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Posts Tagged ‘family’

I spent some time recently thinking about how I would help someone evaluate whether public school or homeschool is better for their family, especially coming from a perspective, like most American Christians do, of public school being normal.  In this I don’t want to be attacking public school or defending homeschool, but this article is informed by many of my reasons for preferring homeschool. 

 

What are your kids getting from public school?

What useful? What positive? What harmful?

 

What impact do their peers have on them?

When they’re getting along?  When they’re not?

 

Would your kids benefit from being in a smaller class size?

 

What is in the curriculum that would affect their worldview?

 

What other things are they being exposed to without wise guidance?

From peers? From libraries? From field trips?

 

What is the impact of being bound to a school’s schedule?

On sleep? On nutrition? On transitions between environments and authorities? On routine?

How much of their time at school is actually being used for education?  (Why do they still have to come home and work on their scholastic education via homework?)

Is a day structured around expectations and performance healthy for them?

 

Would they benefit from more interactive education?

Do they need more time to be active?

Do they need to slow down on only one or two subjects?  Could they benefit from forging ahead on a couple of subjects?

Would you like them to learn something that is not in your public school’s curricula? (Cooking, shop, business, Bible)

Would you like them to get a different perspective than what is being offered?

Would you like them to learn in a different way (more hands-on, more interactively, more self-study, more memorization, subjects integrated with one another)?

 

What message does it send them to be sent away for long parts of each day? How does your attitude impact their perception?  How should parents maintain honesty (for example, about being grateful for the break when kids go to school) with their children, while not burdening the kids with the shortcomings of their parents?

What message would it send them to be kept at home, unlike most of their peers?

 

What are they getting from time not in school?

What useful? What positive? What harmful?

 

Do you have enough time to give them what they need?

Do you have enough time to teach them what God has entrusted you to teach them?

About Him? About character? About how to flourish in the story God has given them?

Do you have enough time to build your relationships with them?

Do they get a (patient) chance to build their relationships with their siblings?

 

What are your reasons for not homeschooling?  Time? Focus on younger kids? Financial? Focus on other people? Focus on personal improvement? Stress? Intimidation? Inadequacy? Cultural normalcy? Influence culture? Perks of props and facilities and extra-curricular activities in public schools? Child’s socialization? Child’s practice with exposure to the world? Less strain on the mom-child relationship (not being teacher and mom)? Incorporating other adult influences for example and discipline? Hassle of truancy or curriculum laws?

Are your reasons based in truth, idealism, fear, selfishness?

 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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What Makes A Culture?

Can an individual have their own culture, or must the aspects be shared by a group?  How much can be absent or altered without losing (collective) culture or (personal) identity?

When I think of culture, one of the first things to come to mind is food.  When I get a chance to visit another country, I want to experience their food: the tang in the air, the flavors, the different ingredients.  I’m curious whether food is mostly served at home or at a restaurant?  If Asian markets are any hint, pre-packaged foods are popular in China.  But Asian cooking involves all sorts of raw ingredients I’ve never heard of here in the United States.  Here also we have one of our cultures that only eats either frozen foods or fast foods or snacks.  But aren’t there still places in the world where cooking from scratch is an art?  Some cultures encourage bonding over sharing food in various degrees from a family meal to a family-style where the food is served all in giant platters into which people dip their hands to hospitality.  On the other end of the spectrum is the more formal dining experience, at a restaurant, with plates individually prepared, courses served.  There are cultures more receptive to buffets (my grandparents from Kansas *loved* them), or short-order cooking.  There is something special that some cultures encourage about preparing food together.  Some places esteem cooks highly, while others relegate the cooking of food to the lowliest classes (or women or slaves).  In some cultures dessert is a special treat, for holidays maybe – while some have a dessert at least once a day!  Which cultures care about nutrition?  Which about presentation?  Which about exotic flavors and innovative dishes?  Which focus more on comfort food and cravings?  What are considered comfort foods in various cultures?

I’ve noticed that different cultures have different modes of posture.  Some use chairs, and some cushions.  Some have sofas, others benches.  There are places where squatting is more common than sitting “Indian-style”.  Related to this, I think, is hygiene: how often do the people bathe, and by what means?  What are their toilet facilities like – or do they use fields, dig holes?  How do the people view health, view disease?  How do they treat it?  Do they use prayers or rituals?  Exercises?  Medicines?  Drugs?  Herbal remedies and nutrition?  Oils?  Mineral baths?  Other practices like chiropractors would employ?  Do they gather the sick together in hospitals or tend them at home?  Are there doctors?  How much treatment is limited to professionals?  Do they believe in preemptive medical care like scans or vaccinations?  At what points do they choose not to treat a person any more?

