Episode 189: Crystal Bowman and Getting Kids into the Bible

Do your children know what’s in the Bible and why it’s important? Crystal Bowman has a new devotional for kids to help. In this episode we talk with Crystal Bowman about her newest devotional for kids and all that’s been happening since we last visited with her. 

Our Guest: Crystal Bowman

Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books for children and families. She also writes stories for Clubhouse Jr. magazine, lyrics for children’s piano music, and Bible activity books.

Crystal has written books for popular children’s series such as Little Blessings, BOZ the Bear, I Can Read!, and The Berenstain Bears. She also writes devotions for children, Bible storybooks, board books, and picture books.

As a teacher and mentor at writers’ conferences, Crystal enjoys helping writers of children’s stories find the right voice and technique to reach a young audience. From rhyming picture books to devotionals and beginning readers, Crystal uses her 30 years of experience to instruct and guide writers on their publishing journey.  

crystaljbowman@gmail.com

www.crystalbowman.com

Books Discussed in this Episode:

Show Notes/Transcript with Links:

Terrie (00:09):

Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that help us with everyday discipleship every day, sparking important conversations with our children. We all want to see the next generation on fire for God, but life is so busy and seems to take all our energy just to get through the day. How can we disciple our children well when we’re having trouble staying awake long enough for our own Bible reading? Well, part of that is taking every opportunity with every book we read to speak to our children and to have them talk with us, opening up those conversations with our kids, whatever we’re reading, wherever we are and whatever we’re doing, that’s the key to discipling our children from day one. So now let’s join the conversation talking about some more books that will bless you and your kids today. Our guest with us is Crystal Bowman and we’re so glad to have her back on the podcast. Crystal has written over 100 children’s books and several other wonderful books. Today we’re going to talk about her newest books. So Crystal, thank you so much for joining us today.

Crystal (01:16):

Well, thank you for having me. It’s always nice to be invited back.

Terrie (01:19):

Well, we’re very excited to talk about your new devotional book, Our Daily Bread for Kids: 365 Devotions from Genesis to Revelation. This is your second volume with our Daily Bread for Kids. Is that correct?

Crystal (01:35):

This is correct. It is the second volume and it’s all new devotions. Our first volume also was a 365 book of devotions, but the order of the devotions was a little bit more random and theme related, and this one takes children from Genesis to Revelation. Our goal in doing this is we really want to get kids back into the Bible. I think a lot of the younger generation just aren’t as familiar with the Bible as what my generation was, and so they’re all new devotions. Genesis to Revelations. It’s almost like a Bible study for kids. The devotions are practical and they make daily application, but they’re based on Bible stories. They’re based on Bible characters, Bible stories, and then passages from the Bible as well.

Terrie (02:25):

That sounds wonderful. I love that. That’s one of the things we really emphasize in our ministry is getting people back into the word of God. I was excited when I saw the title that it was Genesis to Revelation. That’s just awesome.

Crystal (02:38):

Well, and like I say, there’s so many kids today that just, they’re not learning the Bible and we just want to walk them all the way through it. From Genesis to Revelation, there are some tough things in there. There was one, and I co-authored this with my daughter, Teri McKinley, and there was one that, I should have looked it up. I don’t remember exactly what the story was, but it was hard to make practical application. She said, sometimes we read something in the Bible, and we’re just really not sure what it means or how to apply it to our lives, but look for how it just brings glory to God, and she found a way that this, even though we might not fully understand, you know the meaning of all of this, but here’s how it glorifies God. So if you ever come across something in the Bible that you don’t understand, first of all we believe it by faith, then we just praise God and said, “God, every word in this Bible brings glory to you.”

