Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Food and Cheer and Song

Here is a list of retailers that are refusing to open on Thanksgiving, in order to allow their employees to spend time with family. Please join me in supporting them this year. Then, stay home with your family on Thanksgiving! 
"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." —J.R.R. Tolkien

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Children Must Have the Best Books

"One more thing is of vital importance; children must have books, living books; the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough; and if it is needful to exercise economy, let go everything that belongs to soft and luxurious living before letting go the duty of supplying the books, and the frequent changes of books, which are necessary for the constant stimulation of the child's intellectual life." - Charlotte Mason, in Parents and Children

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dudley Hall on Preaching the Gospel

"When good seed falls on good ground and is received there is fruit. I am now, more than ever, convinced that the issue is the message. Tweaking the methods and trying to substitute technology for living truth just doesn't work. Jesus commissioned his followers to proclaim his kingdom message in all the earth - knowing that it produces His rule when it is heard and heeded. It is the greatest honor to join the chorus of gospel preachers throughout history in echoing that transforming sound. It is true that hell's strategy is to silence the sound by corrupting it with other sounds that cater to those who have itching ears. There are many sounds being made in the name of the gospel that will ultimately produce death. The clear sound from the Word (the living Christ) produces a life of love that by its very nature changes everyone it touches. This battle of the sounds will rage until the end." - Dudley Hall

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Spurgeon on Preaching Christ

"The Holy Ghost never sets His signature to a blank check ... the Holy Ghost will only bless in conformity with His own set purpose. Our Lord explains what that purpose is: 'He shall glorify Me.' He has come forth for this grand end, and He will not put up with anything short of it. If, then, we do not preach Christ, what is the Holy Ghost to do with our preaching? If we do not make the Lord Jesus glorious; if we do not lift Him high in the esteem of men, if we do not labour to make Him King of kings, and Lord of lords; we shall not have the Holy Spirit with us. Vain will be rhetoric, music, architecture, energy, and social status: if our own design be not to magnify the Lord Jesus, we shall work alone and work in vain." - Charles Spurgeon, from The Greatest Fight in the World

Monday, September 22, 2014

"Education is a life; that life is sustained on ideas; ideas are of spiritual origin; and, 'God has made us so' - that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another. The duty of parents is to sustain a child's inner life with ideas as they sustain his body with food." - from Parents and Children by Charlotte Mason

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"The great want of today is a holier ministry. We do not need more stalwart polemics, more mighty apologists, or preachers who compass a wide range of natural knowledge, important though these be. But we need men of God who bring the atmosphere of heaven with them to the pulpit and speak from the borders of another world." - Iain Murray

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lessons from The Second Mile

Here's a great illustration of the gospel from an old book. The book is The Second Mile by Fosdick. I have no idea how old it is since a friend loaned me the book and lo and behold it is missing the first ten pages. What to do? Read it anyway.

This is great:

"It was in escaping from this legalism [the legalism of rule-keeping and counting up your good deeds and bad] that Paul said he became a Christian. No man is really a Christian until he has escaped it. If a boy, adopted into a strange home, and unruly in his new surroundings, should perforce be given a set of regulations which he must observe, he might become more orderly, but he would hardly by that alone become a true son. But if some day the love of the father or mother should be persuasively revealed to him, so that the love that had been there always laid masterful hold on him, and his love, newly born, should spring up in answer, flooding his spirit with its loyalty, and if, knowing the new life in him, he should take the rules and tear them up, saying "Because I love you I will do all these and much more beside," then a true son would have been begotten. He would have been "born again."

"If ye love me, ye WILL keep my commandments," said Jesus and this statement of inevitable consequence is summed up in Paul's sublime word, "Love is the fulfilling of the law." Apart from love a man cannot keep so many rules or do so many deeds  as to make himself a Christian.

Monday, July 28, 2014

I want to hear about the Jesus who demanded loyalty, who commanded authority from storms, sinners and satanic forces, who said vexing and frustrating and wild things. I want to hear preaching which is not just faithful to His words but to His TONE: of comfort but also of rebuke, of welcome but also of warning. I want to hear His dares, His call to come and die, His challenge to make hard choices. I want the Jesus of the gospels who does not just meet our needs, but who calls us to bold and courageous adventure, to self-sacrifice, to taking risks. I want the Jesus who promises huge rewards for huge sacrifices, who embraces feisty Peter and wayward Mary and touchy-feely John.