How are drugs and alcohol viewed?  Sometimes there are whole cultures built around the common experience of these substances.

What do people wear in various cultures?  What are the conventions; that is, is it normal for anyone to wear pants?  Robes?  Hats?  Certain colors or fabrics?  What is the style?  How often do fashions change?  How are they changed?  Does appearance matter as a form of art or more a form of modesty?  Is clothing more about the aesthetic or the functional?  How is clothing used to demonstrate distinctions in gender, age, class, employment, marital status, etc.?  Do people alter their bodies for the sake of appearance: foot binding, neck stretching, piercings, tattoos?

It seems to me that different cultures hold different ideas about acceptable risks.  Is it acceptable to let a child play near a fire?  Jump off a log?  Play where he might encounter a snake?  Get into a fist-fight with another child?  This is not exclusive to children, though.  In some cultures taking risks is involved in a rite of passage.  Risks are joined in together, to form social bonds.  Other cultures are much more conservative and careful, I think.  What do people put on the other side of the scale when they’re weighing risks?  Are fun and excitement of any relevance to them?  Competition?  Appearance?  Or do they only consider practical things like preparing for invasions or hunting for food?

Art is such a huge sphere for culture that I don’t even know where to begin.  Cultures have their favorite mediums, subjects, colors, motives.  I can only suppose that certain fonts are the preferred writing of specific cultures, since the fonts on grocery stores appealing to diverse cultures are unique and identifiable even in the United States.  People groups have their own favorite sounds of music, their customary scales in which their music is played or sung.  Some have more instruments than others.  Dancing varies from culture to culture in complexity and energy and purpose.

There are other forms of entertainment that vary depending on the culture.  Even the predominance of entertainment can be a mark of a different culture.  Sports are observed as entertainment, or played for entertainment; in some cultures it seems to be one more than the other.  Some sports are preferred by certain cultures, probably by way of other aspects of their culture (energy, reserve, risk) and inheritance (what did their parents play or watch?).  The complexity of toys, items used for play and entertainment, is also different in foreign places.  Some toys focus more on athleticism, others on skill and focus, and others do most of the work for you, performing for your enjoyment.  Toys can be scientific or domestic – little representations of the working world.  On the other hand, they can be silly escapes from the real world.

Architecture is probably a form of art, too.  But I think it transcends art in that buildings often serve additional purposes.  So, is the architecture of a culture about efficiency? Beauty?  Community?  Symbolism?  Do they use materials found at hand, or manufactured, or transported to the building site?  How big are they – are they too big for one family to raise themselves?  Do people try to live in the same place their whole lives, or are they ambitious for bigger buildings?  Do they live in natural formations like caves?  Do they dig out holes in the ground?  Do they live in trees?  By rivers?  Do they dig wells or irrigation trenches?  Do they build dams?  And how much do all of these things influence other aspects of the culture, like family and friends and food and business?

An aspect of culture in my own country so glaring that I failed to recognize it at first is materialism.  How many things do people own?  Is it a status symbol to own more?  Is sharing encouraged?  Do people show love through gifts?  How do people feel about financial sacrifice?  Do they invest in material things or in businesses – or adventures?  Where do they keep their goods?  Are things owned by individuals or groups or everyone?  Is there a distinction between land as property and removable objects as property?

Cultures have their own stories.  “Own” is here used loosely, because I have found common threads of story in many different cultures.  There are fables about the origins of things, and love stories, and stories of wars and sacrifice.  Some stories even have comedies, the sense of humor varying from culture to culture (and individual to individual).  What is seen as a hero?  Is it the man who slays the most enemies?  The man who rules the most living men?  The man who sacrifices himself?  Different cultures have their different monsters.  They have their own dominant fears, just as they have different favorite virtues.

Values shape cultures.  It seems that in America the dominant culture values independence, and speaking our mind.  I’ve heard of cultures that value the good of the whole.  Some value honor, others hold preserving life as a higher value.  Some value youth, and others value the elders.

