Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Snow.
One of my favorite things in the whole world.
Clean.
Cold.
Quiet.

Free of all the things I can't stand in the world
like heat
or sand
or noise.

Memories from childhood of sledding
and snowballs
and opening my bedroom dormer window and climbing out on the roof with my dad to watch as it fell.
So quiet, it makes its own music.
So beautiful, it is its own art.

No, there is nothing like snow.

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. 
Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow. (Isaiah 1:18)

That is what the Incarnation set it motion.
Clean.
It gave us hope that the stain of our sin would be cleansed.
Cold.
It rescued us from the flames of Hell that were licking at our feet and beckoning us to our own destruction.
Quiet.
It silenced the noise of our flesh that tries to interfere with the noise of our Father.

There is just something about snow.
It is clean and cold and quiet whether it lies in the peaceful valley or on the rugged mountaintop. The constancy of the properties of snow just stuns me into awe at my Creator and makes me fall to my knees in worship of my Redeemer.

We still do battle with the heat and the sand and the noise.

But it's temporary.
What the Incarnation set in motion,
and what the Resurrection permanently secured,
will one day, once and for all,
make a permanent reality.

Until then, I remember the clean, cold, quiet snow of my childhood,
and I dream of the clean, cold, quiet snow to come.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

May all your Christmases be white.

Monday, December 1, 2014

How Not To Be Insufferable

Like a song of ego that clings to me,
How the thought of you does things to me.
Never before has someone been more...
Insufferable. (Nat King Cole--sorta)

"Everyone under 30 is an idiot." (Pastor Bill Wilson--verbatim)

I remember distinctly where I was when crusty Brooklyn evangelist Bill Wilson said that. I was 29, married for almost 9 years, and the mother of four children. Well, alrighty then.

Now that I've got three adult children in their twenties, with a fourth almost there, I've been observing a lot about this demographic. I'm now interacting with twentysomethings more than I have since I was a twentysomething all those years ago.  For the most part, this is a delightful portion of the population. They are zealous, idealistic, and enthusiastic. They have the world before them and almost nothing in their way. I love them; I love hanging out with them; I love our chats; I love hearing them think out loud or grapple with life's issues. Of every four twentysomethings I personally know, three of them are a delight because those are the kind of people my adult children choose for friends.

But there's often an undercurrent of omniscience, insufferable omniscience.

Insufferability. It sets in about the senior year of high school and crescendoes during the college/early career years. (Think 18 to 25. But Wilson isn't far off.) Then, with any luck and a whole lot of God's intervention, it tapers off--much to the relief of our family and friends.

And don't bluster at me. Your mother agrees with me. She told me so. :)
Nobody loves me but my mother, but she could be jivin', too. (BB King)
No. She loves you; she's your mother. But unconditional love and blind adoration are not the same thing. At least, they shouldn't be.

Is it because they're fresh out of the logic stage? Is it because so many of  them debated in high school?  Is it because they've argued with their peers so long that they think everyone is their peer? Is it because they've learned so much stuff that they confuse a 'vast-knowledge-of-stuff' with 'wisdom?'

I've also noticed that marriage changes things.
Probably because there's nothing like a spouse and children to get your eyes off your own fascinating navel. You think your parents are bad? or your sibling roommate? Your spouse is all of that rolled into one, plus more. Methinks it's no accident that marriage often begins right in this season.

Now don't get your underoos in a wad. It took me more than twenty-nine years to reach the age of 30. I know of what I speak. I wouldn't go back and re-live my twenties for anything. I shudder at the person I was. And to be fair, the battle between your ego and God's glory is a battle you will fight your whole life. It just seems to be less sanctified at this stage of life. At least, that's my own story.

Theologian/pastor/author Dr. RC Sproul wrote, "As I reach my twilight years, perhaps the last three holes of the back nine, I have lost the omniscience I briefly enjoyed as a college sophomore."

I love that quote.
I.love.that.quote.
I love it so much it's my favorite quote of all time. And I hooted aloud when I first read it in Dr. Sproul's book, The Consequence of Ideas, because I remember the omniscience of my own sophomore year.
It's true.
And it's accurate.
Deathly, scathingly accurate.

