About Me

I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure (using font only to enable access in settings with poor internet)

Sunday, 17 May 2015

A new blog www.anabundantadventure.blogspot.com

Three years ago, with a baby and two two-year olds, we had made the decision to home educate our family. I was aware this decision might bring challenges, and that it was important to remain faithful to our convictions and to draw from the wisdom and resources of others. So we launched www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com. For three years I have posted here, at least once a week and this site will remain - hopefully the archive will continue to challenge and encourage, and I will respond to comments. However I have increasingly come to realise that our decision to home educated is simply one element of our life of faith – desiring to live for Christ in all things, and not follow the pattern of the world. Whilst home education will remain a major part of our lives for the foreseeable future, I have increasingly wanted to write about the life of faith – about global mission, about serving God as a family, about hospitality and relationships, about Christians in secular leadership roles, about financial priorities, about Christian marriage, family life and spiritual growth. So on the third anniversary of homeeducationnovice, I am launching An Abundant Adventure (www.anabundantadventure.blogspot.com)

When describing Himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus promised ‘I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly’ (John 10:10). An abundant life is not necessarily an easy life – elsewhere it is described as entering ‘by the narrow gate’ (Matthew 7:13). However the twenty two years I have been following the Lord Jesus have certainly been abundant, and never more so since embarking on parenthood seven years ago.

It is my prayer that you find the new blog inspiring, challenging, comforting, refreshing and encouraging.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Are you content?

'Now godliness with contentment is great gain' 1 Timothy 6:6

Are you content? 

What does it mean to be content? 

I think many of the problems that our society faces arise from discontent. People want more, and better, education, healthcare, housing, benefits, pensions, employment, leisure, tax credits and public services. And they want these things now. (We are on the eve of  General Election here in the UK, but don't worry, I am not going to delve into politics tonight)

The Puritan writers had plenty of wisdom on this - I would recommend Jeremiah Burrows' 'The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment' (link is to full PDF of this challenging book). A lot is in the title. It is:

1) Rare, even among Christians
2) Worth as much as (or indeed far more than!) a precious jewel, and
3) Christian contentment differs from the feeling of general wellbeing that an unbeliever may experience when all is well.

It might be better to phrase my opening question the other way round:

What makes you discontent?

In my life, it is often closely linked to covetousness. Dictionary definitions of covetousness vary, as 'to covet' can be taken to mean to earnestly desire something, and that is not always bad. However, more often it is used to describe a 'wrongful or inordinate desire, without due regard for the rights of others'. Covetousness  is described and warned against in the Bible through both direct commandment and also through illustrative stories of those who ultimately come to grief though their covetous desires. When Moses was given the 10 commandments, the final one stated 'You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbour’s' (Exodus 20:17)

Why is covetousness such a bad thing? It introduces discontent, and tells the lie that God's provision in your life is not sufficient. This opens the door to many wrong attitudes and actions. Ten examples of where sin can enter through covetousness are listed here (but you may think of more!)

1) Questioning the nature of God. Either denying His sovereignty, or denying His goodness
2) Lack of faith. If God is either not sovereign, or not good, how can I trust Him in future?
3) Lack of thankfulness - failing to see the good things that God has blessed you with
4) Lack of service - my two loaves and five small fish seem inadequate for the task
5) Lack of generosity - others have more than me, so they should give
6) Lack of hospitality - my house seems small, and others have several spare rooms
7) Lack of joy - I don't recognise that God's plans for my life are perfect
8) Lack of peace - questioning whether I need to change something fundamental in my life
9) Lack of perspective - it can be easier to look at those who have more, rather than less
10) Lack of love - my eyes are now on myself and my 'needs' not on others

Why am I writing this tonight? In response to a challenge in my own life. Last night I attended a Bible study at the new home of a friend. It was large, beautiful, tastefully decorated and incredibly tidy. The kitchen was incredible, like something out of an Ideal Home magazine. I knew I might feel this way, but I was taken a little by surprise at the myriad of churning thoughts that went through my mind.

