Me, Myself, and Martha

I used to think I was more a Mary than a Martha.

About twelve years ago, sitting in a ladies bible study, I listened as the godly older women around the table sighed over how much they saw themselves in Martha. Martha, the one anxiously doing the serving and complaining rather than sitting expectantly at the feet of Jesus like her sister Mary (see Luke 10:38-42).

My newly-married-without-children self chimed in, “I think I’m more of a Mary, actually–I love sitting with the Word, listening to sermons…but sometimes maybe to a fault. I’m maybe a little bit lazy.”

I’m sure the older, wiser ladies at the table couldn’t help but chuckle or gasp inwardly at my inexperience. To their credit, they did a good job of smiling and nodding rather than lashing out, “Yes! You are lazy! Just wait until you have kids! You have no idea!” These were gracious women.

Mary Martha heart Jesus

Johannes Vermeer: Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, Public Domain

In recent years, I’ve come to see that my preference for quiet and contemplation is just that–a preference. A personality trait, if you will. It’s easy to imagine it’s a spiritual virtue in and of itself, but the Lord is calling my bluff. And I’m recognizing, along with those lovely ladies from twelve years ago, just how much I relate to dear Martha.

There’s a separation, a disconnect, between my still-and-quiet time and my active-doing time. I’ll read the bible in the morning in perfect peace and within five minutes of stepping into the kitchen, I’m barking grouchy reprimands, put off by the fact that my kids need to be reminded, once again, to wash their hands before setting the table. Can’t you help me out with the serving by doing the obvious?

Lord, can’t you tell my children to make my life easier?

Jesus speaks to me as He spoke to Martha, “Lauren, Lauren, you are worried and troubled by so many things.”

That’s not to say that my children were choosing “the better part” in that moment, but it is to say that I sure wasn’t.

I can put the stresses of our days out of mind for a little while when I have my coffee and a quiet room all to myself. But if I’m honest, that’s not a trusting, “Mary” heart. That’s just getting what I want: the pleasure of quiet, comfortable spirituality.

I think I have the “Mary thing” going, but really I’m a “Martha” who is only at peace or at rest when she’s getting the help she thinks she’s due and the quiet atmosphere she thinks is necessary for spiritual things to take place.

As Rachel Jankovic says in Loving the Little Years, life at home with kids is life in a rock tumbler–we’re always bumping up against each other. How we respond to all the bumps and bruises and duties of everyday life tells a lot more about our maturity and spirituality than some bible-and-mocha time does.

What happens to “Mary” when I do have to roll up my sleeves and feed the boys who are bouncing around my kitchen like pin balls? Where does she go when it’s time to wash the dishes? It’s as though she flies away, back to that quiet corner where I left my bible. “Mary” doesn’t seem to come with me when it’s time to get things done. It’s like I’m “Mary” for 30 minutes out of my day, and “Martha” for the rest. 

Martha Jesus Mary heart motherhood

My selfishness and desire for the ideal and comfortable spiritual experience, especially when I imagine that such an experience is somehow a “Mary thing”, actually leads to a lot of the resentment and laziness that underlies the worry, irritation, and grumblesome “service” of my not-so-quiet times.

Seeing myself as a spiritual “Mary”, I peer through dagger eyes of self-righteousness at any who would dare disturb my supposed inner peace. And even the daily work to which I’m called becomes an affront to my desire for “better” things.

When the pendulum swings and procrastination finally gives way to panic, “Martha” comes out in full force, barking commands and working feverishly–anxiously, resentfully–to catch up on the work that “Mary” let slide. Self-righteousness turns to self-loathing and guilt. The work to be done becomes oppressive, and so do I.

There is, of course, no “Mary” to be found in the whole scenario. The very thing that I imagined made me a “Mary” fuels the “Martha” reality of my waking hours.

Mary’s heart was capable of resting, of listening to Jesus, even in what was probably a crowded and busy environment, an environment that clearly caused anxiety for Martha.

Martha’s problem wasn’t in her serving but in her heart.

Same environment, two different responses.

One sat in tender dependence, focused on the Son of God who loved her; the other served with furrowed brow, focused on what she wanted but wasn’t getting.

One demonstrated a heart capable of resting whether seated or serving; the other couldn’t have rested at the moment even if she had suddenly decided to plop down next to her sister.

O that we would have our eyes so fixed on Jesus that our rest in Him would permeate not just our devotional time but also every act of service.

O Lord, you loved both Martha and Mary. Your rebuke was gentle and revealed the storm inside Martha. Thank You for revealing, at least a little more today, the storm inside of me. Forgive me for trying to control so much, for fidgeting and fighting through my days rather than sitting with You in them–and with the people You’ve given me. Please continue to expose and calm the storm in my heart. And teach me to rest in You and know Your love even in the midst of daily chores and service and failures and disappointments.

It’s a mercy of the Lord when we begin to see our hearts more clearly. It’s painful, to be sure, but it’s also an invitation to repent and reaffirm the gospel of grace. Jesus deals gently with us because He already paid the penalty for our sin on the cross. 

The ladies at my bible study twelve years ago knew this far better than I did at the time, and so they dealt with my naivete quite gently, too.

When the Lord exposes our self-deception and reveals our sin in places where we thought we were doing well, it’s an invitation to know not just the depth of our sin, but also, so much more, the depth of His love.

May we rest in grace. And from that place of rest, may our daily work be a labor in love–a kind of serving that sits at the feet of Jesus.



Books Read in 2018: Mother Culture Edition


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This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. 

Here it is! The long-awaited (Maybe? Humor me?) continuation of my micro book reviews for 2018! These are the books I read mostly for my own growth and enjoyment. You can find my 2018 Theology Reads here. Coming soon: 2018 Family Culture Reads. Photo contains some of both lists.


Mother Culture 

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was the first book I finished in 2018, and The Return of the King was the last, making for a nice set of Tolkien book-ends for the year. For some reason I could not read these books quickly. They were delightful but slow reads. I especially enjoyed the pictures of spiritual battle in these books, first with Theoden in The Two Towers, and then with Denethor in The Return of the King. Perhaps I’ll write about this in the future. 😉 I certainly intend to return to Middle Earth again soon—starting with The Hobbit this year with my kiddos!


This is a long quote, but Tolkien’s words from The Two Towers (about the voice of Saruman) are oh so insightful.

Suddenly another voice spoke, low and melodious, its very sound an enchantment. Those who listened unwarily to that voice could seldom report the words that they heard; and if they did, they wondered, for little power remained in them. Mostly they remembered only that it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire awoke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves. When others spoke they seemed harsh and uncouth by contrast; and if they gainsaid the voice, anger was kindled in the hearts of those under the spell. For some the spell lasted only while the voices spoke to them, and when it spoke to another they smiled, as men do who see through a juggler’s trick while others gape at it. For many the sound of the voice alone was enough to hold them enthralled; but for those whom it conquered the spell endured when they were far away, and ever they heard that soft voice whispering and urging them. But none were unmoved; none rejected its pleas and its commands without an effort of mind and will, so long as its master had control of it.

