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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.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The New NIV

Why are Bible translations such a deeply emotional topic for some? Because the higher we hold God's Word, the more we care about getting it right. When we believe that the Scriptures are inspired by God in the original manuscripts, we want to know exactly what the original said. The catch is that translating anything from one language to another will always be an inadequate process. There just isn't a decoder ring somewhere that can convert text from one language to another as if each word in one language had an exact counterpart in the other.

In Bible translation, there are typically two approaches, as I'm sure you know. The formal equivalent, which is as word-for-word as possible, and the dynamic equivalent which tends to be more interpretative. The dynamic equivalent approach aims to communicate meaning, and if a literal rendering makes no sense to readers, the translation uses other words to get at the meaning.

The New International Version has always been a dynamic equivalent translation. This doesn't mean it isn't trustworthy, just that the aim of the translators is to compose English that communicates the meaning of the Scripture to contemporary readers. Well known literal translations include the English Standard Version and the New American Standard Version. If you want to know as exactly as possible what the words in the verse are, these are the translations to consult. However, some people find that they are not very readable, particularly in group settings.

The new NIV revisions, according to the Committee on Bible Translation, are organized around three categories: changes in English, progress in scholarship, and concern for clarity. Be sure to read the CBT's notes (follow the link) to fully understand these categories.

Let's look at a few familiar verses and see how the NIV has been revised (changes in bold print).
Psalm 23:1-4
NIV 1984
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

Matthew 4:19
NIV 1984
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

Acts 4:12
NIV 1984
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Philippians 4:12-13
NIV 1984
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

(This last example is cited by the CBT as a change made to improve clarity. Verse 13 is often wrongly applied or taken out of context. This is an attempt to point readers back to the context. Paul is explaining that he is able to be content because of Christ, who gives him the strength to do that.)

This whole topic, I must add, is a problem of abundance. We are rich indeed when our language offers us multiple translations, online study tools, and commentaries around every corner (or link). Let us not lose sight of this fact. And yet, with all of these options, can the English-speaking world be described as "people of the Book"? While I enjoy looking at these different versions, please don't forget that the important thing is to be reading God's Word! It will be of no use to you to have what you consider to be the best, most reliable, most popular, most endorsed Bible translation if you are not reading it, obeying it, and keeping it as your authority for living.

This post is second in a series.  The first post: "The End of NIV 1984."

Edwards Academy Update

Shortly before Christmas break we held our second quarter school Unit Celebration with our Tapestry of Grace group, Truth Treasure Hunters. We are studying Tapestry of Grace Year 3 Unit 2, which covers the early part of the reign of Victoria as well as the antebellum years of the United States, including the Texas Revolution, the Mexican-American War, and the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails.

Here are some pictures of the kids and their displays.

Sydney prepared a display board on Early Nineteenth Century Fashion. She did some research and wrote about the fashion changes over three decades stretching from 1820-1850: the Restoration Period, the Romantic Period, and the Victorian Gothic Period. Notice she fixed her hair to imitate the popular style of a center part, spaniel curls framing the face, and hair pulled back into a bun.

Hope's display board is pictured above. She researched the family tree of Queen Victoria and created a genealogy chart tracing Victoria's family from her grandfather King George III to her descendants, noting those who were rulers of other European nations. She followed the British line to the present queen, Elizabeth II.

I didn't actually plan for our kindergartener to make a display board, but he felt very left out so we threw together a display of some of his work.

Lane put together a display featuring the Alamo. He wrote a paper about the battle of the Alamo, as well as a couple of additional Texas Revolutionary battles. He found some interesting photos and made some of his own drawings. Lane also made a salt dough facade of the Alamo mission (see it on the table, near the back left). You can see that he also made a fun paper model filled with miniature soldiers.

Several of the children in the group presented their papers at our Celebration. Hope and Sydney read portions from George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin to the audience and we talked a little about the things they learned from this book, which is a beautiful allegory of the Christian life.

As you can tell, the kids wore costumes to evoke something of the era.

Unit Three starts on Monday!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pinterest Project!

Over our Christmas break, Sydney and Hope sewed some cute reversible bags using a pattern that I found on Pinterest.

Since I'm pretty much a sewing novice, this was a little comical. Thankfully my mother stopped by midway and gave us some good sewing advice.

