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Finding Joy in Another Clean Window

Spring Sunshine

We’re spring cleaning around here, a little bit at a time.  A few hours after Miss 14 and I finished this window area, the sun shone in and made the plants glow.

That sunshine brought joy, but it wouldn’t have if we had not stopped to see it, pay attention to it, and be thankful for it.  Perhaps we all need to learn to notice, accept, and appreciate the small everyday gifts God gives us.

…because you can’t appreciate these gifts unless you accept them, and you can’t accept them unless you notice them, and you won’t them notice unless you slow down and open up.

Wishing you many happy moments this spring!

Review: Against the Flow by John Lennox

Against the Flow

Rick Warren says he reads everything John Lennox writes.  That is now my goal too, and each Lennox book I’ve read has taught me so much.

John Lennox, mathematics professor at Oxford, has spent years demonstrating that believing in God not only makes sense but is actually more compatible with physical reality is than atheism is.  In his books and debates he is definitely going against the flow.

And now, in this latest book, he discusses the whole concept of going Against the Flow.  Instead of writing about the interface between science, religion, and philosophy as he usually does, he writes about the book of Daniel.  Instead of discussing apologetics (i.e. logically defending one’s faith using information), he tells the reader how to be an apologist, how to stand firm for God.

Thus this book is desperately needed in our culture.

Many of us want to honor God in public, but it is so difficult to know when and how to be courageous, how courage relates to prudence, and what those terms actually mean.  Lennox uses the book of Daniel to discuss how to ‘give unequivocal, courageous public expression’ to what we believe and to ‘make sure in advance that our minds and hearts are prepared’ to do so.  His years of doing so himself infuse the book with both realism and inspiration.

In Against the Flow:  The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism, Lennox defends the truth of the Bible and that truth’s implications in a skeptical world.  The book of Daniel shows that God is involved in human history, a statement of immense import.  Then why did God not stop the fall of Jerusalem, which Daniel experienced as a youth?  One of the main foci of Daniel’s work is grappling with the moral difficulties history presents, understanding the idea that God has individual plans for those who trust him and for all of history, and that what seems like harm from our point of view looks different from God’s eternal perspective.  This also leads to an understanding of Daniel’s visions in which evil is shown to prevail at times.  Knowing that God not only knows this but has planned it can bring great comfort to his suffering people.

After this introduction, Lennox goes through Daniel chapter by chapter, highlighting the historicity of the book and its affirmation that there is much more to the world than we can see.  Despite the opinions of modern cynics and ancient kings, God does exist and he does act in this world, revealing himself to mankind.   Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius discovered this during their lifetimes; one goal of apologetics is to show this truth to modern cynics before it is too late for them.

But there is more to Daniel than the dramatic stories we all know.  This godly man also saw horrific visions of the future.  Lennox goes through them as well, not with speculative interpretations but rather to explain their detailed relation to history, their implications for the future, and the comforting truth that God is in control even though he does, at times, let evil powers seem to be in charge.

Although Lennox interacts with the text in profound and orthodox ways, this is not a typical Bible study guide.  Instead it is an encouragement and an eye opener for believers who are taking a stand for truth and it would probably speak to open-minded questioners and searchers as well.

Throughout Against the Flow, Lennox’s passion is to show that God has revealed himself in this world and that he knows and directs the future even though at times it seems he is not acting.  He also emphasizes the importance of moral living and making godly choices.  This two-fold focus inevitably leads to discussions of determinism and human choice.  Lennox asserts both God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility and wisely refuses to address this mystery in more detail than the Bible does.  Intriguingly he does point out that God’s relation to time itself is mysterious and beyond us and may hold part of the key to this mystery.  People of all theological opinions could argue against him if they were in the mood to do so, but in a charitable frame of mind most of us could also agree with much of what he says.  In any case, we all can definitely learn from him.

Several detailed appendices provide more information on various topics.

I found Against the Flow both inspiring and encouraging.  It gave me a whole new way of looking at Bible discussions with questioners and atheists.  For example, the questions sceptics have about Daniel include its dating and its predictions, suggesting that there can’t be ‘someone out there’ who knows about and enters into our world—and the book of Daniel itself addresses that question over and over.  The great emperor Nebuchadnezzar himself even wrote a chapter to point out that God can and does step into history and that he guides it as he wills.  Lennox shows how the book itself answers sceptics’ questions…and how, if they do not accept, it they also, like Nebuchadnezzar, lose their ability to think with a clear, human mind.

In Against the Flow:  The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism Lennox discusses a culture similar to ours in many ways.  He shows how Daniel, a devout believer, lived openly for God in the most influential positions.  Daniel lived Against the Flow, and as our culture wanders further away from its Christian roots, we will need to do so more and more, too.  Lennox shows us how, both in his masterfully crafted use of the book of Daniel itself to answer its critics, and in the many nuggets of practical Biblical wisdom he has scattered throughout.

