Thursday, December 18, 2008

School holidays

School holidays are upon us and I think I will remove myself from the blogosphere for a while.

I only have one child at school, so in some ways, it shouldn't make that much of a difference - but I find that it really does. None of our usual activities to fill the week are on, and the family dynamics all change having all three at home all the time.

I find the school holidays a challenge personally. I need to mentally plan to get through the holidays well. I want to give my children the time and energy they deserve and need, and not feel torn towards other activities (like the computer!).

I am hoping to read more over the holidays too, so will return with more book reviews in time.

So, off I go...

Hope you all have a wonderful Christ-filled Christmas and a fun start to the New Year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Santa - yes or no?

As it is coming up to Christmas, some issues that we conveniently ignore at other times of the year rear their head again. And, for us, this year it is Santa.

We decided when we had our first child 5 years ago that Santa would not be part of our Christmas celebrations. Our reasoning was mainly that:
  • We felt it was lying, pure and simple. I know that sounds a bit harsh, but that was our conclusion. We instill the idea in our children that they must always tell the truth, so we must do the same.
  • We didn't like the idea itself - that there is an all-present, all-knowing being (other than God), who judges you purely on your merit, and if you are good you are rewarded with presents. It runs against the entire message of God's grace in the gospel.
  • And practically (and somewhat selfishly!) - why should this pretend person get all the credit for knowing exactly what you wanted for Christmas and getting it for you? No-one loves you more on earth than your parents, who long to give you good gifts.
So, for the last five years, we have managed to avoid most references to him and ignore him in the shops. And, when we told our extended family of the decision not to have Santa, they were supportive, even if they may not have agreed. (As an aside, both G and I were raised with having Santa at Christmas, and yes, we enjoyed it).

However, this is the first year we have a child at school and it is no longer avoidable. Santa is everywhere and the subject of the song for the class Christmas concert. So, for the first time, we are having questions or comments from our 5 year old about Santa:
1. "Santa lives in the North Pole doesn't he?'
2. 'Santa comes at Christmas time and brings lots of presents", etc.

I wondered at first about how to answer, but decided to go the honest and open path, and so said:
1. Well, no. Santa isn't real, he's pretend, so he doesn't really live in the North Pole. But in the pretend story about him he does. (and then went on to explain how Thomas the Tank Engine is not real, even though in the story he lives on the Island of Sodor; and how the Wiggles don't really live in Wiggles World, but with their families).
2. No, Santa doesn't bring you presents, Mummy and Daddy (and other family members) buy you presents so that we can all celebrate Jesus' birthday together.

And for those of you who think we are little too harsh, can I add that:
1. We love Christmas in our family - we have a fun advent calendar, we put up the tree together, all of us have special stockings that I have made, we cook lots of yummy food, we celebrate with family and friends and generally have a great time. I don't think anyone is 'missing out' here without Santa.
2. We try to help them to realise that some other people like to pretend that Santa is real and we don't want to spoil it for them.
3. I know a lot of Christians who do choose to have Santa in their homes and that is fine with me. As long as Jesus is the at centre, everything else is peripherial anyway!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Motherhood

Well, it's taken some time to finally getting around to reading the articles that I had put aside from the October Briefing, mainly on Motherhood.

I found the article from Lesley Ramsay helpful at a number of points. She stated that 'in God's eyes, what you do as a parent matters more than any other job you will ever have'. This is a good reminder that what I do as a mother counts and is important. I found her explanation of how 'not to love your children' extremely helpful. She said that we are not to idolise our children, make them the centre of our lives or make our goals for them the same as that of the worlds: 'They may say, "'You don't love us!" but we should reply, "I do love you. I just love Jesus more. And so should you." ' (I have the eBriefing so if you want a copy, ask me, copyright lets me send it on with some restrictions.)