Religions are often associated with and intertwined in cultures.  Is there one sovereign God?  What is He/he like?  Are there many gods worshiped?  Are certain animals or plants revered?  How is worship carried out?  Through song?  Pilgrimage?  Sex?  Sacrifice?  Sacred words?  Eating?

Cultures have often established their own rituals to recognize significant events like birthdays, coming of age, marriage, and other accomplishments (like graduation).  They have special ways of holding funerals.  They bring their own unique takes on holidays.  What fun, to see images and artifacts from Christmases in other places or ages!

Language is one of my favorite aspects of culture.  Is it important to the culture?  Is it precise or more personal?  Is it written or mostly spoken?  Is it tonal?  How appropriate are metaphors, slang, and profanity?  What are the customary greetings?  Besides the words spoken, what other gestures are included?  What gestures are seen as essential to good manners, and which ones are abhorrent?  Which ones are just the convention?  One tribe I heard of rubs its nose while thinking, but it is more common for my culture to scratch our head or chin – or to frown.  Does the culture encourage more or less expression of one’s own thoughts – or feelings?  Which is predominant: thoughts or feelings?  Is expression mostly communicated by gesture, action, word, or art?  Accordingly, are the people of the culture more generally reserved – or exuberant?  Are they loud or quiet?  Does everyone speak at once?  Do they take turns at anything they do?

How intimate are their friendships?  How many friends does a person tend to have?  Do they share their friends with their whole family, or is it a private affair?  How do they play?  Is playing part of friendship?  How do they show honor?  How do they respond to dishonor?  Is dishonor a casual joke or a serious offense?  How are reconciliations brought about?

There is diversity in any culture, large or small.  How is that balanced?  Is it suppressed or embraced?  Is there competition more than cooperation?  Do they try to come to unity, or to sameness?  Are differences displayed?  Analyzed?  Intentionally created?  What things are used to emphasize (or manufacture) what they have in common?  I know in some places religion does this, in others wars bring people together against a common enemy, and in others it is the common experience of standardized schooling that prepares them to respond in similar ways to things.

I don’t know if there are cultures without classes, but given that in most there are, how are relationships between the classes?  Is there mutual respect?  Is there resentment?  Are people generally content with the life to which they were born?  Do they practice cruelty or charity towards the classes that are more needy?  Is this voluntary or institutionalized?

How big is one’s sphere in their culture?  Who does a culture encourage friendship with?  Who does it encourage responsibility towards?  What are members encouraged to aspire to?  How much is proximity a factor?  What kinds of transportation do people use (walking, driving, biking, boating, flying, carting, carrying)?  Do people travel for social reasons or economic ones?  Or are there environmental reasons to practice a sort of migratory lifestyle?

Here in the United States we have many cultures living side by side, some whose “boundaries” are only a block or two from a significantly different group.  And with technology the way it is today, we can converse with people far away, travel quickly to see them, view photos they took, and purchase art created in foreign cultures.  How aware are people of other cultures?  (How aware are they that theirs is distinct?)  Are they interested in them?  Do they want to integrate good things from other cultures into their own?  Do they integrate foreigners?  Is this by means of cooperation or an initiation and instruction?  Are they willing to adapt their own culture?  Do they resist change?  Do they try to replace every culture they meet?  Do they replace the cultures of peoples they come to dominate?  Do they have compassion for foreigners or other cultures?  Do they feel superior?  Do they covet what other cultures have or are?

To an extent, family structure is different in cultures.  How do husbands relate to their wives, and what is expected of each within the home?  How do people come to be married?  How many wives may a man have?  How do parents relate to their children?  Who else bears the burden of child-rearing (community, grandparents, school, nannies)?  What kinds of discipline are used?  Are children seen and not heard?  Are they seen as trophies or contributors?  How important is extended family?  Is family more important than friends?  Are there specific obligations towards family members?  How does a family unit relate to the rest of the world?  How much is the government involved?

Some people view laws and government as providing order and security, or as being the at-the-ready conflict resolvers, while others expect the government to oversee all of the individual’s (and group’s) needs.  Some expect the government to enforce justice, and others are content with a system built on bribes.  Do the people believe it is their place to submit, or to reform, or to revolt?  In some places, the government is not only expected to take care of needs, but to take on big societal problems, and solve them.  Governments tend to look out for their own interests, but whether the peoples are ok with that or not is not so universal.  Some governments take in a vast number of citizens, whereas there are some whose range is limited to the immediate family of a Bedouin tribe.

