Monday, March 30, 2009

Across Five Aprils

(BOOK 10 of the 52 week Challenge)

This novel tells of the Creighton family who lived in southern Illinois when the American Civil War broke out in April, 1861. The story chronicles each year of the family member's lives until the end of the war in April, 1865, and is told from the viewpoint of the youngest son, Jethro. Jethro is only nine when the war begins, and he quickly takes on the responsibilities of a man in his family as his brothers head off to war: one to fight for the Confederacy, and the others to fight for the Union.

I was amazed at how much I enjoyed reading this; it was hard for me to put it down once I started it. I highly recommend it as excellent reading material for all ages; your family might enjoy it as a read-aloud if you are studying about the Civil War.


(BOOK 9 of the 52 week Challenge)

I like Sarah Palin. She is the kind of straight-shooting, gutsy, conservative politician that this country needs. She's not afraid to tell it like it is. She's a real person who raises her own kids and enjoys being around them. That alone is refreshing in this day and time of hearing moms endlessly complain about their children getting out of school in May for the summer. She was told she was carrying a baby, her fifth child, who had Down's Syndrome and *chose* life. Quite an admirable woman.

From the book, concerning her candidacies in Alaska:
"In a world where representative government was shaken by corruption, people took power back into their own hands [by electing Palin]."

"[People marveled] at how someone as down-to-earth as Sarah could reach such extraordinary heights by standing firm for her beliefs."

Sean Parnell, who was elected as Sarah Palin's lieutenant governor, shared these thoughts in his inaugural speech:
"This vision of Alaska - of safe homes and streets, excellence in our schools, of families together in peace, and for dignity in our twilight years - rests securely in hands larger and more capable than our own. However, we cannot simply wait and watch events unfold. Every one of us must own this vision of Alaska's future. We must take responsibility for the things we can change."
Sharon Leighow, Palin's deputy press secretary, had this to say about her boss:
"She can be on the phone with Dick Cheney and have [Alaska's state Senate President] right outside her door, and her kids call and she goes, 'Oops, hold on.' Her kids trump everyone, and I think that's pretty neat."
I hope we hear more from Mrs. Palin and other like-minded conservatives in our coming elections.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Crazy For God

Subtitle: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back

(BOOK 8 of the 52 week Challenge)

Frank Schaeffer grew up in his family's L'Abri ministry in Switzerland, just as his sister, Susan, did. What a difference there is in the writings of these siblings!

While Susan chose to focus on the big questions of life in her book, Frank (formerly known as Franky) chose to dish the dirt on his family's shortcomings while also dragging other famous evangelicals through the mud.

In his book, he drifts from proclaiming certainty about his Christian beliefs to a place of being doubtful about any of the truths that he formerly embraced. He embodies the type of person that Joe and I don't want our children to become: one who chooses a faith based on his parent's beliefs, but who never really *owns* those beliefs himself.

I felt sorrow for Frank Schaeffer as I read his book. The man spent years living as though he had found the truth, and he now has renounced many of those beliefs and seems to be adrift and struggling.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

How to be Your Own Selfish Pig (and other ways you've been brainwashed)

(BOOK 7 of the 52 week Challenge)

This book is part of the reading material for the Worldview Class that Joe and I are teaching to Zachary and Ryan and a small group of their friends. I've recently seen it on a couple of high school level Great Books lists, and decided to give it another read from cover to cover.

Susan Schaeffer Macauley is the daughter of the famous evangelical Francis Schaeffer and his wife Edith. She spent a good portion of her childhood at L'Abri, her family's home in Switzerland which they used as a ministry. This book recounts conversations among L'Abri students during the years as they discussed the big questions of life.

The main reason Joe and I want our children to go through the Worldview materials while they are still in our home is because we want our children to *own* their faith; we don't want them to be *Christians* because Joe and I tell them that is what they should do. They need to think about the big picture / big questions of life and decide for themselves what is truth and what isn't. We want them to compare Christianity to other religions, and note how many times the viewpoints espoused by other religions don't match up with reality. And they need to be able to articulate the reasons for their faith. In 1 Peter 3:15, we're given instructions to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." Thinking through the big questions *does* prepare you to give an answer for your hope in Christ Jesus. This book definitely gets the ball rolling on the discussion of those big questions.

Early on, the author has this to say about truth:

"The basis of this book is the idea that you can find the key to truth. But before you read on, you must decide if there's really something to look for. Do you think that there might be a key to reality? That some things are true and others false, some right and others wrong? I'm not rushing you into an answer; some people would answer yes to the above question, and others no. What do you think?" ~ Susan Schaeffer Macauley
So right off the bat, the reader is deciding whether or not there *is* such a thing as truth, how you can know, and if truth matches up with reality.

Other questions posed in the book include:

"Why shouldn't my highest goal in life be happiness for myself?"

"Look inside yourself. Do you feel some direction about right and wrong in your own mind? If so, where do you think it came from?"

"Do you think that a good God could be like a kindly Santa, and pat people on the head? Or does it make sense to you that there could be a heaven and a hell?"

"Do you have value?"

"Can you sense what your purpose in life should be?"

"Who am I? Where am I going? How will I get there? How do I know?"

This book is written at the middle-school level, and is definitely for middle school ages and up; topics discussed include sexuality, abortion, and suicide. I highly recommend it for those who want to guide their children to think about the big picture of their existence.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


(BOOK 6 of the 52 week Challenge)

It's been 3 1/2 weeks since I've posted about my reading. I haven't stopped reading, I've just stopped posting about it. :-) I'm going to catch up on posting over the next few days.

Sophocles is one of only three ancient Greek tragedians whose writings have remained; only seven of his plays have survived in their complete forms. Antigone is one of his Theban plays.

It is vital to be familiar with the background of this story before you begin reading the play. The edition pictured above does a wonderful job of providing information on the play's setting, including the importance of burial in the Greek religion. Antigone is one of the daughters of King Oedipus and his wife, Jocasta. (Those of you familiar with Greek mythology know that is a story all by itself.) When Oedipus died, Antigone's brothers, Polynices and Eteocles, agreed to share their father's kingship over Thebes. Eteocles soon decided to rule Thebes alone, and had Polynices exiled. Polynices found support in the city of Argos; he raised an army and marched on the city of Thebes. During the battle, both Polynices and Eteocles were killed. Antigone's uncle, Jocasta's brother Creon, was appointed king. He gave Eteocles a proper burial, but decreed that the body of Polynices would not be respectfully buried since he was fighting for the Argives. He determined that Polynices' corpse would be left unburied to rot and be eaten by the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.

The play opens with Antigone and her sister, Ismene, discussing the events that have transpired. Antigone announces that she must bury her brother's body in accordance with the requirements of her Greek religion. Ismene warns her sister that the punishment for defying King Creon will be death.

I won't post any more of the story line so as not to spoil the play for those who wish to read it. The great conflict of this story centers around civic responsibility and personal duty. Should Antigone obey the dictates of the state in which she lives? Or should she remain true to her personal beliefs?

After reading the play, I watched a 1972 stage adaptation of Antigone which starred Genevieve Bujold in the title role and Fritz Weaver as Creon. Their scene together in the boardroom (did I mention this was an updated version of the story?) made the whole thing worth watching. Wonderful acting! At the end of the play, the narrator made this remark:

"Creon was the most rational, the most persuasive, of tyrants. And yet, like all tyrants, he refused to distinguish between the things that are Caesar's and the things that are God's."
The more I read of ancient writings, the more I realize that King Solomon was right: There really is nothing new under the sun.