Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge 2018 Sign-up

It’s time for the Laura Ingalls Wilder reading Challenge for 2018! The basic idea is to read anything by, about, or relating to Laura Ingalls Wilder during February, the month of her birth and death. I have an extensive book list here if you’d like some ideas beyond the Little House series, but if course the Little House series is delightful to read or reread.

In the comments below let us know what you’re planning to read. On Feb. 28 I’ll have a wrap-up post where you can tell us how you did and what you thought, either in the comments or with a link back to your posts. You don’t have to have a blog to participate, but if you do I’d appreciate your linking back here.

Sometimes participants have done projects or made recipes from the series as well. If you do so, please do share with us! Annette at Little House Companion has some activities and other resources.

I like to have some sort of drawing to offer a prize concluding the challenge, and I decided to once again offer one winner the choice of:

The Little House Cookbook compiled by Barbara M. Walker

OR

Laura’s Album: A Remembrance Scrapbook of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson

If neither of those suits you, I can substitute a similarly-priced Laura book of your choice. To be eligible, leave a comment on the wrap-up post at the end of the month telling us what you read for this challenge. I’ll choose a name through random.org. a week from then to give everyone time to get their last books and posts finished.

This year I am planning to read:

  • The First Four Years, the last in the Little House series
  • Death On the Prairie by Kathleen Ernst, a modern mystery set around some of the places Laura lived.
  • Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell. I had not heard of this, but it happened to catch my eye while I was in the library. It’s about a modern family with problems going to a “Camp Frontier.”
  • Last year I bought a set of My First Little House Books, after reading Rebekah’s wonderful review. I haven’t even opened them yet, but I want to look through them and hopefully see if Timothy might sit still long enough to look at one or two.

How about you? Will you be joining us this year? What will you be reading?

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday)
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End-of-January Musings

January is normally a doldrums month for me. All the light and glitter and celebratory spirit of Christmas has been put away, it’s dark and cold, the landscape is almost barren, nothing exciting is going on, and it will be months yet before spring. But this year it hasn’t been so bad. There were a few overcast, very cold days when I only wanted to hibernate, but overall I think keeping busy has kept me distracted. Maybe I’ve been taking my own advice for the winter blues. 🙂

We’ve had two family outings this month, whereas we normally might have only a handful a year, so that might be one thing that livened up January. One Saturday we went to the Ripley’s Mirror Maze in Gatlinburg and then a favorite Mexican food restaurant. Last Saturday we went to the Chocolatefest in Knoxville – or, as Timothy put it, the “chocolate party.” 🙂 The  event itself was a disappointment, though. I had envisioned a large room with rows and rows of chocolate-themed items. There were a few tables of chocolate items, but the others were mainly jewelry and clothes with assorted other odds and ends. There was one section you could only go into if you bought a “tasting ticket” for $20, and that’s evidently where most of the chocolate was. If you went there you got a box or bag you could fill up with goodies. But I don’t know if we could have collected enough to have made it worth $20 times four people. We didn’t think until afterwards that we could have had one of us go there and then we all could have shared the loot. 🙂 But I did bring home a few chocolate purchases, and Timothy enjoyed some “monster blue” ice cream (and showing me his blue tongue and teeth) and got to do a little activity at a kid’s table, and we enjoyed looking at the cake-decorating entries. And we went to one of his favorite restaurants afterward, so we had fun together even if the event itself wasn’t the best.

Jim and I have also done a bit of furniture-shopping. The padding on our couch and loveseat arms has gotten so thin we can feel the wood underneath when we lean against them, and the fabric is worn, with a few holes starting to show. We spent one Saturday looking at a few places and found one set that might work. There’s at least one more place I’d like to go. We found one place that had the Magnolia Home furniture. I loved the style, but they didn’t seem to have a combination that fit what we needed. It also might have been more expensive, but I don’t think I looked at prices much since I didn’t see anything I thought would work. We’d like to find a sofa, loveseat, recliner combination, or at least a sofa and loveseat, and then we can buy a recliner individually. We saw a lot of sets with, instead of a recliner, a huge oversized chair and footstool. I don’t think we’d have the space for it, and besides, some of the family like the reclining function.

