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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.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

That I might not sin against You


I've been memorizing I Thesselonians 5:14-17 this week. How convicting for me in my homeschooling role!

And we urge you, brothers,
admonish the idle,

It seems that I'm always after the kids for being lazy. Maybe I've got that down...

encourage the fainthearted,
...Hmm, but I'm pretty certain that my admonishments are more common than my encouragements, and in some areas of life my kids are fainthearted to be sure...

help the weak,
...My three-year-old is strong-willed, but weak in other ways, lacking wisdom and responsibility. Am I helping him gain wisdom and responsibility or just admonishing his weaknesses? I need to discern the difference.

be patient with them all.
...Okay, I need this!

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil,
This is harder than it seems. Lord, help me to put a stop to the tit-for-tat arguments that brothers and sisters fall into...

but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
...and help me show them how to do good to each other instead!

Rejoice always,
Even when the juice concentrate is emptied onto the counter instead of in the pitcher?

pray without ceasing,
Yes, Lord, I need your strength!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hanging on by a Thread

Queen Elizabeth II Riding Along in the Coronation Coach Wearing Crown and Carrying Orb
Queen Elizabeth II Riding Along in the Coronation Coach Wearing Crown and Carrying Orb

In our week studying 1950s culture, the kids watched a YouTube program about Queen Elizabeth's coronation, which took place in June, 1953. In preparation for this, I found the text of the coronation liturgy. I was astounded to realize that the coronation ceremony was in fact a church service. Of course, I should have known this, but I forgot that it would be so. Naturally, the Queen is the head of the Church of England, so it stands to reason that she would take her crown in obedience to God.

The coronation liturgy includes selections from Psalm 122, Psalm 84, Psalm 141, Matthew 22, I Kings 1, Matthew 11:28, John 3:16, I Timothy 1:15, I John 2:1, and Psalm 34:8 as well as hymns, creeds, confessions, and other prayers.

I cannot know if the speakers of the liturgy, including the Queen, were sincere in their belief, and I don't argue for a government-sponsored church. But I know that the culture accepted the ceremony and did not rebel against the use of Scripture and prayer to crown their Queen. The culture acknowledged God. Looking over the liturgy, I wondered, what will Charles do if he takes the throne? Will he go through the coronation with this liturgy?

Just days later, I saw this interview with Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias in my local newspaper and had my answer. In the interview, he was asked, "You are a visiting lecturer at Oxford. Are you surprised by how few people actually attend church in England, considering the great Christian leaders and authors who once lived there? And what has your experience at Oxford been?" His answer:
"It's very sad. England and Europe are on their way out. There's no way their cultures will survive. It looks to me that the domination of Islam will take over. England and France are hanging on by a thread. The sharia laws already have been introduced in England. If Charles gets on the throne, he has said he won't be the defender of the faith; he will be the defender of the faiths." (My emphasis)

There is much to criticize in past generations, for sin has stained every age. It isn't that things were perfect in the 1950s. Certainly our study this week of African-Americans' struggle for civil rights reminds us that our culture still committed many sins. But if we've conquered those sins, we've traded them in for others: abortion, co-habitation, divorce, sexual promiscuity.

But the consequences to our culture of denying Christ must be far greater than even the consequences to our culture for sins against each other. For Christ redeems us and without Him we remain in our sin, without hope.

The Orb with the Cross was delivered to the Queen's right hand by the Archbishop, saying:
Receive this Orb set under the Cross, and remember that the whole world is subject to the Power and Empire of Christ our Redeemer.

And earlier in the ceremony, she received the Bible as the Archbishop spoke:
Our gracious Queen: to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes, we present you with the Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords.

We will stand before Christ not as a culture, however, but as individuals. Perhaps Christians are relying too much on culture to affirm our beliefs. If so, that day is behind us.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).
Photo from Allposters.com

It's a good thing

It's a good thing that bathroom lavatories have a drain hole at the top edge!

Otherwise Tobias would have flooded our hall bathroom yesterday.

The water was brimming when I walked by.
And he was brimming with excitement.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Memorization and Meditation

Back on January 2, I read Psalm 1. Verses 1 and 2 say:
"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night."

In my prayer journal I wrote: Lord, You told me today I need to meditate on Your Word through Scripture memorization. I was convicted to do this, but didn't follow through. A few weeks ago I looked up the Fighter verses from Desiring God ministries, and planned to begin memorizing them, but didn't get started.

I'm reading through Jerry Bridges book In Pursuit of Holiness right now and through this God also has shown me that I'm missing a key spiritual discipline if I am not memorizing Scripture. In chapter nine Bridges writes:
Jesus said, "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me" (John 14:21). Obedience is the pathway to holiness, but it is only as we have His commands that we can obey them. God's Word must be so strongly fixed in our minds that it becomes the dominant influence in our thoughts, our attitudes, and our actions. One of the most effective ways of influencing our minds is through memorizing Scripture. David said, "I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11).

