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Your Local Public Library

library sign After the Bible, the library is probably the most valuable resource we homeschoolers have access to, and it amazes me that some people homeschool without it.  Even those of us who use it regularly often do not take full advantage of its many resources.

In fact, even though our family uses the library so faithfully that our librarian refers to us fondly as “my homeschoolers,” we, too, had been neglecting a lot of what the library offers.  So I decided to start the year off by encouraging us all to use this free and wonderful resource a whole lot more.

To find out more about what your library may offer, continue reading at The Curriculum Choice.

Review: Michael Faraday and the Dynamo by Mabel Miller

michael faraday

Without the discoveries of Michael Faraday, one of the greatest scientists of all time, our lives would be unrecognizable.  In fact, our civilization is firmly based on the concepts he discovered about electricity and other matters.

Yet this great man, one of Einstein’s three heroes (the others were Newton and Maxwell), began life as a poor, almost starving blacksmith’s son.   He did so well as an uneducated newspaper delivery boy that he was offered a free apprenticeship in the bookbinding trade.  There he began to read the books he bound and was introduced to writings about the science topics that had always fascinated him.  And then his family scraped together money for him to attend some scientific lectures….

Mabel Miller’s warm biography follows Faraday’s work with the great British scientist Sir Humphrey Davy, his trip to the continent, marred but not spoiled by Davy’s snobbish wife, his marriage to Sarah, and his thousands of experiments at the Royal Society.  She mentions Faraday’s many awards and honors, none of which meant much him, and tries to give the reader an understanding of his importance to our civilization.

With respect for the man Faraday as well as for the reader, Miller shows matter-of-factly how Faraday’s deep faith shaped his life and his work.  “What higher goal can a man set than to reveal God’s creation?”  asked his wife Sarah, echoing Faraday’s viewpoint exactly.

Although Miller does not whitewash Faraday, she does present him as a good and noble man.  In fact, she writes, “… youth needs heroes to emulate, and it these days of stretching horizons it needs heroes not only of its own country, but of the world.  Michael Faraday, I feel sure, is one of the giants.”

More recent, colorful, science-filled books about Faraday are available for young people, but as an introduction I much prefer Mabel Miller’s Michael Faraday and the Dynamo.  It shows us Faraday, the boy, the youth, and the man as well as the scientist.  It is a book that enters our heart, gives us a new hero, and puts us into a different world.  Charlotte Mason would call it a living book, and I can think of few higher compliments.

Michael Faraday and the Dynamo, a biography for young people that will also appeal to adults, is of the calibre of Carry On, Mr. Bowditch and And Tomorrow the Stars, both of which I’ve read aloud and reviewed (links are to my reviews).  This book, too, would make an excellent read aloud, and is next on our list after we finish Tom Sawyer. It would also be a very good choice for science and math reading.

I highly recommend Michael Faraday and the Dynamo as a history or science supplement as well as for general reading enjoyment.  It was published in 1968 for young people, but is suitable as an introduction for adults as well, and is worth buying if you can find it second hand.

This is the first book in the in the 2015 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Finishing Strong,Trivium Tuesdays.

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from friends and have expressed my own honest opinions.

Numbering Our Days in the New Year

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Happy New Year!  May God bless you and your family in all you do, and fill you with gratitude, wisdom, and joy as you go through your days.

I, too, pray for wisdom, gratitude, and joy this year.  That is probably why my New Year’s thoughts are somewhat different for 2015.  Rather than focusing directly on health, homemaking, homeschooling, or other worthwhile practical resolutions, I want to spend this year more focused on my two main goals, loving God and loving my neighbor.

However, as I was struggling to make this double love commandment practical, I could not come to any satisfying goals or resolutions.

Of course, I, like you, am already trying to live this way; despite frequent failures, that’s just what we Christians do.  Even so, December is such a good time to reflect on what is working well, what is causing negative results, and what should be changed.  I like to be clear about these things at the beginning of a new year.

But my thoughts were foggy and scattered, and clarity seemed just beyond a filmy veil.

Then we had a New Year’s Eve sermon about Moses’ prayer, Psalm 90, about God being our dwelling place.  He is so great, we are so transient.  He is so holy; we are so sinful.  Our lives are like a breath that disappears…like a sigh, even.   So much of what we read is discouraging…yet how does Moses continue?  He asks God to

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Number our days.  Think about them in the light of Psalm 90, in the light of God’s greatness and our sinful humanness.  Somehow that will lead to wisdom.  But how does this work?  I mean, what do I do?  How do I go about it?

Then one long night, as the dark hours stretched on, my mind began this numbering process, literally.

  • My days:  Thirty or forty more years if my health improves; otherwise less.
  • My husband’s days:  Statistically speaking, significantly less than mine, a chilling thought.
  • Our children’s at home days:  Probably no more than ten years before they all leave, such a short time!
  • Our parents’ days:  God could call them home any time, maybe after just a few more phone calls.
  • And the days of other loved ones:  Siblings, friends, and church family will not live forever either.

As I lay thinking in those dark, quiet hours, I realized that the years of frequent funerals are approaching quickly.

Suddenly there was only one solution to my goal for the New Year:  Connect.  Simply to connect with loved ones who are as transient as I am.

And even more importantly, to connect with God, as Moses begged in the rest of Psalm 90.

Return O God, satisfy us with your love in the morning, fill us with joy, open our eyes to pay attention to your works, let your favor rest on us, let our work have meaning and permanence.  Please, O God, after showing us our transience and sin, please let us have the joy of connecting with you.  Moses did not know about Jesus, who made this connection possible, but we do, and so we ask, with Moses,   Please be our secure dwelling place from which we can venture forth to do what you have called us to do.