Speaking of furniture shopping – furniture showrooms are my least favorite places to shop in. We almost never buy anything on our first look-through: we’re just seeing what’s out there, checking prices, testing out how they feel, etc., then we go home and think about it or go other places and look some more. I’m generally slow to make up my mind anyway, but I want big purchases to last for years and not have to go through this whole process again any time soon. As soon as you walk through a showroom, a salesperson greets you, which is fine, but they don’t seem to want to leave you alone even though you tell them you’re “just looking.” It’s good if you can find one easily when you have a question, but they can’t help you decide what you like and don’t like. It just takes time and looking around to decide that, and their constant questions and suggestions just make me want to leave, which is, I would think, not their goal. I’ve enjoyed more some little out-of-the way furniture places over the years, but the ones we went to when we first moved here have gone out of business.

During a lot of the year, Jim has grass to mow or projects to work on Saturdays, so it has been fun to do some other things together. Altogether I think I have begun to appreciate January as a restful spot between other busy times.

On the creative front, not much has been going on except that I have been sorting through, cleaning out, and shaping up my craft files. Seeing what I have there has been stirring my creative juices. I have not sewn clothes in a very long time – just curtains and pillows and such – but I saw a dress the style of which I loved in a catalog a few days ago. But the dress itself was around $135 – which is about 3-4 times more than I usually pay for dresses. I’ve been looking around to see if I can find a pattern similar to it. If I can find something I can adapt, I just may be spending some time with the sewing machine soon.

Around the house, besides the usual tasks and the files mentioned above, I spent some time rearranging my books shelves, making a place for new books I want to keep, pulling a few books out to give away. I love looking at the neat and tidy (is that redundant?) results. There are a couple of boxes of books in two different closets I want to go through next, and then our other filing cabinets. I’ve been in a sorting and organizing mood lately, and I usually don’t have time (or inclination) to tackle a whole room at once, but these smaller spaces catch my eye and call to me occasionally.

January was also a good month for reading, as I shared yesterday. Last year for the Back to the Classics challenge, I thought it would be good to get my biggest book (Middlemarch) out of the way first. But I felt like I was stuck on the one book for a very long time. This year I started off with some of the shorter classics, and I think I like that approach better. It feels like I’ve made good progress on my reading goals already. Trust: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback has been both a challenge and and encouragement. I’m about finished with Isaiah in my current trek through the Bible, and Trust has been been gently hitting some of the same lessons, that anything we’re trusting in other than God will fail us, and that He is the only perfectly reliable and trustworthy One. Not reliable in the sense that He’ll always do what we think best, but He will always do what He knows best, even if it means letting our false props fail us in order to draw our attention back to Himself.

The other thing we’ve been into the last moth – don’t laugh – is HQ Trivia. My oldest son told us about it when he was here for Christmas and now we all play. It’s an app for your phone where there is a live quiz at 3 p.m. Eastern time on weekdays and every evening at 9 p.m. There are 12 trivia questions (occasionally 15) that start off ridiculously easy and then get much harder. There is a cash prize of $2,500 (sometimes more!), and the people who win that quiz split the money. So far the highest I have gone is 7 questions: Jim got all the way to the end before missing the last question last night. It’s been fun to do together, and if Jason and Mittu are here at 9, we all play together. And, you can get extra lives by referring people, so, though I am NOT mentioning this just to get extra lives – if you decide you want to try it out and wouldn’t mind putting barbarah06 in as a referral code, I would be very appreciative. 🙂

Around the blog, besides several book reviews and the weekly Friday’s Fave Five and occasional sharing of Laudable Linkage:

  • When everything fails. “It’s not that God orchestrates problems in our lives to create a need for Him: rather, He strips everything away to reveal a need that was already there that we couldn’t see or hadn’t paid attention to. Sometimes He has to show us that nothing else is sufficient to meet that need before we’ll turn to Him.”
  • What do you know? “It’s true that knowledge can “puff up” with pride, but rather than avoiding gaining knowledge, we need to remind ourselves that If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:2), and we need to remind ourselves that the purpose of gaining knowledge is to better know the Lord and serve Him and others.”
  • Winter.
  • God’s Back. “If this is the back of God – merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love, forgiving sin – what must the front be?