What is it about Pinterest that makes everything seem possible?

The pin is here.
You can find me as veritasathome on Pinterest.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The End of NIV 1984

After over 300 years with the King James Bible as the universally-read English Bible, the 20th century was the one in which multiple English translations flooded the market. Now, incredibly after just 27 years, the New International Version has been deemed out-of-date and in need of a revision. The classic New International Version Bible (copyright 1984, now called the NIV1984) is now not available for purchase. Zondervan has recalled all the copies, according to a local bookseller, and is shipping them overseas. Only the "new" NIV, hereafter known as the NIV, will be available.

There are many good reasons for this and I don't deny them. Yes, thanks to Spielberg et al the term "alien" carries extra terrestrial connotations. I'm sure using "foreigner" speaks more clearly to the modern reader. And, to be sure, scholarship has opened our eyes to more accurate meanings. And then there is the gender issue.

I know many people have reacted extremely negatively to the NIV's revisions because the translators have chosen to use more inclusive pronouns. This pronoun fight amuses me a little. The hard truth is that English speakers no longer use "he" or "brothers" to universally refer to mankind--err, humankind. We may hate that this is the outcome of feminism, but it doesn't change that it is indeed the outcome. This is a change in English usage; it is not an alteration in the Scriptures. If "brothers" continued to faithfully communicate the meaning, it would continue to be chosen. The Committee on Bible Translation has explained themselves on this issue, and I accept their explanation. I do not see an agenda in the translation. It seems to me that the NIV is a worthy dynamic equivalent translation.

However, the very fact that the NIV 1984 is no longer available is forcing churches and Christian groups everywhere to take stock. New NIV 1984 pew Bibles are unavailable. Do we change out the whole set of pew Bibles to the new NIV? Or, if we are changing anyway should we consider New American Standard? English Standard Version? Holman Standard Christian Bibles?

What about the versions that we memorize together? What about kids in AWANA?* Sunday school children are given Bibles as gifts--what now?

The NIV revisions have only changed 5% of the words throughout the text, but the problem is that there is enough of a change that one can't just carry on and use both interchangeably for memory work.

As it happens, I haven't been using NIV 1984 for about seven years or more, since my personal Bible became an ESV. I really love the ESV, which is a literal translation and as such in a different category from the NIV,  but in recent weeks I've been reading a Holman translation. Watch for a follow-up post coming soon in which I review the Holman Christian Standard Bible as a possible alternative for you.

How did we come to this? We are told that English is changing very rapidly--so fast that even the translations for modern readers, like the NIV 1984, are now considered "old." This is true, but one can't help being nostalgic for an earlier era.

It wasn't that long ago that people of all classes learned to read with the King James Bible. If a word sounded strange because you never used it in everyday speech, well, you learned what it meant and carried on. The English speaking world shared several things in common: the King James Bible, Pilgrim's Progress, and Shakespeare. Yes, English changed, but when we all shaped our education around old but excellent English writing, we passed the torch of beautiful English, at least in some way, on to the next generation.

Now, however, television and movies are the keepers of our tongue. People change their cadences to mimic popular sit-com speakers. Hip phrases go in and out of fashion as quickly as our clothing. Old meanings that we all used to recognize are slipping away from common knowledge. Inside jokes allude to movie lines, not lines from the King James or Shakespeare.

If old and dated English is an obstacle to reaching readers with the Gospel, than by all means, let's get a new translation. But forgive me for feeling a little disappointed that Bible translations are now on a 25 year update cycle.

This is the first in a series of posts on the topic. Watch for my review of the Holman, a post looking at the actual NIV revisions, and a post with links to other buzz on this topic.

Image is the author's photograph of her personal ESV Bible.
*According to AWANA's Facebook page, they are thinking and praying over this issue very carefully, as well as surveying their participating churches. If you want to give input to this process, contact your AWANA missionary.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Reaping What We've Sown

Just the other day I was musing over the loss of biblical literacy among scholars. Now I see that the New York Times and every other major news agency worldwide has revealed their own biblical illiteracy by attributing a verse from Hebrews to the poet Yeats.

Check this out from Eric Metaxas via Fox News (yes, he's the one that wrote Bonhoeffer).

