Christian, Culture, nonfiction

The Disciplined Life

disciplined-life

The Disciplined Life: The Mark of Christian Maturity, by Richard S. Taylor. Originally published in  1974. 108 pages.

I couldn’t think of a better book with which to start the new year than this one. Even though I read it three months ago, I am rereading it again so soon because it is 1) a much needed resource in my life at present, and 2) one of those books that you have to read more than once to soak in.

Rather than bother you with my thoughts, other than the grade I’ll add to the end of this review, I think the best advertisement for this book is a few excerpts to give you an appreciation for the spirit and tone of the book. Additionally, I hope these quotes will serve as inspiration until such time as you can acquire the book for yourself, because you should.

On the Western shift from a work ethic to a play ethic:

“When play… consumes a larger proportion of leisure time, money, conversation, and interest than is warranted by its cultural and recreative returns, then the play becomes the mark of a decadent age and the badge of softness rather than strength.”

“There was a time when intercollegiate debating drew big crowds.  Now the debates are held in side rooms, while the crowd cheers at the basketball game… the shift of excited popular interest from debates to basketball is a sign of cultural decline.”

“Apart from divine intervention, the nation which produces the most scientists and educators will dominate the world, not the nation that produces the best sportsmen.”

On kindness as an end to itself:

“Kindheartedness is a virtue when coupled with moral stability.  Without discipline kindheartedness becomes sentimental weakness.  No nation has survived which has become self-indulgent and flabby.”

“The undisciplined mind is always an easy prey for the demagogue and the charlatan.  Out of such intellectual dullness and inertia dictatorships are spawned.”

On discipline in matters great and small:

“The advantage that the disciplined person has over the undisciplined one shows up in many ordinary matters of daily life.

The disciplined person picks up his clothes; the undisciplined one lets them lie around.
One wipes clean the bathroom sink that he uses. The other leaves it dirty for someone else to clean.

One plans his work and works to his plan. The other works haphazardly.

One is always punctual in keeping his appointments. The other is notoriously late. One is always on time for the meetings of the church. The other is never on time.

The difference in all these cases is not one of character, but of habit.”

Was I the only one who felt a pang?

It’s a good book. Not perfect, as I had a quibble with one or two points, but the overall thrust is sound, the bad far outweighs any minor quibbles, and it is good inspiration to live life in a way which leads to a more productive life and a strong Christian witness.

Grade: A

 

 

Culture, Els' Rabbit Trails

Modern Gnosticism

If there are thoughts worth contemplating as we transition from the old year to the new, these are among them. Enjoy!

Hands, Heart, Hearth

I’ve been people watching for the last few months and I see a common problem – something I’d like to refer to as modern gnosticism.

Because our flesh is inherently flawed, we distrust the flesh.  Because we can now choose to retreat to the realm of the intellect through being plugged in to the internet, we pull ourselves away from reality.  This affects our ability to deal with reality.  As we draw ourselves away from others, from the life of the flesh, we forget that we need each other, flawed or not.    We forget that the flesh matters – that we cannot simply deny the flesh entirely, that we were made to enjoy the flesh – but within limits.

We’ve lost the pure mammalian reality of life in flesh suits – we don’t know how to touch other humans in non sexual ways, so we keep animals so we have…

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American history, autobiographies, children's books

Little House in the Big Woods

I expect this to be the last post of 2016 so if I don’t get back here, have a wonderfully blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year! And keep reading!

little-house-big-woods

Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Originally published in 1932. 256 pages.

This book was our most recent bedtime read loud and our children enjoyed it immensely. They excitedly looked forward each night to what would happen next in the lives of Laura, Mary, Pa, and the rest of the Ingalls family.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to get around the reading Laura Ingalls Wilder but I’m very glad that I finally did, and that I get to share it with my children. Children who, incidentally view the life and times of Laura and her family through an extremely idyllic lens. While they find the idea of life in the big woods highly desirable, I could not get past the though of woods and mountain lions right outside our door.