Crystal (03:31):

Of course there were some really fun ones that we could do and all these familiar Bible stories and also some that are unfamiliar, we highlighted a lot of characters that are maybe lesser known, but it was really a joy to go from cover to cover the Old Testament prophet books. What was so exciting for us about that is to show them how there’s so many messianic prophecies even starting in Genesis. I mean, so many things point to Jesus, and so we did that throughout the scriptures. Any story that pointed to Jesus, the sacrifices in the Old Testament, and even Jonah in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights. So many stories that point to Jesus. Then just the Psalms with all the praises; we loved so many of David’s Psalms, how he was so honest with God, and so we use that to teach children how you can just talk to God, you can talk to Him when you’re mad, when you’re sad, when you’re happy, and how God reveals Himself in nature. Just such a wide variety. But it was great for me as the writer. I was like spending time in God’s word every day as I was working on this. So it was like I was having my own time with God while I was working on it. So it was truly an amazing project and we’re so thankful for the opportunity in that our daily bread is such a trusted brand. My daughter and I, we were so honored that they trusted us with their name to produce something that’s so biblical.

Terrie (05:02):

That’s wonderful. I’m excited about this. So how long does it take to write a 365 day devotional? I’ve written devotionals and it took me a long time to do like 25.

Crystal (05:14):

It takes a long time. We had more than a year to do it, but life happens. My daughter had some things happen that she had to set it aside for a while and I had some things happen. I had to set it aside for a while, so we were thankful that it wasn’t a time crunch. It doesn’t matter how much time you have, you get to that deadline and it’s like, ah, you know, we’re almost there, and then of course it’s all the revisions, editing, and once you turn it in that first time, that’s not the last time you’re going to see it. I think we went through at least four or five edits because something that is so biblically solid, we needed to make sure that the accuracy, and of course we wanted it to be professional, and when we’re explaining biblical truths, we want to make sure we explain it first of all in a way that kids are going to understand.

Crystal (06:03):

But then also equally as important is, is this what this really means? So we were sure that the way we were interpreting scripture and applying scripture was correct in the way that Our Daily Bread and my daughter and I view scripture. So I know we did have a few theologians go through it and my safety net. It’s like, okay, I was born and raised on the Bible in a Christian home, church and school, but I didn’t go to seminary, so it was nice to have those theologians back us up and make sure that we were communicating the truth of God’s word in a way that children can understand.

Terrie (06:41):

Oh, that’s wonderful. I love that. Well, just so many people today tend to take things out of context, just write what they think. Touchy feely. I had one person who found out I wrote devotionals and she’s like, “𝘰𝘩… You know, that’s not real stuff because it’s all just touchy feely stuff,” and I’m like, oh boy, you have not read my devotionals. I think devotionals are such a wonderful way, like you said, to get people into the word of God, to get children especially into the word of God, and it should be just as firm on the foundation of truth as anything else we do whether it’s a sermon or a devotional or a whole book about something in the Bible. It just hurts my heart when I see people not staying true to the foundation of what the word of God means and making it something it’s not. So this just makes me so happy that you have this devotional and so excited to be able to share this with our listeners. So thank you for writing it and for sharing it.

Crystal (07:43):

You’re so welcome. Every devotion we try to end with hope and to be positive and to show how God is the one that we turn to in everything, but we didn’t shy away from hard topics either because that’s not life. I love these encouraging devotions, these morning devotions and “I have a great day” and there’s a place for that and I love those. It’s delightful and encouraging and uplifting, but a 365 devotion based on scripture, we’re going to hit some hard topics because life is not all, what do they say? Sunshine and roses? But then to show children how to respond in times like that and how God is there for them. We have several topics on prayer. In fact, each devotion has a little prayer prompt. It’s really cute. They designed it in like one of those quotation bubbles. We call it ‘Talk to God.’

Crystal (08:38):

Each devotion includes a little prayer prompt. Like thank God we can always pray to Him. Begin your prayers by telling God He is a holy God, and then pray whatever is on your mind. So every devotion has a little prayer prompt to give the children an idea of how to pray to God, and then we also have what’s called ‘Explore More.’ The devotional book is not a Bible. Yes, it’s based on the Bible and it’s based on scripture, but it’s not a Bible. So we want them to have their Bible next to this book when they read it. Every devotion has an explore more like this one is what does Psalm 86:8-10 tell us about God? Or read Elijah’s prayer in 1 Kings 18:36-37, and we want to pique their interest. All of them are a question.

Crystal (09:28):

Read Matthew 5:16. What happens when others see us shine? For God, our desire is that they will want to know the answer and they have to look up these Bible verses. Read Mark 3:17 to find out the name Jesus gave to James and John. We hope that that’s enjoyable. It’s educational. It encourages them to open their Bible, then kids love trivia. Kids absolutely love trivia.

