books homeschooling

A Lesson in Writing from CS Lewis

The Kilns,cs-lewis-writing
Headington Quarry,
26 June 1956

Dear Joan–

Thanks for your letter of the 3rd. You describe your Wonderful Night v. well. That is, you describe the place and the people and the night and the feeling of it all, very well — but not the thing itself — the setting but not the jewel. And no wonder! Wordsworth often does just the same. His Prelude (you’re bound to read it about 10 years hence. Don’t try it now, or you’ll only spoil it for later reading) is full of moments in which everything except the thing itself is described. If you become a writer you’ll be trying to describe the thing all your life: and lucky if, out of dozens of books, one or two sentences, just for a moment, come near to getting it across.

What really matters is:–

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keepthem.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

Thanks for the photos. You and Aslan both look v. well. I hope you’ll like your new home.

With love
C.S. Lewis

From the collection of C.S. Lewis’ response letters to children: Letters to Children

Hat tip:

Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc. books culture

Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth: A Totally Good Read

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” Romans 1:16

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect 1 Peter 3:15

An Intellectual Masterpiece on the Modern Worldview

Some things in life are really good.  Like my wife’s lasagna.  A hug from your child. Sunrises and sunsets. Fresh coffee.  Good art.  The finish line of a hard race.

A good book ranks as one of the better things in life.  A good book opensPearcey the mind to new perspectives or ideas.  It takes you away, lifts you to new places and/or brings you down to places you hadn’t experienced.  Good books deliver pure mental pleasure.  In Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity, Nancy Pearcey has written such a book.  A totally good book.

Well, a nearly totally good read.  The book was a wonderful surprise, to include that I now have a favorite non-fiction book with which I have significant disagreement.  Ms. Pearcey’s book is so well written, however, that its strength compensates for and overshadows the areas of weakness with which I disagree.  More on that shortly.

Several months ago, I wrote a blog piece about truth – Truly, there is a God who will be known. In it I pondered how inconsequential and incompatible the concept of truth should be in the secular humanist worldview, yet how aggressive militant atheists argue regarding the truth of origins and destiny.  In contrast, truth is a foundation concept for Biblical Christianity, and the belief in truth is hard-wired into who and what we are, itself an apologetic for the truth of Scripture.  I didn’t think it was a controversial proposition, so I was a bit surprised when a few atheists became apoplectic at what I said.  Interestingly, while they attacked ancillary points with fervor, they never confronted the central issue presented – in a world without God, what is truth and why should we care?

The topic brought me to a book that some colleagues mentioned in passing over the years: Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth.  Once I picked it up, I did not want to put it down again until I had finished.  A real gem that in this reader’s experience starts well and gets better with every page turn.

God blessed Ms. Pearcey with a tremendous mind and wonderful writing skills.  Her insights and logic are reminiscent of her mentor Francis Schaeffer, and her style reminds me of C.S. Lewis.  Like Professor Lewis, it requires very little effort to read Ms. Pearcey and she has a wonderful efficiency with words.  Her reasoning is clear, concise and to the point, which is essential given the scope and magnitude of thought in this volume.  Total Truth is a remarkable intellectual accomplishment.

Ms. Pearcey divides her book into four parts.  In Part One, which she titles “What’s In A Worldview?”, Ms. Pearcey explains the centrality of worldview to how we live.  I’ve read and attended innumerable articles, books, lectures, and sermons on “worldview.”  Frankly, after so many iterations, I rarely find something new or interesting.  Accordingly, I tend to shy away from works presented as worldview lectures. But this book is different.  Ms. Pearcey transitions effortlessly from contemporary and personal anecdotes and experiences to explaining the historical and philosophical origins of the secular-sacred divide in Western thought, what she calls the “Modern Schism.”  One of the more prominent consequences of this schism in our beliefs is that most believers remain blissfully unaware and undisturbed that by and large we do not form and live a Christian philosophy of business, politics or culture.  While expressing personal conversion to faith in Jesus Christ, we live largely the same as our secular humanist counterparts, having compartmentalized secular versus “sacred” value systems.

This Modern Schism did not start in the 1960s.  Ms. Pearcey takes the reader from the ancient Greeks to today to explain the dichotomy of Western thinking and why “Christianity no longer functions as a lens to interpret the whole of reality[and why] it is no longer held has total truth.” Ms. Pearcey explains, “We have to insist on presenting Christianity as a comprehensive, unified worldview that addresses all of life and reality.  It is not just religious truth but total truth.”

After diagnosing the symptoms of our age and how we arrived in this condition, Ms. Pearcey draws the battle line in Part Two of her book.  She identifies the battle over origins as the key and foundational intellectual battle of our time; she titles this section of the book “Starting at the Beginning.” I could not agree more with her prescription, however, as noted below, she advocates that we should all join the battle over Intelligent Design, a tactical mandate with which I do not agree, per below.  Over several chapters, Ms. Pearcey lucidly explains how philosophical materialism permeates our thinking and culture, as a “universal acid.”  She marches straight through the meaning, purpose, frauds and faith of Darwinian dogma and sets out compelling rebuttal evidence and arguments from Intelligent Design.  She concludes Part Two with the chapter “Today Biology, Tomorrow the World” in which she sets forth the universal ambitions of Darwinian philosophy — how it seeks and is largely succeeding in its efforts to present itself as the total solution for all areas of human thought and endeavor, albeit a false solution.