I love it so much that I'm going to say it again.
As I reach my twilight years, perhaps the last three holes of the back nine, I have lost the omniscience I briefly enjoyed as a college sophomore.

Youth is awesome. But it's still youth.
Young adults are awesome. But they're still young adults.

Timothy, who pastored the church of Ephesus, was young. And it is in Paul's letter to Timothy where we find the oft-quoted (by youth) "Let  no one despise you for your youth..." passage (I Timothy 4:12). So let's back up and see what God had to say to young Timothy. I think the secret to not being insufferable might be found in this letter.

Pretend you're on Google Earth. Take one step out. The whole verse, which we are wont to abridge, says, "Let no one despise you for your youth, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe." Translation: there's a whole boatload of valid reasons to disdain youth. But you, you, don't supply any good reason for that disdain from your own life. You be an example that contradicts the well-earned, bad reputation of youth. You be an example in your speech, your conduct, your love, your faith, your purity.

GoogleEarth, another step out. Let's look at the whole letter, I Timothy, which I shall herein subtitle, Listen Up, Young'n. What did the Apostle Paul feel was important enough to write this young man? Let's see...

Once upon a time, in the faraway city of Ephesus, there was a young pastor named Timothy...

(This is your cue to go get your bible. I'll wait.)*

Chapter one...
Grace, mercy, and peace.
Dear Timothy, don't forget God's grace--getting what you don't deserve, God's mercy--not getting what you do deserve, and God's peace--which comes from being thankful for aforementioned grace and mercy.
Pure heart, good conscience, sincere faith.
Dear Timothy, remember this is the aim. By all means, drink deeply of pure doctrine, but it's not so you can win arguments. It's so your heart will be pure, you conscience will be good, your faith will be sincere.
How not to be insufferable according to chapter one.

Chapter two...
Pray for all men.
Dear Timothy, prayer will remind you that, while you can't change people, God can. Prayer for all men will remind you that other people have worth.
How not to be insufferable according to chapter two.

Chapter three...
How to conduct oneself in the household of God.
Dear Timothy, just in case you thought your vast wealth of knowledge qualifies you for leadership...
Let me remind you that it is the humble success of a well-ordered home and a disciplined life that makes you truly qualified.
How not to be insufferable according to chapter three.

Chapter four...
Public reading of scripture, exhortation, teaching. Devote yourself to these. Practice, immerse, persist. 
Dear Timothy, public scripture reading, public exhortation, public teaching, these will grow you and the ones around you. There's nothing like scripture, and the exhortation and teaching of it, to remind you of who you were without Christ, who you are and will be because of Christ.
How not to be insufferable according to chapter four.

Chapter five...
Widow, elders, rebuking someone older than you.
Now I'm all for being on a first name basis with young adults, say high school graduates. I think it's important that they be included in the adult circle of fellowship, in iron sharpening iron. On the one hand, they become peers; on the other hand, there will always be different levels of wisdom, purely because one has walked this earth longer than another. Like Moses said, Rise in the presence of the aged, young'n.
How not to be insufferable according to chapter five.

Chapter six...
Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called 'knowledge.'
Timothy, don't be a dufflepud, dear one. If someone declares persuasively that watermelons are of the devil, take a deep breath because your peers will be saying, "Watermelons are of the devil? Hear him, hear him! Watermelons are of the devil! Watermelons are of the devil!" Sometimes, ideas masquerade as knowledge, and fools masquerade as sages. Don't be their town crier.  And don't follow them over the edge of the cliff. Stop. Think. Refer back to chapter four.
How not to be insufferable according to chapter six.

And Timothy lived wisely ever after.

I don't mean to imply that I Timothy is just for young adults. All of us get the benefit of  the Holy Spirit's wisdom, through Paul, to Timothy. In fact, of all the lessons above, the one God is most deeply impressing upon my own conscience this past fall is rising in the presence of the aged. I see how far off I am, how far I have to go. But I am thankful for the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the power to change through Him.

