Monday, December 24, 2007

A Merry Literary Christmas

A Merry Literary Christmas

When Christmas shopping time
draws nigh.
And I am faced with gifts to buy,
I think about one relative
Who always had one gift to give.
And every year her present came.
And every year it was the same.
While other gifts were round and fat,
(Their secrets hidden) hers was flat.
Rectangular, the corners square,
I knew exactly what was there.
I'd pass it by without a look---
My aunt had sent another book!
I'd only open it to write
A "thank you" that was too polite,
But every year when Christmas went
I'd read the book my aunt had sent,
And looking back, I realize
Each gift was treasure in disguise.
So now it's time to write her here
A thank-you note that is sincere.

So---thanks for Alice and Sara Crewe,
For Christopher Robin and Piglet and Pooh,
For Little Nell and William Tell
And Peter and Wendy and Tinker Bell.

Thanks for Tom and Jim and Huck,
For Robinson Crusoe and Dab-Dab the duck,
For Meg and Jo and Johnny Crow
And Papa Geppeto's Pinocchio

For Mary Poppins and Rat and Toad
King Arthur and Dorothy's Yellow Brick Road,
For Kipling's Kim and tales from Grimm,
And Ferdinand, Babar and Tiny Tim.

I loved them all, I'm glad I met them.
They're with me still, I won't forget them.
So I'll give books on Christmas Day
Though I know what all my nieces say--
I know it from the way they write
A "thank-you" that is too polite.

Alice Low

This is from


Do you give books for Christmas? I've always thought it ideal for each child in our family to receive: *a book *something new to wear *something to play with.

It is true that books don't always seem exciting at the moment, but it is something they can savor much longer than cheap toys that are quickly broken or discarded.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Barrel of Blessing or Barely Blessed?

Do you read short stories at Christmas time? One of our family's favorites is A Miserable, Merry Christmas by Lincoln Steffens. If you have horse lovers in the family, do read it!

Yesterday I had a chance to read The First Church's Christmas Barrel ~~a little online jewel that Carol recommended. It is reminiscent of the Pollyanna era when missionaries were sent charity barrels from their home churches. Sadly, some of the barrels did not contain gifts worthy of the workmen. I had a college friend who was an MK (missionary's kid) and she told me they had received a large box full of USED tea bags. Yes, the well-to-do lady who sent them included a note that said, "These tea bags have only been used once." UGH!

I believe there was once a very wise man who said, "I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing."

The most heart warming story I've read this year is a TRUE story you won't forget. Go on over to Liberty and Lily and read Donna Jean's testimony of a congregation who knows what real giving is. Bring your kleenex with you!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ideas Have Consequences

I like to challenge myself with at least one dense read at a time. Since I just finished The Intellectual Life, which took me a year to get through, I decided to move on to Ideas Have Consequences by Richard M. Weaver (1948). It's been on my want-to-read list for several years. Dana and her friend at Dominion Family have just finished excellent, in-depth chapter reviews of this book and my only regret is that I wasn't timely enough to join them. I'll be looking back at their chapter comments, though, as I go along.

The introduction of this book took me a l-o-n-g time to get through. This is not a book to read when you're tired at the end of the day. The thoughts expressed are philosophical and deep and the author wields a VERY rich vocabulary. **

Weaver's purpose in writing is to analyze the cultural disintegration of the West and to offer a remedy. His philosophy is that man intelligently chooses the ideas he embraces, and that the culture will reflect the consequences of those choices. The author traces a journey back past the consequences to the ideas that are behind them. It is thus a book of philosophy, but not without concrete application.

I'm already seeing that my summertime immersion in Neil Postman's books have been a good preparation for this read. Postman majors on the institutions of publicity and how they have profoundly changed our culture.

Weaver similarly notes that the media "makes a virtue of desecration." The uninhibited baring of the nation's soul leaves us unrefined and barbaric. No mystery remains in life. When stark realities, once forbidden to our gaze by propriety, are laid blatantly before our view~~we cease to behave in a refined, intelligent way.

This triggered my remembrance of an episode from the C.S. Lewis book Till We Have Faces. In it, the people of a mythological kingdom worship an abstract image--an image whose facial features could not be clearly seen. When the well-intentioned ruler replaced it with a statue that had beautiful, clear-cut features, the peasants rejected it. The abstract suited them best; they needed the sense of mystery that it projected.

A healthy culture maintains its identity and cohesiveness by embracing a universal STORY. That story unites them by giving a transcendent sense of purpose to each individual, an eternal purpose. Like the faceless statue, there is an aura of mystery which enshrouds this whole IDEA of eternal purpose. But although the idea may be abstract, the results produced by embracing it are concrete.

One measurable result of assimilating the idea of eternal purpose is self-control. A person becomes willing to delay self-gratification now because of the belief that there will be a commensurate eternal reward or blessing.

Being smack in the midst of child-rearing years, I am naturally applying these thoughts to my role as parent. It seems to me that Weaver has articulated the very basics that a parent needs to pass on to the next generation. Namely: you were put on this earth for a purpose. Find it! Self-government is the measure of maturity. Wait for the best rather than gratifying your desires impulsively. The ideas you choose to guide your life will produce a harvest in later life. Choose wisely!

Couldn't resist making a list of the words I've already picked up from Weaver so early-on in the reading:

1-ontological- the branch of metaphysics studying the nature of existence

2-somnambulistic- I should have been able to figure this out! "somn"= sleep and "ambula"=walk. A sleep walker.

3-heuristic- encouraging a person to learn, investigate, and solve problems on his own.

4-noumenal- an object that is independent of the mind, as opposed to a phenomenon.

5- perspicacity- (fun to say!!) keenness of mental perception and understanding; discernment, penetration

6-prurient- restless desire or longing leaning towards lust

Friday, December 21, 2007

In a Minor Key

I bought this for Selah's rendition of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel", which is my favorite Christmas song. It is preceded by a simple strings counter- melody that is just hauntingly beautiful. This past week I've taken my four children Christmas shopping (individually) and have been forced to listen to the jangly, cotton candy junk that passes as holiday atmosphere in most stores. This music is tonic for that; most of the numbers are in a minor key and are soothing and reverent.

My memory bank is filled with Christmas music that I remember from my childhood: Julie Andrews, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis. I hope the Selah music will be treasured in my children's hearts and that it will call up for them similar sweet associations.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Now I did not know I was a genius until I read this blog and found out. What I want to know is this~~if I'm so smart how come I had such a hard time understanding Peregrina's comic?

