The journey of being set apart for His purposes...

The Brothers Karamazov: Tackling the Intimidation

By Emily Shirley

“Some of Dostoevsky’s most intriguing and teasing fugues of obsessive reflection… explore the balance between the liberty to say what we like, protesting about the reduction of language to mathematical clarity or certainty, and the necessity to say what can be heard[1].”

Few authors move the hearts and engage the minds of readers like Dostoevsky. In addition to thrilling storylines, he offers an intellectual journey that is sure to please readers of all ages and backgrounds. Out of Dostoevsky’s works, The Brothers Karamazov is generally considered his most significant. This novel explores the relationships between a forgetful father and his three remarkably diverse sons. Filled with suspenseful sections, convicting passages, and timeless truths, The Brothers Karamazov is guaranteed to please any reader who is willing to commit to a thorough reading. To the reader who is having a hard time committing to such a long novel, allow me to make the following suggestions:

  • Do not read alone. No matter how interesting the material, if we do not have friends or classmates reading alongside of us, we will often lack consistency in our reading. This is especially true when you are first beginning a novel as long as The Brothers Karamazov.
  • Schedule a time for reading. Reading, much like other leisurely activities, is often pushed aside or forgotten during the course of our day. Because of this, many novels collect dust on our shelves with a bookmark comfortably resting between the 20th and 21st page. Setting a time each day (or each week) for reading helps to promote consistency.
  • Combine reading with other enjoyable activities. When I began reading The Brothers Karamazov, I discovered that I was most consistent with my reading when I instituted a sort of “reward” system. In the mornings, I would only permit myself to drink coffee while I was reading, and I coupled my nightly cup of tea with reading as well. This system served as both a motivation and a reminder to read.

Reading a Russian novel is not easy, but it is undoubtedly a project worth committing to. The Brothers Karamazov, while initially intimidating for many, has become a favorite for readers of all ages. The enduring values and lessons contained within its pages make this novel worth every hour spent reading it.

[1] Rowan Williams, Dostoevsky: Language, Faith, and Fiction, (Waco, TX: Baylor UP), 2008.

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Knowledge, Understanding, and Wisdom | What Do I Know?

Whether said in gest or in serious self-examination, the answer to this timeless question, “What do I know?”, colors our life principles and priorities. So knowing a bit more about “knowing” might be of greater benefit than we first imagine.

The Scriptures speak of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom and their value to a man and the prosperity of his soul (Prov 24:4). Beginning with knowledge, what do I know?

First, I find I want to “know”. Something within me desires to “know”. I want to “know” what is good and evil, right and wrong, just and unjust. The desire to know is a God-given and God-purposed desire that humans made in His image possess.

Second, as a result of wanting to “know”, I look to my authorities to “know” more about knowledge. Parents, church, scripture, and wise counselors are common authorities. I tend to look to scriptures first, and here I find particulars and specifics that can form, inform, and expand my understanding of knowledge:

  1. In the garden, there was a tree of knowledge of good and evil.
  2. Knowledge informs us of good and evil.
  3. Knowledge informs our actions.
  4. Knowledge and discretion are related.
  5. No knowledge and senseless are related.
  6. From the Lord’s mouth comes knowledge
  7. Take knowledge over gold.
  8. Through knowledge the righteous are delivered.
  9. If you love discipline, you love knowledge.
  10. Fools do not discern words of knowledge.
  11. Knowledge can come through receiving discipline and instruction.
  12. Knowledge without love can puff up
  13. We can have knowledge of truth
  14. We can have knowledge of God

Scriptures are full of references to knowledge. These I have listed purport the value of knowledge to the life and soul of a man (or woman). A few other’s warn that knowledge apart from love puffs up the knower.

So let’s ponder knowledge a bit more.

  1. There is knowledge to be found.
  2. Knowledge is to be fervently sought after.
  3. Knowledge comes in the form of words, instruction, and discipline.
  4. True knowledge bears good fruit.
  5. A life of wisdom is not possible without knowledge.
  6. Knowledge must be ruled and ordered by love

These are just a few observations we can add to our understanding of knowledge and our relationship to knowledge.

What about you? What do you know?

