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A Sweet Beginning to Summer Holidays

cherries and cribbage board

Last Friday, when our school year ended, it was time to celebrate the beginning of summer holidays.

We had a special treat waiting in the fridge, our annual springtime cherry splurge, so I got that ready.

Then the kids said that holidays are about cribbage, so they got the cards and the cribbage board out.

And that’s how our summer began: with delicious cherries and a rousing game of cribbage.  I hope it will continue in the same vein, with good food and good fun.

May you also enjoy the simple joys of summer!

Review: The 40 Most Influential Christians by Daryl Aaron

The 40 most influential Christians

For over 20 centuries, Christian thinkers have been struggling to understand the meaning of the Bible and its relationship to life.  Yes, the message of the Bible is simple.  As Karl Barth, one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century summed up, the Christian faith is simply this:  “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

At the same time, however, Christianity is full of deep and subtle concepts that have been worked out through the ages in response to the thinking of the time.  We cannot just dismiss these thoughts; they were intensely relevant to practical life in the past and many of them still are relevant in ways most of us do not understand.

The 40 Most Influential Christians … Who Shaped What We Believe Today by Daryl Aaron introduces us to many brilliant men (and one woman) who have had a profound impact on Christianity.  That is not to say that others have not been influential (for a list of possible additions see Ben House’s Amazon review), but these have certainly changed the way Christians think.  From Bonhoeffer and Augustine to Calvin, Armenius, and Gutierrez (the founder of Liberation Theology), Aaron profiles people through the ages and relates them to each other in short biographical chapters.

Each mini-biography includes

  • the person’s context.  This section helps relate him to his times and to the people who came before him.
  • the person’s contribution to Christian thought.  In a few pages, Aaron presents the theologian’s thoughts clearly even if they are enormously complex.
  • Aaron’s conclusions about the person’s thought and theological impact.

Although I have been interested in church history most of my life and review church history books regularly, I learned an enormous amount from this book.  It not only gives biographical details but is also a history of theological ideas, and as such it is most suitable for older teens and adults.

The 40 Most Influential Christians is an excellent resource for any family that is interested in a thorough understanding of the ideas of church history.  It could be used as a high school reference book or textbook, and will certainly illuminate the many church history biographies available for young people.

Of course, it can also be read profitably by anyone who wants to understand Christian thought and guide young people through the morass of conflicting ideas about Christianity.

My two quibbles with this book are, first, that it is too short—I would love to read similar thoughtful mini-biographies of other important Christian thinkers—and, second, that it contains no index.  Perhaps the author could address the first problem by writing another book.

This is yet another book in the in the 2014 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Works for Me Wednesdays, Booknificent Thursdays, Trivium Tuesdays, Finishing Strong , and Raising Homemakers.

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

Two Week Wrap Up: Wildlife and End of School

In our lives these weeks

Busy, busy.  That describes the last two weeks.  Miss 16 came home from her math conference where she had a wonderful time.  My husband attended his last conference of the spring.  We ended the school year, finished planting the garden, and struggled with colds that came from distant conference places and spread like wildfire.

But these weeks were also fun.  We had friends over several times, chatting and laughing over meals and walks and cribbage.  We swam a bit, shopped a bit, hung out with friends at church, attended Bible study, and visited.

And we saw so much wildlife!  We watched a porcupine waddle across our lawn, laughed at a sweet little field mouse peering through the window into our dining room, saw a deer near the road (but didn’t hit it), rescued another mouse and brought it across the river to set it free, observed a bunny sitting motionless near our garden (so that’s who’s been nibbling!), and started psychological warfare against chipmunks and rats, both of which are too smart to catch in normal ways.  While splitting logs my husband found grubs so enormous that the chickens could not swallow them and raced around the coop being chased by a horde of  jealous hens, cackling madly.   And last night a neighbor found a motherless raccoon right by our driveway and its screams woke Miss 11.  Today it’s going to a wild life refuge.  Some black birds, we’re not sure which kind exactly, have discovered the dog’s food bowl but will only eat the red kibbles, not the brown ones!

In our homeschool

We studied hard these weeks, after completing each day’s gardening.

Yesterday, while I was trying, unsuccessfully, to explain the basic equations of the physics of motion to Miss 14, she suggested, “Why don’t we just stop now.”  I had been planning the end of the school year for the end of the day, but the time seemed right, so I hauled out the celebratory bag of cherries and the girls found the cribbage board, and our summer holidays began.

Even though the planned work has not been completed, our school year is officially finished.  We’ll deal with the unfinished work later.  For now, it’s holiday time and the schoolbooks are packed away, although Miss 16 has reserved the right to do math in her spare time.

In our gluten free kitchen… Lots of soup.  Carrot cake.  Chicken, breaded, in soups, or smothered with a delicious sauce.  Grilled asparagus.  Spinach and lettuce from the garden.  Stir fries with garden greens.  Roast.  Hamburger.  Hot dogs (eaten outside since they are not gluten free).  Corn pancakes.  Bacon.  Sausages. Oven fried potatoes.  Tiny chocolate cupcakes.  Pork chops.  Yoghurt.   Steaks. Porridge.  Lots of vegetables.  Not enough left overs.