I kept looking for Frosty's nose and couldn't find it......

This readability test should probably ADD points for people who can figure out jokes :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Book Review: The Christmas Mystery

If you have ever read Jostein Gaarder's book, Sophie's World, you know this author can twist the plot in such a way as to boggle the mind. The Christmas Mystery is a little more innocuous than Sophie's World, and a little more meaty than most Christmas "fluff" stories. I first read it several years ago on the advise of my friend Krakovianka, who recently updated her original review here.

Our family is enjoying it a second time through this year. It is set up similar to an advent calendar, where one entry per day can be read aloud.

The story of Joachim, a ten-year old Norwegian, begins with his purchase of an old, faded advent calendar which he chooses in lieu of a glitzy one with plastic characters or chocolate behind each flap. His choice is rewarded when he opens the flaps each day to discover an on-going drama centering around a little girl named Elisabet. The drama is written in installments on small slips of paper which are hidden behind each flap on the calendar.

Elisabet, the childish subject of the drama, is on a journey. She is chasing a little lamb who is on pilgrimage to Bethlehem to be present at the nativity. Thus, the journey becomes both a geographic journey and a journey back in time. History buffs will love the incidental vignettes woven into the story. As the journey progresses, more and more members of the nativity scene join as traveling companions.

In the end, Joachim meets the real Elisabet and the twining of several stories come to a culmination.

This book is a nice change of pace from the many syrupy selections that are featured at the big bookstores this time of year.

Fairy Tale Week-End

As the parent of musical children, I have spent literally hundreds of hours driving kids to lessons, assisting in practice, and attending recitals. At least once a year we get to reap the fruit of our efforts. My daughter has a yearly engagement with a very elegant lodge in a neighboring city, where she provides an hour of piano music for the dinner guests. In return, our family receives a free night at the lodge. It is always a wonderful retreat in the midst of the busiest of seasons, sure to include a roaring fire, a horse and buggy ride through the woods, a sumptuous meal, and of course my daughter's music. Each year she is able to include more of her own compositions in the repertoire, which is a great delight to hear. You can't see the piano in this picture, but it is just to the left of the fireplace, which is in the center. There are soaring acoustics and it is just an all around delicious treat that we count a gift from a loving Heavenly Father.

"Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow." James 1:17

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mathematical Probability and Messiah

Yesterday, in my teen Sunday School class, we discussed eight of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. There are actually over 300 predictions, but we scaled our study down to just eight. Some of the predictions included the place of His birth (Bethlehem), the piercing of His hands and feet (Psalm 22), the appearance of a forerunner, his burial among the rich, etc.

Then we discussed mathematical probability. What are the chances that ONE MAN could fulfill even eight out of the hundreds of predictions?

With a little help from Peter Stoner, who devotes a great deal of time to this issue in his book Science Speaks, we discovered that the probability was:

1 chance out of 100,000,000,000,000,000 !!!

I think I would have enjoyed math more as a teen if I could have seen these kinds of c
onnections. My hope for my students is that they will see that God has provided for us abundant evidence so that any thinking person may have complete confidence in His Word and His Son, Jesus.

Even Peter, who walked with, listened to, and touched the Messiah gave credence to the more sure word of prophecy:

"And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts."
~ 2 Peter 1:19

That is my prayer: that those teens in my class will
pay attention to the prophetic word and that understanding would light their lives. So let it be done, Lord.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In the Sight of the Angels

"Mrs. Peterson was such a nice good mother! All mothers are nice and good more or less, but Mrs. Peterson was nice and good all more and no less. She made and kept a little heaven in that poor cottage on the high hillside--for her husband and son to go home to out of the low and rather dreary earth in which they worked. (snip) True, her hands were hard and chapped and large, but it was with work for them; and therefore in the sight of the angels, her hands were so much the more beautiful."
~ from the
Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald

My youngest daughter crawled onto my lap last evening after we had laid my Mother-in-law to her eternal rest. She had a book in hand and asked me to read to her. It was the perfect balm after five days of traveling, remembering, planning the funeral service, and grieving.

The second paragraph in our reading was the one I quoted at the beginning of this post. Isn't it amazing how God orders our lives, down to the tiniest detail? The words were written over a hundred years ago and yet they were meant for me at
this moment in time. If I were to pen an epitaph especially for my Mother-in-law, I could not have written anything more fitting or descriptive of her life.

It made my mind go other places; I thought of the terrible mall massacre in our city that occurred the very same day as my Mother-in-law's death.

In a strange way, it made me very thankful for the way in which I was grieving. Mine is a healthy type of sadness that comes from being temporarily parted from a loved one. Others in my city are at this moment grieving very differently. Their loved ones have been senselessly ripped away from them by the hands of a cold-blooded murderer. Instead of a loving and gentle parting, their grief is no doubt compounded with anger and a host of other emotions.

How might this tragic scenario have been altered if the young man who did the shooting had been blessed with a mother like Mrs. Peterson? Or like my Mother-in-law?

So this little post is a tribute to an unsung heroine: just a Mama who did her job well.

"Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master". Matthew 25:21

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Favorite

OK, so this will date me. But this album is so good, I don't even care. Circa 2000, it is worth scouting out.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Death Be Not Proud

My Mother-in-law's last words on Wednesday were, "I'm tired of fighting". She passed away only a couple of hours later. I think this poem expresses wonderfully the eternal rest that she is now experiencing, and that all believers have to look forward to.

Death Be Not Proud

by John Donne

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

A Little Christmas Humor

With apologies to George Bailey, the boy in this poem was also "unborn".
Our family enjoys this one, in part because we have a devilish cat named Jabez!

