Saturday, June 30, 2012

Book Review: The World of Animals

The World of Animals is a wonderful introduction to the classifications of the animal kingdom. The first section covers Simple Animals like protists, sponges, hydroids, and coral. The following sections are Worms, Snails & Starfish; Insects and Other Arthropods; Fish; Amphibians & Reptiles; Birds; and Mammals.

This hard back book of 256 pages is high quality with an eye-catching holographic picture of a tiger integrated on the cover. The World of Animals would be good for 3rd to 9th grade children, best for the average 5th to 7th grader. Each turn of the page brings eye-catching illustrations and interesting facts. I was so impressed with the book and my daughter's response to it that I decided to use it as one of the main science books this coming year when we cover the animal kingdom.

As a Christian homeschooling parent, I have a very difficult time finding science books that just give facts without evolution theory webbed in and presented as fact. This book is definitely ideal as it does not have any evolution theory at all. It also is not apologetics, but does credit God as the Creator in the Introduction. It is foremost a science book about facts as they are right here, right now, as science should be.

Although I do like The World of Animals as a reference book very much, I do think it could have been better if it had provided simple trees to help visualize the relationships. Also, I would personally have preferred more use of the Latin names as well. From a homeschooling perspective, this book is arranged more as a reference book than a curriculum. It provides facts but no inquiries, summations, or reviews so it would need to be supplemented.

I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Book Review: Switched!

Switched! is the fifth book in the TJ and the Time Stumblers series written by Bill Myers. My daughter likes sci-fi and Christian books so I thought this might be something she would enjoy. We received this book from Tyndale in exchange for my daughter's honest review and she was eleven years old at the time she read it. Her review:

The book was weird, in a way. It would not be my favorite book. I like some parts of it, some of the parts make me laugh and some parts are not very interesting, but it is very hard to understand, even though, it is under my reading level. I like the part when TJ and Herby are trying to talk to Tuna, who is outside a taxi that is running something close to seventy miles per hour or something like that. Tuna can't understand what Herby and TJ are trying to say, so when TJ says “You're sure Chad and Doug will know what to do?” Then Tuna says “What?” TJ repeated “They'll know what to do?” Tuna says “They'll know what the drew?” “No, no.” TJ tried again. “They'll know what to do?” Tuna looked alarmed “They now have the flue?” Of course, it went on like that. That part was my favorite. Thank you for sending the book.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Love Me Just As I Am?

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” ~John 21:17

I was thinking of how difficult it is to talk to people in the U.S. about Christianity. Everyone has heard of it and, because of that, has usually already formed an opinion without really knowing what it is. They also have their defensive answers.

I have often heard people say in their defense, "God loves me as I am." They acknowledge that God knows everything about them, yet loves them as they are...just as they are. What they really mean is that they expect God to love them without having to change or else He does not qualify as God to them.

Does God love people just as they are, even those who remain unchanged? Yes, He loves such as these like a parent loves the stubborn child, the disobedient child, and the disappointing child, but such a child does not receive the blessings of the willing, obedient, and pleasing child. What parent does not still love the child yet wishes for him to change also? What parent does not want his love reciprocated in word and deed?

The problem is not with God's love for us, but with our love for Him. To say that one believes God will love him just as he is requires no effort on his part and all the effort on God. In all my readings of the Bible, I have never found such thinking to be pleasing to God. This attitude lacks desire to seek God's heart, to want to please Him, to love Him.

Perhaps the questions we as Christians tend to ask are the wrong ones. Instead of asking if one believes in God, perhaps we should ask if one loves God. Jesus did this with Peter: "Do you love me?" Such a simple question that exposes the heart of the matter!

Do you love the Lord your God?

~ Thank you, my Lord, for laying this on my heart today. May I be ever prepared to asked this question when You have provided the opportunity. ~

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book Review: World of Science

As a Christian homeschooling parent, I find my beliefs are at odds with many resources in the various fields of science available to teach my daughter, but World of Science is exactly how I think science should be represented. This book is not apologetics; it does not try to prove God existence through scientific means. Instead, it states God created everything straightforwardly and then details our limited understanding of the wonders of His creation, which is what science really should be. For example, under the subtitle "Converting energy," it reads: "Energy cannot be made or destroyed except by God. It can only be converted...."

