Recycling in the Rain

Apologies for the lack of posts this past week! On the heels of multiple Thanksgiving Celebrations throughout our church, the headquarters of the Bibliopolis Recycling Fundraiser reached a crisis point, and it was imperative that we go the recycling center before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Since the center is closed on Monday, that left today to take care of business, but as those of you at Gracepoint Berkeley church are aware, this morning we had much needed rain.

But my crew was dauntless and determined. There was a light drizzle as we loaded all of the bags into the NV (Thanks, Uncle Joe!)

filled up the back of the NV
We filled up the entire back two rows, and the trunk space too!

We thought maybe the line at the recycling center would be short since it was raining, but it seemed some other people had the same idea. 🙂

that's a lot of bottles and cans
We confess that we tried to make the pile look as big as possible. Does it look impressive?

Once we started the actual work, that’s when the rain started coming down pretty hard. And we needed all hands on deck, so unfortunately, I have no pictures (or potential B-roll) for this portion. But I think we made quite an impression on the neighborhood recycling regulars. We got to tell them that that it was for a fundraiser at our church. And the young man working at the center very kindly lent us an umbrella.

Thanks to so many of your uncrushed cans, we were able to make quite a lot of money using the machine, but that did mean putting each one in individually. We went the weighing route with the rest of the cans, plastic bottles, and glass (thank you, Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider!).

Interestingly enough, the rain stopped just as we were finished recycling. We played informal “Price is Right” to guess how much money we made, and we were all very surprised when we saw our receipts.

It was an hour well spent during a week vacation from school — we raised another $90.61 for Bibliopolis!

Stealing Reading Moments: Sleepover Edition

These young ladies are taking the phrase “stealing reading moments” to another level!

blow drying and reading
Mr. Sketch’s dilemma: dry my hair or keep reading? What to do?!?!

fellowship reading
No need to despair when you have a friend who will read aloud to you *while* you blow-dry your hair! (That rhymed!) The video of this is, as you can imagine, pretty loud, so I think this photo suffices.

reading sleepover
friends + books + different patterned pillows and blankets = awesome sleepover

Never Too Early!

I have been receiving more and more pictures and videos of people “caught” reading, so I’m queueing them up. Some of you might think posting photos is taking the easy way out in terms of content, but these are really to inspire and motivate! 

Today’s injection of “awwww” is from our youngest reader featured yet. Board books are a great way to introduce even our youngest kiddos to books, so that they can get their “print awareness” down. 🙂 Soon, if not already, little Juliet will want to hold the books herself, and turn the pages. She might start pointing at things and telling the story of what is happening. All of that is part of the process, and yes, “counts” as reading!

I like her angry focused look! Go Bruins!

Reading Spaces, the Sequel

Three other aunties and I are off to our Gracepoint Minneapolis church to babysit spend quality time with all the kiddos whilst their parents are at their Thanksgiving Retreat. Maybe we’ll have an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for Bibliopolis’ Minneapolis Branch! So I’ve scheduled some “aww”-inducing Reading Snapshots posts to tide you over for the weekend. I’m sure you don’t mind!

Today, we shall check in with Ezra, the builder of the…reading spaces. You thought I was going to say temple, didn’t you? I mean Ezra from Gracepoint Riverside church. Last time we saw him, he had the pillows and blankies. And the getaway car. But today he’s got a new book, and a new look.

ezra reading sitting
Still using the pillows and blankets, but trying out the sitting up thing!
I wonder what kind of space he’ll create next!

Reading Testimonial: Narnia Visited and Revisited

It’s been a long while since we had a reading testimonial. Today’s is from Philip, a college freshman from Klesis at Gracepoint Berkeley church, and our first male guest contributer! He and I go way back, and in honor of Narnia November (have you been reading/listening?), I asked him if he remembered our Narnia Challenge from almost ten years ago. I asked him if he would be willing to write a little something for the blog.

Narnia-ChroniclesHardI can remember the first time that I heard The Chronicles of Narnia. It was in the first grade when my “Uncle Mo” (Maurice from Gracepoint Austin church) had chosen the first book to read as a bedtime story. It was The Magician’s Nephew, and while I can’t remember many of the details from that time, I do remember the excitement of hearing about magic rings and crazy adventures. Though I loved reading adventure novels growing up, it wasn’t until much later however, that I read through The Chronicles of Narnia for the first time on my own.