The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Clause

by Ogden Nash

In Baltimore there lived a boy.
He wasn't anybody's joy.
Although his name was Jabez Dawes,
His character was full of flaws.
In school he never led his classes,
He hid old ladies' reading glasses,
His mouth was open when he chewed,
And elbows to the table glued.
He stole the milk of hungry kittens,
And walked through doors marked NO ADMITTANCE.
He said he acted thus because
There wasn't any Santa Claus.
Another trick that tickled Jabez
Was crying 'Boo' at little babies.
He brushed his teeth, they said in town,
Sideways instead of up and down.
Yet people pardoned every sin,
And viewed his antics with a grin,
Till they were told by Jabez Dawes,
'There isn't any Santa Claus!'
Deploring how he did behave,
His parents swiftly sought their grave.
They hurried through the portals pearly,
And Jabez left the funeral early.
Like whooping cough, from child to child,
He sped to spread the rumor wild:
'Sure as my name is Jabez Dawes
There isn't any Santa Claus!'
Slunk like a weasel of a marten
Through nursery and kindergarten,
Whispering low to every tot,
'There isn't any, no there's not!'
The children wept all Christmas eve
And Jabez chortled up his sleeve.
No infant dared hang up his stocking
For fear of Jabez' ribald mocking.
He sprawled on his untidy bed,
Fresh malice dancing in his head,
When presently with scalp-a-tingling,
Jabez heard a distant jingling;
He heard the crunch of sleigh and hoof
Crisply alighting on the roof.
What good to rise and bar the door?
A shower of soot was on the floor.
What was beheld by Jabez Dawes?
The fireplace full of Santa Claus!
Then Jabez fell upon his knees
With cries of 'Don't,' and 'Pretty Please.'
He howled, 'I don't know where you read it,
But anyhow, I never said it!'
'Jabez' replied the angry saint,
'It isn't I, it's you that ain't.
Although there is a Santa Claus,
There isn't any Jabez Dawes!'
Said Jabez then with impudent vim,
'Oh, yes there is, and I am him!
Your magic don't scare me, it doesn't'
And suddenly he found he wasn't!
From grimy feet to grimy locks,
Jabez became a Jack-in-the-box,
And ugly toy with springs unsprung,
Forever sticking out his tongue.
The neighbors heard his mournful squeal;
They searched for him, but not with zeal.
No trace was found of Jabez Dawes,
Which led to thunderous applause,
And people drank a loving cup
And went and hung their stockings up.
All you who sneer at Santa Claus,
Beware the fate of Jabez Dawes,
The saucy boy who told the saint off;
The child who got him, licked his paint off.

P.S. We hope that would be LEAD FREE paint!

Thursday, December 06, 2007


We sometimes engage in family singing while in the car, and at this time of year Adeste Fidelis is in our repertoire. A Christmas moose like the this one is displayed on the roof of a local business, and one of the kids once pointed to it and said, "Look Mom! It's the adoremus!"

How did a moose get to be a Christmas symbol anyway????

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Book Review: The Greatest Gift

This little story by Philip Van Doren Stern is the one that inspired the movie It's a Wonderful Life. I picked it up on a whim off the holiday shelf at the public library. Like many families, we watch the movie perennially, and I was curious to learn its roots.

The story itself is very simple as compared to the movie. There is little character development, and some of the best known characters from the movie are missing, i.e. Potter, Uncle Billy, Violet, and the policeman/cab driver duo. Yet the book is charming in a simple way, and the 50th anniversary edition pictured here has appealing black and white drawings. It's a quick read~~our family finished it in half an hour.

I found the most interesting part of the book was the afterword, written by Van Doren Stern's daughter. In it she traces the history of this little story, beginning with how the idea for it simply dropped into her father's mind while he was shaving on a February morning in 1938. In his own words:

"The idea came to me complete from start to finish--a most unusual occurrence, as any writer will tell you, for ordinarily a story has to be struggled with, changed around and mixed up."

Mr. Van Doren Stern never considered changing the initial idea, but knew that he had to learn to write it. His usual genre was Civil War history, so this was quite different from his normal realm of work. He wrote his first draft a couple of months later and declared it "terrible." He put it away for a season.

Two years later, he pulled it out and tried writing it again. The results the second time were little better than the first.

In the spring of 1943, five years after the idea came to him, Stern rewrote the story for the third time. This time he passed it on to his agent, who tried unsuccessfully to sell the story to magazines such as Saturday Evening Post. No one would touch it.

Van Doren Stern tells what happened next:

"By this time I had become fond of the story that nobody wanted. I revised it again and had 200 twenty-four-page pamphlets printed at my own expense. I sent these out as Christmas cards for Christmas, 1943."

Wouldn't you love to own one of those Christmas cards today?

That mailing produced a contact that led to the purchase of the story for movie rights. But because no one could work out a decent screen treatment, there was another time lapse of several years.

Enter Frank Capra. He wanted it for Jimmy Stewart, who had just finished his time with the Air Force. He found the screenwriters he needed and It's a Wonderful Life was released in December 1946.

The film has a quality that transcends time-- it's message celebrates the worth of the individual.

"I thought it was the greatest film I ever made. Better yet, I thought it was the greatest film anybody had ever made."~~Frank Capra

I think I am most fascinated by the fact that this little story lay dormant for a long, long while before it was ever recognized as being significant. The writer was the humble servant of an important truth: that the individual has great value. But in order to transmit that truth in a worthy way, he had to take the time to hone his writing skills. This small book is a gem in its own way. It is not fine literature, but it is the author's personal best. And that inspired other great artists to run with the idea and transport it across continents and even generations.
Oh, the power of a living idea combined with the pen of a scribe!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Worshipful Resignation

"Though we cannot control the universe, we can determine our attitude toward it. We can accept God's will wherever it is expressed and take toward it an attitude of worshipful resignation. If my will is to do God's will, then there will be no controversy with anything that comes in the course of my daily walk. Inclement weather, unpleasant neighbors, physical handicaps, adverse political conditions,--- all these will be accepted as God's will for the time and surrendered to provisionally, subject to such alterations as God may see fit to make, either by His own sovereign providence or in answer to believing prayer."
~~quote taken from
Born After Midnight by A.W. Tozer

We had an ice storm this week-end, followed by a thin dusting of "powdered sugar" snow. It was inconvenient. It meant postponing our women's event at church, and from there my mind extrapolated other unpleasant ramifications: maybe my parents wouldn't make it to my daughter's first recital, maybe there wouldn't BE a recital, probably the attendance at church would be small, then the necessary offerings might not be collected, so then the bills wouldn't be paid on time, and we couldn't travel to see our sick mama, and we don't have decent winter tires on the car and on and on and on.

I was anything but worshipfully resigned.

Then I went into the sanctuary and beheld His glory. Here is what happened:

During communion, an older gentleman from our congregation stood to bless the cup. He made reference to the scripture from Isaiah, which tells us that "though our sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow." He proceeded to describe in poetic detail a nature scene that he had held in his memory bank from his youth. It was a country snow scene, where each blade of grass, each fencepost and tree branch were encrusted with snow. He spoke of the quietness, and then the utter indescribable beauty of a pink sunrise reflected as a million points of brilliance off the virgin snow.

His description moved me deeply. My tears fell as I noted the wetness in his own eyes. Half a century had obviously made that holy moment even more vivid and precious to him.

