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an unforeseen, calamitous blunder

I subscribe to Touchstone magazine, and in their recent issue, they introduced a Commonplaces section, where the editors host a Commonplace Book within the pages of the magazine. I have Commonplace books. I am not always diligent to copy the passages down, and if the book is a digital format, I should be even more diligent.

I am going to use my little blog space occasionally as a Commonplace book. I'm not blogging much else lately, so why not?

A few years ago, I read Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye. I have a love/dislike relationship with Atwood. Some of her books I love, others, I don't. Some I would read more than once (like Cat's Eye) and others I will probably never read again (like The Handmaid's Tale). I love this passage from Cat's Eye, where the narrator, talks about the difference between relationships with her brother and girls.

I know better than to speak to my brother during these times, or to call his or any boy's attention to me. Boys get teased for having younger sisters, or sisters of any kind, or mothers; it's like having new clothes. When he gets anything new my brother dirties it as soon as possible, to avoid having it noticed; and if he has to go anywhere with me and my mother, he walks ahead of us or crosses to the other side of the street. If he's teased about me, he will have to fight some more. For me to contact him, or even to call him by name, would be disloyal. I undertand these things, and do my best.

So I am left to the girls, real girls at last, in the flesh. But I'm not used to girls, or familir with their customs I feel awkward around them, I don't know what to say. I know the unspoken rules of boys, but with the girls I sense that I am always on the verge of some unforeseen, calamitous blunder.

I love that last sentence. That is exactly how I feel when I walk into a room full of women at some ladies' event at my church and have to find a seat.


But, what if you did everything?

I read an article this morning which upset me. I don't know the author other than that she is a mother. In her article this morning, she encourages other mothers to be diligent to teach their children the gospel. She suggests that if a mother is not taking the time to teach her children the gospel, then that mother should question her own salvation. My emotional reaction at my initial reading means I should probably not go into detail with some of my questions, but the one thing I really found most troublesome was her admonition to parent in fear.

I parented in fear, and it was disastrous. I was too often ruled by fear, and I believe it had a negative impact on my parenting, including my the spiritual growth of my children.

My children were taught the gospel. In our homeschool, in church, in kids' clubs, youth groups, Sunday school. We had regular conversations. My husband and I were their Sunday school teachers for a while, and we had a youth Bible study in our home regularly for a few years. We were active in teaching them. But today, I have a child who has wandered and not yet returned. I don't talk about it because it's no one's business, it would be disrespectful to my child, and because that child's story is not over yet.

This writer encourages mothers to be fearful about where their children are headed spiritually, and she encourages them to question their own salvation if they are not doing enough to teach their children the gospel. There is nothing wrong with self-examination and a healthy fear, but my concern is that some young mother reading that piece is going to take that admonition to an extreme which will possibly lead to a lot of false guilt later on. I've been there. The blame game. What didn't I do? How could I have done better? 

What if you did everything and your child still is not living for the Lord?

It has taken me many years to find peace with my own situation. I cannot begin to articulate the depths of the grief and sorrow my heart bears. Some days, if I allow myself to think about it too long, I'm in trouble. I must turn my trust to God. I cannot live in despair.

If you are a young parent reading this, please don't parent in fear. Parent with a healthy understanding of what God's word says; and it says that judgement comes for those who don't believe. But also parent with hope knowing that your child's salvation and spiritual development are overseen by a sovereign God, who can, and does, work despite all of your mistakes as a parent. No, don't neglect to teach your children; but remember that you are not the author of your child's salvation.

Resist the temptation parent in a daily mode of fear that all your efforts will not be enough. Fear is not always rational, and becomes irrational very easily. It causes us to make rash decisions without thinking through things clearly. Fear leads to guilt and recrimination later on. And when our kids don't comply with our teaching, it can cause strain in our relationships with them. Don't parent in fear. That is one of the worst things I ever did.

If your children are living with an active, healthy faith, don't thank yourself. Give thanks to God.


There Is a Fountain

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel's veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains:
Lose all their guilty stains,
Lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day,
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away:
Wash all my sins away,
Wash all my sins away;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away.

E'er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die:
And shall be till I die,
And shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.

When this poor lisping, stamm'ring tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I'll sing your power to save:
I'll sing your power to save,
I'll sing your power to save;
Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I'll sing your power to save.

Words by William Cowper

This rendition with a different tune is pretty:

This is the usual tune:


One of the best daily devotional books I have ever read

I have a collection of daily devotional books on my shelf:

Faith Alone, Martin Luther
Heart Aflame, John Calvin
Daily Readings, J.C. Ryle
Walking with God Day by Day, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
The J.I. Packer Classic Collection
Voices from the Past, Richard Rushing, ed.

I read my Bible and pray daily, but I also like to read short passages to get me thinking. Even though it is not a daily devotional in the sense that the others are (they are all dated and contain 365 readings), J.I. Packer's  Concise Theology is a fantastic daily read. I have been reading one chapter every morning with my Bible reading and prayer, and each morning, I have occasion to think about a doctrinal matter. Packer also includes Bible passages, so that if I want to look further, I can. 

The entries are short, only about two and a half pages each, and can be read in a short amount of time. But they are rich and give an excellent grounding in basic Christian doctrine. They are perhaps not meant to be devotional, but the truths explored in this volume give rise to devotion and praise. 

If you have not read it, do so, and make it a daily appointment so that you may have time to think over each truth carefully.


Thoughts of a retired homeschool mom

Homeschooling is one of those topics that immediately polarizes people. It is sure to generate discussions that range from spirited debate to acrimonious harping. Our two older kids had a few years in public school before we pulled them out; our youngest was in kindergarten for four months before. They all went to public high school. I admit that an initial part of it was due to negative influences at their school, but those influences were mostly the classroom dynamics and how they interfered with, and often impeded, learning. During those first six months of homeschooling, when I saw what the kids could accomplish, there was no question of stopping just yet. We were motivated not by fear but by a vision of what we wanted our kids to learn.

Many parents begin homeschooling out of fear, and that is understandable; we all want to do the best for our children. But fear isn't primary reason most parents take on homeschooling. And I don't know any homeschoolers who choose to homeschool because they think it is salvific. That mistaken belief is the brain child of an opponent of homeschooling who is offended by the thought that a parent believes she can educate her children as well, if not better, than the public system. There are some parents who are more concerned with protecting their child, but in general, it is an erroneous stereotype.

Homeschooling is hard work, and it demands not only a significant time investment, but a financial one. It is demanding to be both parent and teacher. It is too much work to sustain if our only motivation is fear. Fear can be a good motivator, but it's not the best one. For us, homeschooling meant we could be pro-active, not re-active regarding our kids' education. We had a vision of what we wanted our kids to have learned when they were finished school. That was by and large the attitude I encountered.

My family is fortunate in that we know both sides of the debate, homeschool and public school. We saw first hand the benefits and drawbacks of both. I wish people were able to have understanding of both scenarios before they begin to criticize the other. Ignorance exists on both sides, and we need to understand the reasons for one another's views. We are very reluctant to honestly evaluate our pre-suppositions. At one time, I swore I would never homeschool, but talking to other homeschool parents began to make me re-evaluate my pre-suppositions. I am thankful I did.

My days as a homeschool mom are long over. My kids have all graduated successfully from university, with two of them going on to graduate school. It didn't make me a perfect parent, and it didn't prevent my kids from behaving like kids do. But I taught them how to learn, and I taught them how to have an inquisitive mind. That makes it all worth it.