Is business conducted in a personal way?  Does a person go door to door offering their goods or services?  Is there a public common market or do consumers seek out goods and services at specific phone numbers, websites, or stores?  Is a transaction considered between equals, or are service providers a lower class?  Are the servants recognized as members of a household or anonymous functionaries?  Is there a mindset of professionalism?  Who desires the professionalism – professional or consumer or both or neither?  How influential are corporations – the idea that no one person is responsible for the good or service being sold?

There is such a variety of technology, and tools, that are used in different societies, and these can be both representative and influential.  What things are used for communication?  For building?  Transporting?  How much of life is taken up by work?

What is the general schedule?  What is the work week?  How many hours in a day are work?  Is work a means or an end?  Which hours are devoted to sleeping?  When and how do people wake?  When do they play?  When do they have social activities?  Do they work together or finish their work and then spend time together?  When do they eat and how often?

If a group’s language is forgotten, and they move from the land of their buildings and ditches; if they stop playing with their old toys, and their clothing no longer distinguishes them clearly from one class to another – but they carry on a secret family recipe from the old, old days when all those things had been in place, have they lost their culture?  Can they share their recipe, market their spices and vegetables to other people groups, and still have their culture?  When do we say a culture has become distinct?  When do we say it has merged with another?

Should we try to preserve cultures?  Or is a way of life gloriously defined by the personalities and abilities and histories of the people who make up the group?  Is there a difference between dissolving a culture and replacing it?  What harms does the structure of tradition found in a culture cause?  What benefits does it provide?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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My first unusual gadget was a great can opener my mom got for us to help her in the kitchen.  It attached with the blade parallel with the top of the can, and it cut off the whole lid with no sharp edges.  This is the kind I learned to use, and it’s still my favorite.  Oxo makes one, but Pampered Chef also carries one which I’ve seen more often.  I found a website that recommended this version by Kuhn-Rikon.  The one drawback is if the can is *very* full, in which case a little liquid will spill over.

I also like the measuring cups that sit flat on the counter but have a little diagonal ring inside so that you can see how much (liquid, especially) you’ve poured in already.  If you have ever seen a carpenter use a level, you know how not-accurate it is to just guess with your hand.  Same for measuring cups.  I got mine at a hardware store.  Apparently carpenters know how the world should be.

I have been fascinated ever since I heard of Danish dough whisks.  They’re a curly-q wire firmly attached to a wooden handle.  The wire is thick enough that it won’t bend with normal use.  And it moves softer doughs through the successive swirls to get things mixed.  My good friend got me one when I excitedly described one to her.  So far I think their target use is for baked goods like muffins or quick breads.  They would probably work on doughs as stiff as cookies, but I wouldn’t use it for regular breads, at least not once you start adding flour.  The best part about Danish dough whisks?  Clean up.  The wire is easier to clean than hands or spoons.  The next best part? Letting kids help with it.  Dough is harder to fling when there’s no flat surface for it to adhere to the utensil.  Let them get a little crazy!

When the time has come to use a spoon for mixing, our family loves to use wooden-handled “ice cream scoops”.  These don’t make nice round balls to go into cones, but rather islands of frozen yumminess.  Or they are sturdy for all sorts of mixing.  We use them to stir hot things on the stove, too.  But when we make brownies, I’ve come to love the one-utensil strategy of a rubber spoonula – a slightly scoop-shaped spatula that mixes, ladles, and scrapes the sides of the bowl.  Pick one-piece models like this one for easiest cleaning and durability.

One kitchen appliance my mom thinks no home should be without is a George Foreman electric grill.  It sits on the countertop without melting even cheap plastic surfaces.  In less than ten minutes it is preheated good enough to cook basic things like hamburgers, chicken, or grilled sandwiches.  The grease slides down the grooves into an accompanying tray.  This makes it hard to sear in flavor, but is a plus for those people who are looking to cut out extra fat.  When you’re done, the non-stick surfaces are easy to clean.  If it is still warm, usually just water will work to wipe it clean.  If it has cooled, a little bit of soap and a sponge still make for easy clean-up.  We keep two in our kitchen, and my mom usually has an extra one or two (garage sale and thrift store finds) on hand to replace ours as the non-stick coatings wear off or to gift to friends.