Practicum Speaker Bio

A former atheist and self-sufficient feminist, Heather’s path was irrevocably altered in 1990 when she recognized her life was on a soul-bankrupting path. Surrendering and filling out the back of a Gideon Bible her grandmother had given her years earlier, Heather laid her old life down and rose to walk in newness of life. An engineering graduate from the University of Louisville, Heather’s career path took a turn after the birth of their first child when she was introduced to the idea of homeschooling. Early in her homeschooling journey, Heather was introduced to the classical Christian model of education and shares its secrets and sufficiency with parents across the nation. A former Precept study teacher, Heather has taught and spoken at women’s conferences, as well as parent workshops and practicums. With a contagious passion for learning, speaking, teaching, and educating her children, she inspires and encourages others in their walk with Him and in their home-education journey.
Heather enjoys writing, speaking, and teaching, and currently serves as Executive Director of Classical Conversations MultiMedia’s leadership team. Heather and her husband Ed live in NC, where they teach and disciple their children to use their lives and talents for the glory of God. You can learn more about Heather on her blog:  Sanctified Woman

Sanctification? What’s that? (part 2)

Prompted by my son’s thoughtful question, and turning to God’s Word as the ultimate authority for my life, I began to explore God’s will, that is “sanctification”.  Where did the word sanctify first appear in the scriptures? And what was the context?

The first occurrence of the word sanctify is found in the Old Testament, in the book of Exodus after the children of Israel had been freed from their slavery in Egypt. You know the story. The children of Israel had been oppressed and enslaved for 400 long years. The hope of ever being the nation that God has promised their forefather Abraham had become a distant memory clouded by their harsh oppression.

The people cried out and after 400 years, in the fullness of His timing, the Lord moved. He raised up a deliverer. As the story goes, the Lord delivered His people through Moses, who had as a baby escaped Pharaoh’s earlier death decree for first born male in every Hebrew home. The Lord brought mighty acts of judgment against Israel’s oppressors through Moses.

The last of the ten judgments, or plagues came – the death of the first born. The Lord had not forgotten His people. He had seen the Pharaoh’s harshness and cruelty, even his earlier order to kill the first born Jewish male. In His judgment, the Lord provided salvation for His people and their first born. This time they need not fear, their first born would find salvation. The blood of a lamb on the doorpost would cause the angel of death to passover  the house; the first born male of the house would be saved.

It was on the heels of this miraculous liberation, the Lord commands the Israelites to remember His great and powerful hand that saved them out of Egypt, by instituting the ordinance of  an annual Passover feast  for the people to celebrate in community annually.  Unleavened bread would remind the people of the haste in which the left Egypt. Bitter herbs would remind them of the bitter oppression. Lamb would remind them of the Lord’s provision amid judgment.

Interestingly, this context is also the first use of the word sanctify, which means a setting apart. What or who was to be “set apart"”?  The first born was to be part of this memorial and was to be followed within the family. A reminder how the Lord provided salvation for His people and their first born. While we are called to remember in community, we are also called to remember within our own family.

Certain days, special meals, and distinct celebrations are part of our sanctification, of our being set apart. Such times call upon us to reflect and behold what God has done and what God has promised. Fixing our mind and heart on these truths is part of our sanctification. Drawing our thoughts backward, upward, and onward. Reordering our affections, so that any maligned appetite or desire may once again be rightly ordered according to His kingdom.

I share with my son these truths. We each carry a vision of what our life and purpose are, and we become what we behold.

Here’s the struggle: What/Who are we beholding? Practically, how do we as a family develop and faithfully carry a vision, His vision, in our modern, rapid-paced times?

Sanctification? What’s that?

This was the question my youngest son asked me just recently. Such a soul-shaping and overarching theme in my own life, I realized I had not communicated its important meaning and imperative well to my children, especially my youngest son.

I remember when I first encountered this idea… the idea of being sanctified, of being set apart. I was reading the scriptures:

“This is the will of God, your sanctification…” – I Thess 4:3

Well, how wonderful! A clear concrete declaration of God’s will for me! Not some mystical hide and seek exercise. His will was made plain to me in this verse. My sanctification!

After the initial excitement of such a profound discovery, the questions came… But what does this mean? And then, of course, came the follow up question – How?

Rats! The wrestling and quest for understanding had only just been ignited…

I have to confess I did not readily embrace what I began to learn as I search the scriptures. Set apart?!? I had spent much of my life working hard on fitting in, following the crowd, … And the idea of being sanctified, or in the process of sanctification, didn’t that sound arrogant, superior, and perhaps even self-righteous? I wasn’t sure what this meant. This wasn’t going to be easy and certainly not something natural to me and my understanding.

images set apart

Perhaps you too have had similar thoughts and feelings about this word, this command, this declaration of the will of God.

So I now hope to explore this word and principle this coming year and share the posts here… On my blog: SANCTIFIED Woman. With the hopes of enlarging our own understanding while also growing in our ability to lead our own family in this understanding, we’ll allow the potter to shape us and transform our understanding.

Grace and truth are found on His wheel…