In Part 3, “How We Lost Our Minds,” Ms. Pearcey traces the origins and history of evangelicalism and points out consistent trends and patterns therein, particularly those that left evangelicals so vulnerable to philosophical naturalism.  I found this section fascinating, having never studied it before.  The patterns illuminated many issues I’ve seen and experienced in churches and within ministries.  As part of her review, Ms. Pearcey takes issues with evangelical’s somewhat anti-historical and positivist view of biblical interpretation, with particular criticism for Lord Bacon’s Biblical hermeneutics.   She explains how empirical theology stems from Enlightenment thinking.  She also reiterates C.S. Lewis’ admonition to read the old books, creeds and confessions.

Ms. Pearcey then ties in the history of evangelicalism and the Modern Schism.  She quotes Richard Hofstadter’s observation that to a large extent “the churches withdrew from intellectual encounters with the secular world, gave up the idea that religion is a part of the whole life of intellectual experiences, and often abandoned the field of rational studies on the assumption that they were the natural province of science alone.”

The last chapter in Part Two, “How Women Started the Culture War,” is a distinct, insightful and quite educating analysis of changing female roles during the Industrial Revolution, the Second Great Awakening, and on through to the early 20th Century and how these changes affected families.

In Part 4 “What Next? Living It Out”, the most spiritual portion of the book, Ms. Pearcey reviews the importance of making sure our actions comport with a Biblical as opposed to a secular worldview.  She takes issue with Christians living their lives and conducting their affairs utilizing worldly methods through the flesh instead of relying upon the ways of God.  I heard distant echoes of Watchman Nee’s The Normal Christian Life in this section.  She concludes this section in a similar vein, taking issue with Christian ministries conducting themselves as secular enterprises.

In total, Total Truth ranks as one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read, and an excellent world view assessment.  It could become a classic.  There were however, three points with which I disagreed with Ms. Pearcey and which I believe are worth sharing.

Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc. books culture

Pornified Minds

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. Psalm 14:1

In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Judges 17:6

Since sometime in the 1970s, it’s been too much to expect most liberal art departments at public (and most private) universities to teach let alone endorse the classic questions of the western tradition. Apparently, it appears too much to ask public universities to focus on teaching useful and productive information with our tax dollars.  Is it too much to ask them to stop teaching our kids to be perverts? Must our tax dollars fund Porn University?

“Frankly if you want to take gender studies that’s fine, go to a private school and take it. But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.” Governor Pat McCrory

Newly elected NC Governor McCrory recently wondered aloud whether courses in subjects such as gender studies and philosophy prepared students adequately for the job market, and thus whether public universities should offer such instruction.  Reportedly, the academics in question were taken aback and found such sentiment frightening.  Eighty-five percent of UNC system faculty disagreed with Governor McCrory’s sentiment.  Notwithstanding the self-serving demurrer of our tenured academics, the Governor was correct and perhaps too charitable in his critique.  For decades, our public universities have harbored and fostered professors devoted to intellectual nihilism and communism.  As disturbing as I find that, many in academia are dragging the worthy intellectual history of the western academy further into the depths of depravity.

Instead of continuing what had been the long-standing western dialogue regarding humanity’s relationship to God and purpose for existence, “liberal arts” studies are too rapidly devolving into intellectualizing the depraved and debauched.  Recent examples of such “studies” and of their student bodies (no pun intended):Holy Man Jam, Boulder, CO  Aug. 1970




Illinois University brings porn star to teach sex week, orgasm workshop

North Carolina State’s Student Union Sex Toy Bingo

Swarthmore student group promotes masturbation on campus

University of Chicago performing abortions on campus

Yale hosts workshop teaching sensitivity to bestiality (added March 5, 2014 — you can’t make this stuff up!)

But what do you expect from a collegiate universe that denies God.  As for those deistic universities that didn’t get the message:



Several of the above links are courtesy of The College Fix which itself is courtesy of Nathan Harden, the enterprising young man who recently published Sex and God at Yale: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad, which is a follow-up of sorts a half-century later to WFB’s  premier work God and Man at Yale.

Mr. Harden explains:

there are things happening at Yale today that Buckley could scarcely have even imagined in 1951. While the Yale of Buckley’s book marginalized or undermined religious faith in the classroom, my book tells of a classmate who was given approval to create an art object out of what she claimed was blood and tissue from self-induced abortions. And while the Yale of Buckley’s book was promoting socialist ideas in its economics department, my book chronicles Yale’s recent employment of a professor who publicly praised terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

My, how times have changed!