And I think that about wraps up January. In February, we look forward to Valentine’s Day (which we make kind of a big deal of as a family), my daughter-in-law’s birthday, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge! And maybe some new furniture! And one month closer to spring!

(Sharing with What I’m Into at Leigh Kramer)

What’s On Your Nightstand: January 2018

Nightstand82The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand the last Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.

Here we are a month into 2018, and I feel like I have gotten off to a pretty good start on my reading goals for the year.

Since last time I have completed:

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung, reviewed here. I actually finished this back in December, but after that month’s Nightstand post. It’s a book aiming to help children see the overarching story of the Bible and place individual stores in their place in the bigger picture.

Gospel Meditations for Christmas by Chris Anderson, Joe Tyrpak, and Michael Barrett, reviewed here. Excellent. I read most of it in December but finished up the last couple of pages early in January.

Conscience: What It Is, How To Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ by Andrew David Naselli and J. D. Crowley, reviewed here. Excellent – both Biblically based and very practical.

Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped in His Own Body by Martin Pistorius, reviewed here. Excellent.

Watership Down by Richard Adams, reviewed here. My first time through this classic, and I enjoyed it very much.

The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton, reviewed here. My first Chesterton book, and not at all what I was expecting, but it kept me pondering for a long time after closing it.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, reviewed here. Not my usual cup of teas, but I enjoyed it.

Mozart’s Sister by Nancy Moser, reviewed here. Very good.

I’m currently reading:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Trust: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

A Spectacle of Glory: God’s Light Shining through Me Every Day by Joni Eareckson Tada. This is a year-long devotional book, so I probably won’t list it every month.

Up Next:

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Death On the Prairie by Kathleen Ernst for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge beginning here Feb. 1! It’s a modern mystery set around some of the places Laura lived.

The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder, also for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge.

Possibly Caroline: Little House Revisited by Sarah Miller, also for the LIW challenge.

After those – something from my reading plans for the year.

If you are interested in the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge taking place next month, there is more information and a book list here.

Have you spent any of these winter days in a cozy book?

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday)

Book Review: Mozart’s Sister

Mozart's Sister Mozart’s Sister by Nancy Moser tells the story of Maria Anna Mozart, known as Nannerl, Mozart’s older sister by four and a half years. The two of them were the only surviving children of seven, the other five having died in infancy. When their father started giving Nannerl lessons on the harpsichord, Wolfgang, then three, wanted to learn, too, to be like his sister. He picked it up quickly, as well as other instruments, and was composing by age five, completing his first symphony by age eight. Their father took them on tours from their native Salzburg to various royal courts and other venues in European cities like Munich, Vienna, Paris, London, Zurich, and others as the Wunderkind – Miracle Children. Their father, Leopold, even lied about their ages, making them out to be even younger than they were so as to play up the “Wunder” even more. Nannerl received top billing at first and was well-known for her playing, but “Wolfie” seemed even more a prodigy, being so much younger, and eventually most of the attention went to him.

Leopold was a composer, violinist, teacher, and finally the assistant director of music (Kapellmeister) for the archbishop of Salzburg. He eventually laid aside his own composing and performing and poured himself into promoting the children’s talent, then just Wolfie’s, then seeking out a position for Wolfgang. They made money on the tours, but Leopold was only paid for his position when he was actually there is Salzberg, understandably, and he almost lost his position due to so much time away. Thus there was always a tension between what they wanted to do and the need for finances.

