C.S. Lewis and the Crisis of A Christian by Gregory S. Cootsona – A Review

I grew up in an Evangelical Christian home complete with time in a Christian school and later college. Conveniently, that method of education meant that I memorized Bible verses, learned the right way to understand the Bible and didn’t have any idea that the Christian life has so many questions that don’t haveLewis immediately clear answers. I listened in class, took good notes, got an A on the test and voila…life was good. Until it wasn’t.  And when life wasn’t good anymore, I felt very unprepared to sort through the various emotions, spiritual struggles, bitterness and depression.

To many, C.S. Lewis is one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. While many weigh in with differing  opinions, I think the reason his works are so beloved is that he approached the Bible from a different perspective  than a traditional faith experience. He wasn’t content with Sunday School answers and felt compelled to grapple with issues that don’t have easy answers.  Throughout his works, a thread emerges. Lewis seeks to find true joy in Christ but finds that he must wrestle with various crises of belief in order to find that rest and peace.

When I received a copy of C.S. Lewis and the Crisis of a Christian, I hoped that it would further my own walk with the Lord as I work through finding joy in my own life.  In this work, author Gregory S. Cootsona addresses the following crisis that are found in Lewis’ works:

The Crises of Atheism  which include: The Crisis of Materialism, The Crisis of Meaninglessness & The Crisis of Anomie

The Crises of Christian Faith which include: Jesus & the Crisis of Other Myths and The Crisis of the Bible

The Crises of Human Life which include The Crisis of Feeling, The Crisis of Suffering and The Crisis of Death

As Cootsona presents each crisis, he describes what brought about each crisis in Lewis’ life, how Lewis struggled with it and how he resolved it in his own mind. As he does so, he invites each one of us to wrestle with the same difficult issues.  There is no assumption in these pages that each of Lewis’ conclusions is 100% correct. It is simply one man’s process of resolving crises and finding joy.  There are a lot of points to ponder despite this book being relatively short.  I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys C.S.Lewis’ works or to anyone who finds themselves struggling with their faith. In these pages, you will find words for your doubts and a really solid place to start wrestling with faith.

(I received a copy of this book from Westminster John Knox Press  and  NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No monetary compensation was received.)

 

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50 Things You Need to Know About Satan and Demons by Mark Muska – A Review

 

In our day and age, images of the demonic and Satan are commonplace. They find their way into our entertainm50thingsdemonsent, onto our yards as Halloween decorations and into various facets of our lives.  Growing up, I had little concept of demons. Satan was the bad guy that tempted Eve to eat a piece of fruit in the garden and I knew he was red with black horns because Halloween costumes don’t lie.  Seriously though, I had a mixed bag of impressions of what these dark forces looked like and how they affect our lives.  As a teen, I remember reading some of Frank Peretti’s books and having my interest piqued. But, I didn’t have any kind of framework for understanding these bad guys.  Several years ago, our family had a series of life changing events that brought spiritual warfare to the forefront of our lives. It became a daily conversation as we worked to understand this little known concept.

I believe that demons are real. With the Bible as my handbook, there are simply too many references to ignore.  In Ephesians 6:12, we read “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”(NIV)  As I started to learn about this subject, initially it was very confusing. It was hard to know where to start putting the puzzle together. When I meet people who are encountering the subject for the first time the way I did, they often get overwhelmed the way I did. However, I was recently given a book that I feel is a great one for jumping into the topic. Recently I read, 50 Things You Need to Know About Satan and Demons, by Mark Muska.  It takes 50 different questions  we encounter in our culture and in our churches and takes a logical approach to answering them.

Questions covered in this book run the gamut. They include things like:

Who is Satan?

What is demon possession?

Why should I believe what the Bible says about Satan?

Can Satan read my thoughts?

Is it possible to actually see demons?

If I ignore Satan, will he go away or just leave me alone?

What is spiritual warfare?

…and many many more questions.

As I read through the questions, I appreciated a few things about this author’s approach. First, he states clearly upfront that he is using the Bible as the source of authority on this topic. If you don’t accept that as a source of authority, you will struggle with this book, but at least he is up front about that. Secondly, he incorporates culture all through it. Most of the way we “see” the demonic is in our culture but it is often done with artistic license with no regard to its accuracy. He does an excellent job of addressing  those various areas and then comparing them to what the Bible has to say. Sometimes there is a clear answer and sometimes there is not. Either way, the information is presented in a factual way. I would highly recommend this book especially for those who are new to the subject of spiritual warfare.  For those who are very familiar with the topic, it provide a good summary and helpful talking points for interacting with others.

(I was given a copy of this book by Bethany House publishers for review purposes in exchange for an honest opinion. No monetary compensation was received.)

 

Teaching Textbooks Curriculum Review

 

Teaching Textbooks

Two years ago, my oldest son was in 5th grade. For years, we had used Math U See. But I decided to try something new, and he was struggling with the new curriculum. Math suddenly became a huge burden. I had 7 children ages 10 and under, and I felt like a sinking ship.  I needed him to be an independent learner, but he was becoming very needy because the materials we were using did not work for us. We struggled all the way until January or February. He had floundered all year and very little math actually happened. He started to get “behind” in my mind. I considered going back to Math U See, but I was realizing that we really needed math that was almost zero work for mom. I had 4 kids in diapers and no brain cells  to think about school.

