Sunday, March 29, 2020

Hip, Hip, Hippopotamus

I'm going back a few year's for today's song post. Since we've had suspend worship assemblies thanks to COVID-19, I haven't been able to record new videos in a couple of weeks. Instead, I've been teaching Sunday class to whatever kids want to join via Zoom on Sundays. We can't sing together that way because of lag. I tried it last week, and it was worse than singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" in rounds.

Hippopotamus Song

In the beginning, God made the sea
And the forest filled with trees
He made the mountains up so high
And on the top he placed the sky

God’s fingerprints are everywhere
Just to show how much He cares
But in between He had loads of fun
He made a hippo who weighs a ton.

Hip-hip-hooray! God made all of us.
Hip-hip-hooray! God made all of us.

Creation sings of His praise,
The sparrow and the tiny babe.
We can sing and say, “well done.”
But some things He just made for fun!


In the end He had lots of fun.
He made a kangaroo that jumps and runs.
Hip-hip-hurray God made me and you.
Hip-hip-hurray God made me and you.

In the end He had lots of fun.
He made a manatee just for fun.
Hip-hip-hurray God made you and me.

Hip-hip-hurray God made you and me.

Friday, March 27, 2020

There is a titanic conflict going on around us

Part 1 of an interview with Terry Brennan,
Author of Ishmael Covenant

The inspiration behind Terry Brennan’s Ishmael Covenant started with one idea: that three ancient empires of the East—Persian, Ottoman, and Islamic—appeared to be on the cusp of rising again. The idea caught fire when he was introduced to the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman, who was the most revered Talmudic scholar of the late eighteenth century Brennan took the idea of the rising empires and the premise of an unexpected treaty between Israel and all its Arab neighbors, wrapped it up in the Vilna Gaon’s messianic prophecy, speculated about a second prophecy that was yet to be revealed, and started writing.

Not only does Empires of Armageddon borrow from numerous threads of actual history, Brennan did an extensive amount of research into the US State Department, NATO policy, and the Diplomatic Security Service to make sure all aspects of the story were as accurate as possible. However, Brennan hopes readers will find even more within the pages of Ishmael Covenant.

Learn more about the message Brennan hopes readers glean from the new Empires of Armageddon series in part 1 of his interview.

Q: Is there a scriptural or spiritual theme that inspired the writing of Ishmael Covenant?

My Bible is an NIV Study Bible with extensive explanatory notes on almost every page. One of the longest notes and—for me—one of the most impactful refers to Ephesians 1:3 where Paul writes about “heavenly realms.” In part, the note explains that Christians are in a real, tangible war, what it calls a “titanic conflict”: “In the Christian’s union with the exalted Christ, ultimate issues are involved. . . . At stake are God’s eternal eschatological purpose and the titanic conflict between God and the powerful spiritual forces arrayed against him. . . . As a result, the spiritual struggles of the saints here and now are not so much against ‘flesh and blood’ as against the great spiritual forces that war against God in heaven.”

I was struck by the idea that there are great spiritual forces that war against God in heaven. More sobering is the idea that my spiritual struggles here on earth have, in some way, an impact on that war in heaven. Not all of us will come face-to-face with evil incarnate, as Brian Mullaney and the other characters of Ishmael Covenant do. However, agents of evil are at work in the world today, just as they have been since Lucifer’s rebellion was crushed and banished to earth.

Q: How did your studies while writing the book change your thoughts on the spiritual warfare we face in daily life as Christians?

I don’t generally live my daily life conscious of the part I play in this great spiritual battle in heaven. I most often perceive the evil I face as personal. So, my wife and I pray against the spirits of evil that try to steal, rob, and destroy in our lives, in our family, and in our marriage, which is good to do.

Through digging deeper into the concept of spiritual warfare for this book, I’ve learned that I need to reach beyond the personal conflict of good and evil in my life and be more conscious of the vastness of this titanic conflict around me. I need to be an example, a reflection, of Jesus and his love for all souls. And I need to stand up for light—to be a warrior-ambassador for light—in a dark world that often seems to be getting darker.

