Friday, November 13, 2015

Simple and Holy: Favorite Advent Readings

Mary by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1914

Our Advent readings over the years have varied greatly.  When there were lots of diapers to change, I tried following different programs and crafty ways to go about readings for Advent.  What worked best for us?  When I simply read a few verses from the Advent readings and we narrated. Simple.  Holy. A lot like school.

But when I could take the time and space to read more deeply for myself, the children benefited too.  Eventually, what I liked to do was to have my own quiet reading and then I could share a simple part of that with everyone - whether it was a piece of art, Scripture, hymn, or a prayer. Simple. Holy. A lot like school. 

The following books are my favorites.  They go deep into the heart and reason for Advent.

1. The Cloud of Witness
 The Cloud of Witness begins with Advent readings.  Since each new week and theme begins on Saturday, November 28th would begin the Advent readings on page 4.  Read along with us and anticipate His coming.  As of now, Riverbend Press is where it is sold.  Unless you live near me, in which case just send me an email and arrange to pick it up to save shipping!

2. God With Us
God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas
Edited by Pennoyer and Wolfe
Sumptuous, illuminating, and redemptive.  Be still and be quiet with fine art, thoughtful essays, and Scripture to meditate on.  Make sure you find the illustrated version. Also available from Paraclete Press.

 3. Light upon Light
3. Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany
Sarah Arthur
Sarah signed my copy with "Here's to holy dreaming!" How could I NOT love it?! I am a big fan of At the Still Point and am anticipating Between Midnight and Dawn.  Her books remind me of an expanded version of The Cloud of Witness with more contemporary authors added.

For even more book recommendations, here are all my posts about Advent and Christmas books:

What to Read For Christmas
Full Hearts
On Christmas Traditions and Books
Good King Wenceslas
The Canticle of the Bees
Longing and Waiting 
Christmas Books!
Christmas Books 2014 


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Magic Mirrors: Exploring Living Books

 Here is a  living book that I am reading with my 12-year-old daughter.  It is my second time through and this truly is a living book by the wonderful author, Elizabeth Yates. Prudence was a  schoolteacher in Connecticut in 1833 who dared to open a school for young black girls who wanted an education.  It's one of those books that spark relations with all sorts of things that you weren't expecting to learn about.  As early as page 12 one finds Prudence wrestling all night with her conscience - a passage worth remembering when experiencing things not nearly as monumental as Prudence experienced. This is an outstanding example of someone governed by their will on the right side of the chart!.
Prudence Crandall - Woman of Courage by Elizabeth Yates - highly recommend!

This quote from Charlotte is one of my favorites and encompasses another quote I am fond of -
"The glory of God is the human being fully alive" - St. Irenaeus. Thinking about great literature - and living books in particular - was an activity we did at the Rochester Gathering a few weeks ago.  We examined many passages from Charlotte and then wrote our own narration definitions.  Here are some beautiful examples:

personal definitions of a living book

"A living book breathes the life of a person or story directly into your heart.  One does not get bogged down in that they are learning per se, but rather enters into that author's life, story, or expertise. A living book often leaves you desiring to know and learn more about things introduced in the book."
 - Amy V.

"A living book is sustainable food for our minds and souls. It makes us dig, grapple, and contemplate the Truth, rather than handing it to us in a sound byte or neat packagge. A living book puts us into relationship with God and/or others in a life-changing way." - T.F.

"A living book uses rich language. We must choose books wisely, like our friends. Living books connect us, mind-to-mind with great thinkers and great ideas. They nourish and sustain us, mind and spirit.  It's important that we do not spoon feed our children. The things they will retain, are the things they dig for themselves." - Shauna M.
Aren't those good?!  I hope you are reading many living books this school year. I found these other books about Prudence while looking about but haven't read them yet.  I wonder how the writing in these will compare to Elizabeth Yate's skillful pen?