Nicole had highlighted in her post that there were additional articles available online. I downloaded the ones from JC Ryle on the Duties of Parents (2 parts). It was obviously written some time ago, as the language was more formal than we usually read. However, it was great. Insightful, forceful and biblical. It's long, so you need to be ready to sit down with it for a while. He starts looking at Prov 22:6 (Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it), and then goes on to outline 17 (!) things we should be training our children in. I especially liked the ones on training them to a knowledge of the bible and training them to a habit of prayer. You may not agree with everything he says, especially perhaps in the later points, but I found it a timely reminder nonetheless to continue to think about how we train our children in the Lord.

Both of these articles emphasised the importance of the home as the place of training, and the role of mothers (mainly) in this role. As a stay-at-home mum, I was reminded that just because I do not work outside the home, I cannot assume my kids get more time from me - if I choose to fill it with washing, cooking, cleaning, blogging (!), rather than with them.

There was an interesting article in The Australian paper today "The momification of the US first lady", which reports that Michelle Obama has decided "to the chagrin of Democratic feminists" to be a mom-in-chief and give up her job. The mood from feminists seems to be that because she can be in a high-paying job and she has degrees from Princeton and Harvard she should be using them. Columnist Ruth Marcus is reported as complaining "when the needs of our families collide with the demands of our jobs, it is usually the woman's career that yields".

To which I want to reply 'of course' and 'so what?'. How is the 'feminist agenda' come to this where they think (for example) that a family with two young children who are about to be the most public in the world do not need their mother looking after them, and it is entirely appropriate that she should be the one doing so (seeing her husband was elected, following a path they decided on, to a rather busy job).

I do find the constant belittling of women who choose to stay home tiring. And it is a choice - I feel privileged to have the choice - not all women do. My husband has to work, but I have the choice. And (most days!) I am very happy with my choice.

****

By the way, the article on Children of Divorce (Generation Ex) by Karen Beilharz was excellent. I thought her suggestions on how to reach out as friends and churches to children of divorce very helpful and her general comments were very insightful to someone who has had no personal experience in this.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent Calendar

Finished the planned advent calendar, just in time!!

I did decide to re-create something different to last year, which I discussed previously.

Thinking about how to make the one I use more fun for the kids, with things to open, etc, I decided on a box creation. A store in Central Markets has all these cute little noodle shaped boxes, and in lots of colours, so it was easy to set up. I just stuck a number on each.


The more important thing was deciding what to actually do with the calendar. In the end, I made up my own, using the one by Kent and Barbara Hughes, in Disciplines of a Godly Family, as a base.

I have changed a number of the readings, questions and prayers, but the general format stayed the same.

So, I have now created a booklet with all 25 days in it, each containing bible verses (NIrV), a special verse, questions, a prayer and an idea of what to draw in a picture. We will draw a picture each day, and put it up on the wall near the boxes.

I felt there was a challenge to make it appealing to 2 levels of children, one who is reading well  (5) and another who has not even started yet (age 3).

In the end, I selected a 'special verse' as the Hughes did for each day for Mr 5, and then summarised it into a phrase or short sentence for Miss 3.

A print out of each is in the box, as well as a treat of some kind (balloons, bubbles, and a whole lot of Christian knick-knack things from Koorong - stickers, bouncy balls, erasers, etc)



I have had fun doing it, and since I really only started on Saturday, it has not taken long at all.

In theory, I am happy to share the booklet with others, however, I am concerned about breaching some sort of copyright with regard to the Hughes' calendar. I have acknowledged them as the main source on it, but I want to be careful.

I am looking forward to doing this with the kids, especially as we are getting more and more Santa-drivel from school!

*****

They looked cute stacked too, until they all fell down!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Lucky, blessed or just thankful?

I had an unfortunate accident last week, which resulted in our large steel toolbox falling on me in the laundry. It hit my head and arm, resulting in some impressive bruising (which the photo does not really do credit to!) and quite a bit of pain.

