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Review: Jonathan Edwards by Simonetta Carr

Jonathan Edwards by Simonetta Carr

When many ideas about God, life, and the world were being questioned seriously for the first time in centuries, Jonathan Edwards grappled with them, both in his life and his teaching. His answers to these questions greatly influenced the age he lived in and have also left a mark on the way we think today.  In this insightful biography, Simonetta Carr shows us the life, times, and work of this great man of God.

As a youth, Jonathan spent many happy hours in the college library and in Creation, pondering the nature of light, rainbows, and forest spiders. He was both studious and serious, agonizing over questions of faith and greatly comforted at seventeen when the Holy Spirit filled the words of 1 Timothy 1:17 with meaning for him:

“Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.”

Simonetta traces the life of this gifted man through his studies, his marriage, his ministry, the Great Awakening, and more, including details that make him come alive. Did you know that when Edwards would go riding for exercise, he would take along paper and ink and pin his notes to his coat, and that his happy wife Sarah would unpin them and organize them? Or that when he was asked to be president of what would become Princeton University, he objected because of his health, his bouts of depression… and his inadequate knowledge of higher math?

Edwards did not live in an ivory tower but very much in the nitty-gritty of everyday life. God gave him many opportunities to make his faith real as he worked in the Great Awakening, was fired from his congregation, evangelized natives, faced danger from war, suffered poor health, watched family members die, and grappled with a workload that was too heavy for him.

In this biography we are also introduced to the English preacher George Whitefield and the young missionary David Brainerd, both of whom greatly influenced Edwards’s family and ministry.

The book ends with a touching letter from Jonathan Edwards to his daughter Mary, in which he talks at great length about how important it is for her to live closely to God, especially ‘considering what a dying time it has been with us in this town about this time of year in years past.’ That simple quotation puts the whole book in context; Edwards lived in a time when death was an everyday reality, and this fact sparked the beginning of the Great Awakening.

Nowadays almost all Christian ideas are being seriously challenged. Jonathan Edwards lived when such questions were just beginning and spent much of his life answering them.  Just like Augustine, Aquinas, and Schaeffer, he tried to equip Christians during a major influx of ungodly ideas.  We can be very thankful for God’s work through him.

Simonetta’s clear writing and the many illustrations, including Matt Abraxis’s luminous paintings, make this a fascinating introduction to the life and times of Jonathan Edwards. A map, a timeline, and some miscellaneous facts round out the book.  I highly recommend Jonathan Edwards for all those studying church history, American history, and the great ideas.  It will appeal to teens and adults as well as those in the target age range of 7-12.

For more information and a preview, visit the Christian Biographies for Young Readers website.

To read about other great thinkers who helped Christians deal with new ideas, I recommend these books I have reviewed:

Augustine of Hippo by Simonetta Carr (another accessible introduction)

How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer (a clear, insightful history of ideas)

This review is linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Raising HomemakersFinishing Strong , and Trivium Tuesdays.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Reformation Heritage Books via Cross-Focused Reviews for the purpose of this review.

Now Thank We All Our God

The rainbow is a gift in so many ways!

The rainbow is a gift in so many ways!

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving.  This beautiful hymn reminds us how to give thanks.

Now thank we all our God,

with heart and hands and voices,

who wondrous things has done,

in whom this world rejoices;

who from our mothers’ arms

has blessed us on our way

with countless gifts of love,

and still is ours today.


O may this bounteous God

through all our life be near us,

with ever joyful hearts

and blessed peace to cheer us;

and keep us still in grace,

and guide us when perplexed;

and free us from all ills,

in this world and the next.


All praise and thanks to God

the Father now be given;

the Son, and him who reigns

with them in highest heaven;

the one eternal God,

whom earth and heaven adore;

for thus it was, is now,

and shall be evermore.

 And here’s the music.

Wrap Up for Weeks 2-5

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It’s hard to believe that we’ve already been doing schoolwork for 5 weeks…as well as reading, playing games, volunteering, harvesting the garden, and dejunking the house.

In our homeschool

Miss 16 is busy with her math (Singapore New Elementary Math 4B), physics (Apologia), and an online AP English Language and Composition course. Taking online courses is new for our family and is working out very well; Miss 16 is learning a lot about both writing and life. She also volunteers at a small school one morning a week, a unique opportunity to both contribute and learn.

