Mum To Mom

Musings of an Aussie Mother Living in the USA

Category: Christianity

The Sin of Self Sufficiency in Motherhood

“It’s ok, God. I got this.” we-can-do-it-poster-1393770492mjO

Moms can often feel like they are all things to all people: parent, educator, nurse, judge, mediator, nutritionist, chef, friend, confidant, counselor, cheerleader. Homeschool moms can add to that science teacher, math tutor, literature professor, preschool teacher, elementary teacher, history and geography teacher, art and music mentor, and theology professor. As moms, when it comes to our kids, we can rise to almost any challenge and do what needs to be done to give them the best opportunities in life. We love them with a fierce love and will do everything in our power to not let them down. As Charlotte Mason says, “Mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them.”

We strive to plan perfect (or almost perfect) schedules, consistently stick to our parenting plan, never sin toward our children, and generally be great at everything we do for our kids. Of course, intellectually we know that it isn’t possible to be so perfect, but our actions, which reflect the actual state of our hearts, demonstrate that with enough effort, we believe we could. And this is where it becomes a problem. We believe that we can do it.

None_Like_HimJen Wilkin, in her book None Like Him, explains that when we try to be in control, we are trying to usurp an aspect of God’s deity that we cannot and should not try to attain—Self-sufficiency. This comes as a shock to many in our culture because we are taught to rely on ourselves. We are taught that you can do anything you want to do if you “just believe in yourself” (wasn’t there a movie about that?). But this is a lie. We cannot do everything and we are not supposed to do everything. Only God is self-sufficient. He does not need us. He does not need anyone or anything. That is part of what makes God, God. Unlike God, as Wilkin explains, we are made to be needy. “God, in His infinite wisdom, created us to need Him.” We are the creature, He is the Creator. He is not only the creator of us, but He is also the creator of our children whom He has sovereignly and graciously given to us for a little while to be stewards over. Yet so often we can fall into the faulty thinking that we are the creator of our children. That their growth, education, and sanctification rest solely on our effort and execution. For most earnest, God-loving moms, this is not an intentional mindset. Of course, we need to take seriously the call of our vocations as mothers and homeschoolers. We cannot be idle or squander the duty of “raising a child in the way he should go.” Where it becomes a problem is when we look to ourselves as the source of our strength. When we look to ourselves for the strength we are saying, “It’s ok, God. I got this.” We, in essence, tell God, “I’ll be sovereign today, God.” Instead, when we surrender our desire to be in control, when we raise up our hands and say, “I can’t do this without You. I need You, God,” we can rest knowing that we do not need to be all things to all people. We can rest knowing that all that we have is from Him. And we can rest knowing that with our children, He is faithful.

Four Truths to Highlight When Reading Leviticus in Morning Time

For the last seven years, we have read the Bible in Morning Time. We alternate between reading the New Testament on one day and reading the Old Testament the next. In the New Testament, we have made our way through the Gospels, Acts, and cycled back again to complete Matthew for a second time. In the Old Testament we have read Genesis and Exodus twice, and Joshua through 2 Kings once. I have chosen to stay with narratives for the time being since my youngest is only 5.

Earlier this year, when we finished Exodus for the second time, I had a choice. I either skip the rest of the Law again (Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) or continue on and read the very next book in the Bible, Leviticus. Leviticus isn’t known for its captivating narrative. There was a real possibility that my kids, aged 5, 9, 10, and 12, would become exasperated with all of the ceremonial laws, sacrifices, blood, and acacia wood. Believing that “ALL Scripture is living and active” (Heb. 4:12) and “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Tim. 3:16) I continued on, praying that God’s Word would work in our hearts and “not return to [us] void.” (Isa 55:11)

God is so faithful. Even though my kids will probably tell you that Leviticus was boring and confusing, God’s Word did not return void. We learned and grew in our faith together. We were encouraged in the gospel. At the end of this post, I have included a narration of one of my children answering a question about our Bible reading in her end-of-year exam. I found it so encouraging to hear, in her own words, what she took away from reading Leviticus.

But first, here are some big picture ideas that I kept in mind and drew to my children’s attention as we made our way through Leviticus. I hope that it encourages you to read some of the lesser read books of the Bible with your kids. Just keep in mind their ages. I never attempted to read this book when all my kids were little. It is also worth noting that given their ages, I skipped the descriptive passages about sexual sin.