It changed my whole perspective. How could I have missed the beauty? It was a gift from my Heavenly Father, and my eyes were blind to the moment.

The cares of this life can so encumber us. I want to be worshipfully resigned to God's will, as Tozer so eloquently words it. Even in inclement weather.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Slackened Strings

"Evening! how little , usually, people know about making it holy and quiet, about using it to prepare for really restorative sleep! How it is wasted, polluted, misdirected."
~~ quote from The Intellectual Life by A.G. Sertillanges, O.P.

It has taken me a year to work my way through the book entitled, The Intellectual Life. That probably shows you right away that I am not an intellectual! The word "intellectual" in this case is used by the author to simply designate the person who feels that study is a calling, not just a vocation.

It is a dense book full of living ideas and insights valuable to the disciplining of the mind. This quote about the evening hours, though, was one I kept returning to and turning over in my mind.

I am tired by 7:00 p.m. And some evenings I am very, very tired. Evening is a time when I give myself permission to be slack. At times I may "relax" by surfing the net. I may turn on a TV show that is essentially without value. Maybe I'll mindlessly flip through a magazine or look at the ads in the newspaper.

Sertillanges has challenged me to consider the fact that maybe I've been a little too slack. In his words:

"Yes, indeed relaxed, but like a violin with all its strings completely slackened. What a labor next day to tune them all up again!"

The author goes on to list a number of dissipating evening occupations (remember this was written in 1946): dining, smoking, playing cards, talking noisily, frequenting the theatres, and gaping at the cinema. (That last phrase makes me chuckle).

His challenge is to create habits of holy, simple living for the evening hours, which he calls "peaceful semi-activity". Doesn't that phrase create instant appeal? For me it conjures up images of working a sudoku puzzle by the fire, or playing pick-up-sticks with Artiste. It might include listening to my girls play the piano or reading a chapter of The Hobbit to the family.

Good conversation over a cup of Sumatran coffee is a wonderful way to wrap up the day. A "good conversation" at our house usually includes discussing the books we've been reading and often we end up sharing quotes or tidbits. And yes, it can even include watching a well-selected TV program or movie. But no gaping allowed!

It seems the key is to have some sort plan, maybe a list of pleasant options so that the evening doesn't follow a rigid routine but still has structure.

I'm working on this; resolved to NOT be the violin with slackened strings. I'm not successful every evening, but I know habits take a while to congeal. So I'm keeping a catalog in my mind of pleasant activities I have already enjoyed, and new activities I'd like to explore. For example, I want to start doing cross stitch or knitting again, something I enjoyed B.C. (before children) and have long neglected. The long winter evenings are perfect for that sort of thing.

What does a winter evening look like at your house?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Narrating a Music Lesson

I haven't had the chance to blog lately due to the hours I've spent at my Mother-in-law's bedside and the additional hours required to administrate our homeschool cooperative school. As a result, I've a head FULL of assorted bits of interesting things that just beg to be set in order. I remember feeling a little like this when I had a colicky baby and no time to write in my journal.

In one of my recent reads, Writing to Learn, William Zinsser makes the challenge to write about something that is intangible rather than concrete. For example, a music lesson. It is one thing to write descriptively about a work of art or a photograph~~~the reader can LOOK at what is being discussed. But to describe a musical technique requires the ability to conjure up sensory information of a different sort. In the author's own words:
"Writing about music also made me a better musician. The need to write clearly about an art form that the reader can never see or hear; one that evaporates with the playing of each note, forced me to think harder about the structure of music--about what I was trying to learn."
Zinsser's approach here is related, I think, to the concept of narration. Homeschoolers, especially of the Charlotte Mason variety, are well familiar with this technique of "telling back" what has been learned. In a homeschool setting, this most often involves telling back an episode in a book. But I'm finding that this deceivingly simple exercise is valuable in other settings, too.

The music lesson is just one "non book" example. How about narrating the way in which a math problem is solved? Or describing how to do a flip on the trampoline? Have you ever tried to describe in detail an elegant meal that you enjoyed?

Oral "tellings" are perfect for young children, but writing the narrations adds a new level of learning. Even adults find it challenging! I know this because I've tried tackling some of the writing assignments I've given to my children.

Zinsser tells us that writing forces the brain to reason in a linear, sequential way and thus is ideally suited to help us tackle subjects that we might view as difficult. When we write, we must break it down into bite-sized morsels and that is far less intimidating than sorting through a huge mass of information.

I have two very excellent writers in the family. But I have noticed that when I choose the "Achilles Heel" subject as a writing assignment, the result is less-than-excellent. So I am taking Zinsser's advice which includes:
*Providing excellent models of good writing across the curriculum
*Taking the time to write across-the-board, even where symbols are commonly preferred
(math, music, physics, etc.)

J. Henri Fabre, the famous French writer and entomologist, honed his incredible writing ability over a period of 20+ years by writing textbooks. His care in writing enabled him to later pen books that have been described as the "Insects' Homer". His words sing, even after being translated into different languages.

The lesson I learn from Fabre is that writing is a lifetime pursuit! I'm excited that my own learning continues to unfold as I oversee the education of my children.

Life is rich!

For more on the subject of narration, take a look at Belinda's post entitled "Narration-but With No Books!"

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Another Sky Picture

This one came across my desk as an e-mail entitled "A Smile from God".
I couldn't resist sharing it with you!
I do feel God's smile today. My Mother-in-law has been hovering between life and death for a week. Today was the day her breathing tube was to be removed, and there was concern over whether she could draw breath on her own. She did! We are rejoicing this Thanksgiving week that the Lord has graciously allowed her to remain with us a while longer.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Word Sculpting

"Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written."
~The Apostle John
John 21:25

Containment. That is the universal challenge of the writer. Mountainous masses of information must be sculpted, the pen wielded as a chisel to structure and shape the words into beautiful proportions.

If the Apostle John had to practice large- scale editing, how much more will be required of writers who live in the era of information-glut?

Biologist Lewis Thomas calls the random bits of information which envelope us "plankton". It's an accurate simile, because we are swimming in the midst of an ocean of information and are able to digest and utilize only a tiny portion of it. Good writers manage to scale down the serving size, avoiding the temptation to dish out an overwhelming array of ideas and words.

The New Testament gospel of John is an excellent model of good writing because it has been sculpted into beautiful form:

*Clear purpose~ "...but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." John 20:31

*Strong declarative sentences~~In his book
Writing to Learn, William Zinsser says, "Writing is the handmaiden of leadership. Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill rode to glory on the back of the strong declarative sentence."

