Summer Reading

July 20, 2009 by MommyGirl  
Filed under Grace for Life, Reading Circle

What books are you reading this summer? Come join our Reading Circle discussion. . .


MbG Giveaway Winner!

July 13, 2009 by MommyGirl  
Filed under Grace for Life, Reading Circle

We have a winner in our first MbG giveaway, for the book Families Where Grace Is in Place. Actually with so many people responding with enthusiasm, we decided to pick TWO winners to send the book.

And the winners are. . .



Alex and Candace. . . Congratulations! Check your email for more details. . . Thank you for all who participated in and promoted this giveaway.

Real Love for Real Life

July 7, 2009 by kristen  
Filed under Reading Circle

Andi Ashworth’s Real Love for Real Life is an excellent treatment of the Christian call to hospitality. Subtitled “the Art and Work of Caring,” the book is of particular encouragement to those who are serving as caregivers on a full-time basis. In a world that pushes efficiency, speed and uniformity, Ashworth fights for the personal touch, for giving others our time and energy. Through her wonderful anecdotes, she helps readers to understand the importance giving of ourselves to create beauty and to make others welcome.

Ashworth helps readers to navigate the path of hospitality not entertainment and of true caring and not martyrdom. She doesn’t sugar coat caring or pretend that each day will be wonderful and feel fulfilling. She is also careful not to overwhelm readers and spends time explaining that giving care does not mean always saying yes or seeing yourself as the only one capable of caring. She emphasizes the importance of making room in our busy lives to care for others well.

Real Love for Real Life was a call for me to glorify God in the details, not to impress people but to show them that I love them. It was a reminder that even if I don’t always feel validated or encouraged for what I do as a full-time caregiver, I’m valuable and my work is of tremendous importance. I’d recommend this to any Christian woman, single or married, stay at home or working. It will be a tremendous encouragement to you.

MbG Giveaway! Families Where Grace Is In Place

July 6, 2009 by MommyGirl  
Filed under Grace for Life, Learning, Reading Circle

We love giveaways — both the giving and getting of unexpected goodies. Our first MbG giveaway is Jeff VonVonderen’s great book, “Families Where Grace Is in Place.”

Here’s a mini-review of the book:

Families Where Grace Is in Place by Jeff VanVonderen.

This book jarred us both from the unbiblical errors and extra-biblical extremes that run rampant in our previous life. Most startling is VanVonderen’s rather matter-of-fact correction that the Bible doesn’t say that I’m supposed to make my husband love me, nor is he supposed to make me submit. I have my responsibility to submit, and he has his responsibility to love. That’s our division of labor, so to speak.

The same goes with parents and children. My responsibility to not provoke my sons to wrath is actually greater than their responsibility to obey/honor me. I can’t make them honor me, but I need to act honorably. VanVonderen was the first for me that made that very simple, mind-blowing point.

This book is great for refocusing our hearts on Christ and having that overflow of the Gospel impact our families — and I wish we could send everyone a copy! But since we can’t, we’re doing a drawing with lots of ways to be eligible to win.

Three ways to enter. . .

1. Comment on this thread (make sure the email address you put in is correct — it won’t show, though, when you comment.) Limit one entry by commenting.

2. Mention MbG and the giveaway on your blog, facebook, twitter, community forum or an email to friends. You have to comment again, to let us know that you did that. Limit five entries — one for each avenue.

3. If you already have the book, but want to win this one to give away, share something from the book that impacted you in the comments. Limit one entry.

The contest will close Saturday, July 11th, at 7 pm Eastern. The winner will be picked by random drawing. The winner will be emailed and announced here, and Amazon will deliver Families Where Grace Is in Place to your doorstep!

Families Where Grace Is in Place has provided much food for thought and conversation here at MbG, including the following threads. If you want to join the conversation, it’s easy to register at MbG.

Quotes from Grace-Based Parenting Books on Discipline
I need a grace filled parenting bootcamp. STAT.
How do you help your child really know that God loves them?
Heading down the Positive Discipline Journey
Why graceful parenting………
Needing Input: What Do I Do (to Help Children Obey)?
Hebrews 12 and Positive Discipline
Books and Your Theology

7/11/09: Comments closed! Thanks for helping make our first MbG giveaway a success! The winner will be announced soon!