We’re not so great with knives in our house.  I think my parents wanted everything dull for years because they had small children running around and emptying dishwashers and helping in the kitchen for about 16 years.  Then they just got in the habit.  Anyway, to compensate we have kitchen scissors – 4 pairs, at present.  They’re useful for slicing into plastic packaging (cereal, cheese, boxed brownie mix, bacon).  But they’re also pretty good for cutting up chicken.  I don’t know why we have 4 pairs; surely we aren’t cooking *that* much chicken.  I wonder what else we use them for?

Do you know what I love?  Collapsible things.  I had a cup made of concentric rings when I was little, that collapsed to about ½ inch height.  It was fun to play with even when not officially in use.  They’re just fascinating things in the category with Slinkys and yo-yos.  I have a collapsible colander that will sit on top of the sink.  It’s pretty great.  Just don’t get a colander with a hinge.  Those are nearly impossible to clean.  I would caution against collapsible measuring cups, though; consistency of shape seems to be necessary to their function.

In the past few years everyone in my family has become a fan of brownie- and cookie- in-a-mug recipes.  Especially when we crave something warm and gooey, or with ice cream on top for a yummy sundae, the simple recipes available online are perfect for a single-serving dessert.  No left-overs to get hard on the counter or take up space in the freezer.  We use our big cozy microwave-safe mugs for this.  And with the knowledge I’ve gained comparing recipes, I’ve even invented little cobblers as snacks for kids while I was babysitting.  A lot of mugs are even oven-safe.  Be on the look-out for multi-use tableware that can be repurposed as dessert ramekins.

Since I began culturing yogurt at home, I’ve tried making other things out of it.  I’ve also tried my hand at cottage cheese and ricotta.  Several recipes call for straining these dairy products.  Typically I use an old flour-sack tea towel set inside a regular colander for this.  But recently I ran across a yogurt funnel.  It’s a semi-circle of plastic lined with a fine mesh.  When you curl these up into a cone shape, it snaps together.  Yogurt goes inside, closest to the mesh.  Liquid falls through the mesh, catches on the plastic and is funneled down to the point where there is enough of a hole in the way the solid plastic curves together that it lets the liquid out.  Not only is this kind of thing good for straining curds; it is also the kind of thing you want when brewing loose-leaf tea.

What is special in your kitchen?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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My little friend Prudence is 3 years old.  She’s in the process of being potty-trained.  So the other night her mom told her to go use the bathroom.  She objected that, “My body isn’t telling me I have to.”  First, this is a necessary thing to teach children to recognize, when their bodies are telling them to use the toilet – and to get them to act on that and go, on their own initiative.  However, a much more important lesson came in my friend Amie’s reply to her daughter, “Who’s the boss?  Your body or Mommy?  Your body is not the boss of you.”

Your body is not the boss of you.  We should absolutely be teaching children this.  And then, maybe when they’re adults, they’ll know it, too.

Interestingly enough, it rather aligned with the article by GK Chesterton that Prudence’s dad read to us the same night.  In it, the author was responding to a critic who insisted that since his bodily impulses for pleasure were natural, they were legitimate.  The critic was also interested in pursuing these pleasures while preventing natural consequences of the actions.  Yet another valuable lesson.

Consequences are natural (and therefore legitimate?).

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I’m the kind of girl who spends hours talking to a friend.  Then I go home and write a 5 page email.  Then I want my friend to write back.  So I can write back.  And so on, until we can spend hours together again.

I don’t need to be with people constantly; I appreciate a few hours to myself here and there.  But I want to see people every day.  And not just see them.  Not just eat dinner across the table from them or watch TV with them.  I want to have an interesting conversation with them.  To laugh with them.  To plan with them.

That’s the kind of girl I am.  I am also usually the last to leave a party – unless I’m on my way to another one.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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The Empty Cradle, by Philip Longman, is a wide-scope book delving into a truth much more inconvenient than “global warming.”  It is a fact that birthrates are falling all over the world, and that in many countries, particularly Western nations, the rates are already below replacement.  In this well researched book, the author logically lays out a history of birthrates – particularly in the modern era (since the founding of America), the economic consequences of labor shortages, and some suggestions for stimulating a rise in birthrates again without relinquishing secular equalitarianism.  The author’s worldview is specifically secular, and he expresses some fear that religious fundamentalists (that would be me) may inherit the earth by default of having more children.  He describes the overcoming faith that such people have, enabling them to go ahead and have multiple children despite cultural and economic pressures that depress the birthrate among pragmatists. 