THOUGHT: Life would be so much more orderly in a spacious home.
TRUTH: Life would be almost exactly the same, just with more housework needed

THOUGHT: Their lives must be so perfect  (or certainly less chaotic than ours) to be able to settle down
TRUTH: Actually buying a larger home can bring its own snares. We have financial freedom to travel, move overseas, live with fewer worldly constraints through our choices of where we live. And a building, however nice, cannot solve life's problems

THOUGHT: Their children must be really well behaved, well discplined, focussed and achieve everything set before them (rather than spending the best part of a morning to settle down and do some basic reading and writing, as we have done for the past couple of days)
TRUTH: What a completely illogical thought! Why should a particular size or style of home improve behaviour? Their children, just like ours, are sinners who need to come to an understanding of the grace of God, and also of their need for God's strength to overcome their sinful natures.

THOUGHT: We could have much better Bible studies and offer much better hospitality in a large and beautiful home
TRUTH: We've been having regular Christian meetings and hosting guests (both known to us and strangers) for the last 15 years. That there are five of us living in a three bedroom house does not prevent us being able to open our doors and share. Similarly, our friends believe God has given them their new home to be used by God (and hence last night's meeting was at theirs, as we are trying to hand over the things which had previously taken place at our house prior to moving overseas in a few months).

THOUGHT: It would be much better for homeschooling to have all that space
TRUTH: Homeschooling can take place anywhere, and the main locations in the house are reading on the sofa or sitting at our large dining table. This would be the same in a bigger home. Actually a lot of our life and schooling takes place outside anyway - in parks, museums, beaches, art galleries, home ed meet ups and so forth

THOUGHT: It would be good for the boys to have more space to play
TRUTH: It's good for the boys to learn to live closely together. They also need to learn that what we have is enormous compared to most children in the world, as indeed many families live in a single room or very basic accommodation. They need to learn that relationships are more important than things

THOUGHT: Maybe we are a little crazy to make the choices we do, when we could 'afford' to move somewhere bigger and more luxurious
TRUTH: This one is key. Our choices have been shaped by God's leading and guiding over the past 20 years. Our choice of home is only one example of how we have felt God calling us to have a loose hold on this world, to live as strangers here and respond to His call to serve Him in a range of roles, short, medium and potentially long term in low-resource countries. Yes, we could afford the same kind of home - but that is not the life we have been called to, at least not at this current time.

THOUGHT: My family would be happier if I had a home like that
TRUTH: That may be true! My family (rather than my in-laws) are not Christians and wish we would 'settle down' and do the conventional life thing. But that isn't something to aspire to!

The reason I write out some of my internal conversation is because a lot of how we respond is a choice. We can choose to be content. The Apostle Paul said it beautifully when he wrote:

'I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in wantI can do all this through him who gives me strength.' Philippians 4:12-13

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Discipline and Behaviour: Applying the Bible

Two big advantages of home education are:

1) By constantly being with the children, you are able to identify and seek to correct behaviours and attitudes before these are able to develop into bigger problems

2) We can frequently draw from the Bible, which we believe to be 'God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work' (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

There are times when this does not always feel like an advantage! There are days when it feels that we spend so long working on these issues that we don't have as much time as we would like for all the educational activities we would like. There are occasions when I find myself wondering whether the children would therefore be better off in a mainstream educational establishment where there would not be so much time spent on character formation. However it does not take me long to recognise the illogical thought processes of a tired parent. It is precisely because of the days where boundaries are pushed and the boys ask for answers, explanations and sometimes just seem to be testing everything, that a parent with a Bible in hand is best equipped to speak into the situation for the highest good of the child.

Let me give a couple of illustrations from recent weeks:

1) Lying. It has been quite shocking to us, but all three of the boys have told lies recently, and have often tried to blame their brothers for their own misdemeanours. They have a good appreciation of who God is and that He is holy. Therefore often to bring conviction and confession of what truly happened, one of the key things we need to do is show the boys from the Bible just what God thinks about lying. For example:

Proverbs 6:16-19. 'There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community'. The idea that their actions are hateful to God is very shocking to the boys.

