Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Strong Plants and Sculptured Pillars: A book review

A friend called recently to complain about the state of youth in America.  He works in a bank, and he walked past a pair of female tellers barely out of their teens casually saying something so profoundly rude that they blushed when he raised an eyebrow.  He would have liked me to whine with him but this is a side of young people I rarely see.  


Because my teens are amazing. Although we are a small congregation, on any given Sunday as many as half of those in attendance are under 20.  So our teens are often pressed into service.  Not only as mothers’ helpers in overcrowded pews, but as teachers and evangelists.

They are NOT the future of the church.  They are crucial to our congregation today. 

I love being their elder sister. I celebrate their victories with them; they tell me all their sorrows.  I let them make a whirlwind of my kitchen making cookies; they come and hang-out anytime they want. They are such a diverse bunch.  There are teens who have been to Sunday School since they were 6 weeks old and teens who are just beginning to explore Adam, Abraham, and even Jesus himself.  They don’t need lectures. They need help applying the Bible to their everyday lives.  They need someone to trust their hearts, build their faith, and prepare them for the work they need to do.

They get all the love, learning, and life we can pour into them.  But it’s not enough.  They have to start developing habits like taking time with God every day in order to grow into strong mature Christians.  Finding books that are faith-building but simple enough for those with little Bible background is tough.  I’m always on the lookout for something good.

Then one day, I saw a post go flying by on my Facebook feed.  Did that say teen devotional? Strong Plants and Sculptured Pillars doesn’t seem like an obvious title to me. Could this be the book I need?  I scrolled back, and lo and behold J. A. Busick was promoting her brand-new self-published teenage devotional book.  

I was cautiously excited.

Turns out that Jennifer Busick is the mom to two daughters 15 and 12.  A homeschooling mom, like me, she is involved with lots of young people through the youth group and homeschool co-op. The book’s purpose and title are both explained on the dedication page with this quote from Psalm 144:12.

That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;
That our daughters may be as pillars, sculptured in palace style.

The book is divided not into 30 days but into 30 Bible stories about young people walking with God.   Each one is treated in 4 short sections. First the story is briefly paraphrased (usually about 2 pages).  Then there is a page called “Think it Through” which presents two short passages from the Bible and a prayer.  For instance, following the story of Josiah, the two quotes are Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 15:9, and the prayer is this

Lord let me never stray from worshipping and glorifying You. You are the one true and living God. 

Next came my favorite part, the application section.  First there is a page of text with titles like, “Will you act wisely?” and “Will you repent?.”  Rather than berating kids, it offers biblical examples of people who acted out (or failed to act out) the principle from the story. The final page is entitled “Write it out.”  Here the student is asked how he or she could put the principle into action.  For example, “Will you act wisely” contrasts Esther and Rehoboam as advice takers and then asks on the next page, “Have you ever rejected wise advice and regretted it later?  How can you tell good advice from bad advice?” 

The book focuses on all the things I was wishing for.  It is accessible, faith-building, application-based, and focused on helping teens see how God has always valued their contributions.

I can think of several immediate uses for a book like this. 
  • A month of devotionals for a family with one or more teens.  (I would estimate it would take a half-hour a night to do these including reading the story from the Bible and discussing rather than journaling the question.)  I would especially recommend this to parents who aren’t confident in their own Bible knowledge or who are just starting their own walk of faith. 
  • A read-aloud teen devotional before a fun activity or a discussion starter in Bible class. 
  • A month’s worth of middle school Bible (for homeschoolers) especially with a parent checking the journaling exercises daily.  
  • A true daily devotional for a young teen or an older teen less familiar with the Bible stories.

One more thing that J.A. Busick and I have in common is that we are in a position to encourage the teens in our lives as they search for and follow God.  They are already awesome and are growing; they just need support. If you know some teens like that, they would benefit from this devotional! 


  1. Great book review and how wonderful Helene the work you are doing with the youth of today. We strongly believe in our church that we have to minister to our youth to change this nation. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Looks like you really covered the book! Thanks for sharing with the Thursday Blog Hop!

  3. Sounds like a good book - and how wonderful that you have such a wonderful group of teens in your own congregation!

  4. I love the thought: Young people are not the future of the church; they ARE the church.

  5. Your teens sound like wonderful young people, and I'm so glad you found a helpful devotional!

    Thank you for linking up at #FridayFrivolity! :)