Thursday, July 28, 2011

What I'm Reading - Some Good, Some Not

I missed What’s On Your Nightstand this month, and chose not to link up this time anyway, but I thought I’d keep the blog alive and share just here what I’ve been reading this month, if anyone is interested.


Pendragon series: Book Five: Black Water - D. J. MacHale (F).

Pendragon series: Book Six: The Rivers of Zadaa - D. J. MacHale (F).

Pendragon series: Book Seven: The Quillan Games - D. J. MacHale (F).

Pendragon series: Book Eight: The Pilgrims of Rayne - D. J. MacHale (F).

Pendragon series: Book Nine: Raven Rise - D. J. MacHale (F).

Pendgragon series: Book Ten: The Soldiers of Halla - D.J. MacHale (F). Wow. Had I read the whole series first, I probably would have said, "No," to my kids reading it. The twinges I was having as I read the first books are confirmed in the last as the whole worldview is spelled out. Very humanistic, gnostic, New Age, yin-yang life-force balance view of the universe and mankind and the after-life. I did NOT like this. Much to talk about with the kids now that I have allowed them to read it. Knowing the truth - that God is, and that He is the Creator and we do answer to Him and there is 'right' and 'wrong', and that the only hope we have is to repent and bow before Him, trusting in Christ alone, this book series saddened me and left me depressed. Because I know so many people who, though they wouldn't describe it as vividly as what was fictionalized in the book series, think of spirituality in very eerily similar terms to what is presented in the series. 'Spiritual,' triumph of the human spirit as supreme, that is what most people think matters most. Here's a quote that sums up some of the book and was depressing to me: "We proved that the power of the human spirit is supreme. It will always triumph, no matter what the adversity. There are no simple answers in life. There is good and bad in everyone and everything. No decision is made without consequence. No road taken that doesn't lead to another. What's important is that those roads always be left open, for there's no telling what wonder they might lead to." Taken along with all that is said and 'taught' throughout the book(s) it leads to a heart-breaking and impoverished and ultimately dangerous worldview that teaches a kind of moralism that has no basis for deciding what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ other than what seems right to you and faith in the faulty assumption that man is basically good and if left to himself he will choose good enough of the time that mankind will triumph, a view that is insidiously opposed to a biblical view of the world. And I’m really praying for wisdom as to how to talk to my kids about it, and wishing I’d read the series first before giving the ‘okay’ on it.

The Egypt Game - Zilpha Keatley Snyder (F). Summer reading assignment that my son has to read before the first week of school (cannot believe school starts August 3! Soooo not ready for them to go back yet!). I didn't like some reviews I read of it, so I read the book, too. I did find a few things I wanted to discuss with my boy, but I it wasn't as bad as the review I read made it seem. I'm still not sure I see why it was picked for an accelerated English class for 7th graders. Doesn't seem very 'accelerated' for a kid who reads The Lord of the Rings and enjoys it. Anywho.....

Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope - Trevin Wax (NF). Very, very much recommend this one. In fact, I will probably read it again and again. Refreshing reminder of what the true gospel is and how it impacts and transforms believers, and a sobering look at subtle counterfeits that creep in and to which I have found myself to be prone to allow to slowly take hold at times. May I continually preach the gospel to myself and my family and stay true to my Lord and Savior Jesus Messiah King. I want to be so gripped with the gospel of grace with my heart so full of gratitude to the Savior that I will faithfully live a life worthy of the calling He has placed on me when He made me His own. And I pray for my church that we would be a people so gripped with the gospel of grace that we as a body of believers will live that life of gratitude to our King that would lead us to be a glimpse of the restored heaven and earth as we live in true, biblical community, truly forgiving and loving each other and having our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace and sharing that good news in our community and world.

