Our Advent Family Traditions

38643“Advent is for Adoring Jesus.”

The word Advent is Latin for “to come”. We use the word in the English language as an arrival of something important and so we celebrate the most important arrival. With great adoration, we celebrate the gift of the First Coming and with deep longing and expectation, we await the Second Coming of the best and merciful gift.

I did not grow up following the liturgical calendar but as my family has studied church traditions we have come to love so much of what believers before us did to honor God. Not out of necessity for sanctification but to increase wonder and remembrance.

“Earth breaks up, time drops away, In flows heaven, with it’s new day
Of endless life, when He who trod, Very man and very God,This earth in weakness, shame and pain, Dying the death whose signs remain
Up yonder on the accursed tree,—Shall come again, no more to be
Of captivity the thrall, But the one God, All in all, King of kings, Lord of lords, As His servant John received the words,“I died, and live for evermore!”    -Robert Browning

Not everything we do during the Advent/ Christmas season has a religious tone but resting well with Family in truth and goodness is also a part of the goal during the month of December, so we take it slow, plan little and enjoy one another’s company as a sweet gift of God.

Our Family Advent Traditions:

Advent Family Worship– Devotional: The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper. We use this for our Family Devotional reading for the month of December. Hymn: Silent Night and Oh Come All Ye Faithful. full_the-dawning-of-indestructible-joy

 Advent Calendars– We are recreating this lovely calendar from Mer Mag. I may be painting stars right up till Advent Devotion tonight but what a sweet tradition. I remember growing up in Germany we had sweet little chocolate advent calendars houses and you know sweets aren’t the Gospel but the are a good gift we can rejoice that we have in this season. I haven’t decided what else to put in the star but maybe it will be a question we can ask each other at Advent Family Worship.

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source: Mer Mag

Ornaments for our Advent Readings– Every year we have made ornaments, whether for a Jesse Tree or for our Christmas Tree, this year, we are making encaustic (my art medium, it is pigmented wax and more) family collaboration ornaments. We are making one for each day of the Advent readings to hang on our tree. File_000

Good Reading– Our Christmas reads this year are The Bird’s Christmas Carol, Little Women (I watched Little Women with my Mother every Christmas and since I am a book before movie person and I feel Emma is ready, we are reading Little Women for the first time together), and The Cloud of Witness (which is a daily read all year).IMG_0386

Joyful Work– In past years we have made jam for neighbors or screen printed ornaments for friends, we might make garland for our tree or bake a treat for someone. This is not antithetic to the rest we celebrate in the Advent season because we honor God in purposeful and joyful work and giving.

A Habit of Rest– We Protect the schedule and don’t overplan. There is time needed to awe in the wonder of the truths we hear. A culture of Black Fridays and 1 million events has allowed us to fill rest with busyness. Being busy for the sake of being busy is not good work. To do good work you must rest in goodness, beauty and truth.

What are your advent traditions new and old? Christmas is coming, Jesus is coming. Let us Adore him around our hearths and in our homes.

 

 

8 Women of Faith

What do the likes of Jane Austen, Esther and Sarah Edwards, Lady Jane Grey have in common? The book Eight Women of Faith by Michael A.G. Haykin. It is important. As a Christian woman that loves church history and stories of faith and has a burgeoning love for theology and getting acquainted with our church fathers I often think about the women that stood in the pages of our faith history with resolve and dignity. How many stories of women of faith are there that we will never know but that have touched the lives of so many souls all around them? How joyous is it to think of and how merciful is it that we have so many that we can read about.


Christian women could do much good to look back on the stories of women that although through very different circumstances loved the same God as we do in this year and learn from their wisdom and faith. Proverbs 31 is a beautifully daunting passage that exemplifies a Godly woman but we know how reality and poetry are not always the same. The gospel changes all of that and allows us to see the poetry in the mundane and how we may not be Queen or great novelist but how the intermingling of past story and faith can speak to us in our present circumstances as we realize the gravity of the call in the “celestial lines” of our present story.
I learned a many new things about women of the faith that I never knew, from this book. I am only inspired to learn more about the theological works of Anne Dutton and to listen and learn from the beauty in the hymns of Anne Steele. In addition, I can’t help but admire the heritage of Jonathan Edwards and family and the faithfulness of the women that belonged to it, and I hope to read more about Sarah Edwards and Esther Edwards Burr in the near future. I was personally touched with Esther Burr’s sweet female friendship with Sarah Prince and long for that sort of friendship for myself and one day for my daughters. In addition, I was happy to learn more of the Faith of Ms. Austen from Michael A. G. Haykin. Some have tried to mar her name with rumours of why she never married but truthfully she was always known to be a woman that loved God. The Jane-ite in me appreciated readinf it and although I know there is much mystery about her life her written prayers in this chapter show more truth than speculators could even know.