Still, God is not really mentioned much throughout the book. This text focuses on the science, not the religion. It is more about what it does not include, than what it does that matters the most to me. There is no mention of "millions of years" or evolution theory often presented as fact in comparable books. When covering the five kingdoms of living things, it does not suggest anything about their development over time. Perhaps, the first paragraph in the introduction explains it well enough: "'In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.' From its very creation, the Earth was formed with guidelines established by our Maker."

The book has seven sections: Matter and Chemicals; Energy, Motion, and Machines; Electricity and Magnetism; Light and Sound; Earth and Life; Space and Time; and Scientific Experiments relating to each of the previous six sections. Although not highly in-depth, it has all the elements of over 800 photographs and bright illustration arranged attractively among snippets of reading information, which are so poplar with modern science reference books and textbooks.

This hard back book of 248 pages is high quality with an eye-catching holographic picture integrated on the cover. I believe it is best suited for children in grades 4 to 6, but it could easily be used for grades 3 to 9. An added plus, many of the 60 experiments can be done with household items on hand or easily found at local stores--no need for fancy equipment!

I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Book Review: The 60-Minute Money Workout

So moveover money "makeovers," it's time for the money workout. ~Ellie Kay in The 60-Minute Money Workout

While I find the information sound in The 60-Minute Money Workout: An Easy Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Finances into Shape by Ellie Kay and I understood the intention of the "workout" concept, it felt regimented and less motivational in comparison to other books I have read on personal finances. However, I can also see how this book would be very beneficial for people who need a positive structure in approaching discussions about finances with a spouse.

I felt the author added confusion in some areas about how to use the book. For instance, in the second chapter: The 60-Minute (Split) Personality Workout it reads:

Now that we are ready to look at what this workout entails in detail. Please don't read ahead in this chapter, because you will spend part of your sixty minutes reading about the different personalities and another part of the timed work assigning a ranking to those personalities. You don't want to jump ahead of yourself because you'll lose some of the spontaneity that is essential in getting the kind of instinctive response that might be lost if you work ahead. Read the following carefully, and then go straight to the 'Workout Tip Sheet' at the end of the chapter, skipping over the money personality section, and you will find the workout much more genuine as a result.

I found myself thinking: Why not just put the Workout Tip Sheet before the money personality section? She also put the chapter on retirement and saving before the one on debt, yet advises do the debt repayment workout first. I think it would be less confusing to place the chapters in the order she suggests they should be done and just recommend those without debt to skip the chapter on debt repayment.

There were also Preworkout Tests in the chapters that help the reader evaluate his financial situation. Like most finance advising books this one covers debt, spending, retirement, savings, being thrifty, recreation, college, and starting a home based business--just like the author has done.

Ellie Kay's ideas on children's allowance lined up with my ideas on it very well. She believes "[t]he main objective in implementing an allowance is to teach our children about responsibility." She does not believe in tying allowances to chores because then a child would not do them unless paid, but if chores are done by another family member because they were left undone, the child would have to pay the one who did them and lose some of his allowance. I think that many of the bad financial decisions people make are because they did not learn how to manage money as children and the chapter on allowance, although brief, is a balanced approach in preparing them for financial responsibilities in adulthood.

Overall, the book is helpful for those coming to the table about managing finances for the first time in their lives and slanted towards those who are in military (understandable as the author's husband was a fighter pilot) and others who appreciate a regimented approach to manage finances.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for my honest review.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Playing Telephone

Cell phones are not a sign of power, they're a sign of subservience. ~Doug Pappas

Yesterday was rather interesting. When we arrived at the horse barn, the Princess noticed immediately that several horses were not there. I had forgotten the dates, but I knew that the girls with their horses would be going to a week long camp during the summer and since only the boarded horses were missing, I was not alarmed. Not at that...but there was something that caught my attention and did cause me some concern: Dunny was limping.

