Wednesday, December 14, 2011

David's Christmas List

Cars
Legos
A Dog
A keyboard
An iPod shuffle or an iPod touch
A new Wii game
A new Wii remote
A new nunchuck
Art stuff
A trumpet
Snow
and more..
A TV in my room.

December 14, 2011

"It is more wonderful to believe that there is a hell - but that we can be saved from it, than to deny it exists at all and live as if we have not been rescued."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thank God we're not sick today - a family quote!

"A Family is a unit composed not only of children but of men, women, an occasional animal, and the common cold."   - Ogden Nash

Monday, November 28, 2011

Homeschool devotions 11/28/11

"Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit,
gathers it for him who is generous to the poor."
- Proverbs 28:8


"The weak can't help the weak. Only the strong can help the weak."
- Dave Ramsey

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Great library quote! And the picture... is what I dream about...


"You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for a buck fifty in late charges at the public library."

~ Good Will Hunting

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.
—George Washington

Thursday, November 3, 2011

It is not the critic who counts...

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood... and who,... if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. 
- Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, September 19, 2011

TJ Quote of the Day

TJ quote of the day:
While doing a school project with David, TJ says:
"Hold still. Don't move a muscle."
Pause. As an afterthought, he said,
"Except your heart muscle, of course."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Jessie Quote of the Day

Jessie quote of the day:
Morning devotions at the Lawson house include reading from Proverbs 8: "Does not wisdom call?"
Silence.
Jessie: "I certainly have never heard it."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Good quotes for today - on perseverance, and being thrifty.

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little. 
-Edmund Burke

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. 
- Theodore Roosevelt

Take your needle, my child, and work at your pattern - it will come out a rose by and by. Life is like that... one stitch at a time, taken patiently. 
- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

Okay, I know. I'm a girl. Wild at Heart is perhaps one of the best-known books for guys.
But, it's a good book for women to read to help understand their guys. And, since I'm happily married and have two sons, I decided I'd read through this - the Revised and Expanded Edition of Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul.

I was apprehensive at first, although I've always believed this book has done a lot of good for Christian men. I believe in the wildness of a man's soul. But, I also believe that men and women are more alike than not alike, and I'm concerned about things that place great divides between them.  I was afraid that Wild at Heart would spread generalities such as "men like to be outdoors" and therefore, "women like to be indoors" (not necessarily true), "men want adventure" and therefore, "women want security" (not necessarily true) etc.

What about women who love adventure? What about women who don't mind picking up a sword? What about women who want to experience the wilderness of the soul? What about women who are strong and passionate and tough?

Don't get me wrong - I believe in a distinction between genders. I believe in being a loving wife, a nurturing Mom, and that kindness and sweetness are admirable qualities for a woman. But what about being an ezer? What about men and women working together in the Kingdom, both with dominion, both with the assignment to subdue the earth? Where would Eldredge put women in the plan of God? Can we fight alongside men, or can we only be fought for?

To my delight, Eldredge does recognize woman's call as an ezer. He writes: "Eve is given to Adam as his ezer kenegdo... it means something far more powerful than just "helper"; it means "lifesaver." Eve is a life giver; she is Adam's ally. It is to both of them that the charter for adventure is given. It will take both of them to sustain life. And they will both need to fight together."

Yes! Now I'm a big Wild at Heart fan. I believe it should be read by every Christian man and every married woman and every one who has a son. There are a few statements I didn't necessarily agree with, but, all in all, the book is all that I've heard it is - life-changing on a personal level and revolutionary for the body of Christ.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

John G. Fee's definition of the Gospel - in his own words.

From The Autobiography of John G. Fee:

"We begin with and build upon a person - the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour from sin; and 'other foundations can no man lay.'

That Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, came into the world to save sinners, is the creed of the gospel.

Manifested faith in Him, as the Saviour from sin, is the reason for fellowship and cooperation.

This faith in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ, induced as it is by the truth and Spirit of God, carries with it a radical change in the believer; and entire conformity of will, of affection, of life to the Lord Jesus.

This is seen from the very import of the original word (pisteuo), translated 'believe.' This word implies not mere intellectual assent to a fact, even the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, but the word, when used to designate faith in, or belief on a person, implies more; it implies committal.

