The Lie of the Idol of Busyness

 

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“To be like Jesus, we must see the use of our time as a Spiritual Discipline.” -Donald S. Whitney

A new year is upon us and we are once again filling out fresh new planners and making exciting new plans. We may have added all the things we dream to do this year and all the things we didn’t get to, last year. You pen in this play date, that meeting, this extracurricular activity, that other extra-curricular activity, this and that and this and that until the schedule is over-full.  If you are like many American families the schedule keeps on filling. We feel accomplished to check off lists’a’plenty and we feel we aren’t maximizing our full potential if we do not keep adding to the fattened schedule’s of our lives. Busyness can be an idol of the heart and we know that all idols lie. Whether it is the 21st Century mantra of busyness or the idol of our own heart we can speak truth toourselves to combat the lie of busyness. Christians need not carry this lifestyle that is seen nowhere in the Bible as an example for living well in Christ and through further study is antithetical to Christ’s teachings.

Americans win the prize for busyness, probably not on a global scale but we work more and rest less than most developed nations and the effects of this culture of busyness is literally driving us crazy. Stress and Anxiety levels are rising rapidly and we are all feeling the weight. There are 40 million Americans that are struggling with anxiety and it is not uncommon now to hear of children suffering from stress-induced anxiety. People struggling with anxiety disorder are six times more likely to be hospitalized for a number of Psychiatric problems. What are we doing to ourselves and to our families?

s_meifxrzik-mario-calvoI am not talking about good work. The Bible has given an excellent model of good work as a habit worth having. We see a commandment of a work ethic in Exodus 20, and an example of hard working apostles in Mark 6  but we also see a much-needed habit of rest inspired by the Father himself in inspired sabbath rest. Work is good, it is biblical and it is needed. Work in excess or busyness for the sake of itself is not set forth for us as a model of  a good Godly habit. There may be other heart idols in play as well, but these require personal examination. Kevin DeYoung in his book Crazy Busy makes this very astute statement “Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means you are busy, just like everyone else. And like everyone else, your joy, your heart and your soul are in danger.” This is something that puts us in danger he says.  ” This is not a matter of a busy schedule, but busyness is a matter of values”, Paul David Tripp says in Parenting. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. A matter of values. 

We avoid the quiet.

We avoid the quiet. Silence is not part of our 21st-century nature. We need rest from chaos, we need time with our thoughts and time to wonder and awe on the good things given us. This is hardly achieved by over-bustling schedules. Ask yourself when was the last time you sat in complete silence with your thoughts with nothing blinking and telling you what to think on any number of issues. If you are a Mom, like me, you probably just laughed out loud, yes, I know that it seems impossible but I promise there are ways to make the time for the stillness our soul’s crave.

Even the way we speak is a testament to our lives. We rarely listen. We don’t listen to ourselves, we don’t listen to others and sadly we aren’t listening to our children. I have seen this in my own life in how I can tune out my kids and get frustrated when they vie for my attention. We need to listen to them, their words hold weight and show us their hearts, how else can we lead them well. I recently listened to a TED podcast about listening that I found very convicting because I can truly say I am a poor listener. Our rush to finish each other sentences, to micro-schedule quick jaunts with friends to check it off the “Good Friend Checklist” as opposed to resting in long conversation and quality time, our need to color others’ speech with our own dialogs makes listening a long-lost habit. More about that another time but Godly restfulness helps us to interact better with our co-inhabitants.

The lie of the idol of busyness. ‘Not enough’. The lie of the idol of busyness is not enough, almost anything. Not enough time, not enough work, not enough education, not enough qualifications, not enough extra-curriculars, not enough fun, not enough activities, not enough socializing, not enough . It says “you aren’t doing enough” and in our society of work ultimacy that is a statement on your being, “You are not being enough”, so you must “Do more” to be “Be more”. The one truth in this lie is that we are not enough. Because that it is true, we aren’t. Where the truth gets twisted is that we can be enough in our own rights by doing “all the things” and doing them better than everyone else. We must combat our Not-Enoughness with more truth and not more schedules.

David Mathis in Habits of Grace says ” We are humans, not machines. We were made for rhythms of silence and noise, community and solitude.” We need the balance of both.

So, what can we do to combat busyness?

Firstly, turn toward the Word. Look at your life and your schedule in comparison to the examples set for us. Ask yourself, “Does this resemble the habits of grace I see in the Scripture? Then if the answer is, “No”, pray and ask yourself where it went wrong and ask God for clarity. This is something that we are learning to do ourselves, in my family, often. You see, I am one of those statistics above and am thankful that God has been teaching my heart to rest in Him. It’s like any habit, it a process.

Practically,  though, in addition to prayer you may want some suggestions. I am no expert but these things have helped me greatly:

  • -Pray about your Schedule, match it up to Scripture, pray for wisdom and discernment.

