Category Archives: Home and Family

Have You Thought About Your Children Lately?

A special word of exhortation for mothers this month; I want to remind each of you of the serious responsibility you have (alongside your husbands) to guard the doors of your homes.

I was reading an article early this morning about a young girl who completely lost her way in adolescence and strayed further and further from God’s design for her life.  She was lamenting that nobody approached her to tell her she was on the wrong path until years into her waywardness.  Finally, one day her grandfather sat her down and, with tears streaming down his face, spoke truth into her life and begged her to turn from the destructive path she was on.  That was the beginning of healing for this young woman.  Pray for this precious lady (her first name is Sydney) that she would come to know Jesus and fully embrace God’s best for her future.

This article disturbed me greatly on several fronts.  First, it troubled me that so many adults (including counselors and medical professionals) could watch a young person head down a path of destruction and not only refuse to offer a word of correction but even go so far as to encourage a young woman to continue in sinful and hurtful behaviors.  Oh, that the Lord would help us to be different!  If a young person in our lives needs to hear truth, may we be bold to speak it.

Second, it reminded me how we need to be so vigilant.  Satan wants our children.  He will use whatever means he can to get at them, be it books, magazines, television programs, movies, video games, i-phones, Internet sites, or poorly chosen friends.   Please take time this weekend to look to the state of your flocks, mothers.  Use the following questions as discussion starters or as food for thought so that you and your husband can make sure the hedge fences around your children are all in good repair.   

  • Do we hold the Word in high esteem in our home—reading it, memorizing it, discussing God’s precepts, lifting up the Bible as our final authority and our standard for all decisions?
  • Do our children spend the bulk of their time with us?  Do we know what they are doing?
  • Do we know what our children are reading?  Are there books that have crept in that are worldly or would be otherwise displeasing to the Lord?
  • Do we know what our children are watching and how often?  Are there better things they could be doing with their time?
  • Do we know our children’s friends?  Do we spend time together as families or are the children often alone unsupervised with other young people?  What kinds of games are we playing / allowing?
  • Do we have concerns about certain friends that we’ve been shrugging off rather than addressing?
  • Do our children have access to i-phones, texting, e-mail, Internet?  Why? 
  • Are we mindful of the content of our children’s conversations and correspondences with those outside the home?
  • Are there any magazines, newspapers, or other reading material coming into our home that we might need to cancel?
  • Are there things about our children’s appearance and moral / spiritual development that we should be keeping a better handle on?  (dress, manners, tone, responsibilities, etc.)
  • Are there things in our lives that make us inconsistent models of godliness?  How can we change that?
  • Have we made sure lately that our children know they can come to us anytime with questions and concerns?
  • Have we been taking seriously the duty we have to protect our children?  We make sure they have food to keep them from hunger, clothes to keep them from cold, medicines to keep them from illness . . . what have we been doing to keep them from loving the world?

This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a place to start a conversation.  I’m not going to tell you which books, magazines, programs, activities, and technologies you should or shouldn’t allow; those are choices each couple must make for their own home, but I am going to encourage you to hold everything up to the Word and evaluate it again.  And I am going to urge you to guard the innocence of your children as long as you can.  Allow them to be children—to know stability, to know familial love, to know all that is good and lovely and pure, to know that Dad and Mom make decisions they believe to be best for the family—not just for today but to ensure (inasmuch as anyone is able to) a godly progeny as well.  Pray for your children, mothers.  Build hedge fences around them with Scripture’s precepts.  And tell them over and over again that God loves them, that He has a plan and a purpose for their lives, and that if they will only humble themselves and follow Him, they will be blessed.

“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold,
Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.”
Luke 22:31-32a

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* Note of explanation for those who might misunderstand my meaning in saying we should keep our children from “loving the world.”  I am not referring to the people in the world.  God gave His only begotten Son to save people; and He wants us to love them every one.  But the world itself and the things that are in it are not to become stumbling blocks to Christians.  Rather we are called to pursue righteousness.  God says in I Peter 1:16, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”  The fact that we can’t do that perfectly is no excuse for not trying!

The Church and the World

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:1-2

In the book Frost in Summer by Mrs. Samuel Huber, the character of Grandfather Miller is thinking about the state of Christ’s church at large:

“Grant will have little appreciation for the idea that perhaps the church is losing her vision of the Way.  That she has become too earthbound.  Too nearsighted.  Too wedded to the material things of life.  In the midst of today’s society, many members are coming too close to losing a grasp of the meaning of sacrifice.”

Is it really true that we as Christians might be becoming wedded to the world and the things of this world?  Unfortunately, it is only too true.  Many who profess to know Christ are discontent to live quiet lives simply following God.  Perhaps we feel that we must have everything that everyone else has and are unsatisfied until we have all the world has to offer.  We don’t want people to look down on us or think we might actually be different, so we talk, act, dress, and live just the same as unbelievers.  We are afraid of the world’s looks, comments, and attitudes, and rather than take a stand, we give in to what they want to see.  Instead of caring about what God says, we worry about what the rest of the world expects.

We began to let down our guard on the really important issues and have gone along with the world’s philosophy in life and death areas.  Just in the past few decades, parts of the church have accepted several of the sins of the day, being tolerant of any choice that others make, rather than offering godly counsel in love.  We have become ashamed that the Word of God does not allow for the immorality, sinful lifestyles, and destructive habits that are all around us today. 

We begin to ignore what the Bible has to say about these truly important topics.  We care less and less, until we have a heathy disrespect for the truth and often begin to fall into these sins ourselves.  We no longer know how to make these important decisions and understand Scriptural precepts ourselves.  Is divorce wrong?  Or marriage outside of God’s design of one man and one woman for life?  How about abortion?  Is it wrong, and should we protect the unborn?  We don’t know anymore, because we have shut our eyes to the truth.  The decisions and beliefs that we hold on these matters will not only affect us but our children and future generations.  In general, people have forgotten to seek the old paths. 

Jeremiah 6:16 and 19 say, “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it.”

When a nation forgets God, He will bring judgement.  When the Christian forgets his duty as a Christian, God will bring punishment.  “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten:  be zealous therefore, and repent.”  (Revelation 3:19) Get on your knees, Christian, and call out to God for His forgiveness.  He is faithful and just to forgive our iniquities.  If we as Christians will not stand up and show our light, how will others know? 

What is it that the Lord has for us, His Church, to be doing?  What did He leave his disciples to do here on earth once He had ascended up into Heaven? 

