Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Parenting Book

The Parenting Book, Nicky & Sila Lee

Written by the developers of the The Marriage Course and The Parenting Course (both produced by Alpha), this is a great all–purpose parenting manual.  It’s not a short read (at 450+pages), but parenting is not a short project either!

The material is divided into 5 sections:
·       Understanding how families work – chapters on what families are for, how you build a healthy family life, creating special times and helping siblings relationships
·       Meeting our children’s needs – this is basically an extension of the five love languages (by Gary Chapman).    There are extended sections the power of words, one-to-one time with children and listening to them.
·       Building character through setting boundaries – deals with foundations of discipline.  They use an acronym HALT to consider when dealing with all issues (is anyone involved hungry, anxious, lonely or tired?) and deal with those things first (including yourself).   Then they outline boundaries with different age groups until you are letting go and guiding, including how to help teenagers think through potential scenarios and consequences as they make their own choices.
·       Helping children make good choices – chapters address dealing with anger, stress, depression, eating disorders, sex/sexuality, alcohol and drugs, money, TV and internet.   Helpful and instructive, particular for older children.   They raise issues that you might not yet have thought about, or hope you may not ever have to deal with – such as how would you react if your teenager told you they were pregnant? 
·       Passing on our beliefs and values – family identity, dealing with the big questions of life and building a child’s their spiritual life. The Lee’s are Christian and write from that point of view, but it is also not the main topic of the book. There are more detailed books on teaching the faith and passing on values, but these chapters are still helpful.  

This book is well-written, well-researched, detailed and very balanced.    It has made me even more certain that their Parenting Courses, run with DVDs at a number of churches, would be time well spent.

One of the most refreshing parts about it was the quotes by various people, especially Nicky & Sila throughout which shared both positive things but also the mistakes they felt they had made along the way.   This lent humility to the whole book – it is written by people who are real, who tried hard, who sometimes stuffed up, but who kept persevering.   That is the type of parents I want to learn from.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Parenting the wholehearted child

Parenting the wholehearted child, Jeannie Cunnion

We have committed to running a parenting seminar this year and so we have visited to Christian bookstore shelves to see what new material is out there.

This was a great one to start with!  What an excellent book – one that drives you back to the grace of God.

If I was to write a parenting book, this could well be the one I would want to write.  Not because we have mastered it, in any sense, but because it’s what I want to aim for.   I want grace to infuse our lives, our parenting, our conversations, our day to day interactions.  

Cunnion starts with a reminder that we need the grace of God at the forefront of our own lives and understanding, and then that can drive our parenting.   We must see ourselves as beloved children of God, and keep remembering that Jesus loves our children more than we do.   We are reminded that we are not perfect, but we are saved by grace; and this must impact the way we teach and care for our children.

In Part 2 she looks at what a true friendship with Jesus will look like.  These are all the things you already know about: bible reading, scripture memorisation, prayer, church & community and service.  Yet she has removed the guilt from all these things, so you aren’t weighed down thinking “I know we should do this”, but rather are reminded of the joy of being able to do it, and the benefit that each brings.  

Part 3 takes you through what the fruit of grace can look like in a family.  She has named six values their family has decided to take as their own:  respect, self-control, kindness, thankfulness, peacemaking and honesty.  Again she has infused this section with the grace to be able to say we are not perfect, only Jesus is perfect, so let’s help our kids to aim to be like Jesus, with joy not with drudgery.

Finally, Part 4 turns to more ‘parenting’ topics like obedience, training, discipline and forgiveness & repentance, and how we can model them and teach them.   All very helpful.

I know many people are overwhelmed by parenting books.  I know because I am too!   There is so much you are challenged by, so many areas to think about and address.

However, never let that put you off challenging yourself to keep living with grace and extending grace to your children.  If you need to pace yourself to slow down the onslaught of ideas/challenges, read one chapter a day, or even one a week.   Pick 2-3 things you want to concentrate on for a term.   I have picked a few things I want us to think about and hopefully we can do so over the next few months. 

This is mainly aimed at parents of younger children (0-10s).  Our kids are 8, 10 & 12 and I found much that was helpful, but her illustrations and examples are often for pre-schoolers and the early years of primary school, which makes sense as her kids are that age.   If you wanted to read something for the teenage years, I would suggest Age of Opportunity might be a better idea.  For those still hanging in there with younger ones, this book is well worth reading.  

Monday, March 14, 2016

Seven Women

Seven Women and the secret of their greatness, Eric Metaxas

I was quite excited to pick up this book recently, thinking it was time to read another biography.  I enjoyed Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer about 4 years ago, so was keen to read more of his work.   He has also written Seven Men, after which he was encouraged to write a similar version about seven women.