The soul that thus believes on, commits itself to the Lord Jesus, opens the door of the heart to Christ, and in so doing becomes 'a new creature.' Pertinent are the words of the apostle, 'He that believeth that Jesus is the Christ (commits himself to Christ) is born of God.'

Such a believer  is more than a mere moralist, more than a mere humanitarian; more than a mere professor; he is a 'new creature.'"

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Duggars : 20 and Counting by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar

Okay, so curiosity got the better of me and I brought this one home from the library and finished it while we are on vacation.

The Duggars have become famous because of their Discovery Channel reality show, "17 and Counting", which after several years of broadcasting eventually was retitled "20 and Counting" for obvious reasons - they had three more kids. For a total of 18 kids. And then they had another one after publishing this book. 19 kids total. Or did I miscount?

Actually, I like the way this family operates. They are Christians, homeschoolers, live completely debt-free, built their own house, and taught all their kids to play the violin. I like that.

I also don't criticize their conviction to never use birth control. I don't like birth control pills either, and when the Duggars were first married, a miscarriage was caused by a pregnancy that occurred while Michelle was on birth control (yes, it really can happen). Hence their conviction.

I gained a few ideas from this book, as I do from others about large families, that are helpful for our family. We only have three kids, but we also have an extremely busy lifestyle. All the advice I can get about organization, scheduling, time-saving, and money-saving, can be put into practice for my family.

One of the best things I have learned from books like this is that I need to really rely more on my dishwasher, crock pot and other devices. In fact, I have gone so far as to say that I have three maids: One is named Dish Washer, the other is named Crock Pot, and I also have a set of twins that works for me, and their names are Clothes Washer and Clothes Dryer. If you put your 'maids' to work first thing in the morning, they will work for you all day!"  This seems simple, but laundry and cooking and dishes are big deals and can consume your time. If you really concentrate on keeping the maids going, instead of getting distracted with other things, you will have time to do stuff while they're working.

The only issue I have with the Duggars is that they seem to lean towards a legalistic lifestyle. They are very concerned with being obedient to the teachings they find in the Bible. That's a good thing, but it needs to be in the proper context. It can be dangerous to read a few OT verses and make a rigid lifestyle from them without considering the Bible as a whole, without reading it in the context of the New Covenant, or without being willing to view all of life (apart from sin) as spiritual.





Friday, August 5, 2011

David Quote of the Day

David climbs up on the bed and starts inspecting my head.
"I'm checking for leeches," he said.

"Leeches?" I asked. "On my head? Were you downstairs reading the gross-out science book?"

"Yeess."

"I think you probably mean lice. Lice sometimes live in hair."

"Are lice long and black?" he asked.

"No."

"Are leeches long and black?"

"Yes."

"Well," he said. "Then I definitely mean leeches. I'm checking you for leeches."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

America by Heart by Sarah Palin

Yes, I am a Sarah Palin fan. Unashamedly.

I just finished reading her new book. 

As a mom, and a Christian, and a pastor, and an American, I enjoyed this very much. She takes a few chapters each and discusses what's great about America and what we may have forgotten. Faith - our belief in God and determination that we are a country that promotes freedom of religion, not freedom from religion; Family - that we are a country that believes the states know better than the feds, the city knows better than the state, and the family knows better than the city; and Flag - that America is an exceptional country and we should never apologize to anyone for believing it. 

Despite Sarah's critics' claim that she is horribly uneducated, I found her to be well-read and well-versed on American history, politics, and current issues. Which proves what I've always felt - if you don't like what she says, just disagree. Don't label her stupid. It's a sign of a critic's own insecurity to have to denigrate those they criticize.

Admittedly, this is not the best written book in the world. I enjoyed her quotes from others (especially Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, etc.) much more than her own writing. But again, Sarah Palin is a politician, not a writer. She simply joins the ranks of others who are better at doing other things (singing? cooking? preaching?) but decide to write also. That's okay. It's still a good message.

One thing that inspired me after reading this? Inspired that I need to read the US Constitution and Bill of Rights to my kids and make sure they understand it. Ask yourself, when was the last time you read the Constitution?