1. It shows us who God is: God is holy

The book of Leviticus outlines to the Israelites a multitude of specific sins that must be atoned for. It also outlines what must be done when the Israelites didn’t sin but became unclean through a skin blemish or some other means. The fact that God is so specific about sins and how they were to be atoned for demonstrates how holy God is. Even a blemish on the skin needed to be dealt with appropriately before the Israelites could come into the presence of God. That is how pure and righteous and holy God is.

2. It shows us who we are: We are sinners

The book of Leviticus was written for God’s chosen people, the Israelites, to set them apart as God’s people and to show them how to live rightly as the people of God. Because God is holy, He set out very specific laws for right living. When those laws are broken, it is sin. Those who sin are guilty. The fact that this book explains so many kinds of sins and the very specific way they must be atoned for shows that God knew that the Israelites would sin. And sin regularly. Like the Israelites, we are sinners. We are guilty.

3. It shows us that our sin and guilt must be punished or atoned for

God is so Holy that no sin can be in His presence. Therefore sin must be punished or atoned for — all sin. Only the blood of a sacrifice will satisfy justice and the breaking of God’s law. The Israelites needed to be made right with God and their sins atoned for in order for God to dwell in their midst. We too must have our sins atoned for and made right with God.

4. It points us to Christ: Christ fulfilled the law

Since God is holy and we are sinners who have broken God’s law, we need our sins forgiven, just as the Israelites did. The sacrificial system of the Old Testament was a shadow pointing to the complete fulfillment of the law in Christ. Christ is our sacrifice. Not only did He shed His blood on the cross just as the animal’s blood was shed on the altar of the tabernacle, He also became the scapegoat for our guilt. The guilt of our sin was placed on Him. Christ’s sacrifice was perfect because He was perfect. He was without blemish. He had no sin. His sacrifice was once and for all. No longer do sacrifices need to be made year in and year out. Christ finished the work of atonement on the cross for all who believe in Him. He rose from the dead, defeating the consequence of sin—death. Through Him, we can now have our sins forgiven and dwell in the presence of God forever. We need only repent of our sins and believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and our Savior.

Narration from Bible Exam (Age 10)

1. Describe the sin offering or the guilt offering in Leviticus. How does this relate to the gospel?

The guilt offering is where you get an animal – I can’t quite remember what it is. It’s either a goat or a bird – But you get the goat or a bird, I think it’s a goat, where you put your hands on the goat, the high priests would do that, and he would be putting all of the peoples’ sins onto that goat and they would take the goat and pull out its fat and roast it. And it was for, like, a smell. Because in one of the metaphors sin is like a stinky, horrible smell that we just put in God’s nose. So when we put that nice smell, (hmmm it reminds me of bacon and steak, it’s really good), it’s like covering, not covering, it’s taking away the bad smell.

And how the sacrifice relates to Jesus and the gospel is that He was the final sacrifice—when He died on the cross He was the final sacrifice. We do not have to do sacrifices anymore because Jesus took all the sins, even the sins we haven’t done, and even the sins we’re going to do in a year from now, He has forgiven us and taken all the sins on Him, all the punishments. He was slain, stricken, and smitten and afflicted, and God turned His back on Jesus. He turns His face to us instead of His son because He took all the sin and now we are holy and Jesus died. But God’s plan was that on the third day He would rise again from the dead and would sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty and from thenceforth we will be judged as the quick and the dead. And if we don’t repent from our sins you will be put in hell which is the most baddest place ever. It’s a place where it’s dark and it’s fire. You can hear people screaming and it’s like the worst nightmare you’ve ever had and because it’s a nightmare you know it will never come to the end. And that’s the punishment from God. Even Satan does not rule over hell. He will be there. He will be the prince of darkness living in this horrible place for everlasting to everlasting and it will never end. But if you repent of your sins then you shall go in heaven where all your, if you have like a broken arm or a knee, they will be healed. There will be no sicknesses, no sins, and you will be living a perfect life worshipping God—the God of all gods and the King of all kings.

Even though the goats didn’t rise again from the dead because they had to keep making it over and over, Jesus was the last sacrifice so to beat death He had to rise again from the dead.

Note: These thoughts are a layman’s understanding of Scripture. Also, the narration is an unedited transcript of a ten-year-old’s answer.

Sovereign over Every Moment. God’s Grace in the Returns Line

“Mom! The light on my favorite new toy I got for Christmas doesn’t work!”

