Category Archives: Biblical Worldview

Discussions regarding the sufficiency of scripture, the inerrancy of God’s Word, and its application to today’s world. (Just a hint: its application is the same today, yesterday, and forever!)

Homeschooling is not unschooling

unschooled“Just let your child follow his interests!” say unschooling advocates to unsuspecting young parents. As free spirits, not wanting traditional schooling, some naive individuals will unplug from the grid and unschool.

Unschooling gets a bad rap. And deservedly so. Its principles–if you can find them–are to let your child learn what he is interested in. Let him go with the flow. If he shows that he likes sciencey things, then let him do some science. If he likes to take apart the toaster, give him the space heater too.

I’m simplifying, but not too much. For some in the post-hippie world, it sounds, like, great to let your child raise himself and teach himself whatever he wants. For those of us who teach–even those of us who have homeschooled for many years–unschooling is a disaster waiting to happen.

I am certain that young men and women who come out of unschooling are nice, respectful, kind, and love their parents. No doubt they were raised by parents who loved them. I will ask, though, if it is loving to pull them so far out of academia that they cannot function to meet the goals they might have liked for themselves farther down the road?

For instance–and I can give you MANY very similar instances–a mom of a 17-year-old told me her child wanted to go to college, and she proceeded to ask me about what classes he needed for his final year of high school. We began with math. “He is just now finishing Algebra 1,” she said. She explained that he really wasn’t interested in math as a younger child, so they didn’t do it. A college bound teen needs four years of high school math in his tool belt. Algebra 1 does not even qualify as high school math, since it is normally taken in 8th grade. So he is already three years behind. After a long pause, the mom admitted that she had probably done her son a disservice.

“My friends just told me to let him do whatever he wanted!” she protested.

Did that mom love her child? Undoubtedly–most definitely. So remember, I am not equating unschooling with unloving. I just want to remind parents that loving your child means doing hard things once in a while. Sometimes it means saying no. Sometimes it means insisting on doing hard work.

Yes, math is hard. My children often reminded me that it was painful. Yet because we loved them, we insisted that the hard work needed to be done, and done well. They learned from the DOING as well as from the subject itself. Doing the hard work built their little characters. It showed them how to apply their hard work to other areas. It showed them how to be disciplined, how to manage time and frustration. It instilled a work ethic and taught them the VALUE of hard work done well. It taught them how to think.

Just as I would not let my toddler run out into a busy parking lot without holding my hand, I also would not let my child decide his own path of schooling. Some unschooling, I propose, happens because parents don’t want to hear the whining of little voices lifted in protest. It is easier to take them to the children’s museum than to plan a four-week science curriculum. Go to the museum, call it science. If he liked it, get him a couple of books at the museum gift store. Done. science kid

One mom told me her daughter was a “real science kid.” In fact, she wanted to focus on science when she got to college. But heading into 9th grade, the child had never done any science before. Fortunately she will have time to get some training from some science teachers so that she will be able to pursue what she says is her real love–science.

My daughter and I had a conversation recently about schooling. She graduated from home school, graduated from university with a Bachelor’s degree, and is moving to graduate school in just a few weeks. I reminded her how much she hated doing school work when she was younger. She got tears in her eyes. “But I am so thankful that you made us do that hard work,” she said. “I don’t know anyone I went to school with who regretted doing hard work in school. They complained, but they appreciated having done the work.” We insisted she do hard things so that she could be ready for whatever. Her “whatever” begins at grad school in not too many weeks.

Let me be honest: we have tried all sorts of schooling: public, private, and home. Never “un.” One child graduated from a public high school and a public university before getting his masters degree at a private university. We didn’t always do it right. We were, however, quick to make changes if what we tried wasn’t working. We admitted our mistakes and moved on. But we never once regretted having our children learn to do the hard work of their academic classes.

“Why do math, if you can’t find math in the real world?” I found this question on an unschooling web site. Really? There is no math to be found in the real world? On what planet? Math is not just about numbers or finding the value of x, which I always found just a bit confounding myself (and thus the reason I majored in English…). Math is about thinking well, logically applying knowledge learned in one area into another. Math is about cars and cell phones, travel and technology, recipes and retirement accounts, measurements and medicine. Math is about statistics and economics and politics. Lack of understanding in math may really get you into trouble with  your bank or your boss. Think you can just hire someone to do it for you? Then you need to be smart enough to earn enough for that.

(I thought, with an English degree, that I could just escape math altogether. God has a sense of humor, though, because my first job out of college was as a communications consultant in an actuarial firm. Translating math-speak into English.)

Look, there are lots of kids out there who will never go to college because they don’t want to. Because they have figured out their own path to life. Because they have already been hired somewhere and earning enough. That’s fine. But what about those kids who unschooled all the way through, like our unfortunate 17-year-old at the beginning of this article, who has doors closed to them because they were unprepared for what they really wanted to do later on? How did unschooling work for him?