He left his disciples to spread the good news of the gospel all over the world, teaching men God’s laws and leading them in the path of righteousness.  God’s will for the Christian has not changed.  We are commanded to shine for Him.  And there is work for each one of us to do right where we live.  God does not expect or call us all to move elsewhere or go overseas to shine for Him in a foreign country.  He wants us to start right where He has placed us.  We are to be an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity, as stated in 1 Timothy 4:12.  The world will know that we are Christians by our actions.  They will wonder why we reject worldly standards, opinions, and philosophies.  They will see in us a willingness to stand up and be different.  And with the Lord’s help, they will see the higher, holier standard that we are called to and the Holy Spirit living within us.  The world needs this example.  In a world filled with darkness, our little light may shine forth more than we will ever know.  We simply need to obey and let the Lord use us.

As we are willing to share our faith, to speak boldly and accept the criticism we will receive for it, we will be seen as a shining beacon of light for our Heavenly Father.  People will have to know us as God’s children, for by our lives, it will be more than evident.  May we be a living, walking testimony of His amazing grace and love!

Rise up, O Church of God!
by William P. Merrill

Rise up, O Church of God!
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.

Rise up, O Church of God!
His kingdom tarries long;
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.

Rise up, O sons of God!
The Church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task,
Rise up, and make her great!

Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod;
As followers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O Church of God!

“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.”
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”
(2 Timothy 1:8a and 4:2)

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Give Your Children the World!

At the end of the gospel of Matthew, we have the words of the Lord, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations . . . to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”  How do we teach our children to be world changers while spending the bulk of our time at home?  And how do we encourage them to be interested in the peoples and cultures of the world God has made without fostering worldliness?  Here are a few ways that we have found to constructively bring the world home:

1. Invest in maps, a globe, and an atlas. – Since our children were very young, we have always had a country map and a world map prominently displayed in the kitchen, a globe within reach in the living room, and a couple of atlases on the reference shelf (one a modern atlas of countries of the world, the other a historical atlas showing Bible lands).  When your children are young and you are talking about a people group, an event, a war, or a landmark, make it a habit to get up and point out the region you are talking about.  When they are old enough to read and have a little familiarity with the maps and globe, ask them to get up and locate a particular country or body of water and point it out to the rest of the family.  God has given children the gift of curiosity.  If you establish the habit of “looking it up” as a family, most children will assume this habit on their own in time.     

2.  Keep a current missions board. – This will cost you nothing but space and time (unless you choose to purchase a bulletin board or whiteboard for it, which would cost up front but would also last for years. We’ve had the same bulletin board and whiteboard in constant use for over twenty years actually!).  But it doesn’t have to be fancy.  Any space you can set aside for the purpose will work.  As you read news stories about missions work or world events or as you’re going through fundraising letters from various organizations or as you come across prayer needs overseas, keep an eye out for things that are particularly appropriate for and of interest to the age group of children that you have.  Print or clip these articles (with pictures when possible) and display them.  The key to keeping them interested in the missions board is to keep it fresh—as new things come in, post them.  From time to time, look over the board and take down things that have been hanging too long.  I like to put anything that I’m taking down with my Bible so that we can make sure to pray for those people or needs again before throwing the articles away or passing them on.        

3.  Travel or seek out local but “exotic” experiences. – Not everybody will be able to travel far.  We happen to live in a state that borders another country, so we’ve been blessed to be able to travel internationally just by spending a few hours in the car.  But even in a rural area, opportunities abound for coming into contact with other people groups and cultures if you are willing to look for them.  For example, within the last two years, we were able to visit another church to hear a missionary speak on Chinese culture and return another evening to hear a different missionary speak about life in the Netherlands; we hosted a language night for our homeschool group, where everyone was invited to come share something in a foreign language that they know or are learning; we invited missionaries from Ireland over for a meal, and they brought pictures and stories of their work in the UK; we tried a traditional Jewish dish (shakshuka) made by our eldest daughter from a recipe shared by her Hebrew tutor; we met retired missionaries at a church dinner and were able to hear a little about their previous work in South America and enjoy some handbell music they shared with the children; and we attended a community “Christmas Around the World” event. 

4.  Build a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. – This has been and continues to be one of my favorite ways to teach our children to be world disciple makers.  Your family can pack a shoebox that has the potential to impact a child and family on the other side of the world.  Every child that receives a shoebox receives an introduction to the gospel of Jesus Christ (and where possible, the invitation is also given to enroll in The Greatest Journey discipleship program).   If you choose to get a tracking number for your box, Samaritan’s Purse will let you know what country your box was sent to, and your family can find out more about that country as you pray for that child and the needs of his or her community.

5.  Support a missionary. – If you are able, support a missionary or a mission work overseas.  Don’t just give money once a month, but undergird the family or work with your prayers.  Keep abreast of their needs and see how the Lord might be willing to use you to help them.  Some missionaries love to have short-term help from time to time (this can even be in the form of something done from home, such as stuffing envelopes with updates, helping them make other contacts locally for fundraising, etc.); others might be able to use specific supplies; all can use consistent support, prayer, and encouragement.  There is a Christian wife and mother we know whose children are grown and who has begun going to Kenya on short-term medical mission trips a couple times a year.  In her last newsletter she mentioned how they love to take pencils and stickers to give out to the children there.  This caught my attention, and I was able to write and ask if we could send her a few pencils and stickers for her next trip.   Will it be a large savings to her financially?  No—but it says, “Hey, somebody read my update and cares for these people like I do!  Somebody’s interested in the work the Lord has called me to do and will be praying for me!”  Another way to encourage your missionary is to have the children make cards.  Overseas postage can be significant for a package, but if what you are shipping is flat and fits in a standard envelope or a card-sized envelope, it is generally more reasonable.

6.  Keep a running prayer map. – Every month or two we print out a simple one-page outline of the world and use it to keep track of prayer needs.  When someone calls us for prayer or we learn about a request at church or from friends, we place it on the map.  Then every morning when we pray, we either assign requests from the map or let the children each choose a couple needs to pray for.  It’s a simple way to keep track of prayer requests, but it’s also a continual visual reminder that their prayers have the potential to literally change the world!

7.  Look for puzzles, games, coloring books, and projects with a world focus. – We’ve never used a formal geography curriculum but rather have explored geography through map puzzles, card and trivia games, coloring pages, and occasional mapwork printouts.  If you are willing to preview media, you can also find slideshows or documentaries that will add to your study of geography.  We recently enjoyed a slideshow together that featured beautiful landmarks of Africa, giving a short description of each and detailing in which country it is located.  A special geography project the children undertook this past year was to cover the walls of our fellowship room with maps and pictures representing each continent.   While their hands were busy coloring in borders and landmarks, I was reading aloud good literature so their minds would be occupied as well.  Some of the stories we read were from specific regions to go along with the continent we were currently studying, but much of the time, we just continued with the literature I had already planned to read this year.  The mind will make its own connections—we don’t have to stress as mothers about always having one subject “line up” with another.