To memorize Scripture effectively, you must have a plan. The plan should include a selection of well-chosen verses, a practical system for learning those verses, a systematic means of reviewing them to keep them fresh in your memory, and simple rules for continuing Scripture memory on your own.

As I've been pursuing holiness more intentionally this month, I've struggled through the frustrations that Paul writes about in Romans 7. But through that God has shown me that while I can be cut to the heart with conviction from Him in my morning "coffee with the LORD," I forget about that in the bustle of the day. To keep the conviction of my early morning Scriptures in my mind throughout the day, I must be meditating and memorizing Scripture.

This morning, after more encouragement to memorize Scripture from my friend Sharon, I followed through on starting to memorize and meditate on Scripture using the Fighter Verses plan. All Scripture is profitable, so plans like these aren't necessary superior because of the verses they include, but they are valuable for the structure and focus they provide, which I sorely need.

(They are called "Fighter Verses" simply because they help us Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12)

Desiring God Ministries has a schedule for memorizing Fighter Verse Set D in 2009. I'm a bit behind, but I'm going to get started on this schedule. Perhaps you will join me?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lines of Literature: Baghdad at Sunrise

I wouldn't actually call this account of a brigade commander's duty in Iraq "literature," but it was an interesting, detailed telling of retired Colonel Peter Mansoor's service in Baghdad in 2003-2004. I admit that I began skimming about half-way through, mostly because I don't have the time to give this book, which is due soon at the library. Also, I'm still reading the The Coldest Winter (hardcover, 736 pages!) and can't bring myself to skim it--it is too interesting.

"Baghdad at Sunrise" refers to the dawn of a new era in Iraq and, one hopes, the Middle East itself. Col. Mansoor's book helped me understand better the missteps and challenges that faced America in the "post-war" Iraq, but before the so-called surge. In fact, his book helps one understand why the "surge" was really the only sensible strategy. Even so, after reading the book the best quote I can share is the one that was quoted in the book review that initially interested me in the book. Near the conclusion, Col. Mansoor writes:

Fifteen months after my return from Iraq, I was invited to a cocktail reception on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. After discovering that the son of the host and hostess was interested in military affairs, I suggested that since the United States Military Academy was just upriver from New York City, perhaps he should consider applying for admission. The hostess blanched, put her arm around her son's shoulders, and replied, "No, no, no! He has much more important things planned for his life." She then patted me on the arm and said, "But I'm glad we have you people to protect us." Such attitudes among the nation's elite, if unchecked, could in time lead to a crisis in civil-military relations in the United States, defeat in the long war against Islamist extremists, and the eventual collapse of Western civilization. (p. 352)


The condescending attitude toward what was once the most honorable of all educational paths is discouraging. But it also reminds me of a parallel attitude in spiritual matters. Do we have that mother's attitude about our kids when it comes to their spiritual calling?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

He's Three

Tobias turned three last week. The morning of his birthday I spent extra time in prayer, praying over Toby, thanking God for this precious gift. We named him Tobias in part because indeed, "The LORD is good," as his name--from the Hebrew--testifies.

LORD, You are a good God and have blessed me with the privilege of mothering Toby. May He put his trust in You and devote his life to Your service. May Mr. Edwards and I faithfully obey you in disciplining and discipling Tobias. May Your grace and mercy cover him and may his heart give you praise!

Cowboy hat chocolate cake with Grandpa and Grandma


Blowing out candles
Look at all that yummy pizza!
Showing off gifts with Grandma
Toby's Grandma S. doubles as his preschool teacher and Toby is proud to call her that! Toby spends four mornings a week with Grandma (he's standing with her in the above picture) and she has taught him a lot this school year. What a blessing it is to homeschool with the loving support of grandparents! Both sets of grandparents partner in our efforts and we are so grateful. I found, to my frustration, that I wasn't getting some of the usual preschool sorts of things done with Toby because I was focused on third grade and first grade work for Hope, Sydney, and Lane. Not only that but Toby was making it difficult to accomplish school for everyone. Grandma came to the rescue.

In his preschool, Grandma has taught Toby to draw "Mr. Sunshine" and trees. They take walks down to the neighborhood lake and a nearby farm yard to see the horse and goat. She takes him on a weekly grocery shopping trip. But best of all she has taught him about Jesus. Grandma has an Evange-cube which Toby loves to talk through with her. He can tell you that he is naughty, Grandma is naughty, everyone is naughty, but that Jesus died for his sins and rose again and went to heaven. Grandma has also taught him other Bible stories. Ask Toby why the fish swallowed Jonah and he will quickly reply: "Because he ran away from God!" 