However, when I thought about it later I realised it could have been much worse. My baby daughter had been in the room only minutes before; I was looking down (not up) so it hit me on the skull rather than the face; it hit me with a flat part, rather than a corner (which, I suspect, could have caused quite severe damage); and if it landed any other way, it could have broken my foot, nose, wrist, etc.

So, when I later explained what had happened to people, I was forced to look at the language I use. It's easy just to say "I was lucky", but I don't like saying that, as it implies that's all it was. I feel unnatural saying "it was a blessing", and really, being hit in the head by a steel toolbox is not a blessing!

In the end, I realised I was thankful. Thankful it had not been worse and that all was fine, and it was a timely reminder to look at how we store some things. Of course, I mean thankful to God, who controls all these events, large and small.


As an aside, I was amazed how few people commented on the bruises except close Christian friends, quite a few who joked something along the lines of "has Husband been at you again?". It did make me think how unprepared we are to confront potential signs of domestic abuse. I wonder if I would ask a friend or an acquaintance what had happened if she sported similar marks, and in a way to allow her to speak whatever the truth was (although, I suspect victims of domestic abuse don't show their scars quite so openly and happily as I did). These are much more sobering thoughts.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Advent calendars/Jesse tree

Do any of you do one of these - I mean a distinctly Christian version, not something where the kids get a chocolate each day and nothing else!

For the last two years, I have done a version of Kent & Barbara Hughes' in Disciplines of a Godly Family. Overall it has been good, but has been a bit advanced for the stage my children are at. Having said that, A could probably follow most of it this year and read along with the readings, but I have been thinking about re-writing it a bit, or finding another version. I found one at http://www.cresourcei.org/jesse.html which I still have to look into in some depth.

I am wondering whether anyone else out there has one or does one that they like? It's only a week until it is supposed to start and so time is running out!

I suspect as a backup I will go with the Hughes' version again, and take detailed notes as to ideas or changes as we do it, with the hope of actually thinking about in in January, rather than next November, again!

Nicole commented that she would like to see what I do for the actual tree, so I have now attached some photos. I made a very simple one two years ago - 2 large white pieces of cardboard stuck together, a tree drawn on it and then ribbons fed through it via punched out holes. The ribbons hold up the numbers/bible verses which are printed on the computer on business cards. An opened paperclip attaches them to the ribbons. Hopefully this is clear when you look at the photos (mocked up for tonight, so yes I know most of the numbers are missing!). I fix it to the wall and it's done.



This is a simple option, which appealed to me as I don't mind if the children play with it and wreck it - it's easily fixed and all the verses etc are on the computer and easily reprinted. As they all get older I may make a nicer one, but I want to keep the appeal for my son, so I don't want it looking too 'girly'.

For each of the days, there is an extended reading as well as a verse for the day, the verse is what is printed on each of the cards. There is also a suggestion as to what you can make for a craft. We have just drawn a picture each day and pinned them up in a big line around the wall, near the tree itself.

For the first year, we are really competing with Santa (thanks to Mr 5 now being at school), so a friend suggested we make this as appealing as possible - perhaps I will figure out a way to attach little parcels as well, or make a pocket type as others have done. However they have really enjoyed it for the last two years.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Book Review: Leading Your Child to Jesus

Leading Your Child to Jesus, David Staal

This is a really helpful book. It helps you to think about how speak to your children about matters of faith, your own faith and conversion, God's plan of salvation, and how to help children pray to God to accept him as their Saviour and Lord.

It is short (122 pg) and only has 6 chapters, all of which are very readable. It is full of stories and anecdotes, as well as a biblical foundation and helpful suggestions and information.

Staal is the director of the Children's Programs at Willow Creek. He starts off by making clear that children can enter into a saving relationship with Jesus (something many would personally testify to) and that as as parents we need to commit to becoming comfortable at speaking simple, personal faith explanations. The rest of the book goes on to give help on how to do this.