Dunny is a new horse to the barn, having been there only two weeks. He is owned by a friend of Miss Annette, the 4-H leader and owner of the barn. Dunny is being leased by one of the 4-H mothers, who also boards her own horse there. She is leasing him for the 4-H'ers to have horse to ride, since Molly is the only large horse owned by Miss Annette along with the five mini's and two ponies.

After bringing the horses into their stalls and Dunny to an outside pen at the corner of the paddock as we have no available stalls, I took a quick look at Dunny's leg. It was bleeding and there was a cut into the hoof at the coronet band, where the hoof wall and the skin meet. At first, I thought it could be the cut causing the problem and it would be deep to cause him to limp so badly, so I had the Princess knock on Miss Annette door, but not only was no one home, but the dogs were not as well, which suggested that she was either with the girls at the camp or, as I later found out, she is on an Alaskan cruise.

Now the problem is my cell phone gets very bad reception at the barn and just a bit better when I am up by the house, but only enough to hear and give very broken messages. I needed to call the woman leasing Dunny, but I had to call home hoping my husband had not yet left on to go to another state to work. He was home and after ten minutes and two calls, because we got cut off, I finally had a phone number, but no answer and, yes, her daughter was at the camp so she could have had her mother's cell phone.

My husband called another mother, whom he knows, and texted me to look for the emergency numbers in the feed room notebook. I got them walked back up to find the best signal and called all three. One went to a bank and the other two were no longer in service.

In between the walking back and forth with the cell phone, I cleaned up Dunny's left fore leg with hydrogen peroxide and really examined the injury. He is a gentle horse and allowed me to lift his hoof without fussing. There was a cut in the hoof, but it was just the outer wall and it was not bleeding. What I found was that his pastern was bleeding all around with a general rawness and that he was swollen in the same areas. Before he was fed and after, he was pawing between the pen bars with that same leg, so I deduced that he was causing himself injury and that we would need to either have someone stay with him while he is in the pen or feed him somewhere else because at this point the tendons were swollen and warm. I was also concerned about infection, particularly because I could not find the purple spray that we use on cuts and abrasions. I wrote a message to place near the white board relaying information about Dunny's pawing injury to the other barn families and planned to call the leasing mother when I got home and went on with our work.

About ten minutes later three vehicles come whizzing in. Children run breathlessly toward the paddock and one says, "There's Mack!" pointing to the Iceland pony coming up from the upper field looking to get a drink. Another one echoes the same words as if she could not believe Mack would be there. I said, "Well, of course there's Mack." The children went on naming the horses they saw, ignoring my questioning look. These were 4-H homeschooling families that live nearby. Finally, the three mothers came up with questioning looks also.

Apparently, the mother my husband called got the impression that all the horses were missing and only Dunny was there...and he was injured. I thought he may have misunderstood me due the the signal breaking up. Later I would learn that my husband mentioned that some of the horses were not there as I had told him and he understood they were at camp. However, "horses missing" and "Dunny injured" must have been the terms that made the mother must have assumed that the horses had gotten out. Relieved the mothers talked awhile, examined Dunny, and planned to feed him in the arena or watch him in the pen. The Princess was delighted to play around with so many children that she likes so well, while we talked about how the emergency numbers failed and how to improve organizing the barn, maybe even having a phone in the barn. (Annette's husband works for the phone company.) One mother texted the mother leasing Dunny to update her about his habit and injury, which she texted back that she would check on him later.

Just as the three families began to leave, another came. This was a homeschooling family I had not met so we talked some after the other left. Three of the families were still homeschooling, not that they planned to homeschool in the summer, but they had not finished the year yet. I am so glad I just homeschool year around, although lately it is very light. The last family now feeds on Wednesday morning. There used to be a feeding schedule posted in the barn, but we do not have one now and that was one of the things we discussed about organizing the barn better. By the time the last family left, it was noon and rather hot, so the Princess did not ride and we left to run a few errands and eat lunch at home.