This exclamation during a fight between two siblings, another telling me all about a book she was reading, all while I tried to get checklists done and order art prints for school to begin next week, and write a list of birthday cards, presents, and groceries I forgot to buy when I shopped yesterday.

Sigh.

“Do you have the box?” I ask, frustrated. She produces torn up cardboard that once resembled the bright shiny box that housed the beloved toy.  A bit of gorilla glue and the box is almost passable.  I concede to add another stop to my errands list and return her toy so we can reorder and hopefully receive one whose light does work.  We arrive at the store and wait 20 minutes in the returns line, but there are no issues and the toy is returned and we move on to other errands.

It is now 1.30pm. We have not eaten. Children and mom are getting hangry and all my errands are not complete. I wish we didn’t need to eat because I really don’t want to buy food out and I did want to finish all my errands before going home. There is only one choice. We go home. I immediately get online to re-order the toy and get that job out of the way. Except, to our horror, the toy is out of stock! Who knows when or if it will come back in stock. I try Amazon. $73.00! WAY more than was originally paid and we returned it for.  My heart sank. I have a to-do list a mile long, it’s halfway through the afternoon and I haven’t even achieved a quarter of it, and now my daughter has just returned her favorite toy that is no longer available. My frustration increases. I look at my daughter. There was only one thing for it. We go back to the store in the hopes that we can retrieve the toy.

On the way, I hold little hope that we will be able to get it back. I tell my daughter to pray. She prays a simple sweet prayer, “Dear God, please help me get my toy back. Amen.”

Once again we are in the returns line. This time we only wait 10 minutes. We explain the situation to the sweet lady at the counter. She looks in the bins behind her. Our toy is not there.

“If it was an online order I don’t know what I can do.” She sees the disappointment and sadness in my daughter’s eyes and says, “there is one other place I can look.” She is back a few minutes later with the news we didn’t want to hear. “I’m sorry, but because your return was an online item, it has already been processed and labeled. Once it is labeled to go on the truck back to the warehouse, there is nothing we can do.”

“Has it left yet on the truck? Where is it right now?” I ask. She knows that I suspect that it is still in the building but due process says I can’t have it back now because it will mess up the system. She looks to see if we can buy the item in the store. We can’t. She really wants to help but knows she can’t. She takes me to her supervisor, asking her if anything can be done to get the item back. The supervisor reiterates what we’ve already been told. Once the item has been labeled, it’s bad luck. As I am talking with the supervisor, the sweet lady from the counter walks away to try another idea. She turns the corner. When I finish with the supervisor we attempt to follow her. She is nowhere to be seen. All hope seems lost now. Our one advocate trying to help us has disappeared. Maybe she went to the online order pick up area. We go there. I ask the two men working if they’d seen the sweet lady. She was helping me. They have not. My daughter’s eyes begin to well up. Her beloved toy is lost to her now. One of the men asks if he can help. I don’t think he can but to indulge him I tell him the very short version of our story. Enough for him to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t help.” But he doesn’t say that. He goes out the back and brings back a box. Our box! It’s our toy! He rips off the label and asks what I paid for it. I tell him. He manually puts the amount in the register and it is ours again!

As we leave the store with a skip in our step and tears of relief in my daughter’s eyes, I reflect to her,

“God answered your prayer today.”

She looks up at me with wonder and awe. “Yeah, I guess He did!”

“Twice we had been told that we couldn’t have it back,” I tell her. “If we hadn’t lost the lady, we wouldn’t have found our way to the man at the back. In God’s providence, when it seemed it was gone and there was nothing to be done, God directed us to the very person who could help.”

I realize that this story is pretty trivial as far as life stories go. It is just a toy. It would have been disappointing but not that important. But what seemed small and insignificant to me meant everything to my daughter. She learned that her God cared for her and was gracious and loving and kind and she could trust Him, even when our actions are unwise.   If it had turned out that in God’s providence we couldn’t get the toy back, God would still have been caring, gracious, loving, and kind. The lesson would have been to be content with what we have and perhaps think and consider all options before making a decision that could potentially be unwise.

But that wasn’t the lesson God wanted to teach us on this day. Today, my daughter learned that God always answers prayer.

“I’m glad God said yes.”

