I read a handful of articles before sitting at the Right to Life booth yesterday afternoon.  The timing (I’d been sent them just that morning in an e-mail) was impeccable (thanks Becky) and as I thought on them, I started having imaginary conversations where I integrated the information I was assimilating.

Inevitably the “conversation” would veer into “personal” territory and (after one awkward– imaginary– ending) I established a policy: no personal questions in a public place.

It’s not that I am secretive (HA!) or that I’m not willing to offer myself as an illustration.  It’s mainly that answering one personal question gives permission to ask another and so on until you make another statement (by implication) at the point you quit answering. (The worship leader in this clip is a great example.)

~  ~  ~

In a similar way I think claiming to answer questions about God can become a “slippery slope,” because there is a point at which our human ability to explain or understand just fails, and part of faith is accepting that limitation.


Apparently there’s this big-selling, self-published book out there called The Shack.

I had never heard of it before Boundless started discussing it and its questionable theology a while back, but apparently it’s not going away and they have a new article up this week discussing the implications of a part of the book.  One of those is the idea we humans have the right to question God and call him into account about the stuff we don’t like (even Job– God’s “pet”— got an earful when he tried to insist on that).

To quote from the article, God’s not the Defendant, by Gary Thomas:

For 2,000 years, Christians have believed that God sent His Son because He put us on trial and found us wanting. The proper response of humans is, “I have sinned and fallen short of Your glory. Have mercy on me.” Today’s believer and non-believer is far more likely to respond, “There’s evil in the world; God, if You really exist, explain Yourself!”

As a man who has sinned and who continues to sin, how dare I judge God for allowing sin? To destroy all sin, He would have to destroy me, as I continue to sin on a daily basis. At the very least, He would have to remove all whispers of any notion of free will; and without free will, would I still be made in the image of God?

So many people who “question” (or accuse) God concerning evil assume that they are talking about something outside of themselves, either forgetting or never realizing that God doesn’t have a continuum of tolerances for the varieties of sin.

God’s mercy to the liar or coward requires the same provision from Him as his mercy to the abuser: the sacrifice of His son, Jesus.

I love how Thomas points out the sufficiency of God’s plan: how those who wish to leave their sin now have a way, how those who don’t want to change are also provided a place for eternity.

Continue reading »

Homeschooling: Take a Deep Breath— You can do this (a book review)

(Thank you Terrie for writing this book. It’s been a delight.)

Oodles of practical stuff here:

  • convincing people whose opinions matter to you (husband, parents, friends), and some astute observations:
    • “Emphasize that it will be very, very hard, but you are willing to make the sacrifice for the good of your children. (Say this dramatically and nobly. Practice until you can say it without giggling, because giggles ruin the effect of noble statements.)”
    • “If it’s nearly time for your husband to be home…head for the kitchen and look busy. Husbands sometimes presume that if you are relaxing when they walk in, you’ve had an easy day. Look busy.”
  • ideas for organizing all that stuff you collect to enrich the teaching experience (and the paperwork when necessary)
    • along with the friendly observation that stuff can be a security blanket
  • what jargon to use as you’re starting out
    • This was useful to me as someone looking for a simple answer to move the conversation on.
  • using pre-made lesson plans
  • creating original lesson plans and unit studies
  • sections on major subjects (math, history, etc.) that have broad application, age/grade-wise.

I also found a friendly, enthusiastic voice of experience with a values-base similar to my own.

Most of all I appreciated the attitudes expressed in the answers she offers. Among other things I can see an attitude of homeschooling being valuable work and children being worth that investment.


I expect I’ll be linking this review quite a bit, because this book was everything I wanted when seeking reassurance as a preparing homeschooler.

It encouraged me, gave me a boatload of practical information, and a vaguely comfortable outline both of what my days can look like in the beginning and as I go farther along the journey.

Just what I needed.

The Easiest Way to Go Insane

Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason.

The general fact is simple.

Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion…

To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything is a strain. The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet asks only to get his head into the heavens.