True Grit by Charles Portis  I’ve continued reading and listening along with the Close Reads Podcast when I am able. I couldn’t resist picking up this book when I found out it takes place in Arkansas and Oklahoma—pretty much in my backyard. That geographical connection really had to be there to convince me to touch a western. But my first taste of the genre has been a good one! Portis takes on the voice of a fifty-something old-maid banker telling the story of how she hunted down her father’s killer at the tender (or should I say stubborn?) age of fourteen. Mattie Ross takes herself quite seriously, and Portis makes great use of this (and her matter-of-fact delivery) to imbue a rather intense story line with a lot of dry humor (my favorite kind).

I so thoroughly enjoyed this book that I made a point of walking down Mattie’s journey a bit myself, from Dardanelle, Arkansas to Ft. Smith, and yes, even to McAlister, Oklahoma and the Winding Stair Mountains of eastern Oklahoma (where my family did a backpacking trip last year as I was reading this book!).

It was a way to immerse myself in the scenery of the story (and critique the movie depictions of these places, cough, cough). Not to mention it was a fantastic opportunity to learn my local geography—something I hadn’t, as a native Texan, really taken a lot of interest in before (aside from finding hiking trails). Arkansas is a pretty great place to get to know. Local literature is a great way to learn local geography!

The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse  This was another Close Reads suggestion. It seems I’ve gravitated to the comedy offerings in 2018. British humor places high on my list next to dry humor.

Bertrand “Bertie” Wooster is a young aristocrat who regularly lands himself in a pickle of some sort. In this story, he manages to accidentally lift a precious cow creamer, causing enormous amounts of trouble for himself and for his friends. His faithful butler, Jeeves, must come to the rescue again and again with sage tactics and straight-man comic relief.

Taking in the story through Bertie’s eyes, the descriptions of other characters come to us as unfiltered critiques, much like Emperor Kuzco in The Emperor’s New Groove. Bertie’s delivery is a bit more blatantly humorous than that of Mattie Ross in True Grit, but they both employ a voice and attitude (and lack of self-awareness) that make for a lot of good laughs!

Much Ado About Nothing and King Lear by William Shakespeare In 2018 the folks at Close Reads launched another podcast called The Play’s the Thing, exclusively covering the entirety of Shakespeare’s plays, one after another. I have to admit that while I thoroughly enjoyed both of these plays, I’m finding that it’s difficult to remember them in detail a year later. Much Ado is a comedy, and King Lear is a tragedy. They are both worth your time. I think the best thing I came away with after reading them one right after the other is that even though they are different genres, Shakespeare manages to weave a bit of humor into even the darkest tragedy, and likewise a bit of tragedy into his comedy. Both plays also wrestle with several of the same motifs: prideful assumptions, character assassination, willful deception, and the nature of true love.

We (my husband and I) had a trial of Amazon Prime and watched the Amazon Original film adaptation of King Lear. It was a very interesting presentation of Shakespearean English in modern attire and setting. I thought it hinted at the timelessness of human nature. Anachronistic, to be sure, but I enjoyed it.

Twelve Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke  I think every Christian who uses the internet ought to read this book. Reinke covers all kinds of angles of our modern “connected” lives: FOMO (fear of missing out), social media, true social connection, the need to read and think deeply, purity, and Christian maturity and community, to name a few.  Reinke calls for godly wisdom and careful consideration—not just for how we engage in our digital culture, but if and why–neither taking an “anti” stance nor a heedless dive in to all things digital with a rally cry of “good motives”. I think it’s about time for me to revisit this one. Check out this list of quotes from the book over at The Gospel Coalition. 

The Life-Giving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson  I picked up this book in an effort to give more attention to the seasons and building traditions in our home. I have long appreciated Sally Clarkson’s books and articles on motherhood. She is probably my near opposite in terms of personality, and while I’m totally fine with doing things in a way that suits my personality, I have found Sally’s relational and inspirational tone to be quite an example and challenge to my often-direct and efficient approach to family life. This book has two sections: one that explores the concept of home and another that serves as a month-by-month guide to implementing traditions that build up faith and family throughout the year. As such, you can read the book straight through or pick a month to get ideas for the upcoming season or holidays. We don’t copy and paste from this book, but I have enjoyed the ideas and inspiration. Highly recommend.

The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance by Heidi St. John  I think I found this book for about a quarter at a thrift store. At first I was going to pass it up, thinking, “We’re good.” But then I hesitated. Maybe my husband would appreciate me reading a book like this. So I picked it up. I’m glad I did. It was a good read for 25 cents. There’s a lot of biblical wisdom and consideration—especially when it comes to the unique distractions inherent to the homeschool life.

One of the key images used in the book, however, is “that girl”—as in, the girl your husband married. There’s a bit of an encouragement to be “that girl,” to be the more adventurous, smitten “you” that you were when you were first married. When discussing this concept with my husband, he flat out rejected it. “I don’t need you to be ‘that girl’. I’m not ‘that boy’. We’ve both grown and changed and it’s good. Be adventurous and fun, sure, but don’t feel like you need to go back to something in the past.” This is one of the reasons I like having him around. 😊  Do I recommend this book? No, not necessarily. If you need ideas to build up the romance in your marriage, this might be helpful. If you’re in a pretty good place with your man, there may be other books that would challenge you to go deeper.

A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis  My grandfather died in May of 2018 at the age of 95. I sought out Lewis’s reflections at my local library as I processed the loss. Perhaps the greatest value in reading this book was as a model for writing out my own “grief observed” in my journal. Lewis’s experience in losing his wife is very different than mine in losing my grandfather. But there were, for either situation, still some of the same questions that plague and truths that comfort. It was a good read.

Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows by Ravi Zacharias (an autobiography)  As the subtitle suggests, this is one of those memoirs that seeks to show God’s hand at work all along way, but there is nothing trite about Ravi’s life nor his storytelling. My husband and I listened to this book on audio on several road trips in 2018. Ravi chronicles with thoughtful storytelling his long and full life—a life rich with personal highs and lows, with clashes of cultures and worldviews—and with the Lord in constant pursuit. I appreciated learning a bit of Indian history amidst the riveting drama of hard circumstances, strained relationships, internal battles, and tough questions. I imagine this would be a good read for any believer, but it is especially meaningful if you have been blessed by Ravi’s intelligent and warm apologetics ministry. I hope to revisit this book again in the future.

Top Pick

So what’s my top pick from this list? Well, I loved so many of these books, but I’d have to say that True Grit captured my imagination and worked its way into my schedule more than any other in 2018. Geographically immersing myself in the story was an adventure all its own—both enhancing my experience of the story and my experience of the world around me. Your mileage may vary. 😉

Want more book reviews? Please consider subscribing. And check out these posts from past years:
2018 Theology Reads

Ideals and the Daily Grind


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Lately I’ve wrestled with my assumptions about how homeschooling ought to be experienced–both by me and my children. There’s this tension between the “freedom” that we have as homeschoolers along with the “delight” that we want to nurture … and the painfully hard job of holding the line while a child has to do the work of growing into maturity. You can’t do it for them. You can’t soften the blow. You can’t lift the weight.

homeschool hard weight growth work

Well, you can try. But might not be good for them. Despite not measuring up to the Instagram ideal, the daily grind–with all of its bumps, boredom, and blunders–is good for kids.