Holiness (Abridged) - J. C. Ryle (NF). I am quite sure this is the best book I've read in a long time, and I know I'll be reading it again.It was especially refreshing to read it while I was in the midst of the gnosticial, New-Agey mess I was reading in the kids’ series I mentioned above. I found Holiness very thought-provoking, saturated with the gospel, and deeply encouraging. I found myself often stopping to think and pray over what I was reading, and found great encouragement to grow in love for Christ Jesus my Savior. I don't think I can recommend it highly enough. It is seldom that I find a book I can recommend without qualification or hesitation, but this is most definitely one.

The Black Echo - Michael Connelly (F). One of my favorite authors, and this is a re-read, but it’s been so long since I read it I had forgotten enough of it that it’s a good read again. I got it for $0.99 for my Nook this month and couldn’t pass it up. I want to read all the books in the series again, in order this time.

Last month I said these were next up:

The rest of the Pendragon series. Finished today, as I wrote about it above.

The King Raven Trilogy (includes Hood, Scarlet, and Tuck) - Stephen Lawhead (F).

Starting this today.

The Princess Bride - William Goldman (F). Also haven’t gotten to this one yet. So, it’s still on the next up list.

New to the ‘Next Up’ List:

Little Women - Louisa Mae Alcott (F). I read this a long time ago, and I’ve wanted to read it again. I don’t remember much of it, but I remember that I liked it. Also, it came free with some other books on my Nook. Bonus!

Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (F). I bought a copy of the unabridged version of this for my Nook for $1.00. I tried reading it when I was in high school (I think) but got bogged down in some of the social commentary sections and never finished it. I’ve always wanted to try again. So many people talk about what a great story it is, and I just want to read it. I didn’t want to read it abridged, either, so this will take a while. Not sure when I’ll get to it, but it’s there waiting for me.

Reading Out Loud With the Boys:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J. K. Rowling (F). Yes, still. We’re slow. We don’t get to read it together every night, but when we do, they are always begging, “Just one more chapter, Mom!” Even when my voice is giving out, they never want to stop, even though they have read the books and it is not new to them. They like it when I try to do voices. They really like my Draco Malfoy, I must say. Joshua said, “Oh, you read that just right.” Not quite sure what it says about me that I can read him just right, but anyway. As I said, we really enjoy that time together.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Reading Joys


I’ve been working to teach Boo to read using the same program I used with the boys. It’s been a little difficult until last night. All along she has wanted to work on it and asks to ‘do her reading book.’ She has loved books since she was just little bitty and has always loved having Drew and me and even her brothers read to her. Let me tell you, it all kind of melts my heart when she asks one of her big brothers to read to her and the answer is, “Sure!” I love seeing her brothers read to her. She really enjoys looking at and listening to books, and I know she’ll be a big reader just like her brothers.

She has been ready for a while and we’ve been going through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I’m so thankful my friend, Heather, pointed me toward that book years ago when I asked her for a recommendation when I was working with my oldest son when he was just ready to learn to read. It has served me well (and is still) through 3 emergent readers now. Anyway, I had all these grand ambitions about how quickly we’d get through it when we started, but life intervened and it’s been slower going than I had been sure it would be.

The last several lessons have been a struggle. Even the day before yesterday as we worked on her lesson, I could tell she was getting frustrated, and I was feeling kind of discouraged, too, though I tried not to let her see it. Last night when she begged to ‘work on her reading book’ - instead of a bedtime story, no less - I was really tempted to say, “Let’s wait and do it tomorrow.” I was tired and just didn’t want to have to pull every sound out of her like I did the day before and thought I’d rather wait until the morning when we were both fresh. Then it occurred to me that I’d better take every opportunity that she’s wanting to work on it, so I said we could do one lesson. None of the lessons are very long.

And she nailed it. Had an easier time reading the little story than she’s ever had - read it ‘the fast way’ the first time through. She even giggled at one silly sentence as she read it, meaning she was comprehending, not just sounding it out. Seriously, it was a whole new thing. It’s like a little light bulb all of a sudden came on for her. We’re about 5 lessons shy of being halfway through the 100 lessons, and I sense we’re turning that corner from painfully sounding out the words to READING the words. I remember when each of her brothers turned that corner at about the same point in the program, too.