How far we we've come from the days when a British officer cabled from Dunkirk the three words "But if not..."  and they bore the full meaning of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego's declaration to Nebuchadnezzar, before being throne into the furnace:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Links for your Christmas Weekend Reading

My Due App is chiming! The to-do's that are due today make a long list.

But just in case you, unlike me, have some time to put your feet up today and relax, here are some links to interesting reading.

Two years ago, I introduced Lane to Tintin. Since then, he's read all the library Tintin books and collected a few of them for his own shelf. Now, the movie is out. We haven't seen it yet, but it seems that it will not disappoint us. If nothing else, Tintin will now be discovered by boys everywhere, which is surely a good thing. Here's a movie review of the new film: "The Wonderful Adventures of Tintin" by Frederica Mathewes-Green

I appreciated this short piece from National Review's Jonah Goldberg. He addresses the cultural problem of the "war on Christmas" from a sympathetic non-believer's point-of-view. "Santa's Not Pagan" by Jonah Goldberg

The Iowa caucuses are looming. Stephen Bloom decides to decode Iowans for the rest of us, but in the process he tells us more about himself. The religious influence on Iowan culture particularly galls Bloom. He even sites the fact that one of his student's parents had a "come to Jesus meeting" with her after she was out too late as an example of the dangerous and deep influence of religion on Iowans. He's very afraid that these hapless people have such national influence on our Presidental race. Be sure to read to the end and note that following the initial publication of the piece, multiple factual errors of Bloom's had to be corrected. Very revealing. "Observations from 20 Years of Iowa Life" by Stephen G. Bloom

On an entirely different, but perennially popular, topic I give you "No Sex Please, I"m British" by Carl Trueman at the Reformation 21 blog. Maybe you missed it, but sex is the topic du jour of Christian Bible studies. Mark Driscoll just published his new, and reportedly graphic, marriage book, Real Marriage, and he is already well-known for his teaching and preaching on the Song of Solomon. I like Mark Driscoll's preaching. Mr. Edwards and I have listened to his podcasts off and on for several years. In fact, while I'm teaching third graders Sunday School, Mr. Edwards is in an adult class that is studying Driscoll's "Love Life" series on the Song of Solomon. Nevertheless, I thought Trueman's post is a good balancing view. Read it all, but here's a portion,
"The Bible's refusal to reduce sex to physical acts is surely one of the reasons why it uses poetry to describe it. Poetry communicates meaning and significance which cannot be reduced simply to the reference; and the turning of the Song of Songs primarily into a sex manual is arguably a greater act of reductionism than jumping straight from the text to Christ and the church."
The Due App is still chiming with all I must do today. Baking, wrapping, laundry, laundry, laundry. The mundane never goes away, even on the most beloved Holy Day of the year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Snow of Legends

This afternoon while we were out driving, snow began to fall, swirling, blowing and softly landing onto our car. Walking to and from the car, we all were amazed at the big, beautiful snow flakes. As they landed in our hair and on our sleeves, we gaped at the visible detail of each flake. The six points were sharp and clear, contrasting against the color of our coats.

Driving off to our next stop, Toby told me from the backseat, "Mom, I just thought the six points in snowflakes were a legend."

(Above image is a photomicrograph of a snowflake, taken by William Bentley in 1890. Bentley's photos of snowflakes proved that each snowflake is a uniquely formed snow crystal. The image is from Wikipedia, but belongs to the Smithsonian Collection.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

True Mettle

"To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects." (Margaret Thatcher, 1981)

The Wall Street Journal's Saturday Essay on Margaret Thatcher ("What Would the Iron Lady Do?") is fascinating. You'll want to read it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Faith of Victorians

Just yesterday Albert Mohler spoke with Timothy Larsen to discuss Christianity during the Victorian Age. Edwards Academy kids are studying the Victorian Age this year, so this topic is front and center in our school and home.

It really is striking to realize that the people of the 19th century,  regardless of their belief or unbelief, brought up their children to know the content of the Bible. This habit is completely lost to us today, and one consequence Larsen mentions is that history scholars don't even recognize the allusions to Scripture that pepper the works of 19th century writers.

We live in an age that presumes agnosticism in public life. Whatever we think or believe privately, we all have agreed to function publicly as if the Bible does not exist. This is deplorable. We are hindered in understanding people of the past because we can't imagine what it is like to think within a context that presumes theism. Yes, some Victorians reacted in unbelief. But they still moved and breathed and thought in a context of theism.