The detail with which Laura Ingalls wilder described all that was involved in making maple syrup, butchering and curing animal meats, harvesting wheat, and other chores that were a common part of 19th century life were also a source of curiosity and research for the kids.

I highly recommend these books for your upper elementary aged child. The illustrations in this particular edition are very well done and the kids liked the artwork as well. Some of the sketches were black and white, others in color, but all were beautiful.

Because of the fascination and interest our kids had with this book, the first in the series which we will be continuing, we have started watching season one of the Little House television series that began in 1974. Because I was far too young to have watched or even remember those first few seasons, it has been an event for me as well. The kids were a little bummed that the episodes they have watched so far didn’t quite match up with the book. It provided a brief lesson on the ways that television shows and movies are adapted from books.

If you haven’t read these books I recommend them. They are great books to read whether you are 12 years old, or 42.

Grade: B+

health and fitness

The How It Can Be Gluten Free Cookbook

gluten-free-cookbook

The How It Can Be Gluten Free Cookbook, by America’s Test Kitchen. Published in 2014.336 pages.

Like so many American women, I can tend to get sucked into the latest nutritional trend. The one exception to that rule has been the trend of the gluten free variety. Sure, I’ll ditch the wheat for a while to drop a few pounds, or do a Whole 30 because I really do feel better with a pared own diet.

However, I embark on these things with a general understanding that at some point I will return to my beloved gluten. After all, I am a baker, and not just a hobby baker. Well, I’m just a hobby  baker now but once upon a time I was baking enough and had built up reputation enough that I was able to hock my baking wares for a decent bit of grocery money.

I basically poo-poohed everyone who claimed to have some kind of intolerance or allergy to gluten as just a trend gone wild. Many people who claimed to be gluten intolerant couldn’t even tell you what gluten is:

Did I mention this? I like to bake, and my husband likes to eat what I bake. As such, gluten free has never been viewed as a permanent solution to anything in our house, even though managing my weight is markedly easier when I don’t eat it.

One thing however, caused us to give pause in our staunchly pro-gluten household: our youngest daughter’s health. Eight-year-old has been battling eczema to varying degrees since she was born. Recently we began -again- the process of eliminating things from her diet systematically and chronicling the results. Benevolent Dictator decided that for the months of November and December, we would eliminate gluten.

For the sake of her comfort, the dictator and I join our daughter in whatever is being eliminated from her diet. Rather than see this as the end of baking (it’s the holidays after all!) I saw it as a challenge. If there was anywhere I knew I would find excellent gluten free substitutions for our favorite baked goods, it would be from America’s test Kitchen.

If you’re not familiar with America’s Test Kitchen and you love the science of cooking and baking techniques, this is a show you want to watch. I watch them on PBS, and they test every conceivable technique, test and review kitchen and food products, and go to great lengths to get the best possible results. And they produced a gluten free cookbook! Two volumes!

We mastered the art of producing cakes that are hardly distinguishable from its gluten filled counterpart, but bread was the one thing I was hesitant to try until I fund this book. Well, until my daughter found this book. I started with the hamburger rolls which tasted divine. Our entire family enjoyed them and the verdict was that you could hardly tell the difference between regular hamburger buns and the GF variety I made using the recipe from the book.

Next up was the pull apart dinner rolls, which again, were a home run. I considered making at least one more recipe (English muffins) before offering a review of the book but I have owned a couple of ATK cook books and I can’t think of one bad recipe I’ve made from one of them.

Like all ATK books, there are lots of insights on the science behind the techniques they chose and reviews of different products. This was helpful since there are so many gluten free flours and products available on the market today.They always accompany the most involved steps with photographs. There are also comparison photos to show the different results they got with different flour blends. So much information can be found within the pages of these volumes that even the most inexperienced baker could embark on gluten free baking and have success.

Since it appears at this juncture, that eight-year-old is actually seeing some improvement as a result of this particular elimination, this might be our life for the foreseeable. It was great to stumble onto a book with such a wealth of information and guidance.

Grade: A