Terrie (09:56):

Yeah they do.

Crystal (09:58):

Everyone has a little trivia. Did you know December is the most popular month for giving to charity? Did you know the Greek word for the Holy Spirit is Paraclete, which means advocate or helper. Some of them are more silly and funny. Some of them are just interesting facts. Here’s one, we have devotion on Jesus as the living bread, and I love this. Did you know trivia? Baking bread takes a lot of time.

Crystal (10:24):

So many bread companies make enough to last for about a week. The color of the twist ties used to close the bags lets grocery store workers know which day of the week the bread was baked. So some of them are just very fun, practical and some of them apply more to the Bible. People had to wash their feet a lot in Bible times before they wore sandals. This is the one where Jesus washes the disciple’s feet. Well, why did He wash their feet? Well, people had to wash their feet a lot in Bible times because they wore sandals and walked on dusty roads, and a servant or the wife of the host usually washed the guest’s feet when they came over for dinner, and what’s important about that is it shows how Jesus, when He washed His disciple’s feet, He took on the role of a servant.

Crystal (11:10):

So we try to just make it not only interesting and educational, but there’s some fun things along the way too. Devotions don’t have to always be serious and heavy. One more example, this is one of my favorites, a preacher in the desert. This is with John the Baptist, and you know how the Bible says he lived on locusts and honey? Did you know locusts belong to the grasshopper family and people in many countries eat them. They’re packed with protein and can be smoked, fried, or roasted until they are crunchy. So crunchy locusts are actually a delicacy, which I don’t care to try, but… There are people who eat them.

Terrie (11:51):

That’s right. That’s great. Oh my goodness, this just sounds so fantastic. I think the kids will really love it. With some of your other devotionals you have like activity books, coloring books. Are you going to have that for this one as well?

Crystal (12:05):

I’m not sure yet. That’s up to the publisher to decide. The activity books and coloring books that we did that were spinoff products from our original, the first Daily Bread for Kids. Those are still out there and I believe they’re fairly popular. So whether they’ll feel the need to do more, I don’t know, but the kids are loving them. Our activity books have word searches, crossword puzzles, coloring pages and connect the dots, and I know my grandkids absolutely love them. The cool thing about that is we have little sentences in even Bible verses here and there, so while they’re working on these activity books, they’re also being fed more with God’s word because all of our crossword puzzles and mazes, they all have words from the Bible stories. So that was all Our Daily Bread. They have some very creative people over there and they’re very current with how to reach today’s kids. I think they even have like apps and e- stuff electronically. So they’re reaching a market that I don’t really know how to reach myself, so I’m thankful for people who do.

Terrie (13:11):

That’s great. Well, like I said, you’ve written over 100 children’s books. So of all of those besides your current book, what would be a couple of your favorites from the hundred you’ve written, or over a hundred?

Crystal (13:26):

You know, I’ve been writing for more than 30 years, so a lot of what you write is to address the needs of the current market, but of course when you’re writing books with a biblical message, that never gets outdated, but oh, it’s hard to say. I get asked that a lot. What’s your favorite book? And I always say, well, it’s the newest one that just came out, but my daughter and I started co-authoring about 10 years ago, and I think the ones I write with her are my most fun, cause she’s a mom of two kids and we really enjoy collaborating. I’m left brain, she’s right brain, so I say together, we have a whole brain, but she’s like the frosting on my cake. She knows how to make things more whimsical and fun. Our board books are some of my favorite. We have one called My Arms Will Hold You Tight.

Crystal (14:13):

The illustrations are so cute. This was published by Tyndale, and it’s all these adults and baby animals. It’s one of those emotive books where it’s all about playful love. Of course we always want to bring God into whatever we write, even though this was a board book for babies, but there’s one that says, I’ll tickle your- I don’t remember, I don’t have it in front of me, but we said bedtime prayers. There’s something about “whisper sweet prayers with a lullaby kiss.” That’s what it is. Then the last page is, “you are my child, God’s gift from above forever, my arms will wrap you in love.” So just acknowledging that that playful, whimsical love between the child and their parent, but God is the one who brought them together. God is the one who orchestrates love. So that one was fun.