And about Anne Steele, it took me a few tries to find a hymn in one of our collected hymnals but as pictured above, I did (389). And read it as I loved on a sweet, sick baby. Again, I urge you to read Eight Women of Faith in your reading time and be encouraged. Here is Father of Mercies by Anne Steele, in full, (the methodist hymnal I found it in must have only cared for 3 verses :p ) :

1 Father of mercies, in thy word
What endless glory shines!
For ever be thy name adored
For these celestial lines.
2 Here, may the wretched sons of want
Exhaustless riches find;
Riches, above what earth can grant,
And lasting as the mind.
3 Here the fair tree of knowledge grows,
And yields a free repast,
Sublimer sweets that nature knows,
Invite the longing taste.
4 Here, the Redeemer’s welcome voice
Spreads heavenly peace around;
And life, and everlasting joys
Attend the blissful sound.
5 O may these heavenly pages be
My ever dear delight;
And still new beauties may I see,
And still increasing light!
6 Divine instructor, gracious Lord,
Be Thou for ever near;
Teach me to love thy sacred word,
And view my Savior there.

I received a review copy of this book from Crossway but all opinions are my own. You can visit purchase online or at Crossway.org.

Be of Good Courage

Last night before my husband and I went to bed we said a prayer for this country. My heart was heavy and thankfully we prayed for peace and I could sleep through the night with that peace. I woke up, heart heavy but of good courage.

Months in to this election cycle my daughter heard our newly elected President, then candidate, mocking any number of individuals. She said “That man is so mean”. I, of course, agreed with her. This whole election cycle has been discouraging. We had two major party candidates that had ethical and moral failings, much more so than I would like to think my President would possess. We watched the name-calling, the disparaging of cultures, the fear-mongering, the hurtful words and so many other examples of debased character and it didn’t seem to matter to a majority of people that supported these major candidates. I did not support either, convictions are not something to scoff at and I could not allow fear to mar true conviction of spirit. But I understand not everyone felt the same, I will pray to be gracious to those that asked for this outcome. 

I do not know what to think of the “White Evangelicals” that decided this election. I want to be upset but I know I need to show grace. We have a President now that fully acknowledges his opinion of women as “things” and nothing more, he jokes about sexual assault and judges them by some superficial standard. If you have never struggled with unwanted physical advances or assault then maybe it’s trivial but my heart is broken because I struggle with telling my girls that this is the leader of our country, someone that we should be looking up to. We now have a President that espouses the exact opposite of Lady Liberty’s call to the masses and has sewn xenophobia and hatred all along this election cycle. I am heart broken for all my brothers and sisters that long for the shores of America, the beautiful, and those that  love our earthly home just as much as me regardless our differences. I also struggle to understand or to put the words together to explain to my children when they ask how such “a mean man” can become president. I do not know, is my answer. God is sovereign and I know this place is not my home forever. I can trust him. 

I’ll make it clear that I did not choose the alternative either. You do not have to choose between two evils, thank God for that freedom.

Earlier this week we we’re learning America, the Beautiful for our patriotic song in our singing portion of our school schedule. I cried because we do truly need the grace of God in this hour and I truly desire that America be a good and beautiful nation. We have become lost on the way or we never knew the right path to begin with, history may be more telling than we would like. Have Mercy on us God but grant us good courage. God shed his Grace on thee, America. 

I read this from CH Spurgeon this morning, my most favorite speaker of truth:

Oh, do not give way! You need not be cowards; do not give way. Do not say, “I must be beaten, I must always be despondent, my life is crushed.” You need not be so. “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart.” Get you to your chamber, fall upon your knees, pour out your heart before God, tell your trouble to the Most High, and, as the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, he must and will help those who put their trust in him. Has he ever failed any who trusted in him? Who has ever stayed his hand, or withdrawn him from his designs? Who has ever made him deny his promise, or retract his word? If thou wilt trust him, he will be better to thee than thy fears; nay, better to thee than thy beliefs, or thy largest hopes. Stay yourselves upon him; lean upon the bosom of eternal love; lean hard, lean all your weight there, and leave that weight there, and the Lord be with you, and bless you! Blessed are all they that trust in the Lord.

Be of good courage, friends. Blessed is those that trust in the Lord.

Praying Together


IMG_8855I meant to sit down and write this review before Sebastian was born. I’m just now getting to it. Thankfully with the help of caffeine and finally some decent sleep I’m able to talk about this precious book, Praying Together by Megan Hill. Know that I read this during some very sleepless, anxiety-filled nights and I found it a great comfort.

“People who know their God are before anything else people who pray.” – J.I. Packer

In the beginning of Praying Together, Megan Hill quotes J.I. Packer “People who know their God are before anything else people who pray.” It’s a mic-dropping quote, I feel like Megan is saying “I’m just going to put this right here” but does one better  and continues to elaborate the point for the rest of the book. It is an excellent overall sentiment for the book, That God’s people pray, and people being plural…pray together. We aren’t islands for our own prayer, yes we pray in our prayer closets and by our bedsides and our early morning devotional corners but we were not meant to do life alone and for the believer that means prayer becomes a very important priority to being a part of the body.

In Praying Together, Megan Hill first shows us the foundation for praying together through the example of scripture and helps us to understand where we fit in this context.