 

Once upon a time the government was concerned to see birthrates falling (they fell in the United States for about a century between the Civil War and the end of World War II).  In the 20th century, however, prominent voices began sounding an alarm of overpopulation – a myth, since the population of the world has multiplied magnificently in the ensuing decades and managing an ever-increasing productivity.  Quality of life has improved significantly since the middle ages, when the population of the earth was but a fraction of the present 6 billion. 

 

A few pages are devoted to the causes of declining birthrates.  Accessible and legal and socially acceptable birth control (the Pill) is mentioned, along with abortion.  Mostly the author discusses the “liberating” policies of equality and the economic forces of increasingly technological jobs.  There is also the cultural/materialistic glamorization of adults free of the burden of children. 

 

How important is the birthrate?  The middle of The Empty Cradle describes the devastating economic situation we can anticipate when 1) birthrates fall steeply and 2) birthrates fall below replacement levels.  The population ages.  Aging populations reproduce less even than their parents did.  This is a downward spiral with drastic consequences.  Most attempts to deal with these results depress the birthrate even more. 

 

Economics effect social structure and the type of government people find acceptable and necessary.  As he builds toward the concluding recommendations for turning these trends around, Mr. Longman incorporates a good tutorial on economics, the examples of history, and some political theory.  If you’re interested in the power of taxation and laws, read this book. 

 

In Chapter 7 is a discussion of the economic implications of having children, including “opportunity cost.”  At one point the author states that “cheaper by the dozen” is true, but he minimalizes this.  He is exaggerating when he uses the phrase, really only calculating for two or three children, not by a larger number like a dozen.  In a broad economic sense, one woman raising and educating 6-12 children, cooking for them at home, growing her own vegetables, etc. would be a much more efficient means of producing a crop of laborers than the present one.  Also the data he uses in calculating the cost of a child is an average, representing the values of a society that prefers things to people.  Priorities change (people whose priorities have not changed consider this a sacrifice) and thrift is employed when you really wish to invest in having many children.  What the author does not do in analyzing whether all the costs typical of raising a child are necessary or even beneficial, he does for the elderly.  There are many pages describing the extension of life expectancies, the ineffectiveness of healthcare, and environmental excesses that cost money to produce and to remedy but which could easily be avoided with a bit more prudence. 

 

The final chapter of the book (none of this book is superfluous; there is not even a summary conclusion – a concise style I appreciate) lists three primary recommendations the author has for making the most of the labor we have and for encouraging adults to invest in the future through bearing a next generation.  In keeping with his worldview, the recommendations avoid appeals to virtue or self-responsibility, instead increasing the role of governments wielding taxes and laws to corral the people to a preferred socially beneficial behavior (including more healthy lifestyles and diets).  My favorite recommendation is one that would be difficult for a government to force, but which may be the inevitable social response to increasing economic and political pressures from the declining population: return to smaller communities in which production is less efficient but healthier and more viable long term. 

 

All the facts, observations, and analyses of this book had the ring of truth (included are multiple sources and footnotes).  I disagree with interpretations in some places, and with prescriptions in others, but benefited from reading the author’s different point of view.  This is a book I want to own, to keep on my shelf and to use in home educating my, God willing, many children.  The information presented in The Empty Cradle is important for every person to know, and the writing and layout are superb.  Therefore, I recommend this book to you, and to all of my friends. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Books Read in 2008
Persuasion by Jane Austen (ok, so I re-read it, but loved it more the third time. The tale of a good, intelligent woman on the verge of being forever an “old maid,” whose family ignores her but whom she helps all the same. There is a handsome man she loved before he was rich, and so turned down at the influence of her family and friends, and very much regrets. He comes back into her life and suddenly everyone realizes Anne Elliot is the girl they want to marry. I underlined every word that illustrated persuasion, steadfastness, or persuad-ability. There are a lot.)
The Preacher and the Presidents by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy (a modern history book looking at leadership, politics, and big decisions as associated with Billy Graham.)
A Walk With Jane Austen by Lori Smith (Single Christian girl in early thirties goes to England to trace Jane Austen’s life. She dreams of love, finds something special, and goes on to share her very human, very female thoughts about life, love, and God – often borrowing words from Jane Austen herself.)
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare: I’d say the book is about making choices, and the freedom that comes from doing the right thing even when you don’t understand what’s going on. And it has to do with contentment and waiting and hard work. I see my friend, who recommended the book, in the pages. It’s the kind of thing she would like and live – and the kind of thing I would like and try to live.  Kit grew up in the free, warm Atlantic equatorial islands.  When her grandfather, who raised her, died, she decided to move in with her penpal aunt in New England.  The Puritan atmosphere doesn’t quite suit Kit, who looks for friends who share her sense of freedom.  Life doesn’t turn out quite how she imagines (through failure of imagination of consequences), but she means well.  Her influence gently softens the community, but eventually she is still tried as a witch.
I recently read GK Chesterton’s first novel, Napoleon of Notting Hill. It was a quick read, interesting and fast-paced. It follows the life and career of the most unique humorist of England, one Auberon Quin, who was elected by lottery the king of England according to the consummate democracy of his fictional future government. Auberon enjoys making people confounded and annoyed, by being himself completely ridiculous. I have a feeling that this would be an even less popular course in England than in America.
 Young, Restless, and Reformed by Collin Hansen took a tour of the country to find out about this multi-rooted movement of ‘young Calvinists.’ He did a great job of filling pages with information about theology, denominations, organizations, authors, and what’s so exciting to us about God’s sovereignty. Grace, a consistent description of the world, a God worth worshiping – we have lots of answers, lots of paths that are bringing us to become part of the revival of Calvinism in the West. Why is God doing this? We wait to see.
Brave New Family by GK Chesterton is a compilation of many essays written about the Home and Family, about relationships between men and women and children.  It is excellent, but I read it so long ago that I can’t remember all that much about it.