But the bottom line is inevitable. Good triumphs. The end of the Book will never change.

Q: What are some of the faith struggles your main character, Brian Mullaney, faces?

Right from the outset, Mullaney is grappling with a great chasm in his life. He desperately desires the forgiveness and affirmation of his father, but now it is impossible to attain because the elder Mullaney has died. Even though he is a man of character and integrity, admired by many, reliable and effective in his career as an agent for the Diplomatic Security Service, Mullaney struggles personally and spiritually with the insecurity that he’s just not good enough.

Now, unfairly accused and banished to Israel from his post in Washington, Mullaney is emotionally crippled by the fractures occurring in his marriage. Add to that, he’s enlisted in a tangible, life-threatening conflict with evil incarnate. A devoted, mature Christian, Mullaney openly wrestles with and challenges God’s plan as he tries to save the lives of the ambassador and those around him in the field while desperately trying to save his marriage back home. His trust in God’s faithful provenance is ultimately tested when he is tasked to obey an implausible heavenly command—hand over the box of power while face-to-face with Satan’s emissary.

As Christians, one of our foundational beliefs is that Jesus Christ will return. Many believe his second coming will usher in the final countdown to the end of time as we know it. There are many parts of the Bible that prophesy about the second coming. Many scholars believe the creation of the nation of Israel in 1948 started the “end-times clock” ticking. So, most likely we are in, or on the cusp of, the end of days. The end really is near—whatever “near” means in God’s timing. I believe any novel that weaves into its plotline elements relating to how or when Christ will return, or its impact, qualifies as end-times fiction.

It’s important to remember that end-times fiction is not the book of Revelation. It’s not theologically deep or hard to understand.

Ishmael Covenant can be characterized as an end-times thriller because there is a strong thread connecting the plot of the book, and the series, to last-days events such as how the quest of the protagonist may ultimately affect biblical prophecies. But primarily it is simply a story of the conflict between good and evil, and how that conflict plays out in the life of an ordinary guy.

At its core is an everyman protagonist—a Christian man, accomplished and successful in his career, who is enlisted in a life-threatening situation beyond his sphere of experience and understanding. This lethal danger, projected not only against the man himself but also against his family, is perpetrated by the Turk and his disciples, a shadowy gang of murderous thugs who ruthlessly pursue our hero from one country to the next. One complicating factor is that our protagonist realizes the spiritual implications and consequences of the deadly conflict into which he was recruited. As a result, his faith and character are challenged to the utmost as he confronts a relentless string of obstacles to fulfilling his call.
Q: Can you give us just a tease of what to expect from the rest of the series?

The entire series takes place in the span of a few days, so each book in the trilogy picks up right where the other left off. The fight for power and dominion between the empires escalates. The theme of spiritual warfare expands as the series progresses and intensifies as the battle for the Gaon’s second prophecy continues. And readers will find Brian Mullaney torn apart by conflicting loyaltiesprotecting the ambassador, salvaging his marriage and his family, unmasking a traitor in the highest echelons of the State Departmentwhile entangled in a lethal battle with the emissaries of incarnate evil.  

More on Brennan can be found at He is also on Facebook (Terry Brennan) and Twitter (@terrbrennan1).

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Survivor: Winners at War: It's a Young Person's Game

Is it just me or are the people on Extinction way more interesting than the people left on any tribe?

Seriously, who remembers Sophie, Adam or Nick when they won their seasons? Do I just not pay attention anymore when I watch (a possibility while scrolling on my phone or something) or do I have some form of dementia and only remember 15 or more years ago?

We start at night 16 on Extinction where Parvati tells the crew how no one would work with her anymore. Then, Sandra shows up. (They were just both voted off on the same night.) This gives Parvati a small feeling of consolation.

When Sandra tells what happened, Rob asked why she ever gave that much power to Denise. Her answer was that she was human. She let feelings get to her and she felt a little something for Denise.

