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91 – Helen Roseveare

Eleven years ago I met Helen Roseveare for the first time. She had not long celebrated her eightieth birthday. I’d read her books and knew her story and somehow or other I had been invited to stay. It was great to actually meet one of my heroines. She was not only encouraging, she was challenging. It was an environment – all be it just for a weekend – where i felt safe to be honest with her and Pat, her friend, about the challenges and struggles of my own little life. Even though she had been through so much herself (if you don’t know what I mean then read her books) my problems didn’t feel too insignificant to share. And the words she gave me before I left on the flight from Belfast to Inverness were straight forward – just telling me to keep on going. And I’m thankful to her and to God that I have through His strength.

After that she came over to my congregation to do a conference. It was at this conference that she gave, as part of her message, four little words that I believe are the backbone to her life and reinforced, for me, the message of her books, the message she gave me before I left Belfast and the message her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, gives all believers.

“Jesus is Worth it”.

Towards the end of that conference I had the pleasure of taking her and Pat for a tour of the Black Isle – a Scottish peninsula near Inverness. What took place at lunch that day is one of several distinct ‘Helen and Pat’ memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life. If you’ve not met either of them – let me describe these two women of God…

They’re smart. Neither of them are short in the intelligence stakes. They both graduated in medicine at a time when to be a female graduate in any discipline like this was rare.

They’re cosmopolitan. Both women have travelled extensively – and they travelled before the easy days of online booking and satnav.

But if you, a stranger, were to sit down at a table next to them you wouldn’t look twice. You would presume – like the people sitting next to us probably did – that they were just two little old ladies. But that’s one point where the church and the world differs – God’s kingdom never puts the word ‘just’ before any category of person – particularly little old ladies.

Our neighbouring diners were given a visual and audible lesson in this when after lunch Pat and Helen’s conversation started as follows:

“I don’t think we’ll ever be able to get back to Afghanistan but it is a beautiful country, and the Lord is at work there…” – or words to that effect.

As my chin dropped I could see the looks on the people at the table beside us as they turned and stared. Two women they had just spent the last hour ignoring were talking about a trip they had made to what was now one of the most notoriously violent countries in the world.

Helen and Pat started reminiscing about people who had lived and worked in that region and about the brief time they had spent in a nation that was now in the thick of a conflict that threw up words like Taliban and Terrorist.

I drove them back to my parent’s house and before too long they were on their way back to Belfast discussing no doubt their plans for the development of the girls clubs they were involved in and the future fundraising for their local church.

So don’t make assumptions about little old ladies… especially when you hear the word church and missionary in the same sentence … they may very well have been where we will never go, have done what we wouldn’t dream of, and have given up what we just aren’t willing to.


Countdown to Christmas – 25!


Well I set myself the aim of blogging about 25 different kids books from Christian Focus – now that I’m here I’m just not sure what my 25th should be?

… but I think I do.

It’s an old one but a good one…

The Promised Child by Carine Mackenzie

The story of the birth, that ended with a death, that went on to bring life – eternal life.

The birth of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the World.

You may be thinking of different family traditions that you’ve kept over the years, or that you want to start for the future. May I suggest that you make some of your family traditions at Christmas about Christ. Read the story in several ways and at different times – it doesn’t have to be in December either.

Celebrate his birth, be thankful for his death, rejoice at his resurrection.


Countdown to Christmas 21, 22, 23, 24

For this post I’m simply going to pick another four of my personal favourite children’s books.

  1. Children’s Devotions by Frances Ridley Havergal. – this is a lovely collection of devotional readings – something that you can do with your child early in the morning or last thing at night.
  2. With Two Hands by Rebecca Davis – – from the first moment i read the manuscript I was hooked on her books. You may feel you have a child who has read every missionary story available – if so then get them onto Rebecca’s books. They are so well written and they introduce the reader to christians from other cultures, indigenous churches and unsung heroes and heroines of the faith.
  3. A girl of two Worlds by Lorna Eglin. Though this book is largely fictional – it is based on Lorna’s own experience with the Massai tribe of Kenya and her time as a missionary with them. The key character has to struggle with existing in two very different cultures… which will win out in the end – her tribal family, or her Christian church… or can it be both?
  4. A Young Person’s Guide to Knowing God by Patricia St. John – this book has some of the best gospel short stories that I’ve ever read. A perfect read aloud book – but also ideal for a young reader to dip into by themselves. Functions as a devotional book aswell.