Google Earth, final step back. Timothy is the New Testament's example of young adulthood...
Because a man of Paul's spiritual calibre had vetted him--and approved him.
Because a man like Paul installed him as a pastor, wrote to him, walked alongside him.
We don't know he was living a commendable life because of his stack of medals or his popularity on campus or his whizbang intellect.  We know he was living a commendable life because an older, wiser man in the faith was investing in him.

I suggest that a man who has walked with God for decades has more to offer than a young seminarian.
I suggest that a woman who has finished parenting has more valuable advice to offer than an early-childhood education major.
I suggest that a finely aged pastor with one brain tied behind his back will trump a therapist on her best day.
I suggest that a small-business owner who has lived through business cycles, bear and bull markets both, will have more valuable economic wisdom than the Armani-suited Wharton graduate.

I suggest you imitate Reheboam less, seeking wisdom from your peers. It didn't work well for him; it won't work well for you.
I suggest that you imitate Timothy more.
Find your Paul, and drink him dry.

So flee youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. II Timothy 2:22 

*This is not an exegetical reading of  I Timothy. :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Sweet Ride

"Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. 
Let my soul come not into their council; 
O my glory, be not joined to their company. 
For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness, they hamstrung oxen. 
Cursed be their anger, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel." 
Genesis 49:5-7

In response to the rape of their young sister, Dinah, Simeon and Levi plot and exact revenge on the men of Shechem. There is a part of me, to be quite honest, that cheers their fierceness in defending their sister. But Jacob was dismayed at their violence.  It would have been one thing to demand justice from the perpetrator. It was another thing to exceed the eye-for-eye bounds of justice in pouring out their fury on an entire city. Jacob, from his deathbed, has not forgotten their behavior. And he offers his blessing. But his blessing sounds more like a curse.

But Simeon and Levi are sheep of God's flock. And He is the Good Shepherd. Turns out theirs is a story of hope amid the consequences.

Consider Simeon. He is destined to be scattered because of his violent anger. Yet we find Simeon nestled right inside the territory of Judah. Simeon's storyline will find him alternately defending the tribe of the Messiah and being protected deep within its bounds.

Our stories find us there, too. Our lives are laid before before Him with Whom we have to do. He will bring judgment; He will remove middle ground. We are, in essence, cornered by God. But we are carried by God, too. When we stray out of bounds, the Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to come get us. He lifts us to His shoulders and brings us back. And sometimes, sometimes, He buries us deep within the Messiah's boundary.

Can't get out...
Can't breathe...
Claustrophobic...
Terrified...
But when I calm down enough to think,..
Surrounded by strong arms.
Not pinning me down...
Wrapping themselves around me...
Inspecting.
Correcting.
Healing.
Restoring.

Maybe being hemmed in by this Messiah isn't such a bad deal...

Consider Levi. Scattered indeed. Of all the tribes, Levi is the only one who doesn't get any territory. Their inheritance is the Lord.
Yeah, yeah, God's my passion.
Not really. Though they did have an occasional good day, like the time they rallied to Moses against the golden calf, Levi's commitment is, shall we say, rather spotty.
Levi, who made such a show of strength in Genesis 34, will be beholden to the rest of the tribes for sustenance and shelter.
Levi will be the ransom for the firstborn.

Levi, who intentionally spilled the blood of Shechem, will administer the cities of refuge.
Cities of refuge, which offer shelter to the unintentional spiller of blood, but turn over the cold-blooded killer for justice...
Daily reminders of what should have been for Levi,
Of the mercy of God...
Of not getting what was so justly deserved...
Oh, and Shechem, the very site of Levi's vicious carnage?
That would be one of the refuges.

More importantly, Levi will deal in bloodshed in a whole new way.
Every day.
Rams, bulls, goats, sheep, pigeons, turtledoves...
Blood running down the altar, down their garments...
Everywhere the sights, sounds, smell of death...
I will show you what you must suffer for My name...
And every day they would be the ones to make intercession for the people.
How ironic.

God did not give Levi the boot after Shechem. But he did have a plan for them.
He carried that sheep back into the flock.
And up there, on His shoulders, from that perspective, Levi saw the cost of sin.
Levi did the work of atonement...
Levi did the work of inspection...
It was Levi who went into the Holy of Holies...
To face a holy, holy, holy God once a year.