“And so we come at last to the direct commands—the explicit imperatives—of the New Testament Epistles. Again and again these Scriptures tell us to pray together. With everybody. Everywhere. About everything.”

 

I love this simple and beautiful quote that sums up some why’s, when’s, where’s, who’s and how’s. Prayer with one another IS a beautiful gift of God and as we build on the foundation of scriptural prayer we see the fruit of that prayer. Praying Together has helped me to see the bigger picture of prayer in regards to the body. That not only is the desire of prayer, answered prayer, but it also the love, discipleship and the genuine revival God provides to believers that pray together. The fruits of prayer, Megan Hill calls them.

“In a glorious circle, as we love each other we cultivate one harmonious voice—with which we delight to pray together all the more.”

What better way can we become best knit together as we live in a world that breaks us and causes godly grief to form in our hearts at every turn, than through prayer?

I particularly enjoyed the portion of Praying Together that delved into the practical practice of prayer. Megan quotes Diedrich Bonhoeffer “It is, in fact, the most normal thing in the common Christian life to pray together.” and asks us to consider if this is true for us in our church, groups, and homes. I would love to say that it always is but I know that would be a lie. I am thankful though that Meghan Hill outlines some practical examples for us so succinctly to ponder the point. When I struggle with my prayer life, and just my life-life, I need to read of the godly wisdom of believers that first turn to prayer instead of the worries and anxieties alluringly laid before me.

“It is, in fact, the most normal thing in the common Christian life to pray together.”

If you would love to understand the larger picture of prayer in the life of the believer, I so encourage you to read Praying Together and allow it sit on your mind and heart as you begin to use the wisdom written in it.

The Women’s leadership group at my church will be heading to hear Megan Hill this Fall and I very much look forward to hearing her thoughts on prayer in person.

“Brothers and sisters, let us pray together wherever we can—in back rooms and backyards, in empty classrooms and in deserted stairwells, at picnic tables and pews and subway platforms—asking the Lord to gather a great harvest to himself”

The image here is such a beautiful one. In Psalms 42, which I have been studying this month for a teaching session, we see an image of great brokenness, great thirst for living water. It acknowledges our great need. We are broken, we are thirsty, our only hope is in a holy god that transforms us, our hearts, our minds and our desires. So let us pray and draw our hearts toward him, TOGETHER.


I received a review copy of Praying Together from Crossway. The review is my own.

Sebastian Luke Benson

  I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted. We’ve been kind of busy here with a brand-new human. ;p He’s beautiful and we’re tired. God is good, so very good, and sustaining and gracious. Sebastian Luke Benson was born on June 30th, 2016 and we love our new addition. We are thankful.

Additionally our community has loved us so well through a difficult pregnancy and exhaustion of a new baby in our home. Thankful for gospel community.

 Kenny and I couldn’t love this baby more and the girls are over the moon with him. Here’s a bunch of cute images of him so far.

    
    
    
   
   

Habits of Grace

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This book, Habits of Grace by David Mathis, although not lengthy has some powerful recommendations for anyone that would like to shape their habits and disciplines on the Word of God especially in modern lives of busy schedules and social media noise.

habitsofgracebook“We might get alone and be quiet to hear our own internal voice, the murmurs of our soul that are easily drowned out in noise and crowds. But the most important voice to hear in the silence is God’s.” – David Mathis

Why I am interested in Habits? Well, because I have a lot of bad ones. As we homeschool in the Charlotte Mason method christian habits are vital and a theme that we are discussing weekly. I am confronted daily with the fact that I cannot expect good habits if I don’t model them myself. But it’s not something to fret and compare one’s self to others because that defeats the power of grace in our lives, what we can do is study and learn along with our children what a life of grace-influenced habits looks like. Charlotte Mason felt that we act on habits all through our days and we definitely fall into our habits good or bad in times of trouble. Looking at my life of habits, I tend to agree.

“And the little emergencies, which compel an act of will, will fall in the children’s lives just about as frequently as in our own. These we cannot save them from, nor is it desirable that we should. What we can do for them is to secure that they have habits which shall lead them in ways of order, propriety, and virtue, instead of leaving their wheel of life to make ugly ruts in miry places.” – Charlotte Mason,  Home Education

So let us also apply this to ourselves. This is why I was intrigued with the title Habits of Grace; What does it look like as an adult to pursue “grace-empowered” habits?

Firstly, I enjoyed the break down of this book into three primary sections: Hearing His Voice (Word), Having His Ear (Prayer), and Belonging to His Body (Fellowship), and part four (Coda) that brings it all together in terms of Evangelism and Stewardship.  

Simply put habits begin first with the hearing and meditating on his word, making time to pray and seek him and being refined through the fellowship of believers. I, myself can speak as a testament of all those things having impact in my life towards slow but moving transformation and Jesus being the center of it all, through his spirit all believers are being transformed.