The story is told from Nannerl’s point of view and begins with the various experiences with travels and concerts, delighting to play, interactions with royalty, expectations to play dressed up as little adults with adult-looking clothing and massive powdered wigs. Both she and Wolfie became seriously ill with smallpox, and once he had rheumatic fever.

Their parents encouraged Wolfie’s composing but discouraged Nannerl’s on the grounds that it was hard enough for men to get music accepted and published; for women it was considered impossible. Wolfie was groomed for a musical career but Nannerl was expected to lay all of that aside to marry and bear children. When she was of marriageable age,  Leopold and Wolfgang went on tours together, leaving the women behind.

When Nannerl fell in love, she was not allowed to marry the man of her choosing, but there’s no evidence to explain why. Some sources, according to Wikipedia, think Leopold did not allow it. Nancy portrays it as the archbishop, who employed Nannerl’s intended and from whom they had to receive permission, denying it as part of his adversarial relationship with Leopold. Whatever the reason, the two remained close friends.

Wolfgang, though a genius musically, seemed egocentric, lacking in common sense, and unwise in money matters. The author played up the tension she thought Nannerl felt as the dutiful, obedient daughter whose life did not turn out as she wanted it to, even though she did everything “right,” as opposed to Wolfie, who was irresponsible and self-willed, yet seemed to get everything he wanted, including marrying the girl his father did not at first approve of. Yet, whereas a number of modern people seem to leave it as “poor, Nannerl, born in the wrong time period and kept down by the oppressive customs of the times,” from the brief bit of reading I have done online since finishing the book, Nancy portrays her as having to wrestle through all those disappointments while maintaining her love for family and coming to a place of acceptance and even finding her own place of worth, even though it was not what she originally planned.

A few quotes:

To Papa, getting Wolfie back in Salzburg, safely ensconced in a salaried position, would save our family’s finances. I couldn’t see that he was wrong in this, but I knew keeping Wolfie in such a position would be like trying to cage a hummingbird.

Having no musical challenge—as was the case in Salzburg—sapped his life breath and made him suffocate for lack of creative air.

If only Wolfie didn’t have to think about money but could concentrate on creating and performing for the sheer joy of it. If only we all could do what we wanted to do.

Wolfie had to adapt the music to the limitations and egos of the singers, which was both frustrating and time-consuming.

“Will that boy ever understand the world does not revolve around him?” I did not mention Papa’s part in creating that belief.

A few small criticisms:

At the end the author has an extended list of what was fact, based on historical records and family letters, and what was fiction based on the best information she had. A lot of Nannerl’s inward wrestlings were based on what the author would have felt in her position or what she “felt sure” Nannerl felt, but I think she may have overdone it a bit. Nannerl seemed a bit whiny at times in the first half of the book.

The use of modern phrases – like “hard for me to wrap my mind around” something, “It seemed that Wolfie was settling,” “purple prose” – seemed jarringly out of place in a historical context.

“All musicians feel this bond with the Divine.” I wasn’t sure how that was meant. Feeling God working in and through them – that’s fine and I can understand that. But if it’s meant to convey a “spark of Divinity” in the individual, I would disagree. I think from what I have read of the author that she would mean the former, but the statement was vague enough to make one wonder.

Otherwise, I very much enjoyed learning about the Mozarts and appreciated the author’s encouragement to “Take Nannerl’s story as an impetus to look at your own life and make it the most it can be. You too have a unique, God-given purpose. The trick is to find out what it is.”

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Carol’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

20,000 LeaguesJules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea opens in 1866 when reports come in front various countries of sightings of…something in various waters, giving rise to assorted speculations. It is described as “a long object, spindle-shaped, occasionally phosphorescent, and infinitely larger and more rapid in its movements than a whale.” In a couple of instances it damaged nearby vessels, leaving a large hole in one ship. These kinds of accidents and the unexplained disappearance of several ships lead to the general sentiment that the creature must be found and destroyed. An expedition is arranged from New York aboard the Abraham Lincoln, and Pierre Aronnax of France, Professor of Natural History at the Museum of Paris and author of Mysteries of the Great Submarine Grounds, is currently in NY and invited to come along. He accepts, along with his servant, Conseil.

After a number of days of searching, they do encounter the creature. Ned Land, a Canadian expert harpooner, had also been invited on this expedition, and when he tries to harpoon the thing, his harpoon bounces off. The thing then sprays an enormous amount of water at the ship, causing, among other things, Professor Aronnax to fall into the depths.

His faithful servant Conseil goes in after him, and they find Ned Land on top of something solid – and metallic. The Abraham Lincoln’s rudder has been broken, so they can’t count on it to come after them. When whatever they are on starts to submerge, they pound on the outside. A hatch opens, and they are taken in.

After a couple of days locked in a dark room, visited by a couple of men who at first seem not to understand them, finally the master of the vessel, a Captain Nemo, introduces himself, tells them they are at liberty to roam the vessel, but he cannot let them go, and furthermore, there would be times when he asked them to remain in their cabins until they received notice they could leave again. He had “broken all the ties of humanity,” and was “done with society entirely, for reasons which I alone have the right of appreciating. I do not, therefore, obey its laws, and I desire you never to allude to them before me again!” They had no choice but to accept.

The professor finds plenty to occupy himself. Nemo takes him on a tour of his ship, the Nautilus, explains how it is fueled, how he built it, etc. A window opens up sometimes to show the surroundings, and Aronnax is excited to observe, record, even to go on some underwater excursions and explore. Conseil is happy to be wherever his master is, but Ned Land chafes at the confinement.

At times Nemo comes across as intelligent, gracious, refined, and generous. But there are other times he seems a little unhinged. When a crisis occurs, the three visitors become convinced they need to leave. But how can they?

My thoughts:

I never knew much about this book besides being familiar with the names of Nemo and the Nautilus, and the round copper helmets of their diving suits seemed to be a staple of underwater sci-fi when I was growing up. So it was interesting to finally learn the story. There were just a couple of places where it got tedious, when measurements or  long citations of plants and animals seen were listed. But there was also plenty of drama and suspense.

I bought the audiobook on sale some time ago and I had forgotten that, when reading a book that has been translated from the original, it’s good to get some information on which translation is considered the best. According to Wikipedia, the first English translation by Lewis Mercier “cut nearly a quarter of Verne’s original text and made hundreds of translation errors, sometimes dramatically changing the meaning of Verne’s original intent.” The description doesn’t say what translation this is, but the comments indicate this is not one of the better ones. So if I ever read it again, I’ll seek out another, but I did enjoy the story.

I was amazed at the misconceptions about it, though. For one, some list it as juvenile fiction, though it was not written that way. Schmoop attributes that to some of the poor translations and its having been made into a Disney movie. One source said it was about Nemo seeking revenge on a sea creature, but that’s one incident in the book and not the main plot at all.

Other interesting facts: The 20,000 leagues in the title refers to distance traveled, not depths plumbed. A little more of Nemo’s background is revealed in a later Verne book, The Mysterious Island. Verne’s publisher made several changes to the book (it wasn’t indicated whether this was with or without Verne’s approval), like changing Nemo’s nationality.

I’m thankful to the Back to the Classics challenge for spurring me to read a book I might not otherwise have picked up.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carol’s Books You Loved)

Friday’s Fave Five


It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends
.