8.  Read excellent biographies. – Biographies are exceptional tools for introducing your children to various lands and peoples in the world!  Not only does a child have opportunity to learn about another time, place, and culture, but (if you choose your person wisely) there will also be a compelling figure for them to associate this newfound knowledge with and be able to remember it better.  Investing in a series of individual country books designed for children (or borrowing a few at a time from the local library) can also be a way to discover some of the most important historical events, landmarks, customs, and holidays of another country.  These often include full-color photographs, which help to hold interest and bring the text to life.

9.  Learn a new language. – Learning a new language can give you the opportunity to meet new people, to speak into their lives and allow them to speak into yours, and to discover a culture different from your own.  I’ve been studying French for years myself, and we’ve also had times of studying it as a family.  God has allowed some amazing connections to stem from that.  My older girls have a sweet friend in Québec, our whole family has become friends with several families in an Acadian region of New Brunswick and has been allowed the opportunity to pray for and encourage the work God is doing to build an evangelical French-speaking church there, and I’ve had the opportunity in language-learning sessions to speak about faithful marriage, child training, and homeschooling with dozens of European tutors over time.   Even if your children don’t choose to pursue the same language that interests you (when they’re older), you will have given them the foundational skills for acquiring another language on their own.

10.  Sponsor a child in another country. – Over time we have had the privilege of sponsoring different children from places as diverse as Guatemala, India, and South Sudan.  While this is an obvious help to the child being sponsored, it is also an opportunity for spiritual growth in our children.  The fact that it is another child that is being sponsored can open your children’s eyes to the reality that not everybody has the benefits and blessings they take for granted.  One of our older sons has been particularly drawn to the child we are currently sponsoring and remembers consistently to pray for him and for his country.  It is a good thing when a child learns to look outside of himself and his own needs and wants and participates in bearing another’s burden.  For us, the most important things to know before beginning a sponsorship are these:  Is the agency that is running a program both Christ-centered and reputable?  How often will I receive updates on the child?  What contact will I be allowed with the child, if any?  and How long a commitment am I making? 

I hope you come away from this article with the spark of a new idea about how to raise your children to reach the world for Christ.  At its heart, homeschooling is not about academics—it’s about discipleship.  And well-trained disciples have the potential to become disciple makers in their own community and around the world.

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  recent missions board and map display

The Ten Commandments:  Applications for Authors, Part 1

I have enjoyed writing stories and poems over the years and am thankful for Christian parents who have trained and directed me in using this ability for God’s glory.  Following are some thoughts on how the Ten Commandments apply in the area of writing.  While I am still learning myself, I hope these considerations will prove a blessing to other writers aspiring to use their gifts in a way that honors the Giver.  The quotes from the Ten Commandments are taken from Exodus 20, and I chose another key Scripture for each command as well.

  1. “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength:  this is the first commandment.”  [Mark 12:30]

Does my writing draw me closer to the one true God?  Does it point others to Him?  I am commanded to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Let me especially think about the mind in regards to writing.  God designed the human brain in a fearful and wonderful way (see Psalm 139:14), and He expects it to be used for His glory.  In the words of Frances Ridley Havergal’s timeless hymn of consecration, “Take my intellect and use / Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.”  And Elvina M. Hall wrote, “Jesus paid it all; / All to Him I owe.”  Am I writing for myself, or am I truly writing for the Lord?  Work done for God’s glory will be done heartily—to the best of my ability with His help (see Colossians 3:23-24).

Charles Sheldon’s classic In His Steps challenges believers to judge every action with the question “What would Jesus do?”  One of the characters in the novel is a young woman named Rachel Winslow, who loves to sing, is gifted with an exceptional voice, and receives an offer to join a concert company and make a substantial salary.  In evaluating this decision according to Jesus’ probable action in the same circumstance, she says to her mother, “Mother, I have made up my mind to use my voice in some way so as to satisfy my own soul that I am doing something better than pleasing fashionable audiences, or making money, or even gratifying my own love of singing.  I am going to do something that will satisfy me when I ask:  ‘What would Jesus do?’ ”  [p. 55, Charles Sheldon, In His Steps, Barbour & Company, Inc., 1993]

I love to write, but my work must do more than gratify my own love of writing.  To be worthwhile, it must glorify God and direct others to Him.  When Jesus was on earth, He ever sought the Father’s will and the Father’s glory.  I must follow His example.

  1. “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. . . . Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them:  for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God.”

“And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ.  This is the true God, and eternal life.  Little children, keep yourselves from idols.  Amen.”  [I John 5:20-21]

My work or any part of it must not come between my Lord and me, or it has become an idol.  Am I careful to worship only the true God and not the work of my hands or my mind?  I may come to be fond of characters in a novel, for example, but it would be foolish to idolize them.  They are not alive and cannot do anything for me.  Worshiping and serving “the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever,” is condemned in Romans 1:25.

Jesus, my Creator and Redeemer, must be my first priority, for anything I can do is only because of Him.  He said in John 15:5, “I am the vine, ye are the branches:  He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit:  for without me ye can do nothing.”  And in Revelation 2:2-5 He rebuked the church in Ephesus and commanded them to repent because—although they had zeal, patience, and perseverance—they had left their first love for Him.  I must not become so caught up in my projects that I neglect my relationship with my Savior.

  1. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”

“God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.”  [Psalm 89:7]

For a Christian author, it should be obvious that God’s name must be used reverently.  Do I also vigilantly guard against writing anything else that would dishonor Him?  Swear words are not the only form of disrespect.  Jokes about sacred topics, for instance, should not be found in a Christian’s writing.

Even in the lines of antagonists or those of erring protagonists, do I, as the author and narrator, exercise godly discretion?  A good example of this is found in Matthew 26:73-74a, the account of Peter’s third denial:  “And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.  Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man.”  Matthew, writing under God’s inspiration, honestly tells us that Peter used ungodly language, but he does not spell out exactly what Peter said and thus defile the minds of the readers.  The psalmist praised God in Psalm 119:140, saying, “Thy word is very pure:  therefore thy servant loveth it.”  Are my words pure and reverent?

  1. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:  But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God.”

“Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest:  in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.”  [Exodus 34:21]

Even when deadlines are closing in, even when pressure is great, do I still set apart the Sabbath for rest and worship?  Putting aside for-profit projects on Sundays is an acknowledgement that I trust God to supply the time, strength, energy, and inspiration I need, realizing that they come solely from Him.

God instituted a weekly day of rest for our benefit.  Jesus said in Mark 2:27b, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.”  In the context we see that He was reproving the Pharisees for their legalism and devotion to man-made regulations.  He was defending His disciples’ right to pluck and eat a few ears of corn.  In the next chapter He demonstrated His own authority to heal on this holy day, asking in Mark 3:4b, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?”

Whether Christians are required to keep the Sabbath is a controversial question in some circles.  Here is my view, which I hope is supported by Scripture:  Have any of the other nine commandments been annulled?  Is it now permissible to serve idols, to swear, or to steal?  Jesus has indeed given us liberty, having kept the whole Law for us when He was on earth.  We do not need to offer animal sacrifices or follow the rituals of the Tabernacle.  But God’s moral law and standards did not change after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  In addition, the Sabbath far predates Moses; God set the pattern of six days of work, one day of rest in Creation Week.  And the early Christians set apart the first day of the week, the day of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10).  In his entry on the Sabbath in Smith’s Bible Dictionary, William Smith, L.L.D., observed, “Christ’s words do not remit the duty of keeping the Sabbath, but only deliver it from the false methods of keeping which prevented it from bestowing upon men the spiritual blessings it was ordained to confer.”  [p. 575, William Smith, L.L.D., Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Hendrickson Publishers, 1999]

As an example of lawfully doing good on the Sabbath, let me consider an incident from the life of William Carey, a pioneer missionary to India.  He generally set apart Sundays for preaching, worship, and rest and would not have gone about his regular labors.  At one point, however, on or just before a Sunday, a long-awaited order came from the government, putting an end to the cruel practice of suttee; and Carey was supposed to translate the document into the Bengali language.  He decided that translating and distributing this order was a completely acceptable use of the Sabbath, for many innocent lives could have been lost by a delay of only twenty-four hours.  [p. 50, J.J. Ellis, William Carey:  The Cobbler Who Became the Mighty Pioneer in India, Keepers of the Faith, 2003]

  1. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.”

“A wise son maketh a glad father:  but a foolish man despiseth his mother.”  [Proverbs 15:20]

Does my work honor my parents and the godly training they have given me?  I can look at this from two different angles.

First, does what I write reflect God’s pattern for families and revere the authority systems He established?  According to Philippians 2:15b-16a, believers are called to be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life.”  Strong, functional families who strive to serve the Lord together can be a good testimony, and my writing should reflect and promote Scriptural norms and principles.

Just how important are family relationships?  They are, in fact, foundational.  Family is an important theme throughout Scripture.  The marriage of a faithful husband and wife is a picture of Christ, who loved the church enough to lay down His life, and His bride, who is loyal and obedient to Him.  The parent-child relationship is to be a picture of our relationship with God—of our honor, obedience, gratitude, and love for our Heavenly Father and of His justice, kindness, protection, provision, and love for us.  Psalm 128 presents a picture of rich familial blessing for “every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways,” and David exclaimed in Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

How do I apply these Biblical principles as an author?  If I am writing a story, do the children in it respect their parents in thought, word, and deed?  Do siblings or spouses live in unity, or are they constantly fighting?  While showing a bad example is sometimes instructive to illustrate the consequences of acting in a particular way, I should not allow my characters to get away with sin, and I should not introduce unnecessary temptation to readers.

What do I mean by that?  I Corinthians 15:33 warns, “Be not deceived:  evil communications corrupt good manners.”  If children spend time with peers who are mouthy and disobedient, they are liable to pick up those habits.  If adults consistently associate with friends who gossip and complain about their spouses or children, they are apt to find themselves battling similar thoughts and probably falling into those temptations.  Friends met in books can have the same type of influence, and favorite books are likely to be reread.  Over the course of my childhood and youth, I read a couple of novels I liked nine or ten times each.  And it would be difficult to calculate how much time I have spent with Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and various adaptations of it!  To summarize this point, how are readers’ family relationships apt to be affected by reading and rereading my story?

Second, do my habits as an author respect my own family members?  Or do I allow myself to be wrapped up in writing when God would have me doing other things, such as caring for my loved ones?  Am I willing to put writing “on the back burner” when He presents more pressing responsibilities at home?  As a youth, according to Luke 2:51, Jesus was subject to His earthly parents.  As an adult He honored His mother and always obeyed His Heavenly Father.  In Matthew 15:3-6, He strongly reproved those who neglected their parents under the pretense of giving all to God.  Jesus is serious about the fifth commandment.

In addition, in II Timothy 3:2, Paul warned Timothy that in the last days men would be “lovers of their own selves.”  It is human nature to think first of oneself before family, others, and the Lord, but may God help Christlike selflessness to have the victory in my life!

Continue with The Ten Commandments: Applications for Authors, Part 2

Copyright © 2018

Twelve Special Stories for the Twelve Days of Christmas

Christmas stories have been an important part of our family’s celebration of the holidays for the past two decades. Some of these are stories I read and reread as a child and have now had the privilege to read as a mother as well; others are stories we discovered when our children were younger and have continued to enjoy together over the years. Any or all of these are worth finding and sharing with your own children or grandchildren. May you take time this Christmas to have some quiet moments as family with nothing more than some good books and one another’s company, making memories that cost little but will last a lifetime. And when Christmas Day dawns, don’t forget to read the Story of Stories found in Luke 2 and Matthew 2 about the shepherds, angels, wise men, two humble servants of God, and a Baby that would change the world.

Here’s my list, in no particular order. If the same version or a similar version of the book is still available whether new or used, I have linked the cover image to be able to purchase it at CBD or Amazon (with the exception of the one we carry, in which case I link to us!). If a book is unavailable at the moment or the used price was showing up as more than $20, rolling over the cover image will pop up a tool tip that says OOP. You may still be able to find the OOP selections at your local library, through inter-library loan, on other used book sites, or in the library of a friend.

1. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey written by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by P.J. Lynch, copyright 1995. Beautiful illustrations and a story both boys and girls will love about a gruff woodcarver and the widow woman and her son who finally win his heart.
2. An Orange for Frankie written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco, copyright 2004. Large families will particularly enjoy this story about a boy who was one of nine siblings. A great story for reminding children that at its heart Christmas is about Christ, family, special traditions, and sharing what we have with others.
3. Christmas Carols selected and arranged by Karl Schulte, copyright 1957. While not a read-aloud, it includes the words and simple piano scores for the kind of music our children and grandchildren need to have tucked away in their hearts and minds. I like this particular collection because it offers only a couple songs that are more modern (Jingle Bells, for example), while featuring mostly traditional Christmas hymns of the faith: Away in a Manger, Silent Night, What Child is This?, Joy to the World, I Heard the Bells, and more. However, the particular collection is not so important as that you find ways to make meaningful Christmas music a part of your family’s spiritual heritage.
4. The Christmas Secret (or José’s Christmas Secret) written by Joan Lexau and illustrated by Don Bolognese, copyright 1969 (Scholastic version). A favorite from my childhood. Super for boys as it features two brothers and the surprise they work to give their mother on Christmas. [Please note: there is a line on page 42 which uses God’s name inappropriately in a Spanish expression. Eliminate that and you have an otherwise excellent story.]
5. Lassie: A Christmas Story written by Earl Hamner and Don Sipes, illustrated by Kevin Burke, copyright unlisted. I am not particularly a dog lover, but even I enjoy this simple Christmas story about a boy, his family, his dog, and their Christmas adventure!
6. Christmas Tapestry written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco, copyright 2002. I don’t think I’ve ever made it through a read-aloud of this book without crying. Based on a true story, but adapted to take place in the author’s home state of Michigan. Follow a pastor’s family as they move and must begin a work all over. In making new friends they are amazed at the weaving together of time and place and people that only God could orchestrate.
7. The Christmas Guest as retold by Helen Steiner Rice, name of illustrator not given, copyright 1972. A rhyming narrative about a man named Conrad who waits to meet the Lord on Christmas Day, but the “wrong” visitors keep coming to the door.
8. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening written by Robert Frost and illustrated by Susan Jeffers, copyright 1978. While more of a winter story than a Christmas story, I love the imaginative work the illustrator did to make this well-loved poem into a children’s book. Don’t stop with the one poem though! While you have your children gathered around, make sure to read other favorites from Frost as well as poems from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Louis Stevenson. You can find the others in a good anthology or by searching online.
9. Christmas for 10 written and illustrated by Cathryn Falwell, copyright 1998. This is a simple counting book for younger children, but the real story is told in the colorful, collage-style illustrations. A large, happy family gathers to celebrate Christmas with music, crafts, gifts for others, story time, and old-fashioned hospitality.
10. Miracle in a Shoebox: A Christmas Gift of Wonder written by Franklin Graham with Estelle Condra and illustrated by Dilleen Marsh, copyright 1995. The story of a brother and sister in Bosnia who receive shoeboxes through Operation Christmas Child and find the Peace that passes all understanding. If your family is not familiar with this outreach of Samaritan’s Purse, you can learn more about it here. Our family considers shoebox collection week the start of the Christmas season.
11. Silent Night: The Song and Its Story written by Margaret Hodges and illustrated by Tim Ladwig, copyright 1997. The true history of how this well-loved Christmas carol came to be written in Austria and known around the world. Accompanied by warm illustrations.
12. The Birds’ Christmas Carol written by Kate Douglas Wiggin and edited by myself, original work now in the public domain, this edition copyright 2017. Another favorite from my childhood and one of the books outside the Bible that has had a lasting impact on my life. This edition also includes poems and other Christmas stories (such as O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi) that will touch your heart and encourage your family to look for ways to bless others and to keep Christ at the center of Christmas.

Bonus Advent ideas:

#1 Once you’ve been collecting Christmas books and stories for years and have a good assortment, place 24 of them in a large gift bag on the first day of December and cover the top with tissue paper. Invite one of your children to reach in the bag each morning (no peeking) and grab one for you to read aloud. On the final day, read the Christmas story from the Bible – perhaps while setting up a nativity as a Christmas centerpiece. (Don’t forget to involve Dad in reading aloud, too!)

#2 Purchase an advent calendar for a few dollars and pair it with some CDs (newly purchased or already owned) of peaceful Christmas music. Enjoy a new song or an old favorite together each morning of December as another advent window is uncovered. On Christmas Day encourage the whole family to sing praises to the King together.

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Copyright © 2017

A Few Thoughts on Picture Study

Our family began picture study years ago when our oldest was just starting homeschooling. Much of what I know of picture study I learned from Karen Andreola in her book A Charlotte Mason Companion, so I cannot take credit for the idea in any way.   If you have never read A Charlotte Mason Companion, please take time to do so. You will find so many ideas to enliven your homeschool. It is a book I have come back to over and over again.

Some of the first artists that we started studying were Mary Cassatt and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Another early favorite of ours was John James Audubon, because he depicted not only the birds we can see at our backyard feeders, but also those we may never have opportunity to see in the flesh. In later years we studied others whose names and works were less familiar to me, including Berthe Morisot and Hiroshige (but they are familiar to me now).

Charlotte Mason suggested that students study six prints of an artist’s work over the span of a twelve-week semester. The Picture Study Packs we are producing will have ten prints in them, so that a mother may choose among them. Having ten prints available also allows a family doing nine-week quarters to use a different print each week, if desired. The reason to study one artist in the span of a quarter or semester is so a child will become familiar with the style of a particular artist. He is not seeing Peale this week and Millet the next, but seeing Cassatt, followed by Cassatt, followed by Cassatt. Just as an author has a voice, an artist has a style which is recognizable, able to be distinguished from that of another artist.

Picture Study is very simple to implement (especially if someone has already done the work of compiling worthwhile prints for you! ). 🙂  Just do the following:

Choose an artist that you and your children would like to study for the quarter or semester.

  1. Prominently display one of his works for one to two weeks.
  2. At some point that first week, give your child a brief introduction to the artist (such as when and where he lived) and share the title and medium (whether it was oil, watercolor, etc.) of the work you are featuring.
  3. At the end of the one to two weeks, replace the first image with another. Continue replacing works until you have covered at least half a dozen works by the same artist. (There have been times we have not been able to find enough quality prints by the same artist, in which case we have combined artists arranged around a time period or theme. There will be some sets like this in the Picture Study Packs, because even when an artist was prolific, only certain of his works may be available or useable.)
  4. You may wish to occasionally draw the child’s attention to something in particular you know or appreciate about a print, but you can also allow the child to be forming some connections of his own and encourage any observations he may make about a picture (Mom, the way the little girl is sitting for that portrait is just like the pose of the lady in the one we studied two weeks ago!).
  5. At the end of your semester or quarter, allow each child to choose a favorite picture to narrate for you. He may describe the picture in detail or replicate the work on paper to the best of his ability. Save these narrations and drawings! Your children will love to look back on them in years to come and see how their descriptive and artistic abilities have grown. And, if your child or family has a timeline book, this is an excellent time to add a page on the new artist.

That’s picture study in a nutshell (at least that’s the way we’ve implement it – for more detail and additional suggestions, please see CM Companion mentioned above).   We’ve found it profitable over the years. The children have favorite works of art that we’ve never seen in a museum, but that they’ve enjoyed seeing in our kitchen. One of my daughters mentioned to me just lately that her interest in the hand spindle actually came about from the picture study of Millet’s The Young Shepherdess many years ago.

One thing I do want to stress about picture study is the point of teaching a child to recognize and think on that which is good and beautiful. If we teach our children to be familiar with (may I even say “befriend”) that which is lovely when they are young, we will be setting their feet in the right path to appreciate and seek out appropriate pieces of art when they are grown.   Even some of my favorite artists created pieces I have seen in passing that I would not be comfortable sharing with my children or dwelling on myself. Sometimes the artists have past sins or worldviews that are problematic, as well. When I do picture study, I am careful to let my children know that even the best of artists was only a fallible human, as are we, and that we are going to focus on what he got right. I don’t share much for details on an artist’s personal life or worldview (unless I know the example set to have been a worthy one), because that’s not why we’re studying art. We’re studying art so our children will learn to appreciate beauty and be inspired themselves to create that which is pleasing to God and edifying to others (whether that be with paintbrush and palette, with pen and paper, with an instrument, or with a hammer and nails).