There is clearly a radical sexual agenda at work at Yale today. Professors and administrators who came of age during the sexual revolution are busily indoctrinating students into a culture of promiscuity. In fact, Yale pioneered the hosting of a campus “Sex Week”—a festival of sleaze, porn, and debauchery, dressed up as sex education. I encountered this tawdry tradition as an undergrad, and my book documents the events of Sex Week, including the screening in classrooms of hard-core pornography and the giving of permission to sex toy manufacturers and porn production companies to market their products to students.

Many Christians are concerned about the character and ideas of our political leaders.  We need to be particularly concerned about how our universities are forming and feeding the minds of tomorrow’s leaders.  As America doubles down on raising our next generations apart from God’s word, focusing instead on man’s opinions, and our culture rapidly declines, we must pray hard and re-commit ourselves to being witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The sun appears to be getting low on the horizon in the West.  The light of the world shines the brightest in the dark. Shine Jesus shine!

Gustave Dore, The Inferno Canto 5

books culture politics, economy, etc.

Off the Amazon: 2.5 million reasons to shop, and elsewhere

Be holy in all your behavior.  1 Peter 1:15

Every action contributes to culture.  While we passionately and deliberately vote every few years, the accumulation of our thousands of smaller actions ultimately contribute more to shape our culture and our country.  Our economic actions have far greater impact on our culture than does our biannual votes.  And the results of those actions?  In general, conservatives are losing American culture.  Related, although I don’t know whether Christians had ever “won” American culture, cultural respect for and deference to Judeo-Christian morality wanes in the U.S. While diligent in how we vote, Christians and conservatives, myself included, have been far less conscientious in our daily purchasing decisions than we have been in our infrequent political votes.

To promote his apparently strong beliefs favoring gay marriage, boss Jeff Bezos donated $2.5 million dollars to promote gay marriage in his State of Washington.  Hurrah for Bezos coming out strongly in support of his beliefs.  I have strong beliefs also, premised in God’s revealed word, as taught in the Bible. Those beliefs clearly teach that homosexuality is wrong.  The fact that two men feel strongly and passionately for each other no more make it moral than when a man feels strongly and passionately for a woman other than his wife.

I’ve been a loyal fan of for nearly 15 years.  I remember buying a book from in 1998 from my dial-up modem and thinking “how cool is that!” … For the last five years, at least, we’ve purchased “Prime” memberships and did most of our Christmas shopping online through  No more.

While I support Mr. Bezos’ right to spend his money in support of his beliefs, I’m not going to spend my money to further his profits, which he uses to undermine Biblical values in our laws and culture. I have not purchased anything on Amazon since I learned of Mr. Bezos’ efforts in support of gay marriage.  With disappointment, we did not renew our Prime membership. It’s been over a month now, and not only has it not been difficult, I’ve found more cost-effective websites from which to make my online purchase.  I’ve been particularly pleased with where the books are often several dollars less than at, the shipping is less (though no “Prime” type membership, yet), and you can have items delivered for free to your local Walmart store for pick up.

Best “general” online store:

Best online bookstore, used and new:

Best sites to purchase Christian stuff like books, movies, toys, apologetics, and generally Christ-centered, counterculture merchandise:

Happy Shopping!

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Political Logic of the Nanny State, Illustrated

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From the tears of a precocious peasant child who loved Jesus …

And thus we see in this life that God has need of the high and the lowly, the great and the small, the gold and the baser metal; and out of all, and through all, and in all, He works His wondrous way, and permits His Creatures to join, as it were, with Him in the turning of the world from darkness to His marvelous light.  Mary E. Ropes, Mary Jones and Her Bible (1882)

Little Welsh Mary Jones was dirt poor.  She loved Christ from the earliest age and studied God’s word from a neighboring farmer’s Bible.  Welsh Bibles were exceedingly rare and hard to come by.  This intelligent and precocious girl was determined to one day have her own Bible.  She worked and saved, and after six years finally had enough to purchase her own.  She walked barefoot from her village at the foot of  Cader IdrisLlanfihangel-y-pennant to  Bala – 25 miles away to buy one from the renowned Pastor Thomas Charles.  He did not have one to give her.  Her immediate tears and obvious devotion inspired the creation of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804.  That organization and its spin-offs have distributed millions of Bible and conducted thousands of translations in the past two centuries.

Although he didn’t have one to give her, Mary’s tears melted Pastor Charles and he nonetheless found someone else’s Bible to give the girl.  Mary Jones’ story is an inspiring read and insight into the not terribly distant past.  Thanks to Mark Hamby and Lamplighter publishing, the book is in print and available: Mary Jones and Her Bible.

From the Bible Society’s website:

The need we address
Bible Society exists because millions lack the Bible in a language they can understand, in a form they can use or at a price they can afford. At the same time millions still have no understanding of the Bible’s value for them and their communities.

We call this Bible poverty.

The vision we have
We are working to see a day when the Bible’s God-given revelation, inspiration and wisdom is shaping the lives and communities of people everywhere.

Our task is urgent. This is because of what people, communities and nations lose when the Bible’s life-changing message is not theirs.

