Friday, May 27, 2016

Behold Your God: When God is Big, I am Small

Did you know that what you think about God influences what you think about yourself? And what you think of God and yourself determines how you view sin and therefore salvation.  If we want to think rightly, Biblically, about each of these four areas, we have to start by thinking correctly about God.  If I see God as knowable, but limitless; approachable but Eternal and Infinite; full of love and mercy and grace, yet holy and just and righteous, where does that leave me?  If I search for God in the Scriptures and investigate all of his characteristics, how do I begin to see myself compared to Him?

A correct response would be to see myself as insignificant compared to God.  I am far from being like Him. I am frail. Sinful. Filled with darkness. Trapped by blindness. An enemy of God.

I begin to ponder my sin. If God is Holy--completely pure, without sin or flaw or darkness (and He is)--then what must He think of me in my sin? My sin is a thief of the glory I owe to God.  I am unable to approach him, to worship him, until my sin is dealt with. I need an earth shattering life change!  I need to be rescued because I am helpless here.

"Oh, the depth of the riches and the wisdom of God! How vast beyond all measure!" What Grace it is to be rescued from this life of sin and misery.  I have nothing to offer, nothing of substance. To realize that God's love extends towards me, His enemy, and offers to call me His Child? What a gift! Not a cheap gift either.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  He became sin, who knew no sin that we might become His righteousness.  Jesus took on God's wrath, atoned for my sins, bearing my sins in His death.  Look what it took to get rid of this sin nastiness living in me!  Grace! Grace! God's Grace! Grace that is greater than all my sins!

So now? Hallelujah, praise be to God! I made my choice over 30 years ago to follow Christ, but it's taking me a lifetime to begin to get a grip on what really took place in my soul. Because He rescued me from darkness, I want to walk as far away as possible from sinful lifestyles.  Because He delivered me, I am full of gratitude.  Because I am now in God's light, I want to do what is acceptable to Him.  Genuine love now flows from this rescued girl.  How precious to me is Jesus, knowing who He is! Knowing what He did for me when I was a wretch! How could I choose to live any other way? The only kind of Christian I know how to be is the one who desires to know and obey God.

Modern day churches don't always get this right.  I don't always get this right!  We are so prone to focus in on ourselves, our needs, our wants, our way.  We fall prey to looking at the Bible for what we can get out of it, for what it says about me, when it is primarily a book about God!  We define God according to our own imagination, making Him into something so much lesser than He really is. When we start to elevate ourselves, God automatically becomes smaller, and our sins start to look like no big deal.  So what's the big deal about salvation if we don't think we're all that bad off?  Do you see how the spin takes off in the wrong direction?

How much greater our praise and worship will be when we acknowledge God in all His glory!  How much greater our adoration of our Savior when we humble ourselves low! As much as I love the singing time of worship, I am a Word girl. It's preaching that really stirs me up!  How much richer the music and more ready my soul to respond to God if the majority of our singing were after a Word from the Lord!  Some of the hymns of old got it right, such as this one by Isaac Watts:

Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For sinners such as I?
[originally, For such a worm as I?]

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!

Thy body slain, sweet Jesus, Thine—
And bathed in its own blood—
While the firm mark of wrath divine,
His Soul in anguish stood.

Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker died,
For man the creature’s sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give my self away
’Tis all that I can do.

Monday, May 23, 2016

 Several months ago, my ladies' Sunday school studied John Snyder's book, Behold Your God.  (Go online to watch the entire first week for free.)  I watched the DVDs in class and was awed by how insightful and convicting this book was. Shortly after, an evening study was offered for this course, and I jumped at the opportunity to go through it again, this time buying the study book and going through the daily material.  Once again, the Holy Spirit is working in my heart and mind to convict me and draw me before the throne and deeper into Scriptures.

Sometimes...most any is so good to re-calibrate by focusing on God's attributes. He is Infinite.  Limitless. Immeasurable. Unsearchable. FULL.  And check this out:  combine one attribute with another to get an inexhaustible glimpse of this great God we serve. His love is immeasurable. His mercy is unsearchable.  His justice is limitless. On and on it goes.  He is incomprehensible!  And he chose to reveal himself to me! to you! to the world! Through his Word and through his Son.

That makes me Tremble! and bow my heart before this great and mighty God who is all that I am not.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Interested in family photos this spring or summer? This is the perfect way to make sure MOM gets in the picture with the family.  Contact me and we'll set up a time and location. I can't wait!

Photography is a big passion of mine, one that when given time and opportunity, I explore with my family as my muse.  Oceana County is the most gorgeous place to live during the spring, when the multitudes of orchards are in full bloom.  With permission from our friends, my family spent a bit of Mother's Day at the Peach Orchard. Out of all the choices of cherry, apple, pear and peach, I say peach blossoms are the most enchanting, with beautiful shades of pink that no other can beat.

I handed my camera over to my daughters and they each snapped up a few of me that turned out quite darling!  Both of my girls enjoy the creativity of a camera, and are learning some skills of their own.

This girl is such a help to her mama, caring for her younger brothers.  She is very intuitive, and I even started paying her for babysitting services when I want to go jogging and Tim needs to work outside.

This boy. There are no words to express his infectious grin, his mischievousness, his daring naughtiness.  He makes sure we don't get too lazy sitting on the couch for very long!
Some of my children's fondest memories are going to Nana & Papa's house to ride horses.  My dad bought a new horse for his birthday. He's quite a showy Haflinger gelding that will be full of enjoyment!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The War That Saved My Life {book review}

As I’m preparing to lead my children in a 20th Century history course, I’ve been compiling lists of books to read, Netflix and YouTube videos, Pinterest projects and the like.  I came upon a book called, The War that Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, a 2016 Newberry Honor Book, displayed at my local library.  I perused it quickly and stuck it in my bag to pre-read for the school year. While the storyline was really quite spellbinding, I want to share with you some of my troubling thoughts concerning the book as a whole.

Ada, a pre-teen girl, is telling her story of how she was a London Evacuee during the German Blitz of World War II. Born with a club foot, she lived with her mother and younger brother in a flat near the docks.  She couldn’t walk, was responsible for cleaning the home and caring for Jamie, her 6 year old brother. She had never been allowed out of her tiny home, as her mother despised Ada for her condition and it is later revealed that all the neighbors have been told Ada is “simple minded.” Living under great verbal, physical and mental abuse, as well as negligence, she decides to escape with her brother with a group of evacuees heading out of the city for safety.
Along the way, she discovers just how negligent her mother, and as a result of their utter filth and poverty, had to be forced upon a single woman to take her and her brother in for the duration of the evacuation.  Susan, the woman who would now care for the two children, eventually did a commendable job, not only caring for their physical needs, but providing love, kindness and nurturing such as they had never experienced before.
That much of the story was captivating, sharing not only a glimpse of the historical drama, but sharing a girl filled with so much pain, that escaping her mother and the city because of the bomb threat actually benefited her immensely.  Now let’s talk about Susan.  Bits of information about her past seep out through the telling of her story.  She is depressed about the somewhat recent passing of her friend, Becky, who lived with her.  Becky owned prize horses that she used for hunting, but had been sold off, providing Susan with living money.  Susan was outcast from the city, having few friends.  She was disowned by her Preacher Father, because of what she learned at Oxford.  Susan’s birthday represented an especially hard day. I wondered right off if Susan was a Lesbian, but thankfully the book never became any more graphic about the relationship than the statements listed here.  However, I believe any discerning reader would gather the same conclusion I had, since the target audience of this book is pre-teens, that is unacceptable! The reader is lead to believe that just as Ada cannot be responsible for her club foot, and her brother Jamie was born being left handed, so was Susan born with her “condition”.
Now, maybe this isn’t a big deal to you.  Maybe this is something worth discussing with your children.  I’ve discussed homosexuality and the culture with my own tween daughters.  But first, you need to know the author’s stance behind this and the feminism driving this force right at our children. Bradley, the author, admits that Susan is gay and thinks it’s humorous that parents might have a problem with this, because children certainly don’t.  She asserts the obviousness of Susan’s sexuality as well as confessing the whole situation of lesbian lovers living together in the countryside isn’t historically accurate.  Bradley declares on her blog:The fight for gay rights may not be over, but the war has been won. We're past the tipping point. Equality has prevailed; all that's left now is tamping out the brush fires and skirmishes.” She claims that children see expressions of gay love all the time at school and throughout public life, which pleases her greatly that it’s too common to be worth noticing. A commenter on her blog is so tickled that children reading this will able to see Susan’s reflection of such a loving relationship, that it is an invaluable tool for children to recognize and accept this. This woman is apparently a 6th grade teacher, quite excited to teach this book to her students, perhaps in a classroom near you.
In another post, Bradley’s main goal is to “write books that tell the truth”, and to represent the gay and transgender, as well as the non-white and disabled peoples. After all, aren’t they on the same level of morality and inability to choose who they are and how they are born? She asserts that it is “a disservice to our children, who need books that reflect their reality”. My reality and my Truth is a far cry from this lady’s.

CNN acknowledges the Common Core standards get credit for making history books popular.  Do you suppose that with historical books written for children becoming so popular, more authors are writing these kinds of books?  In a democracy, supply and demand is the breadwinner, and it is not too far-fetched to think that authors, knowing there are willing readers and willing Common Core classrooms, to write in such a way to further one’s own agenda? Obviously, writing to an agenda is nothing new, but with public schools backing books such as these and libraries and publishers praising in raving reviews and numerous awards given, there will be no end to books being written that deserve a Christian critique.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Blessings Bible Academy: Nature Study Spring Wild Flowers '12

Nature study is a habit we are trying to instill in our weekly rhythms.  Getting ourselves out in nature can be as easy as taking walks or as complex as one would like to investigate and read up on a specimen of interest.  My 7 & 5 year old daughters, along with my 2 year old son, really enjoy getting outside for fresh air and play, so taking a few moments out to examine birds or flowers & trees isn't too difficult.  Of course, this easily gets forgotten and set aside without a plan, so I tend to follow the plans that I find at the Handbook for Nature Study

Outdoor Hour button

At this site, Barb posts weekly challenges to go study, and they tend to go along with the time of the year.  We don't do much of it during the winter months, but we work hard at making time for it the rest of the year.  There are a variety of challenges that a student can choose to do, and many have free downloads or printouts.  A major tool that goes along with nature study is the book, Handbook for Nature Study, a rather thick book that is chock full of information and lessons to go with your specific study.  You can buy this from bookstores like Amazon, or you can download it for free right now from the Homeschool Freebie.  There are 6 parts to the download, so make sure you get every part.

While nature study sounds nice and maybe even fun, you may wonder why bother?  I mean, is there enough learning going on here to totally skip doing other science?  I suppose that's really up to you and what you're looking for in elementary science.  I choose to follow a curriculum during the winter months, because it's cold and snowy in Michigan.  But here's why I choose to incorporate it the rest of the year.  

I believe that in giving our children "regular opportunities to get in touch with God's creation, a habit is formed which will be a source of delight throughout their lives."  (A Charlotte Mason Companion, p. 253)

Children need to be taught to observe carefully the world around them, and a way we do this is by creating a nature notebook, where the girls draw or color pictures of what we've been observing.  They also add a few notes, such as where and when the item was observed, and maybe a few sentences about it.

As we studied violets outdoors in our yard, I brought out our Handbook for Nature Study and read a few things about violets.  The book contained far more than was appropriate to teach to a 1st grade and younger, such as petioles and stipules (meaning, Mama didn't know what those were yet), but we did discuss how the violets were shaped, how many petals there were, what color the center of the flower was, and the leading lines into the center where the nectar is.

I took pictures of the violets so we could continue the study indoors, and Hannah picked a few and made this bouquet that fit into a curled piece of bark.  I thought it was quite creative and pretty!  She also picked a few so we could try pressing some flowers.

A few days after this, we got out our watercolor paints and first sketched and then painted the violets.  For Makenna, 5, this was the first time she sketched out a picture before painting.  She decided to include a variety of colors, so we came up with bluebells, poppies and snapdragons to go along with her violets.
Hannah was more careful in her approach.  She made sure that the violet in her sketch contained the 5 petals that she observed.

Hannah, age 7
Makenna, age 5

Another reason that I like Nature Study is that it incorporates art into our schooling.  The girls love to do art, and I easily skip over it, maybe allowing them to do it on their own if I'm up to the mess.  Making this a part of our day makes it so much more enjoyable, and the girls are excited to explore the world of art.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Blessings Homestead: Sourdough Starter

Linking to Homestead Revival Barn Hop

I have a dream of living on our very own homestead.  I'm not an animal lover, don't even like your dog licking my hands.  But the idea of living a self-sustaining life off the land really appeals to me.  When I was investigating options in making my own kefir, my brother joked that I was going all "Little House on the Prairie".  I responded by saying, "I guess I got to be who I always wanted to be!"

Sometimes a dream seems like too much to accomplish, and I can get overwhelmed and give up before anything truly gets off the ground.  An all or nothing kind of girl. Not this time, though.  I've got plans, some specific, some not so much, nothing down on paper or in the planner.  But every week I want to add to my list of skills or to my pantry or to my outdoor living spaces that promote homesteading and sustainability.

Sourdough:  what a place to start!  This isn't the first thing I tried, but it was one of the more interesting, on-going projects that I've started.

First, I created a starter.  Following some instructions, I placed 2 Tbl of rye flour and 2 Tbl water in a jar and stirred.  I added this amount again every 12 hours for the next 10 days.  It began to get very bubbly and yeasty smelling and started growing, just like it was supposed to.  Why does this happen?  I've used and made Amish Friendship sourdough before, but that had sugar and yeast in it.  This only has water and flour.  Apparently, our air has wild yeasts floating around in it, and they get pulled into the flour and water, creating a ferment.  On the top of my jar, I used a rubber band to hold a coffee filter over it, so air could pass through, but not dirt and bugs.

Here's a video that explains the process really well:

This lady's site has so much about sourdough as well as many other traditional foods that I would like to investigate further.

Why would I want to go to all this work for bread, when I could just pop ingredients into my bread maker and be done with it?  Or just buy it from the store?  Because I wanted the challenge.  Because I like the taste of it. And because it's healthier. 

It's healthier because of the long process it takes to soak the flour and get the dough ready to bake.  This process breaks down the gluten and makes it more digestible.  It also frees up more of the good stuff--the good bacteria, minerals and vitamins to be freed up to used by your body. Keepers of the Home gives some easy to read reasons as well as some recipes.

I think my starter is off to a good start and I've made a few things, like pancakes and biscuits, and even bread!  I may have baked bread before my starter was mature enough to handle the task, but my husband and I thought it was delicious!  I didn't care for the pancakes, and the biscuits were pretty good. I will experiment some more and post results.

Look but Don't Take

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I love Jesus with all my heart and a truth & Grace seeker. I married the love of my life in 2000 and I've been blessed with 5 lovies that I homeschool. Join me as I blog about my interests.


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