What I’ve Learned in Three Years Away From “Church”

elgiedoorI was raised in a home where regular, frequent attendance of church services was the norm. I was in church by the time I was just a week old, and I attended faithfully from that point forward. It was just a given.

Thus, it’s an interesting story how my wife and I decided about three years ago to stop attending weekend worship services on a regular basis. But it’s almost impossible to relate concisely. There is so much background information, learning over time, fits-and-starts and second-guessing, that it would take a book to explain fully. For this blog post, suffice it to say that we made this decision not out of disillusionment with the institutional church or with any ill feelings toward it. Rather, we had become increasingly intent on following Jesus wherever He leads and we found Him leading us out of this comfortable routine and into something, for us, more dynamic and more intentional.

Not that our attendance at church services and functions had become purely perfunctory. Anything but! I was learning and growing, serving regularly, involved in terrific community, establishing deep connection with fellow believers. At yet, the call away from the more formal “worship services” was unmistakable.
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More Than a Sunday Faith review – Chapter 4

516azsgqv0l-_sx322_bo1204203200_Having defined a biblical worldview and argued for it being superior to any competing worldview, including a “Christian lifestyle”, Suitt draws the first part of the book to a close with an ultimatum of sorts: Trust yourself, trust the world, or trust Jesus. Which will it be? For we do not have the option to “sit this one out”. By making “no choice”, we by default choose the option of trusting ourselves, because it is our own counsel that tells us “no choice” is not only a valid choice but the best one.

One of the gems from this little book is the repeated refrain: “We become the choices we make.” This pithy expression has wide application, and no less so in the matter of what or whom we will follow in our everyday decision-making process. If we choose to follow Jesus as our leader and master (“as Lord”, in the language of the Bible), we will become like Him. If we instead follow our own ways, we will become like them. Psalm 135 puts it very well.

Jesus Himself did not do or say anything without first checking it with His heavenly Father (John 5:19, 8:28, 12:49). Thus, if we are to follow Him, we must do the same. For if we do not take steps to actively shape our worldview, it will be shaped for us — primarily by the lies of Satan, our enemy and the prince of this world. And there is much that will distract us from our intention to follow Jesus!
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“The Swiss Family Robinson” Review

300px-SwissFamilyRobinson2The Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann David Wyss, was originally published in 1812. The title refers not to a Swiss family by the name of Robinson but rather to a Swiss family forced by circumstance to live much like the well-known Robinson Crusoe. This tale, and a great number of other stories of survival on deserted islands after shipwreck, were immensely popular in the period. Most detailed the lives of solitary figures or duos. The Swiss Family Robinson added a new twist by relating the account of a family and how they work together to make the most of a difficult ordeal.

For the homeschooler, this is a wonderful book to be read by a fourth-, fifth-, or sixth-grade reader. While much of the detail does not hold up to close scrutiny to our contemporary expectations for realism — this island must be huge to sport just about every known species of animal, tree, and fruit! — it is a compelling tale of adventure for a younger reader. It has at times a very challenging vocabulary, especially with its archaic terminology and antiquated usage of terms still familiar. (I consulted a dictionary more than a few times myself. Being able to look things up on a Kindle e-reader is very handy!) The dense, complex sentence structure is typical of the era, and paragraphs that span more than a single page are common. This can cause the story to bog down periodically, but isn’t perseverance also part of the curriculum? Due to its publication date, full electronic versions are available for free (or nearly so) from many sources.
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Daily Schedules

scheduleI am greatly aided in life when I have a strict schedule. Not that I allow myself to be a slave to it, but it is a wonderful help for the moment when one task is completed and I ask myself, “Now what?” If I don’t have a ready answer to that question, I tend to make less than optimal use of the time I have been given.

And time is indeed a gift. I have done nothing to earn it. It’s just there, waiting for me at the start of each day. I am especially aware of this great gift at the moment, now that my schedule is more or less completely up to me to set. I feel the (mostly happy) pressure to make good use of this time, and a schedule is one tool I employ to help make that happen.