Thank you Grandma and Grandpa S., Grandma and Grandpa Edwards, Uncle Doug and Aunt Leida, and Uncle Jason and Aunt Jenny for investing in Tobias's life.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

1950s


Last week we studied the Korean War and Truman (TOG Year 4 Week 21) and this week we're studying Eisenhower and the 1950s (Week 22). It is a fun week as we take a break from war talk and focus on the booming prosperity, fashions, trends, and discoveries of the 1950s. In the picture above, you see the kids holding their DNA models, made with Twizzlers, gummy bears, and toothpicks.

We also watched the Eisenhower episode of American Experience's The American Presidents series and have read some snippets of Upstairs at the White House (see other post) in addition to our regular history readings. To get a feel for the era, we've added fifties hits to the iPod and the girls made a collage of '50s fashions while Lane glued some pictures of 1950s cars onto his page. We also watched on YouTube a program about Queen Elizabeth's coronation, which was interesting to watch on the very week that we in America inaugurated our new President.

Here's the iTunes link to the 50's hits that we found:
Bill Haley & The Bill Haley Comets - Fabulous 50s "Rock Around the Clock" and other 50's hits from iTunes

Next week (TOG Week 23) we will learn about the uglier side of our history in the 1950's and 1960's: the treatment of African-Americans and their struggle for civil rights. We'll also cram into next week a quick look at African nations in the 20th century and their dates of independence. Although we won't be able to next week, we may visit the National Historic Site of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling in Topeka, which is not far from here. Speaking of field trips, we will also go see the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, in Abilene, Kansas, later this year, probably in our summer break.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It Says...

I handed Lane the Swiffer dust-mop and told him, "Please clean the floor." He took the dust-mop in his hand, and then remembered what he had read on the Swiffer box:

"It says, 'Keep away from pets and children.'"

I laughed. "Do it anyway!"

Lines of Literature: Upstairs at the White House


A favorite book of mine is Upstairs at the White House. It is light-weight history rather than serious study, but written in 1973 by Chief Usher J. B. West it gives his perspective of his time with Presidents from Roosevelt to Nixon. A few lines from a passage about the transition from the Trumans to the Eisenhowers, a period that we are studying this week in the Edwards Academy:
It is a tradition that the President-elect ride up to the front door of the White House to greet the outgoing President, and then that they ride together to the Inauguration. In my thirteen years there, this was the first time I'd witnessed the ceremony, because there'd been no "outgoing" President since 1932. And I almost missed this one because the President-elect [Eisenhower] was so angry with the President he didn't want to go through with it. But he did, of course.

I watched the two grim-faced men step into the special, high roofed limousine (General Eisenhower refused to wear a tall silk hat, for which the limousine was designed), and I was glad I wasn't in that car. But I had a strong feeling that Mrs. Truman should have been at her husband's side. She always had been, in every endeavor. (p. 126)

A few pages later, Mr. West writes that Mamie Eisenhower had a habit of working from her pink-covered king-sized bed, leaning against a mountain of pillows and the pink-tufted headboard, until nearly noon. She summoned the White House staff, including Usher West, to her room in the morning to discuss the day ahead. Her mother, Mrs. Doud, lived in the White House with the Eisenhowers.
Like her daughter, Mrs. Doud stayed in bed until noon. And every morning, they chatted across the hall by telephone, each sitting up in her own bed, resting against dozens of pillows. "This is a long-distance call from Mother," Mrs. Eisenhower joked one morning, waving her ever-present cigarette in the direction of Mrs. Doud's room. (p. 141)

And, about President Eisenhower, Mr. West writes:
Unlike Mr. Truman, President Eisenhower confined his work to regular hours in his west wing office. It wasn't that he devoted less of himself to the job, though.
"I believe there is a point at which efficiency is best served," he told me. "After you spend a certain number of hours at work, you pass your peak of efficiency. I function best in my office when I relax in the evenings." (p. 137)
In the evenings, President and Mrs. Eisenhower, with Mrs. Doud, took dinner on their tray-tables in the West Hall, while watching the television news. Along with the rest of the country, they were that caught up in the new TV mania. (p. 158)

The President's taste in movies, however, was more restricted. Providing Mr. Eisenhower with enough Westerns became amajor task for the Usher's office--because he'd seen them all, perhaps three or four times. Every night the projectionist prepared a list of the films available from the motion-picture distributors for White House screening.
"Can't you find a new Western?" President Eisenhower kept asking. (p. 161)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Jingling in my Jeans

Lane has a pocketful of coins today that he keeps rattling around. I vaguely wondered about it until I overheard him just now singing to himself, 
"With my pocket money jingling in my jeans/I've got a hundred and sixty acres full of sunshine/A hundred and sixty million stars above!"