“Not only is enjoying Jesus explosively transforming in the way we live; it is also essential for making Jesus look great. And that is why we have the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Spirit came to glorify him (John 16:14). The primary mission of the Spirit—and his people—is to show that Jesus is more glorious than anyone or anything else. It cannot be done by those who find this world more enjoyable than Jesus. They make the world look great. Therefore, the ultimate aim of the Christian life—and the universe—hangs on the people of God enjoying the Son of God. But this is beyond us. Our hearts default to enjoying the world more than Jesus. This is why the hinge thought—enjoying Jesus—is bracketed on both sides by grace and spiritual.” – John Piper

Habits of Grace walks us through many practical and accessible ways to develop these habits. David Mathis even outlines how to pursue them on the “Crazy Days”, which might be every day for many of us.

“The crazy days will come. And there are seasons of life, like with a newborn at home, where all bets are off and it’s just a crazy season. But with a little intentionality, and with a modest plan in place, you can learn to navigate these days, and even walk with greater dependence on God, knowing full well that it’s not the ideal execution of our morning habits of grace that secures his favor and blessing. You can commune with Christ in the crazy days.” – David Mathis

I encourage every believer to read this book, some of the suggestions might help in cultivating your daily habits or maybe it changes your routines drastically but I believe it is very beneficial for the believer as we all center ourselves on the Cross in the midst of busy lives and worldly noise.

I received a review copy of this book from Crossway. The review is my own.

You can purchase a copy here and at Crossway.


 

elliewithgirlsEllie Benson is Mother, Artist and Lover of Jesus. She blogs here at  ellieeugenia.com about faith, art and family and shares resources for all of those things. You can also find her at Charlotte Mason Living , a large growing online inspiration community for Charlotte Mason homeschooling families that she created.

The Romantic Rationalist

Lewis There is no secret, if you know me, that I have a love for Lewis, C.S. Lewis. I was raised on the hills of Narnia and drunk from the shore of Cair Paravel through his books and they will forever hold a special place in my heart. The many places and tales C.S. Lewis wrote about kept me longing for more, more than here, more than this current plane of existence. It moved me to believe that this world is a half life, a whisper ghost of things to come. I can’t help but get a bit emotional when I speak of Mr. Lewis because of the great impact his writing has had on my life and the gentle prodding toward the Gospel in my early years.

I love C.S. Lewis for his fiction, the characters that feel like real people and friends, that I empathize and root for and many times grieve over. The multi-dimensional way that even the most un-human of them seem the most and best human, namely a little mouse called Reepicheep or how my heart burns bittersweet for Orual in Till We Have Faces. Even in their failings some of the most broken see truth and dragon scales fall off to true new life, Eustace discovered that and we all know how unpleasant he was to begin with.

I first loved Lewis for his fiction but I best loved him for his non-fiction. I will say that the influence of Mere Christianity is what soothed many doubts and indifferences to Christianity and the Church, it was a tool toward deepening faith in my life. His essays, books, his prodding us toward joy in suffering, his loving correspondence with children, the way he wrote about and sought truth, the way he spoke of and loved the wife of his late life, Joy Davidman, all of it made him my best-loved author. But this is not an essay about his influence on me this is a review of the book the Romantic Rationalist, edited by John Piper and David Mathis

First I will admit that a book about C.S. Lewis already has a plus in my mind but of course it could be a bad book about Lewis then that would definitely make me change it. This book, the Romantic Rationalist is a plus, plus, plus. The book is a compilation of well-written essays by very intelligent men about Lewis and his influence, his writings, his insight.

I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of knowledge that the essayists had about the writings of Lewis and their insights became valuable as I compared my own thoughts I’ve had over the years. C.S. Lewis was, in my mind, an great example of Matthew 22:34 in his life and through his writing.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” – Matt 22:34, ESV

I believe this is what the title of this book represents. Someone who sees the bigger picture of the Gospel practically but not only that loves with a sweet affection that big picture story and can express it with words that flow beautifully from deep love and a moved and forever changed soul. I believe that if you are a fan of C.S. Lewis and love theology you will love this book. My favorite Essays were Undragoned by Douglas Wilson, which may have convinced me that C.S. Lewis was an undercover Calvinist ( joking). By John Piper and by Randy Alcorn. All essays are a wonderful and I would love to have witnessed the panel discussion that occurs in the back of the book. So read this book and if you are only slightly familiar with Lewis you may also find a benefit here while you look into some of his deep thoughts. I dare to say it would help you embrace his writing more. So I recommend this book wholeheartedly and love it for what it says about Lewis and the connections it makes.

So for the Lewis fans and all, I’m including some of my favorite quotes from the book to sway you.