Some of the things I found helpful:
  1. It was eminently practical. In Ch 2: Share Your Story, he makes the point that our personal stories of conversion are likely to resonate with our children more than any other. Therefore, we need to be prepared to share them at any time. He then leads you through thinking about your own conversion: what you were like beforehand, what happened to you when you were converted and how your life has changed since then. He helps you to think about how to make it age-appropriate to children, and finally to trim your story down to four sentences. I now feel I could explain my conversion at age 17 to my 5-year old in a way he would understand.
  2. As the previous point suggested, throughout the book, he has exercises to do to practice yourself. I normally never do theses types of exercises in Christian books, they often seem a bit contrived to me. However, I did most of them in this book. And I found a number of them very helpful: such as thinking about what each of your children currently understands about God and Jesus, or how I would explain in a few sentences the key points of the gospel.
  3. It encourages the need for a response from a child to the gospel, in prayer. He gives us (parents) the tools to help our children through this in a simple yet effective way, which he terms the ABC prayer: A (admit sins and ask for forgiveness), B (believe in Jesus and that he died for your sins) and C (choose to follow Jesus the rest of your life). This section also had some helpful guidelines for judging whether your children are really ready to pray such a prayer.
  4. The reminder that children believe what they are told, especially by their parents, so these early years (0-5) give a great opportunity to lay a spiritual foundation. He had a number of tips on how to make the things of God a part of everyday life.
  5. His final chapter acknowledged that some parents reading the book may themselves 'not have a story', that is they themselves have not made a profession of faith, and then addresses the need to look into the things of God themselves and make a decision. I thought this was a really helpful issue to address, rather than assuming that all readers have committed their lives to Christ.
He had a few suggestions towards the end about how to reach young children with the gospel, which were all helpful - talking to them about God, talking about 'God made the animals', etc. We have done this with our children, and it becomes second nature after a while. Some other things we have done to make an obvious God part of our lives are:
  • pray with them even as babies as we carried them to bed, it has set up an expected pattern into childhood that we always pray at the end of the day
  • say grace with them as soon as they are starting solids, our 15 month old puts her hands together now as soon as she gets in her highchair
  • pray for ambulances, fire engines and police cars when they have their sirens on. It always seemed a bit macabre to me to get kids excited about sirens when they actually signify a crisis. We always now pray as we drive when we hear an ambulance.
  • we have made up little photo books called "God loves me" and "God made me", for our children, godchildren and nieces/nephews. The "God loves me" has photos of all family members on consecutive pages, with the writing on the opposite page, "God loves me", "God loves Mummy & Daddy", "God loves Nanna & Grandad", etc. As we live interstate from all family, it has been a wonderful way of teaching the family names to them, but more so, teaching them that God loves everyone. The book ends with "God loves everyone" and John 3:16 printed out. The "God made me" one, has the immediate family and then "God made trees/dogs/birds/flowers, etc", the things that children see regularly. At the end that one has "God made everything" and "God has made me His"
What other things do you do to teach your children about God and Jesus daily?

One question this book raised for me is that he talks more about Jesus, whereas I tend to talk more about God. eg. I say to my children more that "God loves you" rather than "Jesus loves you" - is this a cultural thing do you think or is more going on here? Have you ever thought about this?

Anyway, this is a helpful, easy to read and very practical book - and about a topic very close to many of our hearts.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Children's Bibles

(This post has been updated in 2011, see it here)

What Bibles do you use with your children? We have so many, all of varying quality!

I personally find that most of the bibles for very young children are very average, excluding key parts of the accounts, or just ignoring them. Now, as I shop for bibles I have a mental checklist of things I really would like them to include, they include:
  • Gen 3 - the account of sin. So many ignore this. How can we possibly teach children of their need for a Saviour unless they know that the world needs saving?
  • Abraham and God's promises to him. I am amazing at how many bibles go from Noah straight to the story of Joseph and his coloured coat, skipping over one of the key promises God makes.
  • Some Psalms or Proverbs.
  • Some details post-ascension: the coming of the Holy Spirit, the growth of the Early Church, Paul and his letters, Revelation.
  • In a more detailed bible - to include the account of the plant in Jonah 4, rather than finishing with Jonah saying yes and going to Ninevah.
What are other things you want children's bibles to include?