The book of John has these in abundance. Here is a sampling:
~"the Word was God"
~ "He was in the beginning with God"
~"All things were made through Him"

John could have chosen to portray Christ from any number of angles, but he chose one perspective to zero in on: Christ as Deity
The streamlining of perspective eliminates clutter and confusion, and helps to weed out unnecessary information.

Though John asserts that the whole world couldn't contain the books that could be written about Christ's life, he pares down the subject matter to include only 7 stand-out miracles and 7 of Jesus' fabulous "I AM" statements. These hand-picked examples all serve to reinforce his purpose in writing the book. There is a pleasing symmetry in the structure of the book as a result of these choices.

I love that the God of the Universe chose to communicate to me via the written word, and that He took the great care and patience to arrange those words in the most beautiful way. Although I'm sure His primary intention was not to provide me with a writing textbook, still His Word has been refined seven times and is perfect. There is no other book that can make that claim! I hope that as I remain immersed in it, I will be able to use my own pen to express clearly the wonders I encounter on my life journey.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

More on Studying Smart

I have been listening to a series of lectures with my high school students, a Teaching Company DVD series by Tim McGee, entitled "How to be a Superstar Student. In one session he tackles the subject of how to read a textbook. I listened with interest to this one, because we have learned almost entirely without textbooks the past 10 years, using whole or "living" books almost exclusively. The transition into high school brought with it a biology TEXTBOOK that made me sweat (I wrote about that experience here). Although I don't anticipate putting down the living books and switching to a textbook, still I understand that my students need to expand their horizons to include textbook learning. So the focus on textbook learning in this lecture was well-timed.

McGee begins by explaining that there are two kinds of reading: social reading and academic reading. Academic reading, the kind you use when you are reading a textbook, requires a little more than a cursory look. It requires
* taking notes
* writing and underlining in the book (gasp!)
* pausing frequently to put the concepts in your own words

Because we have practiced narration skills for many years, that 3rd suggestion will be easy. It's the note taking and underlining that we will need to work on; learning how to glean the most important ideas and vocabulary words from the reading.

It is also helpful to know that nearly all textbooks are set up the same way, whether it be a science, history, or language arts textbook. They always begin with objectives, then move to explanatory material, and end with a summary or review.

I liked McGee's note taking suggestions~~which include using different colored inks and drawing original diagrams to enhance understanding.

He has come up with some good illustrations for high schoolers, such as the example of a star football player who goes into the game without a helmet. McGee likens this to the student who comes unprepared to class~unable to find his completed assignment, without a pencil, etc.

It's back to habit training; the simple habits of organization smooth the way for academic learning. I find I have a lot of work to do in this regard! It's still a struggle to get everyone to pick up their papers, pencils, and put everything away after a day of learning. Sometimes I wonder if there will ever come a day when I don't have to remind?

I'm hoping that this DVD series will reinforce my investment in habit training.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Study Smart

British educator Charlotte Mason played a big part in my mental preparations for homeschooling. When my oldest was about 2 years old, I read through her Original Homeschooling Series, and have been repaid over and over for that investment of time.

One thing that CM emphasizes is habit training, without which it is nearly impossible to make academic progress. She is not the first to make the observation that once a habit is formed, it frees the mind from having to grapple with minutiae, allowing it to go fishing in deeper ponds.

I like the way this concept has been reinforced to my teens in the excellent Teaching Company DVD series by Tim McGee, entitled "How to be a Superstar Student." He suggests that students visualize their minds as a blackboard. Upon awakening each morning, it is clean and uncluttered. But with each conversation, each interaction, each activity, an "X" is placed on the board. By the end of the day, the mind has accumulated a lot of clutter. There is little or no room left for substantial learning. His point: make study one of the first priorities of the day. Make a habit of utilizing that morning burst of mental energy. Study smart rather than studying long.

Friday, November 02, 2007

His Mighty Firmament

North (Printer's Proof V)
Keith Jacobshagen
Lithograph 1990
Kiechel Fine Art

Praise the LORD!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament!
~Psalm 150:1

I have been fascinated by sky paintings and photos ever since our local art museum featured an exhibit comprised of sky photographs from each county in our state. The colors, cloud patterns, textures, and moods held endless fascination for me.

Biologist Lewis Thomas added to my fascination in his book, The Lives of a Cell. In it, he compares the atmosphere of the earth to the membrane of a single cell. Without a membrane, chaos would reign. It is this sky membrane that "edits the sun"~~protecting us from harmful ultraviolet light, and nucleic acids and proteins. Amazingly, it permits the full penetration of the specific kind of light that is required for photosynthesis.

More from Thomas:

"It is hard to feel affection for something as totally impersonal as the atmosphere, and yet there it is, as much a part and product of life as wine or bread. Taken all in all, the sky is a miraculous achievement. It works, and for what it is designed to accomplish it is as infallible as anything in nature. (snip) We should credit it for what it is: for sheer size and perfection of function, it is far and away the grandest product of collaboration in all of nature."

Thomas calls this "fantastic luck".

Good writing. Good biology. Bad theology.

I can forgive him for that and enjoy his observations, just as I can enjoy the exhibit in the museum. I am so thankful that the "totally impersonal" atmosphere he marvels at has a voice of its own:

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament show His handiwork.

Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world."
Psalm 19:1-4

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Gypsy Children

Gypsy Girl
1879 Giclee Print
Pierre-Auguste Renoir

The months' events stretch forward on my calendar like so many ducks-in-a-row. But because I HAVE to provide myself some breathing space, some quiet spots for reading and thinking, I sometimes allow the kids to sleep late. I catch my time for renewal while they are asleep.

Then I feel guilty. Am I requiring enough from them? Am I inadvertently teaching them to be lazy and undisciplined? Perhaps I am lazy myself for indulging in morning quiet hours?

I wrestle with guilt even more when I speak to other mothers whose children are schooled 7 hours a day, engage in extra-curricular activities & sports, and do 3 to 5 hours of homework in the evening. What I require from my students seems a mere pittance in comparison.

I'm older than many of these other mothers, having come to the role of motherhood late in life. I've had time to accumulate some observations along the way: families that have overloaded schedules often cut out or miss regular fellowship time with the saints. I suspect--though I have no proof-- that they also miss out on a fair number of family meals and personal devotions. It's also probable that there are no leisurely walks, no lingering in bed a few extra minutes when it rains, no reading of books just-for-fun, nor indulging in a second cup of coffee over conversation with a loved one. Does this sound critical?

