Tough Questions

Reading The Imperfect Pastor has me asking myself some hard questions. Eswine implies that the Fall might have been caused partially by boredom with the perfect place that God had given Adam and Eve and with their longing for “more.” I can’t say that I agree with his exegesis, but I can say that I can relate to the longing for more.

Sometimes, I find myself thinking “I could do so much more.” I’m “too limited” by the job that God has given me to do. God doesn’t value my talents. Honest words from me, but they really make me realize my own arrogance and pride.

One of the things that Eswine does get right in his account of Eden is that Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God was driven by their refusal to abide by God’s limits for them. Whatever the motivation was, they wanted to be like gods, and they refused to abide by the good limits that God had set for them.

I have often refused to abide by the limits that God has set for me in life, leading me to pain and unhappiness. This might be from natural consequences. This might be from a consequence so surprising that only God could have caused it. Either way, I find myself reeling from the realization that I have limits and that I have arrogantly attempted to be like God once again.  Here are some of the questions that Eswine poses.

If I am bored with ordinary people in ordinary places, then am I not bored with what God delights in?

If I think that local limits of body and place are too small a things for a person as gifted as I am, then don’t I want to escape what God himself gladly and daily inhabits?

If I stare at a face, a flower, a child or a congregation and say, “but God, not this. I want to do something great for you!” Am I not profoundly misunderstanding what God says a great thing is?

Why don’t you try asking yourself some of these questions and seeing how you answer?

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I know I haven’t posted any book reviews in a couple of weeks, and I know that’s what many people follow my blog for. We had a conference at my church last week, and I got behind and haven’t started catching up yet.  I currently have seven books finished and not written reviews for yet.  I’ll try to write a couple of reviews before the end of the week 🙂

Sunday Sharing

Welcome to Sunday Sharing! This is the place where I will be sharing my favorite articles, quotes and YouTube Clips each week.

First up this week are a couple of resources on Brutus of Troy.  I’ve started a whole family study in our homeschool through An Island Story by H.E. Marshall, and the first character for study was the mythological first king of Britain, Brutus of Troy. We watched this short historical documentary and read Brutus of Troy: First King of Britain or Just a Myth?.  I also assigned my older two a paragraph to write on whether Brutus was real or a myth, and they both came back to tell me that he was a myth because the Marshall story had mermaids in it. (They were both like, “Of course it’s a myth.”) I’m still pretty intrigued because I had never heard the stories before, but there’s all this folklore about him that is totally new to me.

Another article that I really enjoyed this week was Please Stop Saying–“God Told Me.”  I think this is an important issue because so many of us are looking for God’s audible voice and not feeling like God’s revelation in his written word is enough.  Why do we look for this? Is God’s word enough? Both the article and the comments are very interesting reading.

I also really enjoyed this article on The Responsibility of Dependency. We are all dependent to some extent on each other, and both sides should model independence and responsibility with money. Great thoughts for me.

I also really needed this article on 3 Marks of Righteous Anger.  I may need to read this book!  While I’m thinking about anger, I have to admit that there has been a lot of anger and fighting between my children lately.  This article on Dealing with Siblings Fussing was a great help for me.

I have really been pondering What is the Relationship Between Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility? of late.  It is a very complex question, and yet, I find myself enamored with John MacArthur’s simple answer.

Reading “The Jesus Storybook Bible” Turns 10: The Story Behind the Bestseller reminded me of a magical time in our homeschool where my children were all small and I would sit and read a story or two from this book every morning as part of our homeschooling.  It is a beautiful Bible storybook to share with your children.

As my older children are starting middle school, I’ve begun to spend a lot of time thinking about my goals in education. So, even though we don’t use the Easy Peasy Curriculum, I really appreciated this article from the creator called The Key.

I also appreciated this article on Why the British Tell Better Children’s Stories Than Americans.  I disagree with the title because better is in the eye of the beholder, but this is an interesting (and satisfying) read about the differences between American and British children’s literature.  While I’m on the topic of books, this article of How to Read 200 Books a Year gives some great advice!

Desire for Reward

Tonight, I was trying to write my lecture for my CBS class, and it was like I was writing through mud.  I’ve learned that I can’t rush the lecture process (a blog post for another day!), so I put aside my planned three point lecture and picked up a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while called The Imperfect Pastor.

Seeing as how I’m a woman, and obviously not called to the pastoral ministry, you might be wondering why I would pick up such a book. It was the subtitle and some of the reviews that convinced me that I needed to read it. The subtitle is “Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus.”  I’m convinced that God has been trying to teach me temperance over the past couple of years, so reading a book about “discovering joy in our limitations” is all about where I’m at in life.

I also grew up as a youth minister’s daughter, and my husband is heavily involved in ministry, so I have all the requisite cynicism and baggage about what ministry entails.