Miss 14 has been concentrating mainly on math, but is also moving along in other subjects. After studying French is Fun in grades 7 and 8, the first BJUP French text is a wonderful review. I find that languages require a lot of review, both the formal textbook kind and the informal kind that comes from reading other material.  We have a simple book about French geography and history, and both my teens are able to understand most of it as we go through it slowly and individually, paragraph by paragraph.

Miss 12 is very busy trying to manage all the learning involved in grade 7. We have not yet hit our stride, but she’s progressing well in everything except Apologia’s General Science.  The first chapter, a historical overview about what science is, has been difficult for each of my children, but the rest of the book is much more manageable.  We own the first edition; perhaps the revised edition has a more user-friendly first chapter.  In any case, today, before she is allowed to play computer games (a weekend treat) we’ll spend some time on the questions of the first chapter.

I have been working with the girls, as I wrote in Older Students Need Attention, Too, and have not spent much time on Miss 16’s high school records which she soon will be sending to universities. Before I really focus on the records, though, I want to help her with a bit of SAT prep.  We’ve found that the SAT is a good confirmation of ‘mommy marks’.

In our gardens and yard

Most of our tomatoes are going bad before they ripen, so we are not making any salsa this year. I’m so thankful we have a lot left from last year!  The squash and melon harvest was great, but the leeks all shrivelled up and only a few carrots germinated.  The orchard did not produce much either.  However, we have a lot of cabbage and beets, some turnips, much chard and kale, and even some lettuce.  Although we had a bumper crop of cucumbers, we ended up wasting them rather than giving the excess away.  I hate it when that happens.

In our gluten free kitchen

We’re eating as much garden produce as possible. My theory is that whatever we eat does not need to be preserved or to fit into our freezers. This is the time of year when I feel the best, probably because of the huge number of vegetables.  I love them so much in fact that after a meal I’ll gladly finish up the salad, the squash, the beets….   We’ve also enjoyed breads, cakes, cookies, pies, and more.

Some of my favorite things were

  • Hanging out with my family.
  • Beautiful fall colors.
  • Watching the kids play games.
  • Our new huge, comfy couch.

Questions/thoughts I have…   What do you do when the puppy trains the kids?  Our puppy has taken to tapping on the window if he wants someone to come to the door…and they go, each time!

Fitness… I manage to average around 10,000 steps a day, but have let the other exercises go.  Life is still getting in the way. I also need more and more sleep, often over 10 hours a day.  That is frustrating, but I know better than to fight it.  On the positive side, my headaches have almost disappeared and I’ve maintained my tiny weight loss.

Some of the things I’ve been working on

  • Homeschooling, obviously.
  • Harvesting the garden.
  • Reading.
  • Dejunking the house. We have never been this successful before: 15 huge bags/boxes in the last few weeks! That resulted partly from the demise of our indoor oil tank (the technician said he inspires a lot of cleaning) and partly from the need to rearrange everything because of our new couch.

I’m reading… Hebrews.  I finished The Vine-Ripened Life, The Meaning of Marriage, Honey For a Teen’s Heart (very worthwhile), and What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days.  I’m still reading The Perfect Score Project, The Stories We Tell, and On Christian Doctrine.  On the back burner are Pascal’s Pensees, A Man Called Intrepid, and 52 Weeks of Family French.

Reading aloud…We read Luke at mealtimes and have almost finished Captains Courageous.  I love that book, but it does have some gruesome bits that I always skip when I read it to myself; I had forgotten about them when I chose to read this.

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

I’m grateful for ….  Two functioning vehicles and lower gas prices.

Quote or link to share…. Ever since I first read How Should We Then Live? I’ve wanted to watch Francis Schaeffer’s video series about his book.  Here’s a link to each episode.  I’m not pleased that the blog author used my entire review without my permission, but I forgive him because he’s put up the video links.

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

Movie Review: The Vatican Museums 3D

Michelangelo’s Pieta. Photo by Stanislav Traykov from Wikimedia Commons.

Over the years the Vatican has become home to much of the world’s greatest art. Popes from 1506 to the present collected mankind’s expressions of creativity, hired painters and sculptors, and tried to chronicle man’s search for meaning.

From Julius II’s purchase of Laoccoon and his Sons (1506) to Paul VI’s Collection of Modern Religious Art (begun in 1973), the movie Vatican Museums 3D takes the viewer through the Vatican’s celebrated museums.  However, it is not a standard picture by picture or sculpture by sculpture documentary.  Instead it includes dramatization and symbolism and itself aims to be a work of art.  In that it succeeds, except where the head of the Vatican museums shares his valuable insights.

