The Essential Characteristics of Scripture

One of the books that I have been reading lately is Kevin De Young’s Taking God at His Word.  I read it because I was looking for an apologetic of scripture and its authority to read for my reading challenge.

De Young spends the majority of the book exploring four essential characteristics of scripture.  I thought the four essential characteristics were so impressive that I wanted to record them in miniature right here, so that I can keep them in my memory.

So, here they are:

Sufficiency

The Bible contains everything we need for the knowledge of salvation and godly living.  We do not need new revelation.  We do not need direct messages from heaven.  Instead, everything we need for our spiritual walk is in God’s word.

Clarity

The scriptures are clear.  The saving message of Jesus is taught plainly in the scriptures.  Anyone who reads and/or hears the scripture can understand the message.  We don’t need a preacher, a scholar or anyone else to tell us what the Bible means.  We can understand it.

Authority

The last word on any subject goes to the word of God. We must never allow our human experiences, other people’s stories, science, church councils, or teachers to take precedence over the scripture.  The scripture alone is authoritative.

Necessary

The general revelation we receive through nature is not enough to save us.  Personal experience and human reason is not enough to save us.  We need God’s word to tell us who Christ is and how to be saved.

De Young goes into great detail on all four characteristics in his book, and I highly recommend that all Christians should pick up a copy.  We tend to pick up so much extra-biblical nonsense from our experiences, our culture and human reason that we are not capable of discerning truth apart from God’s word. And we tend to forget that fact, so this is a great refresher.

My True Job

I often find myself distracted.  I wrote in a earlier blog post how I struggled with my self-worth when I became a stay-at-home mom. I found myself not feeling like it was enough to be a homeschooling mom, even though my husband and I had decided that my primary job would be to take care of our home and homeschool the kids.

I found myself piling on volunteer opportunities.  I had myself teaching children other than my own three to four times per week.  I blogged, and I put a huge effort into it.  I was learning how to do graphics, affiliate links, social media planning and partnering with other bloggers to expand my platform.  I was working as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, and I had more curriculum coming into my house than I knew what to do with. I also had more books to review coming in than I knew what to do with.  The deadlines and the writing and everything were exhausting.

It was sapping the energy out of our homeschool, and it was sapping the energy out of my life.  I slowly began to make changes to make for a peaceful home and to go back to my primary goal.  I began to slow down on the things outside the home.

That didn’t mean that I slowed down entirely.  After all, in some areas, like in the kids’ activities and in field trips, I actually sped up.  However, I was able to focus on my real goals and on my calling.  I am often in a state of re-evaluation, trying to make sure that I don’t take on anything that keeps me from my primary mission.  That’s one of the reasons why I appreciated reading Rebekah Merkle’s Eve in Exile so much.  It reminded me of the importance of my home and family.  It allowed me to be free to embrace my role without embarrassment.

One of her quotes, that could have come straight from my life is this one:

As soon as a job (or anything else) begins to pull us away from our families, then we need to stop and reevaluate, remembering where God wants us to be focused.

I can unapologetically say that God comes first and family comes second.  Everything else has to get in line behind that, and all commitments must be evaluated in light of my priorities. For the first time ever, I’m okay with that.

Showing Love by Giving

Emalee is a giver.  Every year at Bible school, I find her making cards or gifts for her teachers.  She likes to make little gifts for her friends at Bible study.  She is really into giving cards and making little things for those who she loves.

She also is the first to give a hug.  She is the first to join in as a helper.  She is the first to worry as a way of showing care.

I love this picture of her giving her grandfather a homemade card for Father’s Day.  It’s mostly pen and computer paper, but it’s something that she made herself to show her love.

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Sometimes I forget to tell her how much I love that wants to show people care.  I love that she is a caregiver and a peace maker.  She says she wants to be the next Dolly Parton, but mostly I see her as someone who is going to spend a lot of time caring over those whom God puts into her life.

She is also a challenge to me.  I care about a good many people, and I really love a few people.  Am I showing them that I care?  Do I show people that they are important to me?