Homeschooling is my response to the bifurcation of our culture. There are lots of reasons to homeschool, but our primary motivation is a desire to integrate faith in learning. We cannot wrestle with the deepest issues of existence while pretending that religion and the Bible don't exist. In our age, it takes deliberate effort to integrate belief in Jesus Christ into all areas of life. Homeschooling isn't the only educational way to accomplish this mandate of Scripture (Romans 12:1-2), but in some ways it is the easiest way.

(Photo of Victoria and Albert with their nine children from Wikipedia. It is in the public domain.)

Grief for Unbelief

Christopher Hitchens has died. Don't miss this obituary by Douglas Wilson, who debated Hitchens several times about Christianity:
The short promotion tour for the release of the book was a series of debates that Christopher and I held in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, which were filmed for the documentary Collision. a result of all this, we were thrown together in a number of situations. One time we shared a panel in Dallas, and I told the crowd there that if Christopher and I were not careful, we were in danger of becoming friends. During the time we spent together, he never said an unkind thing to me—except on stage, up in front of everybody. After doing this, he didn't wink at me, but he might as well have.

Wilson said it so well:
We have no indication that Christopher ever called on the Lord before he died, and if he did not, then Scriptures plainly teach that he is lost forever. But we do have every indication that Christ died for sinners, men and women just like Christopher. We know that the Lord has more than once hired workers for his vineyard when the sun was almost down (Matt. 20:6).


I recently read a quote from Hitchens in which he admitted that his life-long rallying cry, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger" was failing him. In fact, he observed, this doesn't ring true when battling cancer and he noted that there are plenty of things in life that actually leave us weaker. Perhaps Hitchens's cancer weakened his unbelief until it was replaced with belief. I hope so.

Previous posts about Hitchens are here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

St. Lucia Day

Today is St. Lucia Day, a tradition-rich holiday held dear to Swedish communities. We've been to Lindsborg, Kansas several times for their St. Lucia festival. We weren't able to go this year, much to the disappointment of the Edwards kids. It is one of their favorite outings. Here are some memories from our trip one year ago:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Girls and Boys

It sure is fun to have a little sugar and spice and everything nice...

...after snips and snails and puppy dog tails!

These are the sort of pictures I find on the camera when I download photos. There is no doubt that the best word for Tobias is "incorrigible"!

Not that girls are perfect, of course. Here's little Lydia after adorning herself with blue marker.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

St. Nicholas Day

St. Nicholas's feast day is today. Although Santa Claus is fully associated with a commercial and secular Christmas celebration, it is worth remembering that the legend surrounding Santa grew up around a historical Christian figure, Bishop Nicholas, who lived about three hundred years after Christ. He is known for his generosity to the needy, his persecution by the Emperor Diocletian, and his attendance at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325.

We come from a Protestant tradition that doesn't emphasize particular saints over others and we don't formally celebrate saint days. For Protestants like us, pre-Reformation church history can be a bit of a blur. But when St. Nicholas is largely understood by American children as a cartoony, magical gift-giver, it is important to make an effort to correct the record for our children.

In our home, Santa is a character in Clement Moore's famous poem, but there is no question that Mom and Dad are the ones that fill the stockings that hang on the mantle.  We are careful to teach our kids the truth about St. Nicholas and start early explaining how the actions of one man who lived a few centuries after Jesus have inspired centuries of myths and legends that cross cultures, thanks to the early influence of the church in western culture.

We don't have a big celebration for St. Nicholas, other than to remark, "Today's St. Nicholas's feast day. Do you remember who that was?" It is good, though, to reclaim from secular culture some traditions that come from our church history and put Santa into his proper place.

Here are some St. Nicholas resources:

Online biography of St. Nicholas, from the St. Nicholas Center.
Picture book St. Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend by Julie Stiegemeyer
The True St. Nicholas by William Bennett
Picture book Santa, Are You for Real? by Harold Myra (2005) OOP but available from Abe Books.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Believing the Mystery

"Saint Bernard declared there are here three miracles: that God and man should be joined in this child; that a mother should remain a virgin; that Mary should have such faith as to believe that this mystery would be accomplished in her. The last is not the least of the three."
(From Martin Luther's Christmas Book, collected in Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, edited by Nancy Guthrie, page 26)
The last is not the least. Belief in the impossible must itself be the greatest miracle. And it is one that we can witness in ourselves this Advent.