It was during my middle school years, either 6th or 7th grade, when Emily challenged me to see who would be able to read through the entire series first. It was a simple wager with a Barnes and Nobles gift card set as the crown for the winner. I remember reading the books as fast as possible, but at the same time trying to keep a hold of the plot development in order to prove that I truly had read through the entire series! Despite quick reading, and consequently some skimming, the land of Narnia that C.S. Lewis created was mesmerizing. Eventually I won the contest, probably due to my superior intellect (but in reality just due to the fact that I had more free time), and I don’t remember what I spent that gift card on, but I know that I gained so much more from that contest.

It was actually just last year that I decided to reread the entire series with a more developed understanding of literature, and a greater level of appreciation for such thought-provoking literature. The stories had not lost their magic as I felt that I myself had simply returned the land of Narnia that I had discovered as a younger child. It is true, however, that I had my mind blown by all the meaning and the powerful messages that I had missed. Understanding the themes of redemption and loyalty, the struggle between selfish action and sacrifice, and the symbolism that I simply failed to understand before had made the books even more amazing to me. C.S. Lewis had so vividly brought to life the idea that there is a distant land to which I belong as heir to the throne because the true king, Aslan, had made it so. Aslan being the embodiment of justice and right, a powerful terrifying lion, and yet caring and merciful enough to die in order to redeem Edmund, that was powerful for me. The adventures that were shared through loyalty and a striving for good and what Aslan would want, those were adventures that I wanted. I cannot express enough how The Chronicles of Narnia has impacted me, though at first I saw them as “only” children’s stories.

I didn’t know the fuller story of Philip’s history with Narnia. I just remember trying, all those years ago, to think of a way to motivate Philip to read, and even being willing to suffer the humiliation of losing the challenge (I did actually try, but Philip’s superior intellect won out!). It tickles me to read of how he too has experienced what so many of us have as we read and read the series after childhood — that our eyes open to the deeper spiritual truths embedded in what seems to be “only” a child’s fairy tale.

I’m reminded of a couple of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes about reading:

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

“A children’s story that can be enjoyed only by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

This has been my personal experience with The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as with other great stories for children. I’m especially looking forward to rereading The Horse and His Boy, as I have now tallied six people who count it as their favorite of the series, and for compelling reasons!

Youth Book Review: A “Wonder”-ful Companion Novel

It’s been a spell since our last Youth Book Review, which was a smash hit, and lots of people ran out and read Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Since writing the novel in 2012, Palacio has written several shorter pieces that were previously only available in e-book format. Earlier this year, all three “chapters” were published together in the form of Auggie & Me.

If you’ve already read the e-books, you’ve already read Auggie & Me. 🙂  Just to clarify, this is *not* a sequel. There’s a whole ‘nother thing that has emerged in the book publishing world, in the form of the “companion novel”. It’s set in the same world, and in roughly the same time period as the events of the original novel, but tells the story from another character’s point of view, or the fuller story of a supporting character who was in the original book, as a sort of parallel story. Its close cousins are the 0.5 story (prequel), or the 1.5 story (the story published as an e-book while you wait for book 2 to come out in a series). But I digress.

Today’s book review comes from a 7th grader from our Gracepoint Los Angeles church. As she is the sole 7th grader at our LA church plant, her identity is not a secret. Nevertheless, because pen names make everything more fun (see: Mr. Sketch), she writes under the nom de plume Number Two, which is a literary allusion to Pencilla’s code name in The Mysterious Benedict Society. Get it? Number Two…Pencilla?

Number Two’s natural ebullience* comes through in her review, and it makes me wish that I had added my name to the Book Waiting List for the book before setting it loose among the Bibliopolis middle school patrons!

auggie and me coverI wanted to read Auggie and Me by R.J. Palacio because I absolutely loved Wonder. When I saw that there was another book relating to it, I immediately wanted to read it. In the three novellas, Auggie is more of a side character than the main man. The three main characters are Julian (the bully), Christopher (Auggie’s old best friend), and Charlotte (Auggie’s “welcome buddy”). Each story is told from one of their perspective.