 

Quotes:

When Aslan is killed on the Stone Table, it is for one person—the traitor Edmund. The great lion gave his life for one grimy, little boy. Now it is true that Tirian in The Last Battle says that it was by Aslan’s blood that all Narnia was saved, but while glorious, this is an application, an extension, an afterthought. The nature of the lion’s death as told in the foundational story is seen as a very definite atonement. It really has to be—Lewis held to substitutionary atonement, and as Garry Williams has clearly shown in From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, the two doctrines are logically intertwined. He who says A may not have said B, but give him time.
-Douglas Wilson, Undragoned

 

In Romans 8:28, Paul wrote, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” This verse tells us what we will one day see in retrospect. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, wrote that “both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective. . . . Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”13 The curse will be reversed. Lewis has Aslan explain the deeper magic the witch didn’t know about when he died for a sinner: “The Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”14 Retrospect enables us to see everything differently. It’s why we can call the worst day in all of history “Good Friday.” Faith is like a forward memory, allowing us to believe as if what is promised has already happened. One day we will see how Romans 8:28 was true all along, even in those moments we most doubted it. Joseph saw this in Genesis 50:20, the Romans 8:28 of the Old Testament: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Notice Joseph didn’t merely say, “God made the best of bad circumstances.”) -Randy Alcorn, C.S. Lewis on New Heaven and the New Earth

 

Lewis came to Christ on the converging paths of romanticism and rationalism. And as a Christian, he became a master thinker and master likener. This is who he was, and this is what he knew. And so this is how he did his evangelism. He bent every romantic effort and every rational effort to help people see what he had seen—the glory of Jesus Christ, the goal of all his longings, and the solid ground of all his thoughts. -John Piper, Romantic Rationalist

 

The sad truth is that many of us are, at best, only half awake. We think we’re engaged with the real world—you know, the world of stock markets, stock-car racing, and stockpiles of chemical weapons—but in fact we’re living in what Lewis calls the “shadowlands.” We think we’re awake, but we’re really only daydreaming. We’re sleepwalking our way through life—asleep at the wheel of existence—only semi-conscious of the eternal, those things that are truly solid that bear the weight of glory. We want to believe the Bible—we do believe it, we confess the truth of its teaching, and we’re prepared to defend it—but we nevertheless find ourselves unable to see our world in biblical terms, and that produces a feeling of disparity, an existential disconnect. If faith’s influence is waning, as two-thirds of Americans apparently now think, then it is largely because of a failure of the evangelical imagination. We’re suffering from imaginative malnutrition. -Kevin Vanhoozer, In Bright Shadow

 

You can purchase this book here: The Romantic Rationalist or from Crossway

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Crossway, my opinion is completely my own.


elliewithgirlsEllie Benson is Mother, Artist and Lover of Jesus. She blogs here at  ellieeugenia.com about faith, art and family and shares resources for all of those things. You can also find her at Charlotte Mason Living , a large growing online inspiration community for Charlotte Mason homeschooling families that she created.

Failures in Parenting

IMG_6216I know anyone reading this post came here for the cheery title but I am not going to tell you everything you are doing wrong, I hope to encourage us, myself and maybe you towards Christ in our parenting.

This is merely my opinion. It seems every parent with kids under the age of 5 are parenting experts and in my experience they start to level out between their children’s ages of 10-13+, some sooner, some much later. What I mean is that young moms scour research, reviews, read all the books, opinions, polls, what have you and feel they have a good grasp on that parenting thing and then somewhere between the preschool years and college the “Oh. Crap” light bulb goes off and they realize they have no idea what they are talking about. I know because I am slowly, sloth-like,  moving from Camp Expert to Camp Oh, Crap. We’ll call it the circle of parenting, it’s like the circle of life but not as sing-songy and the only dancing creatures are the ones peeing on your floor.

Here’s the bad news. There are no winners in parenting, we are failing. All of us. We aren’t perfect, no, not one. Just last night I screamed at two kids that would not stop fighting and go to sleep, this morning I have to wake them up and ask forgiveness. I fail daily but that is not the end of the news.

Here is the good news, God never called us to be perfect parents. All the expert advice is meaningless in the scheme of God’s plan. In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian is confronted with some very reasonably sounding advice, the character aptly named Worldly Wiseman in so many words basically says “You know…..” And proceeds to give him some seemingly practical guidance. That guidance leads him off course and is almost the end of him. Parents, we are all bombarded through social media streams and random strangers at the check-out line and well-meaning friends and family, with Wordly-Wiseman’s advice everyday on the plethora of choices and opinions on parenting, a lot of which seems helpful but can lead us astray. Guess what, you don’t have to play this hamster wheel game of parenting. You can simply parent. There is grace for parents too and hope in Christ who has not left us without the spirit to seek Godly wisdom on even the most mundane matters.

Do you know why many parents begin to mellow out as their kids become older?  It’s because the children they have brought into the world, their “perfect” gifts, aren’t actually perfect and in fact are sinners. Perfectly formed, sure, but sinners none-the-less. Not only that, they are sin mirrors. Children mirror our sin and our idols and once they start making their own decisions and becoming their own little people we become painstakingly aware that we woefully know nothing and are out of our depths. That might feel hopeless but it isn’t, we are not alone, we have help but our internet rabbit trails probably won’t help us arrive there. Once we realize that, I think, we have a much better grasp on this parenting thing because it’s not from our own doing.