Our task is huge:

  • More than 4,400 languages still wait for even one book of the Bible.
  • Though a billion people can’t read, only 3 per cent of languages have the Bible in audio.
  • Every 5 seconds, someone goes blind but the complete Braille Bible exists in only 35 languages.
  • In our own country the Bible is no longer a point of reference for everyday life.
  • Christians often lack the confidence to apply the Bible’s message in a society that increasingly sees it as irrelevant.

Mary Jones died in 1864 and was buried at the graveyard of Bryn-crug Calvinistic Methodist Chapel. The Bible, she walked 25 miles to buy, is now stored in the Bible Society’s archives in Cambridge University Library.


Already Compromised

“…what they don’t know is that, like the secular schools they wish to avoid, and like the majority of the great Christian institutions of higher learning of the past, many, many of the Christian schools they attend are…Already Compromised.”–Ken Ham

I recently finished reading Already Compromised by Ken Ham and Dr. Greg Hall.  Already Compromised is a follow-up title to Already Gone.  That first book disclosed poll research showing that a large percentage of children raised in conservative evangelical churches were leaving the faith and that most that leave had made up their mind to do so by high school.  The book also disclosed the surprise correlation showing that a child’s regular involvement with a Sunday school increased the risk.  See also here.  The implication was clear – we’re not doing a good job training and teaching our children.  The book was a call for churches to invest in teaching children and equip families to learn Biblical apologetics in an increasingly hostile and skeptical world.

Already Compromised takes the analysis one step further by examining the next phase of a young person’s life, college. The book analyzes a poll of 200 evangelical colleges.  The poll was again conducted by Britt Beemer of America’s Research Group.  They polled the leadership at universities and seminaries on core questions of faith and doctrine.  The leadership polled consisted of presidents, vice presidents, religion department chairs, and science department chairs.  As with Already Gone, the poll discloses some disappointing and surprising  results.

Perhaps not surprisingly, just because a college calls itself “Christian” does not mean that the school is committed to teaching all the fundamentals of the faith, particularly in the treatment of the Old Testament.  There was overwhelming support for the fundamentals of “New Testament” Christianity, ie virgin birth, Christ’s substitutionary atonement, a literal heaven and hell, the Second Coming, and the bodily Resurrection of Christ.  A large percentage of respondents however were not so committed to “Old Testament” truths, particularly in the areas of creation and the flood.  Accordingly, there was also meaningful weakness in many colleges regarding the inerrancy of scripture.

A high level take-away is to make sure you know what your colleges teach if you or your loved ones are attending an institution because they profess to be a place of Christian learning.  Beemer’s survey in Already Compromised does a good job of asking the right questions from several different perspectives to show that one has to really dig to understand what schools mean when they say they believe in the Bible.  A number of the questions show that some schools appear to engage in “newspeak.”  Buyer beware. 

One of the biggest surprises for me was in the research regarding human origins and the Book of Genesis.  One would assume that since evolutions is “Science,” as compared to the religion department, the science departments would harbor a greater percentage of skeptics regarding the creation account in Genesis and support for old earth/evolutionary theories.  Of course, one would be quite wrong.  In reviewing the survey data, Mr. Ham states, “It turns out that the science department is much more biblical in their beliefs than the religion department! … [O]nly 27 percent of people in the science department believe in nonliteral creation days.  Yet 55.6 percent of people in the religion department believe in nonliteral creation days.”  (emphasis in orig.) Schools that agree with AiG’s statement of faith are listed here.

Already Compromised is yet another call to the church to stand up, defend, and teach God’s word.  Greg Hall has an excellent chapter calling the church to apologetics arms. The books are a must read for those concerned with understanding the condition of the Church in the United States.

books culture marriage and family politics, economy, etc.

Legislating Gay Marriage

In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that barring same-sex couples from civil marriage was unconstitutional. In an advisory opinion to the state legislature on why enacting “civil unions” as an alternative to marriage was legally insufficient, the Court explained its view that “segregating same-sex unions from opposite-sex unions cannot possibly be held rationally to advance or preserve” the governmental aim of encouraging “stable adult relationships for the good of the individual and of the community, especially its children.” Under this decision, the state of Massachusetts began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in May 2004. Over the next seven years, activist courts across the country continued to rule that the failure or refusal to extend “marriage” to gay couples violated state and the federal constitution.  See here.

Polls show an ever increasing number of Americans support the notion of gay marriages, demonstrating yet again the normative influence of laws over time and the power and consequence of an activist judiciary. See here.

This past June, the New York legislature was the first body of elected officials to pass a gay marriage statute on its own volition.

