Are you one of those folks who gets the mower out in early April? Do you love a pristine, mono-culture lawn?
Well, we’re not those kinds of folks. While we appreciate the immaculate lawns in town, we like to let our own grass and flowers grow a bit before taking a ride on the mower–and my husband likes to scythe parts of the yard for hay. Crunchy, I know. But when you have a few acres in the country, you can get away with it.
This year, when we were finally ready to take a first pass on cutting the lawn, the mower wouldn’t start. It needed new parts. And my husband was finishing teaching a power systems class for the first time at the local university (in addition to his day job as an engineer). And I was wrapping up my first year of leading a local homeschool co-op.
The lawn had to wait a bit longer than usual. But it didn’t wait begrudgingly.
My friends, we were rewarded with a beautiful show of wildflowers. And lots of frogs hopping all around in the evenings, too. May is a busy month full of end-of-school-year happenings. In the midst of it all, I would like to share a bit of beauty that came from something not happening. Enjoy.
The lovely show I’ve captured for you here spans April and May, but not comprehensively. There have been even more flowers beneath our feet–spring beauties, tiny violets, yarrow, and flowers for which I don’t yet know the names. (The ones I do know, I’ve learned mostly from friends or from the book Arkansas Wildflowers, which organizes flowers by color for easy reference.)
The front lawn is mowed now, and we’ve edged around the house. There’s still tall grass and wildflowers out in the side yard, to keep those neighborhood bees happy (yes, we get honey from across the fence–it’s wonderful).
So if your lawn gets a little long and scraggly this summer, and you just can’t get around to mowing it as soon as you’d like, I hope this post will encourage you to find the beauty in it even as you make space in the schedule for your lawn care routine. Enjoy the season.
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
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This post wraps up the books I read in 2022. For my other micro book reviews from 2022, click here (homeschool reads) and here (theology and life management reads).
I’m spending a lot more words on this post than I usually do on my micro book reviews, but that’s because I think this subject matter deserves a lot of care. I don’t usually tout my credentials, but it may be useful for the reader to know that I have a degree in history. So handling it with care is not merely a platitude but a trained conviction.
Since 2020, American politics and public discussion has been a bit of a dumpster fire. I’ve paid attention where I could and ignored what I could for sanity’s sake. I’m not one to pick a fight on social media about these things, but these issues do matter. And so I did a bit of reading on two sides of a coin, you could say.
The Scholé Sisters hosted a seminar on Marxism last spring (accessible now through their Sophie Membership), with three books recommended for reading and careful consideration, which you will find listed first below. Concerns over Marxist-inspired ideology in our day are not unfounded. But they are not the only concerns that are valid.
As much as we need to be on our guard against such ideology, we also need to be aware of our own history–and the fact that some of that history has been ignored or kept from us. And so I also read books by black Christian authors on their experiences, history, and wrestlings with the current cultural climate. To focus on one side of this coin while ignoring the other is short-sighted at best and potentially damaging at worst–to our neighbors, to our nation, and to our witness for Christ in the world. See exhibit A below.
If you are an American Christian who leans politically left, you owe it to yourself and to your neighbor to read up on these concerns about the influence of Marxist ideology and the current disturbing progression toward what Rod Dreher (see below) calls soft totalitarianism. There’s history there you may be missing. Also, hear from the black voices listed below–they hardly get ANY air time in the mainstream media–and especially not on the left.
If you are an American Christian on the political right, you owe it to yourself and to your neighbor to understand the political labels you throw around (“Marxism” likely among them), and to especially do some homework to understand WHY things like Critical Race Theory have appealed to so many. If people get excited about a bad proposed solution (CRT), it may be because there is or has been a legitimate problem (America’s tainted past). Never mind if the current Theorists don’t pinpoint that problem correctly–we shouldn’t ignore it just because others misdiagnose it. The books I’ve read this past year, as well as some other resources I’ll link to at the end of this post should prove helpful to that end.
Let the love of the brethren continue, and may the Lord be glorified in His people even as we dig-in to understand some of the issues that are currently tearing our nation–and sometimes our churches–apart.
The first three books listed here are from Spring Training. The rest are books I chose to read to flesh out the topic a bit more, exploring the dangers of totalitarianism, whether Marxist or not.
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles (I acknowledge both authors up front, but my review refers to Marx alone for simplicity’s sake.) I first read The Communist Manifesto during 2020—it seemed an appropriate time. It was good to listen and process it again. The Manifesto is divided into four parts.
Part One opens: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” Marx proceeds to explain this point with a narrative of history that has two key qualities. 1) It’s materialistic, and as such, it’s an incredibly narrow lens for interpretation. Material and economic factors are the only things that count. 2) It’s a new application of Hegelian Dialectic, which saw the clashing of ideas as what produces a new idea, moving collective human thought ever onward toward truth, led on by something Hegel called “Spirit.” This is the essential pattern of thought in all forms of progressivism. In Marx, the clashing of classes produces revolution and new social orders, moving ever forward toward the communist ideal, led on by “History.” What Marx demands to be done is, in his view, what will inevitably be.
In Parts Two and Three, respectively, Marx lays out the Communist battle plan in defiance of Bourgeois objections and then criticizes the socialist movements that are, in his view, not revolutionary enough to get things done.
In Part Four, there’s an inspiring call to action for Proletarians everywhere to join whatever political movement is likely to produce a revolution: “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. … Working men of all countries, unite!”
I have to hand it to Marx, his prose is riveting. It’ll get you fired up in one way or another.
It’s important to understand that because of Marx’s historical materialism, immaterial things or concepts like God, love, freedom, family, religion, duty, and moral ideals of any kind are seen as mere instruments for oppression flowing from the current system of production.
No benefit of the doubt is given to people who believe in such principles–all is material, all is political, all is economic.
Inherent human sinfulness doesn’t factor into his equation. If God and moral ideals don’t exist, sin can’t either. The nature of human dignity as having been made in the image of God and the nature of human sinfulness due to the fall are both abolished. Marx refuses to see them, leaving a divine vacuum to be filled by the state (or the gospel-hope of a communist non-state) and a faulty, materialistic anthropology (view of man) to both explain and condition human behavior.
It is this anthropology that drives the desire to abolish private property and consolidate the means of production–because if you can control material outcomes and do away with class structures, everything will be great, right? Marx, seeing only what he allows himself to see, seems to think so.
I wish that reading The Communist Manifesto was only an academic exercise to marvel at the ideas held by a few crazy people sometime “back then”. But sadly, Marx’s ideas, in part if not in whole, are driving much insanity forward today. The narrow oppressor-oppressed lens of historical study is alive and well, and class warfare is being promoted in our day, make no mistake about it. The lines are simply drawn in different places.