We’re beginning to wrestle with these things now that our oldest is ten and carrying more responsibilities. And it’s hard. It’s really hard. Not because he’s rebellious or anything. Just because it means he has to grow up a bit, this child who’s still bummed that he aged-out of child care at our homeschool support meetings two years ago. He’d rather be in there with the 7-and-under crowd just like he’d rather continue doing all of his math and language lessons with me.

But he has to grow up.

And I have to let him.

school boy homeschool hard growth grind

I think of all the ways I could have prepared us better for this transition to greater responsibility and greater independence. There’s much room for improvement and repentance, and I just get to mourn the gap because my baby, my youngest, just turned eight–it’s not like I have kindergartners that I can “do better” with.

But then my husband tells me that I’ve done great. That this transition is hard. Period. (He would know. He was homeschooled.) You could have done some things better, but here we are–and he’s going to get stronger from this trial precisely because it’s hard, precisely because it’ll teach him to pray–as long as we hold the line.

My husband is right, of course. For all the failings, we’ve done well. And are doing well. I don’t measure up to my ideals and neither do my children. No surprise there, really, if I’m honest with myself.

This reminds me of that ideal that is not idealistic. That we’re raising children to become adults. Adults who have to work hard. Adults that will make mistakes and have to correct them–whether in math or driving or work or relationships.

Turns out in bringing up my boys I’m being brought up, too. The higher ideal–for all of us–is growth in maturity, ultimately in Christ.

Praise God I haven’t gotten it all right! I’d be an arrogant sourpuss if He’d allowed me to get it all right! No. There is no perfect ideal in parenting or education. The only Perfect Ideal is Jesus Christ Himself. So the best we can do is look to Christ and hold on. Hold the line of faith as we hold the practical standards for our kids, standing firm as they learn to stand firm themselves, dependent more and more upon the Lord–and less and less upon us.

This. Is. Good.

Hard but good.

True growth, and thus the ability to experience greater “freedom” and “delight,” comes when we submit to the work set before us, choosing to bear up under the weight God has assigned rather than to shirk it or complain. Our children grow the same way we do–if we let them.


How about you? What hurdles or struggles are you and your children facing this year? Can you recognize the “hard but good” in it? How has it forced you to rely more upon the Lord? I’d love to hear from you.

Living Books in the Large Family: A Chat with Amy Roberts


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This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. 

It’s time for another Living Books Consortium video, this time with special guest Amy Roberts! Tabitha and I have had the pleasure of knowing Amy in real life in addition to gleaning tips and inspiration from her blog over the years. We were thrilled to have her join us and to get to catch up a bit.  🙂  We hope you’ll join us for a few laughs and be blessed to hear from Amy about how she has incorporated living books into her family’s homeschool from the beginning, seeking to encourage a love of reading and learning in her kids at every age and stage.


For easy navigating: 

00:00 – 02:53  Intro and Inspiration
02:53 – 04:24  Curriculum and Living Books
04:24 – 12:02  Wide Range of Ages and Fitting in Read Aloud Time
12:02 – 13:44  What the Big Kids have Taken with Them
13:44 – 19:30  Tips for Enticing Young Readers and Keeping Voracious Readers in Books
19:30 – 31:55  Potpourri: Hard Books for…Babies?!? Science, History, Messes, and Gaps
31:52 –  End   Where to Find Amy Online

Be sure to check out Amy’s latest post on How to Choose Read-Alouds.

Books Mentioned: 

Wind in the Willows

Watership Down

Paradise Lost

Basic Economics

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Curriculum Mentioned: 

Tapestry of Grace

Peaceful PressThe Precious People and The Peaceful Preschool

Mystery of History

Story of the World

Ambleside Online

Apologia Science

Godly Homeschool Planning


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This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. 

It’s planning season for many homeschool moms, myself included. While there are a lot of wonderful practical posts and resources out there to help with dreaming and scheming for the coming school year (and a couple excellent resources I’ll recommend at the end of this article), it’s easy to get focused on the logistical side of things and forget that even the most perfect planning system can fall short if it’s not humbly oriented toward the Lord.

Godly planning, of course, requires more than considering our children and taking stock of our resources. It requires considering our Creator and taking stock of our hearts.

That’s the essence of godliness–being mindful of God and aligning our hearts and lives to Him, for His glory. 

But how do we do that? How are we to be godly as we plan for the future?

Let’s dive in by first looking a little more closely at our definitions and purpose. Why before How (I promise the How is coming!).

Why: Two Kinds of Righteousness

It’s important to remember the difference between godliness and righteousness and how these terms apply to our planning process. Godliness is a life-altering devotion to God. Consider these words from Christian author Jerry Bridges: 

For the godly person, God is the center and focal point of his or her life. Every circumstance and every activity of life, whether in the temporal or spiritual realms, is viewed through the lens of this God-centeredness. …Everything we do is to be done to the glory of God. That is the mark of a godly person.

Righteousness means justice, or more simply doing what is right. It’s a good, noble, and necessary goal. But there also exists this thing called selfrighteousness, which ought to soberly remind us that the motivation for our right actions, or our right plans, makes a big difference. Godliness ought to be the source of that motivation. 

When we Christian homeschool moms make plans for school, we’re often aiming for righteousness. Often motivated by convictions about what is right–both before the Lord and for our families. This is good.

But if we pursue that righteousness as an end in itself, we can easily begin to operate solely in the practical outworking of our convictions, forgetting why we came to them in the first place. We risk swapping God-centeredness for work-centeredness, which can easily become a kind of self-centeredness.

My children. My plans. My time. My results. My reputation. My … glory.

It was supposed to be about God’s reputation. His glory. But righteousness without godliness becomes self-righteousness.

Let’s say that again: Righteousness without godliness becomes self-righteousness.

Planning without God-centeredness becomes self-centeredness. If we’ve gone down that path we know we need to repent, turn around, turn to God.

Jerry Bridges continues:

…Such a God-centeredness can be developed only in the context of an ever-growing intimate relationship with God. No one can genuinely desire to please God or glorify Him apart from such a relationship.

The first “step,” if you will, in godly planning is being in right relationship to God and growing in God-centeredness. If you know Jesus as your Savior, you know the gospel or “good news” of what Jesus has done to save you from sin is what puts you in right relationship with God. Keep coming back to that. Rest in that. Rest in grace. If you’re not really sure what all of that is about, please check out this simple and straightforward presentation here.

To sum up our WHY, we must be oriented toward God in our planning if we are to truly honor Him. The best-laid plans can either be tools for God’s glory or temptation toward our own. Keeping our hearts in check is essential to maintaining the good intentions of our convictions.

plans godliness home education

How: Looking Up and Following Through

At the risk of creating yet another checklist, here are five “steps” from my own reading and study to encourage you in godly planning–whether you’re just scratching down the first details or are about to tie it up with a pretty bow (or custom cover).

When Planning, Look Up:

ONE: Trust God’s goodness.

It’s difficult to align your priorities with someone you don’t trust. Now, we probably don’t wake up and say, “God isn’t good, I’m not going to trust Him today.” But we may find ourselves forgetting God is good, which can land us in one of two ditches along the path of godly planning: self-sufficient overconfidence and anxious worry. The remedy for each is to remember God’s goodness is still there and look up

The weight of our responsibility as moms and educators can overwhelm us. Real challenges may weigh on us. We think we’ve got to shoulder it ourselves, and we don’t feel up to the task. Enter anxious worry.