Although I have studied Michelangelo’s Pieta more than once and have also spent hours learning about Greek masterpieces from picture and slides, the 3D views of such sculptures was new and breathtaking. I couldn’t quite touch Mary’s serene face and, though touching the body of Jesus would be sacrilegious,* it did seem possible.

The 3D view worked beautifully for the sculptures, the architecture, and the dramatization, but it was a bit disconcerting to see Dali’s and Van Gogh’s paintings in 3D. Even the Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel was somehow presented in 3D form.  I found it upsetting that in the Creation of Adam all except God’s index finger* is in 3D.  Why would they forget the most important part of the picture?

However, Miss 16 did not notice that at all. She told me that Vatican Museums 3D was much better than the documentary she had expected.

I, too, had expected a simple documentary. Instead I was treated to a profound and respectful immersion in various artists’ exploration of both humanity and the gospel.

I highly recommend this movie to all art lovers, to students of church history, and to those who love to explore the interplay between Christianity, humanity, and creativity*.  Do watch the stunning preview More information is also available.

This movie has its second and final Canadian showing on October 19 as part of the Front Row Center Cineplex program which has a solid serious of art documentaries planned for this fall. It also shows in Australia.  Unfortunately, it currently does not seem to be available to US and British audiences.

Note:  This one hour documentary, rated G, does contain some nudity as almost all art collections do, but it is not really an issue.

*The Pieta was so stunning in 3D that for the first time in my study of art I emotionally associated a work of art with God.  This is, of course, what the second commandment is all about, and I plan to write about it soon.  Representing God the Father falls into the same category.

This post is linked to Finishing Strong, Trivium Tuesdays.

Disclosure: I received free tickets from Graf-Martin and Cineplex theatres for the purpose of this review.

Older Students Need Attention, Too

Homeschool seasons change, too

Homeschool seasons change, too

Our homeschools go through seasons. Sometimes we can predict them, but once in a while we are surprised.  My surprise this year is that I need to spend more time on homeschooling than I did last year, even though the girls are (obviously) older.

You see, this year each of the girls is being stretched. Grade 7 is a giant step beyond grade 6; the first year of high school also brings many changes; and the last year of high school is a huge deal.

That means I really need to stay on top of everyone’s studies, reminding the girls to focus even when things seem difficult. Some years this is easy, but when the work load and study intensity increase as they did this year, everyone needs help adjusting.  Therefore I have been assisting the girls in practical matters such as scheduling, breaking difficult subjects into small daily projects, tackling each subject each day, and staying on task.

Also, I’m doing much more hands-on work than before, going through essays, discussing grammar, helping with biology memorization, doing three French lessons a day, talking through math problems, adjusting curriculum, and so on.  That is on the good days.  On the disorganized days we just muddle along with hopes that the next day will be better.  Sigh!

I had not anticipated these changes in our homeschool, but am thankful we made them early in the year. And that brings me to an important point:

Just as the paths of space ships are constantly adjusted to keep them on course, our homeschools need constant attention and frequent corrections to keep them on track. I did not always realize that.  In fact, at times the autopilot method seemed to work quite well, and it often does in a pinch.  It would not have worked for us this year, though.

I’ve heard homeschoolers say children need less and less educational attention as they get older. In the past I accepted that point of view but it is, in some senses, a silly one. Every student needs attention and as much quality input into their education as possible. After all, why did the rich hire knowledgeable tutors for their children?  It was, of course, to give them the best possible individualized, often classical, education.

With the excellent curricula available today we moms can fake being knowledgeable to some extent, but we still need to equip ourselves well.  And there is no substitute for constant evaluation of what we’re doing.  Although we will never match a top quality tutor, the onus is on us to do the best we can, always trusting that God will use our efforts to his glory.

Of course, ‘the best we can’ depends hugely on little ones, health issues, time constraints, and so much more. This is not a call to beat ourselves up about what is not possible in our lives, but it is an encouragement to pay attention to our homeschooling and how it is working out, to tweak as necessary, and to equip ourselves as much as we can.

So here’s my suggestion to all of us this fall:

Let us keep our eyes open, watch our teens, and think about the education and training we want to give them. You might be as surprised as I was at what needs to be changed.  But don’t despair. The good thing is that we still have all year to adjust what we’re doing to meet our children’s needs and goals more successfully.

May God bless us all as we continue to learn what homeschooling each of our unique children really means, each year, month, week, morning, and minute.

This post is linked to Finishing Strong , Trivium Tuesdays, Works for Me Wednesday, Raising Homemakers.

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