Countdown to Christmas 17, 18, 19, 20

Whether it’s something to keep a child quiet at the dinner table, or a book that will keep them busy if the weather is just too grim to be going outside one of the books you’ll likely be look for in the countdown to Christmas is an activity book.

They take many shapes and forms and there are ones that are suitable for younger children and the more demanding older kid.

Take for example the simple colouring book. Why not purchase a few of the Colour the Bible series and lay them out as place mats or on a child’s dining room chair along with a packet of crayons. There are many different ones to chose from but if you need a suggestion how about this one on the book of Luke:

If you’re looking for something that’s going to last a bit longer than the Christmas meal then for a younger child My Bible ABC is a good option. With 26 simple stories and colouring pages.

Older children need something a bit more stretching. The Puzzle n’ Learn series would work well in this instance. Something you would put in their stocking or have ready for a quick half hour or more of down time. The Greatest Gift is a good choice for this time of year but there are several others you can choose from too.

And then the Bible Detectives series covers several Old and New testament books but again the book on Luke would be a good Christmas choice. There is hours worth of codes and puzzles in here – enough to keep any child busy over the festive weekend.

Countdown to Christmas 14, 15, 16

A good idea for a Child’s Christmas gift is a Children’s Story Bible.

Now I don’t want to start this blog post about story Bibles without asking does your child have a full bible of their own? They should. Whatever age they are at they need to know that you place a high importance on God’s Word – in its entirety.

I think children’s story bibles and story books have their place – but the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation needs to be front and centre.

Which is why it is important for you when buying children’s story bibles to look at the content and be discerning. The artwork is very important in many different ways – I may blog about that at some other point. But your attention definitely needs to go beyond the visual appeal to the words.

  1. There should be more than just the usual stories, especially if you’re purchasing a children’s story bible for a slightly older child.
  2. There should be something in the book that encourages the child to actually look up a full bible. Every story should at the very least give a bible reference, or make it clear that God’s Word is a book on its own.
  3. There should be a opportunity to apply the message to the life.

So with that I’ll point you towards three different children’s bible story books that are good gift options starting with the youngest…

  1. Little Hands Life of Jesus – this is a book aimed at 3-6 year olds that tells the story of Jesus’ life from his birth to the ascension.
  2. The New Children’s Bible by Anne de Vries. Well told and realistically illustrated this book is a good option for children who are ready to read on their own – but it’s also a great read aloud edition.
  3. The Bible Explorer. This title is definitely one to use alongside the Bible. It’s aimed at the older child and has loads of extra features that draw the reader deeper into scripture. This title is an excellent way of introducing children to Jesus Christ in all of scripture

Countdown to Christmas 11, 12, 13

The three books in this post all have a link to the Christmas season… one is more obvious than the other two.

The Christmas Story by Carine Mackenzie

The subtitle to this is The Bible Version. Simply because we need to be clear that the story we quite often see portrayed in nativity plays and on Christmas cards isn’t the story we read in the Bible. When we read the scripture the shepherds and the wise men are not in the same part of the story. And there is a lot more to Jesus’ birth than simply the little town of Bethlehem. If you want your children to see that the birth of Jesus is important but that the child in the manger becomes the saviour on the cross then this is the book for you.

And Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas, at least in the U.K., without a Narnia blockbuster on the T.V.  Clive Staples Lewis has worked his way into the festive season like Carols at Candlelight or a giant tub of office chocolates (I’m still hoping we’ll get one of those this year.)

So in honour of one of the 20th centuries greatest story-tellers we have two books that introduce different ages to his life and christian testimony.

The Little Lights Series has a title: Can You Imagine?

and the Trailblazer series for 9-14 year olds has: The Story Teller


Countdown to Christmas 7, 8, 9, 10

Four book recommendations in this blog post and not a Christmas book amongst them!

I don’t want to be accused of stereotyping … but pretty much boys will be boys and girls will be girls and everyone likes a best seller. That’s what this blog post is saying today.