Life up on His shoulders. Sometimes we do time up there.
Some of us more than others.
So next time you blow it, and He hoists you up, yeah, you might lose some independence.
Yeah, you might be getting a ride that the other sheep all see.
But He's not casting you out.
He's holding you close.

And maybe you'll get a glimpse, just a small glimpse, of life from God's perspective.
That's a sweet ride.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, 
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 
He will not always chide, nor will He keep His anger forever. 
He does not deal with us according to our sins, 
nor repay us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103:8-10

(Many thanks to my elders, Brett and Craig, for helping me connect some of these dots.)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Let's Walk Together

It started as the Summer of Theology. A couple guys, united by their disillusionment with church and wanting to do something a little better, decided to meet and see if they could be like-minded enough to proceed with a new church.

What they did not want was some kind of 'wherever believers are gathered, there is a church'  twaddle. True, the Church is the people. But church is not you and your friends sharing dinner and a nice bottle of Merlot and talking about kingdom things. No. It's not. Church is only functioning as the Bible tells us it should function where there is preaching of the Word, the sacraments of baptism and communion, corporate worship, and discipline. The dinner and the Merlot can happen as a part of that. But simply calling our gathering church does not make it so.

We also didn't want to segregate ourselves into age sectors.
That's the stuff of government education, not the fellowship of the saints. There's one very, very large church in our town with multiple spin-offs where the ushers literally meet you at the door and tell you where to take your kids.

As in, no, your children are not welcome to worship with you in the Big Sanctuary.
Just like Heaven.
Oh wait.

So much for suffer the little children...

Back to that summer...No one really had time to do this thing. After all, each of these men was employed somewhere else. No one was looking to take on more responsibility.
But...no one wanted to shirk their responsibility to their families, either.

That was ten years ago. My husband was one of those men.
And, oh boy, has my appreciation of church grown over this past decade.

Careful preaching.
The preaching is expository. Starting with scripture and finding God's truth, rather than starting with a topic and attempting to prove it with scripture, has been a meaty experience for me. Jesus and His gospel are everywhere! I am thankful for expository preaching.

Careful positions.
Just because the Bible condemns lust does not mean Christians should not keep women in our homes. But churches take 'official church positions' like this all the time. The problem is that we often turn the crank farther than God does. We put burdens on people because our own consciences are weak--I caught myself doing this very thing last spring--and we call it the High Road. Before you know it, anyone who holds any position in the church has to sign something, vow something, abstain from something, yadda yadda yadda.  It's good to put some distance between us and the Pharisees, nu? I'm thankful for a church that is careful to distinguish probable implications of scripture from merely possible implications.

Careful worship.
What we sing to God should be as theologically robust as what we hear from the pulpit. I am thankful for elders and a worship team who carefully select our songs. (We've tossed songs by famous people because the theology was not sound.) And they regularly review our sets to make sure that the words we sing to God in the congregation of God's people are Truth. I am thankful for worshipping in Truth.

Careful relationships.
We have covenanted together. We are family. We feast. We fellowship. We do retreats. And before communion is offered, we have time to get things straight with each other because we sin against each other, too. Brett tells me that it is powerful to stand up front on Communion Sundays and watch people quietly working things out with each other before we come to the Lord's Table. I am thankful for a church that encourages relating rightly to one another.

Romans 14.
We are a varied bunch. We have different backgrounds, different testamonies, different convictions. Calvinist. Arminian. Undecided. Covenantal. Dispensational. Paedobaptist. Credopbaptist. Undecided. Television. Alcohol. Halloween. Christmas. Undecided. Firm convictions; no convictions. Weak consciences; strong consciences. We are a local Body learning what hard work it is to not trample each other's consciences and likewise to not trample each other's freedom. I'm thankful for a church willing to be gracious.

In essentails, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity. (Rupertus Meldenius)
To which Henri Blocher adds:
In matters secondary or subtle, a gracious attention combined with exactness.

I'd say that describes us pretty well.