My aim is for a well-rounded life. There are times I think I succeed at that. There are other times I am either too lax or too regimented. Always, there is tweaking and evaluating when it comes to being a steward over the hours entrusted to me.

Typically (and ideally), I arise at 5:30 and have my quiet time, exercise, and grooming done before the kids get up (7:30). This works well UNTIL: a) travel schedules deplete the mother b) late nights deplete the children c) sickness slows the family down.

When this happens, I get up when I wake up. I sit in my chair and read until I am finished. Then I get the kids up. It may be 8:30. It may be 9:45 (GASP). And we proceed from there.

Now the Lord sometimes intervenes in mysterious ways to show me that I need to give the same cosideration to my children that I give to myself. Children, too, need quiet spaces in their lives.

This week, my little Artiste begged off from her art lesson at the museum. This is uncharacteristic of her; normally those lessons are the highlight of her week. Her reason, "I've been too busy. I need a break."


But she needs a break.

An artist, even a young one, cannot crank out masterpieces week after week without having a margin of inactivity in her life. She needs to play in the mud puddles, wield a stick, inhale the fragrance of fall. "Masterful inactivity" was what Charlotte Mason called it. These are the essentials that feed the creativity of artists. Could I demand Artiste produce art when her heart was crying out for renewal?

We skipped this one lesson~~guilt, be gone! There are some things more important than the cost of a measly art lesson.

I've seen the same principles at work with my oldest daughter, Melody. Melody normally composes a lovely piano piece about every 6 months. A few years ago, I noticed that the composition had come to a halt. After some investigating, it became obvious to me that I was the culprit. She was dutifully cranking out all the homeschool assignments I had required of her without complaint, but she had no time left over. There were no spaces left in her life for quiet; no time to just mess around at the piano; no time to engage playfully in her art. I relieved her of several requirements and within a month she was writing music again.

Tellingly, Melody chose a poem entitled "Leisure" to recite for her cooperative school speech class. It's not fine literature by any stretch of the imagination; it would be considered poetry of the working class in the last century. But it's obvious that the theme struck a chord in Melody's heart. The author of the poem, William Henry Davies, was a tramp. He was a gypsy-poet who lost his leg in one dramatic leap from a train.

Ah~~we risk losing our children to the gypsies when we turn them loose amongst the books!


William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Self-Taught Individual

Ninth grade is the year for biology. This fact has caused me a deal of stress, because I have at least one ninth grader who thrives as an autodidact. I have no doubt that he will learn biology; it's just that it most likely will not be in a neat, sequential format like the one laid out in the expensive textbook I purchased. When I lifted that textbook out of the mailbox last month, my heart felt almost as heavy as the book. I knew I had purchased it because a college-bound high school student needs to be able to write "biology" on his transcript. As far as textbooks go, it is no doubt a good one ~~~Exploring Creation with Biology written by Jay Wile. But in my heart I knew that it was a compromise.

But how do you learn biology without a textbook?

We've already used the microscope, kept nature notebooks, studied insects somewhat in-depth, dissected a cow eyeball. But mostly we've read. Currently, we're reading the fascinating story of smallpox in a book called Dr. Jenner and the Speckled Monster. A person effortlessly comes away with some understanding of viruses and T cells and immunity after reading a book like that.

I know that all learning cannot be effortless, but somehow that big, fat, biology textbook makes me tired. I need courage to continue learning as we've been doing, without fear that my children will fail to measure up to the standards required by college. I have a feeling that they will be able to put their randomized bits of knowledge in order on their own once they decide they have the need to do it.

Interestingly, I came across a truly lyrical biology book, a series of essays by Lewis Thomas entitled The Lives of a Cell. Thank you, William K. Zinsser for suggesting him! Now this is a man who can write about biology in a way that delights. For example, this paragraph on pheromones:

" 'At home, 4 p.m. today', says the female moth, and releases a brief explosion of bombykol, a single molecule of which will tremble the hairs of any male within miles and send him driving upwind in a confusion of ardor. But it is doubtful if he has an awareness of being caught in an aerosol of chemical attractant. On the contrary, he probably finds suddenly that it has become an excellent day, the weather remarkably bracing, the time appropriate for a bit of exercise of the old wings, a brisk turn upwind. En route, traveling the gradient of bombykol, he notes the presence of other males, heading in the same direction, all in a good mood, inclined to race for the sheer sport of it. Then, when he reaches his destination, it may seem to him that most extraordinary of coincidences, the greatest piece of luck: 'Bless my soul, what have we here!'"

I love the way this man personifies the moth, don't you? And look how effortless it was to figure out that "bombykol" was a powerful pheromone released by a female moth to attract a mate. A curious individual would proceed to find out a little more about this chemical. He might go on to study pheromones in other species and even how/if they effect us as humans.

In contrast, a biology textbook would probably say something like this:

"Bombykol is a chemical substance called a pheromone. It is released by female silkworms in order to attract a mate. Named after the moth's Latin name Bombyx mori, it was discovered in 1959 by Adolph Butenandt."

Somehow, those words do not give me a taste for further investigation.

I was somewhat comforted by an article I came across this evening by John W. Osborne, called Thoughts on Autodidacticism:

" .....unscheduled reading made the child father to the man. It led to [my career] in academe. It was self-education rather than twelve years in a public school which allowed me to complete the college work that prepared me for graduate school. The mature Cobbett boasted that 'books and literature have been my delight.' His intensive personal reading helped to develop that direct, vigorous style of writing which still holds a reader's attention. Knowledge imparted in classrooms‑-what Ben Jonson called 'schoolcraft'--would have smoothed our way early in life, but might have cramped our individuality and led us along other paths."

THAT sums up my dilemma: smooth the way OR provide for individuality?

No pheromone receptors have yet been found in humans; perhaps our gift of language negates the need for pheromones and the messages they transmit. I'm banking on that gift of language to transmit the mysteries of biology to my children.

Meanwhile, fat biology books make great flower presses!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Dance, Then

Water Baby and the Moon

He was late for our first dance. I had a big red circle on the calendar, June 27th. But he came in his own good time~~ July 10th, two weeks late.

Okay baby, you called the shots on the first dance. But from now on, I lead and you follow. Understood?

There was no scheduling this baby. He cried for eight hours at a crack, relentlessly. Sleep came in short snatches, after which he would jerk awake as though startled. Then the crying would begin again.