The Importance of Earned Success - from "The Battle" by Arthur Brooks

"Earned success means the ability to create value honestly - not by winning the lottery, not by inheriting a fortune, not by picking up a welfare check. It doesn't even mean making money itself. Earned success is the creation of value in our lives or in the lives of others. Earned success is the stuff of entreprenuers who seek explosive value through innovation, hard work, and passion. But it isn't just related to commerce. Earned success is also what parents experience when their children do wonderful things, what social innovators feel when they change lives, and what artists feel when they create something of beauty. People who believe they have earned success - measured in whatever life currency they want - are happy. They are much happier than people who don't believe they've earned their success....

If money without earned success does not bring happiness, then redistributing money won't make for a happier America. Knowing as we do that earning success is the key to happiness, rather than simply getting more money, the goal of our political system should be this: the give all Americans the greatest opportunities possible to succeed based on their hard work and merit. And that's exactly what the free enterprise system does - makes earned success possible for the most people. This is the liberty your founders wrote about, the liberty that enables the true pursuit of happiness. "

- Arthur Brooks, from The Battle: How the fight between free enterprise and big government will shape America's future

Good Quotes from Sarah Palin's new book, America by Heart

"Remember: Nobody owes you a living. 
Don't be misled into believing that somehow the world owes you a living.
The boy who believes that his parents, 
or the government, 
or anyone else owes him his livelihood 
and that he can collect it without labor 
will wake up one day and find himself working for another boy who did not have that belief and, therefore, earned the right to have others work for him." 
- David Sarnoff

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Boys

For the past two days we have been watching our nephew Jake, who is not quite 2.

Jake doesn't have any brothers or sisters yet, so he's having fun with us. Jessie is gone to Camp, so it's all boys for the next week.

I have been watching TJ and David learn how to take care of a little person. The best thing is watching them show Jake how boys play. My boys know how to have fun - some might think these are bad things, but we're letting the boys be boys around here. Here are the lessons they are teaching Jake:

Lesson #1:
Blocks are more fun to play with if you throw them.

Lesson #2:
Beds are more fun if you jump on them, not nap in them.

Lesson #3:
Dinosaurs do not ever kiss people on the face. They roar.

Lesson #4:
Sticks are more fun if you turn them into swords.

Lesson #5:
The best lullaby is: "We will, we will ROCK YOU!!"

Friday, June 10, 2011

David random quote of the day

David decided he was going to be happy about cleaning his room and organizing things. This was a mother's dream. It only lasted about one afternoon.

Today he made an announcement:

"Yesterday I loved cleaning.
Today I love Cheese!"

Friday, June 3, 2011

Stolen from an ad...

Where are you?
What are you doing?
Are you listening?
Paying attention?
Stay focused. 
Stop looking at your phone. 
Turn it off. 
Put it away. 
Be here. Now. 
In the present. 
Be with who you're with.
Talk with them. 
Live with them. 
Take some time. 
Think. 
Do you understand who you are?
What you were called to do?
Pause. Take it in. 
What is your community?
Who is your community?
What does local mean to you?
Do you have a presence?
If your church left the community what would happen?
Would you have left a mark?
Lead in the place you're called to. 
Don't worry about the past.
The future will come later.
It's all about now. Here. 
Go all in.
Be rooted. 
When you're home, be home. 
Focus. Look at the big picture. 
Look at the small pictures. 
We need your undivided attention. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

T.J. Quote of the Day

Today is Tim's 39th birthday. Tim looked wistfully at the birthday cake candles, sighed, and began... "Oh, thirty-nine. How can this be?" TJ interrupts: "Oh, NO! He's going to PREACH!" These are the nightmares for every pastor's kid, I guess.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Great thought of the day

"You will never get everyone in your community into your church, but you just might be able to get everyone in your church out into your community."

Friday, May 13, 2011

Justice is Good Theology

A good blog about the death of Osama bin Laden from Foursquare pastor Tim Clark... it can be found here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Prayer Points for Japan - from the field!

Here are some prayer points straight from Nathan and Inge Mikaelsen - missionaries to Japan who lived in Sendai, right where the earthquake hit. Recently they came to our church to give a testimony of what is happening in Japan and to give us some specific prayer points. Here's a copy of the list for all my prayerful friends:

Pray....

