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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.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Into the Fire

In April the three oldest Edwards Academy kids took a standardized test over the course of a week. I administered the test for a group of kids from several homeschooling families with the help of my mother and mother-in-law and a few more homeschooling moms. Each day I opened our testing time with a devotional. Here's a re-working of what I presented on Tuesday, the second day of testing.

Yesterday we talked about the only test that really counts, the test that God has given us. How did we do on that test? We all failed it, didn’t we? We’re all sinners. But Christ died for our sins. If we believe in Him, we can be saved. We can pass the test because of Christ.

Today I’d like to read from Psalm 66, beginning with verses eight and nine:
8 Bless our God, O peoples;

 let the sound of his praise be heard,

9 who has kept our soul among the living

 and has not let our feet slip.
We praise God together. He kept our soul among the living. He keeps us alive. He has not let our feet slip. God is taking care of us, isn’t He? Let's keep reading.
10 For you, O God, have tested us;

you have tried us as silver is tried.

Silver is found in the earth. Miners find it looking like rough and ugly rocks. In order to be transformed into a beautiful necklace the silver ore must be purified and separated. There are other metals in a rough lump of silver ore. Assayers put the silver ore through a process to separate the silver from the other metals.

A crucible is a pot or container to hold the metal. Old-fashioned crucibles look a bit like flower-pots. But the crucible is placed into a super-hot furnace. The heat melts the silver down. The dross, or impurities that are in the silver, rises to the top and the assayer scrapes the dross off of the molten silver. The molten silver can be poured into a mold by the silversmith and formed into beautiful jewelry.*

Look at this picture of a crucible placed into a furnace. Would you like to be placed into a furnace like this? Can you imagine that God would do that to you? Do you think that your parents would do that to you?

If they love you as God loves you, they would. Maybe they already have. What hard things are you facing right now? This week of testing? Moving to a new city? Is it hard to play with neighbor kids who watch T.V. shows that your parents don’t allow? 

Why don’t your parents just fix these hard things that you are facing? Why do you think they don’t just make it easier for you? Probably they could.

God is the same way with His children. He doesn’t make things easier for us. In fact, Psalm 66 tells us that He places us in the crucible to be refined in the fire. He puts hard things in our life.
 11 You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;

12 you let men ride over our heads;

we went through fire and through water;

These verses tell us that God gives us hard burdens. He puts us in situations where things are unfair. He gives us leaders that are mean and unjust. He gives us neighbors or friends that have more things than we do. He sends us through fire and water and lets others get ahead of us. Why does He do these things? Because He is sanctifying us.

Sanctification is a big word that simply means that God is making His children more like Jesus. After we believe in Jesus, God uses the hard things in life to refine us, to get rid of the sinful attitudes and selfish thinking. Becoming more like Jesus is called sanctification.

But we should not be discouraged by hard things. The rest of Psalm 66:12 says this:
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

God has abundance in store for us. We will experience His blessing as we obey Him. We’ll change inside. We’ll find His love growing in us. We’ll look forward to the ultimate day in which we will see Jesus face to face.

A week of testing might be like the crucible for you. You feel the heat. It is uncomfortable. It hurts. But if your eyes are on Him you will finish the week more like Jesus.

I've posted before about how hardship is a tool God uses to make us more like Him. Also, in a post called "Saying No to Webkinz" I thought through the difficulty of putting my children in a place of hardship socially because we don't buy a popular toy. 

*This summary of the process is intended to make a point spiritually. I’m not a chemist, assayer, or silversmith and I’m sure this is painfully over-simplified.
All Scriptures ESV.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Family Movie Night

This weekend we watched the South African film Faith Like Potatoes. This movie was just released in the U.S. on DVD in April, but was released in South Africa in 2006. The movie tells the story of Angus Buchan, a white African farmer who is forced to move his family from Zambia to escape violence. They resettle in South Africa, but encounter more difficulty. 