So far, only a chapter into the book, the book is a balm and a lifeline into how life feels and how soul sucking ministry can be as we imperfect humans thwart ministry with our own desires.  We find that in ministry we retain the same imperfect human desires for fame, prestige and the pride of life, along with the lust for power and the horrible desire to be imperfect and to “change the world.”

However, there was one sentence I read that completely undid me.  It was this one.

Many of us are confused about what it means to have true joy if we have to embrace a delayed gratification amid the slower speeds required by the things that matter most to Jesus.

Some of us go into ministry roles wanting “the word” to be elevated, evangelism to be front and center, and we forget the brokenness of the people we serve. We can’t have true joy because we are impatient. We forget that we got into ministry to serve people, and we are more worried about writing the best lectures, sounding smart, and gaining praise from people than the actual service that drew us in.

Another line from the book that really spoke to me was in a gentle discussion that Eswine had over the passage in Mark chapter 10 where Jesus is discussing those who want to be great in the kingdom. In verses 43-45, Jesus says, “But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” As Eswine discusses this passage, he says:

Servants give their days to small, mostly overlooked tasks over long periods of time with no accolade.

I am so selfish that I can not even delay my need for gratification enough to perform tasks as a servant.  I want the praise and the reward now.  It’s not enough to wait for my Father to see and reward me for my service.  I want my reward from people too!

I pray to be more like Him and to be able to serve without expecting in return. I pray to be better at giving, not just to those that I teach, but also to my family and to those who I am in relationship with as friends or mentors. I hate that so much of my desire to serve is stolen by my desire to be praised and to be noticed for what I do. Instead, I pray that I will do everything for the glory of God, and not to be a pleaser of men.

Resources We Used With An Island Story Part 1 (Chapters 1-5)

When we started using  An Island Story for history this year, I longed for a list of simple resources that would go along with the stories to gently add just a little to the stories. There wasn’t a complete one that I could find, so I finally decided that I would just make a list myself.  So, whatever path you took to get to using An Island Story with your children, I hope this helps a little bit if you’re wanting to add some simple things to it.

One note is that you will notice that many of the resources are video resources.  We are a video loving family, so this is a great way for us to connect with the stories.

The second note you need to know is that this is so long that I’m breaking it into parts, so each part will cover five chapters (usually a week or two in history for us, depending on what kind of side trails we take off on).

General Resources:

For each story we completed a note booking page for narration, and for each historical figure, we completed a simple biography page.  My goal was to have written narrations for each chapter and a simple dictionary of historical figures from the book. We did not put any dates in our timeline notebooks unless the date was specifically given by the texts.

Chapter Resources:

The Stories of Albion and Brutus

For this, we used this short historical documentary on Brutus of Troy and read the article Brutus of Troy: First King of Britain or Just a Myth?. I additionally assigned my older two children (11 and 10 respectively) a paragraph writing assignment on whether they thought that the story was true or just a myth.

I’m so interested in this story, I’m thinking about buying some books for further study for me. 🙂

The Coming of the Romans

(We didn’t use any additional resources with this chapter. Some days are just narration and moving on.)

The Romans Came Again

We chose here t0 focus just a little on Julius Caesar. We did this by watching a couple of videos on YouTube. Because we did this lesson just before the Ides of March, we did this by focusing on his assassination. The TedEd video The Great Conspiracy Against Julius Caesar was excellent.  We also really liked the Crash Course History video The Roman Empire. Or Republic. Or….Which was it?

How Caligula Conquered Britain and How Caractacus Refused to Be Conquered

We had already done a mini-study on Caractacus when we studied Beric the Briton, so we did not truly focus on him in our chapter study of him.  I can recommend one YouTube video though that does a great job with his speech before Claudius.  When we had previously studied Caractacus, we read the book The Captive Celt.  It’s a quick read, and I feel like it really adds to the picture of the kind of people the Celts were.

We did talk some about Caligula.  The story of him and the seashells is just so ridiculous that you have to spend some time talking about how crazy he was. We used this Daily Motion video from Horrible Histories to help the kids picture it in a funny way. While we were there, we couldn’t resist watching the video about him making his horse consul.

The Story of a Warrior Queen

This a chapter covering Queen Boadicea.  It’s a great place to stop and spin off for a week or so into a unit study if you’re looking to do that. I can’t recommend highly enough the Heirloom Audio Production Beric the Briton. It really brings this period in history to life, and comes with a free discussion guide that has great topics for discussion and a few fun activity suggestions.  (I’m not an affiliate, and I don’t get any money for you buying a copy, but I just really love their work.)

When we studied Beric the Briton, we read the Horrible Histories Book The Cut-throat Celts, and that gave more great pictures of the Celtic people.

