12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

“As faithful eyes perceive the unseen glories of God and reborn hearts embrace them, all the visible glories of God in the world seem to thicken in substance. The more eagerly we embrace God, the more gratitude we express for His created gifts for us and the more clearly we begin to discern the sinful distortions and the hollow promises of free sin.”
– Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (page 140).

This idea of the life of faith being about “comprehending the whole when we can see only a fraction” (pg 141), being satisfied with Christ instead of what is seen and temporary – and that transforming our desires, has come up a number of times for me recently in books I have been reading. That tied in with the realization that in order to change phone and food habits saying “no” wasn’t what was needed – changing those desires was.

In looking to God for ultimate, lasting satisfaction –
…I let go of my kids and trust God with them.
…I enjoy my piece of cake without expecting it to be everything I dreamed it would be
…I say no to another piece of cake because I know it’s not going to satisfy me
…I put down my phone, close out of Facebook, don’t open Instagram because He, not social media, is my refuge. He, not likes and comments, is going to feed my soul.

I am still processing Reinke’s book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, but I cannot recommend it highly enough. I think it will be required reading for our kids in the first months of allowing them to have social media (whatever that looks like in 10+ years!).
Reinke looks at ways our phones (really social media) changes our relationships with others, and most of all, with God. Even chapters that from the title seemed like ones I could skip ended up being really convicting. I read it slowly over a few months, trying to apply at least something after each chapter. Paging through after finishing it and re-reading my highlights was overwhelming, even before I thought “now that I’ve read this I’m going to be held accountable by God for my phone use even more!”
There are so many “little” comments and challenges in the book, but there is an overarching big picture. This book is about seeking satisfaction in God, and not in social media, phones, the approval of others, etc. And while there are so many rules I could set up or questions I could make myself ask before getting online, I think in the end it boils down to two questions for me:
– Why am I getting on my phone right now?
– Have I had soul-feeding solitude before God yet today?

I am also taking Sundays and vacations off of social media.

The first question often sparks many others, like am I master of these appetites? Do my phone habits show how glorious He is? Am I using my phone as a refuge from today’s trials? Is it helping or hindering my spiritual goals? Am I getting on to boast in myself? Is it keeping me from fully enjoying the moment? Am I turning to my phone to be wowed and amazed? Am I dimming or reflecting His glory with my scrolling, comments, and postings? Am I turning myself and my kids into actors on the social media stage?

Reinke asks these and many other probing questions, while always pointing towards ultimate satisfaction in Christ (yes, he works for DesiringGod) and seeing phones and social media as technology that can be a God-honoring tool, a time-sucking idol, or a place to hide sin and propagate evil. His goal is to help Christians assess their phone habits to use them to glorify God and show the world how satisfying He is.

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Gems from “Spurgeon’s Sorrows”

Digging through all my “PPD processing” documents (I realized a few months ago that I process by writing, so that means I have a number of Word documents that are compilations of quotes, scripture, journal entries, steps to take for healing, and other notes) I found a lot of quotes from the book, “Spurgeon’s Sorrows,” by Zack Eswine.
I read this book back in April, alongside Michael Card’s “A Sacred Sorrow,” and together they marked a turning point for me, the place where I finally realized I hadn’t been being completely honest with God about how I felt about Him, and that that was likely continuing the cycle of depression. A lot of this was due to the promises of God bringing no comfort, something that felt almost blasphemous to think, and I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone that because His promises were what were being offered to me as hope. But Eswine deals with that feeling in “Spurgeon’s Sorrows,” and that along with these other gems opened up the conversation with God again, allowing me to fully lament the way I was reading about it in Card’s book.
May these quotes encourage you and lead you towards reading the whole (little!) book.

“Grief is depression in proportion to circumstance; depression is grief out of proportion to circumstance.”

“Depression can so vandalize our joy and sense of God that no promise of His can comfort us in the moment, no matter how true or kindly spoken.”

“The sun may not rise for a few hours yet. But here amid the waiting hours, the sorrowing have a savior.”

“No matter how far you fall in your depression, the everlasting arms shall be lower than you are.”

“Hope demolished can become hope rebuilt, if it is realistic and rooted, not just in the cross and empty tomb but also in the garden and the sweat-like blood.”

“I am certain that I have seen more in the dark than ever I saw in the light, – more stars, most certainly, – more things in heaven if fewer things on earth.”