Here are some of the better bibles we have come across:
  • The Beginner's Bible (Candle Books). Our 3 year old really likes this one, the stories are more detailed, and she can follow them, the pictures are engaging (although not entirely realistic - how often do fish smile happily when they are caught?). We have used this one from ages 3-5.


  • My First Bible (ill. Andrew Gleeson and Sophie Keen; Parragon). This our son enjoys (he is 5). The illustrations are less engaging and colourful, but the stories themselves are good and quite detailed.


  • The Big Picture Story Bible (David Helm, ill. Gail Schoonmaker). This is a great bible for the 4+ age group (as our family only goes to age 5, I can't guess an upper limit!). It is one of the few children's bibles which really pushes the idea of Biblical Theology - that there is one unifying theme through the whole of the bible, God's people under God's rule in God's place. Our son loves it - the illustrations are vivid and often from odd angles, which he enjoys. The individual story units are sometimes very long, so we split them at times.
  • The Jesus Story Book Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name, Sally Lloyd-Jones, ill. Jago. We have just finished this Bible with our 5 year old, and it was great. It draws attention in each story to how Jesus will or does fulfill each part of the bible, Old or New Testament. The illustrations are engaging and enjoyable, they use the occasional full page side oriented layout so you have to turn the book to the side to read certain pages. It does not shy away from some details and some emotion. I think this is the only Bible that made my son actually pause and realise that what happened to Jesus on the cross was truly awful and very sad.

My big question at the moment is: when do you actually just give your children a full bible? And what version? I would love people's input on this, as I don't have much idea.



Fiction Books

I know writing about a list of your favourite fiction books is fraught with danger, as everyone's tastes are so varied.

However, these are my 4 favourite series of all time:
  • Diana Gabaldon, Outlander Series. There are 6 books so far in this historical fiction series. I discovered them when I was pregnant with C and bedridden for about 7 weeks with morning sickness. They are huge and completely draw you in to the story. The premise is that an English woman in 1945 manages to travel back in time 200 years in Scotland and gets caught there (don't worry about the physics of it!). However, she knows what is to come in the future (ie. Culloden). There is (as to be expected) a love story wound through it all. They are very detailed, enjoyable and interesting. If you don't like overly descriptive love-making scenes, you may be put off, but even then I think they are worth the read. I have just downloaded all her podcasts off her website to listen to how she writes, for some listening while I exercise. I am eagerly waiting for books 7 & 8 to be released.
  • Jean Auel, Clan of the Cave Bear Series. Another historical fiction series of 5 books. These ones are set in prehistorical times and the story line is based around a young 5-year old girl (Ayla) losing her family (she is an Early European) and a group of cave-people who adopt her. The differences between the two groups of people (set up as those who become modern people and the pre-historic cave people who eventually die out) is the basis of the story for much of the books, with, in time a love story (of course) thrown in in later books as Ayla grows up. Another aspect of these books that I loved was that while fiction, she explains the way many new discoveries by humans may have come about (eg. flint starting a fire, the taming of animals eg dogs and horses) which I found very interesting. Again, if you do not like overly descriptive sex scenes, you may want to skip bits!
  • James Herriot, Vet Stories - these are published under various titles, including All Creatures Great and Small, or It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet. These are the stories of a vet in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1930s. They are lovely stories of his early years in vet practice and the people and animals he worked with. It was later turned into a BBC series.
  • William Horwood, Duncton Trilogies. He has written 2 trilogies, I think the first was the best. It is the story of a mole community and how they live. What I really enjoyed about it though it there is an an analogy to the Biblical account. It starts with a pair of moles (Bracken and Rebecca), and while a lot of it is a love story, it always looks forward to a coming of a Messiah-life figure, the Stone Mole. It has been a long time since I have read this series though, I might return to it again soon.