That Hideous Strength: How the West was Lost by Melvin Tinker I thought this was a very helpful book for understanding the influence of ideas over the past 150 years, and especially how those ideas have crept into the church (Tinker was an Anglican minister). To assume that ideologies popped up in the 1970s or 2010s without any connection to past ideas is simply ignorant of the way the world works. There are connections and this book traces them.
Tinker does employ the term “cultural Marxism”, largely to define where those class warfare lines are drawn today, especially as they relate to the sexual revolution. I think it is important to understand that this term is used by opponents of Critical Theories and not by promoters of them. No one, to my knowledge, identifies as a “cultural Marxist.” And the origins of this term appear to be associated with anti-Semitism. Most people throwing the term around today, however, eagerly decry anti-Semitism. And the potential negative associations don’t make it an altogether bad descriptive term, because the words themselves highlight what part of Marxist theory has been brought forward: the cultural revolution part, and less so the emphasis on economic theory (though it may be waiting in the wings). All the same, I think it’s easy enough to use the word “Neo-Marxism” to describe the same phenomenon. So, rather than get in a huff over terminology (like our cancel culture loves to do), figure out if the concept being referred to is valid. And choose the term that you think is most appropriate to describe it.
One of the best contributions of Tinker’s book, aside from the fact that it is pretty well documented, is his discussion of “social imaginaries”–how the stories and images that we take in as a culture shape our understanding of the world. This is good food for thought and discussion around what kind of social imaginary we are cultivating in our homes with our children–a positive application that can be drawn from an otherwise exposé-focused book.
Agis and Cleomenes by Plutarch This was the last bit of assigned reading for the Scholé Sisters Spring Training, and it was an interesting dose of perspective. In this story from ancient Greece, it was the conservative movement that called for a repartitioning of the land and a move toward greater collectivism, hailing back to the good ol’ days of Lycurgus the lawgiver. I can’t say I understood or remember everything from this reading, though the discussion inside the Scholé Sistership was very helpful. The main takeaway is that it’s good to shake up our political boxes and assumptions–most political ideas have been around for along time, and they don’t always package themselves in the same way or have the same flavor over the centuries. Again, a good read for the sake of perspective.
Animal Farm by George Orwell I read Animal Farm in high school (or at least I think I did—I know I was supposed to). It was fun to read it this year alongside my oldest son. The animals throw off their oppressive farm master only to eventually find that some of their own animals are “more equal than others.” And the second oppression is just as bad—or arguably worse—than the first. It was interesting to me to find that George Orwell was a socialist. So while his book warns of the evils of communism and perhaps the ditch that socialism can fall into, it doesn’t mean he agrees with my free market, limited government principles. I marveled similarly when I read The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Though Wilde had a death-bed conversion to the Catholic faith, he was for most of his life a hedonist. Dorian Gray exposes the devilishness of that philosophy and the harsh conclusion that following it without restraint can bring.
Whether we’re talking about Orwell or Wilde, I think this is interesting and important to keep in mind: People don’t exist in only two ideological boxes—yours and the bad guy’s. The ideas that thoughtful individuals hold are usually more complex than that, and we do well to ask questions to understand before assuming. Unless, of course, someone is just screaming at you or throwing nothing but ad hominem arguments your way or threatening to cancel you–in that case, don’t waste your time. And don’t be that person, either.
That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis This is a sci-fi novel, but you can expect from Lewis that it communicates truth as much as his directly philosophical and apologetic works do. I’ve written briefly my reflections on this book before, so I’ll quote that here.
“…This third book of Lewis’ Space Trilogy confronts totalitarian scientism and many of the themes addressed in The Abolition of Man. … I’ve found it to be great food for thought. [On the subject of womanhood…] Elisabeth Elliottells about being a woman. Lewis shows it. His character Jane wrestles through it, and Lewis, as the author, lets her be a woman. … I’m finding it quite instructive and freeing, as I tend to have some of the same modern-woman hang-ups as Jane.”
There are a lot more spiritual, ethical, and political themes to consider in this book beyond what it means to be a woman, but I have especially appreciated that personal application in my own life. As I said in the quote above, this book shows the dangers of totalitarian scientism more than Marxism, but both are quite relevant to thoughtful discussions on politics, ethics, and science today.
Live Not by Lies by Rod Dreher If you want the perspective of recent history and political development through a broadly Christian lens, this book is a fantastic read. It’s both informative and edifying. Rod Dreher is a Catholic journalist. Drawing from the stories of survivors who lived under Soviet control, as well as other sources, Dreher discusses the social trends that set the stage for totalitarianism and also the social pressures that help to tighten its grip over a people. While this book traces much sad history and disturbing developments in China and the west, it also contains amazing stories of courage and determination to “live not by lies”–even when faced with imprisonment and death for speaking truth. Dreher also gives encouragement to Christians to build strong families and Christian community as the church has been intended to do from the beginning. This book can feel bleak at times, but it is not without hope. This makes it my favorite read in this category–the book I’m most likely to pick up again soon.
Black Christian Perspective
Each of these books is by a Christian author whom I have followed for a very long time in one way or another. I’ve read articles by Jasmine Holmes since she was a teenager blogging under her maiden name Jasmine Baucham. I’ve listened to her daddy, Voddie, and have read his articles from time to time. I’ve enjoyed music by Shai Linne and Lecrae since my college days (I’m kind of stuck on their oldies). And I grew up hearing Tony Evans on the radio–my mom loves him. So this isn’t some list of black voices selected at random to meet some “white guilt”-driven quota. >insert uproarious laughter here< These are my brothers and sister in Christ who have encouraged me in my walk long before these issues made it hip to elevate black voices.
Unashamedby Lecrae Moore Technically I finished this book at the tail end of 2021, but I’m including it here because it goes well with this discussion. This is Lecrae’s autobiography. He doesn’t address any political issues directly, but his personal testimony demonstrates the hardship that some young black men face in America. There are drugs, women, abortion…it’s a rough ride. Lecrae is quite vulnerable in sharing his Christian testimony–not only his conversion story but also the challenging and often-failing road of sanctification as a young believer who grew up with zero positive male examples in his life. This book will challenge and expand your capacity for compassion. I especially enjoyed listening to the audiobook from Christian Audio, as Lecrae reads his book himself; and when there are quotes from his rap songs, they are included as clips from his songs rather than merely reading the lyrics off the page.
Carved in Ebony by Jasmine Holmes This was a unique book. Jasmine tells stories of black women from American history with both evenness and heartfelt personal reflection. I deeply appreciate Jasmine’s stated approach to American history: her goal is to glorify God in telling these stories, not to glorify America nor to throw disgrace upon her. She’s filling in some gaps both in our traditional American history framework and in American church history—some of these women reminded me of Christian missionary Amy Carmichael and Christian educational philosopher Charlotte Mason. This brought me to ask, why have I not heard these stories before? In all my reading on heroes of the faith, I’m not sure I’ve ever read the life of a black Christian woman. Well, now I have. And I’m blessed by it. I plan to have my boys read this book in high school.