Yes, we have Marty Robbins music on our iPod, a Bonanza DVD borrowed from the library, and cowboy hats, bandanas, click guns, and boots. It's the Wild West around here!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Lines of Literature: All-Of-A-Kind Family

Sydney is reading All-of-a-Kind Family (Hope read it last week) and as I've mentioned before, they love to listen to the audiobook of More All-of-a-Kind Family. The girls have been relating to us at mealtimes happenings form the book, so I thought I would share a few lines.

"Well," suggested Ella, "why don't we go to Fanny's house for a change?" Fanny was Henny's special chum outside of the family.
"No, we can't. We're mad at each other."....
"You'll have to make up with her when Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) comes. You know everyone must forgive each other on that day," Ella reminded her.
"Oh, it's a long ways off to Yom Kippur." Henny shrugged her shoulders. "What I want to know is, what're we going to do today?"
And, later, in a chapter on the Sabbath:
"I hope Moma is not getting any live fish this week," Charlotte said. "I like to see them swimming around in the bathtub but I don't like it when Papa cleans them afterward."
But Mama was not getting any live fish this time, only pieces of several different kinds of fish, whitefish, yellow pike and winter carp--that meant gefullte fish (stuffed fish) for the Sabbath, yum, yum!
Sydney shared the above lines with me because it reminded her of A Carp in the Bathtub, a book we read together last year during spring break. The first time you encounter something new, it is interesting. When you come across it again in a different context, it can be exciting to realize, "I know what that is!" 

Friday, January 16, 2009

Edwards Academy Magazine II

This quarter Lane (6 years old) is writing a "Space Race" book. This assignment comes from Tapestry of Grace and goes along with our studies of the 1950s and 1960s. For TOG Level 1 writing, this is the first quarter that he is really writing paragraphs. So, the first week of this quarter, Lane wrote his first paragraph. In TOG, little writers graduate from draw and caption assignments, which are meant to help them organize events into first, second and third chronology, to an actual paragraph.

In these pictures, you can see his first simple clustering diagram, his paragraph, and his illustration.This is a week long process, with the clustering diagram completed one day, and about half the paragraph on the next day, and the rest of the paragraph on the third day. The illustration is done last. For Lane, this is a good pace and any faster would frustrate him. I do not require a second draft at this point, but next quarter he may be at that stage. He will write one paragraph a week this quarter for his Space Race book.


Meanwhile, Sydney and Hope had another expository report assignment this week. Their topic: The Korean War. We started the process at our Truth Treasure Hunters meeting, when I gave a short lecture on the Korean War. As I talked, the kids filled out a "Who? What? When? Where? Why?" chart. This gave them a good start on the facts that they needed for their expository report and prepared them to complete their clustering diagram (Sydney's is pictured here). After that, they wrote their first draft. You can see Sydney's first draft, after I made corrections, edits, and comments. (Click for a closer look.)












When I edit the girls' first draft, I look for:
  • capitalization, punctuation, and spelling mistakes
  • sentences that need improving because they are awkward or need adjectives and adverbs
  • words that should be replaced with a better choice. It is tempting to give them the better word, but I try to steer them through leading questions or a thesaurus.
  • missing information that is important to the thesis
  • sentences that don't support the topic and need to be removed or changed
Sydney and I discussed her first draft after I marked it up, and then she wrote her second draft. For now, I am not requiring a third draft because this is already a week long process for them at this stage. Here is Sydney's second draft:


The Korean War
By Sydney Edwards
January 15, 2009

The Korean War started because Kim Il-Sung wanted North and South Korea to be united and communist. The Soviets were given control of North Korea at the end of World War II in 1945 and they put Kim Il-Sung in power. North Korea had a strong army and they had weapons and equipment from the U.S.S.R.

South Korea was controlled by the U.S. after World War II. They put Syngman Rhee in power. Americans trained the army. South Korea had a very weak army because the Americans did not train them enough or adequately supply their army. In America, the people were becoming afraid of communist spies from the U.S.S.R. and they were afraid of communism spreading around the world. Because of this, the U.S. helped South Korea fight the North Koreans.

North Korea invaded the South on June 26, 1950. By September, the Allies (United Nations troops) were pushed into the Pusan Perimeter, a small corner of southeast Korea. At this point, General Douglas MacArthur ordered U.N. troops to invade at Inchon and the Allies pushed to Pyongyang by November 26, 1950. The spies told MacArthur that the Chinese army was helping North Korea, but MacArthur did not listen and he charged the army to the mountains. And there was the Chinese army! The Chinese came to North Korea’s aid and they fought their way to Seoul. The Allies fought back to the 38th parallel and they fought for three years. Kim Il-Sung did not unite North and South Korea but he kept North Korea communist.