Rhubarb Muffins

July 3, 2009 by LauraK  
Filed under Reading Circle

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I made some very yummy rhubarb muffins today. The kids even liked them. The recipe is an altered version of a recipe in Muffins by Elizabeth Alston:

1 1/2 cups diced fresh rhubarb
2 cups flour ( I used part all purpose and part stone ground whole wheat)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons Strawberry Jam (or a little more if you want)
1 cup milk
4 Tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 375. Greece or line muffin cups, the recipe makes about 14 regular size muffins. I use one mini-muffin pan, and then put the rest of the batter in a little loaf pan.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. In another bowl whisk egg, sugar and jelly until smooth. Whisk in milk, butter and vanilla. Then stir in rhubarb. then poor wet over dry and fold together. Fill muffin cups and cook for 20-30 minutes and turn out on a rack to cool.


Cross-posted at BringingUpThree

Keeping the Sabbath Wholly

June 27, 2009 by kristen  
Filed under Grace for Life, Loving, Reading Circle

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Before I was married and a mother, keeping the sabbath was easy. I read Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva Dawn to remind myself why I need to press on towards making my Sundays the way they ought to be, even in the midst of all of my busyness.

I really appreciated Keeping the Sabbath Wholly. Dawn works her way through four elements of sabbath keeping: ceasing, resting, embracing and feasting. As Christians, when we cease, we don’t just run away from everyday life, we assert that the things that drive our everyday lives don’t have ultimate authority over us. We mustn’t just take a nap or avoid exerting ourselves, we have to let our rest extend from the physical to the emotional and the intellectual so that it can renew our whole beings. By our ceasing and resting, we have room to embrace the values that we ought: intentionality, the Christian community, our callings, time instead of space, people instead of things and giving instead of requiring. And then, after the ceasing, resting and embracing, our feasting is that much sweeter.

Dawn makes sabbath keeping to her readers more than just a sound theological practice, but something that is inherently necessary for them to be all that God made them to be, and remarkably, does all of that without making the book one big guilt trip. “Sabbath keeping is not a dry duty or an oppressive obligation. It is a delight, a feasting on that which is eternal rather than a scrambling after the ephemeral success, the amassed wealth, the ceaseless activities, the elegant refinement that Americans think will grant them permanent happiness. Instead of trying to create our own security, we worship the one who is our security.”

I enjoyed Keeping the Sabbath Wholly a great deal and it was a wonderful reminder of truths that I used to know for myself but have lost along the way. My only major objections to it lie in Dawn’s practical application. She puts far too much emphasis on Jewish traditions of Sabbath keeping, which are extra-biblical. I do not think that lighting candles or saying the Kiddush and Havdalah are wrong. But her emphasis on them in her own practice might make readers feel that is the right way to keep the sabbath and there is certainly freedom to take or leave those practices. Personally, we are adapting prayers from the Christian tradition that fulfill the same purposes for our family. Overall, it’s an excellent book that I have and would recommend highly.

Cross-posted at This Classical Life

Yancey and Yadah

June 20, 2009 by Camille  
Filed under Reading Circle

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Awhile back I read Phil Yancey’s first chapter in Soul Survivor. I was floored. The world he described was so alien to me. I grew up in Detroit, and he grew up in Atlanta. Racism in Detroit is more unspoken — an undertow of white fear and flight keeps the civic tension just below a simmer. Racism in Atlanta in the middle of the last century was unashamedly overt and outspoken. Yancey was raised hearing that the “dark races” were the result of God’s curse. In his native Georgia the gas stations all had three bathrooms for white men, white women, and colored. The museums set aside one day a week for “coloreds” to attend. Yancey remembers buying a Lester Maddox “Junior” size souvenir pickax handle similar to the ones that policemen used on demonstrators. He witnessed the KKK parades.