If you are interested in implementing picture study with your family, please check out the Picture Study Packs on our website. They have been created to save Mother the time of searching out appropriate prints. The works of a given artist have been specifically selected to feature only those works which are worthwhile to think on. You will not find nudes or extraneous violence or perversion included here. The prints are done on letter size, lightweight cardstock, so they are sturdy enough not to wrinkle too easily, but light enough to hang with a tack or magnet.   They are approximately three times larger than the postcard size prints that are readily available (and which is all that was available for many years, short of purchasing individual giclée prints from art sites, which would be cost prohibitive for most families).

Enjoy learning alongside your children. Even if you never studied art in school, you can begin to teach your child to appreciate “whatsoever things are lovely”.   Then, as your interest (and theirs) grows, begin to study some art terms together (introducing one here and there, perhaps alongside a picture that demonstrates it). This will enable you to understand more fully and speak more precisely about the pictures you study.   If you are very courageous, you can even encourage your children to try out new art terms. I will never forget the day I decided to teach the children about pointillism with Q-tips for paintbrushes and paper plates for palettes. In addition to the older children, there were three toddlers in the house at the time and I didn’t see why they shouldn’t learn about pointillism, too (ah, the folly of youth) … suffice it to say they all ended up in the bathtub! Our children still remember that art lesson though. 🙂

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Copyright © 2015

Ten Emphases of Our Family’s Homeschool, Part 2

If you missed Part 1, see it here.

6. Local Outreach

“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)

One main focus of our family is ministering to the needs of those around us, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. This may mean cooking and delivering a meal for a widow, making cards for someone in the hospital or nursing home, extending hospitality to friends from church, or filling a box of groceries for a family who is going through a hard time. Dad and Mom regularly involve us children in outreach.
They have taught us that those in our area of Maine are just as important to God and just as much in need of Christ as are those in Africa, Asia, or anywhere else in the world. God has called us to be a light, a testimony, and a blessing right where He has placed us. Especially since I finished my formal homeschooling and so have more flexibility with my schedule, Dad and Mom have encouraged me to be alert to the needs around me and to seek God as to how He would use me to help meet them.

7. Separation from the World

“Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalm 24:3-5)

We serve the LORD, who commands us, “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (I Peter 1:16b). The culture around us is the opposite of holy—it is largely profane, vile, unclean, and dangerous. If we truly want to follow Christ, we cannot live the way everyone else is living.
We must be separate, pure, peculiar. We must hold everything up against God’s pure Word and make that our touchstone and guide in all areas, including: Where will our family attend church? What should we focus on in our homeschool? What types of clothing will we wear? What styles of music will we listen to? In what activities will we be involved? How will we use the television and the computer? How will the children get to know their future spouses? What types of higher education are Biblical and worthwhile?
Most of my peers have grown up through government schools and have been taught to think according to a Marxist, humanistic, atheistic worldview. They have been taught that, to be good citizens, they must blindly obey the government and be “tolerant” of anything except Biblical Christianity. We must be different, for we have been ransomed. Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).

8. Sheltering

“I am as a wonder unto many; but thou art my strong refuge. Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honour all the day.” (Psalm 71:7-8)

Many people look down on parents who shelter their children. I don’t. I grew up as a sheltered child, and I am so thankful my parents chose and worked to do this for me. We live in a wicked world, full of sin, sorrow, death, hatred, crime, and suffering. But my parents worked hard to protect me from bad language, lustful or violent images and media, salacious accounts of cultural wrongs, discussions of certain modern social issues, and graphic accounts of suffering and death. By God’s grace, they allowed me an innocent childhood.
When a baby is born prematurely, it often does not have as good health as a child who is in the protection of the womb for the full nine months. God designed for infants to be sheltered for this time for their benefit, as they are still developing. Parents really have no say over whether a baby will arrive before, on, or after the due date, but parents do have a say over when their children will be exposed to certain types of knowledge.
If children are exposed prematurely to the evils of the world, it can result in fear and impure thoughts. If the exposure is habitual, it can produce callousness to sin and to human suffering. God shelters us as His children, and I believe it is the duty of parents to shelter their sons and daughters as they develop physically, mentally, and spiritually.

9. Excellent Books

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Our family loves books. Biographies, poetry, picture books, encyclopedias, ASL manuals, cookbooks, homeschool magazines, science and nature books and magazines, music books, Bible commentaries and references, carefully selected fiction, allegories, dictionaries, photo albums, family albums, and the Scriptures…we love to fill our minds with knowledge and wisdom.
There are many books available today, but only a limited number of them are worthwhile. Therefore, we must be discerning. Some are excellent and will edify us and our families, but some are either subtly or openly detrimental to our spiritual walks and our family relationships. The latter must be vigilantly avoided. It is better to have a few quality books that have been screened for wholesomeness than to have a huge library full of drivel or danger. My parents have read a variety of material aloud to us through the years, and they have also screened books for us to read ourselves. Good books nourish the mind and soul and help us “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).

10. Sound Speech and Communication

“Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:6)

My parents have emphasized the importance of excellent communication. Most of all, it is vital that we and our children be able to read and understand the Word of God. And secondly, we must be able to share it with others, both in conversation and in writing. The multitudes who listened to Jesus were astonished at the graciousness and authority of His words.
James 3 describes the dangerous power of the tongue. Lies, gossip, blasphemy, idle words, coarse language, quarreling, disrespectful speech, whining, complaining, worldly songs, hurtful or angry words—all these are uses for the tongue that have hurt people’s souls since the beginning of time. But none of these are ways our Creator intended for us to communicate.
A soft answer, discretion, sound speech, praise, thanksgiving, encouraging words, the teaching of God’s principles, comfort, songs that honor God, the reading and recitation of Scripture, Biblical rebuke, exhortation, evangelism— all these are good and acceptable ways to employ our tongues, ones that will bless us and those who hear us.
God wants to help each of His children to continually grow more like Christ, to lead them on a path of continual reformation and sanctification. Since words are so powerful, the sanctification of our speech will very likely be part of this journey. It is important to immerse ourselves in Scripture and listen to our Father’s voice. Jesus made clear that our words are important. We will give account for the words we speak and write…the words our children hear us use and grow to use themselves.
“A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matthew 12:35-37)
I am thankful for this opportunity to share. Thank you for your time. May God use the words I have written to bless and encourage you and your family.