May God's grace be on us, that we may believe the Mystery, that we might be a miracle.

This Sunday is the first Advent Sunday. We'll be lighting a purple candle, reading Scriptures, and singing carols to begin our focus on the month-long anticipation of Christmas, the great celebration of the Incarnation.

As the days of Advent pass, we'll be filling up our Jesse Tree with ornaments and meditating on a Jesse Tree devotion. How are you meditating on the Mystery this Advent?

"There is such richness and goodness in this nativity that if we should see and deeply understand, we should be dissolved in perpetual joy." (Ibid)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On the Trail of the Santa Fe Trail

We spent the Monday of Thanksgiving week in Council Grove, Kansas tracking down the Santa Fe trail. We did this four years ago, the last time we studied the 19th century. In the intervening years our growing children have leafed through the album of that trip so many times that they have begged to return to the humble Kansas town. It doesn't take much to amuse us, I'm sure, for there isn't much to recommend about Council Grove, but we had the best of time retracing our memories.

Lunch at Hayes House. Climbing around the Western-themed playground. Rolling down the hill on the bank of the Neosho River. Pitching seed pods at tree trunks. Taking pictures at trail markers and special, albeit dead, tree trunks. Running around an old stone barn dating to the 1850s. Peering hopefully into a field of dry grass, hoping to see the swales of the trail.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cooking Day

When my friend T first asked me to consider freezer cooking for a month with her, I almost dismissed it without another thought. I'm glad I didn't, though, and we set a date.

Armed with the advice of several bloggers, T. helped get us organized. We started gathering recipes and entering them into a shared spreadsheet, multiplying quantities times six, since we hoped to get three entrees per family, per recipe. It seemed ambitious, but we thought that if we went to all the trouble, we wanted it to be worth it. Our families are similar in size, so we thought we could easily split everything 50-50.

We gathered 12 recipes, about half with ground beef, half with chicken--a few meatless--and then had a planning meeting to come up with our shopping and cooking strategy. We planned to buy a case of chicken breasts from Sam's Club and some 10-pound packages of ground beef in addition to using some of the venison that I already had in my freezer.

Twelve recipes. Three per family. That would give us each 36 entrees. If I used four per week, this would last nine weeks. This was a big motivator! 

We categorized our ingredient list into the three stores we planned to buy from, then met again on Shopping Day. It took us about three hours to hit three stores. She took home about half the meat and I took home the other half plus most of the pantry items since we would be using my kitchen. Here's a picture of most of our non-refrigerated purchases (minus the boxes of soda). Shopping lesson learned? Cheese is as expensive as meat.

Prep. The night before our Cooking Day, we cooked the chicken breasts in 18-quart electric roasters. This was wonderfully easy. The cooked chicken fell apart as we chopped or shredded it up in preparation for Cooking Day. We reserved the liquid for chicken stock, which we needed for several recipes. Because our ground meats (beef, venison, and some Italian recipes called for pork sausage) needed to be browned with or without onions, we saved this task for Cooking Day.

Some of our recipes called for cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup. Rather than buying these soups, we opted to try a homemade recipe mix that used dry milk and bouillon. I mixed this up the night before. Meanwhile, T figured that our case of chicken had a little more than our recipes needed, so she took the extra chicken and filled two bags per family of uncooked chicken breasts in a marinade, ready to thaw and bake or grill. That gave us two bonus entrees. Lesson learned? I think we did the right things for preparation.

Cooking Day arrived. T. and her daughter Joanna arrived around 7:15 a.m. and we quickly got to work. Joanna and my daughters Hope and Sydney started chopping about 30 onions. We were all teary over that process as the odor wafted through the house! Lesson learned? It is worth it to use a food processor for this task. Chopping onions is very time consuming. If we didn't have our girls to help, this would have been better to do ahead.

The day progressed and we worked through ground meat recipes first. We worked well as a team and our daughters were an invaluable help. They made the manicotti filling, piped it into about 100 manicotti shells, and also made nearly 200 meatballs. Although we roughly planned to work on meat recipes before chicken, we didn't have a strict order planned in advance. This was our first attempt and it was hard to imagine ahead of time what the day would be like and what would be best.