I highly recommend this book for anyone, teen or adult, who wants to live Against the Flow and glorify God in all things.  It would be an excellent addition to an upper-level high school reading list.

Note:  Although Lennox does not emphasize his belief in theistic evolution in this book, this belief does lead him to a question that was answered beautifully during the Reformation:

But does not God do man an injustice by requiring in his law what man cannot do?

No, for God so created man that he was able to do it.  But man, at the instigation of the devil, in deliberate disobedience robbed himself and all his descendants of these gifts. (Heidelberg Catechism Question and Answer 9)

This question and others also form part of his discussion of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, an issue of Biblical interpretation that has been grappled with through the ages and is powerfully summed up in various Reformation documents.  Of course, these topics are not a main part of this book, but anyone considering Lennox’s discussion would do well to consult the thoughts of wise and godly men of the past.

Other John Lennox books I’ve read and recommend, with links to my reviews:

God and Stephen Hawking.

God’s Undertaker, which I’m reading for the third time and hope to review in the next few months.  An essay covering much of the same material forms part of Beyond Opinion by Ravi Zacharias.

More information is available about John Lennox, his books, and his resources.

I also recommend the review at Create with Joy;  other reviews are available at the LitFuse Blog Tour page.

This is yet another book in the in the 2015 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook.  For more encouragement, visit  Finishing Strong, Trivium Tuesdays, Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday Monday’s Musings, R&R Wednesdays Faith Filled Fridays

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from LitFuse and have shared my own opinions.

Enjoy Your Homeschool Conference

Periodic Table puzzle, an educational treat

Periodic Table puzzle, an educational treat

Tomorrow is our annual homeschooling conference and for the first time in years I will not be able to attend.  Sometimes life seriously gets in the way, and it’s best if we learn to accept that cheerfully and not complain about what God has put in our path.

But–and this is a big ‘but’–if you can make it to your conference, I highly recommend you do so.

Do you remember why, O busy mom?

  • deep and relief-bringing encouragement
  • a chance to explore curriculum you’ve been considering
  • book tables of all sorts
  • educational treats like puzzles, bug kits, and more
  • a change of perspective
  • meeting old friends and new ones who are all on this journey with you

In 2012 I did not really want to attend the conference but went anyhow, and I was so thankful afterwards!  Here’s what I wrote then:

This year I went to our annual homeschooling conference only because my teens wanted to attend and my friends had put so much effort into it.

It wasn’t something I really wanted to do.  After all, life is busy enough without taking an entire day off. I didn’t feel discouraged, so did not need encouragement; after homeschooling for 15 years, I did not need basic how-to-homeschool information; and I was relatively satisfied with our curriculum.  So why bother going?

Guess what?  The day was wonderful…as I had, deep down, known it would be. 

  • I talked to old friends, the ones I see only a few times a year, and chatted with people I had met at previous conferences.
  • My teens loved their sessions, and are now both reading Mere Christianity at the recommendation of one of the speakers.
  • Mr. 16 is not happy with Singapore’s New Additional Math which he’s been using for pre-calculus.  He and I had a chance to look into two math programs I had been wondering about, Teaching Textbooks  and Life of Fred.  Both look very interesting, but who can really evaluate something like that in 10 minutes?  It’s time to find some detailed reviews and comparisons.
  • I was inspired to focus on nature study.  We always used to live adventurously and go out exploring nature, but that somehow disappeared from our lives.  It’s time to change.  Even if a fear of bears keeps us from venturing into the wilderness, there’s so much else we could be doing!
  • And who doesn’t need reminders to pray?  To pray constantly, specifically, and with thankfulness?
  • Most of my friends and relatives read a lot.  My online friends read, too.  So it was a startling reality check to meet a wise, enthusiastic, thoroughly alive lady who made it a point to read two books a year. Yes, two.  And her Bible, of course….   
  • In the middle of one of the sessions, I suddenly realized that this conference was a holiday for me.  I shed layers of duties and responsibilities, and just focused on enjoying the day.
  • Our keynote speaker was a public school teacher turned homeschooler.  She listed many elements of school teacher training and showed how a homeschool mom is ahead of a school teacher on every single point.  We may not have teacher’s credentials, but we have everything we need to teach.  She also encouraged us to take as many professional development days as public school teachers do; homeschooling moms need to be refreshed and to keep learning too.
  • I met someone who owns 87 first edition Henty novels and now writes children’s history books himself. 
  • It turns out that HSLDA sells a lot of fascinating books.  I just pay my dues and occasionally call HSLDA for help, but I’ve never looked at their books.
  • Our young writer, Miss 14, met another young writer, a real life one instead of a bloggy one. 