The New Reformation by Shai Linne Christian pastor and hip-hop artist Shai Linne addresses the issues of “racism” (his preferred, biblically-aligned term: “ethnic sin“) in four parts. In part one he shares his own story, which is of particular interest if you’ve followed his music. In part two, he deals with some backstory, wrestling honestly (and graciously) with some of the skeletons-in-the-closet of Reformed heroes like Jonathan Edwards and Martin Luther. In part three, he digs into theology, especially justification by faith alone, and its implications for the church. Finally, in part four, he concludes with a discussion of biblical unity and practical ways that Christians can walk that out.
Linne’s main point seems to be that we are on the verge of another reformation–instead of simply reclaiming doctrinal purity, this reformation is about applying it more fully: the Christ-alone, faith-alone, grace-alone gospel is available to all people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. And our churches ought to seek to reflect that when possible through genuine unity in Christ across any and all ethnic divisions–not just black and white. I so appreciate Shai Linne’s vulnerability and faithfulness to sound doctrine–not merely in verbally ascribing to it but in calling us to live out its life-changing implications by the power of the Holy Spirit. Highly recommend. This is a very good read to have in conversation with the next two books, also written by pastors.
Oneness Embraced by Dr. Tony Evans (A new edition of this book came out last year. My review is of the previous edition.) I listened to this book via Christian Audio. I appreciated Dr. Evans’ tour of black American history—and especially the peek into its spirituality and church history. This, like Jasmine Homes’ book above, fills in some important gaps. I couldn’t verify all of his citations and over-arching claims as I listened, but I think the perspective is valuable and it would be worth searching out some day when I have more time (and a physical copy in hand). It’s important to note that Dr. Evans is probably writing to the broadest demographic of any author in this category (aside, perhaps, from Lecrae). He’s an evangelical pastor whose readership will be varied in race, political affiliation, and theological leanings (Dr. Evans is not in the Reformed camp that the rest of these authors are in). With this in mind, it makes a little more sense that at the start of the book, he says some things that help him relate to people across racial and political lines.
There are, therefore, things that will make both Republicans and Democrats uncomfortable. For example, he uses the term “social justice” for most of the book—likely accommodating the popular use of the term–before he states in the last few chapters that he prefers the term “biblical justice,” and then proceeds to suggest what that ought to look like. These creative efforts to do justice biblically are where this book really shines, in my opinion, though you can’t dispense with the background knowledge that he gives to build up to that point (especially his evaluation of liberation theology’s appeal and shortcomings). I would like to own this book in print, which is to say, I liked it and think it’s important enough to own. That’s a pretty high recommendation.
Faultlines by Voddie Baucham This was an excellent book. Probably the best in this category. Again, I listened to it rather than had it in front of me. Interestingly, the reader was the same for this book as for Oneness Embraced, and I enjoyed the feeling that these books were connected—coming at some of the same issues from the same side of the fence, but with different emphases and perspectives and solutions—different, but both seeking to faithfully apply the scriptures. Both were incredibly valuable. But Voddie Baucham hits the nail on the head as he discusses the problems with the modern social justice movement. Unlike the other books on this list, Voddie is able to address the problematic ideology of progressivism and woke social justice head-on, providing a much-needed evaluation of the claims made by the media and by some within the church today. He even calls Shai Linne out for a weak statement he made. Sometimes I felt Baucham was a bit harsh in his call-outs of faithful, godly pastors and leaders. But I think I understand these to be warnings that even the good guys can get caught up in this stuff and say things that may lead people to accept ideas that are wrong. The warning is warranted at least for consideration, even if at times it feels a bit nit-picky. I think it is given in the spirit of love for the brethren, including those whom he calls out.
While this book was excellent, I think it would be VERY SAD if this is the only book in this category that you pick up. He’s going to say things that will resonate with what most white conservatives already believe. Which is fine if the things he says are true (and I believe they are). What he doesn’t do is challenge the same group of people to expand their understanding and compassion toward other believers to the extent that some of the other authors on this list do. If you’ve got the time, read all five of these books–they’re each an important piece of the puzzle.
TWO: On a related and very practical note, here is a discussion of living books as Mirrors and Windows (in the context of a Charlotte Mason education, largely considered to be under the classical umbrella). The main point is that kids need to read quality books that both reflect their ethnicity (mirrors) and give them a peek into the experiences of others (windows).
THREE: Both Baucham’s and Tinker’s books above provide a critique of Critical Theories while tracing their development. You can find similar information in this series by James Lindsay (an agnostic liberal who exposes the flaws of progressivism and the woke left). Lindsay has not only done extensive research, but he reads at-length directly from Marxist and Critical Theorist sources so you can hear it from the proverbial horse’s mouth. Heads up, there may be some strong language in his talks.
For some current-events commentary from James Lindsay, check out these recent interviews with Relatable host and Christian, Allie Beth Stuckey: Why Bud Light… (giving background for the crazy corporate and UN decisions being made lately) and …Debate Christian Nationalism (which discusses some concerns with the CN movement–from a conservative Christian and agnostic liberal perspective). These various topics do in fact tie in with the issues discussed in this post.
FOUR: Lecrae is probably the most sympathetic person on this list to Critical Race Theory and the books published espousing concepts from it. He’s walking a bit of a tight rope. Even so, I appreciate hearing from him as a believer who seeks to remain faithful to Christ but who desperately wants his brothers and sisters to understand what he’s been through and what he sees. This TEDx Talk from 2016 is a challenging message to that end. You don’t have to agree with every little thing he says–and this talk doesn’t say everything there is to say, even from Lecrae’s own vantage point as a Christian–but it is valuable to at least hear and consider the story he tells and the points he’s trying to make when working through these issues.
There you have it. Have I offended everyone yet? I hope I’ve at least given quality food for thought and inspiration for prayer and faithfulness. Real conversation on these issues is important. If you’ve got a thoughtful question or comment to share, please drop it below.
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Hello friends! I’m just popping on here today to remind you of the BIG SALE that’s wrapping up today at Compass Classroom! See my previous post for more details on their excellent video-based curriculum that we have enjoyed. Click HERE to go directly to the sale!
If you are catching this a day (or more) too late for the spring sale, I can still get you 25% off with a discount code at my new Compass Classroom landing page, where you can find some of my favorite curriculum items from their store. This code is good on your next purchase (but not valid during the spring sale), so take some time to figure out what you need and then load up your cart to make that discount stretch as far as you can!
I won’t spend many words of my own on this post. I’d like to point to a few passages of Scripture and a hymn to aid your thoughts of the Lord Jesus and His death on the cross in the place of sinners. My goal is simply to introduce these passages for your reading, meditation, prayer, and praise. Let the Scriptures speak to you of the death of our Lord.
