Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"Even Mommies Need Jesus"

For today's "Tuesday's Tidbits," I want to introduce you to Mary DeMuth, whom I mentioned in yesterday's post. I met Mary years ago at church and got to know her through women's Bible studies. Then, she was an aspiring writer. Now, she's a published, recognized author of numerous articles, several novels and two non-fiction parenting books. Her latest work, Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture, just hit bookstores. Writing it while she and her family were missionaries in France, Mary gleaned from that challenging situation some fascinating truths about parenting. I'm thumbing through the book this week, and I think you should too! Listen in on a conversation with Mary, as she describes postmodernity and discusses her approach to parenting.

Why did you write this book? Aren’t there already a bazillion parenting books out there?

Yes, I do believe there are a bazillion. I always struggle when I write a parenting book because I feel so darned small and weak. I don’t parent perfectly. But, we did live through two and half years in France, the hotbed of hyper-postmodernity. We had to learn how to parent our kids in that culture. It occurred to me that the things we learned would be helpful to American parents too.

What does postmodern mean? And why should it matter to parents?

Postmodernism is the waiting room between what used to be a modern worldview and what will be. Postmoderns believe that rationalism and/or more education doesn’t necessarily create a better society. They typically don’t embrace the notion of absolute truth, though they reach for the transcendent. The question for parents is how will we mine the current worldview, even as it shifts? What in it can we embrace as biblical? What is not biblical? What I’ve seen in the church is a fearful adherence to what is familiar. So we cling to modern ideas, even though they may not be biblical, and shun postmodern ideas even when they might be biblical. Our children will meet this shifting worldview no matter what our opinion of it is.

How can a parent help their children prepare for the world outside their door?

Become a conversational parent. Talk to your kids. Listen. Share your story. Dare to believe that God has much to teach you through your kids. Be humble enough to learn from them. Create a haven for your kids, an oasis in your home that protects, supports, and gives kids space to be themselves. Take seriously the mandate that you are responsible for the soul-nurturing of your children.Teach your children to joyfully engage their world, while holding tightly to Jesus’ hand. Teaching this comes primarily from modeling it in your own life. Do you engage your neighbors? Are you more interested in God’s kingdom than your own? Admit your failures openly with your children, showing how much you need Jesus to live your daily life.

Are you saying that authentic parents don’t always have it all together as some would like to think?

Yep! We are all frail, needy humans. If we present ourselves as perfect parents, never failing, always doing this correctly, we show our children we have no need of Jesus. We also set up a standard of perfection—that to be a Christian, one has to be perfect. This can lead to our children creating elaborate facades or hiding behind masks. I’d rather have my children see that even mommies make mistakes. Even mommies need Jesus every single day.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Monday's Musings

See, I told you I was going to start blogging more regularly! I was checking out my friend Mary DeMuth's blog today, since I'm all about Mary this week (stay tuned). She's got an interesting book list going on right now, which we are all invited to share. I'm tagging Erin, Shannon, Sandi, and Heather in particular, though I'd love to hear any of my readers' thoughts. Read the directions below and respond on your own blog or via email to me.

Copy the list below. Bold the books you’ve read.* Italicize the ones you want to read.* Leave in normal text the ones that don’t interest you.* Put in ALL CAPS those you haven’t heard of.* Put a couple of asterisks by the ones you recommend.

1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)**
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) **
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery) **
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)**
10. A FINE BALANCE (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)**
17. FALL ON YOUR KNEES (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)**
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)**
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. DUNE (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. THE POWER OF ONE (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much Is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43.Confessions of a Shopahaulic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. The Bible **
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. ANGELA'S ASHES (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. SHE'S COME UNDONE (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. ENDER'S GAME (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. THE STONE ANGEL (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. FIFTH BUSINESS (Robertson Davies)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Victor Hugo)**
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones's Diary (Helen Fielding)
72. LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson)
76. THE SUMMER TREE (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According to Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)**
81. NOT WANTED ON THE VOYAGE (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83.Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. WIZARD'S FIRST RULE (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down (Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. THE STONE DIARIES (Carol Shields)
89. BLINDNESS (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. IN THE SKIN OF A LION (Michael Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Book Review

One of the fun things about being an author, however unknown my books may be, is that I get to be a part of a community of other authors. We don't all get to meet personally, but through blogs, websites, conferences, and conventions, we become aware of and cheerleaders for each other's books and ministries. Sometimes that means we get advance copies of new books so that we can help promote them for our fellow writers.

I hope to do this more often, or at least regularly, in the future. I'm toying with the idea that every two weeks I will post a review. Something like "Monday Musings" or "Tuesday Tidbits"... Today it will be "Saturday in Scotland."