Crystal (15:02):

And then we have our newest board book is Good Morning, God Loves You, and that one is so adorable. This one is not animals, it’s actually kids and their parents, but what I love about the illustrations is they’re very diverse. It’s not just one child with one parent. Every page is a different parent and child. So the diversity is there, and it’s a morning book. It was my daughter’s idea. She said, “You know, there’s so many bedtime books, so many good night books.” Of course that’s when you read to your child, but she said, “With my boys, I want to start the day with something that just, you know, sets it off in the right direction.” So she always reads to them in the morning, even if it’s just one short book or a short devotion, we have this little board book called Good Morning, God Loves You.

Terrie (15:47):

Oh, that’s so cool.

Crystal (15:48):

Yeah, it’s, you know, kids and their parents taking a walk through nature and greeting all the frogs greet them as if to say, “Good morning, God loves you,” and the ducks quack, quack. We don’t actually have them talking, but we interpreted it. Even the ocean and the mountains. It wasn’t all just animals, but what I love at the very end is that this was my daughter’s idea because throughout the book it’s Good morning, God loves you. Good morning, God loves you. Good morning, God loves you. And my daughter said, “You know, when we get to the end, we need something that allows the child to have a response to God’s love.” So it ends with a little rhyme and it says, good morning God, we love you too, and it’s such a powerful message because yes, God loves us and people, we want to focus on God’s love. God loves us so much, but He also wants us to love Him back. Even for young children will want to teach them that yes, God loves us, but He wants us to love Him too, and that that is our response to His love.

Crystal (16:50):

So yeah, we’re just really fortunate. Every day I just pinch myself. I’ve been writing for 30 years and it’s like, God, you are so good. Why do I have all these wonderful opportunities? I never take it for granted, and every book that comes out has a different purpose and a message that is on our hearts. The bottom line is to point kids to Jesus and to let them know how much God loves them, to point them to Jesus, to let them know they’re special, but also the holiday books, my Christmas book that I did with my daughter is M is for Manger, and of course there are more holiday books out there than what the world needs, but we wanted to do something unique, and so we did an alphabet Christmas book, it’s called M is for Manger, but rather than just be random elements and items of Christmas, we told the Christmas story in chronological order using the alphabet.

Crystal (17:46):

It’s all in rhythm and rhyme, and every page has scripture, has a Bible verse to show where that part of the story is found in the Bible. So that was very, very challenging, but a fun challenge, and we’re going to follow it up with an Easter one. Unfortunately we couldn’t get it out in time for this Easter, but next year, Easter of 2025, we’ll have an Easter one and we’re hoping that there might be another one or two in that series, but those really stand out to me as something that God really placed on our heart and where we really felt the Holy Spirit working in us as we wrote. Obviously I’m not comparing my writing, don’t get me wrong on that, but I have a lot of friends, Christian authors, and we pray over our words. We pray through our work, we pray as we write because we want it to be truth and we want to glorify God. M is for Manger is my favorite holiday book that I’ve written.

Terrie (18:41):

That’s cool, and I love that you get to write with your daughter. That’s just so much fun. That’s one of my dreams someday to get to write with my daughter.

Crystal (18:50):

I know it’s too good to be true. Sometimes people say, well how long are you going to keep writing? Well, as long as I have opportunities, you know, as long as God still opens the doors. Besides books, I do some other writing too. I contribute to several blogs. I like to write for adults once in a while, so I contribute to a devotional blog and I contribute to a writer’s blog, and then I contribute to Christian Children’s Authors, which anyone who’s interested in children’s books should subscribe to that blog because I think we have more than a dozen contributors, so it’s a real variety. We do a lot of book reviews, we feature new books. So those are the blogs. and then I write for Clubhouse Jr. Magazine. So if families out there have that, I write the comic page, it’s “Friends Out Back” and it’s animals in Australia that are so funny and adorable.

