Thursday, October 31, 2013

A book warning: Grace

Rarely on this blog do I include books I don’t like or have not enjoyed. I make exceptions however when I think they are dangerous. Grace by Morris Gleitzman could fall into this category.

As my children get older and read extensively, it is becoming harder to keep up with what they are reading. So while I peruse the back covers of most books, there are some that just slip in and out of here via various libraries and friends.  This one came to my attention because my son read it and it raised questions for him and he asked me to read it too.  

Grace is the story of Grace, a girl whose family is in a cult. It is told from her point of view as she watches her father be removed from her family by the elders for questioning the authority of the church. She tries all she can to find him and get him back, but her grandfather and uncle (key leaders in the church) prevent her from doing so. It is tense and anxious and I suspect could be quite fear-inducing for a child, as it raises the question: who do you trust in your family when some are telling lies and controlling you?

If this was a book for adults, I would have no problem with it. I have read many books over the years which explore the darker sides of a perverted religious message. However such a book, which is intended to be satire as well as serious, is quite risky with children.

My concern is that it uses the terms we are familiar with: sin, prayer, church, elders and turns them into an aberration. Of course that is the reality for a person in a cult. Truth is perverted. Grace is removed. Sin abounds. Children are victims.

So if your child reads this book, make sure you talk about it with them: explain the errors, how their church got it wrong and that sadly some people fall into these traps. I wouldn’t forbid them from reading it (although I wouldn’t recommend it for under 10s), just make sure you read it too and then talk about it.

My son and I did so this morning. It was a great conversation, we talked about the history of Christianity over time and how, sadly, people have gotten the message of salvation wrong time and time again.

In the end, I asserted with him numerous times, that:
We are saved by grace alone
Through faith alone
In Jesus alone
By the scriptures alone
It was a good conversation to have on this Reformation Day!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Continue On

Sometimes you come across something that touches your heart.  This was one for me.  My husband gave me this after I found myself asking similar questions.  Perhaps you might like it too...
A woman once fretted over the willfulness of her life. She feared she was wasting her potential, being a devoted wife and mother. She wondered if the time and energy she invested in her husband and children would make a difference. At times she got discouraged because so much of what she did seemed to go unnoticed and unappreciated. “Is it worth it?” she often wondered. “Is there something better I could do with my time?”

It was during one of those moments of questioning that she heard the still small voice of her heavenly Father speak to her heart.

“You are a wife and mother because this is what I have called you to be. Much of what you do is hidden from the public eye – but I notice. Most of what you give is done without praise – but I am your reward.”

“Your husband cannot be the man I have called him to be without your support. Your influence upon him is greater than you think and more powerful than you will ever know. I bless him through your service and honor him through your love.”

"Your children are precious to Me, even more precious than they are to you. I have entrusted them to your care to raise for Me. What you invest in them is an offering to Me. You may never be in the public spotlight, but your obedience shines as a bright light before Me. Continue on. Remember, you are My servant. Do all to please Me.”

(by Roy Lessin)

Monday, October 28, 2013

AFES Wives

Last weekend was a time which I greatly enjoy and look forward to all year - the AFES Wives Conference.

Wives of Christian university student workers around the country (& workers who are wives) gather together to hear from God’s word, pray and be challenged & taught in various seminars & talks.

Over the years I have found it to be a wonderfully encouraging time, yet at the same time it is also emotionally exhausting.  It seemed especially so this year for various griefs have struck our ‘family’.  It was good to come together.

The talks on Philippians were very good and the seminars highly instructive.  I was especially challenged to think about where my heart is when I use technology, both in what I write and how I respond to what others write, which I certainly need to heed.   As with other years, a highlight was my prayer group.  Most of us have been together for 4 years now, and the opportunity to share our lives at depth and call on God in prayer was a joy and a privilege. 

The AFES community brings together a great conglomeration of women.  In all the things that don’t matter we have tremendous variety – our gifts, skills, appearance, other employment and church denomination.

Yet in the things that do matter: the gospel, and the commitment to the preaching of that gospel to university students, we are united.  I count it an ongoing privilege to be involved with these women.   

Strangely for me, I am now one of the ‘senior’ women, both in age and in time with AFES.  We have been with AFES now for 10 years, which is longer than average in student ministry.   It is a delight from year to year to see those who continue to minister with AFES and those who are new.   Sadly this year we farewelled a few too, although since they are moving on to missionary work, that’s OK – we’ll let them go!

AFES is an organisation we are proud to be a part of and we are thrilled that so many others do the same work around the country.   We are very thankful to God.
 

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Word Spy

Thanks to Nicole’s post last year, we have discovered Ursula Dubosarky’s The Word Spy and it’s follow up: The Return of the Word Spy.

These excellent books for children explain the English language. In The Word Spy, you discover words and language, punctuation, the history of letters and then all types of fun plays on words – anagrams, euphemisms, oxymorons, etc. The Return of the Word Spy brings you more details on language and how it evolved, how we learn to speak, an introduction to basic grammar and finally how writing has evolved with keyboards and texting. 

Now, I know, you are thinking – how boring! How could I possibly get my kids to read that! Well, because it is fun. There are jokes, funny stories and her tone of writing is perfectly aimed at middle-upper primary children. Throughout there are puzzles and riddles to solve and one overarching word puzzle throughout the whole book. It is for competent readers who already enjoy language and word tricks; our 10 year old loved it, and our 8 year old is currently enjoying it.

Highly recommended for those who love words & reading. I would have found it helpful for Year 8 Latin grammar myself and perhaps even some of those New Testament Greek grammar lessons!

Monday, October 7, 2013

NIPS XI

NIPS XI, Ruth Starke

Monday’s posts are now becoming reviews of good children’s books, not just ones to read aloud.

My son read this as part of his school class reading and loved it so much he wanted me to read it, which resulted in a very enjoyable few hours. It is no surprise this book has made it into libraries and schools – it’s about an Adelaide Primary School, North Inala, which like many schools we all know, has a multicultural day. However, Lan and many of the ‘ethnic’ kids are sick of it – for who wants to dress up in national dress, bring in the food they eat every day at home and look different in the process?

Lan decides they should play cricket instead, for what better way, he decides, is there to be an Australian? He gathers a team of kids from Asia, the sub-continent, the Middle-East and South America, and terms his team the ‘NIPS’.

With almost no cricketing knowledge or experience, they decide to challenge the nearby private boys’ school to a match. As the plans unfold, the helpful local librarian Grace lines them up with a local cricket coach Spinner (who just happens to have been a test-cricketer) and they prepare for the match.

It is a lovely book. Its observations of Australian culture, how immigrants work to fit in and how local primary schools operate are laugh-out loud funny. There are lessons on friendship & good sportsmanship throughout. A kid who likes cricket will love it, but even those who do not follow the game will be drawn in. 

I suspect kids with English as a second language would struggle, it is full of idioms and ‘Australianisms’, but these can be overcome with explanations.

For those who loved it (as my son, husband and I did), there is also a follow up novel – NIPS Go National, where the team are invited to Melbourne to play other teams with diverse backgrounds from around the country.

Highly recommended reading for upper primary age kids, especially cricket fans.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Status Report: October

Woke up this morning: and realised I had completely forgotten to do this status report on the 1st!

In the midst: of school holidays. Perhaps that is why!

My son: is off today to play chess with a group in town. He will ride in with his dad, enabling some father-son time on the way.

So the girls and I: are sorting through all the craft presents they have recently been given and we will have a sewing and painting day

The 6 year old: was very excited yesterday to join the ranks of ‘older kids’ with the loss of her first tooth!

Bible reading: have decided to try the Explore app. My reading through the bible was getting stale, something about doing the same thing every year… So have revamped with the Good Book Company’s Explore notes on the iPad. Not sure I am at all convinced about reading the bible on an e-reader, but it is convenient and more importantly, the notes are making me think more. So, good for now.

Reading: some Jeffrey Archer – how have I not discovered him before? Thanks dear husband. Also some kids’ books and some Christian ones, reviews coming soon.

Have enjoyed watching: my husband and son play music together, hopefully the first of many ‘jam ‘ sessions, although mum will always be only the observer (or perhaps backing vocals?!).

Looking forward: to the cousins coming to visit over the weekend. The kids will have a ball. And 10 in the house is always fun (in small doses!)

Very much looking forward to: the annual AFES wives conference this month.