We quickly discovered that our pots and pans and bowls were not big enough. However, we had two 18-quart electric roasters and while we didn't think ahead of time that we would need them on Cooking Day, we ended up using them all day long! We made the chilis, enchilada sauce, sloppy joes, lasagne meat sauce, and soup in the roaster pan, using the heat for a few of the recipes that needed simmering. (Remember that roasters do not work for browning ground meat. This must be done on the stove top.) We used the second roaster pan as a giant mixing bowl for the manicotti filling and the chicken enchilada casserole. Lesson learned? We would have been lost without those big pans.

T and I had no idea how long the day would take us, but I thought we might finish around three in the afternoon. Instead, it took until about 6:30 that night. We worked nearly eleven hours straight and this included three very capable daughters helping us most of that time. Without them we could never have achieved nearly 40 entrees per family and probably would have had to scale back ambitions as the day wore on. You might think it would discourage us that it took so long, but we learned so much throughout the day that we both feel confident that next time will be easier. What did we learn? We had too many recipes that had multiple steps, such as lasagne and manicotti, and several that required bringing sauces up to boiling, which takes time when you are making large quantities. Our next Cooking Day will include more recipes, like chicken enchilada casserole, that simply need to be assembled. I'm very glad, however, that we did some more complicated recipes because we both admitted that we never bother to make them usually because our lives are so busy.

The entire day was worth all the effort after we proudly posted our Freezer Inventory List. After all the clean-up was done, I just kept going back to that list congratulating myself.

About 40 entrees! Made for about $7 per entree. That's a fantastic average for feeding a family of seven. Best of all, I'll be able to spend more of my kitchen time in December baking and enjoying Christmas cooking. Thank you so much, T, for inviting me to join you!

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Divided Attention

I feel that the pie that is my brain is being divided into ever-smaller slices. It feels as if my attention has never been so divided. There are so many events, ideas, books, movies, and projects tugging at me in this weekend before Thanksgiving. If you think I am getting batty, here's why:

I've had a fun couple of weeks leading my sixth graders through a study of Charles Dickens and an abridged version of David Copperfield. Meanwhile, my kindergartner has been requesting his favorite picture-book version of A Christmas Carol, which is putting us all in a Christmas mood. All of the kids read a collection of Dickens stories presented in comic-book style (this wonderful Marcia Williams book), and Oliver Twist was a particular favorite, so we've been squeezing in a bit of Oliver! over the last two weeks, a little at a time. The David Copperfield movie is next. I'm holding the line and waiting to play our audiobook of the full Christmas Carol until after Thanksgiving.

If only I had a few days to read some of the Dickens books I loaded on the Kindle. I've never actually read David Copperfield. Cricket on the Hearth would be fun. And after our recent study of the French Revolution, I'm sure I'd appreciate A Tale of Two Cities quite differently than I did has a teenager. Which reminds me that I'm convinced the best way to enjoy literature is to study it alongside history.

But I don't have time to read Dickens. After all, I didn't even get far in Les Miserables, which I started reading a few weeks back, hoping to finish by the end of the year. We're a big fan of the musical Les Miserables (I know, who isn't?), so when Lane was assigned an abridged children's version of that novel, all the kids read it, some several times. I was pretty thrilled when, last week as we read about the Three-Day Revolution in France, Sydney said, "Mom, this is the revolution in Les Mis. You know, the barricades?" 

The girls are loving their study of Queen Victoria and the Victorian age and are particularly interested in the changing fashions of the period. Which has me happily collecting images from Pinterest for their display board on the topic. If I had the time, I'd study more on 19th century fashion and costumes. One of my daughters could spend hours studying period dresses. Maybe she'll design dresses someday....

Speaking of Pinterest, aren't there so many tempting projects to be found there? I roped some friends into making ornament wreaths last weekend, and now I have my eye on sewing stuffed-songbirds for Christmas ornaments. Not to mention the crochet projects I'd like to get done. I wish I could sit down for several hours with the girls and crochet with them. They've been learning the craft with a group of friends and are working on all sort of projects.

