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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, December 28, 2010

Post-Christmas Diversions

The kids are busy listening to their new audiobooks, which they received for Christmas. The hilarious and sound-effect-laced Hank the Cowdog is playing in the boys' room. Hope and Sydney listened to The Light Princess, by George MacDonald, yesterday. The Island of Blue Dolphins is also a new, albeit sad, favorite. What a luxury this week after Christmas is! Five full days of no school and hours of new things to do: puzzles, audiobooks, books, and movies. 

Although my time isn't nearly as free as theirs (our dishwasher is currently awaiting service--my sweet husband is putting on his appliance-repair hat in the evenings this week), I'm also squeezing in some time reading on my new Kindle, which was a surprise from Mr. Edwards. Thank you, dear!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

The people that walked in darkness
 have seen a great light:
 they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. 
Isaiah 9:2

Friday, December 24, 2010

Glory to God in the Highest

"Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!
Who will not fear,  Lord, and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed."
Revelation 15:3b-4

I'm stopping this morning to repent of my casualness about the Incarnation. I tremble at His holiness. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 Ornaments

We have a tradition of giving our children Christmas ornaments that reflect the meaning of their names. There are stars for Hope, because the Star of Bethlehem gave hope of the Anointed One, the Savior, to the Magi. 

There are angels for Sydney. Although we didn't name Sydney purposely after St. Denis, because her name comes from the French for St. Denis, a third century martyr and bishop of Paris, we decided to give her angels. St. Denis was a missionary to pagan Gaul, announcing the good news of Jesus, just as the angels announced the good news to the shepherds.

Lane receives cross ornaments, reminding him of the eternal life given to him by Jesus through His death on the cross. Lane's name, of course, means "narrow road," and Scripture tells us that the road to eternal life is a narrow one, with few who take it. 

We give Tobias bells. His name comes from the Hebrew for "The LORD is good," and bells are rung in praise of a Savior, for He is good.

This is Lydia's first Christmas and she is getting her first ornament, a pineapple. Lydia is named for the biblical Lydia, who not only put her faith in Jesus, but opened her home in hospitality to the other believers in Philippi. Pineapples are traditionally a symbol of hospitality.

Special thanks to my friend Jane, who is an expert basket weaver. Jane invited me to her workshop and taught me to make Sydney's angel, Toby's bell, and Hope's star. She handmade Lydia's pineapple and Lane's cross for me. Thank you so much, Jane! I had a marvelous time and these ornaments are beautiful and special.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Reading

For the month of Advent, I've filled our coffee-table drawer with all the Christmasy picture books that we own, plus some from the library. Here are some of the Christmas themed picture books we've been reading and have handy for when we feel like curling up on the couch together for a read-aloud.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore
Lucia Morning in Sweden by Ewa Rydaker
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Santa, Are You for Real? by Harold Myra
Frosty the Snowman by Steven Nelson and Jack Rollins
The Church Mice at Christmas by Graham Oakley
Papa Panov's Special Day by Mig Holder, from a folktale adapted by Leo Tolstoy
Lucky Pup's Christmas by Ken Brown
Jacob's Gift by Max Lucado
Turkey for Christmas by Margeurite de Angeli*

It is a mix of old and new, familiar and fresh, but in no way is it a complete list of "must-reads" for Christmas.

When I look over the Christmasy books we've accumulated, I realize what we are missing: a beautiful picture book of the nativity, preferably with a text straight from Scripture. Have you found such a book?

*This was a new book for us this year, thanks to a tip from Cindy's blog. We loved it. Our Christmas will be leaner this year, so this book, in which the father asks the kids to choose between presents or a turkey for dinner, helped us put life into perspective! Even our lean Christmas is a heap of blessing, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Men for all Seasons

The Edwards Academy has been studying the Reformation in Europe and in England these past weeks. For fun we've reinforced our readings about Martin Luther and Henry VIII with two films that are both, as of this posting, available for viewing through Netflix instant streaming.

Martin Luther (1953)
Starring Niall MacGinnis as Martin Luther

This black and white biopic of the monk who started it all faithfully portrays Luther's journey from a young man studying law, to a monk struggling to please God, to a daring reformer of the church. The movie is very well done, but probably not very accessible to young viewers unless they have already read about Luther in advance. In other words, I don't recommend it as a way of teaching about Luther, but as a supplement to your studies about Luther.

Lane, 8 years old, balked when the film first opened with its black-and-white documentary-like images and narration, but he was soon drawn into the dialogue-driven action that follows.  Hope and Sydney, who had read Luther's story from several sources, recognized that some of Luther's statements were direct quotes from historical sources.  In particular, the depiction of the Diet of Worms matched up exactly with what they had read.

A Man for all Seasons (1966)
Starring Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More, Robert Shaw as Henry VIII, and Orsen Welles as Cardinal Wolsey

The reformation in England can be a confusing string of events for students. Whereas Germany's Luther is clearly a "good guy" that kids can cheer for (even non-Protestants can be thankful for Luther's stand against the corrupt Roman Church officials and their sale of Indulgences), the struggle between English Henry VIII and the Pope over Henry's sought-after divorce gives us no obvious hero. Although Henry ultimately overthrows the papal authority over the English church, he does so for selfish and sinful reasons.

