Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Book Review: Motivate Your Child

It's taken me awhile to get through this latest book in order to give it a review.  It's not a tough read, it just gives readers so much to think about that it's not the sort of book that you can skim in a weekend. Highlighter alert!

Motivate Your Child is subtitled "A Christian Parent's Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told."  It's not just about getting kids to do what needs to be done in the short term.  It's about building character and teaching kids to listen to their conscience.  It's about building a strong faith and guiding children to stay true to their convictions in spite of pressures to give in and take the easy way out. On a more practical note, it's about getting children to take more responsibility for their actions. And what parent doesn't want that?

It's a total family program which starts with parents developing their own faith and convictions. Chapters examine how to live with integrity, how to develop compassion, how to teach kids to take initiative, and how to handle correction.  Later chapters teach parents how to plan a "Family Time" where families talk about their faith and convictions and what it means to live out these qualities.

The authors' tone is positive throughout and they provide encouragement for all sorts of families, even those who don't have 2 parents as spiritual guides. It doesn't matter whether you're still planning a family, have young children, elementary-aged, or teenagers. All parents (and teachers) will find value in this volume.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior (Book Review)

Hannah More might possibly be the most famous woman I'd never heard of.  She was a poet, a playwright, an ardent abolitionist and educational reformer and a contemporary of William Wilberforce, John Newton, David Garrick, and Dr. Johnson.  Her writing had a profound effect on British culture and influenced the "modern" thinking that produced the Victorian Era with all its reforms on manners and family life. 

Karen Swallow Prior's book is at once academic and approachable.  Each chapter highlights a different aspect of More's remarkable life. We learn about More's extraordinary talent at writing, about her successes in London society and her involvement with the Bluestocking Circle (a group of women writers and intellectuals).  Though Wilberforce is more well known for his tireless work toward abolition of slavery,  Prior contends that More's connections in London society and her wit and talents were just as influential.

Then there's More's involvement in the Clapham Sect, her championing of educational reform for women, her interest in animal welfare,  her contributions to the Sunday School movement, her work in missions. The list of her accomplishments is long and deep.  If she hadn't been maligned by one biographer and swept away in the post-Victorian backlash, her legacy could not have been buried.

This is simply one of the best books I read all year.  Prior's doctoral dissertation provided the research base, but her writing style propels the reader through the story. Each chapter turns up another aspect of More's life and Prior includes the unflattering aspects along with the good ones.  In doing so she presents More as wholly human, but with a fierce spirit that makes her one of my new heroes.

Note: Fierce Convictions is on Christianity Today's list of the best books of 2014. Well deserved.

I received a copy of this book from Book Look Bloggers in return for an honest review.

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist
Karen Swallow Prior
Nelson Books, 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why Are We Here?

A few months ago we stopped attending our church's contemporary service because I questioned some of the content in our congregation's worship music.  There's been a slow drift over the past couple of years toward bringing in popular secular music as a worship response.

Sure it's fun, and you can dance to it, but are we neglecting the gospel?  When I've shared my concerns I get mostly blank stares or half-hearted attempts to justify.  People automatically assume that I don't like contemporary Christian music.  Not true.

I'm not trying to be a spoilsport. It's just that my mouth can't sing "Lean on Me" when my heart, soul, and mind want to sing "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms."

Thus, it saddened me today to see the juxtaposition of Offeratory music between the contemporary and traditional services.  I wasn't at the contemporary service, but a sympathetic friend told me she thought of my decision this morning.  Since I wasn't there, I grabbed a bulletin from the 9:30 service and there it was.

In praise to our glorious Father in Heaven, our contemporary service offered "We are Here" by Alicia Keys (who sang it on the Today Show--so that makes it OK!)

We are here for all of us.
We are here for all of us.
That's why we are here, why we are here.

Good news indeed!

In contrast,  the traditional service responded to the Word of God with   "My Jesus, I Love Thee"

My Jesus I love thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

What is our purpose?  What is our witness to the world?  Whose gospel do we preach?  What encouragement do we give to believers?  Go ahead and call me out of touch, a traditionalist, or whatever name you will.

I know why I'm here.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The One Year Devotions for Active Boys (book review)

I would really love to get my boys into a devotion book with me. I use the YouVersion app to read my daily devotion and my boys (and I)  love watching any of the What's in the Bible-themed devos (produced by Phil Vischer of Veggie Tales fame), but I have trouble getting them to listen to a written devotional.

The One Year Devotions for Active Boys is my best hope right now as they approach the preteen years.  This devotional is divided into days of the year and each page contains a theme for the day: expressed in a story, a skit, or a passage to read and think about.  This is followed by a puzzle or instructions for an activity, a brief prayer, and a Bible verse.

The passages lend themselves well to being read out loud as a family, the puzzles are fun (but not too challenging), and the activities definitely appeal to my active boys.  April 1 has some harmless pranks; May 6 includes a balloon sword fight. There are jokes and tongue twisters and weird facts about different things.

I like the writing style of the messages: conversational and not too heavy-handed, but with a solid Biblical foundation. The daily activities are fun to try as a family.  I just wish the Bible portion was labeled as that and not as coming from "Life's Guidebook".  I understand where the authors are coming from, just wish they would not shy away from the word Bible.

It's meant to be used as a family, perhaps after school or dinner or during some downtime (not before bed!).   Fun and thought provoking and not a video screen in sight.  Not for preschoolers.  Best for ages 9 and up.

I received this book from the Tyndale Blog Network in return for an honest review.

Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears (book review)

Brave Mom by Sherry Surratt
Fear, at the appropriate moment, is a good thing. However, sometimes we let our fears about our children dominate our lives and we can wind up spending much of our time worrying about things that are not likely to happen.

What mom doesn't battle fear at some point:
*  Can I handle being a mom?
*  Is my toddler always going to have behavior problems?
*  Will my child be safe?
*  Will my teenager go astray?
*  Will my adult child succeed?

Sherry Surratt, President and CEO of MOPS International, addresses these fears--and more--in her book Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears.

Surratt reveals the havoc that fear, anxiety, and perfectionism can play in our lives. She has us examine some common safety-related fears to see how reasonable and probable they are. She specifically addresses the fears that accompany the life stages of being a mom. Then she addresses how we can face and manage our fears and not only become brave moms, but raise brave children as well.

Surratt loads Brave Mom with anecdotes and advice that is based in faith and common sense. In the tradition of MOPS-related books, it's filled with practical, down-to-earth advice that most women can relate to.  My children are school-aged, but I remember having some of those early fears (that never came to fruition) and I eagerly read the section on teenagers, since that's the stage that's on the horizon.  I feel encouraged by her words and by the words of other women whose contributions Surratt included in this book.

Brief chapters, questions and answers, and end of chapter reflection/discussion questions make this ideal for a mom's group.  Highly recommended!

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers in return for an honest review.

Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears
Sherry Surratt
Zondervan, 2014