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An Interview with Mary J. Moerbe, Author and Deaconess


An Exchange about Family Vocations: God’s Call in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood, co-authored by Gene Veith and his daughter Mary Moerbe, concerning Chapter 8: Parenthood.

My husband, Ryan, and I have the utmost respect for Dr. Gene Veith, having read his God at Work while we were dating and engaged. This book was a powerful influence in my life and our marriage from the beginning. We even had the chance to speak with him at a worldview conference. A year ago, Mary Moerbe and I became Facebook “friends” after I enjoyed her contributions to Eternal Treasures. Now, we’re crossing paths again as my church’s mom’s group reads through Family Vocations.

 

I’ve greatly enjoyed Family Vocations in general, and love the reminder that vocation is how God serves through me to others as a channel of His blessings. When I reached the sections in chapter 8 about birth control and IVF, though, I paused. These issues are part of Ryan’s scholarship as he teaches Bioethics and the History of Science at Bethany Lutheran College. Over the years, we’ve studied these topics thoroughly, attempting to keep up to date as technologies change. Because of this, I had several questions regarding the advice offered in these sections. I contacted Mary Moerbe, and she graciously consented to answer my concerns and generate an interview together. Thank you for joining us, Mary!

Mary: Marie, thank you for approaching me for some of the background of our Family Vocation book. The opportunity to write it came at a time when I was uncovering some culturally remarkable things. At the same time, I wish the deadline could have been pushed back to incorporate elements we learned about later!

 

Marie: Could you elaborate on that?

Mary: As a matter of fact, I had just read an entire book about Christian women with a very low view of sex. I was surprised to read so many accounts of women confused and afraid of sex within marriage after avoiding physical intimacy prior to marriage. That common expectations and realities of married life could catch these women so off guard made me especially pleased to work on a book that hopefully helps a lot of people—men, women, and growing children—have a starting place and really a few started conversations to help them in their Christian thinking and life.

There is a lot of cultural confusion, even within Christianity. We tried to be careful to write with many different starting points in mind. Thankfully, the comforting message and teachings of Scripture are applicable and helpful for all of us!

Marie: The book brought up natural law while talking about the Roman Catholic Church (pp. 109ff). The Lutheran Confessions speak about natural law, too. Was there a reason you didn’t address that more with its implications about sex and marriage?

Mary: Natural law is a big and admittedly important topic. We were worried, however, that we might trail off to a rabbit hole if we followed that topic within the narrow confines of our book. Natural law has definite implications for vocation, certainly, and there are now a number of excellent resources.

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A Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew (Book Review)


The scaffolding provided by Miles V. van Pelt and Gary D. Pratico in their Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew: A Guide to Reading the Hebrew Bible enabled me to build my language proficiency to the point of near-independent reading (except, of course, for looking up rare vocabulary). I still consult a verb chart from time to time, but thanks to their guidance in reading thirty Old Testament texts—over 200 verses involving the parsing of 622 verbs—I now am ready to read the Hebrew Bible rather than puzzle over it.

The authors have a strong reputation for Hebrew pedagogy. Their best-selling introductory text, Basics of Biblical Hebrew, uses color-coding to highlight the inflected forms of verbs and nouns, while also aiming to simplify students’ mastery of irregular forms by “regularizing” those forms through a handful of rules that account for most of the morphological variations. They designed their Graded Reader to work either as an intermediate successor to that introductory text or else as a refresher course for pastors whose Hebrew has fallen by the wayside. In my case, I had completed one year of college Hebrew a quarter of a century ago and, in the years that followed, dabbled with a variety of textbooks while never quite getting to where I wanted to be. The Graded Reader finally got me over the hump.

graded reader genesis 26

Aside from using a generously legible font size, the strength of van Pelt and Pratico’s style lies in their frequent repetition of simple rules-of-thumb. For example, an imperfect verb in the Qal stem will have Hireq as the preformative vowel, while a verb in the Piel stem will use Schewa as the preformative vowel and also have a Daghesh Forte in the middle root letter. If the preformative vowel is a Putach, with a Hireq-Yod in the middle root letter, then the stem must be Hiphil.

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Bradbury’s Expecting in June! (Book Review: The Harvest Raise by Katie Schuermann)


For those of you who haven’t read the first two books in the Anthems of Zion series, Bradbury is a small town in Illinois, and Zion is its Lutheran church. What Bradbury is expecting, specifically, isn’t a baby, but rather its third and final book, The Harvest Raise, on June 13. And boy, the people of Bradbury will take any and every opportunity to gossip about those who are expecting!