With this solid foundation to our lives, we can connect deeply with others:

  • Love and enjoy our spouses, giving thanks for each precious day together.
  • Show love, God’s and ours, to our children while they are still around every day.
  • Connect with our parents if they are still alive, honoring them and savoring each conversation.
  • Reach out to others, all busily living their own stories, all needing God’s love and, in varying degrees, ours.

Of course, there are a thousand practical ways of doing these things and dozens of practical background things that need to be done to make it all happen. As the year progresses I will rediscover that reality.  But the main goal, the one I will review at least every week, hopefully every day, is simply this:  to connect.

At the end of all that pondering, I realized that my theme for the year is just a rewording of the double love commandment that Jesus gave us:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Now, thanks to Moses’ prayer, Jesus’ command has become intensely meaningful for me in that one simple word, connect.  What a blessing that is!

I pray that these thoughts will also bless you, dear reader.  May God be with us all in 2015 and give meaning and permanence to our work, including our goals and resolutions.

Looking back, I notice that months ago God was already lining up resources for me about this idea of connecting!  I’ve become aware of two of them since writing this meditation and plan to share them with you in the future after absorbing and understanding them.

This is part of a series of occasional meditations about daily life, Bible readings, and our pastor’s  sermons based, in this case, on Psalm 90. 

For more encouragement, visit Coffee for Your Heart, Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday, Works for Me Wednesday, 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

It’s All Good…Because God is With Us

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“It’s all good.”

Some people say this just to fill empty spaces in conversations, but for others it is a confession of faith.  Yet how, in the face of life’s endless daily brokenness, can anyone possibly say this?

Is it even true?

When disease, depression, or death creep into our lives, there is this burning question, “Does God know what he is doing?  Is it really all good?”

Now, in one sense it is not good at all.  When God made this world, he made it good, even very good.  Since then, we humans have made a sad mess of everything, with the eager encouragement of our ‘dearest enemy,’ Satan. In that sense, nothing is good.

But here’s an amazing thing.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us! 

That short phrase sings about…

-Jesus, coming to earth on the first Christmas, being human with us and for us.

-the great creator God, putting on an ordinary human body and limiting himself to ordinary human psychology, for our sake.

-the Lord of the universe, tucked into a feed trough, suffering through temptations, despairing in the garden of Gethsemane, and dying for our sins.

But why?  Why did this all happen?  Why did God do this for us?  So that life will, once again, be good.  He came, that first Christmas,

-to give us a loving relationship with the God we spurned,

-to break our relationship with Satan,

-to heal our relationships with those all around us,

-and just to be with us.

And therefore he understands our lives.  He understands what is it is to be human, sick, sad, struggling with temptation, and desperately alone.  He knows what it is like to ask “Why, God?” for he asked the ultimate ‘why’ question on the cross, the one we will never need to ask, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

That is why, no matter what happens in our lives, “It is all good.”  God is with us.  He understands us and loves us with more compassion than we can ever imagine.  He cares more for us than we can dream of.  He came to earth for us; he died for us; and now he is preparing a place for us.

So, yes, it’s all good.  It really and truly is all good.

This Christmas, whether you feel happy or full of sadness, I pray that you will be able to understand that somehow, in God’s incomprehensible way, “It is all good.”

May God bless you and your family as you celebrate the first Christmas, anticipate Christ’s final coming, and live thankfully in the space between.

Winter tree (273x500)

This is part of a series of occasional meditations about daily life, Bible readings, and our pastor’s Sunday sermons based, in this case, on John 1:14. 

For more encouragement, visit Coffee for Your Heart, Raising Homemakers, Works for Me Wednesday, Mom to Mom Monday, Monday’s Musings, Missional Weekend, and R&R Wednesdays

Review: NKJV Study Bible, Full Color Edition

NKJV study Bible

A Bible is, well, a Bible, right?  Even though there may be differences in translation, these rarely have a significant effect on how we understand it.

However, when it comes to study Bibles, there are major differences that can seriously impact our understanding of God’s Word.

The New King James Version Study Bible, Full Color Edition, is the latest one I’ve seen, and its color makes it different from all the rest.  The vibrant maps, photographs, tables, and more are a great help to understanding the Bible, its culture, and its times.

In other respects, the NKJV Study Bible, Full Color Edition is similar to most study Bibles, with many standard Bible study aids such as cross-references, word studies, book introductions (including outlines and timelines), notes and articles, and a concordance.

However, the contents of some of this material suggests more modern thought than, for example, the NKJV Reformation Study Bible does.  This approach to debated Bible passages could be a problem for Christians who hold to traditional interpretations of the Bible, but would appeal to others.

There are also the physical aspects:

  • The NKJV Study Bible, Full Color Edition is physically heavy, perhaps too heavy for a frail person to carry around to church and Bible Study, although most healthy people will not find that an issue. But then, most study Bibles are heavy.
  • This study Bible has reasonably sized font, both for the text of the Bible itself and for the study material, and is easy to read. This is an important consideration for the very young, those above middle age, and those with vision problems.

Would the NKJV Study Bible, Full Color Edition, be a good investment for you?  Its colorful maps, photographs, and more are very appealing, and it is full of quality study material.  On the other hand, traditional Christians might prefer different emphases in the discussions of a few controversial points.

This post is linked to Saturday Reviews, Works for Me Wednesdays, Booknificent Thursdays, Raising Homemakers, Finishing Strong, Mom to Mom Monday, and R&R Wednesdays.

Disclosure: I received this book from Booklook Bloggers in order to review it.  I have expressed my own honest opinions.

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