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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Idol Makes a Comeback

"When It Takes a Miracle to Sell Your House:
Owners, Realtors Bury Statues Of St. Joseph to Attract Buyers;
Don't Forget to Dig Him Up"

So goes the headline of the article by Sara Schaefer Munoz in today's Wall Street Journal. It seems that sales of "St. Joseph Real Estate Kits," available for as little as $4.95 plus shipping, are on the rise. Desperate sellers bury the statue of Jesus' foster father head down in the front yard and wait for the buyers to appear. (Catholic leaders apparantly frown on the stunt and recommend putting the statue in the house--"Some are . . . quite beautiful"--rather than burying it.)

What is going on here?

It is funny that a typical children's Sunday School lesson on the danger of "idols" and "idolatry" tends to assume that the actual practice of placing faith in a statue is passe and instead focuses on explaining "modern day idols such as television." Well, think again!

"You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments."
Exodus 20:4-6 (NASB)

Many may dismiss this as a kooky good-luck charm, but I find it no laughing matter.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Badge of Courage

The most recent Medal of Honor to be given was awarded posthumously to Lt. Michael Murphy. His parents received the award in a White House ceremony October 22, 2007. The story of Lt. Murphy's bravery is incredible and not to be missed. If you haven't heard it yet, be sure to read about it in the Navy Times and to read this interview with the surviving SEAL in Lt. Murphy's unit.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Kansas History: My Family in Kansas

This is a picture of my great-grandfather, Lee Jones, and his wife Alice. They are holding their first two children, Deema (3 years old) and Bessie Lea (less than a year old). The girls died from diptheria in 1893 when they were only five and three. The family lived in Allen County, Kansas at this time.

What is your family history in Kansas? Several of my ancestors came to Kansas over 100 years ago, but it is unusual for families to remain in the same place for that many years. Today, families move around the country frequently and it is possible that your family moved to Kansas either right before you were born or even in your life time.

You can still write about your family history in Kansas! After all, when my great-grandfather's brother wrote about his family coming to Kansas, it was a recent story at that time.

What brought your family to Kansas? Your dad's job? Or did your grandparents move here when your mom or dad was still a kid? Did they come here to work for the aircraft industry? Did they move to the city or the country? Were any of your relatives Kansas farmers?

I hope you have fun with this assignment! It is fun to hear the stories of your family and your heritage.

This picture shows my great-aunt Hazel holding her little nephew in about 1918. Hazel's twin brother Hayes was fighting in World War I at the time (he joined the Kansas National Guard just before the draft was enacted), which is why you see the service flag hanging on the house behind her. (Her nephew was her sister's son, not Hayes' son.)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Word in Defense of Chronological Study

In the "Perspectives on Children's Spiritual Formation" book review (posted September 26, 2007) I spoke of four perspectives of children's ministry. While each of the four methods are distinct, two of them lean toward teaching the Bible as a complete story and two of them emphasize topical teaching that aims for life change. In fact, increasingly there is a tension between two philosophies of children's ministry that is being played out as "chronological" versus "topical" teaching.

Those in the topical camp disparage their brethen in the chronological camp by suggesting that a bunch of head knowledge results in stuffy children who experience no life change. The chronological camp, meanwhile, complains that the topical folks aren't teaching the full story of redemption. The discussion is civil, but intense. It mirrors a similar tension in adult Bible study philosophy.

It is very fashionable to teach for life change and certainly our lives are changed by Jesus. But does topical children's ministry aim to change children or introduce them to the Life Changer Himself?

Psalm 111:7 says,
Great are the works of the LORD,
Studied by all who delight in them.

God in his love and mercy gave us the Bible to show Himself to us. Do I want my children to learn how to act like a Christian and change their way of life? Or do I want them to know God's works so well that they, like me, tremble and fall before Him crying out in their heart, "Woe is me!" as Isaiah did?

Children's ministry that has a primary focus of changing kids' lives is self-oriented children's ministry. It is in vogue to talk about life-changing experiences, but the only true life-changing experience is to experience the redemption of the Lord Jesus Christ and be brought to God the Father by the salvation of Jesus Christ.

In my own real-life experience, this sort of woe-is-me humility and life-change comes about by encountering God and His works as He choose to reveal them, in His complete Word.