See related blogs:

Homeschooling means seeing reality

Homeschooling means pursuing excellence well

Homeschooling well means writing well

Read good books

Rising above mediocrity



Filed under Biblical Worldview, Education, Homeschooling, Parenting

Homeschooling with excellence means seeing reality

genius baby“My daughter is extremely gifted,” a mother informed me. (I wish I had a dollar for every time I hear that one!) I waited for her to go on. “No really. She tests as ‘profoundly gifted.'” That’s wonderful. What are your plans? “Well, she needs to be challenged, because every class she sits in, she is terribly bored. She is going to be 11 soon, and I want her to take an upper-level high school English class. I don’t think she is ready for Advanced Placement (AP) yet.”

Probably not. In fact, I urged the mom to think about the kind of advanced discussions, topics, and types of literature that are read at the upper high school level. Did she really want her daughter exposed to the level of maturity required of students in 11th and 12th grades? Mom hadn’t thought much about that. She just knew her little one needed challenging. Let’s go ahead and challenge your gifted child, but in a way that she can handle it at her age and maturity.

This is reality schooling. While your little sweet one may be extremely advanced, you need to think “big picture.” Is your child ready for the maturity of the other kids in the room? Is she able to hold her own in the discussions, manage the logical, higher-level-thinking going on around her? Maybe for a while. But can she maintain it, realistically?

A  well-designed humanities class develops more than just “objective” academic knowledge. A student assimilates a body of knowledge and learns to analyze, to form ideas, to articulate. There is more to “readiness” for a class than academic ability. It also includes emotional and spiritual readiness. Choosing one or two subjects in which to move ahead, at the expense of other academic areas, doesn’t provide a broad intellectual base. What you get in the end is an unprepared student who is frustrated.

If you are tempted to move your gifted child way ahead in an area, first make sure he has a strong foundation in all academics, appropriate for his age. Some families (ours included) move their incredibly gifted children faster than they should, which often results in a child who is challenged but frustrated. Frustrated  because a) he is not mature enough to handle the material, b) he is not mature enough to handle the ages of the children around him, c) he cannot manage the advanced workload because he has not built a base of necessary work ethics/habits from which he can draw, or d) he ends up feeling inferior in many other ways not pertaining to academics. Or all of the above.

Some parents tell me that their children have earned enough “credits” to graduate at 15. Then what?

Think about it for a bit. The “then-what” means either college, working in the family business or an apprenticeship with a family friend to develop skills, or some other time-filler. Yes, today’s idea of the age of maturity is not the same as it was in Puritan times. So why did he hurry up to graduate? To go to college early?

Let’s talk about going to college early. You homeschool your child so that he can grow up in a protected environment with loving family members, supervised by you and nurtured to maturity. So at 16 he is ready to go sit in class with a bunch of adults who think a rite of passage in college is sex, drugs, and alcohol? “No, you have it wrong. My son will live at home.” Yes, and during the day he makes friends with a bunch of adults who think a rite of passage in college is sex, drugs, and alcohol. You really want that for your young teen?

Remember, please, that high school is not all about credits. It’s about preparedness for life. It’s about discipleship. It’s about maturing. I’ve seen some parents hoard high school credits like money, eagerly aiming their child to graduation by pushing them forward and cutting corners willy-nilly. “I can give him two credits here because he read a history book and wrote essays!”

pushy parentRealism dictates that we take a hard look at ourselves and at our families. Look realistically at where your gifted little love-bug is academically. Feed his mind with books and curriculum that will challenge him at an age-appropriate level while at the same time developing him in all his other areas–physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Refuse the temptation to make your child grow up before he is ready just because he shows some giftedness. Certainly give him Calculus at age 12 if he can handle it, but oversee him with his tutor–don’t shove him into a room full of 17-year-olds and expect him to do well with it. And maybe you also cannot expect him to move at the same speed of those 17-year-olds. So teach him at his own skill level and pace.

Gifted–maybe. Well-rounded in all things–doubtful. I urge you to look at your whole child rather than at just his one area of giftedness.

See related blogs: Educating with excellence, reading well, writing well, rising above the mediocre.


Filed under Biblical Worldview, Education, Homeschooling, Parenting

Home Schooling in High School means pursuing excellence well

“This is why we home school.”

a-messy-roomI hear that phrase a lot, and I’ve said it myself. We choose to home school for so many reasons. Some families are athletic or musical, and they need more flexible schedules. Some just believe that the alternatives out there–public or private schools–are not desirable for them. And others believe that God has called them to raise and educate their children themselves, combining their faith with their children’s education.

No matter the reason you elect to home school, I want to speak to you. Whatever you choose to do in educating your child, do it well. Choose carefully. Don’t over-commit, when over-commitment means you cannot do everything well.

Years ago I had a long talk with a mom whose daughter had spent much of her youth in violin lessons and violinperformances. The child was very talented, said the mother. They had focused on her violin lessons, rehearsals, travels, and performances, almost to the exclusion of anything else. I know it may be hard for some of you to believe this, but the mom told me that her daughter, at age 15, had not had more than elementary math, no science, and no writing or grammar. She was anxiously seeking my advice, and this turned into a very difficult meeting. I had to be brutally honest with her about the reality of her situation. Her daughter might earn music scholarships to college because of her talent, but she won’t get accepted to those colleges because she couldn’t handle the academics. Mom refused to hear what I had to say, and I have no idea what she did for her child afterward.