When The Ideal Meets The Real

As I study principles of education, I am reminded that there is a gaping chasm between the ideal and the real. I study educational philosophy because it is my vocation. Educating my kids is what God has called me to do and I want to do it to the best of my ability for the glory of God. But I do not measure up to the ideal. Education in my home is not always joyful, happy, or peaceful. I do not always treat my children with care for their emotions and personalities. I am often times met with bad attitudes (including my own), children who do not want to read the books I have given them to read, and who resist any kind writing with every fiber of their being. But I must not grow weary in doing good. I will never attain the ideal in my home. But I continue to work diligently toward it, knowing that anything that is achieved is not my own achievement but is a result of God’s grace. Educating is humbling. It requires leaning on the Lord for His strength, His help, His comfort. I cannot live the ideal. But He did. And only by His grace can I go forward. He is trustworthy when I fail. He is true when I am false. He is good when I sin. He is beautiful when my best is filthy rags. He is strong when I am weak. He is faithful when I am not. So whether I measure up to the educational standard set by philosophical thinkers that have come before, I can rest in the knowledge that, “all I have needed thy hand hath provided, Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

To God be the Glory.

Heredity, Total Depravity, and the Role of Education

A Journey Through Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles: Principle 2

They are not born either good or bad, but with possibilities for good and for evil.

Before beginning my study on this principle, it was clear to me that I would need to place this statement in its historical context to properly understand Charlotte Mason’s meaning. On first reading, this statement appears to say something against the doctrine of original sin. I had been told and believed that this was not the case, but until studying this principle this month I had not spent any time investigating for myself.

Mason does not deny the doctrine of original sin. Karen Glass, author of Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition and Know and Tell: The Art of Narration, has written a very helpful article on what it was that Mason was addressing, which I encourage you to read. In my own rudimentary Google searching into the subject I found historical explanations that will help set the context.

In the time of Mason, the beginning of the 20th century, the rise of Darwinism and the theory of evolution through natural selection led to a greater consideration of the role that genes play in the development of psychological as well as physical traits in an individual. The idea, now termed biological or genetic determinism, known then as heredity determinism, became an idea widely disseminated in society. “Most theories of biological determinism viewed undesirable traits as originating in defective genes” (Garland Allen)—that is, that the behavioral, as well as physical characteristics of a person, were solely determined by genetics. Mason saw that many parents and educators began to think that there was no point in trying to instruct a person in morals and right behavior because it was already determined by their genes. A bad egg will breed a bad egg and that was that.

In this principle, Mason argues that this is not the case and that education can contribute a great deal in training a person to right living and thinking. She says,

“There are good and evil tendencies in body and mind, heart and soul; and the hope set before us is that we can foster the good so as to attenuate the evil; that is, on condition that we put education in her true place as the handmaid of religion.” Towards A Philosophy of Education, p.46

As Glass points out in her article, Mason is not making a theological statement. She is commenting on the potential of all children to learn as an argument against the commonly held belief that some children, particularly the poorer classes, did not have any potential.

With this context in view, through my study of this principle, my mind has been occupied with considering the idea of the “possibilities for good.” Specifically, how much potential for ‘good’ do we really have outside of Christ in light of the doctrine of original sin and total depravity; and what role does education have, if any, in the training of good in our children.

The work of justification is the work of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing that education can do, in and of itself, toward the salvation of a person’s soul from being “dead in trespasses and sins” to “alive again in Christ.” Nor is sanctification a work that we alone can do. It is only with the Holy Spirit that we can grow in Christlikeness. Mason does not deny these truths. But she saw from experience that education is a servant to religion, a tool which ought not to be squandered, in leading children toward right thinking and living, and our ultimate hope, toward God. That all children, no matter what their station or economic status in life, no matter if their father is a poor alcoholic or a statesman in good standing, all have the possibility to learn what is good, just as much as they have of what is bad. This is directly related to Principle 1: Children are born persons. God has given all children His image and therefore, as discussed last month, His communicable attributes. He has given the ability to love, to be generous, to show mercy, kindness etc., and a mind with which to learn and grow in knowledge and wisdom.

As Christians, we acknowledge that it is only by God’s grace, common to all, that we can say or do any good. Any good we do in this life is still marred by sin. It is not the perfect good that is found in God alone, but it is a broken good that, by His grace of restraining our sinfulness, many, even non-Christians, achieve to some degree.

John Calvin explains.

“But here it ought to occur to us that amid this corruption of nature there is some place for God’s grace; not such grace as to cleanse it, but to restrain it inwardly… This God by his providence bridles perversity of nature, that it may not break forth into action; but he does not purge it within.” Institutes, p. 292-293.