We celebrated our first ten years with a feast last Friday. One of my sweet friends told me, "Wow. Ten years ago, I wasn't even saved." This is the same woman who just finished reading Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology!

This is the local Body God has been quietly building since that Summer of Theology ten years ago.
They are robust. They are hungry. They are godly.
And this is the Body I am so privileged to be a part of.
They are longsuffering with my flaws.
They laugh with me on my good days and cry with me on my bad days.
They pray for me, confide in me, model goodness for me.

That's my church.
Let's walk together.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Coach Bags, Ayn Rand, and Classical Liberalism

Two days ago, the eleven year old made herself a pot of soup. While she set it on the table to go get a drink, the five year old slunk up and helped himself to a spoonful. She was incensed. And I don't blame her. So the five year old and I sat in the Situation Room and chatted about personal property.

"You cannot--can.not--take your sister's soup without permission. She made it. It's hers. If you would like some, you may ask, but she just might say no. And that will have to be okay with you."

Personal property. The American public had better get a clue. And every American household had better start having conversations just like this.

A few of my kids have worked in grocery stores during their high school and college years. The number of people on food stamps who come through their lines is astounding. And my kids are offended. You know why? Because these women are carrying Coach bags and paying for groceries with my children's money. (If you want your kids to learn about socialism, just explain their pay stub to them.) One of my sons, who no longer works there, said, "Yeah, a Coach bag is the new hashtag for welfare." Nice. What kind of upside-down world do we live in when a woman thinks nothing of dropping $400 on a purse but steals from her neighbor to feed her family???

My daughter worked for her soup. She thought of the idea (intellectual capital); she did the work (physical capital); she expected to reap the rewards of her investment. Then my five year old came in, without so much as a by-your-leave, and claimed it for himself.

Nuh-uh. Not in my house, you don't.

My husband and I have just finished watching the Atlas Shrugged trilogy. Author Ayn Rand does a good job at addressing part of the problem. (Granted, hers in an atheist world, devoid of God and covenants. She doesn't even acknowledge the realms of family- and church-governments.)  But she does have some wonderfully logical things to say about self- and civil governments. It's not so much that she's brilliant as much as she's one of the few who taken the time to think statism and socialism through to its logical end. It reminds me of Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson--which should be required reading for anyone who ever hopes to hold public office.

And what is that lesson?
Before a government passes any economic legislation, that government must consider how it will affect ALL groups, not just the special group it's trying to 'help.'
Why is that so hard to understand?

Atlas Shrugged has become the rallying cry of libertarians everywhere. And I can see why. Gifted people pour themselves into a business or a venture or an invention. They expect their intellectual, financial, or sweat equity to be a reward for themselves and their families. Then they are excoriated by the public for not sharing. Then the thugs in Washington help themselves to the profits. Do that enough times and the intellectual, financial, and physical capital will quit.
Not, as so many silly, stupid progressives claim, because they are heartless.
But because they are hopeless.

Who is John Galt? You might want to take some time and find out.

The fact is: our civil government has overstepped its jurisdiction. On that point, Rand got it right.
No government should compel charity.
The fact that there are poor citizens does not in any way, not in any way, mean that it falls to the civil government's jurisdiction to feed, clothe, or educate them. Not.at.all.
No government should steal.
The fact that some are successful and some are not is not in any way the concern of the civil government. If the government would like to see more private success, then it needs to get out of the regulation business and let people experiment, create, and invest.

Free-market capitalism is not about compassion; it is about compensation.

Back to Rand. I think she offers part of the answer. When we talk about individuals in terms of civil government, unless he is hurting another citizen, the individual should be left alone. But there is more to the equation than just individuals and civil government.

I admit that I wanted to like Atlas Shrugged Part III more than I actually did,
Because a world without God and without covenants leaves me cold.
And here's where I want to distance myself from the libertarian label.
Libertarians, as a group, tend toward anarchy. For many libertarians, the only legitimate form of government is self-government.

But government was God's idea. It does do some good. It does have a job. Romans 13 tells us that the job of government is to bear the sword against evil-doers. So the government's job is to protect citizens from each other (enemies within) and our borders from enemy nations (enemies without).