The lure of shiny curriculum can distract us with exaggerated promises. The act of making plans can make us feel like we’re in control. Like we have some power over the future. Like we have this thing whipped before we start. Enter self-sufficient overconfidence. 

We can even find ourselves hopping from one ditch to the other in the midst of the same planning season. Anxiously despairing of our situation turns to confident expectation that these new plans or new curricula will solve all of our problems. When things don’t go according to plan, we jump ditches again.

Without a good and sovereign God in view, we tend to celebrate our sense of control or else mourn the lack of the same. Looking to ourselves, we’re unstable, swinging from one ditch to the other at the whim of our circumstances or emotions as they waver from day to day or season to season.

But keeping the faith by remembering the goodness of God will steady us for the long haul.

The book of James has a surprising amount of continuity when it comes to the goodness of God. Look at this line up from chapter one:

We are to “count it all joy” when we face trials. They test our faith, but they’re also for our growth and endurance. This is the good that God intends in the trials He allows.

We are to ask for wisdom in faith that God “gives to all generously and without reproach.” God is a generous giver. He isn’t stingy with what He knows we need. He’s good.

There is a crown of life for those who persevere under trial–God has promised reward to those who love Him. He’s good.

We’re to recognize that temptation springs from within us–not from God. He doesn’t tempt anyone. In fact, every good thing given comes from Him. He’s good.

The anger of mom doesn’t achieve the righteousness of God–His ways are better. He’s good.

Behind James’ every call to repent and endure is a deep confidence in the goodness of God. Let’s make our plans with that same confidence, climbing out of the pitfalls of overconfidence and anxious worry to stand on solid ground. 

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them close to His heart;
    He gently leads those that have young. [1]

Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust. [2]

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord. [3]

When we see that God is good, we’ll want to seek His wisdom and aim for His glory

TWO: Seek God’s wisdom

Many homeschool parents recognize that education ought to be more than filling our kids’ minds with information. We want them to know how to properly sift through and apply information, whether in an academic setting or real life. What we really want for our kids is wisdom. And we’re bold enough to think that we can give it to them. But this is a tall order. Anyone who’s been at this parenting gig for a little while knows that children push the limits of what we thought we knew.

If we desire to raise silly kids into wise adults, we need to model the wisdom we wish to pass on. We need the wisdom of God.

If we are to wade through the sea of educational advice and resources available to us today and choose what fits our family and convictions without being “driven and tossed by every wave,” we must practice discernment. We need the wisdom of God.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so we ought to start there. In simple terms, the fear of the Lord is being mindful of God as He is in all His attributes and responding to Him with appropriate fear, awe, wonder, and respect.

The practical fallout of such a disposition toward God is to recognize that this wise, good, and powerful God has ordered the cosmos such that there are consequences for our actions. Orderliness and cause-and-effect relationships are woven into the fabric of the universe. There is purpose, there is reason, there is beauty, and there is Truth by which we ought to live our lives. Failing to live in accord with this Truth brings on the one hand hard knocks in this life and on the other judgment in the life to come.

Remembering that godliness is being God-centered in our thoughts and deeds, it’s clear that the fear of the Lord, and the wisdom derived from it, is an indispensable part of a godly life. 

But we’ve got to bring this lofty pursuit of wisdom down to desk-level, don’t we? How does this touch my planning pages and curriculum guides?

Wisdom involves putting things in their proper place, in their proper order–differentiating between the things that are truly important and those that are enticing red herrings.

God has revealed to us in His word what is right and good in His eyes. What does He have to say about children? About discipleship? About marriage and family life? If you’re a wife and mother, there’s pretty clear instruction to consider your husband, your children, and your home in this process.

It’s easy to think that our children and our selves are the only people involved in this education thing. But be careful not to cut your husband out of it. Biblically, he’s accountable for the training of his children. Make room for him, see what he thinks–you may find a great source of wisdom (or at least a sounding board) and freedom from all the voices on the internet that make you feel like you aren’t keeping up.

The scriptures don’t spell out a particular method of education, nor do they prescribe any kind of schedule. But they do give us principles, goals, and boundaries upon and within which we can order our homeschools in freedom. We don’t have to all choose the same method or materials, but we do need to make sure that the ones we choose (and how we plan to use them) are informed and perhaps even transformed by scripture.

To circle back around to James, if we need wisdom, we’ve got to ask. God is good. He will give it as we trust and seek Him for it.

THREE: Aim for God’s glory.

Trusting God’s goodness is good. Seeking His wisdom is, well, wise. But even in these we may think the purpose of God’s goodness and wisdom is all for us–to make us feel better and to smooth out our lives. It certainly can do those things, but the trajectory isn’t inward on self. Rather, the goodness of God and the wisdom we employ ought to show that He is good and wise and glorious. Aiming for our own comfort and saintliness as an end in itself means we’re exchanging the glory of God for our own. 

Likewise, in our planning and in our homeschools, we do well to recognize that we’re not raising children to be trophies of our success but arrows for the kingdom of God.

We know we want to be that city on a hill, the light of the world. And sometimes we make plans that are so idealistic it’s as though we think that the way to glorify God is to have perfect Ivy League children, a spotlessly clean house, and gourmet meals on the table each night. Wouldn’t that be shiny?

But when we come down from our ivory tower with our plans, we find that we can never reach that goal. The kids … aren’t perfect. Who knew? The house … is just mostly maintained. The meals … well, somehow we eat each day.

Maybe the purpose of God is not to get glory from self-satisfied creatures. Maybe what really glorifies God is not a family that looks like it has everything put together, but a family that gives thanks and praise to God as they seek to honor Him in all the ups and downs of ordinary life.

Maybe we need to adjust our aim.

As we realistically work out the details of our year, our months, our days, seeking to choose books and activities that honor God and fit our family, we’d do well to build on our trust in God’s goodness with thanks and praise, glorifying God with heart and voice.

Thank you, Father, for the people you’ve put in my charge. Thank you for the home you’ve given us. Thank you for the opportunity I have to be intimately involved in the growth and learning of my children. Thank you for the abundant resources I have at my disposal. Thank you for your Word and Spirit to guide me.

You are a Good Father, a wise Creator. You’ve made me and those around me in your image and for your praise. You’ve infused the world with order and beauty for us to enjoy and explore and discover. You are good and do good. You establish justice and You are the definition of love and righteousness. You supply our needs and give grace unmeasured. You are bigger than I can imagine, and yet you care for little ol’ me. You have given your Son for my salvation. You are good and gracious and kind. 

A godly heart recognizes God is worthy of thanks and praise in the midst of a serious planning session. But it also carries those things forward. Here’s where our WHY rolls up its sleeves and meets the mess of life. Godliness greatly effects not just HOW we make our plans, but also HOW we hold and execute them.

Plans in Place, Mind Your Follow Through:

FOUR: Hold those plans loosely and humbly.

“If the Lord wills we will live and also do this or that.” James reminds his readers in chapter four that our confidence doesn’t need to be in what we think we can make happen in the future. Our confidence ought to be rooted in … wait for it … the goodness and sovereignty of God.