1. For a national awakening in Japan - a turning to the true Triune God.

2. For relief workers to share not only food and physical supplies in Tohoku, but also comfort for the grieving, and Jesus' words of hope.

3. For the nuclear power plant workers in Fukushima trying to control radiation leaks. For especially the 6 Christian workers there, to receive divine wisdom for this critical job.

4. For Caleb and Ohara working with CRASH relief efforts. For Dean and Linda Bengsten, and Roger Olson and others who will soon join the relief effort in Ishinomaki city. For Paul Mikaelsen and his girlfriend Nina Tesaker who may soon go to Japan to help.

5. For damaged churches in Tohoku to be rebuilt and more churches planted.

For more information about the Mikaelsens, look here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Good C. S. Lewis quote for Easter - and for anytime really!

"I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher; but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Librarians - Masters of the Info Universe!

From a great article on cnn.com, in honor of National Library Week:

Librarians: Masters of the info universe
By Kerith Page McFadden, CNN April 12, 2011 9:14 a.m. EDT

(CNN) -- Librarians, information specialists, knowledge managers or whatever title a librarian might have -- their skills are in high demand. And, though you might not know it, they are everywhere.

And so in their honor during National Library Week, we enjoy the following tidbits of information.

Famous people who were librarians
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Casanova, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, former first lady Laura Bush and China's Mao Zedong. At one point in their lives, each of them either worked as librarian or in a library.

Librarians are techno-savvy
Librarians don't just use books anymore. Searching through tweets, blogs, podcasts, websites and more to find accurate and authoritative information has become more the rule than the exception.

At a time where anyone can Google just about anything, librarians don't just find information, they find the correct information -- and fast. The American Library Association reports reference librarians in the nation's public and academic libraries answered nearly 5.7 million questions each week in 2010.

Filmmaker's library
Even "Star Wars" creator George Lucas has his own research library on his Skywalker Ranch. Lucas started the library in 1978, and the collection is housed under a large stained-glass dome.

Librarians influence our culture and society
While clearing out old archives at the Palmer Theological Seminary in 2005, librarian Heather Carbo found a working manuscript of one of Beethoven's final compositions.

Librarians track spy info and classified intelligence
When the CIA needs to provide information to the U.S. president, they turn to their librarians. To become one of the U.S. intelligence's community research experts, a librarian must pass medical and psychological exams, polygraph interviews and clear extensive background investigations.

Librarians are heroic
Alia Muhammad Baker, the chief librarian of Basra, Iraq, removed 30,000 books from the city's main library before it was destroyed during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Their numbers are many
In 2009, there were 206,000 librarians, 50,000 library technicians and 96,000 other education, training and library workers

Librarians are behind the scenes in current events
-- Federal government shutdown. Lawmakers go to the Congressional Research Service, a division of the Library of Congress, for information.
-- The royal wedding at Westminster Abbey. The Abbey's Library and Muniment Room has a historic collection of books, manuscripts and archival material.
-- NATO no-fly zone over Libya. NATO's Brussels Headquarters houses a multimedia library with a collection focusing on international relations, security and defense, military questions and world affairs.

Warning to readers about librarians
A character in "The Callahan Touch", one of science fiction writer Spider Robinson's books, said, "Librarians are the secret masters of the universe. They control information. Never piss one off."

Good advice.

Kerith Page McFadden has a masters of library science from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and has been a librarian at CNN for the past 12 years.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tim Keller does it again!

I just finished another great book by author and pastor Timothy Keller. This one is called Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just. It just so happens that this book is along the theme of social justice, a hot topic nowadays but often skewed.

Keller attempts to bring balance to all the extreme opinions floating around about this issue, and he succeeds in my opinion. I would consider this the best and most balanced book about social justice I have ever read. I would recommend that people read this before and while reading Radical and the other bestselling Christian books on this topic.

This is not normally the topic on the top of my list to read about, but I have found myself forced to do so due to the need to present a balanced and Biblical opinion. Honestly, I wish I could buy a copy of this book for every Berea College student majoring in Peace and Social Justice. It's not that I personally don't like the idea of social justice. It's just that I have spent a lot of time working with people who are on both sides of the fence. I have difficulty expressing my middle-of the road opinion because it seems like I don't agree with anybody. Then, Tim Keller pulls through in his amazing way of validating my opinion and making me believe I'm not so far off track.