Unlike most libertarians, I am not an anarchist. But I am a minarchist. I am for limited civil government...
...which brings me to classical liberalism.

Our Founding Fathers were classically liberal. They architected, debated, and passed a Constitution with the understanding that "a combination of political decentralization, economic liberty, free trade, and self-government creates, day by day, the most prosperous, diverse, peaceful, and just society the world has ever known." (Lew Rockwell, An American Classical Liberal) They didn't believe in the absence of civil government. But they did believe in the limiting of its power.

Apparently, I think, so did the Apostle Paul.
Romans 13.
Ahem.

Classical liberalism in not anarchist. But it does leave the individual alone.
Listen to me. Do you know what that means?
It means that a legitimate government protects life, liberty, and property.
It means that civil government is not an arm of church government.
It does not come into your bedroom. Fail there at your own peril.
It does not come into your garden. Plant, eat, drink, smoke, chew, and sniff at your own peril.
It does not tell you how you can barter--or what with.
It does not tell you how to raise your children.
It does not tell you where you cannot have your bank account.
It does not tell you where or how you may travel.
It does not tell you what you may do on your personal property.
It does not spy on you in the name of 'national security.'
It does not build a wall to keep people out...because the same wall keeps people in.

You sow; you reap.
At your own peril.
And the civil government washes its hand of your failures and your successes.

It does not give special privileges to the disabled, the veteran, the poor, the unemployed, the disenfranchised...whatever that means.

"In the 18th and 19th centuries, the term liberalism generally meant a philosophy of public life that affirmed the following principle: societies and their component parts need no central management and control because societies generally manage themselves through the voluntary action of its members to their mutual benefit. Today we cannot call this philosophy liberalism because the term has been appropriated by the democratic totalitarians. In an attempt to recover this philosophy for our own time, we give it a new name, classical liberalism." (Rockwell)

I submit to you that America's two  main parties have lost their way. Democrats? Well, obviously. But Republicans, too. Because Republicans don't trust the Individual any more than the Democrats do.

You do know that the Defense of Marriage Act is not going to save marriage, right? You do know that to save marriage, we need to stay married. We need to have a biblical view of marriage. We need to be complementarian. We need God to be the third strand.
You do know that, right?

You do know that the civil government has no business even discussing covenantal relationships, right?

You do know that banning marijuana will not keep people off of marijuana, right? But it will give the government a 'right' to come onto your personal property and inspect your house, your garden, your pantry, your car.
You do know that, right?

You do know that writing new laws, even in an attempt to overcome old ones, merely expands the domain of the federal government, right? that the fact that Dems blocked the passage of over three hundred Republican laws simply points to the fact that the Republicans are as eager to expand the civil government as the Dems are?
You do know that, right?

I wash my hands of both parties.
But if you know a true Classical Liberal who is running for office,
you'll let me know, right?

Right?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Enthusiasm and Grace

We've logged another home school year for the books, and now it's time to begin our eighteenth year--if I don't count the five years before my first son began kindergarten. This past year, our eleventh baby was born, our firstborn graduated from college, and my fourth child graduated from high school.

This summer's focus was on marrying off our third child. But I at least toted one book around, keeping it alternately in my pool bag, on my nightstand, or in the car: A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. Despite the break-neck pace of the last twelve months, I was able to get a vision for this year. And I'm excited.

Classical, as an educational approach, exudes all the warmth of a hospital corridor. But the draw, of course, is that it's thorough. And no homeschooling mama wants gaps. Unit studies. Oh, I miss unit studies. I want to cry when I think of all the good stuff we learned with Konos and how my younger kids are missing out. But unit studies don't really cover high school level academics. Unschooling, well, unschooling is just weird. No, I'm not going to teach my kid math by building a deck. I'm just not. Not when there are these convenient little things called workbooks.

Every year, I resolve to get back to cozy. We sit around the couch sipping tea or hot chocolate. The baby plays on the floor. The children are working at some kind of handicraft. And I am reading a classic out loud while dinner simmers in the crock pot.

Then I wake up.