“God is good” and “God is in control” can almost seem cliche in modern meme-saturated church culture. But that’s only the case if we don’t stop long enough to actually consider these truths. If we’re not meditating on the goodness, wisdom, and glory of God, knowing that His plans trump all and that His plans are, indeed, better than our own, we will struggle miserably when things don’t go our way.

We’ll likely struggle anyway, to be honest, but we can only struggle well if we have a godly perspective.

When it comes to the plans in our hands, we need to do more than look at what’s slated on the calendar. We need to number our days “…so that we may present to you a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Our plans may be ideal, even godly, but our expectations must also be in line with reality.

James calls our over-confident planning “arrogance” and insists “you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

Those words might not make us feel good. But we have a choice. We can either take such conviction as a downer and ignore it, continuing to allow the clouds of emotion and pride to obstruct our view, or we can take it as the wind that blows them away so that we can see clearly.

If we see God ruling for our good and His glory, we can more easily clear the air, relax our fists, and halt our grasping for control. Once we take a deep breath and accept reality, we begin to actually rejoice that God is in control and we’re not. A truth that didn’t feel good at first can become one of our greatest comforts.

Remembering we are faulty and finite puts us in a position to move forward with humility and good humor

Imagine your life is a folk dance. The fiddle begins to sing. And you begin dragging your loved ones across the floor, steamrolling them if they get in the way of your carefully choreographed moves, and grumbling when one trips or steps on your toes. This is a likely enough outcome if you imagine yourself as the caller. As though they’re all supposed to keep in step with you.

But God’s the Caller and you’re just another one of the dancers. A dancer who steps out of line sometimes. A dancer who has little feet following behind her own.

You know a lot more of the moves than your kids. You’ve practiced them longer. You’ve even made plans to optimize the effectiveness and enjoyment of the dance. But when the Caller changes the pace, you’ve got to follow. Insisting on your own way will only make a scene and get someone hurt.

Imagine the same scene with a humble heart:

When a little one gets their right and left foot mixed up, you remember what it’s like to miss a step and help them set it straight–but you do it with a laugh and a nudge to get back up, listen for the Caller, and enjoy the dance.

The freedom to enjoy the dance, to adapt to each change in the music, comes when we hold our plans loosely and humbly–because we trust in God’s goodness and know that He’s in control.

FIVE: Execute those plans with kindness and gentleness, by God’s grace.

Holding our plans loosely doesn’t mean we never look at them or try to make them work, and it sure doesn’t mean it’s cool to be lazy or haphazard. Putting our plans into action requires intention and consistency. But as we march forward, plans in hand, we seek to implement them in line with the fruit of the Spirit and in light of the fact that our priorities as homeschool moms are ultimately relational and not mechanical in nature.

When I think of not just the planning but the managing of our days, one of my favorite places to find inspiration is that often-resented Proverbs 31 woman:

Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.

Here’s a strong woman who wears a smile, pays attention, and gets things done. But  those two lines in the middle point to something more. Her joyful hustle and bustle to the tune of productivity isn’t off in some corner where she can enjoy the solace of personal achievement free from smudgy fingers and untimely interruptions. Nope. There are other people in her household, and her words to them are marked by wisdom and kindness

Ooph. Does that knock the wind out of you, too?

Our buddy James echoes this Proverbial link between wisdom and kindness–and he introduces it with a surprising warning: “Let not many of you become teachers…”

Woah, wait. Too late. We’re teachers.

Ah, but that means we ought to pay even closer attention to what he has to say:

With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

…Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

Show? Deeds? …Gentleness? Where’s the dispensing of wisdom with many words and lectures? James doesn’t seem to mention that. It would seem true wisdom is clothed in our friend from the last section: humility.

The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

Tall. Order. Sounds an awful lot like the fruit of the Spirit, doesn’t it?

Is our teaching characterized by kindness? Do we pause our reactions and consider how to answer with the gentleness of wisdom, according to the need of the moment, to give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29)?

Does our kind intention toward our children permeate not just our lesson plans but also everyday ordinary moments?

The two greatest commandments are to love God and love others. If we’re at home with our families most of the time, it’s pretty obvious who those “others” are. Maybe that’s why Titus two urges older women first of all to encourage the younger women “to love their husbands, to love their children.”

We ought to plan to love our own but still love them even when those well-meant plans are foiled. 

I don’t know about you, but I need some help in this department.

This is why we sought God’s wisdom to begin with, and why we won’t be done with that practice anytime soon.

To act on our plans in keeping with the rule of love, we need the fruit of the Spirit. We need kindness. We need the gentleness of wisdom. And for it all we need the grace of God.

If that doesn’t motivate your prayer life I don’t know what will.

Apply: Condense, Remember, and Be Ready to Troubleshoot

Let’s condense the big ideas we’ve covered so that we can remember them in real-life situations. We said at the outset that godliness means being mindful of God and aligning our hearts and lives to Him, for His glory. In keeping with that, I’ve outlined five steps or concepts:

Trust God’s Goodness
Seek God’s Wisdom
Aim for God’s Glory
Hold Plans Loosely and Humbly
Execute Plans with Kindness and Gentleness, by the Grace of God

The first three big ideas involve “looking up”—-there’s our being mindful of God. And the last two apply to our “follow through”—-aligning our hearts and lives.

As a memory aid or perhaps a motto: We can be mindful of God in our planning by trusting God’s goodness, seeking God’s wisdom, and aiming for God’s glory. An easy way to keep these in order is to recognize that they (intentionally) correspond to a very familiar and very relevant passage (Prov. 3:5-6):

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

To remember the specific outworking of the last two steps, imagine you have all your plans on a clipboard (or a smartphone or tablet if you’re techie like that).
What are you doing with them? You’re holding them.
What are you doing when you take a step forward and give marching orders to your minions? You’re executing them (the plans, not the minions, mind you).
If you can visualize holding the clipboard and marching forward with it, all you need to do is ask how?
How do we hold our plans? Loosely and humbly.
How do we execute those plans? With kindness, gentleness, and grace.

And so we have another motto: We can align our hearts and lives for God’s glory as we hold our plans loosely and humbly and execute them with kindness and gentleness, by His grace.

That may seem repetitive, but it’s how I’ve been able to use these ideas to keep my heart in check (or reel it back in) this planning season. I hope it’ll help you, too.

Mamas, we can make the loveliest plans, but when lessons don’t come easily, chaos ensues, or the February blues strike, those plans aren’t what will make us godly. Our focus and response to those things will be the determining factor.

Watch over your heart with all diligence as you plan, and watch over it with all diligence as you move forward (Prov. 4:23). So that whether your plans roll out smoothly or blow up in your face, you maintain the disposition of a sinner saved by grace, of a daughter looking expectantly and dependently to her Heavenly Father, giving thanks and praise to Him.

I’m praying toward that end. May He give us grace to do it.

Recommended Resources

If this article has resonated with you and you’d like to dig deeper into how heart attitudes intersect with everyday life as a homeschool mom, I highly recommend The Art of Homeschooling e-course (accessible through Simply Convivial Membership).