Robert Bolt's play A Man for all Seasons takes this episode in history and finds a hero in Sir Thomas More, Henry's Chancellor.  In the play, Thomas is heroic for his stand on principle, refusing to sign the Act of Succession which declared Henry VIII head of the Church of England (freeing him to divorce Katharine of Aragon). Unfortunately, the real Thomas was no friend of religious freedom and persecuted those in England following Luther's doctrinal reforms. His loyalty to the church trumped his loyalty to the state, but biblical authority was secondary to both. A Man for All Seasons ignores this entirely.

The play and film elevate personal conviction as the ultimate virtue, in this embracing moral relativism. Thomas declares that he earns his way to heaven by staying true to his conscience. If his opposers are acting true to their consciences, they too earn their salvation. Both men then, believing in conflicting truths, can please God by their faithfulness to their belief. This idea that personal sincerity is more important for salvation than the object of belief is contrary to Christian orthodoxy and I doubt that the historic Sir Thomas More would say such a thing.

Nevertheless, I recommend A Man for all Seasons as good theater to compliment the study of this time period, even with its anachronistic themes. My kids enjoyed seeing characters they know from their reading dramatized and in period costume.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lucia Fest in Lindsborg

December 13 is St. Lucia's day, a holy day celebrated in Scandinavian cultures to honor St. Lucia, a third century Christian martyr. Lucia was Sicilian, but she is said to have brought food and light to the poor and needy of Sweden in a desperate time on their shortest day of the year.

We returned to Lindsborg, Kansas this year for the St. Lucia Fest and, in spite of bitter temperatures in the twenties and whipping winds, the seven of us had a nice day with Grandpa and Grandma, Aunt Jenny, and cousins.

At the Swedish Crown restaurant we had a smorgasbord of traditional Swedish food. Swedish meatballs, Jansson's Temptation (a Swedish potato au gratin casserole), salmon with a mustard-dill sauce,  and sausage were some of the main course dishes. We were happy to fill a dinner plate with desserts like bread pudding, ostkaka (a custard like cheesecake), ginger cookies, and Swedish pancakes with lingonberry jam.

As we watched the folk dancers perform, we couldn't believe how they managed in the bitter cold. Contrast their period costumes with our winter coats and hats...

The seven cousins (Lydia was shopping with Grandma in a nice, warm shop) were happy to crowd into this former phone booth to warm up.

Following the street dancing, the formal crowning ceremony of St. Lucia takes place at a Lindsborg Lutheran church. This brief service, with choral performances, congregational hymns, a reflection on St. Lucia by the pastor, and the crowning of St. Lucia, was followed by a reception of ginger cookies and cider. Hope and Sydney and their cousin Haley were glad to have their picture taken with Haley M., Lindsborg's Lucia for this year. Yes, those are actual candles burning!

If you ask most of the kids, they will probably tell you that their favorite part of the day was the park. The icy wind and below-freezing temperatures mattered little to them!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Better and Better

Here we are, without our brood, thankful for a marriage that just keeps getting better and better, by the grace of God. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Snapshots of Life

It is very clear to me now why youngest children, particularly (perhaps) girls, are often spoiled. Lydia is such a happy baby and her happiness rubs off on all of us, except when the big sisters are fussing over who gets to hold her!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Card Photo Shoot Outtakes

Last Saturday we put on our "wedding clothes," as the kids now call them, to go to a wedding. All dressed up, we decided to shoot our family picture for Christmas cards. Out of about sixty shots, we found one that will go out with Christmas greetings. It isn't easy to get one photograph that brings out the best in seven people, especially when persons number six and seven are under five years old! My dad gamely agreed to be photographer and judging from his laughter, I think these outtakes are his favorites.

We were at this for nearly thirty minutes I think, when Toby's tongue escaped!

I'll post our final choice with bloggy Christmas greetings on Christmas Day.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Age of Exploration

As we studied the age of exploration (with Tapestry of Grace Y2, weeks 12 and 13) we also learned about navigation, cartography, map projections, and latitude and longitude. With this as background, it seemed like a good time to go geocaching, something we had never done before.

After traipsing through a field, we found one of the caches, but a second one was not to be found. Mr. Edwards snapped a picture of me replying to a text message with one hand as I held the GPS in the other--and with Lydia in the sling.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dedicating Lydia

We were pleased to formally dedicate Lydia to the Lord on October 31. At our church, this is a time for parents to publicly commit to bring up their child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) and to acknowledge before the congregation that their child is entrusted to God. 

Our pastor read some of our hopes for Lydia from the "parenting roadmap" that we wrote in preparation for the dedication:
We chose Lydia's name in part because of the beautiful example of Lydia (in Acts 16) of Philippi. Like the Philippian Lydia we want our Lydia to be a woman of prayer, a worshipper of God, a teacher of Jesus Christ and a gracious hostess. We also pray that God would open our daughter Lydia's eyes to salvation found in Jesus Christ, by grace through faith, just as He did for Lydia in Paul's day.

Acts 16:13-15
And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.
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