The baby has something in his mouth. He always has something in his mouth. So the five year old is squawking. The two girls are arguing over who got the crochet hook first. (Really? Do we not have enough crochet hooks to go around?) The nine year old is mad because he thinks he's too old for read-aloud. And I'm sorely tempted to call it a day and call Bob Jones.

Every year, I am my own worst enemy. And my inner, pitch-forked Type A overtakes my inner angelic Charlotte Mason. Narration? We don't have time today, kids. Move along. A living book? I don't have time. Here. Do this multiple choice.

Bottom line: Charlotte Mason is not efficient.
But then education is not efficient, either.
I've just got to stop barreling through my school year like it's a to-do list.

Back to Charlotte Mason. This has always been a resource book for me, but this summer was the first time I actually read it cover to cover. It challenged me and moved me. And I determined to stick with it this year.

I put away all of my formal history curricula this year. We're learning about the ancients by reading about pharaohs or hearing an archeologist's own story. And we do a lot of talking. The high schoolers are writing their own study questions, which they answer for our weekly discussion. We're writing fables this semester, but we've doubled down on narration and dictation. We do have some textbooks on hand for math and science. But even science includes narration and discussion. In Bible, we're going covenant, not just being granular by talking about each incident, but taking a step back and looking at God's covenant with His people.

I think if we're not teaching our children that God is the Bible's main character, history's Hero, we might be doing it all wrong.

As I write this, Brett is at a conference where the keynote reminded the audience, "The purpose of education is worship."
Yes!
I want the kids to worship when they see God's hand in history, His wisdom in science and math, His covenant in the Bible. I want them to worship when they tell it all back to me.
Perhaps cozy is not really what I'm after; worship is.

Maybe that explains why this concept just jumped off the page at me: I want the kids to be enthusiastic. Andreola writes that enthusiasm is from the Latin entheos: to be full of God. (That explains why I can't make them enthusiastic; to be full of God is a work for God to do Himself.)  Enthusiasts are "heroes and heroines, the poets, the prophets, the warriors, the high-tempered spirits, the giants of human nature who, through force of mind, courage, and perseverance, have won the day for nations and also for individuals, when all other hearts but their own were faint, and who against all hope, believed in hope when others desponded. The enthusiast manifests a glowing splendor and gladness that leads him on to victory." (Andreola, 281)

Enthusiasts are the ones who will stand alone if they have to. And they do it with gladness. I want to be an enthusiast; I want to raise enthusiasts.

And, finally, this has been a year in which our family is learning all about grace. I still have a long, long way to go. I am still lapping this mountain. And I don't know if I'll ever have this licked.

"We mustn't think that because these old Greeks were heathen, therefore God did not care for them and taught them nothing. The Bible tells us that this was not so, that God's mercy was over all His works, and that He understands the hearts of all people, and fashions all their works." (Andreola, 210)

I want a theme of common grace to thread its way through our school year. So, while Egyptian history is full of pagan idolatry--and I make that clear to the kids--I want to shift the emphasis ever so slightly. This time around, I want the kids to know that God made every Egyptian in His image, that He gifted them and knew them and worked through them. I want them to see God's grace at work even in the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. These men gifted the world with architecture, engineering, mathematics, government, and art. We are, in part, a modern civilization that stands on the shoulders of the ancients and the dominion they took.

I want to work harder at finding the true, the good, and the beautiful even in the ancient literature that we read because we ought to--but spend more time criticizing than acclaiming. Will we be able to find it? I don't know; stay tuned.

God rained on the ancient pagan and His people alike. Never in my eighteen years of home schooling have I taught that to my children. But I will this year. I want the children to see God's gift of common grace to all people.

And then we will worship.

That's my theme this year.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The MOG Files

My son just got married. It's our first wedding and my first performance as Mother of the Groom.
MOG.
This is my story.

On wardrobe:
So, like any female, the first thing I think of when I think wedding is 'clothes.'
MOG dress.
Shopping for the MOG dress is a nightmare.
Try googling it, and you see that exactly two options await you.
In one corner are the models who weigh approximately three pounds wearing dresses with hemlines just below their armpits. Checking search parameters...did I type 'ill-repute' by accident?
Where are the fertile, birthing hips? Where is the droopy bustline? What about this woman says she ever gave birth? or wears an overtheshoulderboulderholder?I just think if you're going to model Mother of the Groom dresses, you should at least be...a mother.
In the other corner are the moo-moos. To qualify, you must weigh at least four thousand pounds.