The last Friday of January – we’re almost 1/12 of the way through 2018 already! Last week I wasn’t sure if I could come up with five faves for the week – but there are always things to be thankful for, even if it requires more thought some weeks than others. This week, I have the opposite problem – more than five things to share! So maybe I’ll save a couple for next time. Here are some favorite parts of the last week:

1. A family outing. We went to Ripley’s Mirror Maze in Gatlinburg last Saturday and then had a great lunch at No Way Jose’s Cantina. We had been to the maze once before, about a year ago. In fact, when it was proposed this time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go – it’s a pretty short maze, and I wasn’t excited about driving all the way to Gatlinburg. But I am so glad we did. Timothy enjoyed it last time, but this time he was super-excited and vocal about it. When we quickly got to the end, we decided we didn’t want it to be over yet, so we trekked back through – I think confusing some who were going the other way. 🙂 All in all a fun morning. Afterwards we crashed at home for an afternoon nap (it’s nice that a child’s schedule coordinates with a grandma’s 🙂 ) and got Five Guys burgers for dinner. 🙂

2. An understanding caregiver. On our way home Saturday we realized we weren’t going to make it by the time my mother-in-law’s caregiver usually left, so we texted her to let her know and apologize. She said it was no problem at all.

3. A good visit with the cardiologist. “Everything looks great, come back in six months.”

4. Sorting, organizing, purging files. I have a two-drawer (pink!) filing cabinet in my sewing/craft room with pattern booklets, leaflets, and pulled-from-magazine instructions for several crafts. I hadn’t tended to it in some time, and there were some things out of place, new things that needed a home, out-of-date items that needed to be thrown out, other things needing to be set aside to give away (one nice thing about getting to “a certain age” is becoming more realistic about what I might actually get to). I’ve been working on that here and there this week, for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or so at a time, and it’s been gratifying both to get it in order and get reacquainted with what I had in there.

5. A new can opener might seem like an odd thing to be thankful for. But my old one was giving me fits, leaving gaps where it didn’t cut through a lid and tearing paper off the side of the can in the meantime. I bought another one, but it wasn’t a whole lot better. My husband got me this one. The blade doesn’t come in contact with the food inside, and the lid doesn’t fall into or dip into the can – and it works great! It took me a few tries to get the hang of it, but now I love it.

And that’s it for this week. Happy Friday!

Book Review: Conscience: What It Is, How To Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ

Conscience  Conscience: What It Is, How To Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ by Andrew David Naselli and J. D. Crowley is a fairly short book at 149 pages (not including indexes), but it’s packed full.

They begin with a brief explanation about what got each of them thinking and then studying about the conscience. Then they explore what the conscience is and does and look briefly at every verse in the New Testament that mentions conscience. They bring out several principles, more than I can reiterate here, but a few stand out: conscience has been given to us by God; no two people have exactly the same conscience; “no one’s conscience perfectly matches God’s will”; conscience can be damaged in a number of ways; we should listen to it and not violate it so that we don’t damage it; once God shows us clearly that an issue our conscience troubles us about is not an issue in God’s Word, we yield to God as Lord over our consciences (e.g., Peter submitting to God’s rule about eating certain kinds of meat even though at first his conscience condemned them as unclean in Acts 10).

Our consciences might misregister due to being “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” – if we keep doing something that we feel is wrong and ignore conscience. “Feeding excuses to your conscience is like feeding sleeping pills to a watchdog” (p. 64). Our consciences are also affected by “the standards of other people such as your culture, family, or spiritual leaders. You simply go with the flow without thinking through the issues” (p. 64).

Since Christians are (or should be) continually reading God’s Word and growing spiritually, our consciences will change over the years as we realize some scruples are not Biblically based and as we become convicted of some issues that we had not previously realized were sin. We continually calibrate our consciences to align with God’s Word.

But since we’re all in different stages of growth and come from different cultures and have been taught different things about right and wrong, all our consciences are not going to be on the same page at the same time. How then do we interact with each other?