 

  • -Cut the Fat. You prayerfully need to do this with your spouse, if you have one, and it might even need some discussions with children, as well, about their priorities. Cut all non-essentials, all the things that are not wanted and then examine what is truly needed. The matter of need and want is your own personal heart decision, so the prayer for discernment helps. It is a like a bandaid being ripped, the pain of it will be over soon and you will heal.
  • As an example a few years ago with only one child in activities, but still being  quite overwhelmed, we prayerfully decided to allow only one activity outside of the home so we had a conversation about what she would choose. She chose dance and has been faithfully focusing on that one activity for several years. Look into alternatives for the things you don’t want to lose, things that your children can pursue independently at home.

 

  • -Protect your Schedule. This is simple. Every week pray about your schedule and protect it. Keep it safe, examine every new thing that pops up with “Will this be fruitful?”, and once you begin to do this you will actually have more time for the organic and non-scheduled community that forms in our lives. Give yourself grace room, room to breathe and room to engage with others. One way we do this , personally, is by keeping our afternoons free and unscheduled. This allows my children time that isn’t school and time that isn’t scheduled to do what they choose to. **I will say as an aside that this does not mean TV, as a personal decision we have one Movie Night and Saturday TV only.** This is more what we call occupations, things they would like to pursue that do not require a guiding hand. For young ones, block building, for older ones, handicrafts or journaling, leisure reading etc. For mom putting the baby down and reading a book for a few moments or having a cup of tea. In addition, we only have one night a week that is reserved for outside-the-home activities for children.
  • -Make habits of restful enjoyment such as take up writing a diary, or journaling or a quiet hobby or reading more. Things that require a little more attention than checklists and iPhone reminders. These habits help slow our minds and let us know what is really in our hearts.
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My commonplace journal for keeping quotes, verses or passages I find in my reading.

To conclude, know that busyness although a very real and apparent part of our lives is not the example we are shown for living. We can work well in it’s own time and rest well in it’s own time.

 

On Teaching Perspective to Our Children: Church History

2dyvq1psbgw-jeremiah-higginsOur children being raised in Christian homes in the United States may probably never see the type of suffering we see in the lives of Christian martryrs that have gone before us. It is a rare occasion of true persecution for your faith in this country. I am not talking about Facebook friends chastising your beliefs on social media. I once heard an individual claim they were being “persecuted” for their faith online because there were some that disagreed with them. I thought that this must be a problem with perspective in our culture. Being teased or “yelled at” on Social Media  pales enormously to the suffering of a history of martyrs and saints that experienced death, beatings, sickness, loneliness, disease and more for the Gospel. There are many in the world today still that truly suffer in these ways for the faith. It is a matter of perspective. Much perspective can be gained by studying our Church History.

I have a three part series on teaching perspective to our children: 1. Church History  2. The World and Missions and 3. Our Neighbors. This is on Church History. Even though this post is geared toward teaching children about perspective in the history of our faith and the needs of this world, it is not meant just for children. We grow as we teach, I hope it inspires us as well.

(c) National Trust, Tatton Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) National Trust, Tatton Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

Let us begin by learning of Anne Askew and reading The Ballad Which Anne Askew Made And Sang When She Was In Newgate. 

Like as the armed knight
Appointed to the field,
With this world will I fight
And Faith shall be my shield.

Faith is that weapon strong
Which will not fail at need.
My foes, therefore, among
Therewith will I proceed.

As it is had in strength
And force of Christes way
It will prevail at length
Though all the devils say nay.

Faith in the fathers old
Obtained rightwisness
Which make me very bold
To fear no world’s distress.

I now rejoice in heart
And Hope bid me do so
For Christ will take my part
And ease me of my woe.

Thou saist, lord, who so knock,
To them wilt thou attend.
Undo, therefore, the lock
And thy strong power send.

More enmyes now I have
Than hairs upon my head.
Let them not me deprave
But fight thou in my stead.

On thee my care I cast.
For all their cruel spight
I set not by their haste
For thou art my delight.

I am not she that list
My anchor to let fall
For every drizzling mist
My ship substancial.

Not oft use I to wright
In prose nor yet in rime,
Yet will I shew one sight
That I saw in my time.

I saw a rial throne
Where Justice should have sit
But in her stead was one
Of moody cruel wit.

Absorpt was rightwisness
As of the raging flood
Sathan in his excess
Suct up the guiltless blood.

Then thought I, Jesus lord,
When thou shalt judge us all
Hard is it to record
On these men what will fall.

Yet lord, I thee desire
For that they do to me
Let them not taste the hire
Of their iniquity.

You see when Anne Askew spoke of enemies in her poem she truly meant enemies. The poem is reminisicent of the suffering by enemies in David’s Psalms and just as harrowing. Anne Askew, one of the first known female English poets was a protestant and had been kicked out of her home by her Catholic husband who had her later imprisoned. Charged with heresy for leading bible, prayer and discussions, of which one of those patrons was the then Queen of England, Catherine Parr, she faced many trials. The poem above is not merely a poetic work but truly what she had been experiencing. She was openly critical of the state of the church and was an important figure in the Reformation period. Because Anne Askew did not recant of her criticisms of the unbiblical teachings of the Church of England in her time even while imprisoned, interrogated by the Bishop of London, and tortured she was sentenced to execution by fire in 1546 but not before making the very poignant and critical statement “He errs and speaks without the Book” about the bishop’s executorial sermon. She died for her faith and history shows the Church of England was greatly influenced by reformation saints like her and they did eventually adopt the beliefs they killed Anne Askew for in her time. Even observation of the portrait above by Hans Eworth painted posthumously shows the inscription “Rather Death; Than False of Faith”. This is but one story of Church History.

Perspective in regards to martyrs and saints that have gone before us can help our children and ourselves understand 1. the weight of the knowledge we carry and 2. true suffering does not look what we might be accustomed to knowing. I am pretty sure there are very few Americans that have experienced execution by fire for the sake of the Gospel but even in our country we have heard of church burnings and shootings that should cause us to really pause and view our freedom to share the Gospel and the grace of our thriving in juxtaposition to the histories that have been written and will still be written of those that experience great trial in the name of Christ.

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I do not believe as Christians we should shelter our children from these truths and histories. In the United States, it is easy to become so insular that the world and history have no influence on our myopic hearts. We become hardened in our near-sightedness. So to combat our apathy we can teach our children about these stories and pray. Two resources that we use at home for teaching on martyrs and persecuted saints is Trial and Triumph and the Book of Missionary Heroes. We include this as church history in our schedule but can be read at any point in your week. We have read portions of the Book of Missionary Heroes before Family Worship as an example. Both are in story-form and make these stories accessible.

Another great resource is the Voice of the Martyrs website and the VOTM companion site Kids of CourageYou can read modern accounts and biographies of the persecuted church and write letters to imprisoned Christians around the world.

I believe we all need some perspective in our very narrow world-views. We all suffer with only knowing what if right in front of our eyes. It will do all of us well to challenge, Parent and Child.

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

God Made All Of Me

Talking to our kids about certain issues such as our bodies, what is appropriate and what is not and what God has designed for his children, can be difficult. We have increased conversations in our home about growing, changing bodies, appropriate touch and intimacy because of my oldest who is almost as tall as me now. I actually measured her yesterday and she is two inches from five feet, at 8 years old.

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Faithmapping

Most of us emphasize one aspect of Christianity over another. Competing voices tell us that the Christian life is all about this or that: missions, discipleship, worship, the cross, or the kingdom. It’s as if we are navigating the Christian life with fragments of a map—bits and pieces of the good news—rather than the whole picture. If we put those map fragments together, we discover a beautiful, coherent picture. Faithmapping invites Christians to see that map, exploring a whole gospel that forms a whole church who carries that glorious news to the whole world. 

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Created to Create

We are created to create. In the beginning God made all things, and he created Man from the dust from the ground. We are the image-bearers of a Creator God thus we bear his image in creating in our own limited capacities.

In my mind it is an obvious extension.

Somehow, though, the creation of art has caused a lot of confusion over the years in Christian circles:

What is the place of art in the Christian life? Is art- especially the fine arts- simply a way to bring worldliness in through the back door? What about sculpture or drama, music or painting? Do these have any place in the Christian life? Shouldn’t a Christian focus his gaze steadily on “religious things” alone and forget about art and culture?…

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Sweet Mercies, Everyday

God’s mercies don’t come in one color; no, they come in every shade of every color of the rainbow of his grace. God’s mercies are not the sound of one instrument; no, they sound the note of every instrument of his grace. God’s mercy is general; all of his children bask in his mercy. God’s mercy is specific; each child receives the mercy that is designed for his or her particular moment of need. God’s mercy is predictable; it is the fountain that never stops flowing. God’s mercy is unpredictable; it comes to us in surprising forms. God’s mercy is a radical theology, but it is more than a theology; it is life to all who believe. God’s mercy is ultimate comfort, but it is also a call to a brand-new way of living. God’s mercy really does change everything forever, for all upon whom this mercy is bestowed. —Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies

This past week I turned 33. No Magic happened overnight to make me feel any different. I woke up weary as always. Everyday for the past 33 years, waking up to reality, each and every day…I am not discouraged though and I am incredibly joyful.