But I'm not Twiggy, and I'm not Moo-moo. I'm the MOG with a son at the altar and a son on my hip. Accesorize means 'burp cloth'. I need a cute clutch to carry a lipstick binky and an extra diaper.

And then there's the hair. I've been making peace with my hair for decades now. My angst over my 'curly' hair elicits little compassion from my straight-haired friends.
"Wish I had curly hair. Let it work for you."

No.
Just all kinds of no.

Do you say to someone with a curved spine, Just let your scoliosis work for you?
And the grey hair.
Like having pipe cleaners permanently sewn to your scalp.

My daughters gave me endless grief over shoes.
I wanted something comfortable, something I could dance in. But they just shook their heads and sighed. What about me says I can walk down an aisle balancing on a three inch head of a pin?
In the end, I found everything on clearance. And I felt like a dignified forty-something. Which was all I wanted, anyway.

On crowds:
I've never been a the more, the merrier kind of person.
The more, the harrier is my maxim.
The thought of spending days on end with LOTS of people I don't know, well, I was just a wee bit agitated.

I'd rather kick a rock down the road.

But God was SO good to us. We made new friends of our new family even in the midst of weddings, to-do lists, cars and kids zipping in and out of the driveway, curling irons and tuxedos everywhere, sleepless nights with baby, relatives flying in...
Lots of crowds? Yes. But lots of laughter, memories, and hugs, too.
And helium. Lots of helium.

On Plastic Bubbles:
Rehearsal day finally arrived. As MOG, this is my day.
The day I have to decorate something.
And feed lots of people. Lots of food.
Neither of which I particularly excel at.
This is the day my 14 yr old and I drove all over town looking for disposable tablecloths that didn't come in play doh colors--the same day my bank blocked my card because I was in another state.
This is the day that I climbed through mounds of black-eyed susans with scissors to make centerpieces.
Me. Centerpieces. Bwahahaha.

This was also the day that the wedding was becoming a reality.  As the kids stood at the altar, and all the family was gathered to hear their parts, the pastor said, "We're going to pretend there is a plastic bubble around these kids. That's to protect them from you. (smile) Today, theirs is the only opinion that matters."

What fantastic insight. This is a new season for them. And a plastic bubble is not a bad idea from here on out. They are going to make friends, find a church, raise a family, pursue a calling. And what they do not need is our unwanted input.

I'm a big fan of voluntary accountability.
But unsolicited advice always feels like interference.
Plastic bubbles remind me that requests for advice should come from within, not without;
That our job will be to pray for them and cheer them on;
But it's their job to learn on their own, to seek our advice when they want it, not when we think they need it. It's their job now to walk the walk and live the life.
Discovery learning, we call it in our home school. The kind when experience and mistakes are the most powerful teachers.
Plastic bubble.
An idea whose time has come.

On legacy:
Wedding day!
Pomp and tears and siblings letting go. Kisses and covenants and witnesses approving with their presence.
The legacy is passing to a new generation.

At the reception, after traditional toasts, each set of grandparents said something to the kids. Dani's grandfather quoted Jimmy Stewart's Shenandoah speech and urged Luke and Dani to spend time cultivating their relationship. Brett's dad reminded them that long-lasting marriages are hard work. My mom quoted Psalm 61. "You have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your name."

Inheritance, indeed.
This new couple has three sets of grandparents who have been married a total of 153 years and two sets of parents who have been married a total of 51 years.
204 years of marriage covenant.
And we've got their back.

What are you, some kind of love expert?
Why, yes, we are.

The wedding clothes are put away now.
There's a new household, a new apartment, a new daughter-in-law.
This week I turn my attention to my other children.
My brief evening stint as MOG is over. And now I'm just MOM.

But as I reflect on this next generation of covenant, of the heritage behind me and God's faithfulness in front of me, I'm a very blessed, very happy woman.