Monday, August 9, 2010

Review – The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven

The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven

Author – Kevin and Alex Malarkey

The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven by Kevin Malarkey is the story of a family faced with tragedy coming face-to-face with God. Kevin Malarkey was driving his six year old son Alex home from church when the unspeakable happened, his distraction resulted in a car accident leaving Alex paralyzed and near death. After two months in the hospital and innumerable prayers by friends, family and even strangers, Alex comes out of his coma and slowly begins revealing his time spent in heaven and the angels who visit him. This is a true story based on the accounts of Kevin, Alex (now twelve) and the many prayer warriors who continue to pray for his full recovery.

Kevin Malarkey’s story and the input from Alex are both compelling and startling. For believers, the presence of God is very real. However, very few ever experience God speaking to us, angels visiting us, or get the privilege of time spent in Heaven prior to death. We know God CAN do this, but we don’t expect it to happen to us. Alex’s faith, even in the presence of quadriplegia, is astounding. Perhaps we can all learn about the true nature of God through the eyes of a child.

No matter whether you choose to believe the events they relate or not, the story of faith, prayer and family is worth the read.

** Review copy received free of charge from Tyndale House Publishing **

Review – Beyond Opinion by Ravi Zacharias

Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith

Author/General Editor – Ravi Zacharias

The book Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend by Ravi Zacharias is a compilation of writings by Zacharias, members of his ministry and scholars on the topic of apologetics. The book is broken into three major parts. Part One, “Giving an Answer”, provides an overview of many of the challenges to Christianity: postmodernism, youth, Islam, the existence of evil, cross-culture, etc. This section provides an introductory basis for addressing the common issues raised by each. Part Two, “Internalizing the Questions and Answers”, provides commentary on some of the internal questions Christians and non-Christians pose. Finally, Part Three, “Living out the Answers”, discusses a Christian’s responsibility to live out the faith in thought and action.

While the content of the text is very much an overview of the field of apologetics, the writing and articulation varies depending on who the author of each chapter is. Some of the chapters were very informative and easy to understand. Others expected the reader to have an in-depth knowledge of apologetics. I found myself wanting to know more. In fact, each section could be book unto itself.

Beyond Opinion is not an easy read. The target audience is those who are serious about apologetics and dedicated to exploring the topic further. Those who approach it from this context will find themselves armed with a foundation for beginning to defend the faith to the many challenges offered by the world today.

** Review copy received free of charge from Thomas Nelson **

40 Doesn’t Belong at the Mall

I think I’ll have to do a series on life at 40. It’s already getting interesting.

It all started because we’ve needed a new set of dishes for a while. Our last set was an inexpensive purchase from Target that has served us well; however, several chips and broken plates later it’s time to replenish. I received a $30 Belk gift card for my birthday. Add to that Belk is having their big clearance sale including a 10% off coupon, and I figured I needed to check it out.

Friday, Ben had a homeschool board game party to attend from 7-9. I decided I’d hit the mall after dropping him off. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the mall. Ben likes to call me Frugalista because I spend a lot of time figuring out how to save us money. Typically, saving money and going to the mall aren’t synonymous. This time I was armed with my gift card and coupon!

Arriving at Belk, I found several patterns I liked. They seemed reasonably priced until I realized that price was for one place setting! Yikes! Even at $20 (which is a lowball number), eight place settings would be $160. I think not!

Finally, I did find a small section of plate sets for four. Yes! Even better – they were 50% off. Now we’re talking! Two patterns caught my eye:

Tuscan Rooster Pattern

Tuscan Olive Pattern
I loved the rooster because it makes me think of my grandmother. She always had a big porcelain rooster in her kitchen. It now resides in mine. However, the Tuscan olives go along with the Italian style we have going in our kitchen. Feeling the need for some color – I went with the olives. Both sets were 50% off! Yes!

$75 X 2 Sets = $150 – 50% – 10% coupon – $30 giftcard = $40 for eight place settings! Jackpot!

Feeling quite satisfied with my plates and my frugality, I decided to wander into the mall. Mistake! Forty year old women do not belong in the local mall on a Friday night! At least, I don’t. Teenagers everywhere, and I do mean everywhere! But, that wasn’t the only issue. I was really disappointed by the shops in the mall. Who wears these clothes anyway? Even the mannequins looked embarrassed, and I was embarrassed for them!