“The valley of the shadow of death is not our final destination” – Michael Jinkins

What We Read: 3rd Quarter 2017

Third quarter! That means only one quarter left to finish my book list for the year – although I’m happy and surprised by how much I have read already this year. It’s amazing how much you can read in only a few minutes a day if you really stick to it.

July
Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full (Furman)
My favorite of Gloria Furman’s books that I’ve read. Full of good reminders and encouragement for mothering. A lot of it was in Missional Motherhood, but in a format that was more devotional/encouragement than theology.

Son of Hamas
Picked from WORLD Mag’s “beach reads” recommendations, but read at the cabin. 😉 It was gripping, but I often felt with the way it was written that the goal was thrill more than really educating on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The Unhurried Homeschooler
A quick read, good overview of a lot of Charlotte Mason ideas… all very familiar though as it’s become a bit of the “thing” now to have the unhurried style. But lots of good reminders on the heart being the most important thing, not the textbook, on implementing character – especially at S’s age! I did not really like her section on why to homeschool; it felt like the main goal was sheltering and discipleship was secondary.
I am interested in comparing it to Teaching From Rest, hopefully in the next quarter.

Why the Universe is the Way it is (Ross)
WORLD had recommended this so I was surprised to find that Ross is old-earth, though WORLD doesn’t take a clear stance on that anyway. But it was the first time I had read anything from an old earth perspective, and that helped me engage with it more and solidify my young-earth perspective.
My main critique is that I was expecting it to bring me to worship in awe of God’s power and design, and for hte most part that was dampened by his old earth perspective, as well as the way he assumed arguments and assumed the reader was familiar with common old earth arguments, and did not cite or explain very much.
That said, there were some very good parts, like the discussion of how an imperfect world can be “good,” and the ways that natural disasters can actually help keep the earth in balance, and how time and space restrain evil. My favorite thought: the way the moon’s darkness allows us greater view into space! All that was to show how God isn’t weak and uncaring for world/design/plan to be how it is – but maybe not convincing for a skeptic.

August
skimmed Home Education (Charlotte Mason)
Most of this content I had read in other places, understandably so, but some of it was more fleshed out. Still, I would recommend For the Children’s Sake and A Charlotte Mason Companion more.

Roaring Lambs (Briner)
A book calling for excellence in Christian art. Some good thoughts, but overall a little confusing as he seems to imply the need for just excellence without speaking but then also says to milk your platform. It was also very rant-y and his opinion and experience.I was expecting the whole book to be more of the last chapter, not just telling us what’s wrong but what to do about it.
However, the study questions at the back were good, and it was written a number of years ago – so it seems a little unnecessary in the Csehy circles, which means the book may have had some impact!

Pride & Prejudice (Austen)
One of two books I chose to read after reading How to Read Literature Like a Professor. I enjoyed it more than I expected I would!

September
The Winter’s Tale (Shakespeare)
The other book I chose to read, guided also by A Time of Gifts, since Fermor frequently referenced it. My appreciation for Shakespeare has grown since highschool, and it was helpful to read alongside notes to apply more of How to Read Literature Like a Professor… but I could have done without the soap opera. So I think my next Shakespeare will be Henry V!

Surprised by Joy (Lewis)
I had read a quote from this and then had this book recommended to me, so decided I should finally read it. It solidified Lewis as my favorite author, and made me think a lot about how the things I do and the environment in which they are raised will impact my children. My biggest takeaway was related to the quote I read,
“You cannot hope and also think about hoping at the same moment; for in hope we look to hope’s object and we interrupt this by (so to speak) turning around to look at the hope itself. . . . Introspection is in one respect misleading. In introspection we try to look inside ourselves and see what is going on. But nearly everything that was going on a moment before is stopped by the very act of our turning to look at it. Unfortunately this does not mean that introspection finds nothing. On the contrary, it finds precisely what is left behind by the suspension of all our normal activities; and what is left behind is mainly mental images and physical sensations. The great error is to mistake this mere sediment or track or byproduct for the activities themselves. (Lewis, Surprised by Joy, pp. 218–219.)”
It has been timely as I have been looking back on PPD, trying to understand it to some degree, as well as in daily life when I start analyzing why I was impatient (which generally just leads to stewing about something or someone rather than removing a stressor), instead of repenting and setting my gaze on Christ.
Some really good thoughts on Lewis from John Piper here.