They talk a little bit about the food situation. Sandra knows this island is not for her. She's not going to be out there 23 days to do one challenge to try to get back in the game. She isn't good at challenges (and everyone knows that), so she's done. You have to be in a challenge, to be good at a challenge, but... She says she will always remain queen as she raises the flag, goes off in the boat.

I say she's the biggest quitter. C'mon! It's Winners at War and you just rang the bell. Loser.

Night 16 at Parvati's old camp. Yul goes to Wendell to talk about how tribal went down. Yul thinks the talk goes fine and respectful. The next morning, Michele goes to Wendell. He gets confrontational. Michele, like an idiot even gave him one of Parvati's fire tokens to make nice, and that didn't work. That was dumb on her part. She doesn't want to work with him anymore. 

Day 17: Back to Extinction. Ethan feels depressed and defeated. He needs to find some hope. Parvati asks if he is going to pull the flag. He refuses to give up, but he has a much different perspective than most.
Ethan later finds a box that must be opened together. Each gets a scroll. There are four hidden fire tokens at the end of trails. There's no limit how many one person can get. They all sprint off and leave the rice on the fire. Rob takes off. Tyson thinks that Rob is portly and he can catch up at some point.

Tyson goes up the first trail and finds one on the ground. They all gather again and everyone swears to not have anything and they start frisking one another. What no one knows is that Rob has already found all of the other three.

On Sandra's old tribe, they just think they are bored. There's four of them, and they aren't social distancing. Tony is running around and entertaining the tribe.

Tony thinks Denise is growing as a threat, but Jeremy thinks Tony is still the threat. Kim and Jeremy think they need a plan for the merge. She could be convinced to go with this group of four than going back to any of her previous tribe mates. Denise talks to Kim about the two of them with Jeremy being tight going forward.

On the other tribe, they are enjoying what's left of the peanut butter. Ben and Adam are asking each other about where the immunity idol might be. Little do they know Sophie is in possession. Adam thinks between Ben and Sarah, one of them has it.

The men go out looking. Adam finds Ben annoying though. Adam is convinced Sarah has it and lies to him. Sophie shares what Adam talks about with the others so they don't think she's in cahoots with him. Sarah and Ben offer to dump out their bags to prove they don't have it. Adam is annoying all of them.

Maybe there's something to be said about being home alone. Ten days and counting.

Day 18: Challenge time

The teams have to big "saucers" through an obstacle course to fill with water. They have to get enough water back to the well to fill up a well back at the other end. When the well is filled, the puzzle pieces will drop. The first two teams go faster than the third, meaning they have to go back again. Yara takes FOREVER while the other teams almost lap them. It pays off. Slow and steady strategy means they only have to make one run.

Dakal and Sele quickly catch up and get their puzzle pieces.

Ben and Sophie had the head start on the puzzle and pull off the first immunity spot. It's neck and neck. Jeremy and Denise get theirs before Wendell and Michele put their last piece in.

Nick did this challenge in his season and lost. He lost again. Yul, Michele, Wendell and Nick are going to tribal tonight. Yul thinks Wendell is a showboat and trying to get Jeff's attention instead of concentrating on the puzzle dug his grave.

Back at camp, Michele apologizes to the rest of the tribe. Nick blames Wendell for the same reasons as Yul. Yul and Nick agree on Wendell while Michele and Wendell wash their shoes at the beach.

Michele agrees to go with Wendell. He thinks Nick is going to be on his side too.

Yul talks to Michele and she agrees to vote with them and assures her there's nothing to worry about.

Yul comes up with a plan to try to get Wendell's fire tokens. This strategy play scares Nick. Maybe he and Michele should go the other way.

So everyone talks and there's lots of back and forth. Yul, Wendell, Yul, Wendell.

It's tribal time. Jeff starts asking Wendell what's up, telling he's ready to say something. Wendell basically just says it's been a tough day. Jeff calls on Yul next, the last old school player left. Yul talks about how it's so much more complicated and he's had to lie a lot. He talks about trying to convince people with fire tokens.

