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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Review: Pursuing Justice {BookLook Bloggers}

Pursuing Justice: The call to live & die for bigger things, by Ken Wytsma
ISBN: 9780529108173
Paperback, 352 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Retail: $15.99

About the book:
The ONLY way to find abundant life and happiness is to give your life away.

If God designed us to experience true happiness and abundant life, why do so many Christians feel dissatisfied and purposeless? We try to make our lives better by chasing our own dreams, but that only makes the problem worse. Instead, the path to a just life that’s satisfying and permeated with meaning leads us alongside the orphan, the widow, and the powerless. Using clear evangelical theology and compelling narratives drawn from two decades of global ministry and travel, Ken Wytsma, the founder of The Justice Conference, shows God’s unchanging love for all His children. On the way, the author calls us back to a proper understanding of biblical justice, a redeeming glimpse into the true meaning of righteousness and the remarkable connection between our own joy, the joy of others, and the wondrous Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pursuing Justice shows that God isn’t primarily concerned with personal piety but about empowering His children to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with their creator. The message is as hopeful as it is fresh: when you discover anew the meaning of the Gospel and give your life away, you will find it…and it will be the best life you can imagine.

About the author:
Ken Wytsma is a leader, innovator, and social entrepreneur. He is the president of Kilns College, where he teaches courses on philosophy and justice. He is the founder of The Justice Conference—a yearly international conference that exposes men and women to a wide range of organizations and conversations relating to justice and the biblical call to give our lives away. Ken is also a church planter and the lead pastor at Antioch Church. He and his wife, Tamara, have four daughters.
There are also contributing writers throughout the book, at the interludes: Jeff Johnson, Cathy Warner, Micah Burnes, Alex Davis, Daniel Fan, Lisa Sharon Harper, Tamara Wytsma, Matt Smith, Judith Montgomery, Tom Rowley.

My thoughts:
I've had this book since August 2014. It has taken me way too long to finish. It is not because the book is hard, even with its 300+ pages. It has taken so long because it is difficult to step out of a comfort zone. It is easy to live a life with which one is comfortable. This book challenges those who are comfortable to first look at what justice is and then what it requires. And that means stepping out of the comfortable.

I like the book although there are points that I still question. Wytsma has an agenda, as any writer does. He has a driving force behind why he pursues justice as it is spelled out at the start of the book. His father escaped Holland during WWII. It is something personal for Wytsma. But as he points out, this should be personal to Christians, regardless of their own past or present. 

Wytsma takes readers along many different paths to come to the meaning and fulfillment of justice, in the Word of God and in the lives of Christians. One thing that I felt all the while was that it was to focus more on the here and now, not just the distant countries. But at the same time, the examples seem to focus more on the other countries. I wonder if that is because that is where it is seen more- the justice worked out by Christians. 

I intend to read this book again, with a pencil in hand, because I think there is a lot of good advice and Biblically sound words in it. He does use various translations of the Bible and that bothers me in any book. There is one Bible; there is no need for the many different translations. He points out in chapter 15 that we are to forgive seventy-seven times. Wait, did you read that right? Seventy-seven times? I have never heard it phrased that way. In the KJV, it is "seventy times seven." This is a red flag that points me to the Bible. Everything is to be filtered through the Bible anyway. 

But also, what is right? Like I said, I will read this again. It has touched on an area of my life that I think needs to be checked more carefully- as with any work of this kind, pray, read, and pray more. 

I received this book free from BookLookBloggers book review program for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own and no compensation was given. See Disclosure/Policies.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Humility {& the Innocence of Children}

Humility. It keeps cropping up.

This year, or even spanning from the last few months of 2014, many times 'humility' has come up at my church. Reading in Charlotte Mason's Parents and Children, the second of her six volume set, she brings up humility often. Last year I read Consider This by Karen Glass (excellent book) and a theme throughout was humility. This Sunday, and last, Pastor talked about humility that brings honor to God.

My church notebook holds mostly the verses we turned to last week when Pastor talked on humility: Proverbs 3:5-7; 15:33; 18:12; Mark 10:31-45. There is also a reference to a quote by Spurgeon (along the lines that there is nothing of value in or can come from pride). Luke 14:10-11; 1:52; 1 Peter 5:6; and Philippians 2:5-11.