Tessellations

Reptiles by M. C. Escher
Reptiles

In our last Truth Treasure Hunters meeting, we learned about tessellations, identical shapes that fit together exactly to cover a space completely. Artist M.C. Escher was famous for tessellation art and was able to create amazing tessellations. For a look at these, check out this site. The Truth Treasure Hunters learned how some shapes tessellate (squares, triangles, rectangles, hexagons, even with unequal sides) but others do not (pentagons). We passed out pattern blocks and gave them some time to play with shapes that tessellate, although they had a good time making their own patterns with a mix of shapes.
Tessellations were first known through mosaics, which is where the term comes from (the Latin word tessa refers to the stone shapes used as mosaic tiles), but Escher brought new attention to the mathematical possibilities of tessellations.

The tessellations.org site has a good project for creating your own tessellations that is pretty manageable for all ages. Our preschool age kids played with pattern blocks (and wandered off to play) while the kindergarten kids and older were able to complete this project. Younger kids should follow the tracing method, while older kids can try cutting out shapes and gluing them together (like a mosaic). Sydney's tessellation is shown above, on the left. She made her template (follow the link for instructions) and traced it on her paper. She thought the shape looked like a girl, and drew one on. Eventually she hopes to draw the girl on each shape. Hope made the colorful pattern with pattern blocks, shown on the right.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Natural Goodness?

Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the holiday provides the Edwards Academy a nice introduction to our Tapestry of Grace Year 4 study of the civil rights era. As you think about King and his influence on our culture, consider this quotation from "Pilgrimage to Nonviolence (April 1960)" which I discovered in TOG Year 4, Week 23:
At this stage of my development I was a thoroughgoing liberal. Liberalism provided me with an intellectual satisfaction that I could never find in fundamentalism. I became so enamored of the insights of liberalism that I almost fell into the trap of accepting uncritically everything that came under its name. I was absolutely convinced of the natural goodness of man and the natural power of human reason.

The basic change in my thinking came when I began to question some of the theories that had been associated with so-called liberal theology....
It was mainly the liberal doctrine of man that I began to question. The more I observed the tragedies of history and man's shameful inclination to choose the low road, the more I came to see the depths and strength of sin. My reading of the works of Reinhold Niebuhr made me aware of the complexity of human motives and the reality of sin on every level of man's existence. Moreover, I came to recognize the complexity of man's social involvement and the glaring reality of collective evil. I came to feel that liberalism had been all too sentimental concerning human nature and that it leaned toward a false idealism.

I also came to see that liberalism's superficial optimism concerning human nature caused it to overlook the fact that reason is darkened by sin. The more I thought about human nature the more I saw how our tragic inclination for sin causes us to use our minds to rationalize our actions. Liberalism failed to see that reason by itself is little more than an instrument to justify man's defensive ways of thinking. Reason, devoid of the purifying power of faith, can never free itself from distortions and rationalizations.

King speaks of theological liberalism, but TOG points out that the definition of political liberalism is "A political theory founded on the natural goodness of humans and the autonomy of the individual and favoring civil and political liberties, government by law with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority." (From the American Heritage Dictionary, see full definition here.)

Sometimes when evaluating the worth of public policy, it is difficult to ascertain what a Biblical or Christian opinion should be. Can we really say what Christ would have us do for health care? For wealth-transfers? Regarding the economic stimulus package? But the path is a bit clearer when one examines the beliefs that underpin the policy, as King relates doing in this article. We can say with confidence that a belief in the natural goodness of man not only conflicts with our experience, as King found, but it also conflicts with Scripture. We can beware of policies that depend upon this belief.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hope of Heaven

Today at lunch, the kids were discussing the New Heaven and the New Earth.

Hope told her brothers and sister, "Dad says that in the New Earth that God will make, little children will be able to reach into a nest of rattlesnakes."
"What?"
"Right! The lion will lie down with the lamb. Animals won't be our enemies. We won't have enemies!"
"What will the lions eat?" I asked Hope, feeling a bit mischievous.
"Plants!"
"Oh, of course. God will change everything, won't He?"
"Yes, because there won't be death, so they can't eat other animals."
"But will we be on the New Earth or will we be in the New Heaven?" It was Lane asking.
"We'll be on the New Earth. God made people for the Earth." Hope again, the resident expert on the New Heaven and the New Earth. "God will take us to the New Heaven and we'll stay there while He makes the New Earth. And," she continued, "We won't need cars!"
Lane and Sydney laughed. 
Hope went on, "We won't need cars because we will run without growing weary. We will run everywhere!" She said it with triumph. "We'll have everything that we need."
Sydney chimed in, "We won't need lights because of the Glory of God."
Hope said, "Remember when Jacob slept with his head on the stone? I bet we'll be able to do that on the New Earth. Stones will be comfortable to us."
"We won't have houses. We won't need them." It was Sydney again. "It will be like Eden. We'll sleep under the trees."
"Yeah," said Lane, "But we won't be wearing leaves!"
"No, we'll have clothes," said Hope.
"Don't you think we might have houses?" It was me. "What about when Jesus said, 'In my Father's house are many rooms.'"
The kids looked at me without much of a response.
"Mom?" asked Hope. "Will there be rain?"
"I'm not sure, Hope."