Scriptures: Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, and Matthew 27
Hymn: Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted
Psalm 22 is a Psalm of David, where he expresses in vivid terms his own anguish and hope in the Lord. The details of suffering match the crucifixion of Christ more than anything that we know of David’s own experience. Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”–the opening line of the Psalm. David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, hinted at the sufferings of Christ, the promised Son of David, about 1,000 years before He arrived on the scene.
Here is Psalm 22 in its entirety (read the text with footnotes Here):
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. 4 In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. 5 To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. 10 On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. 11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.
12 Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— 17 I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! 20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! 21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: 23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. 26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. 28 For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.
29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. 30 Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; 31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.
Isaiah 53 is another prophetic Old Testament passage that gives incredible detail about the Suffering Servant–the Messiah Who would come not only to rule as a King after David, but to suffer for His people, being “crushed for our iniquities” and “justify[ing] the many.” This is the passage the Ethiopian eunuch was reading when Phillip came to him, explained the gospel, and he believed (see Acts 8).
Here is Isaiah 53 in its entirety, one of the most obvious descriptions of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, written some 700 years Before Christ. (Find the passage with footnotes Here.)
1 Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Here is Matthew’s account of the crucifixion. Notice especially the detailed connections to Psalm 22, and consider both the details and the theological implications of Isaiah 53 as you read. (Find Matthew 27:11-66 with footnotes Here.)
Jesus Before Pilate
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
The Crowd Chooses Barabbas
15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
Jesus Is Mocked
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
The Death of Jesus
45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
Jesus Is Buried
57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
The Guard at the Tomb
62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted
This is one of my long-time favorite hymns. It ties a lot of themes together from the passages we’ve read above. Consider these words and sing along, meditating on the Lord and His work, with praise and thanksgiving. (These are the lyrics from the Trinity Hymnal, find more details Here.)
1 Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, see him dying on the tree! ‘Tis the Christ by man rejected; yes, my soul, ’tis he, ’tis he! ‘Tis the long-expected Prophet, David’s Son, yet David’s Lord; by his Son God now has spoken: ’tis the true and faithful Word.
2 Tell me, ye who hear him groaning, was there ever grief like his? Friends thro’ fear his cause disowning, foes insulting his distress; many hands were raised to wound him, none would interpose to save; but the deepest stroke that pierced him was the stroke that Justice gave.
3 Ye who think of sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate. Mark the sacrifice appointed, see who bears the awful load; ’tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.
4 Here we have a firm foundation, here the refuge of the lost; Christ’s the Rock of our salvation, his the name of which we boast. Lamb of God, for sinners wounded, sacrifice to cancel guilt! None shall ever be confounded who on him their hope have built.
Here are two good lyric videos so that you can sing along:
May you be blessed and encouraged as you consider the Lord Jesus today and celebrate His resurrection this Sunday!
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I don’t do many sales posts, but this is definitely a good time for one! Many of us homeschool moms are already making plans for next school year, and that means it’s curriculum shopping season!
Here are some great sales happening this month, from publishers and curriculum providers that I love. A lot of them are focused on Christian classical education, but you may find resources that fit your homeschool goals whether you consider yourself a classical homeschooler or not. Unsure about what that even means? Check out this post.
I’ll start with the most time-sensitive.
Logos Press: 10-40% off and Free Shipping over $250 This sale is now ended.
Logos Press publishes and carries a ton of Christian classical curriculum resources and books. They had this sale through March 31, and they’ve extended it! It looks to me like this sale may only last until Friday (tomorrow), so jump on this one quickly to get 10-40% off and free shipping on orders over $250.
They carry classic books with worldview guides built in, Latin curriculum, Life of Fred math books, Math Mammoth, and much more.
Roman Roads Press: 20-35% off ALL Curriculum and Books, April 1-10 This sale is now ended.
Roman Roads Press also provides fantastic material for Christian classical education at home (for middle grades to grown ups). I’m currently reading The Illiad (and soon The Odyssey) along with the Old Western Culture Parents’ Challenge. This is giving me a chance to enjoy Wes Calihan’s lectures and think about how we might use them in our homeschool. I’ve found them incredibly helpful so far in understanding Homer’s works from a literary and thoroughly Christian perspective. Heads up to conscientious parents: there is some nudity in the art featured in these videos. Just being honest, this is a big part of the consideration going on as far as what my husband and I choose to put in front of our sons. I otherwise love the content.
Roman Roads also offers courses on Poetry (which I have done with my boys), Latin, Logic (currently the lowest price I’ve seen for Introductory Logic!), History, Economics, Calculus (which I’m about to order, per my engineer-husband’s request), and more.
Compass Classroom: ALL Curriculum Discounted, Up to 50% Off, April 12-19! THIS SALE IS ON NOW!
This sale doesn’t start until April 12, which means you’ve got time to try out their Premium Membership for ONE MONTH FREE in order to get a fantastic opportunity to evaluate any of the courses you are thinking about purchasing during the sale! They have great sample lessons anyway, but this would allow you to look things over thoroughly–no credit card required to start your one month free trial!
Prodigies Music: April is Month of the Young Child, Get 50% Off Plus Membership, 33% Off Songbook Bundle, AND an Additional 5% Off Your Order with Code KEPT
Prodigies is a colorful and fun way to teach music to children from pre-K to age 12. My boys started doing Prodigies Music Lessons (videos with color-coded desk bells and sometimes a workbook) when they were 7 and 5, and now that they are 13 and 11, I can see how much they have benefited for the long-haul from this playful but theory-packed approach to music education. My boys are obsessed with playing piano, have recently picked up recorder and ukulele, and one day would love to learn bag pipes, too! They not only love music and are doing well in their piano lessons, but they are creative with it, too–something that was intentionally cultivated by the Prodigies Music Curriculum. We didn’t even do the program super religiously, but it has been a blessing to our family! They have several options for how deep you want to go with their curriculum and resources, so that you can choose a plan that suits your needs and your budget.
You can also try Prodigies out with a 7-day free trial on their website. You can also download the My First Songbook pdf for FREE. Feel confident enough in your own musical abilities to do a bit of this yourself? You could purchase the bells and use them with the First Songbook to get your little one started. Scroll down on this page to see what instruments and workbooks they have available in this same color-coded format that helps kids learn quickly! They even have Chromanotes Piano Stick-Ons so you can relate the Prodigies song books directly to your own piano or keyboard.
Don’t forget to use coupon code KEPT to get an additional 5% OFF your entire order–on top of sale prices!
Rainbow Resource Center: Everyday Low Prices and Free Shipping on $50+
If you can’t find what you’re looking for at the sales listed above, head on over to Rainbow Resource Center. They don’t run huge sales, but they are committed to carrying a plethora of homeschool curriculum to suit all different styles. They’ve been serving the homeschool community since 1989, and they have wonderful customer service!