If you’re still chomping at the bit for very practical help with school planning, check out Plan Your Year–I’ve used this process for several years now. Plan Your Year provides a step-by-step guide so that you can take these godly-big-picture why’s and how’s and translate them into the particular-day-to-day why’s and how’s of your unique family situation.

This article was inspired by my study of the book of James and by reading Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges. I heartily recommend both books. 😉

See more articles on this topic:
The Love Chapter for Homeschool Mamas
Wisdom in the Book of James



Living Books Meet Real Life: How to Let the Magic Happen [NEW VIDEO!]

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. 

In our last video, my friend Tabitha Alloway and I discussed what living books are, some of our favorite books, and how we choose and source them for our families. We mentioned a kind of magic that happens when the books we enjoy with our children spill over into their imaginative play and real life situations. No Pinterest perfection required.

Ever wondered how that works?

Want tips for making the magic happen in your home?

This video is for you!

Tabitha and I share specific examples of how we’ve seen living books come to life in our families, how we intentionally foster an environment for what Charlotte Mason calls the “science of relations,” how to model curiosity and connection-making for your kids, and what things might mess with the magic and keep it from happening. Particular subjects we touch on include history, geography, literature, work, play, poetry, scripture and hymns, and the importance of an integrated view of reality. Whew! We hope you’ll enjoy the conversation–we sure did!

Show notes below!

For easy navigating:
00:00 – 02:10 — Intro
02:10 – 05:20— What We’re Reading
05:20 – 23:08 — How Living Books Connect with Real Life
23:08 – 27:53 — Fostering the Environment / The Science of Relations
27:53 – 44:30 — How Do We Model This?
44:30 – 48:24 — What Gets in the Way?
48:24 –   End  — Wrap Up
We plan to have a special guest join us for our next video! Stay tuned! 😀 

Books Mentioned:

Pride and Prejudice

Little Britches

A Philosophy of Education (Charlotte Mason’s Volume Six)

Beauty in the Word and Finish (Reading these in book clubs within Simply Convivial Membership!)

Respectable Sins

Blueberries for Sal

Winnie the Pooh

Little House Series

Irving Berlin: The Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing

Paddle to the Sea

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

Where the Red Fern Grows

The Tales of Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit specifically)

The Chronicles of Narnia

Wind in the Willows

Aesop’s Fables

The Abolition of Man

Please subscribe to receive show notes for every new video we release (and other encouraging posts, too!). You can find Tabitha over at Pursuing Logos. And don’t forget to request to join the Living Books Consortium Facebook Group. We’d love to have you join the discussion!

Introducing the Living Books Consortium (and a Video with Tabitha Alloway)!


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This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. 

Friends, I am so excited to share this with you! About six months ago my friend Tabitha Alloway (of Pursuing Logos) started a community on Facebook dedicated to living books–discussing the books we find, asking for recommendations, sharing reviews, and yes, even sharing some hilarious book memes. Sifting through all the books out there is a big job. But it’s a little easier (and more fun) if we do it together!

What is a living book? Well, that’s what we sought to address in this first video chat (below!) where we discuss the motivation behind the Facebook group, our own relationship with books, what living books are, and how we go about choosing them for our families.

Want to chime in? Request to join the Living Books Consortium group on Facebook.  Here’s the group description:

Welcome to the Living Books Consortium! We share a passion for books here–but not just any books. We’re interested in good books; books that fire the imagination, stir the soul, and challenge the mind and spirit. As John Milton said, “A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit.”

Charlotte Mason was the nineteenth century British educator who coined the phrase “living books.” To her, a book was a living book (as opposed to dull and lifeless “twaddle”) if its text was engaging, its literary elements fine, its teaching qualities commendable, and its truths timeless.

She wrote, “As for literature – to introduce children to literature is to install them in a very rich and glorious kingdom, to bring a continual holiday to their doors, to lay before them a feast exquisitely served. But they must learn to know literature by being familiar with it from the very first. A child’s intercourse must always be with good books, the best that we can find.”

Here in this group we share with one another “the best that we can find.” This page is meant to be a tool and resource for those in search of good literature as we share reviews and exchange recommendations with one another: be it a children’s picture book, a classic, or a fine work of non-fiction, etc.

So whether contributing to this page or just browsing it, enjoy your time here and be inspired to pursue the treasure and pleasure that good literature holds–in the company of fellow book enthusiasts. Ultimately, whether we “eat,” “drink,” or “read books,” we desire to do all to the glory of God. 

We’ll be releasing a new video chat each month in the group. We hope you’ll join us!

Show Notes Below!

For easy navigating:
00:00 – 09:44 — Group History and Introduction
09:44 – 24:00 — Discussion of Some of OUR Favorite Books
24:00 – 33:00 — What is a Living Book? How Do We Choose Them?
33:00 – 35:04 — Handling Questionable Content
35:04 – 40:35 — Resources We’ve Used
40:35 –  End  — Preview Next Month and Wrap-Up

Books Mentioned:

How to be Romantic

A Gospel Primer

Trusting God

Sherlock Holmes

The Scarlet Pimpernel

A Tale of Two Cities

The Count of Monte Cristo

Les Miserables

Sense and Sensibility (Check out Close Reads podcast on this book now!)

Close Reads is covering Sense and Sensibility right now!

The Ultimate Living Book: The Bible
May we suggest this Bible Reading Plan?

Knowing God

Keep a Quiet Heart

Pride and Prejudice

The Hunger Games Trilogy

Resources Mentioned:

Lithographs (Sherlock shirt, Pride and Prejudice bag)

Ambleside Online (Much more than a book list, but a great reference for the book list it contains)

Honey for a Child’s Heart (Great list of children’s books by age)

Robinson Curriculum Book List (Actual curriculum website HERE)

Educating the WholeHearted Child (Excellent and thorough resource for Christian homeschooling, including a recommended books list)  (Free audiobooks! Yay!)


Love Covers a Multitude of Sins … and Spills?


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I don’t know about you, but I’m sure there are moms out there that struggle with the seemingly never-ending task of cleaning up after the members of their household. Let’s at least imagine that you and I are like that. Hypothetically, of course.

It’s a Monday morning, a fresh start, or so it would seem. When you walk into the kitchen you’re actually kind of impressed that the kids managed to clean up as much as they did after making your dinner last night (a lovely assortment of leftovers). They were, after all, blessing your socks off when you were flat-out exhausted.

But then you notice the grease all over the stove, so you grab the washcloth and wipe things down without flinching. You usually do at least one thing to straighten up your kitchen while waiting on your coffee.

But then there are the dirty dishes that didn’t make it into the dishwasher, and the clean ones on the other counter that never got put away. And then you look over at the microwave. That wondrous instrument of quick cooking, the one the kids use the most–and with all the greasy fingers they can muster.


Just touching the buttons sends shivers up your spine.

You grab the washrag yet again, feeling the grumbles heat up inside you as the tap water heats to a similarly scalding level. Somehow you think this is what it takes to get the job done, especially when you see the inside of the microwave.

You begin to murmur to yourself, “This is cutting into my Bible time.”

And then the grace of conviction haults your thoghts. That was mighty self-righteous of you when you could just spend this time with the Lord anyway instead of grumbling.