Through this experience Angus puts his faith in Christ and becomes a self-described "wild man" for Jesus! God puts him to the test and he comes out strong. Today Angus Buchan has a speaking ministry in South Africa and his son Fergus and his wife run the Beth Hatlaim Children's Home on Shalom Farm. For more information about the Buchan's check out their Shalom Ministries website here. The movie is based on the book Faith Like Potatoes, written by Angus Buchan. Keep in mind, as you watch, that the film telescopes nearly twenty years of action into just a few years, probably to simplify casting. In fact, the Buchans came to Christ in 1979 and their famous potato crop was planted in 1997. 

Mr. Edwards and I watched Faith Like Potatoes together Friday night and then showed it to our kids Saturday night. Parental Warning: There is a very tragic and emotional scene that we completely skipped over when showing it to our kids. We stopped and explained what had happened, but it was too intense for our kids' sensitive hearts. Also, the Angus character displays ungodly attitudes, anger, and language before he comes to Christ. Finally, portions of the film are spoken in Zulu with subtitles, so if you have new readers you might need to help read some of the dialogue to them (this is no big deal).

Movie poster image uploaded from Wikipedia under fair use.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Patriots Grieve

Harold Hongju Koh [is] the Yale Law School dean whom Pres. Barack Obama has nominated for the critical position of legal adviser to the State Department....Koh is a radical transnationalist. Transnationalist is not a term of abuse; it is the term Koh himself uses to distinguish his worldview from that underpinning traditional American jurisprudence — the jurisprudence of national sovereignty.

So writes Andrew McCarthy here at National Review. Click for the full article. The implications of this view undermine our rights and freedoms as guaranteed by our Constitution.

Maybe its just me, but I think it is impossible to be a Patriot and hold a transnationalist worldview. I love my country, so this deeply saddens me.
Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world." John 18:36

Glorying in His Grace

There is plenty we need to work on around here, ranging from academic weak points to character weaknesses, but it is time to celebrate God's grace! (This post is mostly for the benefit of interested relatives--forgive me for boring the rest of you!)

Remember back in early November '08, when I was so thrilled that Lane had made the leap from painfully sounding out words to reading sentences? Since then he's made steady progress. Yesterday morning he was working on his Bible Study Fellowship lesson and watching him I realized how far he has come this year. Usually I need to read the Bible passages to Lane and help him read his BSF questions and compose an answer. Yesterday Lane was well into Deuteronomy 27, reading it aloud to himself, before I even knew he was working on his BSF! Long about verse 12 he needed some help with the names. 

Hope and Sydney have both finished their AWANA T&T Book One. Last night they were able to spend their "AWANA bucks" at the AWANA store. (AWANA bucks are earned all year for saying verses, attendance, game time, etc.) They both made wise choices at the "store" and took my advice to steer clear of the candy table ("Why waste your money on something that you got for free on Easter?"). Best of all, Sydney proudly showed me the Bible that she bought with her bucks. We have Bibles already, of course, but Sydney found a pretty one and bought it. She is reading it this morning as a prized possession. I know she treasures not just the pretty blue and brown cover, but the words inside which are God's. And that makes Mr. Edwards and I exceedingly glad.

Sydney and Hope bike over to Grandma's house most afternoons to read their literature, but I was surprised last night when Hope asked me, "Mom, this summer can we bike down to Grandma's to read the Bible since we won't have literature [assignments]?" 

Her question reminds me of Jesus' promise to give us what we ask for in His Name and to give us the desires of our heart when we delight in Him.

Of course you may bike down to Grandma's this summer to read your Bible with her!
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,
2 Timothy 1: 8-10 (ESV)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Please Help Me, Mommy..."

"...I fell in the mud puddle."

The Only Test that Counts

Last week the three oldest Edwards Academy kids took a standardized test. I administered the test for a group of kids from several homeschooling families with the help of my mother and mother-in-law and a few more homeschooling moms. Each day I opened our testing time with a devotional. Here's a re-writing of what I presented on Monday, the first day of testing.

How do you feel about a week of testing? Are you scared? Worried? Think it will be boring? Feel confident and sure of yourself? (We discussed this a bit.)

Is it important to score well and get a high score? (The kids gave some responses, mostly "yes.") 

No, it isn't important to get a high score. 