Lit! (Tony Reinke)
Subtitle: A Christian guide to reading books – and it meets that subtitle very well! If you love reading or hate reading, he has some really good tips for deciding what to read, how to read what you read, and a few comments on digesting what you read – all from a perspective of reading with a Christian worldview and with purpose (even fiction for fun!).

in the middle of: Parenting (Tripp) // The Hidden Smile of God (Piper) // 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (Reinke) // Because He Loves Me (Fitzpatrick)

Movies We Enjoyed
A United Kingdom (there was one scene I skipped)
Luther (documentary)
Mr. Bernstein
The Pianist

Kids’ Books:
Creature Numbers (Zuckerman)
Up! (Hughes)
Adele & Simon (McClintock)
Frog & Toad
Dodsworth (Eagan)
Rookie Toddler board books
Katie Meets the Impressionists
Green Eggs & Ham
Perro Grande, Perro Pequeno
Are You My Mother
Mama Panya’s Pancakes
My Big Girl Potty (Cole)
The Journey (Sanna) – we’ve read a number about refugees and this one is our favorite.
Charlie Needs a Cloak (DePaola)
A New Coat for Anna
Chicken Sunday
George & Martha
The Quiltmaker’s Gift
Bible Basics by Catechis Books
Biggest Story ABC

Also, I now have a sub-page under “good reads” to have a running list of our favorite children’s books.

Behold Your God

I had heard about John Snyder’s study, “Behold Your God: Rethinking God Biblically,” off and on over the last few years, and it sounded like something that would be good to do someday. As I struggled through PPD, I kept thinking about the study – I knew that like Elijah, what I needed in the midst of depression was to behold God. But most days I felt powerless to get there myself (theological clarification: coming to God ourselves is impossible without Christ’s atonement and the work of the Holy Spirit. What I mean here is that even as a redeemed child of God the depression created a barrier that I often could not get around to pray or read scripture).

I started the course in February and finished it in June, sometimes pausing to spend longer on a section or do something else for a week or two as various things came up that I had to work through. I really do think having a daily study where someone walked me through passages of scripture and asked questions for me was an important factor in healing PPD, even as I used more physical helps as well. There were truths about God I had doubted and having His character put before me day after day was crucial to rebuilding that trust.

Behold Your God helped me get around that barrier depression had put up, and not only that, by the end of it I was in a healthier place spiritually than I had been for over a year – there was a lot I hadn’t realized before doing the study, and also a lot I hadn’t realized before we slowed down as we got settled into our home here. There was a lot that I had been ignoring in Japan, much of it without knowing I was doing so. That was the short-term effect.

Longer-term, it changed the way I come to scripture. To first ask, “What does this passage tell me of God?” and not even asking how it should apply to me (even in what it says about Him applying to me) until I have seen and worshiped Him. I realized in the midst of postpartum depression how much my love for Him was based on what I felt He was doing for me in that moment instead of in His unchanging character, and thus learning to worship God for who He is outside of what He does in my life was important (not that worshiping Him for what He does for us is wrong! That is all over scripture. But He is so much more than that!).

I waited to write this until I had had some time to see what the longer-term effects of the study would be, and though only time will tell how long-term those will be, that’s some of how the study was beneficial for me. I will probably refer back to it often, and we would love to do it with a group sometime, too.
You can buy the whole DVD set here or do the course online here.

Have you done the Behold Your God study? What were some of the ways it impacted you?

Book Review: Holy Labor

Last summer I wrote a lot about HypnoBirthing and other birth methods and books (you can read that here, here, and here), and while in the end there were useful things gleaned from all the books I’ve read on birth, overall I was left with a sense of having to piece together my own “method” to practice and prepare for a natural, God-centered birth.

But I knew this book, “Holy Labor,” by Aubry G. Smith, was coming out and was so sad it wouldn’t be out until after Ellie was born. My parents gave it to me this year for Mothers’ Day and I devoured it pretty quickly and wanted to review it on my blog because of the way I ended my posts on HypnoBirthing so dissatisfied with birth books.

Summary
Holy Labor is a theology of childbirth: what scripture says about it (is there really a curse on women? Does Genesis 3 mean labor has to be painful?), how we should approach it because of who God is, and how it changes who we are.
She talks about relaxation in labor and some about the fear/pain connection.
Each chapter ends with spiritual disciplines and exercises to help apply what was talked about and prepare for labor and facilitate further, deeper worship of God, in and out of childbirth.
There is a lot of focus on natural childbirth, but I felt that she handled it well so that someone who didn’t have or didn’t want a natural birth wouldn’t feel judged (but I don’t have that experience so may not be the best person to speak on that).

While not designed to be a week-by-week labor preparation guide, I do plan on using it in the first part of the third trimester if we have another baby.

