantastic Adventure In Trusting Him” (The Rescuer). Faith. What it looks like in everyday life.

What made you want to write this new book?

My niece was the inspiration. She was 8 at the time. And almost overnight, she went from being a vivacious little girl full of life to a quite hidden child. Even her voice changed–into a very quiet voice you could hardly hear.

And we found out she was being bullied at school. I wished she had a book that she would want to have by her bedside, a book she would look forward to reading, a book no one would have to make her read–but that she would choose to read–a book that would tell her what God says about her instead of what these bullies were saying.

And so I wrote the book for her–and every child like her.

How can parents best leverage this book?

I’d love parents to be free to just let the book be the child’s book–without attaching any should’s or ought’s to it. Perhaps the child will want to share it with the family. Let them lead in that. That’s what I’d love to see.

Having said that, I think it’s great to read it together as a family and wonder aloud together about the questions it raises. I wrote the book deliberately to inspire wonder and open up the child to questions–I didn’t write it to try and give all the answers. (I would encourage parents to let the wondering happen–and not feel they have to come in immediately with answers. The best thing a book can do, I think, is engage the child and get them thinking… And you know the definition of a boring book? One that does the work of the reader for them!

What is the target age range of this book?

Initially the publisher had an age cap. But I asked for them to remove it and instead say “6 and up”–because I had a hunch that grownups would like it too… and sure enough that’s what we’re hearing which makes me very happy… so it’s 6 to 106! : )

Very few books provoke me to tears but both Thoughts That Make Your Heart Sing and Jesus Storybook Bible do that for me as an adult. I still to this day cannot read washed with tears without choking up. Is that something you did on purpose or did it happen on the way? Were you targeting kids and got adults by accident or did you intentionally target both?

That’s a high compliment. And while I don’t do it deliberately, I’m coming to realize that unless I write from the place that moves me, it won’t move the reader. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader” didn’t Frost say that? And what did C S Lewis say? That a children’s book that can only be read by children isn’t a good children’s book in the least.

As a writer how do you overcome resistance? How do you get new ideas?

I think it has a lot to do with trust. And getting out of your own way. If you think it’s all about you and you coming up with everything that’s a very different place to work from than if you think it’s not all about you–and you discover the book rather than create it…and you’re offering back to the One who gave you everything to begin with. It’s worship rather than performance.

When I read your books and listen to Dr. Keller speak the thing I take away is that both of you are excellent “Distillers” is what I call it, of the gospel. So often especially for kids, the gospel is “simplified” and in the simplification, the power and the beauty of the gospel is lost. How do you do this so well? What advice can you give to kids pastors and student pastors to do this better?

It’s very easy to make this mistake. And we’ve all done it. After all the Bible is a “grown up” book and by its very nature, if we are to reach children, we’re going to have to simplify it. But in our effort to simplify the Bible for children, we often drill it down into a moral lesson. We have to be alert and vigilant against this. The Bible isn’t a moral lesson–it’s above all a story.

The other thing we need to constantly remind ourselves of is this: being child-like isn’t being childish. Being simple isn’t being simple-minded. Being simple is distilling down to the core truth and expressing it in words that the young can understand. What children need from us are not silly voices. What they need from us is to take them seriously. And we show how seriously we take our audience by how much time we prepare.

It takes longer to be shorter. Blaize Pascal apologized for writing a long letter–and said that he didn’t have time to make it shorter. It takes hard work and thought to reach children. And for children, the standard needs to be higher because the responsibility is greater.

Thanks again to Sally for time thoughtfulness and for the amazing Gospel-centered tools to help our kids find Jesus more valuable than anything else on earth.  Head over to amazon right now and your copy of Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing you will thank me later.

 

Books I Read in 2016

This year was a change for me I started graduate school a little over a year ago, and the books I want to read are now waiting for me because of books I have to read are taking precedence. I have learned a couple of things about reading this year.

1.Reading books above what you typically read or are comfortable reading push you to read more efficiently and read more widely. There are books I would never have read this year if it were not for that.