We should not sin against our conscience by thinking, “Well, Mr. A and Miss B. do this and they are strong Christians, so it must be ok.” No, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:2), we should do everything we do as unto the Lord (Romans 14:6), and we shouldn’t do anything that we can’t do with the full faith that it is okay (Romans 14:22-23) (“Don’t forget that ‘faith’ here refers not to saving faith in Christ [14:22a makes that clear] but to the confidence a person has in their heart or conscience to do a particular activity” [p. 97]). One whose conscience is strong in a certain area shouldn’t despise someone whose conscience bothers them on that issue, and the person whose conscience bothers them shouldn’t judge the person whose conscience has no scruples about issues which are not clearly defined in Scripture (Romans 14:3-4). Bringing up a specific matter, the authors write:

Don’t roll your eyes. This question may make you “face palm” in amazement at how strange someone else’s conscience might be. That’s typically how someone with a strong conscience reacts when they hear about the scruples of the weak. But to the weak of conscience, these are life-and-death matters. Conscience is always a life-and-death matter since sinning against it is always a sin, and getting used to sinning against conscience in one area will make it easier to sin against conscience in other areas. The strong must not look down on the weak but bear with them (Romans 15:1) and, if opportunity arises, gently help them calibrate their conscience (p. 79).

A few of the many quotes I have marked:

We should expect disagreements with fellow Christians about third-level matters [disputable matters where the Bible allows for differences], and we should learn to live with those differences. Christians don’t always need to eliminate differences, but they should always seek to glorify God by loving each other in their differences (p. 87).

Mature Christians should help other Christians train their consciences, but no one should force others to change their conscience (p. 92).

Our ultimate goal is not simply to stop judging those who are free or to stop looking down on those who are strict. Our ultimate goal is to follow the example of our Lord Jesus, who gave up his rights for others. He joyfully renounced his unbelievable freedom in heaven to come to earth and become an obedient Jew in order to save his people (Rom. 15:3-9) (pp. 95-96).

Have the right proportion. Keep disputable matters in their place as third-level issues. Don’t treat them like first- or second-level issues. And don’t become preoccupied with them or divisive about them. They shouldn’t be so important to you that it’s all you want to talk about. They shouldn’t be the main reason that you choose what church to join. They shouldn’t be issues that you are the most passionate about such that you are constantly trying to win people over to your position and then looking down on them if they decide not to join your side (p. 101).

Unfortunately I have seen this far too often. We spend a disproportionate amount of time on these issues, and let them distract us from the main issues.

Notice how generous Paul is to both sides. He assumes that both sides are exercising their freedoms or restrictions for the glory of God. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be in a church where everyone gave each other the benefit of the doubt on these differences, instead of putting the worst possible spin on everything? Paul says that both the weak and the strong can please the Lord even while holding different views on disputable matters. They have different positions but the same motivation: to honor God. They both do what they do for the glory of God (p. 106).

Christ gave up his life for that brother or sister; are you unwilling to give up your freedom [to do something your conscience is free about] if that would help your fellow believer avoid sinning against conscience? That’s what this passage is talking about when it refers to putting “a stumblingblock or hindrance” (Rom. 14:13) in another’s way (p. 109).

Christian freedom is not “I always do what I want.” Nor is it “I always do whatever the other person wants.” It is “I do what brings glory to God. I do what brings others under the influence of the gospel. I do what leads to peace in the church (p. 115).

One of the authors is a missionary to Cambodia, and they discuss dealing with cross-cultural issues of conscience as well. For instance, the author had a fledgling mango tree that finally produced three pieces of fruit. A friend doing some concrete work at his house ate the fruit. In the US, we’d consider that at least thoughtless and selfish, at worst, thievery. But in that culture, eating fruit while on or passing through someone else’s property was not a problem at all (there is even Biblical precedent for that in Deut. 23:24-25 and Luke 6:1). Reacting negatively to that would be seen as stingy. Preaching against it as “sin” would have either confused the hearers or caused them to dismiss the missionary’s message. They cite another case in another country where the people had no qualms about a women’s chest being uncovered, as they associated breasts with feeding babies, but to them “the sight of a woman’s thighs stimulates lustful desires” (p. 125). So a lady missionary thought the bare-chested women were highly immodest, but they thought she was immodest for wearing clothes that showed her thighs. The authors devote a whole chapter to dealing with these kinds of issues, pointing out especially that when we discuss sin, we need to major on what the Bible clearly says is sin, not sin in our cultural contexts, and we need to be careful that we’re not reproducing churches or Christians that mirror the culture that we came from, but rather we need to help them reflect Christ in their own culture.