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Copyright © 2014

Ten Emphases of Our Family’s Homeschool, Part 1

I am an extremely blessed young woman. I was homeschooled from infancy and taught in the ways of the Lord. Around the time I graduated, my parents asked me to write an article giving my thoughts on the homeschool experience to parents who may be just beginning this journey or considering doing so. I would like to share ten emphases of our family’s home discipleship that have done much to positively shape me into who I am today.

1. Daily Family Devotions

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.” (Psalm 111:10)

The first part of our homeschool day is spent in reading the Scriptures together, memorizing passages from them, reviewing passages we have already learned, and praying for family members, local friends, and people across the world.
Our relationship with God is the most important thing in life. We learn to know Him by studying and meditating on His Word, and we commune with Him in prayer. My parents have emphasized that our time in the Scriptures—and the application of them throughout the day—“is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life” (see Deuteronomy 32:46-47).

2. Justice and Mercy

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:1-4)

God is just. He punishes sin because He is holy and cannot abide iniquity and because He wants His rebellious creation to repent and turn back to Him.
God is also merciful. He sent Christ to die so that our sins could be forgiven if we would accept Him as Lord and “the propitiation for our sins” (I John 2:2).
God longs to become the Heavenly Father of all the people He made in His image. One way the Heavenly Father tries to show us what He is like is by giving us earthly fathers and mothers, whom He instructs to train their children in His way.
Without just admonition, a child will truly be spoiled. He will think selfishly and believe that he should be allowed to do as he pleases, and this is especially dangerous as he passes into his teenage years and adulthood. Eli’s house was judged forever because “his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not” (I Samuel 3:13b).
But without merciful nurturing, a child will become discouraged and lose hope. There must be a balance in the home.

3. Kindness and Unity

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

The first commandment is to love God with all our hearts, souls, and might. The second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. This must begin at home with learning to love Dad, Mom, brothers, and sisters as oneself; to give deference to them; and to treat them—one’s immediate family members—as one would like them to treat him. God created families to work together for the advancement of His kingdom. Being human, children are naturally prone to selfishness, anger, strife, mockery, and unkindness toward others. It is the duty of their parents to work to train them out of these evil and dangerous paths and into the good and wholesome paths of unselfishness, self-control, peace, gentleness, and kindness.
When a family is working together to serve the Lord, He will bless in wonderful ways. No family will ever be perfect, but God knows the hearts. If He sees a father and mother who love Him and are trying to please Him in the way they train their children, He is willing to work with them and help them lead their family in His path.
Kindness and consideration between brothers and sisters is a good testimony, a blessing in the home, and a foundation for relationships throughout the rest of the children’s lives. Sibling rivalry can turn into bitterness, feuding, and even inheritance squabbles later on, while good relationships can be an invaluable blessing and resource now and for decades and generations to come. This part of home discipleship is far too important to neglect (John 13:34-35).

4. Comprehensive Scriptural Worldview

“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

At the table or in the living room, as a family or one-on-one, Dad and Mom are constantly teaching us how to have a Biblical worldview—how to apply the Word of God to every area of life. From Genesis to Revelation, the Scripture is completely true and must be the foundation on which we build our lives. Almost anything can provide an opportunity for teaching through a family discussion: a church service, a recorded sermon, a book or article, a news story or tidbit, news from a friend, a telephone call, or a Bible passage.
The culture around us is full of evil. There is a definite need for Christian parents who are willing to take the time and effort to bring up their children in the Deuteronomy 6 discipleship model, walking with them and talking with them about how to apply the Word to everything.

5. Family Time and Family Projects

“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)

Of all the blessings and resources God gives us, time is unquestionably one of the most valuable. God has endowed each of us with a limited amount of it, generally about seventy or eighty years (Psalm 90:10). Our parents have taught us that after an hour, a day, or a year is gone, it is truly gone. It cannot be regained or called back and used more conscientiously. Therefore, it is extremely important that we invest all our time in a way that pleases the One who entrusted it to us.
Dad and Mom are investing their lives in us, their children. While many set their hearts on their careers, favorite sports, or material success, my parents have chosen to pour their time, effort, and energy into the eternally valuable work of training their children to be ambassadors and warriors for the cause of Christ.
So they spend their time with us. God blesses each member of a family with special interests and talents, but this is not just for the benefit of the individual. It is for the glory of God and the benefit of His Kingdom…and, specifically, the family in the Kingdom into which this child has been placed. The omniscient, omnipotent God puts families together in such a way that they can work together—each contributing in his or her unique way—to accomplish His plans for the household.
We love to work on projects together. At Roots by the River, Dad and Mom try to especially choose products to develop that we can all work on together. The goal of our business is not making large sums of money. It is discipleship, working as a family to produce materials that will glorify God and edify the body of Christ.
Our parents have also taught us the importance of time with our grandparents, whom we are thankful to have living nearby. Eating with them, visiting them, serving them, asking for their stories, listening to their wisdom—these are pleasures for me.

Continue with Ten Emphases of Our Family’s Homeschool, Part 2

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Copyright © 2014

Schooling at Home or Homeschooling?

It is early in the morning, Mother’s Day. I woke up this morning with the burden on my heart to put down some thoughts for mothers who are new to this whole idea of homeschooling and who perhaps could benefit from a word of encouragement from someone who has walked this road a long while. This is after all what Scripture says. The older women must teach the younger women. Of course I am still learning myself from those who are older and wiser than me. We are all on a journey together, and though our eyes should be focused ahead and our vision must be cast forward, we must not forget to reach back our hands to help those sisters who come behind.

When we first begin home educating, we begin by doing what we know. A disciple is not greater than his master. As we were taught, so will we teach. If we sat in desks in rows and raised our hands to speak and did five independent subjects a day and had recess every two hours…we are likely to try to set up a system that mirrors that in our home. Why? Because we think that is what school is. We want our children to have a good education, so we set about to mirror what we believe gave us a good education. After all, we can read, and write, and communicate, or we wouldn’t be attempting this.

But something happens once you begin homeschooling. You begin to question why your son must learn sitting at a desk and struggling to read to himself if he learns better sprawled on the floor listening to you read to him. You begin to wonder why your daughter must complete so many textbooks…one for every subject every year…when they all seem to say the same thing. And you notice that much of the same material can be found in living books that don’t look like textbooks at all, and are much more interesting to read. You begin to question why your ten-year-old should take a standardized test to see if his knowledge “equates” to the ten-year-olds in the local elementary school…when you can see any time you’re around other ten-year-olds that he’s not even learning the same things. And then you begin to wonder who needs tests and grades anyway? After all, a mother lives with her children, hears them talking and asking questions and narrating material all the time – there’s very little question in a mother’s mind as to what they know or don’t know and as to where each one’s strengths and weaknesses and gifts and interests lie.