Books I read in 2015

In 2015 I read fewer books than 2014 but I definitely grew as a reader.  I always thought that reading more was how you grew as a reader but it’s not true it’s reading better books. It’s reading books that are beyond you that grow you as a reader.  Mortimer Adler says this about reading books –

“Too often, we use that phrase (well-read) to mean the quantity rather than the quality of reading. A person who has read widely but not well deserves to be pitied rather than praised.”

I have been someone who has read widely but not well. This year I began to change that. I hope to continue to do so in each successive year.

I love what Mortimer Adler says about good books at the end of his book on how to read books. He says:

“A good book does reward you for trying to read it. The best books reward you most of all. The reward, of course, is of two kinds. First, there is the improvement in your reading skill that occurs when you successfully tackle a good, difficult work. Second – and this in the long run is much more important – a good book can teach you about the world and about yourself. You learn more than how to read better; you also learn more about life. You become wiser. Not just more knowledgeable-books that provide nothing but information can produce that result. But wiser, in the sense that you are more deeply aware of the great and enduring truths of human life….These are matters about which you cannot think too much or too well. The greats books can help you to think better about the, because they were written by men and women who thought better than other people about them.”

This was always my problem I was reading books to become more knowledgeable but that knowledge was limited because it addressed only a specific problem. When you read better books. When you read the books that your favorite authors, favorite author, favorite author wrote you see things differently. You no longer have knowledge about a topic you see more deeply, you enter the conversation rather than catch the highlights, because you see the border picture you see the whole argument not simply parts of it.

Here are the books I read in 2015.

1. Platform by Michael Hyatt
2. The Martian – Andy Weir
3. Expositional Preaching – David Helm
4. The Lion The Which and the Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis.
5. A Tale of Three Kings – Gene Edwards
6. Out of the Silent Planet – C.S. Lewis
7. Creativity, Inc. By Ed Catmull
8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – by J. K. Rowling
9. The Tale of Despereaux by Katie DiCamillo
10. Show Them Jesus by Jack Klumpenhower
11. Culture Making by Andy Crouch
12. John Newton: From disgrace to amazing grace by Jonathan Aitkin
13. The Prodigal Church by Jared Wilson
14. What does the Bible really teach about homosexuality? By Kevin DeYoung
15. The Things Of Earth. by Joe Rigney
16. The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis
17. True Spirituality – Francis Schaeffer
18. Hand in Hand by Randy Alcorn
19. The Republic by Plato
20. Finding Truth by Nancy Pearcy
21. Preaching by Timothy Keller
22. A Free People’s Suicide by Oz Guinness
23. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
24. Harry Potter And The Chamber of Secrets – J. K. Rowling
25. Judges For You – Tim Keller
26. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
27. Prince Caspian by CS Lewis
28. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
29. Poetics by Aristotle
30. Theogony by Hesiod
31. How to Read a Book Mortimer J Adler
32. The Survivor – Vince Flynn
33. Prometheus Bound – Aeschylus
34. Oedipus The King – Sophocles
35. Hippolytus – Euripides
36. Apology – Plato
37. Clouds – Arisophanes
38. The Bacchae – Euripides

What goals and dog food have in common.

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I remember once doing an object lesson where I took a can of beef stew and removed the label and then cut a dog food label off of a dog food can and taped it to the can of beef stew. I opened the can of beef stew and started eating it. All the kids thought it was dog food. Kids were grossed out and my illustration was more powerful than the point that accompanied it. The kids had no idea what I was talking about. The girls were grossed out and all the boys when home and tried to eat dog food. Don’t try this illustration I beg of you I had a few gagers and at least one sympathy puker.

We do the same thing with goals. We take something we hate and know we need to do and put a different wrapper on it hoping that will make a difference and mostly we get frustrated and confused. Don’t make your goal this big awesome amazing goal and then fail to put steps in place to make it happen. If you don’t set goals correctly they can often do more damage than good, sort of like beef stew illustrations for small children.

Here is what I think every goal should be. 