There is so much more that I’d like to share, but I am in danger of reproducing the book as it is. Much of this was not new to me, as once when we moved to a different area and could not find a church “just” like the one we came from, I had to study through Romans 14 and related passages to come to terms with differences in preferences among the folks in our new area.  But this is a much more thorough exploration than mine had been. I appreciated not only the study but also the practicality, balance, and accessibility (easy to understand without a lot of theological-ese) of the book. Highly recommended.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carol’s Books You Loved)

Reminder: Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge

Just a reminder that the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge starts here a week from tomorrow on Feb. 1! More information and an extended book list is here (you don’t have to choose a book from the list: it’s just there for suggestions).

I’ll have a post here next Thursday where you can sign up to let us know you are participating and what you plan to read. I’m looking forward to seeing what your choices are!

God’s Back

I mentioned in my recent review of The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton one quote that stood out to me. While several of the characters are trying to figure out a conundrum, the main character, Syme, says, “Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front—.” The whole book has had a variety of interpretations since its publication, but I took this observation to mean that we don’t have the big picture. In trying to figure out the mysteries of the universe, even believing that God is at the helm and wisely and lovingly guides and provides, there are still things that don’t make sense to us.

In trying to understand the book better, I came across this article. It provided much food for thought though I am not sure I agree with every point. But I did take note of the connection it made between seeing the back of things with Moses seeing the “back” of God. After the disastrous incident of the golden calf, and that after all God had done to manifest Himself to His people, He is so angry that we wants to consume them. In Exodus 32 Moses intercedes, and God relents. In Exodus 33, God tells Moses to continue on with the people toward the land He had promised them, but God’s presence would not go with them. The people mourn and Moses intercedes again in one of my favorite passages, pleading with God for His presence with them.

When God promises to go with them, Moses responds in worship, “Please show me your glory.” God replies:

“I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

Then the next day:

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

As I pondered these passages once again, this thought struck me:

If this is the back of God – merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love, forgiving sin – what must the front be?

No wonder no one can see His face and live! We’d be overwhelmed!

Besides these verses that refer to His mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness, other passages of Scripture tell us about His wisdom, power, omnipresence, and so many other attributes.

I don’t know exactly what we’ll “see” of Him in heaven, but I do know this: I may not understand everything that happens, I may question why some things have to be and wonder why God does some things and doesn’t do other things, but what I do know to be true of Him helps me to trust Him for what I don’t understand.

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(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Glimpses, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Coffee for Your Heart, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

Laudable Linkage

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Here are recent reads that have captivated my attention:

Love Like Birch Trees.

How to Sit at the Table With Those Who Hurt and Offend You, HT to Linda. “Extending love to someone who offended you does not mean you’re accepting such treatment – it means you realize you cannot thrive in a place of anger and resentment.”

What to Say Instead of “I Know How You Feel” to Someone Who Is Struggling, HT to Linda. Sharing our similar experience in an effort to let someone know they’re not alone often just draws attention to ourselves and makes the other person feel unheard. This gives a helpful distinctive.

When Our Heroes Don’t Live Up to Their Theology, HT to Challies. How do we think about spiritual giants who were blind to the wrongness of slavery.

Helping Your Daughter by Being Her Emotional Coach, HT to Story Warren.

You Can’t Have Ethics Without Stories, HT to Story Warren.. “We often forget what the Bible actually is. If not a dictionary or an encyclopedia, what is it? The Bible is, among other things, he writes, ‘a faith-forming narrative.’”

Why Children’s Books Should be a Little Sad, HT to Story Warren.

How DNA Testing Botched My Family’s Heritage, and Probably Yours, too, HT to Challies.

And finally, this dog has a dedicated owner:

Happy Saturday!

(Links do not imply complete endorsement of sites or authors.)