Other good fiction books

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, John Boyne. A friend recently recommended this book to me. It was excellent and thought-provoking. It's one of thoses books where you don't want to give too much away. But, it is a story about a boy who lives in Berlin, whose father works for 'The Fury' and who is promoted by him so they much move to 'Out-With'.

This is a powerful book which made me think a little more about people and how things are viewed through the eyes of a child.


Of Marriageble Age, Sharon Maas. The story of 3 Indian children as they grow up is followed through this book. It's obvious that their lives will all intersect at some point, but she skilfully takes you through the story so that you are constantly wondering how. I have not read many books set in a Indian culture and I enjoyed learning a bit more also.




The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett. The story is based around the building of a major cathedral in the 12th C and the people who are involved in it. It spans their entire lives. It is a fascinating read of those times.






I know of course that there are many other wonderful books out there, this is just a selection!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Book Review: Disciplines of a Godly Woman


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This is edited from a talk I gave a few years ago about this book:
I cannot praise this book highly enough. I first read it two years ago, as part of a book group I am in and we were all very challenged by it.
Barbara’s starts by looking at 1 Tim 4:7 ‘Train yourselves to be godly’. Godliness is something we must work for. It doesn’t just happen. Our lives are spent training ourselves to be godly, like we would train for a marathon. Instead of making me feel overwhelmed by this task, I instead found it an encouragement - that is why it is hard to be godly, because we must work at it - it’s not meant to be easy!
She says if you are willing to eat properly to stay healthy and to exercise to keep your body fit, how much more should we be committed to training to be godly women.
This idea of discipline is then used as the structure from which to look at every aspect of our lives. She starts with submission, saying that as Christians we are called to submit to God in everything. Our entire lives should be lived in submission to Jesus as our Lord. I thought this was a great way to challenge women about their attitude to submission, that is, submitting to God's authority in everything. Too often these days the word submission is only used in regard to marriage relations, which either sends off alarm bells for some and puts others immediately into defensive mode again having to explain what it really means. However, putting everything in the framework of submission, really emphasises that it is a 'whole of life' idea.
Barbara then divides her book into chapters which deal with: the gospel, prayer, worship, our minds, contentment, propriety, perseverance, church, singleness, marriage, nurturing, good deeds, witness and giving and grace. What a list! I could not think of anything she had not covered!
Rather than go through all of these, I will share 5 things that really challenged me. These may not be your issues at the moment, but if you read this book, you will find something that is.
1. The Chapter on our minds. This really challenged me to think about what I spend my free time doing. I like turning on the TV at the end of the day to just chill out a bit. However, I have a bit of an addictive personality, so can watch a show once, and then always want to watch it. I can spend hours doing crosswords and Sudoku puzzles and lots more time quilting.
Instead it is now my personal challenge to put aside 1 hour after the kids have gone to bed, to read my bible, pray and then read from a Christian book. Even in the last week, I have read more than I have in ages. And for me, at this stage in life, 1 hour of uninterrupted silent time is precious!
(This has changed somewhat in recent years, I certainly watch much less TV, but spend much more time online!)
2. Chapter on Marriage. She talks about women and their role as helpers in the marriage. And after reading this chapter, I have decided that I like the term helper and I am happy that my role is to be a helper to Husband.
It also challenged me again to think about how to honour him, rather than joining in the standard ‘bag out your husband’ conversation. I want to work much harder at honouring him whether he is there or not and encouraging others to do the same.
3. Chapter on Singleness
The chapter on singleness is very good. She starts by talking about her granddaughters, saying that we might assume that her prayer is that they meet the right man to marry. But no, instead she prays that each of them will realize that perhaps singleness is a desirable option for their lives, especially in light of the gospel.
She clearly says that singleness is a good thing, and that God has purposely placed each one of us in the position we are in.
4. Chapter on Giving - I am always challenged by anything about giving and how we should share our resources. I have decided our house should be much more minimalist - not only should we give away what we do not use, but not buy it in the first place and give the money away instead. Obviously, this will take work, but we are thinking about it again.
5. Chapter on Nurturing. This is how she addressed our roles as mothers, but she expands it to be much wider than that. So it is applicable to all women. She says that nurturing life is uniquely female and we can use it in so many ways - being mothers ourselves, becoming adoptive or foster carers, looking after troubled kids and youth, and having a friendly and welcoming house that models care of children.
She says that if 1 of 4 Christian families made a decision to adopt or foster children who are in need, what an amazing witness we could have to the community at large. It’s a big challenge, but one which definitely got me thinking.
*
Overall, as you have probably picked up, I think this book is great.
Throughout, Barbara uses illustrations of her own life, her close family and her friends. Through it not only did I feel I got to know her a bit - but I felt that she was eminently qualified to be writing this book. She has been through a lot, and has come through it a godlier woman. (I have since met her briefly, and still have the same very high opinion!)
I also found this book a good counter to general feminist ideas in the world today. I am so programmed by the world, that I bristle sometimes with the notion that I am a helper, a nurturer and I am to submit. However, it made me stop and think again - what am I as a woman before God? I have again been glad to affirm that I am Husband’s helper and the nurturer of my children, but more than that that I am a child of God, loved by him and therefore willing to submit to Christ as my Lord.
Barbara and her husband Kent have written a number of other books, all of which I recommend. Kent has written a companion book, Disciplines of a Godly Man. In fact these books have become our standard gifts to many we minister to for their 21sts. They have also written Disciplines of a Godly Family, which I also found very helpful. But by far, this one has been the best for me.
Please read this book - you will only benefit!