I certainly felt the sting of what is marketed to our youth today. Whatever happened to modesty? Maybe that is an antiquated concept, but one that I believe needs to be revisited. Teens spend their evenings in malls being marketed sexuality (not to mention the messages they get through music, Hollywood, magazines, etc.). I felt the weight of forty because I know that the ethics of my generation were less than the one before it – are we on a slippery slope?

I turned around, left the mall, went back to Ben’s party and chatted with other homeschooling parents. I’d much rather have Ben playing board games and eating popcorn than roaming the mall.

So how do we instill values in our children when all the media around them tries to get them to go the other way? I think I’ll spend a few sleepless nights pondering this one. Oh look – another gray hair!

Travel the World – Review

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Schoolhouse Planner

Schoolhouse Planner/Modules EBook: Travel the World!—June 2010 Issue

EBook sells for $7.95

Ages: K – High School

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine provided me a free copy of Travel the World to review – a full-color fifty-two page module to be used standalone or in conjunction with The Old Schoolhouse Magazine planner. Travel the World is a mini-unit study on geography.

Geography is defined in the text as “God’s handwriting on the earth.” Based on this definition, students are taken through an exploration of what geography is starting with the basics of understanding a globe or map, furthered by a broad view of geographic features and finally narrowing to an exploration of each continent. Internet links are provided throughout allowing for deeper understanding of some of the key terms such as Mount Everest, Yangtze River, savannah, etc. Additionally, links are provided to fun online quizzes and games that allow students to practice and test their knowledge. (This became a competition to see who could remember the most!)

Travel the World came at a good time. We have needed some filler activities for those “I’m bored!” times this summer. While this was our approach to the study, the numerous links and expansions could easily turn this unit into a full month or more of comprehensive study. I like the fact that as a unit study it touches on many disciplines all through the same theme. My boys, ages 10 and 12, are writing, exploring poetry, looking at a globe, understanding geographic features and investigating culture all under the same umbrella. They don’t realize how much they are learning and in how many different areas.

The incorporation of internet sites throughout the unit really appeals to all learning styles. My boys get to see, hear and through the online games interact with the material. Were we doing this during the school year, I would have incorporated the high school expansion activities to take their knowledge a step further by investigating geography through literature, research and even the concept of developing a microbusiness. In fact, I’m sure I’ll be revisiting some of the links and projects once school starts.

I recommend this unit study as a quick study for students needing some extra content or for an in-depth study of geography. The content is adaptable to students of all ages – it’s nice when the family can all work together!

To see additional reviews by the Homeschool Crew click here.

** I received this product free of charge from The Old Schoolhouse for review purposes. **

Facing the DMV at Forty

This is my second segment on turning forty. It’s right around the corner – that lovely birthday. I’ve blogged my concerns and gotten great advice on what it means to really be happy in my forty year old skin. I was buying all of that until…

Well, the DMV. Not anyone’s favorite place. My license needed renewing as did my 17 year old son’s. Since we had to be out of the house for several hours today, we decided to bite the bullet and head over to get them taken care of.

Kemper, my son, sailed in, and with the help of mom’s wallet was all set for his new license. However, they saw me coming. They said, “Yep, she’s turning forty! Senility starts setting in at that age – we’d better test her!” Ok, they didn’t say that, but it would make me feel a little better if they did. See… I didn’t know they were going to spring the sign identification test on me. Not that I shouldn’t know my street signs – I’ve been driving for 24 years now.

I sailed through the first set of signs. I’m thinking – I got this! Then, this sign appeared in the list:

Being an English teacher, I revved up to share a small narrative on what this sign means. “Well, let’s see, if I’m driving one way (the down arrow) and other traffic is going the other way (the up arrow) and there is a median, or bump, or divisor of some sort in the way, then we’ll go around it. Right?” Wrong. The DMV tester frowned in dismay and said – “It’s Divided Highway.” Isn’t that what I just said???

Next comes the tricky part – blank signs. I fail to see the logic in testing me on blank signs. Do they ever appear blank when I’m on the road? I think not. If you fill them in, I can tell you what they mean, but otherwise they are merely colored geometric shapes. I considered launching a protest, but that seemed silly.

The first one:

Ok, I got this – stop sign! Right!