Crystal (19:41):

So anyway, I’m so blessed. I’m so grateful and I’m so humbled that God has equipped me for this amazing ministry, and you know, it’s kind of like being a missionary without leaving home, and I would never compare my life to that of a missionary. I know they make so many sacrifices, but my words can go out wherever God sends them, and through the help of the publishers, I’ve had many books translated into other languages. My books have gone out all over the world, and I just pray that God will use what He’s allowed me to do to bring others to Him, cause that’s what it’s all about.

Terrie (20:18):

Amen. That’s great. Okay, I want to ask you about one of your books. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s one I think I would enjoy Who God Wants Me to Be.

Crystal (20:27):

Yes,

Terrie (20:28):

It’s a picture book. Can you tell us about that one?

Crystal (20:31):

Yes, that’s fairly new. I actually co-authored that with one of my author friends, Michelle Lazurek, and she’s about 10 years younger than I am, but we both grew up with very limited possibilities for careers. My generation was among the first women to even go to college and we had two choices. You could be a nurse or a teacher, and even though she’s younger than I am, she said she kind of felt that way too, but the purpose of this book is it is for girls and there are four girls, so it’s FOR and FOUR. It features them imagining what they want to be when they grow up, but what gets repeated is that whatever God wants me to be, we tried to highlight a wide variety of careers from a stay-at-home mom to a teacher, to a firefighter. We kind of hinted towards someone who works with Habitat for Humanity. You know, I mean we didn’t use that name, but that’s what we were implying, and a veterinarian and a dentist, just to empower young girls to think big and to dream big, to pursue what God puts on their heart, because I don’t think females are limited anymore. We have female astronauts and female politicians and female doctors and professors. So it’s a fun book. It’s very whimsical. The illustrations are adorable, but the message is powerful. It’s like, at the end we each, Michelle and I both wrote a little note to the girls and one of the things that I brought up is that, you know what? You don’t need to decide now, cause you might change your mind many times because I think the average college student changes their career path at least once or twice. The message is that you don’t need to decide now, but you can start asking God to show you and explore, so it’s just a book to empower young girls to think big and dream big and pursue their dreams, their goals and their careers, but that God created them for a purpose and that when they discover what that is, that’s where they’re going to thrive.

Terrie (22:43):

That’s awesome. Well, I just love your books. We’ve talked about them many times on this podcast, even though we haven’t had you on as often as I’d like. We’ve gone back many times and talked about some of your books on our episodes. So I appreciate what you’ve done. I appreciate your desire to see children dig into God’s word and to point them to God in everything, so I just pray that God continues to keep that door open and to bless you many more times to write these great stories.

Crystal (23:13):

Well, thank you and thank you for what you do. You help get the word out. Authors can write their books, but if nobody knows they’re out there, then they’re not going to get read, so thank you for what you do because your ministry is equally as valuable.

Terrie (23:28):

Well, thank you so much. I appreciate that, and I love it. I didn’t know I would love it as much as I do, but I do. We’re on our fourth year, I think now getting ready for our fifth year.

Crystal (23:38):

Oh, good for you. That’s great.

Terrie (23:41):

Yeah, so I’m just really enjoying podcasting much more than I ever thought I would.

Crystal (23:48):

Well, I’m glad you do and I’m glad there are others who do because I’d rather be the guest than the host.

Terrie (23:54):

Well, thank you so much for being here today and we’ll have you on again in the future, I’m sure, but God bless you. I hope you just continue on with this ministry. (Learn more at CrystalBowman.com).

Crystal (24:05):

Thank you so much. You have a good day. God bless you too.

Terrie (24:09):

Thank you. Thank you for joining us for “Books That Spark,” where we encourage each other to grasp those teachable moments sparked by great books and great conversations, and to live out everyday discipleship, helping to equip our children to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you enjoyed this episode, please like and share so people know we’re here or leave comments on the podcast host sites, or on our blog. We truly appreciate you and we love that you were here today. If you would like to connect with me, you can join my mailing list or comment on TerrieHellardBrown.com. We love to hear from you and we respond to every comment and question. We pray you feel empowered to walk by faith and to embrace everyday discipleship every day with the children in your life.

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her newest book, A World of Pancakes, just launched and is available at terriehellardbrown.com. Her devotional for families, Building Character through Picture Books: 25 Family Devotions Based on Favorite Picture Books, is available on her website and through Amazon.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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