On other occasions, Hebrews 4:13 is helpful: 'Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account'. They realise that God sees and knows everything, and so that even if they are able to deceive mum and dad, they cannot hide the truth from God. That also often brings conviction.

2) Blaming others for personal sin. Along with lying comes the excuses that are made for misbehaviour: 'my brother made me do it', 'he gave it to me', 'he was doing it so I just did the same' and so on. Then I often turn to Genesis Chapter 3. The story is well known. God created the heavens and the earth, the animals and the birds and the beautiful garden of Eden and all was very good. God created Adam, and then from his rib made a 'helper suitable for him', Eve. However they were given free choice, and the one thing they were forbidden to do, to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they did. Of course they could not hide this from God, who asked 'Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?' The man said, 'The woman you put here with me - she gave me some fruit of the tree, and I ate it'. Then the Lord God said to the woman, 'What is this you have done?' The woman said. 'The serpent deceived me, and I ate'. The consequences are well known. The lesson I teach the boys here is that each one of us is accountable before God, and even if another person deceived you or otherwise led you astray, we are still responsible for our own actions. 

3) Selfishness. All children display this - arguing over toys, wanting to be the first one to have their book of choice, wanting the yellow cup and plate (for some reason this seems to be the favourite at the moment), wanting to sit on one of our knees (I can manage two on my knee, but all three becomes tricky!) Here, I try to show them how Jesus was our perfect example - there are many many passages of the Bible that could be used here, either specific verses or illustrative stories. I always love Philippians 2: 'Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!'

4) Sloppiness. When the boys are really engrossed in a task, they can put a large amount of time and effort into the details. We have particularly noticed this with the drawings of our eldest, and have enjoyed watching his style develop. However, there are other times when they seem content to rush through a task they don't enjoy so much, in order to get on to the 'more fun' things. We have to remind them that there are some things which are simply quite hard work and need practice - reading and writing for example. Colossians 3:23-24 speaks into this: 'Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.'

5) Unkindness. I think together with many parents, we frequently draw from Galatians 5:22: 'But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law'. But sometimes that can seem a little abstract. I find it can be more helpful to find an example of a story where somebody displayed the attribute or quality I am trying to teach the children about. Examples might be the parable of the Good Samaritan - where the Samaritan found the wounded Jew on the road and went the extra mile in terms of caring for him, slowing down his own journey, spending money on him (without the hope of having this repayed) and treating him as he himself would have wanted to be treated. Jesus said, 'in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets' Matthew 7:12.

These are just five examples which immediately spring to mind. These type of 'Bible studies' are daily occurrences in our household. On other occasions, I use the Bible to bring comfort in the face of discouragement or strength in the face of weariness (very often I am reading a passage like Isaiah 40 to them for my own benefit more than theirs, as I am feeling exhausted - but I like to explain to them what I am doing, why I have chosen that part of the Bible for the morning reading, how I then use it to pray and so forth). The Bible gives us hope when we feel that the circumstances in the world around us are so desperate (I am writing one week after the earthquake in Nepal, and after several recent reports of hundreds of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean. There is a humanitarian crisis in Syria, and several of my friends continue to work hard in the Ebola-striken regions of West Africa. The boys are starting to ask questions about things they hear on the radio, and rather than shield them from the harsh realities of life, we aim to provide a biblical lens for their understanding).We use the Bible for thanksgiving. For prioritisation. In praying for others. It is the most loved and read book in our home.

As a parent, I continue to be challenged that:

1) I must know my Bible well. If I am to be able to help the boys use it as a double-edged sword in the diverse circumstances of life, I need to listen to the Apostle Paul as he wrote to Timothy: 'Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth'. 2 Timothy 2:15. The more I am familiar with the stories and understand their application, the more I will be able to naturally apply it into our daily lives

2) My relationship with God must be fresh and living. The boys see me turn to God in weariness or in discouragement. I talk to them about how I pray, and how I use the Bible. These cannot be theoretical conversations, but rather my relationship with God should reflect to them some of the beauty of being known and loved by God.

How have you been able to use the Bible in the face of challenges this week?