The Man who was Thursday by GK Chesterton is a sort of allegorical tale about sovereignty and the war of the anarchists.  It is filled with character sketches.  The full impact of this book did not hit me until after I had read it and proceeded with life, when I began to encounter ideas and people frighteningly similar to those in this book.  I think Chesterton based some of them off real people whom he had met as well.  Hang in there for the end of the book.  It will blow your mind.

Ekklesia, edited and compiled by Steve Atkerson of the New Testament Reformation Fellowship, is an exposition of the New Testament’s descriptions of and instructions for the Church.  Apart from the business model, consumer structure of traditional church meetings, the authors argue from the Bible for a more personal and interactive gathering in homes.  There was very little in this book with which I could disagree.  Not only was it informational, reading Ekklesia was also challenging and encouraging.  The theology and exposition is spot on, well supported with biblical references.  In an age when God is working in many hearts to produce a desire to engage in community and God-powered ministry, this is a good book for direction.  An added bonus is that NTRF has not copyrighted Ekklesia, encouraging you to distribute portions to your friends or quote it in publications.

The Shack, by William Young, is a novel of a man dealing with the tragic death of his daughter and his feelings about God.  He ends up spending a weekend with God, dealing with classic issues of the problem of pain and our acceptance of God’s goodness despite what we feel.  God is incarnate in three persons, with whom he has many vivid interactions and conversations.  At the end of the story, he is left with more peace about God and the life he has experienced, but still does not have answers about what God expects of him.  The story is written in a way that tempts you to believe it is based on a true history.  At the end when I read the “making of” that told me it was only fiction, I was much relieved.  There is enough truth in the philosophy and theology that I could not believe the book represented demonic activity (producing the supernatural things described).  But there were also enough problematic elements (God as a girl wearing blue jeans) that I could not believe the events were truly from God.  Realizing that the author used fiction to introduce his own thoughts on theology must allow for him to be mistaken yet in some areas.  Most concerning are the indications that God would not send any of His creations to hell, because He loves ‘all His children’ – with an unbiblical definition of God’s children.  The semi-gnostic tendencies and references, including a conference with Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, provide insight into the background of Mr. Young.  The book is not keen on the Bible or church, either.  For a best seller, this book is a quick read and an interesting visit to theology.  But God gave us the Bible as His personal revelation; don’t substitute anything for it.

The Midnight Dancers is Regina Doman’s fourth fairy tale novel.  I don’t know whether she was a rebel herself or consulted heavily with people who had been there, but all of her observations on motive and inner conflict resonated well with my observations, and actually explained things.  Her main character is very human, torn between desires to be responsible and to be appreciated as an adult, between her love of freedom and her love of people.  Midnight Dancers also shows the slippery slope of sacrificing even a little bit of discernment while justifying your freedom and pleasure.  Like all of Mrs. Doman’s books, I was entranced.  However this edition, similar to Waking Rose, got pretty graphic and even too intense for my spirit to remain healthy.  I skipped a few pages near the end.  Fairy tales are fairly predictable in their endings, and this is no surprise.  They all lived happily ever after.