It was a good read and was also very interesting.  Unless you spend your life in history and biographies, chances are there will be women in here you do not know much about.   His introductory chapter explains the process he went about in choosing which women to include, which was insightful.  He did not choose women because they were compared to men (such as the first woman to do something).   Rather:
When I consider the seven women I chose, I see that most of them were great for reasons that derive precisely for their being women, not in spite of it; and what made them great has nothing to so with their being measured against or competing with men. In other words, their accomplishments are not gender-neutral but are rooted in their singularity as women.  All of them existed and thrived as women…  (p. xv)
He also goes on to talk about how pitting women against men does both a disservice and I found these comments refreshing.   He finishes saying that biographies enable us to look at a different era and time and to realise that we all come to these accounts with our own cultural blinkers, and we can still learn a great deal from people of the past.   All very helpful and illustrative to know how someone has thought about their writing.

Then onto the stories of the seven women.  He has included:  Jean of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Saint Maria of Paris, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks and Mother Teresa.  In doing so he has included women from the Catholic, Orthodox and Reformed faith.   I felt each chapter got better as I read along, meaning I found Joan of Arc and even Susannah Wesley much weaker chapters than the later ones.  I wonder if sometimes stories of people from long ago are so alien to our cultural understanding they are much hard to interact with, which is an interesting conclusion, I realise, considering Metaxas’ opening remarks.  

The one I struggled with the most was the chapter on Joan of Arc.  It is clearly a fascinating story and one I did not know the details about.  However, oddly I thought for a biography, there was no analysis of her at all.   This was a young woman who claimed voices from God were clearly speaking to her about helping the rightful king of France regain the throne.   The whole story and setting is so foreign to us, an attempt at interpretation would have been helpful for the reader.  I can only assume even Metaxas did not feel up to the task.

Each of the following chapters presented a woman and her life and faith in more detail, with a little bit of analysis along the way.   I had either no or only basic knowledge about most of these women and I finished the book encouraged by the lives of women of the past.    In the end because only one chapter was given to each woman, it was really only a taste.  They are some I would definitely like to read about in more detail in the future.  A good read to get a brief insight to seven remarkable women.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Easter is coming up fast this year, in fact it will all be over in only 3 weeks!   So it’s time to think about how you might celebrate Easter with your family.

Over the past 6 years we have used some readings from Matthew’s gospel over the two weeks leading up to Easter (you can read about them and their development over the Easter readings posts).   It has been a great way to focus our attention on Jesus’ final week and reflect upon his death and resurrection as a family.   When I wrote it our kids were a lot younger and so the readings and questions were a simplified version of the account. 

I have wanted to work through a more complete account for some time.  Also, as with Advent last year,  I felt we needed something new.   I had planned to write new material from John’s gospel, but realising the work involved that has been shelved for another year (!)  

This Easter we are trialling some new material from Luke’s gospel.   Like the Matthew readings, there are 14 days of bible readings, things to discuss, prayers and also optional inserts for openable eggs.

If you would like to use them for your family, both are available as pdf files via the RESOURCES tab:

Preparing for Easter with your family:  Readings from the Gospel of Luke
  • Aimed at more primary aged kids, although flexible and adaptable.
  • Print in format needed (Acrobat Reader allows you to print as a booklet)
  • Start on the Wednesday nine days before Good Friday (March 16 in 2016) and go through until Easter Tuesday. 
  • If you want to use my inserts which include the titles of the days, the bible verses and some suggestion for pictures, they are also available on the resources page. 

Preparing for Easter with your family:  Readings from the Gospel of Matthew
  • Aimed at younger families, although flexible and adaptable.
  • Print in format needed (Acrobat Reader allows you to print as a booklet)
  • Note: this is exactly the same material as previous years, it has just had a format update. 
  • Start on the Monday 11 days before Good Friday (March 14 in 2016) and go through until Easter Sunday. 
  • If you want to use my inserts which include the titles of the days, the bible verses and  some suggestion for pictures, they are also available on the resources page.  
The start and finish dates are different for both so that the events of the Easter weekend itself line up with the readings.

I would love feedback on the new material, if you try it.  As we are also using it for the first time, I’m sure there will be edits along the way!

For other ideas of how to celebrate Easter, books to read and things to try – read through all of the Easter posts of the past.   There is a lot in there!


Update after Easter 2016 - we enjoyed the new readings, having some more details of the gospel accounts and some different things to think about.

Here is a photo of the pictures/readings on the wall at the end: