Monday, October 28, 2013

Resources for Reformation Day

Pictured here are a few of our family’s favorite books related to the Reformation. As we approach Reformation Day, I thought it might be useful to recommend some books that will help you remember and celebrate this important time with your children.
A couple of years ago I gathered into one post links to some of the best books we had read up to that time on the Reformation. That post contains links to more complete discussions of the books with further links to where the books can be purchased.
When the Morning Came (in the photo above but not in the previous post just mentioned) is a great story set in the Netherlands during the Reformation. This is a part of the Reformation which is typically not as well known among us.  This book is a long standing family favorite for us and there are three later books which continue the series.
Then, I have included in the photo, Duncan’s War, a story of the Scottish Covenanters from the 16th century. This is a century later and a second wave of the Reformation. This book by Douglas Bond and the two books which followed to complete the trilogy are among our all-time favorites.

I hope these books might be a blessing to your family as they have been to ours. We are grateful to have the Bible in our own language. We are grateful to have the clear gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone proclaimed around us. We are grateful to God for renewing his church in the Reformation.

(Sorry, the photo for some reason will not stay vertical!)

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

C. S. Lewis, Children, Property & Justice

Here is C. S. Lewis dealing, parenthetically, with an issue which parents often ask about. I think he is exactly right.
“The question whether the disputed pencil belongs to Tommy or Charles is quite distinct from the question which is the nicer little boy, and the parents who allowed the one to influence their decision about the other would be very unfair. (It would be still worse if they said Tommy ought to let Charles have the pencil whether it belonged to him or not, because this would show he had a nice disposition. That may be true, but it is an untimely truth. An exhortation to charity should not come as rider to a refusal of justice. It is likely to give Tommy a lifelong conviction that charity is a sanctimonious dodge for condoning theft and whitewashing favouritism.)”
-          C. S. Lewis, Reflectionson the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1958), 17-18.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fraidy Zoo

Fraidy Zoo, by Thyra Heder (text & illustrations)
(Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013)
hb., 48 pp.
Ages 3-8

This is a wonderfully fun, beautifully illustrated, cleverly conceived book! My younger children, my wife & I really enjoyed it.

The story revolves around a family planning to go to the zoo, but the younger daughter is afraid. She can’t remember what she is afraid of, so mom, dad and the older daughter try guessing what it is that scared her before. They run through a list of animals, not stating the animals name but dressing up like the animal and mentioning some characteristic of the animal. For the first three guesses they explicitly ask if the animal starts with an A, or a B or a C. When they stopped make this explicit, we read a few more pages before it dawned on me that they were still working their way letter by letter through the alphabet! (I don’t think that will be a spoiler because everyone else will probably pick up on that right away. My wife did!)

The pictures of the family dressing up like animals are very creative, and it was fun with the kids figuring out what animal they were referring to. The inside back cover has what appears simply to be a collection of kids art work which is actually a key to which animal went with each letter. I won’t tell how the story resolves, but the conclusion was also a fun, surprising twist.

This book was a fun experience that our children have wanted to return to again and again. We have seen new things in the pictures with each re-reading and will likely discover some more hidden facets in the future. Also, the portrayal of a loving family caring for and enjoying one another (with significant patience) is superb.

Apparently this is Mrs. Heder’s first picture book. Kudos to her for producing such an excellent work.

We warmly commend this book to your family as an experience of and example of good family fun. 

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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Family Bible Reading

Phil Eyster, a missionary, founder and president of Eagle Projects International, has been a dear friend of mine for about two decades and has been a regular encouragement to me in the realm of parenting and discipling my children. He recently posted this encouraging note about finishing their fifth reading of the entire Bible as a family. Phil is honest about the challenge of such a task and how long it takes with a large family across a wide range of ages. He writes:
 With all of my travels, and having guests here (who we just included in with us whether they were Christians or not), and interruptions, and phone calls and Marcia's health, and the addition of the girls who aren't able to make it through 3 or 4 chapters, and my jet lag, and on and on, this is the longest period of time it took for us to do it. We simply can't get it done every day. Some weeks it is only 2 days, most weeks it's like 4 times.

I encourage you to read the full note (it is not very long) and be encouraged to keep on taking the small, faithful steps in discipling your own children. 

UPDATE: Since the original is a Facebook post it was not available to everyone. Phil has given me permission to post the full note here:

"Bible Time" At Our House

Yesterday evening I posted that we had finally finished reading the Bible through as a family after 4 years and 9 months. It was our 5th time through as a family, something we started in 1991 when Sharon and Leonard were very young.

I didn't post that to boast but as an encouragement to other busy families, to say that it CAN be done. Forty years ago there was a man in our church on the Main Line of Philly who had read the bible through every year of his life since his teens, often in different versions. At that time he was in his late 60s and I remember him saying it was over 50 times that he had done it at that point.

With all of my travels, and having guests here (who we just included in with us whether they were Christians or not), and interruptions, and phone calls and Marcia's health, and the addition of the girls who aren't able to make it through 3 or 4 chapters, and my jet lag, and on and on, this is the longest period of time it took for us to do it. We simply can't get it done every day. Some weeks it is only 2 days, most weeks it's like 4 times.

I print off a check list from the internet, and just hang onto that list, in this case for almost 5 years. It used to be only 2 to 3 years but with our new ones it took longer. All my kids have witnessed how hard it is to get "Bible Time" done, and I literally start announcing it mid to early afternoon that we are GOING TO do it tonight no matter what!! And I'll announce it more than once. And even then it takes the determination of a bulldog (imagine our bulldog Gus going after an intruder is a good example) to get it actually done.

I know a few families with multiple children of various ages who have adopted ones and no adopted ones that do this, and it is an unbelievable challenge, far harder than you think it would be (hmmmm wonder why?).

When we finished last night it was the first time for the little ones who are now 11 and 9 to do it. Bethany read the last verse. There was a real sense of accomplishment for them. After all, how many 9 and 11 yr olds have read every word of the Bible? Over the years we have used an enormous amount of methods, tricks, versions, patterns, lengths, and times to get it done. But we did it.

I immediately went and grabbed another check list and tonight????? Guess what....I'll start announcing it this afternoon.....Hopefully this time we can do it in less time. The fact that it is getting the word of God into us is only part of the benefit...concentration, focus, obedience, togetherness, talking, praying, meeting, discussing, dealing with any family issues, are all added advantages.

Most families and books I've read about how to run a large or small family use dinner time as a time to do all of this, and that's great and good. However, with our life, my schedule, Marcia's health, having kids from 23 to 9 around, I confess that if we can eat dinner together 2 or 3 times a week that is a major accomplishment. So pursuing a time of devotions together became the place where we connect. There are no hard and fast rules, and we frequently have to adjust things to make room for attitudes and moods and abilities and sickness and whatever, but this was the place we have found after 29 years of raising children that we chose to plant our flag in the ground and say we WILL get this done.

I hope this is an encouragement to some. It is not intended as a discouragement. And sometimes it looks very different and sometimes when I'm jet lagged I can't even pronounce the words and keep asking where we are reading. My kids have had a good time laughing at my expense, and they should feel free to post below this how spaced out I can be.

God Bless anyone who even makes an attempt to do this. It ain't easy.

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