Karen Glass's book has quite a bit on humility.
"If we are not humble, we are not teachable." ~p. 26
I'd read Consider This before volume 2 of Charlotte Mason's works. Perhaps that is why this sticks in my mind so; that and what seems constant reminders at church. I love this portion by Charlotte Mason, which is found again and again in Scripture:
"Our common notion of humility is inaccurate. We regard it as a relative quality. We humble ourselves to this one and that, bow to the prince and lord it over the peasant. This is why the grace of humility does not commend itself even to ourselves in our most sincere moods. We feel that this relative humility is hardly consistent with self-respect and due independence of character. We have been taught to recognise humility as a Christian grace, and therefore do not utter our protest; but this misconception confuses our thought on an important subject. For humility is absolute, not relative. It is by no means a taking of our place among our fellows according to a given scale, some being above us by many grades and others as far below." Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children ~p. 283, emphasis mine
"As believers, we are to pursue wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. The Bible tells us both that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10) and that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7)- this reflects that reverence for his word, his logos, that keeps us humble and ever seeking for better understanding of all he could teach us." Karen Glass, Consider This ~p. 126
Recently, and not so recently, the meaning of humility has plagued me. It had long been my view that humble meant to degrade oneself and put lower than others. And not just in word or act but in one's mind. Degrade. To want to almost spit on oneself because of how low and worthless one was- but not others.
"Our notion of a humble person is one who thinks rather slightingly of himself, who says, deprecatingly, 'Oh, I can't do this or that, you know, I'm not clever'...'Your children have great advantages; I wish mine had such a mother, but I'm not a bit wise.' Such things are often said, in all sincerity, without the least soup├žon of the 'Uriah Heep' sentiment. The thing we quarrel with is, that the speakers are apt to feel that they have, anyway, the saving grace of humility. It is worth while to reflect that there are no such self-depreciatory utterances ascribed to the Example of that 'great humility' which we are bound to follow; and if there is not the slightest evidence of humility in this kind in the divine life, which was all humility, we must re-cast our notions." Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children ~p. 283-284, emphasis mine
Man was created a little lower than angels. His dominion is the entire earth and its creations. (Psalm 8:3-6) How can one think so lowly of a person; themselves or others? It saddens me. We are lower than God, no doubt. But we are all on the same level as people. God is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:10-11).

But children have humility naturally.
"Children, too, never make self-depreciatory remarks; that is because they are humble, and with the divine Example before us, and the example of our children, we may receive it that humility does not consist in thinking little of ourselves. It is a higher principle, a blessed state, only now and then attained by us elders, but in which the children perpetually dwell, and in which it is the will of God that we should keep them." Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children ~p. 284
"Now, if there be but one humility in the whole world, and that humility be the humility of Christ, and if our Lord pronounced the little child also to be humble is it not because of the indwelling divinity, the glory in the child which we call innocence?" Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children ~p.282
It is essentially taught out of them. As parents, and caregivers otherwise, we make them become aware of themselves to the point that they are too aware by the time adulthood comes around. By then, the notion presented above of humility, the inaccurate notion, is given and degrading begins.

But how to be unaware of self? Because when one is not aware of self, others become important.

This should be the end as I would probably get off track if I continue on. Humility is something that has been coming up again and again. I take that to mean it is something that needs some focus.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Reading List on the Net {02.23.15}

I feel like I posted something yesterday but I wasn't even online yesterday. The days, they just blend together.
Today's list is all from CM friends' posts. But they are not all about 'education'.

Cleveland's Jay Ryan guest posts at Brandy's Afterthoughts: Why CM families should study astronomy. I first became 'acquainted' with the work of Jay Ryan while I was on the TOS Review Crew. He had put out an almanac (since discontinued unfortunately), but he is probably better known for his Classical Astronomy, Signs and Seasons.
"There is no better way to instill curiosity in a child than to teach them to observe their world, as Charlotte Mason instructed. It is important for children to discover their world, to study rocks and watch animal behavior, and identify indigenous plants. But it is also important to observe the celestial bodies, and the amazing visually-apprehended cycles of Classical Astronomy. Indeed, our modern educational system does not teach astronomy as an outdoor activity."
Homeschool burnout. Is February burnout month? I'm with Jen at Snowfall Academy: We hit it at the start of January. For us, we took a very long winter break. I started 2015 with burnout. I'm just now catching my wind! At first I didn't think that we were on the same track with our burnout but the more I read, the more I see I was wrong.
"I had to give up some of what I wanted- some of the 'personal time' that I thought I needed- but I have gained so much more.
Funny how that works sometimes, isn't it?"
I haven't gotten where she is yet. I still need to do some pruning of my 'my time'. I realize I was trying to do too much for me, because I felt burnout. In my case, it's the check off the box- must get it all done- that has to go. I did make that a goal this year but I'm struggling to find the balance. For me the balance is between wanting to do things for myself (not necessarily by myself though) and for my kids (but apparently I have a tendency to see them as not needing me to do it with them). Perhaps our March will run smoother like Jen's February.