Looking forward to it? For more about children reaching into the viper's nest and lions eating plants, see Isaiah 11. For more about running without growing weary, see Isaiah 40. And for Jesus talking about his Father's house, see John 14:1-3. The New Heaven and New Earth are described in Revelation 21

Isaiah 11: 10-12:
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea.
He will raise a banner for the nations
and gather the exiles of Israel;
he will assemble the scattered people of Judah
from the four quarters of the earth.

Lines of Literature: Lillies of the Field

"His name was Homer Smith. He was twenty-four. He stood six foot two and his skin was a deep, warm black. He had large, strong features and widely spaced eyes...He lived his life one day at a time. There was laughter in him..."
So begins Lilies of the Field, written by William E. Barrett in 1962.

Homer finds himself driving through the West, after being discharged from the Army, and stopping at a small farm populated by a small group of German nuns. Although the nuns don't speak much English, they communicate enough to ask Homer to repair their roof. Homer does the work on the roof and decides that he wishes to be paid for his work, but has difficulty communicating with the nuns. Frustrated, he spies a Bible on the table.

          "...There was a book on the table, a big book, and it talked to him. The Bible! He crossed the room and looked at it, turning a few pages. The type was outlandish and did not look like words, but no other book was organized like this one.
         'You wait right here,' he said. 'I'm coming back.'
          He was afraid that she would not wait, that she would close the door on him; but she waited. He brought his own Bible from the station wagon. It was the one he got in the Army. He had a passage in his mind and he turned pages rapidly. He tore half of the wrapping from a package of cigarettes and wrote on the white side, Luke 10:7.
          Mother Maria Marthe rose heavily and crossed the room to her big Bible. She turned the pages and he knew what she was reading when the page turning stopped:
'And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire.'
           It wasn't exactly what he wanted to say, but he hoped that she would get the idea about the laborer. She walked slowly back and reached for his pencil. In bold letters, she wrote, Proverbs 1:14.
           He spun his own pages and read: 'Cast in thy lot among us: let us all have one purse.'
           'No,' he said. 'I am a poor man. I have to work for wages.'
            Mother Maria Marthe did not change expression. Without returning to consult her Bible, she wrote again on the fragment of cigarette package, Matthew 6:28, 29.
         'And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.'
          'And yet I say unto you. That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.'
           Homer read, baffled. This old woman had answers out of the Book, which surprised him. They did not come to grips with the situation, they did not deal directly with his right to be paid, but they slowed down a man in argument. Before he went into the Army, he had had a head filled with Bible words and figures but they would not march straight for him now as they did once. It wouldn't make any difference. This old woman wasn't going to pay him. She'd never had any intention of paying him...."
Lilies of the Field is a short book about a man who finds, to his surprise, that he is deeply satisfied by work and by service, and struggles against the idea that he might somehow be God's answer to the nuns prayers. I enjoyed the humor of this passage, in which the German nun and the American black man communicate by swapping Bible verses.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Boyhood Expeditions

Lane marched into the kitchen after being called inside from the backyard for dinner. On his way to wash up, he stopped to talk to me.

“Mom!” he said in a very excited voice. I looked at him. He stood there in his rubber rain boots, a toy gun jammed into the waistband of his pants, and a Sprite box on his arm, like a big cardboard sleeve. His dimples were deep because his smile was so broad he could hardly contain it enough to talk.

“I’ve got armor!”

“Armor!” I smiled at him and thumped on the box a few times. “You’re right!” Mr. Edwards looked up from the mail he was reading and looked over at Lane. The Sprite box was a “fridge pack” and fit his arm pretty well, but the box was torn to be shorter and the Sprite artwork on the box was faded by the sun. It was curious because we don’t drink Sprite.

“Lane, where’d you get the box?”

“The P---‘s yard!” His smile and satisfaction persisted.

Mr. Edwards asked, “The front yard or the back?”

Lane’s expression suddenly changed as he realized his predicament. At that moment I knew: he had climbed the fence and fetched this trash out of their yard. He isn’t supposed to climb the fence and be in anyone’s yard but ours. Still, I knew that Lane could do this because I had watched him do it. Sometime ago his ball went over the fence and, unbeknownst to Lane, I watched him scale the fence and retrieve the ball as I stood at our back window. I never spoke to him about it because I knew the P---- family wouldn’t mind him getting his ball.