In our garden

We worked hard, planting, replanting, weeding, transplanting, and mulching.   The basics have almost been completed.  We hope to finish mulching today, and I’ll need to finish transplanting next week.  Mr. 19 had some time off work and did a lot of pruning (wrong time of year, I know, but so necessary) and dug a trench.

Some of my favorite things were

  • Time with friends.
  • Ending the school year.
  • Slowly getting things done.
  • Cherries.
  • Warm sunshine.
  • Actually getting the vegetable garden planted and even fixing up some of the flower gardens.

Questions/thoughts I have…  There is a lot more talk about the importance of sleep these days.  It is not surprising that those in our family who struggle with sleeping have colds right now.  One of the benefits of homeschooling is that normally homeschooled kids and teens can find enough time to sleep.

Fitness… I’ve been managing about 10,000 steps a day as well as light gardening most days—the kids do the heavy yard and garden work.   I’ve also done some strengthening exercises and, unfortunately, tried to push too hard.  Or maybe it’s this cold that my husband brought home from the Rockies.  In any case, I’m tired…which is good for reading and sleeping and visiting, if you look on the positive side.  I’m also well on track to losing the two pounds I aimed to lose this month, which is nice.

Some of the things I’ve been working on

  • Homeschooling.
  • Gardening.
  • Keeping up with the housework.
  • Resting.
  • Planning the summer and the next school year.

I’m reading… John. I finished A Godward Heart, Finding Spiritual White Space, The 40 Most Influential Christians, Mastermind, and Child of Mine, and started The Meaning of Marriage for Bible study and What the Plus because I’m intrigued by Google +.

Reading Aloud… We’re reading Ezekiel, the Kids Can Press French and English Word Book, Volume 2 of Young People’s History of the Church, In de Zoete Suikerbol (Volume 6), and Albrecht Durer. 

When my husband is home for meals, we read Revelation.

I’m grateful for ….  Rest, sunshine, green growing things, hard-working kids, and wildlife.

Quote or link to share….   Carol’s lovely post about contentment, appreciating everyday life, and seeing poetry in pots and pans.

This post is linked to Kris’s Weekly Wrap Up .

Review: Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray

Finding Spiritual Whitespace

It was a rainy day and I was so tired I fell asleep during Miss 11’s last logic lessons.  I could hardly think to help Miss 16 with her election report.  And yet, I could not sleep well.  There was too much to do to relax…but I could not do any of it because I was too tired.

So I sat down in our verandah with some sparkling water, surrounded by green trees and falling raindrops, and finished Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray.  I was choosing whitespace, healing rest rather than frantic activity… because I had no choice.

And that is what Finding Spiritual Whitespace  is about, but in a much, much deeper way.  The author, Bonnie, experienced PTSD due to her father’s abandonment and her mother’s harshness when she was a child.  Overwhelmed with panic attacks and depression, she learned that God loves her.  Even though her father and her mother forsook her, she learned that God never did.  She needed to accept that, to live it, understand it, and work through it.  She learned to take the time to be with God, because she had no choice.

And in the process, she discovered the idea of spiritual whitespace, “a creative way of spending time with God to slow down and feed your soul, to rejuvenate and enjoy soul rest.”  Rather than building walls of busyness and efficiency to protect herself as she had done when younger, she learned to let the walls crumble and to turn to God.  She moved past guilt and a check-list spirituality to develop a relationship with God.  Instead of feeling as though she needed to earn God’s love, she learned to say, “That’s right, I don’t deserve it.  But God will give me what I need.  I can receive grace—as is.”

In Finding Spiritual Whitespaces, Bonnie shares her story of the past, intertwines it with her faith of today, and encourages her readers to open up and think and pray.  She is a good story teller, and I moved from the story to the practical aspects with tears in my eyes, my heart broken for her ‘little girl’ self.

Now, I do not agree with all that Bonnie says.  More than once she interprets the Bible by reading her thoughts into it.  To a person who is despairing and suffering, God’s Word may speak in a different way, but it is still God’s Word and we may not alter its meaning.

Even so, this book spoke to me in my simple fatigue and busyness, and I am sure it could help those who are really suffering seriously.  According to statistics, many, many people have experienced all sorts of horrors.  Most people, perhaps.  If you are one of them, this book just may help you.  However, beware that, while Bonnie is encouraging and shares her story in a vulnerable and moving way, she does not always do God’s Word justice.

May God bless all those who are struggling due to trauma.  May he give his people the love and compassion to reach out to others even when it is messy or costly, just like the good Samaritan did.

Note:  this book shows that divorce does scar children, despite what some people say.  May God strengthen all struggling marriages.  For marriage help, I recommend The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages (link to my review).

This is yet another book in the in the 2014 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Works for Me Wednesdays, Booknificent Thursdays, and Raising Homemakers.

DisclosureThis book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and is available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Lily Lapp Books Free and on Sale

life with lily
The enchanting Lily Lapp books are on sale this week.   My little girls LOVE them and read them over and over.  These funny, real-life, wholesome stories are for ages 8-13 and appeal to both girls and younger boys 8-11.
Life with Lily is free on Kindle from today to the 25th, and the next 3 volumes are currently on sale for $3.99.
You can read my reviews of each book here:
Disclosure:  As usual I am not compensated in any way for sharing this sale with you.  Tea Time with Annie Kate is an affiliate-free blog.
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