I found Lisa's post on fasting interesting. I am not Orthodox, as she is, but I do know the purpose of fasting (as she states it):
"Fasting is a way to learn how to suffer. But we do not fast to punish ourselves for our sins, or to focus on how sinful we might be. The self-denial that comes with fastings is what forces us to turn toward our God and His mercy. It is painful to let go of those habits and indulgences that we hold dear, sometimes without our even being aware of it, but it is precisely in letting go that we become able to turn toward God and our brother." emphasis mine
Lisa's post on fasting is in regards to Lent, which I know next to nothing about. Melisa has posted a list of resources for Lent. I had no idea what it was but one of the opening sentences of her post helps:
"Just as we take the time before Christmas (the season of Advent) to focus on the whole reason for the date being important to us in the first place, we do the same for that thing to prepare our hearts for the day we celebrate Christ's Resurrection from the grave."
That makes sense. Hmmm, we don't do Advent either. Goodness, what do we do? Fortunately, our worth is not determined by these practices (not that Lisa or Melisa are implying that in their posts at all). However, I see how they get us focused more on what's important. Something for me to think about. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Reading List on the Net {02.21.15}

Post-digital revisited. Eh, what? Oh... Interesting. I won't lie and say that I understand all that he is saying in this post but I do think that the normalization of digital has removed the desire to peel back the layers of the new techs to see what it is really about. What will this do, not just how can it be used.
"Nearly 5 years on the term Post-digital is becoming accepted in Higher Education circles as describing the normalisation of the digital in almost all aspects of activity...
The new normalcy of being connected has created a Post-digital environment in which ideology can be embodied in code- a form that most believe to be free of bias."

Liberty University opens nation's first Center for Digital Wellness. I'm rather surprised there aren't more of these already around the nation. Perhaps there are and they are just not publicized well?
10 Steps to Digital Wellness1. It's not "I tweet, therefore I am." Think twice before you post, tweet, text, or upload it.
2. Watch your digital footprints, because they are permanent.
3. Unplug. Take a digital "fast" once a week or once a month.
4. Invest in relationships. Real people trump virtual ones.
5. Establish digital boundaries. Limit when you use digital devices and how much time you spend on them.
6. Find things you enjoy in real life and do them.
7. Get outside. Take walks, feel the sun, and breathe fresh air.
8. Power down and get some sleep. Your brain can't thrive without it.
9. Cultivate your "Godspace" daily. Take time to be still and know that He is God.
10. Be a good steward. Use technology for God's glory.
The Church of the Right Answer. A friend (thanks, Tracy!) posted this to my FB wall after I was complaining (too much) about the research paper I am writing about online K-12 learning. Smiled while I read it but also thought of how much truth it contains.
"Wherever my students go- business, academia, government, Mars- they'll reckon with problems. They'll create things. Their hands will get good and dirty. And if they topple the challenges, fix what's broken, and imagine wonderful new things that everybody needed an that nobody ever realized, the the world will get better...When my students leave, it won't particularly matter what grades I bestowed, or what tests they aced, or what shortcuts to the right answers they could and couldn't find. What will matter are their abilities." I want to quote more but just go read it. *smile*

The title alone caught me. Silvia Cachia is a wonderful lady, and blogger, that someday I will hopefully be blessed to meet. How do I know she's wonderful? Because others have met her and say she is. Besides her writing shows it, too. So when Heather at Bent Leather titled her post "Since Silvia Stole My Post Title..." I had to go read. "I have now lived in the same house for longer than I have ever lived in any one house. I'm restless. I want to move. So thump, thump, thump, I move things around, beg for just one teeny new bookshelf, and spend the rest of the day rearranging. Dusting, Displaying odd bits." Wow- I could have written that. And she has the same Girl Reading painting as I do! Sigh...her home is just beautiful. That's it; I'm going to be working on my home tomorrow! (And a little update on this: I read/wrote it on Thursday. Friday had me working long on a research paper. And I discovered that I cannot rearrange furniture. Sigh. Everything is where it is because that's where it fits. I'll just continue daydreaming.)

Living book authors. It's longer than I expected but only two names do I know (R. C. Sproul and Paul Johnson). Of course the list for past living book authors, I only know five of the names. Yes, I need to read more.

Upcoming Review Book- Kristy Cambron

I read Kristy Cambron's The Butterfly and the Violin August of last year and really enjoyed it. LitFuse posted that her next book The Sparrow in Terezin would be up for review in April. I filled out the interest form as soon as I got the email.

Happy is me! Today I got the confirmation email that I will be receiving a copy to review.