“The backyard.” He answered obediently and honestly. This surprised me, but I was relieved. It was time to clarify the rule.

“Lane, you can’t climb the fence into their yard.” He knew this instinctively and appeared worried about a coming punishment. “Lane,” I continued, “I know that you can climb the fence and get back into our yard without a problem, but what about Toby? He always tries to do what you do. What if he fell into the other neighbor’s yard? What would I do then? How could I get him out?”

Lane was able to get over the six-foot-cedar fence between our properties only by taking advantage of where our dividing fence met the back fence perpendicularly. The fence between our house and the P----‘s has horizontal boards on our side, but is smooth on their side. Lane was able to get home because the back fence, which belongs to the property behind us, has horizontal boards on our side and runs across both our yard and the P-----‘s. However, this same fence has the smooth pickets on the other side. If Lane---or Toby---tumbled into the yard of the people behind us, it would be very difficult to get out. Especially since we do not know them and they appear to be at work all day long. Their gates could be locked. I shuddered as I imagined myself climbing the fence to try and hoist Toby back over and then trying to figure out my own way out.

Mr. Edwards chimed in, “Plus, they have that dog.”

Lane looked very serious.

“Lane, please don’t climb the fence anymore.” I solemnly told him.

“Besides,” it was Mr. Edwards again; “you need to get permission before you go onto someone else’s property, even the P----‘s.”

“Okay, Dad.”

The boy with a soda box for armor walked off to wash for supper.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Lines of Literature


This is the first installment of a new series of posts sharing interesting, striking, moving, or funny lines from books I read.

From Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea:

"Good night then. I will wake you in the morning."
"You're my alarm clock," the boy said.
"Age is my alarm clock," the old man said. "Why do old men wake so early? Is it to have one longer day?"
"I don't know," the boy said. "All I know is that young boys sleep late and hard."

So true.

Someones in the kitchen with Mrs. Edwards

Hope and Sydney are learning to cook (they are the "someones")! So far they've made a fun "Raggedy Ann" salad (although we forgot to get the lettuce), "Three Men in a Boat" baked potatoes, and pizza. The potatoes included creamed beef, so they learned to make white sauce. We have homemade pizza every Friday night, so last Friday I taught them to make the dough and before long I expect they'll have that recipe memorized!

Here you see Toby poised to eat his salad and (below) smiling behind his "Three Men in a Boat" baked potato. Don't worry: he removed his hat right after the picture and before prayers!


Sunday, January 4, 2009

In Which We Discover "Peanuts"

Edwards Academy kids discovered Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the gang this weekend.

Tapestry of Grace Year 4 (Week 22) suggests that Lower Grammar kids read about Charles Schulz's comic strip and find a book of "Peanuts" strips. The strip began in 1950 and ran until Schulz's death in 2000. We have been reading the strips from 1967 and 1968, just because that collection was readily available from the library.

We don't watch TV, generally, so our kids haven't even seen the annual holiday "Peanuts" specials. They were all meeting Charlie Brown and Snoopy for the first time this weekend.

We sat down to read, huddled around the book on the couch, and the very first comic strip featured Snoopy as a World War I flying ace battling the Red Baron. Lane was hooked! Turning the pages we found Snoopy ice skating and hoping to go to the Grenoble, France Olympics. On the way he sings, "It's a long way to Tipperary..." which our kids thought was hilarious.

After that introduction, we augmented our "studies" with a quick Internet search.

"Lane, look, here's a Sopwith Camel bi-plane like the one Snoopy was flying."
"Hey! It has a target on it!" Lane noticed right away. Just like the Spitfire. "It's British!!"

Another Wikipedia search...
"Lane, here's the Red Baron and his tri-plane."

Then,
"Hey guys, listen to this song." I found a YouTube clip of The Royal Guardsmen singing "Snoopy and the Red Baron." We watched. And watched. And watched again.

Then,
"What about Tipperary, Mom. Can you find the Tipperary song?"

Thanks to Wikipedia, we were listening to it within seconds. All four kids huddled around the laptop grinning.
"Mom, can you find Snoopy singing it?"
"I don't know..." I hit YouTube and searched "Snoopy Tipperary."
"Well, yes, I can."

Well, not singing it exactly, but marching as Schroeder played it on his piano. (It's a clip from the Great Pumpkin special.)

If you hear Lane singing,
"Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more
The Bloody Red Baron was rollin' up the score
Eighty men died tryin' to end that spree
Of the Bloody Red Baron of Germany"

you'll understand why.

Meanwhile, Toby, who hates his winter cap, found a new reason to wear it this morning.
"Come on, Toby, put on your World War I flying ace hat and let's go get in the car."
"OK, Mom!"