Are you starting to plan and shop for next year? I’m just beginning to think about it beyond the flurry of big-picture ideas floating around in my head. I’ll have an eighth grader next year, so I’d better get on it!
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Here’s another installment of my micro book reviews for 2022. In my last post, I shared the books I read for our homeschool. This time around, I’ve collected my 2022 reads on Christian Thought as well as Life Management (and a bonus category Just For Fun).
Christian Books on Theology, Practice, Philosophy, or Education
On Christian Teaching by Augustine This was probably the oldest work I read last year, aside from Plutarch and the Bible. Writing in the fourth century, Augustine lays out some important guidelines and considerations for teaching–with applications for education in general and for the study and teaching of the Scriptures. Augustine’s ordering of loves (ordo amoris) is incredibly edifying, explaining how all earthly loves can and ought to be turned into the stream of love that we have for God most of all. He also addresses some classical education practices and suggests how Christians ought to approach them. I found reading Augustine to be more approachable and edifying than I had anticipated. I can see why his writing has stood the test of time.
Let Me be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot This was a re-read of a beloved book. Elisabeth Elliot is one of my all-time favorite authors. Given the crazy confusion of our time, it was good to be immersed in a book that celebrates being a woman—and being a godly woman at that. Let Me be a Woman is a collection of short chapters written to Elliot’s daughter, making her prose both warm and candid. Here’s a particularly poignant quote about worldly attitudes toward women:
Women’s work, particularly the task assigned by Creation exclusively to women, that of bearing and nurturing children, is regarded not only as of lesser value but even degrading and “animal-like.” This is a hideous distortion of the truth, and an attempt to judge women by the criteria of men, to force them into an alien mold, to rob them of the very gifts that make them what they were meant to be. To subject femininity to the criteria of masculinity is as foolish as it would be to judge meat by the standards of potatoes. Meat would fail every test. For women to assume an esatz [or artificial] masculinity means that they will always lose.
Let Me Be a Woman, P. 151
Turns out women also lose when men assume an “esatz” femininity. But I digress…
Christian Reflections (essays) by C. S. Lewis I have to say, Lewis is right up there with Elisabeth Elliot as one of my favorite authors. I bought this book initially for Lewis’ essay on “Historicism,” which I very much enjoyed. I’ve read many of his books: The Chronicles of Narnia(series), The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, A Grief Observed, The Great Divorce, The Four Loves, The Abolition of Man, and That Hideous Strength. But this is my first read through a collection of his essays. Lewis has an incredible ability to evaluate the past and see where things are headed in days to come. I don’t always agree with his take on everything (his essay on “Church Music” being a good example), but he sure does make me think. Here are some of my favorite essays from this collection: “The Poison of Subjectivism,” “Historicism,” “The Psalms,” “The Language of Religion,” and “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism.” So many of the problems we see today are the fall-out of ideas that Lewis confronted in his day. I think this makes his writing essential reading. Start with Narnia (at least The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) and Mere Christianity, especially if you need to strengthen your reading muscles. But do work your way “further up and further in.” You will be rewarded for doing so.
First Principles: Becoming a Disciple by Geoff Reed My husband and I hosted an outreach Bible study last year using this first book in the First Principles series. We covered the gospel, baptism, and the call to renew our minds in God’s truth, which stands in stark contrast to the ideas and values of the world. It was a great study, digging into one Bible passage for each lesson, as well as offering discussion questions and commentary. One thing that sets this book apart from other Bible studies is the heavy emphasis on both discussion and follow-through. The questions make you think and examine the Scriptures without feeling like an exercise out of an academic textbook. There is ample room for taking your own notes and recording your own questions to bring to discussion. And the sixth and final lesson in the book asks you to look back over the first five lessons to restate what you’ve learned, ground it in the Scriptures, pick a verse or passage to memorize, and set some goal or intention for your life going forward. A lot of studies have little assignments with each lesson and then just plow ahead. This one makes you sit with what you’ve covered a bit more–and challenges you to really apply it before moving on. Because simply gaining academic knowledge of God’s word isn’t what we’re after–we want to respond to it properly, applying it to our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit and in fellowship with other believers who can hold us accountable.
The Essential Means of Grace by Paul Washer I have appreciated the teaching of Paul Washer since my college days, but this is the first book I’ve read by him. It was a short but meaty and refreshing read, covering our relationship to God through the Scriptures, prayer, repentance and confession, and the local church. Highly recommended. Only 71 pages.
Messiah: Prophecies Fulfilled by D. James Kennedy My husband read this to us in December as our Advent devotional. It was a good overview of Old Testament prophecies about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. My boys are in 7th and 5th grade, and it was a good fit for our family, though there was a reference to infant baptism, which we do not practice, so we simply and briefly discussed that with our kids. (Links are to a newer version of the book than we own.)
Do More Better by Tim Challies I started 2022 off listening to this audiobook. Challies has some good principles for productivity that were helpful to me, and for a season I tried his process for managing tasks in ToDoist. I fell off of that specific application, but together with the books listed below, I think this has been a help to my focus and life management this past year.
Essentialism by Gregg McKeown This was recommended by a friend last spring and I snagged it on Audible. I wish I had a hard copy, because I think there are some diagrams that would be helpful, especially to review. At any rate, I loved this book. It urges you to really ask the important questions—what matters most? What is most essential? And then it challenges you to live by that. It’s not a Christian book, but it is Christian-friendly.
Effortless by Gregg McKeown This is the follow-up book to Essentialism. I’m not sure “effortless” is really what you get out of it, but the author does help you think through applying the principles of essentialism more thoroughly to your life. It was a good listen (again, audiobook). I will probably revisit both of these books sometime soon—maybe even this year. I think they’ve helped me a lot.
Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith I found this delightful book at an “extras” bookstore on our long drive home from a trip to Florida. Why have I never read a book on decorating before? I’ve been a homemaker for fifteen years, for crying out loud! Anyway, I’m glad I read this and glad to have some principles and guidelines for making décor decisions for my home. Cozy + minimalist is really a great combination, putting people above stuff, but also not putting bare minimalism over people. The author is apparently a Christian, so the decorating advice is well-ordered and not at all about putting on a show or keeping up with the Joneses.
Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel This was a fairly helpful book. As I listened to the audiobook, I kept finding myself wishing that the author would have dealt with the spiritual side of worry/overthinking. Instead all she did was give positive tips and tricks. All of which are helpful, but it’s just not the complete picture, and I had hoped for better from an author who is a professing Christian. Tips and tricks don’t fix my trust-in-God issues. All that to say, this was a profitable listen, but not nearly so much as it could have been. This is a your-best-life-now kind of book, and needs to be balanced by biblical truth.