Conversations move to pre-existing conversations. Michele and Wendell yammer on about ifs and buts.

Yul makes a final plea to work with them and not be blind-sided. They've been together this whole time, but now someone has to go.

Wendell votes Yul.

Yul votes Wendell.

We know that from watching. When the votes are read:


He's the 9th person voted out. Where will his fire tokens go? He has two. One to Sophie and one to Sarah.

The tribes are starting to look an awful lot like the cast of The Bachelor or something. It's all the young people and I feel old again.

Next week: The merge!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

If Your Kids Have Questions, You Want Them to Come to You for Answers

If Your Kids Have Questions,
You Want Them to Come to You for Answers
Honest Answers equips parents to explore God questions with their tweens

Who would have thought two weeks ago that we would be facing so much fear and uncertainty? There are so many unknowns, so many questions, and if we have them, we know our kids have them too. And they are going to be asking a lot of them in the coming weeks, including questions about God’s goodness and if prayer works. Are we prepared to answer their questions concerning faith? Janelle Alberts and Ingrid Faro set out to help parents confidently have these hard conversations with their new release, Honest Answers: Exploring God Questions with Your Tween (Kregel Publications/March 24, 2020/ISBN: 9780825446443/$15.99).

Honest Answers is designed to help parents tackle the God questions that make them sweat. The authors know that when tweens start asking questions, they’re already old enough to understand the answers. Alberts and Faro are determined to equip parents with the language, theology, permission, and confidence to join in the discussion—and to learn how to offer deeply doctrinal answers in a way that connects with their children.

Honest Answers is divided into four parts, each with three chapters, addressing some of the biggest faith questions that come up:
  • The Bible: How it was put together, how history supports it, and the points of view of the writers.
  • Prayer:  How to pray, when we don’t get the answers we are wanting, and sticking with God regardless.
  • Faith and science: Why the two sides don’t always agree, and how to handle situations that come up in school when what kids learn there doesn’t line up with what they learn at church.
  • The church: How it is set up, why there are different denominations, and its past, present, and future.

Each chapter begins with a “parent’s primer” on a specific topic that tweens often ask questions about. The primer introduces the topic and provides further background information to share in later conversations with the kids. Next, an “honest answers Q&A” section is the part of the chapter to be read as a family. Each Q&A section begins with a brief introduction followed by six to eight multiple choice questions to explore together.

“Our kids want and deserve discussion about God and the Bible and don’t accept simply being told what to think or believe,” Faro shares. “We can enter conversations providing solid and substantive responses to tough questions without jargon, fluff, or pat answers and don’t need to be afraid of questions our kids may have.”

“As parents, we want to feel confident enough to say to our kids, ‘Let’s talk about that,’ right at their point of interest,” Alberts adds. “However, that is not an easy thing to do. These core tenets of our faith have been debated over centuries and have involved councils, creeds, Bible translations, extraordinary feats of faith, and also terrible behavior. But we’re the parents. These kids want to know what there is to know from us. If our kids see a pattern that when they come to us, they get honest, forthright discussion even if we do not know every answer, that will keep them coming to us as a resource as they mature in their faith.”

The tween years present an incredible opportunity to build trust with kids and to keep them coming back to their parents for answers rather than finding other sources. With the tools and conversational tips here, moms and dads can engage in a hopeful conversation and help their children build a Christian faith to hold them steady their whole lives.

Advance Praise

Young teens and their parents have honest questions that deserve thoughtful, gracious engagement. This book provides accessible background for parents, caregivers, and teachers to the kinds of faith questions maturing young people ask, and thought-provoking conversation starters to spur curiosity and instruct through discussion. Brimming with both instruction and invitation to know and to grow, Honest Answers is an excellent teaching tool for families and faith communities looking for fresh ways to talk about God with the next generation.”
~ Michelle Van Loon, author of Born to Wander

“Too many of the previous generation were taught to think the Bible is a magical, mysterious, absolutely different kind of book, only to experience a sudden dissolution of their faith when they realized God’s Word came into being in a real world with real authors speaking to real situations. What I like about Honest Answers is that it gives our children a Bible that is magical yet utterly trustworthy, while at the same time it is a collection of authors speaking God’s word to God’s people over time. God bless the moms and dads and teachers who make use of this fine book.”
~ Dr. Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

About the Authors

Janelle Alberts spent her early career in PR departments for Microsoft and UPS, boiling down logical, clear corporate messaging. She now attempts the same for parents who love Scripture, often featuring bits we’ve never heard but wish we had.