Does that surprise you? It isn't like high school where your SAT or ACT score is important for getting into college. No, this is a different kind of test. This test is designed to measure what you know and help your mom, your teacher, be a better teacher for you. If you get some answers wrong, it tells her what you need to work on. The most important thing is that it is accurate. Cramming and practicing each night won't help make the test an accurate measurement of what you've learned.

Still, standardized testing can be a little scary. I imagine that some of you here today are pretty nervous. Worried. Maybe you're not looking forward to this at all. You are afraid the test will be hard. Some questions will be harder than others. The test writers do that on purpose; don't worry about it. Just do your best. 

Remember, God promises to be with His believers when they face challenges. Let's read Isaiah 43:1b-3a:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3  For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
If you are redeemed because you believe in Jesus as your Savior, you can know that God promises to be with you and will not let you be overwhelmed.

But some of you aren't worried about this week. You have an easy time with standardized testing. It isn't hard for you. You aren't afraid or worried. 

But you might be tempted in another way. You are tempted to be prideful. You're tempted to be selfish and frustrated that you have to wait for others to finish. You're tempted to think that you are special because you are good at tests.

Guess what? God doesn't measure your worth by how easy or hard school tests are for you. No, He's concerned with something much more important: your heart. God doesn't sort us out by our test scores. The only test that God has given us is one that we've already failed, isn't it? What test would that be?

It is the test of sin or obedience. Will we fall into sin? Or will we obey God? We all have sinned against God and have failed His test. It doesn't matter if you score perfectly on the standardized test this week. You're a sinner. It doesn't matter if you score poorly on the standardized test this week. You're a sinner.

But Christ died for our sins so that we could be saved. If you have believed in Christ and trusted Him as your Savior, God will welcome you into His Kingdom--not because of anything you have done. But because of God's grace in Jesus.

So whatever you're feeling about testing week, fear or confidence, each of you need to take your eyes off of your own performance and put your eyes on God. God has given us all different abilities, different strengths, but the same Jesus. Our world tells us that our value comes from our performance, but God tells us differently.

Psalm 34:1-5 says,
1 I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
It doesn't matter if you score perfectly. Your soul should make it's boast in the Lord. The only thing that you can be proud of is what the Lord has done for you. 

If doesn't matter if you score poorly. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. Look to Jesus and you do not need to be ashamed.

Scriptures from ESV, emphasis added. Image by Amy Edwards. Want to know more about administering standardized tests for homeschoolers? Click here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

After reading this post on the Desiring God blog, we decided to adopt the tradition of making a playdough tomb as our own. Wednesday we made the playdough tomb and baked it. Although we ran out of time this week and haven't painted it yet, the kids made plenty of stick people to act out the events of the crucifixion. 

This morning, Good Friday morning, I read from John 19 about the crucifixion and the kids moved their people around, made a sign for the cross that said "Jesus [of Nazereth] King of the Jews" and set up soldiers dividing the garments among them. 

Later today we will read about Joseph of Arimathea removing the body from the cross and placing it in the tomb with the help of Nicodemus, who brought about 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes for the tomb. We will seal the stone and talk about the beginning of Sabbath, which forced the women, who longed to care for his body, to wait until the day after the Sabbath (Luke 23:56).

As the Desiring God post suggests, our kids will awake Easter morning to find our little tomb empty--the stone rolled away and the body gone. We'll find Jesus somewhere else in the house and read about his appearances to the women and his disciples.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Originalism and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

About two weeks ago it was Lane's turn to pick the bedtime audiobook. He couldn't decide, so I chose for him. He tends to re-listen to his favorites, so I offered up a story that he usually casts aside: Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. I wondered if the time was ripe for him to connect with the tale of the fierce little mongoose that bravely fights off the pair of cobras, Nag and his wife Nagaina. I popped the CD in the player, pressed "play," kissed Lane and Toby goodnight and left the room. I paused at the door waiting for the protest. I was ready to turn around and replace the disc with an old stand-by, but there was no protest.

The next day I found Lane in his room listening to Rikki-Tikki-Tavi again. He began playing it repeatedly. He loved it!

Several years ago we read a beautifully illustrated book of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. I borrowed it again from the library yesterday and Lane asked me to read it to him this morning.

As I started reading it wasn't long before Lane interrupted me.