Thanks, Mr. Schulz!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year Reading Wishes

Last week I read this piece by Karl Rove, describing President Bush's love for reading. After an idle conversation between Rove and Bush on New Year's Eve 2005 about Rove's resolution to read a book a week in 2006, President Bush turned Rove's resolution into a reading contest between the two men. In the piece, Rove shares some of the titles and topics that Bush has been reading.

I'm not sure I'll be able to keep pace at a book a week (after all, I have no White House staff to prepare my meals, handle my laundry, and clean my house as our President does), I wish I could. So with the wish of being able to read at least a book a week (not counting what I read to the kids), here are some books I'd like to read in 2009, in no particular order:

  • Baghdad at Sunrise: A Brigade Commander's war in Iraq (Mansoor)
  • Team of Rivals: The political genius of Abraham Lincoln (Goodwin) Because everyone's read it but me!
  • The Forever War (Filkins) A NY Times reporter's book of the war.
  • Understanding Vietnam (Jamieson) Because I don't understand Vietnam. It wasn't yet history when I went through school, but I wasn't old enough to have it in my memory as a current event. 
  • Reaching for Glory: Lyndon Johnson's secret White House tapes (Beschloss) Although I always see Beschloss on PBS, I haven't read his books yet.
  • The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khurshchev (Beschloss)
  • Manhunt: the twelve day chase for Lincoln's killer (Swanson) Bush read it.
  • A Deadly Shade of Gold (MacDonald) and other Travis McGee novels by MacDonald. Bush read these and I haven't.
  • Executive Power (Flynn) A Mitch Rapp adventure that I haven't read yet.
  • Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number (Timerman) About Cuba.
  • American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House (Meacham) Bush read it.
  • The Making of a Quagmire: America and Vietnam during the Kennedy era (Halberstam) More about Vietnam.
  • The Coldest Winter: American and the Korean War (Halberstam) Bush read it. We are about to learn about the Korean War in our homeschool, so I'm glad for the suggestion.
  • The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (Atkinson) Another Bush read.
  • The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam will shape the Future (Nasr) Another Bush read.
  • The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800 (Winik) Bush read it.
  • A History of the English Speaking Peoples Since 1900 (Roberts) Bush read it.
  • Atlas Shrugged (Rand) Foundational to conservatism but I haven't read it.
  • Basic Economics: A Citizen's guide to the economy (Sowell) I love economics!
  • On Classical Economics (Sowell)
  • Applied Ecomonics (Sowell)
  • The Kite Runner (Hosseini) Everyone's read this but me.
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns (Hosseini) 
  • The Quiller Memorandum (Hall) An old--if you call the 1960s old--secret agent novel.
  • Berlin Game (Deighton) More cloak-and-dagger spy stuff.
  • The Confessor (Silva) Another spy story.
  • The Man Who Was Thursday (Chesterton) Because I need to read Chesterton
  • Orthodoxy (Chesterton) Ditto.
  • The Salzburg Connection (MacInnes) More spy stuff.
  • The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (McCall Smith) I just stumbled on this series and thought I would check it out.
  • Tears of the Giraffe (McCall Smith)--more Ladies' Detective Agency series
  • Morality for Beautiful Girls (McCall Smith)--more Ladies' Detective Agency series
  • The Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway) From TOG Year 4
  • The Lilies of the Field (Barrett) Ditto
  • Cry, the Beloved Country (Paton) Ditto
  • A Raisin in the Sun (Hansberry) Ditto
  • Death be not Proud: a Memoir (Gunther) Ditto
  • No Exit (Sartre) Ditto
  • What's So Great about Christianity (D'Souza) I read the fascinating Imprimis article by D'Souza; now I want to read the whole book.
  • Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead (Stoppard) TOG Year 4
  • I Shall Not be Moved (Poetry by Maya Angelou) TOG Year 4
  • Fahrenheit 451 (Bradbury) From the TOG Year 4 list. I haven't read this since high school. Will my perspective be different?
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four (Orwell) Ditto comment on Fahrenheit 451
  • Gilgamesh From TOG Year 1
  • The Analects (Confucius) TOG Year 1 
  • The Iliad and The Odyssey (Homer) TOG Year 1
  • Bhagavad Gita TOG Year 1
  • The Penderwicks: a summer tale of four sisters, two rabbits, and a very interesting boy (Birdsall) I haven't read this yet. It sounds like a wonderful novel for my daughters, but I'm a bit suspicious of recently published children's books, so I want to read it first.
  • The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (Birdsall) A sequel.
Karl Rove's article also says, "Each year, the president also read the Bible from cover to cover, along with a daily devotional." I'll be reading my Bible again this year, too. I may not get to read any of these books that I hope to read, but I will do that.
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