Ploductivity by Doug Wilson Speaking of biblical truth, there’s a lot of it in this little book (again, for me, audiobook). I was surprised to find a lot of discussion on technology—even a theology of technology. This book was far less about tips and tricks and processes and far more about our assumptions and beliefs about technology, work, etc. A very good read, especially after having finished Don’t Overthink It and finding it wanting in the theological department. That said, I don’t share Doug Wilson’s Presbyterian eschatology, which does come out in the book; but that is a small part of the whole, and it was interesting and edifying to listen to nonetheless.
Just for Fun
The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse This was my second-ever Wodehouse read. I liked The Code of the Woosters better, but this book was fun, too. I read it at the beginning of 2022 and can hardly remember what happened in the story…Bertie gets himself in trouble and Jeeves has to help him out of it, but some of that trouble is caused this time by his even-more-pathetic friend, Bingo. This one is more serial while all of Code of the Woosters unfolds from Bertie’s accidental pinching of a cow creamer. It’s hard to beat a cow creamer for ridiculous and memorable comedy. So if you want to enjoy some good laughs and British humor, you know which one I’d recommend.
That’s a wrap for today! What are your favorite Christian theology or Christian living books? What books have helped you to manage life well? I don’t seem to make much space for fun, comedic reading, but I find it refreshing when I do–what about you?
For more Books Read in 2022: For Homeschooling On Marxism and Black Christian Perspective (coming soon!)
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I read 35 books last year! So I’m releasing my micro book reviews in manageable chunks. Here are the books I read while homeschooling or in support of my role as a home educator in 2022.
Books Read for Homeschool
Grimm’s Fairy Tales These were sometimes delightful, sometimes familiar, and sometimes utterly absurd. I pre-read this collection of 55 tales in order to select the best for my son to read for school this year. Here are the ones I chose for their cultural importance and/or entertainment value: The Cat and Mouse in Partnership, The Frog Prince, Briar Rose, The Fisherman and His Wife, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Water of Life, The Golden Goose, The Table, the Ass, and the Stick, Red Riding Hood, Tom Thumb, Frederick and Catherine, Snow White and Red Rose, The Four Accomplished Brothers, The Giant with the Three Golden Hairs, Hansel and Gretel
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (My copy translated by Marie Borroff) This is probably the first epic poem I’ve ever read all the way through. What does that say about the education I received from Kindergarten through college?!?!? I pre-read this before having my 13-year-old read it this year. It’s a little bazar but also fun. The alliterative style of poetry was new to me, but I enjoyed it. Here’s a passage that highlightss the story’s themes of Providence, courage, and integrity, as Sir Gawain tells how he cannot turn back from meeting the enemy:
Fair fortune befall you for your friendly words! And conceal this day’s deed I doubt not you would, But though you never told the tale, if I turned back now, Forsook this place for fear, and fled, as you say, I were a caitiff coward; I could not be excused. But I must to the Chapel to chance my luck And say to that same man such words as I please, Befall what may befall through Fortune’s will or whim. Though he be a quarrelsome knave With a cudgel great and grim, The Lord is strong to save: His servants trust in Him.
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula (read aloud) This is a years-long read-aloud project that we finally finished this past summer, reading it alongside our history book (see next). I highly recommend Trial and Triumph as a good survey of individuals whose stories inspire our faith and play an important role in church history. I dare you to read it aloud to your kids without crying.
The Story of the World, Volume 4: Modern Times by Susan Wise Bauer (read aloud) This has been an incredibly enjoyable journey through all four volumes of The Story of the World. This one on Modern Times was a really great read at ages 12 and 10. My boys were old enough to handle the challenging level of violence that makes up modern history. Bauer traces patterns and events well, helping the reader to see how events connect chronologically, geographically, and in parallel.
The Fallacy Detective by The Bluedorns (read aloud) This was an incredibly fun read—my boys would constantly ask for it, or ask for me to read more when it was time to stop. Fallacies may not be the most ideal way to get acquainted with logic for the first time (it’s generally recommended for any discipline that you learn the rules before you learn how they are broken), but this was so accessible and fun (not to mention I won a copy as a door prize at a local homeschool event) that I couldn’t resist. The boys love to identify errors in thinking: in the news, each other…. We have urged them, though, that they don’t actually know logic yet, so take it easy. These are tools to help us evaluate arguments and propaganda, not for us to tear others down.
Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard J. Maybury I pre-read this book for my 7th grader this year. I don’t remember having any early and gentle introduction to economics before being thrown into it in high school—having to read a large portion of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations over the summer and take a test over that tome on the first day of class. I wish I had learned a little bit along the way and in the context of history. Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? supplies this need quite well, covering topics like money, inflation, boom and bust cycles, the role of government, and more in short, well-explained chapters—err, uh, letters, from Uncle Eric to his nephew. This would NOT make for a complete economics course for high schoolers, however. Just like The Fallacy Detective is not a comprehensive study of logic, Penny Candy is not a comprehensive study of economics–but both books can whet the appetite for further study.
Gather by Pam Barnhill and Heather Tully This was less for school and more about it. Gather is about what many homeschool moms refer to as Morning Time–a time in the school day when most everyone in the family is together for shared learning or activities, ranging from worship and singing to reading, making, and exploration. This book is full of inspirational and practical essays and full-color photographs from a handful of homeschool families in various stages and of various sizes. It’s a pretty great day-in-the-life kind of encouragement for homeschool moms. I enjoyed it.
These are the issues of CommonPlace Quarterly that I read cover-to-cover last year: Lonely Places, Way of the Will, Balance, Method, and Ordo Amoris.
I have read every issue from the first year of publication. It is a little pricey, but the content is very encouraging in the faith, in loving and educating my kids well, and in growing in my own education toward what is true and good and beautiful. About a year ago I was thinking super-frugally and canceled my subscription, and my husband questioned me on it, saying I’d probably regret that. And he was right. 🙂 This makes for excellent bedtime reading when I’m too tired to read a stiff book. If you are into Charlotte Mason homeschooling, this is a resource worth checking out.
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I recently started logging my reading on Goodreads. You can follow me there to see what I’m currently reading and to catch new reviews that I write.
This is the second review I’ve written. I had my oldest son read John Bunyan’s autobiography this year for school, alongside Pilgrim’s Progress. I enjoyed (well, mostly enjoyed) listening to the book so that I could be ready to discuss it with my son. Here’s my review, originally posted on Goodreads:
I’m giving John Bunyan’s autobiography 4 stars simply because it is a bit difficult to enjoy at times–partly due to the older language but mostly due to the fact that as you hear Bunyan detail his struggles against temptation, doubt, and despair, you keep longing for him to come to a final resolution. But for Bunyan, this resolution takes a long time in coming, with many, many ups and downs. Over half the book seems to stay in this back-and-forth state–Will he ultimately be condemned? Or is the Lord’s saving of him sure? Has he committed the unpardonable sin? Is the love of God in Christ still his?
I’ve heard that CS Lewis called Bunyan’s autobiography something like a trip to an asylum. And for half the book, I can feel why.
Bunyan took his own sin and temptation very seriously. One might like to say he at times took it too seriously, but Bunyan seems to conclude that he took the accusations of the enemy of his soul too seriously and did not readily enough approach the throne of grace for help in time of need. This is quite instructive to modern readers: take sin seriously, but take grace seriously, too.
It is the grace of God and the righteousness of Christ that at last secures Bunyan’s hope. But, in God’s providence, his struggles for assurance up to that point of clarity seem to have given him a humility that prepared him for ministry and a depth of understanding of both theology and the human condition that enabled him to pen the classic Pilgrim’s Progress. What a gift to the church!
In contrast to the shiny, suave image that a lot of celebrity pastors put forth today, Bunyan the tinker invites us to know the deep struggles of his soul for assurance before God, which he could only ultimately find in the righteousness of Christ and in the faithful love of God. Reading his autobiography is an encouragement that God can and does use those tender hearts (perhaps sometimes too tender?) who mourn their sin and love their Savior.
If you want an interesting pairing, try reading this book alongside John Owen’s Indwelling Sin in Believers. Owen was a contemporary of Bunyan and reportedly admired him. The Lord used Bunyan outside of the Church of England (and even while imprisoned by it), and He used Owen within it. Both had a great understanding of the fight against sin (Owen more so theologically and Bunyan more so experientially). Both men’s writings are a gift to believers for which we can thank God.
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Last night I watched Allie Beth Stuckey interview Jinger Duggar Vuolo about her new book, Becoming Free Indeed, in which she details how she was raised under the legalistic teachings of Bill Gothard and how she has come to be free from them by a more thorough and biblical understanding of the gospel and the nature of God Himself.
I’m sharing the interview here (at the end of article) because I think that this conversation is important for a few reasons:
One. Deconstruction and ex-vangelicalism is a fad these days. It’s “cool” to talk about all the bad things you experienced or were taught and then to throw under the bus anyone or any belief system that still holds to anything remotely resembling those things.
Were you pressured to conform to extra-biblical man-made standards of modesty? You can now be suspect of anyone that promotes modesty at all.
Were you taught a perverted version of male headship that left you with no strength of will and perhaps subjected you to mistreatment? You can now be sure that the bible has absolutely nothing different to say to men and women ever. Consider it your mission to rescue women from any and all discussions of biblical manhood and womanhood–those categories, whether defined biblically or not, just aren’t ok anymore.
Were you hurt by judgmental people in the church? You can now vent your bitterness, expose the hypocrisy, and throw church away altogether because of it. They’re all a bunch of hypocrites anyway.
Was Jesus and His word used to manipulate you for someone else’s advantage? You can now be free by abandoning the biblical Jesus altogether, either by becoming agnostic or following your favorite liberal/progressive Christian influencer who will tell you that Jesus agrees with everything that is currently politically correct.
Oh, and don’t forget that any appeal to the Scriptures now qualifies as “spiritual manipulation.” The bible is only allowed to make you feel good about yourself, not to convict you of sin–anything but that.
If you listen to the voices promoting this kind of deconstruction, you’ll be following a pendulum swing from legalism and spiritual abuse on the one end to license and its spiritual abuses on the other. Be warned: Self-righteousness can puff you up whether you’re proud ofwhat you condemn or proud of what you accept.
Legalism and spiritual manipulation are real problems (just listen to Jinger). But they’re wrong and wind up hurting people precisely because they violate what God has said in His word; they’re not a reason to explain away “politically incorrect” passages or abandon the Bible altogether.
Misusing a tool doesn’t make the tool bad. It just means you need to learn to use it properly.
Two. I’ve seen first hand the fall-out from the teachings of Bill Gothard and other groups or leaders who elevate personality, tribalism, and fads of supposed holiness over wise, humble faithfulness to God’s word and teaching that refuses to take the Scriptures out of context.
Jinger explains toward the end of the interview the difference between deconstruction (like I illustrated above) and the kind of careful work it takes to disentangle your faith from false teaching. She used a helpful illustration of having “putty” in your hair.
Do you just chop it all off or do you carefully take it out bit by bit so that you can preserve what is good–in this case, your hair?
There is something worth holding onto, worth preserving. Disentangling seeks to keep the good, to keep the faith, while detaching it from the bad, that is, the false teaching or misguided ideas. Deconstructing, on the other hand, pulls it all down together, without necessarily having a view to building anything back up again.
I have a lot of homeschooled friends now in their 30s and 40s. I’ve watched as some of them have had to process these things. Some do it well, like Jinger has apparently done. But some have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and are now given over to worldliness (having completely or nearly completely deconstructed). It’s my prayer that this interview might help those who are still sorting things out. And that it might call out to those who have sorted things out poorly: come back to Christ.
Three. Jinger doesn’t exhibit any of the negative attitudes you’ll see from some of the other whistle-blowers out there. Praise be to God, she speaks graciously of her parents even while exposing the teaching that they had unfortunately latched onto and promoted to their children. With the help of her husband and solid teaching, Jinger has been able to evaluate what she was taught by reading the Scriptures in context. From what I can tell, she’s not pendulum swinging nor holding onto or promoting bitterness. This makes her an example of how to sort things out in the fruit of the Spirit–something painfully missing from a lot of critiques today.
Four. It’s good to be reminded that cult-like following of one man’s teaching isn’t healthy. I don’t care if it’s Bill Gothard (problematic), Joel Osteen (problematic), or even John MacArthur (a faithful teacher). No one-man show is going to have the corner on all biblical truth. The body of Christ is full of believers with different gifts and different experiences in order that we might edify one another. This is true at the local level and it is also true when it comes to public teachers and writers, both contemporary and from church history.
We benefit from wide reading within Christian orthodoxy.
Sometimes in our efforts to be “safe” we fall prey to the sins that we weren’t watching out for. Falling in lock-step with one teacher and his tribe will likely keep you from seeing a host of blind spots.
Finally, this brings me to a couple important points I’d like to make (and then I’ll share that interview, I promise!).
If no one-man show has the corner on all biblical truth (no matter how well credentialed), I think it’s safe to say that no parents are going to get it all just right in raising their kids. Not the Duggars, not your parents, not mine.
We can choose to give the benefit of the doubt to those who loved us enough to take our raising seriously, being thankful for the good and being wary of the bad or misleading. If we have good parents, this is what they desire for their children anyway–to learn not just from what they taught us but also from their mistakes. To do better than they did but without thinking too highly of ourselves and spurning them in the process.
While Jinger and many others are picking up the pieces after having had some actual bad teaching in their growing up years, some people are abandoning ship because of their own misunderstandings and misapplications–perhaps because the teaching they received was a mix of good and bad or because it was good but it wasn’t complete.
The mind of a child or young adult may not put the pieces together just right. This does, of course, raise the bar for us as parents to do the best we can to help them, but it also should humble the child who thinks all of their problems came only from their parents or teachers.
Shocker: we can’t blame everyone else for all of our problems.
We bring to the teaching we receive our own personality quirks, experiences, and fallible attempts to make sense of the world, not to mention our own amount of faith or lack thereof. Not only are our teachers fallible in their teaching, we are fallible in our understanding. This should bring us to a place where we rely so much more on the grace of God in Christ for all of our shortcomings and sins, and on the Holy Spirit to guide us in Truth as we interact with God’s word and His people–with humility and grace.
Growing up and keeping the faith takes processing the past (because we all have one) with careful consideration, prayer, study of the Scriptures, and fellowship with godly believers who are willing to discuss all of these things with humble care for one another and humble reverence for Christ. No matter how you were raised, commit yourself to these things, connect yourself with these kinds of people in a local church.
And may you hold fast to Christ and to what is good.
This post was originally published four years ago on November 19, 2018. That was the first Thanksgiving after my PopPop passed away. This year, Thanksgiving 2022 will be the first Thanksgiving after losing my Grandma. I had forgotten the context of this article when reviewing it this year, so when I read it today the concluding thoughts really hit home. Maybe it will (again?) be a blessing to some of you, as well.
I’ve had the pleasure recently of reading through Deuteronomy as I follow my Bible reading plan.
Deuteronomy? Pleasure? you may ask. Well, yes.
While it’s sometimes hard to slog through the books of the Old Testament, there are gems to be found, and I discovered that Deuteronomy had some relevant passages for this season of Thanksgiving.
In fact, the many references to “rejoicing” in the book surprised me! Sprinkled throughout much of the book are commands regarding the feasts that Israel was to celebrate–and celebrate with gusto!
It’s not my intention to give a detailed overview of the feasts mentioned here, but rather I hope to express the elements of God-centered celebration that I have found helpful as we head into the holiday season.
In America, we have only one feast-day that harkens back to agricultural times: Thanksgiving. And while “giving thanks” isn’t really mentioned in Deuteronomy concerning the Jewish feasts, the purpose of these celebrations is clear: to remember and bless the Lord for His provision.
So whether it’s First Fruits (celebrated in late spring) or the Feast of Ingathering or Tabernacles (celebrated in the fall), the heart of each is expressed in Deuteronomy 8:10, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.”
When you enter the land for the first time, bless the Lord. When you reap its goodness each year, bless the Lord.
We moderns find ourselves a bit far-removed from this kind of dependence upon the land. Not that we don’t eat its produce, but we rarely experience an actual harvest without going out of our way to do so.
I found myself reading about the Offering of First Fruits within a few days of harvesting our first ever (and completely volunteer) pumpkin patch. Nevermind the different time of year and different crops they would have had in Israel (olives, figs, etc), this passage resonated with me.
Here’s what Deuteronomy 26 says about First Fruits:
The Israelites were to bring their offering before the Lord and announce, after recounting the history of God’s provision for their people, “Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O LORD have given me.” And then they were instructed to “set it down before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD you God; and you and the Levite and the alien who is among you shall rejoicein all the good which the LORD your God has given you and your household.“
Now, when I read about the Israelites giving the first of their produce to the Lord, I can’t help but think of that one, solitary, beautiful, orange pumpkin we picked. Sure, we picked 14 green ones. But that first, ripe orb was our delight! And that pumpkin, and no other, would, in another time and place, be offered to the Lord. It would be His, not ours.
This vivid picture of the pride of our harvest belonging to the Lord began to expand in my mind. Not just fruits of the land. Fruit of the womb, also. The first born son would be the Lord’s (Exodus 34:19-20).
Just like that first pumpkin is the Lord’s and is intended to remind me that all of our pumpkins are His, so too my first child is the Lord’s–and by extension any further children are.
“The earth is the LORD’s and all it contains.”
I’m beginning to get it.
Deuteronomy 26:16 continues: “This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances [immediate context is the feast of first fruits]. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and all your soul.”
What did the statutes and ordinances in this passage involve?
Remembering God’s goodness and covenant Bringing the first of your produce Worshiping before God Rejoicing (with the Levite and alien!) in all the good which the LORD your God has given you and your household–there is a community giving thanks! Sharing with the Levite, stranger, orphan, and widow–there is a community being cared for! “I have not eaten it while mourning”–just in case you missed it, rejoicing is emphasized here by negatively stating its opposite. Praying for God’s future blessing on His people “Look down and bless”
The Israelites were to do all of these things with all of their heart and all of their soul! “Soul” in the bible usually denotes your whole being, including your body. So, everything within us (heart) and all that we are (soul) ought to go into this remembering, rejoicing, worshiping, sharing, blessing…
You shall celebrate the Feast of Booths seven days after you have gatheredin from your threshing floor and your wine vat;and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your towns.Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.
So much rejoicing! Again, this is a feast not only remembering past blessings (the things gathered in) but also awaiting with expectant joy the future provision of the Lord.
I can’t help but think of the Passover, which also looked back at past deliverance and forward to the Messiah. And of the Lord’s Supper, by which we remember and “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” It seems the pattern of biblical celebration looks both backward and forward. It’s a pattern of remembering and rejoicing!
All of this imagery and idealism is wonderful, but what if I’m heading into Thanksgiving with a nasty cold and way too many servings of responsibility and stress on my plate? And what if this is the first major holiday without a dearly loved family member?
This is where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it? There are things to begrudge and mourn. A lack of health, a lack of peace, and an empty chair at the table.
For an Israelite to swear, “I did not eat it while mourning” they would have had to push pause on, well, life. Because life is hard and we experience loss and disappointment often. Even in times of abundance.
I don’t have a remote with a quick-and-easy-fix button to literally pause pain so that rejoicing is effortless. But I can remember the Lord’s goodness and provision–past and present, in times of abundance and in times of need.
And I can rejoice. Because I know the One who will “guide the future as He has the past.”
As I went for a walk today (for the first time in what seems like forever) I had to deal with my grumbling attitude that had become my more-often-than-not companion in the past few days. The sunshine and fresh air helped to remind me that the world is still a beautiful place and God is still on His throne–even if I don’t get everything done, even if I’m carrying around my own personal storm cloud.
And as it turned out, being sick forced me to push pause today. I took a nap. In the quiet of a walk, in the quiet of my couch, in the midst of a busy, noisy, frenetic season, the Lord calmed my heart and reminded me of His care and provision.
Perhaps I can leave that storm cloud behind. Remember the Lord. Rejoice in His provision. And share that with those around me this Thanksgiving.
How about you?
Here are a few hymns that refreshed my soul on my walk today as the Lord brought them to mind. Looking to the Lord as a good, sovereign Provider is necessary if we’re to give Him thanks, isn’t it? I hope these songs will bless you as they have blessed me.