Faith

Letting Go of Bible Reading Expectations

What’s the best daily Bible reading plan? The one that works for you.

Over the past 25 years, I’ve attempted multiple times to read my Bible every day. Many women I knew were in the same boat: having a goal of daily Bible reading, trying repeatedly to make that happen, falling short, and feeling guilt. We were often eager to try new ideas, always looking for the “one thing” that would help us maintain the Bible reading habit past a few days or so. But in all those years of adding this or that, trying this or that plan, I ultimately found success only one way.

Not by adding, but by taking away.

continue reading
Faith · Parenting

Light of the World, or 120 Watts of Jesus

When each of my children was around 5 years old, we did a “Names of Jesus” unit together during our Advent homeschool time. Each day we would focus on a different name that Jesus is called in the Bible, such as shepherd, king, Alpha and Omega, or light of the world. Each lesson had an activity, craft, or lesson associated with it, most of which I’ve forgotten now … except for the object lesson I used for “Light of the World.”

To begin this lesson, we would look at Bible verses together such as John 9:5, where Jesus says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” It was very clear to even a young child that Jesus understood his role in the world as a light to shine in the darkness. I then proposed that we go into the darkest room in the house, a small bathroom with no windows. Always eager to get up and move, and intrigued by continuing the lesson in the bathroom (of all places!), each child would eagerly comply.

continue reading
Faith

The Thorn in Your Flesh, and What To Do About It

The life of the apostle Paul—unmarried man living 2,000 years ago, Jewish convert to Christianity, known-world traveler who survived beatings, shipwrecks, and imprisonment—can seem distant and foreign to our 21st-century existence. But there is one aspect of Paul’s life that resonates down through the centuries to every believer: his famous “thorn in the flesh.” A thorn in the flesh is a near-constant irritant causing discomfort or pain in life, something you may be able to ignore briefly but is frequently on your mind, and is presumably not there by your own doing.

This thorn is such an unrelenting and problematic part of Paul’s life that he pleads repeatedly with God for relief, as he relates in his second letter to the Corinthians: “… a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7b-8)

Name That Thorn

Almost without fail, the first thing a modern reader wants to know upon reading these verses is, what is Paul’s thorn? We begin to speculate, digging up clues from his other writings and revealing our particular fascination with another person’s secret problem. What could it be? Of course, we aren’t the first to have grappled with this question. Many theories have been proposed, among them: depression, malaria, epilepsy, vision problems, and Jewish persecution. We can speculate and debate all we’d like, but the fact is, we’ll never know. And there’s a reason for that.

continue reading
Other Topics

The View from the Middle Back Seat

Remember the ride to school on the bus every day? Or maybe you’ve taken a public bus lately and can picture this in your head: The long, narrow aisle, the many seats on both sides, and on some buses, the special seat in the very back of the bus, right in the middle, at the end of the aisle.

I like that seat. In fact, I like it so much I’ve been sitting in it for more than 20 years.

Let me back up a bit and be very clear: I used to sit by a window. A window on the left, in fact.  Like others who had window seats, I’d stare out that window on my left, completely oblivious to those next to me and especially those way on the other side of the bus. Partly this was my youth, my need for excitement, and my self-centeredness, but partly it was because my view was ever-changing, ever-fascinating, and ever so much more interesting than the interior of that bus and the others along for the ride.

continue reading
Faith

Living at Peace in the Chaos of 2020 … and Beyond

It’s hard to admit this in 2020, but for my whole life, I’ve enjoyed politics. I find it fascinating to know about political systems and leaders, how they rise and fall, and how they affect the people who live under them. I plop my kids down in front of the TV with an electoral college map every fourth November and we watch the returns while they color in the results on their map. I read a (print!) newspaper every morning with my coffee because I like to know what’s happening in the world, my country, and my city.

Admittedly, it’s been more difficult to maintain a positive attitude toward current events over the past few years. Back in 2016, I assured my new-voter children that this particular election was not normal, that I had never seen anything like it in my entire voting life. And then along came 2020, which for many is a similarly difficult campaign and election season, only this time accompanied by a months-long pandemic, economic crisis, and ongoing social unrest and upheaval—each a challenge on its own, but taken together, an incredible strain on every individual and on society as a whole.

continue reading
Homeschooling

Creating Your Own Middle or High School Bible Curriculum

Looking for tips and suggestions on creating a homeschool Bible (or Bible-related) class for your high schooler or middle schooler? Read on to see many of my favorite suggestions for a wide range of students, including a great Bible you may never have heard of, other books at all reading and interest levels, and miscellaneous ideas to round out your Bible class.

After I graduated two students from homeschool with credits in Biblical Studies 1 and 2, I thought I had my Bible plan in place. But after a gap of several years, I was back to square one, needing to develop a different high school Bible curriculum for my youngest. One of the great advantages of homeschooling is that you can (and should, if needed!) adapt your plan for each individual child, according to their abilities and interests. I kept some elements of what I had used before, but I also needed a new approach this time around, taking into account my son’s naturally inquisitive nature and lower tolerance for long readings than his siblings at that age.

continue reading
Homeschooling

Schooling Uncertainty 2020: Homeschool Edition

Going into this year (so long ago now…), we all thought that Decision 2020 was going to be about casting our vote for President of the United States on November 3. Silly us. That decision pales in comparison to the difficulty of determining what school will look like for our kids this fall.

I really feel for my friends with kids in public school who are struggling right now with near-daily emails from their districts, changing policies, unhappy teachers and parents, food insecurity or health issues, the challenge of working full-time yet having their kids at home, and (for some) being suddenly plunged into the homeschool world willingly or unwillingly, for a wide variety of reasons.

As a long-time homeschooler (beginning my 20th year), you would think that this whole stay-at-home thing would be a piece of cake by now. That COVID would be a mere blip on the radar of our usual days of homeschooling. But the chaos that this virus has unleashed has been difficult for homeschoolers as well.

continue reading
Faith · Parenting

Putting an End to Generational Sins

In one of the most famous first lines in literature, Leo Tolstoy boldly states, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Now, I haven’t read Anna Karenina, but I can say with confidence that, while he certainly captured our attention and still has us quoting him after nearly 150 years, he is wrong about happy families being all alike (although they may look that way from the outside). But he has a point about unhappy families.

Unhappy families can have an endless number of reasons why they are unhappy, and many of us are sadly familiar with one of them: generational sins (a.k.a. generational trauma or generational dysfunction). This is the tendency of persistent sinful behaviors to be repeated or “handed down” from one generation to the next, contributing to the unhappiness of that family and its individual members. This might be a particular problem with one member of the family, or an overall environment that permeates the day-to-day life and outlook of each person.

continue reading
Homeschooling

DIY Copywork for Early Elementary

When my kids were young, we mostly followed the Charlotte Mason approach to education: literature-based schooling, short lessons, lots of nature study, and frequent copywork, among other things. For the most part, I kept this pattern for all four of my children, through their many differences in enthusiasm for school, attention spans, and abilities in each area of learning. I quickly discovered that I didn’t need a formal language arts program at all until mid-elementary years, thanks in part to the practice of Do-It-Yourself Copywork.

In its most basic form, copywork hones important skills like attention to detail, hand-eye coordination, “keeping your place” while reading, remembering, and writing, learning new things (depending on what you’re copying), and of course, handwriting/fine motor skills practice. These are all foundational skills for early elementary education and easily accomplished when the passage being copied is high-interest and personalized for the student.

The copywork method I used for first grade appealed to all of my children, no matter what their ability level or personal interests. It was effective because it was customized for each child—some sentences were used for all children, and some were tweaked or completely rewritten depending on the child. This might sound like a lot of work for the teacher, but in fact it was one of the most enjoyable lesson planning activities of my homeschooling years! The DIY aspect forced me to think carefully about each child as I wrote sentences just for them, depending on their likes and dislikes, what was going on in their life at the time, their high-interest areas, etc. I highly recommend this copywork method not only as an effective educational tool for children, but as an interesting activity for the teacher that helps you get to know your children better!

continue reading
Other Topics

A Teaching Story of Race, Reliability, and Regret

In the mid-‘90s, I taught English in an upper-class suburban high school. In my first year of teaching, I was assigned one class of “English Basics,” a class for students who were far behind their peers in their ability to read and write. Basics was a small class, usually only around 10 students, and in the class of sophomores that I was given, the kids were reading on about a second grade level. I was never told the educational or personal background of any child, and I had no special training to help these students, but like all new English teachers, was expected to teach one class of Basics for a couple of years. The positive side, I was told, was that I would only have the class for first quarter and then again for third quarter. Another teacher would take the class second quarter and fourth quarter, so we would each have a “break.”

This staggered-teaching arrangement, especially for a class of kids who were far behind academically, seemed odd to me. I wondered if it had the inadvertent effect of instability and impermanence for the students. The teachers seemed to like it, though, and who was I to say anything—me, a brand-new teacher? Still, I had nagging doubts about this set-up and how beneficial it was for the kids.

continue reading