There’s also a great video in the Decisive Battles of the Ancient World that really helps to understand this revolt. This Barbarians Rising: Boudica, Warrior Queen was a really helpful video too.  There’s also a Horrible Histories Episode called Bolshy Boudica, and I have tried to find it, but I can’t even find it on Amazon’s listing of episodes right now.  I must be overlooking it.

My five year old still needs something to color sometimes when we study to help her listen, so I was really pleased to find this Queen Boudicca Paper Doll to help her with her fidgetiness.  Even better was when we could playact about Boadicea later.

That’s the first five chapters for us.  Check back in the next week or two, and I’ll be sharing resources from chapters 6-10. Also, if you have any resources you want to share on these five chapters, just go ahead and share them, and we’ll all learn together!

Right In My Own Eyes

One of the things that has been really apparent to me recently is how often I am “right in my own eyes.”  It’s one of the things that the Bible warns against.  More than once!

For example, the downward spiral of the children of Israel in the book of Judges occurs because, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6 and almost repeated word for word in Judges 21:25)

We’re also told in Proverbs 12:15, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.”  So, I find that my predilection to be always right and never failing in my opinions makes me a fool.  That stings a little bit.

However, Proverbs also makes me realize that it’s just part of the human condition.  Proverbs 21:2 reads, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.”

I guess I’m not along in considering myself right in my own eyes.  That’s an attitude that is prideful, selfish and can so easily be obnoxious that it’s embarrassing.

I drew a little more comfort this week that I’m not alone in my struggle of always feeling that my way is the right way. I have been reading Philip Jenkins’ The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade.

In the book, Jenkins shows how each side of the war felt like God was on their side.  They then, from the rightness of their own perspective, begin to vilify the other side. They accuse the leaders of conspiring with Satan. It turns into a war where victory for their side is victory for God.  All sides did this to some respect in the war effort of World War I.

The quote that really brought this out for me was this one:

Other much-reproduced British military images of the war years bore titles such as The Great Sacrifice, The Greater Reward, and Greater Love Hath No Man. That final phrase also appeared regularly on Russian military graves, implying that the dead man had laid down his life for his friends. In practice, though, this commitment to suffering and sacrifice meant serving in uniform, taking up weapons, and inflicting death upon others. So constantly do such accounts portray soldiers undergoing sacrificial death that it is sometimes hard to tell who, if anyone, is actually attacking, rather than merely dying nobly. Somebody, surely, must be firing the shells and wielding the bayonets.

It occurred to me that when everyone is the victim, no one thinks that their actions are wrong.  That’s probably the kind of attitude that leads to huge world wars.

Sunday Sharing

Welcome to Sunday Sharing!  This is the place where I share all my favorite articles and other cool things I’ve come across this week!

First up is Finding Your Homeschool Tribe. I don’t know who else struggles with this, but we’ve been homeschooling five years, and I still haven’t found the “tribe” that I fit with yet.  Reading articles like this one give me hope that it’s still out there.

As someone who used to be attracted to Neo-Paganism, I find myself really feeling sensitive lately to the current mystical trends in my own beloved Christianity. So, I really appreciated the post Mysticism, We Don’t Need You. It takes a good account of some of the current trends in Christianity. Speaking of the topic, I also used to feel like I was less than spiritual because I didn’t have dramatic tales of the Lord speaking dramatically to me, but then I matured as a Christian and learned the advice set forth in How are we led by the Spirit? How do we know God’s will?. The Bible is truly sufficient for all my needs!  Along this note is also the excellent article on The Five Tests of False Doctrine.

I think it’s important to examine Why We Neglect Teaching the Bible To Our Children.  Even though I try to make it my priority, I often slip into complacency. Along these lines, I wanted to share this article on Long Hours and Laziness.  I recognize myself in this because I often allow myself long hours of working on things for my CBS class, the house, etc. because it’s easier than parenting my children. Mea culpa.

I often find myself wanting to work and glorify God, but I also want to glorify myself at the same time. This made the article Photobombing Jesus especially convicting.

I also really enjoyed the article Capturing Weak Women because I have been pondering these verses from Timothy a lot lately. I am starting be be very careful about certain women’s authors. Enough said for today on that.  While I’m on the subject of favorite posts from Tim Challies’ blog, I have to admit that Do I Really Need to Suffer? is something I’ve been pondering for a while, mostly because I always feel like such a whiner because my suffering is so slight to other peoples’ comparatively speaking.

There is something I do write with my children, and so I was delighted to read the post When Mother Reads Aloud this week. One of my children is a dreamer, and I teach a bunch of other children the Bible, so I really appreciated this article on How to Reach a Daydreamer.  Lots of good ideas here!