The lesson here is balance. Yes, those music lessons or those athletic abilities are really important. In balance, however, what takes priority? Is it your child’s figure-skating success, or is it her ability to perform academically, think well, write well? If, on average, your child is not holding her own on those yearly standardized tests, you need to examine why, short of any significant learning disability that may get in the way (and I am not talking about learning disabilities).

Another parent asked my advice on a schedule for her daughter’s first year of high school. She had signed up for all the basics: English, history, Bible, science, math, foreign language, at our online school. Then she added that a local co-op had a Shakespeare class they really wanted, plus she would be taking dance, drama, and piano, and then taking one day to babysit at the co-op while other moms taught. (And she would participate in two major dramas a year.) Given the number of hours in a day, and what it takes to succeed in each academic class (much less sit in each class each week), that child was starting out with a deficit of time, and the hole would just get deeper through the year. “Be ready to pitch those non-academic commitments overboard when it gets to be too much,” I told the mom. They never did, and their daughter was completely burned out halfway through the year.

Choose well, and choose wisely. Be selective about what your children do. Maybe you are like us, with kids who had no outstanding athletic or musical abilities, just wanting to have fun in band or soccer. Our rule for them during high school was “Youth Group Plus One.” In other words, they could do Youth Group and add one more activity beyond that each year. It could be fall sports and a spring job, or band all year, or drama. This kind of restriction was set so that they could learn the layer of priorities in their lives. For our children, work and worship needed to be learned and reinforced in proper balance as they developed into young men and women. They didn’t need more things piled on top of them just so they could stay busy. We didn’t always do a great job at that, but it was a principle we tried to stay with.

exhausted kidOvercommitment plagues most of us. We love lots of things, want to be involved in every great activity.  “This is why we homeschool” cannot–should not–be used as the reason for signing up for more than can humanly be done. If that debate tournament schedule means you will miss too many classes or too many homework deadlines, rethink your priorities. You could say no to the class, but do you need the class more than the debate club? Sometimes you just cannot manage both–one has to give way. Choose wisely and well.

Think about a manageable formula. For each academic high school course your child takes, he should study 1.5 to 2 hours per day, on average. Some courses will take more time, some less. What kind of time is left? (I know I have already stirred a hornet’s nest for some of you, who disagree that any child should spend that much time studying. So be it.)

Sometimes homeschool families overcommit more than “other” families do, just because they use that popular phrase “this is why…” Could it be you and your children BOTH need a little lesson in saying no? Balance work and activity, fun and worship. Say yes to a select few things, and then proceed to ENJOY your homeschool.

See related posts here, here, and here.


Filed under Biblical Worldview, Education, Grammar, Homeschooling, Parenting, Rhetoric

Slouching mediocrity: I already KNOW how to write…

broken pencilParental angst about writing instruction for their homeschooled children fills my email inbox. Somehow parents know that math and science and history are SO much easier to deal with: Answers are either right or wrong.

Children take personal offense, though, when mommy tells them that their paragraphs were wrong.

As a writing teacher, I totally get it. In order to maintain a good relationship with their children, some moms who are not as sure about teaching writing will hire someone else, go to some other source, for help. That’s wise, for parents who just are not comfortable. I maintain that there is a right attitude and a wrong attitude about teaching good writing skills. Let’s take a look at some who misunderstand.

Some parents exhibit a lack of understanding of just how important good writing can be. I wish I had a dollar for every time a parent told me, “We believe a good reader will turn out to be a good writer, so we just expose our child to good books, and we know that when he is ready to write, he will be great.” This is like learning how to cook by eating at gourmet restaurants. Surely you know a lot about good food, right? So cooking like a chef will be a breeze.

Reading a lot of great books will help you in countless ways (see a previous blog about that). Exposure to the timeless classics expands the vocabulary, broadens the reader’s world, allows him to make connections to literary allusions in other works, enhances critical thinking skills, and more. It may also help improve one’s writing simply because his vocabulary is so greatly increased. The practice of imitation in Rhetoric uses pieces of great literature so that the student copies, by hand, the words and thoughts of great writers. Doing so will enhance a student’s grasp of the grammatical flow and thought process of the writer.

However, just absorbing the words in a great book will not translate to making a good writer. It’s not as if he will read and read and then suddenly *poof!* he is automatically a good writer. Not at all.

Similarly, other parents have told me that writing and writing week after week has improved their children’s writing skills. Does he get feedback on his writing, I ask? Well, no, but he is writing. But then how do you know he is improving if he has no guidance, no direction, no correction in his writing?