I have dreams that I can fly regularly. It’s been my reoccurring dream since I was a child. That and the weird dream animal changeling that chases me, but that’s a story for another day. In my dreams, my fear of heights vanishes and I become able to soar over city and field like a human hand-glider and a running start takes me off. Sometimes, when I just wake up I am still in the in between half dream-half reality and at those moments, my brain hasn’t told my heart yet that the night’s endeavors are not reality. It’s a sleepy, glowy feeling still where all things are yet possible.

There is cold reality of this world that we wake up to every day. It is easy to feel fatalistic, and want to give up completely . There is reality and the contrast, what feels like magic, what feels like dream, but is actually the truest reality and the greatest thing possible that has already happened and will happen.

That thing is the amazing mercy and grace extended to us through a true heavenly king living for us as a man and dying for us as a man and raising as a king, and by his tremendous sacrifice his Father makes us heirs with this king. This is no dream or fairy story where the pauper becomes the prince, this is real life. The truest reality. God’s mercy is extended to us, broken and poor in spirit and those that run to Jesus are made sons and daughters of God, heirs to a heavenly throne.

I really used to hate the analogy of a heavenly heirship because of ill-use by those that would cherry pick their bible verses toward a works-based religion but It is silly for me to diminish truth because some are bad truth-tellers. The truth is we deserve nothing but are given everything.

One thing that always stood out to me in the Beatitudes was “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven“. What a merciful statement. The poor in spirit are as the Matthew Henry Commentary states:

 To be contentedly poor, willing to be emptied of worldly wealth, if God orders that to be our lot; to bring our mind to our condition, when it is a low condition. Many are poor in the world, but high in spirit, poor and proud, murmuring and complaining, and blaming their lot, but we must accommodate ourselves to our poverty.

I live in a very poor neighborhood in our city, right next one of the richest neighborhoods in our city. What does that mean? Well, to God none of those arbitrary neighborhood lines make a difference because we are all equally sinners in need of a savior. The rich and poor in reality are really just a vapor and the truly merciful bit is all these worldly distinctions of rich and poor matter nothing to a Merciful, Benevolent God. So, it’s the matrix of the Gospel, where the dream of the Kingdom is real and are “former lives” are no more. Of course, we must live these lives in a way, while we have them, as an emptying of self and an accepting receptacle of the pouring of his spirit. This is why the “poor in spirit” inherit the Kingdom, regardless their bank account balance.

I think a lot about poverty these days. Like I said of where we live, we chose to live here but it is also true that we couldn’t afford to live elsewhere so it is a mingling of desire and necessity for us. I am realizing at 33, life is a dichotomy on the surface. I live with the poor, most would call us poor, but I have daily interactions with many people I would consider wealthy or well-off or doing fine. Then the other end of the spectrum might see us as the ones, “doing fine”.  To be truly honest because I see a lot on both ends I can say that I most never meet a prideful poor person. Poverty has a way of kind of weathering that down. I am not saying that poor and needy people can’t be prideful or that wealthy people cannot be humble and poor in spirit, that would be stupid to say, but what I am saying is that the fear of being judged for asking for help is not there, the fear of sharing their difficult circumstance stories with strangers is not there. Most people that are poor know that their need is great and they can’t do it alone. But, I think I can liken that to what the Bible means by “poor in spirit”, we have need and the Father tells us to lay down our pride and come and He will give us a Kingdom, True mercy.

And again back to mercy… mercy in Hebrew is Checed pronounced kheh’·sed (that k is virtually silent, Hess-id). In the Hebrew Lexicon it means Benevolent, as mutual benefits, mercy to those with misfortune. Isn’t it a beautiful story that regardless our circumstances and state we are all equally in need of God’s benevolence, we are equal at the Cross, all in need of adoption into this heavenly family? This is mercy and it isn’t a dream, it is the realest thing.

In this neighborhood, a church from the suburbs, my church, is beginning to make this place their worldly home, merging with an existing body and praying for how we can serve this community as Crawford Avenue Baptist Church. I am obviously not from the suburbs but this suburban church was a very good church home for our family and we made the trek out to Berea Baptist Church in Evans, Georgia every week to be a part of this family because the word was taught and hearts were being changed. The geography was not important. Now, in God’s infinite mercy, He is bringing a whole family to this community in Harrisburg, Augusta, Georgia to make a whole, new family and to love the people here. I know God is being merciful to us by providing new facilities for our church when we needed them. I know God is being merciful to both churches by bringing us together as a family. I know God is being merciful to me because I have prayed (and I am sure others have) for a Gospel-Drenched church to love Harrisburg well and to contrast the poor and often damaging theologies taught by the well-meaning here, I know God is being merciful to the residents and transients of Harrisburg because, well, as churches go, they can’t do better than one that truly does aspire with the help of the Spirit to righteousness. To be completely sappy now, excuse me ;), there is a Berea Love Bomb about to happen in Harrisburg but more than that, much more, is that God’s mercy means that the love bombing has been happening from the beginning and it wasn’t us doing it, it was God. The plans He orchestrated and the hands He moved, He already knew He would do it, I am so thankful for his immense mercy.