It just was not the typical Tuesday, but it was less typical when my husband called to tell me that he is all right, which is his opening line when he has been in a accident. I was relieved to hear that it was an accident with rubber coming off the tire of a semi truck. However, it caused some damage with the van and to fix it was going to cost far more than if he was home and able to go to our favorite garage...and maybe cost more than the van is worth, but buying another vehicle would cost more and is not in the budget right now so...I am just wandering where this will go.

~ My Lord, help us to hear truth as it is not as we fear it could be and also guide us into making the best decisions about the van. ~

Friday, June 15, 2012


A computer will do what you tell it to do, but that may be much different from what you had in mind.
~Joseph Weizenbaum

My daughter is very respectful of our rules regarding the Internet, but also naïve...and I would like for her stay that way for now to protect her innocence. When I discovered in addition to looking up word definitions at Merriam-Webster's Word Central, supplementing math lessons at Math is Fun, looking up maps at Google Maps, and some reference information at Wikipedia that the Princess was windowscreen shopping on Amazon, I began to wonder where else she might wander.

The Princess did tell me that she went to Amazon by clicking on an advertisement on one of her approved sites and I began thinking of all those advertisements that I purposely ignore but would be so very enticing to a young mind willing to ventured in yet untried territories...some being spiritual voids that could tear away her innocence.

Time to lock it down!

Since I do not have alarm going off when she is on the computer nor sleeping cat on the keyboard that she would not want to disturb, I had make do with what I have. I must say though that I do like the cute sleeping kitty.

We are using Windows XP with no built in parental controls and Firefox for our browsers, I was pleased to find ProCon Latte Content Filter as an Add-on for Firefox. Instead of blacklisting certain sites, I set it so she can only go to whitelisted sites of my choosing. Her search engine is Google Safe Search for Kids, but she cannot go to any site not on the whitelist without my password protected approval. It has frustrated her a few times when she was doing some research or searching for desktop pictures for her PC, but if the site seems to be safe, I can add it to the whitelist in just seconds.

Now I am considering one other thing: time limits. I am looking at a free program called Romaco Timeout. The problem is that we are using the computer for lessons now so that could be an added complication. Still, I want her to begin monitoring her time, for her to consider how much time she is spending with email or writing new chapters in one of her many books. Yes, it seems she has a heart for writing.

~ My Lord, please help me to be wise in how I use my own computer and the Internet so that I will be a good example for my daughter. ~

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Gideon Needed Less to Do More

The day we find the perfect church, it becomes imperfect the moment we join it. ~Charles H. Spurgeon

Some people--most probably--think that a successful church is one that is large with many Sunday School classes and ministries. Probably most people think a successful church is one whose membership is growing. Probably most people pick a church that is to their liking.

Just within a tenth of a mile to my own church is a mega church in the making that started with just ninety people when we moved here in 1997, but now has a membership of 4,000. I visited that church at around 2,000 members over eleven years ago when they were still meeting in a local school's gymnasium with no air conditioning. Being pregnant at the time, I became quite ill during the service because of the heat, but before that I was disappointed by some of the things I saw and experienced: CDs of the praise group being sold in the foyer, greeters having no idea if you were new or a regular member, too much staging and scheduling to allow for the Holy Spirit during the service, etc. Now they have a huge building and hire deputies to control traffic every Sunday after their service.

Mega churches have so much to offer and I appreciate that some people love them. I saw another one that actually had a workout room with machines and weights, but it required a fee membership to enter that room--in a church building? They had a professional cafeteria and an intimate room with a coffee cafe atmosphere complete with small high tables and chairs and laptop areas! They had two rooms just for weddings, one each for the bride and groom. There was a gymnasium, of course. This church is basically a Christian community recreational facility!