Alberts wrote her first faith column for the Akron Beacon Journal in 2010 and has since been a regular contributor to various online sites including Christianity Today’s Gifted for Leadership, RELEVANT magazine, and others. Honest Answers is her first book.

Alberts and her family make their home in Ohio.

Visit her on Facebook (@AuthorJanelleAlberts).

Ingrid Faro is dean of academic affairs and associate professor of Old Testament at Northern Seminary. She is also associate professor of Old Testament at the Scandinavian School of Theology in Sweden. She has an MDiv and PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Faro is an international speaker at conferences and churches and writes on topics that include navigating evil and suffering, abuse and power dynamics, women in the Bible, forgiveness, the goodness of God, identity in Christ, discipleship, and leadership. Her motivation is to encourage people, help them navigate the pain and sufferings of this world, and grow in thriving relationship with God and others. She is the coauthor of Honest Answers.

Faro has two married children and three grandchildren. She lives in Illinois.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Creation Song

We try... and sometimes that's what counts, especially on Wednesday nights.

Creation Song

Day one, day one
God made light when there was none,
Day one, day one
God made light when there was none.

Day two, day two
God made clouds and skies of blue
Day two, day two
God made clouds and skies of blue

Day three, day three
God made grass and flowers and trees
Day three, day three
God made grass and flowers and trees

Day four, day four
God made sun, moon and stars galore
Day four, day four
God made sun, moon and stars galore

Day five, day five
God made birds and fish alive
Day five, day five
God made birds and fish alive

Sixth day, sixth day
God made animals and man that day,
Sixth day, sixth day
God made animals and man that day.

Day seven, day seven
God rested in His heaven
Day seven, day seven
God rested in His heaven

Friday, March 20, 2020

Calling all Comparison Girls!

New tour announcement!

Join the review team for Shannon Popkin's upcoming release Comparison Girl.

The dates will be May 19-June 2. I'll be sending out emails about who made the tour on April 3.

When I send out all the details ahead of the tour, I'll have a Q&A you can use, we'll be doing a book giveaway and will provide you with all the tour materials you will need. I'll also have a form for you to submit your tour links.

About the Book

From Measuring Up to Pouring Out

Shannon Popkin leads women away from a life
of comparison toward a mind-set of serving

I wish I were tall like her. If only my kids got along the way her kids do. Why does she always seem to have it all together? Women compare themselves constantly. On social media, in their neighborhood, at church, at work, even in the school drop-off lane, they glance sideways and ask, “How do I measure up?” Behind all this comparison is an enemy gaining tactical advantage.

In her new Bible study, Comparison Girl: Lessons from Jesus on Me-Free Living in a Measure-Up World (Kregel Publications/May 19, 2020/ISBN: 9780825446214/ $16.99), author and speaker Shannon Popkin invites women to leave measure-up comparison behind and connect with those around them by choosing Jesus’s me-free way of living. It’s a real chance to break free from the shackles of comparison.

Popkin confesses her own struggle with comparison literally goes as far back as she can remember and suspects her readers can relate. Her earliest memory is of her four-year-old self holding her songbook upside down in church. When a woman from the pew behind reached forward to turn the book right side up, Popkin felt embarrassed and exposed—clearly the watching world now knew she could not read. It may seem silly in retrospect, but Popkin admits the same could be said of many of her current struggles. “Why do I worry about being exposed as a less-than-perfect mom? Or a middle-aged woman who struggles with her weight? Or a Christian who still sins? My heart, since childhood, has been bent on perfectionism, pride, and measuring up—which has not led to great freedom and joy. Instead, it’s led to a great fear of what people think and a great dread of being found lacking.”