Okay, that is all for now. :)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Conspiracy for Consumerism

"Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns. The very meaning and significance of our lives today expressed in consumptive terms.

The greater the pressures upon the individual to conform to safe and accepted social standards, the more does he tend to express his aspirations and his individuality in terms of what he wears, drives, eats--his home, his car, his pattern of food serving, his hobbies.

These commodities and services must be offered to the consumer with a special urgency. We require not only "forced draft" consumption, but "expensive" consumption as well. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing pace. We need to have people eat, drink, dress, ride, live, with ever more complicated, an therefore, constantly more expensive consumption.*"

When do you think that was written? Recently?

It was written in 1955.

*Victor Lebow, quoted in Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma, p. 130-131. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

{GF/DF/EF} Pancake Recipe -"My way"

I don't measure well. It usually shows in the end. However, I made pancakes yesterday and today without 'measuring' that turned out kind of yummy. Thought I'd share.

{Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free} Pancakes

Your results will undoubtedly differ. What you need:
1 large 'table' spoon- the kind you get out of your silverware drawer, not a measuring TBS.
1 cup measure- I use a one-cup Anchor-Hocking glass one
Medium mixing bowl- might even be able to get away with a small one...
Whisk

Ingredients:
Brown rice flour
Tapioca flour/starch
Sweet sorghum flour
Baking powder and soda
unsweetened almond milk (or dairy-free milk of choice)
Lemon juice
Oil, for mixing in or for the pan
Sweet of choice (I use Sweet Blend from THM)
Xanthan gum (with the starch and sorghum, I might leave this out next time)
Cinnamon if you'd like
Salt if you'd like

Directions:
Scoop 4-6 spoonfuls of brown rice flour into bowl. If they are heaping you'll need less; more leveled, use more. Scoop 2 spoonfuls of the tapioca flour/starch into the bowl. Scoop 1 spoonful of the sorghum into bowl.

Add about a TBS of baking powder- if you aren't 'measuring' like me then you'll just use your spoon and level it. Add about 1/2 tsp of baking soda. That's a bit on the tip of the spoon in my non-measuring method. Do the same with the xanthan gum.

Add powder sweet (if you use stevia, sweet blend, or other even sugar) to the bowl and mix. Also add the cinnamon and salt if you'd like.

In the glass measure cup, pour about 1 cup's worth of almond milk and add a splash of lemon juice. To this you'd add the oil if you intend to add it to the batter.

Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients. Whisk until smooth.

Oil pan; even if you added oil, I still think you'd need a little in the pan to prevent sticking. Cook like you cook any pancakes: Watch for bubbling, then flip and cook for until browned underside. I usually pierce the centers to be sure they aren't gooey in the middle.

Yum!

Reading List on the Net {02.19.15}

There's no special Bible for lazy people. The title of this post caught my eye really quick. Jack Pelham's posts come to my email and sometimes I read...most of the time I just delete. Just being honest. He wrote a post a post ago (or so) talking about Bible interpretation (I think) that I didn't read. I'll have to go back to that one since I didn't have the time at the time. I didn't delete it from email, that one; just haven't read it. Anyway. I don't have the quote right here but from memory, Pelham supposes in this post that the casual reader won't understand the Bible if it isn't spelled out in black-and-white. And even then, there's too much riding on what they read so they make it to mean something else. There are plenty of people who want to package up a lazy man's Bible, because it would be good money for them. There are plenty of people who want to know but they don't really want to take the time to actually read the Bible, and definitely not actually search the Scriptures when they come across passages that they do not understand. We have everything we need in the Bible. It is relevant and as God would have it be. I do like Pelham's underlying (or perhaps not so hidden?) message that when we read the Bible, we have to want to understand. We have to want to be affected by it. We have to want to change. Many just do not want that. They want a lazy man's Bible- but one that tells them what they want to hear.

Stop the stomach flu. Fortunately we do not get sick here often. It's a very rare thing. Someone on my FB feed posted a link to this experiment. Looks very thorough. She compares 'natural' cleaners, such as peroxide, vinegar, and rubbing alcohol, with Clorox wipes and Lysol spray. Looks to me like plain ol' water and a rag does just fine. But I am interested in the peroxide mix. Will look up a mix for that at some point. I've used vinegar many many times but the smell...ugh.

ADHD doesn't exist...Matt Walsh at it again. I've actually not read much of his posts since he's gone to The Blaze (it's a little too flashy over there for my taste). I've long thought that ADD/ADHD wasn't "real". Who doesn't know of many children that don't pay attention, can't focus well enough to get their thoughts together let alone out in a coherent sentence. "Becomes bored with a task unless it's enjoyable." Uh, doesn't that fit almost every person?  (I will also admit that years ago I didn't think autism was real either but have a friend whose boy is on the spectrum- I believe it now. I don't know everything.) I have yet to meet a child labeled ADHD that I could say actually had this rather than it is just part of them being a child (and having weak will, whether through parenting or school, or choice). Anyway, I thought his post, while just as snarky as usual (is that the right word?), is good. What do you think about ADHD? Real or not?
"[This is] what we do in America. We like to think we're better than any other country, that we embrace thought and free expression, but that's a delusion only held by people who've never said anything that defies conventional wisdom. Conventional thought is embraced. Conventional speech is celebrated. Any variation or deviation outside of that norm will be met with brutal resistance."
Tattoo removal might not require lasers soon. Too bad this wasn't around about 10-15 years ago. My sister had a tattoo removed from her hand. It took quite a few treatments with a laser. It wasn't terribly painful (that I recall) but as it says in this article, it damages skin cells.

Israel approves $46 million plan to absorb European Jews. Wow. The news on this is rather short so I can't really say much more than what is in the linked post (you can click on the link in the post but it goes to an even shorter blurb). This is amazing.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Reading List on the Net {02.18.15}

It seems right when I hit "Publish" on a Reading List on the Net post, there are two more things I want to add! It (usually) takes a couple of days to get a post published but I'm always reading something. I'm trying to decide if bullets in these posts will be easier to decipher one 'bit' from another. What do you think?
  • Sketch Tuesday. Harmony Art Mom (Barb who also does Outdoor Hour Challenge). We used to do this...sometimes. I just happened to see the last 'issue' on Google+. I rarely go there; not sure why. Glad I did this time. *IF* I get this post out in time, the next challenge is "Starts with E."
  • I avoided it last time, and I've no links to any this time, because I'm about sick of looking at them but I've been trying to research, and read, articles that show "meaningful learning" within "online learning." I am not finding much more than the students are able to correctly pass their tests. Okay, okay. That's not quite all I find but it's the predominant finding. I do online courses and for a 36-year-old mother, I think that's just fine. I'd rather do a different kind of class but it is what it is. But for K-12? I don't think that it's a good idea. At least not the cookie-cutter way that a lot are designed nowadays (have they always been this way?). They [online courses in general] are designed with older learners in mind and just replicated for children with flashy colors and animations; labeled as age appropriate. Bah! Perhaps I've gotten off track but this post by Tammy is very very inspiring. It shows how a Charlotte Mason education is beneficial to all kinds of learners. I may have shared this before and you know...I don't mind doing it again. What a breath of fresh air...
  • Reading...reading...reading. How to read a book. Or how to lead a book discussion. And coincidentally, this post at the Huffington, brought to my attention by Jeanne: Reading on screens. There are opposing posts to this view all the time. And vice versa. It's an ongoing debate.
"The ways we use technologies lead us to develop particular habits of mind. With print, even though we might skim and scan, the default mindset is continuous reading. It's also focusing on what we're reading, even though sometimes our thoughts wonder. Digital technologies engender a different set of habits and practices. Their default state is what I call reading on the prowl. Think of how much time you spend on each hit after doing a Google search. A minute? Ten seconds? And how likely are you to be multitasking while reading onscreen?"
I am and am not a fan of digital tech. As Jeanne pointed out: It is here to stay; learn to read better with it.
  • Mapwork with Charlotte Mason...and Helena in Ireland. Followed by Brandy's post on Geography and History: "But at the end of the day, one of the primary ways God has directed history is through creation's topography." Hadn't ever thought about it like that.
  • Who is Rob Bell?? I don't know exactly but the megachurch, Mars Hill, is familiar in name to me. This particular post is referring to Mr. Bell's comments on the Oprah show that the Bible is really irrelevant. Yikes. While I think the main point that Mr. Bell is attempting to make is that gay marriage will be accepted by the church, the fact that he is no longer looking to the Bible really puts his opinion to the side of not being worthy of even listening to. Not that I listened to him before. And he calls himself a Christian...?
"This is not being misguided, misdirected, or mistaken. This is leading people astray and publicly denigrating, indeed, snickering at the Word of God. This is the pattern that we always find ourselves in. We begin by being embarrassed by portions of the Word of God. And we move to being to massage the Word of God so that it starts to say the things that we want it to say. Soon we begin to move into ignoring the Word of God." emphasis mine

  • And totally unrelated to any of that- Amigurumi. I've not heard of this before (no surprise- there's lots I don't know about). Linda's posts have me itching to try this! And yet, I cannot even make dishcloths correctly. So many things I want to learn and do...

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