Studying the Bible is not about stuffing my head with knowledge! It is about getting to know my LORD. Would we ever tell our spouses that we didn't want to hear their life stories because "it isn't relevant to me"? Or, "it doesn't really impact me?" God doesn't need our adoration and affirmation, He tells us stories of His works only in His mercy. Why aren't we listening?

Are you experiencing the full revelation of God by reading all of His Word? I love the Victory Bible Reading Plan which gives me a chronological reading of the OT, a daily Psalm or Proverb, an annual reading of the NT, and a reading of the Gospels twice annually.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

John Brown

Kansas History Students:

For your John Brown report I especially recommend the PBS links at right. You will find a clear timeline, a wonderful interactive map, and an interesting summary of John Brown's life. Also, the Wikipedia entry will give you a full account of John Brown.

Be sure to look at the picture of the John Brown mural that covers one wall in the Kansas capitol. This mural is reproduced in Harper's Ferry (see link). The artist John Steuart Curry painted Kansas scenes in our Capitol building, including this giant depiction of John Brown. He is shown holding a "Beecher's Bible" and a Bible.

Be sure to begin your report by using the clustering worksheet or the paragraph planning sheet. You will need to turn these in with your final report.

Don't forget about your symbols!

Family with a Mission

Last Friday's Wall Street Journal declared family mission statements to be the new status symbol of the wealthy (see the WSJ Wealth Report blog). These mission statements guide wealthy families in the use of their money across generations--at least ideally. Consider this mission statement quoted in the article, "We want our capital to allow our children and their children to be able to find their passion and pursue it with excellence." The article reports that this wealthy couple's "three daughters went on to Ivy League schools and successful careers."

Does your family have a mission statement? We do. No, my husband and I didn't meet with consultants and attorneys to draft a family mission statement and ours has nothing to do with financial wealth. In fact, we haven't even formalized our mission statement, although here it is:

The Edwards family lives to serve Jesus Christ and train our children to live a life in His service.

We don't have money like the wealthy couple with three daughters to fund this goal, but we do have assets--capital--to invest in pursuit of our mission. Chief among these assets is our time.

Our decision to homeschool is rooted deeply in our mission to train our children to live a life of service to Jesus Christ. We have concluded that homeschooling is the best way for us to accomplish this aim. Likewise, it is the reason we are involved in Bible studies and AWANA. In countless ways this unwritten mission statement guides our family.

When faced with an opportunity that requires our time or talents, we look back to the mission and ask each other, "Will this help us stay on mission? Or is this off mission?"

As our children grow we are pressed on every side to add more activities to our schedule. Most all of these activities are good, wonderful, enriching things. We can't do everything, so we come back to our mission statement.

How will we know if we've stayed on mission? We won't know fully until we see Jesus. Only He can judge our success. Even if our children grow up to embrace the mission for themselves, it isn't evidence of our faithfulness to the mission. But Jesus knows our hearts and watches every decision we make along the way.

As Christians, our mission statements are status symbols of a different kind. They identify our status as children of the King and servants in the Kingdom.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Kansas History: Great work!

Kansas History students:
I read through your Native American reports yesterday and you all did a super job! These three-paragraph reports were well-constructed, which is a very important skill. I noticed strong topic sentences, good supporting information, and interersting concluding sentences. I can tell that you planned your reports before writing them. Pre-writing really does pay off!

Native American history before Europeans is indeed spotty. After all, the Indians were not recording their own history, so we must rely on the early accounts of the Spanish, the French, and the Americans who wrote down what they saw.

There is no doubt that the American Indians suffered greatly as a result of white people settling and moving west across the land. In an attempt to remedy the situation, the American government moved the tribes west, giving them designated land.

This happened in Kansas in 1825. The United States government began relocating tribes to the "useless" plains. (I gave you a map of these areas last Tuesday.) This is not just a part of Kansas' history. Many of the states west of the Appalachians were designated for Native Americans for a time until settlers won out and pushed them further west still.

Historical events are complicated and many people try to simplify events to remember them better. Unfortunately, most historical conflicts are not just the good guys against the bad guys. White people were harsh and unfair to Native Americans, but they also suffered greatly from Indian attacks, raids, and wars.

Remember that before you criticize historical people, you must FULLY understand their point-of-view and never forget that their point-of-view was not the same as yours, today, in 2007. Most important, you must remember that all people are sinners, even Christians. When we see the sin of Christian people in history, it saddens us even more than the sin of non-believers, but we can have mercy on them. Sometimes sin is easier to notice one hundred years later! Perhaps those that follow us will see more clearly the sins of our own generation.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Kansas History: Kansas City

Kansas History Students:
Thank you for your Native American Reports. I look forward to reading them.