Mark is a book that transports me immediately back in history.  Full of action with little explanation, it is a biography of acts more than teachings, of impact rather than influences.  Beginning with a scene straight from a screenplay, of a voice crying in the wilderness, climaxing with the compassionate passion of a good Man suffering in the place of others, and closing with a simple instruction to pass the story on, Mark is a book for the ages.  Even though Jesus is the main character, the other characters are just as active and many are vivid personalities.  Mark himself may even make a cameo in a humble role at Gethsemane.  First to last this gospel is glorious.

It never ceases to amaze me how many facts are tucked into Genesis.  Details of the lives and failings of men who lived so long ago surprise me with their human reality.  Places and people, kings and battles, ancestries and inventions cover the pages.  Of course Genesis begins with creation, establishing the understanding of matter, time, energy, life, marriage, science, music, farming, boats, rain, rainbows, government, justice, worship, sacrifice, truth, possession, family, and judgment.  The generations are also sprinkled with hints of redemption and unwarranted preservation and forgiveness, of the second man supplanting the first.  Read in light of the New Testament’s references to this first book, Genesis is remarkably alive with parables and theology.  My favorite part in this reading was the theme of changed lives.

Treason by Ann Coulter is a history book with a strong political bent.  She documents how the Democratic Party is always cheering for and or supporting America’s enemies.  In the very least they have a record of opposing any efforts Americans make to defend themselves against enemies.  She describes the myth of McCarthyism, pointing out that all those people whose lives McCarthy’s trials (and just his influence) supposedly ruined were either open Communists or eventually found out to be Communists.  And most of them enjoyed long, pleasant lives (not getting everything their way, but who does?).  McCarthy, on the other hand, died young, at age 48.  But Ann Coulter doesn’t stop with the post World War II McCarthy.  She goes on to discuss Vietnam, the Cold War, North Korea, and the War on Terrorism.  History is dirty, and she both addresses some mature issues and references them to make jibes.  But I appreciate the excessive documentation of the habit of Democrats to stand up on the side most opposed to America’s interests.  They used to call such blatant and effective acts “treason.”

Medieval Iceland: Society, Sagas and Power by Jesse L. Byock (see full review)
Sphere by Michael Crichton (see full review)
Alien Intrusion by Gary Bates (see full review)
Godcast: Transforming Encounters with God; Bylines by Media Journalist and Pastor Dan Betzer (see full review) 

Lady Susan by Jane Austen (To balance the post-election doldrums this week, I read Lady Susan, a complete short novel written by Jane Austen, the last on my list of her works to read.  Consisting entirely of letters except for the last two or three pages (which summarizes both why the story could not be continued in letters and the fates of all the main characters).  For my part I wish that the story had been developed more.  I want to know the young Miss Frederica, and the smart Mr. Reginald de Courcy.  Perhaps the value is in the art by which Miss Austen communicates so much leaving almost the whole unsaid.  One feels that there is a whole story and world of events that Jane Austen knew but wouldn’t share because she didn’t have to.  The worldview of the widow Lady Susan is summed up in her words from Letter 16, “Consideration and esteem as surely follow command of language, as admiration waits on beauty.”  She is a scandalous flirt and insufferable liar, scheming throughout the novel to acquire pleasure, money, and importance at the expense of all her relations, friends, and even her daughter.  Jane Austen tends to end with her villains unpunished.  They don’t go to prison, or suffer a life-long illness or poverty or death.  The world may scorn them, but generally they never cared what the world thought.  We the good readers may pity the partners with whom they finish the tales, but the villains themselves will not wallow, we think, in self-pity for long, rather getting something for which they have always aimed.  Lady Susan is a novel where, with the concise style, these patterns are readily exposed.  Read Lady Susan.  It’s a light, funny story with a background romance.  Characters are typically Jane Austen even if we see little of them.  And the style makes a good template for understanding the rest of Jane Austen’s beloved books.) 

Dead Heat by Joel Rosenberg (see full review)

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver (There wasn’t a lot of new Christian stuff in this book, but it was a good read and some challenging reminders.  This book covers topics ranging from worry to service to worship to personal devotions.  I love how the book draws everything together into the One Thing conclusion.  Joanna invites you to join her journey of seeking a Mary Heart in a Martha World.)

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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