I have friends who believe that as Christians we should not be responsible to change social issues due to the fact that we are only here to save souls since the Earth is headed for destruction and we're all going to burn. They believe we should not be involved in politics, or legislature, or community re-building. Prophetically, it's all going down the toilet, so why should we work to fight a losing battle? They believe that anything other than salvation and personal ministry would be just fighting against God's plan to burn up this world and start another. It's okay to feed hungry people, but it's worthless to try to change the system that keeps them in poverty. I tend to disagree with them. Keller writes about why extensively, most of which I don't have time to explain. Here's a quote he used from D.A. Carson. Although theologians still debate about how much of culture can be changed, Carson believes at least some things can be changed:
 
"Sometimes a disease can be knocked out; sometimes sex traffic can be considerably reduced; sometimes slavery can be abolished in a region; sometimes more equitable laws can foster justice and reduce corruption... In these and countless other ways cultural change is possible. More importantly, doing good to the city, doing good to all people (even if we have special  responsibility for the household of faith), is part of our responsibility as God's redeemed people."

I also work with many young people who have jumped on the bandwagon with many others in their generation and place social work, compassion ministries, volunteering and humanitarian issues above sound Biblical doctrine. They know they want to help people, but they don't really know why. We need to learn from their youthful enthusiasm, but they also need to learn that the Biblical doctrines of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, the substitutionary atonement, justification, redemption, etc. are not old-fashioned concepts that don't matter, they are the foundation of social justice. A generation that brings water to the thirsty and food to the hungry but doesn't preach the gospel in word as well as deed, has left the world devoid of true hope. In the end, man's greatest need is salvation, and how can they hear unless the gospel is preached?

I also find myself in the middle ground of those who believe we should sell all and give to the poor, and those who believe that it's okay to make money and lots of it. I'm in between Democrats and Republicans, Capitalists and Socialists, liberals and conservatives. Believe it or not, I'm also right in the middle of unbelievers and atheists who believe that religion is evil and has caused all the troubles of the world, vs. people who believe that Christians are too good to work with and alongside people of other beliefs who are actually doing good in the world. And right in the middle is where Keller lands, too. For every Scripture that backs up one concept, there is another to back up the opposing opinion. The truth is that each side has it's good points, and each side also has bad points. The only thing in the middle, the only thing that really affects change, is the gospel. And it seems to me that God designed the gospel so that it could not have any labels placed on it, and so that it cannot be mixed with anyone's agenda.

One example of this is the contrast between the rich young ruler and Zaccheus. So much has been made of the story of the rich young ruler lately. He was told by Jesus to sell all his possessions and give to the poor. Some say, "Well, that's just for him, that was his problem because he was attached to his money." People said that to justify their stockpiling of riches as along as "they weren't making it an idol." Lately many have revisited this story to ask, "Was this really just for that man, or is God trying to address a bigger issue in the American church?" And while that may be true, and I think it is, Keller made me think (as he usually does) by bringing up another example in the story of Zaccheus. The wee little man that climbed a tree, saw Jesus, brought Him home, got saved, and immediately said he would give some of his money (not all) back, since he had been a tax collector and ripped people off. Notice Jesus doesn't say, "It's not good enough if you don't sell ALL your possessions and give to the poor." For Zaccheus it was a different story than the rich young ruler. It's entirely possible that Zaccheus, even though he gave back what he had taken greedily, still had quite a bit of money left afterwards that he didn't feel guilty about having. Could it be that Jesus saw that Zaccheus' heart was changed, and that's all that mattered?

So, I encourage all of you who are wrestling with these issues to read Generous Justice. And just so you know, there's a copy at the Madison County Public Library in Berea. Shameless library advertising!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Benjamin Franklin's 13 Virtues

I found these in a self-help book, of all places (and no, I don't normally read self-help books, I was just skimming through this one at the library). I laughed out loud at some of them. Altogether it is great advice. The story goes that originally the list had 12 virtues. Through a system of graphs and daily self-appraisal, Franklin claimed to have (mostly) achieved the desired virtues, having only some difficulty with Order. Realizing he was too proud at having lived up to his own standards, he added a thirteenth virtue: Humility.