Most of the time, I’m pretty sure that I don’t do as good a job as Emalee, and I pray that she never allows life to drive that need to show others that she cares out of her.

Good Books for Beginning Readers

Ellie is still at the adorable stage of learning how to read.  She’s beginning to understand words and to guess words as she comes across them, but she’s not completely there yet.  So, we’ve been spending a lot of time in the easy reader section of the library, trying to find some books that she can enjoy and learn to read from.

I recommend that you skip the readers with programmed text (like the phonics series and Bob books) completely.  Of my four children, Connor and Bennett both used them in learning to read, and Ellie and Emalee have ignored them completely.

I noticed last year that, as Connor was using the Bob books and other related phonics series, he had a certain sadness about him.  I didn’t know what was causing it until he was reading a story aloud to me and one of the other kids walked by and said, “That’s a boring story.”

Connor’s reply was, “They’re all boring stories.”

Friends don’t let friends teach their children to read with the level phonics drivel that passes for beginning readers.  I’m not sorry to say that.  I had learned that lesson with my first two children, but forgotten it again by the time I taught my third child to read.

So what are our favorite books for beginning readers?

My experience with my children has been that they respond much better to real books, books that children love and can grow with.  Here are our suggestions for beginning reader practice books.

Frog and Toad We have the big collection book with all the Frog and Toad stories, and my children love every story.  The gentle humor and the sweet illustrations make these easy to read books pure pleasure.

Arnold Lobel, who wrote the Frog and Toad books, wrote several other books that are also simple to read and charming, but the children, with the exception of my first born, didn’t love those books in the same way that they love the Frog and Toad books.

I owe most of Connor’s learning to red to Arnold Lobel books.

Little Bear The Little Bear books are also sweet and gentle.  They are simple stories that children will find familiar and entertaining.  My children loved Little Bear and all his friends.

Dr. Seuss Beginning Readers Series Not all of these books are appropriate for beginning readers, but there are some classic P.D. Eastman, Dr. Seuss and Jan & Stan Berenstain books that every child should read as part of their beginning to read journey, such as Go Dog Go, Hop on Pop, and The Cat in the Hat. We have many of these books on our bookshelf, and find them to be a great place for beginning readers to turn for reading material.

Elephant and Piggie The overwhelming favorite in our house, however, for young children practicing their reading is Elephant and Piggie. The stories are charming and simple.  There’s just enough humor that my children are bursting out laughing as they read it.  Because the books are written as a conversation, my children love to read them cooperatively with one taking the part of Gerald and the other taking the part of Piggie.

It’s even more fun at our house because Connor usually takes the part of Gerald, a boy elephant, and Ellie usually takes the part of Piggie, a girl pig.  When the children can’t find a partner to read with, they often turn to me to be their partner for reading.  It’s pure fun.

Sometimes, when I tire of reading Elephant and Piggie, I have said no more, only to have my daughter tell me, “But they’re just so good!”  That’s a ringing endorsement of this book series.

Elephant and Piggie

Those are our favorites for beginning readers.  What have been your children’s favorites?  Just leave a comment below if there’s a great beginner series that I need to introduce my two little readers to!

Sunday Sharing

Welcome to this week’s Sunday Sharing, where I share my favorite articles and videos that I encountered this week.

First up, is Ten Things You Should Know About The Sovereignty of God. Lately, I’ve struggled with some stress in my life, and one of the things I’ve taken comfort in is God’s sovereignty, so I really enjoyed this article.

Something I did this week was to Turn Off You Push Notifications. All of Them.  I had been struggling with using my new phone more than I’ve used a phone in a long time.  Too much distraction.  So, instead of allowing my phone addition to grow, I turned off all my notifications except my phone, Facebook messenger, my texts, and my Red Cross Tornado app.  It’s completely freeing.

I turned around recently and realized that there’s only one more “little” kid in the house now, and she’s not that little anymore.  Grieving the End of the Little Years was a good reminder that the feelings I’ve been having are normal for this stage.

Sometimes I am much with activity making and my piles of books to read and things to do, but I don’t actually choose to invest in the things that matter–in the things that are part of the call that God has given to me.  Making Choices That Invest in Eternity was a welcome reminder to put aside my “stuff” to invest in my children and the others that cross my path.

I love When the Words Don’t Come to You, Pray Anyway because I sometimes don’t pray because I don’t know what to say.  I don’t know how to ask or what is really in my heart about an issue.  I need encouragement to pray even then because I often come out of prayer clearer about what is actually in my heart that when I start praying.  Speaking of this topic, one my favorite songs right now is When I Don’t Know What To Do.  He’s the one I can always go to, even when I don’t know what to do.

I’ve been slowly listening through all the podcasts of When We Understand the Text.  It’s a labor of enjoyment but I find myself falling further and further behind as Pastor Hughes posts 5 podcasts a week, and because of other podcasts and sermons and books, I often only listen to a couple of podcasts each week.  Today, I wanted to specifically point out episode 15 which is a wrap-up of the main points of several podcasts as being quite outstanding.  The key point that I really wanted to take away from it is how Christ sanctified each part of the human experience (from conception to natural death) by experiencing them each himself.  I also love Hughes handling of predestination here.  Both points of this podcast are powerful.

Is Satan Stealing Our Families? has been making the rounds on Facebook, and it’s good that it has because it’s a powerful questioning of the addiction to busyness and media within which most of us live our lives.

Another article I’ve seen making the rounds through my friends’ Facebook pages is Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?  I’m not a fan of teens on social media, and this article has some interesting statistical data that makes me feel like my instinct is a good thing.

I totally get Golden Girls go Sonny & Cher: A Story of Sanctification.  I am often amazed and horrified when I look back on the things I approved of and my desires as a young person and see how God has changed me.

I love Why I’m Not Allowing Laptops in My Seminary Class.  There’s no reason to take notes by computer or to be on your phone in class, so not having them in the classroom is a great policy.

I also love the article What Does Your Kindergartener Need to Know?  My youngest child just finished kindergarten, and we did not spend the year focusing on academics.  We read books together.  She counted and did puzzles.  She learned a couple of card games. She drew pictures of things that I had read. She colored.  We did lots of fun field trips together.  I let her help me some in the kitchen.  We did a little phonics and a little addition and subtraction (mostly with counting objects or fingers), and she’s starting to pick up a few words that she recognizes.  Mostly we just just had a happy year.  And over time, I have learned that that is enough.

That’s it for this week’s Sunday Sharing!  Hope you have a great week!!

Movie Night and Media Standards

My children are movie buffs.  We try to work it into our homeschool as often as possible. We read books and then we have a movie night.  I find movies and documentaries that go along with our studies, and show them as we complete units.

We don’t just restrict our movie viewing our our schooling either.  Emalee works very hard to make sure that we have a multitude of movies to choose from for our viewing pleasure.

In fact, sometimes she works so hard at it that it bothers me.  For example, one day she said, “I can’t wait until I’m sixteen so that I can quit doing schoolwork and sit on the couch and watch Netflix all day.”  I had to very quickly tell her that it wouldn’t be my couch.

Movie night

I also sometimes worry that the movies that we watch introduce problematic ideas into our house.  Case in point.  She has this deep love of romantic movies, such as the ones she sees on Hallmark.  Thinking about that, I might try to show her something like 10 Things I Hate About You. Of course, as I saw all the suggestiveness and crudity on that movie that I forgot about, I found myself regretting the decision to show her that movie.

Yet, many times we love the stories we watch and we enjoy the time spent together.  However, as with all good things, there seems to be an amount of bad things that tries to travel with it.  Guess that’s just part of living in a fallen world and dealing with the sin within us.

Like all good parents, I find myself constantly in a position of censoring and trying to protect, but to prepare as well.  It’s a difficult balance.  I was recently reading Meg Cabot’s Royal Wedding, and I found a quote in it that made me think.  This quote was:

But kids whose parents shield them from the truth–censoring their reading material, lying to them about who their parents really are, cushioning them from every possible blow–are the ones who tend to get hurt the worst once they get out into the real world. . . not because the truth is so awful, but because they haven’t been taught the skills they need to handle it.

I found this quote problematic on a couple of levels.

The first thing is that every parent shelters their child from some part of the world. I didn’t believe that was true until I had children, and I realized that, even if I tell them and expose them to so many things, that there are things that they are not emotionally ready for until they reach a certain age.

The second thing is that sheltering is not the same as not teaching your child about the world and how it works.  No matter how you shelter them, they are a sinner on the inside and you are too.  They will never be able to completely be sheltered from the world unless you move to a commune somewhere far, far away from civilization.  Even then, they will have to learn about their own indwelling sin and yours too!

Ironically, this book comes from the eleventh Princess Diary book.  It’s an adult book written for those teens who grew up reading the young adult Princess Diary series.  Ironically, I began reading The Princess Diaries   to see if was appropriate for my ten year old to read, and ended up being charmed enough by the series to read all eleven books.

On the other hand, I decided that Emalee could read some of the books in middle school and that other books would have to wait until high school.  After the first four or five books, there’s just too much discussion of sex and whether or not Princess Mia should have it with her boyfriend to recommend the later books for middle school children.

After I finished reading Royal Wedding, I put a post-it note on it with 16. That is Emalee’s signal that she won’t be reading the book until she is at least 16.  Protecting my daughter from material that she isn’t emotionally ready for yet is not irresponsible, as the author suggests, but is instead just good parenting.

#vtReadingChallenge Light Reader

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a little about plans for completing the #vtReadingChallenge, and I have not updated at all on my reading.  I’ve skipped around on the list, only counted part of my books that I’ve read this year toward the challenge, and slowly, but surely begun to fill my list up.  I am actually pleased to say that I have finished the Light Reader List (and almost finished the Avid Reader List).  I thought that, as I get each list completely read, I would make a post about my book selections, why I selected them, and give you a snippet of my thoughts about the book.

So, in that spirit, here goes the list for the first thirteen books that make up the Light Reader list:

1. A Biography–The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

This was a beautiful book about Henry VIII’s martial life, and how his religion was impacted by his marital struggles (and vice versa).  The book gives the majority of its space to Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, but I did not feel shortchanged by the amount of time spent on the other wives.  I really hadn’t known much about them or about Lady Jane Grey, and I am looking forward to spending even more time in this historical period.

2. A Classic Novel–Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Because we homeschool, I decided to put a few of our homeschooling books on this year’s challenge list. Charlotte’s Web is a classic story of friendship and allows children to explore what friendship is and what loss looks like in a safe forum.  My seven year old told me that Wilbur was a “crybaby,” but this really was a magical read.  We even had a fun themed movie night to celebrate finishing the story. It’s my third time reading this book, and it’s the first time that I did not cry. (If you’re doing Ambleside Online, this is a year one extra reading book.)

3. A Book About History–An Island Story by H.E. Marshall

This is another book we’ve been reading through our homeschool.  It is a book of British history, from the earliest of times until the reign of Queen Victoria.  It’s organized in story format, and the history itself is traced through the reign of the various kings of Britain.  As I write this, I’m only a little more than halfway through it with the children, but we are all enjoying the book, and it’s amazing how much history my children have been absorbing through it. (This on Ambleside Online’s list as the history spine for years one through three.)

4. A Book Targeted At Your Gender–Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full by Gloria Furman

This is a book aimed at mothers.  In fact, Furman is attempting to relate to Moms who are still in the early years that are so much work and exhaustion.  This was an uncomfortable book to read as I was challenged to confront my own selfishness.  I would find that she would often speak directly to my sinful desire to satisfy my own needs and to see my children as interruptions.  It was an excellent reminder to me of the importance of my job and the ever creeping presence of my own sin.