There hasn't been much time for crocheting this week, though. A friend invited me to try freezer cooking with her and this weekend is our big Cooking Day. Yes, that needs capitals. We've got big ambitions for tomorrow and spent the week planning for the big event. More on that later.

We're happily taking Thanksgiving week off from our school routine. After a day trip to Council Grove (I forgot to mention that Toby and I have been reading Holling's Tree in the Trail), I want to get the kids working on making Jesse Tree ornaments. We've done all sorts of Advent devotions and activities, but this is our first year to do a Jesse Tree. I've been scouring the internet for manageable ornament projects that we can actually do. We'll see. I've got some other Advent plans in the back of my mind that I'd like to pursue. 

Our favorite Thanksgiving picture books are on the coffee table to remind me that I need to read them to my younger kids. I can't forget that! It is a great sorrow to me that I've lately had to out-source most of the picture book reading for Toby and Lydia. It has been hard to let my older kids have the pleasure of reading Old Hat, New Hat repeatedly to Lydia when I'd like to be the one doing it. It is so cute when she says, "Wait!" I'd really like to read Toby the beautiful library book I found about a little girl who came to America from Ireland during the Irish potato famine, but I think Hope or Sydney will get to do that instead. They read to him every day when I teach Lane grammar.

Hope and Sydney are starting in on MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin this week. I'm hoping to read it myself during our Thanksgiving break. The girls were supposed to read to chapter eight this week, but Hope just told me, "Mom, I accidently read to chapter 17." MacDonald was a significant inspiration to C. S. Lewis. Wouldn't it be great to spend a few weeks reading through MacDonald's books? I wish I could. They will be spending four weeks studying the book for their Tapestry studies. I'm really looking forward to discussing it. Speaking of goblins...

I have abstained from Harry Potter all these years, but after the final book was released and I heard talk of the Christian imagery, I decided to check it out for myself. I don't really have time to read it right now, but it was on the library shelf when I walked the children's fiction "R" section. I impulsively threw it in our library box, because when I looked for it over a month ago, it was checked out. I suppose Harry Potter ought to be read straight through, but I'm reading it about five pages at a time. I'm usually asleep by the sixth page.

It is anything but boring around here. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November Thanksgivings

I love that more and more people are spending the whole month of November intentionally giving thanks. Advent is coming, but let us not surrender November to Christmas celebration, but let it be Christmas preparation by remaining a month of thanksgiving, capped off with the wonderful feast-day of the Thanksgiving holiday itself, which then turns our eyes toward Advent.

With thanksgiving on my mind, it seems that every word of thanks that appears in my daily Bible reading seems to jump off the page at me. And I'm noticing something.

Biblical thanksgiving always flows from the observation of the works of the LORD.

"I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, . . .
Great are the works of the LORD,
studied by all who delight in them. . .

The works of his hands are faithful and just
all his precepts are trustworthy." (Psalm 111:1,2, 7)

"We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing." (2 Thessalonians 1:3)

With Christ, giving thanks is an act of worship, of praise, of submission to the Almighty God, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

Without Him, it could be a list of self-congratulation. A Pollyanna glad-game. A band-aid over the wound of life's search for meaning.

With Christ, a month of studying His works and giving Him thanks for them prepares us to celebrate the greatest work of all, the hinge-point of history that is Christmas. God with us.

For those without Him, perhaps a month of giving thanks will prepare hearts to unwrap the gift of Hope and Peace with God this Christmas.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Whole Duty

I'm getting back to basics with my kids, giving myself a pep rally about expecting prompt obedience. Charlotte Mason calls it the "whole duty of a child," and even "the whole duty of man."
"The Whole Duty of a Child--First and infinitely the most important, is the habit of obedience. Indeed, obedience is the whole duty of the child, and for this reason--every other duty of the child is fulfilled as a matter of obedience to his parents. Not only so: obedience is the whole duty of man; obedience to conscience, to law, to Divine direction." (Page 111, Kindle edition)

"It is in little matters that the mother is worsted. 'Bedtime, Willie!' 'Oh, mamma, just let me finish this'; and the mother yields, forgetting that the case in point is of no consequence; the thing that matters is that the child should be daily confirming a habit of obedience by the unbroken repetition of acts of obedience." (Page 113, Kindle edition)
I really like Charlotte Mason's ideas and her influence on modern home schooling culture, but sometimes I'm run down by the enormity of giving five children all that they need and striving for my ideal and feel discouraged. Why can't I be more like Charlotte?