"Mom, that's different from the CD."
I looked at the book cover and noticed that it was adapted and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. The CD is unabridged--straight from Rudyard Kipling's pen.

The funny thing is that Lane not only noticed each difference, he quoted the original passage to me! After a page or two our reading became an analysis of the changes and "adaptations" that Jerry Pinkney made. The kids began to wonder why.

After I read "watchdog" and Lane told us that the original story says "bloodhound" instead, I commented, "He probably thought children didn't know what a bloodhound was and so he switched it to watchdog."

Sydney protested, "I know what a bloodhound is! He must think kids are dumb!"

A few of the changes that Lane noticed:
"...he wasn't dead, just tired" instead of "he was not dead but half-choked."
The picture book read,
"I am Nag. Look, and be afraid!" Lane told me, "Mom, he left out the part about his markings."
Kipling wrote, 
"I am Nag. The great God Brahm put his mark upon all our people, when the first cobra spread his hood to keep the sun off Brahm as he slept. Look, and be afraid!" He spread out his hood more than ever, and Rikki-tikki saw the spectacle-mark on the back of it that looks exactly like the eye part of a hook-and-eye fastening."
And Pinkney wrote:
"Well," said Rikki-tikki, "I'm looking, but do you think it is right for you to eat baby birds?"
But Kipling had written,
"Well," said Rikki-tikki, and his tail began to fluff up again, "marks or no marks, do you think it is right for you to eat fledglings out of a nest?"
And Pinkney wrote:
"At the bottom of the plaster wall there was a brick pulled out to make a drain for the bathwater, and as Rikki-tikki listened, he heard Nag and Nagaina whispering together in the moonlight."
But Kipling had written:
"At the bottom of the smooth plaster wall there was a brick pulled out to make a sluice for the bath water, and as Rikki-tikki stole in by the masonry curb where the bath is put, he heard Nag and Nagaina whispering together outside in the moonlight."
There are many other changes, of course, for Pinkney wrote an adaptation. Adaptations can be a great way to bring a long or difficult story to young children. But in this case, Lane connected with Kipling's original and Pinkney's adaptation was like thin gruel.

(Except for the illustrations, of course, which Lane loved!)

It does seem sad, however, to re-write some of these great stories "for today's readers." A richness is lost, and I'm saddened by the capitulation it seems to represent. Instead of thinking of all the great words kids will learn, we change them to words they already understand! I love that Kipling says "rubbish heap" rather than Pinkney's "garbage heap." Yes, we say garbage, but now Lane knows just what a rubbish heap is.

How sad that with this beautiful picture book Kipling's original words have landed on the rubbish heap.

(By the way, the kids listen to an abridged Peter Pan and we are reading from the original. This time they are noticing the missing passages and enjoying the extra detail that was cut.)

Image from Wikipedia. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Peter's Shadow and Mea Culpa

This afternoon we cozied up to read Peter Pan aloud together.
"...She returned to the nursery, and found Nana with something in her mouth, which proved to be the boy's shadow. As he leapt at the window Nana had closed it quickly, too late to catch him, but his shadow had not had time to get out; slam went the window and snapped it off.
You may be sure Mrs. Darling examined the shadow carefully, but it was quite the ordinary kind."
"Mom!" It was Lane, cutting me off with his exclamation. "It wasn't too ordinary. Ordinary shadows don't snap off."

"That's true!" We laughed.
"...[Mrs. Darling] decided to roll the shadow up and put it away carefully in a drawer, until a fitting opportunity came for telling her husband. Ah me!
The opportunity came a week later, on that never-to-be-forgotten Friday. Of course it was a Friday.
'I ought to have been specially careful on a Friday,' she used to say afterwards to her husband, while perhaps Nana was on the other side of her, holding her hand.
'No, no,' Mr. Darling always said, 'I am responsible for it all. I, George Darling, did it. Mea culpa, mea culpa--'"
I looked up from the book with a giant smile for Hope and Sydney, wondering, hoping, that they would remember from their Latin lessons several weeks ago--

"My fault! My fault!" Sydney nearly shouted in glee. I grinned at her and continued to read the next line--
"He had had a classical education,"
wrote J. M. Barrie. 