Christian Parents, the only parenting advice you need is this:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. -Luke 10:27, ESV

You see those precious gifts of God who also mirror our failures are not what we live for, they are given to us and we must steward them well. They are our closest neighbors. So our little children and adult children alike need to be treated as such and that is only the second part of it. Firstly, Love God. Let them mirror that. Children won’t care when they are adults what parenting checklists you checked off when they were little, whether you breastfed, bottle-fed, baby wore, rolled in stroller, cried it out or cried in bed together and does it really matter if you homeschooled, unschooled, private schooled, public schooled, whether there was a tv in the house or if you did or didn’ t participate in piano, ballet, soccer, karate…this sentence alone is giving me a panic attack. The only thing that matters is the question “Did you love God with all your heart, Did you love me as yourself?”.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. -James 3:17, ESV

We are not Martyrs for our children. We don’t have to die daily to Wordly-Wisdom because God already showed us how to be good parents by being the best one, we die to sin only through the power of Christ Jesus not our mommy blogs. Parenting is scary, so take some deep breaths, we’re in this together and we have the very best Godly wisdom you can ask for. We don’t know how it will all fall or whether our children will be saved but we can pray and prod each other toward Christ and that is the best help.  Additionally, I want to challenge myself that the next time I feel like giving unprompted advice, I ask how I can pray for them as a parent instead and actually pray for them.

In this simple way, by God’s grace, a living testimony for truth is always to be kept alive in the land–the beloved of the Lord are to hand down their witness for the gospel, and the covenant to their heirs, and these again to their next descendants. This is our first duty, we are to begin at the family hearth: he is a bad preacher who does not commence his ministry at home. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Also read this post from Kevin Deyoung: The Great Parental Freak Out

Family Gospel Rhythms- Part 1 Morning Liturgy

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Every day has it’s own difficulties, each day it’s own trials, also it’s own joys. Add a family, a spouse and loving and playful children to that and you have a whole different and new matter.  Family life is not all stress and toddler’s screams there is so much beauty in the fray but I definitely encourage centering when life is as busy and as harried as it is these days. My perfectly imperfect family needs it and I encourage families to embrace it. This two part series will talk about home school liturgy and Family Worship time. There are still truths for all families regardless the school choice that is best for your family and feel free to incorporate Gospel Rhythms that work for you.

“The Bible is the chief lesson–“But we are considering, not the religious life of children, but their education by lessons; and their Bible lessons should help them to realise in early days that the knowledge of God is the principal knowledge, and, therefore, that their Bible lessons are their chief lessons.” Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1

I call it Family Gospel Rhythms. These rhythms are the efforts we take each day to center ourselves on Christ as a family. You may have heard of the phrase Family Worship or Family Devotion before and in Homeschool circles you may be aware of “Circle Time” or “Morning Liturgy” -as I call it-. I hear the terms quite often and I run an instagram and online community called Charlotte Mason Living, so, the questions have been posed a lot lately, “what does Morning Liturgy look like?”, “What does Family Worship look like?”. So, I will show you what we do for both, not as an example but as an encouragement to find what fits for your family. Part one will be about Morning Liturgy and part two will cover Family Worship (Night-time).

“Home is the greatest of all institutions” -Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Now, let me discuss why we do both firstly. I do not think it is necessary in most families to have a morning and night time session of “worship” or “bible time”, what have you. We homeschool so part of our education is biblical, so, Morning Liturgy is part of our school day and led by myself, only. Mom is setting the tone for the school day as Mother and Teacher and Dad leads our Family in Worship at night as Shepherd of the Home. I’m only breaking them into two parts for brevity.

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Morning Liturgy

In my yearly “homeschool this year” posts I always share what we do for every subject, so you may have heard me discuss some of these resources. I consider our Morning Liturgy a subject in three parts. We do Morning Liturgy as part of our homeschool education and this includes Catechism/ Scripture Memory, Habits and Bible. I am sharing resources and what we adapt to make it fit within our homeschool educational philosophy (Charlotte Mason).

It is:

Catechism – This term may be unfamiliar to you so here is what a Catechism is

“So, what is it anyway? The word “catechism” comes from the Greek word katācheō, which means “to teach, to instruct.” The word is used in Bible passages like Luke 1:4 and Acts 18:25. It can be used for any kind of teaching or instruction, but it came to refer to a specific type of teaching very early in church history. In the early church, new converts were taught the basics of Christianity by memorizing a series of questions and answers. – North Star Catechism

A catechism is just that a series of questions and answers that teach Bible truth.” – North Star Catechism

There are many wonderful versions of Catechisms to choose from and many will be based on the Westminster or Heidelberg Catechisms. Make sure your choice lines up with your family’s belief system by pre-reading and sometimes (not always) wikipedia can be really useful for looking at the history and what’s: Catechisms. We use the North Star Catechism from SojournKids. We feel it is an excellent catechism that is accessible and built upon trusted Catechisms without dumbing down any biblical truths.

Each morning we do Catechism Review and Scripture Memory of scriptures that are listed with our Catechism.