1. Measurable – You need a trigger to tell you on a daily/weekly basis that you are doing good or need to work harder. One of my goals this year is to read 52 books. (In addition to reading my bible daily, that side note is for Jonathan Cliff) I know I need a book a week if I fall back I know what I have to do to push on.
2.  Clear – Attaching a number helps but isn’t necessary. Saying I want to read more never works. How much do you want to read by when.
3. Realistic – Saying I want to read 365 books in a year sounds awesome right? The problem is I will never do it, that is if I want to stay married, and keep my job. A goal is only is powerful as it is achievable.
4. Difficult – No one gets anything out of setting a goal they can reach without any effort. Getting to the playoffs isn’t the goal of the New York Yankees they do it almost every year it’s winning the World Series that gets them going. If your goal is not a challenge it isn’t worth celebrating.
5. Celebrated – This is the one thing we so often forget. We achieve a goal and then move on to the next one so often we don’t take time to reflect on the journey and celebrate the victory. Such a huge step. Last year I read 44 books I missed my goal but read way more than I did the year before. I took time to celebrate that and then I started working on next year how can I reach my goal. What do I need to learn? How can I do better next year?

 

The 10 best books I read this year.

I set a goal for myself this year to read 52 books I ended up reading 42, even though I didn’t reach my goal I read more books than I typically did because I had an agressive goal. Here were the 10 best books I read all year.

The Meaning of Marriage

Meaning of Marriage

This was by far the best book I have ever read on marriage. Practical, insightful and challenging. This book is a must read for every  married couple as well as every sigle adult. Kellers chapter on singleness was the best chapter I have ever read on singleness. So powerful and so challenging.

 

 

 

 

Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer
Loved this book. Was so inspired by the faith, trust and passion for the Gospel. The scariest thing for me was reading this book and seeing the startling similarities between the US and Germany. It was so encouraging and challenging reading Bonhoeffer’s life. I pray that I have the same clarity of thought and conviction of faith he had.

 

 

 

Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars

 

One of the biggest challenges most churches face is ministry silos. It’s awful but most churches are made up of ministries that are far more loyal to each other than the overall vision. If a church staff is going to accomplish what God has called them to accomplish takes hearts that beat together and eyes that see the same thing.

 

 

 

Death By Meeting

death by meeting

 

Death by meeting was a fantastic read. In ministry much of your life is spent in meetings learning how to hold a good, productive meeting is essential no matter who you lead.

 

 

 

 

The Reason for God.

The Reason for God

Loved the reason for God. I am not a big apologetics fan.  However I Really liked how Keller clearly articulated the main objections people have to the gospel. There is much of it I plan on re-reading.

 

 

 

 

 

Life Together

life together

 

This was the first of many Bonhoeffer books I plan on reading. What a fantastic gem this is on community. There are many books out there that talk about small group and community. They have lots of value but if you work with small groups or in forming the community aspect of your church do yourself a favor and read this brilliant dissection of true Christian community.

 

 

 

Gospel Powered Parenting

Gospel Powered Parenting

 

Gospel Powered Parenting is easily one of two best books on parenting I have ever read. Loved how he explains parenting in light of the gospel. He explains that the grace of God can only be truly understood in light of the wrath of God. I think I underlined something on each page of this book. Such a good book.

 

 

 

The War of Art

The War of Art

 

The War of Art was fantastic. It has a bit of language in it, but if you are a creative you need to read this book. Pressfield does a masterful job of explaining the primary reason we don’t write, create and innovate. He explains how to push through it and create what you have always wanted to create. It was very challenging  There isn’t a day I don’t face resistance and there isn’t a day I don’t think about what Pressfield said to do to overcome that resistance.

 

 

A Tale of Three Kings.  

A Tale of Three Kings

This is one of my top 10 books of all time. I try and reread this book every year. If you are a young leader its a great reminder of how to respond to the authority God has put in your life. If you are an older leader is a great reminder how to lead in a way that insures you do not create an environment that is conducive to rebellion in the hearts of the young leaders you lead. Really such a great book. Short, quick, powerful read.