I know, that's rather specific. But it's to do with my topic, y'see. It took me a wee bit of time (not because of the book--it was more that life kept interfering; my apologies for this post's tardiness), but I meandered my way through Liz Curtis Higgs's newest treasure, My Heart's in the Lowlands.

Liz, whose 18th-century-set trilogy based on the biblical story of Jacob, Leah and Rachel reveals her love of all things Scottish, set those three novels in the Lowland counties of Dumfries and Galloway. My Heart's in the Lowlands is an ode to that region, Liz's way of chiding those who think the Highlands are all there is to Scotland.

A delightful armchair travel guide, Lowlands takes the reader on a personal, chatty, 10-day drive through the back roads of Southwest Scotland. Liz and the reader explore towns, ruins, one-lane roads, shops, and the locals' favorite dining spots. Here's how Liz describes it (from her website):

Side by side, page by page, you and I will travel the rolling hills and glens of the Scottish Lowlands without truly crossing the pond, changing time zones, or driving on the left side of the road (though we can pretend, can't we?). Our itinerary includes quaint villages and crumbling castles, antiquarian bookshops and charming tearooms, grand old churches and hedge-lined gardens. Och, it's a ferlie place!

And since I'll be visiting Scotland one day (in the distant future, I fear), I'll have this little gem on hand when I start planning my daily jaunt. I'm one of those who's more in thrall with the Highland region, but this book has convinced me to spend a few days in Galloway and Dumfries. A more delightful travel guide I have never found. If you are planning a trip to Scotland or just want to visit vicariously, take a few days with Liz and experience the Lowlands "in person."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Choose Wisely

The Melissa city police are pretty talented when it comes to speeders on their stretch of I-75. I see someone pulled over almost every day I travel that route down to McKinney. Those folks, according to my husband who knows those policemen well, aren't getting a warning. They are getting a ticket. And one day soon some of them will head on over to the new Collin County Courthouse in hopes of pleading their case before a judge.

Generally, two things happen there. One, the judge hears the facts, "Yes, I was speeding but I had a really good reason..." and hands down the sentence. You speed, you pay. You speed too often, you pay a lot and maybe even lose your license for awhile. Or two, the judge hears the facts, "Yes I was speeding but I had a really good reason..." and decides not to convict you. For whatever reason, he stays his hand and lets you go without penalty.

A third option is possible (especially for teens). The judge hands down the sentence, but your father steps up and says he will pay the fine. You who are guilty, who have done nothing to deserve this kindness, are now free to go.

Justice: you break the law, you pay.
Mercy: the deserved penalty is stayed.
Grace: through no doing of your own, someone else volunteers to pay your penalty.

The Bible tells us that we can experience any and all of these characteristics of God personally. He has judged (and will judge) those who reject him, those who do evil to others (Romans 3:23 "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." 6:23 "The wages of sin is death.") If we sin, we are doomed to separation from God. That's justice.

Yet he also demonstrates his mercy. Jesus healed the sick, forgave his persecutors, forgives us daily if we ask it. The apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:13 that, though he was a blasphemer, persector and arrogant man towards God, "I was treated with mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief." God had forgiven Paul's earlier acts of hatred and persecution.

Closely related to mercy is grace. While mercy is a withholding of deserved punishment, grace is an offering, a free gift to the undeserving. Romans 3:23-24, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified (declared righteous) freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."

God's gift--his grace--to us is Jesus, who took our punishment on himself when he died on the cross, dying once for all so that those who accept his gift, by believing in Him, can receive the new life he offered. "For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2?8-9).

Which would you rather receive from God: justice, mercy, or grace?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Deep Faith

All you DTS folks will have recently received your summer edition of Kindred Spirit. Some of you strangers and/or folks down in Baton Rouge might not receive it at all, but you should. The newest issue looks very summery--bright blue skies, deep greens and blues of the pool water and the little boy's swim trunks, that same boy's blond head reflecting the sun.

The cheerful scene stands in contrast to the boy's expression, one of worry and distrust as he reaches out to his father in the pool. "No way!" his frown says. "I'm not jumping. You have to come get me." But the back cover shows the delight and joy that comes after trusting that his father will catch him, as they splash and romp together in the water.

"Deep Faith" is the theme of the issue. The articles are well worth your perusal, highlighting the actions we should be taking to reflect our faith in a powerful, loving, saving God. Feeding the poor, helping the homeless, worshipping in the midst of injustice...take some time to read through the online articles if you don't receive a hard copy.

For those of you who do/did receive a copy, take a good look at the boy and his father on the front and back covers. Yes, those are my guys--hubby John and son Jack. Such starring roles come to those whom the editor knows are the right age and size, not to mention adorable :).