As a general rule, I try to work as long as Darah is at work. So, from the time she leaves the door in the morning to the time she returns in the late afternoon, I strive to keep occupied in productive activity. For the most part, this is not a problem, as there is plenty to do. Most days, it is just a matter of my deciding to do it. Since there is no one looking over my shoulder to make sure this happens, my schedule is once again a helpful aid in making sure I complete all I have planned for each day.

I know a detailed breakdown of our schedule as it stands currently is of limited interest. I post it here mainly for my own future reference. Also, while this schedule is not yet complete or as comprehensive as I would like, the achievement of what we have so far accomplished is, at least to me, worthy of celebrating. It has been a long time coming!
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Controlling Food Waste

WasteFoodWe have a food waster in our house. One of the boys has gotten into the habit of leaving bowls of food and glasses of beverage completely full and then refusing to eat or drink them. This has actually been going on for quite some time. However, with our newly simplified budget (i.e., less money!), we can no longer afford to let this continue. And, truth be told, the habit should have been stopped well before now on principle alone. Wastefulness is antithetical to our biblical worldview. As stewards of creation, we want to make good use of what has been provided to us and take nothing for granted.

So, starting this week, we are kicking off our math time by figuring out the value of the food that has been wasted on the day prior. Once we make this calculation, I collect payment from the offending party. The payment must come from their own money that they have earned or received as a gift. If they do not have the money to pay, then either we do not buy any more of that food (if it is non-essential) or we work out an alternative payment arrangement in trade (e.g., extra math problems, lose game time).
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Homeschool Update – January 2016

Bethel Hill Seal-estWe’re one month into 2016, so I thought I would post a quick update on the status of our homeschool progress.

Math

Kent, age 11, is nearing the end of his Saxon 54 math book. We started him a little late on math so that we could keep him and Reed closer together in what they were studying. He typically completes one lesson per day, six days per week. If he keeps working at his current pace, he will have it completed within the next two months. Reed, age 9, is making good progress in the same Math 54 book. He typically completes a half-lesson per day, six days per week. As long as he completes this book no later than his 11th birthday, he will be fine, and he is on track to achieve that with no problem. I (Jeff) am about halfway through the Saxon 87 math book. I complete anywhere between 3 and 5 lessons per day, as I am working to get caught up to where I left off in math during my high school career (trigonometry) and am trying right now to lay a good foundation for me to build on in that pursuit. I am on track to complete the 87 book sometime in March, at which point I will move on to Algebra 1. Huzzah!
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Severe Mercy

My relationship with food is largely adversarial. Because I believe that God created all things good and my body is part of that good creation — not to mention a temple of His Holy Spirit! — I believe it is important for me to care for it as best I know how. I believe proper nutrition is a key factor in that equation. In fact, I will go so far as to say that I believe I have been given direct guidance on what sort of dietary lifestyle I need to maintain for the needs of my particular body chemistry.

Sadly, these beliefs often lie dormant. I have a dreadful sweet tooth, and sugar and other sweet treats have been a routine weakness of mine for many years. I entered adulthood by gaining twenty pounds eating day-old donuts by the bagful at my graveyard-shift job at 7-11, establishing for myself a destructive pattern. When my excess weight grows unbearable to me, I’ll go on an extreme fast of some sort or another, only to revert back to my default routine of eating out too often and consuming far too many sugary snacks.
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“More Than a Sunday Faith” Review – Chapter 3

The first part of the book, chapters 1-4, establishes why we need to live day-in and day-out with a Biblical worldview acting as our sole filter for all of life’s experiences. Chapter 1 lays the groundwork for our need in this area, and Chapter 2 contrasts a Biblical worldview with a “Christian lifestyle”, showing why the latter is not biblical and just does not work.

In Chapter 3, Suitt discusses a number of different competing worldviews, both secular and religious, and contrasts each with a Biblical worldview. While Suitt’s taxonomy and definitions of worldviews are not extremely precise, they do a good job of covering the basics. Further analysis on this point is outside the scope of this review, but it is a worthwhile study, especially if the idea of worldviews is new to you or one you have not studied overmuch. I would encourage you to read this chapter carefully and thoughtfully.
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