So, as we start to see how all things are merciful things as they work together, even the hard and hurting things, the wandering times, the home-less times, everything is colored by his mercy. We know that the Father loves us well and we can rejoice in sweet new mercies everyday and call out to the one that makes us his own, and this is all, dream coming true.

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here there by Thy great help I’ve come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

image2 (1)Read more about Berea Baptist Church’s Merger with Crawford Avenue in the community of Harrisburg in Augusta, Ga: HERE.

Catechising your children, why you should.

This idea of all education springing from and resting upon our relation to Almighty God-we do not merely give a religious education because that would seem to imply the possibility of some other education, a secular education, for example. But we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind, and that the culmination of all education (which may at the same time be reached by a little child) is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection. ― Charlotte M. Mason

I am not a perfect parent. In fact I may be the picture of “imperfect parent”. And, that is ok. I do not need to be perfect when I have a perfect, risen, Christ. That is why I am so eager to help my children understand the truths of the Bible. A Catechism is an excellent tool for imperfect parents to prod their children toward Truth, Beauty and Goodness. This post is my argument toward Catechising your children, with a bit of my experience so far.

Emma, my oldest, is 8 and this child has one million questions about life and plus some. I have gone into a bit of a panic mode lately as she is growing and changing and is looking more like a little lady than a baby, in my eyes. But, I know I can have  confidence in Christ and in the truths we have been teaching her.

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Every home school morning, we have Liturgy. Liturgy for us is a Hymn, our Bible Lesson, a discussion of Habits and finally our Catechism. I will delve into Liturgy on a different post but for now I have linked to the individual items we use.

We have been using the North Star Catechism for a few years now, and I have been very happy with it. It clearly written with impeccable content.

Our kids need to have their faith firmly rooted in doctrine that has weathered the centuries. For thousands of years, travelers have been guided on their journey by a fixed point in the night sky: the North Star. While other stars appear to shift with the passing of time, the North Star remains anchored. This gift allows travelers to know where they are and where they need to go. Like its celestial namesake, our prayer is that the North Star Catechism will like be a faithful guide for the next generation. — North Star Catechism

You can also get a free pdf of the Catechism from Sojourn Kids along with some other resources available.

So, we delve into these questions and Emma is hearing and learning. We memorize the questions, answers and corresponding verses. Once she has memorized a verse we put it in a rotation to revisit it, so it doesn’t completely disappear from her memory.

I wish we had started earlier. The North Star Catechism gives age suggestions for each part but since we only started a few years back we are just progressing at our own pace and I am not as worried about the age range or else we’d have to cram to be able to catch up since the ranges start at about three. I encourage to start at any age, of course earlier is better but don’t feel you have missed your chance.

I have transferred the questions and verses to index cards and we go through a few every morning.

So there is the How, but Why do we Catechise? This from John Piper:

Why is it important?

  1. We are required to “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast” (Col. 1:23).
  2. We are urged to “attain to the unity of the… knowledge of the Son of God…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:13-14).
  3. There are many deceivers (1 John 2:26).
  4. There are difficult doctrines “which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16).
  5. Leaders must be raised up who can “give instruction in sound doctrine and also confute those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).

We believe these are excellent reasons to continue on. We have done the Catechism for a few years now and in the first few I wondered “Does she get it?”. Well, sometimes, you will see how your children “get it” during interesting and unexpected conversations. My daughter surprised me when we were discussing why someone was going to jail. I said in my worldliness that they were a bad person and did some bad things. She responds with “Mama, but, No one is truly Good except God.” (Q.6) and of course that, at first, surprises me and then leads to excellent discussion. Because, she is right and I am glad she heard this truth repeatedly and can tell it to me even when I need to hear it.

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Another instance was recently a very bittersweet conversation that arose. She said that she liked the President but asked why sometimes people dislike him and asked if I liked him. I said I loved him and that we should love our President and pray for him no matter if we disagree on things. She asked me what I disagreed on and I responded that the biggest thing was that our President is Pro-Choice and our family is Pro-Life. I knew that there would be a time we would need to talk about this but I didn’t expect it to be on a Saturday nature walk. So, of course she asked me what it meant. I asked her if she would be ok to talk about it because it was really sad. She said yes and I explained to her the awful truth of what Abortion is. She looked at me sadly and said “Well, Mama, that is wrong because God made everything and me (Q.1) and made those babies too, and we need to take care of them.” It was a sad conversation but I was hopeful in her answer to me and it made me happy to know she is actually “getting it.”