What I didn’t like
I didn’t fully agree with all her theology, but overall there wasn’t anything major I disagreed with, only the way she phrased some things or a rare paragraph. The biggest place this was an issue was in her chapter on justice and birth, but in reading the exercises part after the chapter I think it was more of an issue of wording than actual theology.

I wish it had included thoughts on more of pregnancy (morning sickness, for example) and postpartum (PPD), but it is about LABOR. I also wish it had been more, shorter chapters to make it easier to use across a trimester of pregnancy.
Those are the only ways I felt it was lacking anything talked about in Redeeming Childbirth (further comparison in the next section), along with that I really liked the emphasis in Redeeming Childbirth about building a God-centered birth culture and mentoring others in that (implied in Holy Labor, but not explicitly discussed).

What I liked
SO MUCH. 😉
I feel like overall it contained a lot of the same thoughts as Redeeming Childbirth but in a way that was more concise and theologically grounded, drawing from scripture more than personal experience and encouraging further study and worship, again, from scripture more than personal experience.
Holy Labor grew my understanding of both the physical and spiritual side of childbirth, and I know that if I were pregnant the exercises would have been so helpful to me in dealing with fears, body image, changing seasons, etc. by bringing me to God in prayer and worship, meeting those struggles with His character.

Highly, highly recommended!

2017 Second Quarter: What We Read

April

Skimmed
Give them Grace Elyse Fitzpatrick
I just skimmed this one because there are SO many parenting books and I had heard so much about this one from people that both like and don’t like it so I wanted to get a feel for it myself before deciding if I wanted to read it more or not. There were some very helpful parts, but there is a fair amount of ambiguity where you can read in certain things depending on where you are coming from that could lead to permissiveness. Overall, though, I would say that their main message isn’t giving them grace as in letting off the hook or not giving law, but grace as in offering them gospel when they fail to obey.
We haven’t finished it yet, but I would recommend Paul Tripp’s “Parenting” book over Give them Grace since I feel like it says a lot of the same things but more succinctly and without the ambiguity.

Give Your Child the World
This isn’t really one to sit down and read fully, but I did get some good ideas. I wrote down a fair number of books from the book lists to check out of the library, but I was expecting less book list and more practical on ideas for helping your kids have a global perspective. That may just be because most of the practical things she mentioned are common sense to me from the way we were raised. Not one I think I would own, but I would get it from the library in the future to get more ideas.

Hints on Child Training Turnbull
This is an often recommended book in Charlotte Mason books. There was a lot of helpful stuff in it, but I think you’d be better off reading “For the Children’s Sake” by Susan Schaeffer McCaulay since it has similar philosophy but doesn’t feel as Victorian/focused on outward behavior and politeness. I feel like that’s a weakness in the Charlotte Mason stuff in general – it talks so much about character but often feels moralistic.
Most helpful to me were reminders on whole person, individuality, not repressing polite questioning, and directing, not breaking, the will of the child, as well as teaching them self-denial and self control.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner (and a few others, Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
Hungry Planet

Always Ready (Bahnsen)
Not what I was expecting… I walked away being convinced that presuppositional apologetics is the way to go but not really knowing how to do it.

The Singer, The Song, and The Finale (Calvin Miller)
These are favorites of mine and I read them aloud to Ezra in the car.

Missional Motherhood (Furman)
I picked up some helpful tidbits from this book, but overall ended up skimming a fair bit. It would probably be more helpful to someone who hasn’t read and studied a lot about biblical womanhood.

Spurgeon’s Sorrows (Eswine)
Mentioned this book before, but I can’t recommend it enough to anyone in the midst of depression, counseling depression, supporting someone with depression, or just curious about it and wanting to know more.

The Land I Lost
Ezra remembered reading this as a kid and it was a nice break from heavier reading.

May

The Genius of Ancient Man
Fascinating!

Messy Grace (Kaltenbach)
Another one that I highly recommend. Kaltenbach was raised by LGBT parents and has solid insights in how to show grace and love to the LGBT community without compromising conviction.

Better Late than Early
I ended up skimming most of this one. The first half is explaining why it’s better to start education later than earlier, including some facts like kids being far sighted until 7 or 8 and that making learning to read more difficult and even detrimental to eye health. The second half is some ideas of what to be doing until formal schooling. A lot of it was common sense and long winded.

Holy Labor (Aubri Smith)
A review of this is coming in a separate post!

None Like Him (Jen Wilkin)
SO convicting, one I will read again in the future! It made me realize how often I try to be God in how I act and live, how much I fail at trying to be God, and how great He is.