For example:

  • God exists forever as how many persons? Three. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
  • 2 Corinthians 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

So we slowly progress with our Catechism as we memorize. There is no rush to breeze through it. Excellence is a much better friend and habit than the amount or speed that your child knows. ‘

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  – Aristotle

I require recitation often (every morning) and sometimes when we are reading something related I’ll ask if that reminds my oldest of something but most times she will point out the similarities on her own or will comment on the world’s circumstances from what she has learned. Like this week in Family Worship singing Holy, Holy, Holy as our hymn we recognized that this line “Who was, and is, and evermore shall be” reminded us of our Catechism verse for Q. 4 Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Children make connections and thankfully if we allow them to do them on their own, the thoughts are better remembered than from lectures or belaboured talks.

…we have relations with what there is in the present and with what there has been in the past, with what is above us, and about us; and that fullness of living and serviceableness depend for each of us upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of. Every child is heir to an enormous patrimony. -Charlotte Mason

LSSCAT

Bible- We teach the Bible because it is the greatest living book.


That the Bible isn’t mainly about me, and what I should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

That the Bible is most of all a story — the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

That — in spite of everything, no matter what, whatever it cost him — God won’t ever stop loving his children… with a wonderful, Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

That the Bible, in short, is a Story — not a Rule Book — and there is only one Hero in the Story.- Sally Lloyd Jones

Practically, this looks like every morning breaking open the word for our Morning Time you could do this by simply making a reading plan or following one and having your child narrate what they have heard.

Personally, we use a resource called Long Story Short by Marty Machowski from New Growth Press (LSS). This resource goes through all of the Old Testament while pointing to Christ in the New Testament. There is a second volume going through the New Testament once completed. There is the Gospel Story Bible you can use as a companion, we do, but it is not necessary.

This resource is not a Charlotte Mason resource, per say, so I modify to make it fit our educational philosophy because it was the resource that best suited our belief needs. Instead of asking the questions when I have completed the reading I have my daughter narrate (simply, telling it back in their own words) for better memory and it works best like narration always does. There is a bit of a summary following in the lesson book and I use it more as a guide for what I’m listening for in her narrations rather than something I read to her or if she has questions for me after narration, I might use it as a help for myself in answering those questions.

I use LSS as a reading plan mostly, reading the verses and requiring narration. Each week a theme such as “God creates Man” would have us reading, in this case, from Genesis 2  but also connecting New Testament verses, here specifically, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49. This is the real reason I like this resource and as we are now in 1 Kings and nearing the end of the Old Testament the next volume mimics this structure by pairing the New Testament scripture with Old Testament verses. So the whole bible becomes a living body of a book. We have been going through the Old Testament for a few years and it has been a truly rich experience, feasting with my daughter on the word. She told me recently how excited she is to move into the New Testament and that joy makes me happy, truly.

“But let the imaginations of children be stored with the pictures, their minds nourished upon the words, of the gradually unfolding story of the Scriptures, and they will come to look out upon a wide horizon within which persons and events take shape in their due place and due proportion. By degrees, they will see that the world is a stage whereon the goodness of God is continually striving with the willfulness of man; that some heroic men take sides with God; and that others, foolish and headstrong, oppose themselves to Him. The fire of enthusiasm will kindle in their breast, and the children, too, will take their side, without much exhortation, or any thought or talk of spiritual experience.” -Charlotte Mason, Vol 1

Habits- Habit training might be a new concept if you aren’t familiar with Charlotte Mason schooling but it’s an integral part. The forming of habits is an important practice and I am learning desperately needed in modern societies. We are all forming habits intentionally or not and we all struggle with bad habits. The point of habit formation is to see them for what they are and gently develop better ones. This has been as beneficial for myself as much as it has has been for my daughter.

“ ‘Sow a habit, reap a character.’ But we must go a step further back, we must sow the idea or notion which makes the act worth while.” — Charlotte Mason

We use a book from Simply Charlotte Mason called Laying Down the Rails for Children  for a help when needing relative living examples but also find beautiful stories and poems to read.

Thus, don’t begin with teaching the habit of (insert habit here)   – begin with the relationships, appropriate books, ideas, outdoor life, and all those things that fill the child with ideas that make up this living education. – Nancy Kelly

Many Charlotte Mason families study a habit for a specific set time and some families take a more organic approach. We have done both and find the latter to be a better fit for us and move through habits as we see fit. My oldest is nine and we have recently been learning about a habit of “Sweet and Even Temper”. This has been an excellent habit to cover since she has struggled recently with strong emotions that manifest in bad temper. We aren’t always covering habits she specifically struggles with but might park a bit on one if I think she could use it to fully understand. For example we stayed many moons in the Habit of Obedience and revisit it often since the temper and obedience seem to have a lot of crossover. Reading the lovely living poems and stories help her a lot to frame the habits in her mind because she sees the contrasts clearly through listening and narration that she would completely miss through me just telling her that she should do this or that. I am thankful because I also learn from these lessons, it is too much to expect my children to act better than I do myself.

So this is what we do for Morning Liturgy and sometimes days are less than smooth and distractions attempt to divide our mind but know that families learning together, teaching your children to love God and his word is an effort worth taking, my very imperfect family needs it.