The first story is “The Julian Chapter”. If you have read Wonder, you know how Julian is like. He’s the kind of kid who doesn’t like changes, so he tries to turn things back to normal by making Auggie feel ashamed of himself, in hopes of him leaving the school. In Wonder, I really didn’t like Julian at all and he just made me so mad. But in this chapter, Julian finally comes to his senses and realizes what he has done to Auggie. His big realization comes when he says that sometimes we hate the things that we’re afraid of. For him, it’s Auggie. Over the summer after thinking a lot, he finally decides to apologize to Auggie and wants to start things over with him. He makes a precept that says: “Sometimes it’s good to start over.” Towards the end of this chapter, I kind of felt for him more and could see what he was going through.

The second story is called “Pluto”. It kind of peeks into Auggie’s life before the events of Wonder, when he still had his best friend Christopher, before he moved away. When Chris moved, he and Auggie slowly grew apart. Before reading this I didn’t really know how Chris was like but as I continued to read it, he became a very relatable character especially since he is in middle school. When he went to his new school he realized that it’s hard to have a friend that looks so different. So Chris decides to find some normal friends who people won’t stare at all the time and ignores Auggie for a little while. But then something happens (you’ll have to read it to find out what!) and Chris realizes that having a true good friend is worth the extra effort.

The third and final story is “Shingaling”. It’s based on the perspective of Charlotte Cody. She is the “welcome buddy” for Auggie and is kind of known as a “goody-goody”. I remember I didn’t like her that much in Wonder because she seemed “too nice”, but as she enters middle school she struggles with popularity and friend problems and I was able to understand her a little better. As she continues to try to help Auggie out and be a good friend to him, she encounters problems of her own (which you’ll find out about when you read!). Through all this she realizes that doing what is right is not always popular. This novella was probably my favorite because I was able to relate to it most.   

As you can see, through the three characters’ different perspectives you get to see how they feel about Auggie. I really liked this book, because it described some things that I would’ve never known was going on in their lives. After I finished reading, I felt like I finally understood everyone’s background and was able to understand more of them rather than making quick judgments by the little that I heard in the previous book. I would recommend this book to “Wonder lovers” or anyone in 6th grade and up**. This book shows that being a good friend is hard but is worth it. And even though you may encounter problems, just stick through and if you have a good friend to rely on it will make it so much more easier. Like Charlotte says: “It is not enough to be friendly. You have to be a friend.”

Have you read Auggie & Me, or any of the stories separately? If so, which is your favorite? 

*ebullience (n): the quality of being cheerful and full of energy; exuberance.

**All of the Bibliopolis middle schoolers who have read this thus far say that it’s definitely for middle and up. I trust them!

God’s Story & The Jesus Storybook Bible

At Gracepoint Berkeley church, we are still very full from the spiritual feast we experienced this past weekend at our annual Thanksgiving Retreat! We’re praying for all the church plants, who are having their retreats this weekend (and two weeks from now for our church in Taiwan). The theme of this year’s retreat was about God’s Story, and how each of our stories are like threads woven into this larger, grand tapestry God has been weaving since the beginning.

jesus_storybook_bibleI don’t want to give away too much for the readers who are from the church plants, but wanted to give a little plug for The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones (2007), from which we excerpted some text for…a special something. 🙂 The book draws from key Bible passages to present God’s Story in a seamless whole.

The full title of the book is The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name. Each story from the Old Testament links to the larger arc of God’s salvation plan, foreshadowing and linking to Jesus. And as I’ve observed the kids in Bibliopolis reading to themselves, to one another, and discussing with each other, I’ve noticed that they are “getting it.” For example, as they read and asked questions about Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, they made the connection that it was like how God gave Jesus, his son as a sacrifice. And if you notice, there is continuity in the artwork, and that helps them make this connection as well.

It’s a wonderful book to read aloud with kids. It’s very reasonably priced at, and just in time for Christmas presents for cousins, nieces, nephews, family friends, or whoever! Even if you don’t have kids of your own, it’s a great book to have at your house for when kiddos come over as well.

Do you have any stories to share about reading The Jesus Storybook Bible with your kids?