Two leading conservative evangelicals point the blame for this unbiblical re-defining of marriage not on the activist courts or the politicians, but instead on the Church. Ken Ham observes of the NY gay marriage law, “This is only the latest in a long list of how America has been turning its back on biblical authority.”  See here.  Mr. Ham points out that the church and Christian leaders have so compromised God’s word and failed to teach apologetics and that faith that the current generations are simply walking away from the faith and Biblical truth is increasingly ignored.  Mr. Ham explains and demonstrates these points at the church and Christian college level in his two recent books Already Gone and Already Compromised

In a recent interview with Charisma News, Dr. Michael Youssef expressed a similar sentiment:

Younger evangelicals have been sucked in by false teaching and are now walking away and turning their backs on biblical morality. The only morality they look at is taking care of the poor by the government—not by us but by the government. That is very dangerous. …

This problem started in the church. The society did not begin to collapse on its own, morally, when churches started to reject the authority of the word of God. The debate about homosexuality started in the church and not politics. The Episcopal Church started the whole thing by ordaining gays and blessing gay marriages. That came from the church pulpit into society. Then the Presbyterians followed and now many evangelicals don’t want to talk about it. The main issue is rejecting God’s word as authoritative over us as individuals and as a church. As goes the church so goes society. The church is the one that needs to repent first. It is my call to the church … to call the church to repentance. Until that happens society is going to continue going in a downward spiral.

Alan Sears recently wrote in American Thinker that the church’s morale failure has been by design, which would make repentance of the church even more difficult:

The church survived intact until late in the 20th century, when the leftist onslaught changed from “in your face” to “in your place,” and activists of every stripe pursued the pulpit in order to further their various causes.  (Thus, certain churches are often accomplices in things like the homosexual agenda instead of an impediment to it.)  Thus, rather than calling the culture to repentance in light of biblical truth, churches increasingly reflected the culture, actually providing a degree of spiritual comfort for all sorts of behavior.

Mr. Sears sees the church’s being encroached  by the dollar and by government.

At, Dr. Jeff Mirus recently explained why homosexuality may provide the impetus for the next gulag.

No group is more hateful to modern society than the perceived moralistic prigs who, out of what most perceive as religiously-motivated prejudice, seek to diminish the personal sexual liberty of others. Nothing could be more obvious in our current culture than that such people must be silenced and, if necessary, restrained. Moreover, it seems only right and just that their denunciation of the gay lifestyle and their opposition to gay marriage should be criminalized. In fact, it should be criminalized in the name of liberty. That is why gay marriage is the lie that will create the next Gulag.

Dr. Mirus concisely explains how we’re following the logical path of “sterile” marriages, i.e. where reproduction is no longer the central focus of marriage and sex. The path started with divorce and then to birth control, abortion, homosexual marriage and increasingly suppression of opposition.  There is increasing evidence of a future where standing for Biblical truths will result in criminal and professional punishment. Dr. Mirus advises that we are to live the Truth of Christ in our lives and in our families in the days to come, particularly in the face of persecution.

The prospect of criminal and professional persecution of those who espouse or practice Biblical truths is not terribly far fetched or far off.  Indeed, my State Bar of NC recently tried to prohibit its licensed attorneys from taking taking sexual orientation, transgender, or sexual identity issues into consideration during the course of practicing law, such as when hiring new attorneys or deciding whether to represent a client.

Not only are Baby Boomers leaving future American generations with trillions of dollars of debt to repay, but these sexual Bolsheviks appear intent on establishing Pink Fascism as part of their legacy. Pray hard for repentance and revival.

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Slavery & Empire – Thank you My Father’s World!

… he suddenly realised what liberty really meant: freedom to bow to the dictates of love and to give yourself to its voluntary slavery.  Apart from the discipline of love, freedom was a dreary wilderness without compass or direction, a desert full of mirages, promising everything but yielding nothing.  Patricia St. John, Twice Freed

For years, our family has used the My Father’s World (“MFW”) curriculum to homeschool our children.   I have MFW to thank for some of my most enjoyable moments this year.

For us, MFW provides the best blend of Charlotte Mason, Classical and Unit Study methods consistent with what my wife and I believe.  The authors (the Hazell family) started the curriculum while raising their children while serving as missionaries in Siberia.  We were also initially attracted by how the Hazell’s gave a lot of thought to engaging preschoolers while teaching multiple grade schoolers.  Later, we’ve come to appreciate the Hazell’s moderation, flexibly ramping up quantity and substance consistent with the developmental stage of a child’s mind.  In any event, MFW is a good fit for us.

Consistent with many homeschoolers, I love books.  So do the Hazells.  They’re thoroughly Charlotte Mason when it comes to learning through quality literature.The Hazells promote Book Baskets (weekly lists of books that correspond to lessons, where the books are kept in baskets each week for the children to read at their leisure), assign family read alouds and offer suggested reading lists (age specific chapter books).  MFW is a giant apple for the book-worm.  Thanks to them, we circulate hundreds of library books through our house every year.

The recent pleasure, for which I owe the Hazell’s a special “thank you,” originated from several of MFW’s family read aloud books and a suggested corresponding movie.  Specifically, our children’s MFW curriculum called for us to read aloud Twice Freed by Patricia St. John and The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare.  MFW suggested that we also watch Ben Hur around the same time.