Last week Hope gave a brief speech to her co-op class about Mary Slessor. She was nervous, but got through it. She had really practiced at home making eye contact with her audience, but after her speech she told me, "Mom, I just couldn't look up at everyone. I knew if I did I would stop!" 

Sydney wanted to attempt to type her speech about Amy Carmichael. She did type the first draft, along with her friend's help. I helped her on the second draft with the typing. She dictated some more details and we worked together to make improvements. Sydney was so scared to present her speech, but made it through! She did it!

In our focus on the 1970s, we talked a bit about environmentalism, pollution, and recycling. We had earlier toured a recycling sorting facility with our co-op, so I gave Lane the assignment of designing his own recycling center. He drew the floor plan on paper and then built it with Toby's duplo blocks.

In the picture above you see the loading zone on the left. The conveyor belt brings in the "trash" and workmen stand along the side sorting. The round yellow piece is the office table. Over on the right you see the trucks pulling up to the building.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lines of Literature: Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, part III

Our concept of reaching out to others with the Gospel usually includes service, as it should. As a church we seek to serve our community, meet their emotional and physical needs where we can, and serve. There is a danger that lurks in our service, however. A danger that is named Pride.

If you've ever been on the receiving end of charity, you know it isn't easy to accept it. (If it is easy to accept, than it might be wise to check if you are growing lazy, considering 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13: "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'If a man will not work, he shall not eat.' We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.")

I never really considered that a deeper way of connecting with someone might be asking for them to serve me, until I read this passage from Bailey's Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, in regard to Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4):

"Middle Eastern wells do not have buckets attached to them. Each traveling group must have its own...The text assumes that Jesus and the disciples had such a bucket, but the disciples had taken it with them to the city. Jesus could easily have requested that they leave it behind for his use. But he had a plan.

By deliberately sitting on the well without a bucket, Jesus placed himself strategically to be in need of whomever appeared with the necessary equipment. The woman approached. On seeing her, Jesus was expected to courteously withdraw to a distance of at least twenty feet, indicating that it was both safe and culturally appropriate for her to approach the well. Only then could she move to the well, unroll her small leather bucket, lower it into the water, fill her jar and be on her way. Jesus did not move as she approached. She decided to draw near anyway. Then comes the surprise.

Jesus asks for a drink...
...Contained in this dramatic action is a profound theology of mission. Jesus so totally humbles himself that he needs her services. Jesus does not establish his initial relationship with her by explaining how she needs him and his message. That will come later. Rather his opening line means, "I am weak and need help! Can you help me?"
Daniel T. Niles, the great Sri Lankan theologian, has written of Jesus:
'He was a true servant because He was at the mercy of those whom He came to serve...This weakness of Jesus, we His disciples must share. To serve from a position of power is not true service but beneficence.'

...Niles concludes with, 'The glory of the Lion is the glory of the Lamb.'

The first "mission trip" in Christian history was the sending out of the twelve disciples recorded in Mark 6:7-13. The disciples were commanded to, 'take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics' (Mk 6:8-9).

They were to go in need of the people to whom they went..."
(Large portions of this excerpt are left out to conserve space. I encourage you to read the book so you don't miss a thing. Quoted from pages 202-204.)

The sentences in bold face, above, especially struck me. When I think about evangelizing and "illuminating," I often think of things I can do for people. I confess it never occurred to me that in some circumstances a far humbler approach is to reveal my own need and bless those I hope to share Christ with by asking for them to meet my need. 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Teacher Training

I'm very excited to be attending the Children Desiring God conference in just four weeks from today! I'm also looking forward to going along with several of the other Sunday School teachers from our church. It will be so good to spend some extended time with them on the trip and grow closer to them. (We use the CDG curriculum at our church.)

Perhaps most of all I'm looking forward to the worship and seminars and speakers. We'll hear from John Piper, Bruce Ware, and Paul Tripp and many others in seminars.

I have to confess that I am not looking forward to being away from my family. In the abstract it sounds wonderful: Four days without dealing with a tantrum! Four days away from laundry! Four days away from cooking!

But the reality is that I am really going to miss my family!
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