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The “promises of the covenant necessitate Christian education, because they inevitably impose upon our children a heavy responsibility…for God has enriched them with spiritual treasures in order that they should administer this wealth for the honor of his name and for the extension of his kingdom. Are we warranted in assuming that they will naturally be faithful to their trust and will make the best possible use of their God-given possessions?…Surely, we cannot be too careful or too diligent in training our children for their responsible duties in life” – Louis Berkhof

Resources from above:

North Star Catechism from Sojourn

Long Story Short by Marty Machowski

The Gospel Story Bible

Laying Down the Rails for Children by Sonya Schafer

Other Resources I recommend personally:

New City Catechism

Desiring God: A Baptist Catechism

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd Jones

A Child’s Book of Character Training by Ron and Rebekah Coriell

 

 

 

 

Word-Filled Women’s Ministry

WFWM     There used to be this feeling of uneasiness wash over me when I heard the phrase ‘Women’s Ministry’, because what I was accustomed to was very fluffy and completely lacking depth. Opinions I have heard range from, “women don’t need to study the word because the men in our lives (Husband, Pastors etc.) do and they relay the Bible to us”; to the often heard, “Theology and deep Bible knowledge is too hard for us so we just aren’t going to go there.” Well, I feel we’ve lost something big as women if we expect others to work out our salvation for us:

2Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. -Phillipians 2:12-13

and we also can deduce that through His Word is how we are working out our salvation, because the fear and trembling that Phillipians speaks of is the beginning of wisdom:

10The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. – Proverbs 9:10

 

So, we, as Women are not excused, nor shall we be, from study and archaeology of the word. We don’t need and many of us don’t want Women’s Ministry bereft of the Gospel. But many Women’s Ministries are paper tigers of what they should be. Women are left with groups that may soothe their emotions and their egos but do not address the brokenness in their hearts. This isn’t acceptable.

 

Now, many years later, I do not shudder at the term “Women’s Ministry” because I am involved in a lovely Women’s Ministry that uses the Word as a Basis for everything. As we were forming this brand new Women’s Ministry for our church, we looked at a lot of resources, books and articles and plans and also thoughts from successful Women’s Ministries. Our main goal was to make this ministry as Gospel-Centered as possible. We knew that a Women’s Ministry without the Word, without the transforming Gospel, is nothing more than a social club aimed to put band-aids on brokenness but never set the bones. Our hearts deeply longed for a Women’s Ministry where we could live and learn the Gospel together. So, one resource we immediately were drawn to was Word-Filled Women’s Ministry, among others.

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I encourage all involved in a Women’s Ministry or are in the planning stages to please read Word-Filled Women’s Ministry by Gloria Furman and Kathleen Nielson for two reasons:

 

  1. It is Biblical.
  2. It is Practical.

 

          Firstly, It is Biblical and much needed:

“If we are thinking about Word-based ministry, that opens up for people the big story of the Scriptures with Jesus at the center, so that they can understand the stories of their own lives as centered in the story and the Glory of Jesus.” -Word-Filled Women’s Ministry

Women’s Ministry without the Gospel is meaningless.  We cannot possibly now how to live out the Gospel if we have never learned the Gospel:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction,and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

This is why when making plans for the Women’s Ministry at Crawford Ave. we wanted to make sure that we were making the Word primary and also providing opportunities for Women to learn the word and grow in that. For us it looks like bible studies and Women’s Leadership Training (teaching Women how to serve well) and various other opportunities to saturate in the Gospel.

Secondly, this book displays practical applications of the scriptures. Our goal in formulating a Women’s Ministry was not only to allow for space and intent to learn the Gospel but to instill ways we can practically serve the church and others. Whether through immediate needs like mercy meals or diapers for Mothers, prayer when needed and encouragement or through for longer end goals of the mentoring of young women, coming beside others through long-term crisis or training Women to serve in the church.  We cannot have the learning without the living.

“Just like every ministry in the church, women’s ministries must guard the good deposit and keep the gospel of first import. The gospel should be the bright red thread that runs through all teaching, hospitality, and fellowship. This thread not only should stand out and decorate every church activity and good work but should hold everything together. Without it, ministry falls apart and becomes fruitless.” -Word-Filled Women’s Ministry

So, part of our goals in planning for a Women’s Ministry was to encourage fruitful ministry  and to guard against fruitlessness. We then have to ask ourselves, does this specific permeation of Women’s Ministry seek to advance the Gospel or bear it’s fruit. In some cases, it does not, and you must choose wisdom and throw it in the fire.

17So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. -Matthew 7:17-20

 

We will periodically assess the health of our ministry to make sure living and learning and fruitfulness is actually happening. I am thankful for the wisdom that we gleaned from Word-Filled Women’s Ministry and believe it is an excellent read for those that desire a rich Women’s Ministry that teaches Women to love and serve the church.

You can purchase Word-Filled Women’s Ministry through Crossway and online

 

 

 

 

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