I want the Jesus who welcomed the little children, but also the Jesus with eyes like a flame of fire, with feet of burnished bronze and a sharp two-edged sword coming out of his mouth. Whatever that wild imagery means, I want to grapple with it. I want the Jesus who inspires my awe and calls forth my worship: a gospel from The Gospels. That's the Jesus I want. That's the Jesus I need: the one who is worthy of the honor, adoration and allegiance of men and women alike.

- Bronwyn Lea, from her blog post "What Women Want From the Church"

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Either I'm bossy... or my son is a comedian.

"I know you keep telling me what a great bachelor I'm going to be, but without a Mom around to remind me to do stuff I don't know how I'm going to get anything done."
- TJ Lawson

Sunday, May 4, 2014

John and Charlotte would agree on this...

"Birds fly, fish swim; man thinks and learns. Therefore, we do not need to "motivate" children into learning, by wheedling, bribing, or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do, and all we need to do, is bring as much of the world as we can into the school and the classroom; give children as much help and guidance as they need and ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest." - John Holt, in How Children Learn


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Generosity Boomerang

Here's conventional wisdom:
Success makes you happy. Happiness permits you to be generous.
In fact, it actually works like this:
Generosity makes you happy. Happy people are more likely to be successful. - Seth Godin

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Honey for a Child's Heart...

... is one of the best books about children's literature and reading aloud I have ever read. It's the best thing out there for parents who want to be intentional about reading good things to their children. Despite the rise of the e-reader, there are more books being published now than ever, and combined with everything that's been published since the advent of publishing, what's a parent to do? Our kids grow fast and we'll never be able to read everything to them. So, we need to be purposeful about choosing what is good.

I was thinking about this the other day as I was trying to read a book our library has been promoting for a community reading project. The idea is that everyone will be reading the same book. The problem is, I have not enjoyed the choices for the past two years. Last year's book promoted tarot card reading and the occult. This year's book is full of bad language, video game references and '80s media culture. None of these things are things that interest me. Nor do they promote thinking about beauty, truth, or goodness. So, I didn't finish the book - because I only have one lifetime and there are only so many books. I understand about broadening my genres, but my time is short and it is my own and I would rather be reading something better.

"Good is the enemy of best" is a favorite Lawson quote. There's a lot of good stuff to read out there, but if you only had limited time, wouldn't you rather read the best of the best?

That's why Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt is such a great resource. She thinks almost exactly the way I do about children's literature, so she's already done the work for me of searching and finding the best books based on the values we seem to both share. Parents, if you aren't reading to your children, you should be. And if you are, you need this book to help you navigate a buffet of choices. If you've read some of her suggested literature, let me know what your favorites are.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


Books are like people:
          fascinating, inspiring, thought-provoking,
some laugh,
some meditate,
          others ache with old age, but still have wisdom;
some are disease-ridden,
some deceitful;
          but others are a delight to behold,
and many travel to foreign lands;
some cry, some teach, others are lots of fun.
          they are excellent companions,
and all have individuality -
Books are friends.
What person has too many friends?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Worth posting again... just to remind myself

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 home, be home. 
Focus. Look at the big picture. Look at the small pictures. 
We need your undivided attention.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

More proof of the power of home...

I've been reading through all my homeschooling books. This is the time of year when we need a little gas in the car. It's tempting to quit early, so I need to remind myself of why we do what we do. I'm reading through the books not only to remind myself, but to then pass on the books to other parents who might need them more than me.

I'm reading John Holt's How Children Fail. This is his earliest work so it's focus is mainly on the problems with the public school system. It was soon after this that he became an advocate of homeschooling rather than school reform.

While not necessarily written from a biblical worldview, Holt's observations of children naturally lead him to some truths that resonate with Charlotte Mason and others. In particular, Holt was a huge advocate of the power of home in the education of a child. Here's a quote I love that he gave in an interview in 1980:

"I want to make it clear that I don't see homeschooling as some kind of answer to badness of schools. I think that the home is the proper base for the exploration of the world which we call learning or education. Home would be the best base no matter how good the schools were. The proper relationship of the schools to home is the relationship of the library to home, or the skating rink to home. It is a supplementary resource.

But the school is a kind of artificial institution, and the home is a very natural one. There are lots of societies without schools, but never any without homes. Home is the center of the circle from which you move out in all directions, so there is no conceivable improvement in schools that would change my mind about that." - John Holt

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Century of Wisdom: lessons from the life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the world's oldest living Holocaust survivor

Last night I finished reading A Century of Wisdom. I'm so glad I took a break from the other things I was reading to make sure I finished this. A really inspiring book, a wonderful lady... who unfortunately can no longer be called the world's oldest living Holocaust survivor... sadly she passed away just recently. Check out my earlier post for a preview of the documentary made about her life called "The Lady in Number 6", which just won an Academy Award for best documentary.

At the back of the book were short quips in Alice's own words; her thoughts and ideas about life and what has helped her live and stay active for so long. Here are my favorites:

I am so old because I use my brain constantly. The brain is the body's best medicine. 

Only when we are old do we realize the beauty of life.

Gratitude is essential for happiness. 

A sense of humor keeps us balanced in all circumstances, even death.

Complaining does not help. It only makes everyone feel bad.

Laughter is wonderful. It make you and everyone else feel happy. 

Love to work. When you love your work you are never bored. Boredom is unhealthy. 

Generosity above all. 

School is important, but what children learn in the atmosphere of their homes lasts for life. The beautiful, intellectual, and musical atmosphere of my childhood has sustained me until today. [this reminded me of Charlotte Mason's philosophy as well].

School is only the beginning. We can learn all our lives. 

I grew up with friendship. I fell in live with my husband's mind and his knowledge.  In marriage, friendship is more important than romantic love. 

I am never tired because my mind is active.

Stay informed. Technology is wonderful. [I didn't really want to hear this, but if she lived to be 110, I need to listen]

Be kind. Kindness is free. It costs you nothing, and the rewards are great for everyone. 

When I play Bach, I am in the sky. 

My world is music. Music is a dream. It takes you to paradise. 

I am richer than the world's richest people, because I am a musician. 

Children must study music. It helps with everything in life. This beauty is always in the mind. 

I love people. I am interested in the lives of others. 

No one can rob your mind. I admire the Jewish people because of their extraordinary commitment to high education. Education of the children is a most important family value. 

Every day is a miracle. No matter how bad my circumstances, I have the freedom to choose my attitude to life, even to find joy. Evil is not new. It is up to us how we deal with both good and bad. No one can take this power away from us. 

Alice Herz-Sommer, world-class pianist who survived the Theresiendstadt concentration camp by playing hundreds of piano pieces by memory, effectively preserving her life and the life of her son, and bringing joy to all those who were able to hear her. 
Life is beautiful. Sitting together and talking about everything with friends is beautiful. 

We do not need things. Friends are precious. 

We need to treasure time. Every moment that passes is gone forever. 

My optimism has helped me through my darkest days. It helps me now. 

The more I read, think, and speak with people, the more I realize just how happy I am. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Home Education by Charlotte Mason

I have been reading too many books at once. The result of this is it takes me longer to finish any of them. But this morning, I did finish reading Home Education by Charlotte Mason. This is the first in her 6-volume series; I like this particular version since it preserves the original language written in the late 1800's, not so outdated as one might think.

This series is becoming foundational to my homeschooling philosophy. I wish I had discovered her sooner. David will reap the benefits more than the older kids; but I do see that her teaching does reinforce the things we have already been doing for years, so I don't think we've messed up too badly.

Here's a quote from the end, which wraps up her teaching, putting it solidly on the base of teaching children about Jesus:

"Here is a thought to unseal the fountains of love and loyalty, the treasures of faith and imagination, bound up in the child. The very essence of Christianity is personal loyalty, passionate loyalty to our adorable Chief. We have laid other foundations - regeneration, sacraments, justification, work, faith, the Bible - any one of which, however necessary to salvation in its due place and proportion, may become a religion about Christ and without Christ. Perhaps this may be because, in thinking much of our salvation, we have put out of sight our King... In the idea of Christ is life; let the thought of Him once get touch of the soul, and it rises up, a living power, independent of all formularies of the brain. Let us save Christianity for our children by bringing them into allegiance to Christ, the King."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Good thought for Raising Boys

I read an article this morning with some great thoughts on educating boys, and the meaning of masculinity. I realized that some things we are doing well in our family, but some things could be tweaked. I was really struck by the thought that many of the things we do to encourage masculinity are big theme events where we drum up the idea of fighting the dragon and rescuing the princess. Although it is important for boys to know this, it's also not something boys are realistically going to do everyday. So what does it mean to be masculine when there aren't any dragons around (even metaphorical ones)? A good warrior begins with disciplined routines of small beginnings - a good farmer, a good tradesman, a good husband or father, a good son. Here's a quote from the article that illustrates this:

 "The masculine spirit, the thumos, is developed by habituation in the routine...the small things...everyday You can’t effectively swing a sword if you haven’t been swinging the sickle. We would never put a man on the battlefield that hasn’t endured a routine of discipline first. We should be connecting the dots for young men between their lofty views of manhood and the small things they encounter everyday: chores, lawn mowing, homework, picking up trash at school when they see it...not romantic in the least but highly effective in building masculine habits of the soul. The boys must understand that if you are not building these habits in the small things, they won’t be there in the big events." - James Daniels

Here's a link to the full article:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

One of the Greatest Benefits of Homeschooling...