Here's Franklin's list, in his own words, with my comments in brackets.

1. Temperance. Eat not to Dullness. Drink not to Elevation.
2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation. [Love this].
3. Order. Let all your Things have their Places. Let each Part of your Business have its Time.
4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve. [Well put].
5. Frugality. Make no Expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, Waste nothing.
6. Industry. Lose no Time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions. [I like this too].
7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful Deceit. Think innocently and justly; and if you speak, speak accordingly.
8. Justice. Wrong none, by doing Injuries or omitting the Benefits that are your Duty.
9. Moderation. Avoid Extremes. Forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no Uncleanness in Body, Clothes or Habitation. [Nice].
11. Tranquility. Be not disturbed at Trifles, or at Accidents common or unavoidable.
12. Chastity. Rarely use Venery but for Health or Offspring; never to Dullness, Weakness, or the Injury of your own or another's Peace or Reputation [HA HA HA!].
13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates. [I was thinking, "What...? Jesus and.... Socrates?" Well, at least Jesus comes first!!]

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Great article called "How to Raise Boys That Read"

When I was a young boy, America's elite schools and universities were almost entirely reserved for males. That seems incredible now, in an era when headlines suggest that boys are largely unfit for the classroom. In particular, they can't read.

According to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy, for example, substantially more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. This disparity goes back to 1992, and in some states the percentage of boys proficient in reading is now more than ten points below that of girls. The male-female reading gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents.
The good news is that influential people have noticed this problem. The bad news is that many of them have perfectly awful ideas for solving it.

Everyone agrees that if boys don't read well, it's because they don't read enough. But why don't they read? A considerable number of teachers and librarians believe that boys are simply bored by the "stuffy" literature they encounter in school. According to a revealing Associated Press story in July these experts insist that we must "meet them where they are"—that is, pander to boys' untutored tastes.
For elementary- and middle-school boys, that means "books that exploit [their] love of bodily functions and gross-out humor." AP reported that one school librarian treats her pupils to "grossology" parties. "Just get 'em reading," she counsels cheerily. "Worry about what they're reading later."
There certainly is no shortage of publishers ready to meet boys where they are. Scholastic has profitably catered to the gross-out market for years with its "Goosebumps" and "Captain Underpants" series. Its latest bestsellers are the "Butt Books," a series that began with "The Day My Butt Went Psycho."
The more venerable houses are just as willing to aim low. Penguin, which once used the slogan, "the library of every educated person," has its own "Gross Out" line for boys, including such new classics as "Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger."

Workman Publishing made its name telling women "What to Expect When You're Expecting." How many of them expected they'd be buying "Oh, Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty" a few years later from the same publisher? Even a self-published author like Raymond Bean—nom de plume of the fourth-grade teacher who wrote "SweetFarts"—can make it big in this genre. His flatulence-themed opus hit no. 3 in children's humor on Amazon. The sequel debuts this fall.

Education was once understood as training for freedom. Not merely the transmission of information, education entailed the formation of manners and taste. Aristotle thought we should be raised "so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; this is the right education."
"Plato before him," writes C. S. Lewis, "had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful."

This kind of training goes against the grain, and who has time for that? How much easier to meet children where they are.

One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn't go very far.
The other problem is that pandering doesn't address the real reason boys won't read. My own experience with six sons is that even the squirmiest boy does not require lurid or vulgar material to sustain his interest in a book.

So why won't boys read? The AP story drops a clue when it describes the efforts of one frustrated couple with their 13-year-old unlettered son: "They've tried bribing him with new video games." Good grief.

The appearance of the boy-girl literacy gap happens to coincide with the proliferation of video games and other electronic forms of entertainment over the last decade or two. Boys spend far more time "plugged in" than girls do. Could the reading gap have more to do with competition for boys' attention than with their supposed inability to focus on anything other than outhouse humor?

Dr. Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University, confirmed this suspicion in a randomized controlled trial of the effect of video games on academic ability. Boys with video games at home, he found, spend more time playing them than reading, and their academic performance suffers substantially. Hard to believe, isn't it, but Science has spoken.

The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.

