Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

“The Just Church” Book Review

Louanne on Oct 18th 2012

Mike and I have been supporters of International Justice Mission for several years now and I was excited to be a part of the review team for their newest book “The Just Church”. If you don’t know about their work, I encourage you to read about the amazing work they do serving and protecting the “least of these” around the world. The book was written by Jim Martin and it’s basically a roadmap to starting a Justice ministry in your church.

Do we as Christians really believe we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)? And what about Luke 12:48: “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” Is this how we live and relate to the world around us?

Jim Martin’s book, “The Just Church” starts out by asking a lot of hard questions about the state of the church in America and how very comfortable we are in our safe, insulated world. This book is great on many levels. If you have never thought about the vast amount of injustice and evil in our world, or heard of organizations like the International Justice Mission, this book is for you. If you know about this topic, but are paralyzed by the thought that you can’t “do” anything about it, this book is for you. If you are a pastor, in church leadership or member of a church and wondering how you could move your church forward in the area of Justice Ministry, this book is for you. Each chapter ends with questions to get you thinking deeper about the content of the book. Additionally the resources at the end of the book are very helpful.

Martin speaks to the fact that as we (as individuals or as a church) grow more affluent we do all we can to make ourselves more and more insulated. This causes us to look at the world and relate to it with a view of keeping our family and ourselves safe. When you inject the stark reality of violent oppression into the mix he says, “It’s about deciding to peel back some of the layers of our insulation so that we begin to experience the world as it really is.” He then offers some stark stories about horrible injustice in the world while also offering hope that we as the church can make a difference. He helps the reader see how they can “find their voice” in the fight against injustice. He offers great analogies and a basic step-by-step overview on how to take your church from thought process to actual ministry.

He shows that loving our neighbor includes those near and far from us, and that the church is God’s plan to stop injustice. He also shows that fighting injustice is going to take churches into a place many have not gone before, but that will lead to a much deeper relationship with God as we see the world through His eyes. He says, “Responding to violent oppression will lead into direct and often shocking confrontation with real evil and complex need.”

There is so much good contained in this book, especially this quote that has stuck with me and caused me to pray differently about injustice since reading it: “…subsequent experiences have left no doubt that many of the psalms (and many of David’s in particular) are not abstractions; they are describing real life – the life lived by billions, indeed, the majority in our world today.”

I know that as a member of the affluent Western world that it’s much easier to close our eyes and ears and pretend that the horrors of slavery and injustice aren’t occurring, but the sad fact is; it’s happening in our communities too. We don’t have to look very far to find people who desperately need the love, hope and compassion of the church. Over the last year my heart has become more and more burdened to find a way to help in this fight even more than Mike and I already do. This is a great book to get you thinking about your part and your churches part in the fight.

The horror of injustice and violent oppression around the globe is real, but YOU can make a difference.

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My Omni movie reviews

Louanne on Jul 18th 2012

When we renewed our Fort Worth Science and History Museum membership last year they gave us 25 free Omni theater tickets. So here are my thoughts on the last four films we watched – they are all still showing at the Omni.

Born to be Wild

This was absolutely the girls favorite film we went to see. In truth it was mine too just because of the baby orangutans. The film is narrated by Morgan Freeman and documents the stories of orphaned orangutans and elephants. The film shows the rescue organizations that help to care for them and prepare them to live in the wild again. This is a sweet film with great footage of the baby animals. It’s cute to see the babies being fed with special bottles and the people in Borneo and Kenya caring for the animals. My favorite part was when they returned the elephants to the wild. I highly recommend this to kids of all ages – and their parents.

After seeing this film the girls started playing a game called Baby Monkeys. They collected up all their stuffed monkeys and pretend to care for them just like in the film. It’s now a favorite game and they use many different animals now.

Thrill Ride – The Science of Fun

The first thing to say about this film was that it is really loud! It was a bit much for Amelie and she ended up on my lap with me holding my hands over her ears. This film is from 1997 and was brought back to the Omni this year. It traces the history of thrill rides from the original wooden ones to the current motion simulator rides that are becoming more and more common. The museum has a warning on their site that if you experience motion sickness in the Omni theater you should avoid this show – and I agree. The clips are fast moving and meant to make you feel like you are riding a roller coaster. Amelie has mentioned roller coasters being fun quite a few times since we saw it. But Nadia seemed to like the popcorn and Superman sighting more than anything.