For your Kansas City report, remember that you don't need to write an essay, just answer each of the five questions with 2-3 sentences. Use the links on the blog and library books or encyclopedia resources that you have. Be careful not to copy straight from your sources. Instead, use this time to practice summarizing information from more than one source.

Kansas City, Kansas is located in Wyandotte County. You will find as you read that the early history of Kansas City, Kansas overlaps considerably with Kansas City, Missouri. The two cities grew up together around the river and have always been closely linked.

Do your best not to get bogged down by irrelevant details. Look for connections with the Sante Fe and Oregon Trail, if any, and look for the slave state-free state battle impacting Kansas City. (More on this in class next week.)

Have a great week!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Real Life

This week is "Flag Week" at the Edwards' home. We are learning about the War of 1812, President Madison and First Lady Dolley Madison, Francis Scott Key and his Star-Spangled Banner anthem, and Old Glory herself. The kids love all the history stories, but putting their new-found knowledge into their own words seems to put the knowledge into long-term memory. We relied on "What You Should Know About The American Flag" by Earl P. Williams, Jr. for flag details and protocols.

Hope asked me to put her paragraph about the American flag on the blog.

Higher Learning?

I'm adding a new book to my to-read list: Education's End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life. This book by Anthony Kronman, a professor at Yale, examines the way places of higher learning have lost their way. By following a German research model, universities and colleges value narrow, specialized thinking in professors. This is a great model for the natural sciences, but it has proven to be a disaster to the humanities.

Although I haven't read the book yet, I'm glad to see that this subject is getting the attention that it deserves. Christians especially can beware of the agenda-driven secular university, but all Americans should care deeply that higher education in the humanities is more indocrination than education.

Professor Kronman is not the only one calling for a return to classical liberal arts education and one hopes that there is some momentum building that might succeed in bringing back real learning about Western Civilization. (See also Diane Ravitch, Tracy Lee Simmons, and others.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Formation through Hardship; Wisdom Beyond Our Years

(Kansas History Students: Look for my Kansas History posting in the September archive.)

Did you see Clarence Thomas on 60 Minutes Sunday? I happen to catch this segment following a football game and watched mesmerized (as I popped Sunday night's batch of popcorn). If you missed it, read the transcript or watch the segment.

It is striking to see how the hardship Justice Thomas endured early on served to shape him into the man he is today. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) famously said, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." Quite anti-Christian and credited with bringing us the post-modern age, he nevertheless found a nugget of truth in that remark. The Bible tells us that as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). Every one of us can point to difficult circumstances in our lives that, in the end, formed us into the person that we are today.

It is odd, then, that as a homeschooling mom my first instinct is not to help my children navigate through difficulty successfully, but to look for ways to remove them from the difficulty. This might be my way, but it is not God's. Over and over again the Bible tells us of men and women of God who were not rescued or removed from the difficulty they faced, but they were strengthened by the power of God to endure it.

My mothering is so inevitably flawed, but each morning I implore the great Redeemer to redeem my efforts and even in my failures to somehow use that to make my children wiser, stronger, and yet more dependant on their Savior.


PBS has been broadcasting Ken Burns' latest documentary entitled The War, which tells tales of World War II in the voices of those who lived through it. I've seen portions of episodes here and there, but last night as I watched I was overcome with a feeling of sadness. I wasn't feeling, however, grief about the horrors of war (although it is horrible). When I remembered reading Psalm 90 just a few days before I understood my sadness.

Psalm 90 is a prayer of Moses, the only Psalm credited to this man of God. Excerpts from the Psalm:

You return man to dust and say, "Return, O children of man!"
For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.
You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. . .
For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. . .
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants! Satisty us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!

As I watched the elderly veterens recount their memories and evaluate the impact of those experiences on their lives, I felt a grief for the passage of time. The hard-earned wisdom that comes from numbering one's days and enduring a span of toil and trouble is lost to the generations that remain. I'm grieved that our culture prefers to take direction from the young and foolish and so discredits the wisdom of those whose years are coming to an end like a sigh.

We can remedy this by listening, as Ken Burns did, to the wisdom of the aged. And we can compensate for our youth by studying the wisdom of the ages and learning through the experience of others in ages past. This might give us wisdom beyond our years.
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