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