Coral Reef Adventure

This film was really interesting and the underwater photography was beautiful. The couple who made this film went on a 10 month adventure to document as many reefs as possible. The amazing thing about this film was the they were able to go 350′ down to see parts of the coral reef that no humans have ever seen. They also discovered some new species of fish and other creatures. From the website: “Found in more than 100 countries around the world, coral reefs comprise just one percent of the ocean yet nurture one quarter of all marine life.” The girls loved all the fish and other colorful creatures that live in the reefs. This film made me want to go to Fiji and lay on the beach because the photography was so beautiful. This film had a fair amount of environmentalist stuff in it, but it wasn’t over the top. Their basic message is that if the reefs continue to decline many parts of the world will be impacted. The soundtrack is done by Crosby Stills Nash and the girls were jamming out quite a bit during this film.

To the Arctic

This film was narrated by Meryl Streep and the photography is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! It follows a mother Polar Bear and her twin 7 month old cubs and their journey to live in the arctic and survive. Much of the soundtrack is sung by Paul McCartney.  This girls really enjoyed this film and liked the bears. The only unfortunate thing about it is that they beat you over the head with the global warming is “all your fault” speech. Repeatedly you are told that it’s humans fault that this mother bear and all mother bears like her are suffering. I expect a certain amount of that in a nature film, but this is like a hammer to the head throughout the film. I think kids of all ages would enjoy this film and as I said the photography is positively wonderful, but be prepared to be told that if you just lived your life differently, then the polar bears would have a better life.

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Time4Learning Review

Louanne on Apr 9th 2012

Time 4 Learning

Time4Learning is an online, subscription-based learning program that includes lessons in language arts, math, science, and social studies. Time4Learning’s claim is that it can be used as the core curriculum of a homeschool program, for after-school learning, or for summer use. It is designed for preschool thru middle school students, but this review will concentrate mainly on the Kindergarten portion, since that is Nadia’s current level.

Having just finished a 30-day trial* of Time4Learning, I can unequivocally say that I think it is an excellent program for our daughter. It starts with a basic tutorial of the program, and even shows the children how to drag and drop with the mouse in case they have never used a computer before. We started Nadia on the Kindergarten level, but the nice thing about the program is that you can see one level below you and one level above. The first few days Nadia thought that everything was way too easy and I quickly moved her to a section of lessons she had not been exposed to before, like time, calendars, measuring and parts of a whole.

Once you choose the section for the child to work on, they are introduced to the concept and then they go through a series of exercises to learn and apply the concept. The lessons include a number of colorful characters who appear thoughout the exercises. Nadia liked the four main characters and would say things like, “Look at Harriet’s money. Or look how cute they are.” Once several sections are finished there is a multiple choice quiz for the child to take. Then they can move on to the next area. Looking over the answers I could easily see when Nadia had been paying attention or was distracted. When she missed a lot of them, I had her redo that section of the program and then redo the quiz.

Nadia was happy to do this every day and didn’t even think of it as school work. She truly enjoyed it, and I know she liked feeling like she was independently working (and getting to use my laptop). I appreciated that it introduced her to new concepts in a way that was interesting to her.

Time 4 Learning

Pros:

  • The program is very well done. Step-by-step instructions are easy for the child to understand.
  • The child can click a microphone button to hear the question or instructions again.
  • The program is bright and colorful and kept Nadia interested.
  • The main characters are fun for children.
  • I like that you can access the grade-level above and below.
  • I think it’s a great value.

Cons:

  • The quiz section doesn’t seem as “slick” as the rest of the program and can be slightly confusing to the child.
  • On some of the first lessons, when Nadia missed a question, it showed her the correct answer right away. For her it would have been better to be able to try a second or third time before before giving her the answer.


Conclusion:

We will be signing up Nadia for this now that we have tried it for a month. Nadia is ahead of most kids her age, but this is a nice filler for the areas we had not gotten to yet in a traditional Kindergarten curriculum. Looking ahead at the language arts lesssons plans for 1st grade, I can see a lot of great content for her as she continues to learn to read. I had Amelie signed up for a trial of the pre-K section, but I quickly found that at 2 years old she is still too young. As soon as she is ready, however, we will sign her up also. Time4Learning is an excellent program that we have whole-heartedly added to our homeschool curriculum.

*The opinions here are entirely my own. Nothing was written by Time4Learning, but they did compensate me with a free month trial.

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