Then, I noticed this in Home Education:
"But they should have the best of their mother, her freshest, brightest hours; while, at the same time, she is careful to choose her nurses wisely, train them carefully, and keep a vigilant eye upon all that goes on in the nursery." (Page 24, Kindle edition)

If I had a staff of household help that I could choose wisely and watch vigilantly, I might be able to present only my best, freshest, and brightest self to my children. Instead, they get all of me, the best, the worst, and the mediocre.

I'll keep aiming for my ideal, but I'm thankful for the grace of God which reminds me that really, He is the shepherd of my children and through His sovereignty He is using even my worst to mold and shape the character of my children and reveal Himself to them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gentle Exhortations

The tyranny of the urgent. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Fire-fighting. Tail wagging the dog. Whatever the metaphor, it seems that events and circumstances of every day--or hour--pull me along, leaving me little time to consider if I'm going in the right direction.

And what direction should that be? I want to mother with gentleness, being affectionately desirous of my children, ready to share not just the Gospel of Christ with them, but also myself, because they are so dear to me. I want my own conduct to be holy, righteous, blameless, and infused with a constant spirit of thankfulness. I want to exhort each one of my children, and encourage each one, and charge each one to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls them into His own kingdom and glory.*

I want to be praying, hard, that each one of my children would accept the word of God not as the word of men, but as it really is, the word of God, which is at work among us.*

And not only do I pray that by God's grace I might mother this way, but that my ministry at church and in my community would also be guided in this same way. 

This is not my reality, but it is my prayer, and while I am completely incapable of attaining this, I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able.

*You might recognize that this prayer is based upon I Thessalonians 2:7-13

Friday, November 4, 2011

October 31, 2011

We keep our Halloween celebrations pretty low-key, but here are the kids in the costumes they put together. From left to right, John Wayne, Davy Crockett, and two ladies ready for the ball.

Just for fun we pulled an old Dorothy dress out of the dress-up basket for Lydia, but she wasn't happy about posing for the camera!

Friday, October 28, 2011

He is Able

We've been singing "I Know Whom I Have Believed" for the month of October during our "Morning Time," and each time we sing it, the rich meaning sinks deeper into my soul. I hope you can take about four minutes to listen to the hymn, but if not, at least meditate for a few moments on the words (scroll down for lyrics) and declare them true for yourself. In a time when unknowns swirl around us constantly, it is good to remember what we do know with certainty.

2 Timothy 1:12
...nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.


But I know Whom I have believ├Ęd,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.

I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word
Wrought peace within my heart.


I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing us of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.


I know not what of good or ill
May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days,
Before His face I see.


I know not when my Lord may come,
At night or noonday fair,
Nor if I walk the vale with Him,
Or meet Him in the air.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Slaying Sin and Parenting

"The mortification of sin consists not in the improvement of a quiet, sedate nature. Some men have an advantage by their natural constitution so far as that they are not exposed to such violence of unruly passions and tumultuous affections as many others are. Let now these men cultivate and improve their natural frame and temper by discipline, consideration, and prudence, and they may seem to themselves and others very mortified men, when perhaps, their hearts are a standing sink of all abominations. Some man is never so much troubled all his life, perhaps, with anger and passion, nor doth trouble others as another is almost every day; and yet the latter hath done more to the mortification of the sin that the former. Let not such persons try their mortification by such things as their natural temper gives no life or vigour to. Let them bring themselves to self-denial, unbelief, envy, or some such spiritual sin, and they will have a better view of themselves."*

This marvelous quote from John Owen's Mortification of Sin describes what God has taught me through parenting five very different people. One child's natural constitution, or temperament, leads to very obvious, very unruly and passionate sin. All who know us see it and see the struggle. It takes a lot of my energy. And yet, it is important to remember that the children I parent who do not have this natural constitution toward unruly and passionate sin, have lurking sins in their own natural temper that are easier to deny but just as damaging to their spiritual condition. Worse, when people not given to anger and passion compare themselves to those who are, pride takes hold.

*Chapter V: "The Principal Intendment of the Whole Discourse Proposed."
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