So there are two elements in growing a good writer: the practice of writing, and guidance in writing. If parents are not comfortable doing that at their own kitchen table, I advise them to find someone who is able to do that for them. Interview that person: what are his or her qualifications? What standards does he use? What experience does he have? I often suggest finding an English major currently in college who wants to earn some extra money, or an English teacher who is retired or a mom at home now.

There is a plethora of online writing classes these days; if you go that route make sure you are getting what you pay for. Will your child get regular, guided, personal feedback on every piece of writing, aiming him toward better writing on his next assignment? Some online organizations just don’t offer that kind of personal service. They are good at assigning but not so good at grading. Remember: no feedback = no growth. Since I teach at an online school I can recommend a very good one to you–just email me and we’ll chat. 🙂

I’ve encountered other kinds of misunderstanding about writing from homeschooling parents. One is that parent who had a bad experience back in third grade with a writing curriculum and was then afraid to try anything again. My advice: don’t give up. (See my post about schooling with excellence.) Keep trying to find that next writing curriculum. Find someone who can help you if you feel lost. Don’t just pass that off as something your child will never be able to do well. Short of a learning disability–and often even with one your child can do well–there is no reason he cannot learn to write at a college level while in high school.

Another comment comes from the parent who tells me that her high school child has joined a “write a novel in a year” club. Someone hands out information on how to write dialog and how to create a good couple of characters, and off the child goes to write a novel. The instruction is vague at best, and the product may be a sweet little story, but this child has not learned college-ready writing skills.

Or the parent who wants to make sure her child is doing “every kind of writing.” Somewhere someone told a parent that her child will be a good writer if she learns every kind of writing. By that I assume they mean journalism, poetry, compare/contrast, opinion, persuasive, short story, and whatever else I may have left out. Let me get you straight on this one: All that is great to know. However, the one basic skill a high school (and even a junior high) student needs in his tool box is Expository Writing: the essay that proves a thesis. College-level writing.

What are those college writing skills of which I speak? The expository essay presents an idea in a thesis and then proceeds to argue that thesis–prove it–with support through an essay. Call it a five-paragraph, ten-paragraph, or twelve-page paper, that is the writing skill your child will need to be ready for those college-assessment tests. Teach him how to incorporate and cite quotes, how to prove his thesis with argumentation, to introduce and conclude well. Teach him to do it in a paper or in an essay. Teach him to do it in a timed format (40 minutes and then 25 minutes, for example), because those college-assessment test writing portions are timed. If you can’t do it, then ask someone to do this for you.

Think of it this way: Your child wants to be a musician and picks up an instrument to play beautiful music. Instead, out come horrid sounds. Give that child lessons and theory; teach him how to play scales and chords; teach him the classics of the masters on that instrument. Then he can go and play all sorts of other types of music on that instrument to his heart’s content. Just as in writing. Teach that expository essay, and that child will be able to do all sorts of other kinds of writing as well, with practice.

See related blogs here and here.


Filed under Biblical Worldview, Education, Grammar, Homeschooling, Literature, Parenting, Rhetoric

Daring to be mediocre

I recently attended a homeschool convention, one of the largest in the country. While I noticed many of the usual things–moms with rolling carts and rows of little heads following behind, little boys carrying wooden swords, little girls donning brightly colored…um…aprons and bonnets–I also noticed the plethora of educational material being sold to homeschool families. Not all of it excellent.

Yes, that is the purpose of the convention, for sellers to market their wares. And yes, this is an enormous group of homeschoolers ready to purchase next year’s collection of curricular materials. But not–absolutely not–is all of that material well done. Nor does it push students toward excellence. At best, it reaches the merely mediocre.

I’m not sure what came first–the poor curriculum or the parent who didn’t want to buy the best out there. Some of it has to do with money. But some, I am convinced, has to do with not wanting to challenge those little sweet children to work hard and do their best.

As a mom, I have heard my fair share of whining (and not all of it from my children). Plenty of times I have caved to that high-pitched, foot-stamping, grouchy-faced I-don’t-wanna. But not when it really mattered in the big picture. In the big picture, we were there, digging in our heels, telling them they were going to work on that hard math until it was done right. Digging in to tell them to rewrite that essay until it shined. Refusing them a coveted TV show until the science was studied. Withholding car keys until the grade was raised.

And when it mattered, we sacrificed and found them quality education where we could, when we could. In our patchwork quilt of educational choices, sometimes we didn’t always make the right decisions, but we were quick to change course the next year in an effort to find them the challenge they needed. Not all of their challenges were pleasant for them. But in the doing, they pursued excellence, and we pushed for it in them.

I wish I could challenge every homeschooling parent–AND other-schooling parent as well–to buck up and be unafraid to do what’s hard for your child. What is your end goal? It has to be excellence, doesn’t it? I’ve asked that question of many, many parents about their children. Some don’t have an end goal in mind, just keeping their heads down to get through one more year. Enduring the sour scowls and moaning meemies while simplifying the load just to get their children off their backs. I’ve watched them take their children to low-goal-setting homeschool co-ops where well-meaning moms teach subjects they might have once studied themselves. I’ve been asked to teach at such co-ops only to be rejected, told that my style of college-prep writing instruction was too hard for their high school students. They just didn’t want to make their children work that hard.