Education is a tool that God can use to extend that common grace to us and restrain us from being as wicked as our hearts have the potential (and desire) to be.

I labor this point because of a great many discussions I had with my husband this month as I studied this principle. I struggled to articulate to him why Mason was not making an unbiblical statement. And each attempt at an explanation revealed that I did not hold rightly to, or at least could not articulate rightly, a biblical view of the sinful state of man’s heart. My husband took great pains to impress upon me how dire my heart really is without Christ. Yet my brain still wanted to say, “I have the ability in and of myself to be good because I choose to be.” But Jesus disagrees with me.

“No one is good except God alone.” Mark 10:18

Calvin expounds.

“Man’s understanding is pierced by a heavy spear when all the thoughts that proceed from him are mocked as stupid, frivolous, insane, and perverse.” Institutes, p. 290.

No. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, we have no possibility for good. And yet, God, because of His common grace, and out of His mere good pleasure, saw fit to endow to some a special grace that makes possible admirable and heroic actions for the blessing of mankind. These “special graces,” as Calvin calls them, are gifts from God and reflect His image. Education is used by Him as a tool to instruct all in what is right and be a blessing to mankind. Further, that through education some might be lead to know Him. “How are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14). Or, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). By the means of education, He can lead us to humbly accept our fallen state and our need of Him.

“Thus it rests with parents to ease the way of their child by giving him habits of the god [spiritual] life in thought, feeling, and action, and even in spiritual things. We cannot make a child ‘good’; but, in this way, we can lay paths for the good life in the very substance of his brain.  We cannot make him hear the voice of God; but, again, we can make paths where the Lord God may walk in the cool of the evening.” Formation of Character, p. 141-142

If you’d like to join me in studying Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles, get your copy of Start Here and see this post for details.

A Journey Through Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles Directory

A Pilgrim’s Journey

“So, Dr. Sproul is really dead?”

“Yes, my darling, I am sad to say that he is,” I replied mournfully, choking back the tears.

G sat quietly a few moments and I went back to eating my oatmeal, thinking of our beloved pastor when she again exclaimed,

“Oh. So he is like Faithful. He must have had chariots waiting to take him to heaven.”

I looked up in surprise. It had seemed to me that she very rarely paid attention when we read The Pilgrim’s Progress so I was taken aback by this connection.

“Yes, G…” I spoke hesitantly, striving to grasp the fullness of what she was saying. “…I guess he is just like Faithful…” She interrupted my pondering by continuing,

“Yeah, because Faithful believed in Jesus and when he was killed chariots came down from heaven and took him up to it.”

E, who had been sitting quietly at the table listening, now joined the conversation.

“He is now in the Celestial City! They took him to the Celestial City, G. I wish I could die so I could go there. That’s where Christian is trying to get to and Dr. Sproul is already there! I’m just so happy for him.”

Now I saw that there stood behind the multitude a chariot and a couple of horses, waiting for Faithful, who (so soon as his adversaries had despatched him) was taken up into it, and straightway was carried up through the clouds, with sound of trumpet, the nearest way to the Celestial Gate.

This was a conversation I had with my daughters around the breakfast table one morning last December, only days after our beloved Pastor, Dr. R.C. Sproul, went home to be with the Lord.

The conversation ended there but our thinking about it did not. It was one of many conversations we would have about Dr. Sproul, but the one that stands out most in my mind for its hope and comfort. When considering the ministry of Dr. Sproul, the comparison is insightful.

“Now, Faithful, play the man, speak for thy God:
Fear not the wickeds’ malice; nor their rod!
Speak boldly, man, the truth is on thy side:
Die for it, and to life in triumph ride.”

Oh, how comforting it was to me to be reminded by my 8 and 9-year-old, through the profound imagery in The Pilgrim’s Progress, of the hope that Dr. Sproul and all those who profess Christ have. That death, while hard for those left behind, is not the end. That Dr. Sproul, like Faithful, was a pilgrim on a journey to the Celestial City and is now there, in the presence of the Almighty God in Glory. And we too, who remain faithful, will also someday join him in Paradise.

Well, Faithful, thou hast faithfully profest
Unto thy Lord; with whom thou shalt be blest,
When faithless ones, with all their vain delights,
Are crying out under their hellish plights:
Sing, Faithful, sing, and let thy name survive;
For though they kill’d thee, thou art yet alive!

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