I just love it when they start to read!! And I just love how excited she is about it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Frazzles

Welcome to ‘Friday Frazzles,’ a collection of tangentially related and fairly random thoughts unworthy of a solid blog post, but plopped out here to keep the blog limping along as they wander through my brain.

I think I have decided that I like the idea of coffee more than coffee itself. This observation has spawned a rather lengthy and light-hearted discussion over on my Facebook page, but I wasn’t really looking for advice on how to like coffee better, merely stating what is at the moment in my rather mundane little world. I think I’ve decided, and which deep down I’ve actually known all along, that I just like tea better. Loose tea is best, but I can’t always find it around here.

In related news, I think I may need to wean myself off of caffeine again, since I would like to limit my exposure to aspartame and Splenda as well as the fat and sugar in my particular habit of coffee-drinking. I heard that aspartame can contribute to depressive thoughts - don’t need anymore of those hanging around, thankyouverymuch - and I have strong suspicion and anecdotal evidence that Splenda makes my feet hurt. Weird, I know. I can tell you the story if you wish.

Speaking of depressive thoughts, I’ve been having a few recently. I am having a really hard time with ‘back to school’ this year. My baby starts kindergarten and it will be the first time in almost 13 years I won’t have a baby or preschooler at home all day. This makes me sad. It makes me come to grips with how relentless time is and how short a time I have before the empty nest thing is for real. It makes me examine and ponder anew, “Am I teaching them well and consistently? Am I discipling them well and consistently? Am I pointing them to Jesus well and consistently?” In this, as in so many ways, I see how very, very much a debtor to grace I am, how vital the gospel is to all areas of life and how constantly I need to be preaching it to myself and my children. I am trusting God to draw them to Himself, and praying for that with tears often, and grateful for the professions of faith two have already made and the evidences that they are growing in grace, and praying for the youngest to be drawn to her Savior as well. It also makes me sad for my parents that we live so far away and wish I were doing a better job at writing letters and calling home more often.

Related to that, I’m having trouble not listening to the lie of our culture that of course I’ll be going to work outside the home now that the baby is starting kindergarten. Yes, that’s already been said to me in a not unjudgmental sort of lecture recently. And when I mentioned that, no, I’m still a stay-at-home mom - they still need me here, thanks, that didn’t go over real well.

Related to that, sort of, I’ve mentioned before that I’m trying to get back to writing again. More of the depressive thought-patterns I’m fighting are that as long as I’m thinking about writing, I can keep the dream alive. What happens when I sit down and really get busy and I find I have nothing to say? Writing is a terrifying endeavor. Have I mentioned it?

If you can stand it, one more depressive thought....I've decided too much time on the internet can be depressing. It's not smart to look up a favorite actor/actress if you don't want to be really depressed by the confusion most people live under with their worldview. We really do live in an age when evil is called good and good is called evil. It's depressing. Even more depressing is when 'Christians' display horrid theology and lack of discernment. I read a comment on Facebook today about how of course dogs have souls and free will...said to comfort a friend who may be losing a beloved pet, but still. Sigh. I love my dog, y'all. He's as much a part of the family as a pet can be. But he doesn't have free will or a soul. He's a dog. Nothing wrong with grieving the loss of a beloved pet, it's not even necessarily wrong to pray about our pets when they suffer and we grieve, but let's not get our theology out of whack over it, yes? I really need to turn off my computer....

It’s not all depressive, though. You should see all the tomatoes on my tomato plants. Now I’m just waiting for them to ripen. When, exactly, should that be happening? Anyone a gardner out there? I’m not, but we started small with tomatoes this year. Some of them seem to have been hanging around for a while and really seem to enjoy their greenness....

......Patience is not often a strength in which I can boast, see tomato discussion above.

Not related at all, but also not among the depressive thoughts, I’m enjoying reading on my Nook. I think, as I’ve read elsewhere, it’s definitely best suited for lighter, fictional reading, but I like it.

Speaking of reading, I finished book 9 in the series I’m reading with my boys. Took a break to read the book I mentioned here, and am extremely thankful I was encouraged to read it. Anyway, now I have to wait for oldest son to finish reading book 10 so I can finish and finally learn the answer to the mysteries, which he keeps assuring me we find out in the first few chapters of book 10, though I repeatedly ask him not to reveal spoilers, any spoilers, nothing at all, please. I knew I should have read first. I really do enjoy our reading adventures together.

Another series we like together is Harry Potter. Though we’ve read the Harry Potter books individually, we’re now reading through them out loud together in the evenings. It’s slow going when busyness happens, but we have so much fun. My husband said he loves hearing them laugh with me when we’re reading together. I like that, too.

Speaking of HP, I liked the last movie. As I said somewhere else, if you give up expecting the movies to get the story right in all details and just go for the mood and feeling of the books, the music and costuming and great casting make for an enjoyable movie. Except for Dumbledore. They don’t get him right, IMO. Definitely want to have read the book first. You miss too much without it.

Trying to get a handle on the depressive thoughts and banish them, I spent some time this morning writing out a suggested schedule for myself for each day of the week. I actually scheduled in time for exercise and writing. Two goals are now scheduled in, which for a person who thrives on having a ‘To Do’ list to check off hopefully will make it harder for me to leave them off. I am really hoping to be disciplined enough with those two goals to be able to come back here at some future point and announce that I have finally shed the last of the weight I keep saying I want to take off and that I have made progress in the writing area. That’s just a little scary writing it out here. Just a tad.

Speaking of scary, well, this isn’t scary, but it’s something....I may have mentioned it before, but I can't remember now and it's my blog, so if it's boring that won't be anything new, but.....I noticed the other day while standing next to my oldest son during church that I felt very short. He is almost as tall as I am now. That is a strange feeling indeed. And it makes me cry again if I ponder it too much. He also has that creaky voice boys his age get and peach fuzz on his upper lip. Wasn’t he just the cute little toddler talking about ‘go-go cars’ and ‘crucks’ like yesterday? And then I realized his brother isn’t all that far behind. He and I had to go on a shoe-buying errand a few days ago and his feet are now officially bigger than mine. And they eat enough to make our grocery bills seem to be ever expanding, as well. :-)

And you know what? In all of it, I’m thankful.

And with that, I say, “Happy Friday!”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Recommendation

I just finished reading Holiness (Abridged) by J.C. Ryle. I am quite sure this is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and I know I’ll read it again. I found it very thought-provoking, very biblically based and sound, Christ-exalting, saturated with the gospel, and deeply encouraging. I don’t think I can recommend it highly enough. It is seldom that I find a book I can recommend without qualification or hesitation, but this is definitely one such book.

I started putting slips of paper to mark quotes I wanted to pull out and there were just so many. I also find it hard to pull out short quotes because you miss the context and full argument he’s making when I do, but I’ll give you a few that I found interesting, just to give you an idea why I like this book so much. The first quote really made me think, and he spends a lot of the book kind of developing the why of it. I especially loved the final chapter of the book, “Christ is All.” Like I said, I found it deeply encouraging, and thought I’d share a recommendation here.

“Most men hope to go to heaven when they die; but few, it may be feared, take the trouble to consider whether they would enjoy heaven if they got there.”

“May we never think that we can love Christ too well, live to Him too thoroughly, confess Him too boldly, lay ourselves out for Him too heartily! Of all the things that will surprise us in the resurrection morning, this, I believe, will surprise us most: that we did not love Christ more before we died.”

“Christ’s sacrifice and death for sinners, and Christ’s kingdom and future glory, are the light we must bring to bear on any book of Scripture we read. Christ’s cross and Christ’s crown are the clue we must hold fast if we would find our way through Scripture’s difficulties. Christ is the only key that will unlock many of the dark places of the Word. Some people complain that they do not understand the Bible. And the reason is very simple. They do not use the key. To them the Bible is like the hieroglyphics in Egypt. It is a mystery, just because they do not know and employ the key.”

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Status Report - July 2011

Well, here we are nine days into July, maybe I’ll write a status report. The blog seems to be stalled, and I’m in something of a funk writing-wise. For one thing, I’ve been reading a lot, and for another, just not really able to sit and write in the summer this year for some reason. Anyway, thanks again to Lisa for her useful status report format:

Sitting.....where I’m always sitting when typing at the computer, in the kitchen. Constant Comment tea. One of my favorite things. Yes, even in summer, hot tea is a good thing.

Ate....French toast and bacon for breakfast today. I had started cooking the bacon, and husband came in and took over that chore, knowing how I do not like to cook bacon, and then he proceeded to cook the French toast I had prepared also. I have mentioned that I love him, right? Kids enjoyed their special breakfast today

Wondering....if I’ll ever take up regular, or even semi-regular, blogging again.

Sure....I shouldn’t make any pronouncements about blogging or not blogging, because I know from experience that it often comes in spurts for me.

Pondering....several topics that I’d like to flesh out into a blog post soon, among them the influence women can have over the people in their lives, more thoughts on silence related to my last post and the misuse and misunderstanding of a certain scripture passage on being still.

Still laughing....about overhearing my daughter yesterday while she was playing with a friend. She said, "I don't like peace and quiet. I like peace and loud." Friends, if you only knew....... :-)

Shocked....when I checked the school calendar and realized they go back on August 3. I was sure we had more time than that! Where has the summer gone?

Thinking....about the fact that you can lie without actually saying something that is not true by choosing carefully which facts you share and which you leave out and thereby allowing someone to draw a wrong conclusion, and if you choose not to correct that wrong conclusion, it could be argued that what you’ve done has the same effect as if you’d lied. Think about it. Yes, that’s another topic I’ve been pondering for a blog post.

Enjoying....reading with my boys. I’m really enjoying this strange series we’re reading together. Definitely have had some things to talk to them about, but overall it’s been interesting reading. My oldest boy is getting better about not spoiling the plot as he’s a couple of books ahead of me. Not perfect yet (grrr), but better than in the past.

Staying.....on top of things regarding reading with the boys, too. Had a bit of drama when I got a letter from one boy’s school about him being eligible for an accelerated English class this year complete with a book that is required for summer reading before school starts (Aug. 3, did I mention it? Ack! Not ready for school to start back!!). When I looked at some reviews of the book, I was concerned and sent an e-mail to the teacher asking for information. I then read the book before giving it to my boy. It turned out that I didn’t really feel as bad about the book once I’d read it as the review made me think it was, and after talking with my boy about what concerned me, I think it’s not as bad as I feared. Staying involved is key, though.

Reading....well, besides the stuff I’m reading with the boys, I’m also reading this: Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope by Trevin Wax. So far, I’m really appreciating this thoughtful book. In a day and age when we seem to be muddling the message of the gospel, and realizing I've had to firm up my own thinking and jettison wrong thinking along the way about the gospel, I think it is a very important, vitally important, topic. I stand on my soapbox again and say, read the Bible, know it, hide it in your heart and know God, and be discerning! Just because someone can spout a lot of Bible verses doesn’t always mean they are a good Bible teacher. Be like the Bereans and search the scriptures to see if what you are hearing is true.

Hearing... my boys squabbling at the moment. Again. Sigh. Need to discuss this Proverb with my children and drill it into them, again, today: “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” Proverbs 17:15.

Praying...for my church family.

Looking gathering together to worship our Lord again tomorrow. Have I mentioned how much I love Sundays? It is good to meet together and worship our Lord with fellow believers. Praying for a sweet time of fellowship and worship and learning from His word as we anticipate Sunday. get on with the day. But at least the blog lives another day in this goofy post.

Happy Saturday!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

God is Not Silent

I’ve been pondering on something recently. I hear people talking about what to do when God is silent. The more I’ve thought on this, the more I am convinced that God is NOT silent. Hebrews 1:1 makes it clear that God has spoken: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” Notice, in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. We, the redeemed of the Lord who are saved by the blood of Christ Jesus, are not left scrambling in the dark to hear our God. We have His word. There have been times in history when the common people did not have the word of God readily available, and probably would have been unable to read it if it were, and had to trust what the priests told them about it. We are not in that situation. We have God’s word and can read it and study it and hear from Him what His will is if we but have ears to hear, eyes to see, hearts to accept it.

I have heard people take the prophecy from Amos 8:11 which says, “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declared the Lord GOD, when I will send a famine on the land - not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.” They take this passage and apply it to what they see happening in our churches today. They say we are in a famine of hearing the word of the Lord when they perceive things as going badly in the church. I am not sure this is a good understanding of this verse. This was fulfilled when the people of Israel were scattered - first by captivity by the Assyrians (the Northern Kingdom) and then by the Babylonians later (the Southern Kingdom). This was in judgment for their national sin of not worshiping God wholeheartedly and repeatedly bowing before the idolatry of the surrounding nations. Following the last of the prophets, God was silent for hundreds of years until He broke that silence when He Himself, Immanuel - God With Us, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ came and made the final sacrifice that would redeem His people to Himself.

I believe a more appropriate reading of what we see in American Christianity is not a ‘silence’ from God, but more what Paul talks about in 2 Timothy 3:1-7: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” and 2 Timothy 4:3-4: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” I believe the reason it seems so hard to find good, solid Bible teaching in so many of our ‘evangelical’ churches anymore isn’t because “God is silent,” but because so many of us do not want to hear what He says, so we refuse to listen. Blunt, but there you have it. Too many people in our churches today are willfully ignorant of God’s word, spending more energy reading what other writers/teachers/bloggers/speakers/etc. are saying about the Bible and too little energy being like the Bereans and doing the hard work of digging in and searching the scriptures to see if what their itching ears are hearing is true.

So, what does someone mean when they say that God is silent to them today? I think we err, and err gravely when we equate a dryness or a lack of feeling or hurt feelings that seem very justified or a sense that someone has wronged us and we don’t seem to see justice in that with a silence on God’s part. I think we all face those dry times or times when we just don’t understand things that happen in life. It is in those times we must allow the dryness to drive us to His word and hang on and persevere through until we can find His joy, trusting in His absolute sovereignty and promise that He is working all things for His glory and to conform us to the image of Christ. He is faithful! He will complete what He has begun in us. We are too prone to seek after an emotional experience to confirm that God is speaking to us. We are too prone to look inward and get too self-focused. Just because I feel dry does not mean God is not speaking. Look at Elijah (1 Kings 19). He was feeling dry, alone, mistreated.....and God let him know that he was mistaken. There were yet 7,000 in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Elijah was feeling dejected and depressed, but he was wrong in his estimation of the situation. We can struggle in just the same way. Feelings are real, but they are not always a true barometer of the big picture. We err when we think that God is silent because we do not ‘feel’ Him speaking to us. If you think about it, it is arrogant to think that we are owed some explanation for every perceived hurt or suffering we face.

So, no. God is not silent. When we are feeling hurt, or dry, or alone, or rejected, or depressed, or just distant....persevere! Get into the Word. Pray for wisdom to understand it. Keep on pressing on because Christ Jesus has made us His own! Pray for wisdom to reject lies and be girded and guided in the truth, and stand firm. Remember that we do not wrestle with flesh and blood. (Read and re-read Ephesians 6:10-18. Get that into your thinking daily.) God is faithful! Do NOT trust the feelings that lie and say He is silent. Do NOT focus on seeking after emotional confirmation always. God has spoken. Listen! Heed His word. The emotions may follow, but stand firm, beloved!