  1. Boys Like Monkeys. …  Saturday proved that for me when I was doing a kids story time at church. Instead of picking the book myself… I would probably have picked a Christmas book, something seasonal … I let the children choose the book. An eight year old called Aiden immediately pointed to The Jungle Doctor Fable Book and I read the cracking story about the monkeys who didn’t believe in crocodiles. As always there is a moral to the story – and as always Paul White doesn’t mince his words. Just as the monkeys in the story foolishly refused to believe in the reality of the dangerous crocodile – we can ignore at our peril the danger of sin. Thankfully the monkeys are saved just in the nick of time by Twiga the giraffe. And Paul White clearly identifies our saviour in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  2. Girl’s Like Dolls… they do. And with all the types of dolls there are these days there always seems to be a style for everyone. It’s no longer just barbies … I really like the look of some of the American girl dolls that are more realistic. But it is the truth – generation after generation of girls like their dolls. If you’ve got a little girl whose heart just warms at the sight of one of those crying, peeing, all be it, plastic babies the book: What’s in the Parcel about Helen Roseveare is just the ticket. This is a missionary story, that involves a baby, a little girl, a parcel and a doll. It’s a great read.
  3. Everyone likes a best seller… And if these two books are new titles to you then you need to get in on the act. The Lightkeepers biographies have been our top sellers in children’s books for years now. Ten Girls who changed the World and Ten Boys who Changed the World – are a great way to introduce your 7-12 year olds to real life Christian heroes and heroines. Ten short bios in each book, with extra features that make these books ideal devotionals. A really good gift that keeps on giving.

My 12 Books of Christmas #12


Faith of Our Father: Expositions of Genesis 12-25

Now this is the only book of my Christmas 12 that I haven’t read because I’m keeping it. I do that with books sometimes. I deliberately put them to one side as a treat to look forward to and that’s something that a Dale Ralph Davies book is – a treat. This time it’s a festive treat.

This is going to be the book I start reading on Christmas day.

What do I have to look forward to in a DRD book?

Great theology.

Cracking stories.

A warm pastor’s heart.

Chicken soup for the soul doesn’t have a look in … this is steak.

With all the sides – and the desert.

Vegetarians – replace the word steak with something else gutsy and nutritious. I’m not sure if nut loaf has the same dramatic emphasis – but you get my drift.

I’m looking forward to this book, and will review it here after the new year.

Have a great 2016 – get into some great books.

God bless.

My 12 Books of Christmas #11


The Parables of Jesus

So much of what I’ve been reading this year has been influenced by what I’ve been writing. Several weeks during the spring and summer were taken up with writing a new series for children called Stories of Jesus, a set of books on the parables.

Now if you’ve grown up in a Christian home, been part of a Sunday school or church then the stories that Jesus told will have featured in some way or other in church services or a kids story time.

Many of you will feel that you know the parables… the lost sheep, the good Samaritan, the prodigal son. I know I did. However, it was when I was reading Terry Johnson’s book: The Parables of Jesus, that I discovered that although I did know those stories, there was a lot more to them than I at first realised.

The parables introduce us to God. He has the central role in many of these stories, you just have to be aware that he is the Father running down the road towards the young boy smelling of pig shit. He is the shepherd racing around the neighbourhood shouting ‘Rejoice I have found my lost sheep.’ He is the foreigner showing up the religious goody-two-shoes who have abandoned the wounded traveller at the side of the road.

The parables also introduce us to ourselves for we appear in these stories too… we’re the foolish girls who have no oil for their lamps on a dark night, we’re the numb-skull servant who succeeds in doing nothing except seriously offend his master, we’re the brash builder who takes the easy route only to get the hard lesson.

This book is actually my favourite read of the last twelve months.

But I haven’t read book number 12 yet…

Countdown to Christmas 4, 5, 6

O.K. so here are another three books that I’d like to point you to for a Child’s Christmas.

Christmas isn’t Christmas without a Victorian or two… so here are two of O.F. Walton’s best titles.

A Peep Behind the Scenes


Christie’s Old Organ

These are heartwarming stories with a good Gospel message. If your kids like stories such as The Christmas Carol by Dickens, and other classic stories like that these two titles are perfect, curl up by the fire, cosy reads.

If you’ve never read an OF Walton title before you’ve a treat in store.

And for all those kids out there who are longing for snow – I know several who have sledges just waiting on the blocks in the garage – well if it doesn’t happen on the day and we don’t have ‘Snow for Christmas’ maybe this book will be a good compromise. It’s a good choice for those readers who don’t engage so well with fiction.

Antarctic Adventures