Set high goals for your students, and keep reaching. Don’t give up. (Real story, honest!) One parent told me, “We had a bad experience back in third grade with an English curriculum, so we haven’t done much writing since then.” How old is your child now? “Seventeen.” And he hasn’t written an essay yet. And he wants to go to college. When was reality going to sink in? At that point it was MY hard job to tell the parent that her son was not going to be ready for college in a year.

(Another real story!) Another parent asked, “Is that class going to be fun? My daughter only wants to take classes that are fun.” How old is your daughter? “Going to be a senior.” You have never challenged your daughter to enjoy the hard work. Remember, sister, that labor was hard when you delivered her? Was the hard work worth it? Of course! Why not allow her to do hard things once in a while, reaping the fruits of such labor as she goes along?

Parents: dare to reach for the excellent, the difficult. Challenge your child to work hard and to enjoy the doing of it. Hebrews 12:11 says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” I want to produce in every child that satisfaction of a difficult job well done, having reached higher than he has done before. That’s why I ask my seniors in Rhetoric to write a 15-17-page thesis paper–and then defend it in front of their peers. And they do it well!

I want to see curriculum that stretches the mind and the imagination. Find material that reaches beyond your child’s abilities and urges him to grow. Set the bar high and run beside him as he pushes to get over it. Discard the simple, the “five finger grammar method” or whatever else is cheap and simplistic. Go for the challenge and avoid the mediocre.

See related posts here and here.


Filed under Biblical Worldview, Education, Grammar, Homeschooling, Literature, Parenting, Rhetoric

Looking to myself for healing

Not to be overly dramatic, but pain has been my companion for most of my adult life. It has gotten immeasurably worse in the past year, and finally I have a diagnosis of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. The name doesn’t do much to improve my healing, but at least I know it’s nothing else, and I can focus on how to live with what the doctors call a “neuro-muscular” disorder.

The pain, on a scale of 0-10 where 10 is unspeakable, knock-you-unconscious, reached an 8 at times. The mind can only take so much pain before it becomes confused, trying to cope with so much input. I couldn’t think straight much of the time, lost my words and my concentration, could not read or finish sentences when talking.

And I became depressed. My mind began wandering into unhealthy and unhelpful patterns of thinking. Friends and family had to remind me that I was ill, that this was not my fault, that it was going to get better. I couldn’t think past the pain or the idea that somehow I had brought this on myself.

Some of my unhealthy thought processes cycled around on the theme of “gotta pull myself up by my boot straps and make myself—force myself—to get well again.” That was futile thinking, and perhaps even damaging thinking, to imagine that I had brought this on, and I alone could make this go away.

Suffering from pain on and off for much of my adult life, I had been under the impression that I could bring myself out of this pain, if only. If only I prayed differently. If only I could find the unconfessed sin in my life and repent of it. If only I had a closer relationship with God. Those, I learned, are lies designed to keep me imprisoned in my own feelings of guilt and inadequacy—looking to myself for my healing.

Yet these were some of the things good church-going people were telling me, and those thoughts stem from prosperity gospel preaching. “Name it and claim it” preaching teaches that if you pray the right prayer and believe that you were meant to receive all the good things God has stored up for you on earth, you will get all those things NOW. I may be oversimplifying, but this is the teaching of many popular preachers (Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes) these days, and it has crept into the evangelical church.

In that way of thinking, then, I can state that I will be well, and pray the right prayers, and believe that it is true, and I will be well. If I do not get well, then, it is my fault. What a harmful, damaging lie! Yet this was ingrained in me.

My background is filled with this kind of experience. Of people quizzing me about how I am praying and what I pray for, perplexed as to my continued pain since there were so many prayers. To continue in pain, then, is obviously my fault, because I did something wrong, or didn’t do enough of the right thing, or didn’t pray the right prayer. Yes, I was even told that I wasn’t praying right!

Pastor Russell Moore talks about the heresy of the prosperity gospel, and I paraphrase here: “If you want to know whether you are following Christ, look to your life. So says the prosperity gospel. The problem is that all who preach the prosperity gospel, as well as all other human begins, will end up dead one day. Some will fall ill and suffer.” Then where is their gospel?

Is it my fault, then, when the pain comes back? This has taken me on a path to explore what I know to be true about God. He is sovereign. He does not need me to DO anything in order to receive his blessings. There is no formula to follow—only believe. I don’t need more faith. I have faith. I don’t need to pray a formula in order to gain more prosperity or more health or blessings. I don’t need the Prayer of Jabez or some other prosperity fad. I need God’s sovereignty.

The job of healing me is God’s, if he chooses. And if he does not?

Then God, being sovereign, will provide for me in every way he sees fit. In this I identify with the Apostle Paul, who found himself with a physical illness or pain. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12: 8-10).The power of God is greater than my pain.