June
How to Read Literature Like a Professor
I was really disappointed by this book. The writing style was too casual (almost blog-style), a lot of the examples were PG-13+ and from literature I had never heard of, and it was SO repetitive.

Music Through the Eyes of Faith Harold Best
Really really good. Probably the first thing I’ve read that discusses truth and beauty and worship and what kinds of music are acceptable for the Christian in a way that goes beyond “we shouldn’t listen to rock because it has bad associations,” etc. Some of his comments were a little Spurgeon-esque in the sense of “I see how you got there, but I don’t really know if that’s what the text means, but I guess it could.” But it was never to a degree that I felt extrapolated too much from the text. Highly recommended!

A Time of Gifts
If a highschool dropout traveled the world today and wrote about it… it would be a far cry from this book, about Patrick Leigh Fermor’s travels (mostly on foot) from Holland to Constantinople. It made me feel SO uneducated – his writing is so rich with description (it had to be; he didn’t have a camera to remember things by!), full of phrases in many languages, literary references, historical knowledge and references… not as light of a read as I had been looking for, but I really enjoyed it and do plan on reading the second part sometime.

in the middle of Parenting (Tripp), The Hidden Smile of God (Piper), 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (Reinke)

Children’s Books we enjoyed
Balloons Over Broadway about Tony Sarg and the story behind the Macy’s Day Parade!
One Day, One World
The Ology Machowski
Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping S loved this more than us. 😉
Swan a beautiful, poetic book about Anna Pavlova
Where Did My Clothes Come From? a bit above S’s level right now but she would look at it and on the page about rubber say “That’s my rain boots!”
How to make an Apple Pie and See the World
anything by Ezra Jack Keats (especially the Snowy Day and Clementina’s Cactus)
Compost Stew
Pinkerton
My First Day
St Patrick (Tomie De Paola) – the best one we’ve found on St. Patrick’s day that our library has
In the Sea
(David Eliott, Holly Meade)
Curious George & the Alphabet
Children Just Like Me

National Geographic Children’s Atlas
Abuela (I am trying to learn some Spanish with the girls – this one had some Spanish phrases thrown in with mostly English)
The Night Gardener (Fan)
What Can You Do with a Paleta? (another bilingual one! Also “What Can you do with a Rebozo?”)
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt (Messner)

Me? Teach Piano? – Book Review

About the Book (from Amanda)
“You play piano? Could you teach my daughter?” The parent looks too desperate to turn down, yet your thoughts run wild. “Me? Teach piano? I can barely play myself! Do they know what they’re trying to get themselves into?!”

“Me? Teach Piano?” is a simple guide to clear up some of your questions as you learn a down-to-earth approach to creating piano policies, interacting with students, and choosing the correct curriculum. This booklet contains ideas, suggestions, and advice based on Amanda’s experience.

Review
I wish I had had this when I first started teaching piano! I’ve written more about my piano teaching journey here, but to sum it up I started teaching my little sister and neighbors heard and so I ended up with more students, not really being a pianist myself, and only having had experience with the books my family had. There was a lot of floundering and learning things by experience that Me? Teach Piano? could have helped me avoid! I really could have used the section on different curricula, as well as about having a studio policy and tips on writing and implementing one.

Me? Teach Piano? focuses more on the practical side of things than on ideas for engaging distracted students or creative ideas for helping them understand new concepts or review things without getting bored – struggles that were bigger for me than the practical side as a teacher, but beyond the scope of a booklet.

The booklet is easy to read, perhaps more like a blog than a book, and full of good, practical tips from Amanda’s experience. Sometimes that differs from my preference or experience, but getting another perspective was helpful and may be just what someone else needs!

My only critique is that the way she uses “cadence” isn’t the technical theory definition but just a chord progression (she seems to mean teaching students how to find/use I-IV-V in any given key).

You can get the book on Amazon here! I highly recommend it for anyone interested in teaching piano.

About the Author:
Amanda Tero is a Christian music teacher, currently residing in Mississippi. She has played piano since the age of seven, studying classical performance, theory, and arranging from various teachers. She began teaching private piano and violin lessons in 2007, equipping church musicians with a balance of classical and hymn education.

Connect with Amanda
Website: http:// withajoyfulnoise.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/withajoyfulnoise
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/wajnmusicvideos
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/withajoyfulnoise/
Blog: http://www.withajoyfulnoise.blogspot.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/AmandaTero
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/amandatero