It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

G.K. Chesterton
from Orthodoxy

I’ve just started reading this again, and this time the passage made me think of a conversation I had with my dad where he warned me not to try too hard to figure out all that theological stuff (I think I was playing both sides of an argument by myself).

“Remember, this is God we’re talking about here. It’s not like he’s really going to let us nail him down entirely; as if we could put God in a box and say, ‘Now we know he will *always* do this.'”

The Trouble With Beauty

And the trouble with (little-t) truth, and (little-g) goodness: Too often it is so narrowly defined that only one thing at a time can fit the label.

Let’s see if I can explain what I mean.

Years and years ago, Chinese girls of all classes believed that tiny feet were beautiful. They believed this so profoundly that some maimed their daughters and endured their own inability to care for their households (or sometimes even themselves) with feet bound to convey the illusion of smallness.

There may have been many social and relational reasons for this (fascinating, but not the point of this essay), but the result was generations of women, primarily in the wealthy classes, who lived their lives in pain in order to appear beautiful.

Those too poor to be allowed the luxury of useless women still admired the unrealistic standard, forming their opinions on something as impossible to dictate as foot size.

Eventually the ideas of the “outside world” invaded and (if I understand correctly) Christian missionaries led the active campaign to end foot-binding. Remarkably, in a single generation the custom essentially died out, and the Chinese people themselves began to see the bound foot as distasteful and deformed.

The sorrow to me in all this, was that in the effort to promote a newer and healthy form of beauty, that which was formerly beautiful had to become ugly. The women who had endured years of pain and limited freedom for the esteem it bought them found that they were now the symbols of a barbaric and embarrassing time.


In the pursuit of beauty we can easily see this extreme polarizing. It also exists in our pursuit of truth or goodness. While, in theory, honest, useful debates can exist, in reality we’ve usually already made up our minds (with or without guiding reason) and reflexively villianized the views that don’t line up with our own.

I think this is where defensiveness comes from– either in an actual debate or in (compulsively?) explaining why you did something. Ultimately I think defensiveness comes out of fear, or worry: “Did I do the right thing?”

So we seek out like-minded people who made the same decisions, articulate defenders who shoot down the opposition, energetic promoters who put into words the reasons for this choice.

Homeschooling, birth control, large families, abortion, medical intervention, breastfeeding.

These and more come under attack and are vigorously defended.

For me the sad all-or-nothing discussion right now is the birth control vs. large families debate. (<–Though that link is an excellent “discussion” Jess posted on Making Home, and goes a long way to making a gesture of understanding for both sides.)


A little more than a year after I married, I hated what I saw hormonal birth control doing to me and what I was learning about it. The “question” as to whether it was abortafacient was the final nail in the coffin. I quit.

No godly woman had any reason or right to use hormonal birth control. Why does one need to be inoculated against children anyway?

Then, within six months of each other, I met two women with endometriosis, and was humbled to learn from one that the lining-thinning property of hormonal birth control is one of the most (some argue only) effective management option available for that painful condition. There is no cure. Yes there are other methods of living with it, but I had learned what I never expected to find: a significant, therapeutic use for birth control pills.

This began a process of opening my eyes. Not, I hope, to “situational ethics” where I can dictate right and wrong, but to the reality that God does not call everyone to the same kind of obedience in all things (1 Corinthians 8).

If there is one thing I’ve been learning this stint in a mom’s group, it’s the reminder not all goodness (e.g., good parenting) looks alike. I had been around enough… under-developed parenting I’d forgotten that. I had forgotten that not everybody needs my help, and I needed to be reminded that God has different ways of accomplishing his will in each of us.

Those of us who understand our vast freedom in Christ are warned not to hinder the faith of others in the exercise of our freedom, and I’ve been thinking of two different ways this hindering can look.

First, we shouldn’t affirm selfish behavior just because we wish to affirm the individual. By this I mean (for example) reflexively agreeing with a wife’s unexamined use of birth control, or a young mom working outside the home just because she can.

I believe either of these things could be legitimate, but we “older women” (such as we are) aren’t helping them learn to think critically if we agree with a decision they’ve made on merely cultural grounds.