I, of course, had read those descriptions before. My parents had even mentioned to me how startled they were by the segregation when they drove through Georgia on their honeymoon in the 50s. White Northerners really have no idea. We’re kind of dumb like that. And we can move easily between our white world in Detroit and South Carolina–even if we do have a ’ski’ at the end of our names–and the only culture shock we feel is the sweetness of the tea we’re served or the quaintness of the drawl we hear.

But that was a long time ago, I always reasoned. That kind of racism is for old people or stupid people, right? That’s for people who are absolutely not like me, right? . . . RIGHT??

That’s why Yancey’s account still sends chills down my spine. He grew up a “New Testament, Blood-bought, Born-again, Premillenial, Dispensational, fundamental” Protestant just like me. He attended some unnamed Bible college in South Carolina that forbid interracial dating and marriage. Scratching my head, I searched my employer’s records for Yancey’s name–without success. Was he talking about BJU?

Connecting the dots wasn’t that hard. Whether or not Yancey attended BJU wasn’t the point. This was the South and the so-called religion that created BJU. I couldn’t distance myself from it any further. This was the ideology that bore the system in which I lived, worked, ministered, and was raising my family.

Read Yancey for yourself.

When I visited Mendenhall in 1974, a sign welcomed me to town: “White people unite, defeat Jew/Communist race mixers.” I asked John Perkins [Yancey's African-American friend] to show me an example of racism in action. “When I write your story, people are going to tell me everything has changed,” I said. “The civil rights bill was ten years ago. Is there still overt discrimination?”

Perkins thought for a minute and suddenly his face brightened: “I know — let’s integrate the Revolving Table restaurant!” We drove to an elegant restaurant famous for its mechanized Lazy Susan, which slowly revolves in the center of a huge table, bearing platters of blackeyed peas, squash, cabbage, sweet potatoes, chicken and dumplings, and other Southern favorites. When we sat down, the white diners all glared at us and then, as if at a prearranged signal, got up and moved away to smaller tables. Except for Perkins and me, no one in the restaurant spoke for the next hour. I ate uneasily, glancing over my shoulder, expecting a nightstick. When I paid the bill and commented on the delicious food, the hostess took my money without responding or even looking me in the eye. I had the tiniest glimpse of the hostility Perkins had lived with all his life.

Two months later, when I published my article on John Perkins, the Mississippi branch of the Christian organization I worked for passed a resolution demanding that I be fired for stirring up bad memories. “Things have changed now,” they said. “Why dig up the past?”

Why indeed? Almost three decades have passed since my Missisisippi visit, and the great civil rights victories are nearing the half¬century milestone. We live in a new century now, a new millennium even, and much has indeed changed. Nowadays, black patrons in Mississippi can eat wherever they want, drink from any water fountain, sleep in any motel. The victories that Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evans, Bob Moses, John Perkins, and many others fought for were won — legally, at least — although they waited a full century after the Emancipation Proclamation. Progressive Southerners from Georgia, Arkansas, and Texas have served as president. Black visitors can attend white churches at will, though they seldom want to. All these dreams seemed unattainable to Martin Luther King, Jr., just four decades ago. As a token of the momentous changes, the nation now pauses each year to honor King himself, object of so much controversy during his lifetime, on a national holiday. He is the only African-American, the only minister, and indeed the only individual American so honored.

The victories did not come easily, and most did not come at all during his lifetime. Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, an uneasy rival of Dr. King, kidded him in 1963 that his methods had not achieved a single victory for integration in Albany or Birmingham. “In fact, Martin, if you have desegregated anything by your efforts, kindly enlighten me.”

“Well,” King replied, “I guess about the only thing I’ve desegregated so far is a few human hearts.” He knew that the ultimate victory must be won there. Laws could prevent white people from lynching blacks, but no law could require races to forgive or love one another. The human heart, not the courtroom, was his supreme battleground. As one of those changed hearts, I would have to agree.

King had developed a sophisticated strategy of war fought with grace, not guns. He countered violence with nonviolence and hatred with love. King’s associate Andrew Young remembers those turbulent days as a time when they sought to save “black men’s bodies and white men’s souls.” Their real goal, King said, was not to defeat the white man but “to awaken a sense of shame within the oppressor and challenge his false sense of superiority…. The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community.” And that is what Martin Luther King, Jr., finally set into motion, even in born racists like me.