 

 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. —Ephesians 6:12-13

 

There are many more instances of my child speaking truth when things seem scary, dark and uncertain and I pray that there will be many more instances where she can see this light of truth and speak it with confidence. This is why we Catechise. Darkness is all around and the only remedy is breath-taking light.

The key is becoming convinced that you are furnishing your child with the mental foundation on which the rest of his or her spiritual life will be built. Or, to switch metaphors, you are laying the kindling and the logs in the fireplace, so that when the spark of the Holy Spirit ignites your child’s heart, there will be a steady, mature blaze. — Kathy Keller

I can only pray that light revealed to my child’s heart will be a mature blaze one day. I am thankful for resources like the North Star Catechism. I basically don’t know what I am doing as a parent, but none of us do. I know the only way I can combat my parental and general ignorance is through the Wisdom found in His Word and sharing that Word with my children is what I am called to do as a parent to these image-bearers of God.

Our Homeschool, This Year. (YEAR 3)

I meant to write this out much earlier and have now just gotten to it. I’ve written a homeschool plan post every year and it always helps me to think critically through our plan even if I have been teaching it for a few weeks now. It has almost been a full month since we started Year 3 and I am very excited about the selections and learning we will be doing together.

IMG_3439   Most will know that we are Charlotte Mason Homeschoolers. What this means, simply, is that we follow the Philosophy of Education that Miss Mason espoused. Charlotte Mason was a Christian, Classical Educator at the turn of the 19th and 20th century. She had a unique insight into the minds of children and was a passionate reformer of education to give all children a wide and generous curriculum. In here time only wealthy received a Classical diet or was educated at all and she wanted to not only spread the feast of education for all but make lovely and wholesome. I encourage you, if interested in learning more about Charlotte Mason to read For the Children’s Sake by Francis Schaeffer’s daughter, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay or to pick up the Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. The wisdom and love for education that Miss Mason speaks of is something worth reading about even if you choose any different form of education. It has helped me in my every day, with my children and being innately Christian has blended remarkably well with our Reformed Faith. In fact so well, I feel like I have some great secret since Charlotte Mason is not as widely know as others. A side note: There is a Reformed and Charlotte Mason group on FB for those that love Reformed Theology and Charlotte Mason’s love for the feast of education.

Education Is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.  -Charlotte Mason 

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So, back to our homeschool plan. This year will be in Year 3 according to our Ambleside Online ScheduleWe use Ambleside Online as a Charlotte Mason guide for each year and this year we continue that tradition. We follow the schedule exactly for everything except Bible and History, where we do some different selections that I will share.

I will discuss our daily schedule in a different post and that seems to be fluctuating because of my husband’s changing hours at work but generally we start school at 8 am and are done before lunch.

Here are our subjects and resources for each, everything unless otherwise listed is a selection from Ambleside Online:

Liturgy-

Bible: We will continue to use Long Story Short as a guide for reading through the Old Testament. We have been getting through the Old Testament for the last two years and we are now in Joshua and moving forward. By the time we are through we will have completely almost all the key readings in the Old Testament and will move on to Old Story New which is the same guide but for the New Testament until we complete the entire Bible. I really love this resource. I will say that I do modify it for my needs and to make it fit within a Charlotte Mason framework. I do not typically use the illustrations at the beginning of each week and will sometimes include narration and forego the questions. Emma enjoys a lot of the questions though and they are usually about how the story points to Jesus, etc. so I enjoy them as well. We also have a Bible that corresponds with the readings but it is not necessary.

Catechism and Scripture Memory: We continue with the North Star Catechism this year. I have a post in draft about why I think you should Catechise your children and will hopefully post later this week. We love this Catechism and are memorizing at our own pace.

Habits: Charlotte Mason was a big believer in Habit Training and we honestly all need some habits trained, do we not? We are walking through Laying Down the Rails for Children and are currently reading and discussing about a Sweet, Even Temper which covers tantrums and complaining and encourages joy instead. There are poems and stories to narrate and discuss. It is a great way to talk about these concerns. It truly is a help to myself as well.

Hymn: We follow the Ambleside Online Hymn schedule. We are on How Firm a Foundation this month and will be transitioning to I Bind Unto Myself Today for September and following the schedule the rest of the year.

History-

Early American: We are continuing with Beautiful Feet History this year and yes, are still in Early American. Last year, being the insane year it was, History typically took a back seat. Thankfully, Emma remembered a lot from where we left off and so we picked up in Jamestowne this year. We are now reading Pilgrim Stories from Margaret Pumphrey and Emma seems to be immersed in their world. What is cool that we have been able to trace back our family line to Early Colonial times and it is rumored that one member was one of the Mayflower Pilgrims but I haven’t been able to find who yet. There was definitely some Jamestowne Colonists in the line from our searches.

Church History: The selections from Trial and Triumph this year will be Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox and more.

Biography: We will read biographies throughout the year. Da Vinci by Emily Hahn, Bard of Avon by Peter Vennema and Pilgrim’s Landing by James Daugherty.

Geography: Marco Polo by Demi and Charlotte Mason Geography selections for the year, found on Ambleside Online.

Natural History and Science: We will be using Pagoo by Hollings , Secret of the Woods by Long , A Drop of Water by Wick along with Nature Studying in Nature Journals. We also do Nature in our local Charlotte Mason co-op.

Table Work-

Math: Math U See again this year, she loves the counting block manipulatives.

Reading: We will finish Explode the Code book we are in and then use the Discover Reading Lesson Plan and Activity Guide by Amy Tuttle. Emma struggles with reading and we have just been slowly prodding her toward Literacy. A little a day, I tell her and I encourage her to continue on. In addition, she reads a few pages from a reader of her choice daily because if there is no reading going on in our house then there is no screen-time either. At least that is what this year looks like.

Copywork: We use Handwriting Without Tears and it is very simple to follow and she gets through it quickly and without much drama, hence why we chose it.

Literature-

Poetry:  This year we will reading and memorizing from William Blake, Sara Teasdale and Hilda Conkling, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. We also will be reemphasizing all learning within Poetry Studies in our Charlotte Mason Co-op.

Literature: The literature selections are usually the jewel of Charlotte Mason Education and this year is no exception.  We will be reading Parables from Nature, by Margaret Gatty, American Tall Tales by Adrien Stoutenburg (Emma is loving Paul Bunyan), The Heroes by Charles Kingsley,
Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, Children of the New Forest by F. Marryat, and The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.

Shakespeare: Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb, selections from the Ambleside Schedule

Free Reading:

We Typically cuddle on the couch and I read aloud through these selections. It is such a sweet time of the day. As she gets older she will read independently, her free reads. Selections this year are A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley, At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald, Men of Iron by Howard Pyle, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll, The Bears of Blue River by Charles Major, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, Unknown to History: Captivity of Mary of Scotland, by Charlotte Yonge, Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink , On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge , The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright, English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs, King of the Wind, by Marguerite Henry, and The Wheel on the School, by Meindert De Jong.

Weekly Work-

Spanish: We are introducing Gouin Series’ at her own pace. We are using the book Speaking Spanish with Miss
Mason and François from Cherrydale Press.

Art Study: Along with our Co-op we will study Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Jacques- Louis David and Hans Holbein the Younger.

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Composer Study: Along with our Co-op we will study Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.

Folksong: We will follow the Folksong schedule for the year by simply listening to the songs during Masterly Inactivity.

Art Instruction: We will be doing simple pencil and pen and ink instruction this year. Nature Journaling also overlaps into Art instruction.

Handicrafts: Emma is learning to sew softies and doll accessories with the book Baby Stuff.  It is a Japanese Book translated to English. I like it because it is not so much a Sewing instruction book but has step by step directions for doing a project including the types of stitches you need to make, etc.

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I love the lovely thoughts and ideas on the schedule this year. I am excited to learn with Emma. I learn so much as well and Self-Education is one of the wonderful things about homeschooling and teaching homeschool. It is my goal to not forget though that “Education Is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life”. 

“The question is not, — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”
Charlotte M. Mason, School Education: Developing A Curriculum

I want to be wise and make an atmosphere of security, comfort and joy while we learn and live. That is so why I love a Charlotte Mason Education. The emphasis is put on the family and the atmosphere and growing together in Life. It is not how much she knows but how much she cares.


 

 

You can see our previous CM Years here: YEAR 1 & YEAR 2 and more Charlotte Mason posts in the CHARLOTTE MASON HOMESCHOOL tab.


We have an online Charlotte Mason community at CharlotteMasonLiving.com or on Instagram @charlottemasonliving. It is a beautiful space, come join us.

 

Messy Hearts over Messy Homes.

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. -PSALM 51:6

I haven’t posted in quite awhile. I have a series of health concerns right now that have made life slightly harried. The doctors discovered that I have a non-threatening cyst in my sinus that is compressing a nerve in my face causing odd symptoms like facial numbness and dizziness. And while at the doctor for that issue they diagnosed me with Hypothyroidism, which makes complete sense if you know me in real life. I haven’t been able to give another answer than tired to the question, “how are you?” in years. I am on a thyroid replacement now and am praying that it will help my body make the needed changes. The fact that I can even write a single coherent sentence is probably proof that it is.

So, I have been tired, recovering and the house is a mess (well, it normally is but x100). There is no perfect in this equation. There never really was on my best day though, you understand. But God doesn’t call us to perfection he calls us to righteousness. He calls us to deal with messy hearts first. There can be a lot of guilt or criticism placed on women to keep pristine homes at the sake of the Gospel. Guilt has no place in our lives, we can lay that down at the feet of Christ. We are perfectly imperfect and Christ is perfectly perfect. Mothers and Wives, this is hard stuff, this life. Believe me, you need grace.

 Moms, please go read this piece I read the week: God’s Math for Good Mothering by Liz Wann. Be encouraged by much needed grace.

And we do need Grace. Grace is not a ticket to easy living. Grace is Christ saying it’s hard but I give you myself for this moment, for all the moments. Each and every hard and tear-filled moment, each joyful moment, each discouraging and heart-dampening moment, all of them, he came to be with us for all of them.

So, as I look at my laundry mountain and bristle from some recent experiences with how people perceive me, my home and my messy life, I want to encourage others. Don’t be more concerned about your messy home than your messy heart. All these things we surround ourselves with are usually outward presentations of inward hearts. Of course the keeping of the home is a God honoring position and we shouldn’t shrug it aside but we have precedent for knowing what is of the most import.

And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
(Luke 10:39 ESV)

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

(Luke 10:38-42 ESV)

Martha was anxious and troubled about Mary’s choice to sit at Christ’s feet. She was anxious and troubled about many things, but Christ lovingly instructed her to focus only on the one thing. Only one thing is necessary. The greek word for neccessary is chreia (Strong’s G5532) which refers to anything needed for life or sustenance.  “such things as suited the exigency, such things as we needed for sustenance and the journey. ” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon) So, the one thing, Christ should be our primary focus.

I don’t want to be anxious about the many things but focused on the one thing. I do though, struggle with all the anxieties placed on me from the many things. And, oh, there are so many things that cause them these days. Our hearts, schedules and facebook feeds are full of them. Are you assailed by the many things that distract from the one thing?

Then let us focus on the one thing, Christ, and let the work we do with our hands be an outpouring of transforming hearts.

“He applauded her for her wisdom: She hath chosen the good part;for she chose to be with Christ, to take her part with him; she chose the better business, and the better happiness, and took a better way of honouring Christ and of pleasing him, by receiving his word into her heart, than Martha did by providing for his entertainment in her house.” -Matthew Henry Commentary

The verse at the top of the blog, Psalm 51:6 is something I want to know, truth in the inward being. This is where wisdom starts at the place where we awe and reverently fear the Lord and sit at his feet because we know we can’t do anything but, because only ONE thing matters.

C. H. Spurgeon says: To sit at Jesus’ feet implies faith as well as submission. Mary believed in what Jesus said, and, therefore, sat there to be taught by him. It is absolutely necessary that we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, in his power as God and man, in his death as being expiatory, in his crucifixion as being a sacrifice for our sins. We must trust him for time and eternity, in all his relationships as Prophet, Priest, and King. We must rely on him; he must be our hope, our salvation, our all in all. This one thing is absolutely necessary: without it we are undone. A believing submission, and a submissive faith in Jesus we must have, or perish.

So, I encourage us to be concerned with our messy hearts firstly or it will be our undoing. God will provide the ability and the tools necessary for the messy homes if we trust in him and are not anxious. Like always, this blog is a way of preaching to myself, so I need to hear this most of all.

Perhaps, you do not struggle with anxiety when it comes to homemaking and you are a “Mary” in your home. Maybe, home keeping is of a second nature and something that pours out from a place of wisdom and trust in God. I am so thankful there are people that are gifted in this way. Alternatively, I struggle and know many that do as well, with keeping the home. My encouragement is not “let your house get messy” but rather if the dishes go undone because you carve time for bible study and prayer then let them. There is no need to worry about these things and no need to be concerned with people’s opinions of you in regards to them.

 I pray as well that believing women can love and not judge one another. Sometimes the most emotional harm done to Christian Women are committed by other well-meaning “Christian Women”. A messy home is usually symptomatic and representative of need and if you love one another harsh criticism or gossip is not the answer. Be the sister that shows Grace and sees people’s lives in the Gospel lens of Christ where the many things are of no matter. But also when there is need be the Sister that prays and offers help. In my illness recently I have had the sweetest help from sisters in our church. They have brought food, cared for children and one lovely friend even hired a house cleaner to help me tackle what felt insurmountable. They have done all of this with zero criticism and so much Grace that I am just drowning in Grace. That’s a good thing. I am beyond blessed, God is good and uses his people for his good.

I am probably the worst homemaker, though I’m sure there are worse if I’m not hyperbolic. I have never had a desire to keep up house nor did I even have the desire originally to stay at home with children. But, I know God is changing my heart and even though my distracted mind or the opinions of others can cause me anxieties, I want to sit at his feet and give those thoughts to him. If I am more concerned with my messy heart firstly, I know God will shine his Gospel light on my messy life and home and we can deal with it together. I may be the worst homemaker, but he is the greatest heart maker and only he can do the changing.

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