Some people want such churches. Members would probably justify every single room and claim that the greater number of people coming because of what it offers means that the church can do more to support more ministries inside and outside. Still, I cannot help but question if these amenities are really necessary. Western Christians are competing for the hearts and souls of children with today's education and technology, but do we really need to go this far? It seems to me that members have so much to do within the church that they can excuse themselves from interacting with unbelievers and witnessing to the unsaved. Yet, these mega churches now seem to be the status symbol of successful Christianity.

Next to such churches, mine is just plain and small...practically insignificant and barely surviving on so little.

Still, I keep thinking of Gideon. The bigger and the more armed and the more motivated and trained the army is the more likely it will be successful in defeating its enemy. It is logical, yet God can defy logic in such powerful ways. He did not only give Gideon victory, but He did so after depleting his willing army to so few that it seemed impossible they could survive but a few minutes of fighting. In retrospect, God's battle plan seemed to be logical and brilliant, but if His Hand had not been in it, there could have been a number of things that could have gone wrong and Gideon's small army could have been slaughtered. When God says the battle is won before it begins, even against the greatest of odds, then the faithful only need to obey Him.

In the last two years, my church has downsized to just six couples (one ill spouse stays home), two families, and two roommates, that is, nineteen regularly attending members with the two children, including the pastor and his wife. We had been holding at that number...until recently. The two roommates resigned their offices and ministries and quit coming suddenly. There was no explanation and they would not return calls and other forms of inquiry for a few weeks. One finally agreed to have lunch with another member and from what I have been told third hand, both women were very frustrated and basically just gave up on our church.

Was God leading them according to His will? Are they in a ministry where He wants them now or are they running away due to their frustration and lack of patience with the Lord's timing or just the other members? I have left churches before, but not just because I felt frustrated. I would never go to any church for long if that were the case. Each church has its strengths and weaknesses, its praises and its frustrations. I usually have felt a leading to leave and it had to be strong because I am highly loyal, even to the point of my own detriment.

The way they left, without word and not returning calls suggested to me that their decision was not God led, for if it were what would there be to hide? We would be sad but rejoice that the Lord made His will known and they were obeying. Who can be against expanding the ministry of the Lord according to His will by their parting?

They probably have had expectations that were not met. One had tried something that she hoped would attract people to our church: Manna Sunday. The membership would contribute money and after two morning services a month we would have "catered" lunches, rather than potlucks, followed by games that would be free to all visitors. We had one man with his two young sons come on the second Manna Sunday and for a few weeks thereafter, but his wife is Catholic and had issues with the idea of a Protestant church, so he stopped coming. Manna Sundays were also diminishing the ability to have dinners for raising money for the women's ministry as we did once a month previously, so we cut Manna Sunday to once a month. Obviously, the response was disappointing but apparently so was the number of volunteers to host it. I did say that we had only fifteen adults excluding the pastor and his wife, but what I did not say was that at least three men and the very roommate that thought up Manna Sunday have traveling jobs and, being the wife of one of these men with traveling jobs, I can knowingly say that it is very difficult for us and most likely the others to make such commitments in advance.

I suppose it all would be disheartening if the goal is to make the church grow and there was a time it frustrated me also, but I was given a vision about our church nearly two years ago and I am not discouraged. I do not have any idea how our church will grow, when it will, or even if it will, although I believe the vision suggested it will. However, I do know that my husband has witnessed to many people in his travels and it is likely the other ones traveling do as well. Our ministry at this season is not conducive to building our church, but maybe very effective at building God's church. I just believe I am not to be concerned about the numbers or the money right now in our little church.

I have been frustrated about the situation within my church at times, though I have not felt a calling to leave this church. I could see this loss of two women, who were very gifted in leading the singing, as disheartening; I probably should see it that way and I will miss them, but such things are my Lord's realm. The loss of just two people is going to financially be a problem with two people in our church being jobless right now as well, but maybe we need to see that less is more and making do with what we have is preparation for greater things.

Gideon...God sent home thousands prepared to do battle so that He would be glorified by an obedient few who did not loose heart because they were little in number. I am not disheartened because I still believe, against all evidence, that God has a plan and we only need to be faithful, willing, and obedient.

