Imparting a classical education at home. Check out the Edwards Academy.

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, January 31, 2012

Bible Quizzing Countdown

Our area's Awana Bible Quizzing competition will be held in two months time. This week I pulled out practice sheets so the kids could start reviewing the verses, "word wise" definitions, and "search site" Bible passages that they need to know for the quizzing competition. I'm excited to be helping our Quizzing coach and look forward to working with the team that will be forming in just a few weeks.

Ribbons and awards earned for Bible memory are not eternal treasures, but I've seen God use the process of preparation for the competition to store up eternal treasures in the hearts of my daughters, as they memorize God's word.

The picture above shows Hope and Sydney (front row, middle and right) competing in fourth grade. This year, their sixth grade year, will be their last, but Lane's first.

Previous Awana Bible Quizzing posts:
Hope's first year
Quizzing 2010
Quizzing 2011

Monday, January 16, 2012

Reflecting on Martin Luther King, Jr.

Some Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday reading:

Desiring God is giving away John Piper's new book Bloodlines in a free PDF download.

The text and audio of King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech can be found here.

King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" is here.

From my own MLK Jr. Day post in 2009:

As you think about King and his influence on our culture, consider this quotation from "Pilgrimage to Nonviolence (April 1960)" which I discovered in Tapestry of Grace 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.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Talking to God

"Prayer is not another good thing that the Christian does. Prayer, communion with God, was bought for us at the highest price. Please do not sideline prayer to something that is really good that we nearly do. No, no, it is rather our being known and knowing the Father. It is communion with God: welcomed ones in relationship with our Father, forever in Jesus' name; ransomed ones in relationship with our Father, forever in Jesus' name; belonging ones in relationship with our Father, forever in Jesus' name."

From Bud Burk's sermom, "Jesus Prayed, So We Could Pray" delivered December 31, 2011 at Bethlehem Baptist Church. Quote from about 26:03 minutes in.
How easy it is to reduce prayer to something like mental email to God rather than seeing it for what it should be: access to God the Father made possible by the suffering and sacrifice of God the Son.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 KJV)
Praise God for His Son Jesus, who has given us access to the righteous and holy God.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Getting to Yes

Twenty years ago I sat in an Introduction to Political Science class, mesmerized. My young eyes were opened to a whole new category of thinking about relating with others, diplomacy, and finding agreement when it seems that there is no agreement to be found.

Twenty years later, I'm still grabbing onto snatches of what I remember from that class. One idea that has stuck all these years is the concept of "saving face." Working toward agreement while still honoring one another and respecting their dignity is vital. My poli-sci prof had us reading what is now an honored classic: Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. This book gave me some excellent tools for life--even a life lived outside of politics, diplomacy, or (these days) the corporate cubical. This book helped me look for common ground and focus on the outcome--what do we both want?--rather than seeing a conflict or negotiation as a battle in which to score points. It helped me see that victory doesn't have to be found in triumph over another, but victory can be found in achieving the desired outcome and keeping the human relationship protected.

I'm finding that as my children mature, I need to learn to apply this art to our parent-child relationship. No, I should not negotiate everything with my children. God clearly calls children to obedience to their parents and submission to authority. Nevertheless, I must not sinfully bulldoze my children into agreeing with me. Understanding how to search for what we both really want out of a conflict is extremely valuable. The principles in this book have helped me see that often the issue that appears on the surface is not the source of the conflict at all.

Take the common conflict of dress. Is my daughter coming out of her room in that atrocious dress because she is trying to stick it to me by dressing in a way I don't like? Or is she dressing that way because she failed to be responsible and get her laundry to the laundry room? Or is she choosing that get-up because someone hurt her feelings with a remark about her when she dressed "my way"? I can inflame the situation by simply scolding, or I can look more deeply and get us both to "yes" and leave our relationship strong.

Knowing all of this doesn't mean I'm good at it! This book came to my mind this week and I'm thinking it is time for me to re-read it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Lord, Have Mercy

Lord, Have Mercy
Christ, Have Mercy
Kýrie, eléison

The season of Lent will commence on Ash Wednesday, February 22, in just about six weeks. You were, perhaps, intentional about preparing your family to celebrate Christmas. Like me, you lit Advent candles. You treasured Advent traditions, like the Jesse Tree, to turn the eyes of your family toward the miracle and mystery of Christmas.

What about Easter? What can you do to intentionally prepare your family to celebrate Easter like never before? The Lenten period can be a worshipful time of readying your hearts to glory in the gift of Easter by turning your eyes toward your desperate need for the mercy of the Lord.

The celebration of Easter is meaningless if we don’t recognize some important truths about Jesus Christ and ourselves. We need to see our need for repentance and that God is holy and we are not. We need to see that Jesus is God and has power to heal and save. We need to see that Jesus is the Son of God and that He is the Promised Messiah. Finally, we need to follow Jesus through the events leading up to His death--His triumphal entry, His last supper with the disciples, His agony in the garden, and His suffering and trials.

I'm writing a family devotional e-book to help you lead your family to the cross this Lenten season. Keep checking for news about Lord, Have Mercy, which will be available for your Kindle in time for Lent.

Free samples will be posted here in a few weeks!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Building with Keva Planks

This was the Christmas we discovered KEVA planks. These uniformly-milled planks are gather-around-the-coffee-table-and-laugh-together fun. One of the best things? Unlike Legos, the creation is dismantled and put back in the box every time. If this doesn't seem like an asset to you, than you must not have boys who insist on preserving their beloved Lego creations ad infinitim and yet always seem to need a specific piece that their brother happens to have incorporated into his beloved creation.

With KEVA planks, we can preserve the memory with a photo, and then it all comes down.

It is very true that KEVA is fun for the whole family, but at this point Lydia would rather run the vacuum!

Although KEVA planks didn't steal the show on Christmas morning--the blocks in the box didn't seem all that exciting at first--it is one gift that is still entertaining after the twelve days of Christmas.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hokusai and Japanese Paintings

A print of this Vincent Van Gogh painting, "Almond Blossom," hangs in our dining room. It is beautiful and it reminds me of Jeremiah 1:11-12:

And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”

The Hebrew for "almond" sounds similar to the Hebrew for "watching," according to the text note.

Today Toby and I read Hokusai: The Man Who Painted the Mountain. We enjoyed this picture book about the influential Japanese painter of the 19th century very much.

The book notes how Hokusai's prolific paintings and artworks influenced Western painters such as Van Gogh and other Impressionists and post-Impressionists. Both of us immediately looked at our beloved "Almond Blossom" print and smiled. (Hokusai's "Goldfinch and Cherry Tree" shown below.)

Artwork images from

Blessed is the One

The Bible is firstly God's authoritative Word, but secondly it must be the greatest work of literature of all time. My love for Scripture and its literary beauty has grown over the years as I've developed a greater love for literature. This is especially true of the poetic literature of the Psalms and Prophets.

While I understand the reasons for using gender inclusive language in the NIV, I nevertheless feel that all the color is gone from Psalm 1 in the revised NIV.

Here is the classic Psalm in our most beautiful English translation (yes, the King James Version):

Psalm 1
1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

And here is the NIV:
Psalm 1
1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Verse three suffers the most. What sort of poet composes a psalm with "that person"?
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