I hadn’t previously read the books.  Truth be told, I hadn’t heard of either.  What a pleasure and blessing it was to read each to our family.  Great books.  Moving.  Well written.  Thoughtful and they brought to life the history our family was learning.  Ben Hur fit with the readings perfectly as well.  Regardless of whether you homeschool or use MFW, these are great books to read and enjoy with your family.  Thank you Marie and David!

books marriage and family

A worthy family devotional

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. …” John 14:6

One of my goals for this year is to start doing our family devotional every night at dinner again.  In our experience, having a pre-packaged, written out devotional that you can pick up and do with little preparation is essential for me.  After a long day of work, home school, chores, sports, etc., it’s easy to sit down to a family dinner and want to simply enjoy the fine food and fellowship … without more work and thinking, at least in my experience that’s the case.  Even with the best devotional and best of intentions, though, it’s been too easy to fall out of the habit of doing a focused family devotional. 

In any event, we’ve been studying Our 24 Family Ways by Clay Clarkson.  The Clarksons have written several excellent books (to include a good book about good books!) and run Whole Heart Online.  It’s a great study that I recommend to those of you with families.  The devotional is built around 24 week-long studies.  Each study focuses on one family attribute or “way.”  Each day consists of reading several Bible passages elaborating on that week’s way coupled with several conversation provoking questions relating to that “way.”  Each lesson concludes with a suggested prayer.  It’s Bible focused and requires no preparation in advance.  You just need ten to fifteen minutes, a Bible, and your family.

Each of the “ways” is set forth below.  The list alone is worth study.  Again, each way is the focus of a one week lesson.  Our kids have taken to memorizing the list.  It’s a good list for adults also.  I do well to review it regularly…

Our 24 Family Ways
from the book by Clay Clarkson

 Concerning AUTHORITIES in our family…

  1. We love and obey our Lord, Jesus Christ, with wholehearted devotion.
  2. We read the Bible and pray to God every day with an open heart.
  3. We honor and obey our parents in the Lord with a respectful attitude.
  4. We listen to correction and accept discipline with a submissive spirit.

 Concerning RELATIONSHIPS in our family…

  1. We love one another, treating others with kindness, gentleness and respect.
  2. We serve one another, humbly thinking of the needs of others first.
  3. We encourage one another, using only words that build up and bless others.
  4. We forgive one another, covering an offense with love when wronged or hurt.

 Concerning POSSESSIONS in our family…

  1. We are thankful to God for what we have, whether it is a little or a lot.
  2. We are content with what we have, not coveting what others have.
  3. We are generous with what we have, sharing freely with others.
  4. We take care of what we have, using it wisely and responsibly.

 Concerning WORK in our family…

  1. We are diligent to complete a task promptly and thoroughly when asked.
  2. We take initiative to do all of our own work without needing to be told.
  3. We work with a cooperative spirit, freely giving and receiving help.
  4. We take personal responsibility to keep our home neat and clean at all times.

 Concerning ATTITUDES in our family…

  1. We choose to be joyful, even when we feel like complaining.
  2. We choose to be peacemakers, even when we feel like arguing.
  3. We choose to be patient, even when we feel like getting our own way.
  4. We choose to be gracious, even when we don’t feel like it.

 Concerning CHOICES in our family…

  1. We do what we know is right, regardless of what others do or say.
  2. We ask before we act when we do not know what is right to do.
  3. We exercise self-control at all times and in every kind of situation.
  4. We always tell the truth and do not practice deceitfulness of any kind.
books culture

A Tough Season for Believers – NYT

 Ross Douthat had an interesting op-ed and book review in Sunday’s edition of the NYTs.  Quoted in part:

Thanks in part to this bunker mentality, American Christianity has become what [James Davison Hunter author of To Change the World] calls a “weak culture” — one that mobilizes but doesn’t convert, alienates rather than seduces, and looks backward toward a lost past instead of forward to a vibrant future. In spite of their numerical strength and reserves of social capital, he argues, the Christian churches are mainly influential only in the “peripheral areas” of our common life. In the commanding heights of culture, Christianity punches way below its weight.

… . But both books come around to a similar argument: this month’s ubiquitous carols and crèches notwithstanding, believing Christians are no longer what they once were — an overwhelming majority in a self-consciously Christian nation. The question is whether they can become a creative and attractive minority in a different sort of culture, where they’re competing not only with rival faiths but with a host of pseudo-Christian spiritualities, and where the idea of a single religious truth seems increasingly passé.

Full editorial here.  The authors of these books, which I haven’t read, attribute the waning influence of institutional Christianity to the 1960s cultural revolution and the politicization of Christianity in the “culture wars.”  While these certainly played roles in how Americans view church, I believe that over the past century the academic and cultural elite’s cozy relations with humanist and materialist worldviews (e.g. Communism and “amoeba to man” evolutionary dogma), assaults in academic Christology (e.g. the Jesus Seminar and “modern” liberal theology), and rampant consumerism played more prominently in marginalizing the church and pushing the West toward a post-Christian culture.

books culture politics, economy, etc.

Where are all the babies going?