Comparison follows women through every stage of life, leading either to a sense of superiority (pride, perfectionism, arrogance, or judgmental criticism) or inferiority (insecurity, shame, jealousy, and self-consciousness). Satan loves to perpetuate comparison-driven bondage and isolation, but Jesus wants to set women free.

Equating our lives to a measuring cup, Popkin invites readers to live by the spout, not by the lines. “Picture yourself holding a glass measuring cup with red lines on the side. Mingled in your cup are all the things which set you apart—your gifts, aptitudes, and talents. Your personality is mixed in, along with your family background. This cup holds your life’s potential, measured out by God. Satan wants you to focus on the lines—holding your cup next to this person’s and that one’s. He says that to make something of yourself, you have to measure up—then he shames you when you don’t,” she explains. “Jesus, however, turns your attention to your measuring cup’s spout, saying that you were designed, not to measure up, but to pour yourself out. And he shows you how it’s done. He lived by the spout, emptying himself of status and pouring his life out on the cross, giving his life as a ransom for many.”

Suited for both individual and group study, Comparison Girl is a six-week Bible study that guides readers to examine conversations Jesus had and parables he shared with disciples, tax collectors, and Pharisees, who also were comparing. Each chapter is divided into lessons, allowing women on a time budget to read a Bible passage, engage in a complete train of thought related to the topic, and then make the content personal—all in one sitting. Rather than feeling preached to, women will engage with Popkin’s informal teaching tone as if they’re meeting with a trusted friend.

Readers of Popkin’s best-selling release Control Girl may find themselves in Comparison Girl as well. “I wrestle daily with comparison, and I’ve noticed that my struggles with control and comparison are related. As I look to the side, measuring myself against others, I’m often laser-focused on things that are out of my control,” she admits. Yet, there is hope. “You are different from other people by God’s intentional design. Anything in your measuring cup is a gift from Him. As you tip your cup and pour into others, the measuring stops. The more you pour, the more God fills your cup with freedom, confidence, and joy.”

Advance Praise

“If you struggle with measuring up, if you’re worried about what people think, if you dread someone seeing you in a less-than-ideal situation, then you’re human. We all struggle with comparing ourselves to others in some way. That means we all need Shannon’s honest and wise words on the pages of this book. I know I did, and I’m betting you do too!”
~ Jill Savage, author of No More Perfect Moms, No More Perfect Kids, and No More Perfect Marriages

“Shannon Popkin has done it again! She has masterfully written another must-read to speak to the struggles of our soul. Like a dear friend she comes, sits with us, and soothes us with the truth of how purposefully we were created, how intentionally we have been gifted, and how infinitely we are loved. Inviting us to look up, listen to the tender truths of God, and learn to silence the lies of the enemy against us, Shannon shows us how to finally live freely in a culture of continual comparison. For every woman who has an area of her life where she wonders if she is truly enough—here is your answer.”
~ Erica Wiggenhorn, author of Unexplainable Jesus: Rediscovering the God You Thought You Knew

About the Author

Shannon Popkin is a writer, speaker, and Bible teacher who loves pointing others to the truth of God’s Word. She combines her gifts for humor and storytelling with her passion for Jesus. She regularly speaks at Christian women’s events and retreats, encouraging women of all ages to put their hope in God.

Popkin is also a regular contributor for the Revive Our Hearts True Woman and Leader Connection blogs. Her articles have been published by Family Fun, Focus on the Family Magazine, MOMsense and others. She is the author of several books, including Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible, Influence: Building a Platform That Elevates Jesus (Not Me), and Comparison Girl: Lessons from Jesus on Me-Free Living in a Measure-Up World.

Popkin and her husband, Ken, have been married for more than twenty years and live in West Michigan. They have three children—one in high school and two in college.

Connect with Shannon Popkin by visiting, following her on Facebook (shanpopkin), Instagram (shannonpopkin), or Twitter (@ShannonPopkin).