And here is the vital point: in this experience God got my full attention. This pain is teaching me much more about myself, and my faith, and my God, than I would have learned free from pain. My life may be poor in health, but it is still very rich in blessings.

So if I do not get healed in this life—if my pain continues for the rest of my life on earth—is this my fault or because of my inability to fix my condition? No: God is sovereign. He is good, rich in mercy, and has saved me not because of me, but because of him. And I know that the final healing will come, when I see my redeemer face to face.


Filed under Biblical Worldview, Health, Pain and suffering

Pornography for women: Equal rights gone wrong

What an age we live in. When I was growing up, the Women’s Lib movement was strong and influential. Women burned their bras (I’ve never figured out why), marched for equal rights and equal pay and recognition. Now Women’s Rights have exploded, gone too far, in many ways, straight into the gutter, without any objective moral guideline.

I entered college determined to follow that “equal rights” route, heading into a career in which I could be independent and strong and powerful. Get my “MRS degree” in college? No way. Only God got in the way, introducing me to my husband early in my freshman year.  I married after my sophomore year, and thirty years later I am certain that was the second-best thing that ever happened. (The best, of course, was God calling my name and saving me!)

The last thing I wanted was to be a mom at home. That was for mindless housewives who had nothing better to do. Or so I believed, until I held my firstborn and fell in love with mothering. But the women’s movement had taken us so far as to have us believe that mothering full-time was shameful, an abandonment of our full potential.

Women’s Lib has brought us abortion on demand, considered a “right to privacy” (except for the privacy of the unborn, some of whom happen to be girls with a potential right to privacy…).

It has ignored the plight of women in our midst, who have been taught that somehow covering up one’s entire body in submission to an oppressive religion is “empowering.” It has totally ignored the same plight of the women overseas who are beaten, whipped, have their hands lopped off, or are even killed in pursuit of the purity of the same oppressive religion.

Somehow Women’s Rights have become selective. And now that same movement of equality has reached into a shameful area, pornography, and has declared that women have the same right to access porn as men. Pornography, then, has been given equal time.

The bestselling book Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels are nothing more than pornography for women, and the books are selling like crazy.  The books, like many bodice-rippers of romances before them, has idealized the sexual relationship, making women wish for something more or better.

Isn’t that what porn does for men as well? Idealizes women, makes them into objects of fantasy and desire rather than human beings with whom one has a meaningful, lasting, enjoyable relationship. Wow, equal rights means we can objectify men now? Way to go! What once was considered shameful is now equal opportunity, equal rights, equal shame.

On to the movies: Magic Mike is hitting the theaters with its objectified males, those men who strip for women. No need for even a story line; let’s just watch men strip. I thought that the Women’s Movement had at one time said objectification of women was wrong, but now that men have taken that stage, so to speak, everything’s equal again. Women AND men can pursue their lust, long for some representation of human perfection, become dissatisfied with what they already have, replace real relationships with something altogether different.

Great job, Women’s Movement. What once strived for equal pay for equal work and a blasting of the glass ceiling, has now placed itself in a filthy sewer.

When we have no moral guideline, this is what happens. If we wish to publicly pursue porn, or if we include the right to kill an unborn baby as part of the right to privacy, or if we look the other way when women are beaten into submission in the name of an oppressive religion, then it’s all classified under the hideous umbrella of Women’s Rights. When no moral compass is objectively showing us right from wrong, all of it becomes a Right, then, doesn’t it?

For years I have said that the National Organization for Women did not represent me. I’ve taken a totally different path than the one they paved, and I have felt “fulfilled” (a term that makes me twitch) all these many years. It’s a shame, now, that equal rights also means equal filth and the right to objectify whomever we wish.


Filed under Biblical Worldview

Where has Christian theology gone?

George Santayana is credited with the famous saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The lesson he teaches here is that ignoring the study of history, the lessons of history, will leave an ignorant public prone to fall prey to the same sorts of events in the future.

We can extend this argument further to Christian theology and Church history.  I believe that those professing Christians who do not study theology, including the history of Christianity, could very well fall prey to the heresies of the past. We see it today,  where Christianity is being redefined by men and women whose audiences do not discern truth from error because they do not know their theology.

In an earlier post I bemoaned the lack of Christian theology in a Christian bookstore packed full of cute little kitschy trinkets instead of the meat of Christian thinkers. There’s a reason this former bookstore has taken the word “books” out of its title. It seems more interested in selling trinkets that sell Jesus’ name than books that teach about His word.

I mentioned in that other post that I saw plenty of Christian Fiction and Christian Romance. Will readers get their theology from these books? I hope not!

We also found on the shelves plenty of Christian Living books by Joyce Meyer, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Rick Warren, and Joel Osteen. However, there was no Francis Schaeffer, no Spurgeon, Augustine, Grudem, Machen, Walther, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, or others. None of the great church fathers, nothing of early Christian church history lined the shelves.