My orderly world of regular mealtimes, regular wake-up and bed times, regular play times~~~was turned to chaos. The days marched on without a predictable rhythm. I could not even name the day of the week because they were all alike.

Dance? Let's just focus on survival.

After 3 months, things got better. The crying ceased. But sleep never came easy and there were often night terrors when it did come.

May I teach you to dance now?

The boy loved books from the first. His first word was "jackdaw." We don't have jackdaws around here, but he liked to look at the picture in the English bird book. The word was not spoken in the usual sense. It hurtled forth from his mouth like a small cannonball; it was a joyful mini-explosion. The cannonball flew straight to my heart. To share the joy of finding your voice, to share a pure delight in words and language~~ can there be anything richer?

You and I are going to make great partners.

I read, you read, we talk. Repeat.
How many times have those dance steps been repeated the past dozen years?

Wait~~what was that extra little twist you threw in ?

I assign Churchill. Read about King Edward. Write a report. Check.
Stiff, dutiful dance steps.

Then he is off on his own, devouring Charles Coffin's account of the Revolutionary War, Henty's fictional tale of Robert the Bruce, learning about DNA from Michael Crichton.

I'm out of breath! I can't keep up with you!

After 13 years, the boy still cannot sleep. He is required to take his place at the family breakfast table, regardless. There are often dark circles under his eyes.

I see the light under the crack of his door at 3:00 a.m. It behooves me to investigate. The computer is on (no internet access). There are 100 neatly typed pages on the Word program. On the floor there are papers strewn everywhere, along with the Legos. He's unrolled an old window shade to its full length and has used it for a scroll. In careful detail, he's created a world map of his own imagination. The typed pages catalogue the world's government, economic, and military systems. On the bulletin board he has pinned a series of pictographs which comprise the linguistics of his new "world."

"You should be in bed."

"I can't sleep, Mom."

No, he cannot sleep. He's giving birth.

I quietly close the door and go back to bed. I've been standing on holy ground, and I know it.

Who's leading this dance, anyway?

My desire for order and routine creates a tension in our dance; a necessary tension. That tension has exercised him, provided him with basic skills which have enabled him to create his own dance.

I won't be his partner much longer. But I will always be in the audience, applauding his steps.

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!

And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be

And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!

from the hymn Lord of the Dance
by Sydney B. Carter

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

High School Speech Class

The past 6 weeks I've been busy putting together my material for the high school speech class I'm teaching at our homeschool cooperative school. It's a daunting job sifting through all of the things that COULD be taught, and deciding on the few things that are essential. Here is what I've finalized:

Speech Class Objectives:

  • To introduce the student to different kinds of speeches
  • To learn how to outline a speech
  • Develop the ability to evaluate a speech
  • To use gestures and body language appropriately when speaking
  • To accumulate oral speaking experiences

Class Schedule:

Week One: Students were asked to bring 1 to 3 items with them to class that would give the audience an idea about their personality. Each student spent a little time introducing themself and telling about the props.
We discussed basic public speaking tips and then listened to a speech given by the assistant teacher. She broke every rule in the book (on purpose). Her written speech was pulled, crumpled from her purse. It had spaghetti sauce on it, rendering parts illegible. She chewed her gum furiously and snapped it. Twirling her hair with her finger, she painstakingly limped through the speech. It was hilarious!!!
This was definitely an ice breaker, and we felt more like comrades after having a good laugh together. The speech, however poorly delivered, had great usefulness. We were able to discuss the important elements of public speaking with more understanding after her "performance". Then we outlined the speech, which fell neatly into 3 points. This was their example for the next assignment.

Assignment: Prepare an admiration speech. The purpose of this speech will be to inform your audience about a person you look up to, respect, or admire. It must have a definite opening, 3 main points, and an appropriate conclusion.
The speech is to be delivered at the next class meeting, and an outline handed in to the teacher.

Week Two: We will learn how to evaluate speeches. Students will present their admiration speech and will critique each other on paper.
Assignment: Prepare a speech of demonstration for next class

Week Three: Deliver demonstration speeches
Evaluate peers on paper
We will also do an exercise to learn how to eliminate "filler" words like "uh"
Assignment: select and prepare poetry for recitation at the next class meeting

Week Four: Poetry Recitation
Deliver impromptu speeches as time permits
Assignment: Select a historical speech for final project and become familiar with it

Week Five: Read historical speech to class
We will discuss and analyze these speeches as a group
Listen to a few famous speeches done professionally on CD
Assignment: memorize and polish the delivery of the historical speech

Week Six: Present the historical speech as a polished, final project. Must be memorized. This will serve as dress rehearsal for the evening presentation event, at which time parents and guests will serve as an audience.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle

I enjoyed perusing Semicolon's annotated bibliography of Madeleine L'Engle's books. Madeleine's passing last week lead me to think on my history with her. Her books have been my friends since I read A Wrinkle in Time at about the age of 10, over and over. She is an author I have returned to at least once every decade since. Madeleine had the unique ability to weave autobiography, art, music, physics, and theology into a thing of beauty. I am richer for having met her.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Dreams: The Planting of the Lord

Olive Orchard
Vincent Van Gogh

In the book The Intellectual Life, author A.G. Sertillanges distinguishes four kinds of reading:
  • fundamental reading~ formative books that enable us to acquire all-around culture, usually read at that stage of life when one is laying down foundations for life.
  • accidental reading~ I would re-name this "informational reading". It's what you do when you need specifics on a given subject, like how to decorate a cake or change the oil in your car.
  • stimulating reading ~ the old, faithful books you return to again and again for encouragement and help.
  • recreative reading~not trash, but lighter books that provide restive relief such as travel books, nature books, or poetry.

Today I experienced the fulfillment of a dream, and it awakened in me the memory of the Catherine Marshall books I immersed myself in about 30 years ago. Those books constituted a large part of my foundational reading. Though I haven't consciously thought of them for a long while, I suspect the living ideas therein have become inextricable threads in the warp and woof of my personality.

I believe the book Beyond Ourselves was the one in which Catherine Marshall expounds upon dreams, and here I mean desires for the future as opposed to night-night dreams. Her encouragement was to bring those dreams out of the nether world and put them down on paper where they may be acknowledged, examined, and prayed over. Some dreams are just whims of desire that pass through and leave not a trace. Other dreams, however, may be planted in the human personality by God Himself. To fail to recognize them as such may keep us from pursuing the highest and the best.