... is spending time with those older and younger than ourselves, rather than with our peers for the most part. Families provide the best opportunity for this. Edith Schaeffer understood this and wrote about it in her book What is a Family? And Charlotte Mason really illustrates it in the life of little children in this passage from Home Education:

"Let us follow the little person to the Kindergarten, where he has the stimulus of classmates of his own age. It certainly is stimulating. For ourselves, no society is so much so as that of a number of persons of our own age and standing; this is the great joy of college life; a wholesome joy for all young people for a limited time. But persons of twenty have, or should have [!], some command over their inhibitory centres. They should not permit the dissipation of nerve power caused by too much social stimulus; yet even persons of twenty are not always equal to the task of self-management in exciting circumstances [amen]. What then, is to be expected of persons of two, three, four, five? ... The clash and sparkle of our equals now and then stirs us up to health; but for everyday life, the mixed society of elders, juniors and equals, which we get in a family [emphasis mine], gives at the same time the most repose and the most room for individual development. We have all wondered at the good sense, reasonableness, fun and resourcefulness shown by a child in his own home as compared with a child in school life." 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Thoughts on Willa Cather

I just finished reading through Willa Cather's best-known novels.

Why, you ask?

I've been trying to read (or re-read) the classics. I've found I missed some of them.

I couldn't decide how to begin. Should I read chronologically (The Odyssey before War and Peace before Things Fall Apart)? Start with favorites and read-alikes? Start with a list of 50 or 100 top novels of all time?

I decided to read like any good librarian. Alphabetically. So, on my dusty bookshelf I started at the beginning. I've read Alcott and Austen and skipped over Caldwell because I found I didn't like her...

And now on to Cather. I started with:

 Then, I read this:
Then, this:

Finally, I started, but didn't finish, this:

This was an interesting reading journey. I'm so glad I started with O Pioneers. I devoured that one, and loved it because it was like a grown-up version of a Little House book. Most importantly, I identified with the main character, Alexandra. I'm not a fan of thinking you have to only read books about people that are like you. In fact, that's one of the best things about reading: learning how other people think and what their lives are like. I have no problem when the main character is male, etc. But, just for once, I did see myself in Alexandra, so I enjoyed it extremely.

 I hurried to pick up Song of the Lark. I was into it for a while. Then I wavered. I didn't like the main character at all. Was this the same author? How many chances should I give this? I bypassed my new rule which is: don't finish something you don't like. I finished it. A strange combination of Swedes, the desert, and opera, with a girl who is stuck on herself. Whatever.

My Antonia was better. I liked Antonia, and I liked Jim. We were back on the Nebraska prairie again and among the farmers. Still, no one was a likable as Alexandra in O Pioneers. And My Antonia seemed to drag on a bit.

I couldn't understand Death Comes for the Archbishop. A story, or a bunch of random stories, about the life of Catholic bishops in New Mexico. Not much but some undramatic, unredeeming, events interspersed with descriptions of the desert towns and houses. Not much interested me except the lives of the Native Americans. I'm not thrilled about the desert landscape of the American Southwest (but write about the green hills of Ireland or the Appalachians, and I'll read for days). But - this was supposed to be one of Willa Cather's best-known, well-loved novels. What was wrong with me? Did I just not "get it"? I read commentaries, I read reviews, some good, some negative. Some people didn't understand the novel either. I was glad that when I saw no plot, others didn't see one either, even if they loved the book. Is it really possible I didn't understand good writing? Oh well.

Well, no one is going to judge me if I don't finish a novel. Even less will they judge me for not liking it. So I didn't finish it. I have a lot of reading years to make up for, not a lot of time really, and the whole alphabet to get through.

The moral of this little story is, just because you like one novel by a certain author, does not mean that you will like everything else by them. Neither does it mean that everything they write will be the same. So give yourself permission to like what you like and move on, without even having to explain. It's kind-of like food. I can't explain why I love fish and dislike raisins. It just is. 

And now, it's on to Chekhov.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Possessor of the world

"Which is more the possessor of the world - he who has a thousand houses, or he who, without one house to call his own, has ten in which his knock at the door would rouse instant jubilation?

Which is the richer - the man who, his large money spent, would have no refuge; or he for whose necessity a hundred would sacrifice comfort?

Which of the two possessed the earth - king Agrippa or tent-maker Paul?"

- George MacDonald