Despite the moral and social fallout from racism, somehow the nation did stay together, and people of all colors eventually joined the democratic process in America, even in the South. For some years now, Atlanta has elected African-American mayors, including civil rights leader Andrew Young. Even Selma, Alabama, has a black mayor, who in the year 2000 defeated the mayor who had held office since the notorious march. And old “Segregation forever!” George Wallace appeared in his wheelchair before the black leadership of Alabama to apologize for his past behavior, an apology he repeated on statewide television. When Wallace went on to apologize to the Baptist church in Montgomery where King had launched the movement, the leaders who came to offer him forgiveness included Coretta Scott King, Jesse Jackson, and the brother of the murdered Medgar Evers.

In 1995 the Southern Baptist Convention, 150 years after forming over the issue of slavery, formally repented of their long-term support of racism. (A pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church responded, “Finally we have a response to Martin Luther King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham City jail’ in 1963. Too bad it’s thirty-two years too late.”)

Even the large Baptist church I attended in my childhood learned to repent. When I attended a service several years ago, I was shocked to find only a few hundred worshipers scattered in the large sanctuary that, in my childhood, used to be packed with 1,500. The church seemed cursed. Finally the pastor, a classmate of mine from childhood, took the unusual step of scheduling a service of repentance. In advance of the service he wrote to Tony Evans and to the shunned Bible professor, asking their forgiveness. Then publicly, painfully, with African-American leaders present. he recounted the sin of racism as it had been practiced by the church in the past. He repented, and received their forgiveness. Although a burden seemed to lift from the congregation after that service, it was not sufficient to save the church. A few years later the white congregation moved out to the suburbs, and today a rousing African-American Congregation, the Wings of Faith, fills the building and rattles its windows once more.

Observers of the South sometimes speak of it as “Christ-haunted.’ Perhaps they should speak of it as “race-haunted” as well. All of us, white or black, who grew up in those days bear scars. Some black people, like John Perkins and Bob Moses, bear physical scars. We whites bear spiritual scars. Although I have not lived in the South for thirty years, I live with its memories, like the medieval murderers who were forced to wear the corpses of their victims strapped to their backs. The entire nation bears scars. Who would suggest that we have achieved anything like “the beloved community” King longed for?

I have visited King’s old church in Atlanta, Ebenezer Baptist, and sat in tears as I saw through new eyes the moral center of the black community that gave them strength to fight against bigots like me. I was on the outside in those days, cracking jokes, spreading rumors, helping sustain a system of evil. Inside the church, and for a time only inside the church, the black Community stood tall. My eyes, blinded by bigotry, could not see the Kingdom of God at work.

A few years before his death, King was asked about mistakes he had made. He replied, “Well, the most pervasive mistake I have made was in believing that because our cause was just, we could be sure that the white ministers of the South, once their Christian consciences were challenged, would rise to our aid. I felt that white ministers would take our Cause to the white power structures. I ended up, of course, chastened and disillusioned. As our movement unfolded, and direct appeals were made to white ministers, most folded their hands–and some even took stands against us. . . .

Only one thing haunts me more than the sins of my past: What sins am I blind to today? It took the greatness of Martin Luther King, Jr., to awaken the conscience of a nation in the last century. What keeps us in this new century from realizing the beloved community of justice, peace, and love for which King fought and died? On the wrong side of what issues does the church stubbornly plant its feet today? As King used to say, the presence of injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Occasionally, grace and power descend on great and flawed leaders to convict and lead us on. In the end, it was not King’s humanitarianism that got through to me, nor his Ghandian example of nonviolent resistance, nor his personal sacrifices, inspiring as those may be. It was his grounding in the Christian gospel that finally made me conscious of the beam in my eye and forced me to attend to the message he was proclaiming. Because he kept quoting Jesus, eventually I had to listen. The church may not always get it right–and it may take centuries or even millennia for its eyes to open–but when it does, God’s own love and forgiveness flow down like a stream of living water.

Cross-posted at A Time To Laugh