Why does that matter? On the shelves of this bookstore there were NONE of the Church Fathers or the great theologians to counter the drivel coming out of the Emergent Church, which produces a swill of sewage that reinterprets Christianity according to its own sensibility and not according to the truth of Scripture. On that store’s website you can find theology if you want it, but you cannot find it walking into the store. Around the corner from this store, at Barnes and Noble, we found more Christian theology than in this Christian store! Oh, and on the website of this store you can also find a whole category called Emergent Community. Apparently the heresy sells well enough to garner its own category. So the “Christian” in  this Christian store name is actually a catch-all for whatever heresy sells.

So how will people walking into the local Christian bookstore learn theology, outside of God’s word? Apparently your only option is to study the words of the Emergent leaders to find reinvented theology, not biblical theology. There, among the swill, you will find new gnosticism; methods for hearing God’s voice according to some secret, mystical method; or perhaps a new kind of Christianity in case what you grew up with dissatisfied you. And why not reinvent it? Theology and history no longer matter when you no longer rely on the Word of God for your source of all truth.

Hebrews 5: 11-14 talks about those who just want to take the easy, I-don’t-want-to-work-too-hard-on-this-theology route, likening them to those who would prefer gumming baby food as compared to those who enjoy the work of chewing a good steak.

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

The Emergent books tickle the ear. They are sometimes easier for the uninquisitive to digest, because the Emergent Church is geared toward the unquestioning mindset of today’s consumers. The Bible talks about this very thing, likening the watered-down versions of Christianity to baby food versus the meat of Christian theology.

A group called the Christian Research Service put out a study in 2006 about Christian bookstores. It published a scathing report about where most Christian bookstores are headed.

For a national 2006 conference of Christian retailers, “apparently, not one Training session or Workshop is devoted to:

  • teaching Christian bookstore owners, managers, and employees the importance of putting books and materials to the Biblical test, and not compromising God’s holy word under any circumstances;
  • encouraging those within the Christian bookstore industry not to compromise the faith by catering to authors and books that promote non-Christian beliefs and religions;
  • to deny authors, books, and materials that are in opposition to God’s word from entering their stores;
  • apologetics, cult-evangelism, guarding the spiritual welfare of the believer, and defending the faith;
  • witnessing to the lost, and gaining discernment through the study of God’s word;
  • placing emphasis on the salvation of the lost, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, repentance, Bible study, and that there is a real hell and eternal separation from God.” (

This store’s display of kitsch, this paucity of the richness of the early Church Fathers and other great theologians, this embracing of the Christian romance (not too far from the Harlequin Romance) and of Emergent Church writers–this is the sign of the times, in which people will run after whatever tickles the ear instead of the meat of Christian truth.

Just at the times in history when people began to invent their own new Christianity, taking it down dangerous, heretical paths, adherents to the pure truth of Scripture stepped forward and refused to back down to those who would rather take the easier path of heresy. I am crying out to those of you who love the pure meat of the truth, to study.

Study theology; study the history of the Christian church, and you will find it out for yourself. And you will grow sad when you see the watered-down version of popular “Christianity” out there, like I have. And perhaps you too will seek out other like-minded Christians who refuse to budge on the purity of the Gospel in their church.


Filed under Biblical Worldview

Christian “kitsch” a sign of the times?

When Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple, he found his holy place filled with moneychangers and money-lenders. Its open walkways were lined with people trying to make a profit off of Jews, exploiting the fervently devout ones who had made a pilgrimage to the temple during holy days. (Matthew 21:12-13) The rabbis and other holy men seemed to turn a blind eye to the whole enterprise.

Jesus, zealous for his Father’s house, tore down the commercialism, overturning the sellers’ tables. Crass commercialism, profit-making off the backs of the devout—and zeal for his Father’s house aroused Christ’s wrath on its behalf. I wonder what he would say about the crass commercialization of Christianity today.

Recently we visited a Christian bookstore in search of some Francis Schaeffer books. This was not the Christian bookstore I remember from 20 years ago.

This was a large store. Before even making it through the front door, we passed tables of kitsch: toys and pens, teacups and plaques, all decorated with Christian sayings and feel-good slogans. There was even a basket of bath scrubbies–Christian bath scrubbies! Getting clean for Jesus!

Walking in, we saw that fully HALF the store was the same kind of kitsch. Cutesy pictures, wallets, glassware, candles, all with some theme meant to make us think of God. Some have trite sayings empty of content. Some are serious paintings meant to inspire but belonging to some stuffy leather-bound study of a different era.

An eighth of the store is Christian music and DVDs. Another eighth is Sunday school materials for children. That leaves a quarter of the large store for books. No wonder this line of Christian store removed the name “Bookstore” from its familiar logo. There weren’t enough books to pass for a serious bookstore.

We found Bibles and Bible commentaries, plus Christian fiction/Christian romance, and Christian living. In the Christian living portion we found Joel Osteen, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Rick Warren–but not Francis Schaeffer, Spurgeon, Augustine, Grudem, Walther, Sproul, Packer, or Machen. (Around the corner at Barnes and Noble we found more theology than in this store. Seriously.)

I will discuss the lack of theology in another blog post. Today, however, I want to talk about my imperfect analogy of Jesus in the temple versus the Christian bookstore. (I do realize the bookstore is not a holy place; it is a place of business. My analogy falls apart there.)

The Christian “subculture” makes up a huge number of individuals, who purchase music, books, and (some of them) kitsch. I get it. But when is it too much? And why do we purchase and sell such cheap, crass, cutesy-cuddly representations of our faith? (Remember the scrubbies? Some of them were duckies. Christian ducky scrubbies. Yes, they bothered me.) But why are we selling them? The businessman will tell me it’s because they sell. My faith tells me it is a thin veneer.

Is my display of Christian decor meant to please man or God?  And then the question is begged, does that cutesy stuff please God or man? Now, I don’t think God is offended if I have a sequined coin purse that says “I Heart Jesus.” However, is my money best spend on such nonsense? And who am I trying to please? Is this an outward display of piety meant to impress man or God?

Zechariah 7:4-10 asks and answers the question of what God thinks of the outward display of piety, the kitsch and glitz:

Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying,  “Say to all the people of the land and to the priests, `When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years, was it actually for Me that you fasted? `When you eat and drink, do you not eat for yourselves and do you not drink for yourselves?’ “… Then the word of the LORD came to Zechariah saying, “Thus has the LORD of hosts said, `Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.'” (ESV)

In other words, man devises all sorts of ways to show his piety, but God wants something altogether different.

All the sequins and scrubbies, candles and cups can’t possibly do much more than fill the pockets of those who sell them. They don’t save me, and they certainly don’t win me more Jesus-points.

Do we buy and display all those glitzy Christian-lite trinkets in order to show off our faith? Is this an outward display used to impress others–hollow, without the internal conviction—like whitewashed tombs? Or is it an effort to make ourselves more holy?

That last thought is the most devastating–and I believe it is the closest to the truth. The beautiful truth of Christianity, which is not taught much these days, is that I cannot keep myself holy. I cannot save myself, nor can I be holy; only God can save me.

The simple truth of biblical Christianity is that God is sovereign; he is holy, and only he can save me and keep me. There is nothing I can do.

And the simple truth about all the Christian kitsch is that if this is the trend these days—to decorate one’s home so that I look better or feel better about myself, I am awfully empty inside and desperately in need of a real savior who requires nothing more of me than just me.

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A Good Book is Not Hard to Find



Well, it isn’t hard to find if you apply the criteria I have described in the last two blogs, here and here. If you do not want to discriminate about what you read, and you subscribe to the idea that mindless “beach-reading” books are the way to go, then you won’t want to read any further.

My top picks

This is hard to do, like trying to choose my favorite child. While each of my children likes to say he or she is my favorite, and I agree with each one in turn, I really don’t have a favorite. But I digress.

Below I have listed what I consider to be my top classic picks, but somehow I am certain I have missed a few. While my librarian son protests that certain classics are missing from this list, either I haven’t read them yet, or I do not like them very much.

And then I have listed other favorites, lighter reads, not necessarily classics but excellent books in their own right. These two lists consist of what I consider must-haves on the bookshelf. Please send me your favorite titles and tell me why you like them. Don’t send me mindless fluff!

These are in no particular order. Dim the lights; here we go.

  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (and I love many of her other books as well)
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Beowulf, an anonymous work—phenomenal depiction of the hero epic
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (the only Dickens I can recommend)
  • Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper (not the movie—it’s all wrong)
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (his son, Jeff, has written many more of this same genre, all extremely good)
  • Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth, King Lear, Hamlet by William Shakespeare (to name just a few)
  • The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien
  • Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Other excellent reads, very enjoyable, almost like dessert.

  • The entire Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
  • The Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley
  • Coming Home and September by Rosamund Pilcher (the closest you will see me getting to any kind of modern romance)
  • Any of the Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy Sayers
  • Anne of Green Gables novels by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (warning: disturbing violence)
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • Divergent series by Veronica Roth
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • Hammer of God by Bo Giertz
  • Imperial Woman and others by Pearl S. Buck
  • Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  • Pillar of Iron and others by Taylor Caldwell
  • The Big Fisherman and others by Lloyd C. Douglas
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
  • Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Any Jeff Shaara novel
  • The Firm by John Grisham (and most of his earlier novels)
  • Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy (and most of his earlier novels–written by Clancy alone)
  • Wizard of Oz series by L. Frank Baum
  • The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
  • Winnie the Pooh books by AA Milne
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan by EB White
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Well, not dessert. In fact, don’t eat dessert while reading this.)
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Anonymous

Some links for excellent books, other readers’ top picks. (These are not my picks; consider the sources before you choose a book from here. Also read my blog about the elements of great literature.) (There’s no accounting for good punctuation here; why the NYT does not italicize book titles is beyond me.)

What are your favorite classics? What is missing from my list? Remember my criteria, and remember I reserve the right to shoot down any fluffy books that have the audacity to aim for my classic bookshelf.


Filed under Biblical Worldview, Literature