5. A Book About Theology–Predestination by Peter J. Thuesen

This may be, so far, the most informative book I’ve read this year. I’ve spent way too much time over the past couple of years pondering where I was a Calvinist or an Arminian.  Way too much time and angst!!  So much so that I even told my doctor of the struggle that I’ve had with it.  (He’s a very soothing and calming Calvinist by the way.  Exactly what I need in my life for a doctor right now.)

Thuesen here rights a fairly evenhanded and unbiased history of the doctrine of predestination and how the doctrine has developed in American history.  For the record, both Calvinism and Arminianism are rely heavily on predestination, and the differences between the two philosophies are very minimal.  In fact, upon reading Thuesen’s book, I realized that the contentiousness between the two groups has highlighted terribly small doctrinal differences, especially in the currently embattled Baptist denomination.

This is a truly excellent read, and will most likely make my top ten books that I’ve read this year.

6. A Book With At Least 400 Pages–A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin

This is the first book I finished this year, and it completed my journey with Song of Ice  and Fire. I really loved the books, and I found them far more interesting that the television show. I really hope that I there will be more books in this series to read because there are some plot lines in the book that aren’t in the movie, and this book has a shattering finish.

7. A Book Your Pastor Recommends–And Then They Prayed by Barry Loudermilk

This is a book written by my local congressman.  He occasionally attends the church that we are currently going to, and my pastor recommended the book.  This book is okay, but I found a historical error in it in the form of a misattributed quote in the first chapter.  That always ruins a book for me.  I also felt like he was reaching a little for some of his prayers that changed history, so I would call this book so-so.

8. A Book About Christian Living–Listen, Love, Repeat by Karen Ehman

This one is a curious one for me.  There was a lot of good advice in here on ways to practically love others.  However, her exegesis of scripture was very loose, and she makes some errors here in theology.  I can’t actually recommend this book because of the theological error in it.  That makes me sad because I used to really love her books.

9. A Book More Than 100 Years Old–50 Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin

I decided to use one of the children’s school books for this book in the challenge.  This tells 50 stories from history that everyone should know.  Some of them are more legends than history, such as Alfred and the Cakes and George Washington and the cherry tree, but they are all good wholesome stories that help your children to become better people as they find heroes to look up to.

10. A Book Published in 2017–The Unholy Trinity by Matt Walsh

This book is by popular blogger, Matt Walsh, who is quite a firebrand.  I enjoy reading his blog and Facebook posts, so knew I wanted to pick up the book.  He believes that the current culture war is a part of a larger spiritual struggle. I’m part of the choir here.  However, I hated that he didn’t use any references and didn’t have a bibliography.  It’s hard to recommend a book when things the author is not willing to show substantiation for his claims.

11. A Book for Children or Teens–Hatched by Bruce Coville

I read this book solely because Emalee read it and loved it.  It’s a cute story of a griffin coming to the human world and making friends with a young boy.  Through this they discover that there’s a network of little elves all underfoot inside the human world and that network is in danger.  This is a cute read.

12. A Book of Your Choice–Education: Does God Have an Opinion? by Israel Wayne

This is another book that I read that I was convinced of the argument before I ever even picked up the book.  This is an excellent read if you want to see a Biblical argument for a Christian education–specifically a home education.  Although I already agreed with the book on many levels, I found that it clarified that the reason I am homeschooling is because of my obedience to God.  Any rewards to be claimed from homeschooling are just a benefit after my own obedience. I also found myself happier with the ideas of how all knowledge comes from God and how each subject area relates back to God.  It was a very good refresher and addition to the philosophy of education that I have already been developing.

13. A Book About A Current Issue–A Heart for Freedom by Chai Ling

I read this thinking it would seriously discuss women’s rights in China and forced abortions.  Instead, I found it was mostly just an overblown, overly emotional memoir of one of the leaders of the Tiananmen Square protests.  I found that I didn’t trust Chai as a narrator and I found her gospel presentation to be theologically incorrect.

So, those are the first thirteen books of the reading challenge.  I’ll be back soon with the next thirteen books!