I’m not suggesting we go out and lecture people. I’m referring to those who approach us, asking our opinion or seeking our approval.

Second, we should also be careful not to share our own stories as if they were absolute models– because we shouldn’t encourage anyone to think that by looking like us they will be obeying God’s plan for their lives. That could be just exchanging one set of prayerless assumptions for another.

Better than anyone we know our own imperfections, and I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t dare condemn anyone else to mine.

God has planted some amazing beauty and truth in my life, but I hope I never again assume that that beauty and (little-t) truth are the only things that can be called by those names.

Frequently, when I begin to feel sure of one small “fact” (Women who don’t breastfeed are a reflection of our selfish, me-centered culture.), reality will break in. God will gently insert an exception into my life to remind me that I haven’t got it all figured out.

It’s how he teaches me grace.


All this God also uses to remind me of himself, and my forever-insufficient understanding him.

My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered from time to time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the messiah in ruins… But the same thing happens in our private prayers.

All reality is iconoclastic.

C.S. Lewis
From A Grief Observed

Evelyn Underhill

(From the book: Devotional Classics, Ed. by Foster and Smith)

Because we live under two orders, we are at once a citizen of Eternity and of Time. Like a pendulum, our consciousness moves perpetually– or should move if it is healthy– between God and our neighbor, between this world and that.

The wholeness, sanity and balance of our existence depend entirely upon the perfection of our adjustment to this double situation…

I loved this description, because it fits so well with what I’ve experienced. The swinging back and forth has always happened as I’ve felt drawn to God and returned (or pulled) to my earthly work. Yes, we’re dual citizens, and I suppose some people can walk in both at once, but having this different image was very helpful to me.

In our natural life we need to use all of them [the thinking faculty, the feeling faculty and the will or acting faculty]. Do we need all of them in our spiritual life, too? Christians are bound to answer this question in the affirmative. It is the whole person of intellect, of feeling, and of will which finds its only true objective in the Christian God….

Prayers should be the highest exercise of these powers; for here they are directed at the only adequate object of thought, of love and of desire. It should, as it were, lift us to the top of our condition, and represent the fullest flowering of our consciousness… attain[ing] according to our measure that communion with Reality for which we were made.

Ah! To live with this reality: that our interaction with God is the fulfillment of all we were created for, using the best of everything God has given us.

Evelyn has much more to say (she wrote a number of books– all still going for top-dollar on Amazon, which will tell you something about demand), but I especially appreciate how she includes the intellect as a part of the process of prayer– the best place, in fact, to start.

There are some who believe that when we turn to God we ought to leave our brains behind us. True, they will soon be left behind by necessity if we go far on the road towards God who is above all reason and all knowledge, for the Spirit swiftly overpasses these imperfect instruments.

But those whose feet are still firmly planted on earth gain nothing by anticipating this moment when reason is left behind; they will not attain the depths of prayer by the mere annihilation of their intelligence.

Taking a Lesson from Saint George

(Excerpts from the excellent book Saint George and the Dragon, that I’ve mentioned before.)

After the tremendous battle to slay the dragon, the king says to George (not yet Saint):

“Never did living man sail through such a sea of deadly dangers. Since you are now safely come to shore, stay here and live happily ever after. You have earned your rest.”

How many times a day do we hear– or think– that? You’ve earned it!

Usually we hear it from people who want something from us. Mostly advertisers. Isn’t is sad we desire that “truth” so much we’ll even take it from those we know are seeking to manipulate us?

Do we ever stop to ask ourselves what we have done that’s so exceptional? Worked hard? Made some sacrifice (by which we usually mean we did something unpleasant, not that we gave our best)? Did more than someone else?

I always feel convicted when I read this bit in Luke 17, that ends with Jesus saying,

So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ “

What others are or are not doing should make no difference to us and our rating of our work. That depends on my assignment– which will be different from anyone else’s. So what if I’m sometimes more hospitable, my husband more generous, than someone else? This makes us merely obedient, not exceptional or worthy of notice.