 Everything’s made in China?  Apparently, not enough babies.  At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, it may be more accurate to say that China is very efficient at copying.  It appears they’re also copying some of the manifestations of the modern market economies, namely, plummeting birth rates.

USA Today recently reported on the declining birth rates in Asia.  A society needs a birth rate of 2.1 to sustain its population levels.  Of course, Communist China’s “one child” per family policy and brutal repression of its people don’t help the region’s demographic prognosis. 

 This pattern of reproductive decline to dangerously low levels is common to most developed economies. It’s also dangerous for the indigenous cultures.  The failure to populate leaves the native population vulnerable to being populated by other groups, such as through mass immigration or by war.  The problem is that most advanced economies have also adopted increasingly burdensome social welfare mandates that require a large base population to sustain a smaller number of infirm and elderly.  Kind of like how families in not-so-long-ago agrarian economies had to have a enough children to tend the farm and care for the parents as they aged.

As shown below, most of Europe, Japan, and the former Soviet Union are each in a demographic death spiral.  As also shown, the Islamic countries are “red-hot.”  Interestingly, the Muslim fertility rates in Western Europe maintain the same high levels.  Between those rates and Europe’s massive immigration of labor to sustain their social welfare states, the Muslim world should be poised to “take” Europe and much of Asia, accomplishing by birth and patience what Muslims have been largely unable to do through centuries of war. 

While nose diving demographics is common throughout the developed world, the USA is one of the few advanced economies whose fertility rate does not forecast civilizational suicide.  That and other cultural issues led Canadian Mark Steyn to write America Alone, whose thesis is essentially that the West is in a losing, long-term struggle against Islam and that the US is the last best hope for western liberalism.  Another commentator, Joel Kotkin, is coming out with a book,  The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, that is quite bullish on our nation’s future. interview here.

 A student at Stanford, Michael Shanks, has posted an excellent analysis with the Stanford Humanities Lab online on the aging populations in advanced economies.  His section on fertility rates and population aging looks at the data and its implications more closely.  The map below shows life expectancy by country.  Not surprisingly, the advanced economies lead the world in average life expectancy.

This information further underscores that the 21st Century will be quite interesting and challenging.  The advanced economies and most the West, will feature declining and aging native population bases and correspondingly strong pressures for greater immigration.  The demographics also suggest further cultural clashes between the advanced liberal democracies and Islamic nations, unless Islam rids itself of radical and violent elements and pursues moderation.  Between changing demographics, technology shrinking the globe, artificial intelligence and robotics, and genetic engineering, it will be a century unlike anything we’ve seen yet.

books culture marriage and family

Childhood Connections

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you rise.  Dt. 6:4-7

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Eph. 6:4

The pathologies of Godless living are undeniable and undeniably negative.  Humanism, post-modern thought, and institutionalized secularism produce wrecked lives, broken families, and crushed hearts.  Lifelong relationships are increasingly rare.  The post-modern culture seems inherently hostile to whatever is good and lasting.  Relationships with the living God of creation seem increasingly rare and certainly not appropriate for public discourse in “well educated” circles.  God is now deemed personal and subjective, and better done in isolation.  We’re a mobile, fractured society.  We’re easily fractured from each other and ever increasingly fractured from our creator and sustainer God.  People from “less developed” areas of the world comment on how we retreat into our closed garages and live inside, isolated from our neighbors and rarely in contact with our families.  The body of Christ is thriving and growing most outside “developed” nations.

As people increasingly accept the post-modern paradigm that truth is a subjective experience, the institution of the church suffers.  Churches that try to stay “relevant” to the culture and liberalize their theology become irrelevant and die or simply become moral social action clubs.  The intellectual elites increasingly view the Bible with hostility.  The church in Western Europe approaches extinction.

The family also suffers.  Divorce is now accepted as normal.  Increasingly, young people decide against marrying and opt instead for co-habitation and increasing numbers of children are born out of wedlock and increasing percentages of children are raised without fathers in the home.  Earlier terms had pejorative terms for what we now accept as normal.  Reproduction rates across most of Western Europe have fallen below replacement levels.  The same was recently reported for the native US population.  Within our hermetically sealed suburban homes, family connections are also suffering as we spend more time each year plugged into the latest electronic stimulation and less time each year plugged into each other.

There is an ever increasing body of evidence that these pathologies, particularly the breakdown of the family, have very negative effects on our children, and as a result, on society.  Another recent commission of experts has drawn the same conclusion.  Of note, this analysis also demonstrated the critical importance of a father’s involvement in the lives of his children.

LARGE AND GROWING numbers of U.S. children and young people are suffering from depression, anxiety, attention deficit, conduct disorders, thoughts of suicide, and other serious mental and behavioral problems. Why? What can be done to reverse this trend? In this pioneering report, the Commission on Children at Risk, a panel of 33 leading children’s doctors, neuroscientists, research scholars and youth service professionals, draw upon a large body of recent research showing that children are biologically primed (“hardwired”) for enduring connections to others and for moral and spiritual meaning.

Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities, order here. reports:

Children with involved Fathers are more confident, better able to deal with frustration, better able to gain independence and their own identity, more likely to mature into compassionate adults, more likely to have a high self esteem, more sociable, more secure as infants, less likely to show signs of depression, less likely to commit suicide, more empathetic, boys have been shown to be less aggressive and adolescent girls are less likely to engage in sex.


Bibliophile Benefits

I’ve long been a fan of John Ruskin’s quote: “A book worth reading is worth owning.”  It’s fairly conventional wisdom that a book-rich home encourages children to read which in turn introduces children to the joys of learning, thinking, and imagining.  A recent study now shows benefits of actually owning those books …

 “Home library size has a very substantial effect on educational attainment, even adjusting for parents’ education, father’s occupational status and other family background characteristics,” reports the study, recently published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. “Growing up in a home with 500 books would propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average, than would growing up in a similar home with few or no books. “This is a large effect, both absolutely and in comparison with other influences on education,” adds the research team, led by University of Nevada sociologist M.D.R. Evans. “A child from a family rich in books is 19 percentage points more likely to complete university than a comparable child growing up without a home library.” 

More here.

books marriage and family

Parenting Pearls

I’m convicted by the following observations from someone history has proven to have been an excellent father:

How many parents there are … who are readier to provide playthings for their children than to share the delights of their children with those playthings; readier to set their children to knowledge-seeking, than to have a part in their children’s surprises and enjoyments of knowledge-attaining; readier to make good, as far as they can, all losses to their children, than to grieve with their children over those losses.  And what a loss of power to those parents as parents, is this lack of sympathy with their children as children.

Henry Clay Trumbull, Hints on Child Training (1890).  Mr. Trumbull was Elisabeth Elliott’s great-grandfather.  (Ms. Elliot was the wife of the martyr Jim Elliot, returned as a missionary to the tribe that murdered her husband, and authored numerous excellent books, to include Through Gates of Splendor. )

I have found it odd that while our children are young, impressionable, and living with us and looking up to us, it is so easy to focus on our careers, with a thought of how if we work hard, our senior years might be easier to enjoy.  But isn’t that backwards?  Shouldn’t we try to experience and enjoy the most while our children are with us (and while we’re still younger)?  Mark Twain’s advice seems relevant to this point:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the tradewinds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.

books culture homeschooling marriage and family

Work at home moms

My wife and I recently took a well needed, long weekend vacation – without kids .  It had been many years since we took time off together.  I’ve heard of people who do this kinda stuff regularly, but don’t think I’ve actually met anyone.  The trip was instigated by a kind friend who has repeatedly encouraged us to give effort toward not growing apart.  Wise and hard-earned advise.  Without our kids, the first several hours “alone” almost seemed awkward.  It occurred to me that typically so much of our time is talking about what the kids have done, are doing, or are going to do.  We’ve done a “night out” on occasions, however, those nights are typically taken up with whatever urgent matters filled the day and talking about the kids.  Having several days alone together was really a nice change of pace and opportunity to reconnect.  We didn’t even have to use the “conversation cards” that our friend gave us.

During the course of our vacation, we both also did a lot of reading, at least compared to the snippets we typically sneak in while on family vacations.  I started reading A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.  He brings to life the intrigues of royal court (in a fantasy genre).  He’s an excellent story-teller and developer of characters.  (It’s by no means a homeschooling book nor appropriate for family reading as the narrative is occasionally course and explicit.)  The story places a heavy emphasis on royal families and their maneuverings.  The women of the families play key roles, particularly the queens.  Affairs of family and of state largely overlap.

At some point, not too far into the novel, it occurred to me how at all levels of the story, from the peasant to the noble, the family was the basic operating or building block of the society, which is essentially the agrarian, pre-modern society.  Family came first and nearly everything orbited around the family.  How odd in comparison to our times, where families are fractured and spread across miles and even states.  Families don’t work together very often and it’s quite atypical for a mother to actually work for her own family.  To the contrary, to the liberalized western eye, it is sometimes used as a term of condescension to refer to someone as a “house wife,” ie someone whose business is the affairs of her family.  Although it’s contrary to thousands of years of societal history, we are quite often proud when we send our wives and mothers to work for someone else, to help another person profit.  Strange times. 

This historical oddity of sending our wives and mothers to work for others is the direct result of “liberation.”  Since woman may and can compete evenly with men in commerce, we conclude that they ought to value working for others more highly than working for their own families.  That reminds me of another questionable fruit of gender liberalization – abortion and how we view birth control.  While abortion is an ongoing moral tragedy, birth control is a mixed bag.  I heard Doug Phillips say some time ago that the Bible teaches children are a blessing from the Lord and that debt is a curse to be avoided.  In our modern culture, we work to prevent such blessings while we apply for the curses!  In any event, while woman have certainly made huge advances over the past half-century in the West for the right to equal treatment under the law, we have gone further and lost at least some of what was once such a valued and proud part of womanhood — being the foundation of the family.  We should not now be surprised at the pathologies that now plague the modern family.