So you find that things in your little homeschool begin to change. You don’t understand what’s happening until you hear someone who’s been there speak on it, or you come across it in a good homeschooling book. But your little homeschool is slowly turning from the Greek model of education – the only thing you had ever known — to the Hebraic model of education, the model spoken of in the Scriptures where you instruct your children when you rise up, when you lie down, when you walk together in the way. Whereas before you saw yourself having at least two distinct jobs in the home – one as mother, one as teacher – now you begin to see that mother and teacher are one in the same. All day, every day is a learning opportunity. You walk with your children outside and you show them the glory of the Creator. You read the Scriptures to your children in the morning and you teach them to apply the principles to their lives so that they do not become “whited sepulchres” like the Pharisees. You learn new things together in history, science, and literature – not in distinct “classes” with seven children reading twenty-one different books and completing twenty-one assignments on them separately, but one family enjoying and discussing and evaluating a few wonderful books together. You are with them in the evening and Daddy is home and hears all they have learned and can open the Scriptures to them again, and the whole family can enjoy a sit-down meal and conversation and then work on something together – maybe just getting the dishes done and the floors swept up to be ready for a new day, or perhaps gardening, or extending hospitality, or checking in on a widow, or singing , or visiting someone in the hospital, or working on a family enterprise together – whatever it is God has given your family to do at a particular season.

But just when you begin to enjoy your freedom with this “new” way of education, you can be sure the tempter will be there to bring you doubts and fears and questions. After all, God said to educate this way. God wants parents investing their lives in their children and teaching them His precepts and His commandments, and protecting them and sheltering them, yet at the same time teaching them about his wide and wonderful world and the amazing gifts he has bestowed upon it – such as light, electricity, oxygen, photosynthesis, the cardiovascular system, and the water cycle. And we all know Satan is the arch-enemy of God and His Truth. So late at night, when the children are asleep and your husband is asleep and you have finally collapsed in bed … and most likely on a day when things have not gone so well in your little homeschool … or maybe after several days have not gone so well, and you are weary and disheartened… then he will whisper in your ear: “You are going to ruin your children.”

“They are not going to know the same things everybody else knows. They will be misfits. They will be persecuted. You are wasting your life and you’re setting them up to fail.” Friends, do not listen. He will be persistent. He will come to you again and again. But do not hearken to the voice of the tempter. Listen instead to the voice of the Shepherd. He promises gently to lead and guide mothers and their little lambs. Never mind if your children are misfits. Pray that they are! Deep down inside do you really want your children to look like the rest of society? We are a people who have forgotten how to think for ourselves. We have forgotten how to evaluate life in the light of Scripture. We have forgotten to be grateful to God for our liberties and we have lost most of them. We have forgotten what is right and good and instead have embraced all that is wicked. Is this the kind of children we want to raise? Of course not. We want our children to be wise, fearing the Lord, departing from evil. We want them to walk with God and be called his friend as Abraham was. We want them to know true liberty and appreciate it.

So when you hear that voice, do not be swayed. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Remember how He taught. He walked with His disciples, day in and day out. He talked with His disciples. He gave them the Word that they would know how to evaluate the world around them. He broke bread with His disciples. He gave them hope. And, ultimately, He loved them. Enough to lay down His very life. Are we willing to do the same for these little lives entrusted to our care?

It is not enough just to be home with our children. We must intentionally lay aside every distraction that the world will offer and focus on what it is God wants us to accomplish. He says the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Do not make academics the focus of your lives. Make loving your children and imparting to them the fear of the Lord the ultimate goals of your home education program and in doing this – in seeking first the Kingdom of God – He will add those things unto you that He desires. And, if you can persevere, you will look around you and find that even in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation, you have been greatly blessed. For “the Lord is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him”.

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Midnight Theology

Last night at church Pastor introduced a section of Scripture he’s going to be preaching on for a few weeks and I borrowed his title for this email because it really helped underline the point for me. He was talking about Acts 16 where Paul and Silas have been beaten and thrown in prison for preaching the Gospel. He was asking what the response should be when everything is going wrong, those times when Christianity doesn’t seem so easy. This verse really stood out to me:

“And at MIDNIGHT Paul and Silas PRAYED, and SANG PRAISES UNTO GOD: and the prisoners heard them.” (v. 25)

What is midnight? Well, beyond the obvious meaning of 12 o’clock at night that it is referring to here, if we want to evaluate when our response should be like theirs, we could consider it to mean darkness, depression, grief, troubles, or being overcome by fears or doubts.

Their response was two-fold. First they prayed. Prayer is crying out to God the Father. They could do nothing to change their situation. They could do nothing to heal themselves. So they cried out to the One with power and He delivered them mightily.

And they sang. When the last thing in the world that the flesh would feel like doing is singing, they sang anyway. Not just any song — but praise to God in the midst of a persecution they couldn’t in their own minds understand. They were trying to help people by sharing the Gospel of Christ. They hadn’t done anything wrong. They didn’t deserve what was happening to them. But rather than allowing Satan to get at them, they turned their focus off themselves and onto God, and when everything in them must have wanted to weep and groan, they sang instead.

And look at the rest of the verse! God wasn’t the only one that heard them. It says “and the prisoners HEARD them.” Paul and Silas had been preaching openly in the city for days, and we know that most of the multitude didn’t care about the message, because they had them beaten and thrown in prison. But here, the prisoners get a front row seat at what God does in the darkness. The normal response to a beating is not to pray and sing. They are seeing and hearing a supernatural thing. And when everyone’s chains are loosed, these men do not get up and run! Why not? The passage doesn’t expressly say, but could it be that their lives have been changed by the testimony of two Christians bearing up under heavy trial? Could it be that they have seen a miracle and they want to know more?

The testimony of Paul and Silas in the daylight did not reach as many people as they would have hoped, as a matter of fact most of the people were hardened against their message. But the testimony of Paul and Silas at midnight was of such effect that it caused prisoners who had been freed to sit still as though they were bound! Not just some of them — ALL of them.

What would our testimony be if we remembered to cry out to God in the hard times? If we sang to Him in the hard times? Might it have the same effect on those around us as the prayers and praises of Paul and Silas?

The next time we are under attack, what if our response were this (fill your own name in the example sentences):

“And IN DARKNESS, __________ PRAYED and SANG PRAISES UNTO GOD….”
“And IN DEPRESSION, ___________ PRAYED and SANG PRAISES UNTO GOD….”
“And IN TROUBLES, GRIEFS, DOUBTS, and FEARS, _________ PRAYED and SANG PRAISES UNTO GOD….”

Then perhaps the ending would be:

“…and her FAMILY, her FRIENDS, her BROTHERS and SISTERS IN THE LORD, and all her TOWNSPEOPLE heard her.”

May God help it to be so.
Love,

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