George could not, indeed had no reason to, deny the magnitude of what he’d done by freeing a kingdom. But even he would not accept the fairytale ending, because he knew his life was not his own.

“No, my lord, [he told the king] I have sworn to give knight’s service to the Fairy Queen for six years. Until then, I cannot rest.”

Any deed, no matter how great, will not change who we’ve bound ourselves to.

In the same way that there is nothing I can do to earn God’s love, there is nothing I can do to pay back my debt. Once I surrendered to Christ he doubly owns my life: not only by creating it, but by buying it back from where I sold myself to sin.

My time of service is my whole life– not measured just by the six years, or my parenting years, or my “office” years. Our lives are meant to be full of work. We’ve been given work, and somehow we are even offered the chance to joy in it.

(The concept of retirement— especially of retirement in the way we use it in America– doesn’t have much foundation in scripture. The ending of this season of work should merely mark the shift to a new season, and a different work.)

I pray we have the perseverance to get past merely what we want to hear, or do, and live our lives as they are: bound in the service of the one who gave his life for ours.

For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Fewer Doubts = Less (self) Censoring?

Jacques Barzun in A Writer’s Discipline:

[We] transfer a part of our intellectual and emotional insides into an independent and self-sustaining outside [when we write]. It follows that if we have any doubts about the strength, truth, or beauty of our insides, the doubt acts as an automatic censor which quietly forbids the act of exhibition.

The Role of a Wife



I have often had occasion to remark the fortitude with which women sustain the most overwhelming reverses of fortune. Those disasters which break down the spirit of a man, and prostrate him in the dust, seem to call forth all the energies of the softer sex, and give such intrepidity and elevation to their character, that at times it approaches to sublimity.

There is in every true woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams, and blazes in the dark hour of adversity. No man knows what the wife of his bosom is–no man knows what a ministering angel she is–until he has gone with her through the fiery trials of this world.

From a fascinating essay by Washington Irving entitled The Wife.

Also from that:

True love will not brook reserve; it feels undervalued and outraged, when even the sorrows of those it loves are concealed from it….

“Undervalued and outraged.” I might have used the same words myself. Above *many* things I hate to be excluded from the minds of those I love.

I have an essay of my own, about this role of women/wives, that has been percolating since March.

This reading has rather awakened the idea again. I’ll have to see if it’s done gestating…

A Limit to Emotional Energy

(from Margin by Richard Swenson, M.D.)

Each morning we rise to meet the day with a certain measure of emotional energy. A quantum of stamina….

This quantum of emotional energy is not fixed but instead is in constant flux with its environment. We are always losing energy into the environment and receiving energy back again….

Think in terms of those people who always  make you feel tired, or those activities that leave you energized.  This isn’t woo-woo New Age stuff– it’s within our own experience.

No matter how large or small the quantum of emotional energy is at the start of the day, and no matter how fast or slow it is exchanging with the environment, one thing is certain: The amount within us is finite. No one has an infinite capacity for emotional discharge….

We often have trouble accepting the idea of rationing our emotional energy. It is simply too difficult to quantify our feelings. We feel ashamed admitting that our spirit is exhausted and collapsing within us.

But our hesitancy in no way constitutes proof that such limits are only a convenient fiction for the weak and lazy.

Instead, our hesitancy is an obstacle to overcome.

Fighting in Marriage

I was Stumbling around and came across these rules for fighting fair in marriage.

Because of my background, very little on this topic is ever new to me, I’ve been around the material so long it begins to all sound familiar (in the same way that few sermons are very new to me).

I think you music types get this feeling when you’re familiar with a composer.

Anyway, I wanted to highlight it, because I thought the article was well done, and because one thought was wholly new to me:

5. If your spouse says you do, then it’s true
When confronted with an issue, your first response may be to hide behind statements such as, “No I don’t” or “You’re just exaggerating.” When your mate states that you’re doing something irritating, trust him or her. Consciously choose to look past your defensive walls and ask your spouse, “Why does this bother you?” Then listen to what is being said. Try to see his or her point of view, and be willing to change for the good of your marriage.

Just something new for me to think about.