Having devoured the first two books of the trilogy in under 24-hours each, when the opportunity presented itself to read and review an Advanced Reader’s Copy of The Harvest Raise, I jumped at the opportunity. The book surely did not disappoint; author Katie Schuermann brings small town, Lutheran living to life. Here’s why I loved The Harvest Raise:

THR Honestly Portrays Lutheran Life and Doctrine

So much more than generic Christian fiction, The Harvest Raise incorporates the application of Scripture into the life of the Christian. In addition, because both the author and the setting are conservative Lutheran, the characters quote from the Scripture, the Hymnal, and the Confessions. Because of this, the characters seem like real people that I could find among my own congregation and friends.

THR Is Instructive, But Not Preachy

Because the people of Zion are both sinners and saints, just like us, it’s easy to learn from the characters’ mistakes. As we watch the foibles of the characters, we’re reminded of the Biblical virtues of humility, self-control, friendship, and patience. And all this without quoting a single sermon from Rev. Fletcher!

THR Features Diverse Characters

I especially love that THR features such a diverse cast, without glorying diversity for its own sake. Often, books in a wide-variety of genres show only a very small segment of the population. The Harvest Raise portrays both the Christian church and the community as being made of many kinds of people, all of whom contribute to the edification of others. The cast includes:

  • Scripture-quoting toddlers (yes, it can be taught!)
  • old folks and the struggles inherent to aging
  • the challenges and sacrifices of pregnancy and raising a large family
  • the sorrows of the barren and bereaved
  • college kids falling in love and planning a life around Christ
  • the ache of widows and widowers
  • the mentally and physically disabled
  • the rich and poor
  • those who struggle with sexual sin
  • those who care for or mourn for their aging parents
  • those with memory loss
  • those with marital struggles

Whatever you are going through in life, you’ll probably find a character in THR struggling through the same. It’s also likely that you’ll grow in grace and charity for your neighbor, whom you may get to know better figuratively by studying the characters from this book who are different from yourself.

THR Tackles Social Problems in the Context of Truth

Think small-town Lutheran life is boring? Think again! Besides all of the interpersonal drama featured in this book, the author crafted several plot twists regarding drugs, violence, abortion, and homosexuality. But rather than glorify these, as happens in so many modern books, the author shows the deeply human pain behind these social problems, and the unending comfort that Jesus can offer to those who are hurting.

 

The Harvest Raise is just plain a good story. It is satisfying and real-- as far as fiction can be! It was extremely difficult to put down when my vocations (other than book-reviewer) called! The Harvest Raise exemplifies Christians working and loving and living and forgiving, all with humor and reliance on the merits of our Savior.

If you are a fan of Christian fiction, be sure to prioritize the Anthems of Zion series for your summer reading list! You will NOT be disappointed: This is most certainly true!

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Teaching from Rest: A Book Review


Last night, I spent 2 hours reading this book from cover to cover.

It’s a little gem for the homeschooling parent and reminded me of some important truths. Below is a summary, using mostly quotations from the book.

Teaching from Rest (Schole) is…

… preparing for life, not finishing curriculum.

“In Latin, curriculum means ‘a running’ or ‘a racecourse.’ Figuratively it means one’s career—one’s life course” (ix).

“Rest is not the opposite of work, but rather work of a different order” (61).

“Rest is the virtue between negligence and anxiety…. [W]e aren’t meeting [our children’s] needs or tending to their real nature when we swing like a pendulum to either the vice of anxiety or the vice of negligence” (7).

… not dependent on circumstances.

“[Schole doesn’t mean] teach your calm children in a calm manner on a calm afternoon… [It means] that we ought to enter into God’s rest and then serve Him wholeheartedly—not out of anxiety, but out of love and trust” (xii).

… considering your own insufficiency.

“[M]ore than anything else, I desire to teach and mother in a way that pleases God. Some days that feels like feeding the five thousand. But He is not asking me to feed the five thousand; He just wants me to bring my basket of loaves and fish and lay them at His feet” (xiii-xiv).

“Bring your loaves and your fish, even if you think them completely insufficient. They are insufficient. You are insufficient. But His grace is not” (15).

“Our souls are restless, anxiously wondering if something else out there might be just a little bit better—if maybe there is another way or another curriculum that might prove to be superior to what we are doing now… We’ve got to drop the self-inflated view that we are the be-all and end-all of whether the education we are offering our children is going to be as successful as we hope it is” (xvi-xvii).

… putting people before things.

“What is keeping you from speeding through the reading curriculum, flying through the math books, checking off the lesson plans and maximizing efficiency? Usually the answer is: people” (2).

“Surrender your idea of what the ideal homeschool day is supposed to look like and take on, with both hands, the day that it is” (3).

“[Experienced homeschooling moms] don’t tell me to worry over what the neighbors or my mother-in-law or anyone else thinks. They don’t give me lists of their best curriculum choices and tell me to replicate them. They tell me to focus on relationships, to help my children preserve wonder and perceive truth, and to do each day’s work as diligently as I can” (35).

“It’s true that becoming a habitual multitasker will mean that you check a lot more off your list at the end of the day. It also invariably means that you will have missed the critical point of truly educating your child. She is not a project to be managed but a soul to be cultivated” (49).