Then came the tough ones…

Let’s see – there are usually people walking on this sign. A people crossing! Wrong. School crossing – apparently, I wasn’t specific enough.


Hmmm… Looks familiar… Ummm… I’m drawing a blank. Fail! It’s railroad crossing. Couldn’t they at least put an X in the middle of it?


To me – this is a baseball pennant. I had NO idea on this one. Fail! It means No Passing. Urgh… I thought that’s what those double yellow lines on the road were for. I get no bonus points for knowing that.

I’m dejected. I don’t fail tests. Worse yet, my son is standing behind me laughing. “Mom, you failed! Hahaha…” Argh! I have not heard the end of this.

The tester hands me a sheet, tells me to study and then I can “re-take” the test. As a teacher, I wanted to point out there was no validity to their test if they give me the answers and let me take it again immediately, but I thought now just wasn’t the time to get on that high horse. I passed round two with flying colors.

So, my license is coming in the mail. My first test as a forty year old and I failed. That stings!

A Mother by any Other Name…

I have always found it interesting that each of my four children chooses to use a different form of the word “Mother” when they speak to me. I believe it is an interesting reflection of their personalities and the way in which they approach life.

My daughter, 19, calls me Mama. “Mama, what are we doing today?” “Mama, don’t look at me like that.” “Mama, I have work today till 10.” It’s an endearing way of showing just how much she relies on me while also being a little more grown up. She may be nearing twenty, but she still needs her Mama.

My oldest son, 17, calls me Mom. “Mom, can my friends come over?” “Mom, do you want to go to the sporting goods store with me?” “Mom, let’s play Feud on Facebook.” I’m blessed to have a teenage son that still enjoys time with his mom. He’s more independent and wants to solve things on his own. Thus the more succinct “Mom”. He knows I’ve always got his back and he’s got mine.

My second son, 12, calls me Ma. “Hey, Ma, do we have taekwondo today?” “Ma, come see the video game character I just created.” He is my thinker. He likes things to be simplified. Ma is certainly the simplified version. So serious – “Ma, I need you to look at this bug. Is that normal?”

My third son and my youngest, turning 11 shortly, still calls me Mommy. He’s never wanted to grow up. He used to insist on being called “The Bebe” when he was a toddler. (Pronounced: BeeBee) Now that he’s having to grow up some, he holds on to calling me Mommy, usually accompanied by a snugglebug. “Mommy, I love you million.” “Mommy, (insert brother’s name) is being mean to me!” He’s a little firecracker. Hot temper and huge heart.

Whether I’m Mama, Mom, Ma, or Mommy, it sure feels good to know they are referring to me. What a blessing each of them is with their unique personalities and approach to life. My heart is filled with them.

“Her children arise up, and call her blessed.” Proverbs 31

Facing Forty

Forty, wow, I’m turning Forty! How did that happen?
There are days when I feel like I should still be in my twenties. I’m spry, adventurous, ready to take on the world. Then there are days when the mileage is more than the years and I feel like an old lady. My knees are sore, I’m cranky, things don’t stay up and perky like they used to. Those are not my favorite days.

I think what really blows my mind is thinking back to when I was a child and people who were forty were ancient. Did people really live that long? Geesh! Now, here I am, and, while I certainly feel my age some days, I don’t feel ancient.

Right now, I’m thinking about my grandmother. She’s NEVER been her age. She turned 40 for the fifty-sixth time last year. Yes, you read that right, she’s 96. To her, age has always been just a number, nothing more. You are only as old as you feel, as you let yourself be. She and my grandfather (now 97) have both been very active. They have laughed in the face of old age and lived each day learning and thriving. Yes, they are slower, but they are still vital. It’s funny, I worry about forty and yet when I hear someone is seventy I think – you’re still young. My grandparents are 26 years older than you are!

Am I old? Nah… Not really. More settled, that’s for sure. Age has certainly put things more in perspective – God, family, friends, work, life in general are all more rich than they were in my twenties. The drama is irrelevant, my looks are what they are, and life is about a daily journey , not a race to the next milestone.

Maybe 40 isn’t so bad. After all, it’s just a number. Next year, when I turn forty for the second time – I’ll remember Grandma. I’ll go learn something new, smell the flowers, hug my kids and celebrate God giving me one more year of life.