Book Review: Loving Life as an at-home mom

Loving Life as an at-home mom, Donna Otto

Some more detailed thoughts of this book:
  • it was enjoyable to read, and quite interesting
  • it had a helpful mixture of practical and Christian advice
  • she spends some time trying to convince women of the need to be at-home mothers (which I found a bit unnecessary as I am already convinced). She dwells a lot on financial implications and other things, which are all things women need to think through.
  • it seemed to have a good focus on God and his word and how that should shape us
  • some of her practical advice I found less helpful, eg. how to organise your wardrobe, shop for clothes efficiently and how to organise your house. However, if these were things that one struggled with and wanted advice on, one might find it helpful. I just already have good systems that work for us.
  • she makes finances a major point in a number of areas, which is fine, I just did not find it particularly relevant to my thinking (although, I admit, perhaps this is more relevant for others than for me)
  • she has a number of helpful family mottoes (Otto mottoes) which I liked, which were just phrases they started to use in their family to make a point.
  • it had a very American feel, which does not bother me, but others sometimes do notice.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Marriage books

As well as parenting books, I read a lot of marriage books. Most of these are written from a Christian perspective, but not all. Partly this is because I think we can always work on improving our marriages, but also because part of my husband's job includes preparing people for marriage, so I like to keep up-to-date with the books that are available. I have a pile of books for engaged couples that I still need to read, will include them once I have done so.

I am not going to write detailed reviews for other books, until I re-read them I think - it's been too long. All of the preparing for marriage books we read are at least over 10 years old.

Love and Respect, Dr Emerson Eggerichs. This is the best book on marriage I have read for ages. It is helpful, honest, realistic and biblically based. For a more detailed review see here.