“By definition, to be efficient is to achieve maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense. But relationships don’t flourish or grow that way. Relationships need time, spent lavishly. Homeschooling is all about relationships, and relationships just aren’t efficient” (50).

… faithfully executing your vocation.

“Faithfulness is showing up every day to do the work He has called us to. Whether or not things turn out in the end as I’m hoping they will… is not actually within my span of control. It’s not my assigned task. He isn’t asking me to succeed on the world’s terms. He’s asking me to faithfully do the work” (9).

… acknowledging God’s sovereignty.

“You do not have to have a ‘productive’ homeschool day to please the Savior.… You are cultivating your child like a tree, and trees will bear fruit in time. We are taking the long view.… Faithfully tending to your work each day is what success looks like for the homeschooling mother” (70).

“We make a grave mistake when we think that the success of our homeschool hinges on whether or not we can pull together the ideal curriculum or read the best books … God doesn’t need you. But He wants to work through you” (80).

“Take a deep breath, mama. This isn’t as dependent on you as you think it is. Give God your ‘Here I am. Use me.’ Let Him carry the burden” (81).

Commentary:

1. Schole is instructive for any style of homeschool.

Initially, I avoided reading this book because I had the mistaken impression that teaching from rest would involve throwing away my plans and schedules. But I like plans and schedules! However, schole assumes a schedule, though a simple one, and it reminds mothers to build in margin to that schedule for the unexpected. Whether you choose a rigorous classical curriculum or prefer the laid-back style of unschooling, Teaching from Rest reminds all educators that we are teaching people, not just subjects, and that God can and will work regardless of our shortcoming.

2. Faithfulness is God’s, not ours.

Faithfulness to the task before us is emphasized again and again in Teaching from Rest. Part of that faithfulness is based on the good works which we do daily in our homes. “Smile a lot. Lavish him with love” (10). To hear these so-called “simple” things we are to do as mothers, and yet, realize how we utterly fail is condemning. Satan can even use a simple term like “faithfulness” to burden us with the law, or conversely, tempt us to trust in our own works. As a Christian, however, I remember that God is the Faithful One, forgiving me all of my sins and daily keeping me in the promises of my baptism. He even feeds me with His body and blood for the strengthening of my faith.

3. Is there a book with a similar topic but a different perspective?

I’d love to read a book on the same topic, but from the specific perspective of a former teacher finding schole in the home. It’s hard enough to find rest for any homeschooling mother, but I imagine there are unique challenges to teaching from rest as a homeschooling mother after coming out of the academics expected as a school teacher: The rule of the classroom does not need to rule her home. I think this perspective could be invaluable for taking schole to the next level.

 

Teaching from Rest reminded me that homeschooling my children is not a checklist, but a labor of love for the Lord—the same Lord who promises to carry me through each and every struggle. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23).

Read a book review on another wonderful homeschooling perspective: Eternal Treasures.

 

Mrs. Marie K. MacPherson, vice president of Into Your Hands LLC, lives in Mankato, Minnesota, with her husband Ryan and their children, whom she homeschools. She is editor of Mothering Many: Sanity-Saving Strategies from Moms of Four or More (2016).

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Gauging Interest: Your Opinion Needed About New Book Idea


Into Your Hands LLC is considering publishing an anthology of short stories and poems concerning Christian family life. Sample genres and themes may include short stories, poems, hymns, home devotion ideas, parenting, grand-parenting, sibling relationships, virtue training, elder care, family reconciliation, forgiveness, and the like.

Interested in reading a book like this? Interested in contributing to a book like this?! Please take our survey and help us shape this book idea into reality!

We also continue to welcome homeschooling families to contribute to our upcoming publication Lessons Learned at Home: Christian Families Tell Their Homeschooling Stories. The deadline has been extended as we seek diverse and non-traditional journeys!

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Building Bridges: Fostering Cooperation between Christian Day Schools and Homeschool Families


Christian homes, Christian congregations, and Christian schools are all places in which the Holy Spirit, through God’s Word, gives and strengthens the faith of His children. Yet, it’s easy to see ourselves in vastly contrasting “boxes” which emphasize our differences and weaknesses, rather than our similarities and strengths. All too often, suspicion and misunderstanding exists between school leadership and homeschool families. Instead, what we all need is proactive, constructive curiosity and mutual respect.  How can we build bridges between churches, schools, and homeschools, working together for the Christian education of all of the congregation's children?

Below is an outline I recently prepared and shared with two different congregations, both of whom have Christian Day Schools. If you are interested in developing cooperation between your congregation and homeschool families, I encourage you to print one of the links below, prepare a cover letter specific to yourself and your family, and pass it on to the leadership in your church for reflection and discussion. Of course, not all suggestions are feasible for implementation at a particular congregation. As a comprehensive list of ideas, however, this handout can get the conversation started toward mutual understanding.

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