Thursday, September 10, 2015

All the World's a Wonder-ball

One of the things I love about this whole living education thing is that everyday I get to learn and discover alongside my children.  Then I become interested in something that strikes me and pursue it at my own pace.  Learning about Amy Carmichael, the Irish missionary to low caste girls and boys in India for over 50 years is one of those pursuits.

Since she lived from 1867 to 1951, one of the first questions that I ask is "Did she know of Charlotte Mason?"

In this case, the answer is "Yes!"

Susan Schaeffer Macaulay has written a few words about this in the highly-recommended book, When Children Love to Learn.  She states, "The Ambleside books by her (Mason) on education were sent out to India to Amy Carmichael, who founded the Dohnavur Fellowship. She too recognized in the writings the “roots and trunk” she was looking for as she cared for and educated Indian children.”

And Amy certainly recognized the benefits of a PNEU education. Just read how Iain H. Murray delves into this fact a little deeper in his book Amy Carmichael 'Beauty For Ashes'  and listen as he describes the education Amy provided for these cast-off children.

Evangelicals were unaccustomed to think in terms of the education of lower-class girls; such a programme hardly existed in India, and few saw any urgency for its provision.

Amy took the need very seriously and had a definite understanding of what she wanted. First, the objective of schooling must be the formation of character, not merely a training of the intellect. That meant that love was the starting point, to be taught in the first instance by example. Not a child went to sleep at night without a kiss from Amy, and even when the numbers ultimately made that impossible, as long as she could, she sought to see each child every day...as much as possible everything characteristic of an institution was avoided.

Education was not in order to bring a rise in social standing, or material prosperity. It was preparation to serve Christ and others. Learning Scripture was therefore foundational, and at Dohnavur this was made as appealing as possible. Just as Amy wanted her girls dressed in bright colours (especially blue!), she wanted them to see Christianity as the source of a truly happy  life. She herself was a musician, and an artist with words as well as pictures. Many truths and observations from nature were put into verse by her to be sung by the children. Yet care was taken that song should not be an end in itself. (Murray, p. 54-55)

Teaching was to be made as appealing as possible. This was not the same as being as entertaining as possible. The years of childhood were too important to be filled with temporary amusement. She wanted them to take in what they would need for life.

Along with the Bible, the book of creation was a constant study. Animals, flowers, trees, birds and much more, were all to be enjoyed and to be the subject of study. The children had their own gardens, and sometimes their own pets; they learned how to see chlorophyll in the leaves of plants and to study drops of water through a microscope.  There were outings to 'the forest' in the mountains where there was swimming and fun as well as learning.
Amy Carmichael has left a legacy that continues to this day.

We also know that before she left for India (from whence she never returned!) she attended the Keswick Convention in the Lake District.  The meeting in 1887 changed her life when she heard Hudson Taylor speak.  It was then that she devoted her life to serving God on the mission field. I can't find that Charlotte Mason ever attended this convention, but she certainly must have known about it and quotes one of the founders on occasion, the Quaker Robert Wilson.

So interesting!

I have also enjoyed Elizabeth Elliot's biography A Chance to Die.  Murray's book is shorter and more like a primer on Carmichael - a good place to begin learning more.  Amy also wrote a lovely devotional that I enjoy, Edges of His Ways.

I will leave you with a wonderful poem from Mountain Breezes, The Collected Poems of Amy Carmichael. If you get this book, check out the poem "Looking Through the Microscope."  It really lets you see how her enthusiasm for God's world must have influenced those children!  Here is one of my favorites, "Wonderland."

by Amy Carmichael

Lord, Thy little children stand
     At the opening of the day
Bordering on Wonderland.

Very near to us it lies,
     Gathers round us as we play,
Waiting for our seeing eyes.

Wonderland is everywhere;
     Can we go where it is not?
When we go, we find Thee there.

And Thou art so very kind;
     Thou hast never once forgot
To put things for us to find.

Oh, a thousand voices call,
     "Come and find what has been hidden;
All the world's a Wonder-ball."

Father, may we take Thy hand?
     We will do as we are bidden.
Come with us to Wonderland.