The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work, John Gottman. This secular book on marriage outlines what Gottman thinks are the key problems in marriages today and provides a framework for couples to work through them. It has a lot of good advice and principles, but also provided hundreds of activities including questionnaires to do with your spouse. If you are both willing to work on your marriage, these tools could be very helpful. However, if you are reading it on your own, or have a spouse who is unwilling to be involved, the value would be much less. We have tried some of the activities, and got quite a bit out of them, however, it did feel a little forced at times. Having said that, I think for couples who are pro-active about working on their marriages, there is a lot in this book that would be helpful.


Please note this post has been updated on another page - go here to see it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Book Review: Praying the Scriptures for your Children

Praying the Scriptures for your Children, Jodie Bernt

This is a really helpful book, which helps mothers to think through how to pray for their
children. She divides the book into 5 sections: faith, character, safety, relationship and future. Each of these is then divided into subsections. Each chapter contains numerous bible verses from which to pray for your children. The best thing about this book is that it focuses your prayer life. Instead of vague prayers, such as:

Dear God, please look after A, help him to be safe and to become a Christian

I now pray things like:

- I pray that A will confess with his mouth "Jesus is Lord" and believe in his heart the God raised him from the dead and be saved (Rom 10:9)

- Give A wisdom and understanding. Do not let him forget your words or swerve from them. Cause him to love wisdom and to value it above all worldly desires and accomplishments. (Prov 4:5-7)

- Let A's light shine
shine before men, so that they may see his good deeds and praise you, our Father in heaven (Matt 5:16)

- Show A
that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

- Do not let
any unwholesome talk come out of A’s mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Eph 4:29)

- Help A to
be self-controlled. Let him show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about him. (Titus 2:6-8)


Things I really enjoyed about this book:
  • it was easy to read, lots of anecdotes, well structured, etc
  • made me think about better ways to pray
  • I love the idea of praying straight from the scriptures, but have never been very good at it, so it set me up with some good principles. You know (as long as you are using the bible appropriately) that you are praying in line with God’s word.
  • it challenged me to think about how I pray and how much of my praying can be mechanical and over and done with very quickly.
  • it's ‘ready to go’ - each chapter contains the bible verses at the end to use to pray for your children, great for busy mums
  • a friend also pointed out that it would a helpful book also for new Christians or people that are learning to pray, and could help them get into good habits
Other comments:
  • I do have some hesitation with her use of Scripture at points - when you look up some of her references in context, they don't always seem to fit her use of them. Most of her general principles are biblically accurate though, I just wouldn't choose that verse necessarily. And like any book, if you do the work yourself as well, you can make those judgments as you read it.
  • I felt the scope was too limited. It was great to point out the ways to pray for your children, but the areas for prayer and the prayers themselves could have a much wider application, to my husband, to me, to our friends and others in ministry, for Christians and non-Christians. Therefore, after reading this book, I used her prayers and her layout, and set up a way to do it myself, with a broader scope. In doing so, my goal was to take some of the standard jargon out of my prayer and replace it with scripture, and in so doing, help me to learn more of the bible at the same time. At this point I would say it has been successful.
  • Similarly to above, I thought it was a shame it is so focussed on mothers, because it can restrict the possible audience (what about fathers?).
  • Some concerns with her prayer points were raised by my book group at the time we read this:
  1. She has a quite lot of prayers to pray for your children’s future, including their marriages. However, she does not seem to consider the option of praying for them if they remain single. For example, for contentedness for the parents and the child, or even an acknowledgement that it might be God's plan that they remain single. I don’t want to be closed to that option as a praying parent - rather I pray that my children will make godly and wise choices either in marriage or singleness.
  2. one of our group was offended (understandably, and personally) that Bernt prayed that her children would marry people from unbroken homes. She felt it was holding the sins of the parents against the child.
  3. another of our group thought that her emphasis on Satan was at times unsettling and too strong.
However, having said all that (and note that this is a longer review because I specifically read this as party of a book group who then discussed the books!), I think this is a great book and if it encourages mothers to pray biblically and intelligently for their children, that is a wonderful thing.