Once disarmed, your flustered thoughts begin to retreat, making room for a scripture to charge into the battle: Love covers a multitude of sins.

Suddenly you realize that love is patient, and kind, and all that, not because you really have 1 Corinthians 13 running through your head right now, but because you are meditating on love covers a multitude of sins while doling out the elbow grease. I love those little monsters, so I don’t mind cleaning up after them. These messes are evidence that they are loving and growing, too. 

And the Lord is with me whether I’m kneeling in front of my microwave or sitting on the couch with my Bible.

The motto ora et labora–pray and work–comes to mind now, too, and you begin to pray for the members of your household, exchanging drudgery for intercession.

The coffee may be a bit cold, and your Bible might still be waiting for you, but you have indeed had quiet time with the Lord, by His gentle, refining grace.

And the microwave is clean now, so go heat up that coffee and sit down to the Feast. And maybe let the kids join you since they’ll be coming down the stairs any minute now.

Books Read in 2018: Theology Edition


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This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. 

For several years now I have aimed to read at least one book a month and in most recent years I raised my annual goal to at least twenty. Each year my list of “books read” becomes a blog post with what I like to call “micro book reviews.”

Well, in 2018 I finished thirty books, far surpassing years past. So instead of asking you, my dear readers, to trudge through all thirty micro book reviews in one post, I have decided to break them up.

theology christian books reviews

Since I have read more and headier theological works this year than usual, and because my reviews on these works are more detailed due to the importance of the subject matter, this first installment covers just four books on theology. Lord willing, next week I’ll share other Mother Culture reads (books I’m reading for my own education and enjoyment rather than just for my children’s), and by the end of the month will also publish what I call Family Culture reads (books read with the boys for school or books we’ve read aloud as a family). I hope you’ll check back in for each one!

Theology reads of 2018

For most of the past year I followed a Bible reading plan for my personal devotions. It’s been wonderful to read larger sections of scripture this year, but I have also appreciated the “catch-up days” afforded in the schedule. These have mostly been taken as “off days”—and an opportunity to read from the books I’ve listed below. None of these should be elevated to the place of scripture, but they have been worthwhile to chew on about one morning a week. Maybe you’d enjoy them in such a manner, as well.

The Attributes of God by A. W. Pink (1886-1952)  We acquired this book when we purchased Shai Linne’s album by the same title (containing theologically rich and deeply encouraging rap music). I read slowly through Pink’s book, often looking up scriptures referenced, for my personal quiet time last spring.


Each of nineteen chapters covers a different attribute of God and concludes with an application or encouragement to worship, trust, and adore God rather than merely chock up mental assent. These nuggets of application were some of my favorite and most quotable sections of the book. Here is a sampling:

He foresaw my every fall, my every sin, my every backsliding; yet, nevertheless, fixed His heart upon me. Oh, how the realization of this should bow me in wonder and worship before Him!

When we trustfully resign ourselves, and all our affairs into God’s hands, fully persuaded of His love and faithfulness, the sooner shall we be satisfied with His providences and realize that ‘He doeth all things well.’

Gratitude is the return justly required from the objects of His beneficence; yet is it often withheld from our great Benefactor simply because His goodness is so constant and abundant.

A personal aim of mine in reading this book was to examine and solidify my own views. I tested not only the words on the page, evaluating to what extent they were true or false (finding only minor disagreement and largely in argumentation rather than substance), but I also tested my own heart as it reacted to these descriptions of God. Am I willing to let God be God? Or do I have a still-sinful attitude that is uncomfortable with His rule and providence? Meditating on God’s attributes, with this or another such book (and an open Bible!), is a wonderful opportunity to clarify to oneself the truth about God and honestly assess the soul’s response to it.

The Ology by Marty Machowski, Illustrated by Andy McGuire  I was thrilled to find this book at my local library after seeing it recommended by many friends. I list it here rather than with family reads because I pre-read it this year and haven’t read it with the kids yet. We now have our own copy (thanks, Mom!) and intend to go through it this year.


The Ology seeks to explain “ancient truths ever new” in a simple yet beautiful format so that kids can learn and understand the basics of Christian theology. Scriptures are included on nearly every page spread and a glossary and list of discussion questions for each section are included at the back of the book. In terms of theological particulars, this is a kind of reformed theology for kids. The issue of baptism, however, is explained with care so that those who practice infant baptism and those that wait for their children to trust in Christ before being baptized can read and enjoy this book.

There’s also a CD to accompany the book: The Ology by Sovereign Grace Kids. Encouraging songs and stylistic variety. I love it!

The Reasonableness of Christianity by John Locke  I must have stumbled upon this little gem at a used book store before later finding it on my bookshelf and making it a part of my devotional reading. John Locke (1632-1704), better known for his political theory based on natural rights and characterized by limited government, argues in less than 100 pages that Christian belief (particularly that Jesus is the Messiah) is in fact reasonable. The charge he must have been responding to was this: “Is it really reasonable to embrace Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, when he didn’t speak often or very explicitly about this in the gospels?” The other less contentious question Locke seeks to answer seems to be: “If salvation is by faith and not by works, what is it that must be believed?”

reasonableness of christianity review john locke

While I don’t necessarily agree with Locke on every point of theology (his opening remarks about original sin are…interesting, for example, and there is some debate as to whether he held to an orthodox view of the Trinity, though that is not in view in this book) I thoroughly enjoyed following him through the Gospels and Acts as he makes his case—that everything points to the need for people to believe in Jesus as the Messiah as the central tenet of Christianity and the essential element of saving faith. Especially interesting is how Locke explains the wisdom of Jesus’ reservedness during his ministry and trial:

But he [Jesus] would not be seized for anything that might make him a criminal to the government: and therefore he avoided giving those, who, in the division that was about him, inclined towards him, occasion of tumult for his sake: or to the Jews, his enemies, matter of just accusation, against him, out of his own mouth, by professing himself to be the Messiah, the King of Israel, in direct words.
… This preserved him from being condemned as a malefactor; and procured him a testimony from the Roman governor, his judge, that he was an innocent man, sacrificed to the envy of the Jewish nation.

To sum up, The Reasonableness of Christianity is, as I see it, two things: 1) an explanation of Jesus’ rationale for not clearly stating who He is, and 2) a kind “mere Christianity” summed up in the words: “Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God” and therefore (and reasonably) to be believed and obeyed.

Where modern American Evangelicalism might reduce the gospel to a process or the Roman’s Road, Locke is “reducing” it to a Person and a call to personal faith and allegiance. While there are other important truths to mine in Scripture (and Locke affirms this), Locke does an excellent job of pointing to the main thing, the main Person: Jesus Christ Himself.

The 17th century English, complete with Roman Numerals used for scripture references in the text, make this a challenging yet rewarding read. If you’re interested, give it a go!

Future Grace by John Piper (link is to a revised edition–my copy is the first edition)
I bought this book when on a trip to Boston in my early twenties and regretfully didn’t get past the introduction at that time. Over a decade later I picked it up and have thoroughly enjoyed it (using my old plane ticket as a bookmark! Ha!). This book has 31 chapters and is intended to be read through in a month, but you could easily enjoy it at a slower pace like I did, fitting it in where my Bible reading plan allowed and completing it over the course of a few months.