As someone who occasionally struggles in this area, I really appreciated this article on Christian Women and Erotica. The struggle and the battlefield of the mind are really undercooked places for sins to hang out. I’ve had to completely revamp my reading and viewing habits over the past few years as I’ve attempted to purify my mind.

How Indwelling Sin Affects My Parenting

There’s no denying it. I’m a sinner.  I’m saved by the grace of God and by the blood of His Lamb, but my sin nature still holds power of me in insidious ways.  Every time I think I might be breaking free, I find a stronghold that I hadn’t even considered existed.

This continued journey towards sanctification unfolds continually as I struggle to uproot sin in my life and my flesh struggles to cling to it. I have the ability to avoid sin and it’s power over me, but some days I’m sunk before I ever get out of bed.

The only answer, of course, is to constantly to cling to God’s word and to continue always in prayer. To choose to do acts of righteousness and avoid sin. To submit my will to God.

I’m being totally transparent here when I say that it’s a struggle. A daily struggle.

However, I don’t always share that struggle with my children. Instead, I find myself holding myself up as a self-righteous example of perfection that I expect them to follow.  Jesus has a word for that in the Bible.  He would call me a hypocrite. See Matthew 23 if you have any doubts.

How do I find myself acting like a hypocrite or a super-religious, self-righteous pharisee?

First, I find myself being hypercritical and pointing out each flaw that my children have. Yet, I ignore that same flaw in myself.  Ugly tones of voice and unkind speaking in my children often inspire me to the same ugly tones and unkindness in my correction. No wonder my kids are confused.

I often assume that if someone is handling something wrong in the house that it’s my children. Guess what?  It’s not always the children.  I just can’t seem to acknowledge my own need for Jesus.

I often focus on the children’s outward behavior instead of reaching their hearts.  I fight sin from the outside in, and as everyone knows we must “cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” (Matthew 23:26)

If, instead, I could just admit to them that I have a problem with sin, this is what I would do:

  • I would not act shocked and horrified at my children’s sin.  Instead, I would expect their sin.  I wouldn’t overreact (in an often sinful manner) to their sins.
  • I would remember that their enemy is inside them.  Often, the my first response to my child’s sin is to ask “Where did you learn that?”.  They don’t need anyone to teach them to sin.  It’s what comes naturally.
  • I would remember that even a child who is well-behaved on the outside will be dealing with sin on the inside.  My personally most heinous sins are the pride and self-righteousness that is so often buried deep within.  Why would I not expect them to struggle?
  • I would not be so quick to make excuses and defend when someone tells me about my child’s misbehavior.  I would not let it make me feel like a bad parent. I would just use it as a place to discuss with my child how their sin is visible to those around them.
  • I would be honest about my own pull toward sin and affirm them that they will be pulled toward sin too.  Just because my child has been saved, it doesn’t mean that they will never be pulled into sin, and feeling that pull should not give them doubts about their salvation.  I know my eldest especially struggles with his temper making him feel that he is not saved, but if he could see his struggles from my point of view, he would never doubt his salvation and his earnest wrestling with God again.
  • I would make it to where my children could confess their sins to me without fear of my condemnation. I’ve been the world’s worst mom to try to get my children to tell me what’s on my heart, and then for me to lecture and condemn them for what they have told me.
  • I would be more proactive in setting up safeguards in places where there’s a pull towards secret sin (such as the internet) because I know that the flesh is only so strong and has only so much will power.
  • I would deal with my sin and help my children to deal with their own sins while the actions and deeds are small before it can grow (James 1:15)
  • I would help my children to understand the power of the Holy Spirit.  We would learn together to lean on His power in our lives to put our sins to death.
  • I would not let my guard down for myself or for my children, but I would put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6) each day and teach my children to do likewise.

So, this is my super-long list for battling indwelling sin in my life and in helping my children to do battle with it.  One of my favorite Sally Clarkson quotes is when she’s talking about her frustration with her children’s behavior and her husband stops her and asks her “So, when did you stop sinning?”  As a parent, I need that reminder each time I find myself feeling harassed and unhappy with my child’s sin instead of using it as a teaching opportunity.

Each time I find myself surprised and annoyed by my child’s sin, I am treating them as if I’m less sinful than them, as if I think I’m better.  In pride, maybe sometimes my sin makes me feel like I’m better.

I am thankful to Chap Bettis’s book The Disciple-Making Parent.  This post is about me working out and responding to some of Bettis’s writing about dealing with indwelling sin in parenting and with his ideas about how often parents act like pharisees in their parenting. I stand convicted by both ideas, and decided to take some time to work through these ideas, and realized that if I posted them on my blog, they might be a help to others.

Another post I wrote a few years ago that deals with some of the same ideas is A Little Sin, and you might find it helpful if you’re struggling with your own sin in parenting.