May prompt: tree

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Zaccheus in the sycamore tree by James Tissot

Zaccheus in the sycamore tree – By James Tissot

The landscape is changing with the coming of spring. A big part of this change is brought about by the blossoming and leafing of trees. Almost overnight a row of dull brown twigs becomes a lively green canopy that gives shade, privacy, and beauty. You can’t help but notice trees in the spring.

There are at least two dozen varieties of trees mentioned in the Bible, many of which are familiar to us: almond (Ecclesiastes 12:5), apple (Song of Solomon 2:3), palm (Exodus 15:27), cedar, pine and cypress (Isaiah 41:19) and willow (Isaiah 44:4).

Trees played a part in many Bible events:

  • A tree held the tempting fruit that tripped up Eve (Genesis 3:1-7).
  • God met with Abraham by the terebinth trees of Mamre (Genesis 18:1).
  • Absalom’s thick hair got caught in the branches of a great terebinth tree. The Bible describes him hanging between heaven and earth and in that helpless state he was easy prey for David’s general Joab (2 Samuel 18:9,14).
  • Jesus died on a cross, made of wood from a tree.

The Bible refers to trees not only in literal ways but in symbolic ones too.

  • I’ve always been haunted by the picture of the silent harps of the grieving Babylonian exiles, hanging in the willows (Psalm 137:1-3).
  • John’s vision in Revelation makes references to several trees in mostly symbolic or picturesque ways:

– There is a tree of life – Revelation 2:7
– Two prophetic messengers are referred to as olive trees – Revelation 11:3-6.
– There is a healing tree with leaves that heal nations and a different fruit each month – Revelation 22:2,14.

Here is your TREE writing challenge for April:

For writers of fiction:

You might make a tree a key part of your setting like author Julie Chantrell gives her main character Millie “Honey,” a sweet gum tree that operates almost like another character in her novel Into the Free (review here).

Or tell a children’s story from the tree’s point of view, like Kimberley Payne does in Trees of the Book (review here).

For writers of non-fiction:

Research a specific tree to write an informational piece, or tell a personal experience with a tree and use it as an illustration in a devotional or motif in a personal essay.

For poets:

Dig deep into your connection with trees to come up with some truth about life using tree imagery. Psalm 1:-1-3 is a great example of this.

Trees of the Book by Kimberley Payne, Illustrated by Esther Haug (review)

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About the book

Trees of the bookTrees of the Book is a colorful storybook / workbook designed to introduce seven- to nine-year-olds to trees of the Bible and more. Folksy title and heading font, as well as Esther Haug’s pencil crayon, water color wash illustrations give the book a look that says, “Welcome kids, this is for you.”

Within the book author Kimberley Payne explores seven common Bible trees, devoting a two-page spread to each. Features include a Bible story retold in first person by the tree, questions about the story, facts about the tree, an activity (like word search, maze, crossword puzzle), and more places one can read about that tree in the Bible. The book ends with a glossary explaining  unusual words, a list of Bible people and who they are, eleven more project suggestions, and solutions to the activities.

Payne’s clear, simple writing style is perfect for early elementary students. The book is detailed and long enough to provide real value, yet not so long it would drag on as a unit. The additional project suggestions take the study past science into ecology,  art, language arts, and studies of Bible characters. I love how the conclusion to the book reminds readers of another very special tree:

“And how can we forget the tree that was used to make the cross that Jesus was  crucified on? “Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others —one on each side and Jesus in the middle” (John 19:17)”Trees of the Book p. 20.

Trees of the Book would be a great resource for parents home-schooling their kids, teachers in Christian schools wishing to inject Bible knowledge into their study of plants and trees, or leaders and counselors in club or camp settings. Children could also use it independently.

Payne is hoping to publish more books in the Science and Faith Matters series in the months ahead.

I received Trees of the Book as a gift from the author for the purpose of writing a review.

About the author:

Kimberley PayneKimberley Payne is a motivational speaker and author. Kimberley has volunteered as a teacher in many children’s programs at her church, as a teacher’s aide for students’ reading in the classroom, and within the library at her children’s school. She works as an Elementary School Secretary for the Catholic School Board. She combines her teaching experience and her love of writing to create educational materials for children about family, fitness, science and faith.  www.kimberleypayne.com

  • Buy Trees of the Book from Amazon

February prompt: love is in the air

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It’s February and time for another writing prompt. With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching let’s explore love!

The Bible is full of love stories.

Isaac found his love, Rebekah, through a marriage arranged by his dad (Genesis 24:1-67).

Rebekah meets Isaac

Rebekah meets Isaac

Jacob knew whom he loved, but found his cagey father-in-law knew better, at least in the how to get his less attractive but older daughter off his hands department. This love triangle is full of heartbreak and jealousy, and not only for the unloved wife (Genesis 29:1-32).

Jacob meets Rachel

Jacob meets Rachel

Then there’s the story princess of Michal who loved David—yes, a woman-instigated romance (1 Samuel 18:12-29; 19:10-14)

Michal helps David

Michal helps David

And there’s the mixed race, December-April marriage of Boaz and Ruth (Ruth 2-3).

Boaz gives Ruth protection

Boaz gives Ruth protection

Here are some suggestions of ways you might approach a piece on love:

For poets:

Write a poem from the viewpoint of one of the men or women above. Choose a moment in time within their story, and express their thoughts, emotions, hopes, fears, and frustrations at that moment.

or

Write an ekphrastic poem, inspired by one of the artist renderings above.

For fiction writers:

Imagine and recreate a scene between one group of lovers above. For example write about:

  • the first time Isaac and Rebekah meet.
  • the first meeting of Jacob and Rachel after Jacob has been tricked into marrying Leah. (Is Jacob suspicious that Rachel was party to her father’s ruse?)
  • the meeting of Ruth and Boaz after he has secured the right to marry her.

or write a modern love scene based on one of the scenarios above.

For non-fiction writers:

Write about your personal experience with one of the the types of relationships from our Bible examples (arranged marriages, love triangles, women instigating romantic relationships, marriages of mixed race and/or disparate age).

or

Express your opinion about one of the types of relationships.

If you choose to accept the challenge and publish what you write on your blog, let me know in Comments and I’ll post a link to your piece.

The Bible Series coming to a TV near you!

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I’m totally excited about a new TV mini-series scheduled to be broadcast on the History Channel, starting March 3! The Bible Series was produced by Roma Downey (“Touched by an Angel”) and Mark Burnett (producer of “Survivor,” “Celebrity Apprentice” etc.), with music by Hans Zimmer.

I just saw the two of them interviewed on 100 Huntley Street, along with Dr. Craig Evans, one of the theologians they went to for input to help make their production biblically accurate.

Here is one of the video clips on the series’ website (www.bibleseries.tv).

Mark Burnett and Roma Downey were also interviewed in the last few days on CTV’s Canada AM. Here are links to their two-part interview:

PART 1 – A show of biblical proportions.

PART  2 – What it was like working together, and more…

Of course the Bible Series also has a Facebook page. Add your “Like” to  the more than 119K!