~ My Lord, the church is yours. Make us into Your obedient and willing disciples. ~

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Making God into Our Image

Jesus Christ did not say, 'Go into the world and tell the world that it is quite right. ~C.S. Lewis

I was listening to a local radio talk show when I heard the hosts discussing a poll on their blog. It asked to which political party do you think Jesus Christ would lean towards. Although I cannot seem to find the results online now, they reported the highest percentage was Libertarian at around 25%, with Other a close second, and Republican and Democratic following respectively. Understand this is not a religious station, but one that has conservative talk shows so that would be its base. However, even knowing this, I was sickened by the results.

I am conservative and I would like to believe that Jesus was a well, but I would not dare to suggest that Jesus would lean Republican or Conservative Libertarian or even Constitutionalist, the latter to which I am relate closest of the three.

I cannot speak for Jesus, but He is the King, the Right Hand of God! I would think He would have a Theological Government...and that would have come under Other in this poll. Shouldn't Other have been nearly 90% at least? The other part about which I wonder what else "Other" represented to the other voters.

I know it is just a silly poll, but it suggests the climate of our society and the lack of understanding of who and what Jesus is. Why do we all think Jesus would align with any of our political parties? Is it that we want God to fit in with us...instead of us fitting in with Him? Are we so arrogant that we seriously believe that God would not completely do away with our petty political parties?

I find it very disturbing.

~ My Lord, may we be very careful in how we represent You, even to ourselves. ~

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. ~Matthew 12:34

Have you ever felt that you have been compromising to the point that you have become compromised? Odd how the word "compromise" can suggest a mutually good result as an agreement, but just add a "d" on the end and it becomes something bad as in giving up too much.

When one does not compromise, others may see the person as hardhearted or hardheaded; they would prefer a softer, seemingly more loving approach. It might make everyone get along better, but not always honestly. Sometimes compromising works against the greater good...and against God's purpose.

A few weeks ago the Princess and one of her friends, I will call Lyssa, told another girl, Nancy, in the neighborhood that they would not come to her birthday pool party. Nancy is one who is highly manipulative and can be rather mean when she does not get her way. Although Lyssa has been playing with her since they could walk, being that they live so close together, both she and my daughter gave up on trying to be friends to Nancy for several months.

This problem did not start just this year, but ever since the three girls had been playing together, a few years now. I had told my daughter that the best way to help Nancy to understand that her behavior was wrong would be to decline playing with her or to leave when she starts. To continue playing with her seemed be a green light for her undesirable behavior. My daughter was more concerned about hurting Nancy's feelings, who did not seem to be concerned with hurting hers.

Lately, Nancy has been calling asking to play. (I really wish children were taught phone manners before they are allowed to use a phone. When she called yesterday I said hello four times and she echoed hello four times instead of stating her purpose for the call.) My daughter has been willing to play with her, to see how she would behave. My daughter is very forgiving and willing to give second chances, but I am hoping she is more wary of how her good morals can be used against her. Things have been going better, she tells me.

Nancy's mother told me, when calling for her to be sent home for dinner, that she has been talking to her about how to treat her friends. She believes Nancy is a bit bossy in demanding her own way. Yes, a bit...but there are times it is better to receive information than to give it so I just listened. I don't know if the refusal to go the birthday party tipped the mother off or not, but I hope for her own sake that Nancy learns to compromise and I am thankful that my daughter stopped allowing herself to be compromised with her demands.

Is being uncompromising the Christian thing to do? I believe it is when it is appropriate. Jesus certainly did not compromise with the Pharisee when they were trying to find fault with Him! He did not let anyone manipulate or boss Him. He did not let them get by with it in a humble, I-love-you-no-matter-what-you-do kind of manner either. He was justly uncompromising and that is part of what makes me proud to be a believer in Him.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for being all that a loving God should be: One who does not compromise with evil doings and yet readily receives us when we repent. May we be more like You. ~