It’s May and the weather in my part of Ohio is unseasonably cold and cloudy. It’s been perfect reading weather, in fact, especially when coupled with the sheltering at home and inadvisability of leaving home.

 

The best Mary book EVER

Let’s start with what may be the best. Mary. Book. Ever: Our Lady’s Wardrobe, by Anthony DeStefano, illustrated by Juliana Kolesova (Sophia Institute Press, 2020).

When we opened the envelope that had this book and I pulled it out, my five-year-old exclaimed, “Oh, Mom, it’s so BEAUTIFUL!”

And then we had to sit right down and read it together. Because even though Mary is a girl and this is a book that could be considered a series of fashion plates, it’s still Mama Mary and a brand-new book.

And it IS beautiful. This is a full-size, hardcover, full-color children’s book, filled with pages that you will want to frame.

The idea behind the book is encapsulated in the cover: the Virgin Mary, standing in front of a closet full of clothes. Each of those outfits represents one of her titles or apparitions. It’s a cool approach to learning about Marian titles, and my little guy and I curled up at bedtime to reread it.

The book starts with Our Lady of Nazareth and then the story takes you to Heaven:

But now in Heaven Mary has

a mansion by the sea,

with a wardrobe filled with clothes

of great variety.

 

And when she sometimes visits us

she picks her clothes with care.

According to her travel plans

she chooses what to wear.

We then meet Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Our Lady of Knock, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, and Our Lady Queen of the Angels.

The book is written in rhymes that make sense and flow well. There’s a cadence to the reading and a beauty to the illustrations that has made this my favorite children’s book. Ever.

I have hopes that there will be a second edition with more titles of Mary and that there will be prayer cards or something with these beautiful images of Mary.

 

Who says the prophets are boring?

Have you ever thought about the Old Testament prophets and then…thought again? Or even run screaming? Yeah. I know. Guilty of same.

I know—I KNOW—that they are important and that there is something there to learn, but it’s intimidating.

And nothing takes the intimidating out of prophets like a little levity.

Enter Thus Sayeth the Lord: A Fresh Take on the Gospels, by Julie Davis (OSV, 2020). “No one likes a prophet, as Jesus pointed out. Especially if that prophet is a hometown boy who’s laying a few hard truths on his neighbors,” she acknowledges. “We’ve lost touch with what it meant to encounter a prophet, or to be one. Let’s take a fresh look at the familiar prophets in our Bible.”

And she takes on 20 of these Old Testament prophets, from Moses and Miriam up to John the Baptist and Jesus. 

“Once we know what those voices [of the prophets] are saying across the ages,” Davis writes, “once we hear that incredible ever-new message from God, we might find our lives changed.”

You can read each of these chapters with your Bible in hand, because Davis has outlined passages to read. She offers a quick take on the prophet and then shares a section on living with the prophet.

This is a book that would be great for a group study…or not. I read it straight through, no Bible in hand. But that’s because I couldn’t help it. It was entertaining.

Next up: reading it with my Bible, to really dive in and appreciate the Old Testament approach.

 

Setting the world on fire

Your Blue Flame: Drop the Guilt and Do What Makes You Come Alive, by Jen Fulwiler (Zondervan, 2020) could be—and probably will be—shelved self-help. The central idea of the book (spoiler alert) is that you have something that will add to the world, something that only you can do, and that doing this thing will fulfill you and the world.

But she says it so much better. And so much funnier. And so much…more Jen.

Maybe only a mom of six who’s a full-time radio talk show host who homeschools her kids, produces her own comedy tour, and is married to a CPA/MBA can pull this off.

Then again, maybe this is a panel of fluorescents to light up the world and shake up the mentality that limits so many of us. Why can’t a mom of many write books and have a successful radio show and travel around the country with a comedy tour?

And actually, this isn’t about Jen at all. I think, in fact, that’s the whole point.

Jen is amazing. But what she’s trying to get you to realize, in this book especially, is that YOU ARE TOO. “My transformation started when I discovered my blue flame,” she writes in the first chapter, continuing, “Now, let’s talk about what that is, and how you can find yours.”

You’d do yourself a disservice not to read this book twice. The first time, zip through it, nod, and marvel. It’s not rocket science. It could be commonish sense. Appreciate that you’re holding it and that it’s not hard and that you have a margarita in your hand. (If you don’t, that’s fine too.)

The second time through, you’ll find yourself pausing—maybe because you had more than one margarita, but maybe also because you suddenly appreciate something that the team behind this book has done: Make something that’s so valuable (though many of us don’t recognize that yet) and that should be so obvious (but isn’t) both valued AND obvious.

Don’t be fooled by the light tone and easy manner this book presents. What she’s unpacked in 200 or so pages is brilliant both for its presentation—straightforward and skimmable—and for its value. Jen knows what she’s saying, both that it’s important and that it’s hard. She also knows—and insists that you recognize it, too—that it’s going to change your life.

And the permission slip at the end? Photocopy it and use it liberally. And then get out there and set some things on fire with your blue flame!