Although I didn’t want to go to our conference this year, I’m so glad I went!  I encourage you to attend your conference too.  Take a professional development day and enjoy whatever God brings to you.

So, if you are at all able to go to your homeschool conference, do go.  Plan ahead:

  • decide whether or not to buy curriculum at the conference,
  • make a list of what you want to look at,
  • set a budget,
  • arrange to meet friends,
  • eat a good breakfast,
  • wear comfortable shoes, and
  • set off for your day of encouragement and adventure!

May God bless all the work that conference organizers and speakers do, and may he bless the work you do teaching your children.

Review: More than Just the Talk by Jonathan McKee

More than Just The Talk

I just finished a book that made me so uncomfortable I didn’t want other people to see me reading it.  Usually feeling that way is a warning that something bad is going on, but in this case I think it was a good thing.   You see, I was learning about how parents can counter the youth culture—and, yes, the youth culture is bad, very bad, a whole lot worse than I imagined.  Our kids are facing a far different world than we encountered when we were young.

More than Just the Talk by Jonathan McKee is a book for parents, encouraging and empowering them to talk with their kids about everything, especially the explicit topics that many teens and even tweens have questions about.

Now, to avoid the filters I hope you have on your family’s computers, I will spell the crucial word as s-x.  This highlights one of the problems—the internet is so full of perversion that even naming something as glorious as God’s good gift to married couples can cause a godly blog to be grouped with evil ones.

Jonathan McKee does not face such internet filters in this book but he knows us parents.  In fact, he warns that many readers will be offended because ‘the purpose of this book is to help parents explain the explicit truth in a world full of explicit lies.’  And, yes, he is uncomfortably explicit, chapter after chapter after chapter.  He wants us parents to know what our kids face, and has distilled his years in youth ministry into 12 hard-hitting chapters, listed in this excerpt.  These topics apparently represent the kind of stuff that kids across the country are asking him.

His advice for parents, some of which is repeated over and over in various contexts, is simple:

  • Don’t over-react but be a safe person for your kids to talk to.
  • If you don’t know how to respond, stall for time by asking a question, or say you need to think about it for a while.
  • Don’t make kids think s-x is bad, but show them that the world has perverted God’s good gift for married couples.
  • Keep your eyes open for natural springboards to discuss all sorts of topics, including explicit ones.
  • Don’t lecture; ask questions, listen, respond, ask more questions, listen, respond….
  • Don’t rely on just one big ‘Talk’ but on many more casual ones, including those based on family Bible reading through the years.
  • Seek to understand your kids.
  • Help them understand the importance of fleeing from s-xual sins, which often includes actually going somewhere else and actively avoiding temptation.
  • Help them make a plan to flee such sins—in case of this tempting circumstance, I’ll do this and call that person for help; if that situation comes up, I’ll do that; I’ll avoid these tempting places, etc.
  • Show them how setting safeguards and having accountability can help.
  • Don’t dwell on kids’ past failings but help them turn to Jesus for deliverance, forgiveness, cleansing, and hope.
  • On the other hand, don’t let past sins justify future ones and don’t take God’s grace for granted.

Now, those of us who read the Bible together as a family (see Six Tips for Bible Reading), have many opportunities to think about both God’s design for marriage and the prevalence of s-xual sin.

Let us all pray for and use springboards to discussion, whether from life, the media, or the Bible, so that we can walk alongside our children, showing them the Biblical truth that s-x is a great thing inside marriage, but an evil outside it.

I recommend this book to all parents who wonder how to discuss explicit topics with their children.  I do not recommend it for teens, though.  Probably some of Jonathan McKee’s other books would be suitable for them.  Those books, as well as more parenting resources, are available here.

Once again I want to remind us all of Michael Catt’s brilliant guidelines:

1.When in doubt, don’t.

2.Be where you are supposed to be,

when you are supposed to be there,

doing what you are supposed to be doing.

As Catt says, those two rules pretty much cover every life situation.

This is yet another book in the in the 2015 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook

For more encouragement, visit Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday, Mom to Mom Monday, Monday’s Musings, Missional WeekendR&R Wednesdays, From House to Home, Homemaking Mondays, Good Morning Mondays, Make Your Home Sing Mondays, Faith Filled Fridays.

Disclosure: This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and is available at your favorite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Spring versus Winter

It has been a hard struggle between spring and winter.  Now, with the forecast above freezing for the next five days, it seems that spring will win.  Finally.

The pictures show how our view has changed in the last week.  Right now our world is white, hopefully for the last time this spring!

Last year I posted photos of the thaw, when the whole valley flooded;  the flooding lasted only a day this year.

April 4

April 4

April 6

April 6

April 9

April 9

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