My dream was for a co-operative school. We had a half-dozen families participate in one in our small church about five years ago. It was a rich. The children studied Latin, did science experiments, learned woodworking, studied logic, and dissected cow eyeballs. Our family loved it! But for a number of reasons, it only happened that one year. My children never forgot the experience and kept asking when we could do it again.

A year ago, I made it a serious matter of prayer. I researched, wrote down goals and ideas, and looked at it from every angle. I could not make it work. The right pieces to the puzzle were not in place.

So, I did what Catherine Marshall taught me to do. I prayed the prayer of relinquishment. I gave the dream back to God with the understanding that if it was He who had planted it in my heart, He would fulfill it in His own way and in His own time.

One year later, I can affirm absolutely that my God is able to make dreams come true! Today our church opened its doors to 100 homeschool students and 40 parents for co-operative learning. There were classes in music, art, cooking, sewing, recorder, speech, and Russian studies. Joie de vivre!

Sadly, I think it fairly typical that as youth is left behind, our dreams also begin to fade. It requires a great deal of energy to see a dream through to completion, and energy has a way of dissipating as we expend ourselves in the everyday pursuit of a decent life for our families.

When I turned 50, the Lord gave me a very personal promise from Psalm 52:10, which says:

"But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God."
There is a companion verse in Psalm 92:13-14:
"Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him."

The fulfillment of a dream has, for me, also been a fulfillment of that scripture. There is something wonderfully energizing in realizing that which has been hoped for.

hmmmm......makes me wonder what's next?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

For Labor Day: The Joy of Work

Woman Singing
Edgar Degas

Give us, oh, give us, the man who sings at his work! He will do more in the same time,--he will do it better,--he will persevere longer. One is scarcely sensible of fatigue whilst he marches to music. The very stars are said to make harmony as they revolve in their spheres. Wondrous is the strength of cheerfulness, altogether past calculation in its powers of endurance. Efforts, to be permanently useful, must be uniformly joyous, a spirit all sunshine, graceful from very gladness, beautiful because bright. ~Carlyle


Photographic Print

When Earth's last picture is painted and the tubes are twisted and dried,
When the oldest colours have faded, and the youngest critic has died,
We shall rest, and, faith, we shall need it -- lie down for an aeon or two,
Till the Master of All Good Workmen shall put us to work anew!

And those that were good shall be happy: they shall sit in a golden chair;
They shall splash at a ten-league canvas with brushes of comets' hair;
They shall find real saints to draw from -- Magdalene, Peter, and Paul;
They shall work for an age at a sitting and never be tired at all!

And only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall blame;
And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame,
But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star,
Shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They Are!

by Rudyard Kipling


L'envoi \L'en`voi"\, or L'envoy \L'en`voy"\ (l[aum]n`vw[aum]"), n. [F. le the + envoi a sending. 1. One or more detached verses at the end of a literary composition, serving to convey the moral, or to address the poem to a particular person; -- orig. employed in old French poetry. --Shak.

2. A conclusion; a result. --Massinger.

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Enter into the Joy!

"....they shall rejoice in their portion.....everlasting joy shall be theirs." Isaiah 61:7

As one who has been reading the scripture daily for over 30 years, I know that my receptivity is not static. There are days I delight in the words and consciously revisit them throughout the day. And there are days~~yes, and sometimes seasons, of dryness. Like last Tuesday's dinner, the spiritual meal seemed nondescript and it didn't take long for it to evaporate from my memory bank. But even a nondescript meal serves its purpose: it nourishes me.

It has been a long time since I have wept over the Word of God. But this morning I had the time to deliberate over the book of Isaiah. I read the last half of the book at one sitting, and the words were so startlingly beautiful that it brought tears. The description of the new heaven and earth in chapter 65 and vicinity awakened an aching longing for a home that I have not yet glimpsed.

What struck me particularly this morning was the fact that joy is a very real part of the reward that God has in store for the righteous. We usually think of rewards in terms of crowns and inheritance~~ and this is certainly valid by scriptural standards.

But equally valid is the intangible reward of JOY! In the parable of the talents (Matthew 26), the Master rewards the faithful slave by inviting him to "enter into the JOY of your master." (emphasis added). How wonderful it is to have a Master who joys over us with singing, and who allows us on occasion to experience just a wee foretaste of the joy that will be such an integral part of our future reward.

"Go eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10

Monday, August 20, 2007

What Question Would You Ask a Creation Scientist?

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse..... " Romans 1:20

Creation science is a subject of great interest to me, and from time to time I like to read a book on the subject to keep myself current. This week, I have the added privilege of hearing a creation scientist, Dr. Mace Baker, give special presentations on the subject at our church.

We heard last evening about the fossil record and how it argues against uniformitarianism and for the catastrophic world flood detailed in the biblical account of Genesis. Dr. Baker had the knack for making the information understandable--something I surely appreciated, not only for my own sake but for the sake of the many children who were listening. He had the rapt attention of the children; it seems they have an innate interest for this subject.

Happily, our family had the delight of inviting Dr. Baker to put his feet under our table, and to enjoy a more informal exchange. We peppered him with so many questions, he finally had to beg off so that he could save his voice for the evening lecture!

One of my questions was, "What advice to you have for homeschooling parents who seek to provide their children with a sound science education, but at the same time desire to preserve unwavering faith in the biblical record?"

His answer surprised me a little. He suggested I obtain a public high school biology text rather than to use one from a Christian publisher. As the students work their way through the text, all FACTS are to be highlighted in blue, and the ASSUMPTIONS in yellow. Keep track of these on a separate sheet of paper, the facts in one column and the assumptions in the other. Then discuss~~do any of the blue highlighted facts absolutely preclude creation? Do they speak for evolution? What do the yellow highlighted items assume?

Dr. Baker's assertion is that the facts will speak clearly and that reason will demand that evolution be placed in the category of "assumption".

He told us about a friend of his, a professor who used this method of teaching with his college level biology students. Because it was a secular college, the professor was not allowed to overtly share his Biblical belief in creation. But NONE of his students left the class believing in evolution, no elegant sermons required. Facts speak; truth appeals to reason (Acts 26:25).

What question would you ask a creation scientist?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Virtual Pastor's Wife

I couldn't resist. After reading about the Virtual Pastor, I just had to conjure up an image of the Virtual Pastor's Wife. What would she be like? No doubt she would have a halo, unchipped nail polish, be unfailingly cheerful and smiling, and she would wear a little black dress~~traditional, of course, in a perfect size 8. No bad hair days for her, either. Hair tends to stay put when one does nothing but read the Bible all day.