That was when the idea of Teaching Textbooks started to really take hold. I actually really like Math U See, but I didn’t have time to make sure my kids were checking their work. We could go days…weeks without me checking it, and sometimes they were doing things wrong. We would have to go back and relearn the right way. So…nothing wrong with the curriculum…just me!  So when I looked up the sample problems for Teaching Textbooks, and it seemed like a good fit, I decided to try it…I was desperate despite the intimidating price.

We are now on our second year with Teaching Textbooks and here are a couple of things that jumped out at me and the reasons why I liked the style.

1. Each problem was presented visually and audibly. It seems that each of my kids has their own unique blend of learning styles. I like that TT blends both visual and auditory styles. I find it helpful that the teacher explains the lesson which provides focus for kids that tend to skim over the directions when reading.

2. Only one problem was presented at a time. We recently attended a class on ADHD. The counselor presenting the material mentioned that for kids with difficulty focusing, it can be very helpful to limit the number of problems they see at a time. With TT, only one problem is on the screen at a time. They complete that ONE problem before seeing another.

3. As each problem is completed, it is immediately graded. This has obvious advantages. Kids don’t spend an hour on a lesson only to find out they were doing it incorrectly. With automatic grading, they find out immediately and can relearn the concept before moving on.

4. The student has a second chance. When I was in school, I remember having a very real fear of failure. I saw my son stressing over the same issue. I love that TT has a built in method that acknowledges that we often need that “do-over” before we get it right. So, when the student completes a problem, if they get it wrong, they have a choice. They can either have the program “teach” them how to do that problem step by step…or…they can simply re-do it. They if they get it wrong again, they can choose to have the program “teach” them at that point. If the par

5. The parent grade book allows parents (not software) to ultimately be in charge. Whether you need to allow your student to redo a problem or a lesson…it can be done. If you want to change a grade for whatever reason, you can do that to. The automatic grading has plenty of options that allow the parent to override the system as needed.

6. If you sell it, it has a great resale value. To me, a product with a high resale value speaks to its quality (or its limited availabilty). TT is expensive, but I felt confident giving it a try knowing that it has an excellent resale value (via Ebay or online classifieds) if for whatever it did not work for us longterm.

7. Great Customer Service.  I’ve had a few times where I needed to contact customer service. A product can only be registered a few times before the code no longer works. The first year we used this, we had 4 of our computers die…so all of them! As one after the other died, we would reregister the software on a working computer and my son would continue to use it. When the program no longer allowed us to do that, we made a quick phone call and within a minute or two, the activation code was ready to use again. It was easy. No questions asked. I’ve been very happy with their service.

Prior to buying TT, we had read that it was a year behind other curriculums. So we did buy Teaching Textbooks 7 for our 5th grade son (because it was near the end of the year). He used it for the end of the year and then through 6th grade. We bought Algebra 1 for him in 7th grade choosing to skip Pre-Algebra. All I can say is that he loves it and I love love it! I’ve used at least 5 math curriculums and was homeschooled myself with another one. So I’m familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of them. We went from math being a tear filled, daily frustration to an independent empowering learning experience. My son often tells me how much he likes math. That alone makes its worth every penny.

Prior to buying it, I had great hesitation spending so much money on one subject. We are a single income family with a whole bunch of kids, so spending over $150 on math seemed extravagant. I did rationalize that if it “works” then I’ll reuse it for the rest of the kids which would make it less than $30 a year per child…but that up front hit is painful. Having used it for well over a year now, I can attest to its value…well worth the price. Math is essential for functioning in the “real world” and if it can be done in a way that is manageable and even fun, then to me that is worth spending a little more money.

We still use Math U See for some of our younger children and find that it is a great fit, but for our oldest moving into learning independence, Teaching Textbooks provided the quality learning we wanted with time saving convenience that made it a great bargain for me!

Notgrass America the Beautiful History Curriculum Review

Every once in awhile, I stumble on a book or curriculum that is truly special. You know the kind I mean. Its like the author climbed inside your brain and read your thoughts and then wrote a curriculum just for you. I’ve alluded to my obsession with curriculum and last school year was no different. I had an amazing array of books and resources already but was waiting for Notgrass to release the new edition of this history book. So, it arrived in June and wow…amazing. If I had bought this first, my curriculum purchases would have been much less!

Americathebeautiful_edited-1

Whats Included:

If you buy the package like I did, it includes the America the Beautiful text books (2 of them), We the People, a timeline book, a map book and an answer key. It targets 5th to 8th grade.

What I Love!

At first glance, spending about $100 for history seems a bit pricey. However, the part that I liked (as a mother of 7 who never has enough hours to plan everything) is the way the lessons are set up. Each lesson is relatively short…a few pages, followed by 4-6 assignments that cover Geography of the US (maps), Timeline, Bible, Creative Writing, Vocabulary, and Literature. As a parent, you can have your child do some or all of it. My 5th grade son read all the lessons and did the mapwork and timeline. If I hadn’t purchased other curriculum, he could have done the rest of the lessons and had a fairly complete school year with the addition of math.

My son enjoys history but doesn’t stick with a boring book. He loved this and never complained about history (well almost never 😉

This curriculum was very easy to use. It was self explanatory so I didn’t have to spend a lot of time helping him. We may use this same textbook again in 8th grade and do all the extra assignments we missed this time. We will be using other Notgrass texts in the future!

I would share any dislikes but this time there aren’t any.

Five stars
Find out more about this great curriculum here!