The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace, as its longer title suggests, isn’t just a theology book. Piper seeks to demonstrate the powerful, sin-forsaking effect that faith in God’s future grace has on the life of the believer–and to encourage you, the reader, to live by such faith.

This is an empowering read. Not in a “you can do it” sort of way, but in a “look to Christ” sort of way.


I loved on this book quite a bit…pencil, pencil everywhere.

Each section contains a few chapters defending, defining, and discussing the nature of faith in future grace and concludes with one chapter to “apply the purifying power” to a particular sin or disposition. The practical application chapters cover anxiety, pride, misplaced shame, impatience, covetousness, bitterness, despondency, and lust. Piper’s aim is the heart, and the way he deals with such deep-seated struggles and sins in these chapters reminds me a lot of Jerry Bridges’ excellent book Respectable Sins.

On touchy subjects like anxiety, depression (despondency), and shame, Piper speaks biblical truth with much personal understanding and gentleness. This is not a book to beat you up for your mental and emotional problems, rather it seeks to see them clearly (and see Christ clearly) so that they can be dealt with rightly and with hope. 

With the last chapter finishing up on page 399, Future Grace is a commitment, but the return on investment is high. I’ll let Piper’s own words take us out.

Unbelief is a turning away from God and his Son in order to seek satisfaction in other things. Pride is a turning away from God specifically to take satisfaction in self. So pride is one specific form of unbelief.
covetousness is turning away from God, usually to find satisfaction in things. …lust is turning away from God to find satisfaction in sex. …bitterness is turning away from God to find satisfaction in revenge. Impatience is turning away from God to find satisfaction in your own uninterrupted plan of action…. Anxiety, misplaced shame, and despondency are various conditions of the heart when these efforts of unbelief miscarry.
…Every turning from God–for anything–presumes a kind of autonomy or independence that is the essence of pride. …pride is not so much the root as it is the essence of unbelief, and its remedy is faith in future grace.


Wait! New Feature!

What’s my top pick from this stack? I have to say Future Grace by John Piper. I’ll be revisiting this one for sure, and who knows? It may join the ranks of my “re-read every few years until I die” list along with Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot and Knowing God by J I Packer.

Have you read any good theology books this past year? What’s your favorite?



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Goodbye, Grinch Mama


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There’s this thing that happens when you read a story out loud to your kids. It hits you in a different way than it ever would had you been reading quietly to yourself.

Sometimes the blow is a rush of emotions that makes you tear-up against your wishes. And sometimes the blow comes with the stinging pain of conviction.

Take, for example, a recent Christmas read-aloud.

Grinch book dr. seuss christmas

Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown,
At the warm lighted windows below in their town.

…he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming,
“I MUST find some way to stop Christmas from coming!”
For Tomorrow, he knew, all the Who girls and boys,
Would wake bright and early. They’d rush for their toys!
And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise!
Noise! Noise! Noise!
That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE!

I have to admit, I can relate.

There’s something about December that seems to stir my children up to a level of hyper-activity unknown the rest of the year. Maybe it’s the sugar. Maybe it’s the seasonal excitement. Maybe it’s the lack of sunshine … or a lack of training.

Whatever the cause, I recently found myself growling and nervously drumming, eager to squash the noise, noise, noise from my boys, boys, boys at our homeschool group’s recent visit to the local nursing home.

We come to play instruments, we come to spread cheer,
We come to sing hymns to the folks gathered here. 

Like the Whos down in Whoville, we’re a jovial lot,
But the Grinch Mama among us most certainly is not. 

Her children are happy but she can’t rejoice
Because of their bouncing, their climbing, their noise.

goodbye grinch mama christmas

It’s easy to characterize my children’s behavior as “horrible” when they have been nothing but jovial, albeit a bit careless and wild. It’s the careless and wild part that I know needs wise attention and careful training in the long run, but in the moment it gets my evil eye and sharp repremand, throwing gentleness and patience to the wind.

All I lack is green fur to adorn my furrowed brow.

I’m not against correcting children in public, mind you, but what really needed correcting in this case was my attitude.

Maybe I should just go get the T-shirt, because that is apparently a thing.

Let’s hold that thought.

While it may be hip and humorous right now to wear our worst attitudes on our sleeves, or even boldly screenprinted on the front of our shirts, these tendencies we (cough, cough, I) have toward grumpiness, selfishness, and stinginess are not acceptable. Let’s call it like it is: sin. That may sound harsh, but it’s actually quite hopeful.

But before we get there we have to recognize that mere authenticity isn’t a virtue. We have to bring Truth to bear on the mess in which we find ourselves. This is why the Scriptures are compared to a mirror–God’s Truth shows us what’s in our hearts (and more imporantly, what’s in His) so that we can, by His grace and in the power of His Spirit, deal with it.

No Mama I’ve ever met finds a rat in her kitchen and decides to make a comfortable bed for it on the counter. Eeew.

If we pursue authenticity as a “righteous” end in itself we risk becoming people who glory in our shame on principle–as though the right response to a bad attitude is to give it a pat on the back. Instead we must recognize that being honest with ourselves is just an initial step toward repentance and growth in Christ.

Acknowledging there’s a rat in the kitchen is just an initial step to removing it and disinfecting.

If we are honest about who we are, Grinch and all, and meet that honesty with the Truth, then we can have hope of both forgiveness for sin and strength for the fight. Then we can know not just ourselves in our futility and weakness, but God in His sovereignty and strength.

This is why I’m saying, “Goodbye, Grinch Mama,” even if I have to say it daily (or perhaps on the hour). She may be at times an accurate depiction of my selfish heart, but she isn’t welcome to stick around. By the grace of God, she’s shown the door as I seek the Lord to produce the fruit of His Spirit in her place.

It’s time to put off the Grumpy T-shirts and put on the Lord Jesus Christ.


The Grinch in our picture book comes to see that Christmas isn’t about all the materialistic things he had taken away from the Whos. The joy and celebration still comes despite his efforts to the contrary.

“Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

His small heart grows three times bigger as a result, and yet, somehow I don’t think it works quite that way for me. My problem isn’t the size of my heart, it’s the content and focus.

Dr. Seuss was on to something, but heart change, perhaps, means a little bit more.

I’d like to say goodbye to her once and for all, that Grinch, but I know it’s a day-by-day, moment-by-noisy-moment repentance and God-oriented faithfulness I need.

The children kept bouncing, and scolding she gave them
‘Til she saw that her anger indeed woud not save them

‘Twas grace that enveloped her more than the sound
Of jubilant voices and greetings all ’round

Grace that proved greater than sin or her goal
Of well-behaved children and a sense of control

She yet could not muster a match for their glee
But a heart now contrite was a sight for to see

“Merry Christmas,” she offered, remembering the One
Who loved a Grinch Mama by sending God’s Son.


These boys… So much joy, so much hustle and bustle, so much noise. It’s the way of children.

This time of year… So much joy, so much hustle and bustle, so much noise. It’s the way of celebration.

Do I make room for such as these? As we welcome the Lord Jesus as a child, am I welcoming my children in His name? Do I make room for the celebration of the Lord, be it a bit more rowdy at times than solemn?

I can’t hold on to my Grinch Mama and answer positively. She’s got to go.