People who think that a book—even R.L. Stine's grossest masterpiece—can compete with the powerful stimulation of an electronic screen are kidding themselves. But on the level playing field of a quiet den or bedroom, a good book like "Treasure Island" will hold a boy's attention quite as well as "Zombie Butts from Uranus." Who knows—a boy deprived of electronic stimulation might even become desperate enough to read Jane Austen.

Most importantly, a boy raised on great literature is more likely to grow up to think, to speak, and to write like a civilized man. Whom would you prefer to have shaped the boyhood imagination of your daughter's husband—Raymond Bean or Robert Louis Stevenson?

I offer a final piece of evidence that is perhaps unanswerable: There is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls. How many of these families, do you suppose, have thrown grossology parties?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Transformational book about serving the poor...

The last book I finished was transformational.
I say this because I first picked it up when I heard that reading this book alone had transformed the Eastern Kentucky ministry called GAP which we have supported in the past. Thay are in the process of phasing out an old way of ministry and phasing in a new one, after reading this:
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating poverty without hurting the poor...and yourself. By Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.


I was also interested in it because I was looking for a balanced response to the increased emphasis on social justice among young Christians. It's not that I'm against helping the poor. On the contrary, I'm glad this issue is at the forefront of the church, because I am convinced that the Gospel changes everything, including systems that keep people broken and in poverty.

However, my concern is that in helping the poor, we were doing it correctly. I believe this book helps us do just that. Anyone who is interested in this topic at all, anyone who is in leadership in a church or ministry that oversees practical, outreach or missions ministry, needs to read this book.

Some practical highlights that will stick with me:
1. It is true that Jesus' gospel can tranform communities and alleviate poverty, and it is the gospel that must be central to our efforts (this is the thing that kept me reading).
2. We are all in various stages of restoration/brokenness - we cannot place great gulfs between us and the materially poor.
3. The greatest mistake that the American church makes in their local neighborhoods is distributing relief when community development is what's needed (let's face it, there are hungry people in our cities and there are people that need jobs, but the majority of us are not facing tsunamis, earthquakes, or flood situations.).
4. We need a balanced outlook on short-term missions. We can't throw them out altogether but neither can we make them something they're not.

Great quote from the book:
"Poverty is rooted in broken relationships, so the solution to poverty is rooted in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection to put all things into right relationship again."

On a side note - if anyone wants to read this book, there is a copy at the public library in Berea! You can read it for free! Stop in and see me and I'll help you find it or put it on hold. Libraries are great...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

David and Mommy Discuss Heaven

Today TJ and David had to preach the word to me together, so TJ chose an easy Bible verse for David. John 3:16, "For God so loved the world..."

We discussed each word. David was most interested in the idea of eternal life.

David: "Will I be big in heaven?"
Me: "You will have a glorified body. A body better than this one. It won't grow old. It won't feel pain."
D: "Yes, but there won't be animals in heaven."
M: "Well, I'm not sure. I think that God likes animals, He may have some there."
D: "And fruit?" [what?]
M:  "Yes, lots of fruit. Best fruit you ever had in your life."
D: "Like the gooey fruit we had in Costa Rica?"
M:"Yes, only better."
David giggles with anticipation. He likes fruit.

D: "Will I be naked?"
M: "Well, you can't take anything with you, so you won't have clothes. But I think He will give us all robes."
D: "Woo-hoo!"
(I realized at this point David is thinking of a bathrobe. Which to him is a great thing. If it was up to him, he'd walk around in a bathrobe all day.)
M: "Probably not a bathrobe though."
D: [Frowning].
M: "And probably a crown."

D: "Will I be able to see space below the clouds?"
M: "Um, I guess so." [???]
D: "Maybe Jesus will give me a spacesuit so I can push the clouds away and go down into space."
M: "Maybe... or you might be able to go there without a spacesuit."
D: "What?"
M: "When Jesus was in a glorified body, He could do stuff like walk through walls."
David's eyes got bigger.

D: "Will we sit in heaven?"
M: "Sit?"
D: "Yeah, sit down."
M: "Well, the Bible says Jesus is sitting on the right hand of the Father, so yes, we will sit in heaven."
David ponders this for a while, and then in a loud voice, with a confused look on his face, he asks